Using Methods to Homeschool the Charlotte Mason Way


If you are looking for a way to homeschool a number of children of various age ranges, enjoy reading books with them, want to enhance their writing skills, delve into stories of historical figures and events, and minimize the use of textbooks, using Charlotte Mason’s methods may be just the right path for you to follow.


Charlotte Mason was an educator in England in the 19th century. She wanted children to learn from “living books” not textbooks. She felt children should go outside and experience nature, make observations, and record them in a nature journal. She advocated that children learned and retained information best when they listened to or read good literature and had the opportunity to narrate orally what they remembered from the reading. Their writing skills developed from reading good literature, studying it, and copying it into copy work journals, and writing down dictation. This is a simplified summary of her philosophy, but it gives you a starting point of her basic ideas. To fully understand and implement her methods you can read her original works or books that have been written summarizing her methods. These can be found at


Using Charlotte Mason’s methods, you would teach history chronologically, and can include Bible instruction if you wish. Lessons are kept short so that the child does not dawdle and includes foreign language and art and music appreciation. There are suggested curriculums you can follow at the following websites: and


Some homeschooling families combine the use of Charlotte Mason methods with unit study topics. They use notebooking pages to write their narrations, copy work, and dictation to document what they have learned about the theme they are studying. For example, if your family is studying the Middle Ages, you would read living books about the Middle Ages or stories set in the Middle Ages, provide copy work for your child from the book or written work from that time period, and tie in a science topic like disease (black plague) or any scientists’ biographies from that time. You would also include art and music appreciation of artists and musicians from that era. You can find ideas using a combination of Charlotte Mason’s ideas and unit study methods in our Charlotte Mason Unit Studies section.


This is just an introduction to the wonderful homeschooling experience you and your children can enjoy when implementing Charlotte Mason methods in your daily routine. For further information, read any of the following books: A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola; A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison; and When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy for Today by Elaine Cooper, Eve Anderson, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and Jack Beckman.


For free practical ideas in using Charlotte Mason methods, combining these with unit topics of study, and links to many educational resources, please journey around this website.


So, How Are You Supposed to Teach Math Using

Living Books?

When you think of Charlotte Mason you think of using living books as the foundation of your studies. So, how are you supposed to use living books that you read to help your child understand and learn mathetical concepts? This is a very common question amongst homeschoolers using Charlotte Mason methods. Usually, parents find a math program that suits their child’s individual learning style, which is a major goal in homeschooling. But, what can you use to add variety and spice things up abit, or to connect what you are learning in history, science, and literature with your mathematics? That’s right, living books!

You can read fictional stories involving the use of math concepts, non-fictional books putting math concepts in real settings and examples, and biographies of mathematicians and scientists who developed or used certain math concepts. Depending upon what you are studying in math, history, or science will determine what concepts you will read and what people you will study. Tying these real books in with the study of math or history makes math come alive, making it personally significant and significant to what you are studying in other subjects.

Some examples of fictional books using a story to explain and utilize math concepts are -

Books by Mitsumasa Anno and David Adler


  • Math Start
  • Step into Reading + Math
  • Rookie Readers – Math

Some examples of non-fiction books setting math concepts in real life situations and examining real examples are found in the following series:

Math Works!
Math for the Real World
Math All Around Me

When studying mathematicians or scientists in history or science, it’s fun to include a biography of the person. The children enjoy knowing what the person was like and what made them so interested in the concepts they discovered or helped to develop. My kids definitely enjoyed the stories of Archimedes and his adventures in the bathtub! These are the stories that stick and in turn help make the concepts associated with these entertaining personalities stick in our memories too!

Here are some suggested biographical resources for some famous mathematicians:

Math and Mathematicians: the history of math discoveries around the world by Leonard C. Bruno

Archimedes: Mathematical Genius of the Ancient World by Mary Gow

The Life and Times of Pythagoras by Susan and William Harkins

The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements

The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky

Some examples of activities you might want to include when reading any of these books might include narration at the conclusion of a chapter of a short book or at the end of a longer one, then writing a narration on a notebooking page. Your notebook page might include an explanation of the concept, formula if there is one, an example of the concept (including a math problem if that is how you use the concept), and a story example using the concept in a real life situation that your child can pull from their own experience.

You can also write a narration from one of the biographies using a biography notebooking page or a specific mathematician notebooking page, such as the one at this website

If you wish, you can incorporate the use of copywork from some of these biographies or quotes from mathematicians and then have your children do dictation from this copywork.

We have done a number of these types of books and notebooking pages. You can go further, if you come across a fun idea like our family did when we were studying Archimedes during our ancient history studies. We found out that he developed the concept of Pi that we use today. We also found out that National Pi Day was on March 14th, so we held Pi Day at our house! We read, wrote, played some problem-solving games and activities using Pi (while wearing Pi headbands). At the end of the day, we had to calculate the dimensions of our pizza pie using the formula for Pi before we could all eat our dinner.

To start your planning for Pi day, March 14th, try out this website To add some more fun to Pi day with a book, try reading Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi by Cindy Neuschwander.

Here are some other websites that focus on math concepts and mathematicians for the older students: (an index for biographies of mathematicians and math topics)

We’ll be having more ideas soon for using these books, activities, and more in unit study formats soon! Remember to click on our link in the top left hand corner to subscribe to our newsletter for more ideas just like these in the future! Have fun using real books in your math study!
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How to Use Charlotte Mason Methods – Living Books

We are beginning a new series so that each week there will be a different topic in using the Charlotte Mason method. Based on the Charlotte Mason series, we will explore the various materials, topic areas, and methods used by Charlotte Mason with her students and a practical application in homeschooling using those methods. We will share resource ideas, homeschool uses, and websites that illustrate examples of using Ms. Mason’s methods.

