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More of a Charlotte Mason-Style Education Than a Classical Education

Heart of Dakota - More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment
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More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Heart of Dakota Leans More Toward a Charlotte Mason-Style Education

Ahh… the Charlotte Mason (CM) or Classical question. This is one with a multi-faceted answer! At Heart of Dakota we definitely lean more toward the Charlotte Mason-style of education than the classical. Charlotte Mason and classical philosophies have some definite areas of agreement and overlap (most pointedly the reading of more “classic” type books). However, the main thrust of the two philosophies is different.

Fewer Books, Read More Slowly Over Time

CM-style readings focus on fewer books read more slowly over time. In essence, they focus on fewer/more quality books done more deeply. Classical readings enjoys using fact books (i.e Usborne, DK, and other encyclopedia-like books) as reading material. They also encourage the reading of abridgements of classics early on in education. CM readings are always living, use fact books only for reference, and recommend waiting to read the classics until the unabridged versions can be attempted. Not all classics are considered “good reading” in a CM-style education. Classical often focuses on the “Great Books.”

A Difference on Methods of Comprehension

CM focuses on narration as the primary method of comprehension. Classical also uses narration, but more for the purpose of learning to summarize. In CM-style narration, kiddos are to borrow words from the author to retell the story. Narrations are often lengthy and detailed. There is no “one right” answer or certain key points that “should be” in the narration. This is the way the child connects to and makes sense of the reading. Classical narration is looking for a more succinct narration with “certain” main key points. There is more of a feeling that a good narration should have these “key points” in it. This is a different form of narration than CM-style narration.

A Difference in Dictation Methods

CM and Classical both use dictation, but with different methods. CM uses studied dictation (meaning kiddos study the passage first to fix it in the mind prior to having it dictated). Classical also uses dictation, but does not have kiddos study it first. It is more of a test of what the kiddos know, rather than the practice of fixing it in one’s mind.

Comparing and Contrasting CM and Classical Approaches to Copywork, Grammar, and Memorization

Both CM and Classical use copywork as a form of early writing practice. This is an area of agreement. CM uses delayed formal grammar instruction and delayed formal writing instruction. Classical education focuses on early rigorous grammar instruction and also on a rigorous schedule for memorization. CM also does memorization, especially of Scripture passages and poetry, but is not nearly as rigorous as Classical.

Differences in Expected Outcomes of Written Narration

Both CM and Classical use written narration, yet the expected outcome is different. Classical uses written narration as a tool for learning how to write a summary through narration. There is more of feeling that there are certain key points that should be included for it to be done correctly. CM uses written narration as a tool to learn writing style by borrowing the author’s style and wording to convey the thrust of the reading. It is not meant as merely a stepping stone to summarizing, as classical uses written narration. In CM-style narration, the student is instead trying on various styles of writing using the author’s style, until they eventually begin developing their own style of writing.

Differences in How to Approach Bible Study and the Integration of God’s Word in the School Day

CM and typical Classical vary quite a bit on their approach to Bible study and integrating God’s Word throughout the school day. CM believed this was foundational to all learning. Classical devotes very little time during the day to this topic, unless you follow a modified classical approach (such as the Bluedorn’s Christian Classical or Memoria Press’s Christian Classical).

Character Training and the Formation of Habits

Character training and the formation of habits were a huge part of CM’s focus. She devoted much of her 6 volume series to these topics. It is in these areas particularly that I agree with her. The formation of a child’s character and his/her habits is an overlooked topic in Classical education, as the pursuit of wisdom, knowledge, and education is supreme.

Differences in What’s Important and What’s Just an Add-On

CM felt poetry study, nature study, art, and music were important. She studied science through nature, art through picture study of famous paintings, music through listening to classical pieces, and poetry through daily reading of classic poems. Classical looks at these areas as “add-ons”, until they are done in the upper levels along with the rigorous study of history. With a truly classical schedule there is little time left in a very rigorous school day to devote to these things.

