The word “gentle” is what first grabbed my attention as I researched the various styles of education as my dream of being my children’s home teacher came to. In the book by Karen Andreola, A Charlotte Mason Companion, Personal Reflections of the Gentle Art of Learning, I was first introduced to the Charlotte Mason style of education. This approach is how I have endeavored to teach my 4 children from the early years and into high school at present. In Karen’s own words she tells
“I longed for a Christian teaching approach that aimed at reaching the heart of my children—an approach that safeguarded their curiosity, warmed up their imagination, satisfied their need for play and outdoor activity, and provided them opportunities for character development. “This is it!” I said as I read what had to say about education. ‘This is what I want for my children.’ With newfound courage and excitement, I put aside those things Charlotte declared detrimental: dry textbooks (which dull the mind); prizes and grades (which stimulate fragments of information without a train of thought); too many worksheets (which require fragments of information without a train of thought); and hour-long lessons and homework (what drudgery and inefficiency!). I replaced these with intellectually nourishing “living books” by the best authors, narration (a child’s telling in his own works—oral or written), and shorter lessons. We’ve made time for nature observation, art and music appreciation, and hospitality.” I try to reread Karen’s book every summer, to keep me focused, and always have an extra copy on hand to share with mom’s looking for an approach to adopt in their home teaching. You can read more about Karen’s personal story of a Charlotte Mason education on her blog http://www.momentswithmotherculture.blogspot.com
Let me start by telling you that I have always loved to read. Yes, I have always considered myself to be a bookworm of the utmost proportions. A Charlotte Mason education focuses on bringing learning to the student through a plethora of “living books.” Imagine, cozily nestled on the couch with a soft blanket, a steaming mug of tea with cream and your children tucked in next to you as you read “The Cat of Bubastes” while in the midst of studying ancient history. The Bible is at hand to integrate HIStory along the way.
Megan reading aloud to the boys
Never has ancient history been more delightful as when approached in this manner. After reading short portions, I ask my children to take a turn at retelling or “narrating” what they have heard in their own words. History becomes personal as they share the parts of the reading that came alive to them.
In a nutshell, a Charlotte Mason approach to education is based on the liberal arts, focusing on great literature, fine arts, poetry with the core subjects taught along the way, so as to entice the student to form a love for learning that is carried with them for life by creating an atmosphere that fosters this development at every turn of the day. Miss Mason also taught of forming good habits early on in helping a child to become a person of character. Nature Study is also a large component of a Charlotte Mason education. My children all began observing and then recording with sketches, nature around them, from toddlerhood on. Yes, the first sketch my son, Matthew, did at age 3 was a green blade of grass. Just a mere dash across the page, but it was the beginning of his love of God’s creation in the out of doors. These early Nature Notebooks are some of my most cherished treasures.
There are many days when it feels as if we have not actually “done school” because after all, who doesn’t like reading a good story!
Cuddling Up With “Swiss Family Robinson” Momentarily,