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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Craving Community: If You Build It, They Will Come

    January 24, 2018 by Dawn Duran

    [dropcap]O[/dropcap]nce upon a time, there was a mom of two little boys, ages 1 year and 4 years, who moved from Texas to Minnesota due to a military assignment for her husband. Once an avid reader, she hadn’t made time to feed her soul during the years with “littles” and she was starting to feel the impact. Like Aunt Frances in Understood Betsy,

    As soon as the baby came there to live, Aunt Frances stopped reading novels and magazines, and re-read one book after another which told her how to bring up children. And she joined a Mothers’ Club which met once a week. And she took a correspondence course in mothercraft from a school in Chicago which teaches that business by mail. So you can see that by the time Elizabeth Ann was nine years old Aunt Frances must have known all that anybody can know about how to bring up children. And Elizabeth Ann got the benefit of it all.

    Can any of you relate? This mama put her own needs on hold to do what she thought was for her children’s “benefit.” Oh, how wrong she was!

    She had been earnestly researching homeschooling methods in anticipation of the day coming “soon” when “school” would start in earnest in her home. And then … she read For the Children’s Sake.

    [Cue angelic chorus]

    The search was over: she had not only found the homeschooling method that would educate her children, but a philosophy by which she, too, would learn how to live.

    She dove directly into reading Charlotte Mason’s six-volume series and knew that she had found “it.” She continued to voraciously read Charlotte Mason’s works while simultaneously scouring the internet to learn more and find others who had also embraced this method.

    Enter AmblesideOnline (AO).

    She joined the AO email list via Yahoo Groups in an effort to glean as much as she could from Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in the trenches. Shortly afterwards, the AO forum came into existence and a whole new world opened up for this mom of littles eager to grow in her understanding of the Charlotte Mason philosophy. Visiting the forum and getting to know like-minded mamas there quickly became a regular part of her daily routine, and a deep need for community — hitherto unacknowledged — was fulfilled.

    (By now you have likely figured out that I am talking about myself, so I will switch to the first person, if it’s all the same to you. 😉 )

    This feeling of online community fueled a hunger for community in the flesh. By reaching out to others on the forum I corresponded with another Minneapolis AO user. We arranged to meet at a playground, and this meeting changed the trajectory of our lives in Minnesota … and beyond. From this AO mom I learned that there were several other families implementing the Charlotte Mason philosophy in the area who had elementary aged students as well as children in Year 0 like my own. They had a monthly discussion group as well as a small co-op: a handful of families meeting up for nature study, music, picture study, and handicrafts. I was thankful for what seemed a blessing sent for me personally, and I jumped right in with great enthusiasm.

    The experience I had with this group of women and their families was wonderful in every way, and I thank the Lord that my first experience of “doing Charlotte Mason” in community was such a positive one. I began having visions of how the co-op would look in several years as the children grew older and took on subjects such as Plutarch and Shakespeare — and I couldn’t wait.

    Sadly, as is typical of military life, our time in Minnesota was short-lived and we had to leave this beautiful community a few months after we discovered it. We returned to Texas temporarily to await further assignment, and I felt a great loss. I was in a desert in more ways than one: we were blessed with incredible friends locally, but no friends with plans to homeschool — and certainly none who embraced the Charlotte Mason philosophy like we did. Once again I found myself so very thankful for the vibrant AO community via the forum that had remained a large part of my life as my children grew closer to “school age.”

    After six months in El Paso we made our third cross-country move in two and a half years, this time landing in Georgia. Eager to get connected with other homeschooling families, I was happy to find several opportunities for community with other homeschoolers. We jumped right in.

    I soon learned of a Charlotte Mason style co-op that had newly begun. I was thrilled! I couldn’t wait to join other families pursuing a Charlotte Mason lifestyle in community. Unfortunately, the community I craved was not to be found; instead, we had an extremely negative experience that left me whirling for the next year and led to near total isolation from the local homeschooling community. I once again found myself in a desert, and couldn’t have been more thankful for the lifeline that the AO forum was to me during that time.

    Due to these relationships online via the AO forum, and a providential meeting that led to close friendship with another homeschooling mom, our time in Georgia became a positive one. My oldest son officially began Year 1, and we loved implementing what we had been eagerly learning for the past two years. However, all the while I was longing for a local Charlotte Mason community, and my mind raced with questions and ideas: how could one community be so very different from the other when they followed a similar model? Was there a problem with me, or with my children? What was necessary to form a strong community locally? Would I ever get to be experience the vibrant local community that I craved?

    And then the time came to move. Again. After 16 months in Georgia we were headed to Maryland. This time we hoped it would be a permanent move: no more relocation in our future until the time came for my husband to retire. It was bittersweet to leave our church and friends behind, but I was eager for the opportunity for a fresh start and was determined to find a Charlotte Mason community to call home.

    I soon realized that one didn’t exist … so I set out on a mission to build one.

    It didn’t happen overnight, of course, but it did happen. We have been living in Maryland for three years now, and today the In a Large Room community of Central Maryland is thriving — and growing by leaps and bounds.

