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Laying Down the Rails--A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook Review by Heidi ShawSonya Schafer
Simply Charlotte Mason
PO Box 892
Grayson Georgia 30017-0892
Laying Down the Rails is an amazing parent/teacher resource that should, in my opinion, be in every homeschool household, whether you are a Charlotte Mason educator or not. It is a great handbook, available in either print or electronic format, that contains quotes, thoughts, philosophy, and guidance on the formation and building of good habits. The author used the Original Home Schooling Series (written by Charlotte Mason at the turn of the century) as her primary source.
Sonya and Simply Charlotte Mason have done what I was praying would be done. Every time I need to refresh myself or remind myself about something I read "somewhere" in one of the six original homeschooling books, I have had to go hunting for the words, looking for the gem I knew was there. No more hunting! Sonya has gathered into one volume all of Charlotte Mason's teachings on habits and the importance of laying down a strong foundation in the early years of our children's education. This involved a LOT of work on our behalf. Not only has Sonya gathered a complete list of the habits Miss Mason mentions in her books, she has arranged them all, with the original quotes and their locations in CM's original series.
Charlotte Mason's Original Home School books are amazing works that have spawned a whole movement here in North America, as well as in her native England. They were written at the turn of the century to tell instructors just how CM did what she did in her own independent schools. Achieving great success on the principles of Faith, God, and fresh air is what I like to call it, but CM actually was much more than that and was wise beyond her time. The foundations she laid and the words she shared regarding the importance of habit in the home and the school are as true today as when she wrote them. Sonya hasn't watered down any of those original thoughts or comments. She has merely made them accessible for a whole new generation. Where the original text was a bit hard to understand, Sonya has added notes defining or putting the words into context. She has also left generous margins throughout the book so that as you read through and are struck by a point, you have ample room to make notes and make the volume a journal of your own.
The first chapter defines what habit is and how important it is in the lives of our children--not just the habits of washing faces and brushing teeth, but the deep important habits of trustworthiness, attention, and obedience, to name just a few. The following chapters take specific situations and specific habits and speak to the training necessary to instill these into our children. The topics are arranged as they were mentioned in the original Charlotte Mason books.
Reading through this volume was so encouraging and refreshing to me because, at last, I could put my finger on the philosophy and the actual words as they pertained to the habits we were working on in our home at that moment. Sonya and Karen at Simply Charlotte Mason have a world of experience (22 years CM homeschooling between them), and Sonya's comments interspersed throughout the book were perfect. Examples of how she dealt with different situations, how she interpreted a certain phrase, or a nugget of wisdom from her own perspective all worked together to give me the feeling that I was sitting in on a wonderful support group meeting, surrounded by friends rather than reading a book! And the definitions of some of the more unfamiliar English terminology came in very handy.
This book is a parenting manual, counseling session, and support group all rolled into one! The earnest, seeking parent who truly desires to do the best for his child will be well pleased with this volume: I couldn't put it down. I have been reminded over and over that this is the reason my husband and I chose to home educate our children. I have been refreshed and refocused, and I am energized again to work on those areas that will most help our kids be healthy, productive, faith-filled adults. Teaching habit doesn't have to be drudgery, nor should it be. Indeed, the owner of good habits has a lifelong gift. I don't want to forget that, and I am thankful that Simply Charlotte Mason has published this volume. For CM fans, for parents who love their kids--this book is for all, and I highly, highly recommend it.