I love organic food. For the most part, and especially the meat, it tastes better and has a richer flavor. I love that it doesn’t use pesticides and other harmful chemicals in the process of getting food from field, to store, to fridge, and finally to table. However, a complete organic diet is just not in our budget. Not only is the cost higher, because it doesn’t have stuff added to it to prolong shelf life, not picked before it is fully ripe, and not as high in demand, the food is more likely to go bad faster. Which means you need to make sure that you get what you can eat before it goes bad. It is a big process that requires time, energy, and a wise use of your resources. But given the option, if I could choose our standard processed food with added preservatives (and I don’t mean you standard salt and “natural” (that sure is a tricky word in our day and age) preservatives over a complete organic diet), then I would choose the organic diet. But, I cannot justify the cost of not just paying a higher amount for quality food, but the added stress to make sure every thing is cut in the budget just to make it happen. For example, in the summer, leaving the cooler off all day and just spritzing ourselves with water so that we don’t run up the electric bill, so we can afford organic. Or walking every where we can (which we already do) just so we don’t use gasoline money so we can put it all towards an organic diet. And you get the gist. However, just because I cannot afford a complete organic diet for our family of 7 big eaters, doesn’t mean I can’t do my best to be as organic as I humanly can.
All that to say, Charlotte Mason education can be thought of in a similar manner. Do not stress over the fact that you are not a purist and read those awful twaddle abridged readers! Do not feel bad that you cannot afford the blue fairy book or whatever it is now. Do not stress over the fact that nature walks for you mean bundling up 4 kids under the age of 4 and trying to keep your sanity over making sure that you see every tiny bug, every perfect flower, and lose all love in developing the child, the whole child, that is already there. And for Pete’s sake, do not fret if you use a textbook to teach science! Of course we all want to be thought as doing things the right way, but sometimes the right way doesn’t mean a completely pure way at the expense of our lives OR whatever anyone else is doing. Charlotte Mason wanted a way to teach the children and to serve his, or her, actual needs. Not to make our life a endless task of weeding out all the imperfections of our curriculum (can I even use that word?), and spend our lives pursuing and questioning every single item that comes in and get everyone’s opinion on the quality of the item, which in generally speaking is books.( By the way, I addressed the issue of books and child rearing, here.) If you want a perfect item in order to teach your imperfect child a perfect way of life, you only need one perfect book– the Bible, but I can guarantee you that you still won’t produce a perfect child. We need to adapt to the current culture. That does not mean we throw out morals and all the basic common sense of life! It doesn’t mean that we stick with only the classics either! The pressures of today are not the same as they were then! LIVING books, need to be that, LIVING. Something the child can grasp. Read about the morals of yesteryear, those qualities that seem to be few and far between. But do not neglect the JOY that your child has in reading the 39 clues, for example.
The point of eating is to provide calories and nutrition to our bodies. It is a much feasible task when you receive quality food but if all you have access too is adequate food, then do not neglect it on the basis of not receiving the best. The body is a wonderful machine, it can filter out what it cannot use and use the best to to maintain a functioning person. But, a Charlotte Mason education can be thought of in the same manner. Do not believe that just because you cannot have meadow walks and access to the ocean views or “quality reading,” that you child is not receiving a good education. Do what you can with what you have. Know what Charlotte Mason taught and believed and adapt it to your current situation without the stress of having everything lined up perfectly.
To quote Miss Mason, “[t]his education of the feelings, moral education, is too delicate and personal a matter for a teacher to undertake trusting to his own resources. Children are not to be fed morally like young pigeons with predigested food. They must pick and eat for themselves and they do so from the conduct of others which they hear of or perceive. But they want a great quantity of the sort of food whose issue is conduct, and that is why poetry, history, romance, geography, travel, biography, science and sums must be pressed into service. No one can tell what a particular morsel a child will select for his sustenance. One small boy of eight may come down late because– “I was meditating upon Plato and couldn’t fasten my buttons,” and another may find his meat in ‘Peter Pan’! But all children must read widely, and know what they have read, for the nourishment of their complex nature.” Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, page 59. (emphasis mine).