Charlotte Mason · This and That

From Beginning to the End of an Era, Part 1

It’s time to pack up the books, papers, files, schedules, and plans. My homeschool career has come to an end. There were times I thought I’d never see this day… Would I even make it all the way to the end? Our youngest daughter, my baby, has just graduated from high school and there are no younger siblings to follow in her footsteps. It’s been quite a ride, quite the journey, full of both joy and angst, laughter and tears. Some days were absolutely wonderful and others, well, not so much.

The Beginning

How long have I been homeschooling? Well, it was in September 1983 that I officially homeschooled for the first time. Our three youngest children weren’t even born yet. Those of you who were just babies back then, or still in school yourselves have no idea what it was like in the old days. And I wouldn’t label them the good old days either.

Way back then homeschooling was very unique, way out of the mainstream. People would look at you with undisguised shock that you would even consider such a radical thing. Homeschool? Huh? In fact you usually went out of your way to avoid the subject altogether, if possible.

The first comment people would make was…

“That’s not legal, is it?” Well, in some states back then, no, it wasn’t. Fathers and mothers actually went to jail because they were homeschooling, right here in the USA. I mean you had to be fully committed to do this. But fortunately for my family in Illinois, it was legal, although very, very few people did it.

And the second comment to roll out of their mouths was,

“What about socialization?” Oh, I can hardly write about that comment without rolling my eyes and giving a shudder. Like my children would be locked in a closet and never see the light of day again, slaving over books and talking to no one, having no idea how to get along with others, and be able to fit in. Oh my! It was hard sometimes not to laugh out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  But I tried to be charitable and explain for the umpteenth time…. Oh, my children attend Sunday School. They play with the neighbor’s children. And I take them out in public often where they can see people. sigh…

Back then I’d never heard the name Charlotte Mason. I had no idea who she was. I didn’t know anything about her or her educational method.  When I began homeschooling Susan Schaeffer Macaulay had not yet written For the Children’s Sake, the book that first introduced most people to Charlotte Mason, myself included. Charlotte Mason’s six volumes on education, written decades earlier and long out of print had not been reprinted and weren’t on line. Of course back in 1983 how many people even had a computer let alone the internet?

I wanted my children to be taught with a Christian curriculum but way back in the day, way back in the early 1980’s, there were only a few Christian textbook publishers that I knew of with Abeka and Bob Jones University Press being the most well known.

Abeka wouldn’t sell their books to homeschoolers. I know many of you will find that hard to believe but the only way a homeschooler could get access to Abeka was if a Christian school ordered them for you. I experienced this first hand when a Christian school in my area that was sympathetic towards homeschooling offered to order Abeka books for several homeschooling families. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

As I understand it, Abeka was fully devoted to Christian schools and didn’t want this “fringe” homeschool movement to possibly threaten the viability of Christian schools, competing with them and taking students away. They’ve since changed their thinking and have for years now sought out homeschoolers, but back in 1983, when I started on this journey that was NOT the case.

BJUP was more than happy to sell to homeschoolers, thankfully, but they didn’t have a full K-12 curriculum available. There were gaps in both subjects and grades making it challenging.

You could buy books from secular publishers but it could be a little tricky. You’d need school letterhead and you’d have to be somewhat evasive about who you were and why you wanted the student books AND the teacher’s editions, the tests AND the answers. Are you really an official school?

Some of us pioneer homeschoolers found Dr Raymond Moore, who together with his wife Dorothy co-authored a number of books on homeschooling. In fact, if I hadn’t been drawn to his ideas initially I doubt I would have homeschooled at all. What a gift he was to the early homeschool movement. What he believed and taught regarding children and education was excellent preparation for understanding the Charlotte Mason method that I was introduced to years later.

Besides that he also offered bits and pieces of curricula, some textbooks (Rod and Staff mostly) and some unit studies. His offerings were fairly affordable and he loved, loved, loved homeschool families. He was very gracious and kind and believed every mother and father not only had the ability to teach their own but it would be a far better education than the children could get in a traditional school. He was very encouraging, like a loveable grandfather, and everyone who met him liked him. At least everyone I knew who met him liked him. I had the opportunity of meeting him personally as well and communicated with him and his wife Dorothy, a number of times.

But that was a long time ago…

I’ll continue my story next time sharing how I was introduced to Charlotte Mason, and how it eventually revolutionized my entire homeschool experience.

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4 thoughts on “From Beginning to the End of an Era, Part 1

  1. So interesting to read what homeschooling was like back in the 1900's (like my kids like to say!)! I'm so grateful that homeschooling is more acceptable now – not sure I would have had the guts to stand against the crowd.

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  2. We wouldn't have had the guts to go it alone, that's for sure, but we had several other friends who were newbies just like us and believe me, we hung onto each other for support and encouragement like nobody's business!

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  3. Linda, have you considered being a homeschool mentor in a local homeschool group?
    I homeschooled our 3 children from 1992 to 2009 (K-8 for all 3) and although homeschooling has become more popular since I began, I am still one of the few people I know in our church who have homeschooled. I get asked for advice regularly. I would think that a homeschool support/activity group would really value your wealth of information and perspective.

    Best of wishes for this new phase in your life.

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  4. Hi Lili, Thank you so much for your well wishes! I have led a Charlotte Mason study/support group sporadically over the years and I hope to get that going again into a more consistent, ongoing group. My older dd is looking forward to me having a more active role in her homeschool as well, particularly in the area of nature study. So I will continue to be “out there” helping and encouraging however I can.

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