Tag Archives: Charlotte Mason

Videos to remind us what Charlotte Mason was on about.

It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of home education to loose sight of the foundational philosophy of our family and the method that I believe best helps my children learn.

These videos from  International are a wonderful reminder tool for people like me. There are 18 short videos that cover all the basics - actually I think it’s more like 21 – about how children learn and how we as parents and teachers can help them do that.

They have a school by the looks of it that breathes the atmosphere of education as Charlotte Mason would have it.

Even though we are heading more down the workbook route, I think there is a Charlotte Mason edge to the Seton material. But these videos remind me of the side of a good education that isn’t about books, or workbooks, but about learning self discipline, kindness and how to learn.

Home Education habit training – listening.

Ah it’s lovely to go back to a bit of Charlotte Mason approach. Today we had another family join us and we spent some time making lapbooks about Australian animals, particularly the platypus (proof it seems to me that God has a silly sense of humour). I have 30 days free trial for Sylvan Dell Publishing so we used the story Kersplatypus with the teachers and creative minds pdf resources to make the lapbooks. (I’ll do a proper review of Sylvan Dell soon).

We have an inflatable globe and the children found Australia and the equator and tropics. We discussed the seasons there compared to here and then we got out some of the Ozzie animals Heleyna got for Christmas which included a platypus and a wallaby but no Kangaroo. The lack thereof prompted her to ask me the other day whether kangaroos actually exist. You see she told me “I go and look for nature most days and I never see one.” I explained that they live in Australia and while there are wallabies at the local nature centre there are no kangaroos. She then asked if we could go to Australia that day to see some real kangaroos. She’s 4 – geography and scale are not yet her fortè.

The children had a great time and learned something (I hope). They all sat around while I read the story with the computer attached to the TV so they could all see the lovely illustrations and follow along as I read.

Making the lapbooks needed some instruction so the children had to listen to what they were told either by me or one of the others who had already done part of the book.

As Avila had practiced her keyboard skills with the others gathered around her “Listening” became a bit of a theme for the day.

J came up with the idea that we help teach the habit of listening in the children by having a little talent show where each child does something they are good at, such as Roni’s little magic show.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

I remember watching an episode of the Duggars (some number and counting) in which Michelle Duggar had the older children playing their instruments and she made the younger ones sit quietly and listen. This is a great habit training approach in which the younger children are taught to sit still and listen to someone else for a while and to have respect for their siblings and other people. The emphasis on read alouds in Charlotte Mason is also a great way to teach children to listen.  Apart from the books I read them there are a great number of audio stories free online.

There’s quite a lot of the “old fashioned” homeschool books out there in which teaching children manners is part of the health side of the curriculum. Miss Mason believed that training in good habits was the foundation of a good education. A child who cannot sit still, watch and listen isn’t going to learn very much.

I have spoken to more than one school teacher who tell me they do not believe in the dx of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, or just ADD – or if they grudgingly accept it might exist, insist it is far far rarer than they are being led to believe. Children are simply never taught any manners. They are not around adults enough to learn to sit and listen. Few have a bedtime story or sit at a table with their parents for meals and most have been institutionalised from a very early age.

Human nature is of course fallen- a bit like a shopping trolley it wants to steer off in the wrong direction and needs someone to help steer it straight. The role, right and duty of parents is to steer the child straight until they can do it themselves. We mustn’t lose sight of how human nature works.

Home education as pro-creation.

As I read through Charlotte Mason’s lectures, I am a little saddened that her bright optimism over natural law and it’s effect on human nature back in 1895 is replaced by a more somber and less effusive view by the time she has finished her writings around the 1920s, as Britain never recovers from the First World War.

She speaks with admirable charity of how all families, whether Christ centred or agnostic can (and at this point in her writing she believes will) conform their consciences and habits with natural law. I wonder if, at this point, she has natural law a little confused by the laws of nature and therefore forms the opinion that it is a law of nature that human families will grow in good sense and love.

By the time she is writing Ourselves (pub 1904) she has already moved somewhat from this position. Ourselves is a book that is very obviously inspired by St Teresa of Avila’s writings on the mansions of the Interior Castle. This gives a more robust and realistic view of the hard work entailed in forming a good person.

In the lectures, Miss Mason talks of the Christocentric family in some fascinating ways, beginning with an exegesis on Christ’s words in Scripture about children and how they should be loved. She then makes a very important warning:

Now, believing parents have no right to lay up this crucial difficulty in their children. They have no right, for instance to pray that their children may be truthful, diligent, upright, and at the same time neglect to acquaint themselves with those principles of moral science, the observance of which will guide into truthfulness, diligence and uprightness of character.

In other words, God isn’t there to bring our children up for us; we are endowed with the authority to do that work WITH Him – that is we pro-create our children where pro means jointly.

