A Charlotte Mason Education, CM Reading Groups, Homeschooling, New to CM, Newcomers, Paradigm Shift, Philosophy, Practical Application
Comments 19

Weed It and Reap by Nancy Kelly

As recently as nine years ago when my last child was born, a passerby stopped and suggested to my husband, Kent, that he might consider wielding a machete to chop down the weeds taking over the front porch (which had no railing).  Soon after that, a sweet lady from across town stopped by the house and invited me to come and see her flower gardens.  She described in detail what she envisioned I could do with our pathetic front lawn if I was willing to do the research and heavy lifting.  I had never gardened before, but her enthusiasm and vision for what she believed I could do was inspiring.  I was finally at a place in my life where I could consider what she was saying and get to work.  Over the next few years, our family worked hard on making the front yard the refreshing place that it is now.  We enjoy it so much, even though it needs a little weeding and the house will be ready for some new paint soon.  What does this have to do with anything,  you ask?  Stay with me here…

Oftentimes I hear from those beginning this relational education journey with the Mason method.  They tell me they are overwhelmed by all of it.  Those attending the conference speak of information overload.  As an organizer of a retreat myself, that type of comment can be distressing which is one reason why time for reflection and contemplation of the ideas presented is important – and no easy task.

I didn’t wake up one morning when my firstborn was six and start implementing a flawless application of the Charlotte Mason philosophy in my homeschool.  Does anyone?  No, I started by attending various conferences, listening, and looking.  Then I bought a unit study curriculum.  Then I bought classical everything.  Then finally, someone rather offhandedly mentioned a set of books by this “dead British spinster who wrote 6 tomes on education” and “if you like using literature, you might like her stuff.” Indeed.

I kept moving forward and  then heard Susan Schaeffer Macaulay speak on education at a L’Abri conference.  I read For the Children’s Sake.  Little by little, I implemented more and more of Mason’s philosophy, which was relentlessly true and alive.  It wasn’t until I was into it for three or four years that I could say with confidence that I used the Charlotte Mason method.  I’m still learning and tweaking what I do.  It’s been a process – no, make that a life – but there has been such reward and joy, as well as trials and errors, that I feel blessed to share about it all.

So, when you attend a conference or listen to other veterans of this method, consider how long they’ve been at it.  For me, that would be nineteen years of experience. My advice?  Start where you are.  Keep expectations realistic.  Implement a little at a time.  Join or start a community committed to learning and growing.  Support is crucial – one committed friend will do.  Try thinking deeply about one principle at a time.  After all, a young woman attending Mason’s House of Education took two full years to be trained properly in her methods.    Essex Cholmondley, in speaking of this training said, “Each week at college brought fresh growth in knowledge.  Slowly to each of us, according to her own nature, came the power to combine joy of mind with strenuous effort of will in the service of God and of young people for God.”   Slowly.  According to her own nature.

Remember my messy yard at the beginning of this post?  My friend could see the potential and knew the possibilities.  I’m convinced that our schools can be transformed into places of beauty, too.  For the newbie, you can start to read and apply one thing a t a time.  For the experienced, consider coming alongside someone else and sharing some wisdom.  Just like my yard, you will “weed it and reap”.

Copyright 2012 Nancy Kelly.  You can find Nancy over at her blog, Sage Parnassus, where she continues to weed.


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. Becky says

    Thanks, Nancy!
    In my 5-6 years of homeschooling, there have been moments where I have felt like a veteran CMer, but mostly I feel like I’m just starting out, and sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed (okay, more than sometimes!). It’s so great to be encouraged by people like you who have been doing this so much longer than I have, to be told it’s okay to implement things slowly, to make this life a LIFE!

  2. Well said! I know from your blog how beautiful your yard and house is! I have homeschooled for 20 years and started with For The Children’s Sake then got her volumes. What amazes me is the depth of her volumes that I still reread them. Still find nuggets to be reminded of how to educate plus how to live. I love the transformation into beauty line!

  3. You wrote, “Little by little, I implemented more and more of Mason’s philosophy, which was relentlessly true and alive.” I agree totally. The more I implement the more true I find her ideas to be. The simple fact that from vol. 1 to vol. 6, which encompassed 20 some years of implementation she did not change very much. Thank you for this beautiful encouragement to keep on.

    • Sarah,
      You’re so welcome. She did make some changes, but they certainly weren’t changes that reconfigured her philosophy into something else. Those 20 years were actually closer to 40+, if you count the years before her lecturing from Vol. 1, I think! Yes – that truth based on Truth – it just gets richer as the years pass.

  4. Amber says

    I am at the point (starting our third CM year) where I am just starting to feel like I kind of know what I’m doing. Not all the time, but I feel like I am at least developing a feel for it and it isn’t quite the struggle it once was. My youngest is one and I recently remarked to my husband, “I don’t look at all the years of potential homeschooling with dismay as I have heard some do. Instead I think, I have time to get really good at this!”. And what a fantastic opportunity I have before me!

    • Exactly, Amber. And as long as the teacher is drinking from the flowing stream and not the stagnant pool, it continues to be a joy to teach and learn. I agree, it is a fantastic opportunity!

  5. Thanks for the encouragement, Nancy! We all feel like we are muddling through at times and it is a great reminder that we aren’t alone and that persistence and patience pay dividends. There have definitely been times when I’ve wondered if the seeds were worth the planting. It’s great to hear that someone with older children can vouch for the crop! Can’t wait to see you in spring, Lord willing!

  6. Oooo…just what I needed to read this morning, Nancy! I love what you said about thinking deeply about one principle at a time…THANK YOU!

    they call me mommy aka Amy 🙂

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