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    Mother's Education

    Confessions of a Lifelong Learner: a Guest Post by Dawn Duran

    June 17, 2014 by Dawn Duran

    I am a successful product of a public school education. I am a nerd by nature and I seemed to thrive in that environment, actually. I attended a public school exclusively for honors students from grades 5 through 12 that offered an abundance of Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) level courses. I was blessed to attend college on a combination of athletic and academic scholarships as a student in the Honors Program. Despite the rigorous demands on a student-athlete’s time at a Division I institution I flourished in the classroom in college even more than I had in high school, even managing to become a state finalist for a Rhodes’ scholarship in the process. I have always loved learning and at one point thought I might become a “professional student.” Yet despite all of this “education” I still craved more. Books and stories were always a huge part of my world, but they were something that I consumed ravenously, as I do chocolate 🙂 . As a result, most of the books I have read — in high school, college and graduate school — did not stick with me.

    I have read Shakespeare. I have read poetry. I have listened to classical music. But I didn’t really appreciate these things. Yet now these are the things I want to be an integral part of the education of my children. I now see the value of spreading a feast of all that is good and true and beautiful before my boys in my efforts to help them become the godly men that the Lord designed them to be. How did that happen? Rather than give you an even more exhaustive biography, let’s fast forward several years to when my children were born, shall we? That is the most exciting part anyway.

    I, like many other new mothers, felt that it would be selfish to fuel my own needs because the needs of other people depended upon me. And once those needs were met I was just too exhausted to do anything for myself: no time to exercise {although I was once a “gym rat”} and definitely no time to read {although for nearly 35 years I had rarely been seen without a book in my hand — even as a pedestrian while crossing the street and as a driver behind the wheel of a car}. The reading that I did engage in during this time of life was limited to books about pregnancy, babies, parenting and the occasional twaddle romance or magazine – not to mention an abundance of very good picture books.

    Finally, when my youngest was 18 months old, I realized that I could only be a good mother and good wife if I was taking care of myself. Experiencing this epiphany felt like giving myself permission to read to fulfill my own intellectual needs and I was determined to re-claim my own education. After all, I had once desired to be a “professional student,” hadn’t I? In addition I resolved to join a gym again to address my (pitiful) state of physical health at that point. For me exercise and reading go hand in hand – like two sides of the same coin. Combining reading and exercising began for me when I was in physical therapy school, during which time mass quantities of information were expected to gather in my brain in a rather short period of time. My solution? To read my notes again and Again and AGAIN while I used the treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical trainer at the gym. It didn’t take long for this habit to become ingrained, and now my gym time serves two purposes: exercise for my body as well as for my mind.

    Now that I had resolved to read for myself again I was eager to jump back in full force. It had been so long since I had immersed myself in books that I went on a binge, I admit, and did not savor the books that I read. But it was at this time that I read Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake, which inspired me to read Charlotte Mason’s volumes for myself, which in turn led me to AmblesideOnline. I felt like I was coming home. I had always known I would home school my children — long before I was blessed with said children — but I really knew nothing about it other than the “school at home” option. Since I was a successful product of a public school education I didn’t even realize that it left much to be desired, in all honesty. As I began to research philosophies and options, though, I realized how many different philosophies of education were afloat — and that none of them seemed to mesh with my vision for my family. But then — For the Children’s Sake. Followed by Miss Mason’s Towards a Philosophy of Education. And ultimately — AmblesideOnline. And I was hooked. I knew that I had finally found it.

    This in turn revolutionized my self-education as well. I realized that I must “rightly order” my own affections in order to model this life for my children. If I could do this then I might be able to successfully cultivate a family culture that revolved around books and stories and shared experiences while keeping God at the center — my vision for our home school life. And my quest began.

    Since my “homecoming” I have spent more than two years immersing myself in reading the volumes of Charlotte Mason and many other great books that I had missed growing up. Fortunately for me we had not officially begun our homeschooling journey at that point and I was able to devote the time I could set aside for reading towards growing in my knowledge of the Charlotte Mason philosophy. I started spending time in the Ambleside Online yahoo group, and now on the Ambleside Online forum. I picked pearls of wisdom from the plethora of CM/AO-specific advice found therein and these pearls started coming together in my mind to formulate a vision of what our Home School would look like. Visualizing this helped me to make book selections that would best assist me in achieving the vision for our home. I initiated what some call the “extras” with my children at this point, too, in order to establish them as “essentials” in our home before we officially started our home schooling journey: composer study, picture talks, nature study, poetry. These are now a regular part of our home school lives and it is not a question of figuring out how to “fit everything in.” In fact, I just finished our usual routine of reading in bed to both of my boys, now aged 3.5 and 6.5 years old, prior to their official bedtime and the majority of it was spent in reading poetry at their adamant demands repeated requests.

