Three Principles to Help You Create the Homeschool YOU Want
I wish I could say I came up with all of these ideas on my own. But since I can't, let's start by giving credit where credit is due, and that would be to Charlotte Mason. Though there are just as many ways to homeschool as there are homeschooled children, there are some timesless principles that, if adopted and put into practice, help lay the foundation of the enriching, character building, loving, and wholesome environment many of us strive to provide for the precious little persons in our care. Charlotte Mason penned 20 principles, but today let's focus on just three; education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.
Take a few seconds to imagine a raucous rock concert. What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? What sort of energy is there? Now let's switch over to a 5 star French restaurant. How does it smell? Is it warm? How is the lighting? Are the table placements and settings intimate and inviting? How do the waiters treat you? Try picturing a retirement home. Or a college football game.
Now imagine your homechool. You don't have to imagine what your homeschool IS currently, because you already know. But imagine how you WANT it to feel and what you want it to look like. Most of us want a comfortable, clean, bright, cheerful
environment with dutiful children, busily attending to their studies. There are cheap (and not so cheap) ways to accessorize, create neat and orderly learning spaces, and provide resources to engage our kids' attention and pique their interests.
But IKEA can only do so much. While it's definitely something to consider, there is so much more to atmosphere than just physical environment. We want our children to enjoy and value learning. We want them to try new things - try HARD things - with positive attitudes and growth mindsets. You can't buy any online subscription, wall chart, or workbook set that will create that.
YOU create that. You do it by how you speak, how you act and react, how you spend your time and where you place your energy and attention. Children often reflect what they see. As
the poet William Blake said, "We become what we behold." If we are overly focused on
popularity, wealth, social media, and popular culture, will it be any surprise if our children focus there as well? If we spend our time criticizing, complaining, and exuding an overall
aura of frustration and anxiety, can we really place ALL the blame on our kids for being distracted, irritable, and ungrateful?
Some of you hate me right now. But hear me out. This is actually really good news! YOU have the power to lay the foundation and create whatever atmosphere you want in your home. You cannot take away your child's agency or mold their personality to fit exactly what you think the "ideal" child is, but never discount the power of a mother's example. Be intentional about the atmosphere you want to create. Do you want your children to value reading? Then pick up a book. Do you want your children to love the outdoors? Then go outside. Do you want them to appreciate art or music? Take them to the symphony. Take them to a museum. Do you want your children to learn to work hard? Then you are going to have to show what that looks like. Develop and demonstrate what you value and then share that emphatically and purposefully with your children. Don't expect results overnight. Bit by bit you will create the atmosphere you want.
We're talking habits here, not punishment. This often gets translated into routines, and that's not a bad way to think about it, though it may not be a complete interpretation. If you haven't lived it yet, let me tell you; homeschool life is not all exciting discoveries, mind-blowing experiments, and life changing field trips. Sometimes it's just... regular. Pick a day - any day (hopefully not EVERY day) - where nobody feels like doing math. Nobody feels like opening the grammar book. Nobody feels like doing anything! Surely once in a while we should take advantage of homeschool freedom and flexibility by taking a break. But we don't necessarily want to do that EVERY day. How do you get through the occasional dull, hum drum, monotony of regular, every day, homeschool life?
You develop habits.
In our house, we start each morning with "symposium." This doesn't actually look like any symposium I know of at all, but at one point it was supposed to and the name has stuck. After that,