The Charlotte Mason Method

According to Simply Charlotte, the Charlotte Mason method is “A method of education popular with homeschoolers in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.”

Who was Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason was an educator of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. She believed that education was threefold: an Atmosphere, Disipline, and a Life.  When talking about an atmosphere, Ms. Mason was referring to the surrounding of the child while growing up. The home-life of a child teaches them a lot, and according to Ms. Mason accounts for one-third of a students education. When discussing discipline Charlotte didn’t mean punishment, she was referring to good habits, most importnantly habits of character. This makes up the second third of a childs education. The final third of her approach, Life is applied to academics. She believed that children needed “living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts.” (Simply Charlotte) All of the Charlotte Mason (CM) method is based on these beliefs.

What is the Charlotte Mason Method?

In the CM method children are treated as people, not children. They are expected to behave properly, with an even temper, pay attention, be polite in their actions, be obidient and honest in their actions (and words). Text books are rarely, if ever used in this method. Living books, books that are written by informed people, passionate about the topic are preferred. They do not need to be long. Quality is always better than quantity.  The quality over quantity belief blends into lesson length as well. She believed that for an elementary aged student, lessons should not be longer than twenty minutes in any one subject before moving on. This allows for maximum attention to the subject, and more lessons to be learned throughout the day.

Dictation is used for spelling and grammer lessons. This is usually done after the child has mastered the words through copy work. The teacher (or parent) dictates a passage one sentence at a time, wathcing carefully for errors so they may be corrected immediately. A child has mastered the passage when there are no spelling, capitalization, or punctuation errors present. Handwriting is also taught through copy work and dictation. Rather than writing the same letter over and over again, they are using real words and sentences.

While poetry and Shakespeare were taught by Mason, she believed that grammar, as a subject should not be taught before the age of ten, as it is a hard concept for younger students to grasp. She believed that the consistent work in dictation, narration, and copy work led to understanding grammar, and the rules of the language.

History was believed to be best taught using living books. These living books are biographies, autobiographies, and narrations by enthusiasts of the topic. Mason also had her students keep a “Book of Centuries” which is a time line in a notebook. The students add people and events to the pages as they are studied. Most families today use a looseleaf notebook so pages can be added and shifted as necessary.

Geography is believed to be the story of where a person was when he did “X”, and how their surroundings affected the outcome. Geography is also best taught with living books and maps to supplement the material.

Charlotte taught her students French as a second lanugauge. Also with the use of a living setting. By learning to speak a language while having a conversation will also be more beneficial than reading from a text book and rote memorization.

Charlotte Mason believed "Education is part and parcel of religion and every enthusiastic teacher knows that he is obeying the precept, -"feed my lambs" - feed with all those things which are good and wholesome for the spirit of a man; and, before all and including all, with the knowledge of God." (design-your-homeschool) The approach she used for teaching the Bible can be found in her homeschooling series The Original Homeschooling Series.

Further Reading

For more information on Charlotte Mason, and her methodology, take a look one, or more of the many books written about Charlotte Mason, or better yet read her own words written by her,
Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series.

Other recommended books:
A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning
For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School

Design Your Homeschool.
Mason, Charlotte. The Original Homeschooling Series
Simply Charlotte

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