The idea that children are persons is one of the first principles that Charlotte Mason lays out in her writings. We need to consider this concept, not because Charlotte Mason said it, but because it is a scriptural truth.
- God knew each one of us before the foundations of the earth (before conception)
- God knew each of us while we were yet in the womb
- God has a plan for us here on earth
- Jesus made it very clear that children were a part of his kingdom. In fact, He encouraged us adults to be like the little children, with simple but complete faith in Him.
How does this apply to our homeschooling?
Here is another quote from Charlotte Mason.
We must know something about the material we are to work uponif the education we offer is not to be scrappy and superficial.
We must have some measure of a child’s requirements, not based on his uses to society, nor upon the standard of the world he lives in, but upon his own capacity and needs.
Towards a Philosophy of Education
I think it goes without saying that we don’t want to deliver a “scrappy and superficial” education. We want our children’s education to be complete, to be sufficient, and to be rich in ideas and truth. I think Charlotte Mason is giving us a key here on how to achieve that and that is, to know our child and to mould our efforts around him.
There is a caution here, as applicable today as when Charlotte Mason wrote it – don’t use society as your guide! Alternatively we are to consider how the Creator has fashioned him and designed him, we are to consider the Creators plans for him.
Though we homeschool in the context of family we must take note of each child and take their individual needs into account as we plan our homeschool activities.
Do you know each of your children?
- Do you know (or have any inkling) of God’s design for your child? Do you see any passions, talents or strong abilities developing?
- Do you know his relational strengths and weaknesses? Do you know how they communicates love (love languages)
- Do you know his/her learning styles? How they best receive information, and then communicate what they know? Do you know what their needs are in order to process, think or remember information?
- And maybe one of the most important – Do you know where his Heart is at with God?
3 ways to Learn about your Child
When we consider our children as persons – whole, complete persons, persons who are growing (not needing to be fixed!) then we give ourselves the opportunity, and the privilege, to get to know them. Sometimes we understand the idea of ‘getting to know’ our adult friends but really, we can get to know our children in much the same way – and yet hopefully even deeper
1–Pray about it: We need to ask God – He is the only one with an instruction manual for our child. I believe God can put things on our heart that helps us know and understand our children and their needs.
2–Let them play: Give children plenty of free time (with the only expectation being that they play with self-control and purpose). When our children have free time they gravitate towards things that they love.
3–Observe and ponder: We need to spend time with them, observing their choices and reactions. Don’t be quick to make assessments just take notes, collect information, and let them blossom. Our children are young and still growing and becoming. But the things we notice can give us a guide.
Read more about understanding our children: Hide these things in your Mother-Heart
Download your parenting worksheet to help you get to know your child.
How to make it work in our Family
Once we have observed these things how do we accommodate individual needs in a family? We have, as most families do, a variety of needs, abilities, interests, and complexities in our family.
Here are a few things that have helped us allow for the individual:
Know what is mandatory for your family
Each family will have different goals for their own family and this will be expressed in the subjects that they decide are mandatory – a must purely because you belong to our family. For our family this is Bible Study, Character development, life skills and creative talents. At a secondary level we require math, language art/study skills and we expect the kids to read history and science in order to learn about the world they live in. But different children will study it at different depths.
Know why you are studying a topic (or using a resource)
This covers the idea that we are not to use society we live in (even the homeschool community) to dictate what we study or use for our children. We need to answer the question, “Why am I pursuing this course of study?” before we require it of our child.
Study some things together
Not everything need be studied on an individual basis. We can read the same books and set different assignments. We can study the same topic and yet read different books. Output (such as assignments) can always vary depending on your purpose and goal for each child.
Be prepared to change direction
This is hard but as our children grow, as we learn more about them, as family dynamics change we have to be preared to change directions. One of the hardest changes I had to make was to let my oldest study by himself and continue to study with the rest of my kids as a family. Then I had another change when I realized that my older children, and myself, are language based learners and my younger two are more hands on. This meant that many of the resources and methods that worked for us early on were not so successful as I started to focus on my younger two. Though my personal learning style doesn’t change, I needed to change my teaching style to help my younger two to reach their best.
To be flexible has been one of the most necessary lessons for me to learn as a homeschool mum. If I don’t like the fruit that I see I need to change what I am doing.
Have a Discipleship based Routine
A daily routine that is based on Relationships first, then responsibilities, talents and then academics is vital. We used blocks of time (generally 1-2 hours) instead of ½ hour increments. This allowed me, as the teacher/supervisor to flow from one student to the next as they need me and as time allows. When we have had ½ hourly blocks of time I spend a lot of time watching the clock or waiting for the kids to pull out their books. When we have a block of time, with a “to-do” list of study requirements, each child flows from one thing to the other, and while one child is swapping over, finding new books etc I am helping a different child. This gives the children the freedom to work at their own pace, to be rewarded when they finish early, as well as to pursue different subjects than their siblings. I try and keep a balance between independent studies and subjects that need my involvement. Afterall, we are discipling which means walking together, teaching from my life to theirs.
Have focus seasons
There are times when one child needs more attention than the other children. When this is the case, their need become the most important issue in the family. It maybe a character issue such as obedience, it may be learning to read, it may science experiments or dressmaking lessons. When we sense such a priority need we rearrange our schedules, and create a focus season. That is, for x period of time, generally no more than a month, this need will be addressed first up in the morning, nothing will interrupt it and everyone in the family will support that season goal being met.
In order for focus seasons to happen without being a negative thing for the rest of the family it is imperative that we have self-control, obedience and focusing ability happening in our children. If these character traits are not happening then I recommend a focus season to train in those areas. You need to be able to address one child for 20minutes and know that the other children will not wreck havoc with their surroundings or relationships.
Do you know your Child?
I have a sequence of questions here for you to reflect on.
- Do you know your child?
- And is your educational plan suitable to him/her?
- Is it preparing him/her for their life ahead?
- Is it meeting his/her needs?
- Are you prepared to change direction in order for a rich and deep education for each of your children?
Over to you:
How have you seen knowing your child’s uniqueness shape your homeschool?
Create a Unique Education: Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to create a education plan for each of our children – one that matches their strengths and weaknesses. Includes bonus worksheets.
Homeschooling? Start here: A collection of articles that are helpful to the new homeschooler as well as the homeschooler who wants to change things around.
These are three of my favourite homeschool resources – they shaped my thinking about homeschooling. I share them here because I think the message in these books build on this idea of recognising the uniqueness in each of our children.
I Saw the Angel in the Marble: You can set your children free to be the individuals God created them to be. But first, you must rediscvoer what it means to be – not homeschoolers – but parents. Chris Davis, Ellyn Davis