encouragement

You’ve heard things about this Charlotte Mason method, and the more you read the more it sounds like exactly what your family is looking for.

But there’s one problem: you keep seeing on blogs and Facebook groups that Charlotte Mason is for Christians only, and can’t be used by those who aren’t.

But you’re not Christian.

Do you need to leave this method behind and look for another that will welcome non-Christians? Does Charlotte Mason’s method of education really only work for those who have committed themselves to her god? Is there something different about the biology and brain of children of Christian parents that makes this method unsuitable for those of us that aren’t?

Of course not!

Charlotte Mason was Christian

Let’s get this out of the way right now — Charlotte Mason was Christian. More specifically, Anglican. In the U.S., this is the modern Episcopalian Church. Her worldview was saturated with it, and she couldn’t conceive of any other religion being ‘right’, just as many modern-day Christians can’t.

However, she also taught Jewish students, and had friends and close co-workers who were Jewish. Nowhere in her writings have I found where she said that Jewish or any other religions should not use her method. On the contrary, she says that her method works with all children. Are we to believe that her ‘all children’ actually means only Christian children, and that children are biologically different depending on what religion their parents follow?

I don’t think so.

How to bring your own beliefs to a CM education

With the proliferation of Christian curricula where the entire thing seems to be saturated with a certain brand of Christianity, and the inclusion of generally Young Earth resources in these, you’d think that Charlotte Mason held those same views.

Nope.

Her programmes (from the PNEU) are filled with books that are only mildly Christian or that are outright secular. She used books that taught current scientific theory (Darwin), and she says in Volume 1 concerning which Bible commentaries to use: “Mr. Smyth brings both modern criticism and research to bear, so that children taught from his little manuals will not be startled to be told that the world was not made in six days; and, at the same time, they will be very sure that the world was made by God.”

So what do we as non-Christians, or Christians whose beliefs don’t follow other curricula, do?

First, “We must teach only what we know.”

What does this mean? It was actually this singular passage that brought me back to my non-Christian beliefs. I was trying to raise my daughter with Christian materials, because that was all that was available 15 years ago. I read this passage, and realized that I didn’t believe what I was trying to teach my daughter.

“In the first place, we must teach that which we know, know by the life of the soul, not with any mere knowledge of the mind. Now, of the vast mass of the doctrines and the precepts of religion, we shall find that there are only a few vital truths that we have so taken into our being that we live upon them––this person, these; that person, those; some of us, not more than a single one. One or more, these are the truths we must teach the children, because these will come straight out of our hearts with the enthusiasm of conviction which rarely fails to carry its own idea into the spiritual life of another.” (Home Education p 347)

What are the core beliefs that you carry in your soul? These may or may not align with the religion that you belong to. However, these core beliefs are the only ones you can teach.

How do you make this into a curriculum?

The easiest way is to use a curriculum that aligns fairly closely with what you already believe, and then tweak from there.

The great thing about Charlotte Mason’s curriculum as found in the PNEU programmes is that there are few religious books outside the Bible portions, so it’s easy to take a curriculum that is modeled after these programs and tweak it to fit your own worldview.

Tweaking curriculum for your views

Wildwood Curriculum is a strict Charlotte Mason curriculum, but without religious dogma.  It is easily customized to fit your own beliefs.

If you belong to an organized religion with educational materials for your religion, just put those in in place of World Religions/Philosophy. Easy peasy.

If you don’t have such a simple option, it will take a bit more work.

Take a few days to think about what ideas form your spiritual beliefs or core values. Besides those, what knowledge (spiritual or mindfulness) do you think is important to have? What qualities and morals do you want to cultivate in your children?

If you’re a visual person, you might find an outline or a mind map helpful to organize your thoughts. Don’t rush it. It will be a work in progress. Here’s a copy of mine so you can see where I’m coming from.

After you’ve figured out what ideas you want covered, use that as your guide when planning your year. What resources are available to you to convey these ideas to your children? Think outside the box — they don’t need to be books; they can be experiences or you modeling actions. At the same time, they can be books.

