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Do you have an Ambleside Tale? I don’t mean a literal visit to the place; I mean do you have a tale of how you came to know about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education? Maybe your tale is long since you’ve been on this journey a while. Others may have a tale with lots of twists and turns as you tried different paths that eventually led you to Ambleside. My Ambleside tale has some history, but this is the year the tale will come to life in a new way.
Our Ambleside Tale
This month we are beginning our first official year as a Charlotte Mason homeschool. Yes, we did a year of homeschool kindergarten and covered lots of foundational material–reading, writing, and arithmetic, but it was a low-pressure year. We had time for play, choir, coloring, and even life skills like cooking and grocery shopping.
I don’t remember exactly when or where I first heard about Charlotte Mason, but it was probably about a decade ago, years before I had kids. I think I first read about her on a blog that focused on saving money and natural living. Whatever the source, my interest was peaked, and I began to research what a Charlotte Mason education was.
My early impressions of Mason were incomplete, and this is likely due to the fact that many people mix together several different philosophies and call it Mason. I had gathered that nature study was important and that good books were key. And these are indeed important components of her philosophy, but there is much more.
A More Complete Picture of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy
Fast forward a few years. In 2015-2016, my Ambleside Tale got a boost when my husband had a Charlotte Mason homeschooled student in several of his upper-level electives courses. Before she left to return home after graduation (summa cum laude!), we invited her over for dinner to find out more about her experience as a Charlotte Mason homeschool student.
In addition to sharing about her experience in a Mason-based homeschool program, she gave us a list of resources from her mom. This list led me to several significant books such as For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and When Children Love to Learn by Elaine Cooper and the A Delectable Education podcast.
I would go for walks in my neighborhood and listen to Emily, Liz, and Nicole talk about what a Charlotte Mason education was. Then I would come home and tell my husband what I was learning. I was narrating the podcast! We both read a few of the key books and determined that this seemed like the philosophy and method we wanted to implement when the time came.
Learning about Mason in the Classroom
Another fortuitous development in my journey of studying Mason is the fact that there is a bona fide Mason scholar in the Education Department of the college where my husband teaches: Jack Beckman. We had become friends with Jack and Barbara at church, and when I found out he was a Mason scholar, I was excited. Even better, Jack allowed me to audit the Charlotte Mason class he taught in the Fall of 2016. This was definitely one of the highlights of my Ambleside Tale.
I felt sorry for the education majors who were in that class because I asked a lot of questions. As a scholar and mom who was already planning to homeschool, there were a lot of things I wanted to clarify. In addition, I wasn’t interested in theory only; I wanted to understand how to put Mason’s principles into practice. Sorry former classmates!
Implementing Mason in Our Home
One of Mason’s principles is that children should be able to enjoy their childhood and engage in play. She told parents to wait until their children were 6 years old to begin formal schooling. This was a bit tricky for us because we have a son who was (and is) a bibliophile, and we bent the rules by teaching him to read earlier than 6. (Please don’t report me to the Mason compliance vigilantes.)
We started reading to our son when he was a baby. At age 2, he started learning his letters. By age 3, he knew all his upper and lower case letters and numbers through 20. I remember carrying around the Mickey Mouse number cards that he loved in my purse. By the time he turned 4, he knew the sounds that the letters make and was trying to put the sounds together when he looked at words.
So at age 4, we took the plunge and started teaching him to read. And it worked. We also taught him how to write the letters. We did this slowly and in a low-pressure environment and then took a break for the summer. When we started our year of Kindergarten homeschool, we reviewed the reading basics we had learned the year before and were “off to the races” as they say.
For those of you who are familiar with Mason, you know that age 6 was when she began formal education. That’s where we are now. Ready, set, go! I’m as ready as I’m going to be, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot via the school of experience.
What Is Ambleside Tales?
My goal is to chronicle what we’re doing in our homeschool on this blog, share resources that we find helpful, and create tools that will be helpful to others as they pursue a Charlotte Mason education. I would love to hear what you’re doing in your homeschool, questions you may have about Mason’s methods or philosophy, and suggestions for topics I should cover.
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