At the turn of the last century, educator Charlotte Mason encouraged homeschoolers in England and throughout the world. She administered schools that followed her twenty principles of education. Some of the living books we have read and narrated have inspired these reflections on her principles. My wallpaper border depicts the three areas covered in a Charlotte Mason curriculum: knowledge of God, man, and the universe. David is furthering his knowledge of the universe at Sand Dollar Beach in Sand Point, Alaska.
Pamela had no verbal language at the age of three, but signed a few words. We found the following things the most effective in developing her language and social abilities: the gluten-free, casein-free diet, the association method, Relationship Development Intervention, and a Charlotte Mason style language arts program. At eighteen, she is verbal and enjoys talking about her favorite interests. Her latest feat is understanding and paying attention to non-verbal communication, something beyond her reach last year. Last fall, Pamela started reciting poetry and, in this video clip, she repeats her favorite Milne poem, The End. I filmed it on my digital camera, and David edited it with Windows Movie Maker and added Narnian music (Track 4) as a birthday gift for their grandfather. Check out my new blog for all the gory details on the Glasers!
CM Books I've Read
CM's Original Homeschool Series
Charlotte Mason Study Guide
A Charlotte Mason Education
More Charlotte Mason Education
A Charlotte Mason Companion
CM Books to Be Read
When Children Love to Learn
The Story of Charlotte Mason
ChildLightUSA hosted their
Charlotte Mason Education Conference on June 7, 8, 9, 2007
entitled "Understanding Assessment" in Boiling Springs, NC. I met
some wonderful people, all kindred spirits, regardless of whether
they were homeschoolers, teachers, administrators, professors, or
otherwise. I am blogging the conference right now (ala we narrate
and then we know): look for conference posts in the right hand
column of my
blog under the heading "Charlotte Mason Conference."
At the 2007 conference, I covered two topics, Masterly Inactivity and Special Needs Therapies. The audio recordings are in the works and will be available at ChildLight USA in the near future. At the 2006 conference, I covered two topics (Narration and Learning Styles), and you can purchase audio recordings of my topics and all the sessions. You can download my handouts from the files section of ChildLightUSA's email list if you are a member. If not, feel free to email me for a copy.
The only down side of the conference was that meeting all those kindred spirits gave me a great longing to have a Charlotte Mason study group in South Carolina. My email list for South Carolinians interested in Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education is not quite flying, and, if you live in South Carolina and wish to help us take flight, click here!
"Education is the science of relations."
Our friend Niki, Pamela, and David pose in front of Lake Itasca. The headwaters of the Mississippi are the source of a living river as are living ideas, the source of living books. Minn of the Mississippi is not merely a tale of three-legged snapping turtle's journey down the meandering Mississippi. Children relate to Minn and her muddy world as they dig for living ideas on a wide variety of subjects: a chelydra serpentina's life cycle, 2,552 miles of geography, ancient through modern human history, natural history, colorful animals and humans, freshwater ecosystems, locks, river commerce, and floods. Alive and hungry for knowledge, a child's mind can unearth intellectual and spiritual treasure from a generous curriculum when given the chance!
Tree in the Trail
Minn of the Mississippi
Of Courage Undaunted
Book of Marvels
Explore His Earth
Explore the Holy Land
A Child's Geography
50 Famous Stories World FREE
Child's History of the World
Story of World Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Story of Mankind World FREE
Story of Greeks World FREE
Story of Romans World FREE
Augustus Caesar's World World
Discovery of New Worlds FREE
Island Story World FREE
Awakening of Europe FREE
This Country of Ours US FREE
Columbus' World US
John Smith's World US
George Washington's World US
Abraham Lincoln's World US
Why does Charlotte Mason work for my children? They have performing and thinking/creating dispositions in common. We perform our habits: drawing, singing, walking while practicing Spanish, running, nature study, and science experiments--hands-on activities enjoyed by concrete kids. Narrating books and relating to poets, artists, composers, etc. leaves scope for the imagination.
Why does Ambleside Online (AO) work for me? I am driven and had to do every activity listed in a unit study--I need less choice! The kids and I adore books. AO has a generous curriculum full of knowledge, not bare facts extracted from their informing ideas (pg. 105). We have cherished nearly all of Year 1 through Year 6, rejecting few books.
Teaching is a joy since I get to meet great minds fueled by living ideas! My duty isn't force-feeding facts into empty heads. I don't have to quiz, praise, reward, or punish! Miss Mason's axiom soothes me on sleepless nights: What a child learns matters less than how he learns (pg. xxx). In plain English, teach kids to feed their minds on a well-rounded diet of living ideas.
