S8 E1 | The Benefits and Beauty of a Charlotte Mason Education (Jeannie Fulbright & Shiela Catanzarite)
Jeannie Fulbright and Shiela Catanzarite discuss the benefits and the beauty of a Charlotte Mason education, sharing experiences from the years of educating their own children using Charlotte Mason's model. You’ll hear how it brought beauty to their homeschool days and how it prepared their children for college and career. You’ll see how employing the Charlotte Mason method equips children for success in the real world. Jeannie and Shiela share the importance of deprogramming from the standardized system of education that is failing our children. By employing the methods Charlotte Mason taught, methods that research confirms effective, you will provide for your children a peaceful, joyful, quiet growing time that honors their uniqueness and gives room for them to discover their gifts and talents. The simplicity of using the Charlotte Mason model enables children to become strong thinkers, writers, communicators, and leaders in their generation.
Shiela Catanzarite is an author, speaker, editor, and communication coach. She's a 20-year Charlotte Mason veteran homeschooler and has worked as Jeannie Fulbright’s editor and designer for 20 years helping develop Jeannie’s award-winning Apologia science curriculum and most recently her Charlotte Mason products published through Jeannie Fulbright Press. Shiela is the author of the newly published Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and is finishing up her second book in the series Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, to be released spring 2024.
Earning a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary, Shiela has been teaching language arts in some capacity for 40+ years. Her passion remains helping students understand the elements of language and how to use these elements artfully to communicate effectively. Shiela is currently a language communication coach, working one-on-one with students who have language learning and communication challenges. She also writes curriculum for her private middle and high school English language communication classes that focus on writing and speaking.
Both of Shiela's and her husband Bruce’s daughters attended private universities on scholarship and went on to pursue graduate studies in medicine and global business. She attributes their love for learning and academic achievement to homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methodology.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, where we discuss Charlotte Mason's philosophy and how to implement her life-changing methodology in your homeschool. My hope is to come alongside you and mentor you as you seek to homeschool your children with excellence and joy using the Charlotte Mason model. I'm your host, Jeannie Fulbright, the author of the multi-award winning bestselling science series Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Botany, Zoology, Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry and Physics, which all employ the Charlotte Mason methodology and have been helping families fall in love with science for over 20 years. I also created the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner and the Culture and Craft Enrichment Curriculum, which is coming out fall of 2023. These and many other Charlotte Mason products can be found on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, where if you sign up for my email list, you'll receive your Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist which will simplify your homeschool days. While there, check out my blog which covers almost every aspect of the Charlotte Mason method and philosophy. All right, let's get started.
Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, season eight. I am so excited to have you all here with me today and to introduce you, again because you've met her before, if you've listened to the show that I did with her. But I want to introduce you again to my dearest friend, Shiela Catanzarite. Shiela and I, we got to know each other over 20 years ago because we homeschooled together. Our children were similar ages, and we were in the same homeschool group together. We were both Charlotte Mason homeschoolers and we really interacted a lot. But Shiela is also a brilliant, let's just say, I don't know if the word is wordsmith or english language arts person, but she became my editor for all of my Apologia books. All the Apologia elementary through middle school science that I wrote. I actually wrote for my children, but apologia published. And Shiela came in and just—she waved her beautiful artistic abilities over all of my books and made them even better. And so she's been my editor for years and years. But God had other plans for Shiela as well. And so, Shiela, I'm going to let you introduce yourself so that everybody can learn about you. And I also have a special announcement to make after Shiela introduces herself.
Shiela Catanzarite Well, Jeannie and I go back a long way. And we homeschooled our children together using Charlotte Mason methodology and philosophy and saw incredible, just opportunity for our children's growth and development. And we had so much fun. And so we've done a lot of different things together. But I have been working for Jeannie for about 20 years, doing design work and editing work, and then recently been working on helping develop Jeannie's products through her Charlotte Mason Line, Juniper Press. And most recently published Living Verse Language Arts and Poetry through Jeannie's publishing company. And I'm working on the second book, which is Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture, and then the third book, Living Verse Language Arts and Literature, and then three more volumes to come. So that's a big project that I'm working on right now with Jeannie. I have an undergraduate degree in special education and a master's degree in Christian Education from Dallas Theological Seminary. I've actually been working in the educational space for 40 years in language arts. I teach private public speaking and writing for middle and high schoolers. They come to me after school. So I write my own curriculum and I teach small group classes. I also work with some special needs language students as well. So I have that going on now and have the students coming back to me. So I really enjoy that. And we have two daughters. We homeschooled all the way through using Charlotte Mason philosophy and methodology. Ashley and Caroline, they are in their twenties. Ashley's in medical school, third-year medical school doing her rotations right now. Caroline just graduated with a master's in global business and she lives in Chicago. And they are just the joy of my life. And I'm so grateful I had all those years homeschooling them. So much time with them to see them grow and blossom and develop and wholeheartedly believe that all of their ability to thrive and succeed in the things God had for them is because we educated them using Charlotte Mason philosophy. So I'm excited to share, Jeannie, with you some of the things that God showed us that we did that worked, and I'm looking forward to it.
