HREE CHILDREN sit tamely on the couch. The baby crawls around looking for things to taste…errr explore. But the two-year-old, she can’t sit beyond 12 seconds. Soon she’ll be on the floor with a Shopkin’ or a peg doll. During this, she’ll be “quieter”—because this is our “morning time,” the start of our homeschooling day.
To the casual observer, she is quietly playing, but looking closer, this little sponge is whispering. She’s following along with our prayers! A few minutes later, when her seven-year-old brother recites “Hope is the thing with feathers” by Dickinson, there is no doubt you will hear her little high-pitched voice whisper, “that perches in the soul.”
This routine has taken years to establish. When we decided to homeschool, there was no one to guide us. We felt absolutely alone in our choice to be Catholic homeschoolers. No family member or friend had done something so drastic as to take their child out of traditional schooling. We were both teachers, but our experience was only in the traditional systems. Of course, the internet search made things better, and soon we were ordering and receiving the “boxed curriculum.”
OUR FIRST TWO, we homeschooled from the “curriculum.” In a way, buying the box was a little like buying what the traditional schools buy, doing what regular schools do. Our days looked “traditional”: adult teaches, child reads the lesson, some interaction to clarify what might confuse, and the child finishes the practice worksheet. If the twenty-five addition problems were unfinished or had many mistakes, I’d feel we’d failed for the day.
Yet as I continued to research in those first two years, a group of educational practices caught my attention. I learned to think “outside the box”. Without delving into the pedagogical details, I decided to transition into a “Charlotte Mason inspired” philosophy or curriculum. 1
Our “textbooks” weren’t cutting it. I needed to bring the most worthy texts, the most beautiful words, the most melodious songs, the brightest pictures, the most moving poems. Beauty was to be our teacher, and she is what their senses would devour. So in our third year of homeschooling, we did not buy a textbook-based, boxed curriculum, but instead we created a “feast of living books” about the subjects we needed to explore.
This is how we began to create a truly different type of homeschool, where our morning routine with Shopkin’ girl and the other four children became the anchor and launch of our day. We already had opening prayers and salutes, now we needed to add “the riches.” From now on, we would always have “a banquet.”
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 This meant many changes to the daily instructional routine, but what is most pertinent to this blog post is that it introduced me to the idea that every single text that my children consume and learn from—the literature and science and history—should be “a continual holiday to their door” or better yet, that I should only present “before them a feast, exquisitely served.”
Our focus in sharing this isn’t the pedagogy of homeschooling, but how that philosophy intersects with beauty, art, music, and the faith. There are many resources to learn about “living books” and Charlotte Mason. The quotes are from Mason’s six-volume series about education.