A few weeks ago I said I was going to write more about our homeschooling style. I haven’t had time to write much, and truth be told I’m still learning so much about Charlotte Mason that I can’t accurately write up something about it.
The basic way Charlotte Mason style homeschooling works is that we use living books instead of text books. Living books are narrative style books, like an autobiography, that are written by one person and pull your thoughts and emotions into the story, get your interest, so that you remember what you’re learning about. Basically the opposite of reading a dry encyclopedia. The opposite of a text book, which are usually little summaries of historical events or boring explanations.
There is a lot, and I mean A LOT more to CM learning than just living books. I’ve been trying to learn about it on my own for the past year since I discovered Charlotte Mason and I’ve been totally overwhelmed and sometimes confused. We’ve tried out several homeschool co-ops in our area and I haven’t found any other parents who do CM. None of the co-op classes have lined up with the philosophies, which has been disappointing.
I’ve been praying, wishing, hoping, and praying even harder that I might find another family who is interested in Charlotte Mason. A few weeks ago I posted on a local board asking if anyone had a certain book for sale (A Child’s History of the World) because we needed it for Year 1 and I’d forgotten to order it. Someone offered to give it to me, which is awesome because it’s a $40 book. Then someone else saw my post and messaged me to ask if we were doing Charlotte Mason because she knew that was a living book. She went on to ask me if I’d heard about the Charlotte Mason study group starting up.
Apparently a few other mothers are interested in Charlotte Mason homeschooling and they are starting their own group to study one of Charlotte Mason’s books. (Volume 6) Her books are written in Victorian English. They are educational theories, dense reading. Thought provoking stuff about not only education but a lifestyle, how you intend to raise your children. I already own the book they were going to study and I’ve tried to read it on my own, but it was a little discouraging to slog through chapter after chapter with no one to bounce thoughts off of. The book has lots of “ah-ha!” moments that beg to be discussed.
Not to over generalize, but most of the parents I’ve met at these homeschool co-ops don’t seem to be into this sort of thing. There are a lot of worksheets and curriculum packages, not much in the way of deep discussions on things like educational philosophies.
I was THRILLED to hear that not only are there other CM families, but they want to have a study group. SIGN ME UP!!
(Yes, me, the socially awkward person who avoids groups of people as much as possible. This could be premature, but it is possible that I *might* be coming out of my shell. At least peeking out…)
I went to the first meeting of the group last week and there were 14 other moms there. That’s a pretty big number! Quite exciting. We discussed the preface and introduction of the book for three hours.
Three hours people. Three hours of actual intellectual discussion on a topic I feel passionate about–parenting and education–with others who are interested and in agreement, from varying backgrounds and different ages.
Be still my heart.
The very, very best part is that these all seem like normal people. Smart, caring moms who aren’t snooty or weird. Just normal, average families.
The very, very, very best part (oh yeah I just found a reason to use the underline!) is that the leader of the study group is organizing a Charlotte Mason homeschool co-op. The study group is planning the co-op together.
Yours truly is possibly going to be teaching the three year old class. Play based learning. (Because I love toddlers and preschoolers more than any other age group.) We plan to start the co-op in January. I never realized how much planning it takes to run a co-op! Between the 15 mothers at the study group there are about 50 children. Some of the women have large families, some just have one child. There’s a good mix.
Tonight I went to the second meeting and it was as good as the first meeting. Three more hours of discussion. I am able to ask experienced mothers for advice with every tiny problem we’re having. Since this is our first year of real schooling (more than just Kindergarten) it’s been a little challenging. It’s like the support I’ve found on the internet has stepped out into reality. I may no longer need the internet if this trend continues. No joke! The leader of the group invited us to come over to her house soon so Rosie can see how her kids do “school” and be encouraged. I think that will help a lot.
I’m also learning more about so many different resources that will be extremely helpful as Rosie gets older. Things I would have not figured out on my own, or at least not easily.
I will be posting more about Charlotte Mason and how this style of schooling is working out for us as we go along. If you’re interested in reading more about it, below are the main principles from Charlotte Mason written in modern English. Keep in mind these were written in another time period and some things you have to take with a grain of salt. Overall the goal is to give children not just knowledge, but the desire and wisdom to be self-educating so they can learn (and enjoy learning!) throughout their whole lives.
