[Disclosure: the Evan-Moor link in this post is an affiliate link. This means if you click and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.]
Classical, Eclectic, Charlotte Mason, oh my.
I love pedagogy. I really enjoy listening to speakers and authors like CiRCE Institute’s Andrew Kern and Memoria Press’ Martin Cothran talk about educational philosophy, the history of classical education, and what it means to teach thinking. I’m drawn to its thoughtful, time-honored idealism. And my daughter loves the deep academia of it all. The Christian classical education approach definitely resonates with us — moreso than any other homeschool method — and I consider us classical homeschoolers.
But I was chatting with my friend Megan (of the schoolnest blog) recently about the freedom which comes with not being a homeschool method purist. If you lean mostly toward one method but then mix in a twist of another approach, the educational philosophy police aren’t going to get you.
You can blend elements of classical education in with other philosophies. You can. You can also use Charlotte Mason-inspired ideas for just one subject, without any obligation to implement Charlotte Mason methods for all. You can dabble in Montessori for your littles, then move toward a more traditional approach for the older ages. You can even (gasp!) change your mind.
It’s not all or nothing. A little method mashup doesn’t mean you’ve lost your homeschool street cred (cul-de-sac cred?) No one will kick you out of the classical homeschool club if you don’t do all the classical things in all the classical ways all the time. No one will kick you out of the Charlotte Mason club if you don’t do all the Charlotte-y things in Charlotte-y ways all the time. Blind pedagogical loyalty won’t win you as many points as you think it will, especially if you’re clinging to pedagogical preferences at the expense of your kids.
You want to know a really funny truth?
Adding in worksheets because your kiddo truly, madly, deeply loves worksheets doesn’t negate all the living books you’ve read.
It’s true! The two can co-exist. A worksheet doesn’t make a good book any less good.
In our homeschool, we use Simply Charlotte Mason’s Visits to…geography series alongside Evan-Moor’s 7 Continents geography series. “But then it’s not Charlotte Mason anymore!” you might protest. Well, that’s true. It’s not. (It’s not even classical.)
But my goal isn’t to imitate Charlotte Mason; it’s to educate my child.
And using Evan-Moor’s 7 Continents series concurrently with Simply Charlotte Mason’s Visits to… series means the practical and necessary components of physical geography standards don’t get neglected in the shadow of the cultural geography lessons I love so much. I get so lost in the wonderful celebration of the way people live around the globe, that I forget we need to learn longitude and latitude, too.
I know these standards can be taught using purely Charlotte Mason methods. But they also can be taught with Evan-Moor consumable books. If you are teaching physical geography the way Charlotte did, awesome. And if you aren’t? Also awesome. There’s no shame in mixing methods.
If you’re a classical educator who does elementary science every single day*, you don’t need to defend that. Your homeschool is your homeschool.
*waves hand wildly — “it’s me!”
If you’re a literature-based homeschooler who incorporates worksheets, you don’t need to whisper the word “worksheet.”
If you sign up for a local wild and free hike and you’ve never journaled so much as a single speck of wildlife, you don’t need to hide that fact like some sort of secret shame.
You can still call yourself a classical homeschooler — or literature-based, or Charlotte Mason, or whatever. Contrary to what the volunteer Facebook group admins might have you believe, the homeschool method police aren’t going to get you if you don’t teach every single subject to the exact specifications laid out by your chosen educational philosophy guru. You are not a slave to particular homeschool genre.
Say it aloud: I am not a slave to particular homeschool genre.
Friend, your focus should be on your child, not on a method. Your goal is to educate your child, not to replicate a method.
Your aim is to love your kids and create a nurturing home environment where they will thrive, not to become a pedagogical snob.
So mix and match. Be eclectic. Be flexible. Don’t be afraid. It’s your homeschool, not anyone else’s.
Chuck the Latin (unless you actually love it), do some worksheets, order from a bunch of different publishers, then go on a hike…and don’t sketch a single thing.
2 thoughts on “Don’t be a Pedagogical Snob”
Personally, I don’t like the terms purity or police when discussing homeschool methods (or religion or politics for that matter!). I homeschool using the Charlotte Mason method and I am decidedly NOT eclectic. However, I don’t think that any well understood educational method is something that should be distilled into a “this curriculum is” and “that isn’t” or “do only this” and “not that.” Any educational method that you mentioned and several that you didn’t (unschooling, Waldorf, for example) start with basic ideas about the nature of humanity and about the meaning of education and knowledge. And the more I understand various methods the more I realize how common misconceptions about methods are (unschooling families can have boundaries, Charlotte Mason used mapping drills not dissimilar from some workbooks! as a normal part of geography lessons are two examples). Let’s not throw non-eclectic homeschoolers under the bus for learning how to flexibly apply a rich educational method that works for them! And let’s not presume that anyone (other than ourselves) is judging whether we meet some external standard to be “classical enough” or “Montessori enough.” Maybe the method you think isn’t CM or isn’t classical actually is ;-) Just my two cents. I agree with Mason herself who said that slavishly following a system was not a good thing. I also find that freedom can be found through understanding the deeper meaning behind the philosophy and then applying it with wisdom and good sense . . . . as you are clearly advocating. My argument is just that you can do that and be not in the least eclectic. :-)