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Last time we started a discussion about STEM education and how it aligns with a Charlotte Mason education. If you haven’t yet read that post, I encourage you to do that.
Today we want to continue that discussion by looking at how a Charlotte Mason education can help prepare a student to pursue a STEM career. If your child does have a bent toward science, technology, engineering, or math, a Charlotte Mason education will give him or her a solid foundation as well as some unique advantages for further studies in that direction.
Let me give you ten ways a Charlotte Mason education can prepare a student for success in a STEM field.
1. STEM studies emphasize creative problem solving. With a Charlotte Mason education you spread a feast of a wide range of subjects and encourage your student to form relations in many directions. That broad base gives your student an ever-expanding storehouse of ideas from which to draw and build upon. The more ideas and subjects that your student connects with, the larger the reservoir he will have to fuel his own ideas and solutions to problems.
2. The stories of people’s lives in history, Bible, and literature help your child internalize solid life principles and good values. In other words, they instruct the student’s conscience. An instructed conscience is crucial in all of life but especially in STEM areas, as decisions need to be made about not just what technology can do but whether it should and why or why not. Those who go into science, technology, engineering, or mathematics as a career in the future will be faced with hard decisions that require foundational principles and values that are deeply set in that person’s heart, that won’t be swayed by majority opinions. We talked more about this aspect of a Charlotte Mason education last time in that previous post. It’s a very important part of your child’s education.
3. Art and music studies cultivate your child’s tastes for what is good and beautiful. Those personal tastes will come into play in STEM careers as people decide what their creations will look like and sound like. Art and music are powerful carriers of messages, and too much of it these days carries messages that are less than noble. With the art and music studies in a Charlotte Mason education, you can simply and consistently cultivate your child’s beauty sense and encourage him to use those media for good.
4. The way that a Charlotte Mason education approaches science and mathematics encourages a high level of understanding. The student is given the responsibility for doing the work. He can’t just slide through the course depending on the teacher to carry him. The emphasis is on personal knowledge and comprehension, and students are challenged to grasp the why behind the how—not just to memorize dry facts or formulas. That level of deep understanding is crucial for STEM fields.
5. Most likely, some STEM problem-solving will relate to the environment and nature in the world. A Charlotte Mason education gives the student firsthand experience with nature through nature walks and nature studies. That personal relationship with nature then fosters a desire to respect it and care for it. It’s hard to care about something that you don’t have a personal relationship with. Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on nature study gives students that personal connection and encourages them to tread softly and respectfully with nature, not just to manipulate it.
6. As technology continues to connect people around the world, it becomes increasingly important for those working in STEM fields to have a sense of global awareness and respect for other people’s histories and cultures. A Charlotte Mason education equips the student for that through living geography and history studies as well as through foreign languages. Remember, Charlotte encouraged students to learn more than one foreign language. That’s just a natural part of a Charlotte Mason education.
7. Another natural part of a Charlotte Mason education is handicraft work. Charlotte believed that children should have the opportunity to form personal relations with all kinds of materials in the world. They should have regular opportunities to work with various materials and discover for themselves how wood and paper and yarn and metal and different kinds of fabric feel and move and work together. For a student interested in science or engineering or mathematics, that kind of hands-on, real-world experience is invaluable.
8. High on the list of necessary skills for the twenty-first century—in STEM fields and any other field—is communication. Students who are given a Charlotte Mason education have an advantage in that area because of the method of narration. Consistent narration cultivates within your student the ability to listen or read attentively with a desire to understand and to restate accurately, mixing in his personal thoughts on the matter as well. And those communication skills are practiced daily both orally and in writing for years until they become second nature. Which brings us to . . .
9. In this information age, those who work in STEM areas especially will need to have the desire and the skills to continue learning for themselves. If they want to stay current with new developments, self-education will be a key. Well, self-education is one of the main objectives of a Charlotte Mason education.The methods that are used in a Charlotte Mason approach equip the student with tools to do self-education and the desire to keep learning. What are those tools? I’ve written a whole series of blog posts about them, but the short version is this: the six tools for self-education are read attentively, observe carefully, restate accurately, record what you’ve learned, memorize and share, and use what you’ve learned to create something of your own. A person can use those tools to learn just about anything, and a Charlotte Mason education gives the student consistent practice with those tools every day. Check out the link to learn more.
10. Another integral part of a Charlotte Mason education is the cultivation of good habits. The methods are designed to support and encourage these habits. And parent-teachers are challenged to integrate those habits into everyday family life, as well, until they become a very part of who that child is becoming. What Charlotte Mason approached as habits, we often call character traits. And that makes sense because a person’s habits form his character. Some of the habits that a Charlotte Mason education instills within a student are the habit of attention, the habit of truthfulness, of close observation, of accuracy, of thoroughness, of diligence, of candor, kindness, thankfulness, and many others. In a Charlotte Mason approach, good habits that lead to solid character are not just an add-on, they are an integral part of everyday life.
So those are ten ways that I see a Charlotte Mason education preparing a student to succeed in a STEM field of study. And may I throw in just one more? The daily schedule of schoolwork that Charlotte advocated protects the afternoons as time for the students to pursue personal interests. If your student excels in any of the STEM subjects and is eager for more, those free afternoons are prime time for her or him to dive into any area of STEM and dig deeper.
I know Charlotte Mason homeschoolers who used their afternoons to learn computer programming, to make movies with claymation and with real people, to gain experience with animal training and health, to create board games, and to build inventions in the backyard. There is no limit to the learning that can take place with the combination of Charlotte Mason-style studies in the morning and time to explore personal interests in the afternoon. It’s a winning combination, and it will prepare your child well for a future in STEM or in any other field that child wants to pursue.