Charlotte Mason or Classical / Trivium ?? - Eva Varga

February 12, 200916

When I meet new people and they learn that we homeschool, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “How do you do it? Do you buy curriculum?” Generally, the one asking is simply being polite and isn’t seeking a lengthy response. I try to put it in a nutshell and I reply, “I do buy some curricula (a math text and workbook so I don’t omit something and history); mostly though we do a lot of reading and science.” Occassionally, they will inquire further – but generally not.

I usually don’t go into our methods unless I am speaking to another homeschooler. Even other certified educators are unfamiliar with the leading philosophies of home education. Evidenced when they tilt their head and their brow line turns down as their eyes focus in on my face as if to say, “What are you talking about?”

A recent post on the Well Trained Minds forum led me to give some thought to how two different approaches to homeschool education are so well suited for one another. I thought I would take a minute to summarize how we utilize both in our homeschool.

What we do a la Charlotte Mason:

  • Lessons of short duration
  • Lots of narration (all oral at this point)
  • Lots of copywork
  • Nature Walks
  • Picture Study
  • Composer Study
  • Living Books (i.e. good literature)
  • Shakespeare
  • Lots of handcrafts (cross-stitch, crochet, illustration, etc.)
  • Masterly Inactivity encouraged
  • Foreign Language (Charlotte encouraged French – remember she hailed from England in the late 1800s – we went with Mandarin and Spanish)

What we do a la Classical / Trivium:

  • 4 year rotation (science and history)
  • Story of the World
  • Classic Literature (Gilgamesh, Odyssey, Shakespeare, etc.)
  • Latin (though not yet)
  • Singapore Math
  • 3 distinct stages: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric

Yet, I would imagine our school doesn’t look anything like the school of another family following Charlotte Mason or the Trivium. People learn by playing, thinking and amazing themselves. They learn while they’re laughing at something surprising, and they learn while they’re wondering “What the heck is this!?” I thereby sprinkle in a little Sandra Dodd / John Holt into our approach to education.

Thus, a little bit Unschooling:

  • Life learning
  • Child directed (though I do plan lesssons, I will change direction upon interest)
  • Very much ‘play’ oriented (particularly at this age) – i.e., Masterly Inactivity
  • We do not adhere to a rigid schedule, we go with the flow and with what feels right

There is no right way to educate your children at home. It is a journey. You’ll find what works for you along the way. The important thing to remember is that you are building solid relationships with your children. You are growing and learning together.


  • Teacher of One

    February 12, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Excellent summary… Makes me want to make my own.

  • jennybell

    February 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    This sounds a lot like our “school”. Thanks for your clear outline.

  • School for Us

    February 13, 2009 at 3:27 am

    I love your summary, too. We combine those 2 (3?) also – a little CM, a little Classical, and a little bit of unschooling. 🙂 It must be why I enjoy your blog so much!

  • Cellista

    February 13, 2009 at 4:56 am

    I like your short answer, but love your elaboration also. Usually if I just say we’re doing classical education, people (even other homeschoolers) act as though I’ve got my children chained to a desk for 6 hours a day doing rigorous work. And that’s not it at all! We lean towards classical as you’ve described it, but have some CM in there as well. You’re right, everyone’s school looks different, that’s one of the beauties!

  • School for Us

    February 15, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Thanks for leaving me a link to the Geography Book. But, it didn’t take me to the book. 🙂 It just took me to a website with nothing pulled up. Can you try again?

  • School for Us

    February 15, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Thanks – that worked!

  • Sarah

    February 16, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Sweet summation of life. Hope you’re recovering soon from bugs and join us soon for some COOL fun!

  • Richele

    February 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I enjoyed your wonderful summary – and great reminder not to overwhelm people with an entire philosophy.

  • Beck's Bounty

    February 17, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for contributing this post to the CM Blog Carnival.

    Grace & Peace,

  • Brenda @ Tie That Binds Us

    February 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Wonderful post! We are like-minded in our philosophies, but I bet our days look totally different! I would like to invite you to join a homeschool network that you would enjoy and learn from and get to share with others that are like-minded. Come check it out! I’d love to see you around there.

  • Jeanne

    February 17, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Isn’t it great that we can design the perfect educational experience for our own families! There are no Charlotte Mason policemen knocking at our doors; nobody checking whether we do things perfectly according to one method or the other!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post…and think I would enjoy your school too!!


  • Keri

    February 18, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I love both methods.
    I employ methods from both.
    Narration, grammar, nature study, Latin, etc. I am sure that there are no two homeschools that are exactly alike!

  • Molly

    February 19, 2009 at 3:55 am

    We are using a Classical approach, but adding in a lot of CM, too! I started with CM when my oldest was young. We began adding in some Classical things like the four year cycle and Latin when he started 3rd grade…yet my overall philosophy continues to be shaped a great deal by Charlotte Mason.

    This was an excellent post, thanks for taking the time!

  • Barb-Harmony Art Mom

    February 24, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Hi Makita,

    I am currently going through a phase of regrouping with my rhetoric stage boys….I just can’t seem to find their pace anymore.

    I love that we can bend and flex to fit our children.

    I enjoyed reading your post.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  • Maria

    March 4, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Hi, Makita. May i write you in spanish? lol.

    Just because my english writing is so bffff!

    I love this post. I like these three homeschooling aproaches and i hope to practice them with my children.

    A pleasure to read your blog.


  • Pingback: Our Relaxed Homeschool: What We Do & How We Do It

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: