"....Your children shall be like olive plants all around your table." Psalm 128:3

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Elitists Among Us

As of late, there has been some talk in blog land of elitist attitudes amongst homeschooling families. I have heard it from several blogging friends. Followers of one particular method or philosophy of home education have quite a lofty opinion of themselves and look down upon other homeschool families who don't follow their way of home educating their children. According to what I have read and heard, these elitists (sometimes they are called "snobs") think it's their way or the highway, as the saying goes. I have heard of Math snobs, college snobs, etc..

And not only have I read about these elitists, sadly, I have experienced them first hand in the AO community.

Early on, when we first began using the AO curriculum, I had a hard time navigating the website, although it has improved somewhat over the last couple of years. But when we first started out, it was definitely not user friendly. (Other moms have told me the same thing about their difficulties with the site.) So I tried to find help from "seasoned" AO moms (mostly bloggers) about book lists, scheduling, etc. And yes, I got help...along with an attitude of "you're a newbie and know nothing" attitude. (And there was always the question - "What?! You mean you haven't read all six volumes of the Charlotte Mason series???")  Because I hadn't read all 6 volumes (I had only started volume 1 at that point), these moms made me feel like a failure before I even got started. Encouragement - instead of discouragement - would have made such a big difference in how confident I was in those early days. It got to the point where I was almost ready to give up on the idea of using the AO curriculum altogether.

These elitists apparently think that if you don't follow the AO curriculum to the letter, your children will not be getting the full spectrum of the Charlotte Mason education. And they let that be known.
They look down on families who use textbooks. Or the classical trivium. Or whatever else is "not CM". And it's sad.  I have actually seen the comment, "You can't use that book. It's not CM!" either on the forum or the AO facebook page.
Speaking of the AO Forum, the attitude is there, too...so much so that I have backed away from it. I used to visit it often. But I don't go there much at all anymore, not even to see if I can offer help to some other newbie who needs the encouragement. There is also a book club at the forum. I considered participating in that, then decided against it. The less I visit there, the better off I will be.

I also refuse to put certain CM blogs on my sidebar because I don't want that elitist attitude on my site.

But not all moms were condescending and belittling. There have been one or two moms that have been a wonderful help to me.  I have mentioned before that my friend, Silvia (love her!), has been my biggest help during our transition to the Charlotte Mason philosophy. And, thankfully, I am meeting more wonderful AO moms as time goes on.

While the AO curriculum is rich and wonderful, it is the not the only way to give your children a CM education. There are other ways to do so. And there are many other books not listed in AO that would be classified as Charlotte Mason-ish. For example, this term, I wanted my boys to read Famous Mathematicians by Frances Benson Stonaker. It wasn't on the Year 6 booklist, so I added it to my boys' schedule (*gasp!*), and they are loving it.  :)

We  will continue to use the AO curriculum, but I will tweak it and change things up if need be. And you know what? My children will still be getting a Charlotte Mason education.

I will continue to read Miss Mason's writings, but if I don't get all the volumes read within someone else's time frame, my children will still be getting a CM education.

So what's my point in all of this grumbling and complaining?

Just this:  the homeschool community should be just that - a community. There shouldn't be divisions or condescension or a better-than-you attitude.

Also, the academics aspect of homeschooling is only secondary to character training, right? At least it is in our family. Why are we blasting each other because of individual families' curriculum choices?! Each family is autonomous, and has to answer to no one but the Lord.
Each family must do what is right for their family.
It is their choice.

We are in this together, and even though the number of homeschool families is growing, we are still in the minority. We should encourage one another instead of tearing each other down.

Thanks for reading, friends.

"Therefore, comfort one another and edify one another..."  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11


  1. Thank you for sharing this!! Really!! The same thought has crossed my mind. It's a little discouraging when someone will ask a question and and someone else will say something like, "that's not CM." Well, okay. Plenty of people have turned out as wonderful, godly men and women without doing everything CM, or following a certain curriculum to the "t". We also have to take into consideration the interests of the children AND the parents. For example, I'm not the best when it comes to nature study - we will do it, but maybe not as much as is recommended. We'll supplement with some wonderful nature books, and that's okay with me! I have faith that my children will turn out just fine :)

    On a side note, my blog has changed from www.angelawilhite.com (Learning to Live) to wilhiteslivinglife.blogspot.com (Wilhites Living Life). Thanks for including me in your sidebar!!

    1. Well said, Angela. The interests of the parents and children should always be considered first. Sometimes I think that AO is too much of a "cookie cutter" curriculum. As home schooling parents, our main goal should be to raise our children to glorify God and to serve Him. Not to be overcome with guilt for not having accomplished every single reading for the week.

      And yes, I will update your new site right now! I had forgotten, so thanks for reminder. :)

  2. Amen! I haven't read all of CM's writings either but I feel we are still gleaning much from what I have learned and applied in our homeschool. Also, I know what you are saying about certain books, I was actually afraid to include a child's Bible in my CM post in fear of getting blasted. However, it was more important that they read the word of God for me themselves at their own level than needing to rely on me to read the KJV to them every morning (my goal is to create a habit of reading the Word themselves every morning). However, the fear was there because I have sensed what you wrote also. Thank you for encouraging others to simply encourage each other and not try and create carbon copies in a homeschool. We are all unique and should teach our children thus.

