(Warning, long post ahead with no pictures!)
Now that we're two weeks into the school year I thought I would do a post about what is working so far and what needs to be adjusted...
I had some problem with organization for this post so I decided to use a quote by a well known person in the home school world: Charlotte Mason (see links below). While I tend toward a classical curriculum and, as evidenced by our enrollment with Mother of Divine Grace, I appreciate and use the curriculum suggested by Laura Berquist, I still go back to the writings of Charlotte Mason on a regular basis. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Mother of Divine Grace in the first place was that Laura Berquist's curriculum is, in my understanding, quite "Charlotte Mason friendly".
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
~ Charlotte Mason
So, based on this philosophy, here's what's working and what's not in our little home school, according to Miss Mason's quote.
"Education is an atmosphere" ~
On the positive side, I would have to say the atmosphere of our home, in general, is quite "education friendly". We have tons of books that the children are reading on a regular basis. Books are a standard gift at Christmas and birthdays, and I try to stay keyed into my children's ever changing interests so I can provide the books that will encourage them to go deeper into those interests and learn more.
"What would happen if ...?" is a frequent question here and I love to indulge the kids by letting them find out ... unless it's dangerous of course! That often means we have messes here and there and the level of activity in the house can be a bit nerve wracking but, like many moms, I would rather have my kids learning by doing something messy then watching television. Even now, as I type, Jetter is rolling magnets down the side of the fridge and discovering that by placing them in a negative-to-negative position they roll differently than when they are placed in a negative-to-positive position. Builder is using his screw driver to take apart an old remote control car that doesn't work any more. He loves to take things apart, piece by piece, to discover how the object works. Of course, he doesn't put them back together, he just stores all the parts in a box that is now a jumble of screws, wires, plastic pieces, etc. But, he is curious and this allows him to feed that curiosity.
So, yes, in this regard, "Education is an Atmosphere", in our home.
But ... there are definitely some things we need to work on regarding "Atmosphere"...
Organization of the school room is the big one! We dove into the year even though the school room wasn't ready for us! I didn't get it done ahead of time, but I knew if I waited it might be another two weeks before we actually started, so we started in the midst of a messy, disorganized room. Bad idea. It caused much stress for me and the kids. So "number 1" on my to do list this weekend is to whip this room into shape!
Besides the school room, I feel like I need to restore some general sense of orderliness to the rest of the house as well. While I really can't complain about this pregnancy (I feel quite strong and healthy), I do need to take it easy and often lay down for a bit in the afternoon. Over time, I'm seeing that the house is slowly becoming disorganized because I am not as diligent at keeping up with things. I don't think children need to be raised in a sterile environment, but I do think the environment needs to be orderly. The lack of order that is creeping in definitely needs to be remedied!
Under the area of discipline I think of schedules, curriculum, and general obedience. This might not be what Charlotte Mason meant, but for me, discipline is like an orderly environment; without it, learning is scattered and those very important things that children need to learn at various stages in their development might not happen. Without discipline, I might decide it is unnecessary to teach Builder to read. Builder might not care at this stage, after all, "reading doesn't require the use of a screw driver so who needs it!" But without the ability to read, he wont be able to pursue the interests that he will have regarding our nation's history or complicated science concepts later on.
As Social Butterfly grows into a young lady she often struggles with why it is necessary to obey certain rules. She is truly a blessing but she is strong willed and, while that will serve her well some day, it makes things a bit tumultuous here at home at times. If I allow the disobedience, once again, learning is quite haphazard so I must have standards and rules in place with proper consequences. (Although I must admit, the natural consequences are often the best means of learning why a certain rule is in place!)
So discipline is necessary.
As far as a schedule goes, we get an A+ for following our morning schedule over the last two weeks. For various reasons our afternoon schedule isn't working as well. Here, once again, it's the discipline. Usually by afternoon I'm a bit tired and the kids, having finished most of their school work, just want to play. I've designed our schedule to make this possible to some degree, but there are still afternoon chores to be done and quiet reading times that are important. These things seem to be getting tossed by the way as we relax or prepare for the late afternoon activities like football practice. I told the kids that our goal for the coming week is to keep to the daily routine even into the afternoon.
Curriculum for this school year seems to be working quite well for the most part. I can't think of anything that I regret using. The big hit for Social Butterfly has been the science with her best friend! I am very pleased with how seriously the girls are taking this. They have accomplished more than the assignment requires both times they have met. Their differing interests really compliment each other and they encourage each other in positive ways. For Jetter, the big hit has been his taped history lessons. I've actually had to stop him from moving too far ahead in the text since there are certain activities I want to do that are scattered throughout the history curriculum. For Builder, it's the reading that he is learning. He doesn't always seemed thrilled when it's time to get out the reading materials, but once we start into it he doesn't normally want to stop. So, for curriculum, I'd say we are doing well.
As I mentioned above, I think the "chore category" falls under discipline as well. This is where we need to step up quite a bit! Enough said about that already!
"... a life."~
I have a hard time separating "Education is an atmosphere" and "Education is a life". Perhaps the difference is that the term atmosphere is in regards to the child's surroundings, and life is in regards to the length of time required for education. If this is true, than I think the life of a child is often full of education, even when we adults step out of the way. We need the discipline to teach them long division (and they need the discipline to pay attention and learn it!) but there are so many things a child learns just by their very lives. As I mentioned above, the curiousity to roll the magnets now the side of the fridge or take an old electronic toy apart make those activities educational even though there was no adult involvement. I stopped later in this post to check on these two boys of mine who had since abandoned there activities to venture into the woods. They were just playing, but in their play they discovered various things in the woods that weren't there before. Different flowers in bloom, a tree that had fallen for no apparent reason, turkeys flying across the river (to get away from my boys!). They excitedly told me about each of these things and I saw the learning taking place ... "Why did that tree fall?" , "Turkeys seem to have a hard time getting started in flight, and they don't stay in the air long!" , "Is this flower a different kind of Trillium mom?" All questions and comments that lead me to say "Let's find out!"
My oldest son is currently researching various recipes from around the world. He is filling files on my computer about the foods found in various countries like France, Jamaica, or even Macedonia. His school hasn't started yet so he's spending lots of time on this "foodie interest". I don't mind in the least! I love the fact that my big, football playing, weight lifting, "all boy" of a son enjoys cooking. Someday his wife will too, I'm sure! I also like knowing that in learning about the foods of these countries he is also learning about some of the customs and even the locations of very small countries that he might now have heard of in is geography studies.
Our faith is another area in which we learn so much by the living of it. Catechism, Bible Study and the lives of the saints all play a huge roll in the kid's education. But, the very living of our faith is where they learn the most. Talking to good friends who have taken missionary trips, attending Mass and taking part in the sacraments, access to pictures that lead to questions regarding the Catholic Faith, praying the rosary or various novenas are all things that we "just do" that teach us about our beautiful faith. As my oldest left for his first football game of the season I yelled "Don't forget to pray for the intercession of.." and he yelled back, "I know, I know. St. Sebastian, St. John Bosco and Mary!" It was just another everyday thing we do but he has learned that our prayers are important and that the saints actually do intercede for us. (He played really well in that game by the way:) !
I myself am still learning, and I hope I can still say that when I'm a grandmother. I want each of my children to love the idea of learning and to stay ever-curious even into adulthood.
So, "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" is not just a great quote to keep in mind but a goal for our homeschool. There are so many areas that need improvement in this regard, but I think it is the striving for perfection that will keep us on the right track.
(If you are interested in reading more about Charlotte Mason, there are many sites available on the internet. Here is just a sampling of what is available: