Homeschooling Curriculum: Charlotte Mason Book List

More on the Charlotte Mason Method.

Since Aristotle was little, I haven’t really given it a lot of thought about the sort of books we should have in his library. I guess I have been contented by the fact that he liked books, loved reading and preferred the book store to a toy shop. Our book purchases have generally been guided by his interests so we have a mixed collection of quality and “lesser quality” books – at least by the Charlotte Mason definition of a good book (thanks for the link Irene):

Text should be literary to prepare children for the challenging books they’ll be using for school, and cultivate a delight in beautiful names. Children should be discouraged from developing a taste for easy books that will undermine their capacity to read classics later. Books should be selected with the goal of decreasing dependence on pictures, and relying more on the imagination to envision pictures in the mind from the text.

Illustrations should “have a refining, elevating effect upon our coarser nature” and bring us into the “world of beauty” while helping our children develop an affinity for, an attraction to, the beautiful, the lovely, the pure, the refining–because “education is concerned to teach him what pictures to delight in.”

Stories should have the noble, beautiful, inspiring kind of living ideas that CM espoused, including “the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to ’cause’ and country and kind, to the past and the present.”

This may have some bearing on why I have been having so much trouble encouraging Aristotle to challenge himself when it comes to reading more complicated works – because he has already developed a taste for “easy books”.

Charlotte Mason never offered a booklist per se, but she did offer descriptions (such as the one above) on the sort of books we should be looking out for. As useful as it is to have such a guide, it is time consuming to look for appropriate books that fit the criteria. So if you want to save yourself some time and effort, there is an excellent recommended book list available from Ambleside Online, a free homeschool curriculum that follows the Charlotte Mason Method.

It was also a relief to have more guidance on book selections because hubby has been complaining that our book choices of late are not entirely appropriate language for a 4 year old. He was reading “Matilda” by Roald Dahl with Aristotle and was disconcerted to read a sentence like:

“Be quiet!” the father snapped. “Just keep your nasty mouth shut, will you!”

Hmmm… yes. I had read Maltilda in my younger days and remembered enjoying it immensely, but I’d quite forgotten that Mr Wormwood’s language could be a tad inappropriate at times – especially if you are 4 years old. Then again, the Rev W Awdry who wrote the original series of Thomas the Tank Engine and other Railway Stories had also used speech that would be construed as politically incorrect now.

Since we already have a lot of books and very limited shelf space (not to mention that the prohibitive costs of extending our library further, especially with books I suspect Aristotle may only ever read once, if at all), I was relieved to see links to various websites that provide online access to the full text. Here are some online links to the full text of recommended books for Preschool and Kindergarten:

This is a great list if you can get through it all. If you would rather not have to read it from your computer, you can turn it into a PDF (if it isn’t already in that format) and use a reading program like iBooks, Kobo or Goodreader to read it from a tablet. And if you don’t like reading off a screen, you can use these links to test the water to see if your child likes the book before buying a physical copy for the home library. Of course, if you have access to a good public library (sadly, something we lack over here), then you don’t have to worry about it at all.

Even if you aren’t planning to follow the Chalotte Mason Method, these books are great if you are planning to teach your child to read using the method from the Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease which requires reading at least one new book every day.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

28 thoughts on “Homeschooling Curriculum: Charlotte Mason Book List

  1. Hi Shen,
    Thanks again for sharing Charlotte Mason method.

    I’m sorted em’s bookshelf to see are there any story books fitted in to CM reading list. Hopefully won’t break the bank. 🙂

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  2. Shen-li,

    Very good write up on Charlotte Mason method. I like their book finder list, something that I have been looking for sometime. I am also going to start using their ‘copywork’ with my daughter.

