Mommy Musings: CM

Lately, I’ve been reading up snippets of Charlotte Mason defined education. I first heard of it from some homeschooling friends.

Not that we are about to embark on homeschooling (the thought of being solely responsible for the children’s education fair frightens me), but some of the principles strike a chord with me.

So I am mustering up the courage and energy to challenge myself to go beyond what I have been doing with the kids so far, into a more focused and disciplined approach.

More information on this link here, but this summary of the principles around a CM education is extracted from the Ambleside Online website:-


  1. Narration, which consists of the child telling back a story.This takes the place of composition in the early years.
  2. Copywork, or the transcribing of a well-written piece of literature as handwriting practice.
  3. Nature study with an emphasis on close, focused observation of creation as a means to knowledge of God.
  4. Outdoor life is necessary to teach nature first-hand, which means plenty of time spent out of doors each day in all weather and in different environments for students of all ages. “School” for children younger than six consisted almost entirely of time spent outdoors.
  5. Habit training as a discipline of the child’s will and behavior. Children are trained to develop the will, which is manifested in a strong resolve to act in a right manner.
  6. Living Books rather than textbooks to convey ideas. Living books, whether fiction or non-fiction, are more than just interesting books that make a topic come alive. A true Living Book has the best material, from the best minds, or at least the real story from someone who was there or has a real interest in their subject.There is a high standard in literary excellence and, while she advocated the use of many books, quality is to be preferred over quantity.
  7. First-hand exposure to great and noble ideas through books in each school subject, rather than rote memorization of dry facts. Besides books, children are exposed to great minds through art, music and poetry, which was read to the child daily.
  8. Memorization was used, not to assimilate facts, but as a means to have material to meditate on, so her students memorized scripture and poetry.
  9. History is taught with primary sources and well-written history books.
  10. Literature is taught along with history. For example, if one is studing the Civil War, one would at the same time read works of American literature written at that time.
  11. Once children are able to read fluently, they read the lessons themselves, except for books that need editing like Plutarch’s Lives.
  12. Reading instruction was primarily based on sight vocabulary, but did include use and teaching of phonics. Even beginning readers, she thought, ought to have something interesting to read, like nursery rhymes, rather than dull first readers, so she taught the sight words necessary to allow them to read real books.
  13. Schooling is teacher-directed, not child-led, though the child can pursue any number of personal interests during their free time, and her students had all afternoon free.
  14. Short lessons with an emphasis on excellent execution and focused attention and variation in the day’s scheduled activities so as not to over-stress the brain on one task.
  15. In the teaching of mathematics, the ability to reason is emphasized over “working sums”, so emphasis is placed on story problems and working with numbers that are within the child’s comprehension, therefore, a manipulative-based instruction is desirable.
  16. Charlotte Mason encouraged proficiency in at least one other language, specifically French, as well as study in Latin.
  17. Charlotte Mason set aside time each day for some form of physical fitness routine which included daily walks and a “drill” which included stretching, breathing exercises, calisthenics, dancing, singing, and games.
  18. The knowledge of God, as found in the Bible, is the primary knowledge and the most important.


To that end, where time allows, we have decided in our family to do the following:-

  • In language – to encourage vocabulary development, introduce some sight recognition of basic words, and supplement with phonics exercises (rather than making phonics the major focus).    Starting from last week, you would have observed that we’ve attempted to be more focused in our Wordcraft activity by trying (as far as possible) to connect the theme for the week, with a book.  Where we are able to, we try and obtain those on prescribed reading lists or written by recommended authors.
  • In art – to aim to provide exposure to books with notable illustrations, so their minds and skills can be challenged to explore new techniques, media and improve on existing skills. More visits to the library!
  • In exercise and time outdoors – to set aside a disciplined time every day if possible, to bring the children out to the playground, or to ride their tricycles. (Rainy evenings have not been helpful in this regard, but try we must!)
  • In the area of proficiency in another language – to be more diligent in speaking and reading of the Chinese language (this is a personal admonition to myself to stop beating about the bush, and start getting serious about it!)
  • In developing knowledge of God – to start doing family devotions, and learning hymns and songs regularly together.

It’s interesting to look back in time to when I first began this blog, and how it started out from a desire to just spend time together on something fun to do with the kids – largely unscheduled and unstructured – into where we want to get to from here.

It feels like a very small start, and very definitely mere tip of the iceberg. But at the same time, it’s an incredibly ambitious plan for two full time working parents with mostly only alternate evenings to spare. *phew*

But. Every journey begins with a single step, and we are called to be faithful stewards of the young lives God has carefully placed in our hands…so…

…off we go. 🙂


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