Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Little Way to Idealize Homeschooling

I'm not sure if it's the spring weather that makes me coddle Secret Gardens in England and visions of Hill Top Farm but every spring I find myself scanning my bookshelf for my dog-eared, spine-weary, winter-dozing Charlotte Mason Companion.

Every spring I seek the good counsel of a 19th century English educator.

Her Companion awakens within my hand.

And it awakens much more within me.

Memories. Pleasurable spring days spent in the garden. The value of nature.

The study of habits. The richness of living literature by reading living literature. And ideals...

Gosh, the ideals! All the ideals that I had! Once upon a season!

The ideals I bred within my home!
The ideals I fought to protect!
The ideals I balanced into my days with as much diligence as a cook measures her chicken stock and flour.

I am now the mother of three young adults, a young teen, and a nine-year-old who spins life-giving circles within our home. Through the years, as my children have grown and taken flight into the scary unknown, our schooling has changed though we still call it "homeschooling."

My mother comments about the stack of Seton and Catholic Heritage Curricula hoisted before my youngest at the work table. I sigh. Yes, I know, but it has taught her diligence and study skills and good work habits and perserverance. We travel to co-op every Monday and that has been a blessing which requires fortitude and a bit of work ethic but it is a blessing nonetheless. A blessing many times over.

My new teenager grumbles over Math. I rely on someone else to teach her Science. I depend on her incessant reading to develop her Grammar. My high schooler is developing his last two years of schooling in co-op classes thoughtfully planned out and equipped just for him. I am a very small part of that task.

This spring I wondered, however briefly, if those ideals were still of any use to me...to us. Or should I leave them upon that bookshelf to rest, to sleep. Had I lost hold of them so much that they were no longer found in our book bags?

Have I uncaged my ideals to the idol of self-reliance and realism?

Charlotte Mason reminds me of quieter days and little ways. She whispers of rhythm and rhyme and embracing the educational process not as a battle but as a retreat.

It is in this spirit that I shun realism. It is in this spirit that I pity those who believe that fighting our way through life is ever the best way to live life.

Nature study? Habit training? Classics over Logic? Classes over garden days in the sun?

In the adoration chapel the following night I was guided to a poem by Samuel Ullman that enarmored General Douglas MacArthur high upon the wall of his office and with which the Holy Spirit spoke to me.

YOUTH by Samuel Ullman

‎"People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul." ~ Samuel Ullman

Then this morning I read this quote at Ambleside:

"In the early days of a child's life it makes little difference whether we educate with a notion of filling a receptacle, inscribing a tablet, moulding plastic matter, or nourishing a life, but as a child grows we shall perceive that only those ideas which have fed his life are taken into his being; all the rest is cast away or is, like sawdust in the system, an impediment and an injury." ~ Charlotte Mason
Do I hear an Amen from the homeschooling community?
I realized that I cannot give up on those ideals I formulated under the clothesline while pregnant with my third child and deciding to chisel my first child out of the brick-and-mortar. And the Holy Spirit was not ready to let me give up on them either.
This spring I am receiving counsel with a new set of educators. From America and abroad they are part of the 21st century educators who believe in high ideals and nourishing them, in making a difference in the lives of their children, in putting their children above curriculum, and in daring the years to wrinkle their enthusiasm.  

Suzie Andres and an ideal group of mentors have strewn a new homeschooling book upon my bookshelf. A Little Way of Homeschooling is for homeschooling mothers, new and old, who are seeking to explain, and perhaps justify (even to themselves), how homeschooling goes beyond books and curricula and lesson plans and can be found in the everyday ordinary of little things, little habits, and little ways.

It's found in the little people around us. Even the little people who might now be bigger than we are but who are forever little ones to us.
It not that we have lost the ideal in the greater scheme of things but that we can resurrect our ideals when the largeness of life looms before us.
As my friend Cindy Kelly wrote: "I have loved this journey!"
Oh, so have I. So have I! And the ideal of it all will keep me forever young and forever filled.
I idealize homeschooling and the life it affords us.


  1. Wow, Cay ... what a wonderfully written post. You've put into beautiful words what my heart has been trying to say, too! Blessings and hugs to all in the Cajun Cottage!

  2. I really like this post. I have been thinking about many of these things too. Of the days I only had early elementary kids and we spent time so much time on nature study and picture study, on music study, appreciating beauty and picture books. We still do those, but suddenly we are faced with SATs and college considerations, STEM etc etc. I miss those days when spontaneity was easier. I have been rereading my Charlotte Mason books too and remembering my ideals.

    Blessings to you...

  3. Please would you also share what easels your girls are using and where you bought them - I am trying to restock our nature journalling backpacks and I really like the look of those wooden watercolor easels.

    Thanks so much!

  4. I'm pretty sure I found them at Hobby Lobby or Michael's Craft.


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