When I started homeschooling, I only knew I didn’t feel comfortable sending my 5-year-old to school for a full day. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with her, exactly, but I knew I didn’t want to send her away. After some fits and starts as we began to figure out our days together, I heard about Charlotte Mason. I wanted to know more about her, so I started researching. I found Ambleside Online, and was intrigued by their books, but their website states specifically that if you don’t understand Charlotte Mason’s principles, you will not be able to give your children a Charlotte Mason education. I knew I needed to know more.
I was blessed beyond measure to find a group of Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in my area, and they invited me to their book club, and to join their small co-op. It was wonderful. I will be forever grateful to those ladies for their patience in answering my questions. I never knew people could be so kind. They invited me to the Charlotte Mason Institute Conference and I’d like to say I’ve never looked back.
Alas, that would not be the full truth. For a long time, the part of my brain that went to public school was at war with the part of my brain that knew Charlotte Mason’s methods were better. I bought all kinds of curricula, sure each one would fix all my doubts and concerns, and it never did. I learned over the years that the real issue was with me, and a lack of understanding of how a living education really worked. Now that I’m done fighting with myself, I can see how my children have benefited from learning this way, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What it comes down to, for me, is Charlotte Mason’s first principle: Children are born persons. Leslie Laurio, from the Ambleside Online Advisory, has done a modern English paraphrase of Mason’s books, and she explains the first principle this way: “Children are born persons–they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential to become persons. They already are persons.” (You can read Mason’s 20 principles, with Leslie’s modern English versions, here.)
To me, that means children are not empty buckets to be filled, nor can I create them to be who I think they should be. They will become who God made them to be, and it’s my job to facilitate that by presenting them with a feast of living ideas and allowing the Holy Spirit to show them what they need to know. It is hard, to stand back and let God do His work in my children. It is a daily process of letting go sometimes, but I do my best to step aside so His will can be done in them.
A living education is respectful of the child. They are to make their own connections as they internalize what they read and learn. I am learning right along with them, of course, because I have never read most of the amazing books they’re reading. I have a terrible time, sometimes, keeping my own connections to myself. It’s so exciting to learn new things! I’m learning to keep my own commonplace book, to write my own narrations, to let God teach me what I need to know and not assume everyone else needs to know it, too.
Everything Charlotte Mason asks us to do is geared toward teaching us to see, to observe, to draw closer to God by getting to know His creation intimately. When I treat my children as persons, they learn to treat others as persons–seeing all people through the eyes of God, respecting them for who they were created to be.
In her book The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason, Laurie Bestvater shared this quote from Mason: “Perhaps this is one of the secrets of life–to know glory when we see it.” That, to me, is a perfect summation of a Mason education: learning to recognize God’s glory in all parts of His creation.
Have you ever tried following a Charlotte Mason homeschooling method before?