I hope this new series will be helpful to everyone who visits our site. The first topic area of our series will explore “Living Books.”

Living Books – the first topic in our weekly series in using Charlotte Mason methods

My family and I use the Charlotte Mason method in our own way and what best serves us. I use recommendations from various Charlotte Mason books and websites, including Ambleside Online. However, we don’t strictly follow the scope and sequence recommended by Ambleside, but we do use some of the living books and methods advocated. I believe parents need to modify educational methods that work best for the members of their family.  This applies to selecting the books you will use in your homeschool as well.

Some homeschoolers believe books that might be more modern light reading  to be twaddle and should be discouraged. Other parents with reluctant readers might use these books to interest these readers into reading books recreationally on their own. You do, however, want to read aloud and encourage your children to read quality literature in its theme, content, and writing. Barring learning disabilities, children’s vocabulary and reading and writing abilities develop with exposure to more sophisticated literature rich in imagery and descriptive language. Their taste for good stories is encouraged with a steady diet of well developed plots and characters, including non-fiction events and famous people. If we read a title that was recommended by Charlotte Mason websites or programs that we found uninteresting, even though others had raved about it, we simply stopped reading it after giving it a good try. Some titles are going to appeal to some and not to others. If I were to force my children to listen to the book and myself to read it, we would not be using our time wisely and would be killing our joy in learning. As I tell my children repeatedly, life and use of your time is a matter of choices, and you want to choose the “best”, not just “good.”

Charlotte Mason discouraged twaddle in her students’ reading. She encouraged “living books.” These books are whole books with entire stories or are written on one topic, not written like a textbook covering a wide variety of topics with summaries of facts. Living books can be used in all subject areas including math. For a more detailed explanation of using living books in math or with the topic of Pi, read our articles about using Charlotte Mason methods in math.

For history, science (including nature study), literature, and even geography there are a number of books out there written on one topic or time period written by people with a knowledge and passion for that topic. This passion and attention to detail is what makes the children enjoy reading these books, interested in the topic, and remember what they read.

History and historical figures come to life through detailed stories of events and lives of people in different time eras.  More in the fashion of a classical education, we study our history in a chronological fashion starting with ancient and biblical times. We also study the time period horizontally across the hemispheres and different continents. We read a couple of books as our spine that cover the time period, while reading other books that are about specific topics pertaining to that time period. For example, while studying ancient Egypt and using Story of the World and A Child’s History of the World as spines, we also read books about pyramids, King Tut, and scientific discoveries. We also read fictional books that centered around characters and their daily lives during the ancient Egyptian times to get a feel for the time period and what common daily life was like. We had a framework with details to fill in that framework. Some places to look for history titles that might interest you would be, Yesterday’s Classics, the Baldwin Children’s Online Project. Also you will want to study primary sources that tie into your history study.

For science, you might want to read living books that include biographies of scientists or books about specific topics. We tie our science study in with what area of science was being developed or the scientists that lived during the specific time period we are studying. For example, if you are studying the renaissance, you can read about Galileo or Leonardo da Vinci. For your nature study, there are numerous sources from which to choose as well. Some places to look for titles are Noeo Science,, Nature Study, Nature Stories. We also use the Apologia series for the elementary and the middle/high school levels. We read books aloud that go along with our studies in these books.

When studying geography, we read general geography books and others that go along with our studies of a specific time period or geographical area in history. We’ve read Holling C. Holling books and mapped the area as we read. Charlotte Mason also wrote her own geography books – Geographical readers. Two other geographic living books are A Child’s Geography series.

Good literature to read has a good plot, detailed and vivid character descriptions, and various literary elements with extensive vocabulary. A good example of clever use of words is found in The Phantom Tollbooth with all of its puns, idioms, and plays on words. For adventure and satirical comedy, we have read Tales of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle and The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain while we studied the middle ages. My sons laughed out loud with the comedic situations in these stories. My son has also enjoyed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn with Mark Twain’s style of tongue in cheek sense of humor. He was very tickled reading about their big plans they would make in their club that actually turned out to be nothing in reality, but in their imaginations they had great adventures they would retell to one another. These books tie in the historical period of the time, but are also thoroughly enjoyable, and develop your child’s creativity, vocabulary, and use of words. Some places to look for lists of good books are Charlotte Mason education book list recommendations, reading lists, Baldwin Online Children’s Project.

Remember to look in our Unit Study Resource Store for other titles of living books as well. You know your children, what interests them, what their individual abilities are, and what you are studying. You make the decisions about what you feel is good literature for your children. These are suggested titles that have worked for us. Don’t feel you have to start or finish a book just because you see that it has been recommended by other Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Use what you feel will work best for your family and enjoy your time reading aloud with one another. My children and I take turns reading and creating the voices of the characters in the stories and how we think they would sound based on their personalities in the story or the time period they are in!

Hope you can use these ideas and have found this information helpful! Check back here for another Charlotte Mason topic next week – Narration for all age levels.

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4 Responses

  1. I was wondering if you’d be willing to share some of your ideas on studying the renaissance? I’m greatly impressed with your activities studying the middle ages!

    • Thanks! We had alot of fun! I will gladly post activities we do with the Renaissance. I’m really getting excited about it – the scientists and experiment recreations, artists and copying their techniques, Leonardo de Vinci and all of his studies ( we’ll do alot of them from invention recreations to art to studying the human body.) We’ll be reading Shakespeare and Dante and maybe hitting a Renn. fair in the area. We’ll be including explorers and native americans too. It’s going to be alot of fun:)

      • That sounds exciting! I have a 14 year old who has touretts, ADHD & type 1 diabetes. It’s kind of difficult to hold his attention unless it’s about cars LOL and they didn’t have cars WAY back then!

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