More than a century ago, Charlotte Mason founded a small college in the English countryside to educate young women to be teachers. Dissatisfied with the instructional methods used in schools, she developed her own educational philosophy. Today, the Charlotte Mason approach continues to grow in popularity as home and private educators look for ways to expand children's souls along with their minds.
A Charlotte Mason Companion is not a systematic presentation of Mason's educational philosophy. Rather (and more in keeping with her methods and approach), it is a personal account of one family's application of these ideals, along with practical advice, narrative examples and encouragement for those looking to implement the "whole book" system of learning. Plenty of Charlotte Mason's philosophy and ideas are present here, but author Karen Andreola makes it clear that this isn't simply a restatement of the information contained in the now-classic Original Home Schooling Series by Mason herself.
Students educated in the Charlotte Mason style read "living books" as opposed to textbooks. Living books include everything from classic novels to biographies to histories to science and nature study guides. Students read the entire book, and narrate the content back to the teacher/parent as soon as they finish the assignment. Mason wanted kids to be cultured and lovers of ideas, not just little receptacles of knowledge. She was a true idealist—and never awarded grades, never assigned homework, and kept lectures to a minimum.
This isn't classical education (though it shares some similarities), and it definitely isn't a unit study approach. Students definitely learn facts, and plenty of them, but the goal is to teach them to love learning. In this vein, Mason highly encouraged nature study as an integral part of any coursework, as well as art, music and Bible instruction. But children's minds still need forming, and to adequately implement this method will require plenty of time and considerable effort on the part of parents—giving them the books and telling them to learn won't suffice.
Karen Andreola is a veteran homeschool mom who has followed the principles of the Charlotte Mason approach for many years and with many children. Her insights throughout this book not only illuminate the purpose behind many of Mason's ideas, they bring them to an easily understood level and present a number of examples to help mothers with less experience. Great for reading straight through or selectively as topics intrigue you, this is the best and most concise introduction to an all-too-neglected educational method we've seen.