My duty is to connect the enthusiastic minds of my kids to that of passionate authors and real life (pg. 261), and then they narrate. They read to know and tell what they know, while I see that they know and what they know. Charlotte's Golden Rule relaxes driven moms: Teachers shall teach less and scholars shall learn more (pp. 6-8).
Intrigued? Catherine Levison's A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education are quick, hearty meals enriched with zesty details on teaching. Charlotte Mason Study Guide offers enzymes for digesting the rich six-course CM's Original Homeschool Series . A Charlotte Mason Companion is a tasty dessert, best enjoyed with a cup of tea--or coffee (white chocolate mocha).
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a
(Principles #5-8, 13-14)
Next to Pamela is a replica of the Ingalls' cabin in the Big Woods . Laura lived there about the time Charlotte Mason started teaching in England. Although Ma and Pa predated the birth of her philosophy, they were kindred spirits. Every home was "stirred by events, sweetened by love, ventilated, kept in motion, by the regulated action of common sense" (pg. 96). The atmosphere, discipline, and life of their homes inspired Laura's books about the pioneer spirit.
Our Little House Library
Little House Cookbook
Little House Songbook
West from Home
Hints on Child Training
For the Children's Sake
Laying down the Rails
Education Is FREE
The Outdoor Life
Along Came a Dog
Beatrix Potter Tales
James Herriot's Treasury
Jungle Book Part 1 Part 2 FREE
Just So Stories FREE
Nature Reader Part 1 Part 2
Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Parables from Nature FREE
Secret Garden FREE
Secret of the Woods FREE
Their "natural home atmosphere" taught the girls to "face life as it is" by sharing household and farm ways: from daily to yearly work. Pa delighted the girls with stories, romps, music, etc. The girls teased each other, but split cookies with Baby Carrie. They valued their elders at family events, befriended animals in the country, and made chums in town (pp. 96-97).
Teachers can foster such an atmosphere through the shared love of knowledge. Scholars can work hard when their aim is the pursuit of ideas worth knowing (pg. 12). When scholars tap into "great thoughts, great events, great considerations," half the battle is won (pg. 5).
Eyes twinkling, Pa sowed the idea of attention by asking the girls to look for any mistakes while he made bullets. He reaped the habit of attention after many nights of bullet-making. When Ma told Laura to go back home quickly, Laura already knew why: "Sukie" had the beady eyes and shaggy fur of a bear. In their untamed world, attention saved lives!
Discipline means building habits, and attentiveness is most important in education. Like Pa and Ma, we must sow ideas that make an act worthwhile. We ensure the act is repeated until a new habit forms. By laying down valuable habits, one by one, we ease the path of learning. The key to reading and narrating many books was a single reading of no more than 15 minutes (pg. 171). Attention (and living books) is the secret of keeping short lessons!
Pa and Ma's life was generous: physical exertion, handiwork, nature study, music, the Bible, literature, and narration. Laura learned from nature, such as how a thick muskrat den meant a harsh winter. Ma and Pa fed poetry, music, readings from Pa's nature book, and handiwork to their spirits during that long winter . They prized newspapers and magazines that arrived in May's Christmas barrels.
Pa modeled the art of narration through his stories. Laura developed the habit of narration after Mary lost her sight. Pa told Laura,"Your two eyes are quick enough, and your tongue, if you will use them for Mary." Mary called it "seeing out loud," a great way to get little ones started on narration!
Children need mental, moral, and physical sustenance. "The mind feeds on ideas and therefore children should have a generous curriculum" (pg. 111).
"We allow no separation to grow up between
the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children."
(Principles #16, 20)
The "Woodlawns" lived near the Ingalls. In Magical Melons , Caddie calls stories "as rare and delightful as apples or peppermint candy." Mr. Tanner answered Warren's question about God's provision one: his father, also a circuit rider, spent more time preaching on the road than farming. One cold night, he played Good Samaritan to an Indian, carrying him to the encampment. Mr. Tanner's mother was furious when he came home empty-handed. Only a little sorghum remained. His father had them pray on their knees. Just after the amen, Indians came bearing venison and a five-dollar gold piece. Mr. Tanner ended, "Never look a gift horse in the mouth," but Warren added, "Especially when it's from the Lord."
