It was the end of our very first year of homeschooling. I was having an afternoon of sewing and smocking with my friend (I taught classes on sewing and smocking as a part of my home sewing business). We had stopped our work to have tea. While we were having tea, I shared with her about the ups and downs of my first year of homeschooling. She was a homeschooling veteran. I really respected her ideas and opinions. She was rock-solid. I was SO impressed by her children and all that they had accomplished homeschooling. I shared with her that there were a few things that just worked GREAT for us….others that were, ugh, a nightmare! She was sooo calm as she declared a truth that would set me free to find the philosophy of education that was just for me and my children. She told me that I sounded like the perfect Charlotte Mason/Unit Study mom. As I listened to her ideas for getting to know more about those approaches, I thought back to the very first book that I had bought— Books Children Love, which was written with suggestions for great books to be sure to read to your children while they were growing up. And…another book, For the Children’s Sake, which just grabbed me!
As I went back home that afternoon, my mind was buzzing. I wanted to know more. And…imagine…the resources were right under my nose the whole time!
Oh! You probably already know the rest of the story. Now, we look back over 17 years of homeschooling. The ideas of Charlotte Mason have profoundly influenced me and my methods. She became a “mentor” who taught me how to teach my children and equip them with the very best education possible. She can do the same thing for you and your homeschool. If you need a model to follow with great results, check out the ideas of this amazing lady. If you are searching for some ideas to make Homeschooling easy, search no further. You will love Charlotte Mason and her ideas! They are the old paths that really work! I love her ideas. Just peek at them (these are my favorites!):
• USE WHOLE, LIVING BOOKS.Charlotte Mason advocated giving the children a generous selection of the very best books, whole books, instead of textbooks with snippets of information on topics. She felt that giving the children ideas through first-hand resources, classics, biographies would enliven and challenge their minds! She used the best literature for reading material instead of graded readers! Miss Mason’s goal was to let them learn from the best authors instead of just having a nodding acquaintance with them! Want that? It works! In order for busy moms in our day and time to have time to truly enjoy whole books, we must prune the textbooks and activity branches allowing for many hours of enjoyment with real books! You won’t be sorry!
• GET BACK TO THE OLD WAYS OF TEACHING LANGUAGE ARTS–Copywork, narration, dictation, and notebooking. This is just the opposite of the modern day mindset, which propagates giving children a formal instruction in Grammar before giving them a thorough background of reading and copying great works. Charlotte Mason advocated reading aloud and then allowing the children to narrate (tell back) the story. This
used the all the faculties of the mind as the child “must generalize, classify, infer, judge, visualize, discriminate, labor in one way or another, with that capable mind of his, until the substance of that book is assimilated or rejected, according as he shall determine…” The process of narration challenges the mind to gather, process, and articulate information which is the very process of learning! Copywork is the foundation of all writing! In Charlotte Mason’s Schools, the children were responsible for keeping copybooks in which they made entries daily. Families today do much the same with copybooks (notebooks) for all copywork or copybooks (notebooks) for specific subjects such as poetry, science, history, narrations… With copywork, the children are learning from the masters of literature all of the basics of writing…spelling, grammar, handwriting, and composition! This allows the teacher to save formal grammar instruction for older ages (Grades 4-8) and then only teach grammar orally! Charlotte Mason also used dictation with her students to increase their attentiveness and writing skills. These methods of language instruction replaced the workbooks while increasing the student’s love of learning!
• STEADY DIET OF REAL AND LIVING IDEAS.Charlotte Mason encouraged inspiring children with ideas every day! She encouraged those who learned from her to inspire children to really think and encourage them to enjoy knowledge by presenting them with ideas. You can do this by putting them in direct contact with great minds in literature, art, music, philosophy, science, and history! Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to give their children at least one new idea each day by including all forms of human expression!
• LARGE DOSE OF HUMANITIES. This is where Charlotte Mason really begins to part from other approaches to teaching children. She made time to instill an appreciation of the humanities…art, music, poetry. This area is often neglected by most approaches although it is vital for a well-balanced education.
