Motivating Students, Charlotte Mason Style!

I wrote this about 2 years ago, during the wonderful honeymoon period of our homeschooling endeavor.  I have to say that I still find this type of motivation to work best for my boys — if its real, practical, and purposeful, they go for it.  Ms. Mason's ideas have brought blessings into our home, and I am thankful for her.

Motivating Students, Charlotte Mason Style!

Charlotte Mason could be called the Queen of Motivation.  In fact, Miss Mason’s lovely insights into education are still making a motivational impact on students a century after she penned them.  This is fascinating when you realize the bulk of her work was not centered upon motivating the students, per say, but upon educating parents on how to unearth — and how NOT to smother — that intrinsic motivation with which she believed all children are born.

The following are a few key things I have learned from Charlotte Mason (and interpreted to fit our individual lifestyle) that help me motivate my young students, or rather, help me protect and nurture their God-given enthusiasm:

1. LIVING BOOKS:

“Mama, will you read just a little more, please?” has become music to my ears.  I am convinced that the very best way to motivate a child to want to learn is to use living books whenever possible over textbooks.   As Catherine Levison puts it, “Living books are the opposite of dull, dry textbooks. The people, places and events come alive as you read a living book. The stories touch your mind and heart. They are timeless.”  Karen Andreola states, “Living books, often called ‘classics,’ are the kind of books that joyfully enliven the imagination of a child. They are written by individuals — not committees — and display imagination, originality, and the ‘human touch.’ Living books do not talk down to a child's level or omit odd and interesting vocabulary. Children take to living books more than textbooks for these reasons…”  When you feel you must use a textbook, my advice is to make sure that the book is YOUR servant and that you do not become its slave!  Use what you need from it; don’t feel that you HAVE to do every problem on every page!

2. SHORT LESSONS:

Charlotte Mason proposed that a parent keep lessons short for children in the early years.  When one focuses intently on a subject for a short while, there is no temptation to daydream.  There is no time for to dawdle or get bored with the material.  The mind remains sharp and focused with short lessons, and over the course of education, children build a habit of attention that can be held for impressive periods of time.

3. NARRATION:

Narration makes sense!  I think it is the most natural, effective way to discover what a child really understands and knows about a given subject, and for the child to commit that information to memory.  Fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, and typical reading comprehension questions will not motivate a child to truly digest material but only to accomplish the given task!  Children quickly learn what type of questions workbooks will ask, and they will learn to read not for understanding but simply for the answers to those questions. 

With narration, you as the parent will listen intently to your child “tell back” what they have learned.  Charlotte Masons says she gave children this opportunity “because knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced."  While narration is taking place, this child is increasing in his listening, attention, comprehension, retention, speaking, and grammar skills!   This “telling back” also reveals what the child DIDN’T learn, and thus the parent knows what to focus on with the child the next time they cover that topic.  Narration sets the burden of “filling-in-the-blanks” with the parent, and leaves the child’s curiosity and sense of discovery in tact.

In an article on the Practical Homeschooling web site called, “What Drew Me to a Charlotte Mason Education,” Karen Andreola states,

Miss Mason was an idealist. Unlike some idealistic persons she worked out her scheme and saw it put into practice. She wanted children to be motivated by admiration, faith, and love instead of artificial stimulants such as prizes (stickers, candy, or money), competition, and grades. Miss Mason managed to retain a child's curiosity and develop a love of knowledge in a child that he would carry on all through his life.”

I can testify that adding a little “Charlotte Mason” into our home school has both motivated and excited my children in their quest for knowledge.  In fact, I myself can’t help getting excited about what God has for us next!  If you are looking to breathe a little easier and see greater motivation in your children and yourself, I urge you to look into a Charlotte Mason education!

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Charlotte Mason Book Recommendations:

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola (I started this book right before bed one night, and actually spent the night in a quasi-conscious dream state of the most pleasant, cheery dreams imaginable!)

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaffer MacCaulay (this book is not only for home-educators; a very lovely, inspiring book)

A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levision

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

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