S6 E8 | Live from Ambleside: Thoughts from a Charlotte Mason Graduate (Julie Ross interviews her daughter, Rachel)
If you are one of the many parents who has wondered whether a Charlotte Mason education will truly prepare your child for college and beyond, this episode is for you! Julie interviews her daughter who is a student at the University of South Carolina. Rachel shares what led her to major in neuroscience, the skills she gained from her Charlotte Mason home education that she uses in college, and her advice for parents who are considering this type of education for their children. Spoiler alert: the Charlotte Mason method really works!
Rachel Ross is the second of Julie’s five children. After graduating from a Charlotte Mason homeschool, Rachel is currently a student at the University of South Carolina studying neuroscience on a pre-medical track.
Julie H. Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, curriculum coordinator, and assistant director of a homeschool academy, Julie has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.
A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter
S2 E4 | A High School Charlotte Mason Education, Part 1
S2 E5 | A High School Charlotte Mason Education, Part 2
S4 E16 | Transitioning from Written Narrations to High School Writing (with Chelli Guthrie)
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Julie Ross Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich living education in your modern homeschool. So pull up a chair. We're glad you're here. Today's episode of The Charlotte Mason Show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at Medi-Share.com.
Julie Ross Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm Julie Ross, and I'm here today with—.
Rachel Ross Her daughter.
Julie Ross If you can't tell, we're related.
Rachel Ross We are. Rachel. That's my name.
Julie Ross Yes. So Rachel and I are broadcasting today from Ambleside, England which has been so exciting. We were supposed to come for her senior trip last year, but then because of COVID, we had to reschedule it. But it turned out, just by chance, that the weekend I rescheduled it was the Queen's Jubilee. So that's been really fun. We got to go to the parade and see Ed Sheeran and do all this other fun stuff that we wouldn't have got to do last year. So it all worked out.
Rachel Ross Yeah. Glad we didn't go last year.
Julie Ross So yeah. So today we went and walked around Ambleside, which is just about the cutest place ever.
Rachel Ross And Charlotte Mason's grave is here.
Julie Ross And we got to see that. And the Armitt. And we're staying in this cute little cottage which— wish you could see it because it's really adorable and has a cute little garden, and I wanna live here.
Rachel Ross Yeah, it's super cute. All the ceilings are really short.
Julie Ross That is true. And the stairs are really— we couldn't fit our suitcases up the stairs. They're down here in the living room.
Rachel Ross It's worth it. It's cute.
Julie Ross It is. But we wanted to record this podcast for you because one of the questions I get asked about all the time is if I have any Charlotte Mason graduates who could talk about what it was like to be homeschooled with the style. Or I often get asked like, "Does this is actually work?" And I'm like, "What do you mean by that?" And then I'll start talking to people and I'm like, "So how old is your child? And they're like, "Four." Okay, y'all take a deep breath. It's going to be okay.
Rachel Ross It will be okay. I feel like a lot of the times you get a question of how your curriculum transfers to college as well, because college is like the public school system. If you go to a public college.
Julie Ross Right. Unless you go to Oxford, which we're hoping for it. We're going to go there tomorrow and just be like, "Please stay. We'd love to have you."
Rachel Ross You should accept me into your college.
Julie Ross Yes. Well, it's funny. You are correct. Like the public colleges in America are very much like public high schools in the fact that it is rote learning, a lot of memorization, a lot of textbooks, a lot of, "What can we cram into you? And what can you regurgitate out that we can prove that you actually learned something when you didn't actually learn it so we give you a degree that costs a lot of money and hope that you're going to make it in life?"
Rachel Ross Exactly.
Julie Ross That's kind of how that whole process works.
Rachel Ross Yeah. I sat for Mom one time at one of her conventions and I got that question quite a few times.
Julie Ross About what? What college is like?
Rachel Ross Or just how it transfers? Like your curriculum.
Julie Ross Oh I didn't know that kind of stuff. Was that when you were at my booth?
Rachel Ross Mhm. Yeah.
Julie Ross Yeah, I guess this is a popular question. And the last convention I was at, I had someone ask if they thought that maybe their child should use textbooks in high school to prepare them to have textbooks in college. And I was like, "I'm thinking if they read real books in high school, the textbook in college is going to seem really easy. You don't have to give them easy, watered down stuff in high school to prepare them for easy watered down stuff in college." I don't know. What do you think?
Rachel Ross I agree.
Julie Ross Just seemed so odd to me.
Rachel Ross I agree with that a lot.
