Today’s Chat is with a Charlotte Mason Influencer. She is well known throughout the Charlotte Mason community and beyond. And it’s no wonder because she is a warm and gentle soul and is passionate and enthusiastic about bringing the relational education of Charlotte Mason into the lives of as many children as possible. She helps families implement a Charlotte Mason education in their homes in many ways. One way is by serving local families alongside her mom through Living Books Library and also by serving families worldwide by hosting A Delectable Education podcast and speaking at retreats and conferences. We have learned and know much about Charlotte Mason because of her, but we want to learn and know more about HER! So without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce you to our first guest, Emily Kiser!
Hi, Emily! I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am that you agreed to be my very first guest for Chats with Friends. I’ve been wanting to interview you for a while now, and I’m sure there are plenty of people from the Charlotte Mason Soiree Facebook group and followers of the A Delectable Education podcast who are going to love hearing our chat! Let’s get to it!
First off…how did you meet Charlotte Mason?
I truly met Miss Mason when I started reading her words to my mom. I was 27, living with my parents and helping to run our private lending library. Up until this point I had only read *about* Charlotte Mason education, and I liked what I read, but wasn’t thinking too seriously about aligning my single self with any one educational philosophy when I didn’t even have children to homeschool! But, in the spring of 2009 I started reading Home Education aloud to my mom since she had never been able to read it for herself (neither a Braille nor an audio version existed then, and she didn’t have screen reading software at that time to read it for herself online). After the first few chapters I was hooked.
I think I remember in one of the A Delectable Education podcast episodes where you mentioned that you were a bit hesitant to the idea of homeschooling but had a shift in your thinking. What were your thoughts before that shift and what led you to it?
I was homeschooled myself for the first three years of my education. My siblings (I am the oldest) were in and out of public school/homeschool until my youngest sister, who never went to public school. I was never antagonistic about homeschooling in general, but I never thought that I’d homeschool my own (future) children. But then my dad shared an article with me written by John Taylor Gatto tracing the history of compulsory public education in this country. I knew I would never willingly send my children to public school after that! Around this time I started to seriously consider helping my mom open our private library to homeschoolers in our area and one thing led to another–we opened our doors in August of 2006 and are now in our 11th year of supplying local families with living books!
That is definitely one thing I wish I had had in my education. Living Books! What is one thing about a Charlotte Mason Education that you would have loved to have had in your own education?
Hands down, narration. I have such a deep respect for what happens in our brains when we narrate and I know that I would be much better educated if I had been expected to employ this natural and simple, yet extremely powerful tool.
I loved hearing that you homeschooled some of your younger siblings while you were still at home. What were some unique challenges you faced in doing so, and what were some things that made a lasting positive impact on you?
I think the biggest challenge I had was being a sister and not a parent…my youngest brothers often resented having 4 parents all telling them what to do, so finding a balance of authority but not over-wielding that was difficult. I know that the experience really helped me learn the practical application of the philosophy I was learning at the time. It is very difficult not to over-teach! Not to ask too many questions or forestall narration. And it is very hard at times to keep up the look of sympathetic interest when you yourself are trying to figure out what in the world Plutarch was saying! I am so very grateful to have had experience working with two boys who have different learning challenges–it truly helped me see every single child as a person with unique gifts and things to contribute to the world. I know I am better equipped to work with my own children now!
Having been a student of CM for over a decade, what is it that you look forward to most about homeschooling your boys?
Emily: All of it. Plutarch, Shakespeare, History, finally learning Math for myself, but really implementing the whole feast–short lessons, grand discussions, reading excellent books (but we already do this), and above all, watching them form their own unique science of relations.
Could you describe Charlotte Mason’s philosophy to a mom interested in homeschooling yet has no knowledge about the various educational philosophies out there?
First, I would say how important it is to have a philosophy of education to refer back to and give the underlying structure to your homeschool. I have worked with homeschool moms for over a decade now and have seen, more often than I would wish, the insecurity and indecision that all contributes to loads of guilt we feel in not giving our children the very best. No one needs that burden! A philosophy of education can help you weed out at least 75% of all the options available to you–all those “amazing things!” that work really well for your good friend but seem never to live up to your expectations.
That said, I would explain that the Charlotte Mason Method is a whole, entire, cohesive philosophy of education that dictates the actual day-to-day practice of lessons. Her method is unique in that it emphasizes that the Holy Spirit is the *actual* teacher of each individual child and her method gives the freedom for each individual person to grow and develop according to His plan for him/her. This means that the method is very natural–it begins with how all children learn most naturally and spreads a wide and rich feast of ideas that allows each child to taste freely the banquet that lies before them. Mason believed, as I often quote, “The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” (Vol. 3, p. 171) A Charlotte Mason education is all about helping your child develop deep relationships with as many things as possible so he has the very fullest life ahead of him. I could go on, but I think that quote sums up the distinctive heart of the Charlotte Mason Method!
