Today I want to continue on with my series of how Charlotte Mason’s ideas on education can be compared to the Australian National Curriculum (ANC). My subject this time is primary school geography.
The Australian Curriculum breaks geography into two strands:
- geography understanding and knowledge,
- geography inquiry and skills.
And when I look at CM’s approach she also has these categories although her split would be:
- physical geography (including the environment),
- geography skills
- human geography.
Now, after spending some time reviewing CM’s ideas again, I can see the Australian Curriculum and Charlotte Mason do have many things in common but of course the approach and emphasis varies.
I used to think geography was just about places, countries and maps. And when I thought about teaching geography the CM way I thought I would teach about places and countries, using good books with stories, and maps. And I think that is what I thought Charlotte Mason thought that was the best approach. Wow! That’s a lot of thoughts isn’t it!
Then I began to read through the Australian Curriculum and I saw all these environmental issue topics and I wondered, “Why on earth is that in the geography curriculum, when it should just be about places, countries and maps.” So I went back to my CM Original Homeschooling Series book and started rereading her ideas on geography. And to my surprise I found in CM books ideas about the environment.
When children are young Charlotte said they should be out-of-doors learning about the places that they go. She wanted them to learn about the landscape, habitat, climate, flora and fauna. They should see streams and rivers, plains and mountains; they should learn their names; they should paint or sketch what they see. She said these are their first geography lessons but they need not know it. I laughed to myself because I did not know it either. I always put these out-of-doors lessons in the category of nature study and for me that was really a science subject. Then it clicked in my brain she had been teaching me (and my children of course) my geography through nature study.
Charlotte’s emphasis on teaching nature study was also about teaching children to appreciate and respect nature which would also bring a sympathy for the environment. This objective also appears in the National Curriculum although the method of bringing children to this conclusion is a harsher shock treatment method.
Countries and Places
CM and the ANC want the study of geography to start locally with looking at places (including nature study) and making observations about how people live around them.
They then agree on the big picture of getting children to understand how the world is divided into continents. They place an emphasis on learning about your home country (Australia’s geography in Year 3-4). Then it begins to study other countries, such as our neighbouring countries, and a selection of other countries. The ANC has stipulated the order of what countries you can study but I think flexibility in homeschooling allows you to cover them in your own order. Charlotte Mason loves an in-depth study to make a child at home in that country.
Map making, and learning from maps, is also an important part of both curriculums. I would say the biggest difference here would be the teaching approach used with a CM method which would vary greatly from a school approach however that is another topic.
One great difference is the three cross curriculum themes in the National Curriculum that are meant to be incorporated into ALL SUBJECTS of the curriculum (even maths). These “priority” subjects are: teaching about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australia’s place in Asia and sustainability. When you look at the National Curriculum objectives you can see these topics are surfacing in every year and in every subject. In geography these themes permeate the objectives. Whilst I don’t mind teaching on these subjects (my way), I believe they are very out of balance in the National Curriculum and are wrapped up in political ideologies and agendas with a whole lot of bias attached to them. I’m going to leave those topics alone and let you decide how they fit into to your philosophy of teaching.
The National Curriculum also expects children to make decisions (have an opinion) about environmental issues before, I believe, they really have the knowledge. CM often talked about the teacher not getting in the way and just letting a child learn about a topic and discover for themselves. She believed children would have a burgeoning understanding of issues. Children were encouraged to think for themselves but they were not required “to change the world” from such an early age.
I hope this review of the Australian National Geography Curriculum and Charlotte Mason has helped you understand the similarities and differences in these two approaches.
Suggested Scope and Sequence Geography
To look into this topic more visit Homeschool Geography Curriculum