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5 Reasons to Love a Charlotte Mason Education

This post first appeared on my own blog in September 2013 and again February 2014. I think it’s worth repeating here.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. My favorite poem begins that way. Today I am going to count the ways that I love homeschooling but more specifically the ways I love a Charlotte Mason education. In absolutely no particular order other than what came to me as I sat to write this. Winking smile

CM reasons

1. Science of relations. This took me a while to understand when I first heard the term. And it is even possible that I don’t have it down quite yet.

“Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–
         “Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.”
“Our deadly error is to suppose that we are his showman to the universe; and, not only so, but that there is no community at all between child and universe unless such as we choose to set up.”
At first I thought this meant that simply they would realize that one book mentioned a person that we’d read about in another book. And in a way this is true; they do and will recognize names and events from one book to another, especially with the books that have been chosen. But it means more than that. They will realize and recognize how these things, –the events, the attitudes, the personalities, the successes and failures- all can be associated with our own lives. Not just our own lives but the world around us. At least that is what I take ‘science of relations’ to mean.
It took me awhile to understand that I am a companion on this educational journey. Teacher, to a point. Facilitator could be a better word. I offer the best that I find, and indeed, shelter from what I consider harmful. But it is up to them to grasp that it is all connected. We joke, half-way, that I raised them wrong; I always gave them the answer when they asked “why”. It’s taken us a couple of years to look for the relationship rather than to just wait for the answer to be given.
2. Freedom. I think that homeschooling offers a lot of freedom. We can choose what we use for our curriculum, what method we use, when we do school, how often we study a subject, and we can do it all in our pjs if we want. We don’t do that last one, by the way. Well, not that often anyway. But a huge ‘freedom’ I find in Charlotte Mason’s education philosophy is the freedom to have God at the center of it all.
“Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,––the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.”
Many think that homeschooling because of religious beliefs is ridiculous. And to that I say, I don’t homeschool because of my religious beliefs (but will add if one feels that it is ridiculous to homeschool for that reason, that means their ‘religion’ doesn’t mean much to them). I relish the fact that we can incorporate our beliefs into our school. Charlotte Mason did not have the same ideas that our household holds (she didn’t argue with evolution) but spoke of the importance of God in the lives of children, and their parents.
Religion –a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
“We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.”
Public school or another educational method wouldn’t prevent me from instilling ‘religion’ into my children but having a mentor that puts such importance on it is a wonderful thing.
3. Living books. Not just ‘books’ but ‘living’ books. The difference is amazing. A textbook relays facts and information. Learning can most certainly happen with a textbook. It just isn’t as fun, it doesn’t connect with the reader, and the information may only live in the mind long enough to take a test or finish the task for which the text was assigned. We’ve used Ambleside Online since 2009/2010, Years 5-10 (Y7Lite-10 with my dd; Y5-Y8 with my ds). We are currently going through a mishmash of Y11 and Y12 for my daughter’s senior year, and Y9 for my son’s sophomore year.
Some of our favorite living books that we have used thus far:
English Literature for Boys and Girls by H. E. Marshall (free for Kindle)
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (free for Kindle)
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
This Country of Ours by H. E. Marshall
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne (free for Kindle)
Washington: The Indispensible Man by James Thomas Flexner
Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif
And although neither would agree without some hesitation, Winston Churchill’s The History of the English Speaking Peoples have been great books for history. There are so many more that we’ve used and read through that have been, if not wonderful and joyous, at least enjoyable. The same cannot be said of most of the other methods and curriculums we’ve tried.
Added in this category but a little bit of its own reason are the “extras” which are really the riches of CM: art and music study, nature study, Plutarch and Shakespeare. These are areas that our family, unfortunately, miss out on most when it comes down to crunch time. The majority of assessment in the educational world does not include these areas, and so we are often somewhat forced to focus more on math, science, and reading ability. Without these, though, we lose a lot of the connection to a more rounded education.
4. Challenging yet not crushing. A Charlotte Mason education is challenging. It isn’t easy and I don’t think it is right for everyone. Personally, I do believe that every one can follow and benefit from a Charlotte Mason education, but I am realistic enough to know that there are so many other methods that can be appealing to families, for a variety of reasons. In many public schools, the norm is –or used to be when I was going through it as well as my kids –to give the students text books, quizzes that are full of multiple choice and to feed the information to the students. Many excel in this atmosphere. I know I did; for majority of school, I was almost a straight-A student. It wasn’t until some of my classes in college required me to think outside the text book that I started to realize that spoon-feeding and multiple choice tests weren’t the only way to get an ‘education’. I’m not saying I received a poor education –wait, yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. I didn’t want my kids to have to go down that same boring path. I loved to learn, but hated how I was being taught. My memory was great; my comprehension, and subsequently application, not so great. I’m still working on that.
“We, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.”
-Charlotte Mason, Principle #11 (which is followed by “Education is the science of relations”, #1 of my reasons above)
CM advocates gauging how much the student knows through narration. That isn’t the only way, but it is a very integral part. If you cannot tell what you know, in an intelligible, organized, detailed manner, how well did you first, take in the information, and second, process that information? There is the saying that people who can, do; those who can’t, teach. But truly, if you can’t do it, how can you adequately teach it? I think that you can do it without being able to teach it but …how much better to be able to do both.
“As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should ‘tell back’ after a single reading or hearing: or should write on some part of what they have read.”
A Charlotte Mason education stretches the mind to focus more on connections, I believe. It goes along with “science of relations”, perhaps. When we read through the books that we do, the “living books”, we gain a connection with all that we are reading about; the atmosphere, the people, the emotions, the events, the results, etc. This is the ‘not crushing’ part. This connection is like a friend that we do not forget. It challenges us to reach farther than just the next mark on our test, the highest grade in the class; it challenges us to reach farther than we had before and beyond a grade. At first the kids, and I’ll admit I did too, had such a difficult time with the choices that came along with the CM method. The kids sometimes preferred fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice assignments! Because they were easy. I’m not giving them easy, but I am giving them tools that they can use to grow, without crushing them.
5. Individual responsibility for learning.  I actually got this from my daughter. She appreciates the ‘self-teaching’ aspect; being able to take any article, book or other resource, whether written, visual or an experience, and find the pertinent bits as opposed to having the ‘answers’ supplied. My kids, being older, do a lot of their work independently. I set forth the books they will read and the resources they can use. By this time they have learned how to read what they know they need to and they know how to study for information. I see it as them taking a responsibility for their own learning.
“Children must learn the difference between “I want” and “I will.” They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else, interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.”
“Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous ideas if we really want to believe them.”
The above quotes are L. N. Laurio’s modern English paraphrases for Charlotte Mason’s Principle #17 & 18. Although it can apply to a multitude of circumstances, I’ve put it here because I think it goes well with having responsibility for one’s actions. Learning is definitely an ‘action’.
Those are my top 5 reasons for loving a CM method for educating. It’s not only for my kiddos and not only for ‘school’. It is for me as well and for life.
North Laurel (12 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.

