Combining Students Under One Grade

Mom reading to kids of different agesHow to use Charlotte Mason’s Methods with Multiple Children?

At Living Books Curriculum we love to answer that question. Here—in a nutshell—is the answer:

Yes, the Charlotte Mason method (CM) can be used by anyone, no matter how many children you have.

By applying the basic principles of Charlotte Mason’s method, you can accomplish more in a few hours of homeschooling than all day with another method, even with several children.

To accomplish this you choose living books according to subject; create a
schedule that meets the needs of you and your children and consistently
apply the methods. Result? Your children will fall in love with learning
all over again.

Applying the principles—consistently

Familiarize yourself with the basic ideas of a Charlotte Mason education. When you do, you will say, this is the education I wanted for myself! LBC expresses Charlotte Mason’s philosophy with our Seven Keys and Six Tools of Learning. We also offer articles and helpful links, as well as Charlotte Mason’s twenty basic

What are living books?

A living book is, as Charlotte Mason expressed it, “well put” and “well told” (Parents and Children, p. 263). In other words, a living book powerfully and beautifully expresses the ideas of its author. Here’s an example:

Typically in elementary school today, the study of germs is given a few pages in a science text. Louis Pasteur and the story of his work with cows and vaccines is given a passing reference. Instead, read Louis Pasteur: Founder of Modern Medicine to learn of Pasteur’s early research into why vats of fermented beer were turning sour (answer: microorganism had contaminated the batch), and later how three of Pasteur’s daughters died from typhoid and then, in 1865, a cholera epidemic hit Marseilles, France. It was then that Pasteur carried out a number of experiments in a hospital in the hope of finding the germ that caused this feared disease.

Interested? So will your children be. That’s a living book.

How to find living books

Look through our recommended books; we have over 300 living books listed and available for shipment. Your libraries are full of living books. Two booklists I highly recommend are 1000 Best Books for Children and All Through the Ages: History through literature.

How will you know it’s living when you read it? Apply “the test”. Read a few pages to your children, then stop. If they ask for more you know, you have a winner.

How to combine subjects with multiple children

Penny Gardner, a mother of seven, author of A Charlotte Mason Study Guide and Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children offers this advice regarding how to combine subjects with a range of children:

“Subjects such as history, art appreciation, science, literature, nature study, and anything else that mom is reading aloud can be combined with two or more students. They may take turns narrating those topics. I have done this with three students who were between first and sixth grade. Older students (5-6th grades) may write some of their narrations independently, while mom listens to the younger ones.”

Subjects such as math, beginning reading instruction for the first grader (while the older child reads independently), and perhaps handwriting, including copywork and dictation, may need to be worked on with each child individually.

How can Living Books Curriculum help in teaching multiple children?

When we are asked how best to combine our curriculum with children of varying ages we recommend the following:

  1. If there is a wide range of ages (e.g. 1st and 6th) the parents purchase LBCs American History, World History, and Science living books as the core of their studies and follow Penny Gardner’s advice above.
  2. If there is a range of a grade or two (e.g. 1st and 3rd grade) We recommend choosing one of our complete curriculums, usually the upper level of the two.
  3. If families would like to get to know us and how our curriculum applies Charlotte Mason’s methods, we recommend one of our study guides as a way to get acquainted.
  4. We also highly recommend signing up for our newsletter, Parent’s Journal, which includes a helpful article, and our latest living books.

Here to Help

We’re here to help. Living Books Curriculum fully supports our curriculum though an online community forum. We invite you to join the growing community of parents using this wonderful way to home educate. Questions? Email me at

All the best,


P.S. 100% of the proceeds of your purchase help us help children in Africa to receive a living education. Jim and Sheila Carroll’s non-profit, Worldwide Educational Resources, has seven schools at this time, educating nearly 750 students. The Carroll’s non-profit was founded in 2000. Learn more.