Once 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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