Skip to main content

Charlotte Mason Basics


Gentle Education with Miss Mason

The homeschool movement is gaining momentum all over the world, and many home educators are looking back to the ideas of Charlotte Mason as a compass for teaching their own children.

Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in England from 1841-1923. She established schools to train governesses and parents how to teach their children at home. Her ideas were at the time quite revolutionary. She considered children to be people who were capable of studying advanced topics in science, math, literature, art, and music, even at very young ages. She also had a passion for nature and beauty which is evident in her writings.

photo credit

Articles About CM Philosophy - for a quick read

These articles will give you a concise introduction to CM. More indepth resources follow.

When Children Love to Learn - A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today

If you want to go deeper than those articles above, but you'd rather not wade through Miss Mason's old-fashioned style of writing, you can choose this great book written by a homeschool mother. This well respected title explains the Charlotte Mason method in every day terms and with practical applications.


Follow the links below to read Miss Mason's original Homeschooling Series, or a version in modern English, or read chapter summaries -- all online for FREE.

The Original Home Schooling Series - by Charlotte Mason

If you'd rather have a book to hold instead of squinting at a screen, this book contains Charlotte Mason's original works.

Great Quotes From Charlotte Mason


Charlotte Mason saw a direct connection between living books and the imagination. Read what she says in Home Education about the value of imaginative literature over more realistic works.

Stories, again, of the Christmas holidays, of George and Lucy, of the amusements, foibles, and virtues of children in their own condition of life, leave nothing to the imagination. The children know all about everything so well that it never occurs to them to play at the situations in any one of these tales, or even to read it twice over. But let them have tales of the imagination, scenes laid in other lands and other times, heroic adventures, hairbreadth escapes, delicious fairy tales in which they are never roughly pulled up by the impossible--even where all is impossible, and they know it, and yet believe.(vol 1 pg 152)

Wow! Tales of imagination in other lands. That sounds like a good book of history, adventure, fantasy, or biography!


And another quote about the imagination:

Now imagination does not descend, full grown, to take possession of an empty house; like every other power of the mind, it is the merest germ of a power to begin with, and grows by what it gets; and childhood, the age of faith, is the time for its nourishing. The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times--a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the child do not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climes of his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose. But let lessons do their best, and the picture gallery of the imagination is poorly hung if the child have not found his way into the realms of fancy. (vol 1 pg 153)

The books we offer our children should take them away to fantastic lands of imagination!

Scroll to Continue
  • Penny Gardner's Living Books
    This page is jam-packed with lists and links that will help you select living books for your homeschool.
  • Home Hearts Living Books
    This is both an article and a link list in one! Living books and twaddle are defined. Also multiple links to LONG book lists are offered. A great site!
  • What Should I Read Next?
    This is a fun tool. Just enter a book title that you enjoyed reading, and this program will give you suggestions for similar books that you will probably also like. Neat!
  • Lilac Library
    This blog is exclusively devoted to providing book reviews of excellent living books -- picture books to novels.
  • What is a Living Book?
    This is a GREAT article from The Thinking Mother blog explaining more about what is and is not a living book. A great read for any CM educator!
  • What's So Great About Great Books?
    Classical educators call good books Great Books rather than living books. The concept is very similar. Read this article for more insight.

Narration is a foundation within the CM philosophy.

Narration simply means that the child narrates or tells back what was just read. If a young child is listening to mother read, when the section or chapter is over, he tells back what he heard in the chapter. If a bit older child is reading aloud, when she has come to the end of a section or chapter, she tells back what she just read. For children who are reading silently, they still tell back what they have read.

Narration can be done orally at all ages. But once a child is 11 or 12, he can begin to write his narrations. The habit of doing it orally will help him be able to it in writing when the time comes.

Narration Starters to ask your child

--Tell me all you remember about the passage.

--Explain how ______.

--Tell me five things you learned from these two pages.

--So, what happened in this chapter?

No workbooks or worksheets are needed. Nothing to buy; no preparation is needed! Just the child and parent, discussing what was read. What could be simpler and easier than that!

Narration can also be done in creative ways -- drawings, dioramas, acting out dramas, lapbooks, or notebooking.


