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Clarifying Some Charlotte Mason Misunderstandings

Charlotte Mason’s methods and practices are often misinterpreted –sometimes deliberately– so, it’s very important to have these ideas clarified. In general, most curriculum writers, bloggers, etc. remind their readers that their products or articles are based on ideas which were inspired by Charlotte Mason, or that they include some features but not all. These reminders are essential, because it’s absolutely wrong to misrepresent someone else’s ideas –especially, someone like Charlotte Mason, who devoted so much of her life to education and educational ideas.

Here are just some of the many misinterpretations:

One certain publisher regularly refers to their teacher guide as one which “is inspired by the Charlotte Mason method of education: reading, reasoning, relating, and recording”. This is not a Charlotte Mason method –this is the Principle Approach! These are different and the statement should be corrected.

Copywork or transcription is not based on the idea that someone can arbitrarily choose some famous quotes or Bible verses and sell these as copywork selections. Transcription is more than this.

Charlotte Mason did not expect or recommend that children use a quoted selection from a book or poem to double as both copywork and dictation. Students should not copy a few sentences and then use these exact same sentences or, even some of them, as the dictation selection a couple of days later. There are some curriculum writers who have chosen to approach copywork and dictation this way, but it is not the same as the studied dictation used by Ms. Mason.

A curriculum based almost exclusively on historical fiction books, arranged by time period, is not a true Charlotte Mason curriculum. There seems to be a pervading thought that only historical fiction books are living books.

A Charlotte Mason education is not meant to be “light and gentle”. This education is not achieved by just having children read a bunch of books and then going on to tell “Mom” about them. There is a lot of work involved in presenting this type of education to children. Pre-reading the many books in the curriculum is important. If you are too busy or overwhelmed to pre-read the majority of the books, then use a curriculum –such as, A Mind in the Light, where the pre-reading has been done for you and the reading set-ups for each chapter or reading section are included.

If any of these variations or approaches is preferred, then certainly, include or use them as they best fit your family. It is not a criticism of the methods, but a clarification that they are not synonymous with Charlotte Mason which inspires this article. We are all doing the best that we can, but please be aware of what methods and practices you are using and what they are actually representing. And sellers, creators and article writers, please do the same. Accuracy in word choice and in idea representation does matter, even in this age of information overload and overabundance.

Knowing your own educational philosophy is the key to achieving a sense of peace in homeschooling children. The absolute best way to know more about Charlotte Mason’s thoughts, methods and practices is to read her books and writings. The second-best way is to read articles written by writers who research her writings [and those of the PNEU] and document their articles.

There are numerous articles at the website [A Mind in the Light] which expand and explain –often in great detail –the methods of transcription and dictation as well as notes about living books; please feel free to read more about these methods. There is also a forum at the website where questions can be asked and ideas and thoughts shared among fellow homeschoolers.


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