Saturday, February 2, 2008

Why I like Charlotte Mason

In my research on education, I have discovered a kindred spirit in Charlotte Mason. She was an innovative educator in England in the 1800s. Of all the philosophies of education I've read, her's fits the best with my ideas of how I want to raise my children.

Key points that I like:
  • Love and nurture your children as individuals. This doesn't seem radical to us, but at the time of her writing children were to be seen and not heard.
  • Have your kids play outside as much as possible where they'll learn about nature, science, observation, creativity, independence, joy and God. All that good stuff.
  • Read, read, read good books, which are those that are well-written with excellent language and imagery, great stories and themes. She advised to avoid what she called "twaddle," books that are dumbed down and insult children's intelligence. You know, those silly, poorly written children's books you find at the grocery store that are a bore to read and completely unimaginative. They're like feeding your kids a diet full of sugar with no protein or vegetables.
  • Read "living" books as opposed to textbooks to learn about practically all subjects--history, philosophy, science, social studies, art, music, etc. Living books are history books, biographies, novels, nonfiction books about the subject written by the primary source or learned researchers. Textbooks are shortened synopsis compiled by committees and aren't able to provide the whole picture. When I think about this, the best book I ever read that taught me about the Civil War was "Across Five Aprils," a historical novel for kids. That book made the horrors and complications and issues of the Civil War real and vivid for me, much more than any textbook I had to read for school.
  • Avoid busy work, such as worksheets, and rely on real-life applications instead.
  • Short lessons, like 15-20 minutes per subject, for the early years. Whets the kids appetites for the subject without boring them or overdoing it. It should provide them with enough interest that they'll want to study more the next day.
  • Alternate hard and easy subjects. For instance, do math then nature study outside then reading then art, etc.
  • Do habit-training with very young children as a way of discipline. When you start when they are very young and make things into a habit, it will be easier for them to behave as they get older. She advocated gentle redirection and redirection until they got it; give them attention when they do it well and ignore them when they don't. Actually, it's a lot like Parenting with Love and Logic, a modern discipline approach that I like.
To learn more about Charlotte Mason and her ideas on education, read the following books:
Of course, read the original Philosophy of Education, by Charlotte Mason to get the info straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Since she wrote in the 1800s, her writing style is dictated by the times and is a bit difficult to read by our modern standards. Ambleside,, is a wonderful resource for information about Charlotte Mason, how to implement her ideas, and a free, online curriculum. They have a modern paraphrase of Mason's writing for free online, which is what I've been reading. I can't say I agree with everything she taught (some of the practicalities are difficult in this day and age), but her overriding philosophy of education and parenting is excellent.


TeacherBritt said...

Fabulous summary on the core of the CM philosophy!!! Great post!

Be Blessed,

Heart of Wisdom said...

Thanks for this post. I linked to it from my blog at Heart of Wisdom.