This article is a guest post by Tia McArthur. You can learn more about Tia and find her online via the information at the end of this post. I hope you’ll find Tia’s words a comfort and encouragement!
As a single mom with a small business that is a full-time ministry, homeschooling looks a lot different in our home than many others. Finding balance to implement the feast that is a Charlotte Mason (CM) education while also providing our sole source of income is the most rewarding challenge of my life. Like family dinners, this feast is often messy and loud and one of us often wants to take our favorite dish/book off to a corner somewhere. But this time spent together is weaving a fabric of memories for us both to treasure for a lifetime, just like those family dinners from my childhood.
I would have loved to have met Charlotte Mason. From her writings, she seems so wise yet approachable. However, I cannot now sit down with her to chat over a cup of coffee, so, instead, I sit down by myself or with like-minded mamas with a cup of coffee and her six volumes. This nineteenth century educator has completely revolutionized the way I envisioned homeschooling my son, and thusly, both of our lives in the process.
The CM educational philosophy brings such freedom into our home school. Her views on children are still revolutionary. She sees them as born persons, not good or evil, but capable of both. As a Christian parent, my goal is not to raise a good kid but a Godly man, so I was already living these principles, unaware.
Miss Mason articulates the concept that the spiritual and the secular are impossible to separate in such a way that is so simple and yet so ingenious. Her premise that education is the science of relations and therefore children learn best from information in the form of literature (rather than textbooks) was a difficult one to adopt, but my son celebrated the freedom from dry textbooks and insulting workbooks. I am forever grateful to the homeschool mom friend who suggested I read this tri-fold brochure.
So, what does implementing this method look like
for our busy family of two?
I have no doubt that it looks a lot different for us than traditional families. We are domestic violence survivors, running our own business and laying the groundwork for a future non-profit, all while we are between permanent homes. I also lead our local Charlotte Mason group. My son is an athlete and an avid hunter and fisherman who supplies much of our meat. I say all of that to give you an idea of how hectic our lives can be.
While I love to read, my son absolutely does not so when I realized that God had led me to a literature-based curriculum, I almost let doubt paralyze me. Knowing that my son hated to read meant much time in prayer preparing my heart to work with him patiently through books that he was going to resist. He did resist, at first. (Four years in, he would still tell you that he doesn’t like to read, but four years ago, he would have told you that he hated to read. Progress!)
Knowing myself like I do, I sought outside sources for book lists to avoid the paralysis that would have come from trying to find all. the. books. So many have already done the work, and I don’t have time to reinvent that wheel. We follow the AmblesideOnline (AO) curriculum and purchase all of the books our limited budget allows for each twelve-week term.
Graciously, the ladies of AO have researched sources for their recommended books, many of which are free online. Separating the AO weekly plan into a daily schedule posed a significant problem until I stopped complicating the process. We use index cards to lay out his daily schedule. This gives me the weekly reading plan from AO and the daily schedule from the index cards, so I can then sit down with his planner and write his assignments down for him on Sunday afternoons.
The only subject that is not from an AO book list is math. For this subject, we still follow the Charlotte Mason method teaching math in a living way. In my opinion, the best CM math resources available are those written by Richele Baburina. Mathematics: An Instrument for a Living Teaching is a handbook that begins with initial number exposure and goes through calculus. It is available online from Simply Charlotte Mason. Mrs. Baburina has expounded upon this handbook in beautiful form-specific volumes, with Books I and II available now. Because we are in Year 8/Form III, the form-specific volume is not yet available to fit our needs. I am very pleased with the handbook, though!
Miss Mason’s method uses short lessons, beginning with not more than ten minutes for the six-year-old and working up to forty-five minutes in the high school years. We are able to accomplish more in three hours than children in public or private schools can accomplish in a full day, or three. It was so hard for me when we began, to stick to the short lesson time! The book was so good, and he was so interested, that I didn’t want to stop in the middle of the chapter. But, I knew I needed to trust the process.
The first time we came back to a book he had enjoyed the reading of the previous week and was so excited to continue the story, I got it. It clicked. She understood the natural suspense and longing formed in the child by living books to read them again, being expectant. I am so thankful for this wisdom! Even my reluctant reader enjoys a good book and doesn’t have time to get bored, even with the books he may not like all that much.
Short math lessons are also a godsend. The wailing and gnashing of teeth we dealt with doing math homework in his private school years did not follow us home.
Having our days in order following the AO plans for the term and adhering to Miss Mason’s short lessons, we can accomplish schoolwork in the mornings. As my son gets older, lesson times have gotten longer. He now spends as much as thirty minutes on some subjects, such as Literature and History. Even so, his lesson time is still around three hours.
On an average day, we eat breakfast and do his assignments for “the riches” (art, music, poetry, etc.) and Bible together. We call this time our “morning basket.” Once our morning basket is done, we go our separate ways. He does the rest of the day’s assignments while I get some work done on the computer. He comes to me to give his oral narrations as he finishes a reading; unless it is one he needs to chew on a bit. By the time he is finished with his day’s assignments, I have lunch prepared, marking the end of his school day. Afternoons are for masterly inactivity for him and ministry work for me.
Miss Mason’s method is the way I wish I had been educated, and it’s the way I want my son to be educated. I am so thankful that I took the leap to do this homeschool thing and followed the advice of knowledgeable friends who pointed me towards the Charlotte Mason method. I have learned so much reading living books with my son that was missing from the dry textbooks of my schooling. My son is an amazing human, and I get to spend these short years with him.
The days are long, but the years are short and precious.
Tia McArthur is a Charlotte Mason home educator raising her son in Mississippi. She holds a B.A. from Mississippi College in Christian Studies and Philosophy. Tia is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has spent decades in the accounting profession, both in and out of uniform. She uses her accounting experience as an entrepreneur, serving the Lord through multiple businesses. Ministry through business is her passion, and, while ministry looks a lot different than she envisioned in college, she is honored to be in full-time ministry serving moms. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and Facebook here.