Almost a year ago now, a sweet homeschooling friend of mine mentioned living books. I’d read briefly about living books and had a look into the Charlotte Mason method – she is the mother of this term – but being honest I thought this style of homeschooling was just outdated. Too Victorian. Too rigid and just well… Old fashioned. Not something that the vision of our modern homeschool encompassed. Her writings sounded like little house on the prairie lifestyle and as much as I loved that idea it stuck me as well, unattainable.
We have been homeschooling from the beginning, my kids haven’t stepped into a school and while they have been on their individual learning journeys, I’ve been on a philosophic learning journey since we started. I’ve researched styles, followed blogs, watched on the sidelines as other inspirational homeschool mamas did it. Then it came time for me to form my own beliefs about how we wanted our children to be educated. I lined these beliefs up with our values.
It hasn’t been easy. Defining your life (because that what homeschooling is – the season of life you’re in with your children. It isn’t separate from anything else. It is your life!) by a label isn’t as simple as it sounds. Fitting within a mold when everyone is an individual isn’t helpful – yet it is. We need a village. We need community to do life with. Yet sometimes labels make us feel like we don’t fit in. “Is there anyone like us, like our homeschool, like me?!” You may ask. There has been much deschooling within my thought processes around this.
Back onto living books. My friend struck a chord in me. I went home with a renewed interest in Charlotte Mason and begun researching. I found blogs and websites, I begun to devour information about her philosophy of learning.
And I just fell in love.
So Who is Charlotte Mason?
Charlotte Mason lived in the turn of the twentieth century. She was a strong woman who was passionate about children and their education. She was a revolutionist within education in her time period and introduced ideas of thought that were radical. She believed children deserved respect and that they were born persons. She knew they were not little vessels to be filled but that they had all that they needed within them already. She believed that the Holy Spirit was the most powerful and wonderful teacher and that there is no education but self education.
What defines a Charlotte Mason education?
This is a hard question because I think it could be a VERY long one 😉 I will try to sum it up in a couple of short sentences.
Charlotte Mason believed children should be educated on real ideas, through their natural environment, the training of good habits and exposure to living ideas and concepts from the beginning. She believed that children should be fed upon the best ideas, which she called ‘mind-food.’ She believed even the youngest children should be given ‘ideas, clothed upon with facts’ as they occur, inspiring tales, and worthy thoughts.’
Charlotte Mason had 20 educational principles within these there are two major motto’s which form her stances, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” and “Education is the science of relations.” She believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such, they should also be taught the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason. Her motto for students was “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”
How a Charlotte Mason education benefits a child.
It gives them real ideas, ideas that are worthy to be dwelt upon. Ideas that are important. Through living books children are given a hand into the past which connects them to their future, helping them to understand their place on earth. The power of observation and attention is developed – gently and with great purpose. Lessons are short – therefore focused and meaningful. Nature and the outdoors is treasured which fostered a deep love for God’s creation. I think one of the most vital things a Charlotte Mason education gives is the gift of time. Time to mull over ideas that are rich. Kind of like digestion time. Time to savour lessons learned. Children learn how to form ideas, how to express themselves, how to truly see things without bias – that’s what narration does.
They are introduced to beauty, goodness, truth and a world that is so large and big it would be hard to describe. This is what living books gives a child. They’re introduced to wonder, awe and freedom. This is what nature gives a child.
Since that day almost a year ago, after that talk with my friend, I have begun implementing her methods and learning about the gentle art of learning.
These are just some of the things that I see a Charlotte Mason education bring to a child. Is there anything you would add to that list? Have you heard of Charlotte Mason education before?
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