Getting to Know Miss Mason
Educating our children at home means, obviously, that we are always together. Some people cannot imagine what constantly being with one’s children might be like (as evidenced by the trepidation some parents feel about summer vacation). Yes, I admit that always being together can be trying at times, but it is also beautiful. The beauty comes from knowing that we are the ones who care deepest for our children and know their hearts’ better than anyone else. We are the ones nurturing their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development. We are not entrusting our children to others, we are raising them hour by hour, day by day, year by year.
The natural outcome from this “always being together” is continual opportunities for learning. Children are extremely curious and have a God-ordained desire to acquire knowledge about the world around them. Being with them allows for us to grab ahold of learning opportunities and explore them deeply. Simply living together presents a multitude of opportunities; for example, consider how many skills are involved in the routine task of preparing a meal, from grocery shopping, through reading a recipe, to prepping the ingredients, and finally to cooking the food and presenting the meal.
Our constant togetherness allows us to nurture the fertile growing conditions that Miss Mason implores parents and educators to uphold. She maintains that education should be the very essence of daily life. As Miss Mason so eloquently states, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
Education is an Atmosphere
A home’s atmosphere pertains to the physical, emotional and spiritual ambiance within a family and its home. A healthy, peaceful and God-fearing atmosphere will nurture a child’s development because children thrive when they exist within a home where their curious minds are continually offered new ideas and where they feel comfortable being who they were designed to be. A safe and comfortable home where children know their individuality and personhood are respected and where they can bloom amid an array of living books, quality art and music is an ideal atmosphere to foster a lifetime love of learning.
We are working to provide our little Harrolds with a healthy, peaceful, and God-fearing home. For instance, we strive to feed them home-cooked meals prepared with organic ingredients; we endeavour to treat one another with kindness; and we honour the Lord as saviour and strive to live a life that glorifies him. We are also building an appreciation for quality books and art by amassing a library of living books and housing them in easy to see and to access locations, and by displaying prints by favourite artists, listening to classical musicians, and reading poetry. We are embracing the fact that if you feed your children a diet of the best, they develop a taste for true beauty and higher living.
Education is a Discipline
Habits are the subconscious modes of thinking and behaving that govern our interactions with others and establish the trajectory for future successes or failures. Discipline will hone the good habits and weed out the bad. Again, always being together provides continual opportunities to grow the good habits. A parent can watch his/her children, identify which habits require practice and, with gentle admonition, guide the children to practice their good habits until they become second nature.
Miss Mason identifies obedience, truthfulness, and attention as primary habits to focus on because upon their foundation other good habits are established. We are continually working on these three habits. When a little one has a lapse in obedience, we re-establish the importance of obeying and, through real-life consequences, remind him/her that obedience brings trust and freedom. Being together allows us to identify which areas in our children’s lives need improvement.
Education is a Life
Education is a combination of body, mind and spirit; you cannot emphasize one or two at the expense of another. A child’s physical, mental, and spiritual growth occur simultaneously. But education, as we typically understand and discuss it today, pertains to the mind and how successfully it can absorb, process, and assimilate new information. Miss Mason identified that the mind grows best on a steady flow of new ideas, which come from a varied and liberal curriculum. Her pupils had foundational lessons not only in reading, writing and arithmetic, but also lessons in Bible, language arts, social studies, and (even) science that were steeped in literary language and high moral standards. In addition, the students learnt to appreciate fine art, music, and theatre. All of these lessons taken together are a liberal curriculum.
We wanted to give our little Harrolds the education that we wish we had had. We found Charlotte Mason’s methods to fit perfectly with our educational ideal. But how to make it work? and where to start? were intimidating questions for homeschool newbies. We found two websites (Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online) and two books (Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For The Children’s Sake) to be particularly helpful. For our first two years I followed Ambleside Online’s curriculum to teach our eldest daughter. Now that our second daughter is joining her sister, I’ve made the leap to creating our own curriculum - with some help from Ambleside Online for resource suggestions.
Our decision to home educate was weighed and discussed for years before we made our final choice. Now that we are three years into the journey, we can confidently say that it is a lot of work! But our always being together allows us to experience life together and this has been a precious reward. For us, the price is insignificant in light of the outcome.
"Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work." C.S. Lewis