II. The kindergarten as a place of education
The idea of kindergarten must have been somewhat new at Mason’s time. She finds the approach a potentially very good one, but notes that its success depends on a high quality teacher, one with great sensitivity and liveliness; otherwise it will just be wooden.
Like in Montessori, apparently kindergarten involved a carefully structured approach to sensory education with fine distinctions in such things as shape and color. Mason admits that the knowledge thus gained is exact, but would prefer that kids be left / given opportunities to make their own sensory explorations of real things in the real world. I’m not sure there’s that much of a conflict — surely there is enough time for children to have both kinds of experience.
Kindergarten also required children to do perfectly whatever they are competent to do. Charlotte Mason herself seems to share this expectation or principle — but here she argues that a mom is better equipped than a kindergarten teacher to foster this habit without distress and anxiety. Similarly, there were special tasks in kindergarten, called occupations, designed to help children develop a good eye and careful hand — Mason allows mothers to use some of these, but reminds them that ordinary home life presents plenty of natural opportunities such as straightening tablecloths, hanging towels, and so on.
Mason approves of the kindergarten’s approach to such issues as a child making a fuss about not wanting to participate in a group activity — the child is not shamed or coerced, but just gently led out of the circle. In the same way, she approves of the way in which kindergarten allows children full and free expression of joy and glee, but within the boundaries of gentleness, without “rampaging” (181).
In general, she thinks well of the principles that govern kindergarten, allows that some of the practices can be adapted for home use, and adds that there are also other ways to carry out the principles.