For those of you not familiar with the Charlotte Mason method of education, I'll give an overview. Charlotte Mason (1842–1923) was a British educator who invested her life in improving the quality of children’s education. She developed a philosophy of education that has been adapted to modern homeschooling by many parents. From the SCM website:
You can summarize Charlotte’s approach to education in three words. Charlotte believed that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” By “atmosphere,” Charlotte spoke of the environment our children grow up in. She knew that the ideas that rule our lives, as parents, will have a profound impact on our children. “The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives” (Vol. 2, p. 247).
By “discipline,” Charlotte emphasized the importance of training our children in good habits—habits that will serve them well as they grow. In fact, she likened good habits to railroad tracks that parents lay down and upon which the child may travel with ease into his adult life. Good habits are a powerful influence on our children and must play an important part in their education. “It rests with [the parent] to consider well the tracks over which the child should travel with profit and pleasure” (Vol. 1, p. 109).
By “life,” Charlotte wanted to remind us that “all the thought we offer to our children shall be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do” (Vol. 2, p. 277). And the methods that Charlotte used presented each subject’s material as living ideas. Here is where the reading, writing, and arithmetic come in, along with all the other school subjects. But notice two important points: first, they are presented as living thoughts; and second, those school subjects occupy only one-third of the big picture of education.
Some of the key methods include using "living books" as opposed to dry, factual textbooks. Living books are usually written in a narrative style and really make the subject “come alive.”
Narration (having a child tell back to you something he has just read, seen or heard) is also a core component to a Charlotte Mason education. The thinking process involved in putting something into his own words is much more complex than simply having him fill in the blank on a test.
Charlotte also advocated short lessons for younger children to help train them in the habit of attention. Along with this should come a variety of subjects, alternating the quieter, concentration-intense subjects with the louder, less-concentration-intense subjects and those that allow for physical movement and exercise.
Copywork is the method Charlotte used to give practice in handwriting skills and to help a child absorb proper grammar and language usage. The child who copies short poems, scripture passages, hymns and segments of classic literature is at the same exposed to English literature at its finest.
Charlotte spent one afternoon per week with her students outside in the fields, meadows, and woodlands. This outdoor time is the setting for nature study. Children look carefully at the viariety of nature around them and write and draw what they observe in their own nature notebooks.
So there's a very brief primer on the Charlotte Mason method. There's really so much more to it! While I don't use CM exclusively, it certainly is a main component in our own homeschooling. So when Simply Charlotte Mason announced their photo contest, I eagerly submitted a few pictures of Grace. And wonder of wonders, one was chosen as the winner to the "Child with Book or Writing" category! Here it is:
I think it really is a great picture of how homeschooling is meant to be, and I'm very pleased to have had it chosen. I got a great free ebook out of the deal, too! So to see all the outstanding photos, go to the SCM Photo Contest. And while you're there, read more about the Charlotte Mason method if you're at all interested in homeschooling. It's great.