By presenting skills alone, we starve the child (and ourselves) of beauty, emotion, and understanding of life! The study of humanities should begin while they are young and forming their personality! They should be given the best, the truly excellent! Betty Carlson in The Gift of Music inspired me with her comment, “The more we acquaint ourselves with that which is truly great and beautiful, the more we will dislike and turn away from that which is shallow and ugly.” This quote captures what Charlotte Mason encouraged us to present to the child–an education filled with that which is great, beautiful, and truly excellent!
• SHORT LESSONS! Short, focused and disciplined lessons will encourage children to develop the habits of attentiveness, and excellence-in quality and neatness- while preventing the contrary habits of dawdling and sloppiness! Charlotte Mason felt that short lessons helped to develop good habits and allow for time needed to pursue hobbies,ministry, and real life.
• LESSONS UNTIL 1:00 with afternoons left for leisure. Leisure for children means running, climbing, yelling, etc… Handicrafts, practicing musical instruments, chores, visiting lonely neighbors, observing and studying nature, and cooking can also be accomplished! Many families also have business and ministries for their children to be involved in. This does mean NO homework! The children get their work done promptly
and correctly eliminating the need for homework and allowing them plenty of time to pursue real interests!
• NO GRADES! Charlotte Mason knew that we are all inspired by admiration, faith, and love so she eliminated the use of artificial stimulants such as prizes, competition, and grades.
• THREE TOOLS FOR TEACHING EVERY CHILD:Charlotte Mason felt that there were 3 tools that every child would respond to:
Atmosphere…Charlotte Mason believed that children should be free to learn and grow in an atmosphere of acceptance, value, respect, nurture,serenity, contentment, and stability. The home provides that atmosphere. The home should be relaxed, stimulating, positive, and enjoyable. Our homes should be inviting, warm, and filled with opportunities to learn all throughout the day, not just during “school time!” We can develop an atmosphere of real learning in our home.
Discipline… Use habit! The most critical part of teaching is the formation of good habits. The responsibility for their habits is ours! Children form either good or bad habits… attentiveness,
concentration, truthfulness, selfcontrol, unselfishness, excellence, obedience…OR…restlessness, wandering mind, dulled senses, non-thinking, non-communication, failure, discouragement, disobedience. Self-education…Charlotte Mason believed in equipping the child with the skills needed to be selfeducated. This is not the child dependent upon the teacher to gather and pre-digest information for the child. Instead, the child is introduced to the carefully chosen words of the author and then allowed to comment by narration, orally or written, by the age of 6-7! Self-education begins the process of building life-long learners!
Life… True education takes place in REAL LIFE. When we begin to see that all of life is a classroom, we will truly equip our children to become self-educated, life-long learners. In order to do this we must teach our children how their education relates to real life. Children’s minds deteriorate without the stimulus of ideas. The artificial classroom experiences stullify their minds. Charlotte Mason believed that those children will learn to feed their minds on the best intellectual food- literature, Scripture, art, music, history,science, and nature. She believed that they would form their own conclusions without being told what to think!
• THE VIEW OF THE CHILD. Perhaps, there is no greater need than for us to see children as Charlotte Mason saw them. This completely affects the homeschool from the way that it is set up to the way that they children are taught to the way that the children respond to lessons. Charlotte Mason saw them as persons, real individuals. She respected their minds. She fully believed that they needed to be equipped to THINK and READ on many subjects. She wanted them to be able to reach their own conclusions. She believed that children should be given the Bible, literature, history, art, music, science that is original and straightforward! Miss Mason taught that children needed time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges, build and attack forts…in short, time to be children! She believed that the child should not be rushed, but rather should have plenty of freedom and free time! Perhaps, no other educator has ever really known what a child really needs like Charlotte Mason. As a mother, I believe that Charlotte Mason really knew these precious children that our God made!
Oh! These are truly only a very few things that I love about the ideas of Charlotte Mason. Of course, you can probably see why I found her ideas to be so helpful with my children.
What about you? Want to breathe life into your homeschool? Why not take some time to get to know an educator from long, long ago whose ideas can bring fresh, easy, and fun ideas into your homeschool. You will love it too!
Want to know more?
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