Four Methods to Avoid in Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Bored student

The past few weeks we’ve been talking about feeding our children’s natural curiosity and desire for knowledge by using living books and natural things. Those Charlotte Mason methods help our children form relations that result in true education.

But did you know that Charlotte also warned against four schooling methods? She cautioned that these four methods can destroy our children’s desire for knowledge, rather than feed it and encourage it.

Here are the four methods Charlotte told us to avoid.

  1. Too many oral lessons.

    Oral lessons are when the teacher dispenses, or tells, the information that she wants the child to know. Some oral lessons are paired with hands-on activities and projects.

    Now, notice that Charlotte did not say, “You may never use an oral lesson.” She said not to use “too many” oral lessons and that oral lessons should be “few and far between.” An oral lesson can be used to introduce a topic, illustrate it, or summarise it, but don’t restrict your child to learning from only you. You do not have to be (indeed, should not be) the fountain-head and source of all knowledge. Simply introduce your child to those great minds who have written their ideas in living books, and get out of the way.

  2. Lectures.

    Lectures can be interesting if the speaker has ruminated on the subject, developed a passion for it, and added her own original thought on it. But too often a lecture is a hastily-thrown-together list of facts for students to just as hastily jot down and cram into their brains. Such a method can destroy a child’s love for learning.

  3. Textbooks.

    Knowledge is information touched with emotion: feeling must be stirred, imagination must picture, reason must consider, nay, conscience must pronounce on the information we offer before it becomes mind-stuff.” Therefore, Charlotte urged us to “scrap” textbooks and replace them with “literature, that is, by books into the writing of which the writer has put his heart, as well as a highly trained mind” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 175).

  4. Grades and competition.

    Charlotte’s schools did not give grades. Working to achieve a grade puts the focus on the wrong goal. It restricts knowledge to just what others say is required. Learning for the sake of learning and discovering and making relations is quickly abandoned for the sake of making the grade and “Will this be on the test?”

It might take a little re-thinking on our part to avoid those four methods. But, as so many of us have experienced, the Charlotte Mason way of education is a refreshing and effective change! Let’s give our children living books and natural things—those delightful Charlotte Mason principles that will help them retain their love for learning.