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What is the Charlotte Mason method? And Why We are Switching to it

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I know many of you have already started your homeschool year. Here where we live the school system doesn’t start back until the day after Labor Day and while we usually start our homeschool year earlier this year we are delaying until at least the Wednesday after Labor Day.

A large part of this delay is the fact that we (I) recently decided to switch things up and we will be following the Charlotte Mason method this year.

Our previous method I dubbed Homeschooling as a Lifestyle and while I still really love this method there are a few different things that have us switching to Charlotte Mason this year.

I am just finishing planning our homeschool curriculum for the year and plan on sharing that soon as well as a post on how you can create your own Charlotte Mason curriculum.

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

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WHY WE ARE SWITCHING TO CHARLOTTE MASON

So, why the switch? First off, and kind of surprising, my daughter and I are both looking for a bit more of a routine and schedule this year. We are both rebels and don’t really like following a schedule but it feels like it would be a good change for us this year.

Also, it was actually the Charlotte Mason method that had me falling in love with the idea of homeschooling years ago. While it was unknown to me at the time the group of ladies that I followed on Instagram that had such inspiring homeschool photos were all following the Charlotte Mason method and so many of the aspects that I loved about their homeschooling were pulled directly from Miss Mason.

Thirdly, I really resonate with a lot of the main points Charlotte Mason tried to teach, some of them come naturally to me and others don’t, so I think this will be a great year of growth.

And lastly (at least for now), what I really love about the Charlotte Mason method is how simple it is. We really try to have a minimal homeschool (and home) and I think this works very well with Charlotte’s method.

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

WHERE TO LEARN ABOUT CHARLOTTE MASON’S METHOD

Want to learn more about Charlotte Mason’s method? There are a few books I would recommend: I am currently reading through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education series, there are six volumes and I am just over halfway through the first. It will take me awhile to get through them all. Though, even before reading the series I would highly recommend reading A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola, it’s an easier read and gives a good overview of Charlotte’s philosophy.

In this post I am going to highlight ten of the major distinctions of the Charlotte Mason (though there are a few more, I’m keeping it to ten) and give you a bit of an idea on how we are going to be applying them into our homeschool.

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

LIVING BOOKS

If you have been around here for any length of time you’ll know that we love books in our family, and not just any books, good books. Charlotte Mason promoted what she called living books, she didn’t use textbooks but rather preferred to use books that included first hand stories or books where the author was knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. She wanted children to read the best of the best, not dumbed down, twaddle books.

“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.”
– Charlotte Mason
I’ve got a number of living book lists started that I will be sharing over the course of the next few months, stay tuned for that!

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

NARRATION

Charlotte Mason also taught about the idea of narration, which is such a simple and yet effective teaching strategy. To put it simply, after reading a passage from a living book to a child you will ask them to tell back the story in their own words. This not only works as a method of testing (it gives you a chance to see how much the child understood) it also helps to cement the lesson in the child’s mind. Often to really learn something it is best to teach it, and this is a very simple way to do so.

Charlotte suggestions not starting narration until the child is six though I think it depends on the child. My five year old actually enjoys narration more than my seven year old and is better at it at this point. If he wants to narrate I’m not going to say no!

She also suggests by starting slow, maybe you read one paragraph of a story and then get them to narrate that one paragraph, slowly increasing the length of the passage they narrate. This is also where short chapters are good. I’ve found so far that Little Pilgrim’s Progress is my kids’ favorite book to narrate and the chapters are short so usually they narrate back after I read half or a full chapter.

As children narrate you can copy their words down for them and as they get older they can start writing down their own narrations and doing a combination of drawn and written narrations.

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

FORMATION OF HABITS

I think every mother understands the benefits of teaching children habits, though it can be a long road there. Unfortunately, I don’t think I did a good job in my first few years of parenting working on good habits so we have some bad habits to unlearn while trying to learn good habits.

I think I will probably share a full post about habits in the future, there is so much to say on this topic!

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

NATURE STUDIES

Nature studies is a large part of the Charlotte Mason method, one that I aspire to enjoy but it is definitely not my natural nature to want to spend time outdoors (I’m a bookworm content to sit in one chair and read book after book). I have learned so much in our nature studies so far and have been really enjoying it.

Also a full post on this topic to come!

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

How beautiful is this nature journal from 1906? It’s The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. #goals

 

SHORT LESSONS

Charlotte Mason was a big believer in short lessons, 20 minutes on one topic for elementary students before moving on to a different topic. Of course this idea just makes sense if you know young children, while you want them to build the habit of attention you also need to work with their natural abilities.

With the idea of short lessons you can cover a variety of different subjects and topics in one day.

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

COPYWORK

Charlotte also encouraged copywork, from my understanding this is to teach children to print perfectly; by copying from a perfect example they will learn how to print neatly, spell correctly and the major rules of grammar.

Copywork is really easy to do, I love finding poems, Bible verses or quotes for my children to copy from.

 

PICTURE STUDY

Picture study is what Charlotte called the study of great art. Children would look at and study one piece of art and then retell all the details they could recall from the piece.

We will be following her idea of studying one artist per term and studying a handful of that artists works. Near the end of the term the kids will be able to pick their favorite piece to try to replicate to the best of their ability.

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

HYMN STUDY

We will also be studying hymns, one every month or so. We will be learning the history behind the hymn (so many great stories behind them!) and learning all the lyrics.

 

SHAKESPEARE

Charlotte also believed that children should study Shakespeare, I personally enjoy a challenge so we are going to give it a try! We are going to start out by using Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. I read a few of Shakespeare’s stories in high school and university and honestly didn’t really understand any of them, I’m hoping to be able to teach them to my children in a way that actually makes sense (to them and me!).

 

What is the Charlotte Mason method? And why we are switching to it.

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Another aspect of Charlotte Mason homeschooling is the study of a foreign language! I think it makes the most sense to pick a language you are the most interested in. My daughter and I have been learning Spanish but we recently made some decisions as a family to plan for a Europe trip in about two years and visit France and Italy so my husband and children have decided to learn French and I’m learning Italian. Since we recently made the language switch I need to find some resources for both of these languages.

 

And that’s the Charlotte Mason method and why we are switching to it in a nutshell! If you have any questions or want to share what you love about the CM method leave me a note in the comments below!

I will be sharing our full Charlotte Mason schedules for kindergarten and grade three soon!

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