Confessions of a Second-Rate Charlotte Mason Educator

When people ask me what type of homeschooling we do, I generally ask them if they're familiar with Charlotte  Mason.  Usually no one knows who that is or has only a hazy recollection of hearing her name before.  So I end up briefly describing what a living book is, and just say that we do a lot of reading.  :)  Charlotte Mason simplified. 

While I identify with a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, and I feel a kindredness with her approach, I feel like I am a looooong way from educating the Charlotte-Mason way.  So here are some of my "confessions", if you will:

I love Dictation and it truly works, but I think we did it all of four times last year.  For reals.

We didn't do any Shakespeare last year.  At all.

We aren't learning Latin or any other foreign language.  And- gasp!- I don't have any plans to do so.

We barely did Composer Study last year.  Occasionally I played some classical music while the kids were drawing, but truly that was probably only a handful of times. 

We do Nature Study, but we've never looked up or written down a Latin name for anything.  We just look.  And draw or paint.  And appreciate what we see.

I always feel like I'm cheating somehow when we do narrations.  I'm sure it's *supposed* to be more structured than it is, or more official, somehow.  And certainly it's supposed to happen more regularly than it does.

* * *

I read a few homeschooling blogs, and I sort of marvel at how organized and how "together" these moms are, how they have such great CM systems; how intentional they are about implementing Charlotte Mason's methods, and how they put out such coherent, regular, thoughtful homeschooling posts.  And I conclude that they are doing this Charlotte Mason thing The Right Way, whereas apparently I am only dabbling, because what I do doesn't resemble what they do, or at least it doesn't seem quite as polished. 

But you know what?  I'm actually okay with that.  That is them, and that is not me.  I don't fret about it like I used to.  The longer I homeschool, the less anxious I am about those things.

Some things we do well some years. 

For two years straight we did do Shakespeare.  Six plays.  And we enjoyed it.  We plan to cover some more plays this year.  Regardless, when all is said and done, I have introduced my children to Shakespeare, and I think that's a good thing.

Some things will always be a struggle.  I don't think we'll ever learn a foreign language, and I'm okay with that.  Would I love it if my kids knew a second language?  Um, YES.  But it's not really in my wheelhouse or in our budget and I trust that if God wants them to learn one someday, He will make it happen. 

I'm okay with the way we do Nature Study.  Of course I have lofty visions of beautifully drawn flowers and plants and trees and insects and animals, with corresponding Latin names calligraphied perfectly beside my drawings, but it's just not going to happen.  And that's okay.  Overall, I know that my children notice things around them when they are outside.  They have gained an appreciation and a curiosity of nature.  They notice what blooms and when, and they want to draw a picture.  They  take the time to watch bugs and spiders and examine their behavior.  They delight in what they see; and in what God has made and in how He has created.  That's a great thing.

I may not do narrations right, but my kids remember well and love to tell us about what they've read.  So they are taking in the information, processing it, and retelling it.  That's enough.

I say all that because I began this post with the idea to tell you about an inspiring book I'm reading about educating the Charlotte Mason way.  (I try to read at least one homeschool-related book each summer for the purpose of fresh inspiration.)  And as I began writing about it, I recalled the book I'd read last summer-- The Living Page.  I realize that as inspired as I was after reading that book, as many notes I took and plans I had, our homeschool really didn't change a whole lot as a result.  (I think it changed me in that I paid more attention to what I was reading and have been more faithful to write things down in my journal and label them "commonplace".  And I created a Word Book for the girls and we used that throughout the year.)

But with all my lofty plans of wonderful historical timelines and a firsts notebook and all the other notebooks we were going to start, and maintain?  None of that materialized.  I think some of that is due to my lack of planning.  Or more accurately, my lack of follow-through.   I can be visionary and get easily excited about things and begin well, but I don't always finish.

Or maybe it just wasn't our year to excel in notebooks and timelines.  :) 

Part of the reason, too, is that there is just not time to do it all.  There are five children in this house (!!!!)  Things can be quite crazy around here.  (Just ask my friends who were here recently when my daughter was having a tantrum on her bed.  Screaming and kicking the wall.)  These things happen in our regular life.  There are days we skip whole subjects entirely because we just cannot even.

And yet, the school year happened and we learned.  We grew in knowledge alongside each other and we lived the firsts together and we marveled over connections made through our different readings and we are doing just fine.

This year we will grow and learn alongside each other, too.  And I will delight in my kids' learning.  I will pray and ask God to lead us in our learning endeavors.  And He will.  I will be thankful for the relationship I have with each of my kids, and for the privilege of getting to teach them. 

ps: I may yet tell you about that book, but before doing so I felt I should tell you how imperfectly we'll live out any inspiration I may derive from said book.  :)


  1. I just typed this long comment, and then lost it. Argh ... Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how much I love your honesty and how much you inspire me, always. I've been checking here often ever since summer to see if you'd post your new plans and/or schedule. Are you following the same basic rhythm? What are your plans? What are your oldest reading this year? When you said they were doing AO last year, was that ALL of AO 6, or just the history? Do you assign them books by days or just give them a list of books for the year? How are you doing written narrations these days? Hugs across the miles!

    1. Shoot about losing a comment! :( Sorry.
      Thank you, friend, for your commenting again. :) Sorry I haven't posted our school plans yet... we aren't planning on starting up till October (first? not sure?) so I'm DEEP IN planning mode, but with everything sort of still unfinished. Perhaps I can still post on what we're doing or what I have planned thus far. I'll try, for your sake. :) I do love talking about it, and I'm SUPER excited about our upcoming year. ....

      What I CAN answer of your questions for now:
      -YES, we're following the same basic rhythm but extending our morning (together) time.
      -From AO, I generally use history and biography and lit suggestions (some, not all. I sort of pick and choose, proof some, decide no or yes... and we do picture study and composer study but are not always on the same rotation they are. (I pick and choose my favorite artists, too. ;))
      -I assign them books, and am doing that a bit differently this year, but usually my older kids get a list of "assigned reading" (problem is, one of my three never actually gets the list done, so I'll be scheduling that for that child this year!)
      Hugs to you, friend!

  2. Hi Sarah! Love your blog! (your header is cute-did you make it?) This is very similar to what I was saying, no? Great minds think alike, I always say. ;o)

    I, too, appreciate your honesty and transparency! The world needs more of that. We're all in this together, riiiight?

    1. Thank you, Catie!
      Nah, I am not responsible for my cute header. The talented Debi ( created it for me, years ago.

      Blessings to you and yours,

  3. I'm right there with you, dear girl. Not everything goes according to our plans and that is good. Imagine how proud we would be if it always did. We wouldn't need to cry out to God, we would just pat ourselves on the back and feel superior to those other poor moms. Each day requires it's own amounf of grace from God that we don't have. And that means some days, it will be enough to have only kept the calm and kept everyone fed. Love you! We are all in this together. Keeping it real is a blessing to all of us.

    1. So true. Love you! Thank you for your encouragement.


Thank you for commenting! I love hearing from you, and I will do
my best to reply back to you in the comment section.