Avoid the Grooves - Shift That Paradigm

hydrangeas and phlox
*This post reflects some of the highlights of an encouragement talk that I just gave to a lovely Charlotte Mason support group in Cincinnati, Ohio via Skype.

Time for fall planning!  Time to put together the school schedule!  New books, new routines, and hopefully no new grooves.  Let me explain.  By grooves, I mean a stagnant, settled routine.  Unfortunately, often the claim of "experience" can set us firmly in a groove.  Mason speaks of experience as not necessarily a qualification for being a great teacher. She claims that one year of training in her methods is worth ten years of experience elsewhere for the making of a good teacher.

It is ... disastrous when child or man learns to think in a groove, and shivers like an unaccustomed bather on the steps of a new notion. Vol. 6 p. 104
"Experience" meaning the habit of doing things as we have always done them.  "Set us going in a groove and there is no further question of right or wrong, of better or worse; we do the thing 'in our own way,' and years of experience make us 'the same, only more so.' "
furry acorns!

So in some cases, that lack of experience can be a great boon to those new to the method.  I know some twenty-something moms who have decided to pursue this philosophy.  Their lack of experience-baggage and the fact that they haven't wallowed in the homeschool methods and curriculum mania gives them an advantage, I think. They are diving in to her works with a freshness and excitement that their children will benefit from.  The paradigm shift is moving along quickly and more easily for them.

There are instances where experience is, of course, a good thing.  It has to do with keeping that "fresh impulse."  Mason says, "experience added to training has its advantages, supposing we are able to keep the fresh impulse of our training through the years."

Keeping fresh impulses, avoiding grooves, and shifting paradigms.  How will you accomplish these things this year?

(Quotes by Mason taken from "The Home School," Parents' Review, Vol. 3 1892-1893 p. 279-284)


  1. I love this post. You make an excellent point. Thanks for the great exhortation!!!

  2. Yes! A fresh impulse is needed when there is much experience but no new insight. Just thinking to oneself, "Where am I stuck?" is a good start. In summer's past I would keep a notebook with me and be listening for the Lord to whisper things I needed to do differently or better. These whisperings seldom pointed to my child's behavior, but to some area where I was stuck in a groove. Thanks, Nancy.

  3. My students to that for me. One just wrote me:

    Once you start working with your hands… it just doesn’t leave your fingertips!

    She is going to make her own Book of Century book with gorgeous paper. THAT is what keeps things fresh. She also is taking an online ART course from SCAD and said: "it's like your class. We have to find the things and report back to the teacher." I think she meant the digging that Charlotte says that a child possesses.

    We need each other to spur on to good deeds and ideas! Thanks for those you pour out!

  4. meant my students DO that for me!

    Another thought is that the parent-teacher must be learning and reading and working with their hands ~~ to find the inspiration of newness.
    It is catching to do what you love and have someone see that. It is the beginning of Blue Like Jazz:

    "Sometimes you have to watch someone love something before you can love it yourself"

  5. I remember learning about this at one of my CM support meetings years ago and was very struck by it. Thanks for the reminder
    Shirley Ann

  6. We are definitely working outside our groove this year and loving it. I feel so light and my son is more motivated than ever.

    This idea is so important in high school...in our experience it has made all the difference. Great post.

  7. I have been praying and pondering about this. Could someone share an example? The full meaning is eluding me.
    Sharyn Kelly