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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.

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?

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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:

Copywork

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.

Narration

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

Narration is a great way to ensure that children understand the information they are learning. It’s the process of having the students 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.

Living Books

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.

Nature Studies

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 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!

Exploring Nature With Children | Nature Study Curriculum | Nature Study for Homeschool | Explore Nature With Kids | Homeschool Nature Studies | Charlotte Mason Nature Study | Nature Study Resources
Picture credit: Lynn Seldon

Picture Study

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.

Hymn Study

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.

I love this Hymn Study plan from Simply Charlotte Mason and also their Singing the Great Hymns curriculum. We enjoy Hymn Study in the morning along with our Morning Basket.

 Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn StoriesThen Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories: Book 2 (BK 2)Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories: Book 2 (BK 2) Then Sings My Soul Book 3: The Story of Our Songs: Drawing Strength from the Great Hymns of Our Faith (Then Sings My Soul (Thomas Nelson))Then Sings My Soul Book 3: The Story of Our Songs: Drawing Strength from the Great Hymns of Our Faith (Then Sings My Soul (Thomas Nelson)) Hymns for a Kid’s Heart, Vol. 1Hymns for a Kid's Heart, Vol. 1 Hymns for Kids: Learn How to Read and Enjoy Christian Hymns (Psalms and Praise Choruses, Too!)Hymns for Kids: Learn How to Read and Enjoy Christian Hymns (Psalms and Praise Choruses, Too!) The Stories of HymnsThe Stories of Hymns Be Still, My Soul: The Inspiring Stories behind 175 of the Most-Loved HymnsBe Still, My Soul: The Inspiring Stories behind 175 of the Most-Loved Hymns

 

Shakespeare

The work of Shakespeare helps to develop language arts through poetry. Ms. Mason wanted students to have 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 confidence and the resources to teach your children from Kindergarten to High School.

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach | Teaching Shakespeare in Your Homeschool | Teaching Shakespeare the Charlotte Mason Way | Learn Music in Our Homeschool | 10 Weeks of Shakespeare Introductory Course | Introduction to Shakespeare

Foreign Language

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.

Charlotte Mason Homeschool - Hebrew for Homeschoolers. Learn Hebrew in only 10 weeks!

Habit Training

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.

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach | Laying Down the Rails | Simply Charlotte Mason | Charlotte Mason Habit Training | Charlotte Mason Character Training

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.

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach

Where to Find Great Resources and Curricula for a Charlotte Mason Homeschool Approach:

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:

-> Check out also my big list of homeschool book recommendations.

Charlotte Mason Homeschool Focused Podcasts

Check out our brand new podcast: The Charlotte Mason Inspired Podcast!

If you enjoy listening to Podcasts, as I do, some of the best I’ve found include:

Everyday Graces

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Charlotte Mason Homeschool Books

