Monday, April 12, 2010

A Month with Charlotte Mason, #12

The last part of Home Education is about the role that our wills and our reason should have, and how we teach that to our children; but I think it’s more practical at this point to ask a fourth question on education: What should we use? Or to put it another way, "what shall we then buy?"

There was an idea going around awhile back that it didn’t matter at all what you used, that any curriculum could be used in a CM style, and so you had people trying to use basal readers for narration, and so on, usually with a lot of frustration. It was like serving popsicles with forks and knives and calling it dinner--it just didn't work. There is a lot of flexibility in Charlotte Mason, and there is no one perfect, comprehensive booklist (or schedule) that is going to be suitable for every family in every circumstance; but it is important to choose quality books and other resources that will meet the objectives of a leisurely education. Just as it matters what children eat, it does matter what mind food we provide, what books we read, what music we play, what kinds of craft materials we choose. So how do you know what to use?

This is where the booklists from Ambleside Online and other CM websites (like Simply Charlotte Mason, Mater Amabilis and so on) can be very useful. You don't have to start right from scratch; you can look at what other CM homeschoolers recommend, see which classics are still being used, and get a sense of what newer materials seem to fit. Even then you need to be discerning, but when the same material comes up repeatedly, that’s probably a good sign that it’s worth checking out.

Let’s start with the very obvious, what not to use. We can rule out a large portion of most public school teacher catalogues, including "Guided Reading Beach Balls." "Great Graph Art Around the Year." "Picture Sorting for Phonemic Awareness." And "40 Wonderful Blend and Digraph Poems." We don't want study guides that are just long lists of questions to answer and definitions to copy. And unit studies loaded with fill-in-the-blank reproducibles, colouring pages, and word searches. Actually a lot of commercial unit studies can be crossed out, unless they’re limited, say, to correlating history and literature, and maybe tied to appropriate music or art of the particular era. Charlotte Mason used that tying-together approach in her teaching, but she didn’t think of that as unit studies, more just a correlation of things that naturally went together. It was when teachers started trying to get too clever and drag in all the subject areas that she had a problem, especially when the topic chosen was something insubstantial like apples; or even a better topic like Robinson Crusoe, that would just make the kids hate the book by the time you’d done Robinson Crusoe math, Robinson Crusoe songs, Robinson Crusoe copywork, Robinson Crusoe geography, Robinson Crusoe recipes and so on.

It’s kind of like when my mom first got a wok back in the ‘80’s and enthusiastically started stir-frying things. First she made stir-fried chicken and that was fine, then she made stir-fried beef and that was good too, but by the time she got to stir-fried hot dogs, we had had just about enough stir-fried anything for a long time. Easy to overdo.

More do's and don't tomorrow.

1 comment:

Ang said...

Mama Squirrel, I wanted to let you know how much I'm enjoying your "Month with Charlotte Mason" Series. Sometimes we can get bogged down in "school" so reminders like this are very good. I truly enjoyed reading the lady from Africa's article from the PNEU. I was wondering if this series will be part of the upcoming ambleside convention. If so, thanks for the preview.
Ang in OKC