Charlotte Mason Education is not for Burned Out Mothers

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Have you ever sat down to dinner but so tired that you felt no hunger? It is not that your body wasn’t hungry but rest was more needed than food at that particular time.

Homeschooling can be like that. I’m actually specifically thinking of Charlotte Mason and her broad range of subjects. Do you know what I hear often? “I can’t do all that! How do you manage to tackle everything x multiple students?!” First of all, I need to clarify something, I cannot do everything.

I look at it as a new believer looks at the characteristics of a Christian: tackle one thing at a time and build yourself up.  Now, it may seem sacrilegious to compare the two but in all honestly the Bible is a perfect example for many avenues of life.  Because of this, it’s time to think of the wisdom of Solomon, “to everything there is a season.”

I am not in a season of being able to do ALL of the components of a Charlotte Mason education. But, does that mean I am not following in her footsteps? I’ll let you decide. However, I believe it to mean that I am finding the rhythm our family needs and I focus on the important things, and then take advantage of the opportunities that come our way when I have time to do the others.  Need an example? I’ll share with you one of them: nature study.

Nature study, a huge component of a Charlotte Mason education. However, I find it to be one of the most beautiful and hardest to obtain. Why? A) I’m in the desert– my backyard is dirt. The bugs we have are ants and cockroaches. The trees are dying mulberry, evergreen pine trees, and oleander bushes. So since it isn’t the picture I have in my head when someone says, “nature study” (anyone else picture butterflies, woodsy scenes and a creek?) and therefore doesn’t become a priority.  Well, other than the fact that we have some good months outdoor and about 4ish months of absolute miserable heat (dry heat with temps of 120+ F).  However, if I take the children to the park, we can observe what is around us– more evergreen trees, desert willow tree, and grass ( I might point out that the grass not dead is because the shade of the tree keeps it alive). But do you see what I am driving at here? Opportunities but not necessarily daily observations.  Which is actually a little different than what Charlotte Mason suggested. I believe in her first volume, she encouraged 6 hours out doors.  The purpose of nature study? To learn to observe, take note, reflect, and get as much science in a natural setting.

By the way, I found this book to be most inspirational:

But let me get back to my original train of thought, which was seasons and being to tired to eat of the bounty…

If I was covering just the basics of school, (math, reading, writing, history, and science) and lets not forget the little darlings to tend, food to prepare, habits to maintain and instruct, most importantly their souls to tend, AND ALL these things– I could not always be on top of Shakespeare, composer studies, artist studies, foreign language, nature study, hymn study, drills, and heaven forbid I forget Plutarch! I am too tired. That hunger for that knowledge, is overshadowed by ALL of our fatigue. Instead, find what is working best for your family in the season you are in. Is it a beautiful spring day? Forget composer study and go outside and enjoy the air, the clouds, the sunshine, the flowers peaking above ground. Call it nature study.
Is it a windy and the weather inclement? Let Mozart entertain you as you work on handicrafts. Or watch a Shakespeare play (thank you modern technology) and do handicrafts. Heard a hymn you really enjoyed in Church? Find our more about it and learn it as a family around the dinner table! Does this have to happen every single day, or even every single week for this to be a complete meaningful education– NO! NO!

Let me tell you something plain and true, your children need YOU to be there enjoying this with them. What are they learning MOST of all when they see a completely worn out, frustrated mother who wants to make sure she is hitting the mark at every corner? Where is the beauty between the children and the worn out mother who is trying to give more attention to the subjects rather than cultivating a lasting relationship. Teach your children HOW to learn above all, and when something is important to them, they will have the tools to learn for themselves and share with you. Does this mean that all these components of Charlotte Mason are too much and unattainable? I do not believe so. However, it is crucial to me to have the goal in mind, but the wit and strength to complete each day to the best of my ability– regardless of what I have or have not accomplished.

Dear mother, of course we want to give the best to our children. It is within our nature to want this. We also live in fear that we will not have adequate time to teach every thing to our children. Of course our heads tell us this but we listen to the little lie that says we can do it all. Focus on what fits best with your family first. Get into your rhythm or routine; when you are ready to add another idea in, do it simply and build up. And just, enjoy the life we have been blessed with.

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