Shoe-Tying and Charlotte Mason

Updated from a post originally published by the author in 2012.

When I was expecting my first child, who turned out to be children (twins!), I heard a radio program about homeschooling. My husband and I were immediately convinced — we would certainly home educate our children. Rick never wavered in that conviction, but when we hit the toddler years, my conviction was severely shaken. How could I possibly teach these children to read, since I clearly couldn’t even teach them to tie their shoes, not to mention use the potty? But here we are, with twenty years of homeschooling under our belts, and with three graduated, two in high school, and one in junior high. I am happy to report they are all potty-trained, shoe-tying readers. And they are all pretty nifty human beings too.

A couple of years after those harrowing toddler-twin years, a friend dragged me to a home school convention, and in God’s good providence I happened upon For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Here, I was introduced to Charlotte Mason, the education reformer of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I was immediately attracted to her ideas, having been primed throughout my teen and early adult years by repeated readings of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. If you don’t know what I mean, read them for yourself! Anne is fabulous teacher/mother inspiration.

The following year, armed with Charlotte Mason’s ideas, we began our home educating journey and to my surprise and delight, my children and I thrived. We read aloud, studied phonics, read aloud, studied artists, read aloud, studied composers, read aloud, took nature walks, read aloud . . . I think you get the picture.

I will quickly skip over the occasional times and seasons where my fears and feelings of inadequacy for the overwhelming thought of being completely responsible for our children’s education gained the upper hand, and I decided we needed to get SERIOUS about school and do more (busy) work. This always led to a crash and burn situation, followed by several weeks spent mostly reading aloud on the sofa in order to recuperate.

Through the years, I have continued to use many of Charlotte Mason’s methods for my elementary age children. The Language Lessons for Children series from Cottage Press is based on her principles and methods, along with a few other things I have learned along the way. The format of Primer One and Primer Two was informed by my own need for daily structure, routine, and accountability. I wanted to write these books before my youngest child outgrew the need for them—and I did, though just barely.

Here’s a peek at my adorable curriculum testers (or lab rats, as one of my twins used to say) – all at around 3rd to 4th grade:

Posts: Principles & Practices Toward A Life Well-Read

Porträt von Jean und Geneviève Caillebotte,, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1895

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