Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Who is Charlotte Mason? She was born Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason  and lived from January 1, 1842 – January 16, 1923. She got her teacher's degree and then was asked to teach and lecture. She gave lectures to parents and those who cared for children. Then the Parents' Educational Union was formed and quickly expanded. Next a periodical was launched, the "Parents' Review", to continue to aid parents in teaching and training their children. Charlotte then moved to Ambleside, England and started a school for the training of governesses and others working with young children. More schools adopted her philosophy and methods, and her school at Ambleside became a teacher training college to supply the Parents' Union Schools that were springing up. She spent her final years overseeing this network of schools devoted to "a liberal education for all."  

An article on Charlotte Mason
Another article on Charlotte Mason

Many homeschoolers have adopted her style of education and so there are many websites and blogs about CM homeschooling.

The major points of CM homeschooling are:(by the way CM= Charlotte Mason, makes for less typing)

Living Books
This is one of the most well known of the parts of CM homeschooling. Using books that are written by a single author and not using textbooks. This also includes not reading or using twaddle in your homeschool.

is asking a student to tell back in his own words what he just saw, heard, or read. It can be used with all the subjects. The child must think about and process the new information, comparing this to his prior knowledge and previous experiences. This is much harder than filling in the blanks on worksheets.

Copywork is what Charlotte used for learning and practicing handwriting. Instead of just copying, a brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, or some other useless phrases you have the kids copy scripture, poems, or worthy passages from the books you are reading. You start small and build up over the years.

Dictation is used like copywork except that you read aloud the portion you want them to copy instead of them copying from a printed page. This gives them practice in things like spelling, grammar and punctuation since you have them correct their work according to the original after they are done the dictation. Again, start small and work up to larger passages.

Short Lessons 
This is self explanatory. This is for the purpose of keeping the child's attention. When lessons go on to long, especially for younger children, you teach them to let their minds wander. As the children get older the lessons can be lengthened. Charlotte advocated starting with lessons about 20 minutes long.

How CM handled different school subjects
Charlotte believed that children could understand reading the Bible and did not need watered down children's Bible story books. She read to them from the Bible every day. She also assigned portions of the Bible to be copied, as dictation and for memorization.

Charlotte thought it was more important that children understand the concepts behind the math that they are doing than that they get the right answers. This quote is from "Home Education" (The Original Home Schooling Series, Vol. 1, Home Education; Part V, number XV, Arithmetic pg. 254).
"The practical value of arithmetic to persons in every class of life goes without remark. But the use of the study in practical life is the least of its uses. The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords to the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders."
For this I will again quote CM herself from The Original Home Schooling Series, Vol. 1, Home Education; Part V, number XIX--Grammar pg. 295 Grammar a Difficult Study...
"In the first place, grammar, being a study of words and not of things, is by no means attractive to the child, nor should he be hurried into it. English grammar, again, depending as it does on the position and logical connection of words, is peculiarly hard for him to grasp."
Thus Charlotte is all for waiting before teaching formal Grammar. We started Grammar study in 3rd grade.

Using living books in History is one of the first things we did when we changed from a packaged, text book type of homeschooling to a more living book, unit study, then later CM type of homeschooling. We study the lives and important events in history not through text books but through biography and historical fiction, living books, and primary source material.

We study geography in relation to and along with the History we are doing. We do maps, as we go along in our studies, of the people and places of History and not as a separate study for the sake of memorization or just to improve map skills.

Nature Study 
Nature Study is an important part of CM homeschooling and it is a fun part. Our family doesn't get to explore nature daily but we do have a favorite place to explore and we get to go back time after time, in all seasons. During these trips we have gotten to know the plants in the area and recognize them by their leaves, flowers, needles, pods, nuts, or cones. We have collected bits and photographed things and looked them up in our nature books. The boys are not much for drawing but because we have gone back to the same place over and over they have become familiar with the nature there.

Read and recite poetry aloud frequently. You can read poems about nature, the seasons, holidays, and life events. Or you can focus on the poems of one poet for a few weeks, reading a biography about that poet sometime during those weeks. This is especially effective when combined with your History study or unit. Occasionally assign a poem for copywork, dictation or recitation.

Charlotte advocated the use of Shakespeare in all grade levels. When studying a Shakespeare play, you may want to first read together the narrative in a book like Tales from Shakespeare or Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare in order to get a good idea of the plot and characters.These books are especially good for introducing Shakespeare to younger children, but they are a great introduction for your older students, too. Also, many libraries have unabridged versions of the plays on CD that you can listen to. There are also other "fun" versions of Shakespeare just for kids... check out the link below for Shakespeare's Animated Tales in print.

One of the things we like to do is attend or host a Shakespeare in the Backyard day with other homeschoolers. This is a day where you buy multiple copies of one Shakespeare play and invite a bunch of friends over. Each student, and some parents if you need or if they want, takes parts in the play, some multiple parts if necessary and then you read the play together. This takes no practice it is only a reading. If possible, watch a video or live performance of the play you’re reading. We like Shakespeare's Animated Tales. See if you library has any copies. They also come in print, see Here. I hope your library carries one or the other, if not see if they will order them.

