Slow and Steady in Your Homeschool

This year Everyday Scholé is taking an in-depth, practical look at the eight principles of classical education. This month we are looking specifically at festina lente or make haste slowly. You can find my introductory post about combining classical principles and Charlotte Mason here.

One of the biggest worries and concerns I see voiced in the homeschool community is some aspect of “is my child behind.” Usually the parent begins their question by citing something a child of similar age or grade level is doing in the public schools or in another homeschool family. If you have had this worry, then this principle of classical education is for you.

Festina lente is a Latin phrase that is translated “make haste slowly.” The classic example of this principle is Aesop’s tale of The Tortoise and the Hare in which the natural winner of the race should be the hare but due to his over confidence and start and stop approach comes in last because the tortoise keeps plodding along, however slowly, but at a steady pace. A child who is mastering the material, however slowly, will have an advantage over a child who is pushed to run ahead based on the faulty idea that they are “behind.”

Two Ways to Turn Your Child into the Hare

1) Running ahead when the foundation has not been properly laid. When we are so worried about keeping on pace to meet some arbitrary standard {that’s an entire other soapbox I could wax poetically about!}, it is very easy to push our children on in their work when they don’t have the basics they need to move ahead. For example, Grace has a difficult time memorizing items in general. I never made a huge issue out of this even when it came to math facts. I listened to other homeschoolers that encouraged me she would eventually learn them without too much work on either of us. Nope, didn’t happen. It came back to slow her down when it was time for long division because you really need to have those multiplication facts down to work a division problem. Long division is difficult enough for most children without having to throw in the added impediment of trying to remember your multiplication facts. Needless to say, we had to put math on hold for a bit and concentrate on fact practice. If I hadn’t let her run ahead and made sure she had a solid foundation, we would not have needed to stop and back track.

2) Jumping over skills. This idea is similar to the first, but in this case you’ve given the foundation material and now you try to jump ahead in skill since you know the foundation is there. Recently Sophia finished her cursive workbook so, of course, I was certain she was ready to begin writing in cursive. The very next time she had a sentence of copywork to do, I told her to use her newly learned skill and do it in cursive. She made it through one word before she tossed her pencil on the table with tears in her eyes and informed me that she couldn’t do it. At which point, I was mentally kicking myself because it became obvious to me that I was turning her into a hare! Even though she knew the individual letter formation (foundational), she had not practiced enough at joining the letters to be successful at what I was asking her to do. I was jumping straight to mastery, which is the goal of festina lente, without taking the steps needed to insure an easy transition.

Applying Festina Lente to Two Common Homeschool Philosophies

When I started this series last month, I wanted to show how these seven classical education philosophies dovetail nicely with Charlotte Mason and other common homeschool approaches with which I’m familiar. We’ve all seen the fallout of the inability to apply festina lente in public schools due to the model on which public schools work. Teachers, despite how much they wish to, cannot put instruction on pause until Johnny and Susie have mastered the basics. They are teaching a class and must move on as needed to get the kids ready for the test {another soapbox which I could rant for days about!}. I bring up public schools because festina lente is definitely a classical education philosophy that is just a good education practice in general, so let’s see how you can use it in a non-classical homeschool.

Festina Lente and Charlotte Mason
One of the things I find most inspiring about Charlotte Mason’s schools is the students were grouped into levels, not grades, that were ability based instead of birthday based, like the public school system with which we are familiar. Usually within one level (or forms as CM referred to them), you would have multiple ages, and you entered that level based upon what you had mastered previously. In other words, you didn’t just jump into a level you were not adequately prepared for. I so wish that the American system would take this approach, and I wish more homeschoolers would view their child’s education this way as well. I’m not saying you should never talk about what grade your child would be in if they were in the public school, sometimes our children need to know those things for outside activities. Instead be aware that educationally if the cover of the math textbook says 5 on it, but your child is struggling with most of the lessons or some of the basic concepts presented in the book, you should NOT press on just because their birth date would place them in the grade 5 math book. Take a page from Charlotte Mason and put in place the principle of festina lente, work toward mastery not toward a grade level.

Festina Lente and a Traditional Homeschool
While I’m not a traditional homeschooler, I was a teacher in my former life so I know the system of using textbooks and workbooks as your main method of instruction for all subjects. The number one area in which I know textbooks and workbooks give a false sense of security is that if my child finishes the textbook/workbook for the year, then they have mastered the material contained within. Um….no. It means they have finished a textbook/workbook over the course of your homeschool year. To attain mastery of the subject, you might have more work to do. Think back to your school days. Usually you came relatively close to finishing a textbook over a year. How much of your high school Spanish do you feel that you mastered? Do you still know a few phrases here and there or could you say that you mastered the language? Did completing two or three years of work on a foreign language bring you to mastery? For everyone I’ve ever met that answer is no. Don’t fall into the trap of believing completion of curriculum equals proficiency. There is nothing wrong on stopping or backing up if you child needs more help, but there is a problem if you push ahead because it’s time for the next textbook. Also, there is nothing wrong with skipping entire chapters or half the exercises in the book if your child has already shown they have mastered the material. Focus on your child really learning the material, mastering it, instead of finishing it and calling that mastery.

