Jemimah and I caught up with another Ambleside Online homeschooling mum, Louise, and her daughter, Princess Elle yesterday for a visit to Captain Cook's Cottage. (You did know that it is in Melbourne and not Yorkshire, didn't you?) Louise is the first AO mum I ever met, and I remember being really quite relieved as I looked at her incredibly polite, kind and well educated children and realised that I too could possibly make a success of this homeschooling caper. They even appeared socialised!!
Anyhow, Louise and I found ourselves talking about what was going well and what was going...ahem...less well in our attempts to educate our daughters using Charlotte Mason's philosophies and the AO curriculum. There were no surprises, really. Louise is the sort of girl that I aspire to be - calm, gentle and articulate. Her home is restful and welcoming and comfortable. And she is raising her children to be like her. The things that go well in her homeschool, I believe, are the things she teaches well. And the things she teaches well are the things she likes best.
I was drawn to a Charlotte Mason education by the rich smorgasbord of ideas. I loved the living books, the geography and history, the music and art. And because I like them, these are the things that go well in my school. Nature study, on the other hand does not come naturally to me. There have been times when we have put a great deal of effort into this area of Jemimah's education. During some stages we've been bushwalking most weekends. At other times we make the effort to merely walk out from our home into the surrounding countryside. When times get hard, like now though, our nature study is the first area in my homeschool to suffer.
All mums are different. You only have to look at Barb's blog to know that her love of art and nature is not something she does merely for her children's education. She may have other areas that cause her grief, but I'll hazard a bet that nature journalling is not an issue. My friend, Jeana excels at textile arts, and already her daughter sews beautifully. Art and craft are well taught at Jeana's house. You will never hear Richelle or Silvia complain about foreign languages. Foreign languages are incorporated seamlessly into their days in a way I can only dream of.
And so I can go on. Louise's daughters can sew. Jemimah is excellent at geography and has an awesome vocabulary. Sarah's son is amazing with wildlife. Some of that may have been the child's innate ability; some of that is the way they've been taught.
Is is nature or nurture? Do sporty parents produce sporty kids because they are introduced to it early or because they are genetically predetermined to be good? That is the million dollar question, I guess. When Jemimah was at kindergarten, one of the mums commented on the skills of the children being like those of their parents. Jacky was great at all sports. His dad was the AFL footy coach and his mum coached the netball and tennis. Sport was everywhere in Jacky's life. Liam's parents went hiking every weekend. Liam could tell you the name of all the birds. He had a collection of nests. He loved fishing and birding and hiking. He was four. He still loves these things at nine. Caspar's dad is a farmer. At four, Caspar could tell you all about tractors. He knew about headers and augers and elevators and agricultural machinery. Even at four, Jemimah knew how to talk...She clearly inherited that from her father!
There are lots of things that we want our children to know. When we look at a CM curriculum we will all be drawn to different things, and we will do certain things better than other people and certain things less well. Sometimes in teaching our children we will discover a talent we hitherto hadn't imagined. My love of crochet has been a case in point. In other areas we will always struggle.
Charlotte Mason wrote her first book for mums like us. Mums who had different skills and talents. In some of those homes narration went swimmingly. In others they were outside six hours each and every day. Some mums did handwork and sloyd and basketweaving. Some kids mastered French and Latin and German.
And you know, I think that's okay. As time goes on, our kids will develop skills and talents of their own. They may be similar to ours; they may be not. My friend, Ganeida, I am sure, never imagined that she was raising a child as talented as Star, nor one as determined as Liddy!
All of us have gaps in our education. If we regret that as adults we may chose to do something about it. If it matters not to us, well then it matters not.
In the meantime, I thing we need to loosen up and be less hard on ourselves. Sure, I may do somethings better than you, but I am fairly certain that you'll do a whole lot better than me. It's okay that my daughter can't sew and Jeana's can. I can't sew and Jeana can! I can't speak Russian and neither can my daughter. Maxim and Luca are both fluent and so is their mum.
Instead of feeling sad about what's going badly for you, let's all focus on what's going well. I'm sure there'll be more than you expect.
What's going well in your homeschool right now?