Topic | How did you choose CM?

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  • Balouplans

    Hello everyone 👋🙂
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>I’m a mom of an almost 4 year old and I’m panicked over choosing homeschool curriculum. I feel overwhelmed by my choices and of course want to make the best decision for my little one.</p>
    I would love to ask questions to those that have been in my shoes.

    Do you use CM exclusively? If not what do you use in conjunction?

    How did you decide on CM?

    Any past experience with CC? If so how do you feel CM is better?

    I could go on and on but don’t want to wear out my welcome 😉.

    Thank you in advance for any responses.


    Congratulations on choosing to homeschool!

    Background info.:  I’ve homeschooled our five kiddos from birth and our oldest is 27+.  There have been years that we’ve used CM almost exclusively (we used some Montessori methods in the early years, too).  Other years, due to co-op type learning situations, we’ve had non-CM style resources added into our mix.  (Usually, that would mean an IEW resource for a class co-op class.)  We stick with oral/written narrations for everything else.

    I actually heard about CM during my university studies before having children.  Seemed ideal to me.  Later, after struggling with boxed stuff I used when I stopped teaching public school to be home with our children, I read the pink volumes by the Andreola’s….they were hot off the press at the time.  A Charlotte Mason Companion sealed the deal.

    Years ago, I directed and tutored Foundations and Essentials for a small CC Community that was held in my home.  The youngest two (11 & 5 at the time) of our children were in it.  It was very stressful to do all of that at once (I wouldn’t recommend it) and still be able to get things done with my kids during the week.  I always felt like I was preparing for the other families to have an awesome year while my family suffered the consequences of me having too much on my plate.  CC is a great program for families who are able to enroll their children and just be parents.  It’s work for those who are contracted to direct, or tutor.  Some do a fine job of juggling hats.  I didn’t.  My then 11 year old resented the memory work because his younger sister could master it almost immediately.  She was at a great age for the sing song style of learning.

    I will say that I still refer to both the Foundations and Essentials guides as reference tools.  But, that was our only year to be involved with CC.  I ran back to CM as fast as I could!  The atmosphere that CM methods provide is beautiful and peaceful.  CC, for us, was stressful and sporadic.  I know other families that feel the same way, but then there are families that love CC, too.  It’s a personal choice.

    I feel CM methods are superior to CC methods even though they have some classical commonality.  With CM, you stay with books and things much longer than the frenetic pace CC requires.  I think that allows for the ideas to sink into each person at their own pace.  CC just made us always feel in a hurry to check things off to say that we covered them.  CM allows us to enjoy learning, to enjoy beauty as it unfolds.

    I’m not sure this is super helpful.  I do know families that combine CM & CC with great success.  I hope one of them posts answers that will help you in your decision process.






    You have a 3 year old. They need nothing for several YEARS yet. Truly. Play, spend time outside, look at books, visit real life places and do real life things together (include them in your day to day activities).

    I’m a homeschool mama of 10 always homeschooled kids ages 1 to 18. Oldest graduated last spring and we drop her off in another state for college next week. We are a semi-CM family, a bit more relaxed that some who are strict at following the CM principles, but not remotely unschoolers.

    CC comes at learning from the opposite end of the path than CM in my experience. CC fills a child’s time with lots of memorization of rote facts in many subject areas (history timeline, science facts, grammar facts, and so on) in the elementary years. They then move to studying the big ideas that relate to those facts over the course of their schooling years. (Facts then ideas to make it personal.) This means a child is memorizing things that they may not encounter and form a personal relationship with for many years. Some like this approach.

    CM starts at the opposite end – from the elementary years a child is introduced to stories and ideas that a child begins to develop relationships with. They distill the facts from those stories and ideas as they grow and mature, and they enter into more rigorous studies the older they grow. (Ideas and relationships lead to facts.) Some like this approach.

    Both are valid.

    Personally, my children prefer stories, ideas, and forming a relationship to topics. An example: When we watch the spider currently living just outside our window (nature study), see it making and repairing its web, catching food to eat, etc, my kids are fascinated. This relationship leads them to recognize some facts about spiders (it has 8 legs, it makes a web, it has a pattern to its web, it eats bugs, it rests quietly and waits for a bug to land in the web instead of chasing one down, etc). They may then choose to seek out more facts – looking up spiders in a field guide to identify our particular spider friend variety, reading a book about spiders when they want to know about other kinds of webs, listening to a read aloud of Charlotte’s Web.

