Friday, January 31, 2014

A Return to Charlotte Mason

If it doesn't bring you closer to Jesus, flush it.  When our priest makes a statement like this, it is in reference to private religious devotions, the teachings of the saints, and such. But this phrase came to mind when I was thinking about unschooling and how I have gone back and forth with whether or not I believe in it. I never became a radical unschooler or stopped teaching my child formal lessons, and there is no harm done. I learned a lot of helpful ideas and could see how unschooling intersected with attachment parenting, which I very much believe in. I also met some great people.

After looking into unschooling thoroughly and trying it out in various ways, I think I have put in enough time and observation to come to a verdict. Father J. is pretty no-nonsense, and I doubt he would have deliberated or reflected for so long about anything; but I have more than once been accused of over-analyzing... I think Father's litmus test could be used in many situations, so I asked myself, has unschooling philosophy brought me closer to Jesus?

The positive influence my study of unschooling had was to make me more aware of how my husband and I were talking to our child. It sparked the inspiration to bring more joy and passion into our daily life as a family, and as individuals. It encouraged me to keep a written record of all learning experiences, not just those related to formal lessons. I can keep all of these good things even as I move past the unschooling experience, which in the final analysis I feel to be contrary to my Christian parental vocation and not the best fit for our family as an educational method.

A member of the Catholic Unschooling FB group posted an article from Lori Pickert's Project Based Homeschooling blog recently, because she didn't like what the author wrote about the issue of unschooling attrition. I personally was very grateful for this post. I've been reading a little bit at a time from the blog and have Pickert's book on the way from Amazon. It seems like something that can be used along with other methods, and I'm sure I'll be writing about it.

I'm redirecting my focus now to the Charlotte Mason method. I never stopped using her teaching techniques completely, but I want to go deeper with them and expand what we are doing so that it will better reflect the "generous curriculum" and "feast of ideas" that she advocated for the children's sake. The blog Higher Up and Further In looks very promising on this front. I have also joined two FB groups-- "Our" Charlotte Mason Homeschool (with a slant), the slant being that they are Catholic, and Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers.

Some Catholics feel that Charlotte Mason held heretical views and that these are reflected in her philosophy, but her methods are her own spin (with an emphasis on nature studies, and replacing the study of Latin or Greek with French) on classical education, which the Church has always embraced. You can simply use what makes sense as a Catholic of her parenting advice and ignore what doesn't.

It is apparent that unschooling really resonates with some Christians, and if it brings them closer to Jesus, then that's great. Rather than continue to argue with anyone about the problematic aspects of unschooling for Christians and in general (I've already given ample space in this blog to speaking my peace), I will just wish them well and remove myself from those FB groups that tend to distract me from doing what will bring me closer to Jesus.

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