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Why We Moved from Charlotte Mason to a More Classical Homeschooling Method

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Over the past few years, we were using a Charlotte Mason method of education. But as we continued on through our studies, I noticed a few things missing that I wanted to ensure my children were mastering in their education.

In this post, I’m sharing why we moved from Charlotte Mason to a more Classical homeschooling method.

home library stacked with books.

Trivium & Quadrivium

Before I dive in too deeply, I want to clarify a few things.

I am not completely walking away from Charlotte Mason, but I am no longer a “purist” either. CM actually brought me to the Classical tradition of education. It was through reading good “classic” books that I wanted to pursue more. But to keep this blog post from being extra long, I will reserve that for a separate post.

I do love a lot of what Charlotte Mason taught and some of her methods. While she is considered classically educated and some of her principles do carry over into the classical world. I’d even venture to say that she was considered pretty classical.

But there are some things lacking or other things that just do not work for my family. Those missing pieces are what is taught classically, such as the trivium and quadrivium.

The trivium consists of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, while the quadrivium (also known as the mathematical arts) consists of arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry.

While Charlotte Mason does teach these things, there’s a lot lacking or missing — like what is included in the trivium that I have had to include in our studies this year.

The seven liberal arts do not adequately divide theoretical philosophy; but, as Hugh of St. Victor says, seven arts are grouped together (leaving out certain other ones), because those who wanted to learn philosophy were first instructed in them. And the reason why they are divided into the trivium and quadrivium is that “they are as it were paths (viae) introducing the quick mind to the secrets of philosophy.”

St. Thomas Aquinas
students working on lessons at the table.

Latin as a Core Subject

I also wanted to transition to Latin as a core part of our curriculum, with the addition of Greek a bit later. I introduced Latin to all of my children at the beginning of term 2 this year, and it has really helped with our other Language Arts lessons.

This is something greatly missing from the Charlotte Mason method. The latin and grammar lessons are usually pushed until later years with CM. Which is not what I have been fond of personally.

Some of my children were excellent readers and the comprehension skills were just fine. However, spelling and grammar was pretty atrocious for some.

I just did not like how CM taught these subjects and they just did not work well for our family.

We also worked very hard on improving in these areas of struggle by including some extra practice and workbooks in these areas.

I will include some of our favorite programs to include in our homeschool in a future post. But in general, they are from a variety of sources like Memoria Press, IEW, Tan Books, and more.

Short Lessons & Mastering Subjects

Many mothers love that Charlotte Mason includes many subjects spread over short lessons. And initially I loved this too.

I still love spreading the feast for my children and putting rich living books in our home library.

I also love shorter lessons but only for the beginning students. I have noticed that my children required more time and effort in mastering certain subjects.

And I feel like the Charlotte Mason method of lessons were just too gentle and not challenging enough in some aspects. I love what we’ve been doing with using classical methods since the end of term one of this school year.

Both the classical method and Charlotte Mason teach the importance of memorization.

I know that CM is not too keen on memorizing a bunch of facts and encourages living ideas instead. This is something that I still believe is important, however, I do think that sometimes we can become hung up on facts vs ideas — and certain facts like math mastery can be missed.

children walking on a nature trail by the creek.

Classical Catholic

There is one last point that I wanted to share with why we are making a slight pivot to our educational methods.

I have spent a lot of time reflecting on our ultimate goals in our education at home over the past couple of years. Our mission and goal in our homeschool is to incorporate more of the traditions, ancient beauty & wisdom of the more than two thousand years of Catholic history, culture, and arts into our every day.

On our quest towards what is Good, True, and Beautiful, we want to encourage our students more deeply into the life of God and the thoughts, wisdom, and example of the saints.

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever modest, whatsoever just, whatsoever holy, whatsoever lovely, whatsoever of good fame, if there be any virtue, if any praise of discipline, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

And yes, Charlotte Mason does encourage bible readings and has a Christian based methodology. But there are still quite a bit of differences between her method and the Catholic tradition.

Some of the hang ups I’ve had with following a lot of the curriculum recommendations from many CM sources of living books are they are steeped full of protestant & many anti-Catholic themes. Of course these things can be supplemented (and we have in the past), but in general, I would like to follow the Catholic tradition as best as we can.

