The final part of Charlotte Mason’s motto is “education is a life.” As someone who spent a lot of time in school (I almost finished my PhD but having a baby while writing my dissertation changed that plan), I have come to understand what Mason’s words mean in new ways.
Education Is a Life–Not a Classroom
When you’re someone who has a long history of formal “schooling,” it can shape how you think about education. It’s easy to view education in traditional terms. When I think of learning, I think of the classroom. However, my study of Charlotte Mason has helped me revise that idea of education.
My introduction to Charlotte Mason was probably close to a decade ago. However, much of what I read about her work just covered living books, nature study, artist study, and composer study. And these certainly are important, but they aren’t as powerful without her foundational principles! I didn’t hear much about her broad curriculum or her rigorous expectations for her students from homeschool bloggers. Mason’s students even had school on Saturday! Not many homeschool bloggers suggest that idea. 🙂
Mason’s View of Education Is a Life
However, when I started to dig into books about Mason and Mason’s own writings, I began to gain a better understanding of her views. The teacher wasn’t just some professional who was trying to force ideas into the heads of children. Instead, the teacher was a guide who was leading them to great books and allowing them to talk about the ideas they were reading.
This method of observing or reading and then retelling what you’ve observed or learned (narration) is a great practice. If you haven’t interacted with the material you’re taking in, you’re not really learning. You may be able to regurgitate a list of names or dates, but they don’t stick with you in the same way.
Memorization Was My Life
As a child, I did well is school. I could learn information and reproduce it. For example, when I was in 8th grade, I memorized the Presidents. Now, since I’m old, I only had to learn up to George H. W. Bush. I still remember memorizing those names. I even remember some of the numbers. Like, Abraham Lincoln was President number 16. But other than the first few, I couldn’t reproduce the list in order today.
So much of my education feels like this. I may know that I studied many things in school, from photosynthesis to history to Great Expectations. The trouble is that I just don’t remember much of what I learned.
That’s part of the thing about education. When you learn things without context and without ideas attached to them, what you learn is usually fleeting. It may even stick around for a few years, but eventually, it evaporates.
From Memorization to Life
The learning I do now is different. There isn’t an exam on it. Instead, it gets integrated into my life because I talk and write about the ideas I’m reading. Granted, I can be more selective with what I read, but I also realize the importance of processing and integrating what I’m learning so that I can (hopefully) retain it.
Education is a life not because you take formal classes for the rest of your life. Education is a life because you are always observing, reading, and interacting with worthwhile ideas.
As I pursue learning in my middle adult years, I have the perspective and maturity to see some of the reasons my earlier attempts didn’t produce lasting results. I’m also less afraid to try to learn new things for fear of failure. (Hello blogging at 40!)
The Impact of Education Is a Life
But an even better outcome to pursuing Mason’s motto is that my children watch me. They see me learning through reading and observing. They hear their mom and dad talking about ideas and books.
Even mom can learn new things as she walks the Mason homeschool path with her children, narrating all the things. Here’s to the education I didn’t get the first time around!
How are you pursuing a life of learning? I would love to hear from you and about your homeschool journey. How are you fostering education is a life?