After reading some of this authors' magazine columns, I read this book as my introduction to the Charlotte Mason method of home education. Overall the tone of the book is very serious. This is not a fast read by any means. It is not difficult to understand but I found that I was savoring the words and reading it slowly. Some of Andreola's statements were so profound that they made me stop to ponder the ideas. At the end of each chapter is a listing of questions for further thought or discussion. These would be great to use for group discussion such as at a homeschooling support group meeting.
Andreola is very interested in the Charlotte Mason method and her passion for the method comes through clearly. She is very thorough in her discussions about ways to put into practice Ms. Mason's theories. One of my favorite things about this book is that first and foremost it focuses on the importance of a happy and healthy home and family life for raising children. The backbone here is teaching the children respect, values, and virtues. Once those foundations are in place then it is time for introducing "school subjects".
All the components of the over 100-year-old Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling is here: using living books instead of textbooks, using narration instead of testing, teaching reading, writing, music, nature study, poetry, history and music. This book is so well written. It is not a quick read manual of how to implement the Charlotte Mason method; it is a well-thought out series of essays and personal reflections. Many times while reading the book I wanted to highlight passages and makes notes in the borders. This is a book to buy and keep for future reference. Even if you are homeschooling with Charlotte Mason's method as an inspiration this book is useful. The book heavily refers to Christianity but if that is not your belief system I feel you can still apply everything to your homeschooling, just ignore the references to Christianity.
Andreola repeatedly states that she didn't intend this book to be a replacement of Charlotte Mason's original books and she urges the reader to go on to read Mason's books as well. I think Andreola's book is a great introduction and if you want more then go on to read Mason's works.
Addendum: This addendum is being written 18 months after my original review was posted. Even after reading this book I felt a little confused about the day to day planning of how to homeschool with this method. This missing link was bridged by attending a workshop given by another author/homeschooling parent named Catherine Levison, which was an oral presentation of the information presented her book called "More Charlotte Mason Education". If you want a quick read that focuses on the bare bones of how to do the Charlotte Mason method (not theory) then I suggest reading "More Charlotte Mason Education".
If you are looking for a faster read about the theory of Charlotte Mason education then I'd recommend either Catherine Levison's "A Charlotte Mason Education" or Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's "For the Children's Sake". Andreola's book "A Charlotte Mason Companion" is wonderful reading when you have the time and desire to ponder over her thought-provoking passages.
I am now in a book discussion group where we are reading Andreola's "A Charlotte Mason Companion" together and discussing it. We read the sections aloud and stop to discuss our thoughts, and when the chapter is finished, we discuss the questions that Andreola provides at the end of every chapter. This discussion group has been enjoyable and an invaluable source of support and fellowship between other mothers homeschooling using the Charlotte Mason method.
on October 22, 1998
As a homeschooling family living on a single income, I'm very careful about what I buy---I can honestly say that this book of Karen Andreola's is by far the best money I've spent on homeschooling in years! When the book first arrived in the mail, I was thrilled with just the look and feel of it. But once I started reading, I thought I'd never stop! It was liking finding a cool, soothing drink of water in the middle of a parched and arid land.... I had to force myself to slow down so I could savor it and truly enjoy the book. Each chapter details another aspect of home life and educational ideas. Whether you're looking for practical ideas for teaching your children fine arts, or wondering about seasonal craft and nature activities for younger children, you'll find those treasures in this book. I was inspired to start studying Shakespeare with my eleven-year-old daughter after reading this book. My daughter loved our field trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and I don't think I ever would've thought of introducing my children to The Bard at such a young age. We're also listening to classical music more frequently, and I was so excited when my daughter told me one day, "Listen, Mom! It's Vivaldi's Four Seasons---it's the Autumn section... my favorite!" Wow... I don't think I had even heard of Vivaldi when I was eleven. A Charlotte Mason Companion is truly an inspiring book for the seasoned and experienced homeschooler or the new home educator trying to grasp an overview of what education should be.
on March 20, 2002
This is a beautifully written and thorough introduction to the Charlotte Mason philosophy. What makes Karen Andreola's book so magnificent is that she not only tells you what to do and how to do it, she tells you WHY!!! That made all the difference to me. She also demonstrates a very strong command of the English language, writing with spectacular elegance and ease.