    1. Excellent comment, JES. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. :)

  3. I am so sorry Lisa that you have not always felt loved and supported by your home school sisters. Where ever and however God leads us in our learning journeys it is the relationships that matter, ours with our children, with our faith, with each other. Our support of each other is more important that differences in how we teach. For me Corinthians 12 comes to mind... we all have different gifts but are of one body.

    1. You're right - it's how God leads that matters, not some board or auxiliary who doesn't even know our families.
      Thanks for stopping by today. :)

  4. Lisa, I've always been uncomfortable expressing myself in a Forum context. I sometimes look back at what I've written & think I haven't said what I wanted to say or in a way that really reflects what I am or how I see things. So there is an element of that & the instancy of hitting a send button doesn't leave time for much reflection. I read this recently & I agree so much with the poster's thoughts. She says it better than I could:

    1. Thank you for sharing , Carol. And thank you for the link. I will definitely read that.
      Have a great day!

  5. Well said Lisa! Completely agree on all points. The main goal is to train them up in the way they should go, which means all aspects as well as their home education. We shouldn't criticize others' homeschool journey as long as they're glorifying the Lord in doing so. There's enough outside criticism as it is. Why make a great opportunity to share/encourage another into a rough situation? Certainly doesn't help the overall purpose. Thanks for sharing! :D

    1. Hey, Carrie! You are right - home school families get enough criticism from the outside; there should be none at all from other home school families.

  6. Thanks for your kind words about me, Lisa.
    I am sorry to read this, it makes me feel so sad to know you have felt hurt and discouraged by some people at the forum and AO FB page.
    The FB page is very impersonal at times and hard to moderate... if books that are not AO are mentioned it's true they make a point that it's not AO, but maybe sometimes we take that as harder criticism that it needs to be.
    I know many moms at the forum and they are humble and helpful and they don't look down on others... even though some have a short way of saying things that may seem to be harsh and judging.
    I always thought you were a wonderful example of a CM education and felt so proud of you for doing your own thing and not following AO to the letter because that's not needed. It is there to inspire not to crush or make you feel bad.
    Don't go by FB that much but at the forum you can express these feelings and say this, because it will give others a chance to express and explain themselves. If you wish, that is, if you are better away from the forum let God and your conscience guide you in that decision.
    I am still sad knowing your confidence was tarnished by those whom I love and respect.
    Sometimes we have to put things in context.
    I have use a kids Bible when the girls were very young but soon we move to just a Bible and we love many translations, from KJ to ES to NASV... whichever translation helps you understand and grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures is a blessing.
    That math book sound great Lisa.
    Be yourself and draw from the love you see, ignore whatever comes across as criticism or elitism.

  7. I agree with what you say about the FB page, Silvia.
    The critical spirit of the some of the AO moms towards families (including mine) who consider using non-AO books is what is disturbing to me.
    And, as you can see by some of the above comments, I am not alone in feeling like this. And I am thankful for their comments; it validates my feelings.
    I am not accusing all AO moms of this - just some of them. But there are enough of them to keep me away from the Forum. So I will not be sharing this post there.
    Thanks again for all your help, my friend. You have such blessing to me. :)

  8. Well said, Lisa. One of the great blessings of homeschooling is that we don't have to follow a set curriculum.

    "Each family is autonomous, and has to answer to no one but the Lord.
    Each family must do what is right for their family.
    It is their choice."

    I agree, totally. God bless you and the "Lisa method"! :-)


    1. Thanks so much for encouraging words, Anne.
      Hope you have a lovely day, my friend! :)

  9. Wow, Lisa I think you hit on an important subject here! I don't follow CM at all (though I have done some CM things in the past) and I know exactly what you are talking about (although I had no idea CM circles could be so, well, CM elitist). This can happen in the homeschooling community regarding so many things such as when/how your child learned to read. Sometimes I think we forget that the reason we homeschool is so we can adequately pass our faith on to our children and customize our children's learning needs and abilities. But such is the way of fallen mankind. It seems we can take anything grace-based and turn it into something rigid and law-based in no time. Thank you for bringing this to light. I think I will make it a specific prayer of mine for the homeschooling movement.

