August 20, 2011

What Is a Charlotte Mason Curriculum?

Many of the visitors who find this site are in search of "charlotte mason curriculum". Since many land here with that key phrase only to find my plans for the year, I thought I'd help out with this matter.

First, let us define "curriculum".

The World English Dictionary defines curriculum:
1. a course of study in one subject at a school or college
2. a list of all the courses of study offered by a school or college
3. any programme or plan of activities
I suggest we add a fourth definition, the one more likely to be used in public schools: the established academic standards/objectives that are taught.

As you can see, these are very different definitions of what a curriculum is. The first suggests that it's a subject broken down into a plan or process. The second suggests that it's simply a list of all the courses studied. And the third suggests that it's any program or plan of activities. The fourth one says that curriculum is nothing more than a set of objectives.

We can utilize all of these definitions, can't we? We can certainly lay out our subjects and break them down into activities from which we then make a plan/program and perhaps even lay out objectives we'd like to reach.

The Charlotte Mason Method is a curious thing, however. It is a method which many fall in love with and want to choose for their children, but which has no set curriculum. Therefore, the many internet searches for "charlotte mason curriculum" lead us to no certain answers. I know. I spent my first year in search of this magic bullet called "the Charlotte Mason Curriculum". I found a few things but no one thing was the answer for me.

The reason it is so difficult to find that magic bullet is because the Charlotte Mason method is a method not a curriculum.

So let's define method:
Method: A particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching something, esp. a systematic or established one.
The Charlotte Mason method is a way of approaching education. It's about presenting living ideas; it's about allowing our children to soak up their environment and learn from what is around them. It's also a procedure: How to do narration; how to teach spelling; how to conduct a nature study. But, as my friend, Becky points, out, it's not a curriculum.

You've found this wonderful method, but where do you start? What do you use? What do you buy? These are the questions that lead to that internet search "charlotte mason curriculum". People want some sort of idea of where to go with what they have learned. So we try this and test that until we find what we like.

I have found the simplest guide to be Simply Charlotte Mason. Like other Charlotte Mason guides to curriculum, this one includes some religious materials. If this doesn't bother you, then you're set to go! I, however, opt out of using certain books. Simply Charlotte Mason doesn't have an overwhelming amount of religiously biased books on their list. It's pretty simple to either secularize the guide or adjust it to your own beliefs. Once you have the books, you simply implement what you've learned about a Charlotte Mason Education.

For those searching "Charlotte Mason Curriculum", does this help?
For those who use the CM method, where do you get your curriculum ideas?

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. I think the lack of set curriculum is a great strength of cm education; it can look like almost anything - and take some surprising forms.  I'd recommend the cm blog carnival for inspiration.  i have taken some of mine from ambleside; some from simplycharlottemason; some from the welltrainedmind k-8 forum.  And some is original to us because we're Jewish and it's just never going to look like what the majority of (christian) cm parents are doing.  But again, I love it.  the techniques are very powerful.  I'm also reading "When children love to learn" for a bit of the practical side of the thing as well...

  2. I agree, having a method without a curriculum gives so many options. I used Ambleside for a while and have been a part of the Blog Carnival for years.


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