Charlotte Mason tells us to inspire with the idea, so it seems appropriate that so many people today are being inspired by the idea of a Charlotte Mason Education.
Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that our inspiring ideas don’t reach fruition. Why is that?
I am an idealist, a romantic. When I first turned my attention to gardening- it was with a romantic view in mind. I could see my children browsing for their afternoon snack, see myself in apron- bowl in hand- leisurely harvesting the bounty, meal by meal. The problem was my ideal life and my real life really weren’t all that compatible. The thing about dinner preparation is, it is very rarely leisurely- at least at my house! The kids are hungry and a little grouchy. I am hungry and a little grouchy. We most likely ran errands all afternoon and rolled in just in time to throw something together. (I know, I know- I am the only one!) The garden rarely crossed my mind as I stared vacantly into the cabinet contemplating what things could possibly go together. When the thought to use something from the garden did cross my mind- I was too busy and flustered, or on a good day- just too 'in the moment' to pause, go out, harvest, wash and prepare and then cook. Sadly- in the early days most of what I planted never made it to our plates. Not because there was no produce- but because I didn’t prepare.
Now days I know to make time in the early mornings or late evening to take my baskets and bowls to the garden, harvest what is ready, carefully, and leisurely! I do the necessary preparations and store it for easy access in the refrigerator. My romantic side will admit grudgingly that thinking ahead and preparing didn’t entirely kill the vibe. It is still pretty ideal! To offer food I have grown and nurtured with my own hands to my family is one of the simple pleasures of life. But for that dream to reach fruition it needed the foundation of preparation. Ideas inspire- but habits of diligence bring fruit. It is true for our children and it is true for us.
I see the same thing happen with homeschooling. The books, the blogs, the Instagram posts all fill us with inspiration. A Charlotte Mason Education is all so natural and beautiful and for some of us idealists out there it is easy to think that it is all going to just fall into place. I felt the same way about childbirth with my first! (Breastfeeding too for that matter!!) "This is all so natural- this is what I was made to do." True. But I also had a part to play and had to be prepared with what that part was and when it was needed. I was much better prepared for baby #2! In the same way- educating your children at home IS natural, it IS what you were created to do- but you have a part to play, you must be prepared.
For me, this is the season of preparation. Different families keep different schedules so your season may fall differently than mine, but make sure you have one. Make sure that it is a special time- a priority. Charlotte Mason says that we should spread a feast of ideas for our children. Practicality tells me that feasts take preparation, this is true for bodily food as well as mind food. Book decisions, page numbers and ranges, daily schedules and habits of routine are all hammered out now, before I am caught up in the moment- so that I can be fully there in the moment.
These stones are placed in the sweltering humidity as I listen to the hum of insects on my back porch. My kids need less of me, they are busy with their own worlds in that magical time that is a child’s summer- when the days seem like years and they fall into bed late to wake up early to revel some more. These are my times of quiet and reflection. This is my time of prayer for direction. This is when the compass is recalibrated to fit real life and God’s leading. New personalities have budded over the last year, the child before me is different than she was this time last year. This thing is fluid you know. It is not one plan fits all, or even one book fits all. This is child by child, life season by life season. This takes quiet and downtime. It takes attention and reflection. It takes a mama who is in tune, a mama who is not distracted. Prioritize this time.
My mantra during the school year is “Diligence. Consistency.” Those short lessons don’t add up unless they are reliable. Short lessons are tiny hammers, consistency is the repetition of the stroke. Where a big, heavy hammer would smash and damage, a tiny hammer can tweak and shape- but it will require more strikes. It takes consistency.
My mantra over the summer is, “Prepare. Streamline it” so that in the moment- when we wake and are groggy- the plan is there. The plan is there, not waiting for my inspiration- it is there prepared to give it. It gives it when we need it most. It is only this way when I prepare. I have learned that. And do you know what? My romantic-self will grudgingly admit, it hasn’t really killed the vibe. It is still pretty ideal! To offer ideas I have gathered and ordered to my family is one of the simple pleasures of life.
Ideas inspire- but habits of diligence bring fruit. It is true for our children and it is true for us. Guard your preparation time, it is not optional. It is as important as what you do during the school year. It is, in fact, what will make your school year a feast instead of a sandwich!