Charlotte Mason and the Gentle Art of Learning

It is approximately a year since we deregistered our boys from our local state primary school and began educating them at home. I have to say, I have not looked back.

Last Christmas, we were reading everything we could about home education. This Christmas, I have come across the writings of Charlotte Mason - a Victorian educationalist, with whom I find myself in agreement on many things. In particular:
the recognition of children as persons whose minds need to be fed with the greatest and noblest of ideas;
the importance of children connecting with the natural world by spending plenty of time outside;
no formal learning until a child is 6 years old;
the emphasis on oral or pictorial as opposed to written narration until the child's writing ability is developed;
keeping lessons short to hold a child's motivation and attention;
the engagement of an adult to enable the child to access literature beyond his own reading ability;
the establishment of good habits;
the emphasis on faith and character development through exposing children to noble and virtuous heroes, allowing them to extract the morals for themselves;
letting literature speak;
allowing the children plenty of time just to 'be' and to fill their own time with their own interests and pursuits.

Our routine has slipped recently. This was firstly due to the preparations for Christmas, accompanied by some very wintry weather, and latterly by a visit from the flu to our household which has left us all distinctly lacking in energy. Through these weeks, I have noticed that our eldest son, particularly, has a very lively mind which he will soon put to work contriving mischief if not engaged and occupied with more worthwhile lines of thought.

I began to think that as good as it is to allow him the space and time to follow his own interests, there must also be the inputting of ideas to stimulate and inform his thinking so that he might grow. I had begun to consider how we might perhaps use some form of a curriculum together when I came across a comment on a web forum: "Before you purchase any curriculum, look at these available for free online." One site mentioned was Ambleside Online where I came across the name and philosophy of Charlotte Mason.

I didn't look long at the curriculum framework provided online - which takes Charlotte Mason's philosophy and attempts to break this down into readings for each week across all academic years - before I could see that it included some challenging stuff, some really good stuff, not the sort of stuff we would consider for modern children .... We seem to prefer to give them Horrid Henry than Oliver Twist. I wondered to myself whether this might just provide the meat for the mind I was looking for for my eldest son?

I decided to read more about Charlotte Mason's philosophy, and intend to trial her approach with the boys this term. I have started with "The Marsh Kings' daughter" by Hans Christian Anderson and "Peter Pan" by J.M. Barrie just as some casual reading, and I have been impressed by the way these stories, and the complex old-fashioned language, have held the boys' attention. I placed an Internet order for the books needed to follow this curriculum with sons 1 and 2. I am just waiting for the last few to arrive, and for the flu to be behind us, and then we will get started. Need to get back into a new routine and inspire some new habits. It's terrible how quickly the television and Wii habits kick in.