The CMC philosophy of learning draws on the work of great thinkers and educators such as Charlotte Mason, Mortimer Adler, Dr Francis Schaeffer, and Socrates.
Charlotte Mason’s motto was, ‘Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.’
Education is an atmosphere: The atmosphere of the learning environment is seen to be crucially important. When considering atmosphere, we care about both the physical environment of the student’s learning centre, as well as the ‘social-emotional’ atmosphere. We aim for an atmosphere that it is both disciplined and friendly, with parents, teachers and students always positively uplifting one another. The atmosphere of ideas and values is also very important. What we value in life is more often caught rather than taught.
Education is a discipline: Of course, it takes much time and effort to continually train everyone towards this type of supportive learning culture. One of the key roles of the Teacher and parent is to work diligently on the formation of habitual character traits until they become the innate ‘modus operandi’ of the child.
Education is a life: Mason believed in respecting the personhood of each child; and that our role as educators is to foster the love of learning as a lifestyle. Instead of force-feeding them information, she respected and trusted the child’s mind to digest and assimilate quality food for thought. She was careful to present a smorgasbord of quality mental food, and then allowed them to share their thoughts and discoveries, and to come to conclusions on their own. In her classes, she tried not to over-explain, lecture, or analyse; and tried not to get too much between the student and the author or artist they were studying.
Mason recommended ‘whole’ books rather than condensed snippets. She gave the children time to read a ‘whole’ book by an author rather than a selected reading in an anthology, so they could fully understand and appreciate what the author had to offer. Rather than using textbooks which are typically full of ‘canned bits of information’ with rote memorisation of facts, she recommended what she called ‘living’ books which were excellently written stories and texts authored by someone who is passionate about their topic and brings it to life. Living books were often written in conversational style, and included selected biographies, classics, and historical novels. Quality books of this sort allowed the reader to identify with and understand the personal lives of the characters while gleaning important contextual facts.
She employed a comprehension technique called ‘narration’ as a significant learning tool. The child is required to listen intently to a reading (only once) and then retell it as closely as he/she can. Charlotte Mason believed this helped a child to interact with the material in an original way and to assimilate and connect information in the process. She felt it was important that children be exposed to only the best literature rather than ‘twaddle’ which was how she defined literature written ‘down’ to a child’s level.
Charlotte Mason believed in a structured morning of basic academics and then dedicating time in the afternoon to real-life situations through hands-on projects, work experience, play, exploration, nature walks, visits to the museum, and reading. This would allow education to be a life-enriching, joyous experience and adventure.