    You get the idea. It works in all subjects. History – we read aloud an engaging story and suddenly my children are pulling out facts and ideas about a time period or place different than their own. They put themselves in the place of the characters and think about what they would have done in that situation. They want to know more about the events and so we find more stories, more books, art, music, etc from the time period.

    Simply Charlotte Mason has a great post about learning ideas for the early years, before a child is 6 or 7. Go to the Learning Library under the Learn & Discuss tab at the top of this page and check out the Articles by topic under ‘Preschool’. It’s a great place to get started.


    I agree with all of the advice Tristan gave you. Your child is only turning four. Don’t worry so much about it! The curriculum you choose is not so critical that it’s worth panicking over and probably won’t be that important until high school. Try to relax and just have fun together, which is really what is most important at that age.

    To answer your questions, I only use aspects of CM, like narration, short lessons, and nature walks as part of science. I picked out the things that make sense to me and work well for me, and leave the rest. Some things, like continuing written narration through high school, I chose because that’s the way my child learned best.

    No homeschool style or method is meant to be followed religiously. Just take from each one what you like, leave the rest, and adjust as you go, depending on what’s right for you and your family. 🙂


    I get it. I started homeschooling with a CM friendly program when my oldest was 3! And as much as I know that is too early, I’ve always started with some form of learning young. And as I’ve had more kids, the little ones want to do school at about 4 because the older ones are!

    I started with Before Five and a Row and while I only used it with my oldest, it was really a special time and we enjoyed it!

    I don’t remember how I found CM. I ran a Christian school on the mission field before I was married so, finding curriculum has just been a passion and I’m always researching. Somehow, I stumbled across it and when I found this website I got a set of videos (I don’t think they are available any more) that explained the CM method. I loved it!

    When my oldest was 6, we did CC — ended up being for 2 years. I really needed the friendships at the time. I knew no one in my community and was drowning in PPD and loneliness. We mostly used CC for enrichment and still did our own stuff at home. 🙂

    The big difference I see between CC and CM is that CC is more about “filling the bucket” with information while CM is about “lighting the fire” of love of learning. Also, CM makes the foundation of learning “ideas,” while CC is all about “facts.” Hope that makes sense.

    We aren’t exclusively CM. I often try something (like a workbook) that I think will make our homeschool easier and then end up throwing it away and going back to more CM methods. We do living books over textbooks, mostly do narrations over fill in the blanks. But I’ve never managed to use CM’s methods for spelling successfully.

    Just remember, that there are a LOT of awesome looking programs out there. Most of them will work, but we can’t do all of them. Resist the feeling that you are failing if you don’t do everything!



    Welcome!  You have asked some great questions and I have enjoyed reading everyone’s responses.  We have taken different paths here.

    We use mostly CM methods, but not exclusively.  I have never been a CM purist.  We sometimes use unit studies with narrations and copywork in CM style.  We have used some workbooks and other programs.  We have never used Plutarch and I don’t intend to.  We use what we like and CM methods seem like a natural way of learning, using engaging stories and living books instead of dull, dry textbooks.  We enjoy studying one artist or composer or poet and their works at a time, going deep versus wide.  We like to linger in some time periods of history we take particular interest in.

    I started with a free curriculum at age five at where I printed coloring pages and booklists I took to the library each week.  The next year, we used Sonlight because of the CM inspired living books approach.  Math was not working for us with Saxon, then MUS.  So I researched online for math and that is how I found Rightstart math and this wonderful SCM website.  I began studying the free curriculum guide.  I liked most of the resources used, but substituted some because of availability or personal choice.  So we gradually switched components of Sonlight for SCM.  Through the years we have tried other components like Five in a Row, Queens Language Lessons, Bravewriter, and Writing Tales.  But we mainly use SCM and CM methods.  I like Cindy West’s blog, Ourjourneywestward.  She combines unit studies, living books, and textbooks with CM methods.  Really, if you learn the methods, you can use any books you want to use.  I like the freedom of choosing our own books.

