I have a habit of trying to hold all of my choices up to a "Charlotte Mason Standard". On the surface, this seems like a reasonable thing to do. After all I want to give my kids a quality education and I really do admire the people who have pulled off what seems to me to be the embodiment of a Charlotte Mason Education.
But honestly asking the question ” What would Charlotte Mason do, would she use this book, or that math program?”, it keeps me up at night.
My Imaginary conversations often go something like this:
Me: Miss Mason, should I use Khan Academy for my daughter’s math this year? It would free up some of my grading time, give her immediate feedback and it’s easy to set a timer and do math by time rather then number of lessons.
The Charlotte Mason voice that lives in my head: All good points, but Khan Academy is a computer based program and computers are…. well actually I have no idea what I computer is or what the advantages or disadvantages of computers are because they weren’t even close to being invented when I was alive.
Me: Well, crap this imaginary conversation has not been helpful at all!
Or there was this conversation:
Me: Charlotte (yes, that’s right, at this point we have had so many of these imaginary conversations that we are now on a first name bases), The kids and I will be studying 20th century history this year and I’m having trouble finding what other’s would consider a “living book” that goes past World War II. I did find this book called, “Everything you Need to Ace American History in One BIG FAT Notebook”. It covers history all the way up to the beginning of President Obama, but it looks kinda “twaddly” and it’s not written in narrative form…. but my kids write well formed written narrations from it, are making connections between history and current events and seem to remember what they read… it that good enough?
Imaginary Charlotte Mason: Well actually, for that time period, I always recommended parents and teachers use– oh right, I died in the 1920s long before any of that history was even current event!
Me: Ugg, this is not helpful either! Well maybe you can at least offer some ideas about science? Ambleside Online recommends the “Wonder Book of Chemistry” but my son hated that one and found the story line distracting and “babyish”. Instead we went with a public school textbook– maybe I shouldn’t even consider myself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler at all!
Miss Mason (Audible sigh): I think you’ve missed the point entirely. The goal is not to recreate a late 19th century education for your 21st century children. Rather, the goal is to take some general principles and practices (like “education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life” and “short lessons” and “nature study”), add in some knowledge and resources that have cropped up in the last 100 years and develop an education that works to provide YOUR kids with the skills and character THEY will need. Many of those things will be the same as they were 100 years ago, but many will be different.
Me (a little sheepishly): Oh. Thank you Imaginary Charlotte Mason, for reminding me that my reality is today, and I must remain in this time period if I am going to educate my kids effectively for tomorrow!
When Charlotte Mason came up with here methods and principles she took into consideration the thoughts and experiences of both the ancients and of her contemporaries. But in the end she took what was most useful and added what was most helpful to come up with what worked best in her time and in her place. And now I must do the same.