Which Volume Should I Read First?

The following brief description of what's in each volume should help you decide where to start in Charlotte Mason's series. You might also find it helpful to read a short 1-page summary of each book, or longer summaries (20 pages each) before you decide. And, if the language is a barrier, you can also read the series translated into modern English.

Volume 1 - Home Education
Six lectures by Charlotte Mason's about the raising and educating of young children (up to age 9) written for parents and teachers. Excellent tips for preparing preschoolers for school, but this volume won't give you a complete picture of the CM method. For that, you need to read Volume 6.

Volume 2 - Parents and Children
A collection of 26 articles from the original Parent's Review magazines to encourage and instruct parents.

Volume 3 - School Education
Thoughts about the teaching and curriculum of children aged 9-12 with details and examples of books, exams, etc.

Volume 4 - Ourselves
Charlotte's character curriculum written to children to teach morals and self-control. Book 1 is for children up to age 12, Book 2 is for high school students.

Volume 5 - Formation Of Character
Stand-alone chapters to enhance all parents, regardless of the ages of their children. Includes case studies of children cured of bad habits, examples of how education affected outcome of character in famous writers of her day, and thoughts on how youths should make the most of their last years before adulthood.

Volume 6 - A Philosophy Of Education
Charlotte's final book, written after years of seeing her approach in action. Though more philosophical, this volume gives the best overview of her approach and includes the final version of her 20 Principles. The best place to start for parents of older children.

"It's impossible to get a full idea of what Miss Mason was doing without reading volume six - not only is it the volume for the older kids, it's the last book she wrote - I think some forty years spans the spread between volume one and volume six. Sometimes ideas she had in volume one didn't quite work out as she had hoped they would, and by the time volume six came along she'd refined her ideas a little more, they got a bit more practical. WWI happened between volumes one and six, and this mattered. Before WWI, Charlotte, in company with many of the Imminent Victorians, had a practically messianic view of education - it was going to change human nature, improve it, make human beings all wise, peacable and just about bring heaven on earth. After WWI, Charlotte Mason's ideas on all this became a little more subdued and realistic. It's a little sad, but I think it was a healthy change. I think a lot of CM popularizers read volume one and promote the ideas in that book, and people think that's all there is to CM. Even without the refining of Charlotte's ideas that occurs over the decades between Volumes one and six, this would be a mistake because volume one says right up front that it's for children from birth to nine. Volume three is for the middle grades, and volume six is the book to read for about 12 and up. Charlotte did not recommend quite the same approach for all ages. Her program for the older kids is, like the rest, wide and generous, rich, full of ideas, good literature, art and music, but it's also very rigorous. By high school I see a lot more similarities with the classical approach in terms of materials used." ~Wendi Capehart

Explanation of Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles
What is and isn't a CM Education? Understanding her 20 Principles will help clarify what her method is all about.
Read a summary of the 20 Principles

To read Charlotte Mason's books online, click here.