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Homeschooling 101: The Charlotte Mason Philosophy

HS CM Method

One of the most popular homeschooling philosophies is the Charlotte Mason philosophy. Many, if not most, homeschoolers utilize at least some of her theories and methods in their homeschool. In fact, from what I’ve read and seen, I would say that many homeschoolers are following her philosophy without even realizing that is what they are doing! Her methods are such a natural fit for what most homeschoolers would like to give their children.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator at the turn of the 20th century. She took a look at the education of the day and found it severely lacking. Her ideas radically impacted education as we know it. She believed strongly that children needed not dull facts and figures with rote memorization, but living ideas and experiences. Charlotte believed that children were not blank slates to be filled with information but instead living beings with their own personality, able to deal with ideas and knowlege. A Charlotte Mason education brings first-hand experiences to learning, allowing students to explore and engage with their learning. It includes exposure to ideas and the arts.

There’s so much that can be said about the Charlotte Mason philosophy, but this quote from her sums it up quite nicely: “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” When you follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy, learning is all around you. Great ideas are discussed, explored and debated. Life is lived, all with the intention of learning something new every single day.

Lessons are short, often ten to fifteen minutes, and focused on excellent execution and holding the child’s focus. After that they move on to other subjects and lessons. Lessons nurture curiosity. Much of the day is spent outside if possible, learning in nature. Spelling is taught through passages from great literature instead of dull textbooks. History is taught through living stories instead of third person dry textbooks. Competition with others is discouraged; instead, everyone is simply expected to do the best they can do in everything they do.

I’ve seen public schools try to integrate many of these ideas, but unfortunately the system just doesn’t allow this kind of flexibility and freedom. When you have 25 students in your room, all with differing needs, and a standardized test they must all pass at the end of the year, teachers are left without the kind of flexibility they’d prefer to have. The beauty of homeschooling is that classes are automatically small, which means we can tailor the lessons to our children. We can bring them living experiences, share great ideas and really dig down into discussing and debating these with them.

I’m definitely a fan of the Charlotte Mason method. We don’t use it per se here, but so much of what she believed resonates deeply with our core WHY and WHAT for homeschooling. I have tried to incorporate many of these ideas as we have begun homeschooling–we’ve visited art museums, we read literature together, we go for daily walks together, we watch the news together and discuss the day’s events. I’m going to continue to research the CM method, and as I find more and integrate it, I’ll be sure to share it with you here. Until then, if you’d like more information on the Charlotte Mason philosophy or curriculums, I highly recommend checking out the site SimplyCharlotteMason. They’ve got tons of great information and resources for you there!

Check back tomorrow, when I will attempt to simplify Classical Learning!

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