Our Mother, Deborah, with grandsons Mosiah and Israel
Our mother gave several talks at our church about homeschooling and child training. She began homeschooling in 1986 with a daughter beginning 4th grade and a son in 1st grade. Mom ended her homeschooling teaching in 2002 with 16 years of experience under her belt. She was a wonderful teacher because she loved to learn herself and was willing to admit to mistakes and try to change those things for the better. We will miss having her here with us to ask advice on raising our own families. We are grateful she wrote some of her thoughts down. This is her story.
By Deborah Dean
I am so grateful to share my story of my home schooling journey. I would like to share that I have been married to my husband Bill for 28 years and we have 3 adult children.
Our home schooling journey began at a time when few had even heard of it. I noticed that a neighbor wasn’t bringing her daughter to the bus stop when Jason was in kindergarten. I asked her one day where her daughter went to school and as she looked around to see if anyone was listening (we were on our front porch) she said she home schooled her. I had to ask her what that meant. I found it really interesting but we continued to leave our children in public school. After several unfortunate events that adversely affected Jennifer, we took Jennifer and Jason out of public school. Jennifer was in 4th grade and Jason was in 1st grade. Caroline was 3 so I also had a preschooler as well.
I started out with Abeka textbooks. Slowly, I began to add a few topical studies of my own by implementing them in unit studies. I became aware of Charlotte Mason around 1990. I was introduced to the writings of Karen Andreola in 1991 and from that point on I was strongly convinced that the Charlotte Mason method of learning was for us.
I would like to share some information on the life of Charlotte Mason and then explain her method of educating children and how I applied them to our lessons. But before I do I just want to say that I will be mentioning her name often in my talk. I do not elevate her in any way and I can tell you from all my readings about her, that she did not ever want to be elevated in anyone’s mind. She was a very humble woman and she gave God all the credit for the gifts of learning and teaching that she shared.
Charlotte Mason was born in 1842 in England. She was born to parents that were only children and she herself was an only child. Her parents died when she was 16, leaving her in poor circumstances with no family members at all. She went in a teacher’s training college when she was 18 and after a year they started letting her teach due to her financial situation. She taught for the next 12 years but had to resign due to poor health.
She wrote some popular geography books about travels in England and then in the winter of 1885 she gave a series of lectures to raise fund for her church. These lectures were so well received by parents that soon Home Education became published.
Charlotte Mason gave a voice to children in a way that England did not. At that time in history, children were not only to be seen and yet not heard, but their childhood’s were stolen from harsh taskmasters and ill-informed parents. She believed that children were born persons and were as valuable as adults. Because she believed this way, she reached out to impoverished children as well as wealthy.
Charlotte Mason wrote: “We hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that personal knowledge of intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection. Education, life faith, is the evidence of things not seen….The only fit sustenance for the mind is ideas….Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science, but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with the facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses.”
Charlotte Mason was responsible for very positive educational reforms in England and by the time of her death at age 81, 50 schools in England had adopted her philosophies of education.
Ms. Mason was a very religious woman and she believed that your service and devotion to God was to take priority in all that you do. She talks of God throughout all her writings and never wavered in her faith. This knowledge of her faith and the learning of trials in severe health troubles drew my interest to her as well.
I have given a brief overview of Charlotte Mason’s life and gifts to education and now I will attempt to show how I implemented the things I learned into our everyday lives.
One of the first things that I appreciated was the Charlotte Mason’s children’s Motto: It is as follows:
I am, I can, I ought, I will.
This motto was not something we verbally repeated or discussed often but I included it in my children’s lives in a subtle way by displaying in a chart, or a notebook cover of mine. But I chose to see that I brought life to that motto to my children.
I am; meant that, “I am a child of God.” I wanted to always communicate to them that they were lovable and God loved them and that their personal identity and sense of worthiness needed to be based on who they were in Christ.
I can; meant, “I have abilities that God has given me which makes me capable of accomplishing the things He has called me to do.” I tried to teach them that they could “do all things through Christ Who strengthens them.”
I ought; was the was the lesson of moral conscience. “I ought to do what is right.” The book of Proverbs was a constant tool of learning for behavior, and right thinking which I used. I tried to instill in my children the daily habits of godly living and thinking.
I will; instilled in them the power to act but it was in dying to self that was the vision. I wanted my children to realize that they could do many things that would be called upon them in this life through power of the Holy Spirit.
Before I go any further, let me say up front that I am a woman who does not have all the answers. But I have been blessed with some understanding to the path of that vision I’m talking about. I admit I was learning at the same time my children were on how to be a child of God. Many times, as my children will confirm, I was repenting before God in my failures as a Mother. When I finished repenting for my inadequacies I would have the children come together with me and I would ask their forgiveness. By modeling a need for repentance, my children’s hearts would be softened in wanting to please the Lord as well. I have tender feelings for those moments together at the feet of Jesus.
As all of you know, establishing good habits and virtuous character in our children is a very important priority in child rearing. Charlotte Mason believed that once we get in the habit of training our children to good habits our road would be much easier to travel. I found these words she wrote to be so very true: “Education is discipline- that is, the discipline of good habits in which the child is trained.” Schoolwork should afford opportunity for the discipline of many good habits, and should convey to the child such initial ideas of interest in his various studies as to make the pursuit of knowledge on those lines an object in life and a delight to him.” What I find so beautiful in home schooling is the unfolding before your very eyes a tiny little infant God has given you charge of, and in the unfolding of events in your particular home school setting, you witness the convictions, determination and maturity in your child.
