Homeschooling: My "Why"

In the past 4 years of homeschooling I have thought a lot about my "why" but never felt like I had completed a train of thought in my purpose for homeschooling. In discovering Charlotte Mason and reading more for my own personal growth, I'm inspired to write out my "why" along with references that I have read in the CM volumes as support for my choice.

 Our book study is reading through Volume 2 right now and the title of the chapter I read this week is "A Catechism of Educational Theory" - if that doesn't inspire you to have a "why" written down for your homeschool I don't know what does! LOL! I love reading other posts from homeschool moms on why they have chosen this path and it is a beautiful thing when you can peek into the heart of your fellow friend and mom!

One reason I believe it is something good to do for yourself and family is that it gives you something to look at when you've lost your vim and vigor (especially in the dreary months of late winter!) My own experience as a homeschooler was extremely positive and the reason I chose to homeschool my kids. I always knew that's what I would do and I am very blessed that it has become a natural way of life for our family. I remember sitting in the cafeteria at Lee talking to a friend of mine that has always been a person that asks the deep questions (and he's now a professor at Lee with his doctorate in medieval studies!) Our conversation was around the idea of what we'll be when we're old. I knew working with homeschoolers was where I was meant to be and it was very encouraging at only 17 years of age to feel that affirmation from a friend!!! And now, looking back at the experience I had in college and as a teacher for all the years before kids, it's like God had this "straight and narrow path" all set for me.

I absolutely credit my mom for the success I've had on this journey. She had to know her "why" early on and she did. She prayed. She stormed the gates. She persevered. And now she can see the fruit in those beautiful faces of her grandchildren. I don't take any of it for granted. Even the way God brought me into my husband's family is amazing. I see His hand over everything and I'm just so blessed! As newlyweds we both knew we would homeschool our children because Nick's homeschool experience was so positive as well! He is the best support and homeschool daddy! I'm so thankful for his mom that also sacrificed to raise a wonderful man and allow him the opportunity to learn and grow in his education!

So, here is my "why" and catechism for our family!

 I homeschool because

-I believe my children are unique individuals and I was created to best serve them as their educator.

-I believe our home and environment is the best place for learning.

-I believe in the education of moral character and habits that will guide them through life.

-I believe they learn best through a literary education that "spreads a feast" for their own ideas.

-I believe in the family unit and the importance of growing together. The more time we spend together throughout the day only brings us closer in understanding the personality of each other.

 If you are a Charlotte Mason nerd like me, here are some passages that I've highlighted that help further these thoughts:

 -I believe my children are unique individuals and I was created to best serve them as their educator. 

Is Education Formative?
So of education, we begin to ask, Is its work so purely formative as we thought? Is it directly formative at all? How much is there in this pleasing and easy doctrine, that the drawing forth and strengthening and directing of the several 'faculties' is education? Parents are very jealous over the individuality of their children; they mistrust the tendency to develop all on the same plan; and this instinctive jealousy is right; supposing that education really did consist in systematised efforts to draw out every power that is in us, why, we should all develop on the same lines, be as like as 'two peas,' and (should we not?) die of weariness of one another. Some of us have an uneasy sense that things are tending towards this deadly sameness; but, indeed, the fear is groundless.
We may believe that the personality, the individuality of each of us, is too dear to God, and too necessary to a complete humanity, to be left at the mercy of empirics. We are absolutely safe, and the tenderest child is fortified against a battering-ram of educational forces. 
vol 2 pg 32 

Mothers owe a 'thinking love' to their Children. "The mother is qualified," says Pestalozzi, "and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; ... and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love ... God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided––how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education."
We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own. And they will take it up as their profession––that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours.
That the mother may know what she is about, may come thoroughly furnished to her work, she should have something more than a hearsay acquaintance with the theory of education, and with those conditions of the child's nature upon which such theory rests. Vol 1 pg 3,4 

