What is the Charlotte Mason Method?

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Published 2021-08-21

Published August 1, 2021


The magic of homeschooling is that there is no one right way to homeschool. There are different practices you can use to make sure that your children are learning. One of the most popular is the Charlotte Mason Method.

Named after a British teacher, it is a belief in educating the whole child and not just the mind. Charlotte Mason said that “education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” Quite a mouthful of lofty words. But for homeschoolers, what is the Charlotte Mason method trying to do?

A three-prong approach

The first aspect of a Charlotte Mason education is what it refers to as the “atmosphere,” or surroundings of the child. The home environment must be suitable for learning. The parents should also model the kind of learning they want to see in their children. Charlotte Mason believed that a third of a child’s education is from their parents’ ideas and personality.

In the Charlotte Mason method, “discipline” refers to the good habits related to the child’s character. These habits are cultivated through practices like repetition and motivation. For example, daily schedules often include copywork to reinforce language skills and penmanship through constant practice.

Completing the child’s education is “life,” a concept that relates to academics. Charlotte Mason thought that children should be exposed to “living” thoughts as opposed to dry facts. These thoughts provide children with the opportunity to get ideas from what they learned. It is not about multiple-choice type questions or simply reciting what they know.

How does this approach look like for homeschoolers?

What is the Charlotte Mason method when it is put into practice for homeschoolers? The biggest indicator of this method for homeschoolers is that formal schooling is delayed until six years old, or until the child is developmentally ready. Before this age, play and exploration are the primary tools for learning.

The choice of books is also a mark of a Charlotte Mason homeschooler. Referred to as living books, the titles are chosen for their strong narrative way of presenting knowledge and because they were written by someone truly knowledgeable about the topic.

Another practical way to put this method into practice is by allotting time to nature study. Children are encouraged to be outside and learn through exploration. The reasoning behind this is that children learn best from experience.

Charlotte Mason eschewed busy work, which means that everything that the child does need to have a purpose. For example, worksheets should be meaningful and not just a way to keep the child occupied.

Instead, Charlotte Mason encourages a “feast” of learning. This means that parents should provide their children with a wide array of subjects that opportunities to see which ones interest the child. Children do not just learn language arts and math. They are also exposed to the study of composers, folk songs, and artists. Foreign languages and skills such as knitting are also considered part of their learning.