Charlotte Mason and Hands-On History

Posted by The Home School in the Woods Team on

If you’ve been in the education world for any amount of time, you have most likely HEARD of the “Charlotte Mason” method of education. But, do you know exactly what it means?


The Charlotte Mason method was developed by a marvelous British teacher — named… you guessed it, Charlotte Mason! — which focuses on the child as a whole. It achieves this by teaching academics in a way that reaches the child through very specific, age-appropriate lessons. 


The goal at the end of a child’s primary education is not the wide and shallow memorization of facts — something that the world far too often looks at as “proof” of learning well received. Instead, it is a deep dive into the beauty of the discipline of learning itself. 


This produces young adults who not only have obtained knowledge but also love learning itself. It also works to equip them with the tools to learn, tools that will help them throughout the rest of their lives.


It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And we can honestly tell you that truly it IS!


The only problem with the Charlotte Mason method has nothing to do with the method itself. Rather, it has to do with implementing it in today’s modern culture. In other words, the difficulty with the Charlotte Mason method lies in figuring out how to apply it in the day-to-day lives we live as homeschooling moms and educators. 


Before we look at how to solve this problem, let’s first take a minute to look at what some of the main principles of Charlotte Mason are.


Charlotte Mason Principles

Below are a few of the primary principles associated with the Charlotte Mason method.


Short Lessons

Mason believed in creating lessons that would keep the children’s attention. She also tried to switch between various types of learning frequently throughout the day.


Habits

In life and education, creating good habits and rhythms were paramount to Mason.


Living Books

Mason did not believe in what she called “twaddle.” She wanted children to learn from the books of great authors. She wanted them to encounter stories that would keep them engaged and feed their minds. 


Narration and Dictation

Having a child explain what he’s learned in his own words was a big deal to Charlotte Mason. The concept has proven to be an effective method of making sure that children have a full understanding of what they have been taught. As children grow and move up, being able to write something they’ve heard, as well, became an important method of learning proper spelling and grammar, all the while giving them yet another learning tool! 


Nature

This isn’t just science studies. We’re talking about actually spending time outside each day, allowing children to explore and observe the world around them. Mason also encouraged capturing the beauty of nature through illustrated journals.


Art, Music, and Handicrafts 

Mason believed deeply in the need for children to listen to great composers and observe work from the great artists from each time period they were studying. She also believed in the idea that idle hands produce trouble, and encouraged children to learn various “handicrafts” that interested them — such as sewing, wood-working, crocheting, drawing, basically anything that allowed a child to produce a tangible thing! 


Alright, at this point, you might be thinking “That’s all great and everything, but how on earth do I implement all of these things? We have to cover actual subjects here, and I don’t know how to fit in all of these extra things!”


We hear you! 


But, what if there was a way to implement all of these ideals into what you are already teaching? (You saw this one coming, right? We are a hands-on educational publisher, after all!)


Let’s take a look at how  Home School in the Woods’ Time Travelers History Studies might be able to help…


Unsure what a Time Travelers study is? You can find out about them here or check out the video below:



Hands-On History, Charlotte Mason Style

We all know that history is a subject that absolutely CANNOT be covered in the handful of years children are in school. No matter how hard you try, you’ll miss things that are important and there will always be gaps — whether you follow a Charlotte Mason history curriculum or not. 


Additionally, we often see history as a subject to just “get through.” It’s stereotyped as a subject that’s filled with mindlessly memorizing facts and dates.


Charlotte Mason is quoted as saying, 


“The question is not — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but, how much does he care?”

(Located in Charlotte Mason: A School Education. Check out more Charlotte Mason books here!)


What a powerful statement! 


So how do we make our children care? By engaging them in lessons that are fun, interesting, and full of material that will allow them to make the subject their own! 


Let’s quickly break down how these hands-on history studies meet the needs of a family dedicated to (or even just considering!) a Charlotte Mason education. 


Short, Engaging Lessons

The lessons in each study are the perfect length for your primary school-aged children. They have enough information to get them excited about the time period they are studying. At the same time, they are short enough to fit into Charlotte Mason’s preferred 15-minute-lesson time window. Once you have completed the lesson reading, you can immediately move on to taking a deep dive into the time period at hand! 


Habits

While teaching habits for home life is a different animal altogether (hello potty training!), teaching learning habits is still of paramount concern. The truth is, though, learning habits vary from family to family. With the Time Travelers curriculum, you can set up learning to match the order and habits of YOUR family. While they come with a suggested schedule for those educators who prefer structure, following it is completely up to you. 


In addition: These history studies were not created to overwhelm you with a million projects. You can pick and choose ahead of time which projects you think best fit the skill level and interest of your own family. You get to make it your own! 


Living Books

Each unit study comes with a beautiful list of additional reading suggestions to add to your study. The living books suggested are there to enhance your family “travels” throughout the study. You can add as many or as few as you would like. Check out some of the best options here! The prewritten intros to each individual lesson are also written in a way that follows the style of “living books”!


Narration and Dictation

The core of a great Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum MUST contain numerous opportunities for narration and dictation. Throughout all of the lapbooks are plenty of activities to encourage your students to put the information they are learning into their own words. One of our most loved parts of this curriculum is the newspaper assignments. Children can create articles and ads based on what they are learning — creatively putting their knowledge into the form of a reporter or news writer. Handwriting pages are also provided for plenty of copy work practice if that’s your jam! 


Make it into one of your own Charlotte Mason exercises by reading the handwriting quotes out loud and having your students write them out in a separate notebook! 


Nature Study

The truth is that previous generations throughout history knew how to utilize nature in a much better way than we do. As your family “travels” throughout time, you will learn new ways to incorporate nature into your study and discover just how much of an important role that nature plays in history.


Art, Music, and Handicrafts

Okay. This may be one of those “save the best for last” moments. Here is where this curriculum and Charlotte Mason combine perfectly. Each history study will talk a bit about common art styles — complete with projects where children can try out the style themselves. Composers and music styles of the time are also typically discussed, as well.


Not only that, but each Time Traveler has handicrafts in abundance! As they learn about the traditions and history of the people of each era, your child will be exposed to many activities that all ENHANCE their knowledge of history. They will have fun cooking, sewing, making costumes, coloring, building, and creating! The bulk of these history studies is made up of these hands-on projects, meant not only to reinforce history but to make it fun. 


All in One Convenient Location

Aside from just fitting in with the methods that Charlotte Mason recommends, you don’t have to spend hours on Pinterest trying to find different teaching methods, applicable projects, short lessons, or handicraft ideas. It’s okay to admit that, a lot of the time, we just don’t have the TIME. We spend hours on the computer putting together things and then spend the majority of our time worrying about whether or not there are gaps in what we have found! 


Oftentimes, pre-made curriculums are where it’s at. The extensive research has been done for you. You just get to enjoy learning and creating alongside your children.


Oh, and another bonus: All of the different projects tie in ALL of the important Charlotte Mason subjects into one study. Projects involve using scientific skills, reading, spelling, dictation, and narration all while they are learning history at its core. 


Using Home School in the Woods for Charlotte Mason Style Teaching

The Charlotte Mason method is a wonderful approach to teaching. We may not be able to recreate the magic this wonderful woman created perfectly or mimic her school completely in our homes. But that’s precisely why it can be helpful to find curriculums and aids that help mold our individual family qualities with a style of education that truly educates and informs the whole child. 


For more ways to include this curriculum into your Charlotte Mason-inspired classroom, be sure to check out these Timeline Products (another staple for Mason educators!) and the Project Passport world history studies. 


Happy Teaching!


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