“The fitting order of learning will therefore be as follow: First boys should be instructed in logical matters, since logic teaches the method of the whole philosophy. Secondly, however, they should be instructed in mathematics, which neither requires experience, nor transcends the imagination. Thirdly, they should be instructed in natural things, which, even though they do not exceed sense and imagination, nevertheless require experience. Fourthly, in moral matter, which require experience and a mind free from its passions, as is stated in Book I. Fifthly, however, in sapiential and divine things, which transcend the imagination and require a strong intellect.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

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  1. Thanks Mary for taking the time to put this down. I know how busy us homeschool mums are. I love the Charlottle Mason method, but I have also experienced the lack of Catholic perspective in the books recommended. (By the way the Catholic English history book you recommended is excellent!) It is amazing what you come up against with even a simple bible commentary, and I think I will be steering away from some of them this next year. Definitely need to to pre-read everything.
    I am curious how you are implementing this and so I look forward to your next post. And how time heavy it is. I am struggling with the amount of pre-reading and maths preparation, as well as not understanding the Latin course recommended from the CMEC, not to mention a new student starting this year. I am also thinking of getting to daily mass a few times a week, but not sure how this will work.
    May God bless you. I have missed your posts!
    Tania from Australia

    1. Hi Tania!

      Yes, that pre-reading is always such a challenge and something I usually struggle with. This is another huge factor in trying to be extra careful and selecting from good Traditional Catholic books/resources. I try to get most of the pre-reading done during the children’s catechism week at church over the summer, but that’s still not always enough time.

      I really love the Latin courses from Memoria Press! I’ll write more in detail about it in an upcoming post.

      I’ve had several comments about how we made this transition to from CM to more Classical & Catholic, so I will write a post soon. Hopefully by the end of the week. 🙂

      God bless you!

  2. God bless you & your beautiful family, Mary. You are so wise & blessed to have chosen these options of the good, true & beautiful. I wish I had the wisdom 50 yrs ago that you have now. Please ask your family to pray for my kids, David & Sandy & their children, Nicholas, Amanda, Nathan & Eddie. It’s a very tough world out there. Blessings, Barb F

    1. Thank you, Barb!

      “All wisdom is from the Lord God, and hath been always with Him, and is before all time”. —Ecclesiasticus 1:1

      We will say a prayer for your family. 🙂 God bless you!

  3. I would love to hear what you are doing going forward. If I remember correctly, you were using CMEC, I have been as well for several years. And it was working beautifully for me until this past year. My oldest started high school, I had some health flares, some difficult family times that drained me mentally, and I just wasn’t able to put in what CMEC really requires in order for progress. I have been praying and will continue, as I am not liking alternative options! I’ve tried creating my own curriculum and that was stressful and left too many gaps. I opened a Memoria Press workbook and it caused me great anxiety. I always appreciate hearing how fellow traditional Catholics are tackling this difficult but vital aspect of their vocation!

    1. Hi Nicole! Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂

      Yes, we were using the CMEC and I did enjoy it for the first year, but CM just was not working in all areas. I will write a post about what we are currently using with our curriculum and how it’s changed. And will also share in another post what we are going to use for the new school year coming up.

      I do like a lot of what Memoria Press has available, but I also understand the overwhelm. The Latin programs are really great! Also…we aren’t using everything that they have available. I know that some of the options they recommend were just too much for my kids to manage this year. Which workbook did you look at that caused anxiety?

      1. Mary, I appreciate your comment! I think it may have been a logic workbook. I went down some rabbit holes today trying to find a more classical, Catholic curriculum and found some great options but they were online and I know that won’t work well for me. I really need physical books! I did find what seemed to be nice options for some subjects at, I believe, St Jerome’s Library and also Lepanto Press. But then I’m back to basically creating my own curriculum. I’m looking forward to your post discussing what is working for you. I find those very helpful and inspiring!

        1. Hi Nicole, I have not looked at Logic…we aren’t quite there yet! But I have used both St. Jerome’s Library and Lepanto Press /OLVS. They are good solid Catholic books, but not favorites of ours. They don’t really fit in with our Classical ideals. St Jerome is free of anything related to modernism, which is great! We just don’t use them in our homeschool. I’ll share more in a post coming soon. 😀