Charlotte Mason and Media

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  • ChristyH

    I have been thinking about the differences between now days and when Charlotte was writing and her method of education. Do you think her method is or can be as successful today as it was back then? To be honest, I am not sure, but I want to be. I loved books while growing, but my children don’t so much. There are so many other things that vie for their attention, video games, movies, computers, magazines and just everything. When I think back to Charlotte’s time, there probably wasn’t quite as must constant stimulation, in much all areas of life as there is now. Of course, books were a way of mentally seeing and living in different times and places, but now all we have to do is open a National Geographic or turn on the TV or call it up on the computer to see other parts of the world.

    Compare it to the grovery store. I am sure back then the basics were available most of the time, flour, butter, milk, meat, vegetables, basically the outer edges of the store these days. Now look at the middle part of the store, all of the new stuff, sort of like current times with media. Before, they had letter writing, books, and face to face talking, the good basics, now days we can talk with people anywhere on the computer at anytime. A billion tv channels at the touch of a button, 28 theatre movie houses, and all of the rest.

    Why would children be interested in nature study when we have the Animal Planet channel? Why read Oliver Twist when you can rent the movie? Why read books when you can play video games or text your friends? How do we get this method of education to co-exsist beside the technology of today? Of course, most of us still feel CM to be very relevent or we wouldn’t be here.

    What are your thoughts? How do you make it work?


    I think for us it was a matter of deciding not to have those things in order to not allow such constant stimulation. We have a TV but no channels or cable. We can only watch movies on it and that is very few and far between.

    It can be hard but you have to decide what is best for your family and work from there. For us it is no TV other than movies.

    Also, I think the most important part is developing a love of learning in our children.


    Christy, ***Long Alert*** Sorry!

    You pose some thoughtful ideas and it is good for us to reflect on just what it is we’re doing and why. God calls us to have a reason for what we believe and to be convinced in our own minds. Though He is speaking of spiritual matters, I think it applies to all areas of life. And I do think this is a very spiritual concern that you raise.

    Yes, I think a cm education can be as successful as it was then and I believe it is much more successful than what is offered today. One need only to look at average scores in the public school to see the results of what has become commonplace today. The easy-in/easy out method of studying has killed (in general…do not slay me!) the desire and ability to find answers and has made something that may seem difficult be categorized as distasteful and just not worth the effort. And we all know the brain-mush that results from the current entertainment/video game mentality. Then we could go into the isolationism/false persona that email/online relationships, etc. brings.

    So, teaching the cm way is, in my mind, valuable, but it may be more difficult than it was in her day simply because for every technological advancement we’ve made, Satan comes along with a parallel perversion. It takes much ‘eating of the grapes and spitting out the seeds.’ I say ‘may be’ because every generation has its challenges and I do not know what their particular temptations were. (I sense myself wanting to go into my ‘Satan wants our young men’ speech, but I will resist!:))

    God tells us in His word that the heavens declare the glory of God. That is reason enough to study nature up close. Yes, we could just watch the Discovery Channel, but then we’re getting worship of the creation instead of the Creator. There has been a disconnect. Now, do we watch it? Occassionally, but I’m eagle-eyed for distortions. It is, however, a wonderful opportunity to ask our children, ‘Now if the heavens declare the glory…and this is a nature show…are we seeing God glorified here? Why/why not?’ Then it becomes a Worldview course :).

    How do we make it work? One thing we do is talk a lot. A whole lot. On my part it takes a lot of vigilance and I do get lots of opportunities to repent when I allow my guard to slip. Also lots of sitting together, learning to use these wonderful tools, like the internet, in a cm way.

    It truly is a heart issue on the part of the children. We just keep pointing them to God and reminding them that as they delight in the Lord, He will give them the desires of their hearts. God did not make a mistake in their parentage. ‘The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea I have a goodly heritage.’ Where God has them is good. Maybe tough, but that’s because He has a plan for their life that includes learning to deal with me.

