Throwback Post: { Choosing Method Over System }


I wrote this back in year 2012.



Home Education

Volume I, pp. 6-10
Her wisdom, my thoughts:

(..thinking aloud and trying to understand)


Method is natural; easy yielding, unobtrusive, simple as the ways of Nature herself; 
yet, watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling.

Easy, unobtrusive, simple...

I try to create this atmosphere, hoping that all is in tune and not dissected to rigid parts.  Homeschooling in itself is quite out of the ordinary, and to choose Charlotte Mason's ways adds another layer to being unusual.  It seemed odd and far fetched at first, but I held on to the advice and trusted the method.  I put aside the preschool lesson plan and with that, the on cue "mom-becomes-teacher" voice I had, disappeared as well :) Our days became smoother and more natural.

Yet watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling...

I learned that behind the simplicity, all need to be intentional. I try to be as watchful as I can, trying to learn more about my children than simply going through the motions of our routine.  Routine is a good thing and it serves its purpose in keeping things aligned. But I learned that being inflexible to a system (or a lesson plan) can hurt the learning experience and make it all mechanical.  I continue and try to understand the value of a method and how it differs from a mere system.  I read and read, and apply it to our lifestyle of learning.


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There is always the danger that a method, a bona fide method, 
would degenerate into a mere system.

Having a system in place is very useful.  It helps organize and bring order to my week.  Although we are not doing much school work yet, I still made a schedule and it has been extremely helpful in seeing the goals I have to work on.  I jot down my plans on which habit to work on, which poems to read and memorize, which parks to visit, what books to read aloud and how to go about math and phonics.  I'm the kind of person who needs to see things on paper.  Otherwise, it will all be chaotic in my head. So, I need structure or some kind of system to work on.

But in the CM world, I constantly hear and read the perils of relying on a system.  In my understanding, CM is not without a system (entirely different from how unschoolers do their learning) but it strongly emphasizes working with a solid Method or Principles.  What is the danger of relying on a system if it actually helps organize and bring output? Maybe because a system encourages a teacher to simply check whats to be done and rely simply on the so called output (like a craft project or certain number of worksheets answered) and call it a productive day! That is my simple way of understanding the consequence in a small scale.

This was recently discussed in one of the AO yahoogroups. One of the moms in the discussion explained it well. She said that a method takes into account the *whole* of a person or child and tailors the process of his/her education accordingly. A system on the other hand, focuses on efficiency and measurable results. It can therefore progress into becoming rigid set of steps to achieve a result, rather than a path one takes to reach a goal. 

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System - the observing of rules until the habit of doing certain things, 
of behaving in certain ways, is confirmed, and therefore the art is acquired.

What struck me most from this section of CM's writing is when she mentioned that methods that have been conceived and perfected by great educators can become "miserable wooden" systems when used improperly.  It then follows that there can be a disconnect between the method I choose and how I will apply it. I learn that there is always the trap of making a solid method into a mere system.

For those of you following CM, have you experienced t
his in your homeschool setting? What led it to becoming a mere system? What are things that should be avoided

**Besides constantly remembering that children are persons and not buckets to be filled, CM suggests few essential principles. Once the principles are fully understood and taken to heart, it will be easy and natural to act upon them. I continue to read on what she has to say.




  1. ah. glorious. i'm SO glad for you!!

  2. Hmm, my comment disappeared, try again!
    I'm glad you found something that is working for your family at this stage of life! And I'm thrilled that "riches" is getting more commonly used :)

  3. Be Thou My Vision is a beautiful hymn both in word and truth

  4. I am loving your blog and the way you teach your children! I am beginning homeschooling and am in the researching phase. I am very drawn to Charlotte Mason but feel quite inept at knowing how to implement her philosophy. Reading through your posts has been inspiring! Do you have an updated weekly routine? I'd love to see more now that you've been doing it for a few years. Thanks so much.

  5. What a great idea! You have helped me before with your checklist...we've been using something similar ever since. Now we have a new baby, too, and our family looks very similar to yours. I've been struggling a bit to get into a smooth routine. Thanks for sharing what works for you...

  6. It does make sense that Mason encouraged an academic morning and a rich afternoon. Not only was she keeping in mind homeschoolers (many with nurses to handle the wee ones), but also schools, which had no wee ones underfoot. Isn't it amazing how a little change can make a big difference?