9 Features of a Charlotte Mason Education

Dec 18, 2011

"What's the difference?"

This is a question that you may find yourself asking when you've first come across the Charlotte Mason method or someone who loves it (like me!). You may wonder what makes it different than any other homeschooling choice?

9 Features of a Charlotte Mason Education:

1. Respect for the Child: Charlotte Mason believed that all children were equally capable of learning and deserving of respect, regardless of  their social class, race or any other thing.  In fact the proclamation that "Children are born persons." is the first statement on her list of principles.

2. Habits: Charlotte believed that developing good habits provided the foundation for their early education. It is for this purpose that delaying formal education until the age of 6 or 7 was advised. The early years should be dedicated to play and the development of good habits.

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.”

3. Short Lessons: This goes hand-in-hand with respect for the child. The young child's attention span is short. Rather than force the child, against his nature, to sit for long lessons, we make the lessons short. This allows the child to pay full attention for as long as they are capable. By cutting the lesson off at the very point when the child's mind would start growing weary, we show a respect for their capabilities.

We should observe the child and if we find the child growing fidgety or bored before the lesson is over, we move on to something vastly different to re-awaken their minds. We can return to the original lesson later. Short lessons coupled with keen observation on our part will train the child in the habit of paying "full attention".

4. Living Books: Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the topic, writes in a narrative or conversational style and writes in an engaging literary style. The books "come alive", pulling you in and involving your emotions. These qualities in a book make it easy to remember the events and facts of the story.

Living books can be contrasted to books written by a committee (such as textbooks) which are very "dry" in their style such as what one would find in textbooks and encyclopedias. These involve no emotion; do not immerse one into a story and, in the case of textbooks, provide only summarized facts.

Books should also be "twaddle free" meaning they should not insult the child's intelligence by being "dumbed down".

"Their lesson-books should offer matter for their reading, whether aloud or to themselves; therefore they should be written with literary power." -(Vol. 1 Part VIII--Reading for Older Children, p.229)

5. Narration: A foundation of the Charlotte Mason approach, narration is simply having the child re-tell what has been read. This feature requires the child to focus, organize their thoughts and express them either verbally or in writing.

"Direct questions on the subject-matter of what a child has read are always a mistake. Let him narrate what he has read, or some part of it. He enjoys this sort of consecutive reproduction, but abominates every question in the nature of a riddle." -(Vol. 1 Part VIII--Reading for Older Children, p.228)

6. Copywork and Dictation: Dictation is the tool we use to teach proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. Copywork is how we introduce the younger children to grammar while teaching them handwriting skills.

7. The Arts: The most beautiful aspect of this method of education is that it does include the arts. The children learn about the lives and careers of artists and composers as well as studying their works.

8. Nature Study: My favorite part of this method is nature studies. There are two parts to a nature study. The first is the nature walk. The second is the documenting of what was observed. Exploring nature comes natural to children. We should encourage it and allow them to learn about all there is to discover from trees and flowers to bugs and animals. What easier way could we ensure their education in natural history and science other than "hands on" in the the real world?

9. Recitation: Recitation is also called "memory work" and is the memorizing of scriptures, poems or quotes and then performed for an audience (even if it's just mom).

I hope that my readers will train their children in the art of recitation; in the coming days, more even than in our own will it behove every educated man and woman to be able to speak effectively in public; and, in learning to recite you learn to speak." -(Vol. 1 Part VII--Recitation, p.224)

What is your favorite part of a Charlotte Mason education?

Learn how to use the Charlotte Mason method in your homeschool! 
In just one semester you can be fully implementing the methods of Charlotte Mason in your homeschool. Learn one step at a time with this ebook by Cindy West.

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. I am just embarking on our homeschooling journey, and we are headed towards Charlotte Mason.  It's always good to read these types of posts to motivate me!  Thank you!

  2. Brittney, I'm so happy that I can be of assistance!

  3. Audrey_Sheppard12/19/2011

    I like most of the features you explained.  Copywork would not be well received here.  LOL

  4. Copywork is used for young children ..to teach them to write correctly. It is replaced by dictation at about the age of 10 or 11

  5. Audrey_Sheppard12/19/2011

    I probably knew that at one point.  Tried doing dictation with Brittany when she was first homeschooling (7th grade).  She hated it.  I'm pretty sure Austin would, too.  Maybe if I'd started earlier with that style of learning. 

  6. Thank you for summing up the concepts of a CM education. We have been schooling our youngest at home for 3 years and I have finally realized that we are actually somewhere between unschooling and homeschooling. I think the CM educational theory is much more along our lines. Next year will be my first year attempting a full Option 3 homeschooling adventure (we have been using a State Charter at home and a Virtual Academy w/supplements to this point) and I am looking forward to using my CM research to implement an educational plan that my daughter will truly thrive in. Thank You again. Your blog has been invaluable to me.

  7. Hi Erin!!

    I'd love to know how your changes work out for everyone. Please stay in touch and let me know. I went from public school mom to school-at-home to unschool and finally discovered CM. So I understand changes and how they work (or don't).

  8. Glory Paulson1/11/2012

    What do I love about CM approach? So many things ... respect of the child, narration, nature study, the arts, living books, and more. Blessings!

  9. So happy to have found your blog! I love Charlotte Mason's philosophy and hope to spend more time in the future learning. I've started my own CM blog but haven't had time to update since having baby #4! My favorite aspect is living books. We have a living books library where we are members. Look forward to following you!

  10. Clear and helpful summary, Michelle! There are many parts of a Charlotte Mason education that I love -- I think my favorite is the focus on living books over textbooks. We have so many warm memories of reading together when mine were littles!

    1. Hi Dana! Thanks for the comment. I agree. I love living books over textbooks. I'm about to share a very special history curriculum using just this style. ;-)

    2. Great! :-) Thanks, Michelle! Wish I could have seen you at the Greenville convention a couple of weeks ago...my mom's poor health and my frequent trips to FL preclude me from signing up in advance to go to conventions these days... but I miss the camaraderie! It is just that season of life, I guess. Hope you had fun!

    3. I hope things ease up for you soon. It would have been nice to meet you in SC., but ya know-- I'm in the Deland area. ;-)

  11. Thank you! Yes, I will have to stop by one of these days on my way back. DeLand is just down the road from I-95.

    1. I moved from Deland to Astor. If you're on 95, Ormond is only 20 mins. from me. It'll happen. One day. ;-)


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