How can I apply Charlotte Mason’s methods without a parent?

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  • JamesHolzer

    Hello everyone, I’m going to be in 9th grade in about a month and I’m going to a formal traditional school, as I have done since Kindergarten. Recently, I read an article from The Art of Manliness called “Want to Become a Better Writer? Copy the Work of Others!”. From there, I discovered Charlotte Mason and her other strategies for learning. I want to apply methods like Copywork, Dictation, Narration, etc in my own life to become a better writer/reader/and overall student, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to implement this by myself.

    Here are some ideas I have:

    • Copywork: First, I’ll start off with quotes, short stories, scriptures, small books that I like and I’ll copy them. This method seems to be the easiest to apply without any help
    • Narration: After I read a page or chapter of a book, I’ll pause and try to orally narrate that I just read. I’ll only read the text once before doing this and I’ll start off with only oral narration even though I’m going to 9th grade because I’m new to this. This method also seems feasible to implement without a teacher.
    • Dictation: This is where I’m having the most trouble because I won’t have someone to read a text to me. I’ve come up with a few possible workarounds:
      • If it’s a book, I’ll find an audiobook online and slow down the playback speed. Then, I’ll attempt to write down what I hear onto a piece of paper, with correct punctuation. I’ll only do this after I have studied the text.
      • If it’s any other piece of text where I can’t find an audiobook available, I’ll use a text-to-speech reader instead. If I do end up doing this, I’ll use the text-to-speech reader on
    • Grammar: I plan to learn grammar mostly by doing copywork and reading books but according to by my age I should take a more formal approach to learning grammar. So to do that, I plan to either find a comprehensive grammar book from my local library, read articles on grammar online, or use an online copy of Simply Grammar by Charlotte Mason that I found on the internet.
    • Reading: seems to have a pretty extensive booklist organized by year and genre. I plan to start at Year 5/6/7 because even those books seem pretty challenging to me. I also plan to read Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book.
    • Writing: I’ll use books like On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsse.

    So, does all of this sound feasible? What are your opinions on my plan, and do you have any tips for me? Thank you!


    Hi, I like your plans, and it sounds like you are on the right track.

    Great job being ambitious and investing in your own education.



    I like your plans as well. They are thought out and seem to be doable. Good luck!


    This sounds wonderful!  You might also consider using an audio recorder and reading the dictation passages aloud to play back for yourself.  This may be useful, because you can set the speed for yourself, as well as pause appropriately for punctuation–without the hassle of having to pause an audiobook.

    It sounds like you’re setting yourself up well to be a lifelong learner.  Best wishes!


    Hi, I just want to say what an amazing and self motivated young person you are! I am quite sure with your zest for learning that you will do well in whatever you choose.

    Judging by your post, you are already a very competent writer…carry on!

    I would like to point out a feature of the Ambleside forum, and that is the teen forum. If you are having any difficulties or would like some feedback you would definitely get  warm welcome and a whole lot of help.

    If you are doing g this in your free time and are still attending public school, is there a teacher (English) you could approach with your plans so you could get some informal encouragement and feedback?

    Well done you. All the best with your endeavours. Your family should be very proud 👏


    Wow, what wonderful aspirations you have to follow CM principles.  You sound like you have a great handle on how to work on this individually.  I’m sure your parents are very proud of how dedicated you are to your education.  Looking forward to an update on how it goes for you!

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