Monday, February 13, 2012

Charlotte Mason: What Drew Me to a Charlotte Mason Education

There is a list of reasons why so many people are drawn toward giving their children a Charlotte Mason education. Since Karen Andreola lists many of the same reasons as I would list, I will use her list from "A Charlotte Mason Companion", and then give you the reasons why I share them.

1. Living Books: Living books are whole books about particular subjects, unlike textbooks, which cover a variety of subjects. I have never enjoyed forcing my children to use textbooks. Textbooks bore me as much as they do the girls, but in the beginning of our homeschooling, I thought that textbooks were the only way to teach anything. Ditching the history, English, and science books has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders, and the girls get far more out of a lesson than I ever thought possible.

2. Narration: Narration is literally the retelling of a story, in the child's words. This can happen in a variety of ways. For the most part, those who aren't old enough to write, will give oral narrations, and those that write, give written narrations. This method replaces fill in the blank and multiple choice tests that plague most types of canned curriculum. Looking back on my own education, the fact is that I was very good at taking tests, but I don't remember a whole lot about what those lessons were about as of today. Anybody can memorize and regurgitate answers, but that doesn't mean that much was truly learned. At times when teachers added discussion or essay questions, I had to work and think much harder to generate an answer. Narration is a lot like essay or discussion questions. Therefore, I test my children by asking them to get a piece of blank paper, and fill it with everything that they know about the subject being tested. Misspelled words become the new words to practice for spelling. It's really that easy.

3.No Homework: Why would homeschoolers need to be assigned homework, anyway? We don't have to learn according to when the clock or whistles or bells dictate, so there isn't any real "homework". On the other side of the coin, one could say that everything that we do is homework.

4. No Grades-Short Lessons: No grades and short lessons is another one of my favorite things about Charlotte Mason. Short lessons mean doing a little bit of excellent work, rather than a lot of sloppy work. There is no need for letter or numerical grades, because the work isn't finished if it isn't done correctly. How easy is that?

5. Free Afternoons: This doesn't apply as much to us, because our schedule is just to get up and get busy. Here's where my kids might be up until 2:00am researching the parrot that is about to join our family, and then they sleep in the next morning, even though it's a "school day".

6. Few Lectures: The living books pretty much do the teaching for me. My job, at least for the older kids, is just to assign the books, and help if they don't understand something.

7. Ideas and Culture: Public schools simply don't have the time for the extreme music and art education that we have as homeschoolers. Exposure to fine arts is a vital part of the Charlotte Mason experience. Do your kids know what a Davinci or Monet painting is by sight? Do they know Bach from Vivaldi just by hearing a piece?

8. Education is a discipline: There is no real "school hours" like one would expect. The kids don't behave one way at school and another way at home. Also, lessons and learning are in everything that we do, including cooking, housekeeping, recreation, pet care, baby care, shopping, paying bills, etc. We don't need to set aside an hour a day for artificial classes like home economics.

9. Sane Education: Since we started using the Charlotte Mason method, our days are so much easier and more peaceful. We don't feel confined to a special curriculum that works for one child and not the other. We don't feel like we are chained to a clock. Learning is simple and fast. We have time to do things that we love, without sacrificing time spent on things that we "have" to do.

"The mother needs to acquire her own habit of training her children so that, by and by, it is not troublesome to her, but a pleasure. She devotes herself to the formation of one habit in her children at time, doing no more than watch over those already formed." Charlotte Mason

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