Category Archives: Charlotte Mason

Kid Uno’s Year 4 Course of Study

Here’s what I planned for Kid Uno:

She will be almost totally independent this year, although I may read something aloud with her because she and I both enjoy it, and it would be sad to give that up completely. We are waiting till next year to begin Plutarch, and probably two more years for Latin (I want to cover some English grammar first). (??) means I’m still waffling among options:)

Bible/Spiritual Reading: She reads and does oral narration

Joshua, Judges, Mark

The Great Divorce (??): We could read 4 pp. per week and discuss this together. It might be a good fit for her spiritual journey. It’s written in first person, which Kid Uno hates, so that might be a drawback.

Memorize and Recite one Bible passage per term

History/Biographies/Geography/Cultures: Theme for the year is world history and geography with a focus on exploration. She will read, map, and write narrations. I help her enter people and events on her timeline every three weeks–she’ll start either a Book of Centuries or a new timeline this year.

Our Island Story: Finish reading the book with written narrations for each chapter.

Builders of the Old World, Medieval Days and Ways, Makers of the Americas: We spent the last two years covering world history by me reading aloud from CHOW. This year she will cover most of world history by reading these three books herself. They include a fair amount of social history, which is more engaging to her than battles and politics. There are some good discussion questions at the end of each section. I would like to move away from narrations which are mainly re-tellings (who, where, what) and move toward deeper discussions of why, how, and ought.

Landmark and other biographies about Vikings, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Zheng He, Columbus, Balboa, Magellan, Cortez, Pizarro, Raleigh, Hudson , Cook, Livingston, Perry, Amundsen/Scott ??, Himalayas [Everest].She’ll spend 2-3 weeks reading each book, filling in blank maps of their journeys, and writing a brief narration at the end of each book. I’d also like to supplement with some travel or cultural documentaries so she can see the places she’s reading about, but I may wait till next year when she reads Halliburton’s Marvels. Instead, I might assign her Maya Quest and Africatrek since they are short but vivid.

Nature Study/Science: This year, I am revamping how we use Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I used volume two to organize Kid Uno’s science readings. These are mostly books from the Let’s Read and Find Out series. I may also use some books from the All About… series or the First Book of …. series, which are a little more (or a lot, depending on the book) advanced. The Body and Building books also tie into these themes. We will read, and discuss (rather than narrate), and I hope to incorporate projects, experiences, and some documentaries. We may do some of this with another family.

BFSU Topics for this year: Term 1–How Things Fly; Center of Gravitiy, Balance, Wobbling Wheels; Energy in Motion: Momentum and Waves; Mechanics: Levers and Discovery of Underlying Principle; Inclined Planes, Pulleys, Gears, and Hydraulic Lifts   Term 2–Electricity: Electric Circuits, Switches, Conductors, Non-conductors; Static Electricity, Sparks, Lighting; Parallel and Series Circuits, Fuses, Ground Wires, Light: Basics of Light and Seeing  Term 3–Cells, Microscopes, Observation of Tissues, Cell Theory; Cell Growth, Division, Differentiation, Introduction to Reproduction; Integrating Cells and Whole-body Functions; Cause and Effects of Seasonal Changes; Water Cycle and Its Ramifications

The Human Body : this is a great age to study some anatomy! She will read one chapter per week, and narrate or discuss.

Ultimate Building Book: a lot of this ties in with BFSU, so she will read and discuss. There are plenty of projects to do, so this will be one of her art options.

Nature Journal: draw assigned topic every week. I’ll probably line up the topics with BFSU  or outdoor explorations as much as possible

Literature: read and narrate orally or with drawings

Shakespeare: I’m still waffling. Leaning toward watching one play per term. But maybe listening to the audio. Or both?? We are not going to actually read them yet (although I have the Complete Works so if she listens to the audio she could follow along).

Mythology: probably Bullfinch, according to the AO schedule. Although I also have Hamilton, which looks like easier reading.

Gilgamesh trilogy: these are short and easy, and will be scheduled at the same time she’s reading about the ancient world.