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Carnival of Homeschooling: The History Edition


Carnival of #Homeschooling: History Edition @hsbapost

History is our theme at The Homeschool Post this month.  We’re sharing our ideas for bringing history to life for our kids through books, educational shows, field trips, time lines, and more.

Since it’s our turn again to host the Carnival of Homeschooling, I thought I would feature some history-related posts from our own writing team:

Dan from shares his educational experiences in London with his family as they visit historical locations in this post: A Boring Month in London.

Melissa at Not a Stepford Life shares her hands-on history lessons in this post Homeschooling Hazards.

Misty shares Three Ways to Bring History to Life for Your Kids on her blog, Joy in the Journey.

I’ve shared a few posts about our history studies on my blog Embracing Destiny: Bringing History to Life with Little House on the Prairie and The Prairie Primer, Surprised by History, and Living Books and History.

We received some great entries for the Carnival of Homeschooling this week, so grab your favorite cuppa and enjoy . . .

Are we spending enough time on mathNotes from a Homeschooled Mom wants to know how much time other homeschoolers spend on math.

Check out this tutorial on chalk pastel art in the style of Edgar Degas in this post from Learning Curve.

Homeschool High School History and Social Studies Credits from 7 Sisters Homeschool.

Explore the digestive system with Solagratiamom and gain a fun and messy hands-on understanding of how the digestive system works!

5 Senses Models and Activities from Solagratiamom explores the 5 senses through hands-on activities. Join her as she takes her class on an adventure of shaking, blindfolding, feeling, squishing, popping and foaming fun – including some great models!

If you are looking for a soft way to introduce English Grammar to your children that is engaging for them and makes English Grammar not so scary, then you will want to check out these recommendations from Solagratiamom in Fun Ways to Jump Start for Essentials of English Grammar.

Annie Kate from Tea Time with Annie Kate has found that older homeschooled students need attention too, and sometimes that attention involves tweaking homeschool plans and practices.

Henry, the Carnival of Homeschooling founder at Why Homeschool, shares a report from his daughter who recently attended a youth conference.

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Sara (34 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

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***3 FREE Complete Drawing Lessons from the SEE THE LIGHT 9 DVD/36 lesson ART CLASS curriculum that is used by many homeschooling families. Recommended for ages 6 + +***

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Lamp Post Homeschool offers affordable, family-friendly homeschool curriculum with a Christian perspective, both online and in their store. As veteran homeschoolers, they understand the difficult decisions and sacrifices that parents face when choosing to homeschool, when selecting the right curriculum, and when living the homeschool life. They want to help parents enjoy teaching their children at home and to keep on homeschooling.  Lamp Post Homeschool also maintains a blog full of helpful information and encouragement.

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Sara (34 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.

A Word From Our Sponsors

Homeschool Products from Nest Learning
***3 FREE Complete Drawing Lessons from the SEE THE LIGHT 9 DVD/36 lesson ART CLASS curriculum that is used by many homeschooling families. Recommended for ages 6 + +***