If you’re looking for a different homeschooling approach, you may have heard of the Charlotte Mason curriculum. But what is it? What does a Charlotte Mason education entail? And how can you decide if it’s the right choice for your family?
Here are a few things you should know about the Charlotte Mason curriculum.
What is a Charlotte Mason curriculum?
Charlotte Mason was an educator during the late 1800s who emphasized student-directed learning, creative field trips, and living books to help students understand what they’re learning.
While she never wrote textbooks herself, her ideas were eventually put into curriculum form by others. Those curriculums are now often called Charlotte Mason Curriculum or just CM.
How does it work?
Class time is used for direct instruction—not lecture. Instead of listening to a teacher talk, students focus on hands-on work like narration (telling back what they’ve learned), drawing pictures, reading aloud (more on this later), building models, creating crafts, and studying nature.
Each day focuses on a specific topic—like the solar system or rocks and minerals—and students learn about that topic by reading living books (biographies, science textbooks, encyclopedias). Once they get to high school, they can also read works from ancient history.
In addition to learning from these sources, Charlotte Mason homeschoolers have their kids narrate what they’ve read. Basically, the child is required to elaborate on a given book by telling back what he’s learned in his own words. If a student cannot recite a passage or retell the gist of a story in his own way, then it’s likely too hard for him and shouldn’t be narrated until he has more experience.
Students also learn a foreign language, handwriting, grammar, and math skills.
How do you keep track of what the kids have learned?
Charlotte Mason’s philosophy relied on tracking student progress by checking their notebooks at the end of each cycle. The Charlotte Mason curriculum today has a better system, however. It uses combination charts and notebook pages to assess student work as it comes in. In some cases, teachers will assign specific tasks for students to complete as they go along instead of just requiring them to fill out notebook pages at the end of every unit.
Should you use a Charlotte Mason curriculum?
Not everyone may find a Charlotte Mason curriculum a good fit for their family—it all depends on learning styles and personal preference. But here are a few questions to help you decide:
Do you want a non-traditional education for your kids?
Do you want to focus on living books, or do you prefer textbooks?
Does your family have the time and money for Charlotte Mason’s style of homeschooling?
How old should your children be before starting CM?
Most kids start a Charlotte Mason curriculum around 8 or 9 after they’ve learned the basics of reading and math. But the younger a child is, the more supervision he will need from you since he won’t be able to read for himself yet.
Do you have to use only the Charlotte Mason curriculum?
Not at all! In fact, it’s probably best if you mix in some other books, activities, and methods to keep things balanced.
Where can you find the Charlotte Mason curriculum?
There are several places online where you can purchase the Charlotte Mason curriculum or even download free CM lessons. The Charlotte Mason curriculum website has a list of recommended books and links to purchase them.
Another good place to start is Lesson Pathways. This site offers a free Charlotte Mason curriculum planner for grades K-8th (called the “Old Calendar”) and it includes links back to Charlotte Mason’s original lessons if you want to follow them exactly.
Charlotte Mason’s methods are based on the principle that children learn best through exploration and experience. This means