It has only been a year since I dove head first and whole heart into a Charlotte Mason inspired education for our family so the excitement, wonder, overwhelmedness, and sheer confusion are all fairly fresh in my mind. This evening I was looking back over a few early entries in my commonplace book and these two jumped out at me:
“…the sluggishness of human nature [finds] any definite scheme…more agreeable than the constant watchfulness…called for when the whole of a child’s existence is to be used as a means of his education.”
“…but the fact is, that a few broad essential principles cover the whole field, and these once fully laid hold of, it is as easy and natural to act upon them as it is to act upon our knowledge of such facts as that fire burns and water flows.”
~from Home Education by Charlotte Mason~
Last September my husband and I began attending a bimonthly Charlotte Mason support group for couples. What a wonderful experience! I really must do another post just about that, but to stick to the topic at hand, I was so new to all of this that I was eager to learn all I could. The problem was that I was too focussed on learning the methods. Afterall, school had just started, I was in the thick of it, feeling my way along, trying to figure out how to choose copy work passages and what in the world was involved with having my children narrate. I was excited but very much felt out of my depth. I remember the couple who was hosting and leading the session was very adamant about bringing the discussion back to the philosophy of a Charlotte Mason education whenever it veered into, “How do you do that?” and “What do you do for this?” It was frustrating to someone like me who was looking for that “definite scheme” (as CM called it).
Fast forward a year, and I finally grasp the wisdom of their singlemindedness. In fact, I find myself giving the same advice to other mothers considering homeschooling, knowing that it is probably frustrating to them at the time. But I have come to realize that our methods must flow out of our philosophy. Without a firm foundation in the whys, our hows just become a tangled mess of disjointed to-do’s with no real purpose known to us. The philosophy is what fuels our methods. It also fuels our enthusiasm!
There is a time for equipping ourselves with concrete tools, and we certainly cannot attain proficiency in the breadth of CM’s philosophy of education before we dive in and start teaching our children. I can’t imagine I will ever lay hold of those “broad, essential principles” in such a way as to be able to act on them with the ease Charlotte has assured us is possible; but I think it is important, as educators, to keep feeding ourselves on the whys behind our hows as we go along. A CM support group can be so helpful in this area…especially when led by such discerning facilitators as I have been blessed with!