Charlotte Mason was a learned educator in the late 1800′s who through learning and experience developed a method of educating students, which she implemented in her school in Ambleside, England. Her students became mature and scholarly, possessing a true love for knowledge and learning that was evident to others who sought Ms. Mason for the secrets to her methods.
She wrote a series of books detailing her philosophies so that others could implement them in their homes. These were the original homeschooling books, the first of their kind ever written. Her methods focus on literature as a means for acquiring learning, whether it is science, history, or mythology. She believed in short lessons for the younger grades, nature study, copywork, dictation, the pursuit of excellence, good habits, notebooking, unstructured time out doors, and free time to pursue one’s interests.
Charlotte Mason was against the use of textbooks, a practice just beginning to take root in the education movement at that time. She called textbooks twaddle. She was also against workbooks, or lessons, as she called them and felt they did not improve the child’s education or light their love of learning.
One of the most profound—and often under appreciated—methods of Charlotte Mason is her teachings on habits. How I wish I had known of this extremely influential concept when my children were younger, before they formed the bad habits we invested a lot of time undoing. Mason addresses the fascinating subject of attention: The Habit of Attention.
She explains that a child should stay focused on a subject and not allow his mind to wander hither and thither with every interesting thought that pops into his brain. The thing is, our children have fascinating thoughts and ideas, but they must be taught to keep their minds focused on the subject at hand. This is a difficult task. A child must be trained —even with rewards—to keep his mind focused. A child that is not trained into this habit of attention will struggle through school and work for a lifetime.
It’s work for our children to keep their minds on task. But with training, they can accomplish what few people do. If they can learn to focus their mind’s attention, they will find that everything they pursue in life will come much easier for them.
In schoolwork, short lessons help to achieve the habit of attention. If the lesson is too long, the child will find it difficult to develop the habit. As he begins to develop the habit of attention, you can begin to lengthen the lesson.