Friday, December 19, 2008

Charlotte Mason Basics: Self Education

In Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series, she asserts, "There is no education but self-education and only as the young student works with his own mind is anything effected." (emphasis mine). Over the years, I have mulled this over many times. I'm all for self-education, but to say that there is nothing else? Do I really believe this? What does this look like? As a person raised in a traditional school system, when I hear self-education, it drums up images of struggling through a dreadfully boring correspondence course. This is not what is meant by self-education.

Let's start with something near and dear to my heart - a baby just learning to walk. To my heartbreak, my sweet little baby boy has decided to try walking at 9 months. He isn't walking yet, but I've caught him taking a step and he stands alone. None of my other children walked this early, but let's say I had wanted them to. Here's what I would not have done:
  1. Research walking on the internet and at the library. Find out the most important parts about the history and physiology.
  2. Create a walking textbook (with a dvd, of course!) of just the most important points I discovered above.
  3. Schedule in a structured time for baby's walking lessons. (Consistency is key!) I want him to be advanced so I will start at 7 months.
  4. Sit baby down and read from textbook. Give baby a quiz afterwards to see what he has remembered. Hubby will do remedial help in the evenings for anything baby was struggling with.
  5. Get baby to memorize 'steps to walking' so that he will be fully ready when we start the practice sessions. (See step 6)
  6. Once baby has the steps memorized, schedule in practice times. Again, consistency is key, here. We find that if parents are very diligent about following the steps exactly as outlined, starting at 7 or 8 months, virtually all babies should begin walking anywhere from 9-15 months of age.

HUH?! Ridiculous, when I put it that way, isn't it? Why? Because the above points do not take into consideration:
  • how a baby learns
  • the baby's readiness
  • the baby's motivation
The above method only takes into consideration that which is measurable and practical for the teacher. It also takes all the fun out of it. And, it complicates things way more than necessary. :)

When Charlotte said that the only education was self-education, she did not mean that the student did not need a teacher anymore than a baby learning to walk could do without parents. As parents of a learning-to-walk baby, we are there to model walking, to offer little helps and guidance, to provide a safe place for baby to walk, to encourage with our words and facial expressions and to offer guidance and support when baby falls. We cannot, however, walk for the baby.

In Charlotte Mason education, a student learns by experiencing for himself, which is truly the only way we ever learn anything. Without experiencing something for myself, I have nowhere to put the information I hear or read. It just floats around, not hooking onto anything and will soon float right out of my head.

The great thing about a Charlotte Mason education is that a child can experience something for himself by using the wonderful tool of imagination. Our children don't have to have survived the American Revolution to be able to 'remember' vividly what happened. They can experience it by reading the stories of those who did. It is only when they read what happened in story format that they will really remember because it is the story format that allows the child to enter into the place or the event and 'experience' it for himself. Once a child enters in, imagining himself a part of the story, he has made it his own and he will remember because he has lived it.

My darling little baby boy will soon be a toddler. He will never forget how to walk because he will have struggled for each step on his own. I can't do it for him, nor do I want to. Besides, it is so much more fun this way.

Charlotte Mason Basics will be on Christmas Vacation for a few weeks, but I will continue blogging now and then. Merry Christmas!


  1. Christine, I'm linking to this on the WHHE blog. Maybe you can lead this section of the meeting in January instead of me???
    Thanks again for great content and great delivery.

    And yikes! Walking at 9 months! What will you do? :)

  2. Well, that was good timing on the WHHE meeting. I hadn't even realized that. :)

    Ignoring the comment about leading the meeting... ;)

  3. I am really enjoying your blog! I found it from the CM Canada group and look forward to visiting quite often! :0)

  4. Erna, I'm so glad you have found me! I just love blogging and it is very encouraging to hear that it has blessed you. :)