Submitted by Claire ~ ‘we home educate our 3 children and use some – not all – of Charlottes methods mixed in with a huge sprinkling of autonomy’.
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Education is the science of relations.” C. Mason
The philosophy and teaching methods of Charlotte Mason are easiest broken down into several principles. Her beliefs entailed that children were born persons and should be regarded as such, being taught the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason. Her maxim for students was as follows – “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”
1 – Habit training Children need to learn how to control their actions/behaviour. Charlotte encouraged children to learn to pay attention, be truthful and respectful, have an even temper, to be neat, to show kindness and gentleness, to have order, be good at remembering, to be punctual and clean, among other things. Generally a child works on a designated habit over a four to six week period.
2 – Short lessons Charlotte was in favour of short lessons for younger children, which became steadily longer with a childs age. Young children should study a subject no more than 15-20 minutes before moving on to the next study area. This supports a child in learning how to commit their full attention to the task at hand. In this way a diverse and varied education is offered.
3 – Art/Writing/Music Appreciation Art is a place where living ideas are found. The great ideas of women and men of history are made known in their work, whether it be a painting, writing or music. Here Charlottes method was as always, gentle and inviting. This was no lesson in art criticism. A picture was shown and the artist was named. Children would study the picture until they could see it clearly in their minds eye, then the picture would be put out of sight. The children were then asked to describe what they had seen. Then the picture would be presented again and new aspects would be noticed together. There should be no interference with a child building personal kinship with the artist’s work. Works by the same artist are studied for several weeks so a child gets familiar with their style. Music Appreciation is similarly taught by listening to the works of composers.
4 – Living books – Perhaps one of Charlottes best known method is the use of living books written by someone who is enthusiastic about the subject writing in a colloquial or conversational way, as opposed to arid, factual textbooks. Whether the book is long or short is irrelevant so long as it is ‘alive’ and captivating. If textbooks fall into this category, then their use is allowed. ‘Twaddle’ refers to information or books that are ‘dumbed down’ and offend children’s intelligence. Living books should be used with as many subjects as possible.
5 – Narration – Children need to give a narration about what they have read, whether in writing, drawing or orally. The child has to integrate all they have read, then organise it in their minds, and then decide the best way to convey all that is recollected in their own words. This should be done after only one reading of the material.
6 – Copy work – Children are provided with a sentence, paragraph or phrase, rather than single letters, to copy in their best handwriting so they don’t repeat a single letter over and over again on one. This should only be done for a few minutes daily. This will help support a child in learning how to commit their full attention to the task at hand without becoming tired or bored.
7 – Dictation – Prepared dictation was used by Charlotte to teach spelling, make grammar effective and to perfect the art of composing literary work. A child would be provided with a sentence, paragraph or passage to study until all the spelling, punctuation and where to place capital letters was learned. Once studied sufficiently the sentence / passage / paragraph would be read aloud by the teacher a sentence at a time and the child would write whilst the teacher watched and corrected any spelling mistakes at once. This method enabled spelling to be taught within the context of great ideas and rich language rather than motionless lists.
8 – Grammar – Charlotte thought that since grammar is the study of words, not of things, it would be a hard concept for young children to understand. She advocated the formal study of grammar be delayed until the child was 10 years of age and that regular study of narration, copy work and dictation would form the basis for grammar study.
9 – Poetry – This was an essential, daily element in Charlotte’s schools. Shakespeare was frequently studied. Poetry was not presented for analysis and criticism though. Poetry was recited and read aloud, it was shared together, as a way to show big ideas of the past. In this way the childs interest was kindled and they were encouraged to form their own relationship with a particular poet and his thoughts.
10 – History – again, best learned with the aid of living books -autobiographies, biographies and narration. On top of this Charlotte’s students had a ‘Book of Centuries’ comparable with a personal time line in a notebook. As they were studied, people and events were added to the pages.
11 – Geography – also best learned through living books. History is an account of what happened at a specific time, geography of where it happened and how the surroundings had an effect on this. Short map exercises can be implemented as a means of teaching and perfecting the art of map reading
12 – Foreign language Charlottes students learned French as a second language. In line with her philosophy, foreign languages were best taught in a living setting.
13 – Bible Charlotte required children to read the bible daily and gave children credit if they were able to comprehend passages straight from Scripture. Each academic year various large sections were selected to be learned by heart and recounted orally.
14 – Nature study – In Charlotte’s schools one afternoon weekly was committed to spending time outdoors. For nature study, children require a sketchpad to draw and label the different aspects of nature they observe. Regular nature study paves the way for meaningful science lessons.
15 – Math – The importance of children comprehending maths concepts before doing any hand written equations was highly stressed. Children should be stimulated to reflect on and think through the reasons of solving word problems – in other words, how math is relevant to life situations
16 – Scouting –This is also known as the Scout Movement, a worldwide youth movement with the goal of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, in the hope of aiding them to have constructive roles in society. Charlotte was the first person to become aware of the educational potential of Scouting applied to children. April 1905, Aids to Scouting by Robert Baden-Powell, was added to the syllabus of the Parents’ Union School by her. This led on to Scouting for Boys and the formation of the Scouting movement. Charlotte alongside her teachers established the Parents’ Union Scouts for boys and girls countrywide, for those receiving home education and those attending schools using the P.N.E.U. system. When the Girl Guides were founded, charlotte suggested that the P.U. Scouts unify with the national organisations for both girls and boys.
17 – Handicrafts – Charlotte thought subjects should be studied in the mornings, and the afternoons should be open for outdoor activities and exploration, exercise, and handicrafts.