    In my next post I will be giving you more background as to how this community began, and tips for getting one started in your area, but today I want to leave you with some encouragement. If you find yourself longing for local community like I was, then pray. Pray for God to move in your area, and perhaps even through you, to bring your vision to fruition. Know what you want, and step out of your comfort zone to make it happen. Chances are that someone else longs for your vision, too. Again, pray for guidance and wisdom, and then … act, because if you build it, they will come.


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  • Reply The In a Large Room Community | Afterthoughts May 10, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    […] The encouragement I wish to offer with this series of posts is to show that you, too, can have local community to support you in your Charlotte Mason journey. It won’t look the same as our community does, but it will fit the needs of your community and its members. It will grow slowly and organically just as ours has done. But it is not impossible: if you build it, they will come. […]

  • Reply Feast: The Core of Our Community | Afterthoughts May 10, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    […] I hope that this peek into our local Feast community inspires you to form a group of your own. All it takes is two eager families to make it happen! Remember: if you build it, they will come. […]

  • Reply Victoria April 26, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Wow, thanks for sharing your beautiful journey toward founding the In a Large Room Community! I feel enriched for having read it, and especially for having been welcomed into it.

    • Reply Dawn Duran April 27, 2018 at 3:46 am

      Honestly, Victoria, our room got a little larger when you joined us. Your shining personality and thoughtful contributions are a joy to us.

  • Reply Kate February 25, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Two weeks ago, I was fishing for an older lady in my church to read Volume 6 with me and discuss it. She homeschooled her children and is now in public education, and her husband was preaching for the month on the philosophy of the church. I was filled with hope that she would enjoy talking about educational philosophy. When I went to talk to her about it, she told me she wasn’t as philosophical as her husband. =( =( =( I was pretty bummed. I’ve been hoping for someone to discuss this with for a year! BUT she said she would pray that I would find a philosophical friend that would be interested in reading it with me. So I started praying, too.

    One week ago, we spontaneously invited a newish family over for dinner. Her oldest is 6 and they are just beginning some school, and were considering an online public school format. We talked a little bit about what we do for school (AO) and about Charlotte Mason, but just casually. I wasn’t trying to get her to do something different, or be pushy or anything. But then a couple of days later, she messaged me to say she had been reading the AO site and she was in love! And then a couple days after that, she messaged to ask if she could borrow Volume 1 from me. Eeeeeek! I’m sure you can imagine how giddy I was. I actually don’t have Volume 1, but I suggested she borrow Volume 6 to get the overview and then go back through 1-5. She said yes! So then I suggested reading it together and discussing it and she said yes! And then I asked another friend if she wanted to join us – and she said yes! And THEN I ran into another friend at Walmart and told her how three of us are reading this book and she said SHE wanted to join us too! I don’t know what this is going to become, and I don’t want to hope for too much, but I am excited!

    So, yes, PRAY! I am just stunned and overjoyed by that quick, favorable answer to our prayers. =)

    • Reply Dawn February 26, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      Wow, Kate. WOW!!! This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing with us here!

  • Reply Annaleise February 9, 2018 at 4:44 am

    Oh I enjoyed this so much, would very much love to start something in my area in Australia , how encouraging!! Blessings ??

    • Reply Dawn February 9, 2018 at 8:29 am

      I’m so glad that you found in encouraging, Annaleise! I hope you will be inspired to try to build a community of your own. All it takes to start is two interested families!

  • Reply Ann January 30, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    The timing of this post could not have been timed any better. Thank you for the reminder to pray and for the positive anticipation of future posts!

    • Reply Dawn January 31, 2018 at 9:16 am

      Yay! I’m glad it could be an encouragement, Ann.

  • Reply Lacey January 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Thank you Dawn! Looking forward to you next post 🙂

    • Reply Lacey January 27, 2018 at 2:12 pm

      It is always on a blog or such I never spell check. Sigh 😉

      *Looking forward to your next post.

      • Reply Dawn January 27, 2018 at 3:46 pm

        Thanks, Lacey!

  • Reply Karen (in Ky) January 24, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    I just adore you.
    Love to ‘feel’ the warmth and sincerity of this community, even if silently and from afar!!

    • Reply Dawn January 25, 2018 at 10:39 am

      Oh, Karen. I adore the heck out of you, too. Miss you, but so glad to “see” you here every now and then.

  • Reply Virginia Lee Rogers January 24, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    So looking forward to this series, Dawn!! (Look I used 2 exclamation marks) ? Yes, pray, always the most important place to start. God’s plans are always better than what we can even imagine for ourselves. If you build it they do come, and the building doesn’t have to be complicated either. Looking forward to your story and the sharing of wisdom you’ve gathered as you’ve built community.

    • Reply Carol January 24, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      Me too! I’ve had a couple of great communities in the past but not in recent times. There are more homeschoolers here than there ever were, but not many that seem to want to grow themselves as mothers, at least not near me. And yes, I will pray. I was and then I sort of stopped.

      • Reply Dawn January 25, 2018 at 10:41 am

        That’s the kicker, isn’t it? Finding other like-minded mamas who are fully invested in this homeschooling gig.

    • Reply Dawn January 25, 2018 at 10:42 am

      “…the building doesn’t have to be complicated either.”

      No, it does not. So true, Virginia Lee!

      I think people become intimidated and overwhelmed, which stops them before they even begin. But all it takes is connecting with one other family, and you never know what kind of wave will be created once that happens.

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