Charlotte Mason

This is a post I’ve found extremely on helpful written by Shiela that I wanted to keep on my blog as a reference.

Charlotte Mason thought that the child was in “danger of receiving much teaching with little education.” I believe this was in part why she started her school and wrote down her methods. She stresses that one should always expect excellence. Her books are on the net for FREE-vol 1 lays out the home/foundation and vol 6 goes into great detail by subject:

Narration is “re-tells” their own words. Kids must listen carefully and pay attention to detail. For a child under ten, narration is oral. The teacher will write the narration for them or, an oral re-telling will do. After 5th year, the child should write his own. This is the cornerstone of writing. In a well-read child, who has been narrating (as instructed), the transition to writing is usually smooth.

Language Arts:
Copywork, Dictation, Spelling and Grammar. CM strongly advocates the use of copywork for all ages. Add dictation when the child is capable of greater concentration, (year5). Copy work and dictation, together teaches spelling, handwriting and grammar and writing all once. Lessons should be 5-10 minutes in length. When narrating the child gets to see and know his ideas in writing. On occasion, some children need additional spelling but it doesn’t have to be separate. That is the best part: they are taught together. Ms. Mason wrote her own Grammar book, Simply Grammar.

CM used the term: Masterly Inactivity. Your role as a teacher is to provide good literature and get out of the way.”no twaddle” Resist the temptation to break down every part of a book. You shouldn’t discuss everything and Stella is right–don’t make connections for them. Her goal was to develop “good taste” in literature. Narration should be encouraged.

Fine Arts:
Picture study for Art. Hang a new picture every week or so. Make sure to give the children a representation of its true size. Discuss the artist throughout the week. Take them to the museums and let them see good work. Listen to the music of great musicians. Stay with the same composer for a few weeks so that you begin to develop and ear for the music. Make sure they know who they are listening to and tell as much about the composer as you can. You can get info from the net. Play music while doing chores, eating a meal, in the car. Create mini works of great artists (pointillism, water colors, etc)..coloring books by Dover can be fun for smaller kids.

CM devotes many pages of her book(s) on how the mind demands method. Reaching a logical conclusion in one’s thinking is a must. CM was a proponent of “the child is a person and must think for himself.” Naturally, the teacher’s job here is to equip him to observe and be aware of his world. UNDERSTANDING is more important than knowing. “so we go about picking up a maxim here, a motto there, an idea elsewhere, and make a patchwork of the whole which we call our principles.”

CM is very specific in her books–year1 (age 6-7) is when they learn British History. She advocates Marshall’s Our Island Story. Year2 students read biographies of the greats. Year3 students start a more rigorous study. She prefers France be taught 2nd to Britain. Then you move on to The Book of Centuries and add in Indian History (for pleasure). Ancient History must be approached chronologically. Specifically, she adds American and Western Europe during age 15-19. She points out that the student RARELY repeats any of this ever. She also claims that one should not start and end in their own country–“We cannot live sanely unless we know that other peoples are as we are with a difference.” Timelines are completed in 100 years cycles.

Her thoughts on geography are precisely what we now refer to as social studies. Great attention is given to map work. A child should identify “where” on a map before they begin reading. Children should “see” and therefore sketches are recommended. A child should come across facts “as a traveler”. She describes her method as Panoramic-it unrolls the landscape of the world–region by region, it’s climate, productions, people, industries and history. Example questions would be how ___ (a natural disaster or war) affected ____ (commerce, social attitudes, wildlife). Older students are expected to keep up with the news and current events throughout the world.

CM believed in teaching the child the rules (Laws, she calls them). A firm ground must be taken to reveal the beauty and truth of mathematics. It is to be studied for its own sake and not “for intelligence”; therefore, unnecessary to delve into math outside of what is necessary for ‘real life’. It is dependent upon the teacher rather than textbook. The child should read living books about the concepts, know the laws of math, and study great mathematicians–like Euclid. Economics would find it’s home here as would the stock market and banking.

Nature Study. Children should spend as much time as possible outside, in all types of weather. The mother should train her children to be keen observers. Nature journals are a must. Provide field guides, binoculars, magnifying glass, cameras. Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study is a good reference. Specific concepts are taught through literature. Laboratory work is necessary. Every child should have a microscope. Recognition during nature walks is the basis-A LOT of specific details are given throughout all of her books, including recommended reading by year along with specific instruction for the teacher.

Foreign Language
The language should be spoken to them and the child should narrate. Songs and Fables are encourage for Year1 & 2 students. They are asked to narrate art and books in the new language often. Eventually, lessons are taught, such as History or Literature in the new language. Grammar and vocabulary are learned the same as they are learned in English. Several languages are taught young and concurrently. A tutor would be strongly suggested. Otherwise, find a steady program that teaches the WHOLE language..not just memorizing words.

Art & Music:
Children should be taught a musical instrument. Children should have some instruction in singing. If possible let children learn from lovers of their work.

Handicrafts and Drills:
She used Swedish Drills daily in her school. However, children under age nine were given musical drills and dancing instruction since they are considered more pleasurable. In teaching handicrafts: 1) a child should not be making “crafts”. Example would be learning woodworking, needlepoint, basket weaving. 2) they should be taught slowly and carefully. 3) shoddy work should never be allowed.

CM stresses character develop throughout all of her works. Habit is another means of instilling virtue as the parent should provide ample illustrations. The best book I have seen on this subject is Laying Down the Rails. It takes all of CM’s words from her six volumes and translates these into a modern read. I think all parents should give it a glance at least…interesting.

Modern Times:
Many interpretations of how CM would use the internet are found during a “search”. Obviously, computer skills must be taught to some degree to all children now. One can argue that typing is more a necessity than handwriting. I would also say that “sketching” in a nature journal is not as necessary since we have pictures. Many points that were necessary ‘back then’ will find their time erased (if not already)–I consider computer programming, robotics, electronics, photography and the ilk as handicrafts for this generation.


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