The following post contains affiliate links
If we were to poll 100 people and ask them what first comes to mind when they are presented with the phrase “Charlotte Mason homeschool”, I believe a large number of people would respond with “Christian” and I think Ms. Mason would be really proud to know that’s her lasting memory.
Still, even though her Christian beliefs are intertwined throughout her educational philosophy, it doesn’t mean that her ideas don’t hold great value to those of us that have a different faith or hold no faith. The idea that children learn best with short lessons, a wide variety of subjects, and lots of time outdoors is a very clear example of how her ideas hold value for people across this diverse and growing homeschooling community.
The Charlotte Mason method
As you read through Ms. Mason’s 6 volumes, it is clear what the time period she is writing from is in how she talks about duty, responsibility, and obedience and she often relates this to her Christian values. Many of these ideas have been in large part replaced by more freestyle parenting philosophies, and we may or may not agree with Charlotte Mason’s style or her Christian motivation.
As someone who is outside of the Christian religion, I want to say it is absolutely worthwhile to read her volumes and not skim over the areas where she is talking about her faith. Her ideas about habit formation are spot on, and while we dislike the word obedience in our modern times, she has some great things to say about the benefit both for the children and the adults.
We live in a world of great variety, and it can be easy to insulate ourselves in an echo chamber of people that think like us. Even if we don’t share Ms. Mason’s faith, we can agree on so many aspects of her philosophy, even if we come to the conclusion through a different route.
The Subjects in Charlotte Mason Homeschooling
The main purpose of studying the Bible, outside of specific religious instruction, is to impart morals, values, and a common cultural reference to our children. If one does belong to a faith group, then it is not terribly difficult to exchange the Bible for one’s own religious book. For those who choose not to follow a faith tradition, using folk tales, especially from your cultural background, can achieve many of the same goals where you pull ethical lessons and gain some cultural references from the lessons.
For the sake of understanding classic literature, though, I would argue it’s important for English readers to have some basic understanding of the Bible stories and the concepts presented within it. Otherwise, high school literature classes have a much higher learning curve because the reader is lacking the understanding of Biblical references or phrases such as “the fall of man.”
Charlotte Mason suggests using hymns both for singing and recitation in the younger years. Again, songs that match your faith or your values can be substituted, or just use additional folk songs or poems instead. You can also substitute children’s songs that tap into your faith if there isn’t a set collection of hymn-like songs in your faith.
From what I gather, the purpose of hymns is again to build a child’s knowledge of their culture, and also work on memorizing something that is enjoyable and easy. Many songs can check that box for your homeschool.
If you’ve homeschooled for a little while, you know that other subjects tend to lean in some religious direction or another, especially science and history. Given that Christian homeschooling has been far more popular over the last few decades than any other demographic, there are a lot of Christian resources available, and sometimes it can feel hard to sift through and find something that works for your worldview.
Add to that trying to find living books for the Charlotte Mason method, and it can feel overwhelming.
This is a good time to serve up a reminder that Charlotte Mason homeschooling is NOT bound by anyone’s book list. This is not like The Well Trained Mind. While you will find lists that mention books that Ms. Mason used in her school, you’ll find in the 6 Charlotte Mason volumes that she actually spells out quite clearly what she’s looking for in a text and anything that meets those goals would be conforming to the Charlotte Mason method.
So, how do you find good books that fit your faith group? The best way is to follow bloggers and people on Instagram that fit with your faith and they will generally share their book choices. That at least gets you started in the right direction to find authors and publishers that will work well in your homeschool.
The Charlotte Mason method is not an exclusive group that you have to make a declaration of faith in order to belong to. Rather, it’s an ideology and methodology about children and their education. Once we see it as a framework rather than a booklist, or a subject list written in stone, we can use that framework to benefit our diverse homeschools and diverse world views.