21 May 2011

What's going well for you?

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?


  1. Jeanne... What wonderfully wise words you have for us here.

    I was so surprised to find you mentioned me. And it's true! I'm always taking for granted the fact that my girls so far, like their parents, have a natural dexterity for languages.

    Your description of Jemimah reminded me to my four year old. She also has this words in any language. As when she told me yesterday "mom, God creates, man makes, and God does not make magic, that is superstitious". Superstitious, brocade, appropriate... those are a few words she uses correctly that I remember from this week from the mouth of a 4 year old girl".

    I don't know the others, but I too beat myself hard on those things I do less well. And to me nature is also a difficult part. I always thought you did study nature so graciously. I'm all frustrated that the names don't come to me in Spanish, or English, and I try. I'm taking baby steps, but I still beat myself up instead of celebrating our achievements.

    I also recognize me in that part where you say that, if we find us lacking, we may do something in that regard... or not. And that's fine, because we need to remember what you so beautifully explained, that we are not educating super kids, or we don't need to be super CM moms, but enjoy acquiring new skills, celebrate those areas we do great, and inspire in our children the most wholesome and rounded education possible, knowing that they will, like us, will CARE for what they know, and CARE to know much of what they don't.

    I'm glad you met CM moms in real life! I haven't met any yet, but I've met all those you mention in the post and more, and they are an inspiration and a delight, apart from such a help!

    I was thinking about you and the photo albums and pictures you lost. I looked at my daughters room, and closed my eyes, and tried to picture our home without the pictures we love, the books we cherish, the many memories it has as it is. And I thought you, your husband, and Jemimah, were very BRAVE and humble. Maybe life did not hand you another option, but you are constantly in our mind, know that, beautiful friend!

  2. ... sorry, reminds me of
    and THESE many words

  3. An epiphany in my homeschooling life was when I realized I didn't have to (and couldn't possibly) provide my children with absolutely everything. What I can do - and what I ought to do - is provide them with the best that I can offer. They have the rest of their lives to fill in the gaps that I left empty.

    Once I grasped that idea, I felt energized to actually push myself beyond my limits, which is rather ironic, I suppose. The pressure was off, I guess, and that gave me encouragement to do more.

    I feel most comfortable with history, literature, and nature journaling. Math and science take much more effort for me, and it's in those studies that I feel most keenly the responsibilities of being a homeschooling mom. I would read history and literature and gladly spend time in nature whether I was a homeschooling mom or not....but studying math and science with my kids takes a deliberate effort for me.

    Fantastic post - thank you.

  4. What an encouraging post! Thank you so much.

    There is a lot of nature study in our home, although it hardly every makes it to paper! Observing is our strong point. Caring for our little farm animals is included in that.

    History and a love of books is probably a given for any CM educator. Maybe not. History and literature are the strongest subjects in our home.

    I send my children elsewhere for music. Others send their children to me for Spanish. Like you said, it all works out in the end.

    Fun post! Thanks again!

  5. Very encouraging words, Jeanne. This has been one of my hardest years, and I've had to remind myself of many things, the first one being not to compare myself to other Moms. Thank you for these good words!

  6. My DH and I are not sporty (at all) and our sons are not sport, however both are creative and arty, so am I. I do think our passions do rub off onto our children. Parents whom love to read tend to have children also love to read.

  7. Jeanne

    this is so, so true. I spent too many years in angst trying to do succeed in teaching in areas that are not my natural or interested areas. When I gave myself permission to accept myself the way He made me, it was such a relief. We are a book/discussion family.

  8. Jeanne: lol There are a lot of things I never imagined when I became a mum; the good, the bad & the ugly! I have found these last years super hard ~ mostly because I have raised strong, independently thinking people with very determined ideas of their own as regards their education ~ & their ideas rarely match up with govt ideas or expectations so we do this whole juggling act & I lose the plot & fall apart only to discover, if I just step back & breath, it is all ok because the kids have a really solid foundation they can [& do, despite me] build on. The music is going super well. lol No surprises there, hey.

  9. Very wise words Jeanne!
    I was just pondering something similar today when Ron said that Rebekah 'takes in' a lot when he's out walking with her and is very observant. I was wondering if that was part of her nature of was it because we've made nature study a priority since she was very little! Idon't know the answer unfortunately!
    As for comparing myself to others, I've had to deal with this early on in our homeschool adventures as you know I come from a totally different culture and way of upbringing and schooling to which Rebekah has been born into and I found myself feeling very inadequate about homeschooling her especially in a CM way:) I've had to realise that I can do my best and learn from others without comparing myself to them but this post was definitely another good reminder of that for me:)

  10. oh and to answer the question on your post, AO 1 is going really well for us right now:)

  11. Wise and encouraging words Jeanne. I hardly recognise the woman you described but thanks anyway.
    As I said on Fri. CM says, it's not how much they know but how much they care or how many things they care about - I've forgotten the exact quote. So .... I say to myself not" how full is Lucy's Nature Study journal rather how much does she love God's creation and is drawn to him in it and is she developing her powers of observation". Well....both of those things are happening so I should stop beating myself up over her journal. That's just one example of what happens here.
    Thanks for the reminder. Enjoy your week!

  12. again, a great post, Jeanne.

    We ALL have gaps in our education. Most of these gaps can be, if we choose, filled in during our adult life. (Especially if we choose to be a homeschooling family!) I am now doing some of the classical literature and history reading that I missed out on in my maths/science-based school education. (After reading some of your other posts I wonder if we have the same need to fill in the arts side of our education - and hence the appeal of the CM education (or even the Steiner education, for me)).

    It's a bit hard to think about what our family strengths are! We read and talk a lot... perhaps for our family, Literature will come easily. Bible knowledge (and Hebrew and Greek, at the right time) will come easily. Art and art appreciation we will have to work hard at.

    At the moment, our Bible studies are going really well. Both children are excited about learning about God and who He is. It's fantastic.

  13. Hi lovely friend :) I've run out of brain power for intelligent comments lately but I think you are a sweetie for mentioning me. Your words are encouraging. And I think you are groovy. And really I'm just trying to make you smile...
    Love from your weird friend,

  14. Thank you for the sweet mentions. Always enjoy your "home schooling" home schooling posts :)


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