Educational Philosophy, Home Education

Myth: Charlotte Mason doesn’t work for boys.

October 14, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

BY LANI M. SICILIANO

If you homeschool boys, as I do, then likely you have heard the lament of others that while they, usually the mothers, may love the Charlotte Mason method, it simply doesn’t work for their sons.

These statements, whether in person or via the internet, always startle me. Maybe the books that use Victorian drawings when outlining CM’s methods make moms think this might not be suitable for their active (that might not be a strong enough term) boys. Maybe the idea of poetry tea-time makes them think of proper little girls, not mud covered tykes. Or it might be those books — sometimes long winded classics. But I am here to dispel the notion that CM is not for boys. It is. And in fact, I think it is the perfect choice for our sons (and daughters).

 A man becomes great upon one diet only, the diet of great ideas communicated to those already prepared to receive them by a higher Power than Nature herself.

School Education, p. 156

Cindy Rollins wrote in a piece for CiRCE Institute in 2012 in which she said:

There is nothing elite about a CM education. Its first distinction is that ALL children are born persons and can be educated this way with some success.

Yes! All children are born persons. All children are worthy of educating. No matter their gender or social class. All boys, our boys, even the ones wearing a superhero costume all day; or the ones constantly playing one sport or another; or the ones digging in the mud puddle and catching frogs — all of them can and should be educated this way.

The living books a CM education is built around feed the minds, hearts and souls of our children — yes, even our sons.

This is the way to make great men and not by petty efforts to form character in this direction or that. Let us take it to ourselves that great character comes out of great thoughts and that great thought must be initiated by great thinkers; then we shall have a definite aim in education.

School Education, p. 278

I am sure my boys are not the only ones to have reenacted St. George’s battle with the dragon, imagined themselves as King Arthur or Robin Hood or Robinson Crusoe. The words and phrases of these stories play upon their very souls and reemerging in their narrations (oral and later written). History provides many of the best stories. My boys have been enamored of Teddy Roosevelt and George Washington Carver. Of George Washington and Julius Caesar. The Vikings hold a special place for them as well.

History appeals to almost every side of the moral and intellectual man. History develops imagination, and is the best possible means of training the power of the inductive methods; it widens the attitude of mind towards the world;…

Public School Boys, 1903

I have watched boys (mine and others) laugh out loud at Shakespeare; anger over the cruelty of man towards beast in White Fang and Gentle Ben; discuss the character development in David Copperfield and the implications of a world without free will in When the Tripods Came. Granted, sometimes I have read aloud while they sat upside down on the sofa; leaped off the back of the sofa and ran for the toy knights to act out a scene. But that is okay. Better than okay, maybe it is how it should be.

Our aim in Education is to give a full life. We owe it to [children] to initiate an immense number of interests … Life should be full of living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking — the strain would be too great — but, all living; that whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests … The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? … How full is the life he has before him?

School Education, p. 170

In volume 14 of The Parents’ Review, M. MacEacharn wrote of Public School Boys:

Now if education were adapted to the needs of the boy, … idleness would be an altogether foreign state, and the day would never be long enough to give out all that is within him. It is not the normal boy’s nature to be idle; only circumstances make him so. Modeling, carpentry, drawing, painting, and gardening are only a few of the occupations boys turn to naturally if they have opportunity, material and encouragement. It is also natural for boys to delight in history, romance and legend, …

Doesn’t that sound like the ideal CM homeschool day? Lessons that don’t take everything out of a child yet inspire him. Time available to him for handicrafts and nature study and even individual pursuits. How could this be conceived as not working for boys?

Lesson times are short. No busy work. No overwhelming amounts of writing. Interesting, well written school books are employed. Hands on work is encouraged and required even. And hours upon hours out of doors expected for our younger children! I know quite a few boys who would find the very idea heavenly.

The idea of all that free, unstructured time causes some to panic. Visions of boys running willy nilly about the yard, field and stream and all that. But as J. Strachan, Esq., MD says in volume 8 of The Parents’ Review in the article titled, The Position of Play in a System of Rational Education, Parts 1, 2 and 3 (189y):

It is difficult to differentiate play from work in the child, as according to nature play simply is a child’s work — the work or exercise of body and mind required to prepare for the coming life.

Of course we all know this is true. Modern sources continued to say the same thing throughout the 20th and into the 21st as homeschoolers we can allow our bundles of energy time to play, explore, and learn just as nature intended. And Charlotte Mason wanted the same. Her method allows for it, expects it.

A parent’s chief duty is to form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving. Next duty is to nourish the child daily with loving, right and noble ideas. The child having once received the idea will assimilate it in his own way, and work it into the fabric of life …

Parents and Children, p. 228

So don’t despair, mothers of sons. Your Charlotte Mason homeschool may not have proper tea parties with lace doilies. But your sons will be well educated in a tradition suited for the development of all —  girls and boys.

Lani M. Siciliano is a mother of six, four of whom are boys. She has been homeschooling using Charlotte Mason from the start and currently has children ranging from kindergarten to high school. She teaches within an AO co-op and also serves as a member of the Auxiliary for AmblesideOnline. She has dedicated her personal and professional life to education and children and young adults. She and her high school sweetheart husband, Joe, are joyfully (most of the time) living and laughing in their home filled with noise, Legos, nerf guns and books. Lots of books.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Myth: A Charlotte Mason education is gentle. | Afterthoughts August 28, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    […] was “gentle.” I have to admit that I shuddered a little. We’ve already covered the myth that CM doesn’t work for boys. Later in the series, we’ll talk about a corresponding myth that CM doesn’t work for […]

  • Reply Erin January 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    I’m very glad to have come across this one! It’s one of the things I worried about to you for the Newbie Tuesday feature. But, as I’m sure is the case with everything I worry about, it has already been put to rest somewhere else.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 25, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      I’m glad you found it! 🙂

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