I often wonder what makes people doubt
their first instincts. In fact, if we take a look at the first humans on the
earth, Adam and Eve, we see self doubt even in them. When Eve was tempted with
the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil her first instinct was to quote God’s command, “…you
must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.” However, I think we all know what happened next.
Rather than obeying that first instinct, which was in truth God’s
command, she doubted herself and ate of the fruit that she knew she shouldn’t.
When I first learned about homeschooling
I was much like Eve. My heart told me that learning should be continual, fun
and something to savor yet I was tempted with the false security of “school at home.” With every step closer to that public school-like mentality I felt more and more like we had taken a dangerously
wrong turn. Quentin was just barely three years old and we were already *doing
school* for an hour each day. There were mounds and mounds of workbooks, worksheets,
flashcards and skill charts but to my surprise he was learning nothing. Actually,
I take that back, he was learning a great deal just not from me.
It was just about that time that I came
across Karen Andreola’s book, “A Charlotte Mason Companion.” Karen
introduced me to this 19th century British educator with an air of authority and grace. She reacquainted me with my original instincts regarding education.
When, at long last, I mustered the courage to tackle Miss Mason’s own book, “Home Education” I opened
it and with the first page, no rather, the first sentence I knew I was home.
My first experiment with Charlotte
Mason’s methods was that same year while my son was still a tender three years old.
I was frustrated and beside myself that he had still not mastered the alphabet.
It seemed as though one day he could recite it and its sounds front ways and back yet the next even the letter “A”
eluded his memory. Mason said, “…the part of the mother in early
years is to sow opportunities, and then keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are
badly wanted…” (Home Education pg. 193) Surely she wasn’t suggesting
that I sit on the sidelines waiting for him to recite his letters when he was ready… was she? It would all become clear in the next few pages when she said, “Let him go and come freely, let him
touch real things, and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table while a sweet-voiced
teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or
plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial
associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.” (Home Education pg. 196) Well there it
was in black and white for all to see. She was indeed suggesting that
I let him be, so with a bit of skepticism, I did just that. For two weeks over
Christmas we did nothing even remotely relating to the alphabet. Instead we wrapped
gifts, baked cookies and frolicked in the new fallen snow. To my amazement when
we returned to our bookwork he knew not only all twenty-six letters but their sounds too.
It was almost too easy, nothing at all like the “no pain, no gain” approach of this day and age.
I would like to say that on that
day I became a 100% Charlotte Mason convert forever throwing the school books to the wind, however that is not the case. With the onset of preschool at age four came a renewed sense of anxiety. What if that whole alphabet thing was just a fluke? What if
I really wasn’t qualified to teach my son? What if, what if, what if? So again, acting on fear rather than instinct I purchased a $300 preschool curriculum. The only thing I did right was to choose a curriculum that somewhat lined up with
the Charlotte Mason philosophy… I was getting closer.
Now that my son will be entering
his kindergarten year I feel like we are finally on the right track. Instead
of spending an exorbitant amount of money on a “cookie cutter” curriculum I have chosen to create my own based
on (what I believe to be) the four pillars of Miss Mason’s philosophy – habit, living books, nature study and
narration. Like anything in life, though, we must give it our own spin because
what works for one may not for another.
visit the links entitled "Year -0-" on the menu bar to read more about our kindergarten curriculum.