Charlotte Mason

My friend Tamara loaned me this book about Charlotte Mason, which I read on the way home.

I’ll just blurt about it — I may revisit some topics another time.

1. Respects the child as a person, including attention to individual pacing, skill levels, aptitudes, interests, and developmental stuff. Repeated comments about how children think as much as adults, or how their minds are just as good, make me pause — surely she doesn’t believe that children are merely small adults. I suspect she’s really just emphasizing that we don’t need to over-simplify or dumb things down or avoid serious issues when talking to children. I can’t imagine she would have issues with, say, Montessori’s emphasis on having equipment such as tables and sinks sized for the child. I’d like to read a comparison of Charlotte Mason and Montessori.

2. I wonder why one would introduce Shakespearean plays during childhood. Or other literature that was written for adults. I remember reading such things in high school and, while I could grasp the language and a good bit of the ideas, I didn’t really appreciate a lot of the books until college or later. I’d like to talk to some Charlotte Mason kids and hear what they would say about this kind of reading. That said, I agree that a whole lot of children’s literature is poorly written and uninteresting.

3. I like the introduction to science as observing nature. Kids will go on nature walks, choose something to bring home or to class, and paint or draw it and so on. Similarly, I like the emphasis on narration — kids tell back stories they’ve been read, which later grows into writing essays. It’s good to put things in your own words, and it’s good to draw or otherwise depict what you notice. There seems to be an emphasis on accuracy and truth and honesty, but not on mere memorization or parroting.

4. Lessons are short and efficient, in the morning when students are well-rested, and the rest of the day is open for play and other experiences. There’s room for organized and structured activities, but great emphasis on plenty of open time without meddling. The adult’s role is to supervise for general safety (not to prevent skinned knees, though) and be available for help, not to direct every part of the play.

5. As I would expect from Schaeffer offspring, there’s an emphasis on reason above emotion, and will above desire. I understand the emphasis but disagree with it. Reason is just as fallen as emotion, and emphasizing will over desire can result in an adult who is afraid to want anything and who has an over-developed sense of obligation. I imagine that Charlotte Mason (and the Schaeffers) don’t intend to eliminate or deny or repress emotion and desire altogether, but I just think it’s easy to misapply these principles. It’s important to know how to choose the right thing even when what you want to do is something else, but that’s rather different, and more complex and subtle, than just saying will trumps desire. Similarly, wisdom looks at what our feelings AND our minds tell us, and then chooses.

6. I like the idea of reading stories or the Bible and refraining from summarizing or preaching afterwards — just allowing the child their own response, and inviting them to direct any discussion.

7. I need to be better about offering diversion / help / support when I discipline, and not merely applying the sledgehammer.

8. I see the benefit of developing habits, and have been thinking about how to do some to make mealtimes, the car, bedtime, and other ordinary things go more smoothly. I’m tired of repeating myself about sitting in chairs properly, not playing with food, being quick about putting shoes on and getting in and out of the car, and so on. And yet I haven’t put much attention into teaching / supporting / promoting these habits.


10 thoughts on “Charlotte Mason

  1. Nice review. I have to admit, I’m very relieved that you didn’t “hate” it. šŸ™‚ I have been meaning to pull out CM’s 5th volume again, Formation of Character. She has many examples and practical ideas of how to use diversion to help in child rearing. I’ll let you know if I find anything useful for your current issues. šŸ™‚ OR you could see for yourself, I believe her volumes are available to read online. I can’t give you a link, but I can direct you to Ambleside Online. ( That is the curriculum I’m using with the kids this year. Check it out, it’s worth it, for the reading lists alone.

    Time for me to get breakfast going.

  2. Tamara, I do plan to look for more information. I hate reading at length online, but I’ll see what I can find at our library or through interlibrary loan.

  3. When we were home schooling our children, Charlotte Mason was a big influence in our approach. She sounds like quite an amazing woman.

  4. We are CM diehards, so of course this is a book I love. Here are my thoughts, and please excuse the way they are expressed. I am NOT an authority or think I have it all correct~I’m limited on time! LOL!

    1.) CM I think would encourage the use of child-sized furniture.

    2.) This kinda relates to #1, and I explain it using church as an example: One of the reasons we keep our children in church with us is that even though young children can’t always express the concepts of righteousness and holiness, they do begin to grasp and understand such ideas. With Shakespeare, the children will all grow and grasp according to their level~whatever that may be. I can share that Allen has been able to read and understand Shakespeare better than I do a few years now, and he’s twelve!

    5.) I’m confused on this myself~not because of CM~and don’t know where I stand on this issue.

    7.) Me too~still~and we’ve been CM always! LOL!

    8.) Habit training is my biggest downfall~with my children as well as with myself. šŸ˜¦

    (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  5. Thanks for all those thoughts, Sandi — I knew you’d add your input! I may ask you more as I keep reading. Do you happen to know of any resources that compare CM and Montessori?

  6. Been reading a bit — CM was rather harshly against some aspects of Montessori, but I’m not entirely sure how well she understood Montessori. She didn’t like all the specialized learning materials, emphasis on sensory learning in graduated exercises, an alleged overemphasis on writing, and especially the alleged absence of stories and ideas.

    I wonder what Montessori thought of Charlotte Mason — haven’t seen anything critiquing in that direction yet.

    It’s interesting that, in some of what I’ve read tonight, each approach has received the same criticisms — too Rousseauian, and the like.

  7. You know, I still don’t believe there is any ONE right way. For me it still goes back to being uniquely and individually created, and what works for one may or may not work for another. I’m totally okay with that! I just pray we all find our niche quickly and easily, as the rabbit trails that lead us down paths that don’t work for us can be very discouraging.

    i.e. Abeka for me spells burnout before finishing reading the instructions! LOL! Knowing when something is not working and quickly moving on is important. (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  8. See? You’re better at evaluating than I am — you trust your intuitions better. I have a hard time reading reviews of things and not believing every one applies to me.

  9. But I’m really not! I am no longer reading parenting books and am learning it’s okay to trust my intuitions, but I have trouble doing so if I do crack open one of those books~LOL! When I came out of the dresses only camp I found I could not read their literature without feeling the pull, and that lasted many years. I can now, but it’s been a looong journey.

    With schooling you kinda hafta read to figure out your own philosophy of education. This will SAVE YOU! Every curriculum says it’s best, and it IS for those who it works for! It’s okay to mesh some things to make them uniquely you, too.

    Marcy, you will be good at this~I know it! You are so thoughtful and careful (in a good way) that it is sure to happen~even if there might be a few rabbit trails along the way. I trust God in your intuition! (((((HUGS)))))) sandi

  10. I know what you mean — it seems I can find something of merit in almost any position. The dresses-only one hasn’t gotten me, but I was part of a head-covering church for a while, and you’ve seen some other issues that have been upsetting to me.

    And thank you for your confidence!

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