Twelve years ago, our family moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Ocala for this odd little school. It raised many an eyebrow. We were moving five states for… what, exactly? And they’re paying you how much?
But I was a young teacher looking for a better way. I recognized that the educational system was broken, and I was looking for answers to the questions I had. “Why do people seem to become less curious as their mind should be developing?” “Why isn’t curiosity more engaged by the people who should want to encourage its use?” I had already read a great deal about Charlotte Mason, and this little school would allow me an immersive investigation.
So we put our oldest daughters, ages 6 and 5, into their first real school experience. We hoped for all the things a Charlotte Mason education offered: that they would develop a love for the true and the beautiful, be exposed to so many good ideas, and that most of all, that they would be treated as persons in the classrooms they inhabited.
This year, my oldest daughters graduate. They have been through 12 years of Ambleside and are part of its first Senior class.
And they did not turn out exactly like I planned.
I know how that reads, but don’t misunderstand me. Every parent starts with an idealized view of what their children will turn out to be like. No child ever conforms to it.
Because they’re people. They have a funny way of defying expectations. As Charlotte Mason wrote, “They will not submit to bounds.”
We started with what we wanted to be the end in our minds. And yet, people defy expectations. So why even start?
Because beginning with the end in mind is not about making sure other people turn out the way we want them. It’s about personal integrity and living out of our convictions.
We don’t educate in this way because we want our children to conform to an idealized standard. We do it because we believe it’s what they deserve. We believe it is what they are due.
It isn’t difficult to look around and see the failings of society, with large populations of people living out of almost no conviction at all, and another population living out of convictions that, frankly, terrify me.
We started from this: Our children are fully people, due to all of the things any person is due. We tried to provide them with those things. We did so as we struggled through our own weaknesses… and as we still struggle. We did so imperfectly, and we still ask for favor and forgiveness for the ways we’ve fallen short.
But all that said, I am very proud of my girls, and who they are becoming. They are not what I expected, and what I expected would have been a diminishment of who they are because it would not have been them. No amount of starting with the end in mind would have kept them from surprising me.
With talent, beauty, kindness, intelligence, sensitivity, and identity, they will walk out onto the stage of the powerful play and contribute their verse. They will do so with my love, my favor, and my blessing.