Andreola has also taken a very personal approach in this book. You feel as if you are taking tea with a trusted friend as she reveals her personal testimonies, and narratives. I thought this was a crucial underlying strength in this work, because I found Charlotte Mason's philosophies to be complicated and arcane at first glance; whereas reading this book quiets your spirit and makes this an enjoyable journey. I also found tactful admonition for the preconceived notions I conjured up about Charlotte Mason and her so-called "gentle learning" approach. Take my advice, don't believe everything you hear on a chat board. Peruse this marvelous overview to get the facts, and then make up your mind as to whether this makes sense for your home school.
Immensely enjoyable and valuable guide. Karen Andreola truly is the perfect Charlotte Mason "Companion"!
on February 2, 2004
After homeschooling for four years and hearing a lot about Charlotte Mason, I decided I probably should read something about her so I picked up this book. I can only wish I would have read this about four years ago! I have been loosely following the Well-Trained Mind (classical) method for educating my children, and while this is a great proven method, I have felt like it takes so much time and that something is missing. Charlotte Mason Companion has helped me more clearly define what it is that I've needed.
First of all is the ultimate goal of Charlotte Mason education is self-education. We want our children to love learning, and Karen clearly describes how to accomplish this through reading many living books and having the children narrate back what they have heard. Well Trained Mind advocates both of these, but I didn't truly understand how and why narration works. Charlotte Mason also recommends narrating a lot (the method is described wonderfully in this book) between the ages of 6 and 10 and soon thereafter, the child will have the capabilities to start writing. I struggle with having my 9 year old son write and I've come to realize that he hasn't had enough narration practice. I've decided to make this a main focus of my homeschool and to really make it a habit. I can really see the value of him being able to orally re-tell a story well before requiring him to write a report.
Another thing I have loved about this book is the description of nature study. When I'd heard about nature study, I always just thought, "oh yuck, who wants to do that." Well, after reading how it should be done and why, I want to!
Another part of this book is all about discipline in the home. Charlotte Mason recommended your child have at least twenty good habits established before adulthood. I only wish I had that many, that's what makes my job so hard! Karen describes many ways to help accomplish this.
The other thing I really love is the premise that children should have three things: Something to love, Something to do and Something to think about. For Something to do, I've realized we've been so busy running around the kids have no time to do anything creative or on their own. I like that Charlotte recommends finishing all schoolwork by 1p.m. and leaving the afternoon literally to the imagination.
One glaring omission is that Karen doesn't talk about copywork or dictation at all. I think that two more chapters these subjects would have made this a complete book.
on August 21, 2000
I was homeschooled (1988 to graduation in 1992) with my brother. I always felt there was a better way than preparing seperate textbook lessons for each child. The Charlotte Mason Method IS that way!!!
Karen's book is excellent. She takes your hand and leads you step by step, sharing examples of what SHE does with her children. Although the CMM is not at all complicated: reading good literature, giving narrations, spending time in nature, journaling, etc. it IS revolutionary for those used to classic schooling with textbooks and stuffy lecturing teachers. In turn, I found the 'change' a bit overwhelming. Karen's book provides DETAILS to help make you confident as you start into it.
