So, it's that time of year where I see many bloggers posting their plans for the upcoming school year. I love reading planning posts. I love making checklists and organizing new books. I love sharp pencils and new notebooks. I love just about everything about starting a new school year and always have.
That said, I haven't made any new checklists or organized anyone's binder yet. That aspect of planning comes very naturally to me - so much so that it is easy for me to jump straight to that part of the process without considering the 'why' behind what we are doing. This has been especially true in the last year or two. Since returning to the States in May, I have come to realize that I have been functioning in survival mode for…well…for a long time. Now that we are here in the US again, at least for now, I am slowly starting to replenish some of what has drained away. Part of that process is thinking through where we are and where we need to be in our family and in our homeschool, and taking those ideas into consideration when I start choosing curriculum and making checklists. I want to be sure that we are using our time in the best possible way - being intentional to work towards our goals - and not just flying on autopilot.
I have been re-reading sections of When Children Love to Learn (Cooper, et al) as part of my reflection time this summer. This quote in an early section really struck me:
"Charlotte Mason's educational ideal was not to remove us from the ordinary but to enrich us, each one, with the best possible relationships…with God, with people in our family and community, with others through books, art, or music, and with God's creation." (p.35)
The end of Charlotte Mason education is far more than the books and materials that are included on my nice checklists. The end is relationship – and not just any relationships, but the best. The relationships that will enrich us and help us become human beings fully alive. That is really the point of the living books and the narration and the nature study and habit training. Those things are not ends in themselves, they are the means of helping us to develop those relationships appropriate to us as human beings. (See more about this in Charlotte Mason's Third Volume, School Education, Chapter VIII 'Certain Relations Proper to a Child').
These relationships fall into four basic categories: relationship with God (what Charlotte Mason refers to as 'Knowledge of God' in her writings), relationships with the people in our family and community ('Education is an atmosphere' and 'Education is a discipline'), relationships with 'others' - Mankind, if you will - that we develop through our books and other studies ('Knowledge of Man'), and relationship with God's creation ('Knowledge of the Universe'). I have been reflecting on ways that I can help to enrich our relationships in each of these four areas so that I can ensure that my priorities are straight when I get to the more nitty-gritty-checklist-making part of my planning process. What does it look like to enrich these relationships? And how can we do that, practically speaking? I hope to share some of those reflections in posts to come.