Why I homeschool my children.
“I am.” –We have the power of knowing ourselves.
“I can.” –We are conscious of the power to do what we perceive we ought to do.
“I ought.” –We have within us a moral judge to whom we feel ourselves subject, who points out and requires of us our duty.
“I will.” –We determine to exercise that power with a volition that is in itself a step in the execution of what we will.
(Words from “When Children Love to Learn”)
I am. I can. I ought. I will.
These are the four main principles of our homeschool. They were penned by Charlotte Mason, a Victorian era teacher who was a pioneer in bringing quality education to every child in England during a time when many children were thought to be undeserving of an education.
We’ve been doing Charlotte Mason style education at our house since I first learned about it two years ago. I’m still learning about it, since there is so much to read and absorb. I love it.
Today was the first time I’ve ever tried to explain the four principles to my children. It was the first time I’ve ever really pointed out what Charlotte Mason refers to as “the way of the will”.
I started with “I am” first.
Who are you, I asked the girls in turn.
Rosie immediately answered with, “I am a book writer!”
Ada blinked and then, sitting there at the table wearing nothing but her underwear, bed head sticking up in nineteen different directions, she proudly puffed up her bare chest and said, “I am a girl who picks her boogers. But…but not anymore!”
Parenting. Not for the faint of heart.
The correct answer, I explained to them, is not only what you like. It’s also who you are as a person. You are loved by Mom and Dad. You were specially created by God as a unique individual.
Surely they already knew these things, but at the same time discussing them out loud was beneficial. They asked questions. They were…surprised?
I considered that a success, despite the proclamation of love for boogers, and I moved on to “I can”.
I asked them what they thought this may mean.
Ada immediately jumped up and said, “LOOK! I CAN LIFT THIS CHAIR ABOVE MY HEAD!”
And she could indeed lift that kitchen chair above her head. Who knew?
Once all four legs of the chair were back on the ground I explained to her a different way to think of it.
I can make choices about who I am. I can choose good things vs. bad things.
Which leads us right into “I ought”.
Rosie knew what the word “ought” meant, but Ada did not. Should, I explained to her. It means the same as “should”. So what should you do?
They agreed you should not do a whole lot of things, the list kept on going until I cut them off.
You should not hit your sister, you should not grab toys, you should not lie, you should not, you should not, you should not….
Well then what SHOULD you do? Since you are a special, unique, loved child with the strength to make good choices you can think of what you ought to do, and then do it! When tempted to pout and whine, you ought to think of what is good and right.
How you can choose what is good and right has to do with “the way of the will”. I willmeans you have the power to say no when you are tempted to do something bad, and instead choose right. The one thing the will can do is to prefer one thing above the other. If you want to choose the right thing, then you can do it!
Every person is imperfect. We all have faults and weaknesses. However we can use I am, I can, I ought, and I will to rise above our weaknesses and become better people. This means using your will, your mind, and your conscious.
They stared at me, silent for once. I could almost see the wheels turning in their brains.
As is the way of Charlotte Mason, I stopped right there. No more explaining. Let them mull it over in the back of their minds while playing and going through their day.
Defining goals for parenting and schooling is very important to me. I’ve been thinking about this often.
What habits should I be actively engaged in helping my children form? What habits am I passively forming in my children, and myself?
While we don’t emphasize rewards or punishments at our house, that doesn’t mean we ignore good habits!
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
This training is in thoughtfulness and responsibility, rather than legalism or modifying behavior with punishments and rewards. It is accomplished through relationships rather than force–with the parent/child relationship, and through relationships with quality books and higher ideas.
Children are viewed as persons. (I love this part!) Children are not considered lesser than adults, they are fully capable of intellectual and moral power and it is our job as parents/teachers to present for them a full feast of knowledge and ideas to help them grow into highly functioning human beings with the strength to make the best choices in order to enjoy their lives to the fullest and contribute to the world.
That is the main goal of our homeschool: Forming habits for life. Intellectual habits, moral habits, physical habits, and religious habits.
Fostering a love of learning for life, not just learning dry facts for a test.
Becoming kind, caring, thoughtful individuals who have the power to follow their morals rather than whatever popular culture or our own selfish wants dictate.
Having excellent physical habits–good nutrition, proper tidiness, good hygiene, enjoyment of exercise, and plenty of time outdoors.
Religious habits: For us this is Christianity. Growing in spirituality, learning more about the history of the Bible, and thinking over what spirituality means as a part of our daily lives.
Here is my favorite part about all of this:
Charlotte Mason said, “Education is a life.”
She said: “Knowledge is not instruction, information, scholarship, a well-stored memory. It is passed, like the light of a torch, from mind to mind, and the flame can be kindled at original minds only.”
All of this knowledge comes from first hand experiences rather than textbooks and tests. From living books, that is biographies and classic literature. And more–
“These ideas are conveyed through the natural world, heroic poetry, painted pictures, books of literary tradition, proverbial philosophy, musical symphonies, and the lives of person and nations. Ideas are the living concepts that undergird, give meaning to, and connect one thought to another. ”
“The educator’s part is to place before the child the daily nourishment of ideas by way of living books that promote “living thought.” Scores of thinkers will meet the children mind to mind in books of literary quality. This “mind food” is not served up in dry bits, diluted, or predigested. Instead it is offered in abundance with all its savory delights. Each child eats what he wills and leaves nourished and contented.
Thus, as an avenue in the learning process facts are clothed in ideas.”
(Quoted from “When Children Love to Learn”)
In our world today the main focus is selfishness. Have you noticed that? There is no longer a tradition of basic morals. It’s whatever makes you happy, and if someone else disagrees with that then they are labeled closed minded, or too conservative, or hateful.
I’m not talking about any particular subject here, only our society in general and a myriad of issues that spans almost every topic you could imagine.
You only have to look to popular music to see perfect examples of this:
It’s our party we can do what we want to
It’s our house we can love who we want to
It’s our song we can sing if we want to
It’s my mouth I can say what I want to
Say yeah, yeah, yeah, ehh
And we can’t stop, yeah
And we won’t stop, oh
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night?
Can’t you see it’s we who ‘bout that life?
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
Don’t take nothing from nobody
Yeah, yeah, yeah
(Miley Cyrus singing We Can’t Stop.)
It’s not hard to look around and see what this leads to. An entire generation of unhappy, immature adults who only do what makes them happy on a whim just to find they aren’t really happy after all.
In a society where college graduates work hard for 16+ years at school only to find themselves in debt with no job, brains filled with a million useless facts and folders with pages of excellent tests scores, yet disgruntled with the results of their lives surely, surely my children deserve something better.
That’s what I hope Charlotte Mason style schooling can give them. Something better. Something phenomenal, yet so simple:
A love of learning. A sense of who they are in the world. The power to be wonderful human beings who lead fulfilling lives and leave the world a better place.