It may sound oxymoron to say that this school year has been perfectly imperfect but honestly is has been just that. At the end of last year I was feeling miserable and ready to give up. I didn’t just want a good education for my kids; I wanted a good Charlotte Mason education. The problem was that even though I had the “right” educational philosophy, the “right” curricula, the “right” books, my kids were putting up a fight and could not keep up with my wonderful plans. The nerve of these kids!!!! I could hear the voices in my head (OK…that sounded bad…you know what I mean!) telling me not to give up. To give up would mean to teach my children that you don’t have to work hard. We needed to endured, or so I thought.
However, after much prayer and thinking and talking (with the hubby and a few good homeschooling mommas) I realized something had to give. So when I started planning for the 2016-2017 year I did something I had never done before and, to be honest, I am ashamed to admit. I started looking at my kids first and the schedule second. Instead of reading all those blogs explaining how to magically fill every second of your day so you can cover all the subjects in a CM education AND read tons of books, I decided to look at my kids and base my decisions on what they needed not what the curriculum said they needed to know in X amount of time.
In the process, I realized that we were going to have to combine a lot more than some people like and that was OK for our family. I divided our days into blocks just because that is how my brain works. Our blocks are chunks of time where we cover specific subjects and are usually done at the same time, but if I need to switch the order it is OK. Our block times are:
1) Round Table Time: here we cover composer study, artist study, practice drawing, geography (including map work), and copywork (including a little bit of grammar).
2) Individual Time: this is where each kid has some one on one time with me. Here we cover math, reading instruction and practice, and a reading a day for subjects like history and science.
3) Circle Time: here we have our Bible study, memorize the books of the Bible by singing, sing our hymn and folk song, read our poetry and read from a book (we alternate with a biography, a science and a literature book).
4) Night Time Read Out Loud: we read as a family (dad included) from a literature book. Right now we are enjoying the Narnia series.
5) P.S Night and Faith Night: on Saturdays (P.S. Nights) we either read from Shakespeare (the S from the name) or from Plutarch (the P). Then, on Sunday nights we read from a faith based book such as the Pilgrim Progress and Trial and Triumph.
As you can see we work together as a family most of the time. This change, for our family, has been a blessing. So far, we are enjoying an atmosphere of camaraderie that is the total opposite of what we had before when I always felt rushed and feeling like it was never enough. Yes, we have not covered the same amount of material this year as we had in the past but we CARE about what we are learning. We will not be covering three composers or artists or poets. We are only doing two composers and artists and one poet this year. And yet, the extra time we are spending with those we are getting to know has been awesome. We don’t feel rushed if we miss a week of our picture study. We have time to get to know the painting and the artist. In addition, we finally have the time to go to the park, the museum, the zoo and other trips we never had the time to go because we were “keeping up” with the readings and other subjects. For the first time I don’t feel behind. We are where we are and just do the next thing.
For a while I felt that I couldn’t call myself a CM educator anymore. I mean, I was not doing Latin!!! I was not doing a full CM curriculum!!! I was dropping books!!! I was not keeping up with the famous page counts!!! Good Lord!!! And the worse: I was looking into simplifying science for my autistic son by maybe using some textbooks!!! He struggles with the wordy books and gets lost with all the descriptions that by the end of the chapter he has no idea what I read. In contrast, if I read a very straight forward book (not too dry but now as flowery) he will understand fine. He will narrate fine…even better than with the other book.
So here I was, feeling like maybe I could not be a CM homeschooler anymore until a good friend of mine reminded me of this: CM’s first principle is children are born persons. By respecting my child’s personhood I am being very CM indeed. I am, after all, focusing on her principles when I educate my children. The practices may differ from other CM homes but that is ok. Charlotte Mason would expect that. She changed books constantly at her schools and was always looking for the best book available. She expected moms to combine and to change books according to each child’s needs…because each one of our kids was born a person.