Thursday, March 15, 2012

Charlotte Mason Education - Part 2

What are the basic methods of a Charlotte Mason education?

As mentioned in a the former post, Charlotte believed in spreading a feast before the children and allowing them to take what they were ready for.  Her method incorporates all core subjects including history, geography, Bible, math, science, foreign language, writing, spelling, grammar, art, music & hymn study, literature, poetry, and handicrafts.  She used the best books, the best music, and the best art possible.  Charlotte's methods throughout the subjects included:

1. Short Lessons - beginning around age 6 for approx. 15-20 minutes, increasing around age 10 to 20-30 minutes, and continuing around age 14 to 30-45 minutes

2. Emphasis on Good Habits - develop the habit of attention by doing things only one time; develop the habit of best effort by encouraging quality not quantity 

3. Varying the Order of Subjects - lessons should range in a large variety of subjects altering between concentrated intense subjects and less intense subjects including those that allow for physical movement; using different parts of the brain allows for better attention span

4. Living Books - books usually written by one person who is passionate about a subject;  they make the subject come alive by pulling you in and involving your emotions; avoid dry, factual textbooks, written by various authors with snippets on various topics

5. Narration - start by reading a short passage from a living book, ask the child to retell (either orally or in writing) what they just saw, heard, or felt about what was read; this method requires a higher thinking level vs. fill in the blank "comprehension" type questions; start oral narration around age 6 (not before); move to written narration around age 10; Don't interrupt a narration, narration puts emphasis on what the child knows, not on what they might have missed; when the child can rename or recite it, they observably know it;  It's not necessary to narrate every book read.  

6. Copywork - used to teach and give practice in handwriting skills; rather than write a full page of the letter "a", a full page of the letter "b", a full page of the letter "c", Charlotte Mason chose poems, scripture, inspirational quotations, and great passages from living books for the child to carefully copy; emphasize quality not quantity, the goal is legible handwriting.  Charlotte Mason continued copywork through 9th grade.

7. Nature Study - Charlotte believed children, as well as adults, should spend time out of doors regularly, regardless of weather, studying God's creation by walking in fields, meadows, woodlands, and along streams; children should be encouraged to look carefully at their natural surroundings, then enter their observations in a notebook/journal; these entries can include sketches, descriptions, watercolor paintings, weather observations, thoughts, feelings, poems, etc.; upon return, use field guides to follow up and help identify child's findings; The nature journal is the child's possession and should not be corrected.

You can read more about these methods as well as detailed descriptions of each subject at:

After daily lesson are complete, the child is given free time to pursue other interests and hobbies.  With the Charlotte Mason method, there is no need to buy curriculum, but a Bible and library card are important.  The Charlotte Mason method can be used solely or along side other educational methods.  It's often paired with unit studies and classical education.

Charlotte's methods are gentle and simple, yet work remarkably well.  She believed that the development of good character and good habits was essential.  As parents model great traits and capitalize on teachable moments, the child will develop completely.  This method supports each child's learning style and abilities.   

Continue with Part 3 and Part 4 of this series. 

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! They seem to be working well with my six-year-old son. Of course, I have to work on my own character and habits, too. :)

    I like that there is no requirement to buy a curriculum. You're right; with a Bible and library card and a place to be outside, one can do most of the quality work she described.