Beware of experts, bloggers and podcasts! Yes I did just say that, even though I am somewhat of a blogger myself. We can rely on these things far too much. They are good. Well some of them are good. Some of them are very good. Some maybe not so much. But none of them replace the words of Charlotte Mason herself. Let me explain–unless you read the volumes for yourself–you actually have no idea how accurately the author(s) or speaker(s) are portraying the principles of Charlotte Mason. There is more than one interpretation. It is a dangerous thing to implicitly trust those who claim to know. Just as you would never only read bible commentaries without reading the scriptures for yourself, it is a vital idea that you read the “gospel of education” CM puts forth in her very own words. Otherwise you may easily though inadvertently be led astray.
Right now my online study group is reading Home Education which is volume one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. We’ve been studying for about a year now and this is actually my first time studying with a group. We meet once a month on Zoom. Prior to this group I had actually been trying to do another online group but we just did message boards and it didn’t work as well. I guess the accountability just wasn’t as good as when you actually “meet” even if it is online. One important thing to note is that it has recently come to light that CM’s volumes should be read in order from 1-6. When we started,this “discovery” had not come to light and so went out of order. Even though I ‘met’ CM about 10 years ago, I only just a year ago in earnest began studying her volumes. It has really made all the difference. Before I just read bit and pieces and a lot of what others said about CM and her methods. But to read it from her own pen is so much more helpful. It may seem obvious but the volumes can seem daunting. They are not a light read and to a recovering book inhaler, having to read something just a few pages at a time felt…wrong! Don’t get me wrong, I tried to read the volumes in the beginning but it was a bit like reading Chaucer or Shakespeare…it just didn’t go down easy. It takes practice to get into what some would consider an antiquated style of writing. In fact, I actually did read volume one on my own (in that first group I talked about) and I can tell you that because I didn’t narrate it regularly, I didn’t retain as much as I would have thought.
Even all these years later, when it’s hard to remember exactly how hard it was to read (because now it seems so comparatively easy), still I can only read a few pages at a time for the most part. Not because it’s boring or I don’t understand it but because it’s so rich–there is so much there to chew on! I shoot for four pages per reading. Our group is moving along at a pretty brisk pace which is strange to say since it’s a two year reading program for seven volumes! It doesn’t help that I feel compelled to write down practically everything she says in my notes. Four pages can seriously take me a while to wade through… and then there’s my new rule which I try to follow fastidiously: I only read what I can narrate. I usually do oral narrations. I don’t want to type the narrations though I do sometimes. I’d like to hand write them but I’m too impatient. I’ve just heard things about how writing is really different than typing and that the brain retains it better. So when I take my notes, I hand write them. And if I had all the time in the world, I might pen my narrations but for now, I’m just focusing on shifting what I’ve read into from my short term memory into my long…
The biggest challenge for me in reading volume one is not tearing myself down for all the mistakes I made in child-rearing before I knew all this stuff. It is difficult for me to not have regrets because my oldest children are adults. I’m grateful to have a ten year old and another chance to practice things as Mason saw them but it’s hard to not think, “If only I’d known!” I wasn’t even aware of living books and CM philosophy until my oldest was 12 and my middle child 8. And then as I told you I didn’t really start reading the volumes til last year. Guess I thought I could wing it!! And when it wasn’t working as well as I thought, did I read the volumes? No I went to another way of schooling–so youngest child missed two vital years of CM… but I’m back and with zeal and enthusiasm. No more looking. I’ve found what I was missing and the answer is… read the volumes!! Even five minutes a day will make a difference in your atmosphere. Take five years to read them all if you need to but just make progress and above all, narrate it to someone: your husband, your BFF, your Mom, your dog or even yourself (that’s what I do!)
I promise you it is time well spent–you will not regret it!
Next time I will start talking about volume one. I’m about 1/3 through it so I will probably just pick up where I am but I hope you will study along with me and that we can have a grand conversation about our ‘golden nuggets’!
The hardest step is just getting started…