Getting Started with Charlotte Mason Homeschooling with Amy Fischer

Getting Started with Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Amy Fischer Homeschool Conversations podcast

What is Charlotte Mason homeschooling anyway?! If you’ve wondered what is the goal of a Charlotte Mason education or what a Charlotte Mason style homeschool really means, check out this conversation with Amy Fischer! We discuss what it means to describe education as a atmosphere, discipline, and a life, Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum…and also what happens when Mom is the problem in the homeschool.

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast. Read the show notes. Share with your friends!

Getting Started with Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Amy Fischer Homeschool Conversations podcast

{This post contains paid links. Please see disclaimer.}

Meet Amy Fischer

Amy Fischer is a homeschooling mom of three boys. Originally from Indiana, she now lives with her family in the northwest of England.. For eight years, she has been reading, learning, and applying the Charlotte Mason philosophy to her parenting, to her homeschool, and even herself.

She connects the Charlotte Mason philosophy with the Charlotte Mason practicalities at her blog, Around the Thicket. You’ll also find her co-hosting the Thinking Love podcast, a show that explores homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, and more. She is the author of Before Curriculum: How to Start Practicing the Charlotte Mason Philosophy in Your Home. Her writing on Charlotte Mason has appeared in Homeschooling Today and Mere Orthodoxy.

Getting Started with Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Amy Fischer Homeschool Conversations podcast

Watch my Homeschool Conversation with Amy Fischer

Prefer to listen to your content? Subscribe to Homeschool Conversations on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss a single episode!

Amy Sloan: Hello friends. I am so delighted to be joined today by Amy Fischer, who is a homeschooling mom of three boys, originally from Indiana. She now lives with her family in the northwest of England. For eight years, she has been reading, learning, and applying the Charlotte Mason philosophy to her parenting, to her home-school, and even to herself. She connects the Charlotte Mason philosophy with the Charlotte Mason practicalities at her blog around the Thicket. You can also find Amy co-hosting The Thinking Love Podcast, a show that explores home-schooling, Charlotte Mason and more. She is the author of Before Curriculum, how to Start Practicing the Charlotte Mason Philosophy in Your Home. Her writing on Charlotte Mason has appeared in Homeschooling Today and Mirror Orthodoxy. Amy, I’m just really glad to get a chance to chat with you today. There was your official bio, but can you tell us a little about yourself, your family, and how you got started home-schooling?

Amy Fischer: Absolutely. To start off, I’m just really thrilled to be here talking to you today, Amy. I got started homeschooling, well going down this track when my eldest was just a baby and I came across a Pinterest pin about homeschooling and I clicked on it and suddenly the cogs just started to fire thinking here I am living in another country. I didn’t go through the British education system, my husband didn’t go through the British education system. I’d studied over here for a master’s degree and I hadn’t heard things that were terribly inspiring.

I started to think, maybe we could just avoid all that and do it ourselves. I mentioned it to my husband and he said, oh, that sounds weird. Fortunately, we had a lot of time and it was just really gradual starting to just do a little searching, doing a little bit of research, putting some feelers out, and before very much longer I came across Charlotte Mason and some really amazing women who put the time in to write some great blog posts and share what their lives were like as home educating moms. By the time it got around to actually enrolling my son for school, we missed the deadline. It was just completely off our radar. Before we knew it, we were just on this road. There really was no other choice. It was just what made sense for us coming up next. That’s really how I ended up home-schooling and yes, we live here in England and not too far from where Charlotte Mason herself lived and it’s great.

Amy Sloan: I think that is such a funny story because as a fellow person who makes stuff for this weird internet world, sometimes you throw things out on the internet or you put something on Pinterest and you think, does anyone ever even really see this stuff?

Amy Fischer: Oh yes.

Deepening understanding of a Charlotte Mason home education

Amy Sloan: Whoever it was that put that pin up didn’t know how that was going to really change the way you thought about education. That’s so great. In those years since from Pinterest and then hearing about Charlotte Mason, how have you seen your own thoughts and perspective on education really grow and change over those years?

Amy Fischer: In some ways, there hasn’t been change in that dramatic sense of the word. I think I did find Charlotte Mason’s ideas very early on, and so really what’s characterized my journey has just been depth and going deeper and finding more about her methods. When my son was about three, I just set myself to challenge to read her six volumes before he turned six. I’ve spent time doing that and I’m on my second pass now, which is great. On top of that, I’ve really enjoyed reading backward from Charlotte Mason, so reading the people she read but also just going even further back and reading what people say about education historically and more of the classical sense. Also reading tangential topics to things that she mentions in her writing.