It includes all regular school subjects, though I think once you reach high school level there will be some break away for things like calculus if Rosie wants/needs to learn something like that. I never took calculus and didn’t need it for my major and neither did Tyler, but for some reason people love to pick out that one particular subject so I used it as an example. (There, now I don’t have to get 20 more comments asking me how my child will ever learn calculus!) By the way, there’s a home school co-op or college class for that, I don’t have to worry about it right now or ever.
Links with more info are below the principles.
A Short Synopsis of the Educational Philosophy Explained in This Book
‘As soon as the soul spots truth, the soul recognizes it as her first and oldest friend.’
‘The repercussions of truth are great. Therefore we must not neglect to correctly judge what’s true, and what’s not.’
– Benjamin Whichcote
Whichcote meant that the end result of truth is so great, that we must be careful to make sure that what we live by is, indeed, the truth.
1. Children are born persons–they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons. They already are persons.
2. Although children are born with a sin nature, they are neither all bad, nor all good. Children from all walks of life and backgrounds may make choices for good or evil.
3. The concepts of authority and obedience are true for all people whether they accept it or not. Submission to authority is necessary for any society or group or family to run smoothly.
4. Authority is not a license to abuse children, or to play upon their emotions or other desires, and adults are not free to limit a child’s education or use fear, love, power of suggestion, or their own influence over a child to make a child learn.
5. The only means a teacher may use to educate children are the child’s natural environment, the training of good habits and exposure to living ideas and concepts. This is what CM’s motto ‘Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life’ means.
6. ‘Education is an atmosphere’ doesn’t mean that we should create an artificial environment for children, but that we use the opportunities in the environment he already lives in to educate him. Children learn from real things in the real world.
7. ‘Education is a discipline’ means that we train a child to have good habits and self-control.
8. ‘Education is a life’ means that education should apply to body, soul and spirit. The mind needs ideas of all kinds, so the child’s curriculum should be varied and generous with many subjects included.
vol 6 paraphrase pg xxx
9. The child’s mind is not a blank slate, or a bucket to be filled. It is a living thing and needs knowledge to grow. As the stomach was designed to digest food, the mind is designed to digest knowledge and needs no special training or exercises to make it ready to learn.
10. Herbart’s philosophy that the mind is like an empty stage waiting for bits of information to be inserted puts too much responsibility on the teacher to prepare detailed lessons that the children, for all the teacher’s effort, don’t learn from anyway.
11. Instead, we believe that children’s minds are capable of digesting real knowledge, so we provide a rich, generous curriculum that exposes children to many interesting, living ideas and concepts.
12. ‘Education is the science of relations’ means that children have minds capable of making their own connections with knowledge and experiences, so we make sure the child learns about nature, science and art, knows how to make things, reads many living books and that they are physically fit.
13. In devising a curriculum, we provide a vast amount of ideas to ensure that the mind has enough brain food, knowledge about a variety of things to prevent boredom, and subjects are taught with high-quality literary language since that is what a child’s attention responds to best.
14. Since one doesn’t really ‘own’ knowledge until he can express it, children are required to narrate, or tell back (or write down), what they have read or heard.
15. Children must narrate after one reading or hearing. Children naturally have good focus of attention, but allowing a second reading makes them lazy and weakens their ability to pay attention the first time. Teachers summarizing and asking comprehension questions are other ways of giving children a second chance and making the need to focus the first time less urgent. By getting it the first time, less time is wasted on repeated readings, and more time is available during school hours for more knowledge. A child educated this way learns more than children using other methods, and this is true for all children regardless of their IQ or background.
vol 6 paraphrase pg xxxi
16. Children have two guides to help them in their moral and intellectual growth–’the way of the will,’ and ‘the way of reason.’
17. Children must learn the difference between ‘I want’ and ‘I will.’ They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else, interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.
18. Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous ideas if we really want to believe them.
19. Knowing that reason is not to be trusted as the final authority in forming opinions, children must learn that their greatest responsibility is choosing which ideas to accept or reject. Good habits of behavior and lots of knowledge will provide the discipline and experience to help them do this.
20. We teach children that all truths are God’s truths, and that secular subjects are just as divine as religious ones. Children don’t go back and forth between two worlds when they focus on God and then their school subjects; there is unity among both because both are of God and, whatever children study or do, God is always with them.
vol 6 paraphrase pg 1
(Copied from: http://amblesideonline.org/CMM/M6_00.html )
An FAQ about everything related:
We’re doing Year 1 and using the basic plan from here:
I also like this, Secular Charlotte Mason, for when the religious aspect gets to be too much. Because while we are Christian I’m not really into extremely religious homeschooling. Good to see this site because it shows how you can still do CM style regardless.