This is an old post I wrote on the Catholic Charlotte Mason e-list, back when I was newly pregnant with my now-3-year-old. I went and retrieved it because it is THAT time of year, when I might need to reread it again. And because I hoped it might be helpful to someone else.
Yes, how true... how funny that I also was just having a loong phone conversation with a CM friend about these things, too; though there were lots of rabbit trails on the way. ... I am in the first trimester of my 9th pregnancy, counting tiny daughter and little twin boys who are with God. We are dealing with several medical issues with our youngest right now plus the ins and outs of the IEP process as he transitions from early intervention into the world of school services (would appreciate prayers). I am reading through MOTH quite seriously, knowing that I need to reshape my schedule AGAIN or I will disappear into the swamp! At the same time I am rereading my Charlotte Mason books because a schedule is a way to accomplish worthwhile things, not a worthwhile thing in itself. I don't want to forget why I am homeschooling and bringing up children in the actual process of doing it.
In "Jane Eyre", Rochester and Jane talk about the difference between love and possession. Rochester says with frustration that he could hold a bird in his hand -- but the bird's life would be gone beyond him. What he held would be a tiny dead frame, not what he valued -- its unique, precious vitality. I feel this is true of education too, and the journey towards God, and anything that involves a relationship. You can have the form, or what Charlotte Mason calls a "System" and yet the essence can escape. One extreme example is the children in orphanages, well cared for physically, who wilt and die because they have no human attachment; another extreme example is the Pharisees, who observed the outer forms of their religion so carefully that they lost sight of God. I know from experience that I can almost covet the safety of a safe, predictable form; I almost feel greedy for it sometimes. "Just tell me EXACTLY what to do, God, so I can do it and not have to discern anymore!"
But it is when I am forced to run around chasing the apples that God makes things simpler for me and makes me conscious of the real treasure I am stewarding, the apples, rather than the man-made convenience, the cart. No, He doesn't make it easy -- He doesn't pick up the apples for me, but I am conscious of Him as I scramble -- and cry over bruises... Another metaphor might be the men in Jesus's parable who were given the talents. The master didn't want them to just bury them in the ground and preserve them in safety; he wanted them to go and take risks and make them multiply. In the parable of the seeds, the ground that bore fruit was the fertile soil -- now I'm not much of a gardener, but fertile soil has to be turned and plowed, composted etc. Sometimes being open to God's providence whether by adding a new blessing, dealing patiently with needy relatives, taking the children out of school to teach them at home, adjusting one's homeschool style or whatever, whatever makes one realize one's neediness, can make one's life soil more receptive to His grace.
With education, I see from experience that a lot of learning depends just as much
on serendipity (Leonie's word) as on conscious intention on the part of the teacher. Even medically fragile children like my son fare better statistically at home than at hospitals where they are cared for by trained experts -- why is this? Preemies fare better when the bonding process with their mommies and daddies is encouraged even with a higher infection risk. Children in orphanages who were cuddled and nurtured by retarded teenagers developed normally, while their deprived peers failed to thrive. Homeschooled kids general do better academically than schooled ones even though their instruction is less systematic and less time-consuming, and less expensive. I think that is because learning is an active engagement, what Charlotte Mason calls a relationship, rather than an imparting of content. Relationships grow and are nurtured, like plants, as CM writes; they are not built like a skyscraper.