Sunday, September 14, 2014

Just Another Charlotte Mason Support Group

We just had our first Charlotte Mason support group meeting of the season last week at my house. I have mentioned our little group before in passing, but today I will share a bit more about what we do. Perhaps someone out there will be encouraged to start another little group and the support and the encouragement will continue to spread.

Considering how small the homeschool population is on PEI, it is surprising how many are interested in Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods. This is due in large part to the advice and mentoring provided to new homeschoolers here by G. and A., both veteran homeschoolers and long-time admirers of Charlotte Mason's work. A. began a Charlotte Mason group in Charlottetown years ago. It met every second month, and each meeting was organized according to a theme, such as narration or nature study.

When A. decided to step away from the leadership of the group last year, I stepped up to lead the meetings in my home. As a group, we decided to study one of Charlotte Mason's own books, as very few of us had moved beyond books about Charlotte Mason. We chose Volume 6, Towards a Philosophy of Education, at the recommendation of a local Charlotte Mason homeschooler.

I'm not sure whether it was because reading Charlotte Mason's own works seemed intimidating, or whether meeting in my home was inconvenient for too many people (I live 20 minutes outside the city.), but attendance at the meetings last year was quite low, between 2-6 people each time. As far as the meetings themselves went, though, we had good discussions and the people who attended seemed to enjoy themselves. We had a steady little core group of young homeschoolers, and we were learning together and encouraging each other.

This year, rather than changing our format or location, we tried to encourage the formation of small groups like ours in other areas. A few people immediately volunteered to lead groups in their areas, and there are now three groups: our own group east of Charlottetown, another group slightly west of Charlottetown, and a third group in the Summerside area. Each group is independent and decides on its own format. We plan to continue in our studies of Volume 6, while the other two groups are doing more of an introduction to Charlotte Mason.

Because we had some interest in our meetings from new homeschoolers, we decided to start the season with an introduction to Charlotte Mason as well. We had eight people at our first meeting, including three brand-new homeschoolers. I prepared a little handout: one page with Charlotte Mason books and resources, plus an outline with quotations from Charlotte Mason to guide our meeting. (I'll copy/paste it at the bottom of this post for you.)

The leading thought for the meeting was that what you believe about children and education works itself out in your practice. Your philosophy of education will revealed by your methods. It is important to think through what it is that you believe about education. For me, Charlotte Mason provided a way for me to begin to do that. She lays out a philosophy first, and her methods flow from her philosophy.

I then pulled out a few main points from Charlotte Mason's philosophy, and we discussed them together. (Children are born persons; Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life; Education is the science of relations.) I also intended to briefly introduce some of her methods, possibly walk through one of my own school days to show what a Charlotte Mason education looks like in our own home, but we ran out of time. In our next meeting (in November...we meet every second month) we hope to jump back into Volume 6. I am a little nervous about doing that with our new homeschoolers (don't want to scare anyone off!), but we will try to be gentle about it and I will let you know how it goes.

Here is the handout for our last meeting:


Charlotte Mason    The Original Homeschooling Series

This six-volume series is not so much a series as a collection of the works of Charlotte Mason. They don’t have to be read in order. So where should you start? Volume 1 is especially helpful and practical if you have young children under the age of 9. Volume 6 is her Philosophy of Education, a comprehensive overview of her approach. It was written forty years after the first volume with the benefit of her decades of experience in education. Most people leave volume 4 for last, as it is directly addressed to children as a sort of “character curriculum.”
You can read the entire series online for free at Ambleside Online also has a Modern English version: and a paragraph by paragraph summary:

Books on Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy and Method

Great for a quick introduction when a six-volume series seems like a bit much!
Cooper, Elaine ed.                       When Children Love to Learn
MacAulay, Susan Schaeffer         For the Children’s Sake
Andreola, Karen                         A Charlotte Mason Companion
Levison, Catherine                      A Charlotte Mason Education
                                                  MoreCharlotte Mason Education
Gardner, Penny                          Charlotte Mason Study Guide

Websites and Blogs                      Ambleside Online is a free curriculum guide based on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and what was actually used in PNEU schools. They also have Charlotte Mason’s books for free online reading, as well as many articles from then and now.       Simply Charlotte Mason has many resources to help homeschoolers trying to use Charlotte Mason’s methods.  I highly recommend their free ebook Smooth and Easy Days for parents with young children.     Joyous Lessons is the blog of a Charlotte Mason style homeschooler. I found it really helpful to read through some of her archives when I was starting out. Just looking at her blog is a very attractive picture of what a CM education can be.      Afterthoughts is another one of my favourite CM blogs. I highly recommend her series “31 Days of Charlotte Mason.”  She is also coming out with a new series in October aimed at dispelling myths about a Charlotte Mason education.                      Education is a Life is my own (mostly) CM-themed blog.


Meeting Outline:

Children are born persons.

“If we have not proved that a child is born a person with a mind as complete and as beautiful as his beautiful as his beautiful little body, we can at least show that he always has all the mind he requires for his occasions; that is, that his mind is the instrument of his education and that his education does not produce his mind.” (Vol. 6, p. 36)

“It is not only a child’s intellect but his heart that comes to us fully furnished. Can any of us love like a little child?”

I am, I can, I ought, I will.

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

“When we say that ‘education is an atmosphere,’ we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the ‘child’s’ level. “ (Principle 6 of the “20 Principles” found in the beginning of Vol. 6)

“By ‘education is a discipline,’ we mean the disciple of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.” (Principle 7)

“We have lost sight of the fact that habit is to life what rails are to transport cars. It follows that lines of habit must be laid down towards given ends and after careful survey, or the joltings and delays of life become insupportable. More, habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord.” (Vol. 6, p. 101)

“Consider how laborious life would be were its wheels not greased by habits of cleanliness, neatness, order, courtesy; had we to make the effort of decision about every detail of dressing and eating, coming and going, life would not be worth living.” (Vol. 6, p. 103)

“In saying that ‘education is a life,’ the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.” (Principle 8)

“Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.  …He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety, and his to take what he needs.” (Vol. 6, p. 109)


Education is the science of relations

’Education is the science of relations’; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of—
‘Those first-born affinities
That fit our new existence to existing things.’”
(Principle 12)

“Living Books”


Nature Study

Picture Study

“A Day in the Life”