Sunday, June 25, 2006

A very brief review of Catherine Levison's A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education

I've been trying to get these review written all week. Now the books are due back at the library tomorrow, and I still haven't gotten this finished. I'm going to have to be far more brief than I'd like to be - these books deserve more attention than I have time this evening to give them.

In A Charlotte Mason Education, Catherine Levison used Charlotte's methods to present her reader with the condensed version of Charlotte's intentions for an entire course of study. After a short chapter presents Charlotte herself and another short chapter tells the very basics of the Charlotte Mason method, Ms. Levison presents a very brief chapter on each "class" to be taught (Literature, Poetry, Com position, Handwriting, Spelling, Foreign Language, Grammar, Science, Math, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Handicrafts, Bible, History, Geography, Citizenship and Morals and Habits). Each chapter is only about four pages long, and each focuses in on its topic carefully. There are no extra words in this book. This arrangement serves to give the reader small and memorible chunks of information - small bites to chew slowly and contemplate.

I read the book through quickly while walking on the treadmill - and I read it again more slowly over a couple more sessions of walking in place. I found myself automatically putting the book down at the end of a section to narrate back to myself while I had read. This is a very useful synopsis because of both the arrangement and the very clear, simple language Levison uses.

In More Charlotte Mason Education, Levison dives further into the hows and whys of Charlotte Mason's plans for educating England's children. She details how to keep a century book - which was rather enlightening because I hadn't seen such an in-depth treatment of that subject yet. She also writes at some length about choosing curriculum and living books and avoiding twaddle. The most useful feature of this book for me is the list of living books in the appendix. This (and the information at Simply Charlotte Mason and at Ambleside Online) will give me a starting point for creating a term. Other topics covered include short lessons, high school, using the CM method in a classroom, drilling, and support groups. Levison has also included sample schedules for terms and extensive supply and resources lists. The 24-page appendix is quite useful and is in itself probably worth the purchase price of the book.

I have, as I mentioned earlier, not purchased these books yet, but they are very shortly going onto my "to purchase" list at amazon.