Today my friend and co-worker Laura Pitney is with me to share some of our favorite moments using the Charlotte Mason method.
Sonya: I’m thinking back on it, now that I’ve graduated three out of my four kids, and I can see a lot more, I wouldn’t necessarily say, you know, “top moments,” but there are things that come to mind now that I didn’t have back when I was in the thick of things.
Laura: That gives me hope.
Sonya: It should. Okay, for my oldest, she’s almost 30, and she continually recommends books to me that she’s been reading. They’re a wide variety. Some of them are on nature, some of them are history, biographies, some are on art—just all kinds of different books, and books that I wouldn’t necessarily know about or pick up on my own, but then she recommends it to me. It reminds me so much of Charlotte Mason’s saying about there are two kinds of people in this world: those who read and think and those who don’t. And I’m so happy that my oldest has become a person who reads and thinks. I contribute a lot of that to the Charlotte Mason method.
Laura: Do you think that this is something that has grown more as an adult, or do you think you saw that in the trenches as she grew up? Just curious.
Sonya: That’s a great question. I saw some of it in her teen years when she had a little more freedom. Before that I was very picky about, “I’m only going to let you read the books that I know.” But once she got that solid foundation, then I let her branch out and pick books that I wasn’t familiar with and, yes, she started to be that.
Laura: You saw a little bit as she matured as a teenager, but now you’re really seeing the fruits of that love for reading.
Sonya: Yes, I’m seeing it even more, and I love that she shares that with me, that we have that common bond. It’s really fun.
Laura: It’s really sweet.
Sonya: All right, for my second daughter then—when they were growing up we call them Unit One, Unit Two, . . . that’s what I keep thinking in my head. So for Unit Two, my favorite moment right now is when she and her husband were having their first baby and they put together their baby list on Amazon. It was pages long, but most of those pages, probably five pages, were books.
Laura: Oh, nice.
Sonya: And they were the good books, the classic books for children. That just did my heart well. And she sends me pictures and texts, and she will send me nature study moments and things that are so Charlotte Mason inspired.
Laura: Things she loved that now she can do with her own children.
Sonya: Yes, and that’s a favorite moment, definitely. For Unit Three, I think back to when she was in high school. I was traveling a lot at conventions during the spring, and she was at the point where she would basically do her own work independently (which she should once you’re in upper-level high school). So she would email her written narrations to me.
Laura: Oh, fun.
Sonya: That way I would know she met her deadline. I remember sitting in the hotel rooms, reading her narrations, and just laughing, because she has that fun personality and she would write that into the narration.
Sonya: You could tell she knew the material. She wasn’t just making this up. And she would throw in little comments on the side and little things that she had noticed. I would just laugh. It was great. I know you’ve got one like that too.
Laura: I do, I do. My oldest. Her personality has really come out when I give her the freedom to choose how she narrates.
Sonya: And she’s not in high school yet.
Laura: No, she’s 13, so just kind of crossing over to those high school years. I have seen the beauty of her personality through her selections of sometimes written narrations, sometimes very dramatic letters with the feather pen and wax seal, or the dramas where she pulls in all her other siblings, the plays, the music, the poems. That’s just naturally in her, and it’s fun to see that come out now that we’ve established why she’s doing it. She’s been given the freedom to express herself in it, so that’s been fun for me to see.
Sonya: That seems to be such a wonderful part of Charlotte Mason: that we are respecting the child as a person, and the methods allow that personality to just show forth.
Laura: Right. I was thinking how it’s so easy just to box them in and get the work done, but we need to truly trust in the methods and the Why behind why you’re doing the method.
Laura: You know, I wouldn’t say I have these amazing moments at this point, because we’re just in the middle of it right now, but I love seeing those special things come through, where I’m getting to know my child in a different way versus if we had just gone through our check boxes, you know?
Laura: So, for me to be able to see them becoming little people truly,—not that they weren’t little people before,—but to truly blossom as the person they are. It’s been neat to see.
Sonya: I love how because there are so many different aspects to Charlotte Mason, because we’re spreading that wide feast, each of those personalities is going to connect a little bit more with certain parts of it than others.
Sonya: And we can see those interests bloom as well.
Laura: Yes, I definitely feel like I have seen that more so as they have gotten a little older versus when they were all younger. You know, my oldest has definitely got a flair for the dramatic. My second one, I have picked up on that she likes things done decently and in order. She likes a routine, she likes cleaning up and organizing. That’s her happy place.
Sonya: I wonder where she gets that.
Laura: I don’t know, I don’t know. My son, I feel like he is probably being more challenged, or challenged in different ways, than my girls were, because he’s the third and he’s the only boy and he is being forced to man up, you know? Like, “I want to say my narration” or “Can we do it this way?” His personality is kind of having to fight a little harder to come out, because he has older siblings, older sisters specifically. But he’s doing a great job and I see him maturing as well. And then my youngest, I feel like with her we’re really in the thick of it: establishing the habits, practicing the methods, seeing her connect and learning that “Oh, there’s a reason we’re doing this, and this is why.” So she’s obviously on the tail end of things, but because of the things I’ve invested in with the older kids, in some ways it’s easier. The younger ones kind of follow suit, but yet they’re all still cultivating their own habits and interests all within that Charlotte Mason realm.