    The spring before my oldest was to start first grade, I attended my first homeschool convention.  I was overwhelmed with the many options and methods.  I attended a session where Jeanne Fullbright, author of Apologia elementary science books Exploring Creation series, was speaking about CM methods.  I really liked how interesting and enjoyable learning sounded versus my ps experience using mostly textbooks and worksheets.  I have learned so much history alongside my children with living books that I did not learn in school with textbooks.  Yes, they taught it to me but it didn’t mean anything to me so I didn’t retain much of it.

    For age four, I recommend lots of outdoor time exploring and playing, reading aloud good picture books, listening to hymns and classical music, and creating through paper crafts, blocks, etc.  The Early Years guide is a great resource for this age.  You can teach the alphabet informally through play with letters they can hold, in both upper and lowercase.  Read aloud alphabet books along with picure books.  Enjoy this time together.  If you think you need something more, I think Before Five in a Row and Rod and Staff ABCDEF series are good resources that won’t take much time.  You don’t need to schedule them, but use them on days your child is interested in them.

    We have no experience with CC.  I like to choose our own books, and rote memorization of facts never appealed to me.

    Feel free to ask more questions anytime!


    <p style=”text-align: left;”>I cannot thank you all enough for the advice you have offered. I wish I could reply to you each individually.</p>
    I now have a better thought process for how to address the next couple years.

    Another question ladies, where do you buy your curriculum that isn’t CM? as it seems no one seems to be exclusively CM.

    Thank you so much again I greatly appreciate your replies : )


    Okay please forgive my ignorance I’m still learning how this forum works and just realized that there is a reply button 😂

    I have heard from other people that Charlotte Mason is great for younger kids but not so great for high schoolers can you tell me what your opinion is?

    Thank you!


    Thanks for your comment 🙂

    Do you feel it’s easy to incorporate both CM and unit studies together?


    Karen Smith

    Charlotte Mason and unit studies are pretty much opposites. With CM the student makes connections with the material being learned, rather than the parent/instructor trying to make every subject connect in some way as unit studies do. Often with unit studies the children enjoy what they are doing but do not remember long term the why behind the doing. This article on CM and unit studies will give you more information on the differences between the two philosophies.

    As for your question regarding CM only being good for younger students and not for high school, that is completely false. A CM education is a rigorous education, promotes a love of learning, and teaches students how to learn. What students learn using CM methods is not forgotten after the test is taken. This series of articles on using CM methods in high school will give you more information on how CM is a great way of educating for the high school years.


    The unit studies we used were with Five in a Row.  Maybe it worked well for us because the units are literary-based using good picture books (living books).  Because I had already used CM methods, I knew how to incorporate them.  So we added CM elements of narration and copywork.  Then we added in extras through the week of poet, composer, artist, hymns, and nature study (one of each per day).  It is not CM purist, but it worked well for us.

    Currently, I have a high school student who has continued on with CM methods so far.  I am seeing the benefits of CM methods now, especially in his written narrations.  I enjoy reading them.  The CM extras of poet, artist, hymns, etc. are a refreshing break from the heavier academic high school studies.  Why would I change methods now?


    I buy curriculum, books, games, and supplies mostly from Rainbow Resource or Amazon, unless I buy used on eBay or or thriftbooks.  Sometimes I buy at or here at SCM.  We have been to many Friends of the Library book sales where we have bought some great finds at a great price.


    Thank you Karen and Wings2fly, I appreciate the information and links : )


    We have a high schooler about to graduate this year, plus a 9th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader, 1st grader, 3 year old, and one due on Thanksgiving day.  We stumbled upon the Charlotte Mason method in our first year of schooling, when a friend asked what type of schooling approach we were using, and when I started to explain what I was doing, she said, “Oh, so a Charlotte Mason approach.”  I had never even heard of that before, so I did a quick yahoo search (because I wasn’t a google convert back in 2007) and the first thing that popped up was a fairly new website for Simply Charlotte Mason.  A little reading, and I realized this was literally the method I was doing, but here was a group of people who could help me on my way.  Through the years, we haven’t really deviated from the approach.  A few things here and there, to accommodate a learning difficulty, but for the most part, we are a true CM family.

    Having now had nearly a full 12 years with this approach, I can honestly say it is an amazing fit for high schoolers.  Zero regrets on my end at all!


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