Charlotte Mason was a British, turn of the century educator. Her philosophy has greatly affected the homeschooling movement today, causing thousands of parents to choose a non-traditional approach, rather than the traditional textbook method.
Her original works contain six large volumes, written in old English. Fortunately, several authors have reviewed and summarized her works for the enjoyment of many. Even with these summaries, it is hard to know where to start and what the essence of this philosophy is. So here are five key points to help you understand a Charlotte Mason education.
1)Charlotte Mason education is a method or philosophy, rather than a system which tells you what to do each minute. Consider what Charlotte Mason said about the Holy Spirit- “such a recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit as the Educator of mankind, in things intellectual, as well as in moral and spiritual.” By learning this philosophy, you will feel confident about what to teach your children and when.
2)Charlotte Mason education “is an atmosphere (of the home), a discipline (of habits), and a life (of ideas). She often refers to this quote throughout her books to help us realize that a child depends on these three basic things to succeed in his education. We must provide our children with an atmosphere of learning by means of an orderly home, inspiring surroundings, the right attitude, and wonderful books. The discipline is established by the formation of habits. Consider her following quote, “Sow an act, reap a habit, sow a habit, reap a character, sow a character, reap a destiny.” The purpose of the habit is to change the inner child, not just the conduct. Lastly, the life of ideas is nurtured through the use of the Bible, and books which inspire virtues and characters deemed of worthiness.
3)Charlotte Mason promoted the use of living books. Living books are well written books, “whole books,” with high literary content. These books should display “origination, imagination, and the ‘human touch.'” Examples of living books are classics, such as LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, TREASURE ISLAND, or first hand sources, such as “The Declaration of Independence.” Living Books are the opposite of “twaddle,” which are books “drained dry of living thought.”
4)Charlotte Mason uses narration, copywork and dictation as the main means to develop speaking skills, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, penmanship and retention. Before a child is able to narrate what she has heard from a story, she must first listen intently so the information processes in her mind and in essence ‘becomes theirs.’ This approach indicates to the parent that the child has comprehended the reading, as it further enhances the child’s communication skills. Copywork is achieved by finding a well written piece of work and giving it to the child to copy word by word, and in perfect form. To do this, the child must focus and attentively transcribe the data, learning how to spell it and taking mental note of the vocabulary and grammar in the story. Dictation achieves the same goal and is started in the later years of school.
5)Charlotte Mason implements nature walks, fine art appreciation, poetry and Shakespearean knowledge as part of her philosophy. Although all these subjects may seem overwhelming, her approach allows parents to include them simply and bits by bits. By taking children on nature walks, they learn to appreciate God’s creation and its intricate details. Field guides and other science stories offer aide in this area. Fine arts are accomplished by tackling one composer and artist per semester. By surrounding a child with the music of one composer and the artist’s work for that term, the child begins to recognize it as part of his surroundings. Poetry is read often, as well as adapted versions (to younger children) of Shakespeare to develop an appreciation for such.