By Dinah Whitton

If there is one name that stands out in the homeschool community, it’s definitely Charlotte Mason. During my initial research phase as an emerging home educator, I heard so much about Ms. Mason I wanted to actually meet her! This method is quite different from the Eclectic method that kick started phase two of my research; but, I still find it very intriguing. So, this week in our exploration of home education, let’s dive right into this popular method.

Although Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s, her thoughts on education were ahead of her time. In an era where children were meant to be seen and not heard, she believed children were persons in their own right and deserved respect. She also believed that children have a better opportunity to learn when they play, create and are involved in real-life situations. Ultimately this method includes short lessons covering a wide variety of subjects to keep children engaged and learning effectively. Developing good habits and character traits are also key elements. Rather than taking tests, students are evaluated by giving narrations, participating in discussions, journaling and completing a history timeline. Charlotte Mason was particularly keen on rich literature or “living books” even for small children. Nature walks and nature studies are another key element to Charlotte Mason’s method. While there is still a strong focus on the core subjects, this method incorporates a variety of ways to effectively home educate. Art and music appreciation; foreign language studies, historical field trips; and, memorization exercises are typically included in a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool.

What Home Educators Are Saying

Although Charlotte Mason’s methodology has been around for over 100 years, there continues to be mixed reviews from homeschoolers. Some parents appreciate the budget-friendly materials available at the library and online. While others remain unsure about the non-traditional methods that are typically found in curriculum sets. Cori D. is one of those parents who have embraced the Charlotte Mason method with proven success. Cori’s four girls (18, 15, 12 and 8 years old) have been homeschooled from the beginning. She believes Charlotte Mason had a philosophy, and not a method, “she suggests a lot, and how that fleshes out will be different in every home.” Cori said. “It’s a rich education, very structured and rigid, but it allows children to embrace ideas.”

Since Charlotte Mason believed children were born ready to learn, there is an emphasis on ideas rather than just learning facts. Cori appreciates the ability to customize her children’s education without putting any limits on them. “It can be broad and not just geared toward a skill based on their socio-economic status,” said Cori. “In Victorian England children were considered out of place to learn about art!” Cori suggests creating an atmosphere of great learning that includes literature, music and art. Even for the parents who are unsure about using this approach, Cori believes it can be applicable to all levels of learning, including high school, “you can use Charlotte Mason’s ideas when you can,” she said. “It’s like a buffet of opportunity…choose the ones that suit your home.” Whether you’re a new homeschooler or a home education veteran, Cori suggests starting with your core subjects and fill in the rest with great literature, “you don’t have to fill in all the gaps and do it all at once.” And, for those contemplating the cost of this method, here’s a powerful reminder: “a library card is powerful in the hands of a homeschooler.”

What Homeschool Students Are Saying

As parents we can talk all day about what we think is great, what works and what doesn’t work. But, how that translates to our children is a completely different matter. Ester W. has been homeschooling her four boys for three years (age 13, 11, 6 and 4 years old). Homeschooling comes with various challenges and triumphs, but add in four healthy boys and there should be an award for such amazing parenting! Fortunately using the Charlotte Mason methodology has been an ideal fit for this family. 11 year old Caleb used to attend public school and now has a new appreciation for nature because of his mother’s implementation of Charlotte Mason’s ideas. “When I was at school I never cared so much about going outside until I had nature study in homeschool,” said Caleb. “We usually go to the river for nature study, and now that’s my hobby.” Despite Caleb’s dyslexia diagnosis, over the past 2 years his reading has improved and he appreciates the time his mother invests in him, “It’s more one-on-one and I can have more time with my mom,” said Caleb. “I am doing well with my reading because of the programs my mom is able to do with me.”

Although 13 year old Noah admits he’s not as enthusiastic about nature studies as his brother, he does enjoy the freedom of homeschooling. “I like that in homeschooling we have the freedom to go at our own pace,” said Noah. “I can start my work right away and finish earlier and have more time for myself later.” Ester incorporates Charlotte Mason’s idea of including short lessons with frequent breaks for her active learners. Clearly this is proving to be successful for this family since the children are effectively learning and embracing their home education. “At school the kids often have to wait for each other or for the routine of the school to move along,” Noah said. “But, I like that I can finish faster at my own pace and timing.”

There’s no question that this method has proven successful for many homeschool families. Like any method or philosophy, how you implement it can also determine your level of success. Since our families are all so unique, it’s comforting to know that we can all achieve success in our own way.

Is Charlotte Mason’s philosophy a part of your homeschool? Are you considering using some of her ideas? As always we love to hear from you! Send us an email with your questions, comments and suggestions: info@hslda.ca.

Remember to check out the CCHE Home Education Resource webpage for more details of the various methods. This is a great place to review the methods in a simple format and help your family along your home education adventure.