In her writing, she talks about developing a philosophy based on natural law. I’ve been trying to figure out what that means for a long time. I took a class on it this last autumn, which was fantastic. I’ve really just enjoyed going deep and going wide out from her method. That’s been really good. I feel like I’ve been relatively solid in what I wanted, and rooting myself in her philosophy pretty early on. The big change really has just been moving from being an early years homeschool to having my kids who are nearly all school age now so we bring my youngest into the mix officially in August.

It’s been really fun and it’s been really challenging. I think you’re talking about putting stuff out there in this internet world. It’s really easy to develop a vision for what homeschooling is going to be like based on the things people choose to put out there. I think there is just an element of, okay, this is what I thought it was going to be like, but this is what it’s actually like and these are my actual kids and my actual personality, and putting that together and really bringing her her practical method into action in during school lessons and things like that has been a really big part of it too.

Amy Sloan: That’s such an important thing for people who are listening or watching this right now to remember whatever you see and hear– well hopefully, I shouldn’t say whatever you see and hear. Whatever you see and hear here, anyway, Humility and Doxology is going to be true and real and I try to give a very real-life exploration and this is what our real life looks like. Even so, you’re only seeing bits and pieces of people’s ideas the way things are worked out in their family. It’s so important to remember that we all apply these philosophies in very unique ways. Sometimes the day-to-day look, when we look around our home, we’re like, this doesn’t look like it looked on the internet.

Amy Fischer: No.

Amy Sloan: It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

Amy Fischer: It doesn’t look like it looked on the internet and it doesn’t look how Charlotte Mason said it, but it sounded– she makes it sound smooth and easy days and you’re like, I’m not sure where those kick in. Yes, there’s definitely some amount of that going on for sure.

Amy Fischer Homeschool Conversations charlotte mason education as relationship

Finding freedom in a unique curriculum plan

Amy Sloan: Amy, what have been some of your favorite parts of homeschooling?

Amy Fischer: I think what I really love is the freedom to put together a curriculum that is right for my kids. I’m thinking in terms of a curriculum that honors their family history, that honors where we live, that helps put them in touch with not just the historical developments in England for the past centuries but also helps them get in touch with their American heritage as well. That’s a real blessing. The American Revolution in England is not really that big of a deal. It’s nice to be able to balance it out a little bit and to give them a bit more insight on things like that.

It also just brings a lot of flexibility around family life, days or weeks off when we need them, the opportunity to go and travel to see family when we would like to not being hemmed in by a school schedule is just amazing.

I think on a day-to-day level I really love the most is just the reading. I think I loved to read while I was growing up. I love to read aloud to my kids now. I am really thrilled at the books I get to read with my children. It’s always exciting and fun and it’s just a real joy to share those stories with them.

Amy Sloan: I love being able to share some of my childhood favorites-

Amy Fischer: Oh yes.

Amy Sloan: –with the kids and I sometimes, I don’t know which is more fun, to share a favorite of my own or to explore something new alongside of them. It’s just such a joy to share these stories and they become an inner circle, like the inside jokes, and just part of the way your family culture thinks about the world. It’s such a treasure for sure.

Amy Fischer: Yes, absolutely. It’s culture building. I think that’s absolutely what we get to do when we share these stories together, and we have shared stories from our family experiences but these books come in and they expand that culture and they weave into it and they just make it so much richer.

When Mom is the problem with the homeschool

Amy Sloan: Yes. Amy, earlier you were saying, okay, Charlotte Mason paints this vision of these beautiful days. I just imagine, I know I don’t live in England so I imagine just the English countryside and it’s just this beautiful rosy glow as you go through your home-school day. This is not the reality. What are some of the challenges that you guys have faced in your home-school and then how do you seek to overcome those challenges?

Amy Fischer: I think most of our challenges ultimately that come along with homeschooling, I am probably the root of my own problems. I have a lot of passion and zeal and enthusiasm that will probably come through in this podcast because I love to talk about homeschooling and Charlotte Mason. That has a negative side sometimes and it can translate into feeling frustrated or irritated because my kids don’t cooperate with my lovely plans or live up to my high ideals. That creates rifts between me and my children. Charlotte Mason says, education is the science of relations and that includes human-to-human relationships.

