Nurturing a Child's Love of Learning

There is only one Person I idolize and it is not Charlotte Mason. It may surprise you to learn that I don't agree with all of CM's educational philosophy, but I certainly concur with most of it. Flowery statements alone do not move me. Seeing a principle in action succeed, convinces me. I have experienced success while utilizing Mason's principles with my own children and so, I am passing it on in hopes that others will experience a joyful learning environment while producing well-educated people of virtue.

In her Education Manifesto, Charlotte states that there are a few things that can destroy a child’s love of learning:

· Too many carefully prepared oral lessons, which offer knowledge in a diluted form and do not leave the child free to deal with it. The teacher has collected and arranged what needs to be learned—in short—she has done all the thinking for the child.
· The use of textbooks, compressed and re-compressed from the ‘big book of the big man.’
· The use of inferior incentives for learning, in place of the adequate desire for, and delight in, knowledge.

She goes on to mention that a child’s love of learning can be best nurtured first and foremost with 'Books', then with ‘Things’ such as:

· Natural Physical play-climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
· Material To Work with-wood, leather, clay, etc.
· Natural Objects.-Birds, plants, streams, stones, etc.
· Objects Of Art
· Scientific Apparatus, etc.

Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with "delight" his own living books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. (Children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.) We contend that by this means, the mechanical difficulties of education-reading, spelling, composition, etc., disappear: and studies prove themselves to be "for delight, for ornament, and for ability." (paraphrased)

Notice that she 'pooh-poohs' the notion that the teacher should carefully prepare the child's lessons. This is a very freeing principle for me, as a mother, wife, housekeeper, hostess and self-educator, among many other things. I do not have the time to spend twelve years or more preparing daily lessons for each child. Not only that, I don't NEED to. In fact, it is a HINDERANCE to the child's learning experience. Now, I DO read my children's books first. This is not only enjoyable for myself, since the books are alive, but they also provide the education I should have had! By reading the books first, I can make sure they are suitable for my child's emotional stage and be prepared to discuss any difficult passages; but we generally save our discussions for afterwards.

I let the books do the teaching-- so my choices are made with great care. Keeping with CM’s philosophy, I do not hide evil from my children; I just make sure it is not glorified. The books we do avoid are those that vilify parents and siblings and glorify peers. Abridged versions are not tolerated and textbooks are used for mathematics only-and for cutting out pretty pictures for timelines. :- )

In the elementary years we do not use a reading, spelling, grammar or writing program. (I used Daily Grams with my first child as my hand holder but have learned that it was more for my benefit than hers. It is NOT necessary.) My children do not labor over workbooks every morning of their brief little lives. Instead, we utilize short sessions of copywork, dictation and narration from favorite passages—and we use nothing more. Now that my children are older, I am seeing the fruits of this method. Their writing is sophisticated and their vocabulary is extensive. Their thoughts are well organized and none of them have grammar, spelling or punctuation/capitalization issues. Let me repeat, THIS DOES WORK!

Being exposed constantly to only the best literature, providing ample opportunities to use the body outdoors and the hands indoors, refusing to get between the book and the child, thereby putting the task of learning into your child’s hands, and utilizing copywork, dictation and narration, have all contributed to preserving their love of learning, while, at the same time, producing well-educated children who long to be noble individuals-- and it has protected this mom from burnout. Did I neglect to mention that CM's educational principles REALLY DO WORK?