Friday, December 19, 2008

Classical or Charlotte Mason?

Some of my main goals include raising my boys to be adults:
  • who will embrace Truth as revealed in the person of Jesus and trust Him as Savior and Lord of their lives.
  • who are relevant, engaging culture and their peers for the purpose of wining others to Christ.
  • who have the ability to intelligently defend their faith, both in speaking and writing, but do so with great respect.
  • who are well educated, entrenched in the classics, so they may pursue future endeavors they may feel God calling them to without hindrances from any educational lacking.
  • who are emotionally healthy, prepared for meaningful and fulfilling relationships with spouse, family and friends.
  • who are physically fit yet understand that "for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." - 1 Timothy 4:8
And this is not an exhaustive list. When I was teaching public school I always told my parents on "Meet the Teacher Night" that I wanted their children to excel not only in the "Three R's" but to grow as people during their nine months with me - to be be more emotionally and socially mature. The reality though is that with 20-24 children in my class and six to ten subjects to cover daily, there just wasn't enough time to devote to this noble endeavor. Truly I was stepping outside my job description anyway which was to solely educate their minds.

In contrast, one of the great benefits and blessing of homeschooling is that we are responsible for and able to educate the whole child: mind, body and spirit. When we started our journey to homeschool one of the first books I read was The Well Trained Mind. TWTM resonated so much with many of the things I had in mind for my children and provided the education I wish I had. We eagerly started on our journey using Susan Wise-Bauer's book as our road map.

Yet, I had begun feeling in recent months that while I was happy with much of the education I was providing for Thatcher there were holes - very big holes. We are so busy for so much of the day that while I am challenging his mind the focus on body and spirit is sorely lacking. I know this is not the case in many families pursuing a classical education, but it definitely is for us. The severity of Thatcher's ADHD means that lessons that take a typical child 20 minutes take us two or three times that much time. There is little time each day for anything other than academics.

I began to think about and research our options. I remembered several things I had always read about Charlotte Mason's educational theories, many of which are very intriguing for me. Short lessons, educating the whole child, nature studies and her focus on character development and habit training were things that stuck in my mind - and honestly just about all I knew about a CM education.

I have decided to seriously study up on Miss Mason's theories to decide if we need to change our trajectory in regards to educating my children. I love TWTM but is there a better way to meet our educational (mind) goals without sacrificing meeting the other goals I have for my children, especially now with our formal diagnosis of Asperger's?

I have started reading Volume One of Miss Mason's work in modern English from Ambleside Online. It's free! In the small amount I've already read, I have clearly seen that while TWTM is in line with my head CM aligns more with my heart. I will post my thoughts as I work my way through the series.


mom24 said...

I too have found this to be the case as we are halfway through 2nd grade with J. I love the WTM (I do well with the structure) but feel that I need something less heavy and more Christ focused. I feel like I'm missing the point somedays and just pushing to "get stuff done." I get so stressed out when I try to push him through a FLL lesson (easy for some but not for him) just so I can say that it's done. I would rather teach him grammar by diagramming, copying,and reading God's Word - at Jason's own pace! We are actually considering using Sonlight curriculum next year so that I have less stress with planning and can show more JOY to my children each day.
I mean - isn't this what homeschooling is about?
I think that you are doing well to consider and research CM style schooling and that it is wise of you to flex and change to meet the IMPORTANT non-educational needs of your kids. God will bless you for this and the "mind" needs will fall in line too!
Your bullets points are wonderful! I think that I will steal them for my teacher's manual. Better yet - I should post them where I can view them each day! :-)

Ali said...

I always enjoy coming to your blog. I enjoy how you are sort of walking this out and letting everyone else in on it. Thank you for taking the time to include others on your journey. We are new in our journey (sort of) and I loved TWTM and have pulled alot from it, but I'm also intrigued by Charlotte Mason and her approach. I look forward to reading your research, and I'm also challenged to do my own. Thanks again! Have a very Merry Christmas.

Karen said...

