Humility, Worship, and Relationship (with Melissa McMahan)

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Sometimes we homeschool mamas can be tempted to look to homeschooling for our identity and even as a source of pride. But when we view homeschooling as but one aspect of our role as mothers, when we see that it is an act of worship and service to God, and when we prioritize relationship with our children, we can truly experience joy in the homeschool journey. My guest Melissa McMahan joins us this week to share her perspective as a long-time homeschooling mom of 5 daughters. We chatted all about classical Charlotte Mason education, pursuing our own interests as mothers, and more. This conversation was such a delight!

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

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Who is Melissa McMahan?

Melissa and her husband Mike homeschool their five daughters in a rambling old house in Alabama. They have always used the classical Charlotte Mason curriculum AmblesideOnline, and are about to graduate their oldest in 2021. Melissa teaches ballet at a local studio and frequently appears in community theatre productions. She enjoys reading good books, baking yummy food, and tending her roses. You can find her on Instagram and YouTube as Cair Paravel Academy.

Watch my interview with Melissa McMahan

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Why homeschooling? {0:53}

Mike and Melissa have 5 daughters ranging from 17 to 8 years old. Melissa considers herself an unlikely homeschooler. She spent some years in Alaska when her father was stationed there with the military, and met a unique, crunchy homeschool family while there. (She said half-jokingly that they were the kind to send their 9-year-old into the woods to kill a bear, Davy Crockett style!) While she thought they were lovely people, she did not see herself following their example of homeschooling!

After college, Melissa worked for a conservative think tank and came across many other homeschoolers. Her opinions about homeschooling began to change.

When she and her husband moved to Alabama, they met several families in their church who homeschooled. She actually began tutoring some of them before they even had children of their own!

When her oldest was 4 or 5 Melissa discovered Charlotte Mason, and they’ve homeschooled ever since. “We’ve always taken it year by year and child by child,” she said. “I’m as surprised as anyone that we’re still here…I guess it’s official: we’re really homeschoolers now! Still no knives and bears, though,” she smiled.

“Homeschoolers come in all different flavors,” she reminded.

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Charlotte Mason Education {4:55}

Charlotte Mason was actually introduced to Melissa in a rather negative way. It was basically portrayed as children playing around in the wildflowers and not learning math and science.

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Later, however, she read Charlotte Mason’s own volumes and was introduced to Ambleside Online. She realized that was not what a Charlotte Mason education was like at all!

“I love the generous spirit behind it of the women who have put together this curriculum for all to enjoy freely and the supportive group that’s there now of fellow moms.” It was the upper year book lists, especially, that sold her on the Ambleside Online Curriculum!

The best perk of being a homeschool mom is being able to pre-read and call it work,” Melissa smiled.

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Melissa said that one thing that really appeals to her is that famous Charlotte Mason statement, “Children are born persons.” Melissa noted that it is easy for us in the homeschool community to get caught up in pride. A humble education sets out a wide feast for our children of great minds and wisdom to enjoy.

She also loves having a Scripture-saturated curriculum.

“Our pouring out into our children is just an expression of our own worship for God. It’s fulfilling the occupation He’s placed us in right now. That won’t last in this form for very long… If all of our identity and self-worth is in there, it’s going to be really, really empty when they’re gone. Not to mention, it’s going to be wasted because it should all be given in worship to Him.”

Sometimes homeschooling is challenging {11:12}

Melissa said that it’s been important to her not to place her identity in her calling as a homeschooler: “I’m not a homeschooler. I’m a mom who homeschools.”

Worshiping in the church and serving in the community is important. She also wants to show her daughters the full life an adult woman can have, which is not exclusively confined to the role of homeschooling.

One challenge Melissa mentioned is that it is sometimes to easy to view all her girls as a clump rather than individuals.

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Homeschooling multiple children {14:35}

Melissa’s family enjoys using their Morning Time Symposium as a time all can come learn together. She also made the decision to have each child have their own year in Ambleside.

Melissa noted that because everyone has their own year and is studying their own things in history, it leads to many fascinating conversations as a family.

When the McMahan children were still very young, an older, wise father told Melissa and her husband, “Never run an errand by yourself.” She’s seen the value of using those errand times for individual attention with different children.

Melissa encouraged us to focus on the mother/child relationship as most important, not merely our relationship as home educator/child.

Questions for each Homeschool Conversations Guest {20:16}

What are you reading lately?

What is one thing you would say to a new homeschool parent?

“Figure out why [you] want to homeschool. Oftentimes people go into homeschooling out of fear. That’s not a great reason. Think of the positives of why you want to homeschool.”

Find Melissa McMahan online

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

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