**Disclaimer: All information on homeschooling methods will be just a generalized and very brief *if I can help it* overview of the method. Every family who uses these methods will of course work them to fit their needs. After each overview I will discuss some of the things I do and don’t like about the method in relation to our family. **

The Charlotte Mason method is more of a philosophy then an actual set of guidelines. It is literature based and blends various elements. These elements are, along with literature, narration, copy work, nature notebooks, fine arts, and languages. Charlotte Mason promotes reading “living books” over traditional textbooks. Basically a living book is a book of high quality that is intriguing and offers excellent literary content. Living books should cover the subjects being taught as closely as possible so textbooks won’t be necessary. A big component along with living books is copy work. Copy work is used in every course of study, starting at about age six and continuing through to the upper grades (including high school level). Copy work starts with penmanship, by learning letters and numbers, then it grows to tie in narration, dictation, journaling, spelling which ideally comes from a daily reading.

With the upper grade levels this copy work becomes composition and creative writing. As far as subjects English is incorporated into every subject instead of being its own separate subject, and History along with Literature are to go hand in hand, with the child learning history topics through the books about history that they are reading *or having read to them*. Geography is taught the same way, interwoven with the other subjects using maps/map work to highlight the area/ time period being covered in the history lessons.

The Charlotte Mason Method also values lessons that are short in order to maintain the focus of the child and not be too overwhelming for them. Through shorter lessons Mason felt that a child would learn more because you would have their full attention. Aside from “school” subjects Charlotte Mason also advocated teaching at least 20 desirable habits to your child one by one starting at birth. As well as respecting the child as a fellow person/human being on this Earth with us. She felt children should be valued for what they can do, not by the value that society places on them. Charlotte Mason also believed religion should be taught by the family and that it is what holds/bonds a family together, faith is a central point of the family, and passing it on to the children in the family was just as important as learning to read and write.

So for a brief recap: Charlotte Mason focuses on “living books”, books with literary content, that aren’t pointless or “twaddle”. These living books are used to spark ideas in children and also to teach various subjects, mainly history. It is heavily literature focused, the reading of “living books” are used to teach every possible subject, and for subjects such as Science nature walks/nature study are used along side the living books, Art, Music, and Math are done through doing the subjects *experiencing art/appreciating it, listening/studying music, learning an instrument*, and Math is taught through manipulatives and with a focus on understanding the “why” of various concepts not necessary through using formal lessons to achieve understanding. Copy work is also heavily used to teach things like handwriting and even spelling.

So will Charlotte Mason work for us? Possibly. There are parts of it I really like, like the emphasis on reading quality books, and nature walks/nature study adds another dimension to our science lessons. Are there things that don’t work for the aim of our schooling, yes. We personally feel that textbooks can serve a purpose and shouldn’t be completely discarded, they shouldn’t be the only source of information either, but they can be a valuable guide. So we would need to use a combination of living books and textbooks to meet our educational goals. The short lessons are already something we do. We have blocks of time set out for each subject based on the days we do those subjects. The actual formal lessons don’t require the full amount of time blocked out for them, but the blocks of time do leave us room to go deeper if need be or to allow for some independent learning.

I really like the teaching of 20 desirable habits, that seems like something we could really work into what we are already striving for *with our weekly virtues and chore charts*. The overall view of respecting the child as an individual is also very appealing as well. We greatly want our children to be independent beings, with their own thoughts, emotions, and opinions. This personal desire of ours seems to fit well into the Mason mantra of respecting the child.

While I do cringe at the thought of religion being the bond that holds our family together, I can see the importance of being the one who teaches your children about your beliefs. Neither my husband nor I want our children to learn what an Atheist is from just anyone, since many people do bring with them their own previously held opinions of what an Atheist is or isn't with them. While our beliefs aren’t the central point of our family, we can still use many of the components in the Charlotte Mason Method and just adapt it to our own unique family. So that element of it isn’t a complete negative for us.

Overall the philosophy that Charlotte Mason pioneered can very well be adapted in our home, to what extent, well you will just have to wait until we have gone through the rest of the methods to find that out.

Next on the giant drawing board: Structured/Traditional Textbook Homeschooling Method.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes


  1. You know, I can also see CM as a great way to introduce an overview of all religions (or the major ones, for time and sanity's sake LOL) as opposed to only one religion. Where Charlotte scheduled Bible into the school day, I can definitely picture you guys scheduling in a study of the basics of Buddhism, Shinto, Christianity, Judaism, and Muslim beliefs/cultures. Hmmmmm......

    I have always wanted to be a good CM home educator. How can you not love a method where you can say "No TWADDLE!", y'know? But me and the nature walks and nature journals just don't do well together. You know - that whole "nature is OUTSIDE" thing. ;-P That's my downfall with Waldorf too. We did exactly one seasonal table and failed miserably at knitting. I so *want* to be "that homeschooler" but it just hasn't happened.

  1. You know what that is an AWESOME idea. That would allow us to learn the world's religions without the stress of trying to condense it into a year or two of study. Thanks Mel!! I tried knitting once....I'll have to show you the remains of my "scarf" sometime. LOL.

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