Posted in Ambleside Online, Charlotte Mason

How We Began a Charlotte Mason Education with an Older Child

When I used to blog about homeschooling with Charlotte Mason, I wrote about our experience of beginning a Charlotte Mason education with an older child. We began Ambleside Online back when my oldest daughter was almost in high school. There was so much to learn and it felt a bit overwhelming at times. The Ambleside Online curriculum and the wonderful people I met through their then yahoo groups and now the AO Forum helped me so much! I know there are many who are just beginning their Charlotte Mason education journey with older children. So I want to share what I wrote a few years ago about how I went about implementing Charlotte Mason methods with our oldest daughter.

Implementing a Charlotte Mason education with an older child, we had to make a transition from what we were accustomed to doing (textbooks, workbooks, etc.) to a whole new way of approaching schoolwork. This not only involved a transformation in our day to day schooling, but in how I viewed education. At times, it felt overwhelming. There was just so much to learn about this philosophy and its methods. Other times, aspects of it seemed so simple that I wondered how in the world it would work. But I’m here to tell you that even though it was a bit challenging trying to transition to this style of education with an older student, it was totally worth the effort for us.

CM Motto

As we began to implement more of a CM approach in our school, I chose to ease into it by focusing on three key cornerstones of her methods:

  • Living Books
  • Narration
  • Generous Curriculum

Living Books
First, I began using more living books vs. textbooks. I chose to begin using the Ambleside Online curriculum (a free Charlotte Mason curriculum). I knew that by using AO’s curriculum, I wouldn’t have to go searching and reading and searching and reading and planning and more planning to put together living books for a year of studies. That saved me a LOT of work. Now mind you, I still wasn’t quite for sure how this was all going to pan out; but I wanted to give it a try. So we began with AO’s Pre Year 7 booklist over the summer, reading books that my daughter had not already read. Then we ventured into Year 7. That year was a huge leap for both my daughter and myself. I’d like to say that we stuck through all the books in Year 7 but we didn’t. I switched up that year by covering the middle ages along with the renaissance and reformation and using different history books altogether. Some of the Year 7 books were very challenging for my daughter and since we were just beginning to implement CM methods in our school and transitioning to that, I felt we needed books that were a little less difficult. We basically ended up doing a combo of Years 7 and 8 with AO as our framework but picking and choosing some different resources for history. By the end of that year, I felt like we were progressing much better in our transitioning and that we were ready to give the full AO Year 9 a go.

Along with implementing more living books, we also began narration. For the first full year, we just focused on oral narration for the most part. My daughter did do some written narrations after a while; but we still continued oral narrations the whole year. Then the following year, she did more written narrations but still continued with oral narrations as well. It was a process.

Generous Curriculum
Finally, I implemented a more generous curriculum. Again, AO helped me with that. We didn’t do everything our first year as it was challenging enough fitting in a basic framework; but we still did more than we had. AO made it nice because they did a lot of that work already by incorporating things like Plutarch, Shakespeare and poetry into the schedule. And they provided resources for artist and composer study.

Easing into the Charlotte Mason approach worked well for us and throughout the high school years with my oldest daughter, I saw much good fruit come from implementing CM methods in our homeschool. I began with those three key methods and continued to learn more about the philosophy and methods along the way. Even with homeschooling my youngest, I’m still learning and growing with the Charlotte Mason method. Because each child is unique…and therefore, how the CM approach is implemented might look a bit different with each child.

Posted in Charlotte Mason, Keeping

Some of Our Year 3 Keeping

This year, I incorporated a bit more of Charlotte Mason style notebook keeping. I even started some myself! My daughter did drawings in her science/nature notebook to go along with some of the readings. She also keeps an American History notebook. We did some map work as well as drawing lessons. In term 3, she began a Copywork Journal which is an idea I got from Celeste’s blog which she calls a Prose and Poetry Journal. Once a week, my daughter chose something from her readings for copywork and put it in her Copywork Journal. I gave her a really pretty journal for this. She surprised me in that sometimes she chose really long passages to copy….such as a poem she chose to memorize. She copied the whole poem in her journal in one sitting!

Here’s a look at some of my daughter’s keeping from this year.

Pea Plant Drawing
She observed an actual pea plant and then drew it, labeling the pistel, stamen, and pea eggs. Unfortunately, you can’t really see her labeling lines very clearly. Sorry…..


This is one of the entries in her American History notebook. She wanted lots of windows on her drawing of Harvard College. 🙂


One of her science notebook entries


Her drawing from an abstract art lesson utilizing shapes for the drawing


And a little bit of my keeping that I began…….

My Map Tracing 2

My Map Tracing 1
I started VERY basic with map drawing by tracing some maps. I am not very good at free hand drawing of maps!


My Squirrel Drawing
My drawing from our art lesson on how to draw squirrels.



My Owl Drawing
My drawing from our art lesson on how to draw owls.


I do also keep a Commonplace Notebook as well. I’m looking forward to doing more of my own keeping in this upcoming year. I’ve already begun some with my pre-reading for Year 4. 🙂

Posted in Charlotte Mason

Principles and Methods

I’m going to be honest with you, my journey with the Charlotte Mason approach has had its ups and downs. And maybe one of these days, I might write a post about it. But even though I’ve had my ups and downs at times with this philosophy and its methods, I really have come to love this approach. Not only has it born good fruit in our homeschool, but it has helped me grow as a homeschooling mama.

Something I really want to share that’s been on my heart for awhile has to do with this idea of principles and methods. There’s been a lot of conversation taking place in Charlotte Mason circles recently that I think is not only great, but also very badly needed. I’m seeing much more conversation taking place about the importance of focusing on the principles and not some rigid form of following methods.

I still continue to learn about this educational philosophy and how to apply it in our homeschool. But I have to admit, that in the past it I found it easy for me to get caught up in the details at times with Charlotte Mason’s methods…trying to do things “exactly right” according to Miss Mason. The problem with that is, that I found myself feeling like there was this mounting list of to-do’s and it began to feel more like a burden than a joy. When I truly began to understand that this approach was first and foremost about principles and that the methods were flexible and adaptable, I began to feel more freedom with this approach. I began to see all the freedom and flexibility it offers and that naturally brought about more peace and joy in the process.

Charlotte Mason Quote

Miss Mason set out to build a philosophy of education. And the methods sprang forth from those principles. Therefore, in a Charlotte Mason education, the philosophy…the set of principles…is the foundation. With an understanding of these principles, we can set out to develop an education that is tailored to fit each of our unique children, adapting the methods as needed.

Miss Mason recognized that children are different. In fact, the very first principle she stated was that children are born persons. They have unique personalities. Therefore, there is not going to be a one-size fits all curriculum. This is one of the reasons why the Charlotte Mason approach resonates with me…because her philosophy considers the child. It’s a philosophy that addresses the whole person. And it’s a framework from which I can build a year of study based on principles that molds to the needs and abilities of my child.