I have noticed an interesting phenomenon over the last year or two–I am hungry!
Charlotte Mason often compares education to a feast. She instructs us to spread the table full of good things with which our children may feed their minds, offering them the opportunity to pursue knowledge across a wide range of subjects. I have been working at filling our table in this way for years now. But a change has happened. My children have grown older, and they no longer need me to read their school books to them.
At first, this change was a relief. It made the task of trying to schedule out my help between the three of them much easier. They could work independently in many more areas, so I was free to help one while the other two worked. However, the areas in which they needed my help tended to be similar. I would spend my morning doing things like math and Latin, at three different levels, while they took turns disappearing to feast on history, literature, music, and more. They were thriving, but the same wasn’t true for me.
Even though they didn’t need my help with the readings, I did try to choose at least one book each term to read with each child. There is a different level of conversation possible when you share a book together than if you are just listening to narrations. So I would choose the book that I thought would be the most important to discuss together or that might be the most difficult for them to deal with on their own. We enjoyed our times of reading together and the discussions afterwards. Not surprisingly, though, most of these books fell within the same subject areas.
We also have the privilege of being part of a Charlotte Mason co-op. It is only natural that the teaching duties would be divided up based on our strengths. That meant I did the bulk of my teaching in the area of science and nature study. Those are the subjects that I am most passionate about and enjoy sharing. But I am beginning to notice a change. I am not finding the science experiments as exciting anymore.
It has dawned on me, that while my children are experiencing a rich and varied feast, I tend to feed on the same dishes over and over again. So I am hungry for more variety! While I could supply this lack in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed with a few books of my own, I wonder if that is the best way. Will my kids see my involvement in certain subjects and not in others as some indication of which areas are more important? Will they truly understand the notion of the entire feast, if I do not share in the variety with them? Perhaps in planning out my schedule, I need to look at a larger picture than simply who needs help with what.
I have also been wondering how this worked out during Charlotte Mason’s time. We are so accustomed to having experts teaching in their subject areas from our own educational experiences, that perhaps we forget that all people need a varied diet. In contemplating the idea of a Charlotte Mason style school, I have found myself wondering if the teachers specialized as much as we are used to. Did the teachers get to share in a feast with their students, or was it as compartmentalized as our high schools? While it is always true that we can fill our evenings and weekends with more, something inside me says that modeling this for the students and sharing it with them is important at a foundational level. I have discovered a new research project for myself in poking into the archives for answers about this! But I have also gained some new perspectives in scheduling the days with my children. I hope you will also be inspired to consider the offerings at your own feast. May your table be full of variety and richness!
© 2018 Shannon Goods