Growing Up with Charlotte Mason

Growing Up with Charlotte Mason

Editor’s Note: At the 2018 Charlotte Mason Living Retreat, I spoke on the topic of “How to Learn the Charlotte Mason Method.” In that talk, I suggest that parents new to the method “start with four.” When I finished my presentation, my fifteen-year-old daughter Anesley came forward and shared about her experience growing up with these four, as a Charlotte Mason homeschool student. I am glad her message was recorded, and we are delighted to share it today.


My dad just said to “start with four”:

  1. Go outside.
  2. Read and narrate living books.
  3. Teach living math.
  4. Start a handicraft.

I would like to talk about my experience with those four and how they have impacted my life. I will go in reverse order.

Out of those four, the one I haven’t gone into much depth with is handcrafts. I made a pillow once with my mom, I’ve made a few clay figures, and I enjoy baking. I especially love baking from scratch. The first time I ever baked something was communion bread with my Sunday school teacher when I was 7 or 8, and since then, my baking interest has skyrocketed. My dad has taken over my school schedule and because he works during the day, we’ve had to do school on the weekends. So now to make up for that, Thursday is my day off. It is my “Sunday.” I’ve chosen to spend my Thursdays playing with my little brother and cooking. For example, last Thursday, I got a pumpkin, baked and pureed it, and made a pie out of it.

The best way to describe my relationship with math is a rollercoaster. Many ups and downs, twists and turns. I’ve never really enjoyed math. Only small bits and pieces, especially when it came to Algebra I. But last school year all that changed. I started actually enjoying math, that was when my dad started face to face teaching me instead of watching a math instructor on video. The start was a little rough, but now, it’s been more about learning at my pace and less about the pace of the curriculum. I’ve just started trigonometry this year and three weeks into it, I told my dad that I really liked doing trig. Our first few lessons were very simple, introducing the unit circle, the different ways to measure angles, then getting into cosine, sine, cosecant, etc. Each lesson tackled one or two of these new concepts. It may have been slow at first, but that’s just what I needed to understand this new language. Now, my relationship with math is not a tooth-grinding unavoidable school subject, but a nice time to have fun with my dad, to laugh about math jokes, and silly mistakes.

As for living books, as long as I can remember, I’ve always narrated my readings, except for free reading books. I have always orally narrated to my mom, and I have vivid memories of narrating a Bible passage I read with my dad while he typed it out so it could be read and enjoyed later on. Picture a younger me, having just read this passage from the Gospel of John, and my dad typing my narration as I told him what happened:

John 6:25-59

When the people found Jesus on the other side of the lake, they said, “Why are you here?” And Jesus answered them, “Why are you looking for me? You are looking at the Man who gave you as much bread as you wanted.” And they said, “Why did our ancestors have to eat manna in the desert?” And Jesus answered them, “Moses led the people into the desert. And the manna is not bread. God gave the manna to the people so they would live.”

Jesus said to the people, “Anyone who comes to me will not be thirsty. And whoever comes to me will not be hungry. Anyone cannot come to me but my Father draws them to me.” And then the people grumbled that Jesus came down from heaven. And they said, “This is Jesus. He says that whoever comes to him will never be hungry our thirsty. But why don’t they just come, so that the Father does not have to draw them to Jesus, the Savior, God’s Son?” And Jesus said, “Stop grumbling. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes, God will draw to me, and will not be hungry or thirsty.”

“I am the bread of life,” said Jesus. And this became an angry argument with the people. And they said, “How can this be the bread of life,” they asked. And Jesus said, “If you do not eat my flesh or drink my blood, you will not have eternal life. My flesh is the real food. My blood is the real drink. This is not the bread that your ancestors ate but then died.”

I was 6 when I narrated that. The Gospel of John was the first book of the Bible I ever read, and I had just learned the foundations of reading. But even then, even though I was 6 years old, I knew that this amazing book I was reading was powerful and important, and I knew that it could not be narrated lightly. It’s almost like I tried to memorize some parts while I’m reading it so that I can use some of the same wording in my Bible narrations.

