Home homeschooling Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Part 1

Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Part 1

by Kelly Crawford

A wonderfully enthusiastic, Charlotte Mason lover/homeschool mom came and spoke at our home last week.  It was a great time of refreshing and inspiration!  I’ve always loved the CM method, but we’ve never followed it thoroughly and implemented the rich, encompassing educational philosophy.

It’s just too good not to share, so I thought I’d do a series on the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling.  I would encourage you, whatever type of homeschooler you are, to consider implementing at least some of the basic concepts Mason taught. From the most structured to the most relaxed, any homeschool can benefit from her wisdom.  (And perhaps Charlotte’s method may be just the thing you need for the confidence to BEGIN homeschooling.)

Charlotte Mason, the British educator of  the late 19th century, taught from a three-pronged philosophy:

Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

“By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that atmosphere makes up one-third of a child’s education.

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits — and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.”

~Simply Charlotte Mason

So many of us want a detailed “just tell me what to do” plan.  And probably most homeschooling methods can be put into detail, but it’s crucial that we first understand the philosophy behind the education we wish to implement.

To flesh out the CM philosophy just a bit more:

“Charlotte emphasized treating each child as a person, not as a container into which you dump information. She believed that all children should receive a broad education, which she likened to spreading a feast of great ideas before them. Charlotte encouraged parents to have an active role in teaching and training their children in academics, fine arts, faith, citizenship, and habits of character….

And I love her foundational approach to parenting…this would have been her advice to a homeschooling parent asking “how can I prepare my young children for school?”

Charlotte Mason outlined two chief duties for parents.

  1. “To form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving is a parent’s chief duty” (Vol. 2, p. 228).  Molding and shaping your child’s character with good habits is your first priority. If your day is too crowded to allow you time to stop and deal with bad habits, it’s too crowded.
  2. “To nourish a child daily with loving, right, and noble ideas we believe to be the parent’s next duty” (Vol. 2, p.   228).  Feed your child’s mind with good and right ideas every day. Remember that a child soaks up a lot from his surroundings. So make sure everything you give him is wholesome and nourishing, including the atmosphere in which he grows. Feed his mind on what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, excellent, virtuous, praise-worthy.”

~Simply Charlotte Mason

We could talk about these few fundamental concepts all day, couldn’t we?

As I take a sweeping glance across the culture at our young people, I see blaring evidence of children who have not been nurtured, who have not been treated like valuable, growing individuals, who have not had parents daily building habits of character, who have not been given wholesome atmospheres full of “living thoughts and ideas”.  Charlotte Mason resurrects the idea for us that children are worth investing our lives in.

Part 2-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Living Books

Part 3-Homeschooling: Charlotte Mason: The Schedule is Your Servant

Part 4-Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason: Writing, Spelling and Grammar

Part 5-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Nature Study

Part 6-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: The Arts

Part 7–Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Daily Plans


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Cheri October 20, 2009 - 9:09 am

Thank you for posting this! We just started using her method this school year. I can already see such a big difference in my kids. (of course, last year we used a state run virtual academy

the cottage child October 20, 2009 - 10:48 am

Well, you already know how I feel about this – the philosophy is a high high ideal, one worth pursuing. It is child focused, but hardly child centered – there’s nothing “childish” about it, in fact – just check out Miss Mason’s Formidable List of Accomplishments for a Child of 6 (um, what about a woman of almost 42, does that count? 🙂 ) That said, it is sweet, positive, encouraging, and about experiencing life for what the Creator made it to be, about experiencing, as we see it, the relationship between God and all things worth knowing.

One word of – not caution, exactly, but encouragement wrapped in a heads up – this is an academically rigorous approach that is a step beyond even the most thorough classical curriculum. It is an adventure, and for parents who feel like there are gaps in their own education it is an engaging, enlightening FAMILY school. There is an intensity to it, even though the “school” structure is fairly gentle. I strongly suggest, in particular to your group of readers who so diligently pursue truth from the original source, to start slowly, with purpose and build momentum. It is extremely tempting to dive head first into all the material, stay up WAY past bedtime, way to many nights, drinking it all in, and spending the next morning trying to overcome the sleepies and the grumpies. And that’s just the parents!

I also encourage parents considering homeschooling at all to read CM’s Original Homeschooling Series.

Love, thanks for a great post Kelly.

Crystal October 20, 2009 - 11:02 am

We have been using the “Charlotte Mason” way of homeschooling for 2 years now. We love it. We get our curriculum mostly from amblesideonline.org. There is also a great deal of information on that website.

Kelly L October 20, 2009 - 12:14 pm

What an encouragement, Kelly. I have never heard of this method of teaching, but in His grace, God has lead me to this style on His own. Anytime I feel stressed about getting this or that done, He reminds me of the Godly young woman she is already and that it is worth so much more than anything out of a book. (Please don’t misread, we school academically too. She has been having such severe growing pains we haven’t been able to make her do much of anything…thus the stress I am feeling). I like the Mason way already! 😉

Charity October 20, 2009 - 3:34 pm

I’m very thankful for this post, and I’m eager to find any information Mason has to offer. My oldest is 3 1/2yrs, and although we decided before she was ever born that we would homeschool, I feel a bit nervous about it now that she is closer to “school age”. I just don’t understand all the ‘legalities’ of it and have become very confused as my husband and I have begun to try to sort out what we are required by our state to do. Famliy members have told us that the state can take our children from us if I’m not teaching them properly. I don’t know anyone that does homeschool, so I was wandering how much truth there was to that. I don’t really understand why the state has anything to do with what you decide to do for your children’s education…they are *our* children, and I don’t believe anyone else should be teaching/raising them, I’m just a bit ignorant about how to get started.

Erica May 27, 2013 - 5:12 pm

Charity –
Something you can do is looking up the Department of Education website for your state. It will give you more information about what is required for home schooling in your state.

The link that Angela Cribb gave you is one I have also started to use – it’s been VERY helpful.

Another one I use is HSLDA – http://www.hslda.org/ They break things down by state AND if you join you’ll have access to legal assistance if you find you ever need it. 🙂

Best of luck! You’ll love home schooling!

Angela Cribb October 20, 2009 - 3:41 pm


Check out Homeschool Legal Defense Associations (HSLDA)website. They have information on the legalities of homeschooling in each state (every state is different) and should be able to help answer any questions you have. Sorry I can not get the website to link, you will have to copy and paste.


Hope it helps,


Mrs. Santos October 20, 2009 - 7:24 pm

Thank you for this post and the wonderful reminders! We use the Charlotte Mason approach and use Ambleside Online as our curriculum. It’s great and it’s FREE.

I especially love the two chief duties of parents – so good and true. Sometimes it seems that’s all we do during the day…work on our “habits”.

Blessings to you and your family.

Charity October 22, 2009 - 10:57 am

Thank you Angela!

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Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Part 6-The Arts - April 17, 2023 - 3:52 pm

[…] Part 1-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason Series […]

Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason Part 5: Nature Study - April 17, 2023 - 3:57 pm

[…] Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Part 1 […]


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