Comparing CM to Other Educational Systems

Is CM the right type of education for you and your family or school? Lets briefly compare CM  to other educational systems to see if CM is what you are looking for.

This is a Quick Glance: My SHORT notes on the differences.
These are as brief as I can make them. Hopefully they give you an idea of the differences.
I’m also doing my best to be objective… but…. you ARE at a CM site!

Methods of Education.
Overall this is what you will be doing – day in, day out.

Workbook style.
-Comprehension questions, fill in the blanks, word finds, crosswords, recopy, matching, find the right answer.
-CM uses Living books and the students own, original narrations.

Text book style.
-Quiz, exam, find the bold words and know them for the test.
-CM doesn’t require knowing specific information in order to ultimately pass a test.

Unit Study.
-Things are connected and related together around a theme, one massive study on a particular topic.
-CM focuses on long term learning, not lessons that delight the teacher because of their organization and appeal of immediate results. Long term connections between things and people are made due to the wide scope of reading in CM.

-Child led, the child’s interests and talents are the guide for studies.
-CM has specific things to be learned. It is a wide and varied, liberal arts curriculum. Many subjects. “thou has set my feet in a large room”.

Teacher led.
-The teacher prepares lecture/talk to explain concepts and info. The teacher gives explanation and presentations and typically the student takes notes on what to know. Now becoming more prevalent in homeschooling with the availability of internet based classroom learning.
-The CM teacher purposefully stays in the background, the teacher presentation dulls the child to boredom. No teacher “talky, talky” (CM’s word)  lesson material which produces a gallon of talk and and little learning.

Often families/teachers mix and match the above… do some of this, some of that….

Specific ‘name brands’ of education.
A philosophy with underlying guidelines gives a framework for what you will be doing and why. These may use some of the above components/methods.

Classical philosophy.
-Has varied definitions – from antiquity to current. Today’s Classical generally agrees on using of stages of learning beginning with memorization of facts, culminating with training logic laying a foundation for problem-solving-debate type skills.  Use teacher or a book for explanations and guiding the student through thought processes.
-CM does not use stages of learning, memorization of facts, train debate-problem-solving skills, or factual or informational knowing processes that revolve around being taught a thinking-type skill. CM’s philosophy believes that a child does not have to be taught or exercised in how to think. They are born with it. There is no progression. A child is born a person (principle 1). Teacher remains purposefully in background.

-Child is the center point, all stems from that hub. Arranging the surroundings for the child. Heavy on use of things, specific manipulatives, learning by play.
-CM is not child led, doesn’t set up a child environment (atmosphere in CM terms). CM uses natural surroundings and objects, does not adjust surroundings or bring in extras to fit the child. Focus on books/literature for learnin

– focus on imagination, much hands on learning, inquiry based, a magical, earthy spiritual component.
-CM has a Christian foundation taken from the Gospels. Does not lead from child-questions, but presents material to be studied. Emphasis on classic literature and Living Books.

There is definitely overlap in all of these philosophies and methods.
Some components are exactly the same. For example, Waldorf and CM encourage play, Waldorf and CM do not do a typical graded exams, Classical and CM use classic literature, Montessori and CM encourage child participation.
So much so, that often they are mixed together.
Some components APPEAR the same, but are not, due to the underlying philosophy. For example, why you are playing, why you are doing a Journal, affects how you play, how you do a Journal. Sometimes claims are made that someone is doing a particular style when really they aren’t. But… we are all learning….
The core foundation sets the structure for the methods and the ultimate educational outcome.

Here are some practical examples to help clarify:
-Are crossword puzzles never used by a CMer?
 A CM education would not use them in any regular way or as any part of learning or lessons. Fun, sure, but not a way to impart learning/knowledge.

-Teachers don’t explain in a CM ed?!? 
A teacher has to explain things-esp directions, expectations. But a CM education doesn’t rely on teacher explanations as a primary source of imparting knowledge or teaching moral concepts.

-Do CM students memorize?
Yes. But memorizing facts and information are not a key focus.

-Doesn’t CM allow the child to make decisions?
Yes. But specific work is presented and completed as part of the child’s duty. The student’s biggest decision is ‘to do’ or ‘not to do’ the work that is their to do (training the will in CM lingo)

-CM doesn’t use things? What about “books and things”?
Yes CM uses things, but these are things that are natural and specific to a lesson. They are not produced or made especially to impart something to know which can be leaned without such apparatus- such as a board with numbers printed on it with the number of rings on a peg to match the number. In CM the child learns numbers by counting all kinds of natural things throughout his day- how many cookies do you get? How many petals are there? How many children… etc….
CM uses things. CM things are =  nature, science object’s for experiments, notebooks/journals, geography illustrations on site or objects that represent an abstract concept such as an orange representing the earth in rotation around a light source, historical or scientific type objects, maps, handicraft supplies, and ‘things’ like museums.

As a bonus feature,
CM is the only educational philosophy I have found that not only applies to a child or student, it applies to adults as well. It is not only for children, it is for persons – mothers, fathers, grandpas, grandmas. It does not stop at age 18.  In CM, we learn how to live, therefore, it goes on past the childhood years. The books never close, there is never a graduation in the broad sense of finished, complete, done, moving on. It goes with you. The teaching methods that are derived from the philosophy can be used for all ages, all the time, 0-100 – and with the spiritual component, one could argue, 0-infinity.

“On my arrival at Ambleside I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come. I replied: “I have come to learn to teach.” Then Miss Mason said: “My dear, you have come here to learn to live.”– E. Cholmondeley The Story of Charlotte Mason.

For further study:
Some good articles at Charlotte Mason Poetry
on Montessori:
on classical:

You can also read the condensed versions of CM on this site for a little quicker way to know CM- and to not take my word for it.

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