Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell
Well, here we are again! Another exciting school adventure awaits! I hope it’s the best year ever for you.
It was a whirlwind of a summer for the Fulbrights, traveling from coast-to-coast meeting so many truly precious homeschoolers. We hit nine states in all: SC, OH, MO, FL, IA, CA, TX, AZ, and GA. What a treasure every person I met in each state was to me and my husband Jeff.
I had to take a break from writing (and cleaning) while I traveled. Today the house is a little tiny bit cleaner, and I’ll now be jumping back into Rumble Tumbles into Ancient Egypt, Living Streams Early American History Part One, Living Streams Synoptic Gospels for Families, and a few other books the Lord has placed on my heart.
I’m really excited to have a season of writing before the next convention season starts up.
One thing I kept hearing from moms and dads at the conferences was, “I’m convinced Charlotte Mason had sound ideas, but how do I implement a Charlotte Mason education?”
Now that’s a loaded question if I ever heard one!
You can find dozens of books, oodles of blogs and articles, gads of podcasts, and even Youtube videos that expound upon a Charlotte Mason education.
Asking you to wade through all that is too much. So, I’m going to give the simplest “nutshell” answer I can.
OUT OF DOOR LIFE
“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps the mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time~spent for the most part in the fresh air.” ~Charlotte Mason
Time outdoors is essential for a child’s growth in every arena of life. Science shows the dramatic affects of nature on children academically, mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually. In Charlotte Mason circles, we often misname this “nature study” as if we are to be conducting some sort of science lesson outside. No. Lessons are to be done indoors. Outdoors, all studying is done by the child himself at his own will ~ getting knowledge for himself. We are simply to conduct him outdoors so that he may run, play, climb, and notice the world about him. This is the foundation for a Charlotte Mason education.
If you would like a PDF of a multitude of the studies on the benefits of children in nature, let me know!
LIVING BOOKS TO TEACH
Living books are used to teach reading, literature, science, history, geography, etc. Living books are books that are filled with unique ideas, expressions, and thoughts. Each book has its own personality~a person sharing their ideas with you. A Charlotte Mason education does not present the child with books that are drained dry of living thought. Textbooks filled with facts and information extinguish any previous interest in the subject.
Go here to read how to tell if a book is a living or dead book.
NARRATION AND NOTEBOOKING
Instead of endless fill-in-the-blank worksheets, exercises that actually engage the child’s mind are used. Narration is the first and foremost method of assimilating knowledge. Though it may seem too simple a tool, it is a profoundly effective practice that requires the child to think deeply about the topic learned and order the information to retell it in his own words.
Once a child has orally conveyed to another what he’s learned, he knows it well.
Notebooking is like narration except the child conveys his knowledge and learning on paper. He expresses himself in his own unique manner with words or pictures as he imagines or visualizes them. Charlotte Mason says,
“Of course that which they visualise, or imagine clearly, they know; it is a life possession.”
Courses like my Apologia science include notebooking activities for each lesson, but you can add notebooking to any curriculum.
Go here to read a list of creative ideas for adding a notebooking assignment to any topic.
COPYWORK ~ NARRATION ~ DICTATION
The best way for children to learn to write well is to copy great writing. The beginning passages are simple and grow in complexity as the child’s skills develop. Once a child has gained a footing in writing through copywork, dictation is used to further solidify ingrained habits of proper grammar, usage, spelling, structure, and expression.
Children are also encouraged to transcribe compelling verses, passages, Scriptures, quotes, or thoughts in a common place book, just as great scholars of our past have done for centuries. Not only does transcribing in this manner develop strong writing skills, it encourages deeper thinking on great matters and develops a strong foundation in truth.
You can create your own copywork sheets on your computer taking sentences from whatever you are studying: the Bible, historical fiction, literature, interesting science or history facts, great thoughts you come across, and character building quotes.
INTELLECTUAL CULTURE INTEGRATED IN THE CURRICULUM
Poetry, great works by artists and composers, hymns, folk songs, and other creative works of value are part of the regular curriculum. In the industrialization of education, to create workers, intellectual culture was stripped from the curriculum.
Science shows, once again, that Charlotte Mason knew ahead of time what creates a great mind. Study after study reveal that children who engage in beauty are more academically advanced and more mentally stable. Knowing this intuitively, Charlotte Mason believed children should hear or read poetry daily, and incorporate other cultural forms regularly.
Look for the Living Streams Intellectual Culture curriculum in 2023.
HABITS INTENTIONALLY TRAINED
In a Charlotte Mason education, everything comes down to habits. Everything. Habits of doing and habits of being. Habits of thought. Habits of deed. The habit of nature study. The habit of reading. The habit of reading the Bible. The habit of prayer. The habit of kind thoughts. The habit of thoughts of God. The list is long and it would be near impossible to train them all in the span of a child’s education.
As parents, we choose one habit to train, using stories, consistency, and persistence. And then we move on to another. We are already doing this as parents. Habit training is simply being more intentional about certain habits that develop strong character. This can be done through character building stories, Bible reading, character building copywork, and of course through gentle reminders and loving encouragement.
Compilations of character building stories for children were a common publication a hundred years ago. They are harder to find now. The Moral Compass is out of print, but was a source of wonderful and memorable character stories that my family enjoyed. The Miller stories (Schooldays with the Millers) were also wonderful in this way.
LEISURE ~ SPECIAL STUDIES ~ ARTS ~ CRAFTS
A child should have time each day for leisure. Reading, thinking, the pursuit of special studies, skills, art, or handicrafts take up the leisure hours. It’s critical we don’t over-schedule a child’s day with academics, activities, sports, and the like. A child should have time to discover new interests, explore new thoughts and ideas, develop new skills, and create something interesting or of unique value.
There is so much out there vying for our children’s attention. By developing the habit of leisure, we give our children a quiet growing time~ space to expand and learn. Leisure should be spent far away from the distractions, the hustle and bustle, the anxieties of the world.
I have noticed that my adult children have gravitated back to their unique interests and the hobbies they developed as young children.
The things that capture their interests may very well become lifelong joys.
THAT’S CHARLOTTE MASON IN A NUTSHELL
So, this is a bare-bones overview of Charlotte Mason education. There is so much more meat to add to these bones, and so many more wonderful truths Charlotte Mason taught us through her writings. However, I hope this is helpful as a quick start guide. Be sure to share it with others who have the same questions and curiosity about this life giving philosophy of educating children.