Julie Ross Because you're going to have easier stuff later, we're going to give you easy stuff now. And that'll help you be a better thinker and a better person. That doesn't make a lot of sense. Yeah. And then I got the question a lot about— well, one guy once wanted to know if I had any proof, like statistics. He wanted numbers of how many people who had been homeschooled using Charlotte Mason's methods had gone to college and what kind of income they earned. I'm like, "I don't have those kind of statistics, and I don't think anybody does." But it's been around for over a hundred years, and it was used all throughout the British Empire. So there's been plenty of people. And it was used in schools throughout England, too. Even the Queen wrote a little foreword to Charlotte Mason's volumes. So, you know, there's been lots of people. But statistics and numbers— I have no idea, right? And to me, it was an interesting question, right? And the person— obviously, these questions that we get are from people who really care about their children. And they want them to be successful. That's why they're asking these questions, because it seems so different from a lot of the education that I had growing up and some of what you're experiencing in college that, you know, people are concerned. And I understand that. I totally get that. I'm not belittling their questions at all. But I think the whole process requires a step of faith because it is so different. And because you're— the whole way that you're kind of structuring things is so different as well. And also steps of faith in you don't always see the fruit right away. It's not like I can create a test and go, "Oh, you got nine out of ten right, so you've learned everything you need to learn this week. Way to go." It's like these little seeds and these little ideas that might come out years later when something else that you're doing remind you of this or that. Yes. So anyway. Right. So tell us about what you were— I'll let you talk because I've been talking a lot.
Rachel Ross So I guess I started homeschooling second grade. So I've pretty much been homeschooled my entire career up till college. I'm studying at the University of South Carolina. I'm studying neuroscience, and I'm on the pre-medical track, which means I'm hoping to go to medical school.
Julie Ross So what made you choose to study that?
Rachel Ross A lot of it came from where I— like growing up, especially in high school, I volunteered a lot. And a lot of that ended up being in the inner city or with students. Like in high school, I volunteered with middle schoolers. I also volunteered at some after school programs in the inner city and at a lot of homeless shelters. And I was able to see a lot of the different struggle people go through in general, but also a lot of different neurotypical disorders, especially in the inner city, which is sad. And I wanted to learn more about it so that I would be able to help them. And I found myself very interested in the topic, and I hope to continue to learn more in order to help people like the people that I've met.
Julie Ross And I feel like we've had a lot of conversations about our minds work and why people do what they do, and we like to analyze things.
Rachel Ross Yeah. People watching is one of my many hobbies. Is that a homeschool thing to say?
Julie Ross I think it's— some people like it.
Rachel Ross I make a lot of homeschool jokes. If you hear something, I'm so sorry.
Julie Ross I think that happens when you go to college, right? So what do you feel like is the biggest difference then in terms of how you're learning now or how you were learning when you were homeschooled?
Rachel Ross That's a good question. I guess, like I said before, it's very— as you explained, it's very quick learning, kind of shoving all this information in your brain to regurgitate it out for a simple test. A lot of the tests I've had so far– I'm only a freshman, so the tests I've gotten so far aren't cumulative. So it really is you learn a certain topic for maybe two weeks before you have a test and just spit it all out. So I feel like that's very different than reading small bits of a book over time and writing narrations about them. And I feel like you are able to be more detail-oriented in your learning, and just the time spent learning is helpful. It's helpful not to only have two weeks and so you're spending kind of like two hours a day on a certain subject, and I feel like that's not a great way to learn.
Julie Ross So it's a different approach, right? To learn a little bit and have to take a test on it and not have to accumulate it and take your time and really think through things?
Rachel Ross And that will change with the class. I will eventually have some that are like that.
Julie Ross But do you feel like that—because you weren't used to that style of learning—that it's harder?
Rachel Ross I think having the tools of learning that came with slow, gradual learning— the tools I learned of how to learn were helpful because the way they teach you learn in college isn't helpful. That memorization, shoving in your brain— it doesn't really work very well. I wouldn't be able to graduate and retain that information. And so having the experiences of just everything that comes with Charlotte Mason learning– there's so much to it. They're just tools that you'll end up using to learn on your own.
Julie Ross That's right. Because all education is self-education. Yeah. It's teaching you— if you haven't noticed, Rachel and I have the same laugh. We get that from everybody.
Rachel Ross And we talk the same.
Julie Ross So I apologize that it's double Julie.
Rachel Ross And we look alike.
Julie Ross There's a lot of laughing happening. So yes, I apologize for that. But that's good. We're happy people. You had said something once about—I can't remember what class you were telling me about—where you had to take some kind of like—I think it was a psych class—and you had to take some kind of test to determine your recall ability versus your abstract reasoning. And you called me and you're like, "Mom! Charlotte Mason works!"
Rachel Ross I don't remember the details of that experiment. I took cognitive psychology. We had these tests that we took online to kind of test different principles that we learned. I think one of them was abstract, which would be like retaining words over retaining letters and numbers. And I don't remember which it said was easiest. But the abstract—like learning the word—I had a better imagination and was able to remember the words.
