Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Charlotte Mason Family on Summer Holiday

If you know anything about Charlotte Mason, the founder of a liberal arts method followed by millions of homeschoolers all over the world, you know that she famously described education as "an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

We here at "Skylark School" (the name of our home school, inspired by CM's skylark emblem) are firm in our adoption of this attitude to education, and I thought our experience today would underscore how this might look in practice.

OK -- the date today is 22nd July. Most schools in the UK broke up for the summer last week. We, in fact, stopped sitting around the table every day at 10 am on the 14th of May. (Long story -- we went out to the US for a holiday, and since they broke up from term while we were there, we sort of declared the year was finished, too).

It's summer! Start the party!

However, we still maintain a life of education in other ways, since our home is a learning place in which we pursue living ideas.

So, for today's lessons.  First, the kids studied some card tricks on YouTube and worked on perfecting them. Seeing that they were interested in magic tricks today, I found a few videos of Christian magicians who mix their magic with their message. They studied a couple of them to work out the secrets behind the illusions.

Next, we watched a documentary about bees on BBC iPlayer. After lunch, we took part in the Big Butterfly Count, using the smart phone app to total our spottings for a fifteen-minute period (21 -- a darn sight better than last week's 5!).

In the afternoon, their friends came over, some of whom then worked on a money-making business idea. Later, they chatted on Skype with the new au pair from Spain, took part in a little ceremony that celebrated the experiences we've had with the old one, packed up for summer camp, and now we're finishing with a bedtime reading of Tom Sawyer.

So, while it's true that there are seven hallmarks of a CM-style education (habits of learning, style of lessons, living books, narration, dictation, art & music, and nature study), they are merely a set of tools for carrying it out. The key to them all, however, is the underlying and pervasive desire for learning all day, every day, whatever the weather or the date on the calendar!

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