Charlotte Mason’s Approach to Education

Charlotte Mason’s Approach to Education


                                             

 

Charlotte Mason: Christian Educator

 Charlotte Mason was a Christian educator. She believed that children were whole persons, created by God and deserving of quality education. Karen Andreola articulates Charlotte Mason’s love for the Lord and how that influenced her regard for people.   Charlotte Mason felt that children where unique individuals with specific characteristics and personalities.  They have a particular destiny, calling, and personality that deserved to be nurtured.   This sentiment was in direct contrast to the more utilitarian attitude of many people during her lifetime.   People feel that children are to be used.  Children are to be raised for the benefit of the state.  Charlotte Mason disagreed with this perspective.  She believed children were to be raised and nurtured in a way that would draw out their gifts and talents.  I noticed my thoughts about children changing.  Charlotte Mason taught me to see children in a more complete state.  They have unique gifts and talents given by God. These gifts are to be identified and nurtured. Read on to find out my transformation.                                              

Transformation of Thought

I have educators in my family so I guess I was bound to become an educator myself.  As a young child, I never wanted to be a teacher. The thought of being a teacher did not seem like a lot of fun.  I thought I was I was allergic to paper.  I firmly believed that to be a teacher you had to love paper because there seemed to be so much of it.    There were worksheets, charts, folders and spreadsheets that seemed to multiply at whim.  Computers have made things better but there is still plenty of paper.                                               

Maturing in the Lord

As I matured, the Lord began to open my heart to His desire for me to teach. He began to show me that I was called to impact the lives of children and their parents. Furthermore, I learned there were many things I loved about teaching.  It is a privilege to help a child go from being a non-reader to an excellent reader.  The teacher gets to engage with children.  They get to identify gifts and talents. We get to nurture these gifts and talents. When a child embraces gifts, they begin a life-long journey that leads to deep satisfaction. The typical classroom, however,  still left me feeling like there was something missing. During those early years of my being in the classroom and having children of my own that I began to seek something deeper and richer.                                               

Meeting Charlotte Mason

The typical classroom seemed harsh and rigid.  I was convinced that there had to be a gentler, more loving atmosphere for children. This is where I met Charlotte Mason. I began to study her approach and fell in love with the fact that her approach was undergirded by a love for the Lord. In addition, her approach appreciated children as individuals.                                              

Important Elements in a Charlotte Mason Education

This post will highlight some of the major elements of a Charlotte Mason education and lifestyle. You will understand how her approach to education differs significantly from the more traditional forms of education.   In addition, many resources for further study will be listed.  You are encouraged to examine these resources to gain a deeper understanding of who Charlotte Mason was and how you can implement some of her methods in your home.  Her methods have greatly impacted the homeschool world.  Interestingly, families that may not homeschool can benefit from her influence on parenting.   Read on to discover more about Charlotte Mason.                                              

Charlotte Mason Observed Children 

Charlotte noted that many children were educated in a manner that served another man’s purpose. This conflicted with her belief that children should be educated in a way that nurtures the gifts and talents God placed in each child.  She believed that education was an Atmosphere, a Discipline, and a Life. 

 

Charlotte Mason Biography

 Charlotte Mason was a British educator. She was orphaned at the age of 16. Charlotte was a Christian and she believed that children should be treated as whole human beings instead of creatures to be used to benefit others. It did not matter what station in life a child lived in. She believed each child should receive a broad and rich education. This type of education would allow each child to discover interests and talents. She believed this could be done by giving all children a rich liberal education. Charlotte noticed children from poorer families received a utilitarian education that suited them for menial work.  Some of these children received little education.  They, instead, were sent to work long, hard hours in factories and warehouses.  These children were regarded as commodities to be used for the benefit of other ones. Children from more affluent families were blessed with an education that included rich literature and fine arts. This did not sit well with Charlotte.                                               

Spread a Broad Feast 

She envisioned that all children would receive a rich liberal education. Her desire was to see every child receive a broad education that covered many subjects including hymn and art studies.                                               

Charlotte Mason Learned through Observation

Charlotte never married or had children of her own.  This did not stop her from loving and valuing children.  She learned about children by watching them. I am sure she mixed in plenty of prayer as she developed her philosophy of child-rearing and education. She developed her theories of child development as she watched children play and interact with others.  Charlotte shared her observations with parents and governesses in order to give them an idea of how to make educating children a richer experience for children and adults alike.  Her insights into children and education gained popularity which culminated in a series of lectures on child development entitled Home Education.                                               

What is the Charlotte Mason Philosophy?

