It all started back when we first got married, except I didn't know it at the time. We were given the book "For the Family's Sake" by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and while it looked interesting I just never got around to reading it until the year that I was nursing my 5th baby William. I usually go through a boat-load of books while nursing and this book happened to be one that I picked up. Not only does she give lots of good advice she also leads you into a general, approachable understanding about Charlotte Mason and her educational philosophies.
Also around that same time the Spring 2007 issue of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine showed up and as I perused it I ran across an article where a mom , Ali Telfer, shared how they were using this FREE curriculum called Ambleside Online and how much they were enjoying it, so this intrigued me as well, I mean who can pass up FREE.
I don't know if I had heard of Charlotte Mason persay but I did know that somehow Karen Andreola was "into" that kind of education. Honestly I thought it was an unschooling approach which I was not interested in simply because of my personality.
After reading several chapters in "For the Family's Sake", and doing some internet research I borrowed the book "Pocketful of Pinecones" from my library and that is probably what finally lit my fire. Each of these bits of information that I had come across not only heightened my curiosity but touched something deep within me that needed answers.
I spent a lot of time researching on the internet and then ordered a used set of the "The Original Homeschooling Series" by Charlotte Mason. At this point I was reading everything that I could get my hands on and when those books showed up I devoured the first volume in short order, some of it actually bringing me to tears!
As I read I couldn't help but think back on my own schooling years (all homeschooled) and realize that those times when I learned the most and remembered the most all came from reading living books and being left alone in nature. I knew that that was exactly what I wanted for my children and the idea of a broad education not only excited me as a teacher but as a person.
I have always had a huge appetite for knowledge and have never ceased to educate myself continually throughout my years out of school although only a few months were spent in college. I knew that at the heart of my goals for my children would be that they would never lose that eager curiosity and longing to know more. I saw the steps to keep this flame lit in their lives given to me through Charlotte's writings.
I also was searching for the kind of education that would not stifle my oldest son, Thomas's, unique personality. Thomas did not speak more than a few words until he was 3 years old and had every indication that he was somewhere on the autism spectrum. We had him in speech therapy and I had radically changed his diet but I knew that it would probably be a life-long effort to teach him. Since language was his main issue I needed tools to use in schooling at home that would increase his vocabulary and his ability to express himself. Enter Narration! This has been an answer to prayers, not an easy one mind you but very effective in Tom's life.
We started using narration (a technique his speech therapist was using as well) during his Preschool and Kindergarten years and while it was a huge struggle at first and I would often become very frustrated we were able to see the benefits when we returned to speech therapy after a years absence. For financial reasons we were unable to continue speech therapy during his Kindergarten year but I used as many CM principles as I could, especially narrating. When we returned to his therapy his advisor was completely astounded by the progress he had made. Literally she saw a completely different boy than the previous year had shown. His vocabulary had gone from being 2-3 years behind his age to being in a normal range, his understanding of reading material was at a normal range etc. Everything that we had thought would never be possible for him or he would struggle with was gone! We continued his therapy only until they had finished evaluating where he was at and it was decided that he no longer needed their help. One of the greatest compliments that I received was from his advisor who had been very concerned about us homeschooling him; she said as we left that she had no doubt that he would succeed and catch up completely because he was being homeschooled! Praise the Lord! She also wanted to know if I had a teaching degree. Nope just Charlotte Mason.
To make a long story short I can say most emphatically that a Charlotte Mason style education is a perfect fit for our family. I continue to read and learn more and have never ceased to be inspired by her writings and wisdom for our school and for me as a mom.
Everyday is an adventure and because of the wisdom that Charlotte so willing shared as an educator to parents and her hearts desire to see parents teaching their children I do not feel lost and unsure about the direction to take in education my own children . She has given us a tried and true method to follow and taken the guess work out of providing our children with a broad and complete education that will enhance the rest of their lives.
P.S. Go on over to Homesteaders Heart for more about homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way.