    This is not something that I originally foresaw in my home school vision but it has been a delightful surprise. We do a significant amount of “Meal Time” learning in our home, too — much like what others call Morning Time or Circle Time — and these shared experiences while breaking bread have been most rewarding to me. As my mother once said over a meal during one of her visits to our home “You are teaching the kids all day long — and they don’t even realize it!” I thought that this surmised my vision for education in our home — Education is a life — very well, and was incredibly happy to hear my mother, originally a strong opponent of my desire to homeschool, voice this unsolicited observation.

    That’s nice, you say, but how does it work? How does this busy working mom fit self-education into her day? Like many of you, the hats I wear are many. I am wife and mom, primarily, but I am also teacher and physical therapist to many outside of my home. One manner in which I continue to educate myself is by participating in the stimulating Book Discussions found on the AmblesideOnline forum. I am honored to be a co-moderator in this area of the forum and have found much inspiration and insight from the motley crew delightful and erudite group of women who participate there with me. To date I have participated in book discussions for The Count of Monte Cristo, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Waverley: or ‘Tis Sixty Years Since and The Iliad in this manner, and each book we have read has solidified my love of this online format for book discussion with these ladies. I have also participated in several discussion of Charlotte Mason’s own volumes in this manner, and foresee that I will continue to do so on a regular basis in order to glean as much as possible from her wise words that continue to be such an inspiration for me and from which I learn something new with each reading.

    One thing that is fairly new for me is the number of books that I am juggling at any one time. In the past I might go back and forth between two books, but would never pick up anything new until they were finished. Since committing to Charlotte Mason’s philosophies, though, I have found that I am immersed in many more books simultaneously. It is not unusual for me now to read portions from three to four different books on my Kindle during a 45-60 minute session on the elliptical at the gym these days. At night I usually read selections from two to four different books depending on the amount of time I have to read before my head hits the pillow. For a deep book that requires much thought, such as David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility, I might only read one to two pages at a time before I pick up a lighter read, such as a novel. I think this strategy may have morphed from Charlotte Mason’s principle of alternating subjects and short lessons, although this system seemed to give birth to itself organically without my consciously deciding to follow this pattern. Sure, it takes me 6-9 months to finish some books following this strategy, but I absorb them much better because I have time to contemplate the few ideas that strike me in each episode of reading.

    This approach is allowing me to develop in many different areas at the same time, as well, which prevents me from rushing through any one book just so I can move on to the next one. By allowing myself to read portions of many books in the same sitting I actually decrease my anxiety at wanting to do more. My tastes are satisfied on many levels and I feel content.

    As I already mentioned I do put in a significant amount of time reading at the gym. I love my Kindle for this. Some weeks I am able to enjoy 3-4 hours of reading time in this manner, but on average it is closer to 2 hours. Bedtime in our home is also fairly early, and once the boys are tucked in and I have spent a little alone time with my husband I retire to my bed and read for at least 30-45 more minutes choosing a few books from the stack next to my bed. Until recently my selections have been more haphazard than purposeful in that I have chosen books that most appealed to me, primarily from books used in AmblesideOnline and the House of Education Online as well as the plentiful recommendations gleaned from the wise women on the AO Forum. However, now that we have officially begun AO Year 1 in my family — and I anticipate more time being taken up with pre-reading and actual “in the trenches” schooling — I am determined to become more selective; something along the lines of Charlotte’s own Mother’s Educational Course.

    And that’s all, folks. This is the story of how one busy mom prioritizes self-education into the many demands on her time. Thank you, Brandy, for giving me the opportunity to share here. I hope that this series causes others to reflect on and evaluate their own “self- education” in the same manner that it has prompted me.

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  • Reply Karen Ferreira August 1, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Do you have the option of subscribing to your blog by email? I couldn’t find it on the blog.

  • Reply Samantha April 20, 2017 at 6:25 am

    What a delightful read, and such wise advice!

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 21, 2017 at 11:56 am

      Thank you, Samantha! I appreciate that very much:).

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