If you are looking for a way to homeschool a number of children of various age ranges, enjoy reading books with them, want to enhance their writing skills, delve into stories of historical figures and events, and minimize the use of textbooks, using Charlotte Mason's methods may be just the right path for you to follow.
Ms. Mason was an educator in England in the 19th century. She wanted children to learn from "living books" not textbooks. She felt children should go outside and experience nature, make observations, and record them in a nature journal. She advocated that children learned and retained information best when they listened to or read good literature and had the opportunity to narrate orally what they remembered from the reading. Their writing skills developed from reading good literature, studying it, and copying it into copy work journals, and writing down dictation. This is a simplified summary of her philosophy, but it gives you a starting point of her basic ideas. To fully understand and implement her methods you can read her original works or books that have been written summarizing her methods. Ambleside Online has published her works in six volumes for your convenience.
Using CM's methods, you teach history chronologically, and can include Bible instruction if you wish. Lessons are kept short so that the child does not dawdle and includes foreign language and art and music appreciation. There are suggested curriculums you can follow at Ambleside as well.
Some homeschooling families combine the use of these methods with unit study topics. They use notebooking pages to write their narrations, copy work, and dictation to document what they have learned about the theme they are studying. For example, if your family is studying the Middle Ages, you would read living books about the Middle Ages or stories set in the Middle Ages, provide copy work for your child from the book or written work from that time period, and tie in a science topic like disease (black plague) or any scientists' biographies from that time. You would also include art and music appreciation of artists and musicians from that era.
This is just an introduction to the wonderful homeschooling experience you and your children can enjoy when implementing Charlotte Mason methods in your daily routine. For further information, read any of the following books: A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola; A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison; and When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today by Elaine Cooper, Eve Anderson, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and Jack Beckman.