I'm so excited to dig into our first book club here at Brave Grown Home! We'll be taking the next 20+ weeks to slowly digest all of the wealth of information in the century old book, Home Education, written by the truly inspirational education expert: Charlotte Mason. If you haven't downloaded your reading schedule yet, you can do that here.
The following video is a short introduction to the book club, complete with details and what you can expect for the coming months: (If the video doesn't load for you here you can view it on my IGTV channel.)
So now that you know what you can expect as we make our way through the book, I thought we would take a moment to glimpse at both the preface to the Home Education Series, and the preface to Home Education, Volume I, which are found at the very front of the book. These aren't included on the book club reading calendar, so if you haven't had a chance to read them, this is just a brief summary of both. Both prefaces are Charlotte's methodology in a very tiny nutshell. If you'd like, I've attached a journaling page where you can summarize Charlotte's principles of education in your own words like I have.
Synopsis of the Preface to the Home Education Series
The “law” of education is somewhat perplexing to educators. (Can I get an amen?):
We can feel its presence
We know that it must be used to illuminate and measure our educational efforts
We know it pervades every aspect of our life from birth to death
We know it has no set transitions-- only continual swelling and growth.
As educators, we’re constantly grasping at this “law” in order to better understand it. How do we best implement it?
“A discontent (is it a divine discontent?) is upon us; and assuredly we should hail a workable, effectual philosophy of education as a deliverance from much perplexity.” (preface)
In her Home Education series (Volumes 1-6), Charlotte attempts to humbly offer her own philosophy of education as a means to lay out this “law” of education as plainly as possible for home educators-- removing the burden of perplexity and instead offering feasible solutions.
The foundation of her philosophy is built upon the following principles (written in my own words for my own processing!):
Children are born persons-- their story is already unfolding from the moment they arrive in this world.
Just like adults, children can make choices for either good or for bad.
Authority and obedience between parent and child are a natural harmony, but--
This principle of authority and obedience should never be abused by the person in authority in any way, for good or for bad.
Therefore, the educator should implement the 3 most important educational instruments: atmosphere of environment, discipline of habit, and exposure to rich, living ideas.
“Education is an atmosphere” does NOT equate to a child being confined to a “child environment”, but instead means that he should be exposed to the richness of the world around him, both at home and away. “It stultifies a child to bring down his world to a child’s level.”
“Education is a discipline” means that we cultivate healthy and honorable habits that are good for their physical, mental, and spiritual health.
“Education is a life” means that learning is all-encompassing (moral, intellectual, physical). The mind feeds on ideas, why not provide it with a broad and satisfying feast?
The mind of a child is NOT an empty bucket to fill.
Rather, a child’s mind is a spiritual organism thirsting for knowledge and ideas. (Which is why we think they “absorb things like a sponge.")
Assuming that a child’s mind is empty in need of filling results in unnecessary pressure on the teacher and bored, mentally parched children.
Instead, we should believe in and nurture the power of a child’s mind by offering him generous portions of informing ideas.
Education is the science of relations. With this approach, a child grows natural relationships and interests, with an ever broadening wealth of ideas and thoughts. We guide them in physical activity, nature, handicrafts, science, and art by use of many living books. Our job is to inspire children to make connections with the world around them. Our job is NOT to teach all the things.
The secrets of moral and intellectual self management are the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason.
The Way of the Will is the ability to discern and correctly choose between a tempting desire and what is right. (Although spontaneity and failure can be beneficial to growth.)
The Way of Reason means that children should be taught not to lean too hard on their own understanding. Though reason is good for proving mathematical truths, it cannot always be trusted because our reasoning is limited, and can justify all sorts of ideas if we desire it, whether they are right or wrong. (This is true for adults as well… how many times have I had a firm “understanding” of a particular idea until I dug a little deeper and found my reasoning was flawed?)
Therefore, as children grow in maturity, they should be taught that their chief responsibility as persons is “the acceptance or rejection of initial ideas.” It’s our job as educators to provide them principles of conduct and morality in addition to a wide range of knowledge.
There is no separation between the spiritual and intellectual life of a child; rather, God guides and fulfills them in all of their pursuits.
Synopsis of the Preface to Home Education, Volume I:
Charlotte states that her attempt in this first volume is to offer “a method of education resting upon a basis of natural law,” and her aim is to highlight the mother’s duties to her children.
While she believes that mothers receive from God Himself a natural intuition regarding her children’s needs, strengths and weaknesses, and so forth, she also believes that most mothers would likely desire to obtain a deeper understanding of the general principles of education. And this can only be achieved through our own effort and studies.
Her approach in educating children during their earliest years of education (particularly ages 6-9), is to expose them to a wide array of subjects in an organic and relaxed way, without the stress of lectures. This is when we lay the foundation for a liberal education and instill a habit of reading for instruction.
And that's that, folks!
An incredibly thorough summary of Charlotte Mason's principles of education. Based on these initial principles, how would you say your ideas of education differed or aligned with Charlotte's? Has she offered you any illuminating ideas thus far? Please do share!