Education should be building up relationship between me and my children.

When I let myself get in the way of that, that relationship isn’t built up the way it ought to be. There’s the obvious things to do like repentance and prayer about it. In addition to just dealing with those things on a spiritual level, there are practical things I do.

If I’m consistently butting my head, butting heads with one of my children or one part of our home-school day always seems to be really tense or if something is always getting left undone and I’m feeling annoyed that we just can’t seem to get to compose our study, I don’t know why we can’t seem to get that onto the radio and listen to it. I do try to step back and look at the patterns that are developing and try to really query why is this keep happening because something’s off here.

I’m really fortunate. My husband is just the world’s best listener and he always gives really good feedback and a really good perspective. He works from home so he often has a firsthand perspective on what’s happening. Being able to get insight from him about the situation and just that third person can really bring a lot of insight into a situation.

Another thing that I do try to do is to plan for and respect breaks in our school year. Like I said I have a lot of passion and zeal and I think if it were just me I would just go right through it and we’d have the plan and we’d just keep on going and we’re in a role. What I found is my kids need a break. I need a break.

I need space to prepare for the next term. If we keep going on too long I start to flag and I can’t be the mom who I want to be during my home-school day. For us this mostly means keeping to a four day week and taking about a week off for every six weeks of school that we do. That’s a pretty popular approach but that rhythm really does help I think keep myself in a good routine where I’m running the marathon and I’m not trying to sprint my way through what I need to do. I know I’m talking a lot.

Amy Sloan: No that’s great. That’s such great tips.

Amy Fischer: The the other thing I do is I just always try to think of something new and give it a really good go. For instance I really like the idea of being done with school before lunch but I have been finding that actually a lot of days we aren’t finishing with school until after one o’clock. At that point we’re getting math tears and I’m flagging and everybody’s hangry. I’ve just had to give up on that and make it a priority to have everybody eating lunch by 12:30. If we need to keep going after that we just keep going.

That again is just helping create a habit to help smooth our day out and to deal with those situations that have a tendency to get tense before they actually start to erupt. I think honestly just like being in a position to take notes about what’s going on in your day is really helpful. Going back and seeing what bothered you that day or what seemed to be the patterns here and just applying some creativity to it is a really good way to deal with some of these challenges.

Amy Sloan: It’s so smart because you’re just being purposeful instead of just getting frustrated about something that’s not working, you’re taking a minute to dig down deeper, not just look at the surface issue like why is everyone crying at math? I’m frustrated but think ‘oh well maybe we should just make a change and make sure we have eaten lunch before we try to tackle that math page. I think that is something that we can all probably do more of just being a little bit more purposeful instead of just reacting in frustration to a problem. Taking a minute to try to really see what is going on below the surface.

Amy Fischer: Absolutely.

Amy Sloan: There’s this common quote probably everyone who’s listening to this has at least heard it even if they’re not a Charlotte Mason educator and that’s that Charlotte Mason said ‘education is an atmosphere a discipline and a life.’ I feel like because it said so often I don’t even know if people really stop to think about what it even means. I thought let’s dig into that a little bit and take each of those aspects and why is this the foundation of a Charlotte Mason education and then what does that actually look like in the actual day-to -day of our home-school practice.

Education as an atmosphere

Amy Fischer: I think this is really important because I think on one hand we can parrot this phrase a lot but also when we just parrot the phrase we’re almost divorcing it from her principles that come before it. Her first few principles really build up to this phrase and this idea of education being an atmosphere discipline and a life. These are what I think of as Charlotte Mason’s practical tools for education. Now we might think about narration or living books when it comes to Charlotte Mason but those fit into these tools. These are slightly broader and the practical things that we do in our lessons really stem out of these tools. To really go back to the very beginning Charlotte Mason’s first principle is that children are born persons. What she means in part by this is that children have appetites and desires.

We’re a bundle of affections. Charlotte Mason was very concerned with motivational tactics that tried to get children to cooperate with school and with the learning objectives set by parents, teachers, whoever that played on desires that are really just better left untouched. If you think about these desires we might have a desire to win at competition. Now un-kindled, that could actually lead to pretty decent behavior, trying hard in school, working hard, giving your best. Those aren’t bad things but if that desire for competition is stoked up by a teacher or an educator it can very quickly become about winning at all costs. If education is about the formation of character then you start to have a big problem here because instead of helping a child develop a better order of affections you’re actually encouraging more disorder, because you’re playing to those base or desires. Again it’s not that they’re inherently bad or wrong it’s that they can just so easily be encouraged out of order.