Hang with people going through the same thing

Finally, consider joining Facebook homeschool groups that reflect your spiritual views, especially if you can find ones that follow Charlotte Mason.

I prefer groups that embrace both religious and non-religious viewpoints. Here are a few resources:

Charlotte Mason Secular Homeschoolers
Wildwood Curriculum (this is the link to the homepage.  If you are planning to use the curriculum, there’s an active Facebook group, too)
Charlotte Mason Plenary

Up Above the Rowan Tree

Charlotte Mason’s method is for everyone, no matter your religious beliefs (or lack of them!)

Want to remember this? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

 

woman in yoga pose next to lake with text Charlotte Mason is not for Christians only

 

I’ve lost my rhythm.

It stinks.

Not my music rhythm, though I haven’t been singing much lately, either.

No, this is my daily rhythm.  The one that keeps the household running smoothly, time spent with my daughter and husband, and our Charlotte Mason lifestyle moving forward.

I’ve lapsed into the TV trap and my house is a mess.

There are reasons behind the fall — I broke my right (dominant) wrist a month ago and had to have surgery on it, my husband has been unemployed for most of the year and so is home all day, I’ve been working hard on finishing Wildwood Curriculum Form II, and I’m developing a preschool guide to Charlotte Mason from a secular/inclusive viewpoint.

Any one of these things would throw my routine out of balance, and added all together everything blew apart.

Why am I writing about this here?  Because this blog isn’t just about Charlotte Mason methods, but about our lifestyle.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Because I know that you’ve had times, maybe months or even years, when you’ve struggled with rhythm, with getting things done and still maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness, getting meals on the table, and feeling like you have things under control.

We’re going to identify, brainstorm, and implement solutions.  I’m going to walk through what I’m doing in the hopes that it can help you, too, dear reader.

First, identify the problem areas.

I’m doing good on getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table at consistent times, having a decent bedtime for all of us, and keeping laundry under control.  Though they could be better, they aren’t big issues for me right now.  My biggest problem areas right now are:

  1. House is a mess
  2. spending too much time on the computer (between Wildwood, the preschool guide, and general surfing)
  3. letting my daughter watch TV
  4. spending too much time on Wildwood to the detriment of other projects that are also important
  5. Not singing

Next, identify possible solutions

Here’s where I brainstorm ways to get my problem areas under control.  I won’t use all of these, but it gets the ideas flowing.

— House is a mess:  spend a set amount of time cleaning every day, do morning and evening routines, enlist family’s help to keep things picked up (I’m still on doctor’s restrictions for my broken wrist, which limits how much I can do without causing further damage); start doing morning and evening routine again

— Too much computer time:  designate specific days to work on different things on the computer, and set a timer to enforce limits for myself.  turn the computer off during the day, rather than having the laptop open, on, and easily accessible

— letting my daughter watch too much TV:  keeping the TV off during the day (difficult because my husband likes to have it playing all day in the background.  Get her into a rhythm too, where we do outside time in the morning and activities like playdough and painting in the afternoon

— spending too much time on Wildwood:  This goes back to computer time, and I need to set firm limits

— not singing:  Sing!  These don’t have to be specific nursery rhymes or folk songs, just little made up songs through the day.  Maybe to call my family to dinner, while I fold laundry, or while playing.

Baby steps

This is too much to tackle all at once, so I’m going to take small steps.

On cleaning the house — for this week, I’m going to do my morning and evening routine, and the daily chores from Motivated Moms,the housekeeping app I usually use and love.  (Want to try it? Use coupon code juniper for $3 off your first year!) Also, 5 minutes per day on the worst room of the house.  That’s all.

Set a time limit for computer time — I’ll have my laptop closed between 9AM and 6PM.  Off and put away.  Work needs to be done before and after that time, maybe 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.

Insist that if my husband is not actively watching TV, that it stays off.  His downfall is having NFL Network playing all day in the background.  If my computer is off, it will be easier to convince my husband to keep the TV off.

Sing throughout my day.  Not anything specific, but just start being intentional about singing little nonsense songs, nursery rhymes, and folk songs.

