I have such a fun treat for you today! Catherine Levison, author of A Charlotte Mason Education, has graciously agreed to a little interview prior to being a guest on our podcast. In Episode 3 of the podcast (releasing early April) we will be discussing with Ms. Levison what a Charlotte Mason education looks like in the early years. Today's Q&A will be focused on the basics of a Charlotte Mason education. There is so much amazing information that we even had to limit our questions! I have bolded some important thoughts that I want to keep fresh in your mind as you mull over this post in the coming days. Keep reading below.
Question One: Can you summarize a Charlotte Mason education in one short paragraph?
Answer: A Charlotte Mason education is based on the humanities or you could say a "liberal education" which gets a bad name and is easily misunderstood. I explain exactly what the Liberal Arts are in my second book (more information on Ms. Levison's books are listed at the end of this post). But, to be brief, if we substituted the word "liberal" with the word "generous" then you'd be on the road to a Charlotte Mason education. It's a wide, broad, generous education in which you cover all of the normal stuff any school would but you add to that poetry, classical music, the finest artwork, nature appreciation, sketching and you throw grades and testing right out of the window and instead rely on narration. The children "get" to tell you all about what they now know about the topic, even if it is math. If they can tell you all about how to divide fractions and show you how that is a better test of what they know than a set of math problems. If they can tell you every detail of Beethoven's life that too is a better use of your time because they retain the knowledge. Charlotte Mason also has a better way to learn how to spell, learn history & science too. Having said all that Charlotte Mason is not only a Liberal Arts education, it's more than that because she took all that she liked from that and other methods and created her own method based on how children learn. She had an extraordinary love for children, thought that childhood was too short and wanted well-educated students who really knew their stuff but had a lifelong LOVE for learning. Anyone can teach you with a "you'll thank me later kid" attitude. This method is completely different. It is a superior education to most and yet it is a wonderful balance between some of the very hardcore systems and unschooling. The days feel good. Many classic books are read and we never read a book we do not like.
Question Two: How old are your kids? How long have you been homeschooling?
Answer: I have 5 children ranging from 23 to 37 years old. Two are in their 30's and the other 3 are in their 20's but I have vivid memories of homeschooling. We started in the 1980's and my youngest child finished his four year University degree one year ago. I have a 14 year age span from the youngest to the oldest. That is why I am well aware of how it feels to be pregnant while homeschooling, watching toddlers while homeschooling, having children in the high school age range and still having younger children.
I had to learn how to occupy my toddlers and babies while teaching. There is a section on that topic in my 2nd Charlotte Mason book titled, "More Charlotte Mason Education" which is a great deal longer and more in-depth than my first book, "A Charlotte Mason Education." (find more resources and info about Ms. Levison's books at the end of this post).
Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an educator of Miss Mason's method?
Answer: This method rescued me from burnout. You do have to be burning to burnout, and I was. Back when I began in the 1980's I tried to have school at home using textbooks and with my personality to overwork myself I ran headlong into a brick wall doing about 300mph. I didn't like homeschooling one single bit. When I found this method there were no websites or Google so I had to learn from Charlotte Mason directly, only problem ... she was dead. There were no "how-to" books, that is the reason I wrote the first ones in print. I wrote what I wanted to read. I also loved learning along with my children. You see, you will get tired of teaching your children how to divide fractions and tell time and what a participle is; if you have a lot of children. But you will thrive if you learn 5-6 new things, yourself, everyday of your life. I loved that!! Every night at bedtime I had learned more about the world than I had known that morning. That helps fight off burnout. You always want to avoid burnout if you can rather than get into it and then have to find a remedy.
Books by Catherine Levison
A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education
A Charlotte Mason Education is better for parents with less experience homeschooling or using CM's methods. More Charlotte Mason Education is better for those who have read at least something on Charlotte Mason or have been doing it for a while, but the two books do not overlap one another. They both concentrate on "how" to do the CM method in current day homes that do not have nannies, cooks, governesses, butlers and it is written for very busy people. The sentences are short and "practical application" is my goal.
A Literary Education
In my 3rd CM book I took the time to write a "book list" book so you could concentrate on "what" to buy, it's titled, "A Literary Education." It is an Annotated Book List explaining enough details about each book entry to persuade you as to why each book would help you to have well-read children and what age it might best serve a child. It contains many of Charlotte Mason's personal favorites, classic literature, and other books that came out after she died in 1923.
Find out more about Catherine Levison below.
Catherine Levison, mother of five, began homeschooling in the 1980's at a time when this option had only recently been legalized in her state. She recognized the need for both materials and a philosophy in a relatively new field. Check out her books and more information here on her website.