My friend Tamara loaned me this book about Charlotte Mason, which I read on the way home.
I’ll just blurt about it — I may revisit some topics another time.
1. Respects the child as a person, including attention to individual pacing, skill levels, aptitudes, interests, and developmental stuff. Repeated comments about how children think as much as adults, or how their minds are just as good, make me pause — surely she doesn’t believe that children are merely small adults. I suspect she’s really just emphasizing that we don’t need to over-simplify or dumb things down or avoid serious issues when talking to children. I can’t imagine she would have issues with, say, Montessori’s emphasis on having equipment such as tables and sinks sized for the child. I’d like to read a comparison of Charlotte Mason and Montessori.
2. I wonder why one would introduce Shakespearean plays during childhood. Or other literature that was written for adults. I remember reading such things in high school and, while I could grasp the language and a good bit of the ideas, I didn’t really appreciate a lot of the books until college or later. I’d like to talk to some Charlotte Mason kids and hear what they would say about this kind of reading. That said, I agree that a whole lot of children’s literature is poorly written and uninteresting.
3. I like the introduction to science as observing nature. Kids will go on nature walks, choose something to bring home or to class, and paint or draw it and so on. Similarly, I like the emphasis on narration — kids tell back stories they’ve been read, which later grows into writing essays. It’s good to put things in your own words, and it’s good to draw or otherwise depict what you notice. There seems to be an emphasis on accuracy and truth and honesty, but not on mere memorization or parroting.
4. Lessons are short and efficient, in the morning when students are well-rested, and the rest of the day is open for play and other experiences. There’s room for organized and structured activities, but great emphasis on plenty of open time without meddling. The adult’s role is to supervise for general safety (not to prevent skinned knees, though) and be available for help, not to direct every part of the play.
5. As I would expect from Schaeffer offspring, there’s an emphasis on reason above emotion, and will above desire. I understand the emphasis but disagree with it. Reason is just as fallen as emotion, and emphasizing will over desire can result in an adult who is afraid to want anything and who has an over-developed sense of obligation. I imagine that Charlotte Mason (and the Schaeffers) don’t intend to eliminate or deny or repress emotion and desire altogether, but I just think it’s easy to misapply these principles. It’s important to know how to choose the right thing even when what you want to do is something else, but that’s rather different, and more complex and subtle, than just saying will trumps desire. Similarly, wisdom looks at what our feelings AND our minds tell us, and then chooses.
6. I like the idea of reading stories or the Bible and refraining from summarizing or preaching afterwards — just allowing the child their own response, and inviting them to direct any discussion.
7. I need to be better about offering diversion / help / support when I discipline, and not merely applying the sledgehammer.
8. I see the benefit of developing habits, and have been thinking about how to do some to make mealtimes, the car, bedtime, and other ordinary things go more smoothly. I’m tired of repeating myself about sitting in chairs properly, not playing with food, being quick about putting shoes on and getting in and out of the car, and so on. And yet I haven’t put much attention into teaching / supporting / promoting these habits.