It has helped me to use this process to develop my children’s Charlotte Mason Education. For this type of education, it is important to know what subjects to do and how to do the subjects in a Charlotte Mason way. Sounds easy, but it is often easier said than done. This is the step-by-step process I have followed over the years to help me sort through the information to make my family’s Living Education. Although I have listed step-by-step, this is not a process where the steps are crossed of one-by-one. As long as one pursues a Charlotte Mason Education, no step can be checked off as though it were completed. Living means growing and change. Understanding will always continue to grow if we feed it. Nothing becomes a static, completed exercise in a Charlotte Mason Education.
1. Volumes and Principles.
The first place to start is reading the Volumes. Because Charlotte Mason’s Education is so different from our current educational and lifestyle thought, it will take dedicated reading to shape one’s thoughts and then actions to reflect a Living Education. A Charlotte Mason Education is different from any current or historical educational philosophy -homeschool or classroom setting. To have a Charlotte Mason Education, reading the volumes is the best way to reshape thinking and understand a Living Education. I can tell you about it, but for you to make it come alive for yourself, you have to read on your own. You’ll find the Volumes on this site to help you in this process.
It takes a long time to read and absorb the volumes, however. One way to help boost comprehension, is to read the Principles along with reading the volumes. Repeat reading them on a regular basis. The Principles are found at the beginning of the volumes and are also on this site.
Reading the Volumes and Principles is an ongoing activity that the mother~teacher continues the entire time her children are under her educational supervision. This is never checked off the list as done.
2. Method -Practices.
The second step is the Method Practices. These Practices give the overall, overarching methods to undergird a Living Education. These practices are applied to every subject. This is not something that can be learned in a day. It is an evolving, deepening process of understanding. As your knowledge and experiences grow, understanding will deepen as you keep returning and reviewing these Practices. Specific Practices are addressed in various places throughout the volumes as well as sprinkled as a theme throughout. This site has articles dealing with Method-Practices.
An older student who is new to a Living Education, has not had time to do the work to build up skills. Start at square one with the Practices. This is not a problem. Do not feel the child is behind, do not rush them or yourself. A Living Education needs a level, firm, sturdy foundation. The child will go much further and his mind will be far better nourished by taking thoughtful, deliberate care with the Practices. Skipping or moving too fast will short change the child and very likely cause confusion, frustration, and discouragement for both the teacher and the student. Living is not something that is a one-size-fits-all. Just as life is different for all of us, so a Living Education is different for all of us. Do not push a child faster than he is ready to move.
3. Charlotte’s words on a subject.
The third place to go is to Charlotte Mason’s words for a particular subject. They can be found throughout the Volumes. I have collected many of them and have them on this site in the Charlotte Mason’s Words posts in each subject area.
4. Subject Lists.
To begin crafting a daily routine, the next place to go is the Subject Lists for Form ___. Consider where the child fits best overall. The ages and grades as well as the subjects themselves overlap. This is helpful for avoiding a one-size-fits-all educational outcome.
While the first steps mentioned previously are a continual process of teaching and training yourself, this step is fairly straightforward. It is what we are typically used to in our modern educational traditions. But,Charlotte Mason casts the net far and wide with some 28 different subject-categories which is probably wider than the typical standard.
Because it is straightforward and familiar, one might want to start with this step and skim the previous steps. One may also think that it is necessary to get all the subjects in place in order to start a Charlotte Mason Education.
May I suggest this thought…. taking the time to have an understanding of the practices and Charlotte’s words before assigning a subject to a child, will more likely result with subjects that reflect a Charlotte Mason Education than if the subjects are rushed onto the schedule without the benefit of using Charlotte’s words and Practices. Knowing the basic goal and giving it some reflection will help flesh out how to accomplish the particular subject. The child’s mind will be better fed if a few subjects are handled well, in a Living way, than if an arm load of all the subjects are presented, done in a half Living way.
On the other hand, I’m not sure if it is even possible to know all there is to know of a Charlotte Mason Education with all its nuances and intricacies. Maybe it is, maybe when I’m old and grey…maybe, probably not. We are all learning. Learning the knowledge is part of it, experience is part, wisdom is part, insight is part… it is a lifelong process. We have to move forward though we don’t know everything we need at any given point. It is a step of faith yet at the same time giving ourselves the best first step forward by making our ground as solid as possible.
To provide that footing, consider adding subjects as you learn the subjects. Being diligent in reading the volumes and learning, will increase knowledge and capability to prepare the subjects in a nourishing, Living way. Continual reading will cause the learning process for each subject to become more efficient. There is always growth and learning for the mother~teacher. At some point we have to start, even though we don’t know all there is to know. But we can know the basics. We can lay the foundation. With the basics a Living Education table can be set. Getting a firm standing to start off will keep the slips and trips to a minimum as adjustments and progress moves forward.
One of the ways to decide which subjects to schedule first, is to look at your strengths, your resources, and your interests. Start with what you are comfortable with, and add from there. Start with what you have. Use what you have. Don’t brush over what God has given you for resources.
If you are just beginning a Charlotte Mason Education or if you have been doing a Charlotte Mason Education but life is throwing you a curve ball, do not pressure your child or yourself to accomplish the Subject List religiously.
Religiously- the image it conveys gives the best picture here I think. Interestingly, doing Charlotte Mason religiously when you need grace will probably land you in the legalistic department – to borrow other words with religious connotations. Charlotte Mason legalism will likely cause damage in the short run and burn out in the long term. I have written several articles about this topic- many are found on the About Our Purpose page and have to do with being a Charlotte Mason Purist and perfectionism. One of my goals for this site to convey that a Charlotte Mason Education can be pure and true and yet be real, adjusting for each personal circumstance. If you are struggling in this area, I’m glad you are here and I hope you will be encouraged.
A surface detail to help you navigate how Charlotte Mason divided up the forms. The first two forms are further broken down into “a” and “b”. However, she turns the “a” and “b” around. Form 1 “b” is the earlier form. Form 1 “a” is the later. Possibly remembering “b” for beginner and “a” for advanced will help you keep these straight.
5. Living tools – Books and Things.
Lastly, plug in books and other tools to use for each subject. This is sometimes the most fun step. It is like dressing that baby girl in her pink frilly dress with a matching hair bow. It’s the part we see and for those of us with book buying addictions…well… enough said.
But don’t forget that clothing needs a solid place to hang. Often we are tempted to start with this step because it is the fun part. But it needs the skeleton, the muscles, the skin, and a good dose of baby chub (the Volumes, Principles, Practices).
Guard against the pressure to fit the child into a box when determining what the child ‘should’ be reading or doing. It may be said that the child is ‘ahead’ in some subject areas or ‘behind’ in others. But ‘should’, ‘ahead’ and ‘behind’ are not words that apply to Charlotte Mason Education. On the other hand, sometimes we underestimate the child, or don’t challenge the child where he needs it. First, evaluate the child, find the best book or resource that suits the child’s ability and will encourage growth, and craft from there. The priority is always to feed the mind, not adhere to any type of list.