Charlotte Mason Works! But Don’t Take My Word for It!

February 20, 2007 @ 2:29 pm | Filed under:

Got this delightful note from my dear friend Joann:

I have been gobbling up the Charlotte Mason books
and each one is so full of gems!
You know we have just not gotten to the "click"
point with Daniel and reading, right? Well, I read Home Education, specifically
the chapters on reading. I’ve read the method as interpreted by Karen Andreola and
Elizabeth Foss, but really needed to see it for myself.
So I chose a nursery rhyme for Daniel that I
thought he would like and printed it out and cut it up and did just exactly what
she said in the book.

And I cannot believe it, but the child LOVED his
reading lesson. And he learned to read. About 12 words! And he is picking up
every piece of printed matter in the house and trying to find words he knows and
trying to sound out other words. He’s known the sounds for ages it seems, but we
couldn’t find what was the hold up.  I could see that he was having a hard
time with seeing where one word stopped and the next started. So I think that
cutting the words apart really, really was the turning point.  Like a light
bulb, "OH! That’s a WORD!"  He’s is beyond
What a gift this woman is to homeschoolers and what
a shame her principles cannot be implemented more widely.

Hear, hear. And not just among homeschoolers. School-schoolers, too. Here’s a lovely account of one woman’s memories of her experience in a PNEU school (thanks to Mater Amabilis for the link).

And Willa recently posted a link to this Parents Review article about a family who enrolled in a PNEU correspondence school. I love this:

Now, nearly four years later, things have changed. The children’s
clothes are patched, their feet encased in cheap canvas shoes. Meals
consist largely of fruit and vegetables gathered from the orchard and
garden, dairy produce from our two cows, and eggs from the hens. They
cut and cart cattle bedding; they wash vegetables for market; they take
turns in milking the cows, and generally take on any job that
arisesmore or less cheerfully. A pretty poor little lot, you might

You could not be more wrong. Our bookshelves are full of good books,
recommended in the programmes; and conversation is sometimes baffling
to outsiders. For the children talk about John Masefield, Granny,
Monet, our next-door-neighbour and Socrates with the same degree of



They have retained their sense of delight and wonder. These four
average children, who find some subjects easy and some difficult, are
full of curiosity about everything that goes on about them, and
everything that has happened since the world began. They chant poetry
in the bath (in English or French); they quarrel in the words of
Agamemnon and Achilles; they give our cows and calves Greek names. They
observe closely the possible colour changes of a chameleon, and argue
over the components of a certain rock specimen. They pester the curator
of the museum, and any experts we happen to meet, for information about
their various specimens. People fascinate them, be it Pithecanthropus
Erectus, Elizabeth Fry or General de Gaulle.

Children whose epithets four years ago seemed limited to ‘pretty,’
‘quite nice’ and ‘sooper,’ now yell when flying a kite, ‘Mum, come and
look at that "bewildered" swallow! It can’t think what this kite is!’
Or I find my best pyrex dish used for a ‘suffering’ tadpole that must
be isolated from the rest. I am called to watch a ‘quivering’ Siamese
cat as she lies in wait for a bird, or a ‘baffled’ puppy trying to walk
through a glass door.

Charlotte Mason’s statement about the ‘twaddle’ has proved to be
absolutely true. The most worn books on our shelves are not the Annuals
sent at Christmas; but ‘Heroes of Greece and Troy,’ ‘The Odyssey,’
‘Stories from the History of Rome,’ Stevenson, Kipling, and all our
poetry anthologies. Robert’s favourite book at the moment is ‘Memory
Hold the Door’; Charles is deep in ‘Children of the Archbishop,’ and
Colin is reading ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’ again while he is waiting for
‘Jock of the Bushveld’ to be available from the library. Just last
night, as I switched off her light, Alison chided me sleepily, ‘Mummy,
I can’t understand why you didn’t recommend me to read your Somerset
Maugham books. Gosh, that man can tell a story!’   

The warm, lively, happy, eager, rich life depicted in this article: that is exactly what speaks to me in the CM method; that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. (Minus the cows.)

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6 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Diane says:

    These CM posts have been so inspiring, insightful, and encouraging, Lissa—thanks so much for writing them.

  2. helene says:

    This is exactly why homeschool CM has always held such appeal for me. It seems that such a happy childhood, such a rich education, and the learning of Kings and Queens can be had for about no money at all.

  3. patience says:

    This is such a great post. Its what I dream of for my own homeschool, and we’re really quite close to it – as much as possible with only one child, that is!

  4. Kemara says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading about your homeschooling experiences. I endured 7 years of private school which was great academically, but horrible socially.

    I was wondering….how similar is the Charlotte Mason method to the one-room schoolhouse education of Laura’s day? It seems they spent most of the day reading their lessons and then having “recitations” as a class. I can’t imagine many kids today could retell the history of the U.S. from memory as Laura did. I collect old schoolbooks and some of the work is quite advanced. Just curious…..

  5. Mama Squirrel says:

    I’ve always loved that PR article as well! It’s so encouraging, especially when the mother is looking with such doubt at the hard books that her children will be expected to understand–and she decides to go ahead with it anyway.

    Re the one-room-schoolhouse question, if I can stick in my own comment: from Laura’s descriptions, her schools seemed starved for real books! And “conning a lesson” and then reciting it back word for word isn’t at all the same as listening to a story with delight and interest and then being able to tell it back. I admire the attentiveness and determination that allowed those children to excel in mental arithmetic, spelling, and memorizing poems and history lessons; but I think there’s still a gap between that and CM’s “liberal education.”

  6. ellie says:

    I’m so inspired reading things like this. My oldest is only 4 but we’ve been loving story-time since birth and I’m so eager to introduce more and more of the real treasures in this world to him.