Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Practical Applications of the Charlotte Mason method... Or, how my kids fell in love with learning.

Are you a school principal, teacher, homeschool parent, or homeschool graduate who has successfully implemented Charlotte Mason principles in your educational environment? We welcome submissions and would love to hear from you. What worked well for you? What did you find difficult to put into practice? Describe your greatest success? Your greatest failure and how it impacted future implementation? Send me your articles and I'll post them on this blog. You can email me at

I'd like to begin by sharing a personal story or two. I've graduated three homeschool students using Charlotte Mason methods and I'd love to boast about how this educational outlook has made them into the beautiful adults they now are.

My eldest daughter is a senior at Berklee College of Music, majoring in vocal performance and film scoring. Her love for music began when we implemented Miss Mason's ideas for composer study. Hannah's initial contact with classical music came from attending live concerts in Norfolk, Virginia, and from taking Suzuki violin lessons at the age of eight. She practiced daily for thirty minutes or less at first, making sure she didn't get tired or lose her focus too quickly. The early habit training is typical of a Charlotte Mason education and established positive, focused attention from her early elementary years. We didn't realize it, but she had mild ADHD. The decision to focus on habits and lay down deep-rooted habits early was a good one, especially in light of the struggle with attention her brain was giving her. She set timers for herself, relied on alarms and daily regimens, and soon, she was able to conquer the struggles she had and channel the creativity that most ADHD kids have into avenues like writing symphonies and translating opera arias into Klingon! So very interesting.

Our second daughter fell in love with the work of Mary Anning at an early age and talked of nothing but paleontology for years and years. She had a dig kit, tools, watched documentaries, researched, went to museums (to see T-Sue!) and read voraciously. She has since put her studies on hold in favor of raising her own family, but she intends to pursue her dreams in the future, perhaps including her children. She has also performed in operas like La Boheme, The Pearl Fishers, and Tosca with Opera Carolina. The quest and thirst for knowledge that she now has came from me standing back and allowing her to pursue the information, skills, and experiences she desired as far as they might take her. I did not limit her to age appropriate books, textbooks, or documentaries for kids. She was very thankful that we opened her to a wide variety of ideas and still talks with a wide grin about her learning experiences in our homeschool.

Our son traveled a difficult journey, fraught with illness and learning issues. For him, attention deficit wasn't the only struggle -- he had dysgraphia, asthma, and a tic disorder as well. As we continued to utilize Charlotte Mason methods with him, focusing on reading aloud well-written, living books and having him narrate back to us orally, he began to develop a strong ability to memorize and to perform. For him, throwing his entire body into the narration helped him remember what he read and reinforced his visual memory -- some of which was affected by his learning differences. As time went on, he began landing lead roles in community theater and is now a freshman at the prestigious Boston Conservatory, studying Musical Theater. His steady progress can be largely attributed to the warmth, devotion, and continual encouragement toward magnanimity and a largeness of heart that his early educational journey gave him. These are ideas we don't necessarily readily attribute to Charlotte Mason. They aren't as easily measurable as a narration or picture study. But once you embark on this journey, you will find you are developing within your students a deep appreciation for humanity, for individual worth, for beauty, greatness, heroism, generosity, kindness, and empathy.

We have one more son still studying with us at home. He is very hands-on and can put furniture together, fix appliances (from a washing machine to installing a disposal to repairing computers), and more. From origami to playing drums, he is highly skilled, well read, and learning by leaps and bounds. 

Please share your success stories with me and let's talk about how we can apply Miss Mason's methods from a practical standpoint and help our students find success and become empathetic, loving, decent human beings along the way.

Megan Hoyt

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