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Before I explain why we decided to pursue a Charlotte Mason homeschool education for our kids, I want to acknowledge that education decisions are very personal and often polarizing. Just like politics and religion, people tend to have strong opinions about education. Strong opinions are fine, but I insist that comments remain polite and respectful.
We moved to our house six years ago when our son was 1 month old. Of course, education choices were on our mind, but they weren’t urgent at the time. In the past, our county had a pretty low graduation rate, but these numbers have improved since that time. This improvement coupled with the fact that I have several friends who are paraprofessionals at our local elementary school made me more comfortable with the public school option since it’s not like I would be sending my child to a big, scary place where they wouldn’t know anyone.
Speaking of options, there are two other public elementary schools in our county that have great reputations, and we could have applied to attend these schools. Even more, there is a private Christian school in Chattanooga where many of our friends teach and send their kids. That option was less attractive since it means that I would have to go back to work full time to pay for tuition and childcare.
Lots of Choices; One Decision
The bottom line is that we did have some choices, but we also had some hesitations. One of our biggest hesitations is that my son has food allergies to wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and bananas. While we have worked to educate him about these, the school environment would be a constant food safety battle.
Another question we faced with a June birthday is whether to start school just after age 5 or wait until age 6. Our son started reading when he was 4, so our concern wasn’t really academic but whether he was relationally and emotionally ready for a full day of school. By educating at home for kindergarten, we were able to give him more time to develop and allow him to plow ahead in reading. But we needed to revisit the homeschool question for 1st grade.
After many conversations, we decided not to pursue the public or private school options for 1st grade (even though there were days when all I wanted to do was march off and enroll our son in school). While we became a homeschool family last fall, we didn’t have to officially report it. Georgia is a very homeschool friendly state, and I discovered that I didn’t need to register our school decision until our son was 6. I recently submitted our official homeschool election form for the 2018-2019 school year, and we are on our way for 1st grade. Yikes!
Why Charlotte Mason?
Homeschooling isn’t as ubiquitous as it used to be. Lots of families are doing it–religious and secular families. But you may be wondering what this Charlotte Mason thing is. She’s not exactly a household name in most circles.
Charlotte Mason was a British Educator who lived during the 19th/early 20th century. After many years of teaching and observing children, she developed an educational philosophy. Her philosophy and methods helped support parents in the task of teaching their children. In addition, she started a training college for teachers to train them in her philosophy and method. She wrote books on her philosophy and method and lectured on these ideas.
When I first heard about Charlotte Mason, I didn’t have children and never thought I would be a homeschool mom. Well, life is funny like that. I suppose the joke is on me because here I am a homeschool mom (sans denim jumpers)!
I quickly discovered some of Mason’s more well-known characteristics, such as her insistence on living books and her emphasis on nature study. Who wouldn’t want these in their curriculum? They seemed to be nice, wholesome ideas that we could add to any curriculum.
Mason is More Than Living Books and Nature Study
However, as I began to dive into her writings, the various aspects of her philosophy and method began to form a beautiful and inspiring picture that transcended books and nature. I’ll be sharing about her ideas in future posts, but a summary of these principles is found in the A Short Synopsis section of all 6 of her Home Education Series books.
If you’re interested in exploring Mason’s writings, you can find a free online version at Ambleside Online. If you’re like me and prefer to read a print copy, a new paperback edition is available through Amazon. As a teaser, some of Mason’s ideas include: Children are born persons, a child’s mind is like an organism with an appetite for knowledge, education is the science of relations.
In truth, there can be a large gap between ideas and implementation, and I’m sure that there will be times when I’ll struggle with the disconnect between what I envision and our reality. However, I’m excited to be jumping in with both feet and seeking to follow Mason’s philosophy in our school–Ambleside Tales Academy.
We will be using the Alveary curriculum, which is a resource of the Charlotte Mason Institute, and I will share how it is working for us. I would love to have you join us on the journey. I’ll be writing about Mason’s ideas, methods, and how we’re implementing these in our school. I’ll also discuss our successes and failures so that others who are on this journey or are considering a Mason education can be inspired and be aware of the challenges.
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