Amy Sloan: It’s almost like you’re promoting an idolatry. A good thing that’s becoming the best thing.

Amy Fischer: Exactly. By encouraging and tempting a child with those things you’re showing that this has value and worth and it’s just we’re already really messy because we’re human and this is just adding to the mess. Charlotte Mason says that this is disrespectful to a child’s personality and it’s also outside of the scope of our authority. God has given us authority to educate our children but he sets limits on our authority. Just like we set limits on our kids God has set limits on us and how we go about the duties he’s given us to fulfill.

The principle there is that the means have to align with the ends. Atmosphere and discipline in life are those means that align with the ends of education. If we’re talking about training up a child in the way he should go, these are the tools that we have at our disposal. Tools that are going to help our children grow in that order of affections, help us to fulfill our duty as parents but in a way that is helpful and ultimately not a hindrance to them. That’s the background.

I think it would be great to just work through each of these one at a time. That brings us to education is an atmosphere. Education is an atmosphere is one way of saying that our children are learning all the time. We don’t have to plan for it. This is not the same thing as taking our child into the kitchen and baking a cake and hoping that they’ll learn fractions which I think is what some people think of when they think of kids learning all the time but this is more about the fact that life is naturally bringing ideas and experiences to our children. For example if our children need to learn perseverance they’re going to be facing situations where they need to stick with a hard job. They are going to encounter situations where they have to learn peacemaking and cooperating with their siblings.

Their life is just stuffed full of these learning opportunities that mold and shape their character because they actually have to come face to face with a situation where they show patience and perseverance, and they have that natural reward of a job well done or they struggle and they fail. They also deal with the consequences of that. They’re very natural ways of learning where we are not even as a parent coming in and saying, ‘you need to learn this lesson.’ It’s just a lesson that is there to be learned.

Our role with atmosphere really is what Charlotte Mason calls masterly inactivity. It’s about not overprotecting our children to the point where they aren’t able to experience these situations that are meant to stretch and teach them. Charlotte Mason likes to use this example of, if you raise your child in a greenhouse, if you raise a plant in a greenhouse and move it straight outside, it’s going to wither and die. I have actually done this with plants. You go look out an hour later and they just completely wilted in the wind and you think, “What have I done?”

Amy Sloan: Plant murderer.

Get Your FREE Homeschool Planning Guide

✔4 Questions to Ask Before Planning

✔7 Steps to an Easy Homeschool Plan

Featured Image

Amy Fischer: I know it’s so terrible. What Charlotte Mason is saying is that as we, not without prudence, but as we let our children go through these tough things in their younger years, they will rise up to meet these challenges and they will learn through them and they will have the strength when they are adults to be able to cope with very serious adversity as adults and maybe when we’re not around to help them and support them as much as we would like.

Again, masterly inactivity is a funny one because we’re not actively employing it. It’s really about in-wisdom showing restraint because there is a very real temptation to just make everything easy for our kids and wonderful and take all their problems away. The commission here is really to say, “Well, I could, but I won’t,” and to just see the value in our children encountering those things when they’re growing up and in our home.

Amy Sloan: That can be a progressively more challenging thing, even as they get older. Now, with the teens I have, young adults in my home, it’s that constant seeking for Lord’s wisdom in that and asking for discernment because you would think you would just know the right thing to do in every situation. So much of what you’re talking about, really, it doesn’t even so much have to do with the kids. It’s really about our own hearts and attitudes and need for wisdom and discernment as parents.

Amy Fischer: I really agree. I think one of the things that I really appreciate about Charlotte Mason is that she just draws a very clear you’re lying between your responsibility and where the child begins. She is saying here that, “Yes, you absolutely have this role to discern and seek wisdom and be thoughtful about this but you also have a responsibility to look at that big picture and to trust your children are going to be able to glean something from that situation, even if it’s difficult.” That’s going to be really valuable for them later. I think it’s an encouraging principle. It’s challenging, but it’s an important one.

Amy Fischer Homeschool Conversations charlotte mason

Education as a discipline

Amy Sloan: Does that flow into and relate to education as a discipline?

