Recently I met a prospective homeschool mom with 2 very young children and I encouraged her to read and find out more about Charlotte Mason.
I gave her my delightful blurb on a CM education … you know … the one about “reading living books and narrations“? Somewhere in my enthusiastic description I mentioned,
“The Gentle Art of Education”
“tea parties with lace tablecloths, snuggling on the couch with a sweet little storybook, and setting up an easel in the middle of a field of daisies as your children paint to their hearts’ content!”
I do love those CM moments though!
But it challenged my sugary comments and I wondered how I present CM’s ways.
This is what I realized:
Charlotte Mason’s high standards seem always just beyond my reach. I can always challenge myself and my children to go a little further in our homeschooling. Every term we extend ourselves in narrations, dictations and habit training. Charlotte Mason’s principles really develop us as we journey in our education and character training.
What do we find that is NOT “gentle” in our Charlotte Mason inspired approach?
- Children must give 100% attention during readings.
- Children should write or dictate a full, clear, detailed narration after 1 listening to the reading. No repeating, no prompting, no clues.
- The child must express himself correctly, have an opinion, make a judgement, develop a train of thought and use his imagination.
- Encourage children to form relations with things, ideas, great thoughts, great minds. I must not get in their way.
- Each child must develop the habit of perfect execution—in all their work.
- Neat, correct dictations. Move on from mere copywork.
- Perfect handwriting. Every time.
- Remember spelling in their minds – visual photograph of the word. Enunciate properly.
- Recitations of poems, plays, famous speeches and literature excerpts.
- Read whole chapter, living books with great literature content.
- Apply arithmetic processes accurately and perfectly. Easy enough to be able, but challenging enough to stimulate mental effort.
- Accurate and detailed geographic interests – read, discuss and discover maps, outdoor studies, weather and other geographic phenomena.
- Read and then narrate in a foreign language. Not mere textbooks and worksheets.
- Shakespeare? Still not in our schedule.
- Learn and narrate Scriptures and entire Biblical stories – and apply these to our daily walk in the Lord.
- Develop the habit of reading their own Bibles daily, learn hymns, practice praising the Lord, pray with conviction and faith.
- Journal and sketch detailed and accurate observations made on nature walks and develop a thorough knowledge of the fauna and flora of their district – identify flowers, insects, trees, animals, noticing changes through the seasons.
- Appreciate great music and develop the habit of careful listening and personal enjoyment.
- Develop an appreciation for art by studying famous artist and their most important works. Each child should make their own detailed mental art galleries.
- Recognise pictures and identify the famous artist (and even the style or era) and narrate details after careful observation.
- I must have incessant watchfulness to form and develop good habits in my children.
- On character, Charlotte Mason instructs parents to expect prompt, cheerful obedience, courtesy, reverence, sweet temper, truthfulness, self-restraint, self-control, and fortitude without supervision or rewards.
This is a really high calling, but she encourages us to do this in grace.
Is this gentle? No. This is tough stuff. Sigh.
Impossible? No. It requires lots of training, perseverance and prayer.
(Pop over to read Sonya’s post )
As I made up my list, I realized that Charlotte Mason’s standards are set too high for me. It really brings me to my knees … in prayer. Her ways make me a needy parent, dependant on the Lord.
This is good.
Without this, I would become independent and proud.
How I need the Lord to instill or encourage any of these principles in my life, let alone in my young children’s.
Only by grace can this be a “living” or “gentle” education.
So, I am still inspired …
Reaching onwards and upwards …
And I thank Charlotte Mason for such a beautiful way …
Which includes …
tea parties with lace tablecloths,
snuggling on the couch with a sweet little storybook,
and setting up an easel in the middle of a field of daisies as my children paint to their hearts’ content!