Arabian Nights: These are scheduled while she’s reading Medieval Days and Ways, and after Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta

Robinson Crusoe

Treasure Island

Short Stories: one per week during Term 3. Rip Van Winkle, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, To Build a Fire, Thank You, Ma’am, Gift of the Magi, Gold Bug, Tell-tale Heart, Lady or the Tiger, Three Questions, Sound of Thunder, Fun They Had. These might be good read alouds to do together. I might introduce a bit of literary analysis.

Poetry: read aloud together daily, one poet per term, memorize and recite one poem per term

Tennyson, Dickinson, Paterson and/or Lawson


Ray’s Intellectual, Practical, and Test–daily: Mostly fractions this year. I explain, assign, and check her work.

Strayer Upton Red book: second half. Probably alternate with Ray’s

Miquon–2-3x per week; she can do this mostly independently and will finish the series this year


McGuffey’s Fourth Reader: she reads aloud to me 2x per week

Non-fiction: she does not love reading fiction (prefers fiction), so I will have her choose one book from several non-fiction options to complete about every four weeks


Prepared Dictation: this will be our first year, so I’m not sure how it will look. I think I will choose a literature passage, she will read it, then study it, then I will dictate it to her and she will copy it from memory. All that is spread over 4-5 days. I may do dictation one week, and grammar the next.

Grammar: this will be her first year with formal grammar, and she’ll start at the beginning of Rod&Staff 5. It  is very thorough, so I won’t assign everything. I’ll probably alternate grammar weekly with dictation, or daily with handwriting.

Handwriting: Pentime Grade 7, then 8. When she finishes those books, she can begin keyboarding.


Drawing: She will pick an area to practice and do a bit daily. Probably fashion drawing, though I haven’t found a good book yet.

Art Project: Alternate between Private Eye and Ultimate Building Book every four weeks. I want to emphasize continuity, and working at something over a period of time.

Handicraft/Skill: work on a project or skill every week. I have a feeling cooking/baking will continue as a favorite 😉

Picture Study: one artist per term, one painting each week, Leonardo da Vinci, and two others ??


Violin Lessons: weekly

Hymn (T): three hymns/worship songs each term, sung together 2-3x per week

Appreciation: 3 genres ?? per term to listen to 2-3x per week

Sport/Physical Activity: probably weekly, depending on her interests this year. Probably ballet.

Foreign Language: Duolingo languages of her choice or Salsa Spanish (T) episodes, a little bit every week.

Outdoor Exploration: at least monthly. This is usually a family activity, like camping or playing in a stream or visiting a farm or zoo…

Cultural Event: at least monthly. This is usually a family activity like attending a ballet or concert, visiting a museum or art show…

Service:at least monthly. This is usually a family activity like community service with our church, doing something kind for a neighbor, visiting a nursing home…

And that is….a lot! We’ll see how it turns out.

Here’s what Kid Uno and I thought of how it actually  turned out:


Ella Frances Lynch vs. Charlotte Mason

If I had discovered Ella Frances Lynch before Charlotte Mason, our home education probably would have been based on her methods. As the size of our family grows, and my responsibilities increase, I think Lynch’s methods will be easier than Mason’s to incorporate in our family. Mason’s approach (for educating a child older than 6) was to make her private school methods available to parents/governesses who needed to use them in a home setting, something like a correspondence school. Lynch’s writings are directly to the mother and make the education of young children (up to age 10) simply an extension of the parenting which has been ongoing since babyhood. Charlotte Mason has a much larger following in the homeschool world, and there are people discussing and explaining her philosophies, so her methods are easier to implement in some ways. There are books, blogs, websites, and curricula based on Mason’s philosophy of education. There are at least two books (Bookless Lessons for the Teacher-Mother and Educating the Child at Home) and several newspapers and magazine articles written by Ella Frances Lynch (there are some links on the Well Trained Mind forums). Within those two books, she gives very detailed directions starting at age 3, maybe earlier, as far as discipline and habits and education. Charlotte Mason assumed an audience who were already familiar with the current methods of teaching. In 1916, everyone seemed to know how to do an object lesson and why it should be done, and Mason doesn’t really explain how to do it. As an educator in 2016, I have no idea how to conduct a traditional object lesson, but Lynch goes into great detail as to the whys and hows. She assumes the mother is starting from scratch and builds her methods using articles already at hand, and methods which could be used anywhere and at any time.  And I love how she is very clear about the goals of education, and very practical in how to attain them.

