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How Charlotte Mason Inspired a New Love of Reading

    Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.  

Charlotte Mason, The Story of Charlotte Mason

When we left traditional school, making literature fun and exciting again was my first priority. So, I gravitated to a homeschool philosophy that was based on immersion into literature, and not just literature, the best literature.

Charlotte Mason introduced us to narration, the act of retelling what the child has learned. It was a gentle way of assessing my children's progress and so much more effective than tests.

I’m not saying that my kids loved every book we read, or that they always wanted to narrate what they learned while reading. But when they did love a book and they were excited about it, narration became organic.

Narration became big conversations filled with them telling me their thoughts and ideas.

In fact, they began leading discussions, expressing their own opinions and enjoying sharing them with me. 

The magic they felt for reading literature was back.

     Poetry, too, supplies us with tools for the modeling of our lives, and the use of these we must get at for ourselves. The line that strikes us as we read, that recurs, that we murmur over at odd moments – this is the line that influences our living. 

Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

I became fascinated in this new love of reading and began thinking of ways I could inspire them to delve into different types of literature without making it into “another assignment.”

I discovered poetry teatimes, and we started adding snacks and poetry readings to our week. Then we began inviting our friends to meet us at the library for these poetry readings with snacks and tea. In a few short months, we had a group of over 20 kids of all ages meeting us to share poems they loved or had written.

It was truly inspired.

I realized that the social interaction with other children, plus the added benefit of treats had opened us up to a whole new area of education.

So, I went a step further.

I started book clubs for my kids.

We, again, invited our friends to meet us for snacks and literature, but this time I added activities I thought might encourage them to dig deeper into the novels.

We would have huge parties at the end of each month that celebrated the book we had just finished reading. We would go on rabbit trails and experience the book through hands-on activities or adventures into the unknown.

These book clubs not only inspired my own children to a new love of reading, but they also inspired our friends.

     The teacher who allows his scholars the freedom of the city of books is at liberty to be their guide, philosopher, and friend; and is no longer the mere instrument of forcible intellectual feeding.  

Charlotte Mason, An Essay Towards A Philosophy of Education

These book clubs are now a staple of our homeschool (as are poetry teatimes).

I read the books along with the children and look for ways we can dig deeper. I listen to what they find exciting about their reading and find rabbit trails we can follow.

It isn’t my job to lead them, but to nurture their thoughts and ideas. It’s my job to help them see more than what is in their own world – to look outside of themselves and experience new worlds and new ideas.

Book clubs have become more than just a passing fancy in our homeschool. They are an integral part of what we are about as a family. As a parent I want my children to be empathetic and open-minded, while still being true to who they are. As an educator, I want them to have broad views of philosophy and literature. In truth, I want them to become people who have “great thoughts” and a “well-nourished mind”.

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