Do you appreciate your routines? I love the habits our family has established that help our days flow smoothly. However, I also feel the need for new ways of doing things or fresh ways of looking at the world around me. At one point, after homeschooling for over a decade, I decided to start our Truth, Beauty, Goodness Community. That certainly helped breathe new life into my homeschool and changed the way we did things. At another point in time, I sold used books online (VegSource, anyone?). That was fun and helped fund an amazing trip to Alaska for our family where we saw wildlife and landscapes we will never forget! Picking up different hobbies and handcrafts over the years has given my hands and mind refreshment and purpose. All these things can help with avoiding grooves in your homeschool.
No matter what stage of your Charlotte Mason journey you are on it is imperative to keep things fresh. This can be a challenge, but Mason herself warned her teachers not to get stuck in a rut or set in a groove. Doing and thinking the same thing day in and day out might give you years of experience but we know that this way of education is living and that there is always something we should be learning and experiencing.
My husband, Kent, was a basketball coach for many years at the local Christian school. He would often remark that the students who didn’t have years of experience were easier to teach than those who thought they already knew everything about the game. Crowds watched in amazement as he took a ragtag group of boys to a state championship. No ruts or grooves here but an excited band of teens dedicated and eager to learn the next skill or play.
Experience Can Put Us in a Rut
When it comes to teaching with the Charlotte Mason method, If we have fallen into a settled routine over the years, we can say that we are experienced but that might mean we are set firmly in a groove or rut. Charlotte tells us that experience is not necessarily a qualification for being a great teacher. In fact, she says that one year of training in her methods is worth ten years’ experience elsewhere for the turning out a great teacher. She says that for most of us, experience means the habit of doing this or that as we are accustomed to do it: once set us going in a groove and there is no further question of right or wrong, of better or worse; we do the thing “in our own way,” and years of experience make us “the same, only more so.” (Mason, 1892)
That lack of experience but willingness to learn is such an asset and some of the most fruitful Charlotte Mason homeschoolers I know start off just this way and continue to grow over the years. Those that don’t come with the authority and baggage of their experiences and past training, those that are ready to learn and grow in this philosophy – they are the moms, dads, and teachers that will flourish in their implementing of this relational method of education.
However, there are instances where experience is a good thing. Mason (1892) tells us that “experience added to training has its advantages, supposing we are able to keep the fresh impulse of our training through the years.” Personally, it’s this fresh impulse of training that has helped me keep at it for 27 years. This method of education is so full of life that keeping that fresh outlook has been a joy. Training in this method is just as interesting to the teacher as the living books and study of nature are to the student. It’s why you teach using this method in your homeschool, why you love being involved in your co-op, and why you attend book discussions.
Charlotte (1892) tells us, “Experience which implies the progressive effort and receptive attitude of a fine intelligence always putting itself to school, the experience of continual change and regular advance, is another matter altogether: here is no groove, no set way; such a character is all the time under training, and is always ready for any new post … there is no question of previous training, they are always under training.”
Ways to Avoid Grooves
I think that’s the key. We need to always be “under training.” How do we live this out? By reading, narrating, and discussing Mason’s 6 volumes. By reading and pondering the Parents’ Reviews. Charlotte said, “I think if you will read and ponder your Parents’ Review month by month, you will find that it stimulates your educational thought in many directions and keeps you from drifting into mere routine.” (Cholmondley, SOCM, p. 162) And this doesn’t mean you have to read everything in a month or two. Just a little bit a few times a week will do, as long as you are truly pondering what you are reading.
What about teaching a subject you’ve never taught before? A few years ago I taught a geology course to our middle and high school students. This subject area where I previously paid little attention now fascinates me and I now I always am looking up the geology of places we visit! Sometimes avoiding staleness means stepping out of your comfort zone and you never know where it will lead you.
Wide reading is another way to keep things fresh. Charlotte (SOCM, p. 162) said, “Read, not only in the Book, which one cannot read without many life-giving thoughts, but almost any good book, poetry, biography, history, essays, good novels – all will supply our need…thoughtfully and steadily.”
There is something about us as human beings that we need renewal, refreshment, and change and that things can get stagnant and grow cold when we don’t renew our minds or sing new songs. So keep on with those good routines that are serving you and your homeschool but also be thinking about what you could be doing to avoid the ruts and grooves and keep the fresh impulse of learning alive and well in your life. Thoughtfully and steadily.
Teaching from Peace,
Charlotte Mason, The Parents’ Review, The Home School, 1892, pp. 279-284
Essex Cholmondley, The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 162