Homeschooling parents are deeply invested in their children’s education. They want to do the best they can for their students, so they often spend precious hours researching educational methods.
Many are left feeling overwhelmed and more certain than ever that they will “do it wrong.” If that sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post, I will shed light on two of the most popular and most frequently confused types of homeschooling; Charlotte Mason and classical education.
Afterward, I’ll offer advice about choosing the best path for you.
Let’s get started!
What Charlotte Mason & Classical Have in Common
Charlotte Mason and classical education are both educational philosophies rather than curricula. There is no one set of books or list of procedures to follow. Instead, they offer guiding principles for inspiring young learners.
Both methods promote the cultivation of good habits, careful consideration of a child’s environment, and exposure to challenging books instead of textbooks.
With a Charlotte Mason or classical education, students study history, art, literature, and science in an integrated fashion rather than as stand-alone subjects.
Additionally, Charlotte Mason and classical ideologies advocate for mastery and excellence – contending that children should be gently nurtured but also consistently held to a high standard.
Most importantly, both educational styles center around teaching children to think for themselves and to become life-long learners.
For all their similarities, there are some key differences between the two educational styles. Let’s take a look!
Classical education dates back to the early philosophers of ancient Greece. It was the standard method of western education well into the middle of the 19th century, meaning that the great scientists, philosophers, artists, and history writers were undoubtedly classically educated.
In fact, Charlotte Mason was originally a Classical educator!
Classical education emphasizes memorization in the younger years when children are developmentally predisposed to enjoy repetition.
Through daily practice, children memorize poetry, math tables, grammar and spelling rules, historical timelines, and more.
The goal is to build a mental storehouse of beautiful words, facts, and ideas that will come in handy in later years when students are cognitively capable of developing critical thinking skills.
At around ten years old, when young people become eager to question and argue, classical studies stress the development of debate and logic skills.
Throughout their education, classically educated children are exposed to great works of literature, and in their older years, they are taught to evaluate and respond to those books through careful and explicit instruction in writing and rhetoric.
As mentioned, Mason was herself a classical educator. Two key factors led her to develop her own educational philosophy.
First, a rigorous education was a privilege reserved for the upper class in her era. Mason believed, however, that the opportunity to learn should be available to everyone.
Second, she felt that while classical studies focused primarily on the mental development of children, they are, in fact, whole people whose physical and emotional needs should also be considered.
Her educational philosophy, therefore, promotes a liberal education, which honors the whole child for all.
Specifically, Mason stresses that lessons should be short and that young children narrate what they have learned rather than sit for exams or write lengthy essays.
Mason felt that children need not be instructed in spelling, grammar, or writing if they steadily absorb those things from literature.
She also believed music, art, and nature study exposure are crucial to any sound education. In her 1925 book, Towards a Philosophy of Education, Mason incorporates these ideas into her 20 principles for teaching.
It was and continues to be, widely influential.
Which Is Best For You?
When choosing between two such acclaimed education methods, how does one decide which is best?
As a homeschooling mother of three boys who are now accomplished and learned adults, my best advice is to allow yourself the freedom to incorporate both philosophies into your homeschool.
These two learning methods are pretty similar and not mutually exclusive.
You can, for example, teach young children to memorize important facts and beautiful poetry in short morning lessons that still honor their need to explore and move.
You can incorporate nature study into your afternoons and, when children are ready, give them more explicit instructions on researching and writing about what they discover.
In my own home, I often found that these two methods combine quite well and together work to develop young people who have a thirst for knowledge and a sustained habit of learning.
Educate yourself on theories and strategies, but remember, you know your children best. Focus first on developing character, growing strong family bonds, and encouraging curiosity, and the rest will come naturally.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is classical education really better?
Ultimately, there is no definitive answer as to which type of education is “better”; what may be right for one student might not be right for another. Rather than shunning one mode of pedagogy to embrace another completely, more teachers and schools should be looking at ways to create a balance that incorporates elements from both forms of training.
What are the cons of classical education?
Classical education can often be overwhelming with information, challenging to follow, and demanding time commitment from educators and students. In addition, some might find the classical educational style highly structured, leaving little room for creativity or exploration outside of traditional materials.
What are the three stages of classical education?
Classical education comprises three distinct stages: the Grammar stage, the Logic stage, and the Rhetoric stage. The Grammar stage begins around ages 5-12, during which students learn the fundamentals such as phonology, math, history, and Latin. During the Logic stage (ages 12-14), kids begin synthesizing their knowledge and using logic and critical thinking skills to analyze what they’ve learned. Finally, at the Rhetoric stage (ages 14-18+), they develop eloquence in their speech or writing. This final step of classical education prepares students to be articulate communicators who can analyze their ideas linguistically.