Charlotte Mason FAQ: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

As I travel to conferences, I get a lot of questions about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. There is already a lot of information online, so I won’t go into a lot of detail, but here are some very short answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Miss Mason and her philosophy of education.

Is Charlotte Mason just for elementary school students?

Definitely not! Her schools were designed for students from grades 1-12, and the course of study is quite rigorous. A student who has studied with the Charlotte Mason is well-prepared for life and study beyond high school.

What are the advantages of a Charlotte Mason education?

It would take hours to list them all, but here are some I find most valuable.

  • First, teaching is done in ways that respect the child’s intellect and nourish his/her spirit.
  • There is no talking down to students, so they are able to study in genuinely interesting ways.
  • Teachers are encouraged to practice “masterly inactivity” so that the student’s brain is the one that must actively work to learn.
  • Teaching is not just about learning facts to pass a test, but it’s about understanding the world and being able to clearly communicate that understanding.
  • Teachers are encouraged to let great minds speak directly to students through their books without being tempted to jump in with explanations, questions, or comments.
  • Vocabulary and thinking skills grow by leaps and bounds through exposure to excellent books and the act of narration.
  • Lessons are age-appropriately short in the early years, lengthening (again age-appropriately) as the students mature.
  • The books you buy are excellent, interesting (and usually inexpensive) books that can be read, re-read, and passed down to your children.
  • Lessons do not require expensive, disposable workbooks or unhealthy amounts of screen time.
  • The study of science and geography begins with direct observation in nature, which is most effective.
  • Study of art and music is woven into the curriculum in interesting and easily managed small bites.
  • Outdoor time is part of the educational experience, not something pushed aside in order to slog through more desk work.
  • A CM education helps students develop healthy habits of mind, body, and character.
  • A CM education develops large and small motor skills, focused attention, and other things necessary for learning and leading a healthy life.
  • A CM education is rigorous and academic, and it’s also fun.

Is it hard to teach the Charlotte Mason way?

CM teaching is different (in a good way) from the usual sort of teaching in institutional schools. In a CM day, the school day is short, focused, and interesting because appropriately challenging materials are presenting using developmentally appropriate methods and lesson lengths.

  • The primary job of the teacher is to cultivate an atmosphere, discipline, and life that makes learning not just possible, but almost inevitable.
  • A secondary task is to introduce students to passionate experts through the medium of excellent books, also referred to as living books.
  • One of the joys of the CM way of teaching and learning is that you can enjoy learning too, which is much better than dragging through something that feels like dismal drudgery.
  • If you’re already locked into another program or teaching method (at least temporarily), you may be able to improve it by implanting at least a few CM methods or materials.

How does a Charlotte Mason education differ from a classical education?

Many of the same books and resources are studied in classical and CM education. I would describe the primary practical difference as one of focus. A classical education focuses on the education of the mind (head); a Charlotte Mason education addresses the whole child — head, heart, and hand. Mason begins with consideration of the child and how learning actually happens; classical education begins with what needs to be learned and proceeds from there.

I’m not sure I can do it perfectly; should I just stick with what I know?

I didn’t do it perfectly at all, yet my boys learned well, and more importantly, have continued to love learning into adulthood. When I began homeschooling, most of the resources listed on the Charlotte Mason page were not available and I was patching a variety of things together. Through endless reading and a good bit of trial and error, I was learning what worked and what didn’t, and when I finally encountered Charlotte Mason, I knew I’d found something that would grow with us.

In every area in which I was able to implement her ideas and curriculum, they worked very, very well. As I’m watching my grandchildren learn from the beginning with CM methods, I see that these methods when fully implemented, produce something beautiful. Even if you’re starting late or trying to recover from a bad school situation, you can jump into CM and you and your family can benefit.

Is the Living Books Press edition of the Charlotte Mason Home Education series complete and unabridged?

Yes. All of the original content, and only the original content is included. I chose to offer the Living Books Press editions from Australia is because it is important that parents have access to good quality editions of these important books, and I wanted to offer an edition that did not in any way infringe on the copyright or creative work of someone else. As a bonus, these books are beautifully typeset with ample margins and nice-quality binding, and the cost is as low as possible so that they will be accessible for virtually any budget.

Return to the Charlotte Mason page.

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Janice Campbell

Janice Campbell writes and speaks about homeschooling, using lifestyle of learning approach influenced by Charlotte Mason, classical learning, and the Thomas Jefferson method. Her books and resources, including Excellence in Literature, Transcripts Made Easy, and Get a Jump Start on College, reflect Janice’s focus on twaddle-free, active learning (she did have boys, after all!).

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