A Charlotte Mason education is one that acknowledges each child as an individual person with unique God-given gifts.  These gifts need to be nurtured and cultivated so that the child is able to pursue interests and talents that align with who he or she is.   They have a destiny and a calling to fulfill and a rich education will make that happen.  Charlotte embraced specific elements in developing her approach. Some of the critical elements to her approach include living literature, narration, short lessons, and healthy habits.                                              

Living Literature 

  Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of living literature to feed the mind of these unique individuals. She felt that children learned best by reading books that were written in narrative form. Her definition of Living Literature included the idea that the book was written by one person with a passion for that particular topic. You will find a more complete description of what living literature and a living book is here, here, and here.    Living literature is the type of literature is the kind of literature that awakens the mind.  Children grow to care about the topic if they are reading living literature. They read and want to read more. You will find wonderful information on how to start and use a homeschool book library here. It’s great to be able to share books and libraries that families have used.                                              

Narration

 Narration is another critical element in the Charlotte Mason philosophy.   Children engage with living literature either through their own reading or an adult reading to them.   In either case, children are encouraged to pay close attention.  Close attention is important to learning and giving through narrations.  When a child is paying close attention to the text and is then able to narrate what they have read, they have demonstrated that they have truly learned something.  Probing questions can be asked to determine the depth of learning.  Children realize that without a deep level of concentration and focus, they will not be able to glean much from the text.  The adult has the responsibility of conveying to the child that something of great value has been lost when there is a lack of attention. Children feel the sting of loss and will, hopefully, pay more careful attention going forward.                                              

Short Lessons

Another important characteristic of a Charlotte Mason education is conduction short lessons. She believed that short lessons kept the child wanting more information and would lay the foundation for further study at another time. She felt that children absorb more knowledge if they engage in a particular activity and then switch to a different type of activity.  Specifically, the mornings were generally for academics while the afternoons usually involved some sort of outdoor activity where bodies were active.  Children reflected upon the ideas and information they learned earlier in the day.                                               

Healthy Habits

Charlotte Mason also talked about the importance of good habits.  She taught that when mothers teach their children good habits, they are laying a foundation for smoother days ahead.  Habits are those actions that are done without thinking.  Charlotte taught that if you want certain characteristics in your adult children, you have to create that adult when they are young.  You do this by establishing good habits.   Charlotte emphasized two habits in particular.  These two habits are attention and obedience. You can find more discussion of these habits as well as others here Additional resources on habit training can be found here. You will find a free Habits checklist on a blog post I wrote.   I encourage you to take a look at it and use the checklist. Establishing good habits in our children is critical for success later on in life but we, as adults, can also work on habits in our own lives. The checklist may be helpful to you as you work with your child or you may want to use it for yourself.                                               

Masterly Inactivity

 Charlotte Mason believed that Masterly Inactivity was another important aspect of learning.  If we were to describe the flow of a Charlotte Mason day we would find the academics in the first part of the day with the masterly inactivity in the latter part of the day.   This masterly inactivity is the time when the child participates in outdoor activities or other interests that engage the brain in a different way. Academics happen in the morning, as described above, then masterly inactivity takes place later in the day. Children are then able to reflect upon the ideas they learned during the morning.  This also gives the Holy Spirit to further the teaching that took place earlier.                                              

Mother Culture for our Children

Mother culture is a critical key to the Charlotte Mason approach.  It is interesting to note that the term Mother Culture is not mentioned in any of Charlotte Mason’s works but there is mention of the author of Mother Culture in an 1892 PNEU  article.  The idea behind Mother Culture is that mother’s need to continue growing intellectually and spiritually so that conversations between child and mother can continue as the children grow.                                                

Children Grow Up

Mother’s are preparing for the beautiful shift in mothering that will come as the child grows.  Just as children have different needs for food as they mature, they will also have different needs in the relation between mother and child.   As children learn and increase in their intellectual capacity, mothers, as well as fathers, need to be able to keep the conversation continuing.  Pursuing mother culture equips mothers with knowledge and wisdom they can share with their children as they grapple with difficult questions maturity brings.  This a beautiful transition and transformation in the mother-child relationship.   I am grateful for the idea of Mother Culture.  There was a sentiment, in past years, that the homeschooling mother was to be wholly self-sacrificing.  Care for Mother was not a priority in the early days of homeschooling.   At least, this was the message I thought I was hearing. That frightened me away from the homeschooling scene to some degree.   I couldn’t imagine how not taking some time to care for myself would be a good thing for my children.  How could not paying attention to myself bring benefit to my children and my husband?  I understood the need to sacrifice but not to the point where I totally neglected my needs and interests.  When mothers don’t nurture themselves and continue to learn they do feed their minds and hearts for their children’s questions as they grow.                                              

