Reading Charlotte Mason

I am not sure when I was first introduced to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy on education. Perhaps it was while researching curriculum online or maybe a friend mentioned it. I do know that I was already unknowingly implementing some of her ideas and practices in my home.

We had always used living books and narration seemed a natural response to all our reading. I remember when my oldest children were little and I read to them about Leif the Lucky. As I read they quietly played with Lego blocks. When I finished our reading, they all had various Viking ships to show me as we chatted about Leif Erikson. Letting young children enjoy time outside exploring and playing and running and climbing has always been a part of our days.

When I stumbled across Charlotte Mason I felt that in a small way I had found a kindred spirit. Someone I would have loved to chat with and learn much from I am sure. I definitely had the opportunity to chat with her in a way. She left behind a six volume collection of her thoughts and practices in education. There are the infamous “pink copies” of her writings that are now out of print (but you can still find them used). Thankfully there are new editions of these books now available and budget friendly. You can also read them for free online.

Here is a confession: I have never read Charlotte Mason’s original writings in full. I have read snippets here and there. I have read many great books on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and ideas of education. Excellent books that help with the understanding and implementing of Mason’s practices. There are a few that I definitely recommend and have found super helpful! You can see them here if interested.

 

I have found that I am not satisfied with this second-hand encounter with Miss Mason. I appreciate other’s thoughts but I want to sit at the table with Miss Mason. Ponder her philosophy without other’s ideas tainting my view or assumptions. I will continue to read other books that address aspects of  Mason’s teaching; I am currently reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass. My main attention and focus will be on Miss Mason.

I am going to be a bit of a rebel. Normally I would begin with Home Education, Volume 1. However, I do have older children so I have jumped ship and am first reading A Philosophy of Education, Volume 6. It is my plan to perhaps share my thoughts here.

Nature Study – Why it is on the Checklist

I know, with no doubts, that children having time outdoors is an essential. The backyard, neighborhood woods, and a good climbing tree become the stage of many adventures. My children not only fight great battles and build miniature fairy villages but they enjoy the warmth of the sunshine after a cold spell and the beauty of a cool breeze. Being outside gives them a picture of the majesty of the Creator even before they realize it.

Once upon a time, I was outdoors with them. I suppose this might be the downside of having older children. My presence is not needed outside just because my children are outside. Or is it?

I have been slowly (and I do stress slowly) reading through Home Education, Volume One of a series written by Charlotte Mason. Since I have transitioned all of my children to Ambleside Online, I felt it might be wise to read the original works of Miss Mason. When I couldn’t decide which volume to begin with, I simply defaulted to Volume 1.

In this text, Miss Mason writes a good bit on children and their need of being outdoors. I heartily agreed. Then I realized an key factor I had been missing. Perhaps ignoring if I wanted to be honest.

One of the key studies of Miss Mason is Nature Study. Over the years I have dabbled in using Mason’s educational philosophy but I must confess that Nature Study never made the weekly schedule. My children were playing outside. They were enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. That was enough. Or maybe not.

At the same time, here is the mother’s opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers.

Miss Mason discusses the child intentionally seeing nature. Observing when the flowers begin to bloom and when the buds form on the trees. When do the birds and bugs begin to appear in the yard again? What is happening in the pond at the park? And so many more questions should be formed and answered while we are outside.

 

As I thought over these things, I knew that I wanted to purpose to make Nature Study a regular and consistent part of our week. I wanted to join my children in spending focused time really seeing what was in nature. I did some more reading and research. I quickly became overwhelmed at how to implement the practice. Blogs, Pinterest boards, and books offered up many ideas. Lovely bags and  a variety of quality sketch pads, journals, watercolors, pencils were key. And the sketching! Gorgeous sketches. I must admit that I second guessed myself. Could I make this work?

By degrees the children will learn discriminatingly every feature of the landscapes with which they are familiar; and think what a delightful possession for old age and middle life is a series of pictures imaged, feature by feature, in the sunny glow of the child’s mind!

We are a one-income large family. The homeschool budget is small and would not allow for “frivolous” purchases. I could not purchase hardback journals or high quality watercolors. I felt inadequate. I can barely draw a passable stick figure. And I need to sketch a tree or a flower or a bird?

In the end, I decided to make it work. Flexibility has been a constant in our homeschool journey. We could take that flexibility and make it work for Nature Study as well. I knew that making Nature Study a priority should be a big part of our week. Why? I want my children to see creation and to understand and know the Creator. He is an amazing and awesome Creator. And so we will make it work.

More to come on how I’m making Nature Study work for us….

With Paper and Pen

For the past year or so,  I have slowly been transitioning our days, our studies, our schedules back to what I envisioned years ago. How easy it is to allow a slight slip in focus to lead us off track.

With a desire to more fully implement a Charlotte Mason style of education in our home, I have moved the children into using Ambleside Online.The move has been slow and steady. To save my sanity, I am taking it step by step instead of jumping in head first. Wise I think as I am taking nine children down this path with me.

As I read and study and refresh my mind to this philosophy of learning, I am continually reminded of the importance of learning, reading, writing, and studying for myself. Naturally I am reading selections from my older children’s studies and reading aloud to my younger ones. This can be challenging but I love to read and read to my children so it makes my heart happy!

Other areas, however, are not as easy for me to implement for myself. A Commonplace Book and a Nature Study book are two items that I have delayed beginning for myself. My focus has been wrong. Does it really  matter if I don’t sketch well? If my handwriting isn’t perfect, is my life going to go off course? I think not.

So I begin first with a Commonplace Book. My two oldest girls enjoy theirs. They are diligent to treasure words and thoughts and ideas. Now I will do the same. For myself and to set an example for my younger ones as well.

A simple composition book with a pretty design. A pack of pens. Endless words, thoughts, truths, ideas…….With paper and pen, I begin.