How Our Unschooling is Like Charlotte Mason Homeschool Method

12 10 2009

A new home-educating mom (okay, it’s Beta, hi Beta!) has been doing lots of reading and thinking about education methods, as our older-in-educating-herself-on education friend, the New Unschooler (hi Colleen!) did last year.

I just added this comment to Beta’s mix:

I was reading a little about Charlotte Mason homeschooling and I see much that reflects our unschooled education methods (real books, no lectures, etc) but I was never a big Nature Girl — more inside the library or kitchen or theatre type — so it hadn’t appealed to me years ago for that reason and I’d forgotten about it.

Then here in the US, Ken Burns’ new documentary series for PBS started airing, called National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

Young Son (age 14) and I got absorbed in it, recording and watching in the afternoons before his own natural most active time (evening) and about halfway through the series, he got his dad watching with him for a couple of weekend afternoons. We all know a lot more about Nature now than we did! It’s historically riveting but also gorgeous and serene and it moves at a naturalist’s graceful, outdoor-majestic pace — just wonderful Power of Story all around.

Without having to actually go outside. 😉

So it reminded me that we too are eclectic in many good ways. The biggest difference between what we do and the CM method is that what we do is no method, with (what personally is found to be) nasty bits included like it or not . . .

Obviously we unschoolers despite eschewing curriculum and training of children’s habits, nevertheless NATURALLY integrate the philosophical cornerstones of “education as life” and “education as the science of relation” while one bit from wikipedia on Charlotte Mason’s teaching philosophy even sounds Obama-inspired, hmmm, and didn’t his mother teach him at home in the early mornings, wonder if she was a secret CM disciple and he its able pupil . . . Yes, I can!

Teaching philosophy

Mason’s philosophy of education is probably best summarized by the principles given at the beginning of each book mentioned above. Two key mottos taken from those principles are “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” and “Education is the science of relations.”

She believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such; they should also be taught the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason. Her motto for students was “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

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22 responses

12 10 2009
JJ

A great email list of long standing called “unschoolingbasics” had this — CM Method-like because it is NATURAL — power of story, back in July 2004:

Third, my midwife told me once before a phrase that I keep in mind often….”what you resist persists.”

Try just relaxing about your DD’s
[fill in the blank, but in the original it was unusual sleep/wake pattern]

Stop commenting on it and just be pleasant and
enjoy her company . . . Have food available in the
fridge for her that she can heat up in the microwave. . .
Just let her “play” and she’ll come back around to [fill in blank]
when/if she’s ready to.

FWIW, I know lots of teens who have done this and they don’t go for
years doing it. Just let go of trying to control her and it’ll all
work itself out.

12 10 2009
Colleen

Hi! 🙂

12 10 2009
JJ

😀 See, I’ve been bragging on you and using your happiness as an example!

12 10 2009
Crimson Wife

Charlotte Mason was all about discipline, I don’t think that one can really take that part out of the CM approach. One third of her writing on education was devoted to the topic of discipline and and how to go about establishing good habits through lessons and real life training of the child. What is the point of copywork and dictation exercises if not training the student in good habits?

If I had to place HS methods on a continuum from structured to unstructured, Charlotte Mason would be very far apart from “unschooling”.

12 10 2009
JJ

I was going by the wikipedia description. But how interesting!

To me that sounds more like the extremely traditional and conservative schools of the time, harsh and astere and exacting. With regular beatings.

How do the CM devotees today square that with this, for example?

During this time she began to develop her vision for “a liberal education for all.” The word “liberal,” as it related to education in Mason’s time, implied a generous[2] and broad curriculum for all children, regardless of social class.

12 10 2009
Crimson Wife

Charlotte Mason developed her philosophy as a reaction to the status quo of her day, which was classical education. She taught French instead of Latin & Greek (how shocking!) She was big on nature study, art, music, and enjoying poetry for its own sake rather than just as something for the child to memorize. She downplayed rote memorization, which really was a big departure from classical ed.

