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Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Updated: Apr 26

The Charlotte Mason homeschooling style, named after the British educator Charlotte Mason, is founded on the belief that children are born persons with an innate desire to learn and explore the world around them. Central to this approach is the principle of "living books" – rich and engaging literature that immerses children in various subjects, rather than relying solely on dry textbooks. Mason advocated for a broad and generous curriculum that encompasses a wide range of subjects, including literature, history, geography, science, art, music, and foreign languages, all designed to nourish the child's mind, heart, and soul.

Children Are Born Persons

Charlotte Mason, a British educator from the 19th century, believed “children are thinking, feeling human beings, with spirits to be kindled and not vessels to be filled.” She believed children should be taught as whole persons – mind, body and spirit. She said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Meaning education is a lifelong process, reaching into every realm of our being. This type of education includes the knowledge of God, man, and the universe, but of primary importance is the knowledge of God. Miss Mason formulated many of her teaching principles from the Bible, saying, “It may surprise parents who have not given much attention to the subject to discover also a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ.” Readers of her six-volume Homeschooling Series are given tools for teaching and parenting, as well as for discipleship of their families. Because this teaching philosophy is counter-intuitive to the standard institutional education many parents received, it requires a sort of retraining of education practices, which involves quite a bit of reading for parents learning this method.

Liberal Arts

The five main elements of a Charlotte Mason education are character development and habit training (before academic learning can happen effectively), nature study, short and varied lessons (to maintain focus and attention), the use of living books rather than boxed curricula (as much as possible), and narration as the primary method for learning assessment. This homeschool style also includes learning foreign languages and studies in classic arts (music, art, literature), as well as formal academics such as math, science, grammar, and composition. This method provides a well-rounded education in the sciences and humanities, preparing students for college, vocational training, or whatever field of life they choose. As Miss Mason said, “The question is not, – how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”One of the distinguishing features of the Charlotte Mason homeschooling style is the emphasis on "narration" as a means of learning. Instead of traditional methods of assessment such as quizzes or tests, children are encouraged to orally narrate or retell what they have read or learned in their own words. This practice not only reinforces comprehension but also develops the child's ability to articulate ideas clearly and thoughtfully, fostering both communication skills and critical thinking.

Character Development and Habit Training

Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of habit formation in a child's education. Through the cultivation of good habits, such as attention, obedience, diligence, and courtesy, children develop the self-discipline and character traits necessary for success in both academic and personal endeavors. Parents play a crucial role in modeling and reinforcing these habits through consistent guidance, encouragement, and positive reinforcement. Overall, the cornerstones of a Charlotte Mason homeschool include living books, narration, nature study, short lessons, and habit formation, all of which work together to provide a rich and holistic educational experience that nurtures the whole child.

Nature Study

Another cornerstone of the Charlotte Mason approach is the concept of "nature study" – the practice of observing and exploring the natural world firsthand. Through regular outdoor excursions, children have the opportunity to develop a deep appreciation for the beauty and complexity of nature, while also honing their powers of observation and cultivating a sense of wonder and awe. Nature study serves as a foundation for various subjects, including science, art, and literature, and provides endless opportunities for exploration, discovery, and inspiration.

Short Lessons

Furthermore, Charlotte Mason advocated for short, focused lessons that respect the child's attention span and allow for ample time for exploration and play. This "gentle" approach to education prioritizes quality over quantity, emphasizing meaningful learning experiences over rote memorization or busywork. By keeping lessons short and varied, parents can maintain their child's interest and enthusiasm for learning, while also allowing them the freedom to pursue their own interests and passions at their own pace.

Living Books

Living books are rich and engaging literature that serve as the primary means of learning in a Charlotte Mason homeschool. These books are chosen for their narrative quality, depth of content, and ability to inspire curiosity and imagination. Instead of relying solely on textbooks, children are immersed in living books across a variety of subjects, allowing them to develop a love for learning through captivating stories and firsthand accounts.


Narration is a central technique used in Charlotte Mason homeschooling for assessing comprehension and fostering critical thinking skills. After reading or experiencing a lesson, children are asked to narrate or retell what they have learned in their own words. This process not only reinforces understanding but also encourages children to organize their thoughts, articulate ideas clearly, and develop the habit of attentive listening.

Overall, the Charlotte Mason homeschooling style offers a holistic and child-centered approach to education that honors the individuality, curiosity, and innate potential of each child. By immersing children in rich and diverse educational experiences, fostering a love for learning, and nurturing their relationship with the natural world, Charlotte Mason homeschooling seeks to cultivate not only knowledgeable and skilled individuals but also thoughtful, compassionate, and engaged citizens of the world.

Get More Info

For more information on the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, check out the following websites: Ambleside Online Queen Homeschool Simply Charlotte Mason A Gentle Feast Cathy Duffy Reviews Charlotte Mason Approach


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