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A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual, More Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual, & A Literary Education: An Annotated Book List Review by April ElstromMore Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual
A Literary Education: An Annotated Book List
A Charlotte Mason Education
PO Box 738
Winlock, WA 98596
There is a plethora of homeschool methods and theories floating around homeschool conference halls and the internet. If you ask other homeschool families they may say they use the classical method, the Charlotte Mason method, relaxed schooling, traditional methods, unschooling, or that they're eclectic. It can be very confusing and intimidating.
Confused is exactly how Catherine Levison felt when she began homeschooling in the 1980s. Her initial school-at-home technique wasn't working well for her family, so she sought out other methods. She visited a tiny Charlotte Mason school in her state and studied Charlotte Mason's writings. After she successfully implemented Charlotte Mason's methods in her own homeschool, Catherine began teaching others how to use the methods in their homes, as well.
A Charlotte Mason Education was originally written twenty years ago to provide an introduction to Charlotte Mason's methods that was concise and practical. Charlotte Mason wrote six books, as well as many articles. Catherine Levison's book explains the basic steps of implementing a similar style of education in simple steps, so you don't have to read all those books yourself. She provides examples of how she personally adapted the methods, and how others have made it work, too. The book ends with charts that explain Charlotte Mason's weekly course schedule for different grades, as well as Catherine's own weekly schedule.
A Charlotte Mason Education is a small paperback book, just 86 pages long. The book is broken down into twenty chapters, each focusing on a specific school subject or method. The chapters are short, with the longest chapter (History) only being six pages long. It's very easy to read it in bits and pieces, since the chapters can be finished quickly. This also allows time to think about what you've read as you go about your life, until you can read the next chapter. In other words, it's perfect for a busy homeschool mom.
Catherine Levison's second book is titled More Charlotte Mason Education, and it is also a small paperback book. More Charlotte Mason Education is about 100 pages longer, with fourteen chapters total, as well as the same appendices of weekly schedules. The chapters in More Charlotte Mason Education cover different aspects of homeschooling with Charlotte Mason's methods, such as choosing curriculum, planning a unit, applying short lessons, and teaching high school. The question and answer chapter was helpful, but my favorite chapter of all was the chapter on high school students. Catherine discusses what older students learned in Charlotte Mason's schools, as well as explaining what she did with her own high school students. I have struggled to implement these methods with high school students, so it was encouraging to read how it could be done.
More Charlotte Mason Education includes more of the philosophy behind Charlotte Mason's methods, as well as Catherine's experiences and thoughts on the topics. While the first book is very brief and factual, the second book delves more deeply into the method. It isn't as easy to pick it up and read a short chapter. It takes longer to process the information and there is more of Catherine's opinions mixed in with Charlotte Mason's thoughts. While it is helpful to hear of others' experiences, it also means that there is more to sift through as you decide how to make Charlotte Mason's methods work for you.
Catherine Levison's final book in her Charlotte Mason series is entitled, A Literary Education. This book is basically a list for parents to use when choosing quality literature for their children to read. The book is divided into eight different sections: literature, history, science and nature, poetry, art, miscellaneous, biographies, and music. In each of those sections, the books are listed alphabetically by title, with author, illustrator, publisher and ISBN. Catherine then gives a brief explanation of the book's content and her opinion on the age a child would need to be to read it independently.
A Literary Education is another small paperback book, just under 100 pages. In addition to the book lists, there is a suggested scope and sequence for all grades at the end of the book. A Literary Education is a resource to take with you to the library, bookstores, and curriculum fairs. Even though this is a book of lists, it would be good to read it through and become familiar with its contents at least once. Obviously, it can't contain every worthwhile book, but Catherine has tried to include both the books you expect to see, and others you might not have heard of. I appreciate the book synopses that go with each title, as it helps me to know if the book fits with our studies or would interest my children.
Although I have homeschooled for over fifteen years, and have been familiar with Charlotte Mason's methods for most of that time, I had never read Catherine Levison's books before. Catherine Levison's style of writing is a little formal at times. Her books don't have the chatty feel that is popular in many of today's books, but the content is solid. I like the simple, concise nature of A Charlotte Mason Education. Catherine does a good job of providing a basic introduction to all of Charlotte Mason's techniques in a way that seems manageable. Start with it.
More Charlotte Mason Education is the book that a parent would read after spending time implementing the methods in their home. When struggles and questions arise, and you're wondering why Charlotte Mason says to do it a certain way, this second book has the answers. A Literary Education is a helpful resource as you plan your school year and shop for books. I would recommend buying it at the same time you purchase More Charlotte Mason Education.
Catherine Levison's books have been helping homeschool families for twenty years, and they will continue to help families for years to come. They are practical and easy to understand. Charlotte Mason's methods don't seem nearly so complicated or overwhelming now.
-Product review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2016