Jeannie Fulbright The benefits and beauty of a Charlotte Mason education is what this podcast is called. I'm sure you already saw that, but I also have another announcement to make, and this is going to come as a surprise and maybe a shock and sad for some of you, but Julie is not going to be able to continue. She has had things come up, and so she's not going to be able to continue with a podcast, The Charlotte Mason Show. And so we're really sad. We really are going to be sad to see her go, but she's online and she's everywhere and she's doing great things. If you want to see her—I see her on Instagram all the time. She's just vibrant, fun, and we're really going to miss her on this show. But Shiela has been invited to become a host, so Shiela and I will be doing the Charlotte Mason Show together. And we come at it from different perspectives. I come at it from the perspective of someone who had it just really kind of—my life was a little crazier than Shiela's because I had two boys. And so when you have two boys in the mix, it is a lot more chaotic with the Charlotte Mason methodology. Employing that with my boys was absolutely instrumental in them becoming the men they are today. And my girls, the women they are today, which are beautiful, wonderful people. I have three, I don't know how many of you have been listening to the Charlotte Mason. If this is your first time, my name is Jeannie Fulbright and I am the author of Apologia's elementary through middle school science. And all four of my children have graduated from college. I have three computer science majors and then one who was a photojournalism major, who is now a mom, so I'm a grandma. And so it's so exciting. But we are so glad you tuned in to join us with this special episode, because Shiela and I, we are going to be talking about the things that we felt really benefited our children about the Charlotte Mason education, and the beauty of that in their lives. Seeing them then, seeing them now. And I think it's going to be a special episode for you guys. So, Shiela, the first thing we wanted to talk about was specifically some things that we thought—could think about that, how it specifically benefited our children during the time we were homeschooling them and seeing them now as thriving young adults. I just want to–I'll start here and then you can pop in if you ever think of anything you want to say. I would say the main way, well there were so many ways I really can't even pinpoint one thing, because the Charlotte Mason education is a–it's a full living education. It's a full life. And the lifestyle that you create is so powerful, it affects every area of their lives. But I would say one of the most important things for me when I look back on our homeschool, was how peaceful it is when you use the Charlotte Mason methodology. You don't have the stress and anxiety that comes with curricula that isn't peaceful. You have—your choosing living books, whole books that offer your children a feast of ideas. And these things, what they do, if you teach your children with whole books and living books, then they actually learn well, they learn better. Especially using narration and notebooks. And those things actually give your children an education where they remember what they've learned, and it gives them confidence. Just as an example, all my books, my Charlotte Mason—my books published by Apologia are Charlotte Mason oriented. They're all based on the Charlotte Mason methodology because I was immersed in Charlotte Mason and I wanted a curriculum to teach science using that approach. And so that's why I wrote them for my own children to teach them science. But it was interesting because one of my children, one of my sons, he needed to take a life science course. He was missing one life science course at University of Georgia to graduate. And he said, you know, I think I'm going to take botany because I really enjoyed botany. And I bet you there's a lot of really interesting things to learn. And he started taking this botany class, and I actually still have his notebook, his botany notebook of all the things he drew. Just really cute. He was like eight-years-old. Such cute drawings for an eight-year-old boy and not much writing, but a lot of drawing because at eight they were not writing. My boys were—my girls were writing a lot by eight, but my boys were not. So I had all these beautiful botany pictures that he drew and I was looking through them and he called me about, I would say, six weeks into this botany course and he said, I am really confused. And I said, why? And he said, they're not teaching me anything I don't know already. And I don't understand how the kids in this class are so worried about the tests, worried about the—what they need to do, because it's all such simple stuff. It's stuff that I learned when I was eight. And I just—I was such blessing—It was one of those mom moments where you're like, okay, maybe I did well. Maybe I did, right? I just like, you just need that affirmation. I was so excited to get that affirmation from him and I have another story. So Charlotte Mason says—one of her quotes that I love and I probably quoted it before if you've listened, but it's always great to hear again, especially in our time, the time that we're going through in this crazy world. But she says, in this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social. Perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time. The waking part of it spent, for the most part, out in the fresh air. And if there is one thing we did well, we did it outdoors well. We did outdoors. I had an outdoor environment in my backyard set up to where we spent—It was comfortable. It was a great—had shade and also tree swings. It was a place where the kids could just do whatever. They could dig holes to China if they wanted to, and they did. And we spent so much time outdoors and it was such an important part. All kinds of studies have come out and shown how important outdoor time is for children, not just nature study, but just time outdoors and how it changes the brain. It builds neural pathways. It actually increases their learning when they're doing academics. The more time they spend outdoors, the better they will do as students. And I found that very true with my own children. And that's another benefit that I experienced, is seeing how my boys, who had ADHD, I didn't even know it until they were in high school and taking classes outside of our home and just trying to organize all their schoolwork. And we realized that something's going on here. But when they were little, the way the Charlotte Mason education is set up it's just simple. It's beautiful. The lessons are short. The time outdoors is so much. And here's just another story, I'll end with this. But when my son first went to college, his first semester at college, he was homeschooled all the way through and he really hadn't—he'd taken some classes and stuff. But he went to college and he was in this big, one of those early freshman classes like Western Civilization. And he said, that at one point when he was in that class, he had this sudden realization. That these kids, he was looking around and he said, these kids have been sitting in classes and lectures like this their entire life. All for 12 years. They have been sitting in chairs just like this, listening to someone talk to them and having to memorize what this person is telling them. And it's very boring. And he said, and I just realized that all those years that they were listening to somebody talk to them for hours every single day in a chair. I was in a tree, and he was. He spent most of his childhood in a tree really high up, much to my chagrin. But that's just—I say that's just a little bit of the benefits and the beauty. We'll talk some more about some other things that really affected our children and our home and our home environment. But Shiela, why don't you share what you've found?
