When it comes to home schooling, parents need all of the resources they can muster. Designing curricula, scheduling field trips, and tailoring lesson plans to children in different grade levels can be challenging. Using children’s literature to enrich the curriculum you teach in the home learning environment can be rewarding to both you and your
Charlotte Mason, a British educator whose life spanned the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century, fervently advocated the use of literature in children’s education. Often referred to as the founder of home schooling, Mason pioneered a liberal arts approach to children’s education. In contrast to the rigid memorization required of students during her time, Mason’s educational theories embraced the concept of instilling a love of learning in children and exposing them to a wide variety of subjects.
Today, many parents use the Charlotte
Mason method as a home school resource. Several of Mason’s key concepts relate to reading in the home learning environment. The first is the avoidance of what she termed “twaddle,” or books that today could be called “junk food for the mind.” You’re probably familiar with the type, such as chapter books based on TV shows that use overly simplistic sentences and rely on illustrations, rather than words, to engage a child. Instead, the Mason method opts for children’s literature that is
well written and captivates the child’s imagination with words.
Another of Mason’s key concepts that relates to reading is that of “whole books.” She advocated that a child read a book in its entirety, rather than simply reading book excerpts. Any parent of a child educated in the public school system knows that language arts textbooks are typically anthologies of book excerpts. Mason felt that a work should be read as it was written, as opposed to reading only a portion of the complete book.
Narration is a third concept advocated by Mason.
In contrast to rote memorization and recitation, or testing that focuses on what a child doesn’t know, Mason felt that children should have the opportunity to explain what they do know. After reading a book, for example, a child could talk about what he or she learned, could write about the book in a journal, or could paint or sculpt a depiction of what he or she learned.
Charlotte Mason’s teaching methods are easy and inexpensive to integrate into home education. Developing an
effective reading program for home learning – by avoiding “twaddle,” by reading the whole book, and by incorporating narration as a measure of comprehension – is an integral component to the Mason method. Utilizing children’s book reviews will help in this effort, as will broadening the
reading experience by incorporating related individual and family activities.