Among the most recognizable of all of Charlotte Mason’s words, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life” are probably at the top of the list. As a home educator that is inspired and driven by Mason’s philosophy and methods, I keep this at the front of my mind at all times when I’m making choices for my children’s educations. But what about me? My own self-education?
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If I am going to instil a lifelong love of learning in my children, should I not be modelling this very thing myself? How do I tell them to love language, love words, love beautiful poetry and let music move their hearts; how do I tell them to pay close attention to the character of the historical figures we’re learning about, tell them to set good habits and be the best citizens they can be – – if I don’t do those things myself?
Did my own education stop when I finished school? Do we one day just dust off our hands, and say “Well, there we have it. I am finished learning. I’ve made it.”
Of course not!
If we are to teach our children that education never stops, that it is a lifelong adventure – we have to show them that firsthand. We have to make time in our days to pursue education for ourselves.
Learning Alongside Our Children
One of the sweetest and most unexpected side effects of being a home educating parent is the fun I have when I get to learn with my children. When I sit with them and read from a history book, talk about their philosophy reading, or share a read aloud together – I get to relearn things I had forgotten about (or never was taught!).
While they are making their own connections to the material, and those little light bulbs are going off in their heads – I am also making connections to all of the other things I know.
Learning Apart From Our Children
Learning with our kids really is a special treat, but we also have to make time to learn apart from our children. This is where we need to do some careful reprioritizing of our time and energies, and where we have to really put our needs much closer to the top of the list than we probably do.
Choosing ideas, or topics, or subjects that we want to learn for ourselves is an important part of modelling “lifelong learning” for our children. Just like we want our kids to follow their passions, pursue topics that interest them, and deep dive into any rabbit holes that call to them – we need to do so also.
Learning Ahead Of Our Children
So we can learn with our children and we can learn apart from our children – but occasionally learning AHEAD of our children should be part of our self-education plans. My family does plan to homeschool through to the end of high school, and (as of right now) we do intend to follow a Charlotte Mason/liberal arts style education for both of my kids. I have one child who wants to be a scientist-who-writes-books, and another child who wants to literally be a rocket scientist. I am neither a naturalist nor a rocket scientist – in fact, I have always described myself as ‘practically allergic to science and mathematics’.
Thinking about my kids’ goals and dreams, and thinking about my own (perceived) limitations, has been incredibly overwhelming. I have been intimidated and downright terrified at the idea of facilitating the education that my children need.
For us, the only way I’ll be able to confidently walk into the high school years – and actually, the middle school years as well – is if I get a refresher on topics that I haven’t used in a while. Also, to get a jump ahead of my kids’ future subjects. Sort of like “pre-reading a lesson” – but in the long term. In the next couple of months, I am planning to order and work through AoPS’ “Pre-Algebra” course, ahead of my son. Yes…I will willingly CHOOSE to do math! Ha.
Making a Plan For Self-Education
I know what you’re thinking. This is all well and good, but when exactly do we have time to do ALL this extra learning? On TOP of prepping and teaching our homeschool in the here and now? Never mind housework, chores, errands, outside activities and homeschool group outings. Library days and sick days and laundry days and lazy days?
It might seem like there isn’t time (or energy) to do our own education in addition to the already-too-heavy workload we’ve already got on our shoulders. The truth is, at the end of the day, it’s important. It’s valuable. It’s something that will not only model to your children that learning never stops, but also model self-care and self-worth. Your growth is worth this. But how does it look in the day to day? Here are some things to keep in mind while making your self-education plan:
- Decide what you want to learn
- Choose resources that fit your mode of learning
- Lay it all out in writing, like the big picture lists you’ve probably made for your child’s school year
- Decide how much time each subject will require
- Block time for YOU – maybe it’s 10 mins a day, maybe it’s 30 mins a day, maybe its one full day on the weekend or an afternoon that your kids are at a class or outing.
- Commit. Write those “self-education days” in PEN. Stick to it.
- If you can, ask for help – your spouse or partner, a parent or a homeschool friend who might want to swap play dates so you can each have some time alone to work.
- Know that you may have to sacrifice. You might have to binge watch one less episode of Downton Abbey, or swap out your Outlander book for a math or Latin text one or two nights a week.
What My Self-Education Looks Like
Just so you don’t think I’m over here telling you all to do a bunch of extra work, and not doing it myself – I thought I’d let you in on what small (and not-so-small) changes I’m putting in place for myself. I know this is important, I know that this is a win-win for everyone involved. My kids get to see me do things that are interesting. They see me taking time for myself, they see me struggle and get a bit frustrated. They hear me say “my education is important”.
So here’s what I’m up to right now:
- The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
- Wheelock’s Latin (this copy is a free PDF but it’s available in hard copy on Amazon: Wheelock’s Latin on Amazon)
- Udemy course that works through Wheelock’s Latin
- Climbing Parnassus
- Coming soon: AoPS Pre-Algebra
What are YOU doing to continue your own education? Leave me a comment below if you have a favourite resource you’re working on right now, maybe I’ll add it to my own list!