Biblical Homeschooling, the Trivium and Charlotte Mason

Posted By on August 17, 2011

Although I was homeschooled myself and had a rough idea of where to start, I wasn’t quite sure which “method” I should use when it came to schooling my own children. As the children grew out of toddlerhood I started praying for clear direction in how to best educate them. The Lord answered my prayers abundantly when He drew my attention to the Christian Classical and Charlotte Mason methods.

I had seen them both mentioned over the years in homeschooling magazines, but thought the Classical method seemed difficult and boring and full of studies of old Greek and Roman stuff and had no idea what the Charlotte Mason method was.

One day, around the time I first began to pray for direction, I came across an old issue of The Homeschool Digest with a short article by Harvey Bluedorn on Christian Classical homeschooling and something called the “Trivium.” Mr. Bluedorn described the “Trivium” as the three stages of learning –which he defined as “Knowledge”, “Understanding”, and “Wisdom”. He mentioned how these definitions are mentioned throughout Scripture and how a child’s brain actually develops and gradually grows into maturity in all three areas. For example, when a child is young, they don’t have much reasoning ability, but they are excellent at memorizing and just soaking up information. Therefore, at this stage you would concentrate on just pouring Scripture, good knowledge and character training into them, thereby laying a strong foundation for the next level of learning when they are able to start reasoning and understanding the “why” of things. This made wonderful sense to me and my interest was piqued.

I went to the Bluedorn’s website read their article Ten Things to Do with Your Child Before Age Ten and discovered exactly what I had been looking for. That article was truly a life changer. Sometime after that I read the Bluedorn’s excellent book Teaching the Trivium and was even further convinced. I don’t think I have ever read a better, more Biblically based argument for homeschooling than what they have written in the opening chapters of the book.

Around this time I also started looking into the Charlotte Mason method, since I was quite curious as to exactly what it involved and soon found another answer to prayer. In reading through Miss Mason’s own original writings as well as articles and books by others about her methods I have found that they merge beautifully with the Bluedorns (Or Christian Classical) method.

In a nutshell, both methods– or philospohies– are very Biblically based (Charlotte Mason was also a Christian); both draw parents and children together (which goes back to being Biblically based); both encourage real life learning – upholding the discipleship model we see in Deuteronomy 6 of teaching our children as we sit, rise up, walk and lie down; both believe in training the mind in how to learn and to love learning, (rather than just filling children up with facts…. “not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”); both believe in teaching children in a manner that works with the way the Lord has created the mind to develop; both are strong proponents of character training being an imperative part education– and of laying a strong foundation of this in the early years (Charlotte Mason especially wrote much on the importance of habit training); both put an emphasis on lots of hands on learning in the early years, and and both use good literature and “living” books (as opposed to text books) as a huge part of a child’s education.

I have found that both the Bluedorns and Miss Mason give wonderful reasons for the “Why” of their methods, but the Bluedorns leave it a bit more up to the parent as to how to practically implement it. They do offer guidance and suggestions, but Miss Mason really offers a lot of help in the “How” of practically applying this style of education.

There are a few areas where Miss Mason and I don’t agree (She and I don’t see eye to eye on the importance of reading fairy tales and pagan myths to children, for example), but her thoughts on short lessons, lots of reading, narration, habits, hours outside in the fresh air and nature study just thrilled me when I first read them (and still do).

To sum it up, the Bluedorns offer a solid, Biblical philosophy and methodology of education, and Charlotte Mason offers incredible help and insight when it comes to practical, day to day application. Both have been a huge blessing to me and lifted a heavy burden from my shoulders. Whether you are just considering homeschooling or are struggling with burnout, I hope the articles I’ll be posting over the next couple of weeks are as much of an encouragement and help to you as they have been to me.

(Note:”Christian Classical” homeschooling as the Bluedorns define it is different from Classical homeschooling, though there are many similarities. From what I can tell “Classical” homeschooling tends to be built more on a secular, rather than Biblical foundation.)

About The Author

Jennifer McBride is the blessed wife to Steve and the mother of 8 children, ages 13-2. She is also the editor of the book "Queen of the Home" - currently being revised and updated. In her sparest of spare moments she operates, a website dedicated to proclaiming the honor, nobility and power of Biblical womanhood.


4 Responses to “Biblical Homeschooling, the Trivium and Charlotte Mason”

  1. I haven’t read the Bluedorn’s books, but I am using the Classical Conversations program at home with my 6 year old. I was reading my most recent copy of “Above Rubies” today and I read “When You Lie Down….” and I cried when I saw myself in it. I am currently in a court battle with my daughter’s father (we were never married) and since he had a lawyer, and I didn’t, I got dragged to court and lost my right to homeschool on a full time basis. My health was a major focus (since they couldn’t say I was failing my child academically) and I explained how I have worked around my health problems for the past 6 years with my child, she excels academically and is happy and well-adjusted. She WANTS to be homeschooled and she always tells me that the best part of homeschooling is being with me. I am trusting God to work things out to where I can pull her out of public school, but we’re making the best of things in the meantime. It astounds me that ANYONE would think public or private school is better than an excellent home-centered experience. I am glad to have found you and your websites. I am sure it will continue to be a source of encouragement. I have an eclectic approach, but I rely heavily on Charlotte Mason and Classical Christian philosophies. It has worked beautifully for me and for my children. I started out with Glenn Doman “How to Teach Your Baby to Read” and
    “How Smart Is Your Baby” and it has gotten my daughter off to a great start. I only wanted to take it year to year…someday public or private school may be a better option (I doubt it), or my daughter may decide she no longer wants to be homeschooled (I doubt that too, since I am so attuned to her needs and interests).

  2. Kelsey says:

    What is your take on classical literature for children? I love literature and hope to make it a meaningful part of their education. But I am worried about pagan stories and fairy tales, as you mentioned. Much of literature is not in alignment with Christian ideals and scripture, and some I believe shouldn’t be read. On the other hand, I know that there is some value in it as well, and that it wouldn’t necessarily be the best to limit only to strictly Christian resources. I guess I’m just confused on where to draw the line. The Iliad and Oddesy for example are important parts of our literary background and many allusions are made to it in other literature. But I don’t know how I feel about letting my kids read about Greek and Roman ‘gods’ as well as the abundance of violence. Of course, much classical literature includes sex, violence, or something unsavory, and yet it’s a valuable. Am I making sense? Or just being overly worried? I’m so confused on what’s appropriate or not.

  3. Leah says:

    And I’ve never heard of the Charlotte Mason Method, thank you for sharing that information!

  4. Leah says:

    Have you ever tried any of the Alpha Omega homescooling programs? I was thinking about trying these for my family, but I don’t know anyone first hand that has used them.