Living Pioneer Books
Bears of Blue River
Caddie Woodlawn's Family
Sign of the Beaver
Tree of Freedom
Truth and Myth
Finding Our Roots
On Fairy Stories FREE
Lord of the Rings
Children of Hurin
Chronicles of Narnia
Preface: MacDonald FREE
Back of North Wind FREE
Princess and Goblin FREE
Princess and Curdie FREE
Alchemy: English Lit FREE
Harry Potter FREE
Little White Horse
Mr. Tanner's story struck Warren with an idea (God's bounty). He sacrificed Saturday hunting game and secretly hung a rabbit on the preacher's door. On Sunday, Warren was pleased to hear his rabbit called "the Lord's provision." Mr. Tanner's idea sowed an act (pg. 102)!
Miss Mason outlined two aspects of religion: "the attitude of the will towards God" and "perception of God" through "the divine dealings of men." Warren's attitude about the offering plate changed from duty to desire when it became God's provision. Parents can find such teachable moments to sow head knowledge and heart knowledge (pp. 159-161).
Reading and narrating the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, can lead us to God. Miss Mason unveiled God to children through His Word. The Old Testament weaves a tapestry to foreshadow the Messiah's miraculous life. The New Testament shows the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus often referred to Old Testament in His teachings and parables (pp. 161-162).
A child who soaks up the Bible can ask hard questions. Pamela puzzled me with "What day is Jesus coming?" Truth, sincerity, and the Holy Spirit led me. I promised to find an answer, searched for a sensible reply, and told her at once. Routine-loving Pamela didn't blink at "It's a mystery! God likes surprises!"
Do not be afraid to read the Bible with your children! We have read one-third of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and part of Acts. Kids might be like Warren at the start of The Song of Hiawatha, lost in a forest of names and long words. His teacher lured him with a taste of the exciting story to come. Jesus' history, the most golden of all golden deeds, will surely grip kids.
Charlotte Mason used two guides to teach moral and mental self-control: "the way of will" and "the way of reason". A "full and generous curriculum" are the source of vital ideas that inspire the will and reason (pg. 130).
"Children should be taught . . .
the chief responsibility which rests in them
as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas."
(Principles #17, 19)
We lived in a Native Alaskan fishing village due west of the fictional Orca City, home of Mark Andersen, in Gentle Ben . This book reminds us of Sand Point in many ways. Seiners still chase silvery salmon, and halibut, cod, tanner crab, and king crab. Fishermen risk life and limb in dangerous weather, and the town's population waxes and wains around seasonal fishing. School teachers marry locals and raise families, while drunks leave the bar and pull stupid stunts. We found a few minor differences: no brownies, but a herd of bison; asphalt, gravel, and mud roads; Scandinavian settlers; daily mail planes; phones, cable TV, and Internet; fish traps banned; and seiners who no longer make a living solely on salmon. A book like Gentle Ben offers children a net full of ideas about real life--free to keep or toss overboard!
Charlotte Mason Sites
Ambleside Online FREE
Annual Conference in NC
6-Volume Series FREE
Modern English FREE
Parents Review FREE
Simply Charlotte Mason
Alexander Graham Bell
George Washington Carver
Helen Keller FREE
Gear Up for the Bard
Pilgrim's Progress FREE
Beautiful Stories FREE
Comics Part 1
Comics Part 2
Tales of Shakesp. FREE
DK Guide on the Bard
Tanglewood Tales FREE
A Wonder Book FREE
Puck of Pook's Hill FREE
Age of Fable FREE
Shakespeare's Plays FREE
Ambleside scholars read and narrated 250 pages a week (pg. 241). Children accept few ideas, rejecting most (pg. 39)! Good books like Gentle Ben focus on niches in literature, history, morals and economics, composition, languages, and art (art, composer, hymns, folk songs).
Mark wanted his neighbor's bear, dreaming of Ben night and day. He had nightmares from death threats against Ben. Reason and conscience didn't keep Mark away from Ben's shed. He tried to obey his parents, but lacked willpower! Miss Mason taught children to distinguish between "want" and "will" (pg. 128). We fortify the will: "right thought flows upon . . . ideas . . . stored . . . in books, pictures and the lives of men and nations" (pp. 130-131).
Ben's Bond struck Mark forcibly. Nothing distracted him, so his will to obey caved: ideas led to repeated acts, forming a habit. Varying mental or physical effots alters thoughts and rests the will (pp. 136-137). Ourselves, a child's guide to human nature, covers the will and more!
Ben belongs in the wild, but Mark fears loss. His mother sowed a selfless idea to free Ben. He heard reason and conscience, then pondered. He chose to free Ben when his mother exposed his selfishness. After Ben left, his mother diverted Mark by having him toss old bread to seagulls. Choices fall between serving God/man and serving self (pp. 134-135). Serving Ben braced Mark's will.