Amy Fischer: To a certain extent, I think, yes. There’s sort of undercurrents of themes here where we’re thinking about the formation of character. These experiences where our children are learning things like perseverance and faithfulness and cooperation, that is all forming them on the level of character. That holds true for education as a discipline as well. Charlotte Mason, by education as a discipline, is referring to the discipline of habit. If you’ve been in the Charlotte Mason world at all, you’re probably hearing habit training going off in the back of your head, which is obviously really strongly associated with Charlotte Mason.

The idea is that habit is about putting routines on autopilot so that you, your children, can move through life more smoothly. Every time we stop to make a choice, it’s difficult. It’s hard to make a decision. The more we can intuit the right thing to do, the more we can go about what we need to do as if it were second nature, really, the smoother our life is going to be. This can be really practical. If we always have a habit of starting school right after breakfast, you’re using discipline as an educational tool because you and your children are doing what needs to be done and there aren’t these imposed rewards or punishments attached to it. It’s just you get started with your school day and it’s a nice start to the school day and you finish on time and it feels good to be timely.

Our habits also educate us on a much deeper level because our habits are always going to have an orientation. Subconsciously, we are always moving toward that orientation. That habit of starting school on time or putting away our toys, or solving a problem by using our words instead of tackling our brother to the floor. Those are orienting our children ultimately toward the love of God and neighbor. That’s what education is all about. It’s about directing our affections, our children’s affections towards the fulfillment of those two great commandments. In all those little ways, we are encouraging that by making it easy and the natural thing to do to think of other people, to be considerate and to ultimately love the Lord. I think really habit training can feel a little overwhelming because we know that have all these bad habits. I know I’ve got loads.

We really want to endow our children with good ones. I think we’d all love to reap the benefit of having good habits. Figuring out where to get started with this, there’s a lot to consider. I think the important thing to know is that you are probably already habit-training. You are already probably very committed to certain actions or priorities that are shaping the habits of your home. You’re already a creature of habit. Your children are already creatures of habit. This is intrinsic in how we are. It’s neurological.

It’s in our hearts. It’s all the way through. I think it’s worthwhile to find resources about habit training. I’ve got some of those of my own. I think the first thing to do is to just think about what good habits do you already have going on and think about how you got there because I think your own experience is actually going to be a really beneficial first step. By all means, seek wise counsel and read what Charlotte Mason has to say. Go into this with a hopeful perspective and with a sense of actually, you aren’t starting from ground zero. You do have a few good things going for you and probably several if you stop to think about it. Spend some time really thinking about the orientation of those habits and how you got them established. I think that can be a really fruitful exercise.

Amy Sloan: I’m thankful that not only are you saying to be purposeful, but you’re also saying to be hopeful because it can be easy when we start hearing, “Oh, yes, here’s something new I need to do and do better in my home-school,” and we come in with this weight on our shoulders. To approach this instead and hope and joy, we don’t have to change everything all at once. Just start small and move forward in hope.

Amy Fischer: Yes, absolutely. Keep optimistic and just trusting to that there is going to be fruit born out of this even if you can’t see that fruit right now.

Education as a Life

Amy Sloan: Okay, so now we move into education as a life.

Amy Fischer: Education as a life really comes down to, we are people with appetites and desires, and they’re all mixed up and messy. One of those desires is the desire to knowledge. All men desire to know, that’s Aristotle. We see that line of thought taken up by plenty of Christian thinkers throughout history. Charlotte Mason is taking it up here in her philosophy that we have this desire to know, to take in knowledge, and we have an ability to grow off of the knowledge that we take in.

Just like any of our other appetites, our desire to knowledge is prone to disorder. It is prone to go the wrong way. I think we see this a lot in maybe the way we use our phones. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I open up at my phone and I just think, “I’m seeking after knowledge, but is this the right way to seek after it?” You see it in things like gossip as well. That is a desire for knowledge that is just misplaced. It’s not rooted in a love of neighbor. Our curiosity and interest can go awry.

It can also fall dead. That’s not right either. The solution to things like constantly being on our phones, the solution to gossip is not to call our curiosity or interest, it’s to redirect it towards what is good and true and beautiful because we are designed to learn and we should learn. I think most of us will agree that we see a fundamental human good in a mind that is active and engaged and interested in good things. We want to cultivate that in our children. The education as a life assumes that in the same way that we have a physical appetite, our minds have this appetite. The way to nourish a healthy appetite for knowledge is to give the mind its proper food. The ideas that we mold over, that we ponder, the things that we think about, they make an impact on us and they share them with others.

