"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life"
Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived from 1842 to 1923. She dedicated much of her life to improving the quality of education for children. Mason argued that the education of children should be heavily based in the natural world. Children under 12 should be outside for around five hours every day, she said, and older children should devote at least one afternoon every week to being in nature. When they are outside, children should be free to wander and to make discoveries. They should be encouraged to bring the objects they find back to a parent to learn more about them. Lessons should arise spontaneously through observation of the natural world.
The main tenets of a Charlotte Mason education include:
- Nature. Never be indoors when you can be outside.
- Narration. Children must tell others about what they have read, either in oral or written form. To do this, each child must synthesize the material in his or her mind and add his or her own unique perspective.
- Art. Students are taught an appreciation for paintings and musical compositions.
- Grammar. Students should not be taught formal grammar until the age of ten. Prior to this, they practice dictation and narration.
- Christianity. The Bible should be read every day. Children are encouraged to memorize and recite passages.
- "Living books." Books which are written in a narrative style by a single author who's passionate about one particular subject are always favorable to textbooks, which lack emotion and imagination. Nearly all subjects are best taught through living books.
- No Grades. Children should be motivated by faith and love rather than competition.
How Does Charlotte Mason Compare to Other Methods?
The Charlotte Mason method of home schooling differs from the classical method in a number of ways. It puts more of an emphasis on fine arts and oral communication. The Charlotte Mason method is also more flexible; children are encouraged to discover the world for themselves, rather than having it explained to them by parents within a rigid, structured system.
Many outsiders argue that the apparent lack of structure in the Charlotte Mason method appears a lot like unschooling. However, though Charlotte Mason learning feels unstructured to the students, it's actually highly structured by the parents. Unlike those who follow the unschooling method to its extremes and believe that children should never be forced to do anything they don't want to, the lack of structure inherent in the Charlotte Mason method is largely superficial.
Home Schooling on a Budget
The Charlotte Mason method of home schooling doesn't require parents to purchase a curriculum. In fact, it can be done very inexpensively with a heavy reliance on books borrowed from the library.