Even if you’ve only just started homeschooling, you’ve likely already heard about the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. Charlotte Mason was an educator in 19th century England who believed that true education happens in an environment that encourages a lifetime of learning. Homeschoolers have embraced her methods to teach their children with a style that is lovely and engaging while still producing great academic results.
But how do you actually go about implementing the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method? If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to find time to sift through volumes of work to find practical, bite-size steps. I’m here to help! Here are 7 simple ways that my own family has expanded on what we were already doing to incorporate Charlotte Mason practices into our eclectic homeschool. Note that I’m not a CM purist and don’t intend to be. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 🙂
7 Ways to Incorporate the Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Method
Focus on Habits and Character
Godly character and building good habits for life and learning are foundational to Charlotte Mason. Although our family has always focused on these things, and we view it as essential to their education. Habits and character are not only important in effective day-to-day homeschooling, but they are essential in order to raise children who can thrive in life once they leave the nest. We do this by teaching our children chores and daily responsibilities, helpful personal habits, and teaching them about Godly character such as obedience and self-control. I build instruction and review into our lessons just like any other subject!
Use Living Books
Rather than using textbooks or workbooks, the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method relies on living books – high quality fiction and non-fiction that teaches the topic in an engaging way. Living books can be used for any subject but we most often use them for history, science, and the fine arts. Living books can include first hand accounts, biographies, great literature, scripture, poetry, and more. For example, we often read the missionary biographies together as a family and then use them to study godly character, geography, history, culture, science, and so on.
Begin Simple Nature Studies
Playing outside and learning from nature is one of the more fun aspects of Charlotte Mason! Nature studies don’t have to be complicated (thank goodness). We make this happen by practicing the habits and skills of nature observation (“oh look at that caterpillar! Check out those hairs all over his body! I wonder…”).
Then we try to set aside some time each week to do “nature observation.” This could be touring the backyard or some corner of the neighborhood together, going to a nearby nature park with friends, or heading to a playground in a wooded area. Sometimes a child will take a journal with them but otherwise we break them out when we get home to draw and describe (orally or written) something they observed, or use pages from our NaturExplorer nature study packs. We keep it simple! If you aren’t ready for full nature studies consider trying 100+ Easy and Fun Nature Walks to get started.
Narration is a simple and helpful tool to evaluate what your kids learn and practice the skills for future writing assignments. It is basically the re-telling of what they heard or learned. There are a few different ways we use narration.
When I’m reading aloud from the Bible, literature, or a living book for some topic, I’ll pause at key points and ask a child to tell me in their own words what they heard. It teaches them listening and oral composition skills. The older kids do a “reading challenge” of 40 minutes each day and when they’re done they narrate to me what they read about. When they seem ready for the challenge, we add in notebooking to work in to a form of written narration.
Use Copywork and Dictation
Once our kids have gone through a basic instruction on letter formation and handwriting, we begin copywork. First a word, then a sentence, and up to a paragraph. They copy text from scripture, poetry, their reading selections, interesting quotes, etc. It helps them practice their handwriting, observe good spelling and grammar, and introduces them to great ideas. One they are able to do copywork with accuracy most of the time, we transition them to dictation, writing down what I read aloud. We generally use the same types of selections as for copywork.
Bring Fine Arts Into the Mix
For some reason this was a huge challenge for me. Getting through our core subjects was hard enough let alone working in music, art, poetry, etc! Keeping it simple is the key. What has ended up working for us is finding some good books and curriculum on these subjects and doing just one activity a day in the morning after breakfast. It could be reading from a poetry anthology, studying an art print, listening to music and learning some facts about the composer, etc.
Play With Handicrafts
Our newest effort has been to work in handicrafts, which are activities that help the child create something useful, teaching them to be industrious, careful, and diligent to finish their work. Examples are wood carving, embroidery, photography, beading, etc.
We’re slowly introducing this for our older kids (8 and 10) and doing fun simple arts and crafts with the littles. I’m excited about this part of our homeschool! It will be a huge stretch for this domestically challenged mama, though. 😉
Get a Peek Into Our Homeschool and Our Own Transition to More CM
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