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Who was Charlotte Mason anyway?
And what is this Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach all about?
More and more you are probably hearing about Charlotte Mason within the homeschooling circles.
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I confess that when I first started homeschooling I had no idea there were even different approaches to homeschooling. Can you relate to it too? I thought homeschooling was just imitating public school at home. Surely that was the only way to do it because it was the only way I knew.
It wasn’t until 3 years into homeschooling that I began to read more and educating myself about other methods of education. It was then that I heard about Ms. Mason and her philosophy of education. Little did I know that I was in fact following some of her principles through our Sonlight Curriculum.
So, who was Charlotte Mason?
Ms. Mason was an innovator in education who believed that living books and real-life experience were the best forms of education. Her work included a feast of ideas to help children receive a well-rounded education.
In 1887 she founded the Parent’s National Education Union to support teachers, schools, and parents who wanted to adopt her principles of education.
Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature. ― Charlotte M. Mason
Ms. Mason has taught me to be my children’s facilitator. She taught me to inspire them to read and allow their curiosity to cause them to learn independently as much as alongside me.
So what is exactly this Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy we hear so much about?
Here is a short and great explanation I found at Simply Charlotte Mason, one of the most popular websites for a Charlotte Mason inspired education and resources.
The Charlotte Mason method is based on Charlotte‘s firm belief that the child is a person and we must educate that whole person, not just his mind. So a Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”
Education is more than just academics. Just as a child is made of a body, soul, spirit, and mind, we must educate her as a whole, not just in part. Education involves parenting, character training, and discipleship.
Although Ms. Mason had no children of her own, she had a true passion for teaching children and giving them a well-rounded experience of learning. She knew that children love to learn and need a supportive environment to do so and she built her methods around these principles.
Here’s a look at what Charlotte Mason believed to be the best foundation of a full and inspiring education:
In order to practice handwriting, spelling, and grammar, Ms. Mason believed it was important to keep a notebook for copying down poetry, prose, scripture, and quotes daily.
Charlotte Mason taught that a child learns grammar (capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc.) best by doing copywork – that is copying over selections from fine literature into a notebook. The child is forced to pay attention to the details of writing, and corrects his work when through, by comparing it to the original (taken from Queenhomeschool.com).
We use NotebookingPages.com for copywork and handwriting.
Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. A creative fiat calls it forth. ‘Let him narrate’; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease. This amazing gift with which normal children are born is allowed to lie fallow in their education. – Charlotte Mason Volume 1, page 231
A narration is a great way to ensure that children understand the information they are learning. It’s the process of having the student repeat back in their own words what they have learned from a lesson or a book. Children narrate by nature. When we read great stories they are more likely to remember these stories and enthusiastically retell it to others.
As they get older and develop better writing skills, children can also write their narrations. Narrations can also include creative outlets such as painting or drawing.
And all the time we have books, books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children. — Charlotte Mason
Living books are an alternative to boring textbooks. They include fiction and non-fiction literature written by an author with a talent for bringing the story alive and engaging children’s ideas and imagination so they are able to better understand and retain the information they learn.
Ms. Mason had a strong belief that children should explore God’s creation and spend time outdoors to develop a better education. She encouraged them to keep nature journals in order to discover and identify plants and wildlife. She also encouraged writing poetry, detailed descriptions, and even notes about the weather in these journals.
I highly recommend you to visit Handbook of Nature Study and sign up for their Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletter. It’s free and jam-packed with information.
We love using NotebookingPages.com for Nature Studies.
And we absolutely love using Exploring Nature with Children year round!
Art appreciation was another important aspect of Ms. Mason’s program. Her recommendation was to work with one artist at a time for a few days and allow the student to look at the painting then take it away and have them narrate back from memory what they saw. Then continue this process for several days with the same painting and watch how the student’s understanding expands as they continue to look at it and discuss it.
