____________ July 21, 2016 ___________

What kind of Homeschooler am I?

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching about this, the past week and a half or so.  I’ve had some problems where homeschooling is concerned, lately.   I left two different groups.  One was so ridiculous, I’m not even going to waste breath on trying to explain the idiocy that went down.  That one wasn’t a big shock, but the Charlotte Mason exit really took me by surprise.

When I started homeschooling (almost thirteen years ago!), there weren’t a fraction of the resources that there are online, now.  I had NO idea where to start or how to do it, or  what was available to me.  I didn’t even know if I could homeschool.  And as a lame start, I just decided one day to begin by picking up classical books: Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick, The Mysterious Island, The Three Musketeers. I was buying a tiny cache of them from Goodwill, and made a comment to the cashier that I was ‘preparing’ for thinking about homeschooling, or something like that.  She said, “Oh!  If you want to look into Homeschool, go to Ambleside Online.”

That was all I had to go on.  Two words: Ambleside Online.  And from there I learned about all of the different methods of homeschool, and still chose AO’s style – the Charlotte Mason based curriculum.  I’ve been homeschooling with AO/CM the entire time that we’ve schooled, and I’ve mostly loved every single moment of it.

Mostly.

There have been a few snags, and each time they were on the same problem:  Charlotte Mason taught in the 1800s, and wanted to created a whole education.  She wanted students to know things, not just do schoolwork.  She wanted them to know when things happened in history, in relation to other things happening.  She wanted them to know master artists, great music and composers, Shakespeare and Poetry.  She wanted the child to know about the world around them.

But she’s been gone for a long, long time.  She wasn’t here for the Beatles or Charlie Chaplin, for Thomas Kincaid or Ayn Rand.  She wasn’t on earth when there was telephone, television, internet, 8-tracks, CGI… and life didn’t just stop at the end of hers.  Because of who I am, I like to keep things going from where she left off, as well as include what existed in her time.  The other side of that coin is that there has been an influx of information since her time like no other time in history.  It was easier for her to focus on the smaller amount of art, literature, history, and music, because that’s what there was.  It’s not like that, now.  We are inundated with genres of music, communication, art, theatre, technology and more.

Which brings me to my problem: if we are to give the children a solid look at art thru all history including the more modern times, we don’t have the time to spend a month on each artist.  We just don’t.  And anyhow, does it matter if my child has seen twenty-three paintings by Mary Cassatt, or if he/she can identify the most famous of her works and her style?

I had the same thing in church, way back before I was even considering homeschool.  Do you have any idea the number of verses that they tried to cram into my head when I was a child?  A different memory verse every week!  Ask me how many of them I remember.  It was overwhelming, and I couldn’t retain it all.  Wouldn’t it have been better to have had me memorize 36 really useful or meaningful verses over the entire course of my childhood, thirty-six verses I could remember and utilize, instead of three hundred I don’t remember?

This is my problem with Charlotte Mason, and why I left the group.  Someone had asked how to go about teaching art study.  They were looking for a book that covered the masters, but I suggested the 52-weeks of Great Art site that we’ve decided to work on.  (The page even refers to Charlotte Mason and her tenets!)  I shared how we were doing it, and even asked permission to upload the resource I was compiling (a large, color print of the work, then information about it that was done in a fun, educational way).

Then someone got on the board and said, “THAT IS NOT HOW CHARLOTTE MASON WORKS!!”  Apparently if you don’t immerse a child in all the works of an artist, you aren’t *doing* Charlotte Mason right.  This particularly vocal woman got really irate, and was ranting quite vehemently about how my resource had to be pulled, that I was ‘tainting’ the CM ideology…  It turned out that she was one of the page’s thirteen administrators.  ((!!!!)))  So I apologized (for thinking/sharing out loud), pulled my resource, and left the group.

Anyhow, I’m not really sorry for my take on things.  I’d rather have a child that remembers and loves and KNOWS things than one that has had thousands of facts and pictures and sound bytes crammed past them and has tuned out.  And I’m not going to change for anyone.  Their way is their choice, my way is my choice.  I’m getting sick of their choice being the only choice, and anything/anyone that doesn’t agree or conform to that is tossed out.  (What’s really funny is when they say they’re ‘inclusive’, but they really mean they’re only inclusive of what suits them or panders to their own opinions and/or personal preferences.  Which, by definition, isn’t inclusive at all, now is it?  But I digress.)

We’ve been camping for a week and a half, and I have to tell you… one my favorite things is when people come up to us and say, “We’ve been watching your children, and I just had to tell you how well behaved and nice your kids are.  They’re homeschooled, aren’t they?  I can tell.  They play so good together, they obey and are just good kids.”  I love that.  One of my least favorite things is when that’s followed by “We really want to homeschool… how do you get involved in that kind of thing?”