I love both TWTM and Charlotte Mason. I consider our homeschool to be a mixture of both. Since I dislike the lable "eclectic" I call this "Hybrid-homeschooling."

Homeschooling is about personalizing education, not following someone's plan to a "T", no matter how good that plan is.

Best wishes to you as you sort everything out! :)

argsmommy said...

You put my exact thoughts into writing! Please continue to write about this subject. I love your goals, and I think I too will have to print those out!


Jennifer said...

I think this is a good summary of where alot of us end up after jumping in with WTM. SWB has a good article on how Charlotte Mason and Classical homeschooling are compatible - it's worth reading if you haven't already. For me, Charlotte Mason was a little too much like unschooling - so I've found myself melding the two - there must be a name for this somewhere out there :)

Tracy said...

We too started out with TWTM and moved on to more CM approach. Wish I had known CM from the beginning!

ByHISgoodGrace said...

Hi Jennefer. I started with WTM. It has been greatly helpful. I have listened to Susan Wise Bauer tapes on writing a dozen times, she is an expert. I use her mom's First Language Lessons and love them. But, I completely changed my curriculum just one week in b/c of that whole mind/heart thing. With me, my flesh loves the whole organized, intellectual side of WTM and I may use SOTW again, who knows.
But, I switched to My Father's World which is CM style. I love it. My boys are 9, 6 and 2 and have short attention spans. Sometimes, I find it light, but I love that, because there are so many other things I love and so what I do is just add. I'm doing Adventures in My Father's World and I just love it. Rather than four year cycle, it starts with America (which we are so enjoying.) Then, does a year of Geography, then does a 5 year cycle of history. So, it's classical-like!
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me. I went through much of what you seem to be dealing with.
Praying for you.

Sheryl said...

I feel pulled between the two philosophies so often. Can they reside in unison..can they both exist one with the other? I am trying my best to blend these two lifestlyes of teaching. I tell people that our homeschool is a mix of Classical, Charlotte Mason, and "Mommy did't sleep last night so here's what we're going to do" (i'm a chronic insomniac). lol..Its a journey. I'm learning to let go a little...I think all of us type A, straight A kinda people have to do that. Can't wait to hear more about this similar road you are traveling down.

Beth@Pages of Our Life said...

Praying that you will be able to find the balance. I think you are doing the right thing by your son to listen to "the check" in your heart. Every year or less I do what your doing and "consider our ways".

Sheryl said...

Just another note to say thank you for the free link of Mason's work in modern language. I started reading it this morning. I have read the Charlotte Mason Companion but never her actual works. Thanks again for the info. Happy Reading and Praying.

the good, the bad & the ugly said...

We combine Charlotte Mason and classical around here. I think if the boys are young, you can do it. We take a classical approach to history, reading, the arts. And we take a more Charlotte Mason approach to science and math. My boys are in kindergarten and second grades (with a 2 yr. old sister) and it usually takes us around 3.5-4 hours a day to have school. We break it up to 1.5 hr. in the morning-snack and outside-1 hr. before lunch. Then another 1-1.5 hrs. in the afternoon. Lots of short lessons, lots of breaks. We take Friday off. I know we will have school a day or two a week in the summer, but I don't mind. At least they won't regress. We might just take an hour a day in the afternoons in the summer for a lesson.
By the way, I am so touched by your Asperger's posts. My son was not diagnosed with Asperger's, but the word was tossed around when he was 2, 3 and 4. Now it has been ruled out completely, but I know the pain and relief to which you refer. Balancing the peace and trust in Christ, with striving and working towards helping him meet his very best potential was a challenge for me. Some days the path was clear and other times I felt like I was feeling around in the dark. But all in all, I was so thankful to know the King of kings and to trust Him to guide us along. And I am so hopeful for you, and thankful that you trust in our Savior, too. I am praying for you today and hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Kim said...

I have been using CM philosophies for a while in our homeschool. I school two boys. And CM philosophies fit us so well. I have enjoyed A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola. It was such an informative book for me and my DH.