Last year, my revelations centered around how much I had misunderstood what I had learned from my first Novena. I didn't really discuss how I was going to move forward, largely because I didn't know at the time. I wanted to write a post about my decisions, but it never happened. The closest I came was this, written last November. This year has been a tough one for me as a person, and it hasn't left much time for things like blogging. The most relevant aspect of my reflections is that I decided to use Ambleside Online for our course of study, substituting or combining only when absolutely necessary.
As much as I wanted to love Ambleside Online and to embrace it fully, I also had to come to terms with the fact that it is a very Protestant curriculum using some very Protestant materials. Some books can be easily substituted wholesale. Other books are trickier to deal with, as I consider issues of bias, the omission of factual material, and even outright erroneous statements. I also have a BA in History, which can be frustrating when trying to work with historical materials written for children. I know there's more to the story, and that events and motivations are being vastly simplified. And sometimes I think the way the events are being described serves the author's agenda far more than promoting a greater understanding of the issues at hand.
There's a fallacy that says that the closer the author is to the time period he writes about, the more true what he's writing is going to be. So for example, Bede writing in the early 7th Century about the 5th Century will be more accurate that someone writing about that time period later. Or Scott, writing in the early 1800's, is going to have a better idea of the 12th Century than someone writing about that time period today. Or even that Chaucer, writing stories for people of his own day, is going to be able to accurately describe what an entire nation or class of people thought and felt at that time period. Any piece of writing is going to have a bias - it is impossible to write as a human being and not bring some piece of yourself to what you are writing - and it is vitally important in the study of history in particular to be aware of the author's bias. Is the author writing what he is writing because it fits his narrative of events? Is he highlighting something about a group of people because it is a nascent component of something he holds true about those people in the author's time period?
Perhaps the best thing to say at this point is that the study of history is complicated. We can never know what really happened, or exactly why certain people and groups of people decided to do the things they did. And even if we read what they wrote, we don't know that they are being entirely truthful in their reflections, or that they even really understand their own motivations. How often do I completely understand my own motivations for my actions?
And in all this, I have to consider my children. As children. But also as people who are growing into adults, adults who hopefully can weigh and consider and contemplate. I also have to consider my highest goal in our home, namely to grow our family in Wisdom and Virtue by exposing ourselves abundantly to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
Does this mean I wouldn't read Ivanhoe with my children again, or Robin Hood? Books that supposedly take place in the 12th Century, but in some ways have just as much to say about attitudes and perceptions in the 19th Century as they do about the 12th? No, absolutely not. But to read book after book after book with a similar bias and worldview - a worldview I find flawed and incomplete - risks my highest goal for my family. What are we internalizing when we read work after work in that same worldview? How can we not help but to at least partially internalize that worldview, even if it is at least somewhat at odds with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty?
And this, finally, leads me to my greatest revelation in this recent time of prayer. Ambleside Online is not THE Charlotte Mason course of study. It may be the 800 pound gorilla of Charlotte Mason booklists, but it is not the only way to implement Charlotte Mason's Philosophy of Education. And while I have no intention of abandoning Ambleside Online, I do intend to abandon the perspective that to follow Ambleside Online to the letter is the only way to implement a Charlotte Mason curriculum. That if I don't follow Ambleside Online to the T it means there is something lacking in me, or that I can't cut it as a Charlotte Mason educator. That if I use more recent materials I am somehow diminishing my children's education. And I know none of these perspectives are officially part of Ambleside Online, but I know they are ones that I have internalized, and ones that I feel are present in the Ambleside Online community to varying degrees.
And with this revelation, I am considering our next year in a new light. I'm going to use the framework of Ambleside, and many of the books, but I'm going to be substituting more. In particular, Year 8 is going to get some substantial changes. I am also going to read through Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 again, and perhaps the Living Page again as well. There's much to consider and contemplate, but I no longer feel anxious. I feel like I am seeing a way forward, one that will help my family to grow in Wisdom and Virtue as we consider the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.