Breaking Up With Charlotte Mason
Breakin’ up is hard, am I right? I mean, we’ve all been there – either as the heartbreaker or the heartbroken. It’s never easy to walk away from a relationship that you’ve invested time and energy into – and the conversation usually goes something like this:
Heartbreaker: Listen, we need to talk. This thing with me and you, it’s just not working. I’ve been thinking, and I’ve spoken to professionals, and done lots of soul-searching and I think it’s just time to call it. It’s not you, it’s me.
Heartbroken: No please, don’t go. We’ve put years into this. We had such a good thing, and I want you to be happy. I can make you happy!
Heartbreaker: Maybe we can still be friends. But it’s time to part ways. I need to broaden my horizons, I need a change, I need to find myself.
And so the story goes – with more than just romantic relationships. For many of us as home educators, a time will come when we’ve done all we can to make a plan or philosophy work. A time when we just have to come to terms with the fact that something that’s worked for years is no longer working for us.
So how do you know when it’s time to “break up”? When do you call it quits and decide to change methods, or curriculum, or philosophies? Well, grab a seat and I’ll tell you about the time I broke up with Charlotte Mason.
Obviously I am being a little tongue-in-cheek here. I’ve never been a one-method kinda gal, but it does feel like recently I have invested so much time and energy and resources into really going all-in with the Charlotte Mason method. Truth be told, I’m not even sure how I got to this point. If you’ve read my blog, heard me on Periscope, or run into me somewhere on a Facebook group – you will know that I have never been a proponent of being a “purist” of any philosophy or method.
So how did it happen that I ended up so invested into the Charlotte Mason philosophy? Short answer: it worked. For the season of life that it was working, it was working BEAUTIFULLY. It allowed my children this space, and room, and a slower pace – so they could grow and take deep breaths right where they were. [Read about how the CM method helped my son’s writing anxiety here: Writing Anxiety & Charlotte Mason]
I also allowed myself to get swept up in the wave of CM purists – it all sounded so idyllic and perfect if I could just be a little more “CM”. It’s so easy to get caught up in someone else’s ideas of how my homeschool should look.
Until It Didn’t Work
If you’ve been reading my blog, you will know that I’ve recently been going through a rough go of it – having a hard time planning, sticking with resources, struggling to get things back on track. I even consulted professionals – I did a personal consultation with the ladies from A Delectable Education, not the best option for secular homeschoolers, but they are a deeply knowledgeable group of ladies. I also took not one but TWO of the courses through Leah Boden’s “Modern Miss Mason”. Her courses were amazing – they opened my eyes and my heart to who my kids ARE. To what my family culture IS and what I want it to BE. Leah Boden’s courses helped me connect with my kids in a time when so many others were telling me HOW or WHAT to do with them. So, I’ve sensed a problem, and had been working so hard to get it figured out and to stay on track.
And then one day very recently, my son and I had a big heart-to-heart and he tearfully admitted to me that he didn’t feel like he was learning, that he couldn’t remember things, that it was boring and he hated how we were doing things. His sister had similar thoughts about our school day – and when I took a step back to really consider this, I realized that they were both right.
The light had gone out of our days, the energy in our home was at an all-time low, and I had been dragging them through the days for some time now. How long had I gone on, not noticing that the spark had dimmed in their eyes, that they were basically “yes ma’am”-ing their way through their days. I am blessed with amazing kids who really work hard and always want to give their best shots at anything I put in front of them. But I neglected to see that they were dreadfully unhappy.
So, how did I decide whether to stay the course, or stop and consider a shift. To be honest, a shift was going to happen no matter what I did – we would either shift together as a family into a new, better path. Or we were going to shift apart – the kids unhappy, unheard, and uninspired. We would shift away from this connected, secure relationship we had. It didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted us to make this shift together. And that meant breaking up with Charlotte.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
None of this means that there is something inherently wrong with the Charlotte Mason philosophy. In fact, it’s the fact that I believe SO deeply in her first principle, “Children are born persons”, that I really had to stop and consider if I was trying to shove my children into some preconceived ideas, or into someone else’s ideas of how our homeschool should look. Her philosophy still drives a lot of how and why I do the things I do in my homeschool.
I was tired of having to work SO hard to find secular resources, or ‘secularizing’ resources that I might not otherwise use if not for wanting to follow Charlotte’s method. I was tired of dragging my children through narrations and saying “trust me, this will be great for you in the end”. What about in the now?
I got tired of not just fighting to fit myself into this method (or more accurately someone ELSE’s idea of what the method means) – but also of just navigating through all of Charlotte Mason’s followers. The rigidity, the legalism, the boxing in our kids to fit into this method come hell or highwater. I became weary of it all, and with so much in the world to know and so many resources and new information to use – why was I trying to follow just one narrow method.
Moving On and Moving Forward
So what does my homeschool look like now, post-breakup? Well – we still read from amazing books as our primary mode of learning. However, the children have asked to start a writing curriculum – we still adore our Brave Writer work, but my eldest said “Mom, I still like Brave Writer, but I really want to learn how to make an essay and write better paragraphs. I just want a book that will say “this is how you do it” and let me practice”.
We are no longer fighting to make sure we include ALL.THE.THINGS we’re supposed to have in a CM homeschool, and in the ‘right order’. I have a few non-negotiable subjects, and other than those, the kids have a checklist of things they should do each week, with a list of resources they could read from. And they make those decisions on their own. The kids are happy, the lights are coming back into their eyes, we’re learning about subjects that make us ALL so excited to learn.
We’re looking sometimes a little unschooly, more times a little academic, and above all we have made a commitment and a decision as a family that our first priority is high quality, 100% secular resources. Despite all of that, and despite the fact that Charlotte and I have, for all intents and purposes, gone our separate ways – – I will always have a place in my heart for her philosophy. I will be guided by her perspective on raising and educating children, and on how to set up an atmopshere of learning in my home.
But for now, it’s time for my kids to spread their wings, and for us all to stretch and find ourselves, and to forge the path that is best for all of us right now.