No matter how much I read educational philosophy, or what I try, I am always brought back to Charlotte Mason. When I look back at her Volumes, especially Home Education, which is about educating children under nine, I feel my spirit agreeing with almost everything she says. Two years ago, trying to implement the practice was overwhelming. Honestly, to implement her education philosophy is a huge paradigm shift. You won’t be getting tons of shiny curriculum in the mail or have much paper work to show at the end of the day.
Recently I talked to a lady who does homeschool consulting, she is a classical/ Charlotte Mason educator, and her advice was to make one change at a time instead of a bunch of big changes. I think this was the hardest thing when I participated in the Alveary; for me it was too many changes at once and I found myself because a slave to a program that I did not yet have peace with. I do agree with the lady I talked to, perhaps we need to make one little change at a time. My whole mindset of education needs to be changed. “Education is a life, a discipline, an atmosphere.” School is not something we do, education is just part of life. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have set lessons, but rather that we are not doing our lessons meerly to check boxes or get things done. We do our lessons in order to train ourselves for our leisure.
Charlotte Mason had her students do lessons 6 days a week. Looking at her programs you see they did take the whole month of August off each year. She had a program written for August- December, January- March, and April- July. Although she had kids doing work 6 days a week, the set lesson times were only 2.5-4 hrs a day, even for highschool. Although they only had at max 4 hours a day of set lessons, there were things she expected were being done in the afternoon, why, because she was training people for leisure.
What kind of things were expected for afternoons? Outdoor time, reading, keeping a nature journal, piano, listening to great pieces of classical music, gardening, cooking, sewing, knitting, woodworking, chores, painting, card making, letter writing, singing, games. If we have a wide variety of things we are being taught in the morning and teaching children how to draw or paint, giving them a love for nature, teaching them how to sew and work with their hands, how to read, then their afternoons are open to further exploration of the things that have caught their interest. I think this is a HUGE paradigm shift and we continue to add more school work and homework, because we have lost the idea of leisure and we have a fear of our kids being “bored”. f
Leisure now is a passive activity. We put ourselves in front of mindless entertainment and pass the time without much thought an effort. Technology in many ways is destroying our brains and our ability to be fully human. Scheduled activities are also taking us and our children away from developing arts in our lives. What if we trusted short lessons to be enough, took away the technology and too many activities, and watched what our children would do with their afternoons.
I recently saw the fruit of this in a few ways. My kids found blank composition notebooks around the house, my seven and six-year-old both asked if they could have one. My son wanted to know what I did with my notebook. I told him I copied scripture, copied lines from literature, wrote out prayers, wrote ideas that came into my mind. The rest of that week he spent hours with his notebook. He copied a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, who he claims to be his favorite poet. He copied all of Psalm one. He drew a picture of God casting Satan out of heaven. I never told him to do these things, but I had taught him how to form letters, I have read A Child’s Garden of Verses to Him, and have given him his own Bible. Also, I found my kids taking popsicle sticks and making them into people and acting out a story of Julius Ceaser and the Romans fighting the Britons. I never told them to do this, I had read them a story and they asked if they could play with popsicle sticks and they had hours of unscheduled time.
I must confess, there are areas I know I need to further train my children in order to use their leisure well, this takes effort on the part of the parents, but I will not be overwhelmed or condemn myself, but rather take one step at a time. For example, my daughter is interested in gardening, my selfishness has no desire to teach her how to garden, but if I am willing to take the time to do this with her, I am training a child on how to use leisure well. My son wants to be able to whittle, this could turn into a great skill, but this will take time on my part. I honestly hoped I could hand him a knife and it would happen, but it didn’t. Well anyways I am on a journey.