Three Questions for the Mother She must ask herself seriously, Why must the children learn at all? What should they learn? And, How should they learn it? If she take the trouble to find a definite and thoughtful answer to each of these three queries, she will be in a position to direct her children's studies; and will, at the same time, be surprised to find that three-fourths of the time and labour ordinarily spent by the child at his lessons is lost time and wasted energy.
Children learn, to Grow. Why must the child learn? Why do we eat? Is it not in order that the body may live and grow and be able to fulfill its functions? Precisely so must the mind be sustained and developed by means of the food convenient for it, the mental pabulum of assimilated knowledge. Again, the body is developed not only by means of proper sustenance, but by the appropriate exercise of each of its members.... People are apt to overlook the fact that mind must have its aliment––we learn that we may know, not that we may grow; hence the parrot-like saying of lessons, the cramming of ill-digested facts for examinations, all the ways of taking in knowledge which the mind does not assimilate.
vol 1 pg 172, 173 
When I read these passages above, it gave me such purpose and fervency to know this was MY JOB!!! I'm reminded of that every day and hope to fulfill my purpose in our daily learning! Christian and Eva Mae are so different and knowing how to encourage good habits and character according to their personality is challenging and rewarding! I know if they were in a classroom with 20 other kids, that individual attention would not be possible.

-I believe our home and environment is the best place for learning. 

Education is an Atmosphere 

Seeing that we are limited by the respect due to the personality of children we can allow ourselves but three educational instruments––the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit and the presentation of living ideas. Our motto is,––'Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.' When we say that education is an atmosphere we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child environment' specially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere both as regards persons and things and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the 'child's' level....
We certainly may use atmosphere as an instrument of education, but there are prohibitions, for ourselves rather than for children. Perhaps the chief of these is, that no artificial element be introduced, no sprinkling with rose-water, softening with cushions. Children must face life as it is; if their parents are anxious and perturbed children feel it in the air....But due relations must be maintained; the parents are in authority, the children in obedience; and again, the strong may not lay their burdens on the weak; nor must we expect from children that effort of decision, the most fatiguing in our lives, of which the young should generally be relieved.
School, perhaps, offers fewer opportunities for vitiating the atmosphere than does home life. But teaching may be so watered down and sweetened, teachers may be so suave and condescending, as to bring about a condition of intellectual feebleness and moral softness which it is not easy for a child to overcome. The bracing atmosphere of truth and sincerity should be perceived in every School; and here again the common pursuit of knowledge by teacher and class comes to our aid and creates a Current of fresh air perceptible even to the chance visitor, who sees the glow of intellectual life and moral health on the faces of teachers and children alike.
But a school may be working hard, not for love of knowledge, but for love of marks, our old enemy; and then young faces are not serene and joyous but eager, restless, apt to look anxious and worried. 
vol 6 pg 97-99
This is the main argument I have when success is not found in a homeschool that is just "school at home." Even in the early 1900s it was known that tests, tests, and more tests, do nothing to improve the education of a child.

-I believe in the education of moral character and habits that will guide them through life. 

But Character is an Achievement––Disposition, intellect, genius, come pretty much by nature; but character is an achievement, the one practical achievement possible to us for ourselves and for our children; and all real advance in family or individual is along the lines of character. Our great people are great simply by reason of their force of character...
Two Ways of Preserving Sanity––Greatness and littleness belong to character, and life would be dull were we all cast in one mould; but how come we to differ? Surely by reason of our inherited qualities. It is hereditary tendencies which result in character. The man who is generous, obstinate, hot-tempered, devout, is so, on the whole, because that strain of character runs in his family. Some progenitor got a bent from his circumstances towards fault or virtue, and that bent will go on repeating itself to the end of the chapter. To save that single 
vol 2 pg 73 

