Do You Need Charlotte Mason Exams?

Many homeschoolers say they don’t like doing or need exams, but have you considered Charlotte Mason exams?

As we come to the end of the term and the holidays beckon, many homeschoolers are wrapping up work, and reviewing the progress made by their children throughout the last couple of months. There are various ways to do this, including looking at just how far they have gotten in their maths program, whether their copywork has improved since the beginning of term, how many chapters or books read, and the quality of narrations given; but have you considered including Charlotte Mason exams at the end of the term?

Types of Charlotte Mason Exams

Within Charlotte Mason’s method, examinations were held at the end of each term.  There are a number of papers from the Parents National Education Union which show the types of questions that were included within the examinations.

For younger children, Charlotte Mason exams included activities such as:

  • Telling a fairy tale
  • Sharing what they know about an event in history
  • Writing a short line of dictation and/or copywork
  • Drawing the shape of the earth in a tray of sand
  • Making a map of a particular area
  • Reading aloud
  • Answering some maths problems
  • Giving a recitation
  • Describing a picture studied that term
  • Painting a picture
  • Talking about a composition
  • Showing some handiwork completed that term

Older students completing Charlotte Mason high school exams would be given a range of tasks, such as:

  • Giving a detailed account of a historical event
  • Drawing a map of a country or region
  • Preparing a diagram of a geographic landform
  • Retelling aspects of Plutarch’s Lives
  • Writing a scene for a play, a poem, an essay, a ballad on any range of topics that were given
  • A parsing assignment for grammar
  • Giving the rules for the use of a punctuation convention and provide examples
  • Write a sketch from a book of literature studied
  • Completing math problems on arithmetic, geometry, Euclid, and algebra
  • Describing various scientific experiments or topics
  • Preparing a drawing on a given topic
  • Writing about a piece of music
  • Singing songs (in English, French, and German)
  • Performing a piece on an instrument
  • Answering questions on Latin, French, Italian, and German

Why Do Charlotte Mason Exams?

The examinations served as an opportunity for the students to demonstrate what they had learned through the term and they were intended to serve as a record of learning. The Charlotte Mason exams were not designed to be studied for. No special preparation was required on the part of the child before sitting an examination.

One of Mason’s comments about examinations is:

“The children write with perfect understanding as far as they go and there is rarely a ‘howler’ in hundreds of sets of papers. They have an enviable power of getting at the gist of a book or subject. Sometimes they are asked to write verses about a personage or an event; the result is not remarkable by way of poetry, but sums up a good deal of thoughtful reading in a delightful way…” (Vol. 6, p. 242)

Charlotte Mason Exams Look Different

Like many of you, I spent a number of hours during my schooling years completing examinations in school and university halls, which would involve reading through an examination paper trusting I had studied the right topics and studied enough, as well as hoping that my hand wouldn’t cramp up after writing so many pages over the hours given. One of my friends attended Oxford University and tells her children stories about sitting examinations wearing academic gowns and feeling rather uncomfortable doing so.  But that is not the type of testing we are looking at when we consider using examinations in a Charlotte Mason approach. The Charlotte Mason method is a more joyful approach.

What Subjects Were Tested?

Charlotte Mason valued all aspects of the rich feast given, and thus all subjects were included in the examinations in some way. Many of the Charlotte Mason exams were oral, with the answers taken as a written narration. The examinations were given to see what knowledge the child had retained and how developed their thoughts were on particular topics. The focus was on what the child knew, rather than looking for what they did not know.

How It Looks In Our Home

Our family has included examinations at the end of term for a number of years now and we follow the Charlotte Mason approach in doing so.  Our children know to expect that the examination is coming and they know it gives them the opportunity to share what they have learned.  At one point this term I heard one child say to another, “I hope she asks me about this on the exam. I like writing about this!” We use it in our homeschool as an invitation to share what they have learned, and it also helps to “square off” the term in preparation to enjoy the holiday break, reminding the children of just how much they have learned throughout the term. It is a wonderful opportunity to recall all that we have covered.

End of Term Homeschool Exams

Families using My Homeschool courses are given Charlotte Mason exams as an option to use at the end of each term and many in our lovely community are also finding it to be a positive inclusion in their homeschool.

So, as we are wrapping up the term and reflecting on the progress made, perhaps you might like to try some Charlotte Mason exams! They are a useful tool for homeschooling parents and can celebrate a child’s demonstrated knowledge, skill and diligence, making the holidays seem all the sweeter.

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