Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Mason’

Charlotte Mason – Book 6: A Philosophy of Education

Thursday, April 26th, 2012


A Philosophy of Education is the last book in the Charlotte Mason series, and it is a summing-up of all the volumes. She restates all her main points:

  1. “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Setting up our house to encourage continual learning, developing good habits, and establishing a lifelong love of learning would all fall under this category.
  2. “Education is the science of relations.” Unit studies do this very well, pulling all of our subject areas under one theme for better retention of all of it.
  3. A single reading is insisted on so that the student pays attention. He is required to narrate what he has read, whether orally or in written form.
  4. Knowledge is like food to the mind, presented through ideas, one mind to another.
  5. Children should be taught how to use their will to be in complete control of their thoughts and their behavior. They can control their thoughts by thinking of something else whenever a bad thought enters their mind.
  6. Children should be taught that their reason is fallible, that even evil thoughts and deeds can be defended logically, and that just because something seems right doesn’t mean it is right.

Children naturally have a hunger for knowledge, and if we present that knowledge in a literary form (through living books), the children will actually retain a surprising amount of knowledge. The ideas will excite their imagination, and in their mind’s eye, they will picture the knowledge. They must retell their knowledge so that it won’t escape their minds.

In foreign language teaching, a passage should be read in that language, and the children should narrate back what was read to them. Fluency of the language is grasped much sooner because they are required to think in that language.

Charlotte Mason feels that if the masses were educated, they would be less apt to be selfish and act ignorantly. Instead they would learn that “we have precisely the same rights as other people do and no more; that other people owe to us just such duties as we owe to them.” When we realize this fact, we will be thinking of other people’s rights and our duties to them.

Knowledge must proceed in an orderly way. We should not repeat anything. Every day should build on the previous day. That way knowledge is always fresh and new. (I disagree about repetition, especially in math. Also, a person needs to review previous knowledge occasionally to not lose it. But her concept of not repeating stale information over and over is good.)

Children should learn not only that which is useful; they should learn for the sake of knowledge itself. For example, history does not seem useful, but the full knowledge of history will cause a child to have a deeper understanding, and therefore make him wiser and a more well-rounded person. Plus, as a citizen, he can vote for people and propositions that he knows from the past will not cause horrible consequences.

Charlotte Mason stresses that the knowledge of God is the most important knowledge for our children to possess. It can be taught through Scripture and a general commentary. For example, look at the story of Cain and Abel. “Among the lessons taught are the following

  1. God judges man’s motives rather than his acts. The service of the heart is worth more than any ceremonial.
  2. It is not the sin of murder that is condemned so much as the sins of jealousy and malice…
  3. That each man is his brother’s keeper and has his share of responsibility for the conditions of the lives of others.
  4. Sin always brings its own punishment.
  5. God remonstrates (pleads in reproof) with man before the climax of sin is reached.”

I thought these points were very insightful.

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Charlotte Mason – Book 5: Formation of Character

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012


This Charlotte Mason book is actually a series of stories and examples of character formation. The first story involves a five-year-old boy who throws tantrums. His parents cure him of this character defect by suddenly having him change his thoughts when he feels that he is about to throw a tantrum. At first his parents excitedly change his occupation as soon as he is about to have a meltdown. Soon his habit begins to break because it is replaced by a new habit – running around the outside of the house. The boy finally takes matters into his own hands and runs around the house whenever he is tempted by his temper. Eventually he is cured of the bad habit.

The second story deals with a girl who flitters from one thing to another, never finishing anything. The mother is advised to give short, interesting lessons to train the girl in the habit of attention. Something attempted, something done – this is the sense of accomplishment that the mother should build into each lesson so that the girl will feel a sense of accomplishment, of growth, and of moving forward each day, and it will give her a desire to finish each day’s work.

