Charlotte Mason (CM)was an educator in 19th century England, who’s practises are being rediscovered by modern homeschoolers. Indeed, CM founded her own type of private school in 1892, the “House of Education” in Ambleside. CM beleived all children were entitled to a liberal education whose foundation was based on good literature, regardless of class, status or ability. Karen Adreola in her book Charlotte Mason Companion , list several of the educators ideas: Living Books Narration Minimal Lectures Free Time Good Habits living books If you have ever heard the terms “twaddle” or “living books” you can probably thank Charlotte Mason for that. One cornerstone to her philosophy was that children should read excellent literature and quality first hand sources. What’s the difference between a whole book and a text book ?
A text book is often devoid of engaging material and is usually chock a block full of interesting facts…sounds exciting, yes ? When you read the bio of the highly effective teacher Rafe Esquith who teaches in Los Angeles, you will notice this aversion to texbooks and natural affinity to great books. “Upon the knowledge of these great matters – History, Literature, Nature, Science, Art – the Mind feeds and grows. It assimilates such knowledge as the body assimilates food, and the person becomes what is called magnanimous, that is, a person of great mind, wide interests, incapable of occupying himself much about petty, personal matters. What a pity to lose sight of such a possibility for the sake of miserable scraps of infomration about persons and things that have little connection with one another and little connection with ourselves !”
Charlotte Mason, The Original Homeschooling Series, Vol.4, p.78
narrations and precis Living books engage the imagination and engages the reader making the assimiliation of ideas and knowledge more enjoyable, which in turn makes often makes learning easier. Narrations: after you read a passage from a book to a child, have them narrate, or retell the passage back to you in their own words. This also offers a chance fopr a child to offer an opinion, now matter how purile it may seem. This is the basis of critical reading, and will become invaluable when having discussions (see Oliver DeMille ). Children may also assimilate vocabulary and emulate the word crafting of master writers. But also there is an opportunity for children to fully engage their facultities, and even “act out” or dramatize their interpretation, particularly if they have a multiple intelligence that lends itself to this way of ommunicating. This makes the learning experience “theirs”. Precis: for older children, writing their narration – is a useful discipline to develop. It is interesting that writing a page a day is something that Art Robinson highly recommends for homeschoolers. free afternoons & no homework Charlotte Mason never believed in giving homework to students under the age of 13. Indeed children had the afternoons free to pursue their interests.
From what I can gather, she was also not a big fan of the lecture for young students, prefering the more open interaction that comes from reading and discussing. time in nature journaling good habits & discipline f
Charlotte Mason’s original 5 volume set has been reprinted and is availble if you would like to read the original source. Another excellent resource is Ambleside Online.