June 22, 2009

Finalizing our Y11 Plans

Summer is here and it is so nice to relax! No more schooling, no more thoughts of what to do today (or what do WE HAVE TO DO TODAY!). I wish it could stay this way forever, LOL! But, no, thoughts of next fall have already been laying heavy on my head, and the drive to have everything prepared and planned is always front and center for me. No matter how I try and relax, I still seem to focus on the next week, the next term, the next year.

So, here we are counting down the days until September (and birthday number 16)! School will begin in late August (as usual), but this year, it will be a little different than in previous years. Partly this is due to the nature of the beast -- this is 11th grade and we are down to two more years of home schooling. But, also partly this is due to a change in our curriculum approach and plan.

I have been contemplating changing our approach for several years. I even attempted changing things on several occassions in Y6, Y8, and last year, in Y10. I actually did make some changes, doing my own version of things, using a more eclectic approach than before. I still incorporated some Charlotte Mason methods, but for the most part, our schooling looks quasi-classical. I guess I have struggled to implement CM in our home school since I first encountered the method back in 2004. Though strongly attracted to the classical nature of the method, something never quite settled with me. I know a lot of people who absolutely love the CM way of schooling. For them, it is the best, the most freeing, the most gentle, approach of all home schooling methods. For us, it just never quite settled on us. That is probably the easiest way to say it, because we did enjoy some of our CM studies. We also skipped some key CM components, which I will admit, didn't help our immersion into the approach. I firmly believe that to experience a CM-school, you must use all her methods, and not some or part of some.

I tried for five years to "fit" my son into a CM-mold, or should I say my vision of what a "CM" student should look like. While not the bookish boy of my dreams, my son is a fully engaged, computer-driven, interest-led student. In many ways, he is a "CM" student, just not one from the 19th century, but rather one from the 21st century.

My issue with CM is really just that -- it is my issue. I struggle to implement this type of education simply because I refuse to see it under a 21st century microscope. I prefer to see it as it was written, a delightful Victorian approach to home education. Yes, the poetry, the Shakespeare, the tea parties, etc. I envision "Pride and Prejudice" and think that this is what a CM-approach to education is supposed to look like. However, in our modern, somewhat eclectic, and very high-tech world, this picture and the reality I experience every day, just do not mesh.

So how does one incorporate CM's teaching methods into a 21st century home school? I think the only way is to remember to teach with the Spirit and not by the Law. Sometimes, we tend to legalize everything we do. If we are not following X, Y, Z as written, then we are not doing X, Y, Z correctly. In truth, this view simply strips any originality and creativity out of the approach. It says that unless you can duplicate a 19th century home school, you cannot possibly have a CM-type program in your home.

I have learned (most recently) that Charlotte Mason's methods work regardless of the century you live in. They still work, even if they show up or shout out their effectiveness in ways that do not match their Victorian counterparts. They do, however, work.

Our program for Y11-12 (11th and 12th grades) will be our own CM version of high school. We will continue to use the Ambleside Online free curriculum (called House of Education) for our last two years of school. We will implement this curriculum as best we can -- not perfectly Victorian nor even perfectly (as written on the website). It will be our own version, and frankly, that seems to work best for us.