When one hears the name "Charlotte Mason," I think frequently the default image that comes to mind is the homeschool. Mason is credited with starting the homeschooling movement, and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book certainly gave homeschooling some serious momentum starting in the 1980s. I know and love many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. They have taught (and continue to teach) me so much. Whenever I need a book suggestion, I always call a homeschool friend who has several children, because I know they have read more books than I have on any given subject and their children love to tell me about their favorites.
I have never had that kind of time, though, because I have always been in the classroom. Well, that's not entirely true. I did homeschool my son when he was in first grade, and we tried it again briefly in 2008. Although it is strange not to be in the thick of things that are going on at Willow Tree this year, I have to say that I am loving the pace of being home and just being "mom" and "wife." The house is actually clean, and I remembered to ask for Marley's Monday note yesterday (which, she described as a very "mom" thing to do).
To be honest, homeschooling has never held much interest for me. I guess I'm just wired to be a working girl. I definitely see the benefits, but I think there are a different set of benefits in the school environment. That's why I sent my daughter back to Willow Tree this year, even though I am at home. I think I have always known this, but it really helped me to hear Art Middlekauff's lecture at the 2014 CMI conference on "Mason's Call to Parents." The whole lecture was brilliant, and you can read it in volume 2 of Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason, available from Riverbend Press.
"The home-taught girl may, in happy circumstances, excel in intellectual keenness and moral refinement; but for habits of work, power of work, conscientious endeavour in her work, the faithful schoolgirl is, as a rule, far before the girl who has not undergone school discipline."
The second quote, also from Formation of Character, is found on p. 326:
"The parents of the young genius will probably do him an injury if they do not give him the chance of the school-training in habits of clear thinking and right judgment, as well as in the invaluable power of sustaining relations with his fellows."
Now, to be clear, the purpose of this post is most decidedly NOT to begin a debate over whether home or school is better. In fact, the above quotes are tempered on p. 193 of Formation of Character:
"The point for our consideration is, that the duty of the parents to educate their child is by no means at an end when he enters upon school life; because it rests with them to supplement what is weak or wanting in the training of the school."
She goes on:
"We may assume at once that the discipline of the school is so valuable, that the boy or girl who grows up without it is at a disadvantage through life; while at the same time, the training of the school is so far defective that, left to itself, it turns out very imperfect, inadequate human beings."
What Art gleaned from these quotes is that the whole method may work best when the home and the school work in tandem with one another. Education from the parents and from the school have different advantages, and perhaps the best thing we can do for our children is to give them both. My own conclusion is that it is truly a wonderful thing that the number of Mason schools is growing so quickly, and that resources for starting a school are forming through CMI even as I write. But we can't just dump our kids at the door of the school and let the teachers take on the full burden of educating our children, either. The parent must provide enriching experiences, thought-provoking conversation, moral and religious instruction, and an appreciation for beauty at home, as well.
Well, that's not exactly where I had intended to go when I sat down to write this blog, but there you go. Maybe next time I'll write what I had in mind for today--the special challenges that face schools. Thanks for reading, enjoy your morning cuppa, and be sure to leave a comment below! Have a great one!