Those things are ideas. Those ideas are the food for our minds. The task for us as parents is then to give our children the ideas that are going to help give them a taste for what is worthy and trust that they’re not only capable of learning from these ideas, but they’re hungry for them. If you’ve ever had a child who’s a picky eater or who’s not wanted to eat the dinner on their plate, the first tactic is, first of all, are they coming to the dinner hungry? If they’re coming to the dinner hungry, they’re going to be motivated to eat what’s in front of them.

The other tactic is, “Well, you don’t like broccoli today, well take a bite and next time you’ll take another bite and the next time you’ll take another bite. Maybe eventually you’ll like broccoli and maybe not.” There’s a good chance that with enough exposure to this taste, you can develop at the very least, an appreciation for it and hopefully even an affection. Education is life is really about laying that feast of ideas that Charlotte Mason likes to talk about. Trusting again that they’ve got the motivation, that they’ve got the ability, they’ve got the hunger.

Our responsibility again, is to bring them to the table and let them enjoy the feast and really trust for the rest. There’s an element of masterly inactivity in this because we have to trust our children to eat. We have to trust that they are capable of learning. We have to trust that they’re going to develop that interest in what we lay on the table before them. There’s an element of habit in this too, where we are bringing them to the table for regular meals or in terms of home-schooling regularly, bringing them to their lessons and incorporating things like narration into lessons in order to really encourage that mental digestion and to encourage our kids to start thinking about what we’re asking them to think about. You can see those other tools come into play with an education as a life.

You really lay the table with living books that are full of living ideas. Charlotte Mason does posit that well-written narrative books are just the best way for children to encounter living ideas because atmosphere on its own doesn’t bring enough to that child to really give them enough fodder to form their principles. Their experiences have a huge impact, obviously, but we want them to have more to draw on when they’re starting to make moral judgements, when they’re developing the principles that are going to stick with them through their life.

By giving them a really broad and generous diet of ideas, we are increasing to an incredible proportion, the secondhand experiences, but the experiences and examples that they’ll be able to draw on in future as adults. That’s where you really begin to see that impact on character. They just have more to draw on. They are more likely to have something that they can make a parallel to when they’re in a tricky situation and are needing to make a wise decision. They’re just going to have that richer experience and richer knowledge to draw on as they go through life. That’s education as a life. It is an exciting principle. I think all three of these are just fantastic and they do work together in a really amazing way.

Amy Sloan: Yes, definitely. I’m thinking about the scripture verse where it says, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he, so it’s what overflows from the thoughts of our heart. What are you thinking about? Well, you’re thinking about ideas and so of course we have the sin inside of us that we don’t need to have bad ideas come in to corrupt the inside of our hearts. That being said, we want to be filling our children’s minds with all of these good and beautiful and true ideas to nourish their hearts.

I also really liked what you were talking about with the broccoli, because sometimes when I hear the Charlotte Mason idea of spreading a feast for your children, I guess maybe it’s the word feast in my head, I start thinking about needing to be a cordon blue chef or something. I have to bring super fancy meal and a multi-course and I just have this picture of some super fancy castle that’s just the table is laden with all this fancy food. That is not what I hear you saying that it’s not about having these super fancy things on the table. It’s like, “Okay, bring the pot roast and the potato and the broccoli instead of the Cheetos and the hot dog.”

Amy Fischer: Yes. That would be a fun conversation, the educational intellectual equivalent of a hot-dog No, you’re absolutely right. I think there’s this idea of a feast and I think you’re absolutely correct in that we can really overplay this but I think we also need to remember that instead of actually cooking meals, we are librarians, we are laying that table with the books and the books communicate and convey the ideas.

There is a lot of pressure off mom because she’s selecting and choosing and discerning, but she’s not having to drum up these inspirational ideas from scratch out of the kitchen. There’s a lot of weight off your shoulders because it really is about putting the child directly in touch with the idea rather than you needing to put out this spread that’s amazing and palatable and beautiful that honestly your child might not actually appreciate as much as that pot roast and potatoes.

