Have you been trying to decide what homeschooling method or curriculum to use or just how to homeschool? Obviously, we like the Charlotte Mason method around here, but how does that compare to the others? And what is the difference between the many homeschooling approaches you hear about?
Well, we’re starting a new series to help you sort it out. Maybe you’ve heard or thought of questions or statements like these…
“Isn’t Charlotte Mason very similar to the classical approach?”
“I thought Charlotte Mason was unit studies.”
“So Charlotte Mason is really an unschooling method?”
“What’s the difference between Charlotte Mason and a traditional curriculum?”
We’ll take a look at these five main approaches to homeschooling and note some key similarities and differences. In other words, how is the Charlotte Mason approach different from the other four approaches: classical, unit studies, unschooling, and traditional?
Three Key Questions
To begin understanding the differences and similarities, we need to ask three key questions. (Thanks to “Bookworm” who first posted these questions on our SCM Forum! They were so helpful that I’m eager to share them with all of you.)
- How does this approach view the child?
- How does this approach define “education”?
- What does this approach say is the role of the teacher?
Charlotte Mason Answers
Today let’s review the Charlotte Mason answers to those three questions.
- How does Charlotte Mason view the child?
The child is a whole person whose education should cultivate the whole person. A child’s personality deserves respect, and his natural appetite for knowledge should be nourished.
- How does Charlotte Mason define “education”?
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.—”By this we mean that parents and teachers should know how to make sensible use of a child’s circumstances (atmosphere), should train him in habits of good living (discipline), and should nourish his mind with ideas, the food of the intellectual life” (Vol. 3, pp. 216, 217).
Education is the science of relations.—The child should form personal relations from a feast of great ideas given through a broad curriculum.
“They come into the world with many relations waiting to be established; relations with places far and near, with the wide universe, with the past of history, with the the social economics of the present, with the earth they live on and all its delightful progeny of beast and bird, plant and tree; with the sweet human affinities they entered into at birth; with their own country and other countries, and, above all, with that most sublime of human relationships––their relation to God” (Vol. 6, pp. 72, 73).
- What does Charlotte Mason say is the role of the teacher?
The teacher is a guide. She is to carefully prepare the banquet and spread the feast of living ideas by introducing the child to the great people of the past and present who thought up those ideas, then get out of the way and let the child form his own relations.
“Give children a wide range of subjects, with the end in view of establishing in each case some one or more of the relations I have indicated. Let them learn from first-hand sources of information––really good books, the best going, on the subject they are engaged upon. Let them get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with a warm diluent at the lips of their teacher. The teacher’s business is to indicate, stimulate, direct and constrain to the acquirement of knowledge, but by no means to be the fountain-head and source of all knowledge in his or her own person” (Vol. 3, p. 162).
You will find that most of the differences between homeschooling approaches center around those three key questions. And when you understand how each approach answers those questions, you will gain a greater confidence in teaching, as well as in selecting resources and planning your year of study.
We hope the next few weeks’ series will help you sort through the different homeschool approaches and have a better understanding of how you want to educate your child.