What is a Charlotte Mason education? 

What is a Charlotte Mason education? 


A Charlotte Mason Education is a homeschool philosophy that follows the belief that a child is a person all of which must be educated, “not just his mind”. The Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged and follows Charlotte Mason’s (the person) ideas that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” Her educational philosophy works well in a homeschooling setting and has become popular with homeschooling families throughout the world.

Charlotte Mason (CM) was a British educator (1842–1923) who dedicated her life to improving the quality of childhood education. After being orphaned at sixteen years old, she earned a First Class Certificate at the Home and Colonial Society for the training of teachers. She was an instructor at Davison School in Worthing, England for over ten years and during this time began to develop her vision for “a liberal education for all.” Before this time, English children in the 1800s were educated according to social class; where the poor children were taught a trade, and the fine arts and literature were reserved for the richer class. Her goal was to give all children equal access to a full education.

In 1891 Charlotte formed the House of Education, which was a training school for governesses and childhood instructors in Ambleside England. Within a year, she was running the National Parents Review School (later named the Parents’ Union School) where children followed Miss Mason’s educational methods.

Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy follows five basic ideas

They are:

  1. A child is a full person. They are worthy of respect. They are fully formed people in need of restraint and guidance. They are created desiring to learn and are eager active learners.
  2. Education is the “science of relations”. It should be connected to and relate to the real world.
  3. Children deserve a rich curriculum. Educational materials should be high quality and allow interaction. Charlotte Mason advocated for “living books” which were well written, classics of art, music, and literature. They should also have first-hand access to the materials of nature and science.
  4. Learning should be teacher-guided and self-directed. The goal of teaching is not to force knowledge but to promote a child’s innate curiosity and love for learning. She felt the role of the teacher was to design learning experiences for the students and to then basically get out of their way.
  5. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. A teacher/parent should use the child’s natural environment to educate them, they should train good habits and expose them to living ideas and concepts.

Living books

Living books are a main component of a Charlotte Mason educational approach. Living books are well-written, and engaging, unlike dull textbooks used in traditional schooling. Genres should include historical fiction, nature books and “twaddle-free” fiction stories. Twaddle, by the way, is anything dumbed down, or diluted, not giving the child credit for being able to digest the more sophisticated material. In living books, the places and events come alive and the stories are timeless, touching the mind and the heart.

The CM educational style promotes narration in which the child orally tells back what has been learned or read to the best of their abilities. Older children can do written narrations instead and narration can be done creatively through the arts as well.

Charlotte Mason methods pay attention to the attention span of a child, keeping lessons short. Young children’s lessons are focussed at only 10-15 minutes per subject, though this can vary depending on what you are teaching. As the children mature, those time periods are extended, eventually to around an hour or more.

Other important aspects of a CM education include extensive nature walks at least once a week, including nature notebooks, and daily outside time. Art training and appreciation in which a child studies individual artists is a key feature of a CM education. Journaling, copywork, and dictation are used to teach writing and grammar. Timelines are important to this educational style too, as they help students put everything into historical context. As this educational method leaves a good amount of free time for the child, this time is spent pursuing handicrafts and other leisure activities. Finally, the training of good habits is a key aspect of a CM education.

There are several ways to approach using Charlotte Mason learning methods.

  • Language Lessons from Australian History is a CM inspired curriculum for Australian homeschooling families that combines history and English lessons simultaneously.
  • Amblesideonline.org is a website with free guides and forums that assist in CM education methodologies. It is a free homeschool curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason’s classically-based principles and has extensive teacher resources that allow parents to focus effectively on the unique needs of each child.
  • SimplyCharlotteMason.com is a website where you can purchase living books and other Charlotte Mason based materials. There is an abundance of practical information on the CM method here.
  • My Father’s world combines Charlotte Mason ideals with classical education methods, and integrates Charlotte Mason’s key principles and ideas into its Christian homeschooling curriculum.
Compare Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education to Classical style homeschooling.

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