For years I’ve admired the Charlotte Mason approach to education, and I’ve borrowed some of the ideas and philosophies from that approach and incorporated them into our homeschool, but this summer is the first time I’ve sat down and read Charlotte Mason’s actual books. I’m absolutely loving them.
I started with volume six, for several reasons. First, it gives more of an overview of Ms. Mason’s philosophy, while the other volumes give specifics for different ages. (I think. I haven’t read them yet.) Secondly, the last volume was written toward the end of her life, when she had had time to reflect on her career and it’s various successes and failures. Age lends wisdom. The final volume was also the one recommended to be read first by the Charlotte Mason website Ambleside Online, which is the site I’ve been following all these years.
You can read the book yourself here. Thanks to the tireless work of volunteers, the entire six volumes are available free to read in a modern translation. (If you’re not familiar, Charlotte Mason worked during the late 1800s and into the 1900s and her language was very Victorian.) I realized pretty quickly that this was the kind of book I was going to want to take notes on, so even though I’ve finished chapter ten I’m going to go back and reflect chapter by chapter.
Here’s a piece from the preface that really struck me:.
“Perhaps all children are waiting for the call of knowledge to awaken them to a life of delight.
Mrs. Francis Steinthal, who started the educational awakening in Council Schools, wrote, ‘Think what this means for children–disciplined lives, no rebellious labor strikes, justice, an end to struggles between classes, developed minds, and no demand for trashy, corrupt books! We shall, or, rather, they shall, live in a redeemed world.’ She wrote this in a spontaneous burst of excitement when she heard that Council Schools had made a decision to use her plan for that pioneer school. Our enthusiasm makes us tend to see future prospects brighter than usual, but, really, this new education is bound to have excellent results. It hasn’t even been nine years since Council Schools reformed their method, and already thousands of its students have found that lessons are enjoyable.
Certainly children could be content and get a sufficient education from their lessons the way things were, and Council Schools was doing just fine before the reformed plan. Yet both teachers and students find a huge difference between the kind of casual interest in learning that comes from good grades, pleasant lectures and other school methods, and the kind of passionate thirst for knowledge that comes with an awakened soul.”
When we started homeschooling, this is the ideal I had for my children – that they would be ‘awakened to a life of delight’. To learn all there is to know about the world they live in, not because it’s required, but because it’s fascinating and enjoyable. I like her opinion of public schools, too – certainly they’re getting a sufficient education; why are we sometimes so quick to criticize? – but what if we could inspire in them a ‘passionate thirst for knowledge’? And I love her realistic comparison of our aspirations versus reality! ‘Our enthusiasm makes us tend to see future prospects brighter than usual’ – hello September! And by March we’re pretty happy just to get the list done every day. But what if our homeschool could be really enjoyable? To them and to me? The more I read, the more excited I am to try this method come September.
If you consider yourself a CM homeschooler, what has your experience been? Have you ever have a bad experience with it? Anyone want to read through these volumes with me this summer?