There’s something to be gained from each homeschool style, but our families are not standardized robots that can easily thrive in each designed model. While some will feel free and at ease with unschooling, some will feel chaotic and overwhelmed.
While Charlotte Mason will be a fresh breath of air wafting through some homes, it can seem like a formidable mountain of books and vague concepts to another.
When choosing, or switching between, schooling methodology, I find it more important to consider your family style, stage, size, season (and any other "S" category you can come up with), more than the results a particular methodology has had.
Ideally, your family school will morph into its very own method, with rich strands of thought and purpose woven together into a unique tapestry of academics in your home.
When my husband and I sat down to talk through our heart for our children in academics, we both knew they mattered to us. Not like Harvard, Yale, Elite-College status, but confident-test-taker, Bachelor of Arts status.
Of course our children won’t be weighing in on their educational decisions for a decade from now, and based on their opinion, we are open to change. But my husband and I decided on our North Star.
We wanted school for our children to be fun, inviting, and filled with wonder and plenty of free time to explore. We also wanted the confidence and grit that comes from completion and a long stretch of hard work.
With clear goals for our children written down, what were we going to use to help us get there?
STAGE, SCALE, AND SIZE
Our family stage is young, but we wanted to choose a style that could scale with us. We pray for a larger than average family and I needed a style that was systematized enough that I could ensure a child wouldn’t fall through the cracks, but flexible enough that we could work as a family, and not be too time intensive with each individual child.
While we settled on something that works well for us in this stage with toddlers and babies, I am keeping my mind and heart open for changes that may come when a new stage of life presents itself.
Our Creator granted us rhythm and variety with heat, snowflakes, orange hues and spring showers, but what about the seasons of our lives?
Due to my husband’s entrepreneurial job, we travel a lot. We both come from large families (with 11 and 10 children, respectively) and go to a plethora of weddings, family reunions, anniversaries, and baby showers all year round. Autumn is the busy season for our business, with Back to School, Black Friday, and Holiday Campaigns. And we are in a family-growing season, with first-trimester nausea, postpartum, miscarriage, and new babies dotting our past and hopefully blessing our future.
For our season of life we do not follow the regular schooling season, but rather school year round. A couple days here, a few days there. We cover just as much ground as a traditional school, and we receive just as much reprieve and rest. But for our season, this suits us well.
I am going to be teaching our children day in and day out for decades.
Now, depending on which method we choose for our home, this might sound like a life-sentence or a dream job. Ultimately, I needed to choose a homeschooling methodology that brought structure to my spontaneous nature without stifling it, made me thrill at the mere thought of studying, and filled my sails with a fresh wind of inspiration any time I dug deeper.
HOW WE BLEND IT TOGETHER
All things considered, we decided on a Classical Education for our children, with a heavy emphasis on outdoor free play and learning through “living books.”
Classical Education can get a bad rap for being stodgy and stiff and outcome based, so we offset those potential side-effects with short and sweet condensed academics that leaves hours and hours for outside play, exploring new ideas and personal interests, and spending time in whimsey and wonder.
With a baby to nurse, and a blog to write, I can still feel confident that as we march through the Classical road map laid out by others, no child’s education will be overlooked. I can wake up not knowing what breakfast will be and still know exactly what the children need to learn. In my season of life, not having to invent my own wheel and pray it will propel my children one day is a relief.
This method gives strong support to my spontaneous life, fulfillment to my deeply rooted love of checking boxes, and a solid start to our journey of raising academic critical-thinkers.
. . . . .
Charlotte Mason gives my literature-loving heart a feast of ideas even before I present them to my children. Learning through living books, books of peril and doubt and conquerors, thrill my mind to no end. We read for hours each day, bringing depth and meaning to the rote facts we memorize . . . turning dull history and mind-bending science into the lusty, flesh and blood humanity we recognize and are drawn to.
Instead of standardized testing, the children repeat back to me what they hear, and instead of mind-numbing workbooks, the children work on handicrafts (braiding, clay, whittling, and paint) as I present Charlotte’s “feast of ideas” to my children’s sponge-like minds.
My first-grader, kindergartener and preschooler, will sit with rapt attention for an hour at a time, imagining the rich tapestries of thought laid before them. And when my voice is hoarse and I lay down the text studded pages, they cry, “just one more chapter, Mama. Just one more.”
Of course, in choosing this path for our family, we are leaving many wonderful methods on the table. I love the concept of unschooling, for all of us learn better when we are engaged, but at this time I would feel too much overwhelm at the thought of being solely responsible for crafting a helpful education around each of my child’s interests that are as ever-changing as their little minds.
We compromise by trying to make the required material engaging and full of life, and by allowing our children plenty of time to pursue interests of their own--always quick to join them in support.
Montessori has a strong appeal when I see children’s confidence and capability mirroring my desires for my own children. But my first sensory bin became three boys throwing beans, and I found my idealistic proactivity did not translate into proactivity in reality.
I draw a little thread through my homeschool weave, but putting everything on my children’s level so they do as much as they can themselves (turns out, this is Montessori . . . I thought it was just being efficient). And we engage in sensory play every day with the joy of mud and sticks, soft petals, sand and snow in the great outdoors.
Classical Education provides backbone of our homeschool, with variety and passion and freedom flooding in from a dozen little pathways in our day.
It is a day I jump out of bed at 5am for. It is a day, we do not have time to stare at screens. It is a day that grounds us with so much in the joy of the present moment we don’t long for anything more.
It is a day my children wake up and ask, “what are we doing for school today, Mama?” Every single morning.
I like that.
Always learning with you,
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