Julie Ross And the ideas, the complex—
Rachel Ross And the hypothesis was that either the numbers or the letters—I don't remember which—would have been— you would have retained them better because we're used to that in the school system— memorization of sequences. But I remembered the words better and I remember he pointed out in the class. He was like, "This one is not what was supposed to happen."
Julie Ross Here's the anomaly.
Rachel Ross Which I mean, neither is bad or good. It's just memorizing a sequence or memorizing a sequence of words over letters. But I thought that was cool because it was almost like a story, and I was able to piece them together. It was like "girl" "wood" "chop", you know, just a sequence of the words, and I was able to be like—
Julie Ross Because they had meaning to you rather than just arbitrary things, numbers and letters wouldn't have any meaning so you— Well you explained the experiment to me that day, but I didn't even understand what she was saying that day and I was like, "Oh, that's nice. Thank you for sharing."
Julie Ross Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades 1 through 12 that is family centered, inspired by Ms. Mason's programs and philosophy, and rooted in books, beauty, and biblical truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at AGentleFeast.com.
Julie Ross One of the other questions I get asked a lot about is if writing narrations translates to being able to write essays. I know you had one class where you had to write like a paper— was it a paper a week?
Rachel Ross I wrote a paper every week for psychology.
Julie Ross But it kind of like you had to read and then you had to summarize.
Rachel Ross Oh, yeah, that was English.
Julie Ross Oh that was English. Okay, okay. Do you feel like you were able to do that easily? Do you feel like, "Oh, I wish I would've learned how to write papers, formal papers more?"
Rachel Ross I don't know if it's like genetics because you're good at writing too, but it was probably the practice. I mean, it was so easy to do that. Like it took me maybe 30 minutes to write a paper on something I had read. And she was like, "Oh, these are so good." Well, thanks, I guess. Like just writing my daily narrations.
Julie Ross Well, that's what— when you told me about the assignments, I was like, "That's just what you've been doing this whole time. Reading and writing about it.
Rachel Ross That class was easy for me. I feel like just reading in general helps with writing more. And you do a lot of writing stuff in your curriculum.
Julie Ross True. Yeah. Do you have like a favorite book or a favorite thing that learned about?
Rachel Ross I have like 18 years. So it's kind of a lot of things.
Julie Ross Okay, maybe like high school. We won't do all. Remember that picture book about—?
Rachel Ross Smelly Socks.
Julie Ross Smelly Socks, yeah.
Rachel Ross Which I don't think that's even in your curriculum.
Julie Ross It's not in my curriculum.
Rachel Ross I recommend.
Julie Ross Is it called Smelly Socks or Stinky Socks?
Rachel Ross I thought it was Smelly.
Julie Ross Okay. It's a picture book. We'll put it in the show notes. I'll find it for you guys.
Rachel Ross I think we were talking about it earlier. The title, The Nature Girl.
Julie Ross The Girl of Limberlost?
Rachel Ross Yeah, I love that book.
Julie Ross So what did you like about that?
Rachel Ross I think I was for, like, a nature study, wasn't it?
Julie Ross Yeah it was for nature study.
Rachel Ross I just remember it being like very— I mean, I guess it's something— like I enjoyed watching the girl kind of go through this path. I felt like I was able to learn a lot from her experiences and, I couldn't put into words exactly like what morales I learned from it, but I know it, like, influenced me towards— I remember feeling changed and inspired from it.
Julie Ross Yeah, it's such a beautiful book. Now, some people would say that, like, nature study is a waste of time. And reading a book about someone who's an activist is a waste of time. You should be learning hard subjects like science and math and you know— not that you didn't learn those, but like you should spend more time on those. Those are like maybe what we would see as frivolous in today's world. In Charlotte Mason's time, those were actually subjects that were taught in school all the way through and were very valued for their contribution to the person. But I mean, no one that I know that ever went to public school ever had natural history or nature study, ever. We're lucky if we went outside and saw some trees when I was in school. I don't know if that's just in the United States or if that's everywhere, but, you know, that goes back to Charlotte Mason's concept of this whole feast, right? You have a wide variety of subjects, but some people would say things like nature study and picture study, composer study, those are all frivolous, and you should be spending more time doing hard studying. So what would you have to say to someone? I mean, do you feel like— you're saying this is your favorite book; it really changed you as a person. But is that just frivolous? I guess is what I'm asking.
