More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment
Heart of Dakota Leans More Toward a Charlotte Mason-Style Education
Ahh… the Charlotte Mason (CM) or Classical question. This is one with a multi-faceted answer! At Heart of Dakota we definitely lean more toward the Charlotte Mason-style of education than the classical. Charlotte Mason and classical philosophies have some definite areas of agreement and overlap (most pointedly the reading of more “classic” type books). However, the main thrust of the two philosophies is different.
Fewer Books, Read More Slowly Over Time
CM-style readings focus on fewer books read more slowly over time. In essence, they focus on fewer/more quality books done more deeply. Classical readings enjoys using fact books (i.e Usborne, DK, and other encyclopedia-like books) as reading material. They also encourage the reading of abridgements of classics early on in education. CM readings are always living, use fact books only for reference, and recommend waiting to read the classics until the unabridged versions can be attempted. Not all classics are considered “good reading” in a CM-style education. Classical often focuses on the “Great Books.”
A Difference on Methods of Comprehension
CM focuses on narration as the primary method of comprehension. Classical also uses narration, but more for the purpose of learning to summarize. In CM-style narration, kiddos are to borrow words from the author to retell the story. Narrations are often lengthy and detailed. There is no “one right” answer or certain key points that “should be” in the narration. This is the way the child connects to and makes sense of the reading. Classical narration is looking for a more succinct narration with “certain” main key points. There is more of a feeling that a good narration should have these “key points” in it. This is a different form of narration than CM-style narration.
A Difference in Dictation Methods
CM and Classical both use dictation, but with different methods. CM uses studied dictation (meaning kiddos study the passage first to fix it in the mind prior to having it dictated). Classical also uses dictation, but does not have kiddos study it first. It is more of a test of what the kiddos know, rather than the practice of fixing it in one’s mind.
Comparing and Contrasting CM and Classical Approaches to Copywork, Grammar, and Memorization
Both CM and Classical use copywork as a form of early writing practice. This is an area of agreement. CM uses delayed formal grammar instruction and delayed formal writing instruction. Classical education focuses on early rigorous grammar instruction and also on a rigorous schedule for memorization. CM also does memorization, especially of Scripture passages and poetry, but is not nearly as rigorous as Classical.
Differences in Expected Outcomes of Written Narration
Both CM and Classical use written narration, yet the expected outcome is different. Classical uses written narration as a tool for learning how to write a summary through narration. There is more of feeling that there are certain key points that should be included for it to be done correctly. CM uses written narration as a tool to learn writing style by borrowing the author’s style and wording to convey the thrust of the reading. It is not meant as merely a stepping stone to summarizing, as classical uses written narration. In CM-style narration, the student is instead trying on various styles of writing using the author’s style, until they eventually begin developing their own style of writing.
Differences in How to Approach Bible Study and the Integration of God’s Word in the School Day
CM and typical Classical vary quite a bit on their approach to Bible study and integrating God’s Word throughout the school day. CM believed this was foundational to all learning. Classical devotes very little time during the day to this topic, unless you follow a modified classical approach (such as the Bluedorn’s Christian Classical or Memoria Press’s Christian Classical).
Character Training and the Formation of Habits
Character training and the formation of habits were a huge part of CM’s focus. She devoted much of her 6 volume series to these topics. It is in these areas particularly that I agree with her. The formation of a child’s character and his/her habits is an overlooked topic in Classical education, as the pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and education is supreme.
Differences in What’s Important and What’s Just an Add-On
CM felt poetry study, nature study, art, and music were important. She studied science through nature, art through picture study of famous paintings, music through listening to classical pieces, and poetry through daily reading of classic poems. Classical looks at these areas as “add-ons”, until they are done in the upper levels along with the rigorous study of history. With a truly classical schedule there is little time left in a very rigorous school day to devote to these things.
HOD Falls on the CM Side for Almost Everything
You can see that at HOD we fall on the CM side for almost all of the things I’ve listed above. The two other CM areas we include are picture study and classical music, and we included them when they best coordinated with our history studies. From the description above you can see some distinct differences between the two approaches. When reading this, you may hopefully be able to sort out the differences and where you fall philosophy-wise.