If you have heard about the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and wonder why it appeals to so many homeschool families you can read my post Ten Reasons To Choose Charlotte Mason. This post is also part of the Homeschooling Voices column.
Charlotte Mason is now a household name in the homeschool community – much more so than twelve years ago when I first read The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Andreola’s book is still a common gateway for many to begin learning about this style of education, but if the reader does not move beyond the Companion their understanding of CM’s ideas is shallow and their ability to implement her philosophy is limited. Below are what I consider ten of the best resources to begin a deeper learning about who Mason was, what her ideas were, and what they mean for education today (indeed – all education is self education):
#1 Mason’s 6 Volume Series
It may seem overwhelming – 6 dense volumes written in 19th century English, but it is really best to begin at the beginning – straight from the horses mouth so to speak. Should you begin with Volume 1 and read them straight through? It depends on where you are in your homeschool journey and how much time you are willing to commit to reading Mason.
In general, especially if your children are preschool age or younger I recommend reading these three selections, and if you like what you’ve read then by all means set yourself a reading or study plan or find a group to read and study with:
Volume 1 Home Education; part II: “Out-of-Door Life for the Children” (almost 50pp)
Volume 6 Self Education: “Self Education” (10pp)
Volume 3 School Education; Chapter XV: “School-Books and How They Make For Education” (9pp)
If you do not own or have access to The Original Homeschool Series at your library you can read a version annotated by Ambleside Online. If you find that the language of Mason’s writing keeps you from understanding her ideas you can try Leslie Laurio’s paraphrased version: Home Education in Mondern English.
#2 For The Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
This small book paints the quickest and most clear picture of what a Charlotte Mason education is. The subtitle, “Foundations of Education for Home and School”, is a good summary of the content. This book was a catalyst for the exploding homeschool movement here in the US, but it was never meant to be a book for homeschoolers – it was meant to be a book for parents. If you read nothing else, you should read this one.
#3 Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner
I don’t hear or see Penny Gardner’s book mentioned very much, but I have found it an invaluable resource – especially in my early years of homeschooling and learning about Charlotte Mason. In the early days at the beginning of Catherine Levinson’s popularity, before Simply Charlotte Mason, and when Ambleside Online was but a sapling of the grand oak of information it is today, Penny provided a very simple topical study of Mason for the beginner without summarizing or paraphrasing too much. I used this book as an index of sorts because it pulls together selections from all the volumes pertaining to certain ideas – like narration. I would read the section in Gardner and then go to volume references she listed and read more broadly. In this way I could study a topic – like narration without having to read the volumes from cover to cover.
#4 Ambleside Online
Ambleside Online is the Grand Central Station for all things Charlotte Mason, but it’s vastness can be overwhelming for the beginner. They have done an excellent job in the last few years indexing the site and collecting excellent archived forum posts to help answer the questions all beginners have. I suggest that you begin with the Introduction to Ambleside Online and pay attention when they say that their curriculum will not give your child a Charlotte Mason Education. It’s true, they have one of the richest curriculum’s available, but you have to understand Mason’s philosophy and put it into practice WITH a good curriculum. You can dump all the ingredients for a cake into a pan and pop it into an oven, but a cake it will not make! In other words, a Charlotte Mason education is more than a bibliography of good books.
#5 Charlotte Mason Institute (formerly ChildLight USA) Conferences
Charlotte Mason conferences were held at Gardner Webb University from 2009-2012 under the names CME3T and ChildLight USA with people traveling from all over the world to attend. In 2013 regional conferences began and you can keep abreast with those at the Charlotte Mason Institute site.
At these conferences you will find a rich community of educators with a wealth of knowledge and experience of Charlotte Mason’s ideas and practice. However, it is best to go with an understanding that these are not homeschool conferences. Homeschoolers are there in great numbers, but there are also public, private and charter school teachers as well as administrators and students pursuing Masters and Doctoral studies in education. This is a group of people who have a heart for the education of children and believe that Charlotte Mason’s ideas warrant a voice in the education of all children – not just homeschooled children.
