The Complete, Informative Guide You Need for Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason Way

Have you heard people talk about Charlotte Mason and wondered what the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method really is? Here’s an overview and a look at my journey to homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way.

If you had peeked into our homeschool in the early days here’s what you would have seen.

My kids- only the two oldest at this time- sat at desks. We had classroom posters on the wall. We started the day with the pledges to the American flag, Christian flag, and Bible; and we sang some routine songs.

Why did we do this?

You see, before we had children, I taught in a Christian school. Often people will make comments to me indicating that I am somehow more qualified to homeschool because I was a teacher before. But if you actually talk to many of us who were teachers in our pre-homeschooling lives, we’ll tell you that the experience of teaching in a classroom hindered our ability to homeschool well instead of helping.

I expected homeschooling to mimic “real school.”

All of this was fine in the early days of homeschooling. My oldest two at the time were excited at first because this was something new and different. But this formal, structured school seemed to get old quickly. This method was frustrating me and frustrating my kids. And I didn’t understand why this wasn’t working. After all, it had worked fine in the classroom where I taught before. But I knew this wasn’t what I wanted homeschooling to be. I didn’t want to run our homeschool like a classroom But this was really all I knew.

Boy reading homeschooling Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason and Her Homeschooling Method

Charlotte Mason was a British teacher who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She became an orphan at a young age, and she studied at a teacher’s college. In England at the time, there was a great discrepancy in the education of a child from a well-to-do family and a child of the working class. Charlotte believed in a “liberal education for all” and she out to reform education.  

One of the key things that Charlotte concluded from her experiences teaching was that parents needed to be involved in their children’s education and could do certain things that would better prepare their children to learn.

She gave a series of lectures about this topic and then turned those lectures into a book- Home Education. In 1891, Charlotte moved to Ambleside, England and opened a school to train governesses and teachers of young children. She called the school the House of Education.

Parents’ Union Schools that used Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy to teach children began to crop up. The school in Ambleside became a training college to teach teachers for the Parents’ Union Schools.   In addition to the first book- Home Education– Charlotte also wrote Parents and Children, School Education, Ourselves, Formation of Character, and Towards a Philosophy of Education.  

The Charlotte Mason Education Method

Charlotte Mason said that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

Atmosphere

The environment in which a child grows up significantly affects his education. Even though Charlotte taught teachers who then taught in schools with her methods, she emphasized over and over the importance of parents in shaping the life of the child. When I read her original volumes, I found so much value in regard to parenting as well as her thoughts about education.  

Discipline

Charlotte emphasized, again and again, the importance of helping children develop good habits. Not only did she focus on habits that would help the child academically, but also habits that would help the child to grow and mature in all areas of life.  

Life

Charlotte’s educational methods are built on the idea that we should give children living ideas and not just dry and dusty facts. What they are learning should come alive to them if they are going to absorb it and learn from it. Otherwise, they just hear and perhaps memorize facts that then slip away.  

Based on these principles, the Charlotte Mason teaching method included these teaching methods.

  • Reading living books– books that children would identify with and enjoy- instead of dry textbooks that were a collection of facts
  • Building habits that children could use to focus on academics and to grow as a person
  • Spending time in nature and enjoying God’s creation
  • Narrating or telling back stories or parts of stories that the children have read or have had read to them
  • Using meaningful passages to teach handwriting and spelling, instead of just using meaningless lists of words
  • Introducing children to Shakespeare, works of poetry, artists, composers, and a wide variety of subjects that would allow them to experience many different things
  • Using short lessons- about twenty minutes- and teaching the children the habit of attending and not allowing their minds to wander during these short, focused times
Girl reading with flashlight Charlotte Mason homeschooling method

Charlotte Mason and Me

When I began to read about Charlotte Mason and then to read her original works, her philosophies resonated with me.

Her instructions to parents reflected principles that we used in our parenting. She emphasized the importance of parents and what they teach in the early years, and this confirmed what I had seen in my years of working with other children and what I was seeing in my own children. Her gentle methods were what I wanted in our home- the smooth flow, the desire that children are loving learning, the use of great books that we loved to read.  

Although I don’t consider myself to be fully a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I do incorporate many of her methods. And reading about her and reading her works touched my early years of homeschooling in so many ways. Even if you haven’t thought of homeschooling with Charlotte Mason’s methods, I think you can learn by reading about her and reading her own works.  

Girl reading with lightbulb ideas around her

Charlotte Mason Resources

All-things Charlotte Mason

Simply Charlotte Mason is one of my all-time favorite Charlotte Mason resources. The site has so much information about Charlotte Mason and her methods. It also has quite a few free ebooks and a free curriculum guide that will show you how you can incorporate the Charlotte Mason methods into your homeschooling for all ages. I’ve used that guide as a reference so many times when planning what subjects and methods to introduce to kids and at what age. The site also has some resources that you can purchase to teach a variety of subjects using Charlotte Mason’s methods.  

Ambleside Online has amazing, totally free resources. You can read all of Charlotte’s original works online for free. And you can find a full twelve-year Charlotte Mason curriculum laid out for you. The curriculum covers every subject area except math and has free lesson plans and links to the books you’ll need. You can access many of the books they use for free. I’ve never used this as a full curriculum. But I have used the booklists here as a resource to find good, age-appropriate living books for a variety of subjects.  

Learn about the Charlotte Mason method

One of the first books I read about the Charlotte Mason method was A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola. It- and other books by the author– is an excellent resource to help you understand Charlotte’s principles and put them into practice in your homeschooling.  

I also read A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. They are extremely practical guides for using Charlotte Mason’s principles in your homeschooling. The author breaks down each of her methods and shows how homeschooling families can put them into practice. She also gives weekly schedules and practical examples to help you get started.     

If you love literature-based learning and you’re looking for a gentle homeschooling method that fits learning in with the ebb and flow of daily family life, read more about Charlotte Mason. You may find that the Charlotte Mason method is a good fit for your homeschool.

My Charlotte Mason Education Pinterest board has more resources and information about Charlotte Mason homeschooling.

Girl reading with the Charlotte Mason homeschooling post title

If you love teaching with living books, make sure you pick up my free ebook- The Mega Book of Literature Unit Studies. You can grab it below!

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