Picture Study 
We love our picture study. I usually go with the schedule on Ambleside. Besides the list of artists they have copies of the work of each artist that you can print out and use with your study. This year since we are studying the Renaissance I have chosen to go with all Renaissance artists this year. We started with Fra Angelico. If the pictures on Ambleside are to my liking I use them, if not I use the images at Wikipedia. For each artist at Wikipedia they have a Gallery down near the bottom of each page. From there you can choose those paintings, sculptures, etc. that you would like to have you children view and discover and compare. Check out this link to see what I mean: Fra Angelico Gallery

Have children look at the picture until they can see it clearly in their minds’ eye. When all children are ready, turn the picture over or close the book and ask them to describe the picture. When their narration is finished, display the picture again and notice together any new aspects. Summarize any accompanying information if desired, but be careful not to interfere with each child’s forming his own relationship with the artist’s work. This study is not a lesson in art criticism. Display the picture in a prominent location in your home so children can look at it throughout the week. We put them on the wall in our dining room where we do most of school. I have them posted on the wall in plastic sleeves. The plastic sleeves just stay on the wall and I can change the pictures as needed.

Continue to study works by the same artist for several weeks until the children become familiar with that artist’s style. If possible, read a short biography about that artist sometime during your study of his or her work. I have found several old texts about artists at that are very good. The one we are using now is Knights of Art. We have only read a few of the first chapters but we are enjoying the book. Sometimes older books are better when studying History, even Art History.

Music Study 
Music appreciation is done in much the same way as art appreciation. Simply listen to the music of one composer at various times throughout the week. Be sure to begin the CD or tape at different songs to make sure the children have a chance to hear more than just the first selection. Continue to listen to pieces by the same composer for several weeks until your students become familiar with that composer’s style. If possible, read or listen to a short biography about that composer sometime during your study of his or her work. We like the book Gift of Music: Great Composers & Their Influence for this.

We are currently reviewing and enjoying Bright Ideas Press new program A Young Scholars Guide to the Composers, it is one of our TOS Homeschool Crew things we got to review. The boys are looking forward to using this all year. They asked that this be one of the review items we continue using. My son Nathan is especially anxious to get to study John Williams. He is the last composer in the study! I hope his enthusiasm continues all year. We have only done the first section which is on Ancient to Middle Ages music but we like it already. I will be doing a thorough review of this product some time late next month. Watch for it.

Hymn Study  
We do Hymn Study as a family practicing hymns for special music at church or singing when we minister at the nursing home. If you do not participate in music in this way make sure to teach your children the old hymns anyway. Choose a hymn and print out the words and music for your children, or use hymnals if you have enough for everyone. Sing the hymn over and over, use a cd if you don't have much musical talent. There are a lot of hymn collection cd's out there. Children may also use the lyrics of the hymn for copywork, dictation, or recitation and studying the History of the Hymn is also good.

Now that you have been introduced to CM and to the basics of her methods here are some websites and books to further your study.

Some of my favorite Charlotte Mason Homeschooling sites: 
Simply Charlotte Mason  Make sure you join The Inside SCM E-mail List down near the bottom of the page. Great CM tips right in your inbox!

Ambleside Online (Ambleside has a complete CM curriculum for free all online. I do not use this but you are welcome to check it out. I use the artist and composer studies most years, this year we are using the BIP book for composers and I have used a few of the recommended readings in our school but not the whole thing.)  

*New Note: I checked into Ambleside online in more detail due to a reader comment. I had checked Ambleside out a couple years ago, but I do not use Ambleside's complete curriculum so I have not checked it out lately. Not all the books suggested in the Ambleside online curriculum can be found online. Some of the resources can be found online for free. Others can be found as used copies. In some of the areas of study you have choices and so you can choose the free online resources instead of spending money, if need be.

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
Charlotte Mason Research and Supply Company
A to Z Home's Cool Homeschooling: Charlotte Mason Method
Living Books Curriculum
Homeschool World: Karen Andreola Articles
A Charlotte Mason Education

The Original Books by Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason Original HomeSchooling Series

If you can't afford to buy the books you can get downloads of all the books at Ambleside for free. You have to download the books piece by piece or chapter by chapter but it is all there.

There is also a new site, I just found, where you can find each of the first four books of the CM series  piece by piece. She is working her way through the books with just a small section each day. A great site to bookmark and read each day, or add to your Google reader, so you can take the books bit by bit. Here is the link: A Full Life: The Works of Charlotte Mason. You could start at the beginning and read a portion or two a day or you could just jump in at the book she is on for that day. Or you could do what I hope to do and that is read the portion for each day as it comes and also go back and read at least one old portion, from the beginning until you catch up.

Books about Charlotte Mason Homeschooling  
Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola  
Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
For the Family’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

There is also a list of books at The Charlotte Mason Store at Amazon. I have not read all of them but wanted to include this list for those who would be interested in more books or used copies of the books I have listed.

I hope you have enjoyed this overview and the links for Charlotte Mason Homeschooling.

There you go Paulina, the post you have been waiting for.

Have a Great week,


Paulina said...

Thank you Mrs. Phillips! I was so excited when I saw you had dedicated a whole post to her. Right now, I'm reading The Simplicity of Homeschooling, and I noticed the author referenced to CM's work a lot. I really think this she has created a great style of learning. I'll be sure to check out the links!

In Him,

Sheri said...

Very helpful and informative Debbie-I love the CM method-altho I tend to forget to use them as often as I need to-

Have a good one!

Mama Squirrel said...

Hi Debbie, One note about the links to online books via the Ambleside Online website: not ALL the books used in the curriculum are online or in the public domain. But many of the in-print titles can be bought used or found inexpensively.

Just in case there was any confusion on that.

{ jamie } said...

Great summary of CM; we love her! :)


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