I am excited to be starting a small series on educational philosophies. This represents hours of reading and research that I have done for my own benefit and the benefit of my family. It is certainly not exhaustive, but I hope that my research will benefit others.
My purpose is not to share my opinions as much as to let you know what the major tenants of each philosophy is, and give you helpful resources. I plan to do one philosophy a week, but if I do not feel I have properly researched I will not post. I want to give you the best information I can. You understand.
Detailing each philosophy helps me understand it better, but I truly want it to be beneficial for others, so feel free to send others to the post. As always, please feel free to ask for clarification or details in the comments.
Whether you homeschool or not, you might find some helpful resources.
Charlotte Mason was a 19th-century British educator who revolutionized education in her time. She had no children, debunking the myth that one must have children to understand how children learn, and spent her entire life devoted to researching, teaching, and eventually writing an entire philosophy of education.
In a time in England when education was only available to the elite, Charlotte believed that all children could and would learn given the right conditions. She preferred to think of children, not as empty vessels needing to be filled with information and learning, but as people with legitimate ideas, thoughts and opinions. She despised talking down to children and trained the teachers in her teacher’s college to respect each child as a person and his ideas as legitimate. She did value the authority of the teacher, but viewed it as setting the boundaries, opening up the world of the child, and providing the child with all the necessary means to learn himself/herself.
Key Components of the Charlotte Mason Philosophy:
- Real living books, not textbooks: She was a firm believer that children should be directed right to the source, not given “twaddle” as she called it, and be read books that were above their level and of the highest literary quality. Read-aloud times were a key component and used daily in her classrooms.
- Narration: This is where students were given opportunity to respond to the text that had just been read. Teachers were encouraged to use open-ended questions or simply allow the students to tell their thoughts on the given passage. Students also would practice their penmanship and writing skills by writing their narrations down. Younger students, and those not proficient at writing were asked to dictate to the teacher, and then draw a picture. Things like spelling were taught from these written out narrations rather than from lists of words.
- Nature: Charlotte believed firmly in being outdoors. In the elementary ages, she believed that children should spend half the day outside. This was a time to romp in nature, discover plants, insects, and all types of living creatures. This was a time when teachers were to remind students of it being God’s creation, explore interesting creatures they had discovered, and experience nature. These afternoon nature times allowed for children to get a healthy amount of fresh air and exercise, which Charlotte believed should make them enjoy and learn better.
- Short Lessons: Charlotte believed that teaching time should be 15-20 minutes at a time and up to a maximum of 45 minutes for high school students. The teaching time should then be followed with interactive narration, writing, moving, drawing, music, art observation, etc.
- Habit-training: It would take you a long time to get through the list of habits Charlotte Mason has written. She believed in educating the whole child and teachers were supposed to encourage and enforce habits of character (i.e. respect in greetings, thank you, please, etc.), responsibility (i.e. keeping their desks neat, putting things away, etc), and learning (i.e. attentiveness, doing your best work, reading for learning). Education was to be viewed as a discipline.
Charlotte Mason did use memorization on a small scale (primarily math), but she preferred to enlighten her students with the world of ideas. Art, music, nature, history, and science were areas in which she used living books. Teachers were not to give them “saw dust,” the term she used for imposing their own ideas of a work of art or literature on the child. She despised rewards, and wanted to ignite each child’s inner passion for learning.
What is widely known about Charlotte Mason and those teachers that were trained directly under her is that they genuinely loved children and respected them as persons. Perhaps therein lies her biggest success? She loved them, she wanted them to love learning, and she was hugely successful.
(Her original writings are difficult to find sometimes. As is usually the case, it would be great to go directly to primary sources, and not simply rely on peoples’ writings about her writings. However, she wrote volumes of works, and most of us will not have the time or inclination to research that so we are indebted to those who have.)
- When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today by Elaine Cooper
- A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations for Education at Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
- Simply Charlotte Mason (A wealth of information on this site including several free ebooks. This book list by subject/grade level is great for any parent no matter what your educational leanings.)
- Ambleside Online
- My Father’s World: Christian Homeschool Curriculum. This is an excellent boxed curriculum (if you are unfamiliar with homeschool terms, this refers to a curriculum where you can order a grade level and receive everything you need for that grade).It does an excellent job of using living books to teach, and does all the work for you of researching what books and how to use it to teach different subjects. I have personally looked at the K5 and found it easy to follow and well done (relative as I have not actually used it, but…). You can also find the lists of books they use such as this list for K5. It is also fairly inexpensive making it a great option for many families.
I have done my best to be as thorough as possible based on the research I have done to this point. I know, though, that I have probably missed some important concepts or resources. Please chime in in the comments.
Have you had any experience or researched anything about Charlotte Mason or education in general? Please join the discussion.