I think it is fair to say (I can’t be the only one to have seen this) that while there are some parents who have no faith who believe that their children are naturally good and will simply grow up if left to their own devices; so there are Christian parents who think they need not form their children’s habits as it’s up to God to make them good. This seems to me to be why some apparently very holy people have such horribly behaved children.

I suspect things are more difficult for parents now than when Miss Mason spoke to those mothers in Bradford, for a number of reasons. From the Christology point of view, Jesus has been made into a cuddly, softie who would never dream of making a whip and throwing people out of the temple. He isn’t going to discipline or punish us – so we, copy that and refuse to discipline our children.

I am too old and too grumpy these days to care what other people think, so I am quite happy to put my children on the naughty step or make them minutely study the front door if they need to – regardless of who is around. I do remember feeling very embarassed and horrible the first couple of times I decided to go ahead with this. But what I have found is that other mothers are more willing to do the same.

As one mum said to her friend over having to put her son by my front door one day. “Oh no, I wasn’t embarrassed; it was Shell’s house.” LOL

I have become relaxed at removing privileges as well; no chocolate snacks or fun toys to play with – or whatever privilege has been removed.  I know that I am not always consistant and sometimes tend to shout rather than do but, you see, that is where God comes in. He makes up for my lack, but I don’t expect Him to do it all while I sit back and chill.

One day I am going to have to answer to Him for how I did my mothering (and wifeing), and while Dr Ray advices “Don’t take credit when they are good, then you wont take the blame when they are bad” – which has truth to it, I know that however they turn out, I have to try and form them and their consciences to give them the best chance of turning out right.

Of course this side of education has no tick box, but I have come across some American Christian curriculum that includes forming manners, kindness, honesty and diligence in the children. 

 If we love them we will form them or else those who don’t love them will do it in a far more painful way.

Charlotte Mason says…

Charlotte Mason went to Bradford to give some lectures.  I am reading those lectures. I have to say, so far, there is hardly a wasted word. She makes a statement that many HE parents have made that there can not be a one size fits all approach to education.

In hardly two households would the same plans be practicable; but every mother may stike out a course for herself, including what seems to her “the best” as her circumstances admit of: “What else am I for?” said a wise mother with reference to her duties in the education of her children.

She also has something to say about the business of handing children over to strangers for care and education. (This is something John Taylor Gatto speaks against too)

[You] must see the folly and wickedness of leaving children to the care of ignorant servants and vulgar companions at a period when impressions are most indeliable – a period when as we know, the germs of the future character are inherited.

So much of what she said and wrote (and Maria Montessori) is echoed by Gatto and others who point at the shockingly awful results of institutionalised child care and education. How slow we are to listen.

Are we drifting away from Miss Mason? That Narration Thing.

arration is at the heart of a good Charlotte Mason approach to learning.  By the time a child has reached the age of 7 and is ready for school (in the gentle world of PNEU) he should be getting fairly adept at narration having heard the poem or passage only once. You see, this skill is rooted in Miss Mason’s discipline of habits – the habit of listening.

It occurred to me today as I packed away all the worksheets and workbooks, that we are drifting away from the living books approach and heading down the “it looks more like learning” approach of, dare I say, “school at home.” I am unconvinced that piles of completed worksheets are any indicator that the children are learning.

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Charlotte Mason Carnival

 Hedgehog   The Charlotte Mason Carnival is being hosted at JIMMIE’s COLLAGE. Go take a look at the great posts he has linked.Butterfly 3Squirrel

Nature Study; Charlotte Mason style.

DSCF5715Charlotte Mason was a great believer in getting children outside and exploring their surroundings.  I have to admit Nature Study is something I find a bit challenging. I walked it down to the park with the children yesterday and they had a great time; but ye gods I am paying for it now. Taking the wheelchair is so awkward though.

Anyway the park has plenty to look at; beech, copper beech, oak, sycamore, rhododendron and loads of othr stuff. There is a pond at one end of the park which needs some serious tlc but even so we saw some lavae of some sort and water boatmen.

DSCF5716Then there was time for hide and seek and a whole lot of rolling down a bank.

And to think so many people think home ed kids don’t do PE :)

The RSPB website is great for looking at local birds and listening to how they sound. Then the children can try and listen out for birdsong in the area even when the birds aren’t in sight.

We are using an old copy of The observer’s Book of Birds and The Mitchell Beazley pocket guide to Trees by Keith Rushford, as well as Nature Detective Handbook with Ray Meers.

Essentially what I am aiming at with these walks and play times outside is for the children to get to know the things that live and grow in the neighbourhood. We are lucky to live somewhere that despite being ‘city’ has a lot of green spaces.

Sparklebox has a good few resources for minibeast study.