Why is Narration So Important?

Narration causes the child to think. She must think as she is reading (or listening to you read), and she must think as she is narrating. I love this quote by Miss Mason about thinking from Home Education .

Thinking comes by Practice. . . .thinking, like writing or skating, comes by practice. The child who has never thought, never does think, and probably never will think; (vol 1 pg 153)

So use narration in your homeschool experience! It will give your children the opportunity to practice thinking.


Personally it took me many months before narration became natural in our homeschool. Reading articles like these below will help you deliberately incorporate it into your daily routine.

  • Narration Beats Tests
    This is an excellent, concise explanation of the benefits of narration. Karen Andrelola also gives practical tips for implementing it in your homeschool.
  • Narration: Tapping Into the 'Talking Resource'
    Another article by Karen Andreola that will give you some practical applications of CM's ideas. This article is decorated with lovely images as well! It is a joy to read!
  • Narration and Composition
    These are blog entries from Higher Up and Further In. Lindafay is an excellent CM educator! This link will take you to all her blog entries dealing with narration and composition. Excellent reading!
  • Narration Practical How-to's
    Catherine Levison, a CM expert, wrote this short article about how to use narration in your homeschool.
  • Narration Tips
    Another article by Catherine Levison. She answers a question -- how can you deal with children narrating the same passage at the same time when reading to the kids all together?
  • Charlotte Mason Language Arts
    This article explains not only narration but also dictation and copywork.
  • More Notes on Narration
    A CM blogger who shares her thought on narration after reading When Children Love to Learn. Practical tips here.
  • When Narration is Difficult
    The same CM blogger shares her revelation about narration. Her left-brained daughter was struggling with narration because she was thinking in LISTS rather than IMAGES. A great read!
  • Narration
    Another blogging mom has been inspired by the book When Children Love to Learn, and has shared her insights about narration.

Recitation - Memorizing

Recitation is memorizing quotes, scriptures, or poems and performing them for an audience. CM recommends that the passage chosen for memorization be one the child can fully comprehend so that the recitation will be natural and with feeling.

I have found that letting my child choose her own passage for memorization is far more motivating than my choosing one. Pull a beloved poetry book off the shelf, and let your child choose one to memorize this week. At the end of the week, he can stand up at the dinner table and perform it for the entire family. He will beam with pride!

  • Recitation/Memory Work
    Articles dealing with recitation and memory work from Lindafay who used to blog at Higher Up and Further In. She moved all her articles over to Charlotte Mason Help.
  • Walls of Books - Poetry Memorization List
    Angela, a homeschooling mom, shares her list of poetry that she plans on having her children memorize. The best thing about this list is that it's already linked to online texts of each poem!
  • Walls of Books - Bible Memory List
    Here is Angela's list of Bible verses to memorize.
  • Stepping Heavenward
    This homeschooling mom has listed her year's poetry memorization for her son. These are great examples of what you may want to incorporate into your own homeschool.

Whisper and Shout - Poems to Memorize

Copywork - also called Transcription


Copywork is a whole language approach to spelling and grammar. By seeing and copying the words, the child learns how to spell. Grammar is also learned in this indirect way.

Choose passages worthy of meditation that stimulate the mind of the student but are not beyond his comprehension. Discuss the passage and have the child copy it in his best handwriting. Passages can be hymns, Scriptures, poems, quotations, or exerpts from living books.

  • Copywork and Handwriting
    Lindafay shares her way of teaching copywork and handwriting in her very CM homeschool. There are four articles linked here.
  • Copywork
    This is a nice article about the history of copywork as an educational method. Did you know it predates Charlotte Mason by hundreds of years? The author gives practical suggestions for how to implement copywork and lists of possible passages.
  • Copywork at The Duncan Yo-Yo's
    Heather's way of doing copywork is by a different subject per day. Read this entry; you may just want to try her method.
  • Manuscript Copywork
    This site has FREE PDF copywork files. Just print out and hand to your children! Choices include Hymns, Scripture, and Poetry.
  • Writing Tools
    Choose the link to Online Sources for Copying and Dictation.
  • Copywork & Handwriting
    This mom's suggestions are especially applicable to those with young children, just learning how to form letters and begin their copywork.
  • How I Choose Sentences for Copywork
    Headmistress, zookeeper shares how she selects sentences from her children's readers to serve as copywork. In this blog entry, she lists examples from Five Little Peppers.
  • Benefits of Copywork
    Learn about how copywork hones a multitude of language arts skills.
  • What is Copywork
    An article from Notebooking Pages that explains what copywork is and how it can be integrated into notebooking.



