Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Book review: Charlotte Mason's Home Education

While many people pinpoint the start modern homeschooling movement in the 1960s and 70s, Christians call Charlotte Mason the founder of the modern homeschooling movement. She wrote Home Education, which describes education for kids from birth to age 9, in 1886. I'd say it was definitely a monumental work in education.

In fact, I can see a lot of current educational principles in her books. My favorite part is how she emphasizes children need to be outside in nature--and not just in a city park. She thinks they should be out in the country. She cites many health reasons for this, as well as the peace that a connection with nature produces. (Is this sounding familiar?) She encourages parents to get their kids out every day, if possible, for as long as possible.

I have decided that I want to incorporate her ideas in teaching first grade biology and second grade earth science and  astronomy. Kids should experience the world to learn about it. Mason describes games to help a kid pay attention and learn about their environment, like "sightseeing" and mental "picture painting." She suggests that kids keep a nature journal of things they see every day. She suggests bird watching and listening; choosing a few trees to keep track of all year; picking, pressing, mounting, researching and labeling flowers and plants; and having animals and insects, like ants or fish, in the house or schoolroom that the kids can observe.

Mason says that when kids become familiar with nature at a young age by experiencing it hands-on, it makes it easier for them to learn science principles when they are older and have developed the capacity to reason. I can relate to that. I used to garden all the time when I was a kid, and when I was a teenager I worked at a greenhouse. Not only did high school biology make more sense to me, but my college soil, ecology and botany classes were a breeze. I remember surprising my teachers more than once. But it all made sense to me because I was familiar with it.

I also like what Mason says about training children in habits--for the most part. I do believe that a child's will is strong when they want something. She thinks it is weak, so the child must be trained in habits until their will is strong. But establishing good habits at a young age is essential for success in work, school and relationships later in life.

Mason notes that if a child has good habits, they can direct themselves and don't have to be directed or nagged by you all the time. She suggests you work on one habit at a time, and be friendly and encouraging. You have to use tact and be consistent and persistent. She says to use natural consequences as much as possible to teach the child.

This is a fantastic read for any homeschool mom.

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