Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Starting a Mason Education

Many people are overwhelmed when first beginning to homeschool using Charlotte Mason methods. Her ways are so different from our usual educative mindset. At first glance some may think they seem overly easy. But when it comes down to doing it...... It gets puzzling and overwhelming. So many times the advice is for the newbie to start slow with only a few subjects and then add in new pieces as they get a handle on the practiced ones. Pretty good advice.

But that got me thinking: Why is a Mason education so much harder to grasp? With some curriculums you can just sit down and start reading textbooks and answering questions and taking tests. That's not so hard. Our minds grasp this concept. Why is this not so with CM?

The answer is in the change of thought and perspective that Charlotte Mason brings. It doesn't come all at once. We've been implementing CM for 6 years and I'm still grasping some of the concepts. That also shows the living nature of her ideas though. You can begin implementing right away and get a lot of good out of it, but then continue to grow and glean and learn for many years down the road.

It's a little like eating healthy. You know fruit and vegetables are good for you and you really want to begin a healthier meal plan for your family. But it's different from what you're used to. It will take time and effort and experimentation to figure out dishes that are healthy and yummy. Taste buds will need to adjust. Parents will need to lead the way. But in a year you'll be further along than you are now and your family will be grateful for the effort.

Similarly (slightly), a Mason education takes some time to understand. Often the appreciation is already there ~ that's the reason it was chosen as the homeschool method ~ but a deeper appreciation will certainly develop. The concept about education being a lifelong process instead of something to check off a list and forget about will grow. The concept of loving knowledge and wanting more is hard to pass on to kids when we've grown up with the practical view. Allowing kids to thrive at their own pace instead of sticking to imposed grades is hard when you feel outside eyes upon you. Seeing accumulated meaningful knowledge emanate from the child instead of being spit out in list of memorization or written on stacks of papers is joyous for parents but a little nail-biting when portfolio review time comes. There are many more such concepts that are easily written down but hard to shift our thinking on.

So that's one reason families might start out a Charlotte Mason education slowly. It is a paradigm shift not expounded by surrounding academia. Most subjects take practice because they are done so differently. But with good practice, the wisdom behind the method shines through and your family will learn to love to learn again.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Friends

We're in the midst of finishing up some of our literature readings. As I'm reading to my third kindergartner Phoebe, I can't help feeling a twinge of sadness mixed with gladness. Glad that I have one more child to read these books to when Harrison enters Kindergarten. Sad that I only have one more child to read these books to!! You really can't stop time. 

Last week was a tough one. We said goodbye to Pooh and Christopher Robin:

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands called out, "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"When I'm - when - Pooh!"
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"
"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much. They don't let you."
"Pooh, when I'm - you know - when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Just Me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"That's good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite -" he stopped and tried again - "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin. *

Whew. That is tough to read out loud. I can't do it without the tears flowing. And of course your voice changes when you're crying so it all sounds kind of strained and high. But I do love those books.

We also said goodbye to Robin Hood:

"Little John," said he, "Little John, mine own dear friend, and him I love better than all others in the world, mark, I prythee, where this arrow lodges, and there let my grave be digged. Lay me with my face toward the east, Little John, and see that my resting-place be kept green, and that my weary bones be not disturbed." 
As he finished speaking, he raised himself of a sudden and sat upright. His old strength seemed to come back to him, and, drawing the bowstring to his ear, he sped the arrow out of the open casement. As the shaft flew, his hand sank slowly with the bow till it lay across his knees, and his body likewise sank back again into Little John's loving arms; but something had sped from that body, even as the winged arrow sped from the bow. **

There are about two pages at the end of that book that I can't get through without crying also. It surprised me when I read it for the first time to my oldest. I didn't know Robin Hood would die. I didn't expect it.

And so we come to the end and say goodbye to our newfound friends. These kinds of books my kids come back to again and again. I don't know if I'll ever pick up Winnie the Pooh to read all on my own, so I hope there will always be children in my life for me to read them to. My kids aren't the only ones who miss these friendships.

*"The House at Pooh Corner" by AA Milne
**"The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" by Howard Pyle