It’s funny how God doesn’t give us a script for our life.  I am often frustrated with this fact– wondering where He is leading me and why.  However, because we don’t have a script, the moments where we catch up with Him–where we see that He has had a plan all along, where the pieces slide and gloriously click into place–are all the more sweet because of the surprise that is coupled with our clarity.  We can effortlessly offer credit where credit is always due, because He has managed our affairs very well without our meddling.

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If you had asked me one month ago if I would ever home-school, I would have given you the answer I have given everyone for the past eight years, “I just pray God never calls me to that.  I do not have the patience.  I am not a teacher.”  I had a bit of an ostrich’s viewpoint on the subject.  I mainly tried to stay away from homeschooling conversations for fear I would feel that well-known prickle in my heart.  I didn’t want a prickle to start urging me to keep my children home, we needed SPACE from each other, didn’t we?

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Six-ish years ago, when my friend Lauren invited me to a “Mother Nurture” meeting, with little more explanation than it was a group of women that she looked up to that met once a month to…encourage each other, I accepted without question.  All I knew was that I was learning a LOT from Lauren, and if I had the chance to meet the women that SHE was learning from, I did not plan to miss the opportunity.  However, when we arrived and I found myself floating in a  tumultuous sea of homeschooling Moms who were all talking about “Charlotte Mason”, “Living Books”, and “Nature”–that ostrich in me wanted to bolt for the door.  Why had Lauren brought me here?  Pace was nowhere near school age, Mary Aplin wasn’t even born yet, and I liked the idea of homeschooling about as much as I liked hot mayonnaise sandwiches.

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But I didn’t bolt, I stayed, and I listened to the passion these women shared for teaching their children, spending as much of their days in open air as possible, inspiring children’s desire to learn by nurturing their natural curiosity about nature, creating beauty in a child’s learning environment, laying a feast of knowledge before a child and then allowing them to eat, and above all staying away from “twattle”.  I listened quietly.  Seeds were being planted that would lay dormant for a long time, but I never forgot Charlotte Mason’s name.

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A few years later, Lauren and my (school teacher, book club, dear person) friend Stephanie started a school–really more of a whisper of a school, with 4 or 5 neighborhood girls coming to Stephanie’s home where she sort of home-schooled for their Moms, using Charlotte Mason’s principles.  As the school grew, adding a few more students and another grade level, Stephanie and James bought our house in Birmingham and, not long after our family moved out, our old basement was transformed into Crestwood Day School.  It was happening all around me, and I was an enthusiastic supporter, but I was primarily thankful for no homeschool pricks in my own heart.

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Now fast-forward to this Christmas, 3 and a half years later.  God has just confirmed in Jeremiah and me a desire to stay in the country and build, and I have been practicing acceptance of our fast-paced back-and-forth-all-day-long lifestyle.  Ripping babies out of beds, nursing in the backseat of the car, hovering at Dad and Konie’s house in town for some of the little in-between segments when we don’t have time to go home but have a hard time being contained in the car…”I can do this Lord.  If you’ve called me to it, I can do it.”  That’s what I’ve been telling myself. And I really had moved into a quiet acceptance of our pace, most of the time.  Then, Christmas break happened and when it was time to go back to school both girls came to me saying, “Mom, we don’t want to go back!  We want to stay home with you.” … … …You do?  Really?  You mean that?  And I suddenly realized that I didn’t want them to go back either.  I wanted them home with me…badly.  I wanted to be more than their chauffeur.  I wanted to have time to teach them things that I value–like embroidery, or baking bread, or gardening, or horseback riding.  There is no time for any of those things in a life where we do homework as quickly as we can between after school activities and bedtime.

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I feel like my ostrich peeked one timid eye out of its hole.  Just one eye!  But with that eye out, Charlotte Mason’s name came immediately back to my mind and so did memories of that “Mother Nurture” meeting.  I started doing some reading, online first, then I ordered a couple of books.  At the same time, I told Jeremiah WHEN OUR HOUSE IS BUILT, I might be willing to CONSIDER homeschooling.  Then, I started sharing Charlotte Mason’s philosophies with him, and we were amazed by how God had been working on his heart without either of us realizing it.  Jeremiah has been on a rampage in the past few months, of trying to learn to name trees and birds and plants…and teaching all of these things to the girls and me.  So much so that I gave him a set of field guides and a brass magnifying glass for Christmas–which are some of the first items Charlotte Mason suggests you purchase for your classroom.

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I was tempted to shove my head back into the hole, I could no longer deny that my heart was being pricked, it was being pummeled.  Everything was lining up too perfectly.  This time, instead of hiding, I pulled my whole head out of my hole and looked homeschooling straight in the face.

