One of the main questions I hear about the Charlotte Mason homeschool is what requirements do each age have and what length of time whould be taken for lessons. In this post, I will answer these questions in Charlotte Mason’s own words so readers know what was expected by Charlotte Mason herself.
Classes, Ages & Lessons the Charlotte Mason Way
It is important to note that Charlotte Mason divided children up into ‘classes’ based on ages. However, her last class was based on females only, which speaks of her time more. We can use that final class as a guide for both male and female students.
Charlotte Mason had 5 classes, broken up as Class Ia, Class 1b, Class II, Class III and Class IV.
I’m going to break up these classes for you, often using Charlotte Mason’s own words found in Charlotte’s Mason Original Series, Volume 3, Appendix II.
“The child of six goes into Class Ia.; he works for 2 1/2 hours a day, but half an hour of this time is spent in drill and games.
Including drill, he has thirteen ‘subjects’ of study, for which about sixteen books are used.
He recites hymns, poems, and Bible verses; works from Messrs Sonnenschein and Nesbitt’s ABC Arithmetic; sings French and English songs; begins Mrs Curwen’s Child Pianist, learns to write and to print, learns to read, learns French orally, does brush-drawing and various handicrafts.
All these things are done with joy, but cannot be illustrated here. Bible lessons, read from the Bible; tales, natural history, and geography are taught from appointed books, helped by the child’s own observation.
Our plan in each of these subjects is to read him the passage for the lesson (a good long passage), talk about it a little, avoiding much explanation, and then let him narrate what has been read. This he does very well and with pleasure, and is often happy in catching the style as well as the words of the author.
Certain pages, say 40 or 50, from each of the children’s books are appointed for a term’s reading. At the end of the term an examination paper is sent out containing one or two questions on each book.” – Charlotte Mason
“The children are usually between seven and eight, but may be nine. They have fifteen ‘subjects’ (perhaps twenty-three books).
The subjects which do not lend themselves to illustration are a continuation of the work in Class la. But by this time the children can usually read, and read for themselves some, at any rate, of their books for History, Geography, and Tales.
The children narrate their lessons as in Class Ia., and, also, their answers to the examination questions.
They appear to enjoy doing this; indeed, the examinations which come at the end of each term are a pleasure; the only difficulty is that small children want to go on ‘telling.’ Their words are taken down literally. One is struck by the correctness and copiousness of the language used; but young children delight in words, and often surprise their elders by their free and correct use of ‘dictionary words.’
One notices the verve with which the children tell the tale, the orderly sequence of events, the correctness and fulness of detail, the accuracy of names. These things are natural to children until they are schooled out of them.” – Charlotte Mason
“The children are between nine and twelve, occasionally over twelve. They have twentyone ‘subjects,’ and about twenty-five books are used.
They work from 9 to 12 each day, with half an hour’s interval for games and drill.
Some Latin and German (optional) are added to the curriculum. In music we continue Mrs Curwen’s (Child Pianist) method and Tonic Sol-fa, and learn French, German (optional), and English songs. But I cannot here give details of our work, and must confine myself to illustrations from seven of the subjects on the programme.
Children in Class II. write or dictate, or write a part and dictate a part of their examination answers according to their age. The examination lasts a week, and to write the whole of their work would be fatiguing at this stage. The plan followed is, that the examination in each subject shall be done in the time for that subject on the time-table.
I should like to say a word about the Greek and Roman History. Plutarch’s Lives are read in Classes II. and Ill, and as children are usually five years in these two classes, they may read some fifteen of these Lives, which I think stand alone in literature as teaching that a man is part of the State, that his business is to be of service to the State, but that the value of his service depends upon his personal character. The Lives are read to the children almost without comment, but with necessary omissions.. Proper names are written on the blackboard; and, at the end, children narrate the substance of the lesson.
The English History book used in Classes II. and III. is extremely popular; it is Mr Arnold-Forster’s (of about 800 pages), and is well known as a serious, manly, and statesmanlike treatment of English History; in no case is there any writing down to the children.” – Charlotte Mason
“The range of age is from eleven or twelve to fifteen.
The ‘subjects’: Bible Lessons and Recitations (Poetry and Bible passages); English Grammar, French, German, and Latin; Italian (optional); English, French, and Ancient History (Plutarch’s Lives); Singing (French, English, and German Songs); Writing, Dictation, Drill; Drawing in Brush and Charcoal; Natural History, Botany, Physiology, Geography; Arithmetic; Geometry, and Reading.’
About thirty-five books are used. Time, 3 1/2 hours a day; half an hour out of this time, as before, for drill and games.
There is no preparation or home work in any of the classes. The reader will notice from the subjoined specimens that the papers are still written con amore, and show an intelligent grasp of the several subjects. Though there are errors in many of the papers, they are not often the mistakes of ignorance or stupidity, nor are they those of a person who has never understood what he is writing about. ‘Composition’ is never taught as a subject; well-taught children compose as well-bred children behave-by the light of nature. It is probable that no considerable writer was ever taught the art of ‘composition.’
The same remark may be made about spelling: excepting for an occasional ‘inveterate’ case, the habit of reading teaches spelling. All the pupils of the Parents’ Review School do not take all the subjects set in the programmes of the several classes.. Sometimes, parents have the mistaken notion that the greater the number of subjects the heavier the work; though, in reality, the contrary is the case, unless the hours of study are increased.
Sometimes, outside lessons in languages, music, etc., interfere; some times, health will not allow of more than an hour or two of work in the day. The children in the practising school do all the work set, and their work compares satisfactorily with the rest, though the classes have the disadvantage of changing teachers every week. Children in Class III. write the whole of their examination work.” – Charlotte Mason
NOTE: Although this class was intended for girls, it can be used for boys as well. With that being said, I would encourage you to research what your state requirements are for a high school diploma. Follow those requirements while adding consideration to Charlotte Mason’s format. All of her methods will benefit a high school student for futher education and for life. It isn’t difficult to continue this way of education through graduation. I have successfully done it twice, with a third child in high school.
“Girls are usually in Class IV. for two or three years, from fourteen or fifteen to seventeen, after which they are ready to specialise and usually do well.
The programme for Class IV. is especially interesting; it adds Geology and Astronomy to the sciences studied, more advanced Algebra to the Mathematics, and sets the history of Modern Europe instead of French history. The literature, to illustrate the history, includes the reading of a good many books, and the German and French books when possible illustrate the history studied.
All the books (about forty) are of a different calibre from those used in the lower classes; they are books for intelligent students.” – Charlotte Mason