How Camille Met Charlotte Mason

My third baby in a sling, my older two children aged four and six, we were in a neo-classical program and I was exhausted.  Partially from having a newborn, partially from trying to make memorization of long lists of facts (that compounded on each other each week) seem fun to a four- and six-year-old, and partially because I was sure there was more to homeschooling than this.  I never seemed to have time and the kids never seemed to have enthusiasm for the joyful things we wanted to do after we were burnt out on our memory work. I knew there had to be more to homeschooling than this.  As I hung out in the parent lounge to keep the squawking newborn from being too disruptive in class, I met someone who would become a lifelong friend.  After many conversations, she pulled me aside and told me I should read Charlotte Mason’s Volume 1.  She said she was reading it with a book club and that it had really shaped her ideas about how to go forward in the schooling of her daughters. I found a way to download it to my Kindle that same day, and then proceeded to read it in a week during my ample time spent nursing at night.  It had the dual effect of opening my eyes to a new philosophy of education and the great relief that my instinct was right – there is so much more joy to be found in homeschooling than I had experienced thus far.

When I saw my friend again the following week, I told her I had read the book, cover to cover.  She laughed, saying her book club had been reading it for over a year, soaking in the ideas deeply with a slow read and here I had consumed it in a week!  But I had taken her recommendation to heart, and we now had a whole new bond.  I joined her book club as they read Volume 6 and I found even more lifelong friends, a new co-op, and dear friends for my children as well.  IMG_6228

Mason’s ideas were starting to permeate not only our homeschool, but also our home.  I realized that in order to implement her ideas of education being an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, there simply was no line of demarcation between “school” and “after school” – it was all one fluid life at home.  It was this knowledge that would allow us peace as we moved away from those dear friends, lived overseas, lived in temporary housing, added another son to the mix, and now aim to create the atmosphere of home in a new place yet again. Our atmosphere, discipline, and life we take with us everywhere we go and it has been a fruitful education for every member of our family.

This method brought more peace, more joy, and more learning than I ever could have imagined.  Far from being casual and easy, it was vigorous and challenging, but also natural and enjoyable.  Not every moment was so Pollyanna, of course, but if it wasn’t it was because of poor attitudes or some outside factor, and not the work itself. School became a time to hike and make great discoveries, read and meet characters as new friends, listen to the great masters of music, view the great masters of art, write down our daily observations, new ideas, and reflections on great works.  Questions abounded, a sense of wonder grew, and a deep joy has taken root.

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It is at this point in the journey that this blog seemed like a natural next step.  One of those lifelong friends mentioned above is Amy, my partner in this venture.  She has been a mentor to me as well as a kindred spirit from the first.  We are both setting up a new home in a new state and want to share with you not only how Charlotte Mason’s ideas take root in our daily schedules and the books we choose in our homeschool, but also how Charlotte has changed how we cook, decorate, entertain, and organize.  I hope you’ll come along with us as this blog takes form.  We welcome your suggestions and questions, as well as good conversation in the comments.  We’d especially love to hear how Charlotte’s ideas have taken shape in your homes!

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Learning How to Live

As we studied Charlotte Mason’s principles, time and time again we weren’t just given tools for classroom practices, but also the means to develop a rich and full life. We realized that Mason’s principle that Children are Persons, applies equally to Mothers. Mothers are persons too! Mason’s ideas began to effect Moms’ habits in all sorts of areas outside their “school-time.”

Our homes became more orderly and de-cluttered—we found that Mason’s ideas fit so nicely with books on home management, like Marie Kondo’s, Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Jennifer Scott’s At Home with Madame Chic and Sally Clarkson’s The Life-Giving Home.

We fed our families different food with a different atmosphere—meals were often taken al fresco, more simply and wholesome, more thought to its presentation.

Our leisure time was spent differently: we took up new handicrafts for ourselves, started common-place books, and started a wide range of reading.

We fell in love with Vintage Children’s books and also for searching for the best new publications that fit the definition of a living book.

We realized we needed “spaces to think” and so we simplified our schedules, our meal plans, our wardrobes, cutting back and scaling down to create margin.

Our eyes were opened to beauty and we began to see it in art, music, and poetry, yes. But also in math, a caterpillar, a dandelion, and our children as persons.

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We all love the anecdote shared in The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondley. She tells of the young teacher newly arrived at Ambleside: “…I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come. I replied: ‘I have come to learn to teach.’ Then Miss Mason said: ‘My Dear, you have come to learn how to live.’”

This is what we want to share with you! Through the profound writing of Charlotte Mason, day-by-day, we are “Learning How to Live.” We hope that Mason’s ideas will be as life-giving to your family as it has been to ours.

We’d love to hear from you!

For those of you who know Charlotte Mason, how has she taught you how to live?

For those of you who are new to Mason, what are you most interested in learning more about?