Charlotte Mason Companion Book Review

Several years ago, before my children were of school age, a friend who happened to be an experienced homeschooling Mom lent me the the book Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola. At the time, my son was in a preschool program, and I think my friend saw my growing struggle with the idea of sending him to public school.

As I began reading the book, a whole new world started to open for me. The first chapter outlines the core concepts of a Charlotte Mason education, and as I read through it, an excitement began to unfold. A light began to dawn in the back of my very closed mind. No homework? Short lessons? Free afternoons? Children, motivated by a love of learning, gaining the ability to educate themselves? Was this for real? I’d never heard of such things! For the first time  in my life, I began to reconsider (or should I say, consider!) my children’s education. Maybe education wasn’t just about getting the kids out the door in the morning, turning them over to their teachers. Could it possibly be something to be experienced joyfully together, as a family? Could school actually be enjoyed?

I quickly returned the book to my friend and bought my own. I was going to need to spend some quality time with this book and a highlighter.

A Practical Guide to a Charlotte Mason Education

The Charlotte Mason Companion is a practical guide to a Charlotte Mason education. The author has clearly studied Ms. Mason’s philosophies and ideals in depth and has used them in her own life and homeschool, giving her a wealth of experience to share. Since adopting this philosophy of education in our own home, I have found that it can be challenging at times and was grateful for the practical ideas and guidance.

The author begins by examining Charlotte Mason’s founding philosophies of education – education is the science of relations, that self-education is the only education, that children’s minds are fed by ideas. etc. Each of these principles ring true in theory and in practice. What really caught my attention, though, was the attention that the author gave to the atmosphere in the home. She discusses how education is a discipline. It must be supported with proper habits, instilled by consistent, gentle, and loving parenting. A child’s education is intrinsically connected to their environment, and here, as well, the author provides a practical guide. Lord knows I need all the help I can get in this department!

Since reading Charlotte Mason Companion, I have read many other educational philosophy books, each outlining a different method. None have rung so true in my heart and soul as the Charlotte Mason method. This is a book I have read and reread, as a reminder of my own homeschool ideals, and also as a practical guide. If you need a little encouragement in your homeschool journey, or maybe some inspiration, Karen Andreola’s warm and gentle approach will give you a generous helping of each in Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning.

Charlotte Mason Companion Book Review

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

One of my absolutely favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom we have to explore whichever subjects that we choose.  One of my children’s absolute passions – I imagine it is probably every child’s passion, if given the opportunity – is to experience nature.  From early on Clark and Luci were fascinated with dirt, bugs, flowers, and weather.  Personally, I’d rather hide inside and pretend that bugs and such do not exist, but at some point (it may have been when my children started bringing their new “pets” indoors), I was forced to acknowledge the importance and necessity of nature study in my children’s lives.

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

Nature Study

Now, recognizing their need to be a part of nature, we have incorporated nature study into our regular homeschool curriculum.  This spring, the subject is “The Wonderful World of Wildflowers” and I have rarely seen my children so engrossed and engaged in a subject.  It makes for an afternoon of pure pleasure to watch as my children run, squealing with delight through the fields of colorful flowers, stopping to discover and discuss a new shape or shade, before moving on to the next bright sprig, collecting vibrant bouquets of every variety, filling our home with beautiful splashes of color.

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

When I first realized that I needed to incorporate Nature Study into our homeschool curriculum, I had no idea how to proceed.  However, over time, we’ve come up with a system that has made our nature study an opportunity to joyfully interact with nature in a way that encourages exploration and further learning.

Don’t Neglect Nature Study

For us, it is important to get out of the house, into nature at least once or twice a week.  It’s a way for the children to burn off energy, and it also a way for the adults to de-stress.  Have you ever stood on a mountain, overlooking a lush, green valley below?  There’s a hush in the air and all you can hear is the wind blowing through the trees and a remote bird call, echoing.  As you stood there, were you able to feel the sense of deep, intense peace?  It’s an understanding that all of your big people problems are suddenly not so significant.  Have you had this experience?  Nature can have an intense effect on us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  While it’s easy for Nature Study be the first thing to drop off our to-do list, it’s far-reaching effect may be cause to reconsider its’ importance.  Nature Study always leaves us happier, more relaxed, with a greater ability to focus.

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

How We do Nature Study

We approach Nature Study with a general subject in mind.  This spring, we are exploring the Wonderful World of Wildflowers.  Once or twice a week, armed with Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study and our little field guide, Wildflowers of Texas, we spend several hours at the local nature preserve, a favorite park or even a farmer’s field to see what new flower we can discover.

We don’t always find what we are looking for, but that isn’t cause to stop exploring.  Besides, our Handbook of Nature Study has a bit about everything!

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

We tried nature journaling while exploring, but the truth is, most children aren’t going to want to sit down in an ant hill to draw when they can be running around in a field.  Instead we wait until we get home to do our journaling.  While outside, we take pictures.  I got the children a solid camera that can tolerate a few bumps and even immersion in water.  We all take pictures, and the children may collect a few specimens.  Remember to bring a basket or backpack for all of the treasures that they find!

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

Once we get home, we continue our Nature Study.  If we haven’t already, we identify the different specimens that we’ve collected in our field guide, Wildflowers of Texas, and then read about them in Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.

Nature Journaling

Journaling comes next.  This is where the children really integrate their new-found knowledge.  While Clark and Luci are not likely to take the time to sketch or write about their findings while outside, they are more than happy to do so once inside.  I may print out a few of the pictures that we took.  We may simply sit around a big bouquet, drawing what we see.  We also like to look at the flowers up close with our microscope.  This opens up a whole new world of what can be sketched and described in our nature journals.

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

This week we played in a field of several whidflowers.  The main flower was the Gaillardia Pulchella (more commonly known as Indian Blanket or Firewheel) flowers.  A handful of them brightened our table for the few days that they lasted.  This is Luci’s drawing of them in her Nature Journal.

The Wonderful World of Wildflowers

Do you think your children would enjoy incorporating Nature Study into their homeschool curriculum?   Drop by My Joy-Filled Life for our guest post on Discovering Dandelions to learn more.

Discovering Dandelions