The other day Jeanne posted a fantastic article called “Fitting in the Nice Bits” over at A Peaceful Day. Maybe you already saw it…but if you didn’t, I’d encourage you to click over and read it now. It is a really fantastic read on scheduling in the Charlotte Mason homeschool.
Did you read it? Good.
In addition to the really excellent practical tips that I am tucking away, I was also really struck by the way Jeanne emphasized the two key ideas that drew me to Charlotte Mason in the first place: simplicity and life.
As Jeanne touched on in her article, we can “make space” in our schedules for all of the lovely extras like art, music, poetry, Shakespeare, etc. by keeping things simple. By not trying too hard. It doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming, or messy. Our job as parent/teachers is to spread a feast of life-giving ideas. The onus is on our children to take those ideas and run with them. Think about them. Connect them with other things they know. Develop their own creative sense. I don’t have to burn myself trying to execute fancy projects or line up the perfect resources for a unit study. (Here is another really good article that discusses this same idea.)
I almost burned myself out trying to do this when doing preschool-at-home with Michelle the year she was 4. I was spending more time researching ideas of cute projects and fun things that we could do to learn the alphabet than we actually spent together doing them. (And as cute and fun as those projects were, did they really help her learn the alphabet any better or faster than she would have had I employed simpler methods? No, probably not.) We were not going to last in this homeschooling thing for the long haul unless I did something differently. It was about this point that I stumbled across Charlotte Mason and realized that it doesn’t have to be complicated, and I’m so glad I did. And as I was contemplating the other day, sometimes the simplest things are the best anyhow. I’ve found a lot of freedom and realizing and embracing that idea.
I think one of the most important homeschooling principles to keep in mind is that “homeschooling” does not mean “school-at-home”. We have so much more freedom than that. Learning doesn’t have to fit into tidy little compartments between the hours of 9 and 3. It can be hard for those of us who grew up in the traditional school system (and perhaps even more so for those of us – like me – who actually worked in it!) to be able to let go of that compartmentalized idea of learning. I think that perhaps the key to fitting in the art and music and poetry is to make them part of life. I heard a really good talk one time in which the speaker, a long-time homeschooling veteran, shared about how it is the little things done consistently over a period of time that will reap a harvest. Figure out how to fit these “nice bits” into your daily routine and then just do them! Keep them simple so that they actually get done.
Some of the ways we’ve done this in our home include Scripture memory and hymns around the breakfast table, playing music by our current composer during lunch, taking time to notice what is around us in nature while we are out walking or playing anyhow, and having Bible reading plus a good literature selection to read aloud at bedtime. These things aren’t part of our formal school schedule, which means more often than not they get done even when school doesn’t. Often the kids themselves even ask to do them. They have become like second nature: grounding practices in our family life – a family life that is so much richer than if we limited learning only to school hours.
Simplicity and Life…two key ideas that make a huge difference in the way we educate.