a support and resource group for home education

Charlotte Mason - Learning with living books

A British educator Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) focused on improving the quality of children’s education. Her method is based on an assumption that education is three-pronged: education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Core concepts
Mason believed that the atmosphere, or the surroundings of the child, makes up one-third of education, as the child absorbs a lot from the home environment. Discipline denotes the development of good habits, especially habits of character, which make up another third of a child’s education. Life, the third aspect, applies to academics – Mason believed that in all subjects children should be taught through living thoughts and ideas, instead of dry facts.

Living books


For example, Mason advocates the use of “living books”, instead of textbooks or books “written down” for children, which she found insulting to children’s intelligence. The authors of “living books” write about a subject so passionately that their excitement spills over to the readers and thus makes the subject “come alive”.

Mason’s other core concepts in a nutshell:

Narration: Children should tell back what they read by means of oral, written or drawn narration. This exercise trains attention, helps in organising the read material in their minds, and teaches them to synthesise facts for presenting to others.

Short lessons: All lessons should be kept short, concentrated, and focused, especially for young children. As children mature, the lessons grow longer, according to their attention span. Mason believed that short lessons encourage the habit of full attention, while long, dawdling lessons block intellectual progress.

Habit training: According to Mason, habit training is a powerful force, encouraging children to take charge of their own education. She emphasised inculcating perfect execution, obedience, truthfulness, even temper, kindness, respect, punctuality, and cleanliness among others.

Nature study: Children should spend several hours a day outdoors, learning about the living ways of nature, observing it and recording their findings. They should have a sketchpad for drawing, keep a nature observations calendar and have a notebook, when they get older.

Charlotte Mason also provides specific guidelines for teaching such subjects as mathematics, history, poetry, grammar, handwriting, prepared dictation, foreign languages, and handicrafts. All these can easily be researched online. There are, however, some aspects of Mason’s philosophy that Muslim parents have to adjust as per requirements of Deen – for example, music, art, and Christian values. Likewise, we encourage parents to provide children with opportunities to learn from experiences, practical work and directly from wise people.

FAQ: How much time during the day does it take to homeschool?
Article: An educational psychologist's take on school curricula.
Event: Make your own - first in a series of classes to promote homemade products
Fall/Winter 14: Arabic: Why & How. Learning the language of our faith.