A simple, gentle start to education

On August 18, we’ll move from theory to application in this home education experiment.

Experiment, because though I love being home with my girls and reading, painting and exploring the woods, we plan to take this one year at a time. We’re homeschooling not because we’re avoiding anything, or because we want a “biblical” worldview — the world and all that’s in it, from science to math to art and music, are covered in God’s fingerprints. Nah. We’ve got goals that speak more for the kinds of things we want in our days: good, literary books for most subjects; short lessons, plenty of free time. Being outside. The kids should have the best of me, and I should offer the best in books and the like. That’s part of learning to make education an atmosphere.

Until this point, learning to read and write have come by way of play or their lead, their asking.

“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air.”

– Charlotte Mason, “Home Education,” Vol. 1

In two months, it’ll shift into intensive mornings and free afternoons.

This is on my mind now, not because I’m overly eager to begin (though seeing the delicious books on the shelf does build anticipation for my oldest and I), but because I can see how her appetite for knowledge has built, and how stepping in after her sixth birthday with a rigorous curriculum will be the food her brain needs. Waiting til 6 is hard, and hardly no one I know can stand it — so we taught ABCs and, yes, she can read. But it’s a slow start, and it required no workbooks.

And, besides, now that I see our summer as our last before school, we can enjoy the hard work of avoiding the busyness of “educational” projects,  “early” workbooks and over-scheduling. Doing our own thing has already brought us so much joy. I’ve stumbled on something rich, and it’s so simple.

I’m starting to see my philosophy come alive in others’ lives, or in outlets other than homeschooling. Dreaming up a simple Sunday school model is my joy for the summer, and rearranging our lives as a family over the last season to make room for more quality time has also given us breathing room. Joy.

Happiness is a condition of our progress, as Mason would say.

Richard Foster, author of “Freedom of Simplicity,” a book that deserves to be read all the way through: “… Stress the quality of life above the quantity of life. Refuse to be seduced into defining life in terms of having rather than being. Cultivate solitude and silence … Develop close friendships and enjoy long evenings of serious and hilarious conversation. Such times are far more rewarding than all the plastic entertainment that the commercial world tries to foist upon us. Value music, art, books, significant travel. If you are too busy to read, you are too busy.”

That’s what we’re doing, right? We’re imparting these truths on our kids through putting the TV away for a while. We’re sharing these things with our families because they’re good for us.

So, two months from now, we’ll just be continuing that. I’m confident. I’m happy. The girls are begging me to take down James Herriot’s “Treasury for Children” and Aesop’s Fables from the shelf. We’ll have some hiccups, but we’ve got enough margin to adapt. And if it evolves into another model of schooling later, at least we laid a foundation that values stories and allows us to imagine our places in them.



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