The third story is about a girl who pouts and goes through life as though under a cloud. The cure is to tell the child that she hurts the entire family because her mood pulls down the moods of everyone else in the house. Will she only think of herself, or will she love her family by choosing to think positive thoughts and to be joyful?

The fourth story is longer, and it is about depression. How does the young woman get out of her depressions? She purposely thinks positive thoughts and forces herself not to dwell on sadness. At first it is difficult, but once a person establishes a habit of thinking positively, she will not get depressed any more.

The next chapter isn’t a story. She rants and raves about our arbitrary actions as parents, and I was deeply convicted. If other people treated us the same way that we sometimes treat our children, would we put up with it? For example, does the punishment always fit the crime? If a toddler unknowingly breaks something irreplaceable by accident, do you get angry?

The sixth chapter is a story about a girl who lies outrageously by telling unnecessary lies just to be interesting. The parents must teach her the difference between truth and fiction by reading the fairy tales and enjoying the fiction. Then give exercises in truth by giving an oral message for her to deliver to somebody else in the house. That person writes down what the girl said, and the girl takes the paper back to the mother to see that she has reported only the truth.

The seventh story deals with a boy who is always forgetful. He needs to learn the habit of paying attention. When he was little, he should have been trained to pay attention by having him occupy himself a little longer with some plaything than he did the previous day. However, now that he is older, the parent must put interest into the thing that needs to be remembered. Every night, have him fill in a chart: “Remembers” and “Forgets.” Put a tally mark under the correct heading. He is fighting a battle with his forgetfulness, and he might lose the fight if he does not try harder. Most boys will take up the challenge and win the fight by getting more tally marks on the “Remembers” side.

The eighth story is about a woman who pretends to be sick all the time to get recognition. She needs to become aware of her problem and find another way to get recognition.

There are many more stories and examples in this book. They are helpful because parents can find solutions to character problems in their children.

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Charlotte Mason – Book 4: Ourselves

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012


This volume is my favorite of all six volumes because it analyzes who we are as people. It doesn’t really have anything to do with homeschooling, but if you understand the make-up of your children, you’ll be able to teach and train them better.

All people have four aspects of their being: body, mind, heart, and soul. Jesus Himself recognized these four areas when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27) Charlotte Mason gives details about each of these four areas.

The body needs food, water, and rest. If any of these three needs becomes obsessive, the result is gluttony, drunkenness, and sloth. To remain chaste in our bodies, we must remember that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we must think pure thoughts at all times. If an impure thought presents itself, think of something else. Our five senses should be sharpened for us to live life to the fullest. If we taste something rotten, we throw it away before we have swallowed the first piece. But we shouldn’t be ruled by our taste buds; we should eat what is set before us and not be picky and disagreeable.

Our sense of smell is lazy. We should be able to smell the stuffy air in a room to give it proper ventilation. We should be able to smell spoiled food before it enters our mouth. Smell can be used for our pleasure; we should be able to distinguish different plants by their smell.

Our sense of touch helps us to read if we are blind. We can feel frostbite, fire, or the cut of a knife; if we didn’t feel any of these, our bodies would be suffering injury without being noticed. We should not be mastered by the physical pain we might feel. We must think of something else and not dwell on it.

Sight should be cultivated; you should be able to describe scenes in detail. If your childhood memories are hazy, it’s because you never stopped to observe the details around you. You can’t enjoy life fully until you begin to notice the details. For example, can you describe in detail one picture hanging on your parents’ wall?

The sense of hearing has also been dulled. Outdoors you should be able to hear different chirps of birds, water gurgling, wind blowing through the treetops, or pine needles dropping. Enjoy great classical music by following the feeling of the music.

