Friday, June 7, 2013

The Charlotte Mason Approach to Homeschooling

There are several different styles of homeschooling.  I will try to cover as many of them as I am able.  I would like to begin with the one I use most and like best:  The Charlotte Mason Approach.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who devoted her life to improving the quality of education in England at the turn of the twentieth century.  She wrote several books on education, and two key mottos taken from the principles written in her books include "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and "Education is the science of relations."  She believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such.  Her motto for students was "I am, I can, I ought, I will".

Her method of teaching includes reading living books.  "What are living books?" you may ask.  Living books are usually written by one person with a passion for the topic and a broad command of the language as well as the ability to write in an engaging, literary style while communicating great ideas rather than mere facts.  A living book should be alive and engaging, and you can find living books for almost all subjects.

Some great living books I read with our youngest this past school year are:  Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field.  This book was a wonderful story about a wooden doll and the places she went and the children who played with her.  We used it for both history and geography.  It was suggested by my friend, Karen Andreola, who also wrote A Charlotte Mason Companion.  Karen also has a lovely blog you can follow at:  We also read a fantastic book about Benjamin Franklin entitled Go Fly a Kite, Ben Franklin! by Peter and Connie Roop.  We read this book for history.  The Magic Schoolbus books are great living books to use for science and health.  Other great living books for geography are the ones written by Holling C. Holling, like Pagoo, Paddle to the Sea, Seabird and Minn of the Mississippi.  There are lots of great living books for history as well.  Years ago, when the two older boys were studying Abraham Lincoln and slavery, we read a series of books that included the title:  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  They loved these books, and they are still some of our oldest son's favorites.

Charlotte Mason's method also includes narration -- that a child is expected to tell what they have read, either orally, written or drawn.  This should be done after just one reading of the material, and you should not correct or interrupt the student while the student is presenting their narration.  This requires the child to train his powers of attention, to combine all he has read into one condensed piece, to organize the material in his mind and to determine how best to communicate all that he remembers in his own words.

In early years, you can simply have your child look at great art photos and have them tell you about it.  This will help them learn how to compose a story.

Charlotte Mason also strongly believed in habit training.  She believed that habit training was a powerful force in helping children to take charge of their own education.  She specifically encouraged the child's learning of the habits of attention, perfect execution, obedience, truthfulness, an even temper, neatness, kindness, order, respect, recall, punctuality, gentleness, cleanliness, among others.

Charlotte Mason advocated that lessons be kept short and focused for younger children, seldom more than 20 minutes in length. As children mature and develop greater mastery of their powers of attention, lessons grow progressively longer. Students were given a schedule so they knew they had a limited time to complete the lesson. Miss Mason believed that dreary or dawdling lessons 'stultified a child's wits' and blocked his intellectual progress at the start. Mason believed these short, concentrated, focused lessons encouraged the habit of full attention, and securing such a habit early in life equipped the children to receive a broad education encompassing a well-ordered feast of subjects. Miss Mason also recommended alternating lessons so that children were doing a variety of work so as not to fatigue the brain- sums would be followed by a lesson in writing, for instance, rather than two history readings back to back.

Miss Mason felt it was important to teach handwriting, and she used dictation and copywork to reinforce grammar and to teach spelling. Because grammar is a difficult concept for children to grasp, she recommended postponing the formal study of grammar until the child reached the age of ten. She believed that consistent practice in narration, dictation and copywork lays the foundation for grammar study.

Charlotte Mason taught foreign language. And, she believed that children deserved direct contact with the best art. She believed that the Bible should be read everyday.

If you have any interest in learning more about Charlotte Mason and her method of education, you can read more about her at:, which is where I found some of the information I have shared here.  However, if you think the Charlotte Mason method may be the method for your family, I highly recommend you purchase and read my friend, Karen Andreola's book, The Charlotte Mason Companion, available through

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