Monday, January 26, 2015

Learning Charlotte Mason Together

For several years now, Emily and I have been part of a Charlotte Mason book discussion group. Mothers come to a local restaurant once every six weeks and share a meal, followed by what usually proves to be a lively discussion of Mason's ideas. Six weeks seems to be a manageable commitment for us, meaning eight meetings per year, which gives us time to read the assigned 30-50 pages, yet is frequent enough to give continuity to our discussion and familiarity and friendliness with those who attend.

It took us five years to travel through the six volumes of the Home Education Series and we are now nearly through the first volume again. This meeting together to discover Mason through her writings has certainly brought us further in this effort than most of us would accomplish by determining to do so on our own. New members and visitors join in wherever we happen to be and, as her writings are so consistent, it doesn't take them long to catch on to her most fundamental principles. The group gives a nonthreatening opportunity for those who are curious about Mason, a place to bring questions or just observe.

At our last meeting, I realized that over the course of these years and these books, 80% of those in attendance is still the same. Each of us tries to read through and, as opportunity allows, study and research on our own to bring even more depth to the conversation. We have all grown immensely in our understanding and implementation of Ms. Mason's methods as a result. This encourages me, then, that my frequent exhortations to mothers to actually read Mason's work is truly beneficial for grasping the comprehensive and cohesive nature of her writings, as well as to put her ideas into practice.

As I emphasized in my earlier post on book clubs in general providing much needed friendship, I think a Charlotte Mason discussion group perhaps offers even more. For one thing, homeschooling can be a lonely road and it is easy for a mother to become discouraged as she plods along through the days, easy to begin to waver in her assurance that she is on the right course, not to mention easy to grow weary in the journey even if she is certain about her direction. The interaction with like-minded home educators not only provides stimulation and companionship, but helps to establish and affirm the big picture that is lost sight of as we tackle the multitudinous trials and obstacles in educating the various personalities of our children with their widely divergent abilities, strengths, and weaknesses each represents.

This group camaraderie is also just plain fun. The laughs we have as we grapple with some of her ideas, with all our individual interpretations coming together, stick with us long after we have parted. Our impressions are clarified. Our successes and failures in moving from the thoughts on the page to the application of them give us comfort as we struggle, fail, and try again. Some friendships have been formed within our group that have changed our lives and will prove to be long lasting ones.

In short, for support, encouragement, and perseverance, a Charlotte Mason study group can be a lifeline. To get a group started does not require you to be an expert, just to have a heart to see others grow and do so by joining together. Obviously, someone has to choose a place and time, then invite as many people as they can think of. This person has to be committed, no matter what the commitment of the members. The stability of one or two will provide a foundation for the group no matter how many visit, attend infrequently, or do or do not read the material. I believe our group began with three mothers and did not grow beyond 10 in attendance for some time.

(A most exciting side note here is that, after six years of mothers meeting, we now have a small group of fathers that meet elsewhere on their own timetable. They have been meeting for several months and had seven guys at their last gathering. We have no idea what they talk about there as they operate independent to our mothers' group.)

I recommend one person guide the conversation on the reading at each meeting to help keep the focus, but it is not essential that that person have a thorough comprehension of Mason's writing. In other words, a successful conversation needs someone to begin and willing to bring the discussion back to the text, but does not require that person to be the authority on the subjects under discussion. This "leader" can even change from meeting to meeting, so long as someone is willing to take the responsibility for guiding the discussion. Just as there are many personalities in your group, the various discussion leaders will have their own style in accomplishing this.

It takes most of us many years and many attempts before we become consistent at anything new - as Mason reminds us constantly in her explanations on habit formation. Your efforts to form a group will bring rewards to you personally, as well as many others in need of community in your circle of acquaintance as you "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest" the life-changing implementation of The Home Education Series by Charlotte Mason - especially as you try doing it together.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

4 comments:

  1. This is so very encouraging, Liz. Our local group had their inaugural meeting this weekend and I am very excited about the potential this holds for the future in terms of supporting each other and growing in knowledge of the CM philosophy. Thanks for the timely post!

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    1. Dawn,

      I hope it will be a rich and growing time together. So excited to hear about it!

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  2. You captured our group perfectly, Liz. You are all such a blessing to me.

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    1. Robin,

      We are all blessed in the group when you can come and drive an hour one way just to meet and share with us. We learn so much from you.

      Liz

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