Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Charlotte Mason-style Education

A curriculum that follows Mason's recommendation of centering education around good literature looks very different from the typical curriculum used in American public and private schools. In Educating the WholeHearted Child, Clarkson states that, "Instead of lifeless, pedantic textbooks and workbooks that expected children only to remember the right answer, she insisted on reading only living books that made literature, history, geography, and science come alive, and that focused more on insights and ideas about the subject than on dry and lifeless facts."

According to Andreola, in her book A Charlotte Mason Companion, whole books are ones "that are written by a single author who shares personally his favorite subject with us, and we pick up his enthusiasm." Along with learning the above-mentioned subjects through whole books, Mason's students learned through nature studies. Nature studies consisted of long walks in the outdoors observing nature and wildlife, collecting specimens, and keeping a nature journal of their observations.

The key points of Mason's philosophy are that children are persons; children love to learn; children need a supportive atmosphere for learning; orality is essential to literacy and learning, living ideas are the natural food of the mind; active involvement is vital to learning; and that the formation of effective habits leads to a productive life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Who is Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a British educator during the turn of the century. She became a highly respected voice in education in England; and she had great influence on British education in her time. After teaching for about a dozen years, she began traveling, writing, and lecturing about a new way of education. Since her ideas arrived on the heels of the British Industrial Revolution and Victorian English thought, they contrasted greatly to the perspective of the day. At a time when most British saw children as cheap laborers, or at least, lesser citizens than adults, Charlotte Mason challenged their thinking. She proposed that, instead of thinking that "children should be seen and not heard in a culture that viewed children as sub-persons that needed to be formed and civilized," they were in fact "a whole, maturing person with an active intelligence and an enormous capacity for learning".

Before finishing her career teaching in the school she founded in Ambleside, England, she published some popular geography books, Home Education, and the six-volume The Original Homeschooling Series. By the time of her death in 1923, almost every public school in Gloucester County and several other areas in Great Britain were using the Mason method.

The strengths of Mason's approach are an emphasis on living books; fine arts, music and poetry; verbal and writing skills; self-motivated learning; real life; and dignity of the child. Her way of educating emphasizes character development; basic learning skills, which were reading, writing, and arithmetic; the reading of many living books; the study of the fine arts (art, music, poetry); and learning through real life experiences like nature and museums.

(Quotes taken from Educating the WholeHearted Child, by Clarkson)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Daddy's Rhythm

Daddy's rhythm was a steady, steady beat

In the ears of this little girl

It never stopped-

This knowing that

Everything was right with the world.

As Daddy kept beat, I knew I was safe

I knew that no harm could come near

Nothing was too hard

Or strong or big

To cause MY dad any fear!

If Dad wasn't worried, then neither was I

Not at all, just ready for fun!

Dad had a good plan

For something to play

And if he had his way, I always won!

He was full of ideas for fun things to do

Rug becomes ship on the make believe sea

In the living room

All of the lights turned out

While he guided our boat back to safety

Keeping busy, we played his games of guessing

As we sat in the car while Mom shopped.

People passed by,

We imagined,

And laughed at our make believe plot.

Dad's drum beat had also a tune

It emerged from that strong, constant beat.

The words were,

"You're perfect"

"I'm so glad you're mine," and then again it would repeat.

His beat slowed a bit as I took my special place,

Standing on his toes for our dances together.

Those sweet moments

Tender and loving-

Memories that will last forever!

Dad's rhythm became part of this girl,

Self-assured, unafraid, and so grateful.

The beat of his drum-

The beat of his heart

Makes love real, unconditional, faithful

He still makes me feel like a small girl

He can melt me my heart with just a tune

When he talks

I hear drumbeat

And melody... Thank you Daddy, for all that you've done

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Curriculum for a Literature Approach

Here are some links to websites that offer literature based homeschool curriculum:


Love of Lit Series

I will be writing a series of posts over the summer about the Love of Literature. So many friends have sent me questions about reading aloud, book lists, and resource ideas on homeschooling with a literature approach. I would like to post some of those resources for you.

Using a literature approach, either partially or exclusively, in your homeschool can be extremely rewarding. The method uses "classics" and other "real" books, written by quality authors. The typical standardized textbooks, lectures, and simplified reading passages are replaced with quality literature to be read by and to the student. There is more to this method than just the reading itself, but I will touch on those ideas in later posts.

The two most highly recommended books about Charlotte Mason's educational style, which is most often the model in a literature-based homeschool, are pictured below...

Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's, For the Children's Sake

Karen Andreola's, A Charlotte Mason Companion

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hello Summer!

Every year, the beginning of summer break fills me with the excitement of the prospects of a new school year! Next year, I will have a Junior! That means ACT tests, transcripts, and a year full of cramming in tons of books that I want Austin to have read before he graduates. Even though we will still have his Senior year left, I think it may fill up with college classes and college prep that I am not even yet aware of. So, I really want to make the most of the coming year with him.

Sydney will be in her Freshman year, which means a second child in high school. Seems unreal! So, I am looking ahead to what we need to cover to begin her first "transcripted" year. Andrew will be entering the middle school years, starting 6th grade. 6th is typically the year that I bump things up a notch and expect more "grown up" work from the kids, which is a big deal. And Macy will be in 1st. Pure sweetness! So much of what makes 1st grade fun is the one-on-one time with an eager little darling. That takes some strategic planning, though!

That leaves my precious little "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"-singing preschoolers (by fall they will be 2 and almost 4). They require so much attention and energy at these ages, so we must find a way to have plenty to keep them busy while the rest of the schoolwork gets done! I plan on us each taking shifts reading to them and playing with them, but with each person having quite a bit to do now, it will take careful planning.

For now we will enjoy some summer fun (and, yes, a few lingering pages of math and grammar for a couple of the kiddos). But I will be doing what I do every summer... daydreaming about another new start in the fall!

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