Shiela Catanzarite I think the biggest thing for us was the freedom in homeschooling. Once we were able to realize we do not have to adhere to anybody's schedule, we do not have to adhere to Common Core standards. We do not have to adhere to anyone's expectations. That opened up incredible opportunity. We had so much opportunity and we took advantage of everything. We were able to travel a lot when the girls were young. They spent a lot of time with their grandparents. We would take trips up—we went to the Creation Museum and we did a lot of the national parks and earned the little badges. We did that. We joined the zoo membership, the puppetry arts membership, The Firm Banks Science Museum membership. We joined all the memberships. We did the plays, we did the symphony orchestra. One year my girls were presented the flowers at the end of the presentation—at the end of the concert. We took advantage of everything. We did the birding competition, Jeannie, with your boys. We did the state bird, the homeschool Hummers, the state birding competition, and the the team would train. And we spent a lot of hours training. Of course, we won every year, but the kids had the freedom to be a part of that. And so they had so many incredible opportunities that they never would have had had they been sitting in a classroom. And as they got older, pursuing their passions—and I'll share more about that—but they were able to really individually develop into who they were and pursue what God put in their heart to do. The opportunities were just incredible and every year we took advantage of their age and the season and really tried to do a lot of hands-on learning and it was incredible. So we traveled a lot. That was one thing that we really tried to take advantage of. Traveling with my husband and making homeschooling about the lifestyle. It is a living education and we tried to get out in nature, go hiking, get out in the community. This is really important to me that our girls were well cultured with music and art, so we had the freedom every year to choose an art camp or an American Girl camp. Or maybe we did—yes, Jeannie's daughter hosted that. We did summer camps, we did nature programs at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Whatever was going on, we would look at, okay, what are the opportunities this year? And we prioritized that because we had the freedom. And I would say our daughters grew up with such a rich understanding of life. They were exposed to so many different things. And as they got older, they traveled internationally. But I think the freedom of a Charlotte-based education, in looking at education as a life and an atmosphere like Charlotte Mason talks about, we really tried to take advantage of that. Once you free yourself from the model of the cookie-cutter conveyor belt educational system, it opens a whole world to your children. And our daughters are—they've had so many life experiences. They're in their twenties now, but being able to get out of that system enabled them to be exposed to so many different life experiences and things we could share together as a family. When I think I would have missed their growth and development because they were in school and I was at home, it was incredible spending those years with them. And we are so close. They were best friends with each other. I would not trade that for anything. And it was because of that aspect of freedom, that Charlotte Mason education affords, that gave the opportunity for our family to grow and develop together. But for our girls to be so well cultured and so well rounded, and to mature and grow, and thrive in areas that just absolutely would not be possible if they were sitting in a school in the same curriculum and workbooks as every other child their age. That wouldn't have happened. So that's one of the main benefits I see as adults that has shaped them in such a unique way. And I treasure every moment that we had homeschooling with that freedom of atmosphere and a living education.
Jeannie Fulbright Mhm. Oh, I love that. Yes, my daughter did teach the American Girl camps, her and her—one of her best friends, who's still one of her best friends today, these two girls that homeschool together is just so beautiful. It really was such a beautiful childhood and it felt like a peaceful childhood. And one of the things we talked about, Shiela, is the simplicity of the Charlotte Mason model. And I want to start by reading this really interesting quote by a famous 19th-century author and educational philosopher, Adolph Ferrier. He actually was a contemporary of Charlotte Mason, and he was in Switzerland. And he says, and this is a translation of what he said, he says, and they created the school as the devil commanded the child loves nature, so he was locked in four walls. He cannot sit without moving, so he was forced into immobility. He likes to work with his hands, so he was taught theory. He likes to talk. He was told to remain silent. He seeks to understand. He was commanded to learn by heart. He would like to explore and search for knowledge himself, but he was given them in ready form. And then the children learned what they would never have learned in other conditions. They learned to lie and pretend. And that is what I feel like Charlotte Mason's philosophy has set us free to see the truth. The truth about what education really is. It is not whatever the standards are, as you were saying, Shiela. It's not about checking these boxes. It's about opening the world a feast, the possibilities, letting them experience so many different areas of learning and that being just as important as the three R's. Because the three R's are important, but they're not more important than the arts. More important than working with their hands. It's not more important than developing interests and passions. My children today still practice art. My daughter's always painting and they're always doing—one of my daughters is a photographer. Of course, she got her degree in photography, but she's always doing artistic things with her photography. And then my other daughter is always painting, and my son still loves to draw. It's just, it's amazing to see these things that we honed and we allowed and we honored. We honored their creativity. We considered their creative work as important as their