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How well do you understand what you’re doing as a Charlotte Mason-style homeschooler? On a scale of 1 to 10—with 1 being “I just discovered the Charlotte Mason approach” and 10 being “I know all there is to know”—where would you put yourself on that spectrum? Today I’m sharing 5 books that will help you continue to grow in that understanding.
The beauty of learning about Charlotte Mason is that, no matter where we would rate ourselves on the scale, there is room to grow. All of us can keep learning and seeking to understand more about our work as Charlotte Mason homeschool parents. And the best way to do that is to read.
Now, I know that it can be tempting to think, “Really? I’ve got all I can handle just to make sure my children keep learning and growing. Please don’t add to my work load!” But Charlotte had a great perspective on that thought. Here’s what she said:
“The labour of the mother who sets herself to understand her work is not increased, but infinitely lightened.”Parents and Children, p. 91
Whatever effort we put into moving ourselves along that understanding-Charlotte-Mason-homeschooling scale, any effort, is going to make our work lighter, not heavier. The more we understand, the easier it’s going to get.
So today I am excited to share with you five books that will help you move along that scale and lighten your load. These are books that I highly recommend. Some of them have been my constant companions for more than 25 years. They have helped lighten my load, and I’m sure they will do the same for you.
Some of them are books that encourage you to keep going; they reinforce the why of Charlotte Mason homeschooling. Others are books that add to your knowledge of Charlotte’s methods; they help you fine tune how you homeschool. Of course, there will be some overlap between the why and the how; there should be. But I’ll try to specify which category each book falls into, so you can find one that will most lighten your load right now.
I think I’ll introduce them in the same order in which they came into my life.
About 25 years ago, when I first heard about Charlotte Mason homeschooling, her approach resonated with my heart and I knew “This is what I want to do.” The first book I read was A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.
Now let me take a moment to say that Charlotte’s original writings are wonderful books. Those six volumes will definitely help you grow in understanding the why and the how of her approach to education. I’m not highlighting them on this list for a couple of reasons: First, I didn’t know they existed back when I first heard about the Charlotte Mason approach. It was several years before I was able to get my hands on a copy and read them. (This was before the internet.) And second, we talk about and quote from that Original Home Schooling Series in almost every article, so most of you already know about those books. I want to mention a few other books that might be new to you. But, if this is your first time hearing about Charlotte’s six volumes, check them out.
A Charlotte Mason Companion
My Charlotte Mason journey began with A Charlotte Mason Companion. In this book, Karen Andreola explains this wonderful approach to education and gives us a glimpse into how she applied Charlotte’s philosophy in practical ways with her own children. Each chapter concludes with questions for personal reflection or to use in a group discussion. Probably more than any other book, this one helped me realize how Charlotte’s philosophy is not just for the school room; it is a way of thinking that affects all aspects of our parenting and home life. This book is a combination of why and how, all communicated in a warm, conversational style, as if you were sitting across the kitchen table from Karen (or in the beautiful, sunny parlor of her home) listening as she shares her knowledge and her love of Charlotte Mason homeschooling.
A Charlotte Mason Education
About the same time that I found A Charlotte Mason Companion, I also found A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. As the subtitle tells us, this is “A Home Schooling How-To Manual.” It is much shorter than A Charlotte Mason Companion and written in a completely different style. This book is a quick read that focuses on the methods, the how. I often tell moms that it is a “bathroom book,” as in, the chapters are really short, maybe two pages, so you can get through a whole chapter before the little ones find you and start banging on the door. You know what I mean. If you want a quick nuts-and-bolts overview, this is a great choice.
And I loved having both on my shelf over the years, because I could pull whichever one fit that season of life. When things were hectic and I had to grab five minutes here and five minutes there to invest in my work as a homeschool parent, I would read the short chapters of A Charlotte Mason Education. When things calmed down a bit and I could read for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, I would turn to A Charlotte Mason Companion. Two different styles, but the same love for Charlotte and her approach.
By the way, let me just insert a little encouragement for you. I did the math, and if you read for only 15 minutes a day, by the end of the year you will have accumulated more than 90 hours of reading. That’s huge! So don’t despise those 15-minute reading sessions. Small constant touches add up. Let me give you another book recommendation.
For the Children’s Sake
Not long after I discovered A Charlotte Mason Companion and A Charlotte Mason Education, I received a catalog in the mail. (I told you, this was before the internet!) That catalog featured another book that would become a fixture on my shelf and in my heart: For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. What’s interesting is that, if you read the title and the back cover, they don’t mention Charlotte Mason at all. But those of us who have read this book know that it “devotes quite a lot of space” to her work. Susan and her husband had in mind what they wanted education to look like for their children, but they had a hard time finding it until they discovered a cottage school that used Charlotte’s methods. The children’s experience at that school greatly impacted and influenced their mama. She set off to learn all she could about Charlotte’s approach, and this book is a beautiful explanation of it. I’d say this book is more in the why-we-do-what-we-do category, and it is wonderfully encouraging.
Subject by Subject the Charlotte Mason Way
So I took these three books, and the six-volume set of Charlotte’s original writings, and tried to learn and grow all I could as we homeschooled. I kept trying to advance on that scale. After a while, newer homeschoolers started asking me to explain Charlotte Mason to them, and Simply Charlotte Mason was born. As I tried to answer parents’ questions about Charlotte’s methods, I started a blog series called Subject by Subject where I simply walked through each school subject and outlined how to teach it in a Charlotte Mason way. When the series was finished, we gathered all those posts and put them together into a book. It’s called Subject by Subject the Charlotte Mason Way, and it’s free to you. You can download it for free in our store. I hope it will be helpful.
Mother Culture for a Happy Homeschool
Then the fifth book that I want to mention today is one that came out after I had graduated three of my children, but I was so excited to see it! It’s one that I wish I had had right in the thick of homeschooling. It’s all about cultivating the atmosphere of your home and creating the family culture that you desire. The book is called Mother Culture for a Happy Homeschool. It was written by Karen Andreola after her children had graduated, and I think that timing adds even more wisdom and depth to this work. If you want wise counsel from a homeschool parent who has finished the course well and can look back and share out of her failures and her triumphs, you’re going to love this book. It’s more on the parenting and home-life side of Charlotte’s philosophy and encourages you to look after the ways of your household and yourself, because so much depends on how you manage your life. Karen’s hope for the readers of this book is right on the back cover: “May you find the principles on these pages to be invigorating—especially if you have a low battery. May they strengthen you in your on-going efforts to create the happy home your heart desires.”
So there you have it. Five books that can help you grow as a Charlotte Mason homeschool parent. If you want to grab a quick brush up on the methods, get A Charlotte Mason Education or Subject by Subject the Charlotte Mason Way. If you want to remind yourself or introduce someone else to the beauty of Charlotte’s philosophy, get For the Children’s Sake. And if you want to be encouraged by a veteran homeschool mama sharing how she applied Charlotte’s ideas and methods in her home, get A Charlotte Mason Companion and Mother Culture for a Happy Homeschool.
And as you read and learn through these books, you will grow in your role as a homeschool educator and parent. And I think you will find your work lightened.