PLEASE do not ask me.  Ask anyone else.  Because I apparently don’t do what I do correctly.  I’m told as much often enough to know that I’m not a good resource.  I do my thing.  I do it well.  I’m happy with it.  If people can’t accept that, I’ll gladly sweep a bow as I back up and let them bluster past me like blindly charging bulls.  Have at your own thing.  But don’t ask me for my opinion or advice.  You don’t want my way of doing things.  I get antsy and nervous and don’t like to talk homeschool.  Yes, I do it.  No, I don’t want to tell you what I do in my version of it.  In fact, just shy of a month ago, I joined a FB page for CM-bloggers.  I read them, but I won’t share my blog.   At this point, after leaving the CM page, I don’t feel I can even call myself a CM homeschooler, although that’s pretty much what I do, with my own ‘kisses’ on it.

Well, last night I was reading a blog entry about a woman who went to a CM convention, and here’s what she said:

As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler who doesn’t always fit the mold, and tends to buck some of the more typical Charlotte Mason stuff – I couldn’t wait to hear …about bringing Miss Mason into the world and time in which we live right now. I had been having a bit of a hard time recently with this idea and have felt a bit out of place, outcast, in the online CM community. While we all KNOW we can run our homeschools however we see fit for our families, it IS nice sometimes to feel like you have a group of women who are of a similar mindset about things. I haven’t felt that recently, and really went to this retreat hoping to find encouragement to keep on keeping on.

…What I went in hoping to get from this retreat – I did indeed receive. Julie’s keynote was on point, and really affirmed a lot of what I had already been feeling in the last few weeks. I am who I am, my kids are who they are, and MY family does not fit the typical image of a Charlotte Mason family. And just as I knew I would hear, it is TOTALLY OKAY! This isn’t rocket science, and should come without question – – but it was precisely what I needed to hear.

…Julie talked of Miss Mason being a revolutionary in her time, and then said “She’s not the final word, take what you know and create your OWN vision”. If I hadn’t just come off of a two day drive, dropped my bags at the hotel, and walked straight into this keynote – you would have heard me HALLELUJAH from the back of the room. THIS is what I needed to hear. THIS was my biggest takeaway from the talks at the retreat. The method was progressive when it was created, so why are we STOPPING the progression? Why are we trying to keep it what it was 100+ years ago?

The inspiration and confidence that I received from that ONE talk, that ONE idea, was far beyond what I ever expected to get there at the retreat.

Can I be honest?  This is exactly where I am, in homeschooling, too.  I don’t *fit* as a homeschooler, either – because I continue a progression.  Frankly, there aren’t a lot of people like that out there.  I’ve noticed two main groups:  there are the die-hards, the ‘This is the way it HAS to be’, and then there are the ‘it can be any way you want it to be, there is no “way” to do it’.  It’s like rigidity on one end of the spectrum, while the other end tosses everything to the wind and anything goes.  There’s no moderation, no balance.  There’s no taking foundational practice and making it progress thru to the place in which we are.  And that’s what I yearn for.  That’s why I don’t fit in.

I’ve noticed this about homeschooling in general, too.  There are the staunch, ‘intellectualized’ homeschoolers, and there are the ‘devil may care’ homeschoolers.  I don’t fit either group, because I believe in structure in which to play… but no playing outside of the structure.  Without the skeleton, or frame, there is no edifice, just a big slop mess.  I just… wish more people approached CM’s methodology as a great ‘format’ to use, and take as the framework for the schooling that fits their family and works as a way to educate wholly.

Just… needing to get some thoughts out.  Because really all of this has been bubbling inside, and I wanted to pull it out and make sense of it all.  And it seemed like that post really spoke to my heart.

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2 Comments

  1. I think that as long as your method works for you, why do you have to conform to how ”another mom” would do it? As long as the children are having a well-rounded education that helps them learn and develop what’s so bad in that? Joining groups like this, you’re going to have a hive mind that demands people fit into a group philosophy on a subject and that’s going to be a clash. I didn’t have CM obviously, different generation of homeshooler; mine was CLASS and it was hell. I wish that there had been more of a CM emphasis on classical learning/arts etc because this is severely lacking in more of the strict religious institutionalized forms of rigid homeschool curriculum. Still, I am a firm believer that learning must be tailored to the specific child. They are not going to fit into a herd mold.. that’s the exact reason why kids have problems in public school today! I don’t really understand the concept of focusing on *one* person for a month. Cassatt is in a genre of artists who all had similar ascetics on subjects. You can take a plethora of artists to study in a week or two rather than draining away on just one person’s work for a month (it gets boring for kids without variety). Why spend all one’s time studying Waterhouse when you completely miss the comparative works of Bouguereau, Cowper, or Millais? That’s the meaning of art. Using this rigid method becomes even harder in Lit. So let them be smug, it doesn’t concern you. You do what works for you, but don’t expect to fit in unfortunately. And who wants to fit in anyway? Outcasts for the win.

    Reply
  2. I hear you! Even with lots of provisos and ‘for my situation only’ you almost cannot ask a question without being corrected. I can understand the need to keep a general focus but sometimes it’s just Wow!

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