Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Laying the Foundation - Charlotte Mason's Home Education (Volume 1)

Today we're going to bounce back to the beginning of Charlotte Mason's Home Education.   You can read the first post in this series here.  

Part I is titled simply "Preliminary Considerations".   This is the introduction to some the rest of the thoughts and suggestions that she makes in the rest of the book, which are primarily her ideas on the education of children under the age of 9.   There's a lot here (this is why you need to go download and read her books for much meat that I could not possibly tell you all).  But a few thoughts that particularly struck me:
"The period of a child's life between his sixth and ninth year should be used to lay the basis of a liberal education and the habit of reading for instruction.  During these years the child should enter upon the domain of knowledge, in a good many directions, in a reposeful, consecutive way..."
 ~from Home Education by Charlotte Mason, Part I
Let's take this apart and think about this a bit.

  • Laying the foundation: It is a great relief to me to remember that these early years are for laying foundations.  It is OK if we don't cover every little detail of every little thing. I don't know about you, but I love researching curriculum ideas and seeing what other people are doing.  While I think exchanging ideas is definetely a good thing, it can also be a bad thing.  I know that, as the result of comparing our homeschool with what I have seen others doing, I have been guilty of trying to stuff more into our school time than is reasonable to expect from my young children.  I need to remind myself frequently that right now we are laying the foundations.  We have 18 years to prepare our children to live their own lives in the real's not necessary (or possible) to do everything by the end of first grade!  Don't know about you, but that's a huge relief to me!
  • Reading for Instruction: Reading excellent books is the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education.  During the early years we ought to prepare our children to be able to feed themselves from the books that they read.  How do we do that?  The way I look at it, there are three things we can do:
    • Teach the child to read, and allow enough practice time for reading become fluent and comfortable.
    • Pique the child's interest in books and the world around him by reading to them regularly and liberally from books on a wide variety of topics.
    • Allow the child to develop the skill of narration - that is telling back what they they have read, which requires the child to assimilate what they have read and make it their own.  (That's a whole other subject for another day!)
  • Entering the Domain of Knowledge...
    • a good many directions... Charlotte encouraged a broad, generous curriculum right from the beginning.  She likened this to spreading a feast.  Even while a child is gaining the skills needed to educate themselves (the basics like reading, writing, and math) we should simultaneously be feeding their minds with great ideas from literature, history, nature, art, music, and the Bible.
    • a reposeful.... Se reposer is the French verb that means to rest.  While Charlotte recommended a generous, full curriculum, she also recommended short, focused lessons that leave lots of time in the day for pondering, exploration, and free play.  Let's not exhaust our children by stuffing their lives too full of 'good things'.
    • ...consecutive way... A Charlotte Mason curriculum is most definitely a literature-based curriculum.  Rather than reading little, disconnected snippets from here and there, Charlotte recommended reading straight through whole books - one after another - and doing so at a pace that allows the child to ponder and reflect and form his/her own relationship with the book. 

These ideas were summed up well in When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper, et al:
The goal for a first grade classroom is to whet appetites so students will grow to love books and desire to feed themselves.
~No longer sure if this is a direct quote or my paraphrase of it...
Am I teaching my children to love learning and giving them the skills they need to be able to learn for themselves?  Ultimately, that should be my goal in educating my young children. 

Next time: Preliminary Considerations 2 -  Offend not, Despise not, Hinder not the Little Ones.


  1. Hi Jen

    Well done on finishing the first volume!! You've inspired me to get back to it - I always get about half way and then other things seem come up and I feel I need to start all over again!
    You might like to see my latest blog entry on Charlotte Mason:

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks! It took me over a year of reading in bits and pieces, and I started over once too - taking notes the second time through. Very well worth the effort though!