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The more I read, the more on fire I became.  I heard my words change from “Maybe in a few years–when our house is built–we can hire a ‘Stephanie’ to teach our kids.”, to “I don’t think I can wait a few years, I want to do this as soon as possible.”, to “I am insanely jealous at the thought of anybody else getting to share this experience with our children, I want to teach them myself!”

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There are so many more small, beautiful pieces to the puzzle.  Many other seeds that were planted through the years–some in me, some in Jeremiah, and a few dear farmers that planted them, but it is with overwhelming excitement and more than a little trepidation that I tell you that next year I am going to homeschool Pace and Mary Aplin.  I am hopeful that my friend Stephanie is going to bundle her curriculum for me to purchase so that we can be guided more directly through Charlotte Mason’s principles than any curriculum I have been able to find.  Oh the joy I have in knowing Stephanie’s heart for children and literature and knowing how fortunate I am to have her skill as a resource!  I am planning to blog the journey.  I am believing that God doesn’t call us to something without hanging around to equip us for the work.  I am delighted to see all the pieces clicking into place in a way that finally brings peace to my soul–and hopefully my home.  I said peace, not quiet 😉  I feel SURE it will not be quiet.

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Since Mae napped through Jay Paul’s party, she wasn’t in any of the last shots. I hate to totally exclude her from the post, so here she is last week about to try solids for the first time. Looking hopeful…

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Not so sure…

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Epic fail.  Let’s hope homeschooling goes better than Mae’s first solids attempt ;)

20 Responses to “A Coming Together and Charlotte Mason”

  1. Tara says:

    Thank you for sharing this. My two older girls are about the same age as yours and I’ve been having similar thoughts lately. I’m afraid I don’t have your courage, though!
    I look forward to,following your journey.

  2. Ginger says:

    Thank you for being transparent…. beautiful words and I cannot wait to follow this beautiful journey.

  3. holly says:

    Abby, we live locally and homeschool as well. I wondered from your last post if homeschooling was in your near future and even though we do not know each other, it gave me joy to read today’s post. My family still teases me that of the four of us kids I am the one to homeschool my children. When I look back I can see the friend’s I made through Community Bible Study and their subtle encouragement that led us to homeschool. We can really nurture the relationships with our children through homeschooling, and that was the lure for me. I think when we win their hearts with our intentional time we can share Jesus with them even more so.

  4. Lillian says:

    Those little prickles have been working in my heart lately, too, love how you described them:) Looking forward to hearing more about your journey!

  5. Von Beasley says:

    such an exciting time God has laid out before you. of course, you will learn as much as your girls and be blessed.

  6. Angela says:

    I am so happy for your journey! I have four children as well and homeschool my two oldest. I tell everyone that if I can homeschool then anyone can. Patience is not at all my virtue! I NEVER thought I would homeschool but The Lord is equipping me each day. I am in my 4th year and use a classical approach (Well Trained Mind), but have been curious to learn more about Charlotte Mason. Looking forward to following Christ’s work in your family.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I am so excited to read this! I have been reading your blog for a while, and I homeschool my 7 year old and 4 year old Charlotte Mason style also! We have been using Charlotte Mason methods for a year now, and love it! I follow Ambleside Online for my reading selections, which has been very helpful. We are also involved in a CM co-op and support group here in Tennessee. My main challenge has been getting the reading done when my 19 month old doesn’t take a morning nap, but I know it will get easier as he gets older. We thoroughly enjoy ‘school’ and love not having to rush out the door early every morning. I know you will do great and probably won’t look back:)

  8. Lindsey says:

    My mom homeschooled my siblings and I for 8 yrs. I count it as one of the greatest gifts she gave me!
    We’re now about to have our 4th child, and we homeschool as well using Charlotte Mason’s work. Will you share more about what you end up using next year? I’d love to see the resources your friend sends to you!

  9. mary beth says:

    Oh, Abby. If only you could hear the conversations between me and God in the past few years. I was homeschooled K-12 and had an absolutely wonderful experience, yet I didn’t want to homeschool my own kids without exploring other options first. We’ve done public for a brief few months, and then did a hybrid method where they went two days and we taught at home the other three days this year. I had heard horror stories about the “conversion” experience of the first year, but we have actually LOVED it and I can’t wait for next year. I wasn’t fortunate enough to know about Charlotte Mason or the Montessori format until the middle of our school year, but I too have been researching and feeling God confirm my passion to be my children’s primary teacher and go that direction next year. We are moving to South Carolina in a few weeks and I have tried and tried to find a support group there, but no luck yet. Please do share your friend’s resources!!! You have no idea how hungry I am for more information and guidance.

