Why is the Charlotte Method Mason So Popular?

When you first begin homeschooling you’ll no doubt hear about the Charlotte Mason Method. And with a tiny bit of research you might get the idea that it’s about reading books and doing nature study. But it’s so much more than that.  At first glance the Charlotte Mason Method may seem too simple, or too old fashioned. At second glance it may seem to have lots of rules but hopefully at your third glance it may click and you begin to see the richness.

Quick Charlotte Mason Conversion Story From Michelle

When I began homeschooling I did the traditional school approach for two years – workbooks and textbooks. One of my friends encouraged me to look at the Charlotte Mason Method but somehow the materials she gave me to read didn’t help me and I brushed the idea aside. But my homeschool was failing and I put two kids in school for a term. I used that time to reassess, this time another friend said look at Charlotte Mason, she gave me another Charlotte Mason book and this time it clicked! The following term I had all the kids back home and we never looked back. I kept learning more about her ideas, eventually moving on to the Charlotte Mason Series. I didn’t do everything perfectly but as the years passed, I grew into her ideas. Our homeschool flourished and much of the enjoyment came from following the Charlotte Mason Method.

My Homeschool Education Philosophy

Consequently, The Charlotte Mason Method has played a big role in the shaping of My Homeschool and it is our primary philosophy and method.

However, we are not Charlotte Mason purists in the application of her method. We have also introduced a range of eclectic teaching ideas and resources which reflect a modern approach to the Australian Curriculum. 

An atmosphere of learning is encouraged in the home with natural learning opportunities harnessed. Delight directed learning is supported with children having the freedom to explore desired areas of interest.

Who Was Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason (1842 – 1923) was a highly respected British educator in the late nineteenth century. She offered an alternative method of education that included a broader curriculum rich in art and literature. Because of this, her methods were often adopted by English families who wanted to teach their children at home. Many schools (mostly private) also used her methods with great success. Apparently, her popularity meant that she became somewhat of a celebrity with the English upper and Middle Class.

She eventually founded her own House of Education in the Lakes District at Ambleside. It was a teaching college for governesses. She also wrote a six volume series on educating children which are known as The Original Home Schooling Series.

Her books were well received because they offered practical teaching ideas on how to give children a generous and rich education. But her philosophy also emphasised a respect for the child, and the value of habit training; She also acknowledged that children are spiritual beings and they need an education that reveals to them the wonder and glory of God. Her method is popular for Australian Christian home schooling.

Charlotte Mason wasn’t a fan of textbooks, preferring real books, observation and experience. For example, she used authors who wrote about science in a narrative style, she also encouraged nature study and scientific conversations. Similarly, history was not dates and events but it was taught sequentially in a narrative way through stories and museum visits. Likewise, geography involved excursions, travel stories and map study. Spelling, grammar and writing were not taught by wrote, and rules but were learnt while using lots of great literature. And perhaps her most controversial teaching method was requiring a child to narrate – tell back – what they had learnt, rather than making children write formal compositions, and testing them using comprehension questions or quizzes.

She said, “History must afford its pageants, science its wonders, literature its intimacies, philosophy its speculations, religion its assurances to every man, and his education must have prepared him for wondering in these realms of gold.” Volume 6 p. 43

The Christian homeschooling movement saw a renewal of Charlotte Mason’s ideas and methods. As a result, many home educators have adopted her teaching philosophies and techniques and this is what we call The Charlotte Mason Method.

Charlotte Mason

We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas but is rather…a ‘spiritual organism’ with an appetite for all knowledge.

Charlotte Mason

Volume 6, p.112

The question is not – how much does a youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and therefore, how full is the life he has before him?

Charlotte Mason

Volume 3 p.170 -171

The teacher who allows his scholars the freedom of the city of books is at liberty to be their guide, philosopher and friend; and is no longer the mere instrument of forcible intellectual feeding.

Charlotte Mason

Volume 6, p.32

Explaining Her Method in a Nutshell

Another quick story: An old friend rang me in emergency mode, she had decided to pull her son out of school and she wanted to discuss how I homeschooled. How was I going to explain to her school mindset the richness of homeschooling in two hours? When she arrived I shared with her the Charlotte Mason method. I must confess our conversation was a random collection of Charlotte Mason’s ideas.  I’m sure she left my home overwhelmed and confused.

Today when I look back on that day I think I could have explained it so much better if I had just discussed the basic ideas found in The Charlotte Mason Education Manifesto. I would have disciplined myself to share the basics:

Charlotte Mason’s manifesto is a practical summary of her ideas and its implementation.

Charlotte Mason Education Manifesto

“Studies serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability.”

Every child has a right of entry to several fields of knowledge.
Every normal child has an appetite for such knowledge.
This appetite or desire for knowledge is a sufficient stimulus for all school work, if the knowledge be fitly given.

There are four means of destroying the desire for knowledge:––
(a) Too many oral lessons, which offer knowledge in a diluted form, and do not leave the child free to deal with it.
(b) Lectures, for which the teacher collects, arranges, and illustrates matter from various sources; these often offer knowledge in too condensed and ready prepared a form.
(c) Text-books compressed and recompressed from the big book of the big man.
(d) The use of emulation and ambition as incentives to learning in place of the adequate desire for, and delight in, knowledge.

Children can be most fitly educated on Things and Books.

Things, e.g.––
i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
ii. Material to work in––wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects in situ––birds, plants, streams, stones, etc,
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.
The value of this education by Things is receiving wide recognition, but intellectual education to be derived from Books is still for the most part to seek.

Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with ‘delight’ his own, living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.

This plan has been tried with happy results for the last twelve years in many home schoolrooms, and some other schools.

By means of the free use of books the mechanical difficulties of education––reading, spelling, composition, etc.––disappear, and studies prove themselves to be ‘for delight, for ornament, and for ability.’

There is reason to believe that these principles are workable in all schools, Elementary and Secondary; that they tend in the working to simplification, economy, and discipline.

This above is a direct quote from The Original Home Schooling Series Volume 3p.214. I’ve bolded some of the text.

And when my friend was ready for more I’d also discuss Charlotte Mason’s twenty principles of education.

Learning About The Charlotte Mason Method

We realise that many of you will be new to the Charlotte Mason approach, so with your subscription we provide our free course How To Homeschool 101. You can do the course in it's entirety or dip in and out as a refresher when needed.

Charlotte Mason topics include:

  • Teaching Handwriting the Charlotte Mason Way
  • What is a living book and how to use them
  • Replacing textbooks and worksheets with notebooking
  • What is narration
  • How to teach writing, spelling and grammar
  • Nature Journaling with Children (Free Dowloadable ebook)
  • History studies
  • How to make a Book of Centuries
  • Panoramic geography and map study

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