Y’all have quite a faithful following to your podcast A Delectable Education. I became addicted after hearing just the first episode! Tell me step by step how ADE came about…where did the idea come from and how did y’all go about pursuing this vision?
Ever since we opened our library, mom and I have held homeschool workshops and seminars. At first we were just trying to get parents to see that living books were a vital part of any education so we would briefly describe major philosophies of education and show how living books can fit into each. That is how I first began learning about Charlotte Mason. As we learned more and more about what CM truly believed and taught, we stopped trying to be “all things to all people” and started focusing on just the Charlotte Mason Method. These were so popular that for two years we held monthly seminars during the school year to explain various aspects of her method. As our lives became more full (I got married, and shortly thereafter got pregnant with my first child to be followed a mere 17 months later by my second son), we searched for a way to continue educating the moms in our community, but faced the difficulty of doing this within the confines of our schedules. We tossed around the idea of recorded seminars, and then about a year and a half before the podcast aired we had the idea to do a free podcast. It was just a nebulous idea though, but was always in the background, ruminating.
Then, in the summer of 2015, we decided it couldn’t be put off any longer. We saw many moms in our library floundering–trying to implement Charlotte Mason’s method but feeling confused and ill-equipped because of the wealth of information, and often mis-information available. It was so heart-breaking to hear these moms’ confessions about their short-coming and realize that they were feeling burdens that they didn’t need to feel. We knew that if they could understand what Mason really said they would “know the truth and the truth would set them free.” So we persuaded our dear friend and fellow-CM enthusiast, Nicole, to join us and we launched A Delectable Education in October 2015. Our vision for the podcast was and will continue to be to bring what Mason said about education to the listening ears of anyone who tunes in.
Along the same lines of talking with moms…If you met a mom who was pulling her kids out of public or private school tomorrow to begin homeschooling them, what would your advice be if you only had about 10 minutes to chat with her?
I would want her to know that homeschooling will be messy. It will invade her life. She will never be the same, and neither will her children. And that all of this is a very good thing. As we learn to walk closely in the steps Jesus laid out for us, we learn that this life is full of struggle but it is necessary to making us more like Our Lord. So when the day-to-day gets hard, I would want this mom to know that she is not failing. Rather, she is being refined and that this intense role of mom and homeschooler is sanctifying her as she continues to persevere. (I am an eyes-wide-open kind of girl, so I like to be prepared for the worst before diving in!)
As far as moving into a distinctly CM direction, I would encourage her to expect a major paradigm shift in her own understanding of education. Most likely she was not educated this way and it is hard to get out of the mindset that education means answering comprehension questions, filling out worksheets, and stuffing a child with “all the right facts.” A CM education takes faith and requires a lot of grace to be shown *to ourselves* as we work through and figure it all out–which will most definitely be a life-long process. In essence, it’s a very simple method, but as we learn more we go higher up and further in.
What is in your kitchen sink right now?
At this moment, nothing! Astonishingly enough!
Tell me about a book you’ve read within the last year that was your most favorite and why.
My favorite book of 2016 was The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It is the story of unlikely heroes–just average men who together achieved greatness. Their mundane daily lives became extraordinary and gave hope to an entire country discouraged by the Great Depression. Besides the facts of the story, this book restored my hope that non-fiction can again rise to the literary heights of strong narrative not seen for decades. It was gripping! Previously, I never gave a thought to rowing crew, but after this book I wanted to learn more! My previous relationships with the time period in America and Germany were deepened. I can’t say exactly how my life will be changed because of the ideas in this book, but I know that it will be.
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color are you and why?
I really do not have a good answer for this! I am a painter, and think of myself as creative but feel like the honest answer is a boring “middle grey”–the color that is exactly between all the complementary colors. Why? Well, I’ve always been drawn to explore the universal truths found in the most commonplace objects. How’s that for an esoteric artsy answer?!
In closing, what would you want the readers to take away from our chat today?
That I am just another homeschooling mom who just happens to be a Charlotte Mason Geek! I love to teach people about the Charlotte Mason Method of education because I wish as many children as possible can benefit from the wide feast of relational education. Anyone can learn with this method because it truly meets each person where they are at and helps them grow deeply as they make slow and steady progress. For any mom who feels overwhelmed, I believe that is true for us as well as we learn to implement this method. The most encouraging words I can leave you with are, of course, Charlotte Mason’s:
Well, wasn’t that absolutely delightful? I could “listen” to Emily for hours. What a treat to be able to hear from her heart and get to know the voice behind the mic a little bit better! Remember you can find her on iTunes at A Delectable Education and because I know that you will positively LOVE the podcast, be sure to subscribe and then leave a rating and review. And if you’re one of the faithful followers already, have you left a rating and review yet? If not, go do that now!
Are there any questions that you have about Emily that I didn’t ask her? Click on Leave a Comment below and as she has spare moments, she will answer them!
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