HOD Falls on the CM Side for Almost Everything

You can see that at HOD we fall on the CM side for almost all of the things I’ve listed above. The two other CM areas we include are picture study and classical music, and we included them when they best coordinated with our history studies. From the description above you can see some distinct differences between the two approaches. When reading this, you may hopefully be able to sort out the differences and where you fall philosophy-wise.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Eve

    First , I want to thank you so much for this comparison and clarification . We are giving our homeschooled child as much of a Classical Education as we can , although Charlotte Mason’s philosophies do resonate with me as a parent as well. I have used your curriculum and Memoria Press’ curriculum throughout our homeschooling journey which compels me to adress a few points that you made regarding Fewer Books , Read More Slowly Over Time. That is in fact MP’s philosophy & primary goal with there Literature Studies , reading 3 to 4 books per year and delving deeply into them with the assistance of their Lit . Guides. They use unabridged books and highly recommend that choice when reading to our children . I feel that I have been taught reading few, slowly , deeply through the classical philosophy. One year while researching , it was your curriculum that chose a DK Illustrated Bible while MP has chosen a children’s bible that stays as true to the KJ Bible as possible . I do not feel that is has been MP that has recommended DK , Usborne type books to their customers but curriculum providers that mix CM& Classical approaches. I also feel that their are a so many more books to read each year by CM providers than Classical . The whole philosophy that that classical educators stand on is ‘Multum non Multa’. I do agree with the different styles of writing & narration , I see no conflict with exposure to both methods . I believe your writing selections in LA each year reflect a need for both , do you agree?
    I did feel the need to comment today because I feel strongly that many books especially abridged , has not been our experience at all in out journey to educate our child classically. I do feel drawn to your LA choices for grammar & writing especially at the highschool level . I am mapping out a plan to use these as well as other highschool electives in the future. I have loved your hymn studies and this year I am using Beautiful Girlhood with my daughter. Your curriculum has served our family well and your blogposts have helped me to become a better homeschool teacher . Thank you!

  2. Hello Eve! Thank you for your comments here! Carrie is ill and will be unable to respond to you. I posted this on Carrie’s behalf from a past post of hers on our message board. It sounds like you are enjoying your classical style of education with some of CM’s philosophy mixed in as well, which is wonderful for you and your family! I have used Heart of Dakota from Prek through 12th grade, and the books and resources have fit so well within the CM living books’ style of learning. A slower more deep pace of reading has been one of the many things we have loved through the years. For the past 20 years of helping families on the phone, at conventions, etc. for Heart of Dakota, one of the predominant comments I hear is always how much families enjoy Carrie’s book choices. While there are a few DK type books, they are often used for a certain skill, like research, or for visual and written memorabilia/historical connections to the time period being studied, etc. The vast majority of books are certainly living books. This comparison is not between Memoria Press and Heart of Dakota, but rather Classical education in general and Charlotte Mason-style education in general. Thanks for sharing your experience with Memoria Press here. It sounds like you have found what fits your family well. We are so glad you are enjoying the hymn study and the Beautiful Girlhood study within Heart of Dakota! We hope you have a good upcoming homeschool year with what you have planned!

    In Christ,
    Julie Grosz, M. Ed.

    1. Eve

      Thank you Julie for your response! I wish Carrie well& speedy recovery! My post also wasn’t meant to be a stand I was taking for MP on your blog but more of a compare& contrast example of what I seeas a similarity in CE&CM education. Fewer books , read slowly is a point of view I’ve come to appreciate from a leading classical ed. provider is the point I wanted to make. I hope that my comments weren’t seen as a criticism of what I have also found to be a valuable curriculum in HOD, but just an added food for thought on this much debated topic .
      I look forward to the years of continued combining of two of our favorite curriculums on the market today! Thank you for all your hard work!

      1. Thank you for the well wishes for Carrie, and she is slowly improving with antibiotics. Thank you also for your comments in sharing your thoughts and insight on both CE and CM education. We are glad to hear you have found what works well for your family, and we are thankful for your use of Heart of Dakota in your home. We pray you have a wonderful, God-glorifying homeschool year!

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