Dictation is not the same as copywork. Dictation is written without looking at the passage. The sentence or passage may be studied first and discussed thoroughly. Any strange spellings, any aspects of punctuation should be pointed out. Then take away the original, speak the passage out loud at a normal pace, and have the child write the passage. The same passage can be used all week if necessary for mastery.

Charlotte Mason Style Curricula

  • Ambleside Online
    Ambleside offers a FREE curriculum plan modeled closely according to CM ideas. To use Ambleside Online's plan is very affordable; you only need to buy the living books recommended in the program. And many of those books can be found for free on the I
  • Living Books Curriculum
    This curriculum calls itself, "a Charlotte Mason education for the 21st century." It's a more modern interpretation of what Ambleside has done. In contrast to Ambleside which relies on free online texts or visits to the library, Living Books offers c
  • Tanglewood Education
    Tanglewood combines both Classical Education and the Charlotte Mason philosophy in a flexible plan you can modify to fit your homeschool situation. Since they don't actually sell living books, you have to buy the books from their booklists on your ow
  • Mater Amabilis
    This is a free, online CM curriculum plan especially for Catholic homeschoolers. The plan also has book options for British families. The books must be purchased on your own.
  • Queen Homeschool
    Look for "Easy Charlotte Mason Method Packs" in the sidebar. Queen Homeschool is currently offering 10 packs of living books that match CM philosophy.

Literature Based Curricula

These curricula are literature based using living books as CM espoused.

  • Beautiful Feet Books
    This is a convenient way to buy your curriculum -- Study Guides (for the teacher) complete with a whole set of living books. Topics include American History, Ancient History, History of the Horse, Geography, History of Classical Music, Character, and
  • Winter Promise
    This curricula offers complete kits as well. WP even has language arts programs to complement their history themes. They have the standard American History and Middle Ages themes, but also some really interesting themes such as Children Around the Wo
  • Sonlight
    Almost every homeschooling family has heard of Sonlight. Their core programs include Bible, History, and Read Alouds. SL also offers language arts and science programs.
  • Noeo Science
    In a subject that is dominated by textbooks, Noeo is a wonderful gem. Use real books to learn these science topics -- Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, each at 2 levels for a total of 6 choices.
  • Heart of Wisdom
    A curriculum designed by Robin Sampson.
  • Heart of Dakota
    Christ-centered homeschool curricula that is easy to use, flexible, and educational and can also be used with multiple ages at the same time.
  • My Father's World
    MFW offers preschool through highschool level, literature based, Christian curriculum packages.
  • Moving Beyond the Page
    A homeschool curriculum for gifted learners that emphasizes good literature and hands-on discovery. Packages are available for ages 5-11.
  • Five in a Row (FIAR)
    Literature-based unit study curriculum with Christian character supplements for children ages 2 to 12. For children 12 and up, there is a curriculum called Above & Beyond FIAR.
  • Epi Kardia Curriculum
    The Greek words "Epi Kardia" mean at the heart. At Epi Kardia, we feel the heart of home education is the Christ-centered mentoring and discipling relationship between parents and their children. Read a review of Epi Kardia at The Curriculum Choice


wolley811 on February 25, 2013:

Such a rich, rich, resource!! Thank you so much for making this lens!

enrich-self-study on February 03, 2013:

Wow, awesome lens!

RobinDM on November 24, 2011:

This is an excellent resource. I will be back again! Thank you

Swift127 on July 24, 2011:

Very informative - a great resource. Thanks!

NewApproach on February 12, 2011:

good stuff. a table of contents would be helpful

RobininColorado on January 01, 2011:

Great resource! I think this needs to go on my "Methods" page!