 For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and SchoolFor the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for TodayWhen Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of LearningA Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning Mother Culture ®: For a Happy HomeschoolMother Culture ®: For a Happy Homeschool Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning : A Story for Mother CulturePocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning : A Story for Mother Culture In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of EducationIn Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte MasonThe Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason A Philosophy of Education: Annotated EditionA Philosophy of Education: Annotated Edition In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte MasonIn Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical TraditionConsider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition Start Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 PrinciplesStart Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles Laying down the Rails : A Charlotte Mason Habits HandbookLaying down the Rails : A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook Charlotte Mason’s Original Home Schooling SeriesCharlotte Mason’s Original Home Schooling Series The Story of Charlotte MasonThe Story of Charlotte Mason Book of Centuries A Timeline book of World History Timeline Notebook A Blank Time Line from 5000 BC to the PresentBook of Centuries A Timeline book of World History Timeline Notebook A Blank Time Line from 5000 BC to the Present Homeschool History Book of Centuries: A Portable Timeline for Charlotte Mason and Classical Education Students (Rethink Schooling) (Volume 1)Homeschool History Book of Centuries: A Portable Timeline for Charlotte Mason and Classical Education Students (Rethink Schooling) (Volume 1) A Charlotte Mason Book of CenturiesA Charlotte Mason Book of Centuries The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte MasonThe Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason The British Empire and the Great Divisions of the Globe: Geographical Reader Book 2The British Empire and the Great Divisions of the Globe: Geographical Reader Book 2 Ideas and Books: The Means of Education (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 3)Ideas and Books: The Means of Education (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 3) Home Education: Training and Educating Children Under NineHome Education: Training and Educating Children Under Nine The Original Home School SeriesThe Original Home School Series Great Literature Copywork: Practice Cursive Handwriting with Excerpts from the Great Books (Classic Copywork: Cursive) (Volume 1)Great Literature Copywork: Practice Cursive Handwriting with Excerpts from the Great Books (Classic Copywork: Cursive) (Volume 1) Know and Tell: The Art of NarrationKnow and Tell: The Art of Narration Copywork Cursive Handwriting Practice Workbook For teens and adults – Small college lined font Proverbs from around the World.: 100 Proverbs from … handwriting practice Read, trace and writeCopywork Cursive Handwriting Practice Workbook For teens and adults – Small college lined font Proverbs from around the World.: 100 Proverbs from ... handwriting practice Read, trace and write Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural WorldNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World Minds More Awake: The Vision of Charlotte MasonMinds More Awake: The Vision of Charlotte Mason McGuffey First Eclectic Reader 1857: With Instructions for Use with Charlotte Mason Teaching Methods (McGuffey’s New Eclectic Readers) (Volume 1)McGuffey First Eclectic Reader 1857: With Instructions for Use with Charlotte Mason Teaching Methods (McGuffey's New Eclectic Readers) (Volume 1) Simply Charlotte Mason – All Day Charlotte Mason Seminar on DVD & Seminar BookSimply Charlotte Mason - All Day Charlotte Mason Seminar on DVD & Seminar Book A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational IdeasA Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason's Timeless Educational Ideas Charlotte Mason Wall Decal – I AM I CAN I OUGHT I WILL – Religious Wall Decorations – Vinyl Wall Decal for Home Decor, HomeSchool or Church Decoration.Charlotte Mason Wall Decal - I AM I CAN I OUGHT I WILL - Religious Wall Decorations - Vinyl Wall Decal for Home Decor, HomeSchool or Church Decoration. McGuffey Third Eclectic Reader 1857: With Instructions for Use with Charlotte Mason Teaching Methods (McGuffey’s New Eclectic Readers) (Volume 3)McGuffey Third Eclectic Reader 1857: With Instructions for Use with Charlotte Mason Teaching Methods (McGuffey's New Eclectic Readers) (Volume 3) Charlotte Mason Lesson Planner: Homeschooling Daily Plan and Schedule NotebookCharlotte Mason Lesson Planner: Homeschooling Daily Plan and Schedule Notebook Ideas and Books: The Method of Education (Charlotte Mason Topics Book 3)Ideas and Books: The Method of Education (Charlotte Mason Topics Book 3) The Saviour of the World – Vol. 1: The Holy Infancy (Volume 1)The Saviour of the World - Vol. 1: The Holy Infancy (Volume 1) More Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To ManualMore Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual Charlotte Mason’s Parents and Children (Home Education Series)Charlotte Mason's Parents and Children (Home Education Series) School Education (The Home Education Series) (Volume 3)School Education (The Home Education Series) (Volume 3) Ourselves (The Home Education Series) (Volume 4)Ourselves (The Home Education Series) (Volume 4) Parents and Children (The Home Education Series) (Volume 2)Parents and Children (The Home Education Series) (Volume 2) A Philosophy of Education (The Home Education Series)A Philosophy of Education (The Home Education Series) Home Education (The Home Education Series) (Volume 1)Home Education (The Home Education Series) (Volume 1) Formation of Character (The Home Education Series) (Volume 5)Formation of Character (The Home Education Series) (Volume 5) A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To ManualA Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 1)Habits: The Mother's Secret to Success (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 1) A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular HomeschoolingA Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling Copywork: A workbook collection of Aesop’s Fables for Children: Grades 1-4 Aesop’s Fables with dotted line copywork pages for handwriting practiceCopywork: A workbook collection of Aesop's Fables for Children: Grades 1-4 Aesop’s Fables with dotted line copywork pages for handwriting practice The Outdoor Life of Children: The Importance of Nature Study and Outside Activities (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 2)The Outdoor Life of Children: The Importance of Nature Study and Outside Activities (Charlotte Mason Topics) (Volume 2) Elementary GeographyElementary Geography Home Education: Volume I of Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling SeriesHome Education: Volume I of Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series The Charlotte Mason Homeschool Journal: & Delight Directed Learning Handbook (Homeschooling Journal) (Volume 11)The Charlotte Mason Homeschool Journal: & Delight Directed Learning Handbook (Homeschooling Journal) (Volume 11) Picturing the Past – Charlotte Mason Homeschooling: Study of Art & History – 180 Day Picture Study Journal Includes 90 Notable Paintings Dated 1700-1930 – Ages 7 to 17Picturing the Past - Charlotte Mason Homeschooling: Study of Art & History - 180 Day Picture Study Journal Includes 90 Notable Paintings Dated 1700-1930 - Ages 7 to 17 Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling SeriesCharlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series Home Education in Modern English: Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason’s SeriesHome Education in Modern English: Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason's Series Charlotte Mason’s Home Education (Home Education Series)Charlotte Mason's Home Education (Home Education Series) Nature Study & Outdoor Science Journal: The Thinking Tree Presents: A Creative Book of Observation, Drawing, Coloring, Writing & Discovery Through Nature – Fun-Schooling for All AgesNature Study & Outdoor Science Journal: The Thinking Tree Presents: A Creative Book of Observation, Drawing, Coloring, Writing & Discovery Through Nature - Fun-Schooling for All Ages Aesop for Children: Story and D’Nealian Copybook Volume I (Aesop for Children Story and Copybook) (Volume 1)Aesop for Children: Story and D'Nealian Copybook Volume I (Aesop for Children Story and Copybook) (Volume 1) Charlotte Mason Math: Level A (Volume 1)Charlotte Mason Math: Level A (Volume 1) Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves (Home Education Series)Charlotte Mason's Ourselves (Home Education Series) Copywork Quotes from Influential Americans Words of Wisdom from USA History: Single-line copywork pages for handwriting practiceCopywork Quotes from Influential Americans Words of Wisdom from USA History: Single-line copywork pages for handwriting practice Charlotte Mason’s School Education (Home Education Series)Charlotte Mason's School Education (Home Education Series) Home Geography for Primary GradesHome Geography for Primary Grades Math Notebook: 1/2 Inch Squares Graph Paper Composition Notebook for StudentsMath Notebook: 1/2 Inch Squares Graph Paper Composition Notebook for Students The Aesop for Children: Story and D’Nealian Copwork Book, Volume II (The Aesop for Children, Story and D’Nealian Copywork Book) (Volume 2)The Aesop for Children: Story and D'Nealian Copwork Book, Volume II (The Aesop for Children, Story and D'Nealian Copywork Book) (Volume 2) Ourselves the fight for mansoulOurselves the fight for mansoul Outdoor GeographyOutdoor Geography Towards a Philosophy of Education in Modern English: Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason’s SeriesTowards a Philosophy of Education in Modern English: Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason's Series