She strikes me more the “steel magnolia” type than a harsh & abusive 19th century schoolmaster.

12 10 2009
JJ

Hmmm. At first it seemed like you were saying lots of copy work and “training” and it was all discipline but — I guess everything is relative. So maybe she was the unschooling relaxed eclectic of her time?

13 10 2009
Beta

Thanks for the call-out, JJ! When we first began looking at homeschooling, we were all about WTM. A classical education! Exhaustive (and exhausting) subject matter! Latin (French in our case) right from the start! It *sounded* like what a good education should be. But the more I contemplated it, the structure and levels and…. I don’t know, *orderliness* of it all didn’t sound like something Gamma would enjoy. But unschooling seemed too far in the opposite direction. CM, I thought at the time, was a happy middle ground. Relaxed classical, if you like.

But, I think, still not the right fit for us. We’re working on it. Shall we call it a Gamma-inspired homeschooling method? Ironically, JJ, I saw an advert for the Ken Burns’ film you mentioned at Edutopia, while researching project-based learning. Small world, eh? I miss PBS…

13 10 2009
JJ

I like that, Gamma’s independent study. 🙂

We’ve always said affectionately that Young Son lives and learns in “Young Son World” which is a rare gift for him, and a rare privilege for us, that we’re able to provide that for him.

I was more concerned with getting all sorts of private lessons and camps and classical enrichment for his sister — she stayed very busy when she was little! — but he has truly charted his own quirky course from Day One (Day One being birth, not kindergarten age.) His sister is five years older and of course a girl, which further widens the maturity gap between them, but when you think of each family member at any age as an individual with life interests rather than school-specific needs, there’s a lot of natural overlap.

So he’s benefiting from years of doubt and experimentation. Back then I started out calling our approach “parent-directed education” and only gradually did Nance and I discover what we care about is really more like “parent-protected education.” It’s not a job, for you or the children; it’s an incredible privilege, as if family life is one big vacation trip everyone is excited about and helps chart exactly as they wish, for the love of it and to experience and enjoy together, not a business trip or a school field trip to learn something or meet a family obligation like a graduation or funeral. Vacate all that and life is a vacation!

I do remember poring over Well-Trained Mind, bought both of the Wise-Bauer books when FavD was three I think, read and marked them up, aren’t they seductive?? I resolved she would be the perfect classical scholar which I would have enjoyed as an overachieving scholar type myself — and she would reflect well on me! Validate my abilities as both mother and teacher. Remember, I had an education doctorate and an established professional reputation; everyone I knew was in knowledge work, many directly in K-12 and higher education and the rest in what might loosely be called public education as in educating the public, e.g. journalism, libraries, law and government research/communications.

I felt I had a great deal at stake, had to prove I hadn’t gone wacko religious, that I wasn’t home being lazy or neglectful, that my child would be extraordinary, etc. — I’d never even heard of unschooling then but I would have sneered, perhaps even set out to trash it. I knew people still working who I could have helped write legislation to ban it!

It had to stop being about me and my achievement, before I could begin to understand stopping it as being about HER achievement . . .

Every educational journey at any age turns out to be unique, even for the strictly schooled and churched much less those who aren’t, which will either terrify you or help you relax. Probably both at the same time for a while. 😉

13 10 2009
writestuff444

I just blogged about how kids form a worldview when only their parents are spoonfeeding them info and then I come hear and read this great discussion, because I think your young son and my Em, had much the same type of homeschooling experience. It wasn’t unschooling, we’re too bookish for it to be called that, She actually liked doing math and reading history and schoolish things, but..all I need was kind of map out a vision based on her goals and ours and then we moved on to getting “educated”..with whatever worked..and movies, videos, hikes, dance, theatre, reading, library visits, art projects, discussion and even some arguments and gosh, there she is at IU, a sophomore in environmental science and holding her own just fine against all those private school kids and public school kids. Does she struggle? A bit with her Calculus this semester, but she’s got a B in the class so far! She says it’s hard! but she’s holding her own even there. Loving the political science class, doing a Palenstinian Israeli perspectives class, and just continuing the learning. She says she doesn’t off up, I was homeschooled anymore, like she did her freshman year. She just doesn’t talk about it, it’s not a moot point..it’s what it was that got her where she is now.

