Charlotte Mason states several times in her volumes that the mind best learns when it asks itself a question and then answers it. So with that in mind, perhaps we should start delving into what a Charlotte Mason education is by asking some basic questions.
Perhaps you are new to home teaching or interested in improving classroom learning. Perhaps you have asked yourself some questions in your search. Questions are the best place to begin the learning process.
While these questions and answers are not exhaustive, they concisely and holistically provide a beginning framework for understanding a Charlotte Mason Education. Charlotte herself took six volumes and thousands of pages of other publications to convey her educational philosophy and methods, so certainly this is whittled down. But hopefully the points that I have sifted out here will resonate and sum up in an accurate, precise way what a Charlotte Mason Education is to help you understand the nuances of a Living Education.
Who would want to pursue a Charlotte Mason Education?
Someone who is looking for a way to bring up children outside the typical educational box.
Someone who sees the futility of shoveling information to the student, only to have it remain meaningless and
Someone who values the long term goal of good character, imagination and curiosity.
Someone who wants their student to love learning for a lifetime.
Someone who wants their student to be able to think for themselves and be self taught.
Someone who understands the value of good books and hands-on interaction in learning.
What can I expect to do in a Charlotte Mason Education?
Listen. We listen out of kindness and respect for the student. Narration is a key component and requires listening to what the student has to say.
Less talking. You can expect to stay in the background, while you let Living books and the child’s own interaction with objects come forth.
A wide variety of subjects. You can expect your schedule to include nature walks, viewing classic art, listening to classic music, singing, exercising, drawing, keeping notebooks, learning crafts that are purposeful and useful.
Books, things, and narration. Textbooks and quizzes are replaced with Living books, narration and onsite or hands-on learning.
Focus on the character of the student. Ultimately the child’s relationship with God is the guiding light. This trickles down into daily life through character training. A person of high character is of use to his family, country, and God.
What will I not be doing in a CM Education?
Teaching. Trust the books and the student’s observation to do the teaching knowing ultimately God is the one in charge.
Grading quizzes and worksheets. In a CM Education the teacher reviews exams but with a different purpose than to correct and grade in the typical fashion. Math would be a subject that could require some grading in a classroom setting, but this would be done minimally.
Reading sub-quality books. Only the best is given to the children –whether in books, art, music, or materials.
Reading excerpts of books. It is preferred to read an entire book rather than bits and pieces of one.
From the Volumes:
Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself.—Charlotte Mason Volume 3 p.181
Long ago, I was in the habit of hearing this axiom quoted by a philosophical old friend:— “The mind can know nothing save what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put to the mind by itself.” I have failed to trace the saying to its source, but a conviction of its importance has been growing upon me during the last forty years. It tacitly prohibits questioning from without; (this does not, of course, affect the Socratic use of questioning for purposes of moral conviction); and it is necessary to intellectual certainty, to the act of knowing. For example, to secure a conversation or an incident, we ‘go over it in our minds’; that is, the mind puts itself through the process of self-questioning which I have indicated.—Charlotte Mason Volume 6 p.16-17