Since I first contemplated homeschooling our children, when Moose was just a tiny thing and I was still working at the Rocket Factory, I've been drawn to the Charlotte Mason method. The primary characteristics of Miss Mason's method that most people would recognize are nature study, narrations, and living books. Now that I'm settling down to read her books (which can be read for free at Ambleside Online), I'm realizing that there is so much more.
So much more, indeed, that it's making my head hurt. So much more that it's making me wonder if my plans are potentially detrimental, and certainly to think that I'm better off coming up with my own lessons for Moose this year.
In all honesty, do I think that I'm going to damage my son by not following the CM method to the letter? Nah. Despite the dire warnings about the world around us, there are plenty of people who do just fine with other teaching methods. Not everyone, not by a long shot, but plenty. I'm living proof of that. I'm at least reasonably intelligent, I hunger for knowledge, I enjoy both reading and exploring nature, and (wait for it) I was educated in public and religious private schools. There wasn't a drop of nature study or learning from "great books" in sight when I was in school.
That said, much of what I learned seems to be despite school rather than because of it. My love of learning led me to seek out knew information whenever possible, and my constant reading brought me much of that information. Most of what I remember I learned on my own, not at school. Without a doubt, being taught to read, write, and do math has allowed me to learn on my own. However, I would be surprised if I wouldn't have done better had I been taught at one of Miss Mason's schools.
After chatting with more experienced homeschooling parents on a Charlotte Mason Facebook page, I've decided to scrap my curriculum plans for the year and just hold off until at least next year. That would have been a simple enough decision, since it's what I'd planned on doing all along, but I'm a stubborn creature and am having trouble admitting that we might not really be "doing school" this year after all. I told our families that we would be, and I'm hesitant to back down. Besides, Moose really does want to begin school, and I believe that following his lead is the best plan at this point. I think we'll be doing basically the same things we'd have done anyway, but I'll be drawing up a basic schedule to give us some order to how we do them. I'm going to be focusing on habit training, and we'll do a monthly theme (ponds and streams, weather, dinosaurs, and so on), Bible stories, some basic Scripture memorization, more songs, and plenty of art and science projects. Oh, and books, but like music, books are such a part of the tapestry of our lives that it's hard even to remember that they need mentioned. We have Rod and Staff's ABC series on its way for some desk work, but that's largely just because he enjoys it and considers it part of school.
As I fill in the remaining blanks on our schedule, I'll post it, but for now, suffice it to say that this is a huge weight off my shoulders. On one hand, I now worry that Moose isn't spending enough time outside (though he spends significantly more time there than most children) and that I "connect the dots" for him too much instead of letting him do it himself. On the other, I no longer have to agonize about what curriculum to order and how to find the components used or save up enough money to buy them new.
Of course, this might all change yet again in another few days. I'm finally feeling at peace about it, though, so I doubt it. In the long run, he's learning every moment he's awake, so I'm not too concerned. He's come this far without formal instruction, so while there will come a time when he needs to begin a more rigorous education, I'm trying to be satisfied with letting him learn through play and not push him before he's ready both emotionally and academically.