The Charlotte Mason Method, Part One


Do you know who Charlotte Mason was? If you want to write for the homeschool community, you’ll need to know some terminology regarding some popular homeschooling methods. You’ll see the Charlotte Mason method (or CM method) referred to often, especially among families with younger children. It’s a popular method that encompasses many areas of study. We’ll start our study of the Charlotte Mason method with a look at who she was and some of the key elements of this philosophy. We’ll finish our study next month and then look at resources you can create that support the Charlotte Mason method.

Who Was Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s. One of the things that set her apart as an educator was that she didn’t believe education was simply a means to an end, i.e., learn the facts, pass the test, function reasonably well in society. She believed children were precious treasures entrusted to us by God who deserved our respect and our help in enjoying a life-long journey and process of learning, growing, and maturing physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some of the key elements of the Charlotte Mason style are outlined below.

Living Books

Charlotte Mason detested what she referred to as “twaddle.” Twaddle was any story that was simple and meaningless, void of any real benefit to the child. Living books were very important to her. She didn’t believe real learning should be limited to textbooks that put you to sleep as you tried to read them. Living books went beyond the words and brought the subject to life. She would have loved to see all the fantastic historical fiction books available to kids today!


Copywork’s intention is to practice handwriting, spelling, and grammar. By copying a specific passage (often on lined paper or paper formatted with a handwriting font for the child to imitate), the child learns the shape of the letters, how to spell a variety of words, and how to put the words together into complete and proper sentences. When the copywork is excerpted from Scripture or great literature, the child is also exposed to great ideas and concepts.


Narrating is simply having the student retell what he has read or studied in his own words. This encourages comprehension as the student must pay attention to what he is reading and absorb it rather than simply skim the words on a page. However, good narration goes beyond a simple retelling of information. Narration’s purpose is to help the child internalize what he or she read or heard, digest it, and demonstrate comprehension of the material.


Dictation is the practice of a student familiarizing himself with a passage until he is comfortable writing it out, with correct punctuation and spelling, on his own as you read the passage to him.

Science and Nature Study

Charlotte Mason wanted science to be experienced. She insisted on nature walks and encouraged journaling and sketching about everything that was observed. The life cycle of a butterfly may sound dull on paper, but to observe it is something else entirely. Reading about moss would certainly put me to sleep, but studying moss in the environment and learning about the part it plays in ecosystems highlights the brilliance of our Creator and can light a spark in children.

We’ll continue our study of the Charlotte Mason Method next month and look at her philosophy regarding art, handicrafts, living math, history, geography, and more. Which of the topics that we’ve discussed so far sounds the most intriguing to you?

Read: The Charlotte Mason Method, Part Two

Bonnie-Rose-Hudson-200x200Bonnie Rose Hudson lives in central Pennsylvania. Along with spending time with her family and writing, making kids smile is her favorite thing to do. Her heart’s desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She loves creating curriculum and working for, the curriculum arm of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, as the site’s executive editor. At TOS, she found a place where her love of God and history combine with her love of writing to bring encouraging, educational, and entertaining material to students and their families. She would love for you to visit to discover how you can write for the homeschool market.

3 thoughts on “The Charlotte Mason Method, Part One

  1. I like the Narration concept and love nature walks and journaling. She seems to have placed a high value on the writing process and the mechanics of writing. Yay!

    Twaddle – interesting. I am sure there are many meaningless stories. I tell them to my hubby all the time! 😉 (What happened in my day, etc. But they do mean something to me!) I do wonder if Charlotte Mason named any specific story/stories as twaddle – for example fairy tales? Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, maybe?

  2. I think twaddle would be more reserved for books like “Captain Underpants.”. We follow the CM method and read fairy tales almost daily. Although these fairy tales are the real ones by the original author (usually), not the
    ones by Disney. I think Goldilocks and the 3 bears is a wonderful story for children. There are lists of books accepted by Charlotte Mason on the internet. We follow http://www.amblesideonline.Org and they follow the CM style of teaching (and it’s a free website)

    1. Thank you, Amanda! I’m not sure it’s possible to make a definitive list of what is or isn’t twaddle. I honestly don’t think of fairy tales as twaddle. They aren’t meaningless at all. Many fairy tales are full of meaning and help us understand truths and concepts that are very important.

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