They look for “whole” methods — not divorced from day to day life, but integrally connected with it. For instance, Thomas Aquinas says that though teaching is sometimes necessary and often efficient, the best kind of learning is “inventio” — discovery, leading to knowledge that is not simple second-hand.
They emphasize the child’s consent. Learning is diminished in conditions of fear or boredom or coercion.
Recently, when I have been thinking about “classical”, I have been thinking about “non multa, sed multum”, which was an Ignatian motto (I wrote an article about this and other Ignatian mottoes a few years back — it is here in pdf form). This reminds me, among other things, to Keep It Simple. You don’t have to juggle dozens of plates to teach effectively. If you give your kids a few tools, plus a motivation to learn, they can teach themselves. The Liberal Arts are called “artes” because they are things you can learn to DO, and this provides the groundwork for the kind of learning that don’t have to depend on direct experience.
As for Charlotte Mason — I love her idea of a “wide and generous curriculum.” :
Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room’ should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking — the strain would be too great — but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest .