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Method Vs. System

That you can sometimes appreciate something more for having tried it another way is a truth. For me it was homeschooling before Charlotte Mason and after. I sometimes wonder if her ideas would have held the same resonance earlier in my journey than mid path. I think the ring of truth would have still been there, but the tone would have been different. I wouldn’t have had the contrast to look back upon; that definite pivot point where our lives changed for the better, not just our school time - but our lives.

In those before years it was good- good because I was home with my kids and that memory will always have a sacred glow. It was good, but hectic. Good, but cluttered. There were summers full of poring over curriculum catalogs looking for the next thing among a yearly offering of “new” and “improved”. I would diligently study the options one year, make the best choice, only to find the following year that there was something different and better we should have tried, could try this time around. It was exhausting. School time was full of learning curve after learning curve as I repeatedly tried to wrap my mind around what this company expected of us. And then there was the modifying, endless modifying- because nothing ever really fit. I gave myself permission to do it- but it was draining. Good, yes- but smooth and easy days they were not. And then came Charlotte Mason.

She offered a long-term goal a view of a distant vista with a way to get there. Rather than stacks of three-inch binders full of daily details she offered an understanding of a few underlying principles. She offered a method, rather than a system. A method that let us breathe. A method that allowed any good book to be the curriculum; The ones I had collected and had had a hunch we shouldn’t be missing but hadn’t had time for, due to the “curriculum”. The ones that I felt had weight of their own and didn’t need to be chopped up and pre-digested in guide after guide. She gave us, not only permission to use them, but a method for using them that applied to everyone equally, across the board. We could all sit down to the same feast and glean what we needed. It didn’t happen all at once because it seemed too simple. But gradually the clutter began to drop away. We began to have peace and time and growth. Our days took on a predictable rhythm that never becomes monotonous because of the myriad of living ideas that form the melody.

Then, most beautiful of all, Charlotte Mason gave us the ability to reach beyond our little nest. With the clutter gone, with our heads up and in the breeze of life rather than bowed down managing ourselves, we were able to offer something to the people around us. A co-op, a natural history club, a book club, support for a family in a difficult time. None of this would have been possible before Charlotte Mason’s method freed us. We don’t live for ourselves you know- we are supposed to be there for each other but how is that possible with the clutter of a system? It is all encompassing, all consuming. A system may feel like security, but so does a cell. You have the illusion of safety but are unable to move. We need to be able to move- our community needs us to be able to move. Homeschooling shouldn’t be all about us- but freeing us to fulfill our duty to God and others.

S.Timothy 2022

This article was originally published in Commonplace Quarterly Magazine.


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