Discussing the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, step by step throughout each Charlotte Mason principle has been a delight. Diving deep into each facet of the philosophy has proven a treasure trove of meaningful and practical steps to a Charlotte Mason education. Let’s now turn our hearts and minds towards Charlotte Mason Principle 8: Education is a Life.
Before we begin, if you are just discovering Everyday Graces Homeschool and/or Charlotte Mason for the first time, you may want to pause and review our Charlotte Mason 20 Principles Guide. These Charlotte Mason summaries will help give you a glimpse into the wonderful world of CM education!
Now let’s grab a cup of strong tea and learn more from our favourite British educator.
Charlotte Mason Philosophy is a 3 Part Succinct Statement
To recap, the Charlotte Mason approach to a living education consists of 3 simple precepts. This bold saying of “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” is a succinct summation of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. The 3 concise and compelling words are the perfect combination to cause us to pause and to want to dig deeper into the insight of this educator.
Charlotte Mason Principle 8: Education is a Life
In saying that “education is a life,” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.
What does Charlotte Mason’s Principle 8 mean? Essentially, all education should be intertwined with the body, soul and spirit. It’s not the 3 R’s but rather it is a broad feast of curriculum that appeals to every facet of our 3-part human system: Physical, Mental, and Spiritual.
Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food. Probably he will reject nine-tenths of the ideas we offer, as he makes use of only a small proportion of his bodily food, rejecting the rest. He is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety and his to take what he needs. ~ Towards a Philosophy of Education, Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason Physical Feast
We need to feed our children with physical sustenance that allows their bodies to grow and be fit. Feeding our children varied natural foods like meat, vegetables, grains, and fruit is necessary to produce energy, enthusiasm, and excitement throughout the day. Charlotte Mason even had recommendations on diet! You can read about them here. Some are surprisingly accurate and others don’t hold up to modern research, but it’s still very much worth the read.
In addition, building our kids’ physical bodies is very easy to maintain when keeping them active outside each day as much as possible. They’ll enjoy the fresh air, interesting insects, and anything that God’s nature provides each day. “Every walk should offer some knotty problem for the children to think out, ‘Why does that leaf float on the water, and this pebble sink?’ and so on.” as Charlotte Mason so easily puts it.
Utilizing Swedish Drill for intra-day activity was also something Charlotte Mason instituted. A child (and adults, too!) needs movement and to get their blood flowing again after seat work. It does the body and the mind good. Whether you do organized physical activity or simply let your children be silly and get their wiggles out for a few minutes between seat work subjects, you will find that it makes the day and attitudes better all around. Swedish Drill is especially beneficial to children who have difficulty attending to lessons with diligence as the focus on command/pause/execute helps create a better habit of attention to entire commands rather than just the first portion. Activity also boosts dopamine levels which help keep us focused and enjoying tasks.
Charlotte Mason Mental Feast
As Charlotte Mason educators, we can provide the necessary mind food and exercise with a plethora of ideas. As Charlotte Mason put it in Towards a Philosophy of Education,
What is an idea? we ask, and find ourselves plunged beyond our depth. A live thing of the mind, seems to be the conclusion of our greatest thinkers from Plato to Bacon, from Bacon to Coleridge. We all know how an idea ‘strikes,’ ‘seizes,’ ‘catches hold of,’ ‘impresses’ us and at last, if it be big enough, ‘possesses’ us; in a word, behaves like an entity.
If we enquire into any person’s habits of life, mental preoccupation, devotion to a cause or pursuit, he will usually tell us that such and such an idea struck him. This potency of an idea is matter of common recognition. No phrase is more common and more promising than, ‘I have an idea’; we rise to such an opening as trout to a well-chosen fly. There is but one sphere in which the word idea never occurs, in which the conception of an idea is curiously absent, and that sphere is education! Look at any publisher’s list of school books and you shall find that the books recommended are carefully dessicated, drained of the least suspicion of an idea, reduced to the driest statements of fact. Here perhaps the Public Schools have a little pull over the rest of us–the diet they afford may be meagre, meagre almost to starvation point for the average boy, but it is not destitute of ideas; for, however sparsely, boys are nourished on the best thoughts of the best minds.
The practice of introducing these ideas may include utilizing the following materials alongside Charlotte Mason methodology:
- Living Books – Living books are written by a precise and passionate author. They may be fiction or non-fiction but they do not “talk down” to the child. There is no presupposition that the minds who will be reading (or read to) the subject matter are not worthy of big ideas and creating those glorious connections that the CM method lends itself to. No dry, dull, boring textbooks, please.
- Narration – In oral or written form, once a child has read his or her passage, they tell it back to the teacher in a way that allows them to sequentially process the story in their own words.
- Dictation – Practicing spelling in a non-traditional way by extracting sentences from their reading passages and studying them, word for word. Then, ask your student to write it down from memory.
- Nature Study – Studying God’s creation by sketching and writing in a journal your observations.
- Copywork – Writing or copying from their reading passages in a notebook or journal.
- Art and Music Study – This can include studying types of amazing Art, reading beautiful styles of Poetry, reading about a talented Artist, or learning about a brilliant Composer. Art and music lessons are also a boon to the young mind’s feast of ideas.
Mason’s Spiritual Feast
As we build our child’s person the most important aspect is the spiritual needs we must feed. This encompasses the following:
- Read the Bible – Teach God’s Word by reading the Bible to your children every day. Use teachable moments to remind them of Scripture’s teaching. When they are older and can read on their own, give them passages that help them understand their Creator and utilize studies to help them dig deeper and understand theology more. Help them be Bereans.
- Pray Together – Pray together as a family as you start the day, during meals, and when you end the day. It gives your child a great example and routine to follow, plus, it helps them remember how to pray. If you need resources to help you pray, we enjoy the ACTS prayer method and the helpful cards from Not Consumed.
- Quiet Time – When your child is old enough to speak, they can begin talking to God and telling them their fears and learning to pray for others. When a child is more mature, they can begin to read a devotional and Bible selections while journaling their thoughts, ideas, and learning how to apply Scripture to their own life.
- Service – Help your children learn to serve others early and with pleasure. Allow them to make snacks for the family when they are little, encourage them to rake neighbors’ leaves as they grow older, and when someone drops something in the store point out the opportunity to help and one day you’ll notice them seeing these opportunities on their own. Being part of your local church community, Trail Life/ American Heritage Girls, and youth groups also offer many opportunities for them to learn the value of serving others.
Final Thoughts on Education is a Life
As Charlotte Mason followers, we should continuously put a feast of education in front of our children within the home and outside of the home. Charlotte Mason Principle 8 – Education is a Life truly means our lives should exemplify nourished beings- body, mind, and soul. Charlotte Mason believed that “An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing.” We should continue on with this tradition through living books, living things, and the Living Word.