Charlotte Mason Methodology
We are families who pursue home education using the philosophy and guidelines of Charlotte Mason. We do not all use the same curriculum at home, and there are many excellent resources available, but we do, as a group, subscribe to
the basic tenets Ms. Mason put forward about the education of the whole person.
A short synopsis
In Ms. Mason’s writings she sums up her educational theory in 20 principles. Many thanks to the Ambleside Online Advisory Board for summarizing and rewording.
1. Children are born persons – they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons. They already are persons.
2. Although children are born with a sin nature, they are neither all bad, nor all good. Children from all walks of life and backgrounds may make choices for good or evil.
3. The concepts of authority and obedience are true for all people whether they accept it or not. Submission to authority is necessary for any society or group or family to run smoothly.
4. Authority is not a license to abuse children, or to play upon their emotions or other desires, and adults are not free to limit a child’s education or use fear, love, power of suggestion, or their own influence over a
child to make a child learn.
5. The only means a teacher may use to educate children are the child’s natural environment, the training of good habits and exposure to living ideas and concepts. This is what CM’s motto “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline,
a life” means.
6. “Education is an atmosphere” doesn’t mean that we should create an artificial environment for children, but that we use the opportunities in the environment he already lives in to educate him. Children learn from real
things in the real world
7. “Education is a discipline” means that we train a child to have good habits and self-control.
8. “Education is a life” means that education should apply to body, soul and spirit. The mind needs ideas of all kinds, so the child’s curriculum should be varied and generous with many subjects included.
9. The child’s mind is not a blank slate, or a bucket to be filled. It is a living thing and needs knowledge to grow. As the stomach was designed to digest food, the mind is designed to digest knowledge and needs no special
training or exercises to make it ready to learn.
10. Herbart’s philosophy that the mind is like an empty stage waiting for bits of information to be inserted puts too much responsibility on the teacher to prepare detailed lessons that the children, for all the teacher’s
effort, don’t learn from anyway.
11. Instead, we believe that childrens’ minds are capable of digesting real knowledge, so we provide a rich, generous curriculum that exposes children to many interesting, living ideas and concepts.
12. “Education is the science of relations” means that children have minds capable of making their own connections with knowledge and experiences, so we make sure the child learns about nature, science and art, knows how
to make things, reads many living books and that they are physically fit.
13. In devising a curriculum, we provide a vast amount of ideas to ensure that the mind has enough brain food, knowledge about a variety of things to prevent boredom, and subjects are taught with high-quality literary language
since that is what a child’s attention responds to best.
14. Since one doesn’t really “own” knowledge until he can express it, children are required to narrate, or tell back (or write down), what they have read or heard.
15. Children must narrate after one reading or hearing. Children naturally have good focus of attention, but allowing a second reading makes them lazy and weakens their ability to pay attention the first time. Teachers summarizing
and asking comprehension questions are other ways of giving children a second chance and making the need to focus the first time less urgent. By getting it the first time, less time is wasted on repeated readings, and more
time is available during school hours for more knowledge. A child educated this way learns more than children using other methods, and this is true for all children regardless of their IQ or background.
16. Children have two guides to help them in their moral and intellectual growth – “the way of the will,” and “the way of reason.”
17. Children must learn the difference between “I want” and “I will.” They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else,
interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.
18. Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous
ideas if we really want to believe them.
19. Knowing that reason is not to be trusted as the final authority in forming opinions, children must learn that their greatest responsibility is choosing which ideas to accept or reject. Good habits of behavior and lots
of knowledge will provide the discipline and experience to help them do this.
20. We teach children that all truths are God’s truths, and that secular subjects are just as divine as religious ones. Children don’t go back and forth between two worlds when they focus on God and then their school subjects;
there is unity among both because both are of God and, whatever children study or do, God is always with them.