08 April 2009

Considering Charlotte

I've been doing a bit of researching and reading and thinking about our curriculum and structure for next school year, and Charlotte Mason is a name that keeps popping up. I borrowed A Charlotte Mason Companion from a friend who uses the Charlotte Mason method and have slowly been making my way through it.

I've also found a wealth of information at Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online.

So far, here's what I like about the Charlotte Mason method:
  • There is an emphasis on nature studies. My years as an outdoor educator showed me the value of getting kids outside and looking at nature. So this one is a no-brainer for me.
  • It is based on quality literature rather than textbooks. I was not very impressed with the choppily written textbooks I was required to use in the classroom. Using good books is essential to instilling a love of reading. Using sub-par books is a great way to kill that love.
  • It is age-appropriate, yet challenging. There is no sense of hurriedness with Charlotte Mason. Quite the opposite in fact. Learning is something to wallow and soak in, rather than rush through.
  • It is flexible and adaptable. There is no "official curriculum" for doing Charlotte Mason. It is a method that can be applied to a variety of educational programs.
  • Short lessons. This is a good thing. My daughter has the uncanny ability to stretch things out to eternity!
  • It values development of life skills and handicrafts. I'm a crafty person and love making things. I have already started to introduce my daughter to some of these practical skills that are becoming lost arts.

Things I'm not so thrilled about

  • Getting my daughter to do narration. This probably isn't a bad thing, just something that will take a little practice and a persuasion.
  • Poetry. Argh! I'm intimidated, okay?!
  • Labor Intensive (lots of read-alouds). This year we've been fitting school nicely into little brother's and sister's nap times. I really don't want to change that a lot for next year. It's not that I wouldn't mind, but little brother would have some definite opinions about the matter. I'm sure!
  • Segmentedness. This is a big one for me. I love the unit studies we've been doing. I love how we're able to integrate most areas of study together. Although realistically, we still do separate math and phonics lessons. And our artist studies haven't been connected either. I would love to find a way to do a Charlotte Mason style theme unit. I'd LOVE advice from anyone who has done this.

I would love any feedback from all you Charlotte Mason-ites out there. Have you experienced any of the concerns I've mentioned? Is my list of positives accurate? Tell me what I've missed. I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Thanks for submitting this post to the Charlotte Mason blog carnival, and welcome to Miss Mason's world! We don't use integrated unit studies, though Charlotte was all about the "Science of Relations" and units studies, based around a good book, for example, could certainly make that happen.

  2. Just a quick suggestion for the "labor-intensive" read aloud"... try to use recorded books. As I type at this moment the boys are in the other room listening to the second installment of Eragon. I wouldn't totally rely on this, but it even makes school in the car possible and is a great way to get kids to read along and thereby increase their reading level. :)

  3. We don't do unit studies much now that the boys are getting older. It seems like it makes it more fun when they are younger but as they move through the grades, it seems less and less important.

    You could totally pull literature, science biographies, history, art, and composer studies from the same history time period and make it more like a unit study. Instead of a theme, use a time period.

    Poetry advice? Take it one poet and one poem at a time. Don't get overwhelmed. Use the poet schedule on Ambleside and if you only cover one or two poems per term, then you are at least giving it a shot.

    Hope that encouraged you,
    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  4. As I currently have just one, and we're only in 2nd grade, I don't have a lot of advice for you, but I do think much of it is easier than it seems once you actually get started doing it. :-)

  5. Welcome to the CM side of the HS world. Glad to have you among us!

    I think you can still do unit studies in a CM flavor. As long as the foundation is living books and you're narrating, it can be CM style. Visit Our Journey Westward blog. She seems to me to be a CM unit study mom.

    Poetry is not hard. Here's a link that shares what we do. (http://www.squidoo.com/hspoetry) It's poetry in a CM style. I read; my daughter narrates. We do one poem per day. Once a week she makes a poetry notebooking page. It's very simple, actually.

    I didn't see how old your child is. But if she's old enough, she can do some/much of the reading by herself and narrate in writing. It doesn't always have to be your reading and her listening and then oral narrations. Yes, narrating takes some time to form into a habit. But it can happen. (http://www.squidoo.com/narration)

    And lots more CM helps at --http://www.squidoo.com/groups/charlotte-mason

  6. I really appreciate all this wisdom! I am very encouraged to work through some of my doubts and make Charlotte Mason work for us! Thank you!

  7. First off, thank you for this comment "There is no sense of hurriedness with Charlotte Mason. Quite the opposite in fact. Learning is something to wallow and soak in, rather than rush through." I needed to be reminded of that today!

    I love Charlotte Mason for all the reasons that you listed and your fears have been my own, but have proved to be unfounded.
    Yes, it's neater to finish school while little ones nap but it isn't impossible while they are awake either just different.
    I will have 2 2nd graders and a 1st grader this next school year and we will actually be combining several subjects in a similar fashion to a unit study so don't be afraid to go that direction.