What a Charlotte Mason Education Looked Like

charlotte mason parent reviewThere’s a handful of sample lessons from three or four subjects in this Parents’ Review article.

The history lesson is taken from a book called The Story of the World (more on the correct title below), and was specifically about the war between Philip II of Spain and the Low Countries. To begin the lesson, the teacher first had:

“….the children tell me the meaning of the “Reformation,” and how it resulted in the rise of “Protestantism,” and how these two in their turn gave rise to the “Counter-Reformation” and the long struggle between Protestants and Catholics all over Europe….

I then explained that the struggle between the Protestants and Catholics was most bitter in Catholic countries under Protestant rulers, and in Protestant countries under Catholic rulers, and that to-day we were going to read about a struggle that took place in a partly-Protestant country which was ruled over by a Catholic king. At the same time I reminded them of the special interest we would take in this lesson since part of this same country was now taking part in another great struggle. [This lesson was given in 1915, or during WW1]…

After describing the character and rule of Philip, and after showing them his portrait, I read to them from The Story of the World (since only three of the children had copies of their own) a description of the scenery of the Low Countries which included the story of the little boy who saved his country by stopping up with his arm a hole which he found in a dyke.

Then, after a short narration, I showed the children, on the blackboard, a map of the Low Countries in which I had marked the towns of which we were going to read, at the same time reminding them of the present fate of some of these towns. I then read to them from The Story of the World the account of the beginning of the war with Spain, the arrival of Alva and his cruel tyranny, the capture of Brill by the “Beggars,” the sieges of Haarlem and Leyden by the Spaniards, and how the latter town was eventually saved by the opening of the dykes at the order of William the Silent, and then how the struggle at length ended in the Northern Provinces becoming the independent Protestant kingdom of Holland, and the Southern ones, the Catholic kingdom of Belgium.

The lesson ended in a narration which, in nearly all cases, was very good.”


This lesson was supposed to last 25 minutes.  The teacher introduced the lesson by first having the students narrate what they knew about the background.  Then the teacher added some additional information they might not be expected to know, and connected the places in the lesson with places currently in the news (this won’t apply to every lesson, of course), as well as some biographical information and a portrait of one of the main characters in the day’s lesson.

She read from the book, had narrations, some mapwork related to the reading, additional reading, and then concluded with narration.  That’s a lot to pack in to 25 minutes.  That’s also more than most people think is included in Charlotte Mason’s methods.

The history book mentioned is probably the one authored by Margaret or M.B. Synge, also at googlebooks. That particular history by Synge is not at Gutenberg or Amazon, but A Book of Discovery The History of the World’s Exploration, From the Earliest Times to the Finding of the South Pole is. I really like her works.

Picture Talk was also 25 minutes-

Picture Talk.

The picture chosen was “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes” by Raphael.

raphael miraculous draught of fishes

The teacher began by asking the students what they could tell about the painter.

“Next I told them of the history of this picture, how it had been designed for a tapestry, and how after finding it, and 6 others, in Brussels, cut into strips, Rubens brought them over to England, where they were bought by Charles I, and were afterwards repaired.

Then, so that the children should have the events of the picture before their minds, I read them the account of The Draught of Fishes from St. Luke’s Gospel.

After studying the picture for several minutes, the children, in turn, described it to me….

Then, after a few appreciative words from myself, on the life and energy displayed, on the beauty of the forms, and on the beautiful shading of the picture, I let the children draw the chief lines of the composition.

I think that in every “Picture Talk” lesson we have some proof that art can be appreciated by even the youngest children….

Again, the teacher introduces the lesson by first asking the children what they already know about the painter.  Then the teacher fills in with a bit of background information, and then the children quietly study the painting themselves for a bit and they describe it (I am assuming without looking at it, as this is the method described in Miss Mason’s books).  The teacher makes a few appreciative comments, and the children block out the basic composition of the painting.  We did this a few times when my children were younger.   I didn’t ask for sketches- it was basically a stick figure drawing, or even a geometrical abstraction with ovals of different sizes to show where different figures were in the picture, blocks showing furniture, that sort of thing.  It was interesting to me how often even such abstract work would open my eyes to something I’d missed before.

There was a 25 minute natural history, or nature study lesson. You can click through the link at the top of the post to see how that worked.

There was a ten minute geography, or map work lesson consisting of:

map questions on North America, from the term’s work in From Pole to Pole.

The children were able to recognise an outline map of North America, and after giving me the two great divisions of North America, were able to fill in all the boundaries.

In From Pole to Pole, the children are introduced to this continent by following the travels of a Swede, named Gunnar, and so, after questioning them as to where Gunnar landed, and what places he visited after leaving New York, I asked them to learn from their atlases the exact position of several of these rivers, towns, and mountains, after which they filled in the names of the places, from memory, on the outline map.

The Geography Book mentioned is From Pole to Pole, which is online at googlebooks as well as gutenberg (by Sven Anders Hedin). It’s also free at Amazon: From Pole to Pole A Book for Young People.  It’s interesting to skim through it, but it’s too dated to be useful as a geography book for today, I think.

Mama Squirrel also did a post about this PR article and the sample lessons.

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  1. Posted May 5, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink
    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted May 5, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      I added the link.

  2. Posted May 5, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    The history book could *possibly* be by Elizabeth O’Neill. I have it in a new edition released by Hillside Education (and partly proofread by me) under the title The World’s Story, but you can find it here: https://archive.org/details/storyofworldsimp00onei

    It’s an excellent book, IMO — my soon-to-be 12-year-old will be reading it over the next two years.


  3. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    No, it was definitely The Awakening of Europe.

  4. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    That is, the Synge book the DHM mentioned.

  5. Posted May 5, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Gotcha. Lots of titles including “Story” and “World” rattling around the Edwardian era!

  6. Sarah
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Gah. I don’t do any of that. I just either read or have the kid read and then he narrates back to me. That’s it. Maybe that really isn’t enough after all (like so many say) but how can I do all that ^ for 4 kids in 4 different years?

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I did not do all of that every time, either.

  7. Mama Squirrel
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Sarah, I’m sure the DHM can answer that better than I can since she’s had more levels going at a time than I have. But just a note that these lessons were actually special ones, given as a demonstration class at a conference. I think there is a lot to gain from them, and I have tried to incorporate some of these ideas into SOME of my own daughter’s school time. Not for every subject every day! One thought for larger families might be to use the more involved approach for subjects you do together, like picture study.

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