Rhythm

You may be wondering how this all ties into rhythm.  The cornerstones of my rhythm are sleeping and eating at consistent times, but I still need consistency throughout the day, too.

If I do my morning and evening routine every morning and evening, it brings rhythm back into my life.  It also creates white space because I’m not constantly thinking “I need to be cleaning”.

By keeping work to certain hours, it keeps it from leeching into the rest of the day.  I can spend more time on my daughter without guilt.  I can also work without guilt.

Results

I just started today, so no big results as of yet.  I’ll update more as I go.  Today, though, I shut down the laptop at 9:30.  Oh, the temptation to just ‘take a peak!’

Morning routine and evening routine were done.  The house is just a tad cleaner than it was yesterday.

 

daughter joyful in dress she made - sewing is passion

I read homeschooling articles all the time that talk about “finding your child’s passion” and going with it, but I never really understood how to translate that to my own daughter and her lack of focus, her Aspie traits, her, yes, weirdness.

When she was 6, and 7, and 8, and 9, her absolutely favorite book was Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Healthcare Handbook.

Ah ha! thought I. Her passion is medicine. I must foster that.

Ummmmmm ???

She has always adored science and nature. We’ve done primitive skills, been involved with a primitive skills group, she’s flintknapped, gone to weeklong overnight wilderness camps. We’ve participated in WinterCount (a primitive skills gathering). By the time she was 8, she knew how to navigate by the sun and landmarks, knew how to make a compass using the sun, how to start a fire without matches, could throw knives (at a target LOL), could hike 6 miles in a wilderness area to see hidden petroglyphs, knew many local edible & medicinal plants…. the list goes on.

In years past, we’ve tried Prepare and Pray and Blessed Assurance, both primitive skills/survival type curricula. We’ve always stopped after a little while as we both lose interest in that format.

This year, she is working through Kamana 2, step 2 of an intensive naturalist training program, as her science.

But this isn’t her passion. She does it, she enjoys it, but ….

When she was 10, she wanted to do ballet. I enrolled her in a local class, despite her being so uncoordinated that she couldn’t even jump rope. We were with that school for about three years, at which time the teacher pulled me aside and basically told me that unless my daughter started acting more mature than her age, she needed to quit.

Yeah, it was weird.

She quit.

At 8, we sent her to a week-long spring break drama day camp through the local children’s theater. She loved it. We searched out opportunities for her to do more, and found another youth theater that had homeschool programs. She did several with them and had such JOY with it, but she would always grin and laugh on stage because she loved it so much.

She learned to have her lines down by week three of a program — the first week was the ‘getting to know you’ week, the end of the first week or beginning of the second they’d get their parts and a copy of the script, and the third week they were expected to not need their scripts anymore.

She was – and is – a big ham, but then we got to a point where to go any further she’d need to do actual youth theater rather than programs. With daily practices and two hours round trip, that is simply out of our reach.

Sigh.

We found that our local high school was going to offer Drama as a class for the first time, so we signed dd up for it. She was shocked at the amount of wasted time and how long the kids took to learn their lines. After working with Youth Theater for several years, she just wasn’t feeling the step down.

At about 12 she got a game by Project Runway. She and her friends would spend hours spinning the pointer and then drawing designs. She asked for the Accessories add on for Christmas. After about 6 months the whole thing got lost in her room. Occasionally she’d find it and use it for a few days, then it would get lost again.

A few years ago, she started writing fan fiction. She got several followers and her stories were actually quite good. Two years ago a homeschooling friend told us she was going to have her daughter write a novel for English that coming year. Since we’d just finished an IEW course with them, we decided that our daughters would work through A Guide to Writing Your Novel together, and get together weekly to go over their work.

Then we moved cross-country. No matter, Skype to the rescue! They wrote and wrote and wrote and had a grand time.

I gave my daughter a choice of what to study for history last year, and she chose the Middle Ages because she wanted to set her books in that setting. She wanted her history to be research for it. Then she started using The Sims to storyboard her stories. To do that she needed to figure out what they were going to wear. She bought a book about designing fashions, something like Fashion Workshop, and started drawing.

Soon one whole wall was covered with her dress designs.

