Implementing Charlotte Mason, baby steps

Classically inclined, Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling

We’re applying Charlotte Mason in our homeschool these days, implementing some of the methods in baby steps. And since I’ve waxed super philosophical lately, I thought I’d take a break for some practical thoughts today.

The nice thing about CM is that it is a method not a curriculum, so I’m really not making huge curriculum changes mid-year. I’m using all the same materials; I’m just using them differently.

Short Lessons

I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but this has been #1 on my list of changes. In order to require strict attention to lessons, short lessons are recommended, before your child’s attention is lost. What does this look like?

We still do A Beka Math. We still do Logic of English (Foundations B for Middlest, Essentials for Oldest). We still do Tapestry of Grace. However, I’m making intentional decisions to keep each individual lesson no longer than 15-20 minutes. For some of our Tapestry reading, that means that we may come back in an hour to read some more, but my kids get the brain breaks they need. For some Essentials lessons, that means it may take us more than a week to get through a single lesson. That’s okay. He’ll actually learn more by doing less.

Copy Work

We’ve started doing copy work lessons 3-4 times a week. Copy work reinforces good handwriting, spelling, and mechanics as the kids copy passages from quality books. What does this look like?

Implementing Charlotte Mason

Well, for Middlest I cheat and actually have her writing the sentence that is a part of her Foundations lesson. It’s a start, and she is only kindergarten after all. For Oldest, I downloaded the free copy work lessons from the AmblesideOnline yahoo group. Even though he’s technically 2nd grade, we are just starting copy work, so I have him copying from Book 1. The passages he’s copying are from a favorite book of his that we read earlier in the year; he loves it. And on the days we are not doing copy work, I let him illustrate his copy work page. It’s a win for both of us.

This takes us 5-10 minutes. That’s all! I know some kids may take longer to write, but I was blown away by how little time it really took us to implement some of these things.

Living Books

I’m much pickier about our books, even our “Tapestry” book selections. I’ve seen the difference between fact-filled books (even the ones with all the cool pictures—think Usborne and DK Eyewitness) and really, truly living books—books that have a storyline and an enthusiastic author, books that make the facts come alive with people and narrative and ideas. What does this look like?

I double-check my book selections through the bookfinder. If it’s not on that site, I find an Amazon preview and read a few pages. I’m getting better at detecting the good stuff. And IF I get a book from the library that is not living, it’s only for the pictures. The kids can look through those pictures while I read the living books. The difference is that my son tries to steal these books to read on his own; he devours them. The other kinds of books sit on my shelves, unless someone’s in the mood for pictures.


I’ll probably delve into this a little further in future posts; it’s a huge part of both classical and CM, though the technique is a little different in each method. For the Susan Wise-Bauer method, you ask specific questions to elicit a specific answer. You’ve chosen the key ideas you want your child to retain. With the CM method, the child retells the story back to you. He does the mental work of remembering, of selecting the points that resonated with him, of putting that information in order. It is the process of composition, but it occurs in the child’s head. What has this looked like?

I’ll be frank—Oldest has resisted this a little. The open-endedness scares him because he’s used to giving me what I want. That, and he’s not much for change. But I’m sold on this aspect of the CM methods; I totally see the value, especially as preparation for composition later on. So I’ve mentioned the value of what he’s doing to him, and then reassured him. The reassurance is gradually drawing him out. And I’ve been creative with how we do it. Sometimes, he retells. Other times, I’ve let them draw pictures or act out the stories. And though I have not required anything from Middlest (because she’s only 5), she has whole-heartedly jumped on board with it.

That’s it. That’s all we’ve changed right now to make CM a part of our homeschool. It’s nothing scary, nothing drastic or expensive or traumatic. But it has been revolutionary. I can sense it changing not just how we do things, but who we are. And I love it! I feel like a caged bird set free.

Freedom with Charlotte Mason

Published by Tracy
Our life is creative chaos, and our homeschool is loud and busy and distracted and challenging and lovely. My name is Tracy, and I homeschool my crew of three kids with ADHD/dyslexia, finding creative ways to use their strengths to teach their weaknesses. As a homeschooled homeschooler, I love customizing curriculum and making adjustments to incorporate fun, hands-on projects for out-of-the-box learners. Stop by to find grace for the messes and mistakes, and knowledge to pick up the pieces and make something special. Let’s grow together!