Switching to Charlotte Mason from a Classroom

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about tendencies and tips for those who are making the transition to using a Charlotte Mason approach in their home schools.

We all come from different backgrounds and those backgrounds can act like magnets. It seems like they constantly try to pull our thoughts back in that direction. Today, let me offer three tendencies to be aware of and also give three helpful tips for those of you who are pulling your children out of a classroom setting and beginning to homeschool with the Charlotte Mason method. Or perhaps you are coming out of a classroom setting yourself, as a teacher, and beginning to homeschool. Both scenarios are going to hold some challenges.

Let’s talk first about three tendencies to watch for.

Three Tendencies

Tendency 1

Be careful of trying to replicate the classroom in your home setting. Sometimes we get so locked into “School looks like this,” and we try make our home school look like school at home. You don’t need to be locked into that. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that you have flexibility. But it might be a challenge coming out of a classroom setting, depending on how long you or your child have been in that situation. You or your children might be used to a predictable schedule, sometimes to the minute. That schedule tells you that you will be done with this class at exactly 11:57 and you will have lunch until 12:25. Try not to get locked into replicating that strict time schedule at home. Some of you will need to have a timetable because it will help you to keep moving forward and get things done in a timely manner. Others of you will work better with “time boxes.” A time box is much more flexible. With a time box you can decide, “We’re going to do these things before lunch, and we’re going to do these certain things after lunch.” Find what fits for your family. Figure out what’s going to work best for you.

Tendency 2

Often in homeschooling, it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing enough because you’re done so much more quickly than in a classroom setting. If that is the case, you need to remember that in a one-on-one situation, in which you’re tutoring one child with one teacher, things go much faster than when you’re trying to corral a whole classroom full of children. So, yes, you’re going to have shorter hours in your home school.But you also might feel like you’re not accomplishing enough—or your child might feel like she’s not accomplishing enough—because you don’t have a paper trail of worksheets and busywork. It’s easy to depend on a paper trail: “See, I learned something. This is what I learned.” In a Charlotte Mason approach, it’s much more organic than that. You are learning things, but we don’t have to fill out a paper trail to show what you’re learning.

You know, that mention of worksheets reminds me of another difference that might take some getting used to: you’re not going to be teaching to the test. What I mean by teaching to the test is, often in a classroom, the teacher knows what’s going to be on the test, and the scores on that test are going to show whether that teacher did a good job or not. So it is not uncommon for the teacher to say, “Here are the things that are going to be on the test. These are the things that you need to learn.” Charlotte Mason did not do it that way. She spread a wide feast and let the children take what they were ready for. When it came time for exam week, there was no reviewing. There was no going over “this is what will be on the test.” Charlotte thought that either the children knew it or they didn’t. So just be aware that your children might have some transitioning to make in their thinking (and so might you if you were a classroom teacher). It’s not, “This is what I need to know for the test”; it is, “This is what I’m learning as a person, and that’s all good.”

Tendency 3

Be cautious of using grades as motivation. Charlotte wanted her schools to teach the joy of knowledge for knowledge’s own sake. That was a foundational principle. So encourage your children to learn about things they’re interested in during non-school hours. Try to re-ignite their natural curiosity, their natural desire for learning that all of us are born with. Sadly, that curiosity often gets schooled out of us and out of our children. Let your children see you learning new things just because you want to, not because there’s a grade or a prize. Be cautious of using prizes and grades as motivation. When you hold that grade up as the goal, it takes away the value of knowledge. It sends the message, “I’m getting the knowledge just so I can reach this other goal,” meaning the prize or the grade. We don’t want our children to think about knowledge in that way. The focus should be the knowledge, not the grade or the prize.

So those are three tendencies you’ll might want to watch out for. Let me also give you three helpful tips.

Three Tips

Tip 1

Allow some time to “de-school,” to decompress. Your children have been programmed to do things a certain way, for several years sometimes. The longer they have been doing things a certain way in a classroom setting, the longer it’s going to take for their minds to let go of those things. So take some time off at the beginning just to get to know each other again, to make sure that your hearts are turned toward each other, and to allow you to start fresh when you’re beginning to homeschool.

Tip 2

Before you start in your home school, you’ll want to sit down with the kids and discuss how things are going to look different than it did in the classroom setting that they’re used to. Let the children know what to expect. And then give yourself grace, especially for those first few weeks, because it might feel uncomfortable. It might almost feel like you’re playing school at home.And let me just add, please keep in mind that some of these tendencies and tips might apply differently, depending on whether your child was doing well in the classroom setting or was struggling when you decided to take her out and homeschool.

Tip 3

If your child was the social butterfly, and being with those other kids all day filled up her friendship cup, then you’ll want to intentionally schedule time with friends outside of school. You might also want to emphasize the benefits of leisure time that your child will have. As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to get through school work much faster. You’re not going to be schooling from 8:00 to 4:00 every day. And your child might not be sure what to do with that leisure time. So encourage your child to explore her own interests. Point out how there’s much less stress in your family, because you’re not going to have homework either. You might volunteer as a whole family in your community or in your church. You could discover some old traditions that take some time—those old traditions that can nourish your spirit—like gardening together or cooking from scratch or building and making thing to use in your home, even those wonderful traditions of reading aloud as a family or singing together. All of those things are going to enrich your home and help your children discover the joy of leisure that they will have, now that they are homeschooling.

I hope these thoughts help you make a smoother transition as you get started homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason Method. Next time, I will offer three tendencies and three tips for those who have been using mainly textbooks and workbooks in their home school and are stepping away from that method to a Charlotte Mason approach.