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Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason Way

May 31, 2008
Our image of homeschooling has changes drastically in the last century. When we hear the word homeschooling, we no longer see a picture of five or six children sitting a round a table scribbling away as a stern mother watches over them and lectures. Today, we have a variety of different ways to practice homeschooling that include outdoor activities, arts and crafts, sports and the use of advanced technology. The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling certainly is not the most modern of homeschooling philosophies but it remains to be one of the most popular. In this article, I will guide you through some of milestones of the Charlotte Mason Method.

Charlotte Mason began to develop her ideas as a passionate mother dedicated to the effective education of her children. She founded the homeschooling movement in the early 1900's and invested a lifetime in improving the quality of education for children. Her vision was to create a comprehensive and adaptable educational program that focused on core subjects with an emphasis on literature, classical music and fine arts. Charlotte Mason kept her audience in mind and worked hard to keep the program interesting for children.

Charlotte Mason coined the term "living books" when she described the types of text books teachers should use. One of the most important requirements for a "living book" is that it must be written by someone who is passionate about the subject. The book should also be written in a narrative or conversational style which is sure to capture the attention children much more powerfully than the dry factual texts often found in public schools today. Books that feel "alive" and engaging will inspire a similar feeling towards the subject. Mason also coined the term "twaddle," to describe books that condescend to children by dumbing down information or using unsophisticated language. Mason criticizes "twaddle" for killing a child's enthusiasm and insulting their intelligence.

An important part of Mason's program includes reading literature and narrating. Children must become proficient at narrating in their own words what they have read. The narration can be oral, written or even expressed in drawings. Narrating after reading helps to ensure comprehension. Younger children can narrate orally or through drawings but by ten years old, the child should be able to narrate a story by writing. Narration ensures that the child has synthesized the reading, organized the information in their mind and determined how best to communicate this information.

Another cornerstone of the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling is nature diaries. Teachers should often conduct quick and catchy lessons outdoors and then ask children to conduct their own observations of nature and draw what they see. Mason believes that the consistent study of nature paves the way for the meaningful instruction of scientific topics. Spending a significant amount of time outdoors helps children create a bond with mother nature and a sincere respect for the environment. If you would like to incorporate the Charlotte Mason method into your homeschooling program, a great first step would be to ask your children to keep a nature diary which can include prose, poetry and pictures.

Although literature, science and math are an important part of the Charlotte Mason method, the development of good character and behavior is also essential according to this philosophy. Mason strongly believed that children must learn to govern themselves and develop an internalized discipline. Parents and teachers play an important role in this matter for they must take the responsibility of instilling good habits in their children. Some of the most important habits to develop in children are punctuality, cleanliness, respect and patience. Mason believes that each of these traits requires about four to six weeks to build into a habit. Homeschooling parents who which to follow the Charlotte Mason method should incorporate as many of these practices as they can into their homeschooling programs.
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