Reading through Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series.
I A method of education
The first part of this section discusses traditional methods and new methods. In her day, she says traditional methods had been “tried and found wanting” while science was bringing a revolution in parenting. She lists several contrasts:
- corporal punishment a given vs. disallowed
- plain food vs. varied diet that considers child’s tastes
- need to harden kids vs. need to shelter them (weather is used in the example; does she intend the more figurative sense as well?)
- prioritize duty and obedience vs. child’s pleasures
- child subject to parents vs. child-centered home
The point seems to be that with things in flux, without general consensus on such matters, it’s more important than ever for parents to fully think out what their approach to education will be.
The rest of the section deals with the term “method,” especially as contrasted with the term “system.” In her usage, method refers to a naturally flowing, unlaborious, holistic, and reflective approach that is based on just a few principles of natural law. System, on the other hand, is more formulaic, does not require or invite reflection, has definite steps, and is best suited to smaller specific aspects of education. Method should govern education as a whole, and is involved in the specifics as well; method can use system, but not vice versa.
Two reasons why method is considered essential are that education happens at all times, whatever the child is doing, wherever he is; and that a child is not a machine but a “self-acting, self-developing being” (10).
The appeal of system is that we tend to feel more secure about things that are definite instead of requiring continual observation and reflection, and things that are neatly compartmentalized instead of holistic, blended, integrated. Anticipating that some will see her emphasis on holistic education as implying incessant watchfulness and work, Mason assures readers that it isn’t like that — instead it becomes as natural as acting on our knowledge that fire is hot and other such things.