If you are new to homeschooling and know that you need something other than a home version of school or maybe you’ve been doing a structure school at home and find it isn’t working, Charlotte Mason is where you should start looking. I’m not suggesting that the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method is the “best” homeschooling method. What I think Charlotte Mason does is opens you to the vast array of education possibilities beyond any one curriculum. Learning about the Charlotte Mason approach will rapidly bring you to the heart of homeschooling and help you start your own path best for your family–in my opinion.
Charlotte Mason (1842 to 1923) was a British educator who developed a system of educating children that respects the child as a person while creating an education atmosphere in which children learn. Two of her most commonly referred to principles are “living books” and “narrative.” Charlotte Mason called for the use of living books rather than dry, fact-filled, textbooks. In many ways, this is classic liberal arts, going directly to the original source for learning.
The narrative is having the child tell you what he has read. Narration is incorporated into all aspects of the Charlotte Mason philosophy. Whether after reading a book or taking a nature walk, the child should be able to explain what she has learned. For younger children, the narrative is spoken while for others it is written. The narrative takes the place of worksheets and classroom lectures.
A comprehensive application of Charlotte Mason homeschooling includes the following elements:
Nature study (Science)
One of the reasons why I suggest you start with Charlotte Mason in researching homeschooling methods is because it demonstrates how different homeschooling can appear from family to family. It also leads into other areas such as unschooling. Lynn B Hocraffer has an excellent answer to Is Charlotte Mason Unschooling? There are also some very good explanations as to the differences between Charlotte Mason and classical education. Susan Wise Bauer has an extensive comparison of a classical education with Charlotte Mason’s approach at Charlotte Mason and Classical Education.
Another reason to consider the Charlotte Mason approach is the vast amount of resources readily available on-line including a complete curriculum. There are a number of resources that provide lesson plans and schedules broken down by grade. Others offer suggestions as to how to transition to using Charlotte Mason from your current method. Charlotte Mason may not be the best choice for your family. However, it will start you on the process of exploring the possibilities beyond structured homeschooling.