Good question. I am convinced that one of the reasons homeschool moms wear thin is that they are not feeding themselves with a good diet of books. In the effort to select and serve good literature to their children, they forget that the teacher also needs some nutritious helpings herself.
When is a mother to find time? Anyhow she can. Don’t forget my old challenge to read ten minutes a day. That will get you through a couple of dozen books a year. C. S. Lewis said,
“The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come.” (The Weight of Glory)And why must a mother read? For the same reasons her children should. The mind lives on ideas, Mason said, as the body lives on food.
And where are those ideas to come from? From books—a vast array of living books full of living ideas. Mason said mothers would find new energy from reading:
“One cannot read without many life-giving thoughts from almost any good book: poetry, biography, history, essays, good novels—all will supply our need.” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, Essex Chomondeley)Years ago I discovered that reading books on some of the subjects my children were studying was the key to my own mind expanding and growing. I had more energy and enthusiasm for life in general, and for teaching school specifically. Mason states:
“People are naturally divided into those who read and think and those who do not read or think; and the business of schools is to see that all their scholars shall belong to the former class; it is worth while to remember that thinking is inseparable from reading which is concerned with the content of a passage and not merely with the printed matter.” (Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 31)So, reading just any old thing doesn’t count:
“You will find if you read thoughtfully and steadily ONLY that which is worth reading, daily nourishment, stimulating thought will come to us, and however foreign the subject may be, what we read, if it is worth reading, will help us do our work better and will give us fresh thoughts to impart to the children.”We may not have the privilege of extended, uninterrupted quietness in which to read, but we can attend for short intervals, just as our children have short lessons; we can read a little in several different books on different days as our children do; and, best of all, we will find our own education is far from over—perhaps just beginning.
If we believe Mason’s principles are effective for nourishing the mind of our children, why will they not work for us? Are you spreading a wide and varied feast for yourself? Are you stretching your mind in new directions? Are you nourishing your mind with the life-giving thoughts straight from the mind of other thinkers—the wealth of ideas found in books? Mason said,
“If you find yourself sinking to a dull commonplace level with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading, and therefore, not thinking.” (Story of Charlotte Mason).If you’re interested in making up your own curriculum, here are some steps to take:
1. Write down four to six subjects in which you need to gain knowledge. Don’t shy away from unfamiliar or intimidating areas.
2. Begin hunting for a book for each of these subjects.
3. Read a little in each of them every week—slow and steady progress.
4. Narrate to yourself—or to anyone who will listen—what you are learning.
5. Have a wonderful school year—and enjoy the feast!
For the joy of reading,