Practical Ways to Implement the Charlotte Mason Method with Cindy West
July 2, 2019
We are so glad to have Cindy West from the blog Our Journey Westward to really dive into who Charlotte Mason was and her method of education that everyone is falling in love with.
Cindy has been homeschooling for 18 years!!! She is a mother of three; a 22 year old senior in college, a 19 year old sophomore in college, and a 12 year old entering into his 7th year of homeschooling. Cindy was a public school teacher before deciding to homeschool her own children. She has been blogging about this journey for about 13 years and written a variety of curriculum studies. She was not familiar with the Charlotte Mason principles when she first started teaching but thankfully she was introduced to the book For A Children’s Sake by Susan Macaulay right before her daughter started Kindergarten.
Cindy is by no means a Charlotte Mason purist. She has taken the principles and inserted the ones that work for each one of her children and chosen to no implement some principles that didn’t work for her family at the time.
Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s who had no children of her own. She did not homeschool but trained teachers and parents on her education method.
Children are born persons: they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons. They already are persons.
They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil.
Submission to authority is necessary for any society or group or family to run smoothly.
Authority is not a license to abuse children, or to play upon their emotions or other desires, and adults are not free to limit a child’s education or use fear, love, power of suggestion, or their own influence over a child to make a child learn.
The only means a teacher may use to educate children are the child’s natural environment, the training of good habits and exposure to living ideas and concepts. This is what CM’s motto “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” means. Habit Training
“Education is an atmosphere” doesn’t mean that we should create an artificial environment for children, but that we use the opportunities in the environment he already lives in to educate him. Children learn from real things in the real world
“Education is a discipline” means that we train a child to have good habits and self-control.
“Education is a life” means that education should apply to body, soul and spirit. The mind needs ideas of all kinds, so the child’s curriculum should be varied and generous with many subjects included.
The child’s mind is not a blank slate, or a bucket to be filled. It is a living thing and needs knowledge to grow. As the stomach was designed to digest food, the mind is designed to digest knowledge and needs no special training or exercises to make it ready to learn.
Herbart’s philosophy that the mind is like an empty stage waiting for bits of information to be inserted puts too much responsibility on the teacher to prepare detailed lessons that the children, for all the teacher’s effort, don’t learn from anyway.
Instead, we believe that childrens’ minds are capable of digesting real knowledge, so we provide a rich, generous curriculum that exposes children to many interesting, living ideas and concepts.
“Education is the science of relations” means that children have minds capable of making their own connections with knowledge and experiences, so we make sure the child learns about nature, science and art, knows how to make things, reads many living books and that they are physically fit.
In devising a curriculum, we provide a vast amount of ideas to ensure that the mind has enough brain food, knowledge about a variety of things to prevent boredom, and subjects are taught with high-quality literary language since that is what a child’s attention responds to best.
Since one doesn’t really “own” knowledge until he can express it, children are required to narrate, or tell back (or write down), what they have read or heard.
Children must narrate after one reading or hearing. Children naturally have good focus of attention, but allowing a second reading makes them lazy and weakens their ability to pay attention the first time. Teachers summarizing and asking comprehension questions are other ways of giving children a second chance and making the need to focus the first time less urgent. By getting it the first time, less time is wasted on repeated readings, and more time is available during school hours for more knowledge. A child educated this way learns more than children using other methods, and this is true for all children regardless of their IQ or background.
Children have two guides to help them in their moral and intellectual growth – “the way of the will,” and “the way of reason.”
Children must learn the difference between “I want” and “I will.” They must learn to distract their thoughts when tempted to do what they may want but know is not right, and think of something else, or do something else, interesting enough to occupy their mind. After a short diversion, their mind will be refreshed and able to will with renewed strength.
Children must learn not to lean too heavily on their own reasoning. Reasoning is good for logically demonstrating mathematical truth, but unreliable when judging ideas because our reasoning will justify all kinds of erroneous ideas if we really want to believe them.
Knowing that reason is not to be trusted as the final authority in forming opinions, children must learn that their greatest responsibility is choosing which ideas to accept or reject. Good habits of behavior and lots of knowledge will provide the discipline and experience to help them do this.
