CMP Review 2023-08-31

CMP Review 2023-08-31

August 31, 2023

A prevalent but unfortunate myth is that the Charlotte Mason method is only for children, and that when they become teens, they must move on to a more robust philosophy of education. Perhaps nowhere is this myth more damaging than in the practice of nature study. It is thus reduced to a kind of playing outside, a precursor to serious science.

As far back as 1935 this myth had already emerged. Rose Amy Pennethorne lamented, “It is sadly true that many people look upon any form of Nature study as ‘something for the babies’ which is outgrown, of course, by noble people in their teens.” Interestingly, she places the blame on an educational reformer who precedes Miss Mason: “Perhaps all the admirable work done by Froebel and other teachers in the junior classes has something to answer for, and there has been too much baby-talk.”

But Charlotte Mason is not the one to answer for this. Her Form V & VI programmes clearly required students in their upper teens to “Keep a Nature Note-Book,” as well as continue with outdoor special studies. There was no baby talk, and nature study was not merely a precursor to, but an enduring companion to, the study of science.

The ones who miss out because of this myth are not only the teens but also the parent-teachers. For so many years I was the guide on nature walks, modeling observation and generating interest. How sweet it would have been to know that a different experience awaited me in later years.

On a recent nature walk, I tagged along and tried to keep up as my son modeled observation for me and generated interest in all the things I was missing. But such moments are only possible if we believe that Charlotte Mason’s ideas are for children, for teens, and for life.