Sonya: Yes, habits is another area that I’ve seen a lot of growth.
Laura: You can get burnt out.
Sonya: You can.
Laura: But as they get older you start to see fruits of your labor and it’s a blessing. Like you say with Unit Number Three, is that right?
Sonya: Unit Three, yes.
Laura: She was able to do a lot of her upper-level high school by herself, and that was a fruit of the labor of you investing in the good habits when she was younger. I feel like I’m starting to see that now as mine are getting older. I had a conversation with my sister-in-law just this week. She’s just starting out with some homeschooling, and she has little ones under foot. So we talked about habits and why those are so important and why they’re really investing in your child’s heart, because they’re not just to accomplish getting something done, but you’re teaching them to make good decisions for themselves: time-management, respecting boundaries, all of that. So we were laughing about blanket time with her toddler and how it seems insignificant, but again, if you can tell your child to do something and they obey and they learn it, then that’s going to carry over as they grow and mature into young adults. So I really try to encourage her to stick with it and that she can do it.
Sonya: Yes, good.
Laura: Because in the middle of it, you don’t see it.
Sonya: You don’t.
Laura: You’re just burnt out.
Sonya: It’s like, one more time, put him back on the blanket. Yes.
Laura: Yes, the habits are good.
Sonya: They are, and you see the fruit as you keep going.
Sonya: One more story I want to share with you. This is my most recent favorite moment. My youngest has special needs, as you know.
Laura: This is Unit Number Four?
Sonya: Unit Four. When all of the girls were home, we did picture study as usual; but now that it’s just my youngest and me, we continue to do picture study—with a few tweaks and modifying it a bit, but we continue to do it. Sometimes I’m never quite sure, Is she paying attention?, because she won’t look at you very much.
Sonya: So, we had the opportunity to go to The Museum of Art in downtown Atlanta recently, because they had this wonderful European traveling exhibition there. It was supposed to have all these wonderful Monets and Van Goghs and Picassos. It was just, “Ah, I have to go!” So we all went down there. My oldest came along too, because she still loves that stuff. So I was wandering off with my youngest, and we turned the corner to go into a different gallery. As we turned the corner, we were faced with this huge wall, and the only thing on it was a Degas with the ballerinas. Well, as I turned the corner and saw it, I stopped, and my youngest turned the corner and immediately she said out loud—and that’s a key right there, she doesn’t usually volunteer to say something unless she needs something from you. So just sharing the moment, that was huge.—She turned the corner, and she said, “The Blue Dancers by Edgar Degas.”
Laura: What! She knew it.
Sonya: And I’m fighting back the tears, you know. I’m saying, “Yeah, that’s right!” and crying on the side and “Come over here. Can I get your picture?” She didn’t like that. I did get a picture of her standing beside it just to have that moment. Ah! that does your heart so good.
Laura: Years and years of investing and being consistent and loving on her without really any confirmation that it’s connecting.
Sonya: You just never know if it’s clicking or not. But like you said, it’s those moments when you see that little flame or that little blossom, that little spark, then you know, “Oh, it is getting in there.”
Laura: Great. One of my favorite memories of my children: a few years ago we were reading Boy of the Pyramids. I felt like that was one of the first living books that we read when all my kids were old enough to really follow along and listen and narrate. So a few years ago, I’m washing my dishes at the kitchen sink, and I look out the window that faces our backyard and all of them were dressed up like Egyptians. They had found,—apparently, Egyptians need a staff of some sort, you know, the gold rings on their arms that were in the book. And then, of course, somebody had to be the pharaoh, and then the slaves. So then, all of the sudden I notice “Wait! They’re fixin’ to beat that child.” They were fixin’ to literally act out the story, so I dropped my dishes and ran out. I’m like, “Oh no, no, too far, too far!” But, you know, one of the biggest things about narration and connecting is it comes out in their play, or it comes out in how they talk, but really in their play. And that was just neat for me to see that connection when they were little. I feel like we’ve kind of almost lost a little bit of that, because they’ve gotten a little older and the age differences and things. But just thinking back on the sweet memories, you know, like with you and Unit Number Four, it was a beautiful thing to see just one or two little things that encourage you to keep going, to trust the method. Sometimes we go so long without seeing any fruits of that investment, so it’s good, it’s really good.
Sonya: Yes, it is good. And as the kids get older, they might not play the history as much, but it’s still getting in their hearts, and that’s when you start to see it come out in other ways as well. Like the dramas your oldest is writing and the letters and all that. That’s play in a way, so be encouraged. It’s still getting in there.
Laura: Yes, good.
How about you? What are your favorite moments, or some of your favorite moments, from using the Charlotte Mason method with your children? Leave a comment and let’s encourage each other with that.