math work. And I think that it just allows for a simplicity in their education. The short lessons made for a quick school day through a lot of the subjects, but also a pleasant school day, because they're not having to labor over a math sheet for 30 minutes. That's just not required, and it's also not helpful for a child to have to spend 30 minutes when they don't have that kind of an attention span. Allowing—the simplicity of allowing the child to be who they are. And we didn't do worksheets. We didn't do the checking the boxes. And if I bought a curriculum that had worksheets, we just tossed out the worksheets and we used notebooking instead. If there were things in the lesson that seemed to me like busy work, we didn't do them. We had the freedom and the simplicity of what the methodology is, and we applied that to everything we did. And if I ever strayed, and I have to say, I was sometimes going with the flow. And everybody was taking this class, and everybody was going to do this, and my kids wanted to do it, but we always regretted it. It was only when we did classes that aligned with the Charlotte Mason approach that my children enjoyed the classes, that it didn't disrupt our homeschool, and disrupt their joy of learning. In fact, I will tell the story. My daughter loves this story now. She used to hate the story. She hated what I used to tell it, but now she thinks it's funny. When she was—when my youngest daughter, who, as you know, when you have a lot of children, your youngest child pretty much just basically gets knowledge for themselves, because you're really focused on the older kids and the younger children are along for the ride. And so it was really interesting because she begged me—she was doing the arts academy. We had this arts academy we loved. And it was really very Charlotte Mason in its approach. The owner was the Charlotte Mason homeschooler, but they had been begged by all the parents to do academic classes, and I was not begging them to do academic classes. We had our academics just fine at home. It was very simple, it was very quick and it was just beautiful. We had so much fun and so much time outdoors. And so she said, oh, please, mom, everybody's going to be doing these classes. And they—she was going to be taking science, like, as if my children need to take a science course outside of our home—which is not—our whole lives were a science course. But she got her way and she started taking these classes. And she about, I would say about a month in, I could see she was miserable. She just had all this busy work and every teacher gave her an equal amount of busywork that she had to complete at home. And she was always feeling very stressed out about her assignments and what she had to do. And then she got to the point where, we wake up in the morning, we do our devotional like, okay, it's time for school. And she'll go, ugh, I don't want to do school. Okay, well I'm not in charge of the schoolwork. This is your—you wanted to go to the school. She was in fourth grade. I said you wanted to do this, it's in your hands. This is yours, your job. And so really, it was just a very miserable year for her. By the end of the year, she hated school so much. It was alarming to me because my children didn't have any reason to hate school. We never made school stressful. It was never an environment where you must do this or you're going to be in trouble. It was just always just pleasant. We just did what we could if the children didn't want to do something, there were times when we were very—it was the masterly in activity idea of having a good humor about things and knowing that sometimes children need a break from math. And sometimes children need a break from things that are unpleasant for them at that moment. And so by the end of the year, I was just really concerned about her because she hated school. The next year I decided, you know what? I and she—were they in gymnastics at that time.
Shiela Catanzarite Gymnastics or cheerleading? One of the two.
Jeannie Fulbright Our girls were gymnasts together and they were cheerleaders together. And then she was going to gymnastics in the morning and then again in the afternoon. So gymnastics, and we were coming home and then doing school, and then going to gymnastics in the afternoon. They were on the team. And so that next year I thought, you know what, I just don't think she needs to do school this year. Yes, I did that. I said, you know what? We're just going to make life, everything we do at home about learning. And then she started cooking and she was cooking breakfast before we even got up, we had a whole table laid out with pancakes and eggs, and she was in fifth grade this year. She did not do—she read a ton of books. She's always been an avid reader, so she read lots of books on lots of subjects. That was pretty much all she did; gymnastics, cooking and reading, reading, reading, reading, reading. She tells me, and I don't know if this is true, but she tells me that she would sneak into the homeschool closet and pull out math books and do them on her—and she actually was a math major at the University of Georgia, so maybe she did that, I don't know. But she took that year off. And when she started school the next year, she was eager and excited. And it was just a beautiful time. She had so much fun and she took a year off. And guess what? She also got the highest—okay, she took fifth grade off. She got the highest ACT score of all my children. And she's the only one I didn't sign up for an SAT class. So it is okay. We need to let them live. Let them enjoy their lives. Now, I'm not saying to do that. I'm not saying just don't do school for a year. But sometimes, if your children have been in a program that has caused them to dislike learning, then maybe it is time to rethink. Maybe doing a little bit of unschooling for a year. Just really simple is what I call it. You need to get it out of your system that this system is the right way to do it. All my children and all of Shiela's children went to university on scholarship, and we did not do the system. Our children were not in the system. They were in a simple, pleasant program.
Shiela Catanzarite Method.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes, yes. So, Shiela, why don't you go ahead and share? I took up so much time there.
