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You’re sitting on the couch, drinking cider from a holiday-themed paper cup, and carrying on a friendly conversation with Uncle Joe and Aunt Phyllis.
Uncle Joe smiles and leans forward a bit. “We understand that you homeschool,” he says. “Our daughter is thinking of homeschooling. Can you tell us about it?”
“Oh, we enjoy homeschooling,” you reply. “There are actually several different styles of homeschooling that your daughter could use. We use one called the Charlotte Mason Method.”
“And what is the Charlotte Mason Method?” Aunt Phyllis inquires.
At that moment Aunt Flo comes into the room in her apron and announces that dinner is ready.
You have time for one sentence, maybe two, before your audience heads to the far end of the table and your opportunity is lost.
Get set, go!
“Um, . . .”
It’s tough to explain the brilliance of Charlotte Mason and the richness of her wonderful methods and sound philosophy in just one or two sentences! If you make it too philosophical, your listeners will have a hard time picturing what it looks like. But if you mention only one or two methods, your listeners won’t get the full picture.
Most of us could present an enthusiastic description—with detailed explanations and examples—if given enough time. But how do you accurately represent something you love so much in 15 seconds or less?
We thought it might be helpful if all of us put our heads together during these weeks leading up to the holiday season and came up with some tips for explaining the Charlotte Mason Method succinctly.
We’ll get the discussion started with a few ideas that came to our minds.
Assess how interested the person is.
It’s the same as when you’re in a crowd and someone asks, “How are you?” Some people are just being polite; others are truly interested in your well-being. You can usually tell the difference.
And you can usually tell the difference in people who inquire, “What is the Charlotte Mason Method?” Some are just being polite. They need a short answer that can stand on its own or invite more dialogue.
“Lots of great literature, a wide variety of subjects, and a focus on good habits.”
If they are truly interested, you might give a bit longer answer.
“Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She believed in educating the whole child, not just his mind. Instead of dry textbooks, we use rich literature. Instead of fill-in-the-blank questions, we ask the child to read the passage then tell it back in his own words. And then we also include a wide variety of subjects; like art, music, poetry, Shakespeare, nature study, and handcrafts, as well as the basic ones.”
If the person is interested in learning more, that short explanation gives her plenty of ideas to ask further questions about. If she is really interested, feel free to point her toward some of our free e-books, like Getting Started in Homeschooling and Education Is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.
Use familiar words.
The more you become immersed in the Charlotte Mason Method, the more you get used to its unique jargon. But those who are not familiar with CM-specific terms will have no idea what you are saying. It will seem as if you are speaking a different language if you spout off an explanation filled with phrases they don’t recognize.
For example, if you use the term living books, you’re going to have to explain what you mean. The same goes for narration, living ideas, or copywork. It will save you time and save your listener from frustration if you try to use terms that are familiar to him.
Practice ahead of time.
Trying to come up with an answer on the spur of the moment is stressful. Those are the situations in which we usually flounder and falter (and then berate ourselves later). Far better to prepare ahead so you can answer with confidence and focus your full attention on your partner in the conversation. You will feel more relaxed if you have a go-to explanation solidly in your mind before you head into the holidays. Practice saying it out loud with a smile. Better yet, practice a short version and a shorter version.
Now it’s your turn. What are some phrases or ideas that you have found helpful when briefly explaining the Charlotte Mason Method to interested family members and friends? Leave a comment and let’s compile a list that we can all draw from.
Next week we’ll consider some ways to deal with naysayers—people who are antagonistic toward homeschooling in general or opposed to what you’re doing.