CM Volume 5, Part 3: Social Atmosphere

Dear Reader,

In my series going through Charlotte Mason’s original books, I have come to part three of book five, Formation of Character. There is quite a lot I underlined in this part so I may take  a few posts to go through it.

The first section addresses some issue of socialization. This is a hot-button word for us homeschoolers. Miss Mason was not, in this part at least, writing to those educating their own children but rather she is giving advice on choosing a school for one’s children.

Here is what she says:

Parents may think, when they send their children to school, that the masters and mistresses and the studies are the points to be considered; that the children go to learn, i.e. to learn out of the books . . . How far this is true depends on another factor, sometimes left out of count, namely, the ‘All the boys’ and ‘All the girls’ of schoolboy and schoolgirl phrase.” (p.118)

In other words, the atmosphere of the school matters as much as the teachers and the curriculum. Children will learn from each other so one must take into account what Charlotte calls the “public opinion” of the school.

She seems to acknowledge that while in the family the parents are in charge, some one else will be in charge in school. And that is not necessarily the teacher. There will be a social hierarchy of some kind. And the child entering this new environment must find his or her own place in the social system:

“Now, we see why it is that the child finds himself in a new and very stimulating element when he goes to school. For the first time he has to find his footing among his equals.” (p.119)

This need not be a bad thing. I think Charlotte considers that it is a good developmental stage to go through. But I also think that most of us in modern American society are at a disadvantage because for the most part we cannot choose our children’s school. Some have enough money for private schools. Some districts may have more school choice than others. But largely, we can have no say in our  child’s school and certainly no control over its social environment. Which is one reason many of us homeschool. I do think Charlotte would agree that there can be bad as well as good socialization and that we need to steer our children clear of the former.

I also wonder though if we should be seeking opportunities for our children to have a social environment of their own also, some sort of setting in which the interactions are healthy but in which they occur largely without adult control. My children have this to some extent both at church and at the local homeschool park days we go to. In both these settings there is a core group of children who are usually there and they will all play together (or divide into smaller groups) and somehow decide on elaborate games to play.

What do you think? Do homeschoolers need to consciously seek out these sorts of social experiences? Or will they be okay without them?


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