Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason

“EDUCATION is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty.”        

The CIRCE Institute               

I came across this excellent article by Karen Glass today on the Classical Side of Charlotte Mason and was reminded of my own journey to, from, and back to Classical Education.

When I first read about Classical Education, my heart leaped for joy!  It seemed like the perfect fit for our family’s educational philosophies. Once I read The Well-Trained Mind, however,  I changed my well-read mind quickly!  If THAT was classical, I didn’t like it.  Where was the cuddling-on-the-couch-reading-delicious-books time?  If I had more than two kids, how I was supposed to tackle all those separate grade levels, especially when I had already been sold on how wonderful it is to learn as a family?  The book stressed me out and I put Classical Education out of my mind.

Charlotte Mason, or a Living Books education, was my next discovery.  For the Children’s Sake inspired me to do anything I could to help make my kids passionate about learning.  A Charlotte Mason Education showed me that I could provide a vigorous, full education for my children without making my children sit still and do boring bookwork all day.  Charlotte Mason inspired me to make beauty and virtue and habit serious components of our family’s education.  After the first evening I read A Charlotte Mason Companion, I honestly had vivid, sweet dreams the entire night!  The book touched my soul in a gentle, warm way that made me want to slow down, hug my children, and learn alongside them.

But I couldn’t shake the fact that the deeper principles in a Charlotte Mason Education were very similar to those I’d first been drawn to in Classical Education.  Was Charlotte Mason “classical”?  It was when I read Teaching the Trivium‘s suggestion that parents consider using Charlotte Mason methods for their younger children and then utilizing a more traditional classical approach with older students  that I seriously considered how Classical and CM could go hand in hand.  

Two years ago, we joined Classical Conversations.  I am now thoroughly sold on Classical Education again!  Here’s a post I left a year ago on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum about CC and how we didn’t have to “give up” the gems we’d mined from CM to embrace the classical method:

“Our family is VERY Charlotte Mason-ish (we always called our philosophy Relaxed Classical with a Charlotte Mason twist) and we LOVED Classical Conversations last year.  Long story short, I had the opportunity to tutor for the group (so it didn’t cost me any $$) and we gave it a go.  I didn’t change our home curriculum a bit, besides going over the timeline and memory verse every morning.  We did completely different things in history and science at home- nothing related to the CC facts.  We simply played the CC CD in the car and sometimes before bed.  Oh, and the kids did have to do an oral report for CC each week.  They loved the class!  I can’t believe how many facts they learned.  It was frankly AMAZING, more amazing because of how much fun they had doing it!

“The kids did make LOTS of connections, though.  If we were at a museum or watching a show or reading a book when the name of a famous person from their timeline or history sentence popped up, they were so excited because they already felt familiar with that person (even though they had memorized those names without beginning with any connections).

“We added a foster/adopt son halfway through the year and I was even more amazed to see how he adored CC.  He hated school and loved homeschooling, so I didn’t know how the classroom situation would go for him at CC.  I can only speak for our group, but the class is extremely active – lots of singing, game playing, jumping around.  It’s not at all like what I had in mind for a formal classical school!  

“Tutoring was also a load of fun.  I can’t believe how much I learned!

“Anyway, just wanted to chime in that you can partake in CC without sacrificing your Charlotte Mason ideals.  In fact, we had struggled with memory work for years and I felt that CC actually freed me up to spend more time reading living books and letting the kids do a little bit of “unschooling” (or delight-directed schooling)!”

After two years of being involved with CC at this time, I can only agree with my first impression that my children LOVE memorizing and making connections from bare facts to deeper ideas. I have decided it is quite possible to embrace both the grammar stage ideas found in the classical method and Charlotte’s contention that children are not empty buckets to be filled but souls to be nurtured.  The high principles behind both Charlotte Mason and Classical Education are more within my reach thanks to this wonderful program.  I’m very thankful that the Lord led us to Classical Conversations!


11 thoughts on “Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason

  1. I love how For the Children’s Sake has been a springboard for so many of us.
    I love the thoughts you have shared here on these two wonderful philosophies of education!