The mind is the second aspect of our beings. Imagination and reason must be brought to the ideas presented to our mind. For history and literature, we must picture the story in our minds in order to derive knowledge from it, and to remember it. Mathematics is worthwhile because our effort results in the knowledge of concrete truth. There are very few branches of knowledge where you can derive absolute truth from its study. Science builds on previous knowledge; however, you should also experience things firsthand to discover all the intricacies of a flower, for instance. Do not allow your mind to dwell on pictures of horror or uncleanness; instead, dwell on God’s creation. The reason is used by our desires to logically defend any idea we want. Therefore it is important to not let into our mind any untrue or evil thought. Everything that everybody does is logical to them. Remember Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar? He reasons that he is doing right by murdering Julius Caesar. Anything can be justified. Our mind subconsciously justifies everything we do. Something isn’t right just because it is logical. Everything can be logical.

The heart is ruled by love and justice, or the lack of it. Some aspects of love are pity, benevolence (goodwill), sympathy (comprehension of others), kindness (making life pleasant for others), generosity, gratitude, courage, loyalty (to king, country, family, and friends), humility (not thinking of ourselves at all), and gladness (joy in all circumstances.) We must be just to others in our opinions, truthful to others in all things, temperate in everything we do, using our time wisely.

Our soul is made for communion with God. We will feel incomplete in our lives until God fills us. We must desire the knowledge of God, which can only come from studying Scripture and mulling it over. We must pray, offer thanksgiving, praise Him, and have faith in Him. The more we know God, the more faith we will have. Also, we must keep in mind that just because our conscience is clear doesn’t mean we are innocent. Remember, our reason will logically justify anything. This is why we must ask God to show us our sin, and to be silent and listen.

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Charlotte Mason – Book 3: School Education

Monday, April 23rd, 2012


Charlotte Mason begins this School Education book by describing authority and docility. A mother should expect her children to obey her. The children are more likely to obey when she smiles and assumes they will obey. A mother must not be angry and autocratic and arbitrary. Instead she must be easy and kind, even in discipline. She must cause the child to obey without thinking, so that there is more effort required to disobey than to obey, which has become the subconscious habit. She should put her child’s good first before her own convenience. She must keep in mind that authority was given to her by God.

Next Charlotte Mason discusses how to use “masterly inactivity” with her children. If you play with your children too much and don’t leave them alone to do their own thing, they will never learn how to make their own fun. Making their own fun is part of imagination, creativity, and intelligence. The mother can read a book while her children play – so that they can have the space to create their own diversions.

Then she goes on to describe duty. If a child doesn’t like to do his math page, he still needs to do it, even if it is not fun, because it is his duty. We shouldn’t prod the child to do it. Instead, we should have him suffer the consequences of dawdling – having less time to do other things that he wants to do. The mother shouldn’t force her child to do it; otherwise she will make the child lazy. The child will choose to do it on his own: he will do it quickly and get on to better things; or he will not do it and spend the whole day in horrible drudgery, staring at his paper, having no time to play. He must always choose what is his duty. It is useless for the mother to stand there and expend energy and get a headache when the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the child.

Oral narration (retelling a summary of a story) is important to Charlotte Mason because, she says, it is more useful in life to be able to speak than to write. Also, a person who can speak well will usually be able to write well.

She says, “Education is a science of relations.” Relationships between a child and a thing or person should have some emotion and effort put into them. Relationships that we work on are always deeper than relationships that are superficial. If we have a passion for rocks and minerals, we will learn infinitely more than if we have no emotion towards rocks. When I was in college, I plunged into each subject with passion so that I could really possess each subject with the knowledge it had to offer. In the same way, with my children, I must excite them about each subject so that it is easy to gain knowledge. It will then come alive, and the child will have a vital relationship with that subject.

Charlotte Mason believes that being able to identify items in nature – whether plant, insect, bird, rock, or whatever – involves classification skills and a great deal of knowledge. Recognition is important and can be developed through nature journals where students draw and paint and describe objects in nature that catch their interest.

At the end of the book in one of the appendices, she has some examination papers that are highly interesting to read. Even young children seem very erudite in the way they articulate their knowledge, being taught under Charlotte Mason’s style of education.

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