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“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.”
– Charlotte Mason
Our family is half way through our third year of homeschool- Proudly I might add! This journey has been a long, turbulent one and the reality of it is that some days it still is. In the past we have tried numerous curriculum and altered our schedule many times. I will be the first to admit that some weeks we didn’t get done as much as I had hoped and that became discouraging at times.
You see, I am a huge planner, I plan everything. I have posted notes everywhere and create lists for anything. Up until now, that was working great with homeschool. I had time to plan and research. Which was great because no curriculum that we ever purchased was satisfying enough. I was always purchasing something new until we decided not to use curriculum for most subjects.
This worked well for some time because I found a wonderful resource on what kids should know by grade level (I still reference this book as a guideline). Our original weekly schedule overview was working just fine as well seeing it covered everything I felt needed to be covered.
However, some issues began to arise.
My time began to run out, leaving our lessons shortened or skipped. On days that I focused on preparing in depth lessons for my kids in order to avoid that dreaded slump, my college courses began to suffer. I felt that I couldn’t win and neither were my children. The worst part was they were getting too much screen time. They became obsessed with their Playstation and Youtube; I thought I was going to lose my mind. I yearned for more and this family needed something different!
And then I remembered Charlotte Mason.
When I first began to consider homeschool, I landed upon the ideas and principles from this intellectual educator from England. The basis of her teaching was through living books and teaching children to become self-educators. She even published a series of books based on her principles. She expressed how education was more than just what is taught in a classroom and more than simply throwing facts at children and expecting them to remember them.
I was in love with her methods. However at the time, it was nothing more than an overwhelming idea that lacked understanding on my part.
But after 3 years, I took another look.
I came across a wonderful website… Ambleside Online. There I found many women who had embarked on the journey of following Charlotte Mason’s ideas and teachings and implemented them into their own family’s home education. It was full of resources and support and best of all, it was all free! Given our journey thus far, I finally understood and decided that it was time to make the jump into a Charlotte Mason styled household. Here’s some of what I love…
Scheduled by week…
The women who put together Ambleside Online worked hard to develop a schedule for each Year. The schedule is divided by weekly work, which allows me to be able to customize our week but without having to do all of the tedious work of filling in curriculum. This also means less worrying about “Am I doing enough?“; guidelines that I am still able to implement into our homeschool. Each year was detailed with footnotes on each piece of literature and alternatives that could be just as rewarding, if needed.
For the love of books! I love books, but my children have shown little interest thus far. Ambleside Online follows Charlotte Mason’s use of living books for almost every subject.
“The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading.”
– Charlotte Mason
For each Year I was required to obtain a list of books that would provide the basis of each child’s education. What books my library did not carry I ordered used (and in great condition) from Thrift Books. In other words, my kids would be forced to read. Hallelujah! Surprisingly, it only took a week for all four of my kids to stop pouting and realize that these books were filled with information, aside from the stories. Each child loving some books while understanding the importance of reading even what they do not cherish.
My youngest has even begun to beg me to talk the library into allowing me to buy certain books. While his older sister is caught in her room on a Sunday afternoon reading through her science storybook because she finds it so fascinating. My children were finally gaining a love for reading after just one short week.
“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.” – Charlotte Mason
My younger boys still require guidance, however they are in Year One and I do not expect them to grasp such a different concept right away. But my girls, Years Four & Six, are excelling in their own readings and education. Of course I must make time each day to hear their narrations of each subject book they read (scheduled chapters), but they both know that it is mostly up to them to kick start their education. Their new interest in doing more than I ask is astounding.
This worried me at first since this was completely new. By week two, I began catching my girls on youtube looking up documentaries on topics that they were reading about. It has also taught them to reach out when they don’t understand something or, even better, when they want to explore a subject further. This has already led us into conducting a few fun labs in which even the younger boys joined in on (who would have ever thought that story books could provide so much!).
“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”
– Charlotte Mason
I don’t have to teach every subject anymore! What a relief this has been. I have more time for me, more time for college, more time for the house, and on some occasions I find myself sitting with my husband and being able to chit-chat for a bit. Sure, the first week was a bit chaotic and this week still had its hectic moments, but there is more time for me. The moments I do get with my children, listening to their narrations, are much more personal and I can be completely engaged in one child at a time instead of chaotically trying to teach them all at the same time while providing different levels of difficulty. I have found this to be a wonderful way to bond with each child even further.
Did I mention the amazing forum on Ambleside Online? Well, there is an immense amount of support to be found on their forum and even in their facebook group. There are resources for every book and printable maps for books that need them. So many women on different stages of their journey willing and able to assist each other.
Ambleside Online and the principles of Charlotte Mason have been a blessing to this family in the last week. I made this jump because I felt that our family was ready for more, that my kids were ready for a deeper knowledge than I found myself able to provide. It has been a completely overwhelming change during some moments, while we all work on our new educating methods.
During this time, our detailed weekly schedule has not changed much, which has helped us all avoid a complete melt down. In fact, the only really challenging times for us is when we read Shakespeare together (something completely new to me), or when I have four eager children attempting to narrate to me at once. All of these, overwhelming at times but completely heart-warming.
My biggest tip for a mother considering this transition… Do it all a little at a time! Stick to the basics and add in one new thing a week. Most of all, enjoy the journey and watch your children grow!
For those looking to jump right in, Joy in the Home has a very wonderful and detailed course on The Charlotte Mason Way.
In this series of 14 beautifully constructed online courses, Dollie Talks explains Charlotte Mason’s philosophies. She also walks you through teach different subject as well as the High School Years and so, SO much more!
“Let children alone… the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.”
– Charlotte Mason