Classical Homeschool – The Charlotte Mason Method

Classical Education -Charlotte


“There is no education but self-education.”

~Charlotte Mason

Who is Charlotte Mason

Charlotte_Mason Charlotte Mason was a British educator who dedicated her life to improving the education system in England at the turn of the 20th Century.  She is best known for her Classical Homeschool ideas.

Charlotte was born in Bangor and mostly educated at home by her parents.    After receiving her teaching certificate, she taught at the Davis school in Worthington, England.  It was during this time that she begin to develop her groundbreaking theory, a Liberal Education for all (a broad curriculum for children regardless of social class).

After writing some geography books between 1880-1892, Charlotte was invited to teach at the Bishop Otter Teacher Training Center in Chichester, England.  It was there that he determined that parents need to know some basic skills about bringing up children.  Mason gave a series of lectures that were later published as Home Education, explaining how to apply her principles to children from 0-9 years old.  From here was born the Parents Educational Union – which quickly expanded.

In 1891, Charlotte established a training school for women who work with small children.

Charlotte wrote a series of books explaining her theories on education

  • Parents and Children – 1896
  • School Education – 1904
  • Ourselves – 1904
  • Formation of Character – 1905
  • Towards a Philosophy in Education – 1923
  • Savior of the Word (a series on the study of the life and the teaching of Jesus in Verse) – 1908-1914

After her death, many schools using her teaching philosophies have been established all around the world.


Charlotte Mason’s Teaching philosophies

  •  Living Books – Instead of fact based textbooks – living books are used.  Living books tell as story based on fact.  For example, a child is learning about the revolutionary war, a living book would tell a story about something George Washington did, rather than listing fact after fact.  Living book are usually written by one person with a passion for a topic.  This person has a broad command of the topic and can write in an engaging, literary format.


  • Narration – Children should be able to talk about what they read.  Narration can be oral, written or drawn.  It trains the “attention” centers in the brain.


  • Habit Training – Good habits are essential to a good education.  Charlotte specifically encouraged a child’s learning the habits; such as,  attention, perfect execution, obedience, truthfulness, even temper, neatness, kindness, order, respect, punctuality, gentleness, and cleanliness.


  • Lessons – Lessons should be kept short and focused (no longer than 20 minutes) for younger children.  As children mature and master their powers of attention – the lessons become longer.  Also lessons should be alternated as to not tire the brain.


The Curriculum

Language Arts

  • Handwriting – in perfect execution.  Once the formation of the letters was mastered, copy work was introduced
  • Dictation – She used dictation to reinforce spelling, composition and grammar skills.  For younger students, the teacher would dictate.  Older students were given a few passages to study over the week.  At the end, they would do written dictation of a particular passage.
  • Poetry – to get the students used to authors and thought
  • Grammar – but not until age 10.  Dictation would be used for grammar until that point.
  • Foreign Language – Study of a foreign language was essential – in addition to Latin.  The study starts through song and stories.  Charlotte’s students learned Latin, German and French.

The Arts

  • Art appreciation for the Masters – they studied paintings, writings or music
  • Music appreciation – They would listen to a few works by a composer.
  • Handicrafts – explored the fields of clay, leather, learning on how to use tools.


Math and Science

  •  Nature Study and Outdoor Education – Children should spend several hours outdoors everyday (weather permitting).  Her students would take a sketchpad and draw the elements of nature they saw.
  • Mathematics – Charlotte expressed the importance of understanding math concepts before paper and pencil equations were attempted.  The use of manipulative’s in understanding why and how a problem is solved is essential.
  • Geography – taught through living books.


  • Her emphasis led to the boy and girl scouts movement.


For more information on Charlotte Mason and the Classical Educational Curriculum

The Well Trained Mind – A Guide to Classical Education


Note From Lisa

I love love love the classical style.  There are actually two popular styles of classical homeschooling (the other style which I will talk about tomorrow).  I have incorporated both – and often mix them up in my mind because I think they work beautifully together.


What do you think about classical education.  Do you think that it would benefit the children of today?


