What is Charlotte Mason? Homeschool Methods Revealed

charlotte mason homeschool types how-to Jan 15, 2024
A homeschool mom reading living books about planet earth to her three children.

I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. ~Psalm 119:30

Are you overwhelmed with how to pick a homeschool curriculum?

It can be difficult to decide what to use from the vast amount of available homeschool methods. We know the feeling of choosing one way of setting up your homeschool, only to be lured by the next shiny new thing that comes into your path.

To help you decide well, we're revealing the basics of a few homeschool methods in our upcoming blog articles.

Our goal is to give you a brief "Homeschooling 101" to help you narrow down your choices.

In this article we'll discuss Charlotte Mason. She was an educator who developed teacher/governess/parent training in the late 19th century and her ideas resonate deeply still today. We both, along with our fellow homeschool mama friends, found success using elements of this method in our homeschool journeys. For a comprehensive look at her life and the evolution of this method in our current homeschool culture, visit the Charlotte Mason Research Company. 

Let's take a look here at the basics with three answers to the question you may have asked yourself, What is Charlotte Mason Style? 

Then we'll discuss a couple of cons to give you a well-rounded view.

#1 Answer to the question "What is Charlotte Mason Style?": The focus is on the whole child not just the mind

Charlotte Mason considered education to be "an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life." This is NOT a checklist or set of curriculum resources. In her own words from her writings in "Towards A Philosophy of Education she said: 

"We hold that the child's mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs."

It's a way of viewing education and the act of teaching as more than a presentation of simple facts. There's a focus on rich, diverse learning experiences. We found it to be a way to create a love of learning that lasts a lifetime and a chance to bring delight to our journey through mutual expectations that we all agreed on. One of our favorite things about this method is the use of journals in many subject areas, where each child can respond creatively to a learning experience and reflect on what they learned. Their unique takeaways are a delight and create connections for them that will impact, not only their educational journey, but their future path in life. This idea that learning can happen at any time and setting allows for educational opportunities to come alive and grow like nothing else!

#2 Answer to the question "What is Charlotte Mason Style?": The focus is on a wide variety of subjects

This method beautifully incorporates many subjects and topics and can be woven into a family's unique gifts and interests.  Sadly, modern educational systems are very often focused on boxing students into homogenous tracks especially involving test accountability. But homeschooling allows flexibility to go beyond those limiting factors of scores and grades, and Charlotte Mason's method gives the ability to lean into topics that your children will be excited to learn about and that you'll be motivated to teach. While the times in which Charlotte and her students lived are vastly different from our modern times, one common theme still exists: God's abundant creation and the way he inspires others through it are designed to enrich our lives beyond anything else. This method nurtures that concept.

Some examples of suggested topics in the Charlotte Mason method:

  • Habit Training
  • Handicrafts
  • Living Books
  • Narration
  • Oral Composition
  • Written Narration
  • Artist/Picture Study
  • Music Appreciation
  • Greek Myths
  • Shakespeare
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study

#3 Answer to the question "What is Charlotte Mason Style?": The focus is on simple, gentle methods

Let's be clear, homeschooling will never NOT be challenging. We've talked with countless moms who want to homeschool but, are too intimidated by the demands to even start. So, if you're one of the brave ones, the Charlotte Mason method might be something you can embrace because of her idea of "bringing up" as opposed to the harsh punitive philosophies of her day. She believed in leading with nurturing the habit of harnessing willpower, which honestly, is one of the major struggles we both fought in ourselves and our kids when we homeschooled.

Her framework for presenting lessons involves short, stimulating activities that hold a child's attention and create success and positive experiences with learning. And academic rigor can still exist within these parameters. Simple and gentle, yes. Dumbed-down and basic, absolutely not! A wonderful article with more about this is from one of our favorite resources, Simply Charlotte Mason:

Three Basic CM Principles: Subject by Subject, Part 2" by Sonya Shafer 

Alongside the basics of Charlotte Mason, we offer two cons that relate to the practical application of Charlotte Mason's method, which we hope will help you modify it, like we did, to best fit your family when needed. 

  • This method involves reading and/or listening to audiobooks with the suggestion of using original versions of classics that may contain antiquated vocabulary. This can be a draw if you and your child(ren) love reading, but can become burdensome for those who don’t enjoy it. We’ll share with you what we regularly tell our online community of homeschool moms: YOU are the master of your curriculum, it’s NOT the master of YOU! Be flexible and break up reading into smaller parts, grab the amended/revised modern copy, a summary, or even a good family-friendly quality movie. Do what works best for your family.
  • I mentioned previously the fantastic journaling that we enjoyed with this method but, if you and/or your kiddos are not journaling fans, it’s ok. Feel the homeschooling freedom to grab a worksheet or, aghast, an entire workbook worth of work if that’s what motivates your family! 

We always encourage the moms in our online community to make a decision about their homeschool style and stick with it for at least a couple of months making modifications if needed. If there are too many kinks to work out, it's not a good fit. Pray for guidance and find a natural break in your schedule to change it up, like a holiday or a long weekend. Don't listen to the doubters that are watching from afar. Listen to God, your husband and kids and, most importantly yourself...you're the one who has to teach to it!


We hope this brief discussion of the Charlotte Mason method has given you a feel for what it’s like to use it in your homeschool. If you’re having trouble deciding how to create homeschool curriculum, connect with us in The Well where we meet every week to give solutions to our online community of homeschooling moms just like you!  We’ve been in your shoes and tried to do it alone. It’s discouraging and that’s why we created the space to bring homeschool moms together to support each other. 

We pray this blesses you!

Be enlightened,

Kim & Jenny

This article was written with care by us, real humans. No AI invited.😜❤️️


Other resources

📖Our blogs to help you decide on how to homeschool

🎧Our podcast on to this topic

Other resources you might like:

Homeschool Moms Need to Know: Why Hymn Study is a Smart Choice! | 46

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