The singing of hymns at home and of the hymns and canticles in church should be a special delight. —Charlotte Mason
Ms. Mason believed that appreciation for life could come from music. For the study of hymns, she recommended teaching one hymn at a time until students learn every verse by memory, usually working on one hymn per week.
The work of Shakespeare helps to develop language arts through poetry. Ms. Mason wanted students to have a wonderful use of words and vocabulary and believed that poetry is the best of literature. She introduced students to poetry through Shakespeare by reading plays, then reading specific lines from the play in Shakespeare’s words and asking students to narrate back in their own words what they believed Shakespeare was saying.
I confess that for as much as I wanted to introduce my children to Shakespeare, I didn’t know where to begin until I enrolled myself in 10 Weeks of Shakespeare. This course is wonderful and it gives the confidence and the resources to teach your children from Kindergarten to High School.
Learning a new language should be approached in the same way that we learn our own, hearing it and speaking it first, then learning to read and write it. Have students say a series of statements, such as “I pick up the book. I open the book.”, while performing the action. By performing everyday activities with the new language, students begin to think in the new language.
The habits of the child produce the character of the man. – Charlotte Mason
Ms. Mason considered the formation of habits in a child a mother’s habit. Habit formation is an important part of a Charlotte Mason homeschool approach. Charlotte Mason describes training habits as laying down the rails. What a wonderful picture in a mother’s mind as she focuses on teaching her children good habits and trains them the way they should go as the Bible commands us.
My favorite resource for habits training it’s called Laying Down the Rails from Simply Charlotte Mason. I do recommend the full bundle that comes with a workshop DVD on habits formation taught by Sonya Shafer.
To get started with the Charlotte Mason Method, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the methods. It is not about a set curriculum, but more about a group of methods you can teach using a variety of resources.
Where to Find Great Resources and Curricula for a Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach:
- Ambleside Online
- My Father’s World
- Sonlight Curriculum
- NOEO Science
- Truth Quest History
- Beautiful Feet Books
- Brookdale House
- Queen Homeschool
- Math Lessons for a Living Education
- Loving Living Math
- Our Journey Westward
- Northwood Press
To find the best resources to get you started and support your educational journey, be sure to also visit Simply Charlotte Mason, Amazon, and Christianbook.com for tools, guides, journals, living books and more.
Favorite Charlotte Mason Homeschool Books:
Some of the best books for learning the Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach include:
- A Charlotte Mason Companion
- For The Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School
- A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual
-> Check out also my big list of homeschool book recommendations.
Charlotte Mason Homeschool Focused Podcasts
If you enjoy listening to Podcasts, like I do, some of the best I’ve found include:
Other Blog Posts About a Charlotte Mason Homeschool Education
- Our Unhurried Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach
- Our Relaxed, Restful & All About Charlotte Mason Homeschool
- An Organic Charlotte Mason Homeschool
- Charlotte Mason Tidal School
- A Modern Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
- Modern Secular Charlotte Mason
- A Second Generation Homeschooling Family
- From Public School to Homeschool Charlotte Mason’s Way
- Our First Year of Homeschool: Approach, Routine & Curriculum.
- Reflections As We Near The End Of Our Homeschooling Journey
- It’s a Wabi Wonderful Life
- Cultivating a Life of Order and Wonder
- Charlotte Mason How-To
- An Organic Charlotte Mason Homeschool
Want smoother days in your homeschool? Download my new Charlotte Mason Homeschool Guide.
Ana is the unhurried homeschool mom of 3, wife, health coach, social media and online marketing strategist, and blogger. She loves to encourage, inspire and empower moms to go from stressed to blessed by providing them with the tips, strategies, and resources they need to succeed. Ana is the founder of They Call Me Blessed and the creator of 5 Days to Your Best Homeschool Years, Grow Your Blog Partying in 30 Days, and the Beyond Blessed Life Planners. She leads a vibrant online community for moms on Facebook and you can connect with her at www.facebook.com/theycallmeblessedblog.