As I was sitting down and drafting out my ideas for a post series about ‘radicalizing Charlotte Mason’, I knew that before I get into the details, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how I go about planning a secular Charlotte Mason year. It can be as complicated or as easy as you want it to be. Some years, I agonize over scheduling and lesson times and aligning everything to a particular historical time period. It doesn’t have to be that hard though – and there are a few resources that I use any time I start the process of planning a secular Charlotte Mason curriculum.
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Planning A Secular Charlotte Mason Curriculum – Easier Than You Think
So I am not a big fan of overcomplicating things. I am an overthinker by nature (thanks, Anxiety Disorder) so if I don’t keep myself reined in, then I can get a little out of control. Sometimes it’s so easy to get bogged down by all the details that you just keep spinning your wheels and never get anywhere.
And the Charlotte Mason philosophy can feel like SO. MANY. DETAILS. There are six volumes of Mason’s own books on her method, countless blogs and podcast and curricula and books ABOUT her method. It can feel like you need to do years of reading or research and basically need a PhD before you can even get started.
If you’re really excited to craft your own Charlotte Mason plan, but feeling overwhelmed by all of it – take a deep breath. It’s not as hard as it looks. Let’s walk through how we can plan a secular Charlotte Mason curriculum.
Planning With The Plenary – Resources That Take Away The Overwhelm
So, I have literally zero desire -or time- to reinvent wheels or try to do this all on my own. I utilize some of the amazing resources from ‘A Charlotte Mason Plenary’ to help keep my planning simple. I have a post I wrote a while back, when The Plenary first started up – and they’ve been a mainstay in my CM planning since the day they launched. Over the last while, they’ve created some of the BEST Charlotte Mason resources on the market right now.
There are a few CM Plenary resources in particular that I keep close by if I’m planning, reassessing, or just trying to tweak a few things here and there.
I hear it a lot, “But reading ALL of Mason’s books is so overwhelming, and the language is so old-fashioned, and it’s just so much!” When I first read Charlotte Mason’s Original Series, it took me forever – looking up things and people and books that she references, trying to piece it all together.
So when I saw the Plenary’s annotated series I was over the MOON! I can read Mason’s own words, with annotations right there alongside the original text. They’re amazing – they’re also available as PDF’s so you can easily search for terms and phrases if you just need a quick reference!
Currently, they have Volumes 1 and 6 available (but those are the first two I recommend reading when you’re first starting out, anyway). In my experience, it is VITAL to be able to go to Mason’s actual words, come to an understanding of the why’s and how’s of her method from HER own words, so that you can make it your own.
This is where the magic happens!
I think if you’re going to go ahead and craft your very own secular Charlotte Mason curriculum, these Form Guides are a MUST HAVE. They’re priced affordably, they don’t have a lot of overwhelming fluff and nonsense, just clear and easy to follow steps that actually help you plan Charlotte Mason “Your Way”.
I do want to say, the questionnaire/quiz part of the form guides are GOLDEN. That questionnaire helps me filter out which subjects are valuable to me, and which I can put off for now, as well as which subjects I will just ixnay altogether (lookin’ at you Bible Studies and Sol-Fa).
I refer back to Mason’s 20 Principles all.the.time. I feel like it’s important to keep her guiding principles in mind when I’m filtering out and adding in and trying to make her method fit my family. It helps me get down to the nitty gritty of what Mason herself valued and what ultimately were the basics of her philosophy. The Plenary offers a free, email based series that steps you through each of the 20 principles, slowly.
Honestly, with those three resources by your side – you can create a unique Charlotte Mason curriculum that fits your family’s needs perfectly.
I know I sound like a paid advertisement for the Plenary right now, but I am not being paid to say these things. I just really value how easy they have made my own planning.
If you have Mason’s own writing on hand, as well as step by step planning strategies to break it down and keep it simple, you can make your secular Charlotte Mason curriculum in any way you want. You follow the planning guide, fill in with resources and living books that fit your unique family.
Easy peasy lemon-squeezy!
A Few Other Resources To Help Plan a Secular Charlotte Mason Curriculum
I don’t think there are any other resources one NEEDS to be able plan their own approach to a Charlotte Mason curriculum, however there are a few honourable mentions that I think also make excellent things to have on hand:
- A Literary Education by Emily Cook – this is written by the author of the Build Your Library curriculum, which is one of my MOST FAVOURITE Charlotte Mason-inspired curricula, and in her book she writes from the perspective of a secular homeschooler who wants to bring some of CM’s philosophy into her own homeschool. Spoiler: make sure you read the letter Emily writes to her children at the end of the book, it’s so moving, and so inspiring!
- Know and Tell by Karen Glass – besides living books, the art of narration is the backbone of the Charlotte Mason method. There is a lot of information out there on CM-style narration, but I think Karen Glass really does a great job of going in-depth and giving you the long range goals for what narration really is, and how to do it effectively.
- Anything by Leah Boden (of Modern Miss Mason) – Leah has long been one of my favourite voices in the Charlotte Mason realm. While she isn’t secular herself, she has always been kind and inclusive and so encouraging as I’ve moved in and out of the CM approach. She has courses on implementing Charlotte Mason, a BEAUTIFUL Instagram page, and a Facebook page for Modern Miss Mason. I think she is one of the sweetest, most empowering voices in the CM realm.
- The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater – This is not secular, however if you’re wondering how to get the most out of Charlotte Mason-style notebooking/Book of Centuries/etc then this book is a goldmine
- A Sabbath Mood Homeschool – I hesitated to put this on my list since it is definitely NOT secular, and I would utilize careful consideration before using their living book suggestions. However, where I find this site incredibly helpful is in how detailed and knowledgeable the author is when they explain the why/how behind how science is approached in the CM method. So, I often read their articles and then replace titles with ones that fit my values and priorities.
While I definitely am looking forward to posting more about the curriculum I’m creating for my 7th grader (and hopefully, eventually to share more widely) – you don’t have to wait for me to do that. You don’t have to wait for any one person to tell you how to do this.
Anyone can plan their own Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum. It’s not difficult, it’s not something lofty or overwhelming – no matter how many people might try to make you think it is. You can do this!