Monday, May 28, 2018

Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell

For our school we will be following a curriculum based on the works of Charlotte Mason. Charlotte Mason was a school teacher in the 1800's who devoted her life to the nurturing of children. There are several things that define a Charlotte Mason education, and I probably can't cover them all in a single blog post--particularly not in depth, and this won't be in order of importance either.

Quoting from the Ambleside Online Website: "First and foremost, Charlotte Mason is a 12-year Christian Character Building curriculum. Books are chosen not for cultural literacy so much as the literary quality with which they were written, and even more, their ability to develop the whole person and inspire his character. For all those years that children are getting a CM education, what's really being trained more than anything else is their character. Students receiving a CM education don't need any character building program because the entire curriculum is geared towards building character with the use of personal habits, quality books, teacher guidance, the work of the Holy Spirit and personal reflection."

A Charlotte Mason Education involves living books. A living book is a story well-told, one written as a first hand account, or by someone who knows their subject well and loves it well and writes it well. It is not a dry textbook. It should spark interest and delight in the child, and impact his or her mind with its ideas.
The world is a great treasure house full of things to be seen,
and each new thing one sees in a new delight. ~Charlotte Mason

A Charlotte Mason Education involves narration. Narration is when a child "tells back" what was just read to him. There is only one reading allowed, and he may not look back over the text in order to do his narration. Once read, once told. In the early years (grads 1-3 or so) narration is oral, and is required after every reading. Gradually as the child gets older, written narrations are added. Narration takes the place of formal writing lessons and even tests. Grammar is not required, particularly early on. Outside of the end-of-term exams--which are also oral in the early years--there are no tests. Even the exams are not graded, instead they are for the teacher's assessment, in case there are adjustments to be made for that particular student.

A Charlotte Mason Education involves time outside--especially in the early years.
It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation. ~Charlotte Mason (Home Education, p 71)
And another one I love:
The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life, while other branches of science are taken term by term.” -Vol 6 Charlotte Mason 
What to do outside? A nature journal focused on different things per term--stars, trees, flowers, animals, bugs, etc. Drawing helps them to see what is really there, rather than what they expect to see. Learning names, learning uses, learning what plants look like one season to the next. Learning the sky. There is so much that can be learned, and this area of study is typically absent in education now--at very least, it is given a low priority--despite the growing body of evidence that it is an absolute necessity for a well formed mind.

A Charlotte Mason Education involves Habit training. To ignore a child's habits--or to separate that out from the schooling process--is to miss the mark of education.

 This relation of habit to human life––as the rails on which it runs to a locomotive––is perhaps the most suggestive and helpful to the educator; for just as it is on the whole easier for the locomotive to pursue its way on the rails than to take a disastrous run off them, so it is easier for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines at his peril. It follows that this business of laying down lines towards the unexplored country of the child's future is a very serious and responsible one for the parent. It rests with him to consider well the tracks over which the child should travel with profit and pleasure; and, along these tracks, to lay down lines so invitingly smooth and easy that the little traveller is going upon them at full speed without stopping to consider whether or no he chooses to go that way. ~ Home Education, P 109

There are many habits a child needs in order to travel along smoothly through life, and the appropriate place to address those needs is both at home and in the school room (which, in my case, are the same).

This is a nutshell version of what a Charlotte Mason education looks like for a student. There are so many other aspects of the Charlotte Mason Philosophy that really couldn't be covered in a single post. Some other topics that I would like to cover are: Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles of Education, What a Charlotte Mason education looks like for a teacher, and ways that her principles impact daily life outside of "school hours." I suspect that list is going to grow the more I write--there is so much depth to this lifestyle!!

For those of you who are also using Charlotte Mason's philosophy for teaching your children, what would you add to my list? 


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