Rachel Ross Yeah, that's a good question. We talked about— well, I don't even know how we brought it up. We were talking about it in the car— how I also went to a co-op and I mentioned that. Where I took like normal classes, I guess. They weren't Charlotte Mason, so I was—
Julie Ross Yeah, so your high school math and science—
Rachel Ross And just like comparing the two. I said like the books, I remember so much more from them just because they were associated with a story and I was able to connect them with myself. And just the whole psychology behind Charlotte Mason learning. I remember those books so much more than I do my textbook facts. I mean, if all of your subjects are Charlotte Mason inspired then hopefully they will be retained as well as I did that book over my textbooks in my co-op. But I think they're important. Obviously, that's my own personal opinion from someone that did it, but I learned a lot from them and I'm— go on nature walks and I was able to like— and it's not frivolous knowledge. I don't think any knowledge is frivolous, honestly. And I enjoyed learning about it. And I think it was a good— it's good to not have all your subjects be super similar.
Julie Ross Right. Because it makes you very narrow minded, I think. And Charlotte Mason talks about educating the whole person. So I feel like, in order to grow up to be a person who has a wide variety of interests, you have to be exposed to all these different things growing up, otherwise you're in your own little world. You're very insular in your thinking.
Rachel Ross Yeah. And, you know, it did grow me as a person I think.
Julie Ross Well, thank you for sharing. Proud of you.
Rachel Ross Well, thanks.
Julie Ross You did very well this year. Do you have any closing thoughts or encouragement that you would like to share maybe to the moms who maybe are in the high school years and worrying about— there were a couple moments when I was a little panicky.
Rachel Ross Yeah. We have all my things in boxes in case someone from college I wanted to go to came to our house and was like, "Where are all the proof?"
Julie Ross That we actually did something.
Rachel Ross Yes. College, coming from Charlotte Mason background, it prepared me well. And I wouldn't worry about it. I would trust the process because the tools that I learned were so much more helpful to me, I think, than learning to study the same way that they tell you to in college.
Julie Ross Yeah, I get that question a lot too. Like, well, if my child doesn't want to take all these tests, then not be able to pass the SAT. It's like, well, you know, SAT and ACT are like their own little special language. Like you could take— did you take the same class as Abigail did? Did you take a class or is that Abigail? You took like the Kahn Academy. You did take a class.
Rachel Ross Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was like a semester.
Julie Ross Yeah. But, you know, you could take classes, you could take Kahn Academy. You can learn the language of these tests in a couple months, but that doesn't mean you have to spend 12 years learning how to take these tests, because we believe that's going to— you might get a great score and you might get a scholarship, but like, what kind of person are you? And you could spend just a few months learning the language for these tests and still get a great score and still get into school. Right. But also learn all these other wonderful things like Charlotte Mason says, "How large is the room upon which he has set his feet?" To have a large room, be magnanimous—I love that word—and have a wide variety of interest rather than "we studied for this one thing this whole time, and we're putting all of our eggs in this SAT basket and not learning all these other beautiful subjects as well.
Rachel Ross You don't need to study testing skills for 12 years. If anything, learn the information on the test. Because you would retain that better.
Julie Ross Yeah, it's hard because it's like the SAT is not going to ask, like, "what's the name of the tree that grew—" or you know, or like ask you to— and a lot of it isn't those kind of deeper analytical— I remember, was it the ACT? One of them—
Rachel Ross I mean, they've changed them up a little.
Julie Ross Yeah and they keep changing them. Yeah, I think it was Abigail, the lady that did the SAT prep class was like, "This is a test made by mean people to fool children. And so I'm going to teach you the tricks of it so that you can pass this."
Rachel Ross Yes. I learned, like, test taking skills in like a semester.
Julie Ross Yeah, right.
Rachel Ross It's just skills for a test. Don't practice them 12 years, please. That sounds terrible.
Julie Ross Well, thank you for coming on.
Rachel Ross Yeah. I hope that was somewhat helpful, and you're welcome everyone.
Julie Ross All right, well live from Ambleside— we are going to go back to sightseeing, and then tomorrow we're going to Oxford, which is really fun. Well, thanks for watching. I hope that was helpful and somewhat encouraging for you all who are listening. If you want more information on homeschooling in high school, I have two podcasts on that topic that I will link in the show notes as well. I also have an interview talking about doing high school writing with Shelly Guthrie that I will link as well that might be helpful. So anyway, thank you all for listening and for your support.
Julie Ross Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you would like to know more about the Charlotte Mason style of education, check out AGentleFeast.com and click on the Learn More button for a free four-day introduction course. I would love to meet you in 2022. I will be at all five of the Great Homeschool Conventions. To find out more about attending one of those go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. If you'd like the show notes for today's episode, you can find those at Homeschooling.mom And click on The Charlotte Mason Show. Until next time. I hope your days are full of books, beauty, and biblical truths. Thanks for listening.