Charlotte Mason Series Q&A

I promised a Q&A follow-up from the CM Series and here it is.  I hope I found all the questions!  If not, or if you think of additional questions, please let me know!  The Q&A is in no particular order, so I hope you can muddle through it without too much frustration.

Corrie –

I’ve gone to your book website, but I was still wondering what you think is the appropriate age for your nature studies?

Our NaturExplorers studies were written with the 1st-8th grader in mind.  However, we have included additional ideas for preschoolers and high school students near the end of each study.

Elizabeth –

I would love to hear more about what you use for your history program that has the artist/composer studies along with it..Thanks!

This year, I’ve been using Diana Waring’s Ancient Civilizations and the Bible for history.  It’s appropriate for middle school and above.  You can read a review I wrote about it here.

There are nine units total and each unit includes suggestions for artwork and music study.  Although she doesn’t always focus on one particular artist or composer (sometimes she suggests various artworks of the same theme by different artists), her suggestions make a great starting point for me to take lessons further if I want.  The art/music study she provides is not Charlotte Mason in style, but should be considered a place to start for studying art and music as a go-along to a particular time period.  Also, she only supplies you with suggestions and it’s up to you to get online to find a particular piece of art to observe or music to listen to.

Honestly, I prefer the artist and music study plan I used in years past.  However, this is saving me planning time and I’m happy with it for this season of homeschooling.

Tobey –

Have you used the Simply Charlotte Mason website and resources?

I have not.  There’s no real reason I haven’t except for the fact that I enjoy designing my own curriculum.  I know there is a lot of wonderful CM information provided there, though!

Michelle –

When do you start narration? My daughter is almost five and my son is six. My son has really gotten the hang of it and my daughter struggles with it a little, but might be catching on soon. Should I even be attempting narration with her at this age? I don’t correct her or ask her pointed questions about what I’ve read. If she doesn’t pay attention, I just go on. I only read small, easy to understand passages with her.

Can I put a link to your 10 days of charlotte mason on my blog?

Why is it not CM to do unit studies – especially in history, science and geography. I know this a popular opion but I have 3 children very close together and I can’t imagine doing it otherwise.

1.  I start very simple narration around 1st grade.  Simple little stories, many of which are already familiar to my children.  Personally, I wouldn’t bother with it at age 5 unless the child is very eager.  I think you’re doing well to not correct too much and to keep moving on when she isn’t interested.  Some little minds are far more distractible than others and need a little more time to mature.

2.  You are always welcome to link back to my blog!

3.  My blogging friend, Jimmie, has a very enlightening post on this subject here.  Essentially, Charlotte Mason’s opinion was that unit studies tend to box the lessons up in such a neat and tidy package that children don’t have the freedom to use their own eager and inquisitive minds to glean information themselves.   She also believed that children needed to make their own connections and not have everything tied together for them.

While I can see how these could be true, I tend to do unit studies in a way so that my children have the freedom to “use their inquiring minds” to take the unit in their own directions within certain limitations.  I’m what you might consider the cruise director during our studies.  I plan the general schedule and potential activities, but my children make some of the decisions about what and how they will learn.  Although there are things that are mandatory, there are also many choices my children get to make – such as what person or event they want to “make their own” during the study, or what projects they might like to complete from a large list of possibilities.  And, no matter how many connections I may make for them inadvertently through unit studies, there are SO many more connections to be made that I’ll never have the chance to touch on.

I also believe wholeheartedly in the practical side of unit studies.  They truly do allow for a lot of learning in a shorter amount of time, giving us the time for so many things that other homeschoolers “don’t have time for” like handicrafts, life skills, nature study and artist study.

Sarah –

I have been doing lots of research on both the classical education and Charlotte Mason. I looked through some of the links you had listed there for curriculum. They are all so expensive. Since I am on the mission field, we also don’t have access to a public library. Do you have a list at all of the homeschooling must haves or curriculum that you are really thankful that you did purchase? I just want to make sure as I plan and prepare for the future that I am not spending a bunch of money on things we don’t really need!