Visit our other posts in the series – addressing different homeschool methodologies


About Lisa

Hey! Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm Lisa - a homeschool mom of 3 (2 boys and 1 girl). I care about the strength of the family in America, and often blog about babies/kids, natural parenting, homeschool, and marriage. Before you leave, please sign up for my monthly newsletter (on the top right). If you do, you will be well rewarded with notification of all giveaways and sales - which will not be announced on the blog. Google+ Profile


  1. This is an excellent post for anyone who is considering homeschooling. Highly informative.

    I was the happiest mom when I found the Charlotte Mason style of teaching. I had been doing some research, trying to find my style of teaching against my boys style of learning (which were and still are totally different). It was three long years into homeschooling when I finally figured out that I am quite the eclectic educator when it came to teaching my boys. I preferred a little Charlotte Mason mixed with a little Classical.
    Tati recently posted…Serving Up Table MannersMy Profile

    • Tati,

      You hit the nail right on the head with your comment. The most important thing is to find the way in which you reach your children. The method of education or non education doesn’t finally matter. It’s about reaching the children and helping them to be the best they can be.

      That is the thing about homeschooling – and what it makes it so unique and special.

      A mix of a bit of everything might work – and be very successful in some homeschools. It’s about trying different things and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
      Lisa recently posted…Classical Homeschool – The Charlotte Mason MethodMy Profile

  2. Britni Bradford says:

    I’m pretty sure that the Bible memory method our family uses must have been created by the same woman – the Simply Charlotte Mason method. It’s been super helpful for us.

    • Awesome Britni! Very rarely do I meet someone who was educated using Charlotte Mason’s principles – while Montessori or Waldorf is much more common.

      I would love to hear more about it sometime.

      Thanks o much for stopping by and for your comment!
      Lisa recently posted…Classical Homeschool – The Charlotte Mason MethodMy Profile

      • It’s easier to show than tell =) Here are the pictures of the board that hangs in our kitchen (see the link in the website field) and the verses are all in a little notecard binder too for travel too. Basically you learn a new verse every week or so. When it’s new, we recite it 2-3 times a day at meal. Then you move it back after you learn it to just memorizing it Odd days, then even days, then through the days of the week so you’re doing it once a week, and then through the days of the month so you’re doing it once a month. We started just before Advent last year. I typically pick longer passages during Holy seasons – Isaiah 9:1-7 we did over Advent, and Philippians 2:5-11 we did during the Easter season. I confess, some have taken longer than expected because life got in the way, but overall I’m pretty pleased with how it has worked for us. I suspect you could use it for memorizing just about anything =)

      • Amazing Britni!

        I am going to so steal that, I hope you don’t mind.

        We need to learn some scripture as well as the 13 articles of faith.

        Thanks so much for sharing!

        I’m wondering, by chance, if you might have some time to guest post for me. I want to create a new series – day in the life of a homeschooler. I would like to have people post from the main groups and also people who mix it up (so to speak). I think other people can learn so much from you – even if you are not a homeschooler.

        I would love if you have time to post.

        I have an unschooler who will post in 2 weeks time. Anytime next month, or September, or whenever you have a chance.

        I would so love to hear more.
        Lisa recently posted…Classical Homeschool – Dorothy SayersMy Profile

      • We’re actually not home schoolers yet – though we are definitely considering it. The memory verses are mainly for myself and my husband since our kids are still babies =) but it definitely rubs off on little bitty kiddos. DD said Bible as like her 3rd or 4th word since this was a part of our morning routine. I’m so glad to hear that you were looking to do scripture memory. Feel free to steal this idea. I have like 100+ verses already set up to print on the Avery print-at-home note cards. I’m linking it to my name for you in this post. Feel free to share it on your blog if you want. The first few pages are longer passages that are major ‘stretch’ goals so they’re set to print front/back across a couple cards.

  3. Ooops apparently you click on my name to see the picture of our board. This comment has the link for the picture of the binder (attached to my name)

  4. Great series Lisa! I really do like the sound of this method especially the living books and outdoor/sketching.
    Ann recently posted…How’d I End up with a Zoo?My Profile

    • The living books are awesome! Actually, we are using a living book for our history. It’s by Bauer. She’s great, and the stories are great! They really do bring the facts to life in interesting ways.

      I use the book, and just refer to the text if there are questions – or we need more background on something. It’s a good compromise. I’m not boring my kids to death – and they are learning in an interesting way.

      They remember the stories, which is really great!

      I would love to study geography in this way – through living books. Geography is kind of dry.
      Lisa recently posted…A Day In The Life of a Homeschooling Family – A New SeriesMy Profile

  5. Lisa,
    I found you on Pinterest and I am so thankful for this post.. I am very drawn to the Charlotte Mason method, as opposed to the other methods that I have researched. We aren’t homeschoolers yet, but the Lord has placed this burden on my heart and I am trying to soak up as much information as I can. You have the best breakdown and introduction to Charlotte Mason method that I have found thus far. Thank you!

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