Shiela Catanzarite I remember those stories. I do remember Gigi decorating your massive Christmas tree one year. During that year when you weren't doing formal, she decorated the whole tree. And your tree is huge. And I remember, oh, my goodness and she was so excited about it. Anyway, I would say for simplicity, what really strikes me was the opportunity for our girls to learn together. We didn't have, you're in the second-grade book and you're in the third-grade book in science. You're in the second-grade book in reading and you're in the third-grade book. But I didn't do that. My girls learned together. And as they got older, and we did some co-op-type classes. They had different classes, but we kept it simple. We use one science curriculum, we use one history curriculum, one literature study. So the girls did things together and the simplicity of gathering your children and letting them learn. Charlotte Mason—one of my favorite aspects of Charlotte Mason methodology, she said, just spread the feast, spread out the feast and let everyone assimilate and take what they can. And I believe so much in that. And that's how we do our read-alouds. We gather as a family for the read-aloud, and the younger kindergarten can take in as much as the high school. Why don't we do that with all of our subjects? And so that's what we did. And I will say the girls, when they talk about what they remember about homeschooling, is they remember that we did these things together. And they remember that, oh, remember when we did science and we would have hot chocolate and we did it on Thursday. And remember when we would study about horses in the literature study. Remember when we did this in history? It made it so simple for me because we had one curriculum for each of our subjects. And we just gathered together. One of the ways that we simplified the writing, I tried a couple of formal writing curriculum early on and I just realized, you know what, notebook is what builds writers. So we just started notebooking. We didn't have a separate—we simplified the whole writing and made it very authentic and easy. And they just notebooked. They wrote through their history, they wrote through their science, they wrote through their reading. And that was a huge thing because writing is very stressful for people, but writing is natural to children if you give them the opportunity for written expression. And so Charlotte Mason was very—and that's one of the beautiful things about a Charlotte Mason education is it really focuses on the child expressing who they are. So if you allow for an ample amount of oral narration and written narration, your children are going to be so articulate. So even though we simplified, I feel like there was a depth in the simplicity that you couldn't get from separating everything out. Because all learning should be integrated. And we just tried to integrate everything. We had literature within our history, and within our science, like many of you do. And so when we went to plan, I just kept it as simple as possible. And we chose something that reflected that Charlotte Mason philosophy that the whole family could do together. And not only did it make it simple, it just brought so much joy to our homeschool and the girls remember our homeschool with joy. And this is one of the things I just want to emphasize and say here that because you are educating your children at home. You want to make their education life-giving and full of joy and peace. Because when they remember home, when they leave and they think back on their home life, they're going to remember what you did during the day in your homeschool. And so if you try and take their education and make it like school and stress out over, you're in a second grade, you've got to do this test. You've got to do—If you stress them out, they're going to remember that home was stressful because homeschooling was stressful. And that's just—you want to remember that in the end, they're going to get an incredible education. But what you want them to remember; that the education that they got in their home school brought the family together. It was peaceful. It was joyful. It was life-giving. They were able to thrive. They were able to explore. They were able to discover all of the wonders of—and not just childhood—we as adults, we also have that sense of wonder. You don't ever outgrow it, but you want them to remember that it was peaceful, and simple, and life-giving. And so when you're choosing your curriculum, keep that in mind. Don't come away from the homeschool fair with 50 books of every child at a separate level, the leveling of the grades is not natural to a child's learning. That was developed through an educational system. We are free from that system as homeschoolers, so let everyone pick the very best living material for your children in the different subject and gather them together and let each one assemble and learn what they can. And so that's how we simplified our homeschool. And it gave us, again going back to freedom, it gave so much freedom. The girls were never—and I never graded. I didn't give grades or tests and they had to take the Iowa. I feel like every three years they were, by our state, and they always were at the top, but I never graded anything and I never tested. Because I didn't want to repeat what the school system was doing at home. I wanted to take full advantage of what education could look like, and I wanted to build a home environment around our education that they would want to come back home to. We know families when we homeschooled who did the opposite, tried to force school at home and stress the kids out. The kids hated it. And so when they think about their home, they don't want to come home anymore now that they're gone. We know families because home represented a place of stress and pressure because the homeschooling environment was a repeat of school and they hated it. And so now when they think of home, they associate home with that homeschool. Rigid homeschool experience, and they don't want to come home. It doesn't represent to them a place of family. And we've seen that in so many children. And so I would just say to keep that in mind, our girls love coming home. They love to be together. And I was very, very intentional about making sure that our educational environment was—it was an atmosphere. And it was a discipline, of course, and it was a life. So that's the beauty of Charlotte Mason. Everything is meant to be life-giving. And the simplicity, as simple as you can, is going to foster that kind of home environment that they're going to remember and that they're going to want to come home to. And that you're going to enjoy as a mom. You don't get a do-over. So you want to be really intentional to make sure that you're laughing and they're not feeling stressed or pressured. And you want to create such an environment that they want to come home because you're going to want them to come home once they leave your home and continue to build your family. So that's what I would say about the simplicity.
Jeannie Fulbright I love that. And, like Shiela was saying, this is something that just kind of, I would say blew me away a little bit, if that's the right word. But all of my—like one of my daughters came out of the womb with a pen in her hand. She was writing. She was the journalism major. She could write from the very—she wrote stories before she even started formal schooling. She was writing stories, drawing stories, creating stories. I still have so many of her books, but my boys weren't—reallly didn't start writing very much until they were a little bit older. They just took—it took them a while, but we always did oral narration, and then we did visual narration, which was the notebooking. And we progressed from there step by step, getting the boys to write the title. Okay, now write a sentence. And their writing just began to progress and progress step by step, a little bit here, a little bit there. And it just continued to grow so that in college all of my children were, when they were in college, were excellent writers. They loved whenever a professor would say the essays are—the test is going to be an essay test. My kids were all, yes! They were so excited and all the other kids in the class would groan. And it's because through the Charlotte Mason model of oral narration and then written narration, it just progresses slowly. We don't push it. We don't, you need to write more. They'll write what they want to tell you. They'll express themselves with what they want. When my boys were really little, I would actually type out their oral narrations to put in their notebooks. But it was a progression. And all of them learned to write well and it's easy. Writing is easy for them. It's just not a struggle. It's not a stress. And they went into college with this really strong ability to write. But not only that, I'm seeing, and I bet you're seeing this to, Shiela, is that because of oral narration they are natural leaders and so that whatever they are doing work, they always tend to rise to the top and become the leader. My daughter just started her first job out of college. She's a software developer in Cognizant in Dallas, and she just immediately became her squad leader. All the new hires straight out of college, she just naturally became the squad leader who makes—does all the communications to the people in charge. And she is the leader because it's natural for her to speak. It's natural for her to communicate. Charlotte Mason, education benefits your children because it creates communicators.
