Homeschooling can sometimes feel a bit lonely. While surrounded by bright little minds all day long, with never a lack for conversation, I’m clearly not pining away for human contact. No, I’m talking about lonely in a bigger sense. There’s a big world out there and going against contemporary culture can easily leave one feeling lonely and like an outcast.
Add to that the idea to school according to Charlotte Mason’s principles and the world gets a bit lonelier mostly because people don’t understand what you’re doing. They can’t fathom why you are obsessing about living books (what’s wrong with the latest contemporary fad in twaddle-like reading, they wonder) or habit training (aww, let up on them a little, they implore) or nature study (isn’t it a bit hot to send your kids outside in this deep Texas heat, they question). They don’t understand that your home is a domestic church where contemporary culture attacks on all fronts. They don’t understand that it’s not just about the hours of official schooling that matter because, as you know, Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life. But they don’t know that. So it’s lonely because, despite the conviction in your heart, you’re on a road less traveled.
Until that blessed moment when you manage to find a person who is like-minded. Then suddenly your little corner of the world brightens and the road doesn’t seem nearly so lonely. Now you’ve got support. Encouragement. Accountability. Understanding.
I consider myself incredibly blessed. While toeing the line between the world of contemporary culture and a CM inspired culture, and trying to find a balance, I have always had my sister, Leslie, my sister-in-law, Jessica, and a dear friend, Lori, close by who all homeschool and are undeniably supportive. Their children are the threads that are woven into my children’s memories. They encourage me, understand me and support me. They boost me up when I need it and their words are a healing salve on the days when this journey of mine feels impossible.
But one can never have enough support. Especially when traveling a lonely road.
Back in June I was blessed, again, and in abundance, with finding not just one local Charlotte Mason homeschooling family but a whole group of them. How incredibly lucky was that? I imagine luck had nothing to do with it. It was more of an answered prayer.
I joined the group’s Mom’s Study Group that meets once a month (we’re using Brandy Vencel’s Start Here CM guide). I don’t even know how to describe the amazing group of women that I have the privilege to meet with and learn from every month. This is a group of homeschooling moms who aren’t just satisfied with good enough. Following CM is a bit of a challenge for anyone…it involves a whole lot of self-evaluation especially in habit training (it’s hard to train a little person in good habits until you look in the mirror and see where some of those bad habits are forming). I love that these women keep it real and they are all open to learning and growing. I love that I have someone to be accountable to. I love that I have a whole group of moms who understand the trials and tribulations of the road less traveled. I’m lucky to get to grow along with them.
Then during our first week of school, we joined up with the CM group at the park for a book club discussion on the book Babe: The Gallant Pig (which the boys seriously loved!) and then had a grand time playing at the park.
Joey came home inspired by the book and made a Tangram lesson to share with the other kids.
I came home, inspired not by the women this time, but by the children. These were children immersed in the same culture my children are, so there was a connection. An understanding. Like looking in the mirror. They don’t know it yet, as my kids are still so little, but one day in the future, they may feel the sting of social nonacceptance and if that day ever comes, I want them to feel the weight of an army of like-minded people standing at their side. They need to be surrounded by other kids who march to the beat of their own drums. Who read classic stories and find pleasure in doing so. Who can quote Shakespeare because it’s beautiful not because they were forced to memorize it. Who can identify the lark of a bird. Who can sit quietly and draw the beauty that God has set before them. Who can understand that their education is not just about the books, but it’s about the Atmosphere, the Discipline, the Life.
This fall, we managed to snag a spot in the group’s co-op. We attended our first meeting last week. Success in our house is not measured by grades or test results, but rather by the sheer enjoyment and attainment of knowledge. Joey and William have not stopped talking about the co-op. The beauty of the Mona Lisa. The delightful idea that Mozart was 8 when he composed his 1st symphony. The thrill of reciting lines from Hamlet with other Shakespeare lovers. The experience of sitting with friends to draw their found objects in nature. The opportunity they had to relish the beauty. To observe the details. To listen attentively with patience and respect. Success is a beautiful thing. I’m so grateful that we have an entire community of like-minded people to experience it with. Just when I thought my cup could not possibly get any fuller, our CM leader arranged for a world-renowned Charlotte Mason expert to give a series of lectures to our group about Miss Mason and her educational theories and practices. Dr. Benjamin Bernier is an enlightening speaker who clearly knows his subject well. I loved the inside look into Charlotte Mason and the times in which she lived. Dr. Bernier was kind enough to allow us to peek through his personal collection of Charlotte Mason books. To say I was inspired is a bit of an understatement.
Dr. Bernier shared a personal letter of Charlotte Mason’s with us and while inspired by the entire letter, I was mesmerized by this particular quote that she shared from her friend Mr. Huston, “Choose no friends but those whose society you would like to enjoy through Eternity.” I am thankful to be surrounded by so many people, old friends and new, whose society I would thoroughly enjoy through Eternity.