To look at Thoughts as they come––But what if from childhood they had been warned, 'Take care of your thoughts, and the rest will take care of itself; let a thought in, and it will stay; will come again tomorrow and the next day, will make a place for itself in your brain, and will bring many other thoughts like itself. Your business is to look at the thoughts as they come, to keep out the wrong thoughts, and let in the right. See that ye enter not into temptation.' This sort of teaching is not so hard to understand as the rules for the English nominative, and is of infinitely more profit in the conduct of life. It is a great safeguard to know that your 'reason' is capable of proving any theory you allow yourself to entertain. vol 2 pg 47 

....that most important function of the formation of habits––physical, intellectual, moral. As has been well said, 'Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.' And a great function of the educator is to secure that acts shall be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child shall reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with the minimum of conscious effort.

The Minor Moralities become Matters of Habit We are only now beginning to discover how beneficial are the laws which govern our being. Educate the child in right habits and the man's life will run in them, without the constant wear and tear of the moral effort of decision. Once, twice, three times in a day, he will still, no doubt, have to choose between the highest and the less high, the best and the less good course. But all the minor moralities of life may be made habitual to him. He has been brought up to be courteous, prompt, punctual, neat, considerate; and he practises these virtues without conscious effort. It is much easier to behave in the way he is used to, than to originate a new line of conduct. And this is so, because it is graciously and mercifully ordered that there shall be a physical record and adaptation as the result of our educational efforts, and that the enormous strain of moral endeavour shall come upon us only occasionally. 'Sow a habit, reap a character'; that is, the formation of habits is one of the chief means whereby we modify the original hereditary disposition of the child until it becomes the character of the man.
vol 2 pg 125
CM writes so much on habit and character training that it is very humbling as a parent to see when you have let things slide in their obedience and character. I joke with my book study friends that our monthly visits are like a parent support group! So much of what we read is directed at us to take the initiative and be proactive in our child's upbringing! Which is how it should be! There is the saying that "it takes a village" and there is truth in that, but parents MUST take responsibility for sowing the good habits.

-I believe they learn best through a literary education that "spreads a feast" for their own ideas.

Children must be Educated on Books.
A corollary of the principle that education is the science of relations, is, that no education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge. We reject epitomes, compilations, and their like, and put into children's hands books which, long or short, are living. Thus it becomes a large part of the teacher's work to help children to deal with their books; so that the oral lesson and lecture are but small matters in education, and are used chiefly to summarise or to expand or illustrate.

Too much faith is commonly placed in oral lessons and lectures; "to be poured into like a bucket," as says Carlyle, "is not exhilarating to any soul"; neither is it exhilarating to have every difficulty explained to weariness, or to have the explanation teased out of one by questions. "I will not be put to the question. Don't you consider, sir, that these are not the manners of a gentleman? I will not be baited with what and why; what is this? what is that? why is a cow's tail long? why is a fox's tail bushy?" said Dr Johnson. This is what children think, though they say nothing. Oral lessons have their occasional use, and when they are fitly given it is the children who ask the questions. Perhaps it is not wholesome or quite honest for a teacher to pose as a source of all knowledge and to give 'lovely' lessons. Such lessons are titillating for the moment, but they give children the minimum of mental labour, and the result is much the same as that left on older persons by the reading of a magazine. We find, on the other hand, that in working through a considerable book, which may take two or three years to master, the interest of boys and girls is well sustained to the end; they develop an intelligent curiosity as to causes and consequences, and are in fact educating themselves. 
vol 3 pg 227
The Life of the Mind grows upon Ideas
Now that life, which we call education, receives only one kind of sustenance; it grows upon ideas. You may go through years of so-called 'education' without getting a single vital idea; and that is why many a well-fed body carries about a feeble, starved intelligence; and no society for the prevention of cruelty to children cries shame on the parents. ....why, we have 'finished our education' when we leave school; we shut up our books and our minds, and remain pigmies in the dark forest of our own dim world of thought and feeling.

