August 20, 2011

What Is a Charlotte Mason Curriculum?



The Charlotte Mason method is an approach to education rather than a curriculum. Learn how to use the Charlotte Mason method in your homeschool.

Many of the visitors to my blog are in search of "charlotte mason curriculum". Since many land here with that key phrase only to find my plans for the year, I thought I'd help out with this matter.

First, let us define "curriculum".

The World English Dictionary defines curriculum:
1. a course of study in one subject at a school or college
2. a list of all the courses of study offered by a school or college
3. any program or plan of activities
I suggest we add a fourth definition, the one more likely to be used in public schools: the established academic standards/objectives that are taught.

As you can see, each of these is a very different definition of the word 'curriculum.' 
  • The first suggests that it's a subject broken down into a plan or process. 
  • The second conveys the idea that it's simply a list of all the courses studied. 
  • The third states that it's any program or plan of activities. 
  • The fourth one implies that curriculum is nothing more than a set of objectives.
We can utilize all of these definitions, can't we? We can certainly lay out our subjects and break them down into activities from which we then make a plan/program and perhaps even lay out objectives we'd like to reach.

The Charlotte Mason Method is a curious thing, however. 

It is a method with which many fall in love and want to choose for their children, but which has no set curriculum. Therefore, the many internet searches for "charlotte mason curriculum" lead us to no certain answers. I should know. I spent our first Charlotte Mason year in search of this magic bullet called "the Charlotte Mason Curriculum". I found a few things, but no one thing was the answer for me.

The reason it is so difficult to find that magic bullet is because the Charlotte Mason method is a method, not a curriculum.

Now let's define method:
Method: A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, esp. a systematic or established one.

The Charlotte Mason method an educational approach and procedure.


Charlotte Mason offered an approach to education. This method is about presenting living ideas. It's about allowing our children to soak up their environment and learn from what is around them. 

It's also a procedure: 
  • How to do narration
  • How to teach spelling
  • How to conduct a nature study. 
It is all of these things, but, as my friend, Becky points, out, it's not a curriculum.

Now that you've found this wonderful method..
  • where do you start? 
  • what do you use? 
  • what do you buy? 
These are the questions that lead to that internet search 'charlotte mason curriculum'. People want some sort of idea of what to do with this newfound understanding of education. So we try this and test that until we find what we like.

I have found the simplest guide to be Simply Charlotte MasonLike other Charlotte Mason guides to curriculum, this one includes some religious materials. If this doesn't bother you, then you're set to go! I, however, opt out of using certain books. 

Simply Charlotte Mason doesn't have an overwhelming amount of religiously biased books on their reading list. It's pretty simple to either secularize the guide or adjust it to your own beliefs. Once you have the books, you simply implement what you've learned about a Charlotte Mason Education.


Approaching Education with a Charlotte Mason Mindset


The fact is, once I learned how to use the method, I stopped looking for a boxed curriculum. There was no longer a need for it. It was a matter of understanding that I am approaching education with a set of principles and procedures that allow me to use any materials I want. It's a mindset.

Having trouble implementing the Charlotte Mason method? Read my post at How to Use the Charlotte Mason Method in Your Homeschool 

For those searching "Charlotte Mason Curriculum", does this help?
For those who use the CM method, where do you get your curriculum ideas?

Happy Homeschooling!

2 comments:

Jennifer in Mamaland said...

I think the lack of set curriculum is a great strength of cm education; it can look like almost anything - and take some surprising forms.  I'd recommend the cm blog carnival for inspiration.  i have taken some of mine from ambleside; some from simplycharlottemason; some from the welltrainedmind k-8 forum.  And some is original to us because we're Jewish and it's just never going to look like what the majority of (christian) cm parents are doing.  But again, I love it.  the techniques are very powerful.  I'm also reading "When children love to learn" for a bit of the practical side of the thing as well...

Michelle Cannon said...

I agree, having a method without a curriculum gives so many options. I used Ambleside for a while and have been a part of the Blog Carnival for years.