    1. Right, Charlene..it's all about raising Godly children - not which books you use!! But sadly, the elitist attitude is very prevalent in home school circles.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

  10. Lisa, I'm sorry - and a bit relieved. Like you, I have at times sensed an exclusivity on the forum, but I've not explored it - given a lot of thought to it - to any extent. By exclusivity I mean that, for example, if I do offer a comment or ask a question, I often feel like I've just said the wrong thing – there’s either no response or very little reaction to it. Not that all of my comments have been ignored – but some have. And while this doesn’t bother me on its own, when I observe other threads and they get immediate answers, warm responses, welcoming language, I have to wonder if there is a sort of 'insider hub' that extends even beyond the original AO ladies and the next generation. Then again, I don't really have time to worry about it - we love the curriculum and will stick with it - but my time on the forum is hit-or-miss anyway – like I tell my students, I don’t live online. And I also think that many of the AO users are a bit introverted - I know I am - and sometimes this comes off strangely online. Even unfriendly. This is my first experience using an online forum, and I have mixed feelings. So I try not to take anything personally. Although when you comment on a thread with a question and it alone is ignored, you have to ask what else could it be, right? Ah, well. Like you, I adore Silvia. She has been one of my favorite people for, well – for as long as I've known her online through AO. And there are a few others on the forum whose warmth and welcome are transparent. And I certainly appreciate the hard work that has gone into creating - and maintaining - and developing - AO. All the AO ladies have my utmost respect and gratitude for their decades-long labor of love. So I don't know, I might be assigning attitudes and perceptions to some AO users that are simply not there in real life. I know it takes time to get to know people, and perhaps I'm just not very adept at forming online relationships. I can't even blog consistently, so maintaining an online personality is definitely out of my reach. Ha. Anyway, just wanted to let you know I'm sorry but I think I understand where you are coming from...thank you for reading my words when I put them out there! I certainly enjoy yours. Even when I don't comment. :)

    1. Hi Karen,
      Thanks so much for your honesty. I have had the very same experiences on the forum. Yes, you have to wonder when your comment is the only one that is ignored.
      I have been on one other forum ( a dairy goat forum) and had the opposite experience - everyone is friendly and helpful. And even though there are many other goat farmers on that forum who are far more experienced than I am, they were all very warm and welcoming - many of them sent a welcome to the forum message when I joined.
      Not so at the AO Forum. Oh, well.
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing, friend. I always enjoy our visits. :)

  11. I think I'm going to come off as elitist here, but I hope you can understand that being elitist is not my intent.

    Is there a place where CM becomes CM-ish then becomes, say, a living books curriculum? And certainly we all make our own decisions on how to best educate in our families, but does that also mean we all also get to define what a CM educator is? And if we do that, does the term then have any meaning?

    Not that Ambleside Online is the only way to be a CM educator - please understand I am not saying that at all! - but is there a general shape and form to a CM education that should be followed if I am going to call myself such? And certainly I'm not going to always (ever?) measure up, but should I consider that shape and form my aspiration, rather than settling with where I am? Not that I should be anxious or discouraged by not measuring up, but rather to have a direction for learning and growth in my ability to lead and teach in my homeschool.

    Personally, I'd like for someone to tell me that a book isn't "CM" before I bought it - certainly it is just their opinion, but it could end up saving me some money and frustration if I did buy it, review it or try to use it and find that it wasn't going to work. And if I did buy it and I did like it, then oh well, I'm going to have to disagree with that person and move on. Do you ever get this mental image of someone with a big rubber stamp marking each book as "CM"? Of course since so many are OOP, that might give some people heart attacks... :-)

    But yes, I definitely agree that AO is not the best-and-only and that there could be more respect shown to families who blend CM ideas with other approaches... or who take entirely different directions in their homeschools. I know this is something I've had to work on a lot, and I still have a ways to go!

    I've enjoyed thinking about this post, thanks for writing it!

    1. Hi Amber,
      I think that is a definite shape and form to a CM education. I also think each family has to determine how much CM they want to be. Some families might be all or nothing. Some families might just use some of the AO books.
      And if these particular moms come to the Forum or FB page looking for help and encouragement, (they probably won't find it at either place if the aren't CM "all the way"), they shouldn't be blasted for not being "fully" CM.
      However, my biggest issue is with the belittling attitude of some of the AO moms towards newcomers.
      You mentioned "measuring up". Ha! That I will never do! But, thankfully, educating my children isn't measured by one of the auxiliary members or a forum moderator. I educate my children as unto the Lord. He is the only One I am seeking to please in all this.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

    2. I've enjoyed reading through the comments on this post, Lisa, and I'm glad you wrote it. I was particularly intrigued by Karen's thought regarding introverts and how they (and that includes me!) come across online. I think she might be onto something there.

      I wanted to clarify that when I mentioned "measuring up" I wasn't talking about a standard set by AO or Auxiliary members or anyone else. Despite all the current talk about different learning modalities and such, I think God has a path of education that will help us to develop most fully into the people he has created us to be - mind, body, heart and soul. Do I think CM's philosophy of education is that, or that one particular booklist is the only way to go? No, because she's not God, nor is any booklist creator! But I do think her philosophy of education can really help us to shape and form us as God wants us to be shaped and formed.

    3. Thanks for stopping by again and sharing, Amber.
      As far as your measuring up comment, I understand exactly what you meant. :)
      I agree that Miss Mason's philosophy can be used for His glory. And that is my heartfelt goal. :)

  12. Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Amy. My apologies for not publishing your comment sooner; I didn't get the notification until today! Ugh!
      Have a super day!


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