Monday, April 7, 2014

All the things I wanted to say, Part Three of Four

by Anne White

We have not homeschooled any of our children all the way through high school.  There were a variety of reasons for this, including the always-present question of "what will they do without a diploma?" Outside pressures may not matter in some homeschooling families, but for us they were at least a partial reason for the decision to take on public high school.

I don't think it was that different during Charlotte Mason's lifetime, especially for middle to upper class boys who would have had to go to some kind of outside school to prepare for university. If you look at the study programs for her oldest senior high students, it is assumed that those students would be mostly girls. I think that there was an understanding of the school and university requirements at that time, and a need to work with the realities of that system; to give both the upper and lower-class students whatever they could for whatever time was available to them, before they had to go on to work or some other form of schooling. For us today it may be much the same; what seems to cause the most anxiety for homeschooling parents in the high school years is first of all teaching higher-level math and science and possibly English, and second, getting that work validated so that our students can move on to whatever post-secondary study or job or business they are planning for. I think Charlotte Mason would understand those kinds of outside expectations, although in her time they wouldn't have applied to so many students.

In a perfect world, we might be able to provide CM-style education for everybody, all the way through, in small schools or in our homes; and in fact, it's getting really interesting to see what's happening now with the next generation of CM babies coming along, hearing about homeschooling parents who were brought up themselves to love good books, and who are just as likely as their kids to be interested in a bird on the lawn or a bug on the window. (You know the ads that say it's even more important to invest in girls' education than in boys', because the girls will be better parents and so on? I think Charlotte Mason would have totally agreed with that.) Anyway, yes, it can be hard trying to set up a whole science lab in your house, to teach senior math and literature especially if you're also teaching younger children at the same time; so if your students really are at the point where they need that kind of study and they also need to be credited for it, there are points where you may have to say, we've gone as far as we can; it's time for outside school.

(It's not that math and science aren't important, only that a) maybe not everybody needs to learn them in the same way or in the same amount that the public schools require, and b) they have a way of taking over, and you can't do everything at once.)

But if we can extend our children's CM opportunities by even a couple of years, maybe through grades nine and ten, and then let them take on whatever seems necessary in our culture and economy, they will still be that much the better for it.

So if they are still at home, what should their schooling look like?

In The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater refers to the "CM trinity":
a rich curriculum,
the habit of narration,
and teacher standing aside.

This is a good description of Charlotte Mason principles in general; but I think, more than anything, that this is what you need to put in place for the upper years.  If those three are in place, it doesn't matter so much whether you use science textbooks or not, how many languages you include, or even whether you read Plutarch.

Rich curriculum:  well, you can look at Ambleside Online as an example.  You can look directly at what the Parents' Union School did in the upper years (via the original Progammes posted on the AO site).  You can look on your own shelves, at library sales, at reviews of new books and other resources, at whatever's around you.  Charlotte Mason referred regularly to having students complete Scout or Guide tests in areas of geography, First Aid, and homemaking.  Where things come from is not so much the question as what we do with them.

Habit of narration:  Obviously this includes both oral and written narrations. But t
he upper years are a time when you get to try new "paper graces" (notebooks); for example, my seventh-grade daughter has been keeping a Book of Centuries, and this term we will add in a Century Chart.  I might also note that when when of my other children, now in high school, went through some of the "homeschool relics" of her younger years, the only things she was really interested in keeping were the notebooks that she had really had a hand in designing or writing or illustrating.

Teacher standing aside: We develop "trust", meaning trust in each other, in ourselves, in the student's mind.  Trust in the process, trust in the general principles of CM. Trust in the work of the Holy Spirit.

More to come in Part Four.

1 comment:

  1. I am very much enjoying this series. Thanks for taking the time to write out your thoughts!