Monday, October 10, 2011

More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison

More Charlotte Mason Education:  A Home Schooling How to Manual by Catherine Levison is a continuation of the author’s previous book on all things Charlotte Mason, with which I was, as you may recall, not particularly overwhelmed.  I felt after reading that book that a reader would do better just reading Mason’s writings and working from there, perhaps turning (unnecessarily, in my opinion, to writers like Levison for a little help).

Apparently, Levison agrees for, towards the end of this second book, she says “I needed a very powerful reason to write a second book because I still feel strongly that reading Charlotte Mason’s books would be the most beneficial use of your time” (165).

Needless to say, this begs the question:  So why write a second book?  Frankly, if a homeschooling parent is too lazy or intimidated to read Charlotte Mason, maybe that parent should reconsider either using the method at all or homeschooling altogether.  Then again, and I am not alone in feeling this way for there are other reviews that rip her writing skills apart.  Judging by Levison’s grammar and punctuation, one wonders that she wanted to homeschool.  To be honest, I had hoped that in the time it took for her to publish a second book she would have studied enough grammar with her children/students she would have learned some of the basic grammar rules she butchers in the first book. 

Alas, she does not.  On page 97 I found this horrible monstrosity:  The students studied three countries for history, (English, French, and Roman).  Obviously, kudos for using the Oxford comma; however, what purpose does the comma after “history” serve?  None.  Either it should not have been used at all or, better yet, replace the comma with a colon and remove the parentheses altogether.  But then there is the author’s perverse decision to use adjectives rather than nouns in the listed items.  As with many dependent phrases and clauses, a simple sentence restructure will reveal how impossible her choice is: For history, the students studied three countries:  England, France, and Rome.

Let me assure the reader that I have never seen a geo-political map that had English listed as a country. 

As with the previous book, there are editing mistakes which I choose to lay at the doorstep of the publisher and not the author.  Probably this is because I really cannot bear the thought that the author was too lazy or uneducated to know the difference.

But forgetting all of these issues, is there enough content in this book to justify a follow-up to the first book?  In my opinion, no.  I want to reiterate that any homeschooling parent truly dedicated to using the Charlotte Mason should just read Mason’s own books.  After all, that is what Levison encourages her readers to do, although conveniently towards the end of her second book. 

I do want to interject a defense of the author, at this point, because I’ve clearly vilified her.  I honestly believe her children received an adequate education, no better nor worse than a child might receive in a public school setting.  Perhaps more conservative than I would have chosen for my own children but she, herself, encourages her readers to make choices that work for them.  It is unfortunate that she seems to feel her strength lies in the language arts because her published writing does not serve as an adequate testament to her mastery of the fundamentals.  It is more unfortunate others may judge the quality of a homeschool education by some of the resources I have seen and read myself. 

Follow the author’s and my advice:  read Charlotte Mason.  If you still don’t know how to make Mason applicable in your home, then maybe read A Charlotte Mason Education but if you are still confused don’t bother reading this unnecessary companion book.  Odds are there’s something better, something published more recently, that will meet your needs better than both of  these books combined.

Here is a list of books by Charlotte Mason.  Bear in mind, Mason was writing in a different era to a different audience and her philosophy is deeply rooted in her own time and place.  A modern-day parent should want to modify her suggestions to better meet the needs of the child/student while also embracing a more relevant content to fully prepare this generation of learners for the future.

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