My Disclaimer

Children and their abilities are different from one child to next. The amount of time it takes one child to master something will be very different with how long it takes another child to master the same skill. There is nothing wrong with your child, or you, if it does take longer than what it takes other children of the same age. Turning them into a hare because you are worried about the grade level on a book or curriculum is not the correct approach. Make haste slowly. Teach them at their pace making sure they master each step, and they will, in the long run, be better off and feel more successful.
On the other hand if you have a child who is gifted that doesn’t mean they will immediately master everything they come across. Be sure to watch for pockets of learning where they have not mastered the material or skills they have jumped over. Sometimes gifted children need the festina lente principle applied the most because they do seem to be a rabbit and speed through things, but the ability to learn quickly does not always equal mastery.

Check out what Tonia and Sara had to say about festina lente and how they implement this classical principle in their homeschool.


Do you struggle with festina lente in your homeschool as opposed to running ahead?

Charlotte Mason and Classical: A Delicious Mix of Homeschool Philosophies

Everyday Scholé is back!!! We’ve taken quite a few months off as all of us were wrapping up blogging projects or writing projects, but this month we are beginning a yearlong series that is sure to inspire you and your homeschool. We are taking an in-depth, practical look at the eight essential principles of classical pedagogy (make haste slowly, much not many, repetition is the mother of memory, embodied learning, songs, chants, and jingles, wonder and curiosity, educational virtues, and scholé, contemplation, and leisure). Each month we will focus on a different principle and how to practically implement that principle in your homeschool.

Can you tell I’m excited?!? I think what I’m most excited about is that I’m not a true classical homeschooler. I’m a Charlotte Mason homeschooler. It’s true that Ms. Mason had much in common with classical homeschoolers {some even consider her a classical homeschooler in her own right}, but on the surface a few of the eight essential principles seem to fly in the face of what Charlotte Mason homeschoolers promote as a “true” Charlotte Mason education.  So for the each of these eight principles I’m going to be focusing on how to use classical pedagogy as outlined by Dr. Perrin in the link above, but in a Charlotte Mason way.

Before we start this journey through classical and Charlotte Mason, I wanted to mention something that Dr. Perrin states at the beginning of his video. He says, “Principles should support our practices.” Basically the thrust of that statement is that the things you do in your homeschool should have a principle that supports them. For example, if you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler why do you engage in nature study? Because you are supposed to do so if you ascribe to Ms. Mason’s philosophy? Because the curriculum you bought says to do it? Do you really even know why Charlotte Mason was such a huge proponent of nature study for all students throughout their school years? These are important questions to ask about any homeschooling philosophy whether it’s classical, unschooling, traditional, etc. If you don’t know what various educational practices are trying to accomplish in your homeschool, it is pointless to do them.

While I’m focusing on these eight principles in a Charlotte Mason homeschool, I hope that you will look at them through whatever philosophy influences your homeschool because I truly believe these eight essential principles of classical pedagogy are fundamentally just really great educational practices in general that can be applied to whatever method you use. I can see how all methods of education can be tweaked and manipulated in such a way to benefit from the use of all eight principles. The hardest part, as Dr. Perrin states toward the end, is that changing our mindset about education to one that encompasses these ideals is work for us. It is not natural for those of us who are graduates of the public school system here in the United States. The most difficult challenge you will have is not the vision, but the implementation.

You might have noticed that scholé is the last principle listed. I firmly believe this is because as you focus on the other seven, teaching from rest will become a natural byproduct of your endeavors. It doesn’t mean that it comes naturally, as I mentioned above, but it will be apparent that schooling your child with these principals in the forefront of your mind will reap a calmer, restful, leisurely approach to education in your home. I’ve seen this lived out in our homeschool and I’m excited to share some practical ways I’ve achieved this in the coming year.

Be sure and check out my fellow Everyday Scholé bloggers and their thoughts about the principles of classical education.


What educational philosophies influence your homeschool the most? 
Let me know in the comments.


Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt Printable for Readers and Non-Readers

Please feel free to direct people to this blog post to download their own scavenger hunt, but do not share the files. 
Thanks for respecting my work!

If you asked my children what is your favorite holiday tradition, they would all say it is our annual Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt. We pile in our minivan and drive 30 minutes to a neighborhood that goes all out for Christmas with decorating. Preacher Man drives slowly through the streets while the kids and I try to be the first to mark off the things on our list. I’ve been able for the past few years to find Christmas scavenger hunt printables on the internet, but some of them have really odd items like a dolphin (who decorates with a dolphin at Christmas?) and none of them were really great for Levi who still can’t read well enough to read his own list, so I spent most of my time yelling to the backseat what he should be looking for. Necessity is the mother of invention and this year I made our own Christmas Scavenger Hunt printables and one that is specifically for non-readers in your family so they can be part of the fun without needing assistance.

In case you are curious about how we play, when you find something on the list at a house, you have to yell and point out the house you are using and what item on your list you are using it for. That house is then off limits to other players for that item, but could be used by other players for a different item as long as they claim it. The first one to get everything on their list wins and gets to choose where we grab our supper before heading home. It’s so much fun and would be a great thing to do with youth groups, friends, and, of course, your family.

Just print out your choice of printable below (or both!), schedule a night to go out, and have a blast celebrating our family’s favorite time of year!