Thursday, October 21, 2010

Weed It And Reap

Our house and carriage house when it was first built 125 years ago.
As recently as seven years ago when my last child was born, a passerby stopped and suggested to my husband that he might consider wielding a machete to chop down the weeds taking over our front porch (which had no railing).  Soon after that, a sweet lady from across town stopped by the house and invited me to come and see her garden.  She also described in detail what she envisioned I could do with our pathetic front lawn if I was willing to do the research and heavy lifting. I had never gardened before, but her enthusiasm and vision for what she believed I could do was inspiring.  I was finally at a place in my life where I could consider what she was saying and get to work.  Over the next few years, our family worked hard on making the front yard what you see in the picture over on the right.  We so enjoy it now, even though it needs a little weeding and the house will be ready for some new paint soon.  "Nancy, what does this have to do with anything?"  Stay with me here...

Oftentimes I hear from readers that, while they like my blog, they know of others who just get overwhelmed by  everything presented.  Obviously, this is the last thing that I want a visitor to my blog to feel.  I also hear this at conferences on the Charlotte Mason method - "information overload" is a common complaint.  As an organizer of conferences myself, that type of comment can be distressing and I work hard to try and build in time for reflection and contemplation of the ideas presented - no easy task.

I didn't wake up one morning when my firstborn was six and start implementing a flawless application of the Charlotte Mason philosophy in my homeschool.  No, what I did was attend conferences and listen.  Then I bought KONOS, Kathryn Stout materials and classical everything.  I did attend a Carole Seid seminar at that first convention seventeen years ago.  She mentioned using lots of books and reading this dead British spinster who wrote 6 tomes on education.  Hmmmm.

I moved ahead with a unit study curriculum and then heard Susan Schaeffer Macaulay speak on education at a L'abri conference the following year.  Then I read For The Children's Sake.  Little by little, I implemented more and more of Mason's philosophy, which I found to be relentlessly true and alive.  It wasn't until I was into it for three or four years that I could say with confidence that  I used the Charlotte  Mason method.I'm still learning and tweaking what I do.  It's been a process, but there has been such reward and joy, as well as trials and errors, that I feel blessed to share about it all.

So, when you read this blog, you're hearing about all my experiences and observations seventeen years into the journey.  When you attend a conference, any conference, you're paying to listen to experts in the field.  My advice?  Start where you are.  Keep expectations realistic.  Implement a little at a time.  At home, join or start a community committed to learning and growing.  Support is crucial - one committed friend will do.  Try thinking deeply about one principle at a time. After all, a young woman attending Mason's House of Education took two full years to be trained properly in her methods.

Remember my messy yard at the beginning of this post?  My friend could see the potential and the possibilities.  I'm convinced that our schools can be transformed into places of beauty, too.  For the newbie, you can start to read and apply - one thing at a time.  For the experienced, consider coming alongside someone else and sharing some wisdom.  Just like my yard, you will "weed it and reap".

24 comments:

  1. Always good to offer that hand of grace to the 'new kids on the block' or the one in different situations. We've certainly been there! I sometimes feel like I intimidate...and I sure don't mean to. I suppose sometimes people need to get a look at the 'before' picture. God bless.

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  2. Nancy, first of all, congratulations on your beautiful home and garden. I'm in debt to you as you were to that sweet lady who didn't think it was politically incorrect to tell you your garden wasn't exactly pretty, and who also saw the potential, as you say.
    I get that feeling sometimes of not measuring up to CM or to others more experienced, but then I see how you all show this to be a process, and I see some fruits in my "school", and I get uplifted and encouraged by relating to others when they were starting this journey.
    I've lately written that less is more, and that's very applicable here. One step at a time, one principle, as you say, at a time, and soon you'll see fruits.
    For us this year is nature study. I thought it was difficult, not liked by my daughters, boring to some extent, but I'm finding myself totally motivated to learn (and learning), the girls too are observing things everywhere, and they are starting to enjoy drawing what they see.
    Every year we make progress, if I see what we still lack, I get discouraged, if I look at what we've accomplished, I'm always amazed at how naturally and beautifully we are all learning and growing in Him and in knowledge.

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  3. I'm grateful to be one of those newbies gleaning from your experience! Thanks for sharing your life with others!

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  4. I believe what you say here could apply to any homeschooling philosophy. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I started my own homeschooling journey 12 years ago. It's an incredible responsibility. As we grow into our homeschooling, we listen to each child, tweak, adapt, and move forward. Routines that seem complex to the outside observer are the result of years of practice. It's a process. And you are right, it needs to be taken a step at a time and support is vital. I am so thankful for the friend who started me on my journey and held my hand through the first six months.

    Peace and Laughter,
    Cristina

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  5. Great post Nancy. I agree, and have also come to the realization that Charlotte Mason needs to be implimented into your home one step at a time. Otherwise you are totally overwhelmed and give up before you've started. I've been studying (and implimenting)CM for two years now. We have not thrown out our KONOS or any of our other resources, instead we work with what God has provided for our family but using the CM method. So far, so good. I feel our little homeschool has been enriched by this, and I as a teacher to my children have been educated far beyond what I could have hoped for when we started on this awesome journey.
    Blessings
    Shirley

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  6. Thank you for sharing more about your personal journey with homeschooling. I also liked the reminder that teacher training at the House of Education was a full two years (and they probably didn't have loads of laundry, porch renovations and weeding to contend with at the same time).

