This is our 16th year homeschooling, and while many of my friends are homeschoolers as well, I realize that many of you are not. For some of my friends, they don't get my love of discussing education, and especially Charlotte Mason, even if they do home educate their own families!
But because the methods and principles of Charlotte Mason (CM) have become so important to us, and because I so strongly believe in their effectiveness, I think that it's worth a few words to explain why.
Let me say this in advance- there are much more eloquent descriptions and deep discussions about this topic by home educators much more intelligent and more experienced than I! So this little post is simply my attempt to speak in my own words about how my family and I have been affected and our schooling enriched by CM.
First, a little background information about Miss Mason. She was an educator in England at the turn of the century and believed that all children deserved a deep, beautiful education. There are plenty of available sources that tell about the details of her life, but for our purposes the important points are that she provided valuable resources for parents as they educated their own children at home, called the Parents' National Educational Union, and created a school where her philosophy, methods and principles were used in Ambleside. (I am going there in April and I can promise there will be plenty of blog posts about that trip!!!) She wrote 6 volumes that are an explanation of her philosophy and these are so valuable for those who want to understand the CM way of life, which can be simplified by two of her mottos: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life," and for students, "I am, I can, I ought, I will."
So WHY does this philosophy resonate with me, personally, for my own children? I will save how we got started with CM for another post, but there are mainly 4 reasons for our choice and why we continue to love learning by her methods.
1. I love learning alongside my children.
One of my most favorite things about learning in this way is that it is not a "top down" teaching style. I do not need to be an expert in every subject or field, nor do I need to spend hours preparing lessons for my children in order to capture their attention. We trust the "living books" that are written in engaging ways by the actual experts, and as we read, we all learn together. Then we share what we are learning, which may be different for each of us. For us, it has fostered a lifestyle of learning, and an expectation that my children are the owners of their education. As I have progressed through the four year history rotation with them, I have learned more and more each time, not only from what I read with or to them, but also from their perspectives on what we are reading together or what they read on their own.
2. Living books make the time periods and topics come alive.
Anyone who knows me knows that I LOOOOVE books- and have them in every room of my house, which can sometimes drive my family a teeny tiny bit nuts. But learning about the living books that CM espouses has changed the kinds of books that I buy, read and that we use in our homeschool. The term "living books" is one that has had some discussion around it and there are some varying specific definitions as to what they are, but this simple explanation is from Simply Charlotte Mason: "Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in a conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it's easy to remember the events and facts." When we read a living book about WWII, which we are studying now, they naturally grab onto the interesting characters and their life stories, and remember so much more than a dry textbook of facts and figures. Just the topic of living books has inspired so many writings that I could never summarize them here, but in our homeschool, the beauty of reading these books together makes each day a window into another time period of history or a life of someone who lived then, a topic of science, or someone who discovered an invention.
3. Simplicity of the methods.
Again, there have been multiple books and blogs and websites dedicated to discussing the methods of Charlotte Mason, but in reality they can be explained simply: read living books in each subject and narrate what you learn, copy passages from these books to practice handwriting, spelling, punctuation and grammar, spend time outdoors interacting with nature, and expose your students to great composers and artists. There are other aspects and descriptions that help home educators understand how to implement these in their own families, but for me it is so freeing to keep going back to these things and simply do them week after week. It makes each day for us exciting and different, and within these simple methods there is a continual variety of things for us to learn- flexibility with a dependable structure and stable schedule. For several years I attempted to set up a schedule and choose books for them on my own, but now I am so blessed to use A Gentle Feast, which has EVERYTHING laid out for me! (Check out the link in resources if you are interested in learning more!)
4. Developmentally Appropriate
20 years ago, I was a public school kindergarten teacher, and have some friends today who are still in that field. The skills that they expect from five year olds today are what we were expecting from first graders when I taught school, and many of my teacher friends are frustrated by how unrealistic these are for the children. Even some of the homeschooling curricula available now don't match up with what science itself tells us about what children at each age are capable of mentally and physically. This has always been a real passion of mine, and a frustration as well. Once when my son was 3 years old, I went to pick him up from his preschool class at co op where I had been teaching a literature class. His teacher told me that he had given them trouble that day and would not sit still at the table to complete his worksheet on gravity. WWHHAAT????!!! Needless to say, he did not attend that class again, but I have seen similar practices all across the board in education. When I follow the CM philosophy, I don't have to worry about that. My children at each age pick up what they are capable of understanding and narrate it to me in their own words in various ways that are appropriate. Right now my 8 year old is into reenacting scenes from WWII with her Avengers action figures. Makes for an interesting interpretation, but she clearly understands who was an Axis Power and who was an Ally!
Thanks for sticking with me for this explanation of why I am so passionate about Charlotte Mason's way of education. I am continually amazed at how the Lord blesses our schooling as we continue on the path, and it was so hard for me to choose just 4 reasons that I find her philosophy such a great fit for us. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me or comment below!!
I am a wife and homeschooling mom who absolutely loves her job! I love to read good books, enjoy art, and sit on my porch with family, friends and any passersby to talk about them and what a good, good Father we all have!