AO has sample schedules. Some books take a year to keep lessons short. AO cycles through history twice in 12 years. Kids relate to people and nations, keep a book of centuries, squeeze in fine arts, and even study modern history. The books are alive unlike boring, dessicated textbooks (pg. 50). My son skipped ahead in A Child's History of World --he just couldn't wait!
Oral narration, copywork, and dictation of living books (a source of good style) lead to composition. By age 12, most kids write narrations. Their voices bloom with warmed imagination (pg. 193). Grammar waits until abstract thinking emerges (pg. 10). They learn grammar and languages by reading and narration.
"We teach children, too, not to
'lean (too confidently) to their own understanding'
. . . for, whether that idea be right or wrong,
reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs."
(Principles #3, 18)
Ralph Moody (aka Little Britches ) saw Pike's Peak in The Home Ranch . At age 11, he became Man of the Family after his father died. He juggled two "musts" laid down by his mother: attend school and support the family. His life captivates readers and touches knowledge of the universe (animal care, practical math, gardening, inventions, western life, handicrafts, etc.). His mother kept the family of seven together with the help of God and a healthy dose of living books read aloud (classics, Shakespeare, and even poetry), making them rich beyond their poverty. Ralph, moving in his orbit between authority and obedience (pg. 69), confirms many right (and wrong) ideas through reason (pg. 142)!
Kids We Want to Meet
Anne with an "e" ALL FREE
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8
Bastable Kids Part 1
Part 2 Part 3 ALL FREE
Betsy/Elizabeth Ann Online FREE
Jack and Jill Online FREE
Melendey Kids Part 1
Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Moody Kids Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Part 6 Part 7 Part 8
Portia/Julian Part 1 Part 2
Railway Kids Online FREE
Rebecca Online FREE
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3
Part 4 Part 5 Part 6
Part 7 Part 8 Part 9
Part 10 Part 11 Part 12
Ralph needed "ordered freedom" as man of the family. Mrs. Moody guided Ralph with two principles, "go as you please" and "do as you're bid" (pg. 70). He balanced the "must" laid down by his mother with their financial need: attend school (as bid), but skip a day (as he pleases) for a high wage.
Mrs. Moody secured willing obedience as Ralph knew he needed an education (or end in an early grave like his dad). They shared a common pursuit of knowledge needed to achieve a common goal (family home business). With his mother living under God's authority and his deceased father's wishes, Ralph found it easier to obey her, the head of household (pp. 70-71).
Ralph pushed the limits of reason in his scheming for better or worse. Readers sit "in startled admiration and watch the unfolding before us point by point of a score of arguments" (pg. 139) for making deals with coal, hay, cherries, and railroad ties or entering match races.
Ralph, far from a perfect child, found himself in all kinds of trouble. He managed to find "capital ideas for doing the wrong thing." He had yet to learn that "reason is their servant, not their ruler" and that "reason comes into play only when he chooses to think about some course" (pp. 142-3).
The Moodys mastered handicrafts (cookery, sewing, woodworking) and inventions (plow, cart, curtain frame, stilts); Ralph "considered the pros but has so far overcome the cons that his invention is there ready for use" (pg. 141).
"It is our part to see
that every child knows and
can tell, whether by way of
oral narrative or written essay."
A narration by my 16-year-old daughter is to the right. She has autism, a diffability which prevents half of autistics from speaking or writing. Pamela has syntactic aphasia, making it hard for her to use correct grammar and syntax. Real things and living books make it worth the effort of speaking and writing.
Made Me Laugh/Cry
Cricket on the Hearth FREE
Five Children and It FREE
Hans Brinker FREE
Little Princess FREE
Peterkin Papers FREE
Complete Peterkin Papers Extra Chapters
Where the Red Fern Grows
Wind in the Willows FREE
Narration is the key to Miss Mason's golden rule, "Teachers shall teach less and scholars shall learn more" (pp. 6-8). Teachers and students have two simple, but distinct duties. Students read to know and tell what they know; teachers see that they know and what they know.
Anne Sullivan also taught a diffabled child, Helen Keller. She knew how to keep the attention of her deaf-blind pupil: she chose "books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children" (pg. 171). A single, careful reading (pg. 180) of Macbeth stamped every detail of the story on Helen's mind forever.
Miss Sullivan realized Helen could not define every word in a reading. She permitted Helen to work for herself and read to know what she could (pg. 99), sensing the meaning (pg. 51) as best she could and telling back in her own words (pg. 17).