    Very clever title!

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  7. I LOVE your house!
    Love that you gardened. Lots of laundry done in those years too. We have similar paths with CM but I did read For the Children's Sake when I first started and Susan came to Charlotte shortly after. AND we , too, were at that same L'Abri Conference!

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  8. I never know how exactly to properly respond to comments. Do I click through and comment on your blog? Do I say something here? Do I just leave it be? Sigh.

    Any who...

    @ Carroll: Thanks, you have no idea how much your comment means to me.

    @ Pam: You have no idea how much your comment means to me. Yes, I'm sure you've experienced this, too.

    @ Silvia: You have no idea... (!). Yes, keep looking back to see how much has been accomplished. But look back at the children (persons), not necessarily the paper. Keep up your amazing work.

    @ Sally: You have...(okay, I'm being redundant - but the sentiment goes for everyone!). I love watching your journey. You have much to teach everyone as you are so quick to point in the proper direction.

    @ Christina: Yes, I suppose you are right. I like the point that to the outside observer, things can look pretty complex.

    @ Shirley: I agree. I feel like we should be awarded triple degrees for all we've learned on this journey!

    @ Richele: Thanks. Jack and I thought that up years ago and thought it was so witty...but never had a use for it. I finally found something to apply it to. I think there was a tv series in the UK with that title, but I know nothing about it.

    @ Bonnie: Yes, I feel a special connection to you whenever I think that we attended that conference at the same time in Rochester. Someday, I hope you'll visit me here.

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  9. these are some great words of encouragement.
    i've often thought of homeschooling like growing a garden. personally, i like the planning part but all phases are important and i see your point you don't just wake up and have a showcase garden-it takes time.

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  10. Nancy...

    oh, the journey is long and we never stop learning do we? I'm so glad you're sharing all your wisdom with us!

    I appreciate you!

    your house is beautiful and I bet you're glad you went to the trouble... just like those of us who are learning will be glad we did too :)

    amy in peru

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  11. I think you email the commenter OR do what you did...........talk to each one. I have the same question. I will get up to Minn. sometime for something! We've crossed paths with out knowing each other in the past. So much fun now that we do know each other. I do love your house!

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  12. First of all... that picture of your original house! SO cool! And my how the scenery around it has changed! I guess 125 years will do that. I think it's good to have big dreams about the place you call home.

    Thanks for all the encouragement and help you give us newbies. Its a solid feeling to read these words and continue to learn alongside and be supported by friends.

    Bobby Jo

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  13. I love this. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Start where you are. Keep expectations realistic. Implement a little at a time. At home, join or start a community committed to learning and growing. Support is crucial - one committed friend will do - GREAT advice Nancy! I just shared this with some friends as well: So much of this is a process. No one "arrives" to CM sainthood. There are no 'know-it-alls' when it comes to Charlotte Mason's ideas! If we are truly applying and utilizing her principles then we will clearly see that we will ever be evolving and progressing on a journey as mothers, teachers, and as 'learners' (mother culture) ourselves!

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  15. A good analogy, sharing some wonderful reminders. It's always smart to make small changes, implementing one or two new CM ideals at a time. And even when you've been doing CM for a while, you may find that there are areas where you depart from her advice. I do that!
    PS your house and yard are lovely!

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  16. First of all ... I WANT YOUR HOUSE!!!! Anyway, I am a new homeschooling mom this year and am finding myself quickly moving into the Charlotte Mason way. I am not very good at it, but I am inspired.

    Thanks for your post.

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  17. What a wonderful analogy! Thank you. I think home education CM-style is like planting a tree. It takes many years before you can sit in its shade and even more before you can tie a rope swing to its branches. I realize that as I apply CM principles my children are growing up and that also changes the way we can implement things. Here's to all things growing and being cultivated!

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  18. It's a beautiful analogy! Thank you for the kind encouragement.

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  19. I want to Thank You for this post. I am not a full-blown CM homeschooling mom, but I am at the beginning...implementing the *ideas* and practices bit by bit. I sometimes feel lost in not being so grounded...but I do have that "one committed friend" you spoke about, and I do learn so (CM) much from her! (And she is attending the LER this year!) It was nice to hear that your style and system was a bit of a metamorphosis. Thanks for sharing! :) (First time over here. Will be back...for sure!)

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    1. Dear Erin,
      I wish I knew what your friend's name is! I hope your journey is going well.
      Truly,
      Nancy

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  20. As someone who finally got around to ripping out all the weedy junky extraneous jungle-y stuff in our flower beds last year and looks forward to starting to plant fresh this year and cultivate beauty in our garden.....*and* who is on Year One of implementing a Charlotte Mason-style education with my children, I so appreciate this analogy. I will be clinging fast to it--in the garden and the schoolroom!

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    1. Dear Polly,
      So glad you enjoyed this post! What a rich journey you are beginning by implementing Mason's philosophy and methods. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.
      Truly,
      Nancy

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  21. Apply a little at a time...a good reminder for me.

    Charmayne

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