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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“What exactly does a Charlotte Mason approach to the language arts LOOK like?” by Sandi Queen, Queen Homeschool Supplies, Inc. (Plus Giveaway)

As the author of the award-winning "Language Lessons" series for Charlotte Mason style educating, this is one question I hear all the time.

Upon opening one of my "Language Lessons" books, it is quickly evident that they are not your traditional-looking grammar textbook. After getting past the "ooh's" and "aah's" of how beautiful the artwork is, and how delightful the poetry is, the questions come...what is it that makes the Charlotte Mason approach to language arts so different? My typical answer follows.

The Charlotte Mason approach to the language arts consists of four levels:

Level 1: Reading Aloud
This is as simple as it sounds!  Simply read to your child! But, there are important things to remember here.  First, you want to be certain to expose your child to a wide variety of literature. While simple little paperback storybooks that you will find in the grocery store are fine occasionally, this should not be the bulk of your child’s reading experiences.  Search for books that will stretch your child in every way - read about different countries, cultures, and people. Both fiction, which will stretch his imagination, and nonfiction, which will stretch his knowledge, are recommended.  With even young children, try reading a chapter from a book that is not a picture book every night.  While picture books are fine, a book without pictures encourages the child to think more creatively by creating his OWN pictures in his mind as you read aloud to him! Even my little ones have sat and listened, wide-eyed, to books like The Story Book of Science, Bear Brownie: The Life of a Bear, and the “Young Men of Valor” or “Young Ladies of Virtue” series.

Level 2: Narration
Narration is such a simple, yet powerful tool that is so often overlooked in favor of its more traditional, boring counterpart.  Narration means simply “to tell back."  So many times, people follow the classroom approach, and buy a classroom-designed “reader” book of stories, read a story daily to their child (or have the child read it), and then drill the child for comprehension by giving them a list of “comprehension questions.” Since I have “been there,” I can speak from experience when I say that there is NOTHING that will kill a child’s love for reading faster than this!  Narration, however, is a joy to the child, and takes care of the same thing.  Look at this picture of narration in action: Mom reads the latest chapter of Rosalie’s Good Shepherd to the children over lunch.  That evening, Mom prompts one of the children with “Luke, tell Dad about what happened today in Rosalie’s Good Shepherd - how Rosalie crept into the church house and heard her first sermon, and gave her heart to Christ!"  And the child, eager to share this exciting story with Dad, tells all about it.  See how natural this is?  And yet it accomplishes the same goal as the dull, boring comprehension questions in such a way that the child does not even realize he is learning ... he has had to rethink the day’s story, process his thoughts in his head, and put into words all that he would have had to write down to answer the list of questions.

Level 3: Copywork
Copywork is the one element of a Charlotte Mason style education that I held off on the longest.  Why?  It just sounded TOO simple.  Like it wasn’t enough, and it just couldn’t do all that it was purported to.  It wasn’t until the year I had my sixth child, Jeremiah, that I finally decided to give it a try.  I thought that I could use the copywork with the older kids that year, and spend the next year catching up on what we had missed. What a surprise I was in for!  We did our copywork that year, all right, but once I found out how effective it was all by itself, we NEVER went back!  Copywork has become such a mainstay in our household, we’ve even written and published two entire series of copywork lessons for different levels, as well as integrating the benefits of copywork into our spelling series, Learning to Spell Through Copywork, our Pictures in Cursive series, and our Language Lessons series!  Parents have told us again and again that they would love to use copywork, but are put off by the tedious task of finding something worth copying each day that will give the child practice in mastering a variety of different grammatical application skills.  That’s where our two best-selling series, the Copywork for Young Ones and the Thematic Copywork Lessons books come in.  Each consists of 180 daily lessons, already compiled and arranged for you to use!

Level 4: Dictation
Dictation is usually reserved for the high school years, when a child is no longer challenged by copywork.  The same material that is used for copywork is instead read aloud to the student, who writes it down, paying attention to the details in where they should place proper capitalization, punctuation, and how to spell properly.  Again, as with copywork, the key here is in choosing a wide variety of material to practice different skills, which can be solved by purchasing some of our Thematic Copywork Lessons volumes.  After the child writes the material that is dictated to him, he goes back and compares what he has written against what was read to him, and makes necessary corrections.

These four steps, followed diligently, will transform your homeschool language arts program!  This is the method I have used with all of my children, even the three who have graduated from homeschooling and are now working as professional book editors today, as well as being authors in the homeschool market themselves.


Sandi Queen is the author of over 300 books, and has been married to Keith since 1985. They are co-founders of Queen Homeschool Supplies, Inc., established in 1994, a publishing company providing Charlotte Mason style materials to Christian families. The Queens have homeschooled their six children, for whom much of their books were originally written, from the beginning, three of whom have now graduated. You can visit their website at, or call 888-695-2777 for a free catalog of their materials.

Sandi is offering one of my readers an opportunity to win a copy of Meet Charlotte Mason: An Introduction to Her Methods by Sandi Queen. Description is as follows:

This little book will introduce you to the delightful educational 
methods of Miss Charlotte Mason, and describe for the layman how to go about getting started in this most enjoyable way of learning! Discusses what Miss Mason’s philosophies were, why they work better than the traditional textbook method, and how to get started. Paperback.

Use Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway.

©2011-2013 A Slice of Homeschool Pie. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.


  1. I'd love to win this book to learn how to improve my sons' language arts skills.

  2. I would love to win!
    shuttermom77 at gmail dot com

  3. I'd like to win as I'd like to implement more of a CM method to my school.
    SeekingHim at gmail dot com

  4. This sounds just like what I need. I love the Charlotte Mason approach, but sometimes it seems so hard to 'get'. Thanks! isaacsnyder @

  5. Would love to win this book and learn more about Charlotte Mason methods.

  6. i'd like to win this. thanks for the giveaway! i'm here from hip homeschool hop. i'm your newest follower :)


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