When I decided for sure in Mid-October 2015 that I was going to home school my 11 year old son (the full story here) I dove into research. I remembered that home schools often have local co-ops so I started researching those. I talked to a friend of mine in the next city over who I knew was a home schooling Mom. She gave me a wealth of information and pointed me in the direction of a few local co-ops that have groups on Facebook and she invited me to those. On there I met a handful of other local women who home school and several were eager to talk to me, hear my concerns and give me advice.
Then I reached out to one of my dear friends in Arkansas who I know also home schools 4 kids and her simple words to me were “You have to check out Charlotte Mason. Just research her.” And that lead me down a rabbit hole of 6 hours online (no kidding) reading and researching everything I could find about who this woman was, what she taught and why she was so special.
The first website I read end to end was the Wikipedia information about Charlotte Mason which you can find here
All of that information lead me to many more websites and books and inserts from books she had written.
In short, I will tell you briefly about her.
Charlotte Mason was born January 1st, 1842 and although she had no children of her own she spent her life trying to improve the education for children in England. To quote the entry on Wikipedia, “Her revolutionary methods led to a shift from utilitarian education to the education of a child upon living ideas. She based much of her early philosophy on current brain research, on the writings ofJohn Amos Comenius, Matthew Arnold, John Ruskin, and others, and on the collaborative efforts of those whose beliefs about education she admired, as well as her vast experience as both a teacher and a trainer and mentor for new teachers.”
The foundation of her thinking was that parents are the best educators and this was developed because in her time many children did not go to school at all. So she felt like if they were going to stay at home with their parents until they got jobs, they should at least spend that time being taught properly by their parents. So her first few books published were books to teach parents HOW to educate, why it was important, child development, etc.
Another quote I love, “We may not make character our conscious objective,” she wrote, but she believed that parents and teachers should “Provide a child with what he needs in the way of instruction, opportunity, and wholesome occupation, and his character will take care of itself: for normal children are persons of good will, with honest desires toward right thinking and right living. All we can do further is to help a child to get rid of some hindrance––a bad temper, for example––likely to spoil his life.” – Wikipedia
In my most humble of explanations I will say; the CM Method is to teach the child as a whole being, treat them as an adult and not someone less than, teach above them so they rise to the occasion, treat them with respect and teach in a calm manner, and not let the education end at books alone. The CM Method asks the educator to teach the main subjects but also insure that children spend 1-3 hours a day OUTSIDE in nature studying or playing.
Reading is tied to everything Charlotte Mason. For example, some of her curriculum books, (which can be bought through the website Simply Charlotte Mason here) are lesson plan books that for kids above grade 4 combine learning 3 subjects in a way to tie them together so that the student can grasp a concept fully, imagine it, see art from that time, etc.
“She spread before her students a feast of ideas from a wide variety of sources—from Shakespeare to knitting to Bible to tramping through field and stream to algebra to singing to foreign languages. And woven throughout it all, she emphasized the habits of full attention, best effort, and learning for the sake of learning.”
“All designed to help the child grow; for we learn, to grow.”
On the Simply Charlotte Mason site you will find this useful explanation; “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.”
For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in narrative or story form by one author who has a passion for his topic. A living book makes the subject “come alive.”
Nature is Paramount!
A nature-diary is a source of delight!
Children are encouraged to not only BE in nature but to get out in nature to learn about it. There are guided lessons but mainly kids are encouraged to seek and explore and record what they find and what intrigues them.
“A beautiful and sturdy journal with gentle prompts to give you ideas of what to look for in nature study throughout each of the four seasons. Inspiring quotes, helpful nature tips, and heavy paper with plenty of room for drawing, painting, and writing about your nature finds. A lovely weekly guide to hours in the out-of-doors!”
Other VERY useful skills to explore!
It also asks that children learn about famous works of art and musical composers on top of 3-5 handicrafts and life skills per year. Handicrafts are hands on artistic endeavors that children can learn and grow from.
Here is a recommended list of Handicrafts:
Weaving pot holders
She also recommends that children learn valuable LIFE SKILLS, even from a young age. Where as if these things are taught at home you are creating more well rounded adults who are more likely to become more self sufficient even as teens, as opposed to the children who were not taught these skills.
The CM Method Life Skills could include:
Changing a car tire
Changing a lightbulb
Checking the car’s oil
Cleaning: mirrors, sinks, toilets, tubs and showers, baseboards
Clearing the table
Driving a car
Drying: clothes, dishes
Folding: clothes, towels, sheets
Mowing the lawn
Organizing: closets, cupboards, sheds, attics
Painting a room
Setting the table
Sweeping the floor
Washing: clothes, dishes, windows, car
Don’t forget the Arts!!!!!!!!
“Looking for a good art teacher? Check out this encouraging and professional art instruction in a wonderful series of videos, covering a wide variety of art media: watercolor, pencil drawing, pastel, sculpture, acrylic painting, ink, and more!
This wonderful series of instructional videos will introduce to you and your children a wide variety of art media: pencil drawing, watercolor, acrylic painting, sculpting, pastels, ink, and more. You might try several projects that teach one medium—all the pastel projects, for example—and enjoy progressing through the levels with that one art type. Or you might select a variety so your family members can experience several types of art and find the medium that resonates with each one.”
Picture Study Portfolios
“Everything you need to do art appreciation, all gathered into one beautiful package: gorgeous art prints, an artist biography, information on the pictures, and more!”
“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.”—Charlotte Mason
The Stuff They Left Behind Portfolios
“Awaken your children’s minds to the treasures of the world’s famous artifacts and architecture! These large, full-color photographs, along with background information and leading discussion questions, will help your students gain a deeper understanding of history. All conveniently collected and stored at your fingertips.”
Although this is a lengthy post and yes a lot I quoted from wonderful websites to help give you a full understanding of the Charlotte Mason Method better than I could simply put into words myself; I hope this provides you a thorough explanation of this style of home schooling and why exactly I chose it for my son.