    Welcome to the beautiful world of homeschooling. I assure you it is an imperfect classroom, but aren’t we all students in this life? 😉

  10. Ginger M says:

    You’ll love it, Abby! And if you don’t they’ll go back to school, no harm, no foul. You’ll spend a few moments a day before The Lord with your face looking like Mae’s in that “epic fail.” But overall as a mother of four littles, I expect you will love the lifestyle. I pulled mine out for third, first, K, and pre-3. There are stressful moments to be sure, but I much preferred the stress of building their character than getting them all out the door with eight shoes over and over and over again. Or the major stress of trying to influence their hearts between 5 and 7:30 pm when we’re all exhausted and starving and doing someone else’s lessons on top! Can’t wait to follow your journey! One more thing: mine all went back to school in 6th, 3rd, 2nd and K, and they did just fine and barely remember our time together at home. Now I have a ninth grader, and in a breath he’ll be gone. I wish I had done less “real school work.” And I wouldn’t trade those three years with those little faces for anything! God bless you all!

  11. Caroline Blair says:

    Abby! You are such an inspiration to me in many ways but especially this one. I have the similar leading as well but not sure where to start and not to mention that Warren is still a good 4 years away from kindergarden! So I am thankful that the Lord has impressed it upon your heart as well and I am able to observe through the window of how He works out his calling in you. I love you and am lifting you up as you embark on this new journey with your precious family! God is good!

  12. NameGail says:

    Abby, I recall reading that Lanier was home schooled. Go back and read what she wrote. I think it is wonderful!!!! oxoxxo

  13. Kathleen Holland says:

    love Charlotte Mason!

  14. Amy Cook says:

    We homeschool and have used CM’s philosophy from the start. LOVE LOVE LOVE it!!! I will say to you that you will sometimes find yourself feeling peer pressure to advance faster than she suggest – DON’T do it!!! Jake is in 4th grade and I am seeing it all begin to click. Like she suggest we did not start spelling until this year but because he has read and been exposed to great books, spelling has been easy for him. Even though public school starts grammar way earlier and I have been worried he will get behind I am waiting until next year – like she suggest. And I have seen him begin to make so many of his own connections. It is a lovely way to teach your children. I love it!!!

  15. Azurae says:

    Hot. Mayonnaise. Sandwiches. Girl; you know how to paint a picture. I am so delighted your girls will get to learn from you. Love you all!

  16. Susan says:

    What a blessed journey you are about to begin! We live in Alabama too! I am homeschooling my 2nd grader and kindergartener and love it more than I can say. My oldest went to a Christian private school that we loved, but God had other plans. Halfway through his first grade year God began showing my husband and I the path of homeschooling. I have a friend who does it and alway thought that I could never do it. Let me tell you, God has equipped me. We are so blessed to be part of a classical co-op that meets once a week. I am continually amazed at how much their little minds can absorb. I cannot recommend the book the Well Trained Mind enough.

  17. We are on year 6 of homeschooling our two girls, and I wouldn’t trade the time with them for anything. It is at once the best of times and the worst of times. We enjoy the slow pace and reading for days on end, but nothing will magnify the impatience and irritability in your own heart faster than homeschooling your children. It is very hard, but it is very good. Welcome to the journey.

  18. Hi Abby,
    I know it’s weird that I am excited for you, since I don’t actually know you, but we have a lot in common and I am planning to homeschool my kids using Charlotte Mason’s methods too (my oldest is five). One thing I would recommend is that you start reading her works (rather than books about her books). If you prefer, modern paraphrases are available at amblesideonline. I think you can use the best “Charlotte Mason” curriculum in the world, but if you don’t actually know what she said about it, you won’t get a Charlotte Mason education. She was a pretty brilliant lady! Have you thought about attending a Charlotte Mason Institute Conference? I attended my first one last summer and it was soooo helpful – I attended an immersion class in which I experienced a morning of Charlotte Mason instruction in several subjects, all from the perspective of a student. It was so great! It was fun and helped it all feel more doable. I know lots of homeschool moms who “give up” and feel burned out, but not moms who use Charlotte Mason! They all love to keep learning along with their kids. I personally feel so much more enriched and alive after doing some watercolor in my nature study notebook or doing a picture study with my daughter. May God continue to bless you and your family!

  19. Mackie says:

    Looking forward to following along on your journey. My little one is only 6mo but praying about this now as I am not sure what God has planned for us! Never heard of CM but sounds interesting!

  20. Taylor says:

    Homeschooling n hot mayonnaise sandwiches – Oh what imagery

    Also could you please define ‘twattle’ – in your terms of course ( Abby’s turn of the century romanticism ) I think in terms of the recent Winter Olympic sport ice dancing ‘twizzles’ but can’t say i am familiar with twattling……

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