So that 'maimed existence' is what we don't want. Many parents think we can ward it off by not having any 'gaps' in our curriculum. We don't want to miss anything, so we try to stuff everything we can into our children's days and years. I am prey to this myself. And I am definitely not alone. We often are asked something like this:
"I'm starting late. I don't want him to miss anything. Should I go back and work in all the Shakespeare plays and composers and painters we've missed in the previous five years?"
The short answer to this is simply, "No."
But we don't want merely to tell moms what to do, we want to equip them to make Charlotte Mason compatible choices and to feel confident about them. Knowing the why, looking at the bigger, long term picture helps one clarify the immediate picture.
Know that this is not a new question. It only gets asked becausae parents care. I'm pretty sure if I took the time to research it I would find versions of parents asking this question on scrolls from ancient Rome, in letters written by Victorian mothers to each other, to the editor of the paper, and their schools, and in ancient Chinese philosophy writings. So don't feel bad if you're one of those parents. So am I.
What follows is an email list response I gave back in 2005 to one of our members who asked a similar question:
Even if you had been with this program from the beginning, after a full twelve year rotation, there would still be worthy composers, artists, and hymns that you would miss. It's just not possible to cover all of them.
But the beauty of a Charlotte Mason education is that it isn't 'done' when the child turns 18.
The goal is not to do 'all the things,' but to introduce them to the liberal arts, poetry, art, music, nature, science, the world around them, their fellow man, creation, and most of all, the King of Kings. We want to set their feet in that wide and spacious room, provide that beautiful banquet with an array of intellectual delights, turn them on to the rich beauty that is out there. Then, when you are done homeschooling, they continue on through life learning new things, finding new discoveries, and maintain their interest in the arts ( and other subjects, too).
Childhood is a beautiful time when our children are discovering and developing those first affinities which will serve them in good stead for the rest of their lives, so more than covering it all, the most important thing is to give your young people a taste for the delights that are available to enrich them all their lives, to give them... self sustaining lives.
They are going to continue to read, to fill those gaps, to build on their knowledge.
They are going to reread, as well. That first and single reading Miss Mason talks about is for their school books, during school. You will find that for most of our children, this will not be the only time, ever, they read any of the books in the curriculum:
...Having found the book which has a message for us, let us not be guilty of the folly of saying we have read it. We might as well say we have breakfasted, as if breakfasting on one day should last us for every day! The book that helps us deserves many readings, for assimilation comes by slow degrees.
Education is a journey. We are setting our children's feet on a wide path- and it's a long path. We are starting them off on this journey. We don't need to try to stuff it all in one short school career. It is a road that goes ever on and on.