Rediscovering Charlotte Mason

Those of you who have followed this blog from its outset will remember how the philosophy of educationalist Charlotte Mason (1842 - 1923) has helped me over the years to redefine our home education, particularly at times when things have been difficult or frustrating. There is something about Charlotte's ideas that has always resonated with me, although we are very free and generally child-led in our approach. My oldest and youngest sons in particular are very much unschoolers with their own determined ideas about what and how they want to learn. And yet .... Yet it is my job to 'lay the feast', to continually spread before all our boys a tantalising banquet of ideas, stories, concepts, visits ... experiences which engage their senses and imaginations, inspire their play and stimulate their own learning.

You can find some of my earlier thoughts about Charlotte Mason's philosophy here and here. Included in the latter post is this description of my sons' narration (telling back) which is a key component of a Charlotte Mason education and has continued to feature instinctively in my learning with my children at home ...

"I have one son who is very reluctant to narrate. Having redefined the objective of reading great literature, I read "The Story of Dick Whittington and his Cat" to him and his younger brother, then asked him to narrate. I admit I was frustrated by his reluctance, then I had a bright idea. rather than getting annoyed, which is easy to do, believe me, I suggested they re-enact the story with some Lego men or soft toys. "Ooh, yes, can we get the puppet theatre out?" he asked. Well, an hour later, I was treated to a performance of Dick Whittington utilising a selection of puppets, soft toys and props found around the home. Two birds with one stone - free play and great story. Two things to remember."

I have a friend, Leah, who is a wonderful propagator of the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and the liberty of this approach to home education. She and I, along with a wonderful group of ladies from an online community, decided this year to visit Ambleside, where Charlotte Mason established her House of Education in 1892 (originally a training institution for governesses, later the Charlotte Mason teacher training college, which was taken over by what is now Cumbria University in the 1990s). It was rather humbling to walk in the footsteps of such an influential educational pioneer ... We had the privilege of rifling through the archives in the adjacent Armitt Museum and Library where we found random boxfuls of black and white photographs which had been recovered from a skip after the college buildings were cleared. We were able to leaf through Charlotte's journals and books of poems, look at original nature journals her trainees had compiled and to drink in the beauty of the Lakes that inspired her ideas. It was a lovely break, and an affirming journey for all of us home educating mothers.

If you are interested in the Charlotte Mason philosophy, Leah hosts a Facebook group, Charlotte Mason Conversations UK, where you can learn more. If Charlotte's ideas resonate with you, but you find your household is more autonomous in educational approach, then I am helping to host a new Facebook group, Charlotte Mason Unschoolers. Desiring the very best for our children, we desire to lay that rich feast before them whilst remembering the beauty of home education is to be free to follow the best approach for you, your children and your family and situation ...

Leah has also recently launched Modern Miss Mason - A place where your face fits (also on Facebook) where you can find her first "Masonette" - Transformation Through Narration and register for her new course - Back To Basics: Atmosphere, Discipline, Life ... "We'll be exploring the building blocks and simplicity of the philosophy and methods and aim to help you implement them in your home everyday." I recommend it.