My friend found it too simple and gave too much detail, although she uses the CMM as well. Some with more confidence in homeschooling may find the same. In either case, it's worth reading.
on July 8, 1998
The gentle art of education has rarely been gentler than in _A Charlotte Mason Companion_. Andreola gives us a very personal and honest look into her homeschool. Here, children learn to love learning, and make learning a lifelong habit. Her "reflections" are, insightful, and her advice, thoughtful. Andreola's goal is to spread the word--you can educate your children without dull textbooks or dreary workbooks. Charlotte Mason was a 19th century British educator who believed that all children learned best when surrounded by the best books, art music, etc. If you are not familiar with her philosophy, Andreola will introduce you and show you how to make your home a gentler place to learn and grow. If you are already a Charlotte Mason fan, reading this book will be like reading a pile of letters from an old friend.
on November 24, 2001
I've read every available book on implementing Charlotte Mason's method, and Mrs. Andreola's is by far the most comprehensive and inspiring. She covers all the essential topics--narration, living books--in detail and also includes chapters on how she has approached picture study, music appreciation, and Shakespeare with her children. Her personal stories and responses to readers' questions make the book, and Miss Mason's method, very "user-friendly" to the average busy home school parent.
Readers should be aware of a number of biases in this book, however. Mrs. Andreola assumes that her audience is made up solely of Christian mothers. Being neither, I sometimes found this off-putting, but perhaps I am the exception that proves the rule. Also, please do not take all of her historical statements at face value, particularly those about ancient civilizations. She writes, for example, that "[t]he Golden Age of Greece was a time of peace"--except for those pesky Persian and Peloponnesian wars, of course. She also suggests that while the Greeks were a poetic people, the decadent Romans had no appreciation for poetry...Virgil? Ovid?
But these are minor quibbles with an otherwise outstanding book. The writing is elegant (unlike some other introductions to CM), the tone uplifting, and the ideas true to Miss Mason's own writings. I applaud Mrs. Andreola's work on behalf of Miss Mason and heartily recommend _A Charlotte Mason Companion_ to anyone looking into this practical and sane home schooling method.
on January 13, 2006
When I decided to explore a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, I thought I would go straight to the source, and read the original homeschooling series by Mason herself. While this exercise is valuable, it also proved to be more challenging than I would have thought. Andreola's Companion is the answer.
This book is very readable, accessible, and enjoyable. Andreola shows you how she applied Mason's guidelines to the education of her own children, and how you can do the same with your own. She begins with an explanation of what a Charlotte Mason Education is, and why it is valuable. Then she proceeds to show you how to implement it, with such chapters as "How We Ue Whole Books", "Tips on Narration", "Teaching Composition", "The Three Period Lesson", "Picture Study", "Approach to Poetry", "Nature for City Children" and many many more.
Some books are fine to borrow from the library or a friend. This is one you will want to own, so that you can refer back to it again and again.
on August 3, 1999
I found Karen Andreola's book to be most inspiring. She captured magnificently the philosophy of Charlotte Mason's view of education for children. In her book, she also tells of her own experience with home-schooling and gives specific ideas for others to perhaps follow.
I, too, now have adopted this philosophy as my own and and look forward with eager anticipation to new adventures in the "gentle art of learning" with our family of four children.
on September 2, 2006
I'm glad the author of this book entitled it a Charlotte Mason COMPANION, because that is just what it is. It is very well written and full of homeschool advice I agree with and plan to incorporate in my own home-teaching, but the book does not contain a lot of Charlotte Mason's words. It seems to contain more quotes from the author's magazine contributors (someone count them for me and compare them to CM's quotes--who wins? I'd like to be wrong on this one!) and more anecdotes about her own home experiences than actual teachings of Charlotte Mason.
Still, the author very appropriatesly entitled the book as a "Companion" to CM's teachings and not a nutshell summary of them, so I plan to buy CM's six volume set to read on my own, as this book left me wanting more Charlotte!
I will recommend this book to anyone teaching their children at home, or even those whose children attend school outside the home for the valuable parenting counsel it contains. There are all sorts of inspiring messages the author shares about how she helps her children learn, hown she disciplines her children, and even a darling anecdote about the day her toddler ran to the end of the street before Mom could catch up. All made for a very enjoyable read; I was left wanting more Charlotte Mason, though, so will have to get that six-volume set! :)