“EDUCATION is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty.”
I came across this excellent article by Karen Glass today on the Classical Side of Charlotte Mason and was reminded of my own journey to, from, and back to Classical Education.
When I first read about Classical Education, my heart leaped for joy! It seemed like the perfect fit for our family’s educational philosophies. Once I read The Well-Trained Mind, however, I changed my well-read mind quickly! If THAT was classical, I didn’t like it. Where was the cuddling-on-the-couch-reading-delicious-books time? If I had more than two kids, how I was supposed to tackle all those separate grade levels, especially when I had already been sold on how wonderful it is to learn as a family? The book stressed me out and I put Classical Education out of my mind.
Charlotte Mason, or a Living Books education, was my next discovery. For the Children’s Sake inspired me to do anything I could to help make my kids passionate about learning. A Charlotte Mason Education showed me that I could provide a vigorous, full education for my children without making my children sit still and do boring bookwork all day. Charlotte Mason inspired me to make beauty and virtue and habit serious components of our family’s education. After the first evening I read A Charlotte Mason Companion, I honestly had vivid, sweet dreams the entire night! The book touched my soul in a gentle, warm way that made me want to slow down, hug my children, and learn alongside them.
But I couldn’t shake the fact that the deeper principles in a Charlotte Mason Education were very similar to those I’d first been drawn to in Classical Education. Was Charlotte Mason “classical”? It was when I read Teaching the Trivium‘s suggestion that parents consider using Charlotte Mason methods for their younger children and then utilizing a more traditional classical approach with older students that I seriously considered how Classical and CM could go hand in hand.
Two years ago, we joined Classical Conversations. I am now thoroughly sold on Classical Education again! Here’s a post I left a year ago on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum about CC and how we didn’t have to “give up” the gems we’d mined from CM to embrace the classical method:
“Our family is VERY Charlotte Mason-ish (we always called our philosophy Relaxed Classical with a Charlotte Mason twist) and we LOVED Classical Conversations last year. Long story short, I had the opportunity to tutor for the group (so it didn’t cost me any $$) and we gave it a go. I didn’t change our home curriculum a bit, besides going over the timeline and memory verse every morning. We did completely different things in history and science at home- nothing related to the CC facts. We simply played the CC CD in the car and sometimes before bed. Oh, and the kids did have to do an oral report for CC each week. They loved the class! I can’t believe how many facts they learned. It was frankly AMAZING, more amazing because of how much fun they had doing it!
“The kids did make LOTS of connections, though. If we were at a museum or watching a show or reading a book when the name of a famous person from their timeline or history sentence popped up, they were so excited because they already felt familiar with that person (even though they had memorized those names without beginning with any connections).
“We added a foster/adopt son halfway through the year and I was even more amazed to see how he adored CC. He hated school and loved homeschooling, so I didn’t know how the classroom situation would go for him at CC. I can only speak for our group, but the class is extremely active – lots of singing, game playing, jumping around. It’s not at all like what I had in mind for a formal classical school!
“Tutoring was also a load of fun. I can’t believe how much I learned!
“Anyway, just wanted to chime in that you can partake in CC without sacrificing your Charlotte Mason ideals. In fact, we had struggled with memory work for years and I felt that CC actually freed me up to spend more time reading living books and letting the kids do a little bit of “unschooling” (or delight-directed schooling)!”
After two years of being involved with CC at this time, I can only agree with my first impression that my children LOVE memorizing and making connections from bare facts to deeper ideas. I have decided it is quite possible to embrace both the grammar stage ideas found in the classical method and Charlotte’s contention that children are not empty buckets to be filled but souls to be nurtured. The high principles behind both Charlotte Mason and Classical Education are more within my reach thanks to this wonderful program. I’m very thankful that the Lord led us to Classical Conversations!