    Pei Lin

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  3. Hey, in case you get tired of reading out aloud, try out Winnie the Pooh CDs read by Peter Dennis…lovely! My CDs are on the way from Book Depository. 🙂

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  4. Jo,

    My daughter is (3 years and 8 months). She is able to write simple sentences on her own but not very often. It mentioned the benefits of copywork in this website.

    http://simplycharlottemason.com/basics/started/charlotte-mason-method/#copywork

    Here are some samples of copywork prepared for Manuscript Copywork
    http://simplycharlottemason.com/timesavers/manucopywork/

    I was trying out copywork with my daughter yesterday evening. I took a sample lesson of manners from the below link “Be thoughtful. If your father is talking on the phone, do not yell and make noise in the next room.”
    http://rainbowresource.com/pictures/043900/i/1/02faa43930b8ca088a99cc8d

    Then I went to the below website and type out the phrase. She will trace on the handwritting print. I do not want her to get frustrated of writting on her own at this moment therefore I just let her trace the words. From her first lesson, she learn about punctuation, grammer and spelling phonetically. I mentioned to her when to use full stop, comma and capital letter. She tried to spell “yell” using phonics method and then I tell her the rhyming family words like (tell, fell and cell) that I can think on top of my head. At the same time, she gets to practise her hand writting : ). I will then glue her writting page in her spelling/writting journal.

    A child can do copywork on poetry, nursery rhymes, idioms or good sentences from a literature book. Copywork can also be done on cursive writting.

    http://www.worksheetworks.com/english/writing/handwriting/handwriting-print-trace.html

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  5. Hi Pei Lin,

    Here is my tips. Apart from copy work, a wonderful exercise for fast pace learning child is memo cum dictation. When she reaches 4 to 5 yo, you may increase the challenge by asking her to do brain exercise such as memo cum dictation, she has to do everything herself….I find this activity extremely terrific for enhancement of memory and grammar skills. Just now I read 3 Shakespeare’s poems to V and asked her to copy all 3 poems, then I asked her to memo the 3 poems to me instantly, I must say her memory really amazed me….imagine Shakespeare’s poems can never be easy especially with old language. I have been trying these activities for years since 4…….very effective.

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  6. Fz Teh,

    Your tips are always welcome. I will keep in mind this exercise and practise it with her. Do you have any tips on learning spelling?

    My daughter learn to read by listening me reading since young. The school has been teaching her spelling using phonics method. The education system here emphasise a lot on phonics and learn to read using the phonics method. So right now, she is working backwards – learning to spell using phonics after able to read.

    Pei Lin

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    1. Pei-Lin – for what it’s worth, I am in the same boat as you. Aristotle learned to read whole words first, then started learning about phonics in school. Now he tries to use phonics to sound out his words and figure out how to spell them. Sometimes it doesn’t work because there are so many exceptions to the rules in phonics. For example, the letter C has a hard sound and a soft sound which can be confusing for a child who is still learning to develop his own speech.

      At the end of the day, as long as they are progressing well in terms of literacy, I suppose I can’t really be too upset about the pictures.

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  7. Pei Lin,

    I hardly let V do spelling, if I could recall correctly she only did simple spelling when she was 3 and slightly turned 4, then I emphasized more on memo and dictation mainly because this exercise is far more challenging and interesting according to her pace.

    V learned phonics and simple rules to phonics, and I read to her like you read to your daughter, to my humble opinion, I think it’s excellent that she gets the gists of both system ie phonics and whole word systems. Apparently, I don’t see anything wrong with that. In reverse, I think she gets advantages of both.

    Reason Stepping up challenging exercise to V is because I don’t want her to think that she already knew everything and that everything is so easy for her to comprehend (which in fact she has far more things to learn if she is required to), to me she might only know something pertaining to her age but not to her pace.

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  8. Pei Lin,

    Frankly, I find the most satisfying for young child is still any books/paragraphs that she has been reading repeatedly or showing strong interest to do in order to gain confidence herself that she know she can make it and is simple and interesting to do.

    I have no any set of home works that she has to follow strictly, but I would let her follow books she likes, make it a constant exercise, then only switch to books I required her to do such as some biology sceince books ( with some terms ) or any that she used to read before and/or draw and label the diagram, for instance, to draw a heart and label parts of it, a planet and parts of the planets etc.

    Perhaps not many parents plan this exercise due to its’ degrees of difficulty, imagine we are now requesting the very young child to write and memo all by herself, it’s never easy even to adults, like myself, I could write but I could’t memorize even some of Shakespeare’s simple poems……So again, all these are done under premise that the child must be happy to do so.