And as I’ve gone on to do written narrations, I have learned many things about my narration style. When orally narrating, or narrating to my parents, I use a lot more of my own wording and style than I would if I were writing it down. When I do a written one, I try to write it in the same style as the book to the best of my ability. At first I didn’t like it that much, but now, I’m narrating just about everything and not just school books, but other books I just read for fun. I’m very lucky to have read or listened to books that spark my interest almost every time. As a result of narrating so much, I’ve been able to really invest in my narrations. The best example I have for this is with my narrations of The Scarlet Letter. They are by no means perfect, but I’ve really taken the way of writing them to heart.

Now here’s a written narration from this past August:

Romans 14:13-15:6

Do not, then, pass judgment on others. If you want to practice judgment, do so with this question: how can I avoid placing objects in front of my fellow family members? I know that things are not unclean in themselves, but become unclean when we make it such. If we eat something that harms another, you no longer do it in love. Do not harm or cause anguish to one for whom the Messiah died! Don’t make something that is good for you, cause blasphemy in another. God’s kingdom is not about food and drink you see, it is about justice. Those who serve and love the Messiah, will gladly give up meat or any other thing, rather than cause anguish for another, for anything that is not done out of faith is sin…

We, as the ‘strong’ ones, need to help and not leave behind the ‘weak’ ones, and so as not to please ourselves. Each one of us should do what we can to help our neighbor not hinder them. The Messiah did not do thing to please Himself, in fact, He said that, ‘The reproach of those who reproached you are on Me.’ Whatever was written before its time was written for us to learn from, so that we might have patience and encouragement through the Bible. May the God of patience and encouragement grant you to a common mind amongst yourselves. With one mind and one mouth, may you glorify the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

This is one of my favorite Bible narrations, because it really struck a chord in me. And even now, months later, those last four verses in Romans 14 are still vividly there in the back of my mind. I still wonder now, if the Spirit hadn’t moved me to write down these words, would I still carry those words vividly with me every day?

Even though I’ve never taken a formal writing class, my written narrations have prepared me for writing articles, and has made me feel comfortable talking in front of big groups of people.

And the last one of the four ways to get started with Charlotte Mason is going outside. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a strong relationship with nature, that’s a thousand times stronger now than ever. Before we moved to Michigan, we had a square patch of raspberries in our backyard. Every summer, my mom would wake up early and pick baskets of raspberries, then we’d go out and eat the stragglers right off the bush. I love the smell of the great outdoors and can’t imagine life without it. The rustle of wind through the leaves, bugs chirping, rabbits and squirrels running about, birds singing their beautiful songs, running water, wonderful flowers, and mud these are things that I think every child should interact with. A bug bite, a scratch from climbing a tree, dirt caked on your shoe, and bits of tree stuck in your hair—these are included in all my fondest memories of interactions with nature. I definitely take more time looking at the greens, browns, and bright colors around me than I did when I was younger. Nature has also become a gateway for me to relive stress, anger, and sadness, and it makes me feel more alive. Reading biology hasn’t helped one bit! I’ve started becoming a total nerd, studying every plant leaf and identifying it, seeing if its cleft, entire, and palmate and being able to really appreciate what God has given us to look at.

My schooling has by no means been perfect, after all, we’re only human. But my parents are doing their best to prepare my brothers and me for the life ahead of us, and I couldn’t ask for better. If you’re having trouble right now, hang in there, it’s only temporary, and I can assure you that it only goes uphill from here. Thank you.

3 Replies to “Growing Up with Charlotte Mason”

  1. “I couldn’t ask for better,” brought a tiny tear to my eye.

    I can sympathize with: “I love the smell of the great outdoors.” . . . “dirt caked on your shoe, bits of tree stuck in your hair.”

  2. What a beautiful narration of living a Charlotte Mason life! Thank you both for sharing. I’m currently teaching in a private school for children with learning differences and was reminded by this article to “go outside” as often as possible. Because one of my high school students was recently diagnosed with a serious health issue, we can no longer take the nature walks we once enjoyed during her class period. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me through your writing, Anesley, to simply take this class to our outside garden area and have class there, when possible. Thank you both for being instruments of His peace and wisdom.

  3. Thank you for sharing this Anesley! What a great encouragement to me who’s just starting in our CM journey and getting anxious if I’m doing it right… I shall keep on in faith then. ^_^

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