How to Begin a Charlotte Mason Education

Teaching children using a Charlotte Mason Education can seem to be a daunting task. When you first step into this new world, it can be overwhelming. You have books, blogs, and Google. As you begin to wade through the information, it becomes clear that not all Charlotte Mason resources are created equal.

I wanted to offer you a short guide that may be helpful if you are thinking seriously of using this method.

Some people say you should begin with Charlotte’s own volumes. This may be a fantastic idea, but I worry that a few pages into that mysteriously complicated reading, you will begin to question your reasons (or your sanity) for even picking up this book in the first place. You probably need to be convinced of WHY you would want to read Charlotte.

It takes time to understand the depth and breadth of this way of learning. Much more time than some are willing to invest. If you are looking for something to use that is quick and easy, and doesn’t ask for you as a mother to continue your own education, then maybe this isn’t for you.

But, if you think you might be interested in this way of life…

  • I would start with For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. This is a beautiful, inspiring look at what this living education is all about. Be ready to come to the realization that education is a life. This book shows us that teaching our children encompasses so much more than the usual scope and sequence that we have come to accept as a complete education.  for the children's sake


  • Also begin reading Nancy’s posts over at Sage Parnassus. That’s the only blog I want to recommend for now. Why? Because there are many voices out there willing to tell you about a CM education. They don’t all necessarily agree with each other, and it can be confusing when you’re starting out. (Or even still!) Nancy’s writing stays true to the messages both in For the Children’s Sake, and in Mason’s own volumes, at the same time breaking things into small, bite size pieces. She gives book recommendations that work within the educational methods that Charlotte lays out. One of the most encouraging things to me is Nancy’s steady reminder that Charlotte points us and our children towards God. He created our children in His image, and everything must be built on that solid foundation.


  •  As you work your way through that reading and decide that you are interested in learning more, I would then begin Charlotte’s own words. Her book Home Education is volume one. Again, be ready for a surprise! Her writing is about so much more than school. I wish each mother could read this book. There is so much wise advice for mothers no matter how they choose to educate their children. As you begin to use this method of education, reading Charlotte will help make her ideals clear. There are so many questions that her books will answer. But you have to have the questions in the first place, and I believe that if you read For the Children’s Sake first, you will have plenty of questions. Ambleside Online has made her books free online, which is a wonderful resource if you are unsure of what this is all about and aren’t ready to purchase the book.


  • If you are in a particularly difficult section of Home Education, and you cannot figure out what she is saying, Ambleside Online has provided summaries of her volumes for this purpose. I hesitate to tell you about them, because it will be tempting to only read the summaries…but I wouldn’t if I were you! It’s worth wrestling through, and Charlotte writes things in such an inspiring way, I feel you would be missing out to use the summaries for more than a rare help.


  • Next, you may want to read When Children Love to Learn, if you have made it this far, and want to have a better understanding of what this will look like in daily life. This book came as a follow up to For the Children’s Sake. It seems that many came away from reading Macaulay’s book feeling that this was the method for them, but not understanding how to implement it. (I was one of them!) I have loved this book. In each of these recommendations, there is so much more than just a “how to do school”. You’ll find out…it’s an adventure!


  • Finally, we have Ambleside Online. This site has free curriculum, and is quite helpful, but it can feel huge and confusing! If you have read the books I have mentioned, you will much more easily know what you are looking at. In my opinion, Ambleside Online should not be used rigidly, but it is here to help us implement this method. Nancy suggests using it as a template for planning your year.

I will post soon on some ideas for how to use Charlotte’s ideas for the under six crowd. I know a lot of my friends who are interested in this method have young ones. For now, these are the best books you could read to familiarize yourself with the method and to begin to enjoy these wonderful new ideas!

 “Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.”      -Charlotte Mason

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