We have been a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family for over six years now and during that time I have made it my mission to read as much as possible about Miss Mason's philosophies regarding education, children and parenting. Many of her original writings are difficult to find and due to the Victorian prose in which they were written, even more difficult to assimilate at times (depending on the time of day during which I am reading them for me personally!).
Charlotte Mason believed that "Education is a discipline- that is, the discipline of good habits in which the child is trained. Education is a life, nourished upon ideas; and education is an atmosphere- that is, the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own live" (Vol 2, p. 247).
In Laying Down the Rails, the author has brilliantly and gently put together bits and pieces of Miss Mason's writings regarding the importance of habit training in children. This book details more that fifty of Charlotte Mason's habits and pairs them with the corresponding excerpts from her writings. There are practical applications and questions for reflection at the end of each section as well.
After reading a few sections of this book upon our return from vacation Friday night, it seemed as if the scales were taken from my eyes and I was able to clearly and confidently see the habits that have been fostered well and sadly, not so well, in both myself and in my children. It was a defining moment for me as a mother.
It is so easy for me to lose the balance in home education, that is the balance between fostering and nurturing both the mind- through formal academics- and the spirit of the child- through character building, stories of saints, prayer and Scripture.
One of the struggles I face as a homeschooling parent is that of making an idol out of making sure that my children as up to par academically. At times it seems that the world is watching and waiting to see what my children know about history, what sort of math processes that have mastered and whether or not they are steeped in science experiences. Sadly, we have even been questioned- both the children and myself- about whether I have a teaching degree and what 'grade' my children would be in if they were to transfer out to school.
In an effort to put forth my best effort to emphasize the SCHOOL in homeschooling, I fear that at times I have taken off and set aside my hat as mother-teacher and instead dutifully donned my cap as schoolmaster in an effort to teach my children all that they should know academically.
Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of heart and soul in our home. There are times at which I see the tenderness and kindness between sibling pairs and know deep down that I have gotten it right, that my children are putting others before themselves and that love does truly conquer all.
But there are also times when I have been quick to overlook an offense that needed correcting, a chore done sloppily or a harsh word exchanges between brother and sister in a selfish effort to keep the proverbial ball (of education and lessons during our day) rolling.
Ugh. What a shame I have had to face in this realization of putting my children's minds above their hearts. For this is not the desire of my heart and I know that no matter what level math book my children are working in or how much rich literature they are being read nothing can take the place of a solid character.
So there you have it, my confession.
Honestly I am overwhelmed by all-encompassing task of watching over my children's hearts, souls, minds and bodies. How can one possibly cover all those basis!?
I know that one cannot and that I must trust and depend daily and even momentarily on the power and strength that my Father extends to me. For it is He who has entrusted me with these precious children and I believe that He intensely desires to see me not tire of doing good with and for them.