Homeschool Styles #2: The Charlotte Mason Method

charlotte mason

The Charlotte Mason Method of homeschooling involves educating more than just the child’s mind. It is a whole-person approach in which the child is educated on a living level, across a wide variety of resources. A living methodology is used in which learning literally comes alive.

Who Was Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason
Image from http://www.amblesideonline.org

Charlotte was an educator and author in England from the late 1800’s. Some of her accomplishments include lecturing in Chichester, England at the Bishop Otter Teaching Training College and founding the Parent’s Educational Union, which later became the Parent’s National Education Union.

She authored six books in which she laid down the foundation for some of her best known educational theories. Additionally, she wrote a series of Geography books entitled The Ambleside Geography Books, which were very popular.

Prior to the industrialization that came after the twentieth century, Charlotte held to the belief that education should encompass much more than test and college prep or job training. That industrialization, however, brought with it changes in education that left the Mason method behind.

In 1987, her method was reintroduced when the book For The Children’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, was released.  Her method took on a whole new fervor and gained a strong presence among homeschoolers soon after.

Focuses of the Charlotte Mason Method

Charlotte believed that children were more than mere sacks to be filled, and focused rather on what she called The Science of Relations. She focused on helping children develop an intimate and personal relationship on a wide range of subjects. She further believed that to a child, a teacher was just a “middle-man” and the brunt of learning should be experienced by the child.

Narration

Narration, in this method, replaces the normal composition phase of early childhood education. It is thought that through narration, a child is better able to hone their analytical thinking and public speaking skills. When children are young, composition often gets in the way of fully expressing what they really think and can be a burdensome task.

By removing the physical aspect of writing, children are more apt to express ideas they may not be able to write out.

From the beginning of their education, until the age of about ten, children are taught this method. Stories are read to the child, after which they will repeat back or summarize the key points from the passage. After the age of ten, written pieces are added, increasing in length as the child gets older.

Copywork

Copywork is a means of teaching not only handwriting, but other things as well. It focuses on copying texts of well written literature. While handwriting is the focus, the literature itself is also learned and added to the child’s knowledge base.

These transcriptions could be taken from the Bible, foreign language texts, classical literature, poetry and more. Any book used in the Charlotte Mason Method must be a living text. In other words, all forms of printed material used in the child’s learning must have a manner of life itself breathed into the text. Something that could be taken and put to use in everyday life, and not empty knowledge.

Habits

Habits were very crucial to a child’s education, according to Ms. Mason. This was so important that she advocated not starting a child’s formal education until the age of six. Prior to that, focus should be placed on work and play within the family unit.

In the event that a bad habit should appear, all else was to be put off until it was dealt with. To allow a bad habit to fester and grow would be detrimental to the child’s ability to learn anything. Rather, the most important aspect is working with the child in a positive manner to address the bad habit.

Lesson Styles

For young children, it’s best that you teach them in small increments of time. As the child’s age increases, so can the lesson time. By implementing the shorter lesson times, a child can partake in many various subjects. Not only does this keep a child from getting bored with one particular subject, it can lead to discovery of new ones.

Developmental capabilities are very important when deciding on the length of a lesson. Furthermore, if you notice that your child is becoming stressed, switching subjects is advised. If math has reached a stale spot, you might opt to switch to music or art. If one subject is not working switch to something more fun, or simply stop and read a book together.

On the other hand, if you have found something the child is deeply interested in, encourage it! Give them a little more time to look into subjects that you find they are really enjoying. By doing this, you allow them to reach their own plateau of knowledge from which they can reach even further.

Dictation

Dictation is an excellent grammar and spelling tool. In it, the teacher allows the child to study a particular piece of literature or Scripture until they are confident. When they feel familiar enough with the passage, the teacher dictates it back to them slowly. At this point, they will write down the passage, as it is dictated to them, focusing on spelling and grammar.

Grammar and dictation do not usually occur in the Charlotte Mason Method until after the child is ten or eleven years old. Narration is the predecessor to this discipline.

Music and Art

Both music and art were very important in the liberal education that Charlotte thought every child should have. Each term, under her guidance, children would learn about a different artist or composer. Teachers introduce children to their works, read books about the artist or composer and sometimes even reproduce their work.

How Do I Get Started With This Method?

To begin using the Charlotte Mason Method of homeschooling, you will want to familiarize yourself with her ideals. Read as much as you can on her teaching methods, her ideas about what education really is and as many of her books as you can.

Before you embark with Charlotte Mason, it is important to know that it’s not as much a curriculum as it is a method. As I mentioned earlier, it is a whole-person approach to teaching and not simply railing empty facts or memorization. This will certainly change not only the way you teach, but the way your child learns.

Once you have familiarized yourself with the method, it’s time to gather resources and get a plan together. You can use this handy curriculum guide to get started, or you can build your own. While the latter may take a bit longer, it can be much more fulfilling to your child. After all, this method hinges on education of the whole child in a living manner.

How Do I Transition To This Method From Another?

If your child has only just begun their education, transitioning to the Charlotte Mason method shouldn’t be that hard. You can decide which ways to implement the program and take incremental steps as if starting the method from the beginning.

However, if you have an older child that has gotten use to other homeschool methods, the best implementation is to ease into it. While the Charlotte Mason method might seem like an easy undertaking at first sight, it can be much harder for the child to grasp. Narration may be an alien concept and harder to achieve, while dictation may stress the child who is a perfectionist.

If your child is coming out of public school, and you’d like to use this method, you definitely want to ease into it. The differences between the two are more drastic than you might realize. This often shocks the child so much that they are discouraged, and you don’t want that.

Reading and Resources

For a slew of great information, books, blog posts and more on the subject of Charlotte Mason, visit Joy In The Home. This is a must-have Ultimate Resource Guide that is brilliantly put together and will not lead your astray. I have found a great many resources from this site and I’m sure you will too.

Many free resources and helps can be found at Simply Charlotte Mason. Here you will find eBooks, printables, cd’s, templates and more, all for free!

Free Homeschool Ideals also has a vast amount of free resources and printables. There’s so much info here, it might take you a while to get through it all, but it will be worth it.

For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, you can read A Twaddle Free Education, absolutely free! This is an introduction to Charlotte Mason’s educational ideas that is sure to inspire you.

In Conclusion

I hope I have covered all the bases of the Charlotte Mason homeschool method for you today. In reality, I’ve only just skimmed the surface, as there is a wealth of knowledge out there on this method. Feel free to use this post as a starting point, and take advantage of some of the links under the reading and resource section.

If you have questions or comments, please be sure to post them in the comments section, or feel free to contact me if you’d like.

In Case You Missed It…

Last week, in our first post of the Homeschool Styles Series, we covered the Unschooling Method. If you think style might be one you’d like to try, I urge you to read the post. Share it with others as well! And don’t forget to come back again next week, for the next post, where we will cover the Classical Homeschool Method.

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