About this same time we found and joined a Civil War reenactment group. She sewed her own corset.

She took a Landry Academy [note: Landry Academy is no longer in business] class called Forensic Anatomy and decided she wanted to go into forensics.

She took a research class and did her final research project on Mid-19th Century Women’s and Teen’s Fashions in the US. She was one of only two students to do historical research rather than scientific research for the class, and she got a 147/150 on the final project.

She continued sewing, especially for her baby sister, and told me that she’d like to get a book on how to make patterns so she could start actually making some of her designs instead of just drawing them. She decided she either wants to be a forensic analyst or a fashion designer or a novelist. I’m worried about job prospects.

She finished the first draft of one novel, and is working on two others.

We found a class from Landry called Clothing Construction and Design and enrolled her. And then a member of our re-enactment group forwarded me a link to the Minnesota Historical Society’s page where they announced an internship opportunity for girls aged 15-18 to work together with girls from Palestine, performing historical clothing research and designing clothing together to culminate in a fashion show in April.

My daughter applied. She interviewed on Friday. I was so nervous! This is the kid who I still have to remind to not interrupt. To not hug everyone she meets. To not talk about bowel habits in a public restroom.

We practiced handshakes the day before the interview. She brought in some of her designs, a dress she’d sewn for her sister (chosen because of the many elements it used — set in sleeves, gathered waist, lined bodice, handsewn hems), and walked in confidently.

Today, she got the call that she was chosen. Twenty positions, over fifty applicants, and my homeschooled, weird, she-will-never-stay-focused-or-be-able-to-get-a-job kid was chosen to participate in a cross-cultural design group.

Whoo hoo!

I don’t know if she’ll end up in fashion design. We call last year the Year of the Novel. This year is The Year of Sewing.

So there you have it — false starts. Starting and stopping. Tangents. Losing passions under a mound of dirty clothes. And yet…. still they grow. Still we nurture. Still they succeed.


I wrote the above five years ago.  That same daughter is now a junior in college.

She cut her finger that year, a minor cut but she dripped a few drops of blood.

She passed out.  You guys, she passed out.

There goes any medical career.  😀

Where she is now

She took a few drama classes at college but has since decided that while she loves acting, it’s not a career direction she wants to go in.  (Can you hear my mama’s sigh of relief, especially after the Harvey Weinstein scandal?)

She still writes, but she does it for pleasure.  Perhaps one day she will make a living off it.

Her real passion?  Still sewing.  daughter putting the finishing touches on the historically accurate ballgown she designedTo the right is her putting the finishing  touches on her historically accurate ballgown that she designed, drafted, and sewed with minimal help from me at 17.

She designs, drafts, and sews many of her own clothes, including bathing suits.  She is seriously considering opening up a cosplay business online, and selling custom creations.

A Charlotte Mason education is excellent for allowing your children to follow their passions.  It introduces them to a broad variety of subjects that they might not even know exist.

It gives them time in the afternoons to pursue those passions, yet not tie them so thoroughly to those passions that changing mid-leap is disastrous.

Let your children explore their interests while still giving them a solid base.  Don’t let worry overtake you if you can’t see any passion developing.  Life is full of stops and starts and changes in direction.

What about your own older children?  Do you notice a single consuming passion or are they still jumping around?

What does that mean? “For the rest of us”?

Not Charlotte Mason-lite.

Not Charlotte Mason-inspired.

Not Charlotte Mason-ish.

We knew we would homeschool when our first daughter was born, 21 years ago.  I strongly believe that a Charlotte Mason lifestyle is the right one for our family.

But …  we aren’t an evangelical Christian family, and most of the blogs about Charlotte Mason education come from a distinctly Christian background.

I am Heathen (sometimes termed Germanic Pagan).  My husband is culturally Christian and spiritually neutral.

This blog is for “the rest of us.”  We who want to follow a Charlotte Mason lifestyle and homeschooling method but do not come from an evangelical, young-earth Christian background.

We are Buddhists.  Hindu.  Muslim.  Humanist.  Jewish.  Pagan.

We are Christians who want to choose which doctrine to teach our children.

We are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers swimming upstream.