It all starts with something that draws you in. Maybe a quote? A picture someone posted with the hashtag, #charottemason? A book like, For The Children’s Sake? The living books concept? The possibilities are endless! What originally drew me to a Charlotte Mason education was the basic principal of a living education. Not just studying a textbook and taking a test on it, but a deliberate and purposeful way of life that incorporated a whole system of valuing learning. And this is where I met Miss Mason.
Charlotte Mason did something that I think we have forgotten, she saw a need in her society, addressed it, and then revolutionized the way of thinking. A simple quotation would be from her first book, Home Education, where she asserted, “children are born person’s; neither good or bad” (paraphrased). Can we just pause on that for a moment? As a Christian, I immediately think of the verse that says, “no one is righteous, no not one.” BUT, let us really think about what Miss Mason is saying here. Do we not live in a society of “terrible twos,” “awful teenagers”, “hormone centered tweens”, and so on and so forth. There is some basis of truth, I accept that, BUT, why do we use these labels to DEFINE children! It is as if we are saying, “I expect this of you”. Miss Mason was saying that you mold the character of your child. You help them be the better version of them-self. And I think this, right here, is where we start seeing a shift in what we call, A Charlotte Mason Method.
When you look at what a Charlotte Mason Education looks like, you see things like, picture study, handicrafts, nature study and walks, and hymn study, Shakespeare, Plutarch, and oh my goodness–PAUSE! Look at the times! LOOK! All of these things are great! YES! But sigh not so, but let them go and be you blithe and bonny! Converting all your sounds of woe, into hey nonny! Nonny! (hint: Shakespeare). LOOK AT THE JOY! Cultivate your child. Make him a better version of himself. Does he really need to know how to chicken scratch in order to have a full Charlotte Mason education? Must Minecraft be banned because it does not fit within a classical atmosphere? (Um, well, I could argue that one but that is my OWN personal opinion). Do you even understand WHY we read Plutarch? Just because it has a modern aspect to it, doesn’t mean we should discard it. And just because it has a vintage charm to it, doesn’t mean we need to embrace it.
“But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being, and his business is to guide, and assist in, the production of the latent good in that being, the dissipation of the latent evil, the preparation of the child to take his place in the world at his best, with every capacity for good that is in him developed into power.” Charlotte Mason, Home Education, page 9.
So many home educators are wanting to transition (my word and terminology) into a more simple method. We are burnt out and pocket-book empty. It sounds delicious and freeing. Like the “haunting wistful fragrant of violets”! Do you know what else we want? A formula! Add 1 cup of love, 1/2 cup of discipline, dash of Shakespeare, 1/4 cup of nature study; mix with Bible, living book, and bake with a twaddle-free literature. Out pops a successful child. Unfortunately, that is not how it works. Do not mistake me, there are some highly successful adults out there that have followed a CM method. And there are successful adults that attended a public school and received the Pulitzer prize! And even more drastic, we had a president that only had about a year’s worth of education from all his combined years. Not only a president but a highly respected and well-known man. (Hint: Abraham Lincoln).
Let us get back to a basic Charlotte Mason Method. Let us get back to cultivating the child to be the best version of self. If they want to grow up and be computer scientists, then encourage that! However, a completely self-centered child that can only think about computer games is not helping that child become the best version of them-self. Don’t play God, but do the job that God has given you!
So, I guess a huge question that is still hanging in the air is, do I follow the Charlotte Mason Method? (and she talks about method over system in her first book, and even within the first dozen pages.) YES. I am following the Charlotte Mason Method, AS I READ her words, narrate her works so that I understand what she is saying and why, and then learning to apply everything, in an effort to move closer and closer to an education that teaches the hearts of my children. Will this happen in the first school year? No. But, just like the Proverbs 31 woman was not attained in the first season of her married life, neither will the first school year look like the finishing year of my children’s education. Yes, I am applying her methods. Yes, I will be encouraging the out door life or in the words of Miss Mason, I will be “taking, not sending” them into the out door life. But this is not going to happen all at once. It is a journey. If you are looking at my videos and my life as a perfect example of following the Charlotte Mason Method, then you will be disappointed. Your life is not the same as mine. Your circumstances are different, and even your family goals are different. Break it down to the basic bite size instructions, we follow the same path. Start being more specific, then we start breaking off and going on ways. We may still be in a field doing nature study but I may be learning about the local reptiles and you are studying rabbits and ticks. It also means that our children are unique, will attain their education in the field in which they are passionate about, and will learn what a person must do/be to be a good member of society. And in the ultimate end, an instrument for the glory of God.
Thank you, Miss Charlotte Mason, for seeing the potential in children, rather than robots to program.