Lynch and Mason share many similarities. A goal of educating the whole child, morally, mentally, physically, socially. An emphasis on nature study, short lessons, good habits, early math using concrete objects, learning useful skills, and reading good literature. A belief that a loving mother is capable of educating her own children. However, Lynch was an American, and seemed more aware of the day-t0-day responsibilities of mothers (especially mothers with large families, limited means, and no help in the form of cooks and nannies). She wrote for popular magazines and newspaper columns, so her writing is much more concise and practical than Mason’s six flowery volumes. Charlotte Mason seems to have a bit of a cultish following these days. There are people who are very concerned about studying her works and divining “what she really meant”. But you don’t have to dissect Ella Frances Lynch; she just tells you exactly what she means! She was Catholic, while Mason was Anglican, and she is more directive in how to oversee a child’s spiritual and moral development, and puts the responsibility in the parents’ hands. Both women were educators; neither of them had their own children. How ironic 🙂 Charlotte Mason’s ideal mother takes a 20 minute ride out into the country where she sits on a blanket while her children play and explore for 4-6 hours, and teaches them observation skills part of that time by describing the landscape around them. Ella Frances Lynch’s ideal mother supervises her toddler peeling potatoes in the kitchen with her, while the other children are counting forks or reciting lines from a poem (the mother has just refreshed her memory on the meaning of several archaic words in said poem). Guess which mother I resemble most days???

Lynch ideas that resonate with me:

  • The mother is the best teacher for a young child. She loves him, cares for him, knows more than him, and is just as or more competent than the best available teacher. A child is better being with his mother until age 7 or 8 (or later). Lynch emphasizes mother-education: brushing up on vocabulary and scientific knowledge so you can pass it on to your children, memorizing poetry so you can teach them to recite, forming your own faith so you can instruct your own children in religion and morality.
  • Poetry is the language of childhood. Poetry is the cornerstone of a child’s education. This idea seemed odd to me, but after reading her reasons, it is very attractive. I really like the idea of using a beautiful epic poem, and expanding to nature study, language study, history, geography, oration, and recitation. I probably wouldn’t pick Longfellow’s Hiawatha, though. 🙂
  • Memorization and observation are the main skills for a young child to develop. She has detailed instructions for object study, listening and answering, memorization.
  • The goal of education is to develop a child who is more or less able to self-educate around age 10-12, and who is ready for a lifetime working in his or her calling, whatever it may be. Lynch mentions different “tracks” depending on whether the child is headed for a trade or for higher education.
  • School reform. Educating the Child at Home contains a lot of great ideas for public school reform. Lynch worked hard at this; maybe the Department of Education should take a strong dose of her ideas again.

And some that don’t:

  • Left-handedness is a fault, and children must be corrected to use their right hands. Eek! I will not be taking that advice for Kid Cuatro.
  • What does one do after a child reaches age 10? Lynch seemed to assume sending him off to school. But if I plan to oversee our children’s education through age 14 or later, she doesn’t cover that age in detail at all. I suppose the same philosophy continues, using more difficult material, but some concrete examples would have been nice.

So this is a brief comparison of Ella Frances Lynch and Charlotte Mason, after reading Bookless Lessons for the Mother Teacher and Educating the Child at Home by Lynch, and Volumes 1, 3, and 6 by Mason. And if anyone is considering Charlotte Mason, but is overwhelmed by reading her volumes, I suggest starting with Ella Frances Lynch instead.

Purpose of This Blog

Why add yet another blog to the billions out there? And why blog about a Charlotte Mason education when there are others far more expert than I? The short answer is that Charlotte Mason lived about a hundred years ago, and while her educational principles remain the same, the world has changed, and we have access to lots of more up-to-date material than what she used. The internet, for example!

We are loosely using the resources and schedules at Ambleside Online  to homeschool our children. The hard work put into that free curriculum is amazing, and has made it easy for me to get started without starting from scratch. It has its weaknesses (for our family and goals), but I love to tweak, so I’ve made lots changes to fit the curriculum to our family.  I’m hoping to use this blog to keep track of all my changes (and the reasons for them), and do a yearly wrap-up of what worked and what didn’t. And maybe it will be helpful for other homeschoolers.

