The other day, my seven-year-old plonked herself on the couch for Morning Time. She was wearing oversized pink glasses frames, a plastic green top hat, and a white feather boa. My five-year-old was in her favourite fairy princess dress and polka dot gumboots. My toddler had most of his sisters’ hairbands adorning his arms up to his elbows.
This is not unusual attire for Morning Time. While there are certain clothing combinations that make me raise my eyebrows, on the whole, I love that my children are having fun experimenting with style and figuring out what they like to wear.
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That figuring out thing filters into the rest of our lives – and our schooling – as well. Homeschooling allows my children the freedom to find out for themselves who they are and what they like. There is no mould that they have to fit. If they need fairy wings to do maths sums, that’s fine. If they need to be upside on the couch while we do recitation, that’s not a problem. It wouldn’t be like that if they attended public school.
We live in South Africa, which has a public education system that is one of the worst in the world. Last year, a report was released that showed one in four fourth graders cannot read for comprehension.
Just this week, I read an article that stated the department of education wants to make it impossible for children under the age of ten to repeat a school year. Only 30% is required in most subjects to pass matric (the final year of high school). Children are in classes of between 30-60 pupils. It is easy for the struggling children to slip through the cracks.
One of the many things that drew me to a Charlotte Mason education was her idea that children are born persons. They are not empty vessels to be moulded and filled, and taught how and what to think. I don’t believe that our education department – and education departments all over the world – see children the same way. Children are made to learn facts to pass exams, made to do hours of homework in the afternoon when they should be climbing trees or riding bikes or just playing. The current education system leaves no room for children to be children.
“But, believing that the normal child has powers of mind that fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, we must give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care, only, that the knowledge offered to him is vital – that is, the facts are not presented without their informing ideas.” – Charlotte Mason, Home Education
In our family, we see the goal of education as virtue, not memorised information. We are teaching character and integrity. We follow a curriculum that includes teaching reading, writing and mathematics, but we use living books – that is, beautifully written, inspiring, eloquent books that don’t patronise the reader – instead of text books. We don’t tell our children what they are supposed to take away from each lesson, but we allow them to make the connections for themselves.
“Education is the Science of Relations; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is, not to teach him all about anything, but to help him make valid, as many as may be of ‘Those first born affinities, that fit our new existence to existing things’.” – Charlotte Mason, Home Education
Homeschooling allows our children the opportunity to be who they are, who God created them to be, without the pressure of being told what others think they should be.
Melanie Blignaut is a South African homeschooling momma of three. She lives in Johannesburg, follows a Charlotte Mason approach to home education, blogs at Wind in a Letterbox, and drinks way too much coffee.