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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Detaching from Charlotte Mason and Returning with Renewed Vigor

view from my upstairs balcony


I have decided to continue my reading of Charlotte Mason's original homeschooling series. Having read volumes 1, 3, and 6, I have moved on to volume 2, Parents and Children. I find that having taken some time to detach myself from Miss Mason's tutelage, I can visit her again with a renewed perspective and fresh vigor. I've been exploring the key to a relaxed approach to her philosophy and method. What does this mean, a relaxed CM home education?

Today is the Feast of All Saints, a fitting time to remind ourselves of our primary goal and responsibility as parents in the education of our children. That is, we must be about raising saints. Everything we do will ideally be oriented toward faith formation and getting our children to heaven, and the academics do play an important role in this endeavor. 

I have gotten over my regret that Charlotte Mason was not a Catholic. Yet we can be consoled in the fact that she clearly had certain Catholic sensibilities. She was an Anglican Christian, which in many ways puts her closer to the Catholic Faith than it does to modern forms of Protestant evangelicalism. 

I gave the concerns voiced at the Keeping It Catholic website a fair hearing. I am able to see some of the potential problems with CM for Catholics that Marianna Bartold brought to light. Charlotte Mason was an educational trailblazer, and she was also a product of her times, an era in Europe ripe with ideas of socialism and evolution. Being very well read, she was aware of the scientific and pedagogical philosophies of her day, and these did influence her thinking. But often she was a critic of the failures of those popular ideas and held to traditional Christianity and a reverence for the Bible. A flaming heretic she was not. 

Rather than attempting to "catholicize" Charlotte Mason, we can take her as she is. We can rest in the Lord and thus teach from a state of rest, putting the Catholic Faith always in first place in our considerations. Then we can proceed with what we will to CM. 

Her motto reads, "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life."  We make the atmosphere of our homes and lives distinctly Catholic. We form in our children habits (a discipline) which conform to the teachings of the Church. And we open them to a life of living ideas, of the things of God and of Nature. In this, we provide a curriculum permeated with the Faith. In her understanding that education is the science of relations, CM puts relationship with our Creator in the primary position. 

So we see that faith formation is the cornerstone and foundation of the building, and that Charlotte Mason can provide certain necessary tools and blocks for building it up. The roof is the domestic church, encompassing the particular lifestyle of each family and the unique personalities and needs of its members. 

Though we can use living books and vintage methods without necessarily following Miss Mason, I come back to her because she has been instrumental in getting my child and family to where we are today. Because her writings are repetitive, steeping oneself in them allows for continued inspiration and the deeper assimilation of her ideas. 

Rather than focusing upon how to label your homeschooling, think in terms of establishing a philosophical methodology filled with wisdom and a concrete way for proceeding toward your goals. Do not become overly scrupulous in designing a replica of what CM did in her schools. Use her as a springboard, taking what works in your homeschool and leaving the rest.

It's okay to relax the parameters. For instance, you may wish to teach less subjects and use fewer books per term, or per year, than what CM suggested. Or you might use some traditional text/workbooks as spines for history from a Catholic perspective, or for whatever might serve your individual children's needs best. Let Charlotte Mason be a model for planning your curriculum, choosing the books you will use, and above all, to assist you in raising your young saints!

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