Charlotte Mason Methods

Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education is becoming more popular as people realize what a simple, yet profound, method it is. Still, many home educators have never been introduced to Charlotte Mason’s ideas.

charlotte masonWho was Charlotte Mason? When did she live?

Charlotte Mason was born in England in 1842. Her parents mainly educated her while at home. She was orphaned at the age of sixteen. Miss Mason was an innovative educator who developed a unique approach to education. She believed that all children should have access to a broad, liberal education and to be allowed to reach their full potential. She started a teacher’s training college and many parents who educated their children at home flocked to her ideas. During her life she taught school, was a lecturer at a Teacher Training College, wrote many books and pamphlets, started a training school for governess’ which became Charlotte Mason College, became a popular public lecturer, established the Parents National Education Union (PNEU), and was Editor of it’s magazine, “Parent’s Review”. Charlotte Mason also taught parents, held retreats and classes on building the family. Charlotte Mason believed that all would benefit from a rich education and life. Her philosophy of education is designed for homes, private schools, and homeschools. Charlotte Mason had never claimed to have invented the methods that she put forth, rather she modified and combined them in a practical and intelligent way. Her methods include Narration and copywork, Nature Notebooks, Fine Arts, Languages, a Literature based curriculum instead of textbooks, and real-life applications. Charlotte Mason passed away in 1923 and was and is admired by many people. She was a Christian woman who dearly loved children and education.

What are the benefits of using her approach?

This is true learning. Children’s listening, attention, comprehension, retention, speaking, and writing skills all improve from using narration as a major part of education. It has been called a literature based approach and whilst this is an important aspect of the methods, it is definitely not limited. Most people find that they enjoy their homeschooling so much more since using Charlotte Mason’s methods. It can be inexpensive to use this method of schooling.

All one really needs to purchase is a language/phonics program and a Math book. Most that use this method buy lots of good literature, and in fact, have been known to be avid book collectors. But, you can get all resources from your local library. We enjoy the short lessons, which helps cut down on dawdling. The utilisation of “short lessons” helps prevent dawdling and encourages the student to have a focused attention span and sets good study habits. Families enjoy learning about real people in real places instead of dry, hard, cold facts. Science is a hands-on approach with lots of nature study. Fine literature, good art and music also are studied and enjoyed in this approach.

Another benefit is that each child is free to work at their own pace while still having a sense of achievement. No push to reach a particular *grade* or level. So this approach may be used with intermediate or advance learners or with slow or special needs children.

So Can We Sum Up The Methods Briefly?

We are leading the children to self-education. The reading of the best books facilitates this. Instead of comprehension questions and workbooks, narration is used. Narration is a natural yet extremely powerful tool that we can use in all areas of learning. Very simply, it is the telling back of what they have read or of what has been a read-aloud. Through narration, we can also see what the child does know, not what the child does not know. Whilst narration can be easy, natural and free it is also a complex process of which is very valuable and important in later years.

There is a strong emphasis on “living books“. (A living book is the opposite of a textbook and workbook) Texts and encyclopedias are good and contain much valuable information, however they are only facts. Dry facts. Living books allow the readers to become a part of the book, enabling them to understand the story, time custom etc. more clearly. They are well written and what Charlotte Mason would say are “clothed in literary language” Living books do not talk down to a child’s level or leave out odd and interesting vocabulary.

Short lessons, which take place in the morning, keep children stimulated and focussed.

Copywork begins with careful penmanship, learning to make the letters and numbers correctly, producing a few perfect examples rather than a page of work that becomes sloppy. Once the letters are learned, then simple words, then sentences, paragraphs, and so on can be done, according to the age and ability of the student.

Charlotte Mason strongly emphasised the formation of Habits. She wrote, “the habits of the child produce the character of the man . . .every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.” Many, who have read Charlotte Mason’s Six Volume Series agree that one of her favorite analogies with regard to habits is that they are similar to tracks for a train. The same way that it is easier for the train to stay on the tracks than to leave them, so it is for the child to follow lines of habit carefully laid down than to run off these lines. Because habits are so powerful, she tried to emphasize to parents that it is our responsibility to lay down these tracks. Charlotte Mason considered habit a delight in itself, and the training in habits becomes a habit for the mother. The choice is ours, as Charlotte put it, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”

What Subjects are Covered Using this Method?

Primary Curriculum

Bible, Literature, History, Science, Language, Spelling, Independent Reading, Composition, Poetry, Handwriting, Math, Foreign Language, Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, Geography, and Handicrafts.

High School Curriculum

Add to the Primary curriculum:
Geometry Science Botany, Entomology, Geology, Physiology, Languages, Morals & Ethics, Astronomy, Algebra & Economics.

Add to that those everyday lessons that homeschoolers teach and you have a full inexpensive curriculum of which every member of the family can benefit and learn from.

I hope I have assisted you in becoming more familiar with the woman, Charlotte Mason and the methods that she espoused.

Recommended Reading

For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-to Manual More Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason

Additional Resources:

A few more links


*Originally written and published in 2000 by Susan Priolo.