FAQ About the Charlotte Mason Method

The Charlotte Mason Method

Catherine Levison, mother of five, began homeschooling in the 1980’s. Home education had only recently been legalized in her state and she found herself in need both of materials and a philosophy in a relatively new field. Catherine thoroughly researched various educational methods looking for the best possible choice for her family. Concerned for the quality of education for her children, she also needed a method that could keep her interest as she anticipated over twenty years of homeschooling before her. English educationalist Charlotte Mason proved to be the answer. Her family flourished due to creative and effective techniques such as using poetry, masterpiece artwork, nature sketching–all combined with consistent attention to academics.

Find Answers to These Questions about the Charlotte Mason Method

  • I’ve heard about the Charlotte Mason method. What exactly is it?

  • Is this method complete and does it cover all the grade levels?

  • Will you explain how to add “nature sketching” to our homeschooling?

  • I’ve heard great things about keeping a “Century Book.” Will you please
    explain how to make and use one?

Q: I’ve heard about the Charlotte Mason method. What exactly is it?
A: In a nutshell, this method is a very broad education. Art appreciation, literature, foreign languages, etc. are introduced early to the child. Parents allow and encourage the child to relate in their own words what they are learning in all subjects. The school days are balanced by spending adequate time with the core subjects while providing plenty of free time to enjoy life. Many parents are drawn by the emphasis on the arts either because they already see the value of it or because their education was lacking in the classics such as books and music and they are happy to have a chance to learn along with their child.

Q: Is this method complete and does it cover all the grade levels?
A: It is an extremely thorough and complete education and it is applicable to all grade levels. In fact, I think of it as a superior education. There are many aspects to Mason’s approach and it seems that early in its popularity people tended to latch on to only one or two of the concepts resulting in some misconceptions. Occasionally the method has been referred to as a literature based method which is true but that’s not all that it is. Another aspect it became known for was the emphasis on nature study, again resulting in people imagining an incomplete education. While it’s a good idea to take from Mason’s methods what you like and apply it in anyway (even in combination with other methods) it’s also important to realize that it covers all the academic subjects and broadly exposes the child to all the humanities.

Q: Will you explain how to add “nature sketching” to our homeschooling?
A: One of the first benefits of nature sketching is that you and your child will be outdoors a lot more often. There was a time when children spent considerable time outdoors observing animals and their habits, plant life and the sky. Charlotte was a big believer in having children outside everyday.

The objective of nature sketching is to help the child learn to be observant. Keeping a nature sketch book or diary is voluntary. Please do not force anyone to start one. If you have a reluctant child, the more they can trust that their book will not be looked at or compared with others, the more willing they may become to attempt one.

Nature sketchbooks can be begun as soon as the child is old enough to write or draw. Outdoor sketching is very enjoyable and the hope is that the child will continue to keep one the rest of her life. You’ll find most Charlotte Mason moms keep their own because they like it.

Basically you will want to buy a blank sketch book for each child (and yourself) that opens flat and looks sturdy enough to go outside. Buy some sketch pencils, colored pencils, brushes and watercolor paints and you’re all set. Take your equipment on a nature walk and sketch specimens that you really see while you’re out, if the weather does not cooperate collect things to bring home and sketch later.

Do not worry about artistic talent, everyone will find out that it’s much easier to sketch when you really look at what you’re drawing. Some people label their entries either in English or Latin or both. Add some poetry or song lyrics for variety. Make sure you don’t correct or look for spelling errors or any of that.

Q: I’ve heard great things about keeping a “Century Book.” Will you please
explain how to make and use one?

A: Keep in mind there is no one “right” way to construct a century book. When these books were used by students in Charlotte Mason’s schools they originally called them a museum sketch book. That’s why I like to make them using sketch paper. You could buy a blank sketch book or fill a three-ring binder with sketch paper, regular blank paper or lined paper. The type of paper isn’t the crucial aspect, it’s how you label the top of each sheet that matters and it isn’t hard to do. Perhaps the easiest way is to begin at the back of your book and label the top of the page “21st Century” or “2000” or both. Proceeding backwards allow one or two pages per century going into the B.C. centuries as far back as you care to.

The purpose of the book is to have a place to make notations or illustrations of an historical event on the correct page. Museum visits provide a chance to sketch artifacts, weapons or anything on display. It is not all sketching by any means, however, as children can make entries from books they have read. Pages will eventually fill in with unrelated events and that is the whole point. Children learn a lot from watching this occur.

It’s such a tangible way for children to store the information they receive and serves as a portable timeline. When families stop relying solely on textbooks and begin to branch out and use well-written books they often ask, “Where will the children put all this information, how will they hang on to it?” This provides the answer. By the way, I recommend that Mom start one of her own as soon as possible. One of my biggest regrets is not starting mine in the ’80’s.  If I had it to do again, I’d have a rather filled-in book by now.

Advisor’s Suggested Resources

Charlotte Mason developed an educational philosophy that entails countless techniques and ideas. One of her beliefs is that we are to help the child develop a love of learning. She believed that this was best achieved by providing the child with a liberal (generous) education. This includes bringing the best literature, art, music, and poetry directly to the child as early in life as possible. This approach leads children to self-education and involves the use of “real” books, nature studies, and “narration.”
Available for purchase at: www.championpress.com/book/books.html