There’s definitely a range too. Sometimes we might break, pull out all the stops, but principles of good nutrition tends to hold for principles of good education. I think what we know is variety, you need to have enough, you need to eat to satiate and listen to your hunger cues. Those all have parallels when it comes to teaching our children. Go for the variety, make sure there’s enough and pay attention to your child. If their mind is full, it’s time to back off for a bit and move on to something else, not prioritize your own schedule and your own plans to the point where you’re ignoring how your child is doing in that.

Amy Sloan: Oh, that is such a good bit of encouragement. I hope that that just really brings some relief to the moms who are listening who maybe haven’t understood exactly what these ideas meant. That this is like, “Oh, okay, now they have some direction and some way to apply them more in their day-to-day home-school.”

Amy Fischer: That’s what I really hope too.

Amy Fischer Homeschool Conversations charlotte mason learning oriented toward truth and beauty is a human good

Modeling a Love of Learning

Amy Sloan: A lot of this already has to do with mom’s own learning and thinking about her own education, but I want to dig a little bit more deeply into that because we talk about wanting our children to have a love of learning and to never stop learning to learn their whole lives. Sometimes as moms we’re not necessarily modeling that for them, modeling that adulthood of loving learning and continuing our own education. How can we forge this path for our children and why does it actually matter?

Amy Fischer: Well, I think a lot of us including myself, we come into this thinking that we’re going to give our children the education that we never had. I think that’s really risky because I think it encourages this attitude of, “Well, why aren’t you thankful for all this work I’m putting in for you?” It ends up being very self-centered and it’s putting a lot of the emphasis on education on us and what we’re doing instead of just as a servant heart.

There’s nowhere in the gospels where Jesus says like, “Why on earth are you not more thankful for what I’m doing here?” It’s really the wrong approach. Again, probing into why is it that we want this for our children? Again, I think we do fundamentally recognize that learning oriented toward truth and beauty is a human good. Part of flourishing as a human is to have a desire for knowledge that is fulfilled with the right ideas, to have a mind that is active, to have a heart that’s full of thought and wonder and worship and is full of all of these good things.

We can see the connection between learning and education and that part of human flourishing. If it’s a human good and if we are also human, then education, it cannot only be about our children, it has to be about us too because if the standard is the same, when Charlotte Mason wrote that children are born persons, it’s because for a lot of people in her day, there was this opinion that children didn’t become people until some point after they were born, whether it was physical maturity or getting to school or something like that.

There was this acceptance that, “Well, we’re adults and we are people, but there’s something different about those kids over there.” Charlotte Mason elevates children up to the level of the adult and puts us all on a level field. When we are reading her principles, there’s always that question of, “Okay, well, if children are persons and we’re persons, then there’s going to be something in this that holds true for me as well, because we’re just for all people together. I think this works on a couple of levels. The first one is just a very basic that God designed us to learn. He designed us to increase in knowledge and in wisdom. When we take that up as far as we are able to, we’re just plain being obedient. That is just something that we are meant to be doing as followers of Christ is following that design for us.

That’s good for us as individuals, but it also shapes the atmosphere of our homes. Atmosphere is shaped largely by experience, but we also impact our children and how we communicate our values. Where do we spend our time, our attention, our money? All of those things are showing our children what has worth and value, and they are taking that in and imbibing it from us. When we spend time learning, and I take a very generous view of what that learning is, it can be reading on your own It can be reading aloud to your children. It can be sitting in church.

It can be anything, really. Just think big and include it all. It all counts. It shows our children that education is not just for them. It’s not something that is going to be just finished one day, but that it is a worthwhile pursuit. It’s a lifelong pursuit. I think, too, as we move forward with that, we’re creating a momentum in our homes that benefits our children. I think our children thrive off of an atmosphere where mom and dad are thoughtful and talking about ideas and interested and curious about the world outside their home.

I think that our children will come along behind that because we naturally are pulling them along behind us. when we take our own education seriously, we’re no longer pushing our kids ahead of us, trying to get them to progress beyond what we did. We’re bringing them along behind. I think if there’s any image that we take away from our own education or discussions about mother culture, it really needs to be this idea of I’m bringing my kids along behind me because this is a serious endeavor and it’s not one that stopped when I graduated from uni. The message with this is that we’re constantly being educated by our atmosphere and by our habits and our minds really do crave ideas, and they need their appropriate food oriented in the right direction because that is how we grow in Christ likeness. I think it all works together to form us as his disciples.

What Amy Fischer is reading lately

Amy Sloan: That segues into the question that I always ask my guests. What are you personally reading lately right now, Amy Fischer?

