Our Homeschool loosely based on the Charlotte Mason method and how we implement it.
Charlotte Mason Guide
If you are in the homeschool community, you may have heard of Miss Charlotte Mason. While she may be gaining popularity within homeschool crowds, her ideas and methodology to school are gaining traction within public schoolers as well as many Charlotte Mason private schools have started popping up all over North America.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to talk about how we use her methodology to improve our homeschool and provide you with loosely a Charlotte Mason Guide. I am also going to talk about the products that we use and the curriculum we have chosen (Hint: the curriculum is free). I will also go over why she is popular in homeschooling. Lastly, and this may be the most important, there are tons of websites dedicated to strictly Charlotte Mason. You can find many Pinterest pins on how to start and what forms to use and why someone would choose her. We are NOT strict CMers (The abbreviation used in Charlotte Mason circles is CM). We take many of her philosophies and use the “spirit of” rather than the strict application. We do use many of her methods, but we imply several. I have had a few friends asking about how to implement CM without going “whole hog.” Or they appreciate certain aspects but feel a little shunned if they mention something not considered CM. I titled these posts Loosely because, in CM circles, we are considered loosely based. I want to stress that choosing a method and curriculum for your homeschool is personal. Homeschooling is about finding what works for your family and your children; it shouldn’t be about competition. If you discover you love CM and want to go all in, that is amazing! If you like some elements and want to implement them, I am thrilled to help. If you read through this series and realized CM would not work for your family… well friend, I trust you will find something that will match your family needs, but now you know to cross it off your list.
Also, for those who enjoy Miss Mason’s wisdom as much as we do, I have included a free printable at the end for you to download and use in your own classrooms.
Let’s start with the history of Charlotte Mason. Miss Mason was an educator in the late 1800’s and turn of the century. She was known to follow a classical education, which goes along more of reading books written by first-hand experiences and lively scholars than stuffy textbooks and dry information. She was an educator at the Davison School in Worthington, England. She was a passionate educator believing in the then radical idea that children were born individuals and needed an education that tailored to them. She also felt such things as hands-on exploration, field work to learn flora and fauna in the area and a culture that included Shakspeare, Plutarch, Mozart, and Monet. She believed in giving children what she deemed as “feasts” which were a comprehensive understanding and building upon that understanding throughout their education. At the time, this idea was radical as she had a passion for all children to learn in this manner, while most believed children of privilege should be allowed this feast. She also advocated for hours of exercise and nature exploration for children during the school day. She moved to Ambleside, England and opened a college for governesses and nannies to learn to educate children. She wrote several books but a six-volume collection, spanning Parents and Children (a collection of her writings from various sources mainly dealing with young children) to Towards A Philosophy of Education (explains the application of her methods and principles with high school students). Along with her six volumes of education, she also wrote geography books and well as another six-volume work called The Saviour of the World which focuses on the life of Jesus.
A Charlotte Mason education has three main anchors that, even if you use components and not the whole, most CMers adhere to.
- A child is a born person or individual.
- Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
- Education is a science of relations.
Using these principles, one can create a homeschool to fit each child while creating an atmosphere in the home that is conducive to learning. While many aspects of CM is rooted in classical education, CM itself is different than classical education. Both use books as their spine (primary source), but where classical can tend to be dry with information, CM prefers to use “living books.” These are books written in usually in the first person but can be autobiographies or just someone who has a passion for the subject. So instead of facts and dates, children read about events and times inside daily life and opinions of the writer held at that moment. A great example came this year as my children were studying the American Revolution. We reviewed it from the American point of view; then we read books from the British point of view. My daughter then found a book of diary entries at the library from a girl about age 12 whose family aligned with the Tory party in the then British Colonies of America during the revolution. She read diary entries from a first-person perspective from someone living in that time and place and how they viewed the world. It gave her a well-rounded education on why the revolution was essential but, more importantly, how it affected families, even those on the opposing side. I was reminded that my personal education was all about dates and facts. I had never thought of the revolution from the British side or from a 12-year-old girl living in a turbulent time period. Reading it along with her, I found myself understanding better the views of the British when I hadn’t before.
Choosing Charlotte Mason
Like I said above, choosing a homeschool curriculum is personal. Our family has gone through many different types of materials. We used a boxed curriculum, which means all the curriculum included in one box, but we found my daughter was ahead in some subjects and at level on others. We would either have to then buy curriculum for her ahead subjects or supplement and sell the unused portion. We then chose an unschool approach and allowed her to lead in her education. She excelled in areas, and we enjoyed it for her younger grades, but as she got older, I felt she might miss something and went after another approach. I liked classical education and enjoyed teaching it, but the history and science were dry. She enjoyed literature based education, but I had no Idea where to being on finding books or even how to go about looking. The summer of 2015, I did some digging into what I thought would be a simple search on educational approaches. What I found was that I had been leaning towards a Charlotte Mason ideal all along.
I had read about CM early on and liked the concept, but the lack of actual information and help when my daughter was young left me feeling overwhelmed, so I shelved the idea. When my son came along and became old enough to participate in school, I knew I needed something we could do with multi ages, and that allowed each child to shine. Charlotte Mason seemed complicated, all the memorization and the reading aloud and the dictation. I couldn’t see how it could be beneficial. Even though I balked at traditional education approaches, I still was under the impression that children needed to “just learn” history and science and not be involved in the actual education process of learning these and other subjects. This is a very traditional way of thinking. I mean, how really could a child learn anything by reading poems and Shakespeare and autobiographies and then telling back to the teacher what they learned? That, and how could a child a learn anything substantial in lessons that lasted no more than 30 minutes in younger grades? It boggled my mind, honestly.
The other thing that kept me from genuinely diving into CM was the fact that the moms of the CM method seemed to speak a secret language. One I wasn’t privy to and one that made me uncomfortable. In chats rooms (who even uses chat rooms anymore?) and FB groups, I found their talk of the “feast” strange and their ideals on narration unsettling. Then there was all the outdoor instruction on bugs and bird calls. I like the outdoors. I like the sunshine and the sand and the activities, but I am more “reading on a patio” than “listing to a warbler call” kind of person. I felt like you needed to be an outdoor-focused family, maybe a parent was once a park ranger. It didn’t seem I could effectively do what was required because I had never learned. What we don’t know we can’t teach, am I right?
I was dead wrong.
When I dove into the actual meat and potatoes so to speak of the ideas of CM, I found it aligned with what I truly believed about education. Children needed concepts that make them think. Children need to take the information presented and draw their own conclusions. They needed instruction, but they learned so much more from hands on either through play, or exploration or someone’s account. I found, after reading through the first two volumes of her six volumes on education, that I was more Charlotte Mason than I knew. My kiddos could thrive in a CM education and get a more rounded education than I had, which was the point of my wanting to homeschool them.
Over the next few weeks, I will be going over the types of websites I use and curriculum I have chosen as well as books I use. Again, this isn’t a “follow me” type post. I hope that by reading through the way we homeschool, I can encourage someone who may be overwhelmed with how to implement CM in their homeschool. I want to stress that we are loosely based. There are better, more well-rounded websites that are strictly CM and can tell you more in-depth if you choose CM for all subjects. As it is, we do CM for Math, History, Science and Morning basket (reading, hymnals, art). I choose a different approach to the Bible, and we chose a different approach to Language arts, although it is again loosely CM just not using CM suggested material.
I hope this guide encourages you and you can explore a way to homeschool you may not have thought before.
Check out Week 2 of the series by clicking HERE
Check out Week 3 of the series by clicking HERE
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