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Starting Charlotte Mason from Scratch
We’ve been talking about making the transition to using Charlotte Mason methods in your homeschool. All of us come from different backgrounds and those backgrounds influence our thinking. That’s only natural. In the next few articles, I’d like to walk through some of those background scenarios and offer you some ideas that might help you make the transition to Charlotte Mason smoother.
Today, let’s talk about starting from scratch. Perhaps your children are just now at school age, so you’ll be starting them off with the Charlotte Mason method from the beginning. That’s great. May I offer you some friendly advice? Let’s go through three tendencies to watch for and three tips.
- You might have the tendency to feel like you have to teach everything now. Please remember that your children’s brains can hold only so much at a time. It’s just like if you are binge-watching some how-to videos. After a while, your brain stops registering what you’re watching. And it’s the same thing for your children. You can try and pour more and more and more stuff into those brains, but they’re going to need time to process. Remember that. Don’t think that you need to teach everything right now, this first year. A lot of the Charlotte Mason method is layers upon layers. You’re going to lay a nice smooth layer this year, and next year you’re going to build upon it, and the next year you’ll build upon that. Small, constant touches add up to something great.
- Please don’t grow discouraged when life happens. So many times when we start homeschooling, we have this perfect image in mind: “This is what my homeschool is going to look like.” Hold on to those ideals, but you’re also going to need to learn how to flex with life. Maybe “life” looks like: your child isn’t catching on as quickly as you thought she would in a certain subject, so you need to adjust. That’s fine. Or maybe “life” looks like: you walk into the kitchen and find a big, cold puddle of water in front of your refrigerator. (That happened to me a few days ago.) You have to deal with life as it happens. One key to being able to stay in this over the long haul is to learn flexibility. You’re going to need to flex with life as it happens. Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. So take your time and flex with life. Just do life with your children. They’re going to learn as much living with you in the atmosphere of your home as they will in formal lessons that you present.
- Sometimes I have seen young homeschool teachers, or new homeschool teachers, start to panic if the child doesn’t think that what they are doing is fun. We want the child to enjoy homeschooling, of course; but keep a good balance. Be careful that you don’t push or frustrate the child or require him to do something he cannot do. Teach the child. But keep in mind that part of growing, at any age, is helping that child to achieve things that look hard at first. You already did that when he was a preschooler or a toddler. Learning to walk is not always fun, but it’s something that you helped the child achieve. That kind of achievement goes a long way toward helping that child to grow. So keep a good balance in mind. There is a place for fun, but not everything has to be fun. You can help your child grow immensely as a person if you gently support him as he achieves something that looked hard at first.
Those are the three tendencies to keep an eye out for. May I also offer you three tips to try and make your homeschooling get started off in the right direction?
- Set up good habits now. Make it a priority in these first few years, especially. You’re going to want to help your child get that good habit of paying full attention in the lessons and putting forth her best effort. To do that, make sure you start with short lessons and always emphasize quality over quantity. Maybe in her copywork, her handwriting, all she can do is write one word and do it well. That’s fine. You can get that habit established: paying full attention and giving that one word her best effort. As that becomes more and more natural for the child, as she grasps that habit and it becomes second nature to write that word carefully and well, you can nudge it out a little bit and move to two words. But always have quality in mind, rather than quantity.
- If the thought of diving into all of the Charlotte Mason subjects right away feels a bit overwhelming, remember that you can ease into it. We recently went through how to ease into the Charlotte Mason approach in five stages. Feel free to watch those videos, listen to those podcasts, or read those blog posts again in order to help you see how you can ease your way into it, a little at a time.
- I encourage you to look farther than just this first year. Lay out a long-term plan: “I’m going to start here, and over the next few years, I’m going to teach this here and this here and this here.” That’s going to help you stay on track and not panic when you start talking to some of your other homeschool friends and they say, “Oh, haven’t you taught this yet?” or “Why aren’t you doing this?” or “I’m doing this; shouldn’t you be doing that?” If you have a long-term plan, you’ll know that you’re not teaching English grammar in first grade because Charlotte didn’t start it until fourth grade. But you know that when you get to fourth grade, you will teach it. Having that long-term plan in mind will help you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and when. In other words, continue to educate yourself in the Charlotte Mason philosophy—the ideas behind why you’re doing what you’re doing. That’s going to help you stay the course. Keep reminding yourself of the Why. It will help a lot as you make this transition to starting on the wonderful journey of teaching your children with the Charlotte Mason approach.
Next time, I want to give three tendencies and three tips for those who might be starting a Charlotte Mason approach homeschool and have come out of a classroom setting. Whether you are pulling your children from a classroom setting or coming out of a classroom setting yourself, next time is for you.
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This was really helpful, good, solid practical advice and encouragement from a seasoned Charlotte Mason Mom, to me–a newbie starting out with my oldest child just beginning Kindergarten this year! Thanks for the tips and thoughts!
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