I remember exactly where I was when the beauty of homeschooling dawned on me. It was a gorgeous late-summer afternoon in England where the weather wasn’t too hot, nor too cold, and I was walking my 16-month-old to the nearby park.
Instead of dashing to get our requisite three times down the slide and five-minutes of swinging before I had to rush back and start planning for my school-teaching job, I could sit on the picnic bench and just watch her stand in the field, looking at “bai-bais” (butterflies), or shake my soda and watch the “buh-buhs” (bubbles).
Thus began an 18-year-long journey of exploration. The first lesson I learned was to respect a child’s own zeal for learning.
I loved the objectives of Konos where character mattered more than seeking academic achievement at the expense of relationships: that is, relationships with God, with family, and even with the subjects being studied.
This probably is what led us into the Charlotte Mason method, eventually. Miss Mason lived during Victorian times when public schools were just becoming compulsory (it sounds like a bad thing until you realize how preferable it was for children to be in schools rather than forced to work for 12 or 14 hours a day in treacherous conditions), but she objected to the factory-method of education, insisting first and foremost that “children are born persons,” and as such, should be taught in a way that inspired the learning they naturally sought until you drilled it out of them.
One of the hallmarks of the CM method is the emphasis on nature study, so it was a magical time of connecting with, not just the family and our studies, but with the world around us, too.
I felt like I was back in those toddler days with the bai-bais and the buh-buhs, only now, we put names to what we were observing. We took notes and used field guides, made lapbooks and seasonal tables.
About this time, we added child number 4, and started co-ops with friends. This blissful homeschooling time lasted for 7 years, where—true to Charlotte Mason fashion—we read interesting books, took field trips, went to museums and mused about which picture we’d love to crawl into, and listened to excellent composers while learning to play instruments ourselves. We even bred tropical fish to learn how there’s a huge variety of how they breed, how they lay their eggs or have live babies instead. The chemistry of an aquarium was excellent, the husbandry of looking after even more so.
And then you wake up one day, and this happens…
Your toddler with the bai-bais and the buh-buhs now wants to start dual enrollment and college visits, take on part-time jobs and regular volunteering opportunities, and you wonder if you’ve done enough. You worry that you could have done so much more, you fear that it’s too late.
“In one year, she’ll be gone,” you think.
Maybe some of you are yet to get to this stage. I don’t want to scare you, but it’s coming. I’m not sure I have any advice, but more an observation: you will wish you had done more. Even if you lived life to the fullest, grabbed every opportunity, prepared as fully as you could for whatever you thought lay ahead, it won’t have been enough.
But that’s ok.
Turn the mirror on yourself and remember this: you have been on this journey with your family the whole time, and you have been learning along with them, in one way or another.
Think about that. You didn’t stop learning anything new at 18, so why should your children?
Homeschooling has been just the first leg of their very exciting journey!
Kat has degrees in English from both the US and the UK, and taught in UK secondary schools. Fun fact: secondary school teachers have to teach classes of ALL the grades each year, so instead of having 4 or 5 sets of 6th graders, they have one set in each of the 7 years. More evidence of British inefficiency!!! Kat now uses this vast experience and expertise to teach online courses in English for high school homeschoolers all over the world. You can read more of her work on her family blog at boyschooling.blogspot.com.