A Relaxed Homeschooler’s Guide to Charlotte Mason

There are a myriad of different homeschooling methods, but the one that seems to receive the most press these days, and for good reason, is Charlotte Mason’s method for education. Those families who follow Mrs. Mason’s principles for education religiously are called “purists.” However, in my experience, most parents prefer a more relaxed approach to the Charlotte Mason method. They want the good, beautiful, and true minus the rigorous schedule.

Charlotte Mason enshrined her method of education in many books which can be very helpful to read but also tedious at times. Homeschooling mothers may not see the value in reading her tomes for training, and therefore want to skim those books and blogs which boil Mason’s principles down into bite-size, easy-to-implement schedules. As I have read these condensed versions, I have noticed that these authors tend to extract the essence of Mason’s philosophy and give it a more modern twist. There is nothing wrong with doing this, and many relaxed homeschooling parents prefer it. They want the meat, but desire to season it in their own way in order to highlight their personal priorities.

Read on and I’ll share ten tips with you on how to implement the core of Charlotte Mason’s teachings without the stress. I will also introduce you to Homeschool Planet’s NEWEST Charlotte Mason-inspired products that I think you are going to love!

The Heart of the Charlotte Mason Method

What is at the core of the Charlotte Mason method anyway?

Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” According to Simply Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason herself believed that each of these components made up one-third of a child’s education.

By atmosphere, Charlotte intends to say that a child soaks up that by which he is surrounded. This includes both the environment in which the child is educated, as well as the people who occupy the child’s sphere of influence, those whom he learns to emulate.

By discipline, Mason was alluding to one’s habits which at their root develop out of one’s character. A child must be taught good character and good habits. Education of the mind is not enough, if one’s actions are reckless and wicked.

The third component of a child’s education, according to Charlotte Mason, is life. You may have heard the term “a living education.” Charlotte Mason said that “an observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing.” She believed a child should be presented with “living thoughts and ideas” that would enrich a child’s mind, character, and actions. Rote memorization of dry facts is of no use in a Charlotte Mason education.

There is more to the Charlotte Mason method of education than these three things, but this is the heart of it – the end goal:

“Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch where we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.” – Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, p. 171

Your Homeschool Parent Permission Slip

All of that sounds pretty great right? Many of us left the traditional classroom setting because we deemed the education of our children too important to leave in the hands of another. We miss the days when children were outdoors playing more than they were in front of a screen. We see value in reading good literature and preserving lost skills (handicrafts). These are all components of this popular educational method. However, many families do not have the patience, the time, or the desire to teach these elements of the Charlotte Mason method on a strict schedule and/ or they may not see the value of teaching things like multiple languages, the playing of instruments, or other areas of instruction that may not fit every family’s priorities.

Guess what? As a parent and a homeschooler you are only bound by your state’s laws concerning what you teach your children. Educational methods are there to serve you, not for you to serve the method. Consider this your permission slip to splice Charlotte Mason’s methods, or any educational method for that matter, in whatever way fits your family’s priorities best.

Relaxing the Charlotte Mason Method

I have always considered myself a relaxed and eclectic homeschooler. We lean classical and Charlotte Mason, which is really just a subset of the classical method, but my personality just doesn’t entertain rigidity well. I am guessing that if you found yourself reading this article, you probably have the same distaste as I do for a strict schedule. Welcome to the club!

Here are a ten tips for a relaxed approach to the Charlotte Mason method of education:

  1. Begin a morning time routine.
  2. Create a rich at-home learning environment.
  3. Build a home library full of living books.
  4. Read aloud to your children early and often.
  5. Follow up any reading with good questions and narration when your child comes of age. This increases retention and speaking skills in children.
  6. Skip the memorization of dry facts, and allow your child to make connections across disciplines on his own. This will allow those lessons to stick!
  7. Spend a lot of time outdoors exploring and talking about what you see.
  8. Do not skip the handicrafts! Allow your child to find a hobby that he/ she enjoys by exploring different lost arts and skills.
  9. Sprinkle in the study of music and artists from history throughout your year.
  10. Train your child in good character and habits. This will serve him well for the rest of his life.

Relax, But Don’t Neglect

A relaxed approach to your child’s education can be wonderful as it gives you flexibility in schedule and the ability to chase special interests on a whim. There are plenty of benefits to a relaxed approach to homeschooling. However, I implore you to assess yourself in two areas regularly:

First, I do believe it is very valuable to understand your reasons for homeschooling and to both research and train yourself in your chosen method or methods of education even if you are relaxed in your implementation. You do not need a college degree to educate your child, but just “winging it” is ill-advised. Remember what Mrs. Mason meant by atmosphere. Sometimes parents claim they are relaxed homeschoolers when what they really mean is that they educate their children when they feel like it. In essence these parents are neglecting their child’s education. Your children are watching and learning to imitate your actions. If you want your child to love learning, you must first be an example of a life-long learner.

Second, please do not allow your relaxed approach to your child’s education to affect your child’s ability to be disciplined when he or she needs to be. It is good to train your child to discern when it is necessary to apply himself diligently. There are times in life when being relaxed doesn’t cut it, and as parents we are responsible to prepare our children to become adults one day. This is part of Charlotte Mason’s core tenets, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

Finally, children are born eager to learn. When we place them in front of “things worth observing,” they will find enjoyment in the details. It is easy as parents with busy schedules to leave children to always observe on their own, but consider observing with them. Discuss what you see and learn. The memories you make together will be worth it.

A major component of a classical education is the three stages of the Trivium: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. As children grow they also expand in their ability to explore and learn on deeper levels. By learning the art of Socratic discussion, parents will find that their relationship with their children will blossom beyond comprehension. A relaxed pursuit of a Charlotte Mason education can still take advantage of these very satisfying components which aren’t merely for education’s sake, but knit our families together as we walk the road of learning together.

FREE Charlotte Mason-Inspired Resources for Relaxed Homeschoolers

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More FREE Charlotte Mason Resources for You!

I also didn’t stop there as I am giving Homeschool Planet readers an exclusive freebie on my own website, Reformed Faith and Family! Click here to download your FREE set of these lovely Charlotte Mason Quotes to display in your homeschool or play room!