I have never described myself as a Charlotte Mason purist. I have spent years, however, studying as much as I can about Mason’s philosophy and methods and try as I might, I just keep circling back around to this style of homeschooling.
You may recall a post that I published near the end of last school year – all about my breakup with Charlotte. Well, a little time and a little distance has made a few things very clear to me about my homeschool. When I decided to break up with Charlotte – I wasn’t breaking up with her, or her philosophy. In fact, her philosophy itself is the ONE thing that I had zero issues with. What I was rejecting, and pushing away from, was the idea that in order to follow Mason’s philosophy, one has to be a ‘Charlotte Mason purist’.
Well. I’m not – and I have a pretty good feeling that you probably aren’t, either.
Late into the 2016-2017 school year, when I had my breaking up with Charlotte Mason – I felt really sad about that. And while I knew in the moment that something had to shift, in my heart as an educator I just felt really…sad.
We decided to take some time this summer and have a full, long summer break. Usually we school-lite in the summer months but this year I knew we all needed a big breather. We worked really hard last year, we had a few struggles, and we saw growth in our children that couldn’t be defined in school-ish terms. My oldest really seems to have come over that big hump of anxiety that he was dealing with. My daughter became very self-driven, and has developed some passions and interests. So a long break to enjoy summer, was something we all needed.
Circling Back Around to Charlotte Mason
In that downtime, I spent MANY MANY hours thinking ahead to this school year. What did I have on my shelves? What did we need to purchase? What did I want them to study? What did they want to study? How did we want to schedule out our year?
I had left ALL of the Charlotte Mason online spaces I had been a part of, I stopped reading her books, and I just went on with my life and went on with my school planning. I investigated some other approaches to education that I’ve always been interested in. I made a realization that brought my homeschool style into laser focus – every time I learned of a new curriculum or a new method or approach to schooling my kids, the ‘gold standard’ to which I held them all? Was the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
Without even knowing I had done it, I had planned a year that looks a LOT like a Charlotte Mason homeschool year. I had circled back around to the very thing I thought I had to walk away from. In fact, I remember where I was sitting and doing when I had the lightbulb moment – I had not needed to break up with Charlotte Mason at all. It wasn’t her, it was her followers. The idea that if I wasn’t a Charlotte Mason purist, then I was not welcome at the table.
Well, that sure turned me a little upside down this summer as I was planning. I took a deep breath, and looked at some of my plans from last year. I dug out the ADE scheduling cards (and found a really amazing set of SECULAR scheduling cards from Robyn Oakenfold – CLICK HERE to go get yours!), and I just quietly started to plan out our year and get back into a rhythm and scheduling that was – surprisingly – quite CM-inspired.
You (Probably) Aren’t a Charlotte Mason Purist, Either
Let me just say something really clearly here – I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to stick closely to Mason’s philosophy and methods. I don’t think there is ever anything inherently wrong with knowing that ANY method or approach is the right one for you and your family.
When I refer to a “Charlotte Mason purist” – I don’t mean all the families who are sticking closely to her original writings and original methods. I am talking about the ones who make it a special club, the ones who look down their nose at anyone who dares to go off the path a little. The ones who email me and tell me I’m headed straight to hell-in-a-handbasket – that I am going to lead innocent homeschool moms down the wrong path by having the audacity to tell them they can take religion out of Mason’s philosophy.
Yes. I did, in fact, receive that email.
I’ve said – often – that I don’t think anyone can really be a purist in the CM philosophy. Unless you have a Tardis in your garage (and if you do, can we be friends?!) – then you are not living in Victorian England. You are not bound by the limited access to knowledge, information, and books that they were bound by in turn-of-the-century England.
You probably do things – we all do – that aren’t precisely in line with what Charlotte specified in her writings. We use modern books, we don’t include all the exact same subjects that Mason used, we use ample amounts of technology in our homeschool. We study modern poets and contemporary composers. We don’t follow any one particular history cycle over another. We certainly don’t adhere to anyone else’s timetable or schedule.
Are there a ton of things that we DO implement in our homeschool that Mason recommends? Of course ther are. Do we make our homeschool our own and do I make our lessons relevant to the world and lives my kids ACTUALLY live in? Heck yes. That’s WHY I homeschool.
Listen, you probably aren’t a Charlotte Mason purist – because, quite frankly, that doesn’t exist. This perfect, idyllic, romanticized education of a bygone era? You’re chasing ghosts.
Shake The Dust Off, Miss Mason
We live in a time of rapid change, growth, and innovation. We have access to information in the blink of an eye – and the click of a few buttons. We are interconnected in ways that Mason probably could never have dreamed.
It’s a common topic that has come up once in a while in some online spaces I’m part of – what would Charlotte Mason think if she could see our world now? Would she be excited by the scientific discoveries and historical events? Would she think it wonderful that her philosophy of education has spread far and wide, truly to families of ALL sorts and children from all walks of life?
I think she would. And I think we owe it to her to quit trying to replicate what she did 100+ years ago, and honour the work she did by taking her philosophy and giving it life and breath and shaking the dust off of it.
I’m not a Charlotte Mason purist. And I bet you aren’t either.