These are intense weekends full of both theory and practice but also plant ideas and inspiration that will fuel you for months and days to come (once you recover that is). It is a good place to go if you are confident homeschooling is how you plan to educate your children and you know a bit about Charlotte Mason and her ideas appeal to you, or if you are committed to the Mason philosophy and need some help and encouragement. If you are only considering homeschool and aren’t confident that this is how you can best educate your children I recommend that you attend a regional or state homeschool conference and while you are there see if there are any sessions offered on Charlotte Mason.
#6 Education is an Atmosphere by Bobby Scott from When Children Love to Learn
I do not say lightly that with the exception of For The Children’s Sake the most influential thing I have read (and continue to read) in terms of shaping my ideas about the CM philosophy is Bobby Scott’s ‘Education Is An Atmosphere’ from When Children Love to Learn. (This is an excellent Book with essays from some of the most influential thinkers in the Mason community. It does however have more of an emphasis on the school community and therefor can sometimes leave beginning homeschoolers wondering how these ideas can work in a homeschool.)
This essay is one of my most dog-eared and marked. I have also had the privilege of sitting in on Bobby’s breakout session at one of the ChildLight USA conferences in which I came away with tears and was greatly moved. When I find myself discouraged in my homeschool journey, frustrated with myself or my children I find much strength in Bobby’s words. He cuts to the quick of my heart and I cannot help but be convicted once again and yet encouraged to repent and begin again anew.
For those who may not know, Bobby Scott is the Headmaster of Perimeter School in Atlanta. If you have the opportunity to meet Bobby or listen to one of his talks don’t hesitate.
#7 Eve Anderson DVDs
Eve Anderson was a teacher trained in Mason’s college (which I think continued as a program under Cumbria College). She taught in a PNEU school and during both Macaulay’s and Andreola’s early interest in Mason she was sought out as a primary source and living example of Mason’s philosophies in action. She gave interviews and even traveled to the states to give instructive lessons in Nature Study, Narration and Picture Study at Bobby Scott’s Perimiter School in Atlanta. They have been helpful for many of us to see a master teacher in action. You can order the DVD’s from Perimeter School
, but note their shopping cart is not working, so you must call to place your order.
#8 Sage Parnassus
Sage Parnassus is the beautiful and informative blog of Nancy Kelly (who is also beautiful and informative). Nancy has been involved in the Mason community for many years leading a study group of Mason’s six volumes, has graduated two students from her school, has run a long standing Charlotte Mason aesthetics co-op called Truth Beauty Goodness and now also has a small tutorial for the high school years called The Hive. She also offers her own Living Education Retreat (which I hope to attend one day) and consulting services for those who want to talk with her about specific situations they are facing in their own schools.
If you don’t already follow Nancy’s blog I suggest you add it to your feed reader. Below are three favorite posts:
She also has a helpful resources page – Living Education Resources.
#9 Learning From the Wrens by Beth Pinckney of Ebenezer Stories
Beth is a close personal friend, but in the area of homeschooling I have always looked toward her as an example. She has graduated six children using Mason as a guiding philosophy in her homes school Her children have gone on not only to have academic success but are leading creative lives of servanthood and help me see the fruit of perseverance. Her blog is more about quilting and reading these days, but her post Learning From the Wrens is an encouragement to me as are some of her other educational posts if you search the archives.
#10 Other CM Blogs
I’ll begin a list of other Mason related blogs that I’m aware of here and update it periodically. If you would like to submit a blog to the list make a suggestion in the comments section:
Aut 2 B Home in Carolina
The Common Room
Fisher Academy, International
Handbook of Nature Study
Harmony Art Mom
Higher Up and Further In
Twice Blessed Co-Op
Where the Blacktop Ends
The Winding Ascent
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