Friday, April 3, 2015

On Finding Your Tribe...And Going Beyond It

just once in a while, for the sake of perspective...

I went to a local homeschool support group meeting this week. I always enjoy these meetings so much. For me, the most valuable thing these meetings give me is a fresh perspective. Every time I go I come away with new ideas. Most importantly, every time I realize again that there are many different ways to homeschool, and am filled with admiration at the level of commitment and creativity so many moms bring to the work of educating their children.

I happen to be very committed to Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods in my homeschool. I'll admit it...I really, truly think she's the best! And I have found my "tribe" here online in the blogging world. There is a whole network of like-minded Charlotte Mason homeschoolers encouraging and challenging one another, and I am so happy to have found them.

It would be very easy for me just to get all my encouragement from these homeschool moms who think just like me. It is a simple thing now for us to find each other in this age of the internet. We have our own language (does anyone else know what "keeping" means? "commonplace"?). We all rush to read the same books (Last year it was Bestvater's The Living Page, this year it's Karen Glass's Consider This). We follow our fellow tribe members' way of doing things (I'm thinking of my weekly schedule, adapted from someone who adapted it from someone else.). I think this is fine...after all, they're great books, and lovely, helpful things to do.

So why go beyond your tribe? Why make an effort to associate with people with different ideas?

I have found it is like a breath of fresh air into my mind and homeschool to speak with moms whose educational philosophy is different than my own. I am challenged to consider other ideas and re-examine my assumptions.

And I begin to realize...even if these non-CM homeschool moms don't think through Charlotte Mason's philosophy, education still is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. This is true whether you realize it or not. And you don't have to call yourself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler to provide all three.

I think of my own education at home. We used a boxed curriculum (A Beka) when my parents pulled us out of school when I was in grade 3. Later, we attended an A.C.E. school for a while, then continued homeschooling with the A.C.E. curriculum till the end of high school.

Obviously, I have rejected the boxed curriculum in favour of living books in my own homeschool. And yet, I don't consider myself to have had a bad education because I was homeschooled using these things. That's because the workbooks were not all there was to my education. I was surrounded by a large family with a home business. We had a small hobby farm with a random assortment of animals. Our family played music and sang together. We read voraciously from our extensive home library, which, by the way, contained many living books. There are things I didn't learn (writing, for one), but that ended up being okay because I graduated with the ability and the will to learn whatever I want or need to know. There are many good books that I didn't read during the years I was homeschooled. Guess what? That was okay too! I'm not dead yet. I can still read them.

I see this in the homeschoolers all around me. People choose their own philosophy and methods of education. Perhaps these philosophies and methods are not as perfect (in my opinion) as those of Charlotte Mason. Perhaps everyone could get some balance by reading a bit more Charlotte Mason. And yet... maybe I need some balance, too. Maybe I have something to learn from the eclectic, the relaxed, the unschooling and the classical homeschoolers. Maybe I need to see the energy and the creativity and the work these moms are pouring into their homeschools. Maybe I need to see that their children are graduating and going on to successful careers and happy families.

Let me be clear. Here is what I've learned from going beyond my little Charlotte Mason tribe:

Realizing in your mind that "Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life" does not necessarily make you a better homeschooler, living it does. And a person doesn't have to be part of the Charlotte Mason "tribe" to live it. They don't even have to speak the same language, read the same books and blogs, or follow the same schedule.

Now, I do strongly believe in thinking through your philosophy of education. Charlotte Mason has helped me so much with that, and I'd recommend her books to every homeschooler. I call myself a Charlotte Mason home educator, and I feel that I've found my home and my tribe. Having them around me has given me a sense of security and support and I'd never want to downplay the value of that.

But at the same time, I will guard against becoming narrow and myopic in my Charlotte Mason-inspired idealism by going to my local homeschool meetings. Their diversity helps to give me a broader perspective.