And to me, that kind of sums it up..Betty’s theory of home education in 500 words or less. Be open to every thing you can learn about, don’t place restrictions on them, Don’t deny them open access to literature and opposing viewpoints. Don’t say no to them! Let them explore learning and be open to accepting that it might lead them in some direction completely different than what you thought they should take. It’s called freedom.

13 10 2009
writestuff444

:offer up” instead of off up!! LOL

13 10 2009
writestuff444

Boy, that post is full of typos, sorry JJ! Too big of a hurry, but you get the idea! Love you guys, so busy with life, I’m trying to be better about blogging and catching up on my few favs today!

13 10 2009
COD

If you had really done a good job educating her, she would be at Purdue, not IU 😉

13 10 2009
JJ

LMAO Chris! Heresy!

13 10 2009
JJ

Something the New Unschooler just posted:

They won’t really be classes since I won’t be teaching, but I’m not sure what else to call them.

Speaking of teaching, last week I went to listen to Terrence Roberts, a man who was one of the “Little Rock Nine” (one of the first black students at a high school in Little Rock after desegregation) at a book signing and he was talking about education and he said he thought the word “teacher” was a misnomer. He said we should get rid of the word and use something like “master learner” instead, since we’re all always learning–and it’s the learning that’s important.

I like that idea.

13 10 2009
Beta

I’m lacking your background in educational philosophy — although I don’t know if I consider this a help or a hindrance!

Epsilon will no doubt benefit from our years of trial and error with Gamma. The poor kid’s run the gamut. Luckily, we’re working through this at age 5, so it’s only Alpha and me that require the deschooling, not the kids too.

13 10 2009
JJ

Lacking that is help, it’s definitely a help! 🙂

13 10 2009
writestuff444

@COD, Purdue!! That’s her Dad’s school, she wanted something different, plus she’s pre-law, aiming to become one of those soft science majors, Bachelors in Environmental Science, masters in public policy and a law degree to fight environmental battles of the future..

We shall see…:) And I didn’t do such a good job of homeschooling her, she did all the work.

13 10 2009
Crimson Wife

Every time I read The Well-Trained Mind, I always come away feeling like I’m such a slacker. But then I put the book back up on my shelf and remember that I’m trying to tailor my family’s homeschooling to fit our needs, not somebody else’s idea of what we should do 🙂

I have incorporated ideas from TWTM into my HS and some ideas from CM. I’ve also incorporated some ideas from “unschooling”-oriented books like those by Mary Griffith and Linda Dobson. I’m a big fan of experiential learning, even if those activities aren’t always as “child-initiated” as an “unschooler” would have them be.

One thing I can say for certain that I’m not even the slightest bit is a Waldorf HSer. I just finished a book on the approach and it’s probably the first HS book from which I did not take away a single idea. I knew going in that it probably wasn’t my cup of tea but I was surprised by how I couldn’t find even one thing I thought might be worthwhile to try.

13 10 2009
JJ

Colleen writes about Waldorf as almost opposite of unschooling. One good feel for the differences pro and con, is her compare-and-contrast post here.

13 10 2009
JJ

CW, what do you think of the “inquiry-based learning” that Beta is reading about?

A group blog called Camp Creek she’s finding valuable, has perspectives on that here.

14 10 2009
Crimson Wife

I’d have to read up more about “inquiry-based learning” before forming an opinion. In the Wikipedia article, I saw some things I liked (such as the reference to Vygotsky’s ZPD) and some things that raised red flags in my mind (such as the positive references to “constructivism”).

I do believe that the “project-based learning” method can work very well for a certain type of student. The description of “inquiry-based learning” struck me as having similarities to PBL. If that’s the case, then I’d tend to think it could also be a good method of education.

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