Many homeschoolers around the world follow Charlotte Mason methods, and it’s easy to understand why. This British educator approached education through nature and great works, creating an environment that appeals to many parents.
Here are five Charlotte Mason philosophies that can enrich any homeschool.
Let children learn through “living books.” Mason advocated teaching with books that were alive and engaging, rather than through dry textbooks. Living books tend to be conversational in style and are written by authors who are passionate about the subject. In addition to avoiding textbooks, Mason also discouraged the use of “twaddle” — children’s books that are dumbed down or lacking in real content, language, meaning and artistic merit.
Spend time outside often. Nature study is a huge part of a Charlotte Mason education. Her schools devoted one afternoon a week to time outside, and many homeschoolers who follow CM methods incorporate nature study in daily activities. Mason had children keep nature journals where they would sketch and label different parts of nature they observed. She taught that this nature study was the foundation for a good understanding of science.
Use great literature to teach spelling, handwriting and punctuation. Mason advised using poetry, literature, scripture and other great works for dictation and copywork. Instead of writing meaningless lists of words, they write things that have meaning, learning skills as they do.
Keep lessons short, especially for younger children. For elementary ages, Mason advocated spending no more than fifteen or twenty minutes on a subject before moving on. This allows children to learn a broad range of subjects and give their full attention to them.
Fill children’s lives with art, poetry and music. Children in Charlotte Mason schools regularly read Shakespeare, the Bible, poetry and other famous works. They listen to classical music, study great artists and devote a lot of time to becoming familiar with fine arts.
For more on Charlotte Mason’s teachings, check out Simply Charlotte Mason.
Ambleside Online is another great source of Charlotte Mason material and includes a free CM curriculum.
This article originally appeared in my homeschooling column on examiner.com.