The Philosophy & Method

What is the Charlotte Mason Philosophy?

“In other words, parents and teachers….”

An Atmosphere

"should know how to make sensible use to a child's circumstances to forward his sound education"

A Discipline

"should train him in the discipline of the habits of the good life"

A Life

"and should nourish his life with ideas, the food upon which personality waxes strong."

(Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, 182)

Many curriculums give teachers what to teach and students what to learn. In a Charlotte Mason Education, the “what” in every subject is backed with the “how”, which is founded in the “why”.

Why Mathematics in a Charlotte Mason Education?

  • “The practical value of arithmetic to persons in every class of life goes without remark…” (Vol. 1, p. 254).
    It is practical.
  • “The chief value of arithmetic, like that of higher mathematics, is in the training it affords to the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders” (Vol. 1, p. 254).

    It is habit training.

  • “Never are the operations of Reason more perfect and more delightful than in mathematics. Here, men do not begin to reason with a notion that causes them to lean to this side or to that. By degrees, absolute truth unfolds itself. We are so made that truth, absolute and certain truth, is a perfect joy to us; and that is the joy that mathematics afford” (Vol. 4, pp. 62-63).

    Most importantly, mathematics is a tool for teaching knowledge of God’s creation and of God Himself.

How to Implement the Method

  • “Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with ‘delight’ his own, living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum” (Vol. 3, 214).
    Formal lessons, including mathematics, begin at the age of 6.

  • “Again the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight; and this, for two or three reasons. The sense that there is not much time for his sums or his reading, keeps the child’s wits on the alert and helps fix his attention; he has time to learn just so much of any one subject if it is good for him to take in at once: and if the lessons be judiciously alternated-sums first, say, while the brain is quite fresh; then writing, or reading-some more or less mechanical exercise, by way of a rest; and so on, the programme varying a little from day to day, but the same principle throughout-a ‘thinking’ lesson first, and a ‘painstaking’ lesson to follow,-the child gets through his morning lessons without any sign of weariness” (Vol. 1, 142).
    Lessons are kept to a maximum time period of 20 minutes for Grades 1-3 and 30 minutes for Grades 4 and up. The types of lessons are varied before a math lesson and after, so there are not two similar kinds of lessons completed consecutively.

  • “If he must use beans to get his answer, let him; but encourage him to work with imaginary beans, as a step towards working with abstract numbers” (Vol. 1, 257).
    Lessons follow the natural progression of human learning – from concrete, to imaginary, to abstract; also from oral to written.

  • “Therefore I incline to think that an elaborate system of staves, cubes, etc. instead of tens, hundreds, thousands, errs by embarrassing the child’s mind with too much teaching, and by making the illustration occupy a more prominent place than the thing illustrated” (Vol. 1, 262).
    Manipulatives are simple, everyday objects.

  • “Give him short sums, in words rather than in figures, and excite in him the enthusiasm which produces concentrated attention and rapid work” (Vol. 1, 261).
    Rapid mental math is an important part of mathematics education.

  • “You will see at a glance, with this Captain Idea of establishing relationships as a guide, the unwisdom of choosing or rejecting this or that subject, as being more or less useful or necessary in view of a child’s future” (Vol. 3, 162).
    Math is definitely a part of the curriculum, but it also does not take up too much of the feast, at the expense of other subject areas.

  • “Let us try, however imperfectly, to made education a science of relationships-in other words, try in one subject or another to let the children work upon living ideas. In this field small efforts are honoured with great rewards, and we perceive that the education we are giving exceeds all that we intended or imagined” (Vol. 3, 163).
    Science of Relations – ideas are connected. Mathematical thinking and reasoning is found throughout all of life. It is specifically taught in a CM education in other subject areas such as Sloyd and Geography.

  • “He is interested; the work goes on briskly: the sum is done in no time, and is probably right, because the attention of the child is concentrated on his work” (Vol. 1, 253).

    “The child who has been allowed to think and not compelled to cram, hails the new study with delight when the due time for it arrives. The reason why mathematics are a great study is because there exists in the normal mind an affinity and capacity for this study; and too great an elaboration, whether of teaching or of preparation, has, I think, a tendency to take the edge off this manner of intellectual interest” (Vol. 1, 264).
    Lesson presentation is simply elegant, starting with an inspiring idea. Concepts are presented in an investigative method, where the problem solving and critical thinking are the goal.

  • “Care must be taken to give the child such problems as he can work, but yet which are difficult enough to cause him some little mental effort” (Vol 1, 255).
    Focus is on the mastery of concepts and moves at the child’s pace.

  • “We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life” (Preface, xxi).
    The Holy Spirit is the Supreme Teacher, ever-present at the school table in every subject, in every moment. He is continually encouraging, inspiring, guiding, and teaching.

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