Charlotte Mason and Classical styles of homeschooling are close cousins. There are enough differences though that Charlotte Mason is a distinct style all its own. Charlotte Mason was a school teacher in England when only the rich were well educated and could afford the best classical education. So Mason brought a fine education to the masses, an adaptation of the classical method that was suited to the situation of her students and the time and place they lived in.
Charlotte Mason’s goal was to bring out well rounded intelligent children who had a love for learning and an insatiable curiosity about the world. At the same time she knew she had to fit them for their futures as mother’s, farmers, bakers, factory workers, and so on. Her students used few text books, they learned from what Mason called living books, that is, books written by one author who has a passion for the subject. They spent time walking in the country everyday, in nature, looking at the wonders around them. They recorded what they saw in their notebooks and identified leaves, bug, flowers, rocks, and birds. They studied history by means of living books and biographies of important people as well as creating timelines in notebooks. Mathematics was studied though the use of concrete manipulatives to give a firm understanding clear through the study of pre-algebra (here is one subject though where text books must be used and were used by Mason). You can read more about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods in A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola and at Simply Charlotte Mason online.
Most of Charlotte Mason’s students never studied at the high school level. For them, eighth grade was the end of their education. But by then they could parse sentences, were conversant with Shakespeare, knew the Bible inside and out, had studied geometry and French, and were familiar with the geography of the world all in a personal memorable way. Their studies became part of who they were.
But since Mason didn’t teach or write much about the high school level, we have to adapt. Most of the methods and materials for high school follow the classical education plan, minus the Latin. The Great Books study agrees exactly with Mason’s use of living books rather than text books for history, geography, and literature. Science though in today’s world with the demands of college prep needs a more traditional text book approach.
The Layers of Learning Method borrows heavily from the living books philosophy so well-loved by Charlotte Mason.
Certain aspects of the Charlotte Mason method are easy for parents with kids in public schools to add in as a supplement to their child’s education. Living books, nature study on the weekend, and buying a manipulative kit to help with math homework are all excellent examples.