“We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children…”
Charlotte Mason claimed there is no secular education. Culturally speaking, we're often pressured to compartmentalize school and religion into separate aspects of life, but Charlotte Mason believed that all knowledge is sacred. In her third volume she states, “We do not merely give a religious education, because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine and comes from above, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all knowledge is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” (School Education, p. 95)
"The habits of the child produce the character of the man."
Habit formation is a cornerstone of CM’s philosophy. Nearly a century ahead of her time, she understood the science (which was revolutionary during her time) behind habit formation and the brain. She likened habit formation to the tracks of a railroad. She implores parents and educators to take the time to intentionally cultivate habits of virtue and good character; for it is those habits that will set the trajectory for a child’s education. She urged parents to focus on the habits of attention, obedience and truthfulness in the early years of a child’s life. Everyday tasks (such as getting dressed or making a meal) rely on habits. Therefore, if parents take the time to endow children with good habits in every aspect of life, the day-to-day routines become as smooth and natural as a train running along its track. For more information on habit formation specifically, Laying Down the Rails by Sonya Shafer is an excellent resource.
“Narrating is an art, like poetry- making or painting because it is there, in every child's mind, waiting to be discovered.”
Narration is the act of retelling. When children begin formal lessons narration will play a daily part of their education. Although many children narrate organically during the years prior to formal lessons. Implementing narration doesn't require a fancy curriculum or an English degree. The parent/teacher reads a selection aloud and asks the child to retell what he heard. The passage should be read through no more than one time; this encourages and strengthens the child’s habit of attention. Younger students narrate orally and eventually, written narrations will take place as well. Coupled with dictation, recitation and copy work - these are the foundational elements of language arts in a Charlotte Mason education. When implemented properly, narration is a powerful tool. For a thorough explanation on the process narration, Know and Tell by Karen Glass is a must-read!
“Never be indoors when you can rightly be without."
Nature study is another important aspect of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. Miss Mason did not intend for nature study to be a burden on the part of the teacher/parent. On the contrary, nature study is intended to inspire and instill a sense of wonder in students all the while drawing them back to the awesomeness of their Creator. While there are many formal nature study “curriculums” readily available, this is not necessary. When starting out, family nature walks create sufficient opportunities to observe and stir questions. These nature walks are not intended to be a time for lengthy scientific explanations, but rather an opportunity to, “learn to know and delight in natural objects as in the familiar faces of friends.” (School Education, p. 137)
“The only vital method of education appears to be that children should be read worthy books, many worthy books.”
Living books are virtually synonymous with a Charlotte Mason education. Exactly what is a living book? Generally speaking, textbooks, encyclopedias, and other uninspiring texts are the furthest thing from what Charlotte describes as living. In addition, books that are watered down (i.e., abridged) often undervalue the intelligence of the child. This includes "highly-spiced adventures of poor quality" or books filled with dry facts which ultimately do not quench a child's thirst for knowledge or connection. Most (although not all) living books are older as the language, vocabulary and sentence structure are of higher literary value than the majority of books published today. In addition, most of the time (although not always), living books are written by someone who is an expert in their field or displays a unique passion for the subject matter being discussed. So, while what makes a book "living" may vary somewhat from household to household. In general, living books pull you into the subject matter, inspire you, and are memorable; thus, inspiring the reader to make connections via the science of relations.