Wow, that’s a big question with a loaded answer.  I have used so many different curricula over the years.  Some of them I bought because of the rave reviews, but they didn’t live up to my expectations.  Others were used and loved during a certain season of homeschooling, but either wouldn’t fit with learning styles now or I’ve found other curricula I like better.

With that said, it’s hard for me to give a list of must-haves.  I wish I could!  What works for me and my children may flop in someone else’s home, and vice versa.  For example, I’m a huge fan of Story or the World, but many other people absolutely abhor it.  Mystery of History gets rave reviews, but it didn’t meet our needs at all.  I can lead you to my Favorite Products page (that needs updating terribly!)  It’s simply an Amazon store where you can see some of my favorite products over the years.

EM –

My Pre K only traces some of the words and then I help her with hand over hand to complete the rest. How did you start out? Do you use printing or cursive writing? What about typing?

My personal opinion is that preschoolers need to jump into academic things very slowly, and only if they are ready and willing.  My four-year-old (December birthday) loves to “do school” like his brother and sister.  This means he wants to have his own books and papers to do.  I’ve purchased some Dollar Tree workbooks that we go through as he wishes.  If he wants to do one page and quit, that’s fine.  If he doesn’t want to do anything in them for three days, that’s fine.

Why?  Mostly because he’s not physically or academically ready to correctly do the workbooks.  In other words, he is simply too little to understand the correct formation of a letter or number.  Although he can certainly trace them in a workbook, he doesn’t follow correct formation yet.  (Start at the left, go from top to bottom, and so on.)  If I allow him to form bad habits this early with formation, they will likely be very hard habits to break.  And, if I push for correct formation before he’s ready, he’ll soon grow to hate this type of work.

Instead, I choose to focus on hands-on activities as much as possible that promote small and large motor skills.  In a very playful atmosphere, we do light academics.  All of these activities are meant to help him learn and develop, of course, but my main goal is to help him find learning a joyful and exciting thing.

When I finally do begin expecting more in the way of copywork (around 1st grade), I begin with manuscript.  Cursive and typing both begin for my children around 3rd grade.

Amber –

Narration, Dictation & Copywork are things that I need to get around to more often. I want to. But I find myself fighting back and forth with doing things like this and purchasing actual language arts and grammer curriculums, with worksheets and quizzes to check and grade and show progress. That’s partially because in a way it’s easier (less one on one time and there are 3 kids needing my attention) and partially because I fight the *need* to have the graded papers and the “proof.” My husband likes to see the “proof,” too. But on the otherhand, if I had notebooks full of narration, copywork and dictation that would be proof enough right there, right? I guess I’m saying all this to ask, “do you ever feel the need to add a more in depth study of grammar than the grammer you pick up and acquire by copying good literature?” How do you balance these two ideas?

I do add more grammar.  Narration, Dictation and Copywork are my weakest aspects of CM style homeschooling.  Although I add them into the schedule periodically, most days find my children completing a grammar lesson, a spelling lesson, or even a cursive formation lesson.  Quite honestly, it’s easier for me to use these.  I’m not so concerned with quizzes and test scores, but I do like the fact that my children purposefully learn parts of speech, when to add commas, and so forth.  You’re right, though, a notebook full of CM style language arts would certainly be “proof” of learning.

In case you’re interested, I spent one summer preparing a “living” grammar curriculum for my children.  During their 3rd and 4th grade years, I have them read living literature and complete “regular” grammar lessons based on the books.  I sell that curriculum now at Shining Dawn Books where you can see a sample.  It’s in no way Charlotte Mason style, other than the fact that it incorporates living literature into the lessons.  Otherwise, you’ll find short and sweet lessons that will last about a week per book.

Okay, I think that’s it!  Please feel free to ask me to clarify, or ask additional questions if you have them!


  1. Thank you!! I’m already planning for next year (to space out the purchasing) and I’ve really enjoyed this whole series. Thank you for answering my question — it was very helpful! =)

  2. Great Q&A, Cindy! Isn’t it great when your readers give you material to blog?

  3. I really enjoyed the blog hop. I think you have given a great look at what a Charlotte Mason education can look like. I actually recommended your blog to another homeschooling mom today who is just discovering this method of education.

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