Friday, April 18, 2008

An Introduction to Charlotte Mason

For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

I think this book is an excellent overview of Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education, one I happen to like even more as I learn more about it.

A group of schools, the Parents' National Education Union schools (PNEU) were developed based on Charlotte Mason's philosophy, resources and teaching methods. I love the motto for the schools, "I am, I can, I ought, I will." In brief, each child is a unique "creature made to have a relationship with God" (I am). They are taught "I believe in myself in a balanced, realistic way" (I can). Children must learn "What is right?" (I ought) and then be given the skills and habits to "choose what is right" (I will, author's emphasis).

I liked one quote in particular, regarding the philosophy of education as a whole:

It does not mean that adults think of a child as a blank sheet of paper on which they imprint their ideas, impressions, and knowledge. Neither does it mean leaving the child unattended like a weed growing in a sidewalk. It is a balanced understanding of education as the provision of possibilities for a person to build relationships with a vast number of things and thoughts.

It seems like an ideal education - a minimal amount of focus on school books and skills (but with maximum expectations of diligence and eventual success), with an emphasis on always challenging the individual child without rushing or slowing down to match the rates of others, and lots of time to explore the world and science in action with nature walks and experimentation. What's not to love?

I'm already considering ways to incorporate this philosophy in our preschool homeschooling in the fall. So far I'm thinking lots of reading together and community outings (nature walks, science museums, art museums, and maybe even some neighborly visits to a nursing home). The opportunities for integration of learning and play are exciting for me (and align very well with some other reading I've done lately). I'm also looking forward to having lots of fun! (I'm sure First Son would agree, if he had any idea what's in store.)

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