  2. This put me at ease for next year. My husband is a very analytical, logical thinker and I am a free spirit, which, I think is sometimes synonymous with lazy. He heartily agrees with the Classical approach and I adore Charlotte Mason and reading living books. I cannot WAIT to see how these two things mesh together next year. Phew! Your post on the forum took a load off of my mind, thank you!

  3. Thanks so much for writing this article. I started HSg my (soon to be 5 yo) son using CM-Ambleside and then came across Classical Conversations through a friend. What a comfort to read that these two actually go together! I am not a CM purist as I taught my son to read and write at 4 yo, but, I do follow the CM nature walks and booklist. My son being very sociable is lacking the ‘social” aspect in our home (his younger brother is not enough :>) and so CC could provide this environment once a week. I, myself, am new to HSg and would very much need the support group in the CC environment. What a blessing! God bless whoever wrote this. I and my husband are going to the CC open house next week and pray that God leads us in the path He has for our family.

  4. My twin four year old boys are registered for CC next fall. The more I read about CM philosophy the more I like it. So glad to know the two will blend well.

  5. I am so encouraged to read your post. I just came home from my first day at the CC parent practicum and wondered if I could use their method as a guide and fatten up my kids’ experience with CM methods on our other days together. Thank you for sharing!

  6. You know how when you ask God for that confirmation and you have to patiently wait……Your post was it ;o) He is sooo faithful. Thank you for sharing your heart, it made my day :O) Very EXCITED to continue with HOD and incorporate Classical Conversations as well!

  7. Thank you, Thank you, thank you for you for your article. I have a 4 1/2 year old and have been totally sold on CM. I love everything about it. A friend of mine said I should look in to CC. So i found one about 30 minutes from where I live. I am so happy to see how the two can pair up beautifully. 🙂

  8. Hi! I am so glad I stumbled across this blog post!!! We are so very Charlotte Mason and I too am looking to join Classical Conversations in the fall. I have been searching for other moms who have combined the two methods. So I’m delighted to see you find they fit nicely together. I’d be interested to talk with you more about how you fit them together in your daily activities. Thank you!

  9. How do you incorporate both curricula? I have a soon-to-be first grader, and was considering both CM and CC, but didn’t know which. I also know that with CC I have to supplement reading and math (clueless where to go). With CM, is it a complete curricula or do I have to supplement as with CC? How do you do both CM with CC? Wouldn’t that be overkill? CC says to do no more than 1 hour of structured work with our son at that age.

  10. Hi VK! At that age, I would view CC as a (fantastic and fun) memory program and do whatever seems best to you at home. I agree that you should not do more than 1 hour of structured work (but you can spend more time crafting, drawing, cuddling on the couch reading, gardening, going on nature walks or walks around the block, etc.)
    During our first year of CC, we simply reviewed the memory facts in the car (CD player). If you review at home, don’t do it for more than 15 minutes a day. The rest of your time can be spent very CM-ly (how do you like that made-up word?). Read wonderful books from the CM lists out there, or find living books about the various Science facts and History eras your kids are memorizing in CC. Last year we complemented our reading with CC, but not on a strict week-to-week basis. As the kids memorize various people and places, they feel like they come across old friends when those people and places pop up in living books.
    Let me give you an example of how you can incorporate CM-style learning into the CC framework: We studied Bach in our CC group this year. The tutors gave a little background information on Bach and the kids listened for about 20 minutes to a famous piece of his in class. At home, we took a few weeks to read a wonderful living book called Sebastian Bach: The Boy for Thuringia ( My intention was to listen to lots of Bach’s music over several months (but I pretty much failed in that regard).
    Teaching the Trivium is a great book that gives credence to doing Charlotte Mason-style for kids under 10, while remaining under the Classical umbrella.
    Hope this helps a little – I’m babbling and don’t have time to edit!

  11. Thank you so much for this post! I just started CC with my 1st grader and was feeling very overwhelmed. We do a lot of CM at home, and have quickly found that trying to incorporate all of the CC memory work at home in addition to the regular CM things, is just too much for my little guy to handle. He started using the words “It’s boring” for the first time. 😦 So, I’m going to try what you do..listen to the songs and practice the timeline [which he doesn’t mind], then proceed with our CM things the rest of the time.

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