Dismounting My Charlotte Mason High Horse (behind the scenes at “my hows”)

Does this not look like the most regal dog on the planet? 

Well, let me introduce you to Lancelot.  He is a monster…a nipping, barking, food stealing, garbage rummaging, pushy monster of a standard poodle who has been threatened with rehoming more times than I care to count.  After three torturous years, he is slowly maturing, and we love him more everyday; but he is the most exasperating creature ever to come under my care.  A picture might be worth a thousand words, but in this case, it would take a million more to tell his story!  Keep that in mind.

I discovered something this week in discussion with some other homeschool moms — that we Charlotte Mason-ites/Mason-ers(?) have a reputation that might be thought of as a bit ‘holier than thou’ or pushy or narrow minded.  This was news to this newbie.  However, I get it.  I think it makes sense.  I mean, I am sold on this philosophy.  I am excited about the methods we use to homeschool.  I have found a big picture for this journey of education that our family is on that resonates with the deepest part of me, and I can’t help but rave about it.  But I’m learning that what I say about it pales in comparison to how I say it!

Here’s an example.  I didn’t realize that talking about our “feast” subjects (how much we enjoy Shakespeare and handicrafts and artist study and composer study and nature study and Plutarch and on and on and on) makes some of my homeschool mama friends’ heads spin.  It probably does sound very overwhelming, now that you mention it!   It’s a lesson to me that I need to do a better job at actually pulling back the curtain to reveal just how low key some of these things really are for us.

Yes, we add a print from our artist of the term to our art albums every other week, but we do not spend time learning a lot of biographical information on each artist or attempting to critique their techniques or such things.  What we do is actually so simple that on the surface it might even appear to be useless, but I don’t believe it is (but that is fodder for another blog post).

Yes, we do composer study, but again it’s not a bunch of memorizing of dates or places or events.  No tests.  No quizzes.  No worksheets.  We spend time just listening to and appreciating the music.  This year we are studying medieval history so our composer for this term is Hildegard of Bingen.  Now, calm down.  Don’t feel dumb if you’ve never heard of her.  I hadn’t either.  So  I did a bit of reading up on her myself so I’d have some fascinating tidbits of information to share with the kids.  We actually just talked about her around the breakfast table, very informally, one Saturday morning to introduce her.  And now, when I’m working in the kitchen or we’re doing school work and I think of it, I play her music in the background for us all to enjoy.  See?  Easy!  Is that effort even worthy of such a formal title as ‘Composer Study’?

Yes, we concentrate on a certain aspect of nature each term, but it’s not something that takes a lot of time.  A few interesting books from the library, some intentional nature walks or field trips to see our subjects, a few good pictures captured with our camera and we’re all set to sketch and paint in our nature journals.  My goal is six entries per term, but sometimes there’s only three or four, and I’m okay with that.  We concentrate on drawing EXACTLY what we see.  We don’t spend a lot of time copying statistics or scientific information at this point.  Perhaps as the kids get older our journals will evolve.  But really, if you could only see how simply we do all of this.  It’s not as grandiose as it sounds!

Same with Shakespeare or Plutarch.  I mean, come on.  Does that not sound a tad snobbish for a fourth grader?!  I’m thirty seven, and this year is my first introduction to Plutarch too.  Yes, the language is crazy archaic, but there’s these lovely little cheat sheets study guides available from Ambleside Online that define some of that extinct vocabulary and even give you some great ideas for discussion with your child after the readings.  I’ll admit that my fourth grader needs some explanations from mom as we go, but you’d be surprised at how much of the gist of the story she is picking up on.  And, boy, there are some great springboard points in Plutarch’s Lives for discussions about some pretty important subjects that we might never broach otherwise.

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you the details.  It’s just that perhaps it’s the lack of details that makes it all sound so overwhelming.  Like Lancelot’s picture, a single snapshot doesn’t tell the whole story.  I wish I could demystify it just a bit.  A Charlotte Mason education doesn’t have to incite heart palpitations.  I think it’s actually one of the most maintainable methods over the long haul to help preserve burnout on mom’s behalf and lead children to independence and self motivation in their studies.

Some days it does seem like a lot to juggle, but in reality we are just moving in baby steps in all these subjects.  Over time, however, it always amazes me just how much we learn and how much sticks with us.  Slow and steady, one day at a time, one bite at a time, we are enjoying an educational feast and building a foundation for a lifelong love of learning.

Disclaimer: I do not share this information in an attempt to “convert” any non-CMers!  Find your groove.  Find a way of homeschooling that you and your kids thrive on, that jives with your personality.  Live it and love it and feel free to brag about it.  I just wanted to step down off of my high horse for a moment and give you a peek behind the scenes at “my hows”! 🙂 

6 thoughts on “Dismounting My Charlotte Mason High Horse (behind the scenes at “my hows”)

  1. Oh man. Can I share this on my blog??? I’ve felt this way, but never articulated it so well (or ever?). I actually shy away from talking about CM with some of my friends for this very reason–I don’t want to seem Holier Than Thou! But you are so right! It’s much more relaxed and attainable than it sounds!! Well said! 😀


  2. I so often feel like I can’t talk about our education plan (aka AmblesideOnline) bc it sounds so uppity and, even, unbelievable. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. This is exactly what I would like other people to realize!


    1. Yes, and I know there are days that I, as a CM homeschool mom, still feel it to be “unattainable”. We don’t choose this homeschool path because we have it mastered, but maybe folks think that we do (or we pretend to). It’s what I aspire to, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a bumpy journey! 🙂


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