Monday, July 6, 2009

About Charlotte Mason

Information about Charlotte Mason is easily available by doing a search on the internet. But here is at least some of what I understand about her and her methods.

Charlotte Mason was born in 1842 in England. She grew up to be an educator, and did a lot to revolutionize education in England. She had schools following her methods, but she also provided information for people that were teaching their children at home in a type of correspondance school.

She wrote 6 books about Education, which are available here.

Whenever I read Anne of Green Gables, or watch the movie (with Megan Follows), I am reminded of Charlotte Mason's methods as would be seen in the classroom. Of course, I'm talking about the part where Miss Stacey is the teacher - having the class out on nature walks, reading interesting plays, doing exercises outside, and other enlightened learning activities.

It is hard to do a decent summary of the Charlotte Mason (CM) methods in just a few words. There is so much "meat" to it.

CM involves keeping the lesson period very short. For the first years, say about 1-3, most lessons should be about 5 to 10 minutes. 15 minutes on the outside. A lot can be accomplished when the student has his attention to the subject at hand. Daydreaming and inattention, which occurs when lessons are longer, just waste the time of both student and teacher. I have also seen the advantage of stopping a lesson while the student still wants to do it - it makes them eager to tackle the same subject the next day. Working on a subject until the student no longer wants to do it causes them to not want to start it up again the next day.

CM feels that students should learn from "living books". For literature, that would mean good literature (mostly classical, as the classics have proven their worth). We are talking about the type of book that you don't want to put down. "Twaddle" should be avoided - that is the type of books that talk down to children, or provide no challenge in reading. Subjects like History and Science should be approached with living books too. Either books written during the time - or written by someone with a passion for the subject. Textbooks should generally be avoided (although there may be some better textbooks today than in CM's time.)

CM felt that math should be "hands-on" in the earlier years, and I believe that she would agree that understanding how math works, and what you would use it for would be very important instead of memorizing math rules by rote.

Handicrafts should be useful, or of a quality to be kept (for art) - instead of the paper crafts that are destined for the garbage within a few days. (after discussion, a number of people following the CM method do feel that some of the work that a year 0 student would be doing would be a pre-handicraft practice.... learning to cut, draw, etc.) Things like knitting, sewing, wood-work, needlecraft, weaving, etc can be learned a lot younger than we tend to think. (My mom, for example, started knitting at the age of 3....)

Students should put forth their best efforts at all time - striving for excellent. It is better to get 3 or 4 perfect strokes (in handwriting practice), than lines and lines of illformed ones. Remember that this is easier with the short lessons!

Children should have a lot of time outside in nature. In today's world, this needs to be scheduled in. This is especially important with Year 0 children, but is still important even with older children. I personally feel that this is even more important for us to plan as the habits of our society have changed in this area. Even when I was a child, many of my days were spent outside playing with other friends. In my parents time, children spent almost all their free time outside. Today it seems rare for children to play outside at all.

For raising children, it is important to instill good habits. Habit training can become a habit with the mother. The better habits you have given your children, the easier time you will have as a parent. If you find that you keep having to tell your children over and over to do something, then there is a habit that you wish them to have that you have not trained them to have. I must admit that this is an area on which I need more work!

I am sure there is a lot I have forgotten to mention. There is a lot to consider. However, I do feel that working on implementing these methods help make the homeschool an enjoyable place, and a place where children love to learn!

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