Barb McCoy on December 24, 2010:

I am lensrolling this one to my CM High School lens. Thanks Jimmie!

Barb McCoy on December 24, 2010:

I am lensrolling this one to my CM High School lens. Thanks Jimmie!

MargoPArrowsmith on November 30, 2010:

You are certainly the home school queen!

anonymous on November 08, 2010:


Happened to stop by.Thanks for the great website. You give a broad range of information on Charlotte Mason's methods. Very nice. I noted you direct your visitors to some Thanksgiving goodies. Wanted to pass onto our free Thanksgiving Holiday Helpers that you might enjoy:

Have a blessed Thanksgiving,

Sheila Carroll

Living Books Curriculum

Angelred4kids on April 15, 2010:

"Dictation at Living, Loving and Learning"

Hi Jimmie, I was searching for some dictation info and discovered that the above link on your lens has been deleted.

Just thought I'd let you know.

anonymous on February 25, 2010:

Great squidoo. Thanks so much for putting it together!

blessedmomto7 on December 05, 2009:

lots of great info here, thanks!

anonymous on July 14, 2009:

Another Great lens Jimmie. I think I should just head up my blog profile with 'see Jimmie's lens first' LOL.

JanieceTobey on May 04, 2009:

I have heard about Charlotte Manson before...but didn't really know what it was all about. I've just discovered I'm already doing a fair amount of Charlotte Manson! Now I've got to figure out how math fits into the program. I'll go click on one of your links about that. 5 stars for this wonderful lens!

cindykwest on January 03, 2009:

Yep, this one's great, too! It's been added to my links. :o)


MommaKnows LM on December 20, 2008:

Jimmie, this is by far the best Charlotte Mason lens I've seen! I am rather new to CM, but a willing student, and I am trying to learn all I can about her so that my children may benefit. Thank you.

GrowWear on December 02, 2008:

Excellent resource on Charlotte Mason!

Jimmie Quick (author) from Memphis, TN, USA on November 11, 2008:


Great question. To be perfectly honest, I'd simply read CM's own words. All her works are in the public domain and can be found online (see links above).

But if you really want a book written by someone else, making her ideas practical, I'd read A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by: Karen Andreola. But all of the books on this lens are highly recommended as good CM starters.

anonymous on November 11, 2008:

This is really nice. I'm trying to learn what CM style hsing is about. Okay, for my question. If you were to recommend one book on CM to somebody who doesn't really know what it is all about, which one would it be?.

tandemonimom lm on August 08, 2008:

Awesome lens! You put a lot of love into this and it shows! You reminded me of a lot of the best things about CM, things I've been *meaning* to do with my little ones! Thanks, 5stars, faved!

kellywissink lm on April 28, 2008:

Hi Jimmie!

I'm a homeschooling mom too.Your Homeschooling resources are fabulous!

5 stars

akrause2112 on April 03, 2008:

Interesting information on a subject matter I am not familiar with! I love to learn new things. This has made an excellent addition to the BIG LENSES Group!

anonymous on March 23, 2008:

Thank you for putting this all together. This is EXTREMELY helpful to those just starting out.

God bless...Angela

anonymous on February 24, 2008:

Someone justr asked about Charlotte Mason on my homeschool list. I can't wait to give her this link!

anonymous on February 21, 2008:

As a principal of a Charlotte Mason school, I have found that students need instruction in how write narrations. After much searching for an instructional resource on this topic, I discovered nothing. Because I am a writer, I decided to write a book called "My Little Handbook of Written Narrations" for CM students in grades 4-8. Go to to find out more. Just type the name of the book in the search area. I think your child will appreciate the help.

anonymous on January 01, 2008:

Jimmie, Why am I just now finding this??!! Awesome resource. I'll be adding it to my blog links soon. Thanks for all your hard work!!


groovyoldlady on September 10, 2007:

Stellar again. You are amazing!

anonymous on August 11, 2007:

I have bookmarked this little gem to come back to over and over again. Thanks again for including me as well.

Heather D.

anonymous on August 08, 2007:

Wow Jimmie! This is a really neat page! Thanks for including me. Off to explore all of your links.... :-)


Related Articles