Shiela Catanzarite That's very true.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah. It's a gentle, but effective way to create leaders. And that's a huge benefit I've seen.
Shiela Catanzarite It is and, Jeannie, I will say I've seen that even in the students that I teach, my classes are with public schoolers, middle and high schoolers, and I use Charlotte Mason methodology. And one of the moms was telling me this week, Miss Shiela, we've never seen an education like this. We've never seen anyone who teaches like you teach and you know our children and they can speak well and write well. And we—they're different. And so she was going on and I told her, I said, well, they're not my ideas. And I told her about Charlotte Mason, but Charlotte Mason works with every child. I have special needs students that do narration with me. They do a lot of poetry, and I have students who are the president of the class, the top students in the program and winning the chess tournimates and all that. I have the—and we do narration with them, I do narration with them, they do written narration, they do oral narration. I just started common-placing with my high schoolers. They think it's the greatest thing that ever happened. My husband was like, what was going on in there with your high schoolers? They sounded so excited, the common-placing. So all of these ideas of the Charlotte Mason methodology, I knew worked with my own daughters and I am using all those methods with these kids coming out of public school. They come to me after their school is out and it's private, but it works with them. And so they're really standing out as leaders, like you said, Jeannie, because they're so articulate. They are very strong thinkers, they're very strong writers, and they've been with me for years, a lot of them—they're getting the top leadership and they do public speaking with me and work on their—they have to give talks when they're running for these offices. And I would say, I see in them some of the same qualities I see in my daughters simply because they had the freedom through the narration and through the notebooking that Charlotte Mason tells us about. And they're confident, the parents are continually—these kids are so confident. And I would say for my daughters, there are college scholarship competitions that they were in, they both had to travel, they went to different schools, they had to travel to the school and spend a whole week with these other students they were competing against. And they stood out because they were so confident in their speaking and their ability to talk with adults because with homeschooling they were used to all different ages and they were so comfortable around adults as homeschoolers that they really stood out. They were the only homeschoolers in their college competitions. They had write essays to get through the first round, which was easy for them, like you said. But once they got into these interviews and having to mingle, my daughter at Vanderbilt, she had to mingle with like the president of the university. And sit in these interviews with people, it was natural for them because they had been educated through Charlotte Mason that focused on the child expressing themselves, through the narration orally and through the written narration. So when it came time to compete, they stood out, they got their scholarships, and I know it's because they were so articulate in writing and in speaking, and they were confident. And that's what the parents of some of my students say, they're so confident. Charlotte Mason Education does build the confident child. By the time they leave your home, they know who they are. They're confident in who they are. They're confident expressing who they are. And that's what we're raising. We want them to leave our home confident in who God made them to be and able to give what God has put in them to the world. And that's a huge thing that I continue to see with my daughters and saying the leadership is a natural thing because those who can communicate confidently are often those who are able to lead others.
Jeannie Fulbright That's so true. That leads right into our last point. We want to talk about how the Charlotte Mason education honors a child's individuality. And Shiela, why don't you start out with what you were going to talk about personality. I'd love to hear more about that.
Shiela Catanzarite Okay. Well, I've been reading a lot in Charlotte Mason's second volume, about honoring the personality of the child. And she talks about how a child unfolds. And I love that concept that our children have been created uniquely by God with gifts, and talents, and strengths, and passions. And the education is to develop a person. Charlotte Mason talks about that. We're developing a person and every person is unique. And so with homeschooling, again, going back to that theme of freedom, you have the opportunity to allow your child to develop into the unique person God has made them to be. And our—my daughters are so different. I have a reserved artistic business daughter and then the oldest is a very vibrant, outgoing math and science doctor. She's training to be a doctor. They were very different. And we really try to give them opportunity to express their uniqueness. Even though they were educated together, they chose different activities. And so one went into—wanted to play violin. I had a pianist. One wanted to do gymnastics, the other was a figure skater. One did art, the other did mock trial. So every year, we look at what are the areas that they're interested in and what could they pursue that would develop who they are. That would help them mature and grow in these areas. So we were really intentional about that and looked for the opportunities to really—and in just remembering, these are not my children, these are God's children, and I have been entrusted with them to love them, to provide the best opportunities for them, imperfectly. I will tell you, I apologized to my children a lot. I was imperfect, but I realize that God, there's no perfect parent and that God would give me the wisdom as I sought him to provide the opportunities and he would be faithful to them despite me being imperfect. And so we just provided lots of opportunities for them. And our older daughter always wanted to be a doctor since she was about five-years-old. And when she was 16 she said, I want to go to Southeast Asia. I heard about this trip and I want to go work with babies in the orphanage in this special care unit. And I'm like, okay. So she read about it at the church and she contacted the people all on their own. And I always made my girls make their own phone calls, even when they were little at the restaurant. I never ordered for them. I'm like, you need to look them in the eye and tell them what you want. So that was a big thing that I really tried to encourage the independence. But she emailed these people and they said, you have to be 18. We don't take anyone younger. And she kept saying, Mom, I feel like God wants me to go on this trip. So she emailed them again. She was really persistent and she said, please, if my mom comes with me, can you make an exception? And they ended up doing that. And so when she was 17, we went to Southeast Asia for two weeks in the middle of the school year, in February, and she was taking AP biology and her A.P. bio teacher was thrilled. He was so excited she was getting to go. And we spent two weeks working in an orphanage, ICU, and it was just incredible. We had the night shift. It was unbelievable. And that's when God really confirmed to her that he had called her to heal babies and to heal children. But because of homeschooling, it gave the freedom for her—that was something unique about her, that was different than her sister. And so we really tried to honor that. God has put that in her heart. We want to give the opportunity that God has put in her heart. I didn't really want to make the long trip and go, but then once I realized, okay, this is such an opportunity to be with my daughter and now I wouldn't have traded it for anything. It was a big sacrifice of time on our part. It took a lot to coordinate life while we were out of the country for that long. But again, it was just looking at what God put in her heart, trusting what God had put in