Read below as Alveary member Amy F. details her experience transitioning from various public and home school settings to a Mason paradigm where education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and most of all a way of life.
As we find ourselves in our new “normal”, many have come upon homeschooling in nontraditional ways. Mothers are out there searching for the perfect curriculum or philosophy that will fit the need of their children’s education. Others have been thrown in last-minute and are scrambling due to the public-school system’s inability to meet the needs of their children. Our ideas of education are so dependent upon our own schooling experiences. Where to begin? It is a daunting challenge for those both in and out of the educational field.
I was there fifteen years ago when I began my homeschooling journey. As a young mom realizing that the school system was not sufficient, I began my search. Fear crept in and thus, I played it safe. I met with the curriculum coordinator at my children’s school and got all the “curriculum” they were using and thought I was set–complete with school desks!
After a month in, I was bored, and I knew my kids were as well, so we headed to the library and just read. It worked well; my kids enjoyed themselves more that year while I figured out my plan. The problem was that my ideology of traditional education was ingrained in me. As searched, I plowed through all kinds of educational philosophy, and Charlotte Mason (CM) even crossed my path; however, I felt that it wasn’t for my family. We needed rigor, “the best” and even though good literature stayed in our homeschool, my focus was all wrong.
At this time in my life, I wasn’t looking for a philosophy but more of a system and so, like many, I was sucked into the traditional style of learning: fact memorization and mirroring teacher’s ideas. It worked great for a while; my oldest rose to the challenge, but it slowly began to suck the life right out of my children, and their love of learning dwindled. It saddened me, but I was in the trap of fear, and consequently these thoughts consumed me: “They have to get that merit scholarship,” “This is just the way the world is,” and “It is the only way they can be successful and get into college and a good career.”
It wasn’t until years later that I started to examine some of the problems within this way of educating–the teaching for the test, the regurgitating of facts, learning not for learning’s sake but just for achieving that “A.” I began to realize that there had to be something more. Did God mean for us to live our lives this way? I realized I had compartmentalized my children’s learning. Their school life was separate from family life; it was just a means to an end. Therefore, I continued my research of finding that perfect curriculum, but this time when I stumbled on Charlotte Mason, I read her actual words. And instead of looking for a set curriculum, I started looking for a philosophy.
CM was enlightening: “Information is not education,” she wrote. What was this? The idea of teaching the whole child, a broad curriculum, life-changing ideas that the children can make their own, transforming their persons and character. From then on, I was converted. I read her volumes, PNEU articles, and I had the privilege of attending some Charlotte Mason Institute (CMI) conferences where I learned from the pioneers and about the beginning of the Alveary.
The Alveary has truly been an answer to prayer for me. It has helped me succeed in bringing life back to my homeschool and my family. Having lesson plans laid out so beautifully and ready to go has been so helpful and beneficial. I have more time to spend learning more about how to be my children’s facilitator, and my days of searching for that perfect curriculum are over. I have seen the abundant fruit, the closeness it has brought our family–too many amazing moments to tell–but the best part is the peace. Knowing I have landed where I need to be, having the opportunity to come alongside my kids, and knowing that our journey wasn’t in vain has given me assurance and contentment. God is good and He is faithful and will provide for those who seek Him. And well, what about my fears? They are now gone; God is sufficient and has already proven that to me time and time again. With one kid off to college, one about to fly out of the nest, and one left to carry on with me, I can vouch that education is more than a test, it is life.
So, for all the new homeschool moms out there and for those who aren’t so new but are still looking for that perfect curriculum, I say, “Look no further.” A Charlotte Mason education is not about finding that perfect curriculum, instead it is something much better; it is a philosophy, a way of living, a mind-altering transformation that takes time. Give yourself some grace, know that God has your back, and He will come alongside us as He has promised. I know many want a quick fix of how to “do” this thing, but there is so much more to it than that. It is a process. So, jump in, swim, and enjoy the journey.