Christopher starts Kindergarten today! We decided to go for it and try full time homeschooling after he had been at preschool on Notre Dame’s campus two afternoons per week for the last two years. I have been reading about homeschooling and philosophy of education nearly since he was born and, while I had always been trepidatious about taking on full-time homeschooling, I felt that as he got older, we saw his temperament develop, his enduring intense interest in everything we read to him, and the general rhythm of our family becoming more home-oriented, it was completely reasonable to homeschool. Ultimately, we are homeschooling because I think we can give our kids a rich education.
I am a devotee of Charlotte Mason, an early twentieth century British educator, whose first principle of education is that “children are born persons”. Children, like adults, have a mind that feeds on living ideas. Often we think children need children’s things – and to an extent that is true. But children appreciate truth, goodness, and beauty instinctively and to deprive them of fine art or good books or direct experience of nature is to starve the mind of its rightful food. Mason wrote that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, and this resonated with how I intuitively thought about education.
Mason’s methods depend largely on what she calls living books and narration. Living books are written beautifully and communicate “living ideas” that can be apprehended and assimilated by the child. This doesn’t mean cheap moralism, but instead communicates something real about the world. Narration consists of the child telling back what they have heard or read and is the mechanism by which he assimilates the ideas communicated. Mason also emphasized lots of outdoor time and nature study as another way for kids to encounter the Real. This all sounds very lofty. Getting down to brass tacks, this means we read a lot and go outside a lot, two things we are really into anyway.
Some Mason purists argue that there should be no formal education before age six. Christopher is five, but it is also important to me to remember that homeschooling is a year-by-year discernment and is also a privilege. There could be a time when I am not able to stay home full time or that Christopher would be better served by attending a conventional school. Most of his peers are getting some formal education now and while I think the over-institutionalization of Kindergarten is a detriment to healthy child development, I don’t want him to be totally behind should he need to go to school for first grade.
So all that said, here are our plans for this year! I thought I’d put it on the blog because I like reading these kinds of posts from other moms and also for my own memory and reference to see what worked and what didn’t for the future. Much of it is drawn from the Mater Amabilis Kindergarten syllabus, but I have made my own additions/substitutions.