Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Summer With Charlotte: Part One~ Just Be Mom~


Stop trying to be a Teacher. Be a Mother who teaches. 

Given the fact that I have always wanted to be a teacher, I think I was trying too hard to act like a teacher. I frequent teacher blogs, teacher websites, teacher's pins on Pinterest... And while they can be useful at times, and there are great ideas to be found, I came to the realization that I am not a teacher, but a mother. Granted, teaching is woven into the very fabric of being a mother, among other things, but all the cute classroom and "teacher stuff" doesn't always apply to homeschooling. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it doesn't matter if my daughter has a cute classroom or cool school supplies... what I most want most for her is to love learning. All children have a passion for knowledge, but we adults have the power to either extinguish or excite it. I don't want my dreams and desires to get in the way of her education. So, in the Charlotte Mason method, less is more, and quality is more valuable than quantity. Short lessons that capture their full attention is the way to go. And mothers are the best teachers, because they have full access to their children, know them best, and have the constant dedication and attention required to nurture their education. Education here encompasses every aspect of life: habits, dispositions, tendencies, their will, and their relationships with people and with G-d. CM not only has me excited about homeschooling, but she really forces me to consider my interactions with my kids, and how I can be a better mom for them. In addition, she has re-ignited my own desire for learning, because in order to teach passionately, you need to know something about it!

One of the first (and most powerful) thoughts I read of Charlotte Mason's was her striving to teach like Yeshua (Jesus) did, and using three quotes from the Gospels to advise mothers. In teaching our children, we should not "hinder" them, "offend" them, or "despise" them. She goes on to explain these three in further detail (you should really read it yourself!) Suffice it here to say that by offending them, an example given is not teaching them obedience or a sense of "duty," literally putting a "stumbling-block" before them for the rest of their lives. To despise them is to have a "low opinion" of them, which CM believes far too many adults do. Here she insists that children are persons, fully capable of understanding just about anything, and to treat them (and their wrongdoings) as trivial is very detrimental. Correct them on their first offense, and don't allow bad habits to be formed. Lastly, to hinder them is to "overlook" or "make light of" their "natural relationship with Almighty G-d." Children will turn to G-d if not discouraged from doing so just as naturally as the "flowers turn to the sun." There is a whole portion about gently presenting G-d to the soul of your children, and makes the wise point that simply sharing with them about some things that G-d has done in your life (those aspects of G-d that you have truly experienced and can speak about with passion and conviction) is worth more than all the Bible stories and rote memorization you can teach without emotion. I'm sure I will devote another post to this section,it is so beautifully written, you really must read it for yourself. While CM begins with these "commandments" of what not to do, she goes on to offer so many wonderful ideas of what to do. In fact, she paints mothers in such a magnificent light, I often find myself completely lost in her marveling, and I keep going back to read sections again and again.  

The aspect of CM's teaching philosophy that really captivated my attention was her treatment of mothers. Although I haven't read anything that says she had any children of her own, her descriptions of motherhood are just beautiful to me.  Gently guiding and goading in the right direction, tenderly taking advantage of every teachable moment, being the child's loving ally to remind them to do their best and do what they must do... All without harshness, impatience, or nagging. Let's be clear, I am certainly not there yet (and if CM indeed did not have any children, perhaps that's why she puts it so matter-of-factly and makes it sound so easy!) but I am in love with her view of motherhood. My goal is certainly to be that loving ally, tender teacher, gentle guide, and patient parent, and I do believe it to be attainable. Granted, the English gentlewomen CM speaks of (with their nurses and maids and cooks) had more "free time" to frolic in the grass than most of us modern-day "stay-at-home-moms" ever will, but so much of what she says still resonates loudly today. 

If you are unfamiliar with her writings, this will give you an idea of what a Mother is, in Charlotte's eyes...(and I'm sure I'm leaving some out)...

She will do everything in her power to make her children's lives easier...not by spoiling them, but by instilling in them good habits and useful talents that will be helpful, and not harmful. By getting to know her children fully, she will be able to either encourage and develop, or misdirect and eradicate their tendencies. She will "work wonders" to get them outdoors and into nature for as many hours as possible each day, even if she lives in the city. :) While outside, she will leave them free to run and roam, observe and she remains watchful and attentive to answer their questions (or to commit to finding the answer together), or to simply spark their curiosity. To practice the habit of attention, she will ask them to describe a natural setting or narrate a story she has just read to them. She will understand how they learn, and will place before them countless opportunities to learn. 

She will patiently teach her children to read, however long it happens to take... unrushed. And she will read to them, not what CM calls childish "twaddle" about nothing, but classic stories of adventure that will fuel their imaginative power, and that are not "dumbed down" in order to stretch their minds. She will also read them Bible narratives, as much as they are ready for, which will introduce them to G-d and morality. She will not keep her faith in G-d to herself, often praying aloud or praising Him in front of her children, so that they too will understand what it means to live in His presence. 

~Now, who wouldn't want a mom like that...~

To download free e-books based on the teachings of Charlotte Mason, visit 
"A Thinking Love" is a condensed version of all CM says about mothers, "The Way of the Will" is about character training and raising your children with a strong (as opposed to weak) will, and "Education is..." is another great introduction to CM's views on education.

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