-OR- Purchase at Amazon (under $38.00)
We've heard a lot about the Charlotte Mason method of home schooling in recent years--so much so that you may be wondering whether you can live without these books and still be a great home school mom. I purchased the set a few years back, and read through the first 2 1/2 books, so my views may not accurately portray the whole set, just what I read.
I found the first book chock full of great ideas for beginning to school young children in a relaxed, enjoyable style. There were a lot of common sense parenting tips and good advice for training up children as painlessly as possible--to both parent and child. I took a lot of notes, and have attempted to implement some ideas in our home. However, throughout this volume and the next two, there was an odd mixture of humanism and Christianity that I found frustrating to sort through. This is not the kind of material I would recommend for the new Christian. I quit reading because I was concerned about imbibing humanistic ideas. I want to fill my thinking with godly concepts that are absolutely biblical. Probably any book is going to have a wrong idea here and there, but there were just too many in this series. Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge. Proverbs 19:27.
It is clear that Charlotte Mason, an English educator from the turn of the century, was a passionate Christian. She speaks of instilling in children an ardent love for Jesus and a heroic, self-sacrificing submission to serving Him. The problems come about because she had taken into herself the teachings of godless people in the German education movement, the German "higher criticism" movement (liberalism that refuted the miracles of the Bible, the deity of Christ, etc.), psychology, and French philosophy (Rousseau, Voltaire, and company). She liberally quotes their works, sometimes pointing out their faults, sometimes exalting their views. Perhaps she felt she could pull out the "good" and throw away the bad, but we usually end up deceiving ourselves when we try this. ...of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.... Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him....Colossians 2:2,3 and 8-10.
Charlotte Mason had read The Origin of the Species, by Charles Darwin, believed in evolution, and believed that the creation story in the Bible was a pretend story that God used to teach us His truths, much like a fable. Before we are too hard on her, we should realize that this thinking had swept through much of the church of her time, and there was no Institute of Creation Research or other group of creation scientists to help her think otherwise.
Her thoughts about the sin nature are confusing. At times she seems to say that children are by nature sinners, while at other times she seems to portray them as inherently good. She says children want to do right, to please their parents, and that they can be reasoned into right behavior. She also says that if we remove temptation to rebel, by avoiding crossing them as much as possible, they will not become rebellious. She reasons that if they never develop the habit of rebellion in young childhood, by never having the opportunity, while they are increasingly taught selflessness, that they will grow up with servants' hearts, and rebellion will be a foreign thing to them. There are some elements of truth here, but if we do not recognize the sin nature and its lust to be wicked, we are going to be greatly surprised the first time little Johnny decides to throw a temper tantrum. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5. See also Romans 7.
My suggestion for those interested in a Charlotte Mason-style approach to home schooling without the humanism: buy the Ruth Beechick books (see previous review).
I've also heard from a couple of home school moms that recommend using For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola as alternatives which are more biblically sound. I have not looked at either of these books personally, but thought I'd pass on the information for those that are interested.