The Mason Method is at the heart of our unhurried style of education. It involves putting a child in touch with the universe of thoughts and things that is all around us. A child’s growing relationships with the ideas we lay before them will take many forms — one day a mental stretch to reach for a difficult math concept or memorize a favorite poem and another day careful attention to the tiny spots on the wing of a moth and the perfect execution of three lines of a favorite saying in a commonplace notebook.
Education according to The Mason Method is an atmosphere of anticipation and good cheer, of reverent silence alternating with joyful exuberance. It is the discipline of hard effort and the mastery of difficult concepts. It is a life well-lived, among the wildflowers, the concertos, the paintings, the Shakespearean sonnets, the enticing biographies and living books. This life will require a paradigm shift away from everything you thought school was supposed to be to everything you dreamed it could be–
For the children’s sake.
The Mason Method is based on the writings of Charlotte M. Mason, whose thoughts on education filled six large volumes and included principles that were tested in a gritty environment that included children from a coal mining village during the late 1800s. Miss Mason believed that all children are born persons with affinities and abilities granted them by God and should be treated with respect and courtesy as able members of our society with the ability to wrestle with ideas on the level at which their brains are developed.
These truths did not vary by socioeconomic level. She believed every child had the capacity to take in knowledge and ideas with avidity. We like that about Miss Mason. We intend to treat our children as treasures, rich with possibilities, rather than vessels waiting to be filled with information or machines ready to fill worksheets with data they have ingested and regurgitated, never to remember again.
We are about reaching the soul of a child and placing meaningful experiences within his or her grasp (and perhaps slightly above so they have something to reach for). We will do this by educating them with books and things. Sounds simple, right? Books will be chosen carefully. We will read whole books, not excerpts or readers. And we will use “things” that are not fabricated with children in mind but are real world items.
Your child will learn to use fingers and hands nimbly through varied types of handicrafts. They will paint in the style of the artists they are studying, sing the melodies of the great composers of the past, and learn about the lives of the mathematicians who invented or uncovered great mathematical concepts over the course of time. History will be the pivot upon which the rest of the curriculum turns. As they learn new skills, they will also learn who first developed them.
Children become animated and excited when they are allowed to learn this way. Conversations around your dinner table will begin to look like this:
Child: Mommy, did you know the sedge warbler lives in the reeds at the bank of the river?
Mommy: No, dear. How very interesting. Tell me more!
Child: Listen, Mommy. This is what the sedge warbler sounds like: (child whistles) And this is what it looks like: (child produces nature notebook and shows painting) and Mommy! Here are some reeds we gathered at Reedy Creek that are just like the ones sedge warblers use to build their nests! Next week we are going to build our own nests. I can’t wait to go back to school next week!
This “telling” is also important to us at RCCS. We use narration or retelling as a device to increase observation skills and memory. When a child knows he or she will be required to retell what is being presented, they tend to listen more attentively.
Reedy Creek Community School values the slow simmering of thoughts and ideas. Education is a life. It is not a sprint or even any kind of race at all. Our students are not placed in a hierarchy of ability or skill level. We do not assign grades, but rather watch our students to make sure they are attending to the practices we offer. Each student will have a portfolio to show parents at the end of the term.
Things you might find unique to a Charlotte Mason School:
The Enquire Within: A continually growing notebook filled with practical knowledge like how to change the oil in your car or for the young ones how to crack an egg or how to get a stain out of a sofa cushion.
A Commonplace Book: A treasured possession, this notebook will contain carefully selected quotes that were meaningful to your child in their best handwriting.
Paper Sloyd: Carefully measured and cut to specifications for each project, sloyd work is like useful origami and helps struggling fingers learn to cut, fold, and prepare for later wood projects.
Tonic Sol-fa: Sight-singing using Sol-fa is universal. Once your child learns this way of singing, he or she can join choral groups in any country and any language.
Shakespeare: Each year, we study a play in depth and try to memorize a sonnet.
Plutarch: Plutarch’s Lives are biographical tales that offer citizenship lessons through story.
Picture Study: Carefully studying a painting until it is stored in your mind improves concentration and gives your student a museum to draw from at any time in any place.
Nature Study: The study of the natural world is important to us. We show off our beautiful North Carolina foliage to our students and let them draw and paint them in their notebooks.
Composer Study: Studying the great composers of the past fosters a love for music within our students. They each have their favorites who have become like treasured friends.
Living Books: Miss Mason believed children deserve the best, so she had her students read living books that were vivid, rich, and full. Twaddly little story books are just not worth reading when you have these lush alternatives at your disposal.
Swedish Drill: For healthy bodies and to improve careful attention at other times, children will play games, exercise, and run relay races.
Narration: Every student will grow skilled in the art of telling back. Not talking back — telling back is required after each reading.
Habit of Attention: Full and complete concentration is required at all times. This is the easiest rule to follow because our students are engaged and interested in what they are learning.
Habit of Perfect Execution: We may not require any “busy work” of our students, but the work they do must be carefully executed.
At Reedy Creek Community School, we will grow together toward a life well lived in a family environment where parents are cherished as part of our community as well as their students. Unplugging from the speedy rat race that is current American life can be a transformative experience for all members of the family. We encourage our families to learn how to experience the joy of an unhurried life, to take up a handicraft, and to read nourishing literature along with us, beginning with Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book, For the Children’s Sake.
If you are interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason method or about nature study and outdoor education, information is readily available from the seasoned professionals who created amblesideonline. You can search Parents’ Review articles, Charlotte Mason’s six-volume series, or join their forum and learn from fellow sojourners.