We teach children that all truths are God’s truths, and that secular subjects are just as divine as religious ones. Children don’t go back and forth between two worlds when they focus on God and then their school subjects; there is unity among both because both are of God and, whatever children study or do, God is always with them.
Our advice would be to take these principles and apply what may work for your family.
Living books have rich engaging language written in conversational or narrative style. Living books are NOT Twaddle. Twaddle books are one with no real value and written for the sole purpose of entertaining the reader. Living books are NOT textbooks. Living books pull you into the subject and involve the reader’s emotions. Living books make the subject come alive!!
Picture books are a favorite of Cindy’s to collect and she even has a wonderful article about how you can even teach high school age children writing styles using picture books!
Cindy’s daily CM homeschool:
Morning Time: Her and all her children sit around the table and they do their Bible and memory work everyday with no questions asked. Also during morning time, she added subjects that multiple kids can take part in together. They would study an artist or composer or work on their foreign language. These particular subjects kids from all ages can take part in learning together.
Individual work: After morning time the kids would break off individually for their math and language art lessons.
Science and History: After individual work was done they would meet back together for Science and History. Cindy follows a classical model of four and six year cycles of Science and History.
All subjects would be done by lunch time.
This is a wonderful use of short lesson which allows their afternoon to be filled with nature studies, read alouds, practicing music, and working on their farm.
She uses the premise of short lessons where the child can be completely focused. During these short lessons she may use a timer but mostly she knows how long a particular child should take on a certain lesson. If for instance that child is a “doddler” and really isn’t making their best effort to finish the lesson in a timely manner then she would first discuss with the child the appropriate time for that lesson and then advise the child on doing another lesson if they didn’t finish on time.
Cindy makes a great point when she talks about a child struggling to understand a particular subject or lesson she approaches it in a different way. She may use a kinesthetic approach or a more visible approach to help them grasp that concept. Teaching your children using different ways to understanding a topic will allow them to be versatile in learning in the real world.
Cindy addresses Laura’s questions to the benefits of reading aloud to your children by saying “Good literature teaches rich vocabulary, good sentence structure, proper grammatical usage, plot structure, and inflection. By reading aloud you are teaching that you enjoy reading and that reading is important to you. “
Sometimes you don’t even have to actually read aloud but play an audio book that will teach the same great benefits listed above.
On the other hand, when Tiffany was young she loved to read books but never had a huge grammar instruction. She says it now clicks and makes total sense because she saw it so often when reading.
Cindy explains that “What you expect from a child has to be directly related to what you have taught your child.” These listed benchmarks are from a particular mom who has implemented these specific skills with her 6 year old all year. But she reiterates that you do what is best for your family and your individual children. Your children are either going to excel those benchmarks or maybe not even reach the benchmark. Then you would know what to work on or challenge your child in the next year.
We are so grateful that Cindy West took time out of her day to educate us on the Charlotte Mason principles and how that may look differently for each of our families. Cindy is full of wisdom and experience that we can all learn from. Don’t forget to head over to her blog OurJourneyWestward.com and check out all her curriculum and blog posts!
Enjoy your many blessings this week!
P.S. We would love any feedback from this episode. Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a kind review on iTunes!
Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. Her daughter bought this book for Mother’s Day. This book is ‘A women’s battle plan for serious, specific, and strategic prayer. Cindy is really enjoying this book and how it really reminds her that Satan is out there and specifically working where our weaknesses are and prayer is our battle plan against that.
Laura is Diggin….
Free Prints app!! With this specific app you can get up to 1,000 free 4×6 prints with no commitments and no subscriptions. Laura is really working on getting her children’s memorable photos in tangible form and into a family photo album. Laura has really been a slacker and hasn’t printed anything since her 9 year old was a baby. She is loving this new app and hopes to be able to fill the albums up quickly!
Tiffany is diggin….
SOCCER!!! This is the first sport her children have ever played and just received their soccer gear in from Amazon. The kids are loving kicking the soccer ball and are super excited for the soccer season to start in about one month.