Classically Charlotte Mason

Classically Charlotte Mason homeschool | follow our homeschool journey!

I believe in the trivium, the chronological study of history, and classical education in general. But lately, I’ve felt the pressure of keeping up and have been on the search for some inspiration. I found it, surprisingly in Charlotte Mason’s ideas, and I wanted to share some of the ideas that have been inspiring me (including a list of free ebooks available through the SimplyCharlotteMason website.) I love both classical and Charlotte Mason ideas so much, that I’m blending the two as we move forward in our homeschool. From now on, we are classically Charlotte Mason in our approach.

Short Lessons

This single concept has made a world of difference in our day. Charlotte Mason proposes short, concentrated lessons, about 15-20 minutes max. for my oldest. That seems impossible at first, but it is amazing how much you can accomplish in that amount of time and the QUALITY of what is accomplished in those moments. Charlotte Mason’s thought was to teach concentration. By prolonging a lesson, we are inadvertently teaching our kids to daydream and drift during a lesson. But when you end a lesson before the daydreaming starts, everyone stays focused for those few precious moments of learning; and my child is taught to put all of his mind into that subject.

Another benefit is that my child’s brain gets the breaks it needs in each particular discipline. For instance, with short lessons, I’m not exhausting one particular area of his brain. We don’t read for an hour. We don’t stare at math problems for 40 minutes. Instead, we quickly move through 20 min. of math, a 20 min. read-aloud, 20 min. of copy work and memory chants, another 20 min. for independent work, etc. What happens if something doesn’t get finished? Come back to it later, in another 20 minute segment after the brain has had a break. Or, come back to it on another day! But before you say it will never work, try it. Try it just for one day. You will be stunned at the difference.

Atmosphere, Discipline, Life

Charlotte Mason defines education as an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. The questions and thoughts inspired by the free ebook Education Is have been most helpful in centering my thoughts on what is important to our family. Another freeing thought is that our homeschool routine is not my only avenue for teaching discipline when it comes to time management and scheduling. A little freedom here will not ruin my children’s characters because their training in these areas is (or ought to be) supplemented in other areas. So if I give us a little freedom in the morning to learn casually, that doesn’t mean they will never be able to make it to work on time as adults.

Habit-training

I wasn’t expecting parenting advice when I researched a homeschool method. On one hand, it makes sense since one is merely an extension of the other. But the resources on habits and character-training have been very inspiring and helpful. Charlotte suggests choosing one character trait to make a habit and concentrating my effort in that area. Instead of nagging, decide on a non-verbal reminder with your child so that the decision and mental process becomes part of the habit, forming a new route of thought for your child’s brain. Acknowledge the difference between the want and the will. (This was huge for me since I have a child that REALLY struggles with this.) A “strong-willed” child is really a “weak-willed” child since the child does not have the will-power or strength of character to deny his want in order to make a right choice. Suggestions are also given for strengthening the will of a child intentionally through positive instruction.

One word of caution here to be a discerning reader. Charlotte Mason, from what I understand from some of her writings, believed that children are neither good nor bad but are a blank slate influenced by environment. I, on the other hand, believe the Bible teaches that there is no one good, not even one, and that our only path to “goodness” or “righteousness” is through Christ and the regenerating of the Holy Spirit. Does that mean we don’t need good habits? Hardly. I see habits as preparing the soil for the seeds of the Holy Spirit’s fruit. Character is the fruit, and I can’t MAKE character grow, but good habits can water and nurture those seeds of God’s grace.

Hopeful, Expectant, Serene and other parenting tips

These three words literally have the ability to change the mood and direction of an entire day. When I’m about to correct my children, these words have continually come to mind. Am I going to be negative and critical with what I’m about to say, or do I have a hopeful, expectant attitude? Am I anticipating obedience or disobedience? Are the kids picking up on my own anxiety and tension, or am I communicating a peaceful, serene attitude? Am I at peace? Oh, my goodness! There is a wealth of wisdom here that has been very equipping and empowering.

Simplicity and Nurturing a Love for Ideas

“When more is actually less” is a Charlotte Mason principle I’m trying to consciously implement. It will be very freeing when I grasp this. For instance, I don’t have to teach every artist of the Renaissance to be effective. The CM method suggest three artists and three composers a year, giving your child a chance to form a relationship and connection with the people and their work. I’ve seen the difference this makes, to really take our time and explore someone rather than plow through all of the bios. It really comes down to facts versus connections with people and ideas. Both have their place. I’ve just got to wrap my mind around where that place will be. I know I haven’t done justice to a lot of the ideas, but really my intent was to spark curiosity, to maybe send someone else on their own journey of discovery and inspiration and freedom. There is a lot to be gained here, even if CM is not entirely the direction for you.

Classically Charlotte Mason

So what does this mean going forward for us? How do these principles of Charlotte Mason blend with ideas of a classical education? Beautifully, and nearly seamlessly, these two philosophies compliment each other so well. We still will keep the 4-year cycle of history and the learning divisions that are key to a classical education: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. We’ll still emphasize memorization, worldview, and Socratic discussion. But I’ll have an opportunity to add beauty and variety to our day, flexibility and freedom. I’m so looking forward to this merger. Classically Charlotte Mason, for us, is really the best of both worlds; I’m getting to have my cake and eat it, too!

Finding Grace in Charlotte Mason

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you make a purchase through my link, I receive a small commission that I use to offset the expense of maintaining this blog. Thanks!

