Humans like easy.
This is scientifically proven, and I believe it's why God created us to be creatures of habit: habits make things easy and take decision making away.
For those same reasons, so many homeschool moms look for what will be easiest for them: the open-and-go curriculum, the habit-training advice, or the blog or business that can tell them just what to do. Whatever makes it easy.
But, is it possible that in the quest for easy, we overlook our biggest Homeschooling Advocate: the Holy Spirit?
Habits for the Early Years: A Mother's Journal
Charlotte Mason's 20th Principle
Charlotte Mason's 20th principle is probably my favorite. She said:
"We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life."
For the Christian mom, this principle brings comfort and peace of mind. We no longer have to agonize over our decisions, over the books we choose to read with our children, and whether or not we are qualified to homeschool.
Charlotte Mason believed so strongly in this principle, that she called it the "mothers' key" to education:
"In the things of science, in the things of art, in the things of practical everyday life, his God doth instruct him and doth teach him, her God doth instruct her and doth teach her. Let this be the mother's key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the Divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child." School Education, page 273
But many of us stand with this key in hand, refusing to use it to unlock the door. We know that we can turn to the Holy Spirit for help, but instead we turn to social media, we hesitate, and we don't trust.
What if all Christian homeschooling moms decided to tune out some of the loud voices shouting their dissent, and instead tuned into the Holy Spirit?
Can you imagine the transformation we'd see in our own hearts and others? I've been thinking about this topic for years, and I truly believe that if we let the Holy Spirit guide out homeschools, we'd find peace in many areas.
Charlotte Mason's First Principle: Children are Born Persons
1. Making Decisions
I try not to get too caught up in the question of what Charlotte Mason would have us do in certain situations. I don't agonize over decisions about what books we should read or at what age to include copywork. Instead, I pray about what the Holy Spirit would have me do. Sometimes, what I do is not directly in line with what Charlotte Mason would say, but in the end, I'm answering to God and not to Charlotte Mason.
When I taught my daughter to read at the age of 5.5, I knew some people would disagree with my decision. But thankfully, it wasn't about them. It was about seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit and doing what I felt called to do. Teaching H to read slightly earlier than Charlotte Mason recommended ended up being a blessing to our entire family. My little girl was thrilled with her new knowledge, and her little siblings loved having a new person in the home to read to them.
Why My Kids are Out of Control
2. Feeling Qualified
Many of us don't feel qualified to homeschool our children, maybe academically or spiritually. But, if we hang onto this: "her God doth instruct her and teacher her" from the quote above, we can feel confidently qualified. As I said in a recent Thinking Love podcast episode, it isn't a matter of how qualified we are, but who qualifies us to homeschool.
If we understand that the Holy Spirit is on our side, that the knowledge given by him is infinite and more complete than any college degree, then we can rest in our Qualifier.
3. Learning and Teaching Hard Things
We all have areas that we've struggled with in the past. Math never clicked for me as a child, and I carried that unsettling, "I am a math failure" feeling through the first few years of my teaching career. We can either let these feelings overwhelm us and outsource these subjects to other people, or we can hold the key in our hand, and use it to give us God-confidence, knowing that we can learn and grow just as our children do.
Understanding that the Holy Spirit is the Divine Teacher also allows us to mess up. If we don't relate a subject perfectly, your child's understanding of it doesn't entirely rest on your efforts. The Divine Teacher can, and will, use you, books, other people, and your child's own mind to deepen their knowledge.
4. Getting Along
I will touch on this final area gently. It's no secret that there's tension in the homeschooling community. When someone makes a decision that's different than ours, sometimes our defenses go up. We sometimes feel that it diminishes our own decisions if someone else chooses another path. But why?
I love how Charlotte Mason said, in the passage above, that the Holy Spirit works with individuals, not with multiples, and this applies to mothers as well as children. If we believe that the Holy Spirit can guide different people in different directions, then there is no reason to view others' decisions in a negative light.
He is carving out a unique path for your homeschooling journey, and it is yours if you are willing to accept it.
Dallas Nachtigall says
Thank you for addressing this. And thank you for fighting legalism in CM groups, as it rears it’s ugly head often!
Thank you, Dallas! I truly think Charlotte Mason showed more grace for us than we do for ourselves!
Samantha Seymour says
Thanks so much for sharing!! When I first started reading about CM, I really thought that I would use AO(seemed to be the most popular option). But when it came down to it. I could not handle ALL the prep work required to use it well (I work full time from home). Last year I ended up using curriculum from the Well Trained mind because I loved that it was laid out for me- I didn’t have to find my own copy work, then write it out. Having those little steps done for me really helped. I know most would say it is not CM but I have found I can use it in this season of life, and I can still apply CM principles- and it works for our family! (I get tired of all the labels and knit picking in homeschool groups sometimes.)
That is wonderful that you’ve found something that works well for your family! Way to go, Samantha, for homeschooling and working full time! Ambleside Online is an amazing resource, and the ladies behind it are so selfless and gracious. But, each family is different, and different options are a must. I also believe that we can tweak things to make them align with Charlotte Mason’s principles 🙂