Welcome to the fourth post in the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Styles series! Click here to view the rest of the series.
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was an English educator who believed that an education should address the whole person, not simply the mind. Although this may seem an everyday idea now, it was radical at the time. She wrote a six-volume set detailing her theories and approach, which is available to purchase or read free online. The Charlotte Mason style has a strong base in Christianity, but the ideas and methods can be easily applied by all families.
A Charlotte Mason Atmosphere
The atmosphere includes the physical atmosphere, plus the atmosphere of ideas/family. Charlotte believed that children should live in an atmosphere of sincerity and truth, and bringing environments down to what an adult believes to be a child’s level belittles children’s abilities. She also believed that parents must model the ideals that they want their children to emulate. Yes, that means that us parents need to take note of how we act and react and aspire to act out those ideal behaviours we want to see in our children!
A Charlotte Mason Discipline
The development of good habits through character education is a large part of the Charlotte Mason method. From household chores to obedience, hygiene to being on time, Charlotte advocated training bad habits out of, and good habits into, children. One habit is focussed on at a time – for example, saying please and thankyou. The parent works intensively on replacing lack of manners with the appropriate manners at every opportunity. When the child is reliably saying please and thankyou, another habit is chosen and focussed on.
As an example of how discipline is incorporated in a Charlotte Mason education, lessons are provided in short sessions in the early years of education. If attention wanes, the lesson is switched to a different topic that requires a different focus eg. from maths to narration. In this way, the child’s ability to focus attention is developed gently and naturally over time.
A Charlotte Mason Life
Charlotte emphasised the use of living resources. Living resources are quality literature written by authors who are passionate, engaging and interesting, as opposed to textbooks reciting facts. Living books and resources should spark interest, hold attention and provide quality role models. Children study the arts and music, and also spend large quantities of time outside, and keep detailed nature journals. External incentives and rewards are believed to be detrimental, as a child’s curiousity and nature are enough to ensure their education. Quality of resources are emphasised over quantity, and children are exposed to a wide range of topics and areas and encouraged to delve deeply into those that interest them most.
The Good Points
- The books and resources are typically interesting for both parent and child
- Strives to develop good character and habits
- No busy-work (I love Charlotte Mason’s term, ‘twaddle’, for junk)
- Nurtures creativity and a love of nature
- Children are exposed to a wide range of topics and learning, with a focus on classic work that will not date
The Not-So-Good Points
- There is no set curriculum, so there is more work for the parent
- The realm of living books can be overwhelming – with so much to choose from it can be difficult to choose what will suit you
- Cost. Curriculum resources and living books can be very expensive
- As a child approaches higher levels of study (eg. physics, higher maths) there may not be a way to use the Charlotte Mason approach. However, the classical method can tie in quite well.
The Original Home Schooling Series – Charlotte Mason
Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success – Charlotte Mason
A Charlotte Mason Education: A Homeschooling How-to Manual
A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Education Ideas – Deborah Taylor-Hough
Want plenty more ideas about Charlotte Mason Homeschooling? Head over and check out my Charlotte Mason board on Pinterest, for curriculum, living books and more!