Finding Grace in Charlotte Mason methods

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been on a very unexpected journey, delving into the depths of an educational method called Charlotte Mason. And while I don’t want to bore anyone with irrelevant tidbits, I have to blog about this: it’s been too life-changing not to.

I’d read a few brief summaries about the Charlotte Mason method of educating several years ago when we first got started homeschooling. I thought I knew the “gist” of it, and I thought I knew it wasn’t for us. But the more I’ve really understood what Charlotte Mason (CM) is all about, the more it appealed to me. And the more I realized how much I originally had misunderstood and misjudged this method and those who followed it.

Here’s my disclaimer: I’m not an authority on this method, by any stretch, and I whole-heartedly advise you to go to the source to get an accurate picture. But with that said, here’s a glimpse of what I’m discovering.

What Charlotte Mason is NOT

  • It is not unschooling or delight-directed, not even close.
  • It is not undisciplined or unstructured.
  • It is not merely about making your student happy in everything.
  • It does not abandon memory work.

I start with this because these were some of my assumptions, and even some of the assumptions I’ve read on other blogs. But do some research from those who are the authorities, and you will discover something totally different.

What Charlotte Mason Is (in an extremely brief summary)

  • It is a form of classical education, in the sense that it is a modern adaptation of the classical approach. According to Susan Wise Bauer of the Well-Trained Mind, that’s all any of these classical approaches really are, an individual’s adaptation of those principles. We are all neo-classical, in all honesty. For me this explained a lot of the similarities between both classical and CM, and also explained those differences.
  • It is very structured and disciplined. Charlotte Mason’s ideas encourage complete concentration to a subject. There is no time for day-dreaming. And her emphasis on habit-training is excellent; proof that she did not believe in a student ruling the day.
  • It encourages critical-thinking skills.
  • It is a paradox of simplicity and “feasting.” The method and curriculum are extremely simple and economical, yet it does not skimp on the quality of the lessons or the range of subjects offered. Truly an amazing, beautiful paradox.

What I’m Discovering and Loving about CM methods

I stumbled upon a blog that raved about Karen Andreola’s book The Charlotte Mason Companion. The review was so enthusiastic that I had to read the book for myself, especially since it was available for free through my local library. So while my husband was having back surgery, I sat in the waiting room and literally devoured this book. As in, I started and finished the entire book in that one afternoon. It was the answer to all our current homeschool dilemmas.

From there, I read every free resource at Simply Charlotte Mason. Then, in God’s divine timing, Cindy West published her new ebook Charlotte Mason Homeschooling (affiliate link).

What did I discover that totally rocked my world? I found simplicity, where classical tends to be extremely complex and taxing. I found grace, when I was really discouraged and overwhelmed by the rigors of classical. I found beauty, which I felt had been beaten out of nearly every subject with the classical approach.

So am I abandoning a classical approach for Charlotte Mason? No. There are still tenents of the classical education that I firmly hold to. I’m working on blending the two approaches into the perfect fit for our family. And while I can’t say what will work best for you, if you are in need of simplicity, grace, or beauty in your homeschooling or parenting, the CM way might hold some answers.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means, if you make a purchase through my link, I receive a small commission that I use to offset the expense of maintaining this blog. Thanks!

Preserving Consumable Texts

I’m such a miser with some things and will do anything to save a penny. In simpler terms, I’m cheap. And there is something about consuming workbooks that really eats at me. So here are a few options for saving money.

1. Make copies of pages. If you have a copier on hand, this is sometimes an option. And I have on occasion used this method for coloring books and artist studies where a copyright allowed it. But the thought of making multiple copies of pages is more effort than I’m up for most of the time.

2. Place pages in sheet protectors. If you don’t have a copier or a laminator, this is definitely an option. That is, if you’re willing to tear out lots of pages and regularly insert them in the sheet protectors; and if you’re up for cleaning the sheet protectors after use. I’ve read about this method, where others have used dry erase markers (or permanent markers and clean with alcohol), but these methods never worked well for me. Perhaps I did something wrong, but cleaning the sheet protectors was not as easy as it sounded.

3. Laminate an empty sheet.  I’ve recently discovered a much simpler method that has really worked like a charm. It does, however, require a laminating machine (which I highly recommend as a very handy piece of equipment). But the method is quite simple: just insert an empty laminating sheet into your machine. I then take the hardened plastic and place it inside the workbook or 3-ring binder that we are using. The kids work through the exercises by placing the laminating sheet over top of the workbook page that has been assigned and working the assignment with a dry erase marker. I’ll check their work, and then let them do the erasing. No tearing out workbook pages, and no copyright violations!

For my little one, I’ve started her out in a 3-ring binder with some worksheets that I’ve printed off. It’s great practice for her right now, because if she messes up with the sheet and accidentally marks on my pages I can easily print off a new copy. But I’ve been really surprised how well my three year old has done with this, and she loves having her own notebook.

My son has one laminating sheet for his Building Thinking Skills workbook. It is both a bookmark and page protector. We’ve used this method all year long, and it’s worked out great! Not only is it fun to work through the book with a marker, but the book is in perfect condition for the little one to use in a few years (and baby #3 after that!)

I’ve also given him a sheet to use with his Math Mammoth worksheets. Another key advantage to this method is that it has been very easy to have him do a worksheet more than once, and it has saved on printing multiple pages for him.

Just a few ways to stretch a buck and make that workbook go a little further. What are some ways you save or recycle?