Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Philosophy of Education

I just started reading A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason. It is so rich in wisdom and practical advice that I'm marking nearly every page for quotes to write down. I have not read Charlotte Mason directly before (aside from a few quotes), but I have read Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion and have incorporated much of her method into our homeschool. Charlotte Mason just feels right.
When I read about the classical method of education, for example, it intellectually seems very good, but there is a feeling of distress and uncertainty as I read about it. "Should I embrace this method? Is it right? Is it best?" I worry and stew, thinking that it is good, but I don't know if it's best.
Then there's Montessori. I like many aspects of the Montessori method. I love the hands-on material, the self-education, the joy of seeing a child engaged contentedly in a piece of work, seeing the child master something that only a few days earlier he was making a mess of. But on a practical level, I can't provide a perfectly managed environment. The home is not always neat and orderly. I can't simultaneously display enough material for children of such various age levels, and I can't allow the little ones access to everything. We have locked doors and cupboards, and the little ones sleep in cribs (gasp!). After seeing pictures on the internet of Montessori classrooms and homes, I was really excited and checked out a stack of Montessori books from the library. At first I enjoyed them, but I soon became bogged down with the philosophy of Montessori, particularly the "sensitive periods." According to Montessori, I had pretty much ruined my 6-year-old's life, because I had just now started learning about the Montessori method. She had passed most of her sensitive periods, especially for reading and writing, and wasn't yet reading and writing fluently. I ended up taking the books back, mostly unread. It just didn't feel right. Did God create all children in the same mold? Is it God's design that parents fail in raising and educating their children simply because they have not heard of Maria Montessori? And where is God in her philosophy? She writes of the spiritual, but it seems more on a humanistic or mystical level than on plane with the Truth. A perfect response to this is given by Charlotte Mason. "We have left behind the feudal notion that . . . intelligence is a matter of inheritance and environment; . . . environment makes for satisfaction or uneasiness, but education is of the spirit and is not to be taken in by the eye or effected by the hand; mind appeals to mind and thought begets thought and that is how we become educated." Ah, relief, she's right!
So, I would by no means throw out all of Montessori or all of Classical education or any other particular method or philosophy or curriculum. I would read everything, "test everything. Hold on to the good." And whatever feels right (in an intellectual and spiritual sense), that we will do.


  1. I had similar feelings when reading The Well Trained Mind and some of the Montessori info...while I like it in theory, I started to feel overwhelmed and had to take a step back....keep what was working and leave the rest behind. I keep meaning to read more of Charlotte Mason, but have yet to actually get the books

  2. It was really good to read about the research you've done and how you have come to choose a philosophy of teaching. It's amazing and wonderful to see how one's intuition and sensitivity to "the spirit" can guide in the formation of a person's heart and mind.