    God calls us to live a quiet life and work with our hands. As we pray for our families and our homeschool, He will reveal to us what is ‘quiet’ and what is not. You know, it just occurred to me that, speaking of working with our hands, we could use the example of gardening instead of Charlotte Mason. Why on earth, if not for the cost benefit, would we do that if we can go down the street and get whatever we want?




    I second Shanna. We eliminated TV from our diet. Amazingly, once the TV’s gone, all the other distractions seem to go with it. They don’t even realize there are all these other things out there that could be occupying their time. Video, or electronic toys, only interest them for short periods. My DD’s would rather be outside digging in the dirt, climbing trees or playing some imaginary games. They prefer to listen to an audio story or book while working on a current handicraft, then watching a TV program.

    The media has such a heavy influence. We don’t even realize it most the time. We are “perimeter shoppers” at the grocery store. We just don’t think to go in the middle. Without media influence, we don’t realize what is there. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if I like such and such, or tried this or that and hadn’t the faintest idea what they were talking about (and by keeping it simple, our grocery budget stretches so much further).

    We have a very large screen TV, but nothing plays on ours but carefully selected movies. We subscribe to Netflix and particularly enjoy the nature movies, symphonies & ballets. It’s wonderful to see places or things we are studying almost like you would a theater. Even though this didn’t exist when Charlotte lived, I feel like she would have utilized it…in proper boundaries. It’s just a small portion of our week.

    We have an electronic game we used for our math facts, too. It took us from struggling to success in a very short time. Again, I think when kept within proper boundaries, today’s advancements can enhance the learning experience greatly. We kept it to 10-15 minute sessions a couple times a week.

    I homeschooled my now married son with a well known boxed curriculum. It was touted as “the best” and taught in almost every Christian school. He was so “school fatigued” by the time he graduated, he couldn’t stand the thought of college. Only now, 5 years later, is he enrolled. My DD’s have been taught the CM way since the beginning. Their enthusiasm is contagious, the volume of information they have already stored is astounding and their passion for their world is humbling. The discovery of a new bloom is nothing short of a miracle in their eyes.

    As an older mom this round, I appreciate the beauty and simplicity of Charlotte’s methods. I’m thankful for a second chance, for stumbling on her books and that even though we do live in a chaotic, busy, over-stimulating environment…we can still raise our children in blessed peace.



    I will keep my reply short ..

    We also have 1 TV for the kids and we use it to watch well suited movies. We don’t allow them time to just do whatever. They have free time but that is to do things like build w/ legos, play a game together. Sunday through Saturday at night we have “theme” nights. Like tonight is One-On-One night. Where we have 1 child (we have 5 total) who gets to spend 1 hour w/ us doing something special. The other children are to spend a quiet night alone in there bedroom. Just an example.

    Someone mentioned about if you don’t know it’s there you can’t “want” it. That is so true w/o a TV to influence the kids to think they “need” this toy or want that cereal. For Christmas my parents wanted to know what my boys wanted (10 and under) and they said, I don’t know. The oldest did suggest $$, but not to spend he’s saving for a 40lb compound bow.

    So I don’t think the media has to interfer unless we let it. But that’s my 2 cents.



    I don’t own a tv, and as vegetarians I think our diet is pretty healthy.

    I’m grateful for many modern conveniences, including some electronic gadgets, but CM methods are very relevant in our world. The ability to concentrate, to show patience and diligence, to be curious and delighted with deep (not superficial) knowledge, to be hardworking and polite and truthful, to be healthy and physically fit…these things still matter very, very much. I see these habits supported by the CM method. I don’t see these skills supported by frequent TV viewing or googling.


    I think it simply goes back to balance. The one on one (or 3 on 1–however many children you have) is what they need more than staring at a TV/movie which does all the imagining for them. My kids often get upset over “another book!” I often tell that to my kids-half joking, half serious. I want them to understand that the book allows that imagination to grow wild and if they have already seen the dipiction on TV, then they have been robbed of the joy to create the image for themselves. Does that make any sense?! Make a game out of reading a book on a given subject first and then see it in a movie and ask them how what they imagined was different from what they saw. I also like to do this (as in your question with Oliver Twist) to see if they can find what the movie missed or changed from the original writing. And if they thought it was a change that mattered to the telling of the story or was it a crucial misstep on the movie’s part.

    But in the end, it is all about balance. Balancing our beliefs with the worlds. Balancing books with electronics. Balance!


    I already posted on this thread but I just wanted to add that I am not completely against modern media and electronics. I am on the internet right now, afterall! I want to make sure I’m not giving the impression that I look down my nose at tvs and such. Even if my family doesn’t have a tv, we watch dvds on my laptop, and my relatives all watch tv and I never say a word about it when we visit because it’s not that big of an issue to me. I love our lives without tv, but I don’t expect everyone to do what I do.

    And I am super grateful for the internet when it comes to connecting to other homescholers. My hats off to the parents who homeschooled in the days before the ‘net. I doubt I would know about Charlotte Mason if I hadn’t stumbed across information on the internet! How glad I was to discover her.

    I think CM methods remain relevant and can be easily managed in today’s electronic and fast-paced world. That’s all I really meant to say. 🙂


    Well we have Tv and even video games. Video games are basically limited to weekends only and if you haven’t sported attitude much during the week. We have movie nights on Friday and we rent old tv shows for Saturday morning, like Leave it to Beaver. Otherwise we try to restrict viewing. Although DH likes to watch football and he uses an escape channel, like discovery or animal planet, for them when commercials come. (SInce the Detriot Lions did so poorly, he is failry disgusted with football and won’t watch right now. LOL)

    Perhaps my expectations were wrong. I loved books as a child and I always thought my children would, especially homeschool children. My dd, who is 11, only just started enjoying reading over Christmas break, because Grandma got her a Cat Warrior series. She liked it so much that her younger brother of 7, read one by himself also. I was sooo pleased just so see then read voluntarily.

    We had done Ambleside before and they just tuned out. They said the books were too hard and not interesting. I miss doing a more CM way of school and wanted to start adding more again, but I thought maybe having so much even just surrounding us had made the books not interesting to them.


    Well, we have TV (no cable, though!) and video games too, and I agree with all the other comments that limiting and balancing these activities is crucial. It can sometimes be difficult to stick to it, I know. But as to why would a child want to read a book when they could just watch the movie – or why do nature study when they can see animal planet . . . it seems to me that these are two separate things and one is not a replacement for the other. My kids and the kids I interact with on a regular basis (neighbors, relatives, my brownie troop) all respond to these activities (listening to read-alouds and nature study) when we are fully engaged in them TOGETHER. I think that is the key. They won’t read Minn of the Mississippi on their own, but they beg for more when we read it together. They won’t identify wildflowers on their own, but if we are side by side with a book and a magnifying glass they will stay at it for a long time.

    Now that said, there is a range of interest level and attention level among these children, including one child that hates listening to anything read aloud. So everyone’s family is different. For me, for now, I love how CM method structure our day, and if I have to read each book aloud for ever, I will.

    If AO booklist didn’t work for your kids, try some fun lighter books to get them into the listening habit. Look at the books from Queen Homeschooling. We are doing american history with some of these light books, like Ben and Me, and the kids love it and we are learning alot. Honestly, the AO booklist is overwhelming to me and I do think some of these archaic books can be great for the experienced listener, but there are so many great books out there that I can choose those that I think will hold our interest.

    I hope you are able to get to where you want to be!

    As for nature study, if you want to inspire yourself to try hard, read “Last child in the woods” by Richard Louv. It made me determined to keep at this over time – it’s important.

    BTW thanks for mentioning that cat warrior series – I put it on my amazon wish list for my daughter’s birthday. They look great!

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