Mother Culture Encourages Growth

Mother Culture gives place for mothers to cultivate interests and friendships in order for intellectual and spiritual growth to continue. It is a beautiful picture of mother and children growing together.   In fact, growth will occur for both child and mother.  If attention is not given to how the growth occurs, there will be growth in ways that will cause conflict and discord.  Parenting is a challenge and there will be difficult days. It makes sense to practice those things that allow for healthy growth.  This will bring about the evolution of a relationship that will be beneficial for parents and children.                                              

Thank you, Charlotte Mason

 We say a big “Thank You” to Charlotte Mason.  Through her love of the Lord and children, she developed an approach to education and family life.  We thank you, Charlotte Mason, for giving us an excellent perspective on family and education. Have you thought about using the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling?  Do you know much about her? What questions do you have about Charlotte Mason’s approach?  Get more Charlotte Mason resources below.  Share this post with your friends that may have questions about homeschooling or Charlotte Mason and her approach.    

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Charlotte Mason: Home Education in the Modern Era

Charlotte Mason: Home Education in the Modern Era

Charlotte Mason Resources

I have been a fan of the Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum and approach for many years. As I explored her approach I found valuable resources.  Below you will find several books that will make your journey through homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way much easier.

Charlotte Mason’s Thoughts on Home Education and Destiny

Charlotte Mason was a Christian and believed that the Lord made each child unique.  He placed a specific plan for each child’s path.

Much of our current approach to education is geared toward telling children what track they should travel on instead of discovering the path the Lord intended for them to travel. 

Her approach requires embracing the attitude that each child is special and has a unique call on their lives.  It is a huge task and you may feel overwhelmed at times. The suggestions below may help in your journey.

Book Recommendations:

Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie is a reminder of what education is truly about.

Sarah Mackenzie reflects upon the importance of looking at how we educate our children in a way that they learn to love learning instead of checking off specific boxes as they get things done. 

It is disheartening when children simply tick off the worksheet when they really haven’t absorbed anything. 

It’s all about perspective. What are we teaching our children about education?  She writes from a desire to walk in the peace that is promised to those who follow God.  Sarah’s desire was to demonstrate peace and grace in her life.  These elements would be translated to her children as they grew up.  It is something that we have to contend for but it is worth it.

Character Building the Charlotte Mason Way

Interestingly, as children see true glory and peace they will gravitate towards this lifestyle. Enjoy reading this treasure and glean some nuggets that will make a great difference in your homeschool life as well as your life in general.  Strong character traits will carry young people far. This trait will open doors to whatever they want to do in life because they will have the discipline to complete a plan of action.

Habits and Character Building

Habits: The mother’s Secret to Success (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 1)  Charlotte stressed the importance of helping your child as well as yourself acquire good habits. These are solid foundations that make life run easier.

Good habits can clear the way for children and adults to live a productive and joy-filled life. Check out my post on Habits and download the freebie. This is a great resource to refer to as you are developing good habits in you and your children.

You will also want to check out these two videos from Ambleside Schools on the subject of habit forming.

Character is established and strengthened as healthy habits are formed.  Enjoy this book as you lay down good habits for your children and yourself.

Charlotte Mason: Home Education in the Modern Era

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.  Karen has written a book that chronicles her experience using the Charlotte Mason approach to learning.  As you read this piece, you will discover what the Charlotte Mason approach looks like in the modern area. 

Karen takes you through her homeschool journey and shares the joys and challenges she experienced.  You will also want to read Karen’s blog posts on Mother Culture.  It is a refreshing and reassuring idea that stresses the importance of taking care of oneself as a mother.

Charlotte Mason at Home and School

For the Children’s Sake: Foundation of Education for Home and school by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay   This is another look into the experience of a homeschooling mom that has chosen to use the Charlotte Mason approach.  Teachers in the classroom, as well as homeschool moms, will benefit from reading Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book.

 

A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-to Manual

Catherine Levinson has taken the key foundations found in the Charlotte Mason approach and presents them in a simple way that allows families to enter the homeschooling world from a Charlotte Mason perspective.  Catherine’s manual helps you establish weekly schedules and routines that make homeschooling and home education possible.

Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass is an explanation of the art of re-telling.  Charlotte Mason explained how to implement narration and it has been used in traditional schools as well as homeschools. This book explores the theory behind the use of narration and then shows how to implement the process from beginning to end.  Children and adults can benefit from the practice of narration to fully grasp a concept.

These resources are helpful tools in understanding the Charlotte Mason approach.  It is my hope that you will find each of these tools valuable and helpful.

What educational tools have you found helpful?  What have I missed? I would love to know what’s worked for you in educating your children.  Please leave a comment and share this post with your friends.

 

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