Jun 4, 2014

From Beginning to the End of an Era, Part 2

See Part 1 The Beginning for the first part of the story.

The Middle 

My copy of For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay was printed in 1985 and I had purchased it new. How I found the book or who first introduced me to it is long forgotten. When I first read the book I was completely taken by it. It drew me in as no other book on homeschooling had ever done before. This Charlotte Mason person, this English woman who lived from 1842-1923 was amazing! How she valued the children! They were persons with minds capable of learning great things, to be respected, not talked down to, not given books of twaddle, but rather rich, living books filled with great ideas. The child's mind was not a mere sac to hold ideas but a living organism with an appetite for all knowledge. How she cared about them and how important it was to offer them an educational banquet!

Charlotte Mason

I wanted to jump in and give my children the education described in the pages of Macaulay's book but it wasn't all that easy for me to do. I didn't know anyone else following her philosophies, or even attempting to, no one to discuss this with or get input from! There was no CM community of any kind (online or in person) to look to for encouragement and support.  At least none that I knew of in the mid to late '80's. So the book sat on my shelf for years. In the meantime some of my children went back to school, some continued to stay at home, and some more were born. I plodded along using textbooks and unit studies. And although I wasn't following CM the ideas weren't dead to me either. There was still that tiny seed, that was just waiting for the right soil and weather conditions for it to sprout.

What were the right conditions? The internet.  Life completely changed when the world wide web entered my home. Search engines! You could type any word in the search box and pages and pages of webpages were available to you. Today we take that all for granted, but for me living way back in the 20th century it was surely a wonder to behold!

One of the very first online searches I did was on Charlotte Mason. Would there be anything about Charlotte Mason? Oh yes! Pages and pages of info about her.

In 1999 I found what is now known as Ambleside Online, although back then that wasn't the name. I found a support group there, an active community of CM home educators led by an Advisory of seven very dedicated women, and a curriculum. These women spent untold hours researching and sharing and came up with an incredible plan. The most amazing thing about it though is that they gave it away free, and still do. It costs nothing to access the curriculum.

Once I found AO I finally had the tools and online support to begin implementing CM in my home. Of course implementing the method is way more than following a book list. Understanding the principles of the method is of paramount importance and for many, myself included, it is usually an understanding that evolves over time. I  jumped in with an understanding of the basics and learned alongside my children as we moved from year to year to year. I often made changes in the AO plan, tweaked when necessary, substituted and eliminated books, but always trying my best to remain true to the philosophy... sometimes I did a much better job at that than at other times.

My youngest 2 daughters were born at just the right time to be educated with CM principles from  kindergarten through high school. Their older brother had a portion of his education with CM as well. And although I homeschooled all 7 of my children for varying amounts of time it was only the youngest two who were totally homeschooled following CM principles.

And now with my youngest daughter graduating here I am at the end.... In my next post I'll wrap up the story of this adventure begun years ago!


  1. I, too, started with the basics when we first began implementing CM methods in our school. I also began with AO as well. I think when you first encounter the CM method and Ms. Mason's own writings, it can seem quite overwhelming. But I think starting with the basics and learning as you go along can work well and not seem as overwhelming, at least it did for us...especially with starting with an older child. I'm very excited that our youngest gets to be brought up from the very start with the CM method of education.

  2. It is exciting to start from scratch, as it were, with children who are "brand new" educationally speaking, with no preconceived ideas of what school should look like. Starting CM with an older child can definitely throw a curve ball into the mix as everyone adjusts to the new way of doing things. It's one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. And oh, so worth it!


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