Helen enjoyed an outdoor life in her early lessons. As her mind was already keenly aware of everything, Helen learned all she could from the loveliness of natural things. Charlotte Mason did not expect narrations from children under 6, who required an outdoor life (pp. 42-95) and critical habits (pp. 96-168), like attention (pp. 137-148), the most valuable intellectual habit.
Miss Mason secured attention with real things and books--many diverse, fit, living books (pp. 228-239). She kept attention fresh by planning readings no longer than 15 minutes (pg. 233). Her students read from 1,000 to 3,000 pages every 12 weeks (pg. 241). They read and narrated from 16 to 40 or more books for 2 to 4 to hours in the morning and spent the afternoons and evenings in music, picture study, handicrafts, nature notebooks, outdoor time, family reading, and masterly inactivity (App. II).
Teachers read aloud to ambleside scholars in their first year of education. But, as early as possible, students read aloud and silently books within their grasp. Miss Mason wanted children to develop the habit of reading! Family reading aloud was an appropriate way to relax before bedtime (pp. 226-230).
Miss Mason compared composition lessons to snakes in Ireland--"There are none" (pp. 243-247)! Children raised on oral narration shifted quite easily to writing between ages 10 and 12, having had their imaginations warmed by living books. She suggested a few points about a given composition and made corrections with little talk for students in their final years of academics (pp. 190-194).
"Children are born persons."
(Principles #1, 2, 4)
Pamela hikes the back trails near Sand Point Airport, a haven for ATV riders. At sunset, tundra hares scurry from bush to bush. No predators live on Popof Island, so we enjoyed nature walks and salmonberry feasts. We found wildflowers: chocolate lilies, lupines, and fireweed. We learned to avoid pushki, which blisters the skin in sunlight and are oddly enough good eating once safely indoors. Imaginary rabbit trails are fun too. Children, born persons, discover them in living books when left "to deal with these as he chooses" (pg. 40).
Bully Adventure Tales
Brighty of the Grand Canyon
Children of the New Forest FREE
Door in the Wall
Justin Morgan Had a Horse
King of the Wind
Little Duke FREE
Men of Iron FREE
Otto of the Silver Hand FREE
Robinson Crusoe FREE
Swiss Family Robinson FREE
Treasure Island FREE
Unknown to History FREE
While reading, our minds make our "own film to show the scenes" (pg. 50): we describe our "film," cast, and special features. Dr. Doolittle had a blind map game and let viewers rescue Long Chief by answering questions. We critique movies adapted from books--they never beat our "films." Living books can curb the movie appetite. David walked out on Eddie Murphy version of Dr. Doolittle because it lacked the real Dr. Doolittle, Tommy, and Jyp!
We link kindred spirits, like Ralph, Anne, and Pollyanna, as are Marilla, Rachel Lynde, and Aunt Polly (of a sour flavor). We hunt for golden deeds: Aslan's was golden, but Gollum's selfish deed was straw! We find Peterkins, or very silly people, and we are Peterkins when we let a "howler" slip past our lips. A very odd rabbit trail involved a Robinson Crusoe theme park!
"Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen" (pg. 39). Syntactic aphasia hinders Pamela from saying all she knows. Glimpses of her thoughts fortify my faith in things not seen. At the reunion of Miriam and Susanna , Pamela squealed with delight, her face beaming.
We "foster the good so as to attenuate the evil" (pg.46) to nurture a sound body, mind, and spirit. Kids prefer to "cry for fair play" at a character's dilemma than sleep through "tedious platitudes." They crave time to think and form principles that flow from living books. (pp. 58-62) David has said, "I like homeschooling because I have time to think!"
My modus operandi in school was to "cram to pass but not to know" (pg. 57). I pumped and dumped history in high school! Once I started homeschooling my kids, I began to know history. Why bother passing if we never know?
Books can build a "house beautiful" or "chamber of horrors" in the mind (pg. 55). Classic treasures beautify the mind. Some have "underrated the tastes and abilities" of kids who can "sense the meaning" (pp. 51-52). They can enjoy the Bible, Pilgrim's Progress, poetry, Shakespeare, and Plutarch if given a chance.
Fear, love, suggestion, emulation, ambition, influence, etc. impair the sacredness of born persons (pp. 82-87). They are "ready and eager for this labour" "if we make the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake" (pg. 93) our goal. They hunt knowledge as eagerly as tundra hares sniff out rabbit trails!
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The Charlotte Mason principles in the blue side bars are modern translations made by L. N. Laurio.