Friday, August 14, 2009

When true simplicity is gained

The Deputy Headmistress at The Common Room recently posted a sample day's schoolwork and-other-things for her two youngest children, both of whom are around the same (middle-school) age as our Ponytails. The books she lists aren't totally pulled from Ambleside Online; she improvises somewhat, just as our family does (and she has a rather massive home library to pull from). But it was the total picture--not just the particular books--that struck me, and also the thought that the DHM may not realize just how cutting-edge she is.

Go have a look and then come back.

Please note the absence of coloured printables, CD-Roms, and dollar-store filler in this lineup. No workboxes (although those can work nicely with CM too, and we're planning on trying some version of those). No lapbooks. No laminators. First-generation Calculadders (oh, isn't it nice to have these copy machines attached to our computers now? Unbelievable only a few years ago, when you had to actually Haul Your Calculadder Masters (and everything else) To the Copy Shop, all marked with Post-Its and paperclips). Same old copy of Manon P. Charbonneau's Hidden Rods, Hidden Numbers. Same old copy of the Greenleaf Greeks.

Now I know that the Common Room family does indeed use the computer for all kinds of things (the DHM was one of the first people I knew to post a list of All the Cool Old CM-Related Books She Could Find on Project Gutenberg. That was more than a decade ago.). They do Facebook, they get SwagBucks, and they've won Homeschool Blog Awards. I'm not computer-bashing here. I'm just pointing out the simplicity of this kind of planning and teaching, that doesn't depend on whether the computer's plugged in:

Two hymns, read first, then sung

The First 3,000 Years, by C. B. Falls (FYG)
The Story of Mankind, Conquests (FYB)

Physics Lab in a Supermarket

and so on, in the same way that I've seen the DHM organize her older children's school days for years. Even our Ambleside Online schedules can--at first glance--sometimes seem more overwhelming than this--too much to fit in, too hard to make them work for children of different ages, too hard to keep everybody doing what they're supposed to do.

But this is how it's supposed to work.

This is CM education that Charlotte Mason would recognize. Not micro-scheduled, computer-tracked, or stunningly creative on a parent's part. It doesn't need to be. The books do the teaching, the readers or listeners do the thinking.

This is CM education that works for boys who like to build and climb and dig holes in the ground. And for their sisters. And for interested others who happen to be around.

This is CM education that would probably keep St. Paul or Thomas Edison awake during class, as Susan Schaeffer Macaulay once pointed out.

Which, for me, is one of the marks of successful homeschooling, whether it's textbook based, living-books based, or anything in between: if it puts you (the teaching parent) to sleep, it will probably put the kids to sleep too. If it gives you enough to chew on that you all can get a decent discussion out of it, then stick with it.

This is not meant to be one of those backhanded compliments like "Oh, good for you for having the courage not to worry about wearing the latest style." Far from it. For anyone feeling overwhelmed, overpackaged, over-scheduled, and/or over-computerized, think about trying it the DHM's way.


Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Thanks for submitting this to the Carnival...I wrote an entry so similar it is eerie. :)

Great minds think alike.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Beck's Bounty said...

I have been caught up in doing / using "too much" and have, at times, lost sight of the pure and basic beauty that is CM's style. There is just so much available for homeschooling - it's mind boggling. In past years, I found myself adding a teeny bit of this, and then some of that. Before I realized it, there was "too much" and we'd nearly lost all of the "CM style" we love so dearly.

So, to begin every year I re-read several favorite portions of CM's writings and a few other volumes (Levinson, Andreola, etc) - and then find myself paring back, to the basics.

Thanks for sharing this !


Jimmie said...

Yes, yes, yes! I didn't click over; I just read YOUR thoughts. And they were most deep and on track.
Simple is better. Simple is easy, cheap, (often) quick, and effective.
I love bells and whistles, and I'm easily strayed from simple. Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

Jeanne said...


Shannon said...

You hit the nail on the head. The more I look, the more great things I can find. The more I find, the more confused I become. The more confused I become, the harder it is to school with confidence. The harder it is to school for me, the harder it is to learn for her. It's a cycle that leads to anxiety, no fun, and eventually burnout. Thanks for your thoughts.

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