What is an Idea?
A live thing of the mind, according to the older philosophers, from Plato to Bacon, from Bacon to Coleridge. We say of an idea that it strikes us, impresses us, seizes us, takes possession of us, rules us; and our common speech is, as usual, truer to fact than the conscious thought which it expresses. We do not in the least exaggerate in ascribing this sort of action and power to an idea. We form an ideal––a, so to speak, embodied idea––and our ideal exercises the very strongest formative influence upon us. Why do you devote yourself to this pursuit, that cause? 'Because twenty years ago such and such an idea struck me,' is the sort of history which might be given of every purposeful life––every life devoted to the working out of an idea. Now is it not marvellous that, recognising as we do the potency of ideas, both the word and the conception it covers enter so little into our thought of education? vol 2 pg 34, 35
This one is sometimes hard for me! Spending 10 years in the public schools I was trained to pour into my kids like a bucket. Teaching is fun for a teacher! We have to be reminded that there is a balance in the ability to inspire and I have to think of myself as a facilitator to these broad subjects that will awaken the passion and love within my kids! This section also reminds me of another quote I recently read in a book about nature.

"Love sharpens the eye, the ear, the touch; it quickens the feet, it steadies the hand, it arms against the wet and the cold. What we love to do, that we do well. To know is not all; it is only half. To love is the other half." - John Burroughs

-I believe in the family unit and the importance of growing together. The more time we spend together throughout the day only brings us closer in understanding the personality of each other. 

Should Nourish with Ideas
To nourish a child daily with loving, right, and noble ideas we believe to be the parent's next duty. The child having once received the Idea will assimilate it in his own way, and work it into the fabric of his life; and a single sentence from his mother's lips may give him a bent that will make him, or may tend to make him, painter or poet, statesman or philanthropist. The object of lessons should be in the main twofold: to train a child in certain mental habits, as attention, accuracy, promptness, etc., and to nourish him with ideas which may bear fruit in his life.
vol 2 pg 229 We think that Children have a Right to Knowledge––Much guidance and stimulation are afforded by another principle. We are not anxious to contend with Kant that the mind possesses certain a priori knowledge; nor with Hume that it holds innate ideas. The more satisfying proposition seems to be that the mind has, as it were, prehensile adaptations to each department of universal knowledge. We find that children lay hold of all knowledge which is fitly presented to them with avidity, and therefore we maintain that a wide and generous curriculum is due to them.
vol 2 pg 233
In view of these internal impulses, what is the duty of the educator? To make himself acquainted with the springs of action in a human being, and to touch them with such wisdom, tenderness and moderation that the child is insensibly led into the habits of the good life.
vol 2 pg 237
Having cut out the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, undue play upon any one natural desire, emulation, for example, we are no longer free to use all means in the education of children. There are but three left for our use and to each of these we must give careful study or we shall not realise how great a scope is left to us.... What if parents and teachers in their zeal misread the schedule of their duties, magnified their office unduly and encroached upon the personality of children? It is not an environment that these want, a set of artificial relations carefully constructed, but an atmosphere which nobody has been at pains to constitute. It is there, about the child, his natural element, precisely as the atmosphere of the earth is about us. It is thrown off, as it were, from persons and things, stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion, by the regulated action of common sense. We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby's needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges. And, what tempered 'fusion of classes' is so effective as a child's intimacy with his betters, and also with cook and housemaid, blacksmith and joiner, with everybody who comes in his way? Children have a genius for this sort of general intimacy, a valuable part of their education; care and guidance are needed, of course, lest admiring friends should make fools of them, but no compounded 'environment' could make up for this fresh air, this wholesome wind blowing now from one point, now from another. vol 6 pg 98
Thank you for reading this far!!!  I find so much joy in putting my thoughts to "paper" and sharing with my friends.  I also know that I won't be around forever but I do hope that when my kids grow and maybe read these thoughts that I have they will know just how much they are loved and that God has a purpose for them to bring them joy, prosperity, hope, and a bright future!


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