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Summer Reading - books for all ages.
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Charlotte Mason Study Guide


Charlotte Mason Study Guide

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Publisher: Penny Gardner

Author: Penny Gardner

List Price: $10.00

Ages: Adult

Reviewed By: Jean Hall

I can't remember exactly how I was introduced to Charlotte Mason's educational method. I do know that I was at the end of my rope, or at least at the end of a five-year, fruitless search for something that would work with our struggling eldest child. Not knowing anything else, we'd first tried the textbook approach - ordering all the student and teacher books every second-grade subjects from a major Christian textbook publisher. (We'd start school after breakfast and still be plugging away at dinnertime. I'd heard homeschoolers could get through their work in half the time it took their public-schooled counterparts, but it wasn't working that way.)

Next, we tried Unit Studies, but it was a little frustrating with an only child. I think it might have worked if we'd co-oped with one or more other families, but no one I knew was using the unit study method. And there was that specter of mandatory state testing hanging over our heads, always threatening to "remand" our precious child back into the system that had failed her miserably in the first place.

Then I heard of Charlotte Mason, a British educator born in the 1800s, whose techniques were the talk of homeschool circles. I started to read her six-volume set, but with a baby and a toddler, in addition to our older daughter, there wasn't much time for chewing and digesting such rich food for thought.

A friend introduced me to the Charlotte Mason Study Guide, telling me that it would help me to organize my exploration of Miss Mason's educational approach, that I might be able to put some techniques into action right away. This slim volume extracts from Miss Mason's writings, and the writings of others about her and her methods, condensing the information into small, chewable bites. I'm not saying this book takes the place of Miss Mason's six-volume set, but it's a good introduction, especially for a busy mom with a lot of irons in the fire.

It was from the Charlotte Mason Study Guide that I first learned about narration, which is, in simple terms, "telling back" or repeating in one's own words what has been read or otherwise experienced. (The book contains quotes from Miss Mason about narration, along with essays by present-day homeschoolers on using narration and sample narrations from the Gardner family.) I introduced narration into our struggling learner's school day, during our read-aloud time, without changing anything else. I was astonished at the results; within six weeks, her writing gained in power and vividness and she began to employ adjectives and adverbs in a natural, unforced manner. Her reading comprehension improved as dramatically.

The book is divided into twenty "Study Topics," beginning with an introduction to Charlotte Mason. Taken in order, the reader proceeds through foundational material (the child, discipline, habit, ideas, education in theory and practice). The latter half of the book concerns itself with academic subjects interspersed with discussion of such topics as will and reason, method and philosophy. However, if you're only familiar with education from textbooks, you'll find academics are handled in a very different way than you're used to. Miss Mason was keen on the student's making connections, relating the information they take in. She advocated an approach geared to kindle interest in the learner. She used `real books' (written by knowledgeable authors enthusiastic about their subject), exposed her students to great art and music, advocated lots of outdoor time and `masterly inactivity' (part of which entails giving the child time to dream dreams and think their own thoughts).

The Study Guide introduced me to topics fairly new in homeschooling circles at the time (e.g. narration, copywork, habit, art and music study), gave me enough information to whet my appetite, and then gave references where I could find more in the six-volume set. I was also introduced to further reading, of which I best remember Catherine Levison's A Charlotte Mason Education, which gave me the practical information I needed to use these methods. And I got a bonus; as I saw the results of narration, copywork, timelines, and art study, I was also able to re-visit Charlotte Mason's own writings with more understanding, to work out my own agreement and disagreement with some of her statements.

Charlotte Mason Study Guide is not meant as a substitute for reading what Charlotte Mason wrote on education, but serves well as an introduction for those who have heard "great things" about this methodology, but don't have the time to read through six volumes (right now, anyhow) to figure out how to use it.

There are only a couple of things that bother me. Many it cites many other books, but I'd love to see an organized bibliography with author and publisher information, if only to make book searches easier. I also wish that the book were indexed, making it easier to find specific information.

Those two grumbles aside, I still find the Charlotte Mason Study Guide a valuable tool when I'm looking for a quick refresher on a specific topic, and recommend the book as an introduction to Miss Mason's writings. The book's design also makes it a useful tool for a discussion group, as it is set up with the information divided into "study topics."
More Information
Available From: Penny Gardner
Address: 1128 N. 70 E., American Fork, UT 84003
Other Notes:
Purchase Now From the Eclectic Homeschool Resource Center
Jean Hall
Jean Hall, a Christian home educator with three daughters, enjoys writing stories and music. Her family's interests include reading together, art, gardening, volkswalking and pets: two cats and a Giant Schnauzer.
Copyright © 2007 Eclectic Homeschool Association
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