One goal of AO was to make the curriculum cheap and accessible by using mostly public domain texts. Another goal was to re-create as nearly as possible the type of education Charlotte Mason provided her students. Neither of those are my goals, so a lot of my tweaking reflects my attempt to modernize some of the content (especially history and science), and to use books I prefer over some of the free, vintage books. I’m using  “modernize” loosely; lots of our books were published in the 1950s and 1990s 🙂 And lots are from the 1800s.

Many homeschool curricula these days revolve around history. For us, it’s not the center. My academic tiers are skill subjects first:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Arithmetic

and then all other content subjects are second tier, have more or less equal value, and may depend somewhat on the interests of the child. For example:

  •  Geography
  • Music theory
  • Astronomy
  • Botany
  • Public speaking
  • Drawing
  • Art appreciation
  • Poetry
  • History
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Test-taking skills
  • Zoology
  • Ballet
  • and so on

So I want our children to develop strong abilities in the first three areas, and then to have at least a taste of all the other areas. This is for ages 6-12…I haven’t planned much past that…yet. 🙂

What Charlotte Mason Means to Me

Have you read Charlotte Mason’s original writings? I haven’t — I have read a fair amount of the paraphrases done by Ambleside Online, and most of the books published about a CM education. I’m not one of the WWCMD [What Would Charlotte Mason Do] type of people.

Some things just won’t work for us. Picture her ideal of a mother sitting outdoors on a blanket for 4 hours, while her children cheerfully bring back natural objects for her to see and talk about. That’s where I start laughing (or crying, depending on the day). Hahahaha….what happens when the very-pregnant mother is desperately searching for a restroom 30 minutes later? Or the 2 year old falls in the creek and is turning purple and we forgot to bring a change of clothes? Or the three older kids are fighting and someone needs some discipline and someone else needs a snack and someone else needs some alone time…and we are supposed to do this every day?!

But what I take away from that ideal is that outdoor time is beneficial, and so the way I accomplish that is by sending my kids outside to play…while I nurse the baby in a comfortable chair and get stuff done around the house. Or we spend a weekend camping. Or go for a hike on a Saturday when DH is here to wrangle kids with me. Or meet a friend at a park or the zoo. And we encourage cups and jars full of bugs and worms and spiders, and bouquets from the yard or the mountains, and getting dirty and playing in the treehouse with friends. All of that helps accomplish nature study, in a way that is practical for us. Anyway, here are the main ideas that add up to a CM education for our family:


  • Literature-based learning. This means we use very few (if any) textbooks, read lots of real books, and supplement with DVDs, excursions, classes, concerts etc.
  • Living books. The books we read differ from textbooks in that they are written by a single author with a passion for and knowledge of the topic, and are written in an engaging style. Living books are not necessarily old! There are old “dead” books, and new living books.
  • Slow readings. Reading lots of books spread out over a long time (a term, or 1-2 school years) allow time to chew and digest the material.
  • Short lessons and lots of subjects. We cover lots of topics, but spend a short time daily or weekly on each. We want to expose the kids to as much of the wide world as possible. Alternating subjects allows the brain to rest. Short “school” sessions equals more time for childhood.
  • Narration. At this stage (age 7 and under), I read aloud, and then the child tells me back in her own words everything she remembers. This trains the child to listen carefully the first time around, helps her assimilate the information, and lays a foundation for future written compositions and public speaking skills.
  • Emphasis on nature and outdoor time. This is great for children’s development and health. They also gain familiarity with and ownership of nature, and get first-hand experience with concepts they might otherwise just read or hear about.
  • Beauty, truth, and challenge. We aim to give our kids material that is beautiful and true, and that challenges their ability to understand, think, and express.
  • Good habits. Obedience, diligence, persistence, helpfulness, neatness…these are all things we work on while the kids are little. They are essential qualities for (relatively) smooth school days, and are characteristic of the kind of adults we hope they become.
  • Delayed academics. Our kids do nothing academic before age 5, and very little before age 6 or 6.5. More on that in another post.

It seems most useful to me to figure out the “whys” of what CM did what she did, and then decide how to incorporate those principles today, rather than to try to re-create what she did. Around here, practicality trumps mostly everything else! 🙂