A child has not begun his education until he has acquired the habit of reading to himself,
with interest and pleasure, books fully on a level with his intelligence.
~ Charlotte Mason

Living Books Approach
Charlotte Mason Method

A Short Summary of Charlotte Mason's Methods

* Literature in the form of Living Books: Reading a book written by one author with a passion for the subject and written in narrative or story form. A true Living Book has the best material, from the best minds, or at least the real story from someone who was there or has a real interest in their subject

* Narration: Asking the child to tell back in his own words what he just saw, read, or heard.

* Book of Centuries: Each student adds information, sketches, and reminders onto a timeline as he reads about historical events and people. History is taught with primary sources and well-written history books. Literature is taught along with history. For example, if one is studying the Civil War, one would at the same time read works of American literature written at that time.
* Hands-on Math: An emphasis on understanding the concepts, using manipulatives, before working with the symbols on paper.

* Nature Study: Spending time outside looking at God’s creation, finding items of interest and drawing and describing it in a nature notebook, then identifying and labeling it with the help of field guides. Sketching and writing about real things that the child has seen has more value than sketching and memorizing facts from a textbook.

Charlotte Mason
"Rather than calling it a nature notebook, refer to it as “God’s Book of Creation” and sketch objects that God has indeed created. Include Bible selections referring to creation or nature, and hymns pertaining to nature. ...the occasional use of masterpiece art that depicts the Bible scenes with elegance and accuracy easily takes the place of useless visual aids. "
~ Catherine Levinson

* Copywork: Practicing handwriting by carefully copying passages from living sources, like Scripture, poetry, or living books.

* Dictation: Learning spelling (and reinforcing punctuation and grammar) by studying a selected sentence or passage from a living book rather than just a list of words.

* Memorization was used, not to assimilate facts, but as a means to have material to meditate on, so students memorize scripture and poetry.

* Short lessons with an emphasis on excellent execution and focused attention and variation in the day's scheduled activities so as not to over-stress the brain on one task. Accoding to Charlotte Mason, “You want the child to remember? Then secure his whole attention,” Home Education. (Vol. 1, p. 156) Short lessons are particularly effective in cultivating the habit of focused attention and excellence. Do not depend upon a sudden decision on the part of the child to start paying attention. Depend upon habit. Short lessons consist of 15 to 20 minutes in length during elementary school. They increase to 30 minutes per subject in junior high and to 45 minutes in high school. Remember, the CM students were in school six days a week, and they were covering 15 to 21 subjects per week (not per day) even as early as seven and eight years of age.

* Picture Study: Looking at an artist’s work until you can close your eyes and see it clearly in your mind, then hiding the original work and narrating what it looks like.

* Music Study: Listening to a composer’s work until you become familiar with his music and style of composition.

* The knowledge of God, as found in the Bible, is the primary knowledge and the most important. Charlotte Mason taught that all truths are God's truths, and that secular subjects are just as divine as religious ones. Children don't go back and forth between two worlds when they focus on God and then their school subjects; there is unity among both because both are of God and, whatever children study or do, God is always with them.

* Habit training as a discipline of the child's will and behavior. Children are trained to develop the will, which is manifested in a strong resolve to act in a right manner. Mason told parents to teach their children that there is “satisfaction to do the day’s work in the day, and be free to enjoy the day’s leisure.” Ourselves (Vol. 4, part 1, p. 173)
* Time each day for some form of physical fitness routine

Each of these methods provides the child with a living idea, not just a list of facts to memorize and regurgitate on the next test.

Her motto for students was "I am, I can, I ought, I will."



Blue Flourish


Subjects Charlotte Mason Methods
Basic Principles Short lessons; habits of attention and perfect execution;
varied order of subjects
Bible Read aloud; narration (discussion for older students);
memorize and recite regularly
Math Manipulatives; a firm understanding of why
Science Nature study and notebook; living books; narration
Geography Living books; narration; map drill
History Living books; narration; Book of Centuries
Writing Copywork for handwriting; oral and written narration for
Spelling Prepared dictation
Grammar Not formally studied until older than ten
Literature Living books; narration
Poetry Read aloud and enjoy frequently; memorize and recite occasionally (include Shakespeare)
Foreign Languages Hear and speak, then read and write
Art Picture study for art appreciation; handicrafts; nature
notebooks for drawing and painting
Music study for music appreciation; any instrumental
instruction; singing


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