Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Charlotte Mason? An Introduction

I am really not sure where or how I was introduced to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. Gradually over the last year or two, I have tried to familiarize myself with all I could about this approach to home education. I knew I didn’t want to buy a curriculum and just bring school into the home. I wanted the education we would provide for our children to be different. I wanted them to truly experience and truly learn the information put before them. I wanted them to be excited about their education and not just go through the motions.

To me, this is what is so intriguing about Ms. Mason’s approach to education. She truly knew children. She understood their development, their needs, and how they could most effectively learn. And when you get into the particulars of what the PNEU schools provided for children, you will see how simple and beautiful a Charlotte Mason education can be. (PNEU is Parent's National Education Union. These were schools started to use Ms. Mason's philosophy of education.)

Ms. Mason believed in not dumbing-down information for children. She said away with the twaddle and in with a feast of ideas for the children. Give the children beautiful environments and good literature and they will know how to form relationships with all that is presented before them. She insisted the teacher not get in the way with lectures and talks, but to allow the child to experience the information and make their own relationship with all they are learning.

After my research, I found this approach to education to be the most gentle. While I’m sure it will be rigorous at times as we move into higher years, the gentle approach to learning for these early years we are in is the most appealing. Ms. Mason believed in letting the children alone for the first six years of life. The main objectives are to create good habits and get the children outdoors to experience God’s creation. She even suggested six hours a day of outdoor time a day!

With all of my children being in these early years, what do we desire for our day to look like? We have basically sided with Ms. Mason and said away with the lessons! While we do try to incorporate some learning from life and what God places before our eyes, we do not have the typical school schedule. This, by the way, goes very much against my personality and desires. However, as I incorporate more of Ms. Mason’s ideas, I truly see growth and the innate curiosity my children have for all the things around them.

My eldest has recently turned five and we are attempting to implement what most schools would call the “extras.” We would be in what Ambleside Online would call Year 0. So, we spend time outdoors, trying to do some form of nature study during the week. Recently, I have implemented some handicrafts and an introduction to artist study. We work on habits and we read really good books. (Even though this goes against Ms. Mason’s suggestions, "Away with books, and 'reading to'--for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child's vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets." (Vol 5, p 216))

I hope over the coming weeks to expound a bit more on each of the things we are making a conscious effort to do this year. Until then, I leave you with a quote and a link to an old blog post of mine that sums up the early years greatly...

A mother's chief responsibility for the first six years is to secure for her children "Quiet growing time--and free growing time--the freedom of real play (not lessons that look like play) and of ordering one's own life.”

(Visit here to learn more about a CM education.)

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