It is that time of year again, when I invite you NOT to attend The Mad Mothers’ Tea Party. All over the world homeschooling mothers are being sent invitations to attend this gala event. Catalogs are being mailed; Facebook links shared; success stories told. Mothers huddle together at co-op inviting one another, comparisons are made, prodigies prodded, and philosophies discarded as mother after mother receives her invitation, scrounges around for money, and goes all in to attend.
And when she gets there what does she find? She is penniless and late. Her children are pawns in the game of chess and the Queen of Hearts has just ordered her head chopped off. Alas it cannot be done. She has already lost her head.
She has lost her philosophy and with it the ability to assess how her children are doing.
She has lost her philosophy and the ability to recognize the right questions. She thought she needed someone to tell her how children learn when all she really needed to know was why.
She thought the tea party would be fun, dressing up and all that, but you need a head to wear a hat.
May I offer you something a little stronger than tea and sympathy?
The hour is late but there is still time for a little philosophy to keep you from drinking the Kool-Aid.
Charlotte Mason can help us. Her Towards a Philosophy of Education can point us to our own philosophy. She summarized her philosophy is 20 points. Even the most fluttery puddle duck can learn from Charlotte in time to avoid those foxy gentlemen in their glossy coats arriving via the inbox. Oh, dear, I have mixed my metaphors but I maintain.
Her first point is that children are born persons. Much mischief could be avoided if we understood that. Our children have been loaned to us for a very short period of time. We don’t own their souls. We must shepherd them but not take ownership over them. The sooner they see they are responsible for their own selves the sooner they will make wiser decisions. The respect we have for them as persons will keep us from neither offering them dry, dusty, pedantic texts nor sweet, insipid pap. We must not coddle them nor confound them but rather encourage them and challenge them. We should treat them as we would like to be treated.
The tools of this philosophy of education are only 3: the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit and the life that comes from the presentation of living ideas. The atmospheres of our homeschools should be filled with the true, the good and the beautiful. The structure of our days should set us up to succeed in building lifelong good habits rather than teaching us to rush from place to place in a frenzy, never having time to stop and develop good practices. Recent research suggests that there is power in habit, for good and for evil, but Charlotte already told us that. The materials we use should bring life to ourselves and to our students.
This month, when we open that catalog or click on that website let us do so with our philosophy of education ever before us. Otherwise we might just end up down the rabbit hole, penniless and confused, wondering how we lost our head.