Let children alone... the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions - a running fire of Do and Don't ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose. ~ Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason was a 19th century educator who believed "the souls of all children are waiting for the call of knowledge to awaken them to delightful living." Some of the characteristics of a Charlotte Mason education are using living books, keeping a nature journal, and introducing music, art, poetry, and great literature among other resources.
Living books - books which are well-written, engaging, and invite the reader inside - teach not through the dull imparting of facts but through the lives and events of the characters. They include genres such as historical fiction, nature books, and twaddle-free fiction stories such as those of Holling C. Holling. The terms "living books" and "twaddle" are commonly used by those following Charlotte Mason's educational theories, although they are quickly being picked up in other homeschool circles.
Insight into Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
If you live in an urban area where nature is elusive, don’t assume that there’s no nature to be found! Here are some ways that city-dwelling families can get outside and find nature in their urban surroundings.
Your child can't hold a pencil very well? Your child thinks faster than she can write? Your child's handwriting is illegible? Your child can't compose in writing even though he can tell you a great story? Your child might benefit from having a scribe.
The compelling reasons kids need nature were explained factually and forcefully by Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv reaches new ground out in his next book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age. He uses anecdotes as well as groundbreaking research to demonstrate why we need to balance our use of technology with the restorative powers of nature.
Everyone has a comment on the increasing popularity of homeschooling. When I talk to people about homeschooling, they frequently mention the availability of "so much curriculum these days," as if that is the single most important factor in being able to homeschool. Non-homeschoolers, prospective homeschoolers, and new homeschoolers seem surprised that many homeschoolers use learning materials that are not, strictly speaking, part of a homeschool curriculum. There are many reasons why people use other learning resources instead of curriculum.
Some of my favorite children’s books are also wonderful learning resources you can use instead of curriculum. Among these are the oversize children’s classics about mythology by the d’Aulaires. The D'Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and the D'Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths delighted all my kids when they were pre-readers through their late elementary years, and I found that the understanding of mythology they learned from these books persisted through their middle school and high school years, when they needed to spot and comprehend literary allusions to mythology.
Many of us find it easy to dive into new things with gusto. Once we've made the decision to try something new, like homeschooling, we want to learn everything we can so we can be really, really good at it. We make big plans—we'll work our annual trip to the seashore into a unit on oceanography!—and create rosy images of winter days with our children studiously bent over their books at the kitchen table while we bake homemade crackers and upload photos of the latest clever homeschool project to our blog site.
A library of field guides is an important resource for homeschooling families, and with spring just around the corner, it's a great time to make sure you have what you need on hand to help with identification of birds, trees, insects, spiders, snakes, turtles, frogs, toads, and wildflowers. Here are some tips for making sure your field guides are frequently-used.
Sometimes we have had a designated nature table, something which is suggested by both the Waldorf-inspired approach and the Montessori-inspired approach to homeschooling, and something many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers implement as well. Other times, we have just gathered seasonal treasures together as a kitchen table centerpiece. A walk in the brisk air, the scavenger hunt for natural objects that are lovely to see and touch and smell and shake, the artful arranging and rearranging of the bounty -- these refresh the senses and clear the cobwebs out of minds.
A liberal education awakens the soul of a child. Liberal means a full and generous curriculum. After a thirty-year experiment, educationalist Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) said, "I believe the ardor for knowledge in the children of this mining village is a phenomenon that indicates new possibilities... To find that the children of a mining population were equally responsive seemed to open a new hope for the world. It may be that the souls of all children are waiting for the call of knowledge to awaken them to delightful living."
Charlotte Mason was a big thinker who had a very high view of children. So let me start out by saying that I don't believe anyone could ever fit Charlotte Mason's ideas, methods and philosophies into an actual nutshell (I just thought it made a good title for this article). Miss Mason's ideas were so broad and far reaching, it took six large volumes to contain her writings on just the topic of education. With that said, here's a very brief overview of a handful of Charlotte Mason's most familiar ideas.
A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola
From amazon.com A thorough chapter-by-chapter overview of the inspiring teaching principles of Christian educator Charlotte Mason, this book reveals the practical day by day method of how to teach "the Charlotte Mason way". The author offers friendly advice, and humor, along with the joys and struggles of real homeschool life. The book covers education, parenting, homeschooling and lots of encouraging advice for mothers. Read more at amazon.com
A Charlotte Mason Education by Levison Catherine
From amazon.com The immensely popular ideas of Charlotte Mason have inspired educators for many decades. Her unique methodology as written about in her six-volume series established the necessary protocols for an education above and beyond that which can be found in traditional classroom settings. In A Charlotte Mason Education, Catherine Levison has collected the key points of Charlotte Mason's methods and presents them in a simple, straightforward way that will allow families to quickly maximize the opportunities of homeschooling. With weekly schedules, a challenging and diverse curriculum will both inspire and educate your child. A Charlotte Mason Education is the latest tool for parents seeking the best education for their children. Read more at amazon.com
The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason
From amazon.com This is the complete works of the turn-of-the-century British educator, Charlotte Mason. The six-volume set includes over 2400 pages of the finest material ever written on education, child training and parenting. Recognized as the pioneer in home education and major school reforms, Charlotte Mason's practical methods are as revolutionary today as when they were first written. Read more at amazon.com
The Original Homeschooling Series (online version)
The online version of Charlotte Mason's entire six-volume book series is available through this link to Ambleside Online.
The A - B - C's of Charlotte Mason
This is the original on-line version of the FAQ offered to all newcomers to the Charlotte Mason Study Loop.
Charlotte Mason Study Guide
Charlotte Mason Study Guide introduces you to the educational approach developed by Charlotte Mason.
Simply Charlotte Mason
Curious about Charlotte Mason? This site gives an excellent overview of Charlotte Mason, her educational philosophy, and how homeschoolers are implementing her methods. The site is very large and contains lots of great information so plan to spend awhile browsing all of the content.
Ambleside Online is a free curriculum designed to be as close as possible to the curriculum that Charlotte Mason used in her own PNEU schools. The curriculum uses as many free online books as possible, and there is no cost to use this information or join the support group.