With so many great Charlotte Mason curricula, products, and resources out there, following a Charlotte Mason philosophy in your homeschool can be very easy. However, for those of us who are Secular Charlotte Mason families, it can be a little more difficult. So I have put together a quick round-up of some Charlotte Mason resources that are either secular or easily secularizable (I don’t think that’s a word, but in my life it’s quickly becoming a ‘thing’ so pardon my made-up terminology!)
Secular Homeschool is NOT One Size Fits All
Let’s discuss secular homeschooling for a moment, first. Just like “religion” doesn’t describe just one particular faith, neither does “secular” necessarily mean the same thing for everyone. I like to think of secular homeschooling as happening on a spectrum. In its simplest form, secular means: not relating to religion. However, when it comes to defining a secular homeschool, it can be a bit more gray than that – some secular homeschoolers simply just take a neutral worldview, some share and learn about MANY religions as opposed to just one, some want absolutely zero religious content in their resources and curricula. None of these are wrong, it’s all about following your own family’s culture and values. In my personal family culture, we are not of any Christian faith so we try to stay pretty neutral when it comes to religious content. I want to stress that identifying as a secular homeschool does NOT mean we are anti-religion, or anti-Christian, or anti-anything really. It just means that for whatever our personal reasons are, we are opting to not include Biblical or Christian faith in our homeschools.
Charlotte Mason Homeschooling for the Secular Family
And here is where the subject becomes even more gray. I am not going to go into all the ins and outs of the Charlotte Mason method – but if you’re wondering what it’s all about, the Ambleside Online website has a treasure trove of information about the method and even links to read Charlotte’s original homeschool series for free!
One of the things that I think is important to remember is that Charlotte Mason was a woman of faith, and her beliefs and values are made very clear in her original writings. So while we are working with the CM method in our secular homeschools, it would do us well to understand and appreciate her sentiments and her founding principles – and how her writings about these principles were filtered through the lens of a 19th Century woman of Christian faith. Understanding that, we can hopefully strive to see past the Christian lens and get to the core of her principles.
Without turning this into a long diatribe about secular homeschooling and particularly Secular Charlotte Mason homeschooling – I am simply going to share some of MY favourite resources as a secular CM mama. I will note when a resource is not secular or is published by a Christian publisher, but anything that I’m listing here are resources and products that *I* find are easily adaptable to my homeschool, and I think to many other homeschools.
A Few Of Our Favourite Secular Charlotte Mason Resources:
If you’re a Charlotte Mason home educator, you are probably no stranger to having to ‘secularize’ a resource or curriculum. It can get tiring and tedious to weed through materials to see if they are a good fit, or it can be tricky when something pops up in a book or a curriculum that doesn’t fall in line with your family’s beliefs and values. Here are the materials we really like in our home, and also a few suggestions from some of my fellow Secular Charlotte Mason mamas:
This is one of my favourite secular resources. Penny Gardner has a really in-depth, easy to follow, Study Guide to learning about Charlotte Mason and her method. What she has done in her second edition is also create a Study Guide for secular families, still with all the great quotes and information from Charlotte Mason’s writings, but – leaving out the religious quotes. It’s really that simple. And I feel very strongly that she still covers ALL of the bases and gets all of the most important of Charlotte Mason’s own words and ideas in there. Fantastic Resource!
Emily Cook, creator of the Build Your Library Curriculum – is, for me, very much a trailblazer in the world of secular Charlotte Mason. Her curriculum is beautifully written, uses beautiful book suggestions, and is secular. I find myself going to Emily’s blog time and time again for encouragement and practical ideas, and find Emily herself to be inspiring and encouraging and very sweet to work with.
I’ve talked a LOT about Bravewriter already – and while it’s not a strictly Charlotte Mason program, the products they offer are very easy to add in to any homeschool! The focus on finding the child’s writing voice, copywork and dictation, and no workbooks all make THIS Charlotte Mason mama very happy. So go check it out – there’s also an affiliate link on my sidebar, should you choose to use that. Bravewriter has been a huge part of our homeschool, and will be for the long term.
When I discovered this group recently, I had really been starting to feel like there weren’t many homeschoolers like me out there. Or at least none that were ‘vocal’ about it – but after finding this group of amazing mamas, I feel renewed and encouraged to stay the course. Whether looking for ways to secularize/adapt a curriculum, or looking for support, or reading along together with Charlotte Mason’s original works, this is THE first stop for me if I have a question. And if you’re a Secular Charlotte Mason mama, and not a part of this group – you need to check it out!
NOTE – THIS IS NOT A SECULAR COMPANY. With that out of the way, I have found that of all of the SCM resources I’ve looked at or tried, most are very very easy to adapt. I’m currently working through their Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education series and it is amazing. Very flexible for those of us who want to implement CM’s methods but need to do so in a different way (for whatever the reason). Not only do they have great resources to purchase, but Sonya Shafer’s blog posts are very informative, and encouraging. With the added help of their SCM Forum, you can really easily find substitutions and suggestions for ways to adapt to your own needs.
I have mentioned them above, and I think as far as information about the method, there is nothing that beats AO. The curriculum is FREE (and home educators love free, am I right?) – very detailed and thorough and complete. However, I would say that the curriculum as written is NOT secular, and it can be a bit tricky to follow exactly as written if you are a secular family. There ARE a lot of us secular families who do use AO, and simply substitute or remove things that don’t fit with their particular family beliefs or values.
This is by no means ALL of the resources out there, so if YOU have a Secular Charlotte Mason resource that you love, share with me – and I’ll add it to this list! Comment below and let me know how YOU make the Charlotte Mason method work in your secular home!