We've logged another home school year for the books, and now it's time to begin our eighteenth year--if I don't count the five years before my first son began kindergarten. This past year, our eleventh baby was born, our firstborn graduated from college, and my fourth child graduated from high school.
This summer's focus was on marrying off our third child. But I at least toted one book around, keeping it alternately in my pool bag, on my nightstand, or in the car: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Despite the break-neck pace of the last twelve months, I was able to get a vision for this year. And I'm excited.
Classical, as an educational approach, exudes all the warmth of a hospital corridor. But the draw, of course, is that it's thorough. And no homeschooling mama wants gaps. Unit studies. Oh, I miss unit studies. I want to cry when I think of all the good stuff we learned with Konos and how my younger kids are missing out. But unit studies don't really cover high school level academics. Unschooling, well, unschooling is just weird. No, I'm not going to teach my kid math by building a deck. I'm just not. Not when there are these convenient little things called workbooks.
Every year, I resolve to get back to cozy. We sit around the couch sipping tea or hot chocolate. The baby plays on the floor. The children are working at some kind of handicraft. And I am reading a classic out loud while dinner simmers in the crock pot.
Then I wake up.
The baby has something in his mouth. He always has something in his mouth. So the five year old is squawking. The two girls are arguing over who got the crochet hook first. (Really? Do we not have enough crochet hooks to go around?) The nine year old is mad because he thinks he's too old for read-aloud. And I'm sorely tempted to call it a day and call Bob Jones.
Every year, I am my own worst enemy. And my inner, pitch-forked Type A overtakes my inner angelic Charlotte Mason. Narration? We don't have time today, kids. Move along. A living book? I don't have time. Here. Do this multiple choice.
Bottom line: Charlotte Mason is not efficient.
But then education is not efficient, either.
I've just got to stop barreling through my school year like it's a to-do list.
Back to Charlotte Mason. This has always been a resource book for me, but this summer was the first time I actually read it cover to cover. It challenged me and moved me. And I determined to stick with it this year.
I put away all of my formal history curricula this year. We're learning about the ancients by reading about pharaohs or hearing an archeologist's own story. And we do a lot of talking. The high schoolers are writing their own study questions, which they answer for our weekly discussion. We're writing fables this semester, but we've doubled down on narration and dictation. We do have some textbooks on hand for math and science. But even science includes narration and discussion. In Bible, we're going covenant, not just being granular by talking about each incident, but taking a step back and looking at God's covenant with His people.
I think if we're not teaching our children that God is the Bible's main character, history's Hero, we might be doing it all wrong.
As I write this, Brett is at a conference where the keynote reminded the audience, "The purpose of education is worship."
I want the kids to worship when they see God's hand in history, His wisdom in science and math, His covenant in the Bible. I want them to worship when they tell it all back to me.
Perhaps cozy is not really what I'm after; worship is.
Maybe that explains why this concept just jumped off the page at me: I want the kids to be enthusiastic. Andreola writes that enthusiasm is from the Latin entheos: to be full of God. (That explains why I can't make them enthusiastic; to be full of God is a work for God to do Himself.) Enthusiasts are "heroes and heroines, the poets, the prophets, the warriors, the high-tempered spirits, the giants of human nature who, through force of mind, courage, and perseverance, have won the day for nations and also for individuals, when all other hearts but their own were faint, and who against all hope, believed in hope when others desponded. The enthusiast manifests a glowing splendor and gladness that leads him on to victory." (Andreola, 281)
Enthusiasts are the ones who will stand alone if they have to. And they do it with gladness. I want to be an enthusiast; I want to raise enthusiasts.
And, finally, this has been a year in which our family is learning all about grace. I still have a long, long way to go. I am still lapping this mountain. And I don't know if I'll ever have this licked.
"We mustn't think that because these old Greeks were heathen, therefore God did not care for them and taught them nothing. The Bible tells us that this was not so, that God's mercy was over all His works, and that He understands the hearts of all people, and fashions all their works." (Andreola, 210)
I want a theme of common grace to thread its way through our school year. So, while Egyptian history is full of pagan idolatry--and I make that clear to the kids--I want to shift the emphasis ever so slightly. This time around, I want the kids to know that God made every Egyptian in His image, that He gifted them and knew them and worked through them. I want them to see God's grace at work even in the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These men gifted the world with architecture, engineering, mathematics, government, and art. We are, in part, a modern civilization that stands on the shoulders of the ancients and the dominion they took.
I want to work harder at finding the true, the good, and the beautiful even in the ancient literature that we read because we ought to--but spend more time criticizing than acclaiming. Will we be able to find it? I don't know; stay tuned.
God rained on the ancient pagan and His people alike. Never in my eighteen years of home schooling have I taught that to my children. But I will this year. I want the children to see God's gift of common grace to all people.
And then we will worship.
That's my theme this year.