I have CiRCE Institute to thank for this thought. As I read "What is Classical Education?" I realized that everything they say about Classical Education is also true of a Charlotte Mason education.
But why, then, does a Charlotte Mason education look so different from what's commonly called a Classical Christian education?
I believe the key is in Charlotte Mason's first principle: Children are born persons. Yes, this is a belief held in Classical Education, but Charlotte Mason worked out the implications of this principle in a broader way. To her, children as persons come equipped to deal with ideas. Indeed, ideas are the only proper food for their minds, even from their earliest school years. Facts must never be presented without their informing ideas. This is very different from the common view of the Grammar stage of the Trivium, where young children spend a lot of time memorizing the facts that form the structure of language, of mathematics, etc, whether or not they understand them. Dorothy Sayers put forward this view in her essay "The Lost Tools of Learning:"
"...it is as well that anything and everything which can be usefully committed to memory should be memorized at this period, whether it is immediately intelligible or not. The modern tendency is to try and force rational explanations on a child's mind at too early an age. Intelligent questions, spontaneously asked, should, of course, receive an immediate and rational answer; but it is a great mistake to suppose that a child cannot readily enjoy and remember things that are beyond his power to analyze--particularly if those things have a strong imaginative appeal (as, for example, "Kubla Kahn"), an attractive jingle (like some of the memory-rhymes for Latin genders), or an abundance of rich, resounding polysyllables (like the Quicunque vult)."Why am I going with Charlotte Mason, and not Dorothy Sayers, on this one? It is because I remember myself as a child. I know that I myself came equipped to deal with ideas from a very young age, and that ideas were the proper food for my mind. I did not need to be prepared to deal with ideas by learning many facts first. (My mother has a story of me making some profound observation while she was changing my diaper...at least, I think that's how the story goes. "If Adam sinned, that's not my fault." Clearly I must have been toilet trained a bit late, but not as late as you might think.) I did love my grammar as well, but I don't believe it was a prerequisite to logical thinking.
It seems to me that Charlotte Mason did not neglect any aspect of the grammar, logic, and rhetoric of the trivium, though. They are all included in her process of narration, though not in an "ages and stages" way. In her method, logic and grammar go hand in hand throughout a child's education. The facts are always informed by the ideas that give them their meaning, and this is what makes them a joy to learn. Even the seeds of rhetoric are cultivated from the very beginning, as in narration children interact with living ideas, assimilate them, and communicate their understanding of them. This ability is allowed to grow and develop as the child grows. It is not that Charlotte Mason denied any developmental stages in children, but that "children are born persons" throughout all their stages of growth. To her, that meant that their minds must be nourished with ideas in the same way as their bodies must be nourished with food throughout their lives.