Trust the Method
I remember three years ago sitting in the Ambleside Summer Institute and hearing Bill St. Cyr tell us teachers in training to “trust the method”. What he was referring to directly was the Ambleside Method of teaching a lesson, but on a broader level I have come to understand this to also mean Charlotte Mason’s method as embodied in her philosophy of education.
I recently had a conversation with a dear friend about my desire to send my children to a summer school program at a private school in my area. The reason I was considering it was that I wanted my children to have exposure to other teachers, other children and new experiences. Although this can be good in its own right I neglected to think that they would be exposed to a different method of teaching. My children have been brought up homeschooled with an Ambleside Education. My fear, and I’ll just go ahead and admit it, is that they are somehow missing something in their education by not being part of a traditional school setting. This underlying fear is only exacerbated when well meaning friends and family CONTINUALLY ask me when I am going to send them to school, as if they are not being schooled now.
Although my friend, whom I was discussing summer school with, suggested that there is nothing wrong with my children attending enrichment classes, there could be negative changes in the way they would view learning after a traditional school experience. They most likely would be encouraged to learn for the test rather than for the love of learning. Or, the school may not continue to focus the child on intellectual growth, but rather be satisfied if they simply meet the assignment. Then of course there is the concern as to how involved the teachers are in forming the development of the habits of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc. I was struck, upon reflection, by the realization that my children are thriving in both their academics and social life and as well as growing in the development of their own personal character, all without the traditional school.
I have seen this first hand as I have taken on another child, from outside our family, into our homeschool. This boy came from a more traditional school environment and I had to do a considerable amount of work to help him to even begin to love knowledge for the sake of knowledge rather than for a test or to fill in a blank on a worksheet. Also, habits in many areas had been neglected which caused him difficulty in school. It was such a contrast between how my children have been taught to learn. Although he is but 10 years old, I recognize that there are deep groves formed in his brain that caused him to learn for the sake of the right answer rather than for the joy of knowledge. An Ambleside education has breathed life into his academics and his life in general for what I believe may be the first time.
That being said, this conversation with my friend caused me to realize that I had forgotten to “trust the method” in my consideration of a summer school. I had succumbed to a completely unfounded concern that my children are not getting something they need in their education. My children are excelling academically - in fact they absolutely love learning, school and believe it or not, they ask for homework for fun! Their social skills are great; they are involved in a variety of sports and activities and interact well with persons of all ages. And, their character is being carefully shaped with attention to both personal and academic habits.
So what am I thinking?
The decision has been made. No summer school. They don’t need it. We are opting for a few fun summer camps to give me, Mom, a bit of a break during the day. But, bring on the swimming, horseback riding and acting camp and forget the academic summer school. Let me not be so quick next time to forget to trust the method.