Amy Fischer: Yes. I love reading. Right now, I am reading aloud Kidnapped with my oldest son, which is super fun. I pre-read it last year and we’re really enjoying it. My second son is reading Princess and the Goblin, which is also really exciting. It’s my second time through that book with my kids. I’m really enjoying just the journeys that all these characters are going through and getting to walk through it with my kids. My own personal reading right now is– I’ve been on a Dorothy Sayers kick. I’ve been back in Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honey moon and really enjoying all of her, especially in Gaudy Night. She just has such deep insights into human character and such a skill in the way she writes about it. It’s so easy to pass off detective fiction as being a bit trite. Dorothy Sayers really brings a depth to it and so many ideas just within that novel are just really really good. That is what’s on the next day.

Amy Sloan: I love Dorothy Sayers. Yes. I can never get enough. I can never read it too often. Actually, as we’re recording this, I’m actually reading aloud the Princess and the Goblins to my kiddos as well. It’s my youngest daughter’s favorite book. She has listened to the audio-book innumerable times. When she found out that her younger brother had not yet read it, she was like, “Mom, this has to be our next Read Aloud.”

Amy Fischer: That’s wonderful.

Plan, Take Notes, Review

Amy Sloan: Very fun. It had been a very long time since I had read it, so I’ve kind of forgotten a lot of the details. I’m excited just like, “What’s going to happen next? I don’t know.” Amy Fischer, my final question for you is, what would be your best tip for helping the home-school day run smoothly?

Amy Fischer: My best tip is to plan it, take notes, and review in a continual cycle. I am a planner. I know some people really don’t like to commit to things on paper, but I find that if I spend the time planning, then I know what needs to be happening and I’m able to direct our day much more smoothly. Have your plan, have a place to take notes. I know I mentioned that at the beginning, but really, the time to solve problems is not in the middle of a home-school day. Even if you have to skip a lesson or move on or pass over something, do not try to solve the problem immediately.

In terms of scheduling and these routine issues, obviously, we have behavior issues that need to be nipped in the bud. In general, write it down, make a note. I just remembered we haven’t done artist study in five weeks. Exclamation point, write it down, save it for later. On a regular basis, come back and review every six weeks, every term, come back and look at your notes, see what you have to say, make changes based on what you’ve written to yourself, and then just do it again.

I think with this continual cycle, it helped me stay much more calm in the moment. I’d realized I don’t need to panic if suddenly I realized that my copy work’s going terribly and nobody seems to remember how to write in cursive. I can make plans for that and put them in place at the right time thought out with discernment rather than all of a sudden trying to switch tracks in the middle of a lesson or a school week or anything like that. I think the real thing there is to just let it be an iterative process. You do not have to get everything right right out of the gate. This is educating you as well. Take it as a learning experience. Every day and term and week, everything’s going to build on itself as you move through it. I think that’s really the plan is to just think about what’s happening and don’t panic.

Amy Sloan: Very good advice.

Amy Fischer: Thank you.

Find Amy Fischer online

Amy Sloan: Amy Fischer, where can people find you all around the internet?

Amy Fischer: The main place where you can find me is my blog, I would really encourage anybody who’s interested in hearing from me to sign up for my newsletter. You can go to You can get my private podcast read-along of Charlotte Mason’s third volume School Education when you sign up for my newsletter. If you’re not sure, you could also read examples of newsletters that I have sent in the past. You can make an educated choice about what you want in your inbox.

The other place you can find me is my podcast, which is Thinking Love. You can go to We’ve been on a hiatus this last spring, but we’ll be back in the autumn with more new episodes. There’s just a lot there. You can find podcasts on education, on atmosphere, discipline, life, mother culture, all of those things. Definitely get on, have a look around the archives, and look for something that strikes your interest.

Amy Sloan: Lovely. I will have links to all of those things in the show notes for this episode over at If you are listening and enjoying this episode, go ahead and check share it with a friend, a friend who’s interested in Charlotte Mason or considering home-schooling, and then tag both Amys. You have two Amys to tag today. We would love to interact with you and hear your thoughts about today’s conversation. Amy Fischer, it was great to chat with you.

Amy Fischer: You too, Amy. Thank you so much.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews Podcast Amy Sloan
Spread the love

Join My Newsletter
Enjoy subscriber exclusives and a weekly poem!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *