Why Choose a Charlotte Mason Education?
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What makes a Charlotte Mason education worth it? What exactly leads someone to choose such a different path? To choose living books over textbooks? To choose nature study over a science textbook? Or even to choose attention to detail over quick success?
At the risk of sounding a bit snobbish, I think the answer lies in those questions. Do we really want to teach our children what to think? Or how to think?
Of course, there are other methods out there that cater to a more imaginative, methodical crowd. Both Montessori and Waldorf education are known to cater to children and their ways of seeing the world. However, Charlotte Mason not only appreciated the child’s view, but she saw unlimited potential in the child.
Charlotte Mason had 20 principles that she tried and found to be true. Her first principle has stood out to me since the moment that I read it: Children are born persons. This means that they are born with their own personalities, their own bad habits, their own ideas, and their own way of viewing the world. Each child is unique and already a person, not a blank slate on which we can write all of our own ideas. (Ask any mother! If we could, in fact, apply our own ideas on our children, it would seem that childhood would be much easier!)
But this is not what we find. We find that our children each have their own leaning, their own area of specialty, their own passions, and their own ways of making the world work. I have three daughters. Each one not only favors one relation over another but also favors one area of knowledge and experience over another. My oldest loves science and math, my middle enjoys painting, dancing, and other creative endeavors, and my youngest has been an orator since she was a toddler. Should I try to prescribe the same ideas on all three, only one should take them readily. How could someone possibly try to accommodate all three?
Ah, this is why Charlotte Mason offered up a wide feast, allowing children to learn various subjects, especially the arts, and thereby allowing each to shine in his or her own area of expertise. Children can and should learn much about our world, and it is sad that many never know the joy of hearing Vivaldi’s Seasons or seeing paintings by the Masters. My middle child, for example, may never do well at math or science, the two subjects that dominate much of schooling these days. She may never do well at reading, either. However, she could easily enjoy classical music, art, dancing, and picture study, yet who would recognize her gift in today’s society?
I am still reading Miss Mason’s six volumes (in fact, I haven’t even finished her first, Home Education (The Home Education Series) (Volume 1) !) But I recognize the importance of her philosophy in today’s times. We all strive for a slower path, a richer feast of ideas, a community that does not have to congregate online in order to be heard. Miss Mason’s words are, I believe, more poignant now than ever, and we would do well to study them and apply them.