It's a Classic!

Terri Camp
I have found a way for my family and me to enjoy a richer, more fulfilling life. No, it is not filling our stomachs with cheesecake each day - that would only make us fatter, not richer. It is not even about making money - that would only make us richer, not more fulfilled. I am embarking on a course that leads my children to knowledge.

I happened upon the path to a richer, more fulfilling life innocently enough. I had been praying for a change in our schooling. I was feeling like we were missing something. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what we were missing, but I knew that for many of our days the goal had simply been to "get our work done." I knew there was more to a rewarding life than simply having the children do their required assignments. I just didn’t feel that only doing math, reading, and writing everyday was enough for my kids.

Sure, they were getting the work done and reading some good books. They were also having fun exploring the study of survival. They learned a few things to do in case they ever needed to survive without us. They learned if they ever got lost in a corn field (and that actually could happen here in Iowa) that they should level the corn to write the word h-e-l-p. But still an element was missing. I knew it must be a character flaw of mine, so I prayed, "Lord, what am I neglecting? Please guide me in the way you want me to guide my children."

Well, God always answers prayer. He doesn’t always answer in the ways we expect, however.

At the beginning of our Christmas holiday, I logged on to the Internet and found a Charlotte Mason Web site.1 I signed up to receive e-mail from home schoolers around the country. Through the Charlotte Mason loop, people discuss things like having tea with their children, reading classic literature, and taking nature walks. There are e-mail loops for just about every subject. Initially the amount of e-mail I received seemed too incredible and time-consuming. Finally it dawned on me - I didn’t have to read all of them! I quickly learned how to skim the mail and focus on the information that was relevant to me.

I still would consider myself a home-schooling mom who does not necessarily fit into any of the theoretical molds, but I am fascinated with Charlotte Mason’s ideas on educating children. She advocated teaching many different subjects in small portions throughout the day. The subjects she emphasized were art, classic literature, and nature. She felt those subjects should be a daily part of a student’s education, rather than an afterthought when they have nothing else to do.

Reading e-mails from other home schoolers who were implementing some of her ideas, revealed to me that my children’s education was lacking a key ingredient. I had failed to impart to my children a love for the classics. Though we had read many books, we had not read many "classics." Though we drew, we had not examined the works of Renoir. Though we wrote, we had not written with the flair that was prevalent many years ago.

I realized this wasn’t necessarily a character flaw (That is good news, don’t you think?), but perhaps a lack of understanding. Why had I failed in this? Was it because I looked at a book like Pilgrim’s Progress and thought, They won’t get it? Or was it that I thought museums were a waste of time? Or perhaps, I didn’t feel qualified to teach what I didn’t know? I was not exposed to the classics in school.

Many people don’t believe teaching or exposing children to Latin or Greek is relevant. Many don’t think spending a few hours gazing at great works of art in a museum or even looking at art in a book is important. Many don’t care if their children read Jane Eyre or Silas Marner. I wouldn’t have cared. Studying the "great" books and the "great" works of art seemed unnecessary in our home schooling. I thought my children were too young to appreciate such things. I didn’t know that classics could be enjoyed at all ages.

As I began to realize the value of studying the classics, I made a firm decision that I would not allow my feelings of inadequacy to get in the way. I desired for my children to love and appreciate the classics.

Stay tuned for Part 2, and how I got my children to develop an interest in the classics!