Tip number 1: Remember who is in charge.This is one that I have to remind myself constantly. There are so many wonderful “authorities” when it comes to home education, and especially Charlotte Mason education, and it’s easy for me to feel like I have to do things exactly their way or I’m not doing it right. Miss Mason didn’t give us a system of education, though, with rules which must be followed in order to arrive at precise results. Her intention was to develop a method of education, based on certain principles. The fact that Charlotte Mason education is a method and not a system is the most freeing thing about it! (see page 9 of Home Education, Method a Way to an End and System). Mason encourages mothers to take her method and apply them to our particular children in a way that works for them. Notice that there are no books mentioned in her 20 principles: you do not have to use a particular set of books to teach with Mason’s method. You do need to use living books, and so you need to teach yourself how to determine whether a book is living, but once you feel comfortable doing that you should feel free to use whatever books you want. The book list starts to feel more like a diving board and less like a ball and chain. No matter what method of education you follow in your homeschool, or what curriculum you use, remember that you are in charge and get to make the decisions.
Tip 2: Think of your homeschool as a one-room schoolhouse.This tip sounds very “Little House on the Prairie” but I promise I’m not suggesting that we all return to the ‘good old days’ of frontier living. I love my indoor plumbing and Amazon Prime subscription way too much for that. As homeschoolers, though, we need to move away from the mentality that we have to divide our children into different grade levels in order to educate them. The practice of dividing children into different grades based on age came about from practical necessity and not because it benefits children. As education moved from one-room schoolhouses to public schools, the schools needed a way to handle the volume of children they were teaching. Initially they divided into groups, similar to Charlotte Mason’s “Forms” with several ages learning together. Eventually, though, it was decided that students would be split up by age, and each age would have a corresponding grade level. There is plenty of evidence that this division is detrimental to kids academically and socially.
“Multiage education is not a return to the one-room schoolhouse of yore, in which students of all ages learned different subjects in one space. Instead, students from (typically) two grades learn together in an environment that, advocates say, encourages cooperation and mentoring while allowing struggling students enough time to master material.” Stuart Miller, Inside a Multiage ClassroomAs homeschoolers, we have the perfect opportunity for multiage learning. Dividing our kids into different grades based on their ages unnecessarily complicates things. Now, even though I consider my homeschool a multiage learning environment, I keep track of what grade my kids would be in if they went to school. The biggest reason for this is that it lets me avoid the dilemma of what to tell the doctor or Aunt Sue when she asks what grades the kids are in. If you ask any of my kids what grade they’re in, they’ll tell you! This year Ella is in Kindergarten, Jack is in second and Emma is in third. So how do you actually apply multiage learning at home? That brings us to our next tip: