Charlotte Mason and the Early Years

When N was on the way, I started researching home education. (Can you say ‘planner’?) Blogs of home educating parents mesmerized me. I saw home education as an opportunity to have a flexible schedule, to live in any number of countries, and to protect my kids from the ‘carrot and stick’ education that I had growing up with. I quickly realized that home education offered almost infinite choices in terms of curriculum, philosophy and method. I set to work trawling the internet, looking for something that spoke to me.

Some philosophies had spiritual undertones at odds with our Christian faith. Some curricula made me feel like we would risk brainwashing our children, even though the curricula were Christian. Some looked too formal and strict, full of worksheets and tests. Unschooling felt too open-ended to fit with my personality. I wanted something simple, that recognized the importance of the outdoors, and that still gave me structure and certainty that my children would receive a well-rounded education.

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‘A Daily Diet of Ideas’

And then I discovered Charlotte Mason. Her thoughts on living books, a rich, broad and well-balanced curriculum, nature study and so on captivated me. I felt increasingly confident that by adopting her philosophy, Carl and I could raise children who could think critically and creatively, problem-solve, form well-reasoned opinions, appreciate the outdoors, the arts, and literature, and have a strong foundation in our faith (without having been indoctrinated).

“Children are born with all the curiosity they will ever need. It will last a lifetime if they are fed upon a daily diet of ideas.”

And with that quote, the vision for my children’s education was cast.

‘When can I start?’ I asked next. I knew kids benefit from a delayed start to formal academics, but I still felt a bit crestfallen to find out the answer: around age six. My oldest wasn’t even born yet. I would have to be patient. In the meantime, I started to follow some Charlotte Mason bloggers and picked up a few books. I wanted to enjoy my son’s earliest years, while still preparing for home educating.

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Charlotte Mason for the Early Years

I started to look for what Charlotte Mason said about young children. What makes the best foundation for formal education? What should I start doing now to make it easier later? Fortunately Miss Mason isn’t silent on the topic. Neither is the internet – many people have posted their ‘Charlotte Mason Preschool’ curricula online. (Although I’m not quite sure there is really such a thing).

So what exactly does Miss Mason say? How can we apply it? Is it relevant or out of touch with modern research and philosophies of parenting, child development and education?

I am starting a semi-regular series of posts that explore all of those questions. If you are enchanted by Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and have young children, I hope you will find this relevant and easily applicable. Even if you aren’t set on Charlotte Mason education, but plan to postpone formal academics until age six, seven or later, I think it will be really helpful.

Posts in this series

  1. Charlotte Mason and the Early Years (you are here!)
  2. Understanding Your Child as a Whole Person
  3. What should young children do all day?
  4. A Classic Case for Parenting Slowly
  5. Practicing Masterly Inactivity with your Toddler

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