Charlotte Mason Education (a video interview with Dawn Garrett)

Charlotte Mason Dawn Garrett

If you’ve ever wondered about Charlotte Mason Education in general or the Ambleside Online curriculum in particular, be sure to watch this video interview with Dawn Garrett! Dawn explains Charlotte Mason ideas so clearly, and explains how the Ambleside Online curriculum works for their family. For all the details, you’ll want to listen to Dawn. Plus, Dawn talks a bit about how they align their school year with the calendar year!

Watch the video, read the show notes, and share with your friends!

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Charlotte Mason Education, Ambleside Online, Dawn Garrett Interview

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Who is Dawn Garrett?

Dawn Garrett loves learning with her three children at home. Following the principles of Charlotte Mason, she and her children learn about God and His cosmos by studying the seven liberal arts in order to know Him better, imitate Him and His ways, and share about Him with others. Dawn is active on Instagram, blogs at, and acts as Community Manager for She is the author of I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will: Charlotte Mason’s Motto Explained for Upper Elementary Students which can be found free on her blog.

Dawn Garrett Charlotte Mason Education

Watch my video interview with Dawn Garrett

Please note: there were a few times when the internet connection went a little wonky! The quality of the recording suffers a bit in a few places but please stick with it. The content is fantastic!

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Dawn wanted to homeschool before she had children… and even before she met her husband! {2:03}

Dawn first heard about homeschooling in the early 1990s. While observing a homeschool family she knew, she saw how they enjoyed learning together and were able to raise their children and educate them in the day-to-day of family life (not just the hours left over).

Dawn decided she wanted to homeschool, too, so anyone she was going to marry was going to have to be on board with this plan.

She met her future husband, Jason, in the late 90s. Jason’s brother was actually being homeschooled in middle school at the time, and he was on board with Dawn’s desire to homeschool.

They now have 3 children, ages 15, 14, and (almost) 13. They’re working together on most areas of study for the time being. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to keep them together and to work with them on many things,” said Dawn.

From Well-Trained Mind to Ambleside Online {5:02}

Within 2 months of having her first baby in 2004, Dawn read The Well-Trained Mind. Soon after that, she attended her first classical homeschool conference. Many of her friends were also pursuing classical education. Dawn read several books with one of those friends (Heather Tully) including Wisdom and Eloquence and An Introduction to Classical Education by Dr. Christopher Perrin.

She was also heavily influenced by Cindy Rollins, Brandy Vencel, and Mystie Winckler. She quickly discovered that she was drawn to the wonderful book recommendations from Ambleside Online.

Soon, however, she found herself almost trying to do 2 complete systems of education: all the Charlotte Mason things AND all the Well-Trained Mind recommendations. It was exhausting and painful. She was starting to feel torn in two and broken.

Things were not as integrated as much I wanted them to be,” Dawn explained, especially when it came to integrating faith throughout all the other subjects.

They decided to go full-on Charlotte Mason with Ambleside Online. When they started, the kids were grades 5, 4, and 3. They started everyone together with Year 4.

(Ambleside Online is a free Charlotte Mason curriculum online. Dawn explains how it works in detail in the video. If you’ve ever wondered about Ambleside Online, don’t miss this portion of the video!)

An Overview of Charlotte Mason Education {14:00}

“Charlotte Mason is a liberal education for all,” Dawn explained.

Mason’s 20 Principles are the key. The first principle lays the foundation, Dawn said: “Children are born persons. They are full and complete. They are able to learn from birth because they have a mind.”

Atmosphere, Discipline, and Life” are the tools of a Charlotte Mason education.

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Mom sets the atmosphere in the home for learning and growth (she’s the thermometer, not a thermostat).

Charlotte Mason education is also known for an emphasis on living ideas and living books: “We use really well-written, narrative books to give knowledge, to feed the mind of a child — not the brain, but the mind, which is the whole of the person,” Dawn said.

Another key element of a Charlotte Mason education is a focus on the science of relations.

Charlotte Mason Education interview with Dawn Garrett

Dawn encouraged that in this way “a child is making relationships with knowledge, relationships between knowledge, relationships with the teacher; education is about all of those relationships because when you relate to something, you love it.”

There is also no separation between the sacred and the secular for the Charlotte Mason educator.

“The whole thing from start to finish is about looking at a child and bringing them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.” Dawn Garrett

“One of the things that kept me from CM early on was that it seemed so discombobulated…There’s a lot of different things going on, a lot of moving pieces,” Dawn remembered.

“Some people say ‘Oh, it’s just nature study,’ or ‘Oh, it’s so light,’…I don’t really see anything light about what my children are reading these days.” Dawn’s children are currently reading and loving Churchill and Bacon and Milton and more! “There’s nothing light about what they’re doing,” Dawn continued. This philosophy “is a full and complete idea of education.”

“I love homeschooling. I love homeschoolers, and all the wonderful things they do,” Dawn said.

Charlotte Mason Education

Aligning the school year with the calendar year and “Sabbath Schooling” {25:20}

The Garrett family aligned their school year with the calendar year from the beginning. Her older children were incredibly precocious and wanted to learn in a more formal way. With winter birthdays for the 2 oldest, it just made sense to begin their homeschool schedule in January.

Dawn had always wanted to school year-round and also wanted the freedom to travel regardless of the traditional academic year.

With kids close in age, sometimes the routine is what keeps Mom sane,” Dawn admitted.

Dawn Garrett Charlotte Mason Education

As kids get older and take online classes or attend summer camp, it can become a bit trickier since the online classes follow a different schedule. But it’s still worth it, in Dawn’s opinion! They can usually work around any challenges.

They also generally follow what’s sometimes called “Sabbath schooling,” a 6-weeks-on and 1-week-off schedule. Even with flexing their schedules over the summer, they’re still able to meet their state’s 36 week requirement.

Life-Long Learning and What Dawn is Reading Lately {31:00}

“I’m kind of a boring person if I’m not reading something good,” Dawn smiled.

Dawn has always been a book person and loves to read. It also helps her make her own connections.  (Back to the science of relations idea!)

Recently, she read and listened to Milton’s Paradise Lost. (Listen to the video to hear how combining the two helped her get through this challenging work!)

Dawn also enjoyed the audiobook of Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry this year.

(I’m currently listened to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey via audiobook for the first time and loving it!)

Find Dawn Garrett Online

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