    So as a beginner, I would start with books that she likes or paragraph that she herself felt amused by.

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  9. Fz Teh,

    Thanks for the pointers. I can imagine that this exercise is not easy. V is amazing to be able to do this exercise at her age.

    Pei Lin.

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  10. Pei Lin,

    Frankly I don’t know how she does it, but I am a strong advocate of Shichida’s method and my ultimate aim is to help my daughter to acheive life-long skill that is QSR.

    That said, I am like you, I have yet to attend any right brain schools for time constraints, so, alternatively, I read books on right brain education and trying to do as diligent as possible only NOW…..hehehe 🙂 with all the right brain activities together with the materials purchased from the right brain schools, hoping to achieve QSR.

    I believe that sort of QSR learning definitely has some bearing on a child’s learning capacity. I believe every child shall only have superb memory until and unless it is being stimulated or made activated as much as possible to increase brain cells by us since early stage or with early intervation.

    So, QSR….it’s kind of easy to follow too as the child only requires to follow sets of activities and that activites are not tiresome to do compared to school works.

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  11. Fz Teh,

    I also have the same thought of what you had just said here….

    “I believe every child shall only have superb memory until and unless it is being stimulated or made activated as much as possible to increase brain cells by us since early stage or with early intervation.”

    Is there any other learning methods that you have tried with V besides memo/dictation and audio learning?

    I have to let you know that my daughter is doing great on the audio learning. She is able to recite 2 and 3 TT within a week after reciting only at bedtime : ). I received the Wink kit this week and we started working on the Memory Train. So far she has remembered 10 cards in one sitting. We will try to be more diligent in working together.

    I had been constantly showing my daughter Mandarin flash card but started slowing down on the speed on each card since I thought that she might not be able to see it, if it is too fast. She had trouble recalling the words. One day, she told me how I need to do them, to show her fast and possibly as fast as possible. She was able to remember them. Mmmm….I don’t understand how her brain function.

    Pei Lin

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  12. Pei Lin,

    Delighted to hear that audio learning is working fine with your daughter.

    :), all my activities are surrounding on Shichida’s method, on how to achieve QSR, if possible and because to achieve QSR, I personally feel it’s not that one single activity that counts, it is the consistency of series of activities that make QSR possible to achieve, such as breathing, mental imaging, linking memory, audio learning, photo eye etc.

    The rest of activity would be piano ( for memory)-I am very concerned if V is perfect pitched or if she has perfect hearing, so if you think your daughter isn’t, then you may also wish to train her hearing.

    The other activities would be Abacus ( for memory) and swimming. If you are thinking to let your child to learn abacus in near future, then I suggest you may start to speed read all abacus rules to her now, it doesn’t matter at all if she understands -5= -10+5, because again through pure memo, her brain would eventually transform and work it out herself in her head via repetition.

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    1. Wow! Lots of communication going on here! So great to see!

      Fz – I totally agree with you. It is my hope and goal for the boys to develop their right brain potential (particularly QSR) because once they have that, they can pretty much do anything they want. At the end of the day, I just want them to have a choice in what they want to do and not be restricted from it for any reason.

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  13. Pei Lin,

    So sorry, it’s in fact all formulae pertaining to abacus, if not mistaken, there have various types of abacus in the market, I am using the most common and easily available in the market, CMA abacus, some called it Japanese soroban, ie 1 beat on upper deck and 4 at lower deck, they have all 30 formulae of them to follow i.e. combination +10, combination -10, combination +5, -5 as well as +6, -6 until all the way to +9,-9.

    I would try list out for you in a day or two if you don’t have.

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  14. Pei Lin,

    Here is the list of abacus formulae. I am currently using CMA abacus, 2-hands approach, in fact it doesn’t matter how many hands the child uses, it’s enough of hands and minds dexterity to cope with formulae that matters.

