To some extent, this is a post for homeschooling only children, whether following Charlotte Mason’s philosophy or not. On the other hand, she raises some very CM-specific issues. I am so grateful to Laura for writing this post!
Laurke is freedom-loving Kentuckyian, wife to a financial planner and entrepreneur, and homeschooling mom to an eight-year-old energetic boy. In her past, she was a foster parent, and worked in retail and on horse farms. Currently, she volunteers with a food pantry and is active in a local church. She is learning more about the educational methods of Charlotte Mason and practicing them on her son. Laurke is also a moderator for the AmblesideOnline Forum in the areas of Homemaking and Health, Only Children, Blogging, and Foster/Adoptive Parents. She loves to travel; read; watch Doctor Who; spend time with family, friends, pets and farm; and well as play on Pinterest and blog at Windy Hill Homeschool.
Can the Charlotte Mason educational method be used to teach an only child? Yes! Charlotte Mason’s philosophy can be used with households of any size, with children of any ages. The beauty of a method (as opposed to a system) is that you can make it work for your situation!
Some may have one child by choice — be it for political, social, religious or personal reasons. Others may become a parent to only one because of health issues, including infertility, miscarriages, or adoptions that fall through. The feelings for these two different types of families are quite different in some respects. However, the day-to-day life of raising a single child will have similar challenges.
I’ve been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, as a foster parent. We’ve had times where infants, toddlers and preschoolers were at home on school days, and we’ve had months where my son was an only. The flow of those days is as different as could be! (I know some of you have only ever experienced having lots of little ones around by the time your oldest is ready for school. Yes, your job takes more time and organizational skills, but the blessings are multiplied! Hang in there.)
So, from my unique perspective of having lived both ways, here are the advantages and disadvantages!
- Freedom to travel, no nap times to plan around
- Only have to find one pair of shoes, one jacket, etc.
- Fewer appointments to make and keep
- Cheaper — only one set of books to buy!
- No one stealing their books or toys
- No body breaking Lego creations
- Mom can give more one-on-one attention, maybe catch problems earlier
- More money for extracurriculars
- No one with whom to share narrations (assuming your children are reading the same books)
- No one to play with during breaks/until public school is out (loneliness)
- Can’t pass the books/clothes down to younger siblings (more expense per child)
- Can’t eaves-drop when they have read alouds (no learning by osmosis)
- Less social interaction at home (parent must be pro-active about getting the child into the community)
- No one to share chores with (have to take on more responsibility)
- No one to blame when something gets broken … unless you’ve let the cat or dog in to be your companion for the day
- Mom has to listen to multiple requests for a brother/sister to take care of
- No do-overs or learning from parenting/schooling mistakes for the next child (just one shot!)
In this PNEU article, the education of an only child is discussed by Mrs. Clement Parson, in 1901. She says,
There is one distinct advantage in being an only child, and that is that an only child makes friends quicker than members of large families seem as a rule to do.
She then warns us that
An only child is in danger of developing or retaining a multitude of inefficiencies.
Yikes! We should also “resist the temptation to have their child continually with” us. Mrs. Parson says the only child can dream, but the parents should make sure he doesn’t become mopey or oversensitive to noises. He should be taught handicrafts for an outlet, and we should do our best to remedy his “natural disabilities” and have our goal “to forget, and make him forget, that he is an only child.”
I have mixed feelings about this article, as it seems to be negative overall towards the situation of being an only child. That said, the advice is good – let them be with other children, make friends, have hobbies and not dwell on being an only.
There are a couple of books and several websites dedicated to homeschooling your only child, but ultimately, we want the same thing for each child in a larger family as we do for a single child. Special tools and techniques are not needed, and you will have the freedom, time and energy to seek out the social opportunities he or she will need, since he/she won’t have a built-in circle of friends at home.
We don’t know what Charlotte Mason herself thought of homeschooling an only child, but we do know that she WAS an only child. Here, In Memoriam, The Beginning of Things by E. Kitching, is a bit about Mason’s own childhood. It reads:
Miss Mason was an only child of only children, a precious child, sharing the sheltered life of a rather delicate and much-loved mother and a devoted father. She learned at home and she once or twice mentioned her earliest recollection, that of her mother lying on a couch with a little brown leather Homer’s “Odyssey” in her hand.
Her mother was in poor health and couldn’t be much of a companion for little Charlotte, and she discovered the joys of other children by watching out the windows, but had no childhood friends.
We can feel sorry for her as a child, but take a step back and see the big picture. What did this sheltered upbringing avail her? Keen intellect, kindness, and wisdom beyond her years. She turned out well-socialized (you know I couldn’t get through a post about onlies without mentioned the S-word, right?!), well-loved and well-known, in addition to being an amazing spiritual inspiration to many. This should give us hope! No matter how isolated your child may be, God is in control. Do what you can to provide the best atmosphere and companions you can, of course, and then let go of worry and insecurity, and rest in the One who created your family, just the size it is.
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