It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the school-at home-approach to homeschooling. We’re at home for a reason, right. We’re looking for something MORE for our kids.
Maybe you want a broader education for your children. Maybe you want them to have more time experiencing the wonder of nature. Maybe you want them to spend less time sitting at a desk but still want them to enjoy the best books out there. Maybe your goal for your kids is to experience the best that life has to offer while growing as a WHOLE person.
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
We talked a while ago about what holistic education is and how this mindset influences our homeschool. But what about the nuts ‘n’ bolts of it all? How do you go about implementing a holistic approach in your homeschool? It can help to have a basic knowledge and understanding of the various holistic education models out there. You may find one that really speaks to you; one that you want to adopt wholeheartedly. Or you could even choose to cherry pick from each of the methods to create something uniquely your own. There is no right or wrong here.
I’ve mentioned before that we combine elements of the Waldorf and Charlotte Mason approaches in our homeschool (setting aside that time we had a brief yet passionate fling with unschooling). But who was Charlotte Mason and what is her method?
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a teacher from England who devoted her life to creating a method of education that could be used by all children, irregardless of class status or whether they were educated in a school or home setting. Her method centred around the idea that children were born whole persons and that they should be educated with this in mind. Sounds like a holistic method right there, doesn’t it 😉
Miss Mason wrote a 6 volume series on her educational ideals, including her famous 20 principles, and advocated for a delayed start to academics. In her opinion, the first 6 years of a child’s life should be devoted to being outdoors, to playing and to developing character. Sounds right up my alley!
‘I am , I can, I ought, I will’.
There are many elements that go into creating a Charlotte Mason style homeschool. To truly understand the method, your best bet is to go straight to the source and read her works. Familiarise yourself with her 20 Principles. There’s a great difference in time and place between us and Charlotte, so keep this in mind when you read her. Hint: Start with volume 1, jump to volume 6, then go back and read 2-5 in order. You’re welcome 😉
But if you want to get started right away, there are a few the cornerstones that characterise the CM method. These are things that every home can implement. You can even use these ideas with your children if you have chosen not to homeschool.
There is so much I could say about the Charlotte Mason approach, but let’s look at a couple of her key ideas; ‘Spreading the Feast’ and ‘Living Books’; as well as a few of her practices; nature study, narration, short lessons, habit training. Do any of these speak to you as a parent?
Spreading the Feast: Expose your children to ALL the arts, to quality literature, to many and varied experiences. Let them spend hours in nature. Encourage them to bake, to take up handicrafts, to garden. Miss Mason called this, “Spreading the Feast”. You can do all of these things without making them into formal lessons. Try leaving coffee books of the famous artists works on your table. Play classical music as the background to your days. Read the classics together while snuggled on the couch. Which brings me to the idea of living books…
Living Books: Miss Charlotte was a passionate believer that children, and adults for that matter, learn best NOT through textbooks, but through living books. Books that capture the reader’s interest and hold them captivated. These books should be written by someone with a passion for their subject matter so that we catch their enthusiasm. They should be about IDEAS, not just facts. Don’t talk down to me; inspire me!
Narration: When we present our children with new ideas and experiences we want to know they have understood. We want to know that these ideas have become a part of them. Charlotte Mason thought the best way for a child to learn to pay attention, to fully take on board new ideas, and to learn to express themselves, was through the act of narration. This is simply getting the child to tell back to you what you have just read to them, using their own words. But it doesn’t have to be dry and boring. You could have them act out the passage, or draw a picture of the story.
Nature Study: Wasn’t Charlotte ahead of her time! Encouraging kids to spend their time in nature, to observe it, love it and respect it, is so en vogue right now. As it should be. We can’t expect our children to grow up to care for a world they’ve never had a chance to love. So how do you start? Simply by going out into nature on a regular basis. Don’t live near a forest? There’s backyards and parks and beaches to explore. Once you are all comfortable outside, try a bit of nature journalling or start a nature table at home.
Short and Sweet Lessons: That’s a lot to learn, especially when our children are small. Kids aren’t known for their ability to sit still and concentrate for long periods of time. Rather than try to force children into this unnatural habit (which let’s face it, isn’t an overly successful way of going about things), Charlotte Mason gives us the idea of short lessons. As in 10-20 minutes per topic in the early grades. You can’t get much shorter than that!
Cultivating Good Habits: And because education is about more than stuffing knowledge into a small person’s head- good luck with that!- Charlotte also wrote about the idea of ‘habit training’. Good habits both make a good education possible, they also help to grow ourselves and our children into WHOLE people who are willing and able to take charge of our own lives.
Well that was a little longer than I meant for it to be. Are you still with me?
I wonder, did you find something in here that you would like to incorporate into your children’s live? I’d love to know if Charlotte Mason’s ideas speak to you.