    Combination +10. Combination -10
    +9=-1+10. -9=-10+1
    +8=-2+10. -8=-10+2
    +7=-3+10. -7=-10+3
    +6=-4+10. -6=-10+4
    +5=-5+10. -5=-10+5
    +4=-6+10. -4=-10+6
    +3=-7+10. -3=-10+7
    +2=-8+10. -2=-10+8
    +1=-9+10. -1=-10+9

    Combination + 5. Combination -5
    +4=+5-1. -4=+1-5
    +3=+5-2. -3=+2-5
    +2=+5-3. -2=+3-5
    +1=+5-4. -1=+4-5

    +6=+1-5+10. -6=-10+5-1
    +7=+2-5+10. -7=-10+5-2
    +8=+3-5+10. -8=-10+5-3
    +9=+4-5+10. -9=-10+5-4

    Hope it’s useful to your daughter. Because V is 5 now, and she starts using abacus a months’s ago, she is considered fast to this method as she is able to use freely by now, I think mainly because I make it a point that she has to memo and write out all formulae to me. I think there is no short cut to the formulae.

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  15. Fz Teh,

    Thank you for the formulae. I was checking CMA website and very impressed with the calculation of their students. I will definitely look into this center when we relocate.

    Pei Lin

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    1. Thanks FZ. It is great to be in a circle of like-minded parents because it reinforces what we’re doing and it’s great encouragement! Thank you again for sharing all your experiences. You really inspire me! 🙂

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  16. Irene – did you manage to buy CDs from Bookdepository? I seem to be having trouble buying DVD ROMS. They keep telling me it is out of stock but when I check it’s in stock so I suspect they are just wary of sending to Malaysia…

    Thanks for sharing the Pooh’s CDs. Think I should look for more recorded stories… I hesitate because the boys are so fussy about what I play on audio…

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  17. Jo – Yup, me too. All this supplementary home stuff is adding up on top of school fees. Well, I did tell hubby he should just let me go home school all the way but he insisted…

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  18. FZ – thank you so much for sharing on your experience. I always hesitate whether should I started to let my monsta start copy a sentences writing instead of alphabet writing. She can remember the story that I read to her the night before, although she seem like not paying attention. Sometimes, I do lost my temper when she isn’t paying any attention…feel like I’m talking to the air.

    Pei Lin – My monsta is only 2 months older than yours, she can sound the phonics and now she just started to learn how to blending 3 words plus tricky words from school, she can do some basic writing in Alphabet and basic mandarin strokes. I’m not as hard working as you, I was planning this school term break need to let her doing some home-work. I done some Mandarin Flash card to her, she insisted no pictures, she is now known some simple mandarin words: ba ba (father), ma ma (mother), gong gong (grandpa), ren (people), some numerical words. beside flash cards, she also doing some right brain exercise books. due to her busy schedule (violin class, swimming & ballet), I also trying not to do let her doing extra hour revision from home,unless she is requested. her iPAD have lots of memory games, matching games, mandarin & English flash cards, phonics, sight words, story times (bilingual too). She also love her LOGICO set, which I always spending 15 minutes to play with her. Except these activities, she also requested to plays puzzles. I believe when kids enjoying to learn, they can absorb very fast, especially stress-free environment.

    SHEN-Li: I do spent some $$ at the BIG BAD WOLF. Luckily Em love the Children Bible’s that I bought for her, and great thing is she remember the story so well, even I only read her once.

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    1. Jo – totally agree with you and that is why I try to emphasis enjoyment because I see how quickly and easily Aristotle learns stuff that he likes. I know why he cannot learn things he doesn’t like – he refuses to pay attention. In class, he will even cover his ears for the parts he does not like. With such resistence, it is no wonder he cannot learn things he doesn’t want to learn about. For this reason, I have always known that for him, I cannot force.

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  19. Hi Jo,

    It’s always pleasure to share my teeny weeny experience with all readers here, I too have gained valuable knowledge from this blog, and frankly my experience has nothing to compare with the blogger’s effort to update this informative blog.

    I think the best way is to step up challenge ” step-by-step” instead of letting them doing the similar exercise over and over, so that the child would understand learning can never be the same or easy all the time that it has so many thing to explore…..I learn this from Charlotte Mason’s, no twaddle. In fact I find child likes to pick up challenges, too. Cheers.

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