Homeschool Curriculum Part 4: A Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick Education

In part 4 of our series on homeschool curriculum, we will focus on a Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick Education. So far we have had an overview of the basics and researching curriculum, plus a more in-depth look at the Traditional and Classical methods of education. You have also learned that there are five main types of education philosophy and corresponding curricula: Traditional, Classical Education, Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick, Unit Studies, and Unschooling/Relaxed Homeschooling.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the 19th century who developed and taught using her own set of educational principles. Ruth Beechick was an American teacher, professor, and curriculum developer in the late 1980’s whose ideals and focus on homeschool education go hand-in-hand with Charlotte’s. They each advocate teaching the basic three R’s: reading, writing, and arithmetic among other things. Charlotte’s philosophy involves seven principles.

The seven principles are to teach children: good habits, short lessons, use living books, narration, dictation, music and art appreciation, and nature study.

Charlotte taught that children who develop good habits such as positive manners, communication, and orderliness was the basic foundation for all learning and living. She advocated only teaching good habits before the age of six and pause to correct until corrected throughout the growing up years.

Short lessons keep the student engaged, curious, and interested. With this style you instantly stop a lesson if a child is showing restlessness or a lack of focus, switch to a different subject, and revisit the first one at a later time. Charlotte believed that children would eagerly learn when they are most receptive.

Living books are quality fiction and non-fiction books that are written with passion so they are engaging emotionally as well as intellectually. They offer inspiring stories, in-depth knowledge and information, and positive characters. Living books are interesting, captivating, and exciting for kids to learn from.

Narration involves developing critical thinking skills. It begins in the early years with the parent reading a short passage aloud and the child verbally telling back the main parts of the story in their own words. As the student gets older they then write out their summary.

Dictation exercises are the beginning of formal spelling and grammar. Parents have the student study a piece of written literature such as an inspiring quote or scripture. Then the parent removes the passage and reads it aloud while the child writes it down.

Dictation and narration are great for developing attentive listening skills.

Music and art appreciation is done as a type of unit study. Each month a composer or artist is featured. Each week students will listen to music by that composer or study artwork by the artist. They will learn from living books about the person’s life. They will study the genre of music or art style through living books.  They might try recreating a piece of music or art. And they will attend a live performance or visit an art museum once a month when possible.

Charlotte observed that children who were outside often retained knowledge better and were overall healthier. She taught this was due to the physical body and brain getting the movement, fresh air, and increased blood flow that it needed.

Nature study is getting kids outdoors often for a walk with a notebook to observe nature up close – such as a flower, leaf, bug, rabbit, or bird. Students choose one thing they see and sketch it on sight. Then they write down their observations. Kids then follow up with research and add more details to their writing.

The Charlotte Mason/Ruth Beechick methodology of education involves teaching children using living books, observation, and experience instead of textbooks. You have freedom in choosing what your child learns from. Living books are often purchased to keep and enjoy often or are easily found in your local library. Some examples of living books curriculum include Life of Fred, Sassafras, Christian Liberty Press, My Fathers World, and Common Sense Press.

This style of education is eclectic and has a balance of formal teacher-led instruction and student self-learning. There is family involvement with reading aloud, multi-sensory lessons, nature walks, and field trips. There are a growing number of organized local support groups as well as online websites.

You can learn more about the Charlotte Mason style by reading A Charlotte Mason Companion.

Next we will learn about Unit Studies!


Paula Smith

I love God, family, friends, and encouraging people. I enjoy helping others in the education world from my experience in my job and from when I homeschooled my kids. As a wife, Mom, soon to be Grandma, and the Education and Homeschool Web Merchandiser, I hope my blog articles are helpful to you as we live life together.

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