I’m Not A Charlotte Mason Purist

I’ve never thought of myself as a Charlotte Mason purist but I was churning on the inside. My friend had just messaged me telling me to jump online to defend myself because I was being criticised for not being a real Charlotte Mason homeschooler. The person, who was calling my homeschooling into question, didn’t know me or the way I homeschooled. Why was she going around telling people to disregard my ideas on homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way? Why did she think that was okay? But I decided not to retaliate because even though I saw myself as a real Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I had to admit I was inspired by Charlotte Mason and not a Charlotte Mason purist like the person who was accusing me. For her, there was only one way to implement Mason’s ideas and she, the self proclaimed Charlotte Mason police, was going to let everybody know I did not meet her standards.

Why I’m Not a Charlotte Mason Purist!

I’ve often described myself as inspired by Charlotte Mason simply because Charlotte Mason did not wholly define my homeschool; I wasn’t a Charlotte Mason purist. However after using her methods for 13 years, with four children, I have seen the practical benefits of her educational theory – even when applied without the dedication of a Charlotte Mason purist.

This is why I’m not a purist:

  • Education has changed in the 100 years since Charlotte Mason wrote her Original Home Schooling Series.  Children still need a generous curriculum but what is expected from an educator (and student) has changed – the requirement to follow a state based syllabus is a contemporary example.
  • Charlotte Mason was an unmarried school teacher with no children of her own. She was not a homeschooling mother. Her ideas were essentially written for school teachers but governesses and parent used her ideas as well.
  • Her curriculum ideas focused on teaching one age group at a time. Homeschooling multiple children together requires compromises when implementing her ideas.
  • I use a few resources that aren’t strictly Charlotte Mason. This is often because I can’t find a living book option that meets the criteria I need but sometimes it is because it’s just easier or in my opinion better than the Charlotte Mason option. Literature based unit studies are an example.
  • I use her writing ideas but in high school I also teach my kids to write essays and summaries as well as narrations.
  • I am foremost a Christian educator and I find some of Mason’s 20th century Anglican theology too liberal for me – for example her belief in evolution (V2 p.130-131) and her liberal interpretation of the Bible (see Authorship of Genesis  and On the Religious Training of the Young).

Starting with a Twist of Charlotte Mason

Most homeschoolers stumble across the Charlotte Mason’s method. Feedback from my Inspire Inspire My Homeschool Newsletter shows that 40% of you use Charlotte Mason’s ideas in your homeschool but many of you incorporate other homeschool methods including: traditional workbooks, classical, unit studies and natural learning.

A purist Charlotte Mason homeschooler will tell you that her method must be used in its completeness; however most Charlotte Mason homeschoolers that I know ease into her methods or they try the purist style but soon relax their ideas to suit their family. In fact Catherine Levinson, writer of A Charlotte Mason Education, said she gradually converted to a Mason homeschool. Charlotte Mason said her ideas were hints to the intelligent parent who wanted to educate their children. (V1p.41). She saw education as an evolution of ideas and she said, “what fulfils our needs today will not serve 50 years later hence; there is no last word on education.” (V3p.46).

Fear not! You do not need to be a Charlotte Mason purist to be a real Charlotte Mason homeschooler.

Inspired but not defined by Charlotte Mason

It’s now my 15th year of homeschooling and I’m still passionate about education philosophy and I still see myself as a Charlotte Mason inspired home educator. As my kids have grown older I have found that they have all thrived under her living book approach but I see myself primarily as a Christian home educator not defined wholly by the Charlotte Mason Method.

Teaching others about a Charlotte Mason Education

Since I have found such success using the Charlotte Mason Method it has been a great passion of mine to share her methods with other homeschoolers.  As there really is so much information available on the Charlotte Mason method, it is easy to learn a lot about her ideas without understanding the foundations of her method.  Many homeschoolers add a Charlotte Mason idea here and there to their homeschool but because they don’t understand her principles they lack many of the benefits associated with using her ideas.

Living books and nature study are often all that many homeschoolers know about Charlotte Mason’s ideas. And a lot of people stop there, confident they understand her methods. But Charlotte Mason really does have so much she can share with you on educating your children.

Over the years I’ve written many articles on how I have implemented Charlotte Mason’s ideas in my homeschool and how Mason’s principles have made me a better homeschool teacher.

Cooking Up Your Charlotte Mason Curriculum

When you try to tweak a cake recipe it’s always good to understand how ingredients work and basic cooking principles, then you can learn what changes will work in your tweaked creation. The Charlotte Mason method also requires tweaking and substituting resources in order to make it work for your family.  Many understand the ingredients (living books, narrations, copywork, nature study, Book of Centuries etc.) but just switching ingredients will not work if you if you don’t understand her principles of education. Understanding these principles will help you to grasp her method so you can become confident when creating and cooking up your own home curriculum.

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