Looking back at our home school journey I believe we were able to find true balance in our lives. We attempted to be a part of the growing number of homeschoolers through support groups in our area. Being a part of those particular support groups were short lived because even then we found the influences were not the best for our family. This was a time in our life that we were able to take note of all the pulls from society and even church, and consciously make a commitment to keep home life the center of our lives.
I placed importance in my children to begin their day with the Lord and have quiet times with Him. We would come together, and before we started lessons, usually have devotionals. We sang hymns and had discussions. I tried to not overtax my children with their reading and studying from the scriptures because I wanted them to treasure God’s Word. I used oral narrations quite often for scripture studying and it was a good way to have discussions centered around that.
When you want to begin a day of home schooling, the home atmosphere is essential to the outcome in all you do. Charlotte Mason’s chose these words for her Motto of Education: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” I think of our atmosphere for our home schooling as more than just “the mood” in the home. With the home as the center of a real education it should be an atmosphere that is relaxed, stimulating, positive, and enjoyable for our young students as well as older. This environment will help feed your children’s minds with the proper nourishment of ideas.
“What is an idea? A live thing of the mind…We say of an idea that it strikes us, impresses us, seizes us, takes possession of us, rules us…To excite this “ardency toward something” - towards things lovely, honest, and of good report, is the earliest and most important ministry of the educator.” Ideas “are held in that thought-environment which surrounds the child as an atmosphere which he breathes as his breath of life; and this atmosphere in which the child inspires his unconscious ideas of right living emanates from his parents. Every look of gentleness and tone of reverence, every word of kindness and act of help, passes into the thought-environment, the very atmosphere that the child breathes.”
Let’s move on to the Education of discipline required in learning and focus on some subjects in a Charlotte Mason day of lessons. CM said, “Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.” Did you notice the first word to describe studies was delight? I can tell you that in all my years of public schooling, delight is not a word that would come to my mind! Praise God that we can not only change that for our children but I personally cherished the learning I absorbed in all my years of home schooling.
When I first began to home school our children, I was trying to mimic school at home. After several years of attempting this, I am so grateful I found a better choice. We were able to implement what Charlotte Mason called Living Books. Slowly, we replaced textbook only learning with whole books. We no longer looked at snippets of information given in a textbook as valuable as getting to really know an author and their “plateful of ideas”, if you will. Make books important to you and value them! Does your child see you enjoying books yourself? Remember children will seldom do anything with joy that we ourselves do not do with joy. The best way to instill a love of books is to love books yourself! I know everyone here is busy but this must be a priority because it sets the stage for your entire home school journey. I highly encourage each of you to establish the habit of daily family read aloud time. Enjoyment as a family is an obvious benefit in this habit but there are some other subtle benefits as well.
When your child learns to read aloud, you will be able to hear if the child pronounced any words wrong or notice if the child is reading without delight. I personally would limit corrections at this time (other than a few corrections of proper pronouncement of words) because this should be treasured family time. I would also suggest that you build up the interest in your child for the day they will be called on for the special job of reader! By keeping their moments to a few selected sentences you can help them read at their level and hopefully enjoy their contribution.
Another benefit of reading aloud as a family is the cohesiveness it brings to a family. Depending on the book of choice, your entire family can be having thoughts on the nuggets of truth or the character traits of a hero or heroine in the book. You might be reading a book with a character who has made many poor choices and by discussing these examples as a family unit you will find a gentle but effective learning time has taken place.
In our home schooling we implemented one of the foundations in a Charlotte Mason method of learning called narration. It was not her invention but she certainly capitalized on it and spread the word through her lectures and writings. She wrote, “narration is how we all learn, we tell again, to ourselves if need be, the matter we wish to retain, the sermon, the lecture, the conversation. The method is as old as mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education.” Narration ideas could include some of the following:
l. Tell me all you know about….
A. the habits of a squirrel
B. the last plague on Egypt and the first Passover
2. Explain how:
A. a polliwog turns into a frog
B. the Magna Charta came to be written
3. Describe our…
A. trip to the shore
B. Planetarium experience
4. Describe anything new you just learned from this chapter that you never knew before
5. Tell the story (passage, episode, chapter) back in your own words
For older children you could use some of these ideas:
l. Ask or write 10 questions covering the material of this chapter
2. Draw a picture, map or likeness of….
A. the heart chambers
B. a map of Italy
Narration as you can see can be done be done orally or written. Teach you child to read a book or passage through once (this develops the habit of attention). can start with your preschoolers and in their last year of home schooling with you, narration will still be extremely valuable. Narration is very helpful to anyone who needs to improve their listening skills or reading comprehension skills. Both skills can be practiced, one by reading aloud and the other by having the student read independently.
Talkative people over-narrate and the reverse is true. You may find it helpful to model a narration for your child. One day without warning tell them you’re in the mood to do the narrating today. Make it look easy, this is no time to embellish it. This is the best cure for over- and under- achievers. Another solution is to try a variety of books until the child finds one he can get excited about. This will help the narrations improve. A positive result of narrations is the convenience of the children sharing their lessons with their Father at the dinner table or in the evening.
To be continued....