her heart, and not trying to make her what I thought or no, we can't do that. I try not to ever say we can't afford that or we can't do that. I try to say, you know what, God? You have all the resources. And if this is something that is put on our child's heart, we are going to pray about it and we're going to ask you to provide. And so we really had a heart of faith realizing that, yes, everything is a sacrifice. There were many financial sacrifices, sacrifices of time, but we knew we wouldn't get this opportunity back, and that we were building people who were going to go out and represent God's kingdom. And we wanted to honor who God made them to be as individuals. So we really tried every year to look at all the opportunities. And my younger daughter, she had the opportunity to go over to Kenya and she came back from that—she took a lot of pictures in high school, I think it was senior year. She took a lot of pictures and came back and painted those pictures. Not painted, did charcoals. And her, actually her college application, her essay, was about what God was speaking to her about while she was doing the portrait. And we had an admissions counselor call on the phone and say, I just got this essay and I just have to call and say this impacted my life. So just little things like that. That was a unique gift God had given her. And had we not given her the opportunity and made the sacrifices for her to pursue that overseas missions trip and give her the art lessons to where she could express what God had shown her while she's over there. She probably—she might not have gotten her scholarship, but she certainly wouldn't have become who the person that she is. We're thankful for the opportunities for the college scholarships. But I certainly believe that what's most important is who they are becoming. If God has college in plan, and it's not the plan for every child, we recognize that. It was for our daughters. But whatever God's plan is, we're building people. So we want to just open up opportunity for them to be shaped into the person God has already designed them to be. I think of the Scripture all the time that says we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before him, that we should walk in them. And that's true for our children. God prepared good works for them to walk in. So we want to steward. We have been given the blessing of these children whom God has called. God, show us the good works for this year. Show us the opportunities that will develop them and mature them, the unique individual children they're meant to be. And so while we did everything as a family, we also gave opportunity for the uniqueness that would help develop our girls. And again, going back to this freedom, when you unleash yourself and you take yourself out of this mindset that we have to follow Common Core and we have to do these work, but we have to do our bossy R's in second grade and we have to do our—once you release yourself from that, you open up just incredible opportunity for your children. And that is the joy, the true joy, and essence of a Charlotte Mason education. I think that our daughters now are—they're so confident and they've pursued so many unusual opportunities that I think a lot of people might be uncomfortable pursuing travel and education overseas because of the methodology that we used. It built them to be the person God made them to be. So when the opportunities opened up for them, they had the confidence to pursue them. It was a sacrifice for sure, but I wouldn't trade anything. It was it was just a privilege and a joy.
Jeannie Fulbright That is amazing. You know, this personality and the child's individuality, I think that is something that needs to be forefront of our minds. And I remember reading a book when my kids were young, written by Tim Echols. It was one of those government books that he had written, and he talked about how he had, I think, seven or eight kids, and he said how God, he and his wife prayed that God would show him and his wife the individual things about the child of the direction that they should go. Whether it was going to be for a career or something that they could pour themselves into for that time period. And he said, God, without fail, he gave us specific knowledge and showed us through our child's interest and their passions and their curiosities what direction they would be going as adults. And what's really, really amazing about that is, I was so grateful that I read that really early in my homeschool years because I saw in my own children how unique they were. And Charlotte Mason calls this the divine curiosity. And so when she talks about children and she says, children are persons. She's talking about the fact that children, these children, as you were saying, Ephesians 2:10, they are God's workmanship. They are created by him for him, and he wants to be their leader. He wants to guide their thoughts, and guide their interests, and guide their passions. And he is the one who gives those to our children. If your child has a sudden interest in the Titanic, it wants to spend all of his school days studying the Titanic instead of doing anything else, let him. That might be for some reason, God is going to use this knowledge, or even the ability to gather knowledge, self-knowledge get knowledge for himself. He is their leader in our children. My children, without fail, have shown their own personality, their own divine curiosity. And in Charlotte Mason, believe that we need to get out of the way. All of our talking, and all our schedules, and all of our doing things exactly as we have ordered it, rather than allowing the divine curiosity, the Divine, to lead our child's interests. Which is why I love a Charlotte Mason education ends early in the school day so that they have the afternoons free to pursue their special studies, to pursue their special interests, to spend time developing the skills or the crafts or the things that are the whole person. Because the 3 R's are not the whole person. That's not it. It's about letting them have that feast and spend time. Have time to spend time. And I love that your girls got to pursue so many different things. I remember my son Calvin, when he was 17, he was kind of spending a little bit too much time on video games. And so I was just really praying and I felt like the Lord said, have him go. And a friend of mine's son had gone when he was 17. He and some friends had gone to Europe and just backpacked around Europe and had a eurial pass and maybe like three or $4 a day to go and to eat. And then they would just go to hostel after hostel, which were really inexpensive. He learned so much about the world. He is the man he is today because of that incredible opportunity that he spent spending months and months traveling around Europe during the school year when he was 17. We just were not tied down to that system of education that requires children to do all of these things because the end goal is what, graduation? The end goal from that is to get to college and then another graduation. And then the end goal is to get into a job. How about develop the person? That's the more important thing and developing their individuality, developing the way that God made them and allowing them to spend their time on those things. I would say there are just tremendous benefits to the Charlotte Mason education. And it's really about a philosophy, it's about absorbing the truth of—a lot of it is about, actually, deprogramming ourselves from brainwashing that we have about the system because we believe, oh our children should be doing what they're doing in school when, in fact, the public school system on international assessments we score at the bottom. We score at the bottom. We are failing our children. That system, that we are brainwashed to believe is the right way to do school to educate a child, is actually failing, failing our children. It's tragic. Why would we want to emulate and model something that actually doesn't work? And the countries that score at the top on those international assessments, they do things much more like the Charlotte Mason model. They spend more time outdoors. They're outdoors all the time. Shiela, you have a student—tell us a little bit, before we close, just tell us about your student that's in Sweden.
