Are you interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason homeschool method? Catherine Levison is the author of three books on Charlotte Mason homeschooling. In the following interview, she discusses the advantages of using this home school approach.
I had children in the 1970s and the '80's and the 90's. I began homeschooling during the late 1980's after I was able to leave the workforce. My oldest child attended public school until fourth grade so I know what it is like to bring a child home from the classroom situation.
In my personal circumstance I would have to classify the decision as answering a calling. I don't want to sound overly profound and I do not reveal the details of that but I would imagine that other homeschooling parents know what I am talking about as I have heard other parents explain their original reasons to me.
Charlotte Mason was a British educator who was born in 1842. She was a prolific writer on the subject of education. However she did far more than write about this field she lived an entire lifetime teaching children and observing how they learn.
It's a generous education. One of the key points is to bring a lot of subjects to the children as if the topics we cover were a vast smorgasbord of variety. We avoid boredom and the method is very lively. Much of the method is based on the Liberal Arts which could have been named the Generous Arts. In that regard the CM method sometimes resembles the classical education that is also a very popular choice. On the other hand Charlotte Mason chose only the elements from that stricter method that she thought benefited children and she added many other great techniques such as narration and short lessons and being outside in nature quite a lot. We include the great masterpiece artwork and trips to museums as well.
There is a huge emphasis on reading the worthwhile books and never spending any time with boring books. There is another key element that is crucial and makes it different: The parent is to set a goal of helping the child to develop a love for learning, to become a lifelong learner. As parents we try to not kill that love with methods and materials. We believe strongly in knowledge for knowledge's sake rather than cramming information into the short-term portion of the human mind.
It was not very well known when I first heard about it. I was in the right place at the right time to find out about a Charlotte Mason private school about two hours from my home. The teachers there and other involved women helped me greatly by giving me out of print articles written by Charlotte Mason and her teachers she employed. These articles were photocopied in person at the Library of Congress in Washington DC and I am very grateful that the staff at this school was generous with me and provided me with these very helpful articles. I would read these and try the concepts with my children and they worked! I really began half way between intrigued by all that I saw at the school and my own skepticism. But all the techniques worked with my children and that convinced me that this was a good method for my family.
The happy excited children make it different. Plus the very happy mothers who find the entire process far more fulfilling than some of the other common approaches. The parents who use CM learn along with their children and this is lasting knowledge. I always end the day knowing at least four or more things than I did at the beginning of the day. This helps the parent considerably and keeps the days and weeks fresh.
The method results in a well educated child (and mother) who has enjoyed learning. The children know their material and have learned to be very observant which is an asset for the college student and for adult life. We are raising a well read child who has learned to comprehend their reading material upon the first reading. This is something that doctors and lawyers and many other professions depend upon.
As far as day to day life is concerned neither the children or the parent is dreading the school day. One of my children turned to me one night and said, "I'm really looking forward to homeschool tomorrow." I was happily surprised because we did not have a field trip scheduled or any out of the ordinary event to look forward to, he was simply happy and content with our living room education and told me without any provocation on my part. There have been many rewarding aspects for me and I have a large box of mail from other happy parents who feel relieved to have educated and happy children.
I have had nearly twenty years to consider this question and my honest answer is no. It is economical, enjoyable and the results are fantastic. I cannot think of a single disadvantage. If I stretch for one I would suggest that all Charlotte Mason parents introduce their children to a "normal" classroom situation in order to experience that "style" and teach them how to use a textbook. Also teach them how to get a good grade using that system. It is easy for a bright and engaged child to conquer a textbook but they may find it to be a dull way to learn. Who could blame them? Textbook learning tends to be dull.
I have personally seen families from all walks of life using the Charlotte Mason homeschool method. I have seen veteran homeschooling moms become revitalized after years of workbooks and other methods. I have seen new homeschoolers take to the method without much preparation at all. I am always pleased when a classroom teacher comes to the method because they are really excited to let go of some of their prior training and trade that in for something that works.
That is another big aspect of Charlotte Mason philosophy and techniques: It is very universal. None of the methodology is based on a time era or a geographical area. She based her entire method on how children think and how they remember information. Simple. Observe children, take into account what all the other educators thought would work and then develop a method that works for the children. Mason's writings span decades of time. She was in this for the long-term and even after years and years of observing children she still believed the techniques worked and so do I.
Honestly, those who believe in the Charlotte Mason police. There is no such thing, of course. Since I began teaching parents how to use this method I have strongly suggested that they take the parts of this that they like and then meld it to whatever method they are already comfortable with. I have never once in over thirteen years of writing and speaking asked anyone to adopt the entire method as the only method to employ.
A family can use only the Charlotte Mason homeschool method and incorporate no other systems whatsoever, if they so chose. They will have well educated children, I promise. To use the entire method and only this method will result in a superior education but it is not necessary to do that. These are individuals we are talking about. Your children are just that, your children. There is no need to try to recreate the CM method perfectly in order to please me or Charlotte Mason. No one is going to know how much of the method you are using and to what degree you borrow from other methods. Make it your own method. It is very adaptable.
Has Catherine Levison's valuable insight left you interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason homeschool method?
Check out part 2 of our interview, Charlotte Mason Homeschooling, in which she shares advice for choosing curriculum and using CM methods in the home.
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