I often describe our homeschool as classically-inclined and Charlotte Mason-inspired. Over the years, I’ve worked to blend the two styles together in a way that kept what we loved about classical but gave grace in the areas of ADHD distractibility where my kids needed it most. The result: a perfect fit for our family, a blend of both knowledge and grace.
Blending Classical and Charlotte Mason actually works very well because the two share so much in common. They speak the same language, with slightly different dialects.Classical Education and Charlotte Mason speak the same language, with slightly different dialects. Click To Tweet
When I decided to blend Classical and Charlotte Mason in our homeschool, I started with what they both had in common:
- Study history chronologically.
- Emphasize nature study.
- Use narration, copywork, and dictation.
- Encourage connections and deeper thinking about ideas.
- Include music, art, and language study.
From there, I was able to look at where these two styles diverged and choose the path that would fit our needs best. Practically, here’s what that looked like.
The Process of Blending Classical and Charlotte Mason
Choosing an Overall Structure
The classical style teaches history chronologically in a 3 or 4 year rotation that delves into deeper connections and deeper discussion at each learning level (grammar, logic, rhetoric). Charlotte Mason takes this journey into deeper thinking without necessarily dividing into stages. It’s more of a spiral approach, allowing children to make their own connections and to think deeply about topics as they are ready. History is taught chronologically at a slower pace, usually about six years and cycling about twice.
For us, the classical structure was a better fit between the two. I could see my kids reacting to information and making connections in the classical sense more readily than in the Charlotte Mason style. We identified with the deeper logic and discussion as the kids got older.
Choosing a Daily Rhythm
While the classical structure was best for us in a big picture sense, the Charlotte Mason structure was better for a daily rhythm. In the classical style, long lessons are frequently recommended. But 45 minutes of any subject was more than my ADHD kids could handle at one time. Long lists of memory work were also a challenge without frequent breaks and lots of variety, particularly for my child with dyslexia. She needed a context for the facts to stick; she remembered ideas better than facts. Charlotte Mason offered the same academic value as classical, but recommended short lessons and a rich feast of ideas (i.e. lots of variety). For a daily rhythm, my busy learners thrived with the CM style of 15 to 20 minute lessons and a variety of both inspiration and discipline subjects.
Choosing a Narration Style
Both classical and Charlotte Mason make use of narration. Charlotte Mason is more open-ended, allowing the child to relate the details they personally connected with, while classical uses narration to teach a child how to identify and summarize the main ideas—the beginning, middle, and end of a story.
While in theory I loved the CM approach, in practice it was a complete fail for us at the beginning. Both my kids needed the direction provided with the classical model in order to gain the confidence to actually narrate. They need the classical approach of guiding questions and answers. I did incorporate narrating with picture/caption, drama, puppets and skits, and art for variety. Now that my kids have been narrating for a few years, we can often revert to the CM method of narrating. I ask them what they remembered about our reading without any guiding questions, and they will share a quick summary plus some details that resonated with them. Blending classical with Charlotte Mason allowed us to find our way in narrating; we needed both approaches to find our groove.
Choosing Living Books
Both classical and Charlotte Mason use living books, with slightly different definitions of what those are. Classical includes some historical fiction and teaching through story, but largely relies on encyclopedias, field guides and original sources as the spine, particularly if you are following the Well-Trained Mind approach. Charlotte Mason includes lots of rich story that allows the child to form connections with events, people, and ideas.
I use a blend of both in our homeschool. My oldest loves information. He loves an encyclopedia with pictures and captions and trivia. Like me, he can get lost in an encyclopedia as quickly as he can get lost in a story. For my daughter with dyslexia, however, encyclopedias are impossible. Though she can read them, she has no idea what she read. There is no storyline or plot, no connection to help her comprehend the information she tried so hard to read. She needs a Charlotte Mason diet of rich living books, both to read and to listen to. So while I may use Usborne Science Encyclopedia or Kingfisher for my oldest, I use Thornton Burgess Book of Animals and Claire Pearson’s Among the People series for my daughter.
Choosing an Atmosphere
Though classical education does not necessarily address the topic of “atmosphere” in the way Charlotte Mason does, there is a distinct difference in the atmosphere of these two educational philosophies. Classical emphasizes the mind, argument, facts, and discipine. There is a regimen and a clear process to follow. Charlotte Mason does not abandon discipline or structure, but incorporates the beauty and inspiration of ideas while emphasizing educating the whole person.
Naturally, one of these two atmospheres will appeal to certain personalities more than the other. For us, we needed the beauty and inspiration of CM. We needed a structure that allowed us to appreciate the unique personalities of our children and that addressed more than just the development of their minds but their creativity, energy, moods and character. Charlotte Mason allowed for handcrafts and character lessons as well as rich academic lessons.
For us, blending classical and Charlotte Mason makes a lot of sense. It breathed life and energy back into our strained homeschool days, and allowed us to customize a learning approach that fit the needs of our kids and our family.
For more tips and ideas on how to blend homeschool styles or what it looks like to homeschool ADHD with Charlotte Mason, visit my blog. And for a limited time, I’m also offering a free Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool planner to my email subscribers!
Don’t miss the rest of the Charlotte Mason Homeschooling series. Click here for a list of this month’s contributors.
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- Blending Classical and Charlotte Mason for a Custom Homeschool - February 5, 2018