Use Powerful Combinations: 6 Tools for Self-Education, Part 7

The Power of Combining Charlotte Mason Homeschool Methods

Thanks for coming along on this little study that caught my attention. This whole idea of self-educating seems clearer now.

We’ve looked at six tools that facilitate self-education:

  1. Read or hear literary books.
  2. Put it in your own words (narrate).
  3. Observe closely and carefully.
  4. Record your discoveries in personal notebooks.
  5. Memorize and recite.
  6. Create something of your own.

Each one can be used by an individual to further his personal learning. None requires dependence on a teacher or a schedule of classes or a group of peers. They can be used at any level, with no limitations on topic, age, or financial status.

These tools for self-education are powerful. But there is one more thing that I discovered in my study (and this is where I had an ah-ha moment): the learning becomes even deeper and stronger when you use two or more tools in combination.

Powerful Combinations

You learn when you read a literary-style book, but you retain that knowledge better if you combine reading with narrating. And you assimilate that knowledge even more if you read, narrate, and record some of your favorite portions in your personal notebook.

The combination of three tools is stronger than only one.

Now, take a look at how many combinations of tools Charlotte Mason had her students use in the different subjects listed below. (For space purposes, I’ll refer to the tools by their key ideas: read, narrate, observe, record, memorize, create.)

History—read, narrate, record
Geography—read, narrate, observe, record
Bible—read, narrate, record, memorize
Art—observe, record, create
Handicrafts—observe, create
Foreign Language—narrate, record, memorize
Literature—read, narrate, record
Music—observe, record, create
Poetry—read, narrate, record, memorize, create
Science—read, narrate, observe, record
Beginning reading—observe, record, create
Spelling—read, observe, record
Writing—read, narrate, observe, record, create
Grammar—read, observe, record
Math—narrate, observe, record, memorize, create

You see, the tools in powerful combinations are integrated into Charlotte’s methods. So when Charlotte said

“The children, not the teachers, are the responsible persons; they do the work by self-effort” (Vol. 6, p. 6),

she meant it. She could expect them to self-educate, for she had given them the tools to do so. Everything about lessons the CM way are designed to help the student learn how to self-educate.

Those six tools are what we should expect our children to be doing. In a Charlotte Mason education, they will become very familiar with all six and learn to use them well.

And as we walk with our students, guiding them in the process, we too can learn how to use those powerful tools.

And when the lessons are done, the learners will be equipped with both the tools and the habits they need in order to continue learning for the rest of their lives.


“There is no education but self-education” (Vol. 6, p. 26).


    • With a Charlotte Mason approach to math, a lot of the work is done orally. The teacher guides the student to discover a math concept, using manipulatives, then the student demonstrates and explains what he has discovered in mathematical terms. Every once in a while, as a rare treat, the young student is allowed to write the mathematical terms in his math notebook. Older students do more writing.

      Oral narration is also used with mental math. The child listens carefully as you describe an imaginary math scenario once, then he must give you the answer and explain how he got it. Answers in full sentences are expected and help the child become proficient with math concepts.

      Here are a couple of articles that can give a fuller picture of how CM-style math lessons include narration: Numbers and Sums and Mental Math.

  1. Thank you so much for posting this series. While I am familiar with all 6 tools, I often struggle to incorporate them into our day. I wish I would have been a fly on the wall in CM’s classrooms or attended her teacher training. But alas, I was born in the wrong century. So thank you for filling that void. 🙂

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