Shiela Catanzarite Yes, I have a student that I do zoom with, work with her on our English, because English, I think, is their third or fourth language. She's 11 now—12 now. Her school day, I would say, what did you all do in school? We went sledding and then roasted hot dogs outside. Oh, okay. Wow. Really? Yeah. And then we went to pick mushrooms out in the forest. And so in Sweden, they have just maybe 2 hours of academics there. They don't give them any grades or tests up until they get, like, to middle school. They spend the whole day outdoors, they do woodworking, they do sewing. This year, she's in sixth grade. She said, I have a cooking class this year and in a I like creating an app, I think it was like an app class or something like that. They had one week where they had physical exercise week. The school gave them off and they created like bike—they could go biking, or do some type of swimming. And so the education, they really educate the whole child. So they recognize the need and they spend a lot of time outdoors. It's really amazing. And she loves learning because she's not under the pressure of grades and test scores. So she really has a love of learning and it's just been fun to see that, really that model, the Charlotte Mason model, that education system understands that. And they're not a system. They're following a method rather than a system. And that's the difference.
Jeannie Fulbright And they unilaterally always score at the top.
Shiela Catanzarite They do.
Jeannie Fulbright The top five on international assessments, and they do totally differently. In Finland, they spend 45 minutes outdoors for every 10 minutes they spend indoors. And it's outdoor free play. It's not scheduled activity. It's—Charlotte Mason knew how to educate a child and we would be wise to heed her words and let go of this idea that it needs to look like and model sort of even loosely the public school system or the private school system. It just doesn't work. It's not developing a child who knows who they are, who knows what their interests are and their curiosities, because they haven't had—Charlotte Mason says, it's the does—Oh, how did she say that? She says, the divine curiosity hardly survives early school days. Children no longer—they go in and they're no longer curious anymore because they have put this system into place where they have to fill out this worksheet. They have to take this test, they have to read this, they have to memorize it, they have to put it on test. And the system actually inhibits and hinders and extinguishes that natural curiosity and that desire to learn. And so what we want to do, as homeschoolers, as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, but as homeschoolers across the board is we want to fan the flames of our children's divine curiosity and allow them opportunities to pursue—and time to pursue those things that will continue to develop and develop them as individuals.
Shiela Catanzarite Yes.
Jeannie Fulbright Well, Shiela, it's been fun talking to you. I was so—I didn't know if I could do what I said. I just I was so busy trying to clean my house, but I just haven't thought about—but you're right. You're right. Shiela was like, just let's just get on and just talk. And so Shiela's—she's always been such a great encouragement. I'm so glad that you're going to be hosting with me. We will do—Shiela will host her own show twice a month. I will host my own show twice a month. And then once a month we're going to get together and have our little chat. So that'll be fun. Thank you so much, Shiela. I'm so glad to be here. And thank you, everybody, for listening. And, as always, you can find us online, going to the show notes and you'll find all our links. And we just appreciate you listening. Thank you.
Jeannie Fulbright Hey, to simplify your homeschool, I created a Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist. To get it, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter on my website, JeannieFulbright.com. If you haven't already, join my Charlotte Mason Christian Homeschool Facebook group with thousands of Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, both new and old, share ideas, curriculum suggestions, encouragement, and community. And be sure to follow me on TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. And on Instagram, you can also follow this podcast @HomeschoolingDotMom. And please subscribe to the podcast. And it would be so great if you leave us a review, only if you enjoyed the show. Just kidding. But it really does help us to reach more listeners and to add more to the ranks of the Charlotte Mason community. One last thing— have you been to a Great Homeschool Convention? They are amazing. The Great Homeschool Conventions are incredible events where thousands of homeschoolers meet to hear amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops covering every topic possible, and you can get your hands on all that amazing Charlotte Mason curriculum. Go to the GreatHomeschoolConventions.com to learn more. Have a blessed day and may you experience the joy of the Lord as you homeschool your children.