Do you ever wonder what the deal is with all the different educational philosophies roaming around homeschool blogs and curriculum magazines? Understanding each one and how they play out practically in the education of your children can help inform the selections you make regarding books, subjects of study and even "how" your days are spent together. I'm not a fan of labels and boxes, but the core philosophy that has driven our homeschooling and just "fit" for our family is best described as a Charlotte Mason Education.
A prominent educator in England during the late 19th and early 20th century, Charlotte Mason's work on education began to experience a resurgence in the late 20th century when Susan Schaeffer McCauley, the daughter of the well known theologian, Francis Schaeffer, published For The Children's Sake, sharing how Miss Mason's work was being put into practice in the education of her own children. It gained a hearty following because it is at the core, classical and discipleship oriented, developmentally appropriate and rigorous.
Charlotte Mason's ideas transformed education at the time and the ripples still touch the lives of children the world over. She advocated a focus on the training of attention and habits, letting children be immersed in great literature and the natural world and creating critical thinking in her students. She encouraged teachers to let their students interact directly with their literature and subjects, and to ultimately become self-learners. Her sweet mantra spurs on the vision for our homeschool:
“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life”
The best source for learning about this type of education is to read Charlotte Mason’s original educational series, available at amazon.com or online through Ambleside Online. The texts and even history sequence that we use at home with our four children differs slightly from the order of this curriculum, but that’s the beauty of being able to homeschool, we each tweak and nudge things a bit to fit our families and our individual children. However, even if our resources may change, these core components remain the same for us.
Course of Study
The following is attributed with permission from Ambleside Schools International, a network of Charlotte Mason schools around the world- I love the simple breakdown they provide to ease our understanding.
Tales and Fables/Myths and Legends
Nature Study/Science Lab
Disciplines of Study
A brief account follows of the specific disciplines of study and how they are expressed throughout the school:
Art: Formal instruction in technique and various media is introduced throughout the grades, providing experience, observation, and study.
Bible: Readings are selected from the Old and New Testaments as well as Proverbs and Psalms, instructing in the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man. In the upper school, the study of Spiritual Leadership combines scripture and biography into a course where the student looks at the life of Christ and its impact on men and women throughout the ages.
Citizenship: Beginning in grade four, students read about men and women in relationship with self and others in choosing the good and refusing the evil, as well as their contributions of service to society.
Composer Study: The students are acquainted with two classical composers and several of their works in every grade, cultivating taste and appreciation for classical music.
Composition: In the beginning years, students are solely acquainted with oral composition in the form of narration. Narration is continued daily throughout the grades as a method of assimilating information. Written composition is begun in grade three with work in description, and continues throughout the grades, resulting in formal research projects.
Dictation: Each week, students copy beautifully well-written text, noting spelling, grammar, and punctuation from a classroom text or something studied. Later they are called upon to write a portion or the whole of what has been copied, as it is dictated to them.
Foreign Language: Students are fully immersed in a language through a class taught mainly in this foreign tongue. The time is spent in imitation, repetition, dialogues, and writing.
Geography: Atlases are used throughout the days as a reference in areas of study, as geography is naturally integrated into the curriculum. Geography is taught formally in grades five and six.
Grammar: In the early years students are introduced to the rules and regulations of our language by way of formal instruction. In the later years, instruction is based on addressing errors in usage.
Handwork: Each year students undertake two handwork projects, such as stitchery, clay, and woodworking, taught by the classroom teacher or an artisan in the community.
Handwriting: In the early years students master manuscript writing and then are introduced to Spencerian writing, working out and practicing form, size, and style.
History: An introduction to history begins in grades one and two. Beginning in grade three, the history of the United States and the world is taught each year through the eighth grade. Students in the third grade begin with exploration for United States History and the history of Egypt and Greece for world history. Studies are continued in both world and United States histories, covering all periods through the twentieth century.
In the Upper School, history is referred to as civilizations, as far as this study reflects the geopolitical, religious, philosophical, and cultural influences as recorded through events, nations, and individuals. The four years is divided into studies from the beginning of recorded history through present day. Original writings and a text are used to gain understanding of the parts and the whole of the period studied.
Literature: A variety of living books of different genres are selected each year, some to correlate with history and science, and others are chosen because they have stood the test of time.
Mathematics: Beginning with arithmetic, students master the art of computation in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in the elementary grades. The middle and upper school study other branches consisting of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.
Nature Study: Each student keeps a nature journal in which weekly entries are added to include drawings and descriptions. The students become acquainted with their natural surroundings, as well as two other classes of nature, such as birds, butterflies and herbs.
Phonics and Reading: In grades one and two, students go through a formal program of sight and sound correspondence to develop skills in pronunciation and spelling. Phonics rules are introduced and learned for application, not drill. Beginning phonetic readers are used to reinforce these developing skills.
Picture Study: Students are made familiar with two artists a year and four to six of their significant works. They also experience the style and technique of the artist through reproducing one of their works.
Poetry: Two poets and their works are introduced to the students each year. The students are given a volume of their works and memorize poems individually and corporately for personal enjoyment and formal recitation.
Read-aloud: Teachers and students share in the delight of a book that is chosen for the sole reason that we would not want them to miss the opportunity of the joy of reading this book aloud.
Recitation: This time is used to rehearse passages and verses from Scripture, poetry, or history that the students are responsible for keeping in their hearts and minds.
Science: In grade three students are acquainted with animals and fossils through readings, drawings, and hands-on activities. Beginning in grade four through the middle grades, branches of physical, earth, and life sciences are taught each year. Through these varied branches, students are introduced to the principles of science, observation, and demonstration. In the upper grades, the sciences of biology, chemistry, physics, and human behavior are studied in a more comprehensive manner.
Singing and Music: The students’ voices and ears are trained individually and collectively. The harmonies and melodies of classical and folk music are introduced to the students through song, dance, and instrument. All students, in choral groups, perform at school and in the community.
Tales and Fables / Myths and Legends: In the early grades, tales and fables, as well as myths and legends are chosen from history and various countries, which are read aloud to warm the imagination and instruct the conscience.
©Ambleside Schools International, 2006