Why "CM-Inspired"?

Who Was Charlotte Mason?

Charlotte Mason was a Victorian educator who wrote extensively about effective ways to make sure children would be inspired by their studies rather than subjected to boring rote learning. She put these principles into practice in her Ambleside school, both with school pupils and students who were learning to teach. Her principles of education form the backbone for courses at Dreaming Spires Home Learning.

Mason's philosophy fought against the stultifying, oppressive environment of early public schools in late 1800s England. Instead of forcing children to memorize facts, and giving them smacks on their hands if they got it wrong, she wanted to offer an academic diet of rich and interesting books full of ideas that the children could get excited by. This allowed them to come up with their own ways of relating to the information.

Miss Mason's Volume 6 is key to our Curriculum at DSHL

Charlotte Mason's Principles

In addition to the books she chose, which she termed "living books" because of their living ideas, Mason arranged the school day into short lessons of about twenty minutes per subject, packed back-to-back over several hours. By changing subjects frequently after a short period, the students were able to concentrate for the whole morning at a stretch, stimulating different parts of their brain along the way.

Mason was also a big proponent of nature study, appreciating great art, listening to classical music, exposing children to foreign language via conversation with native speakers, and three techniques known as narration, copywork, and dictation.

  • Narration involves a child telling back what they've read. This helps them to pay more attention as they're reading in the first place, and also to remember the material better in the long term.
  • Copywork is when a student copies a passage from a great book word for word. This way, they not only pick up the style of the author, but they learn how to hold words, punctuation, and sentence structures in their head. They often then naturally adopt a masterful style in their own writing.
  • Dictation is when a passage is studied for spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, and then the student is asked to write it out as it's being read to them, trying to imitate the mechanics exactly so that they gain mastery in their language skills.

These techniques have been proven effective with students for over a century, and so Dreaming Spires has adopted many of these ideas into the curriculum that our subject tutors have designed.

How Does Dreaming Spires Incorporate Charlotte Mason?

At Dreaming Spires, we think of ourselves as Charlotte Mason-inspired rather than Charlotte Mason purists. We use many of her techniques (such as copywork and narration) to the fullest in our classes, but we recognize that a true Charlotte Mason household studies a wide variety of subjects during the course of the day, focusing on each one for about 20 minutes.

This is how I run my own homeschool with my four children. You can see a glimpse of our Charlotte Mason homeschooling in action in this article from The Telegraph, a national newspaper from the UK that featured our family in a piece about the lifestyle of home education:


(The SATs they mention in the article are not the US college-entry tests called SATs, but a national "common core" exam for primary school children in the UK).

At Dreaming Spires, we aren't trying to re-create that daily variety in the same way: instead, we want to be part of YOUR variety, using Mason's principles while helping you aim toward the modern quest for qualifications and opportunities.

To do that, we've adopted some of the main qualities of CM: to incorporate reading only whole books, to spread the reading throughout the week, to expect at least one written narration per week, to pose thought-provoking questions that often have more than one answer or a personal response, to encourage copywork -- and, in short, to work toward lighting a fire rather than just filling a bucket.

Kat speaking at the CM Conversations' UK Conference, 2017

Whether you consider yourself a Charlotte Mason household or not, we want you to be inspired by her vision for what your child can achieve through her methods, and excited that there's a provider of courses that can help you on that journey of exploration and excellence.