Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Welcome Back to School! 2012-2013 Curriculum Overview

on September 6, 2012

Thrilling Threes and Fours!

Its time for school!!! Yay! Welcome back Little Lambs and Little Lambs Blog Readers! Summer is over and so are my long winded blogs about homeschool philosophy…..maybe. (I think I lost some of my readers the last couple months ;)). Back to posting all the cute pictures of those cute faces at school you love seeing. This post happens to be another big one, but I assure you that my wordiness will slow down soon. šŸ™‚

Fall, a Season of Change

This fall we are preparing a Charlotte Mason “mind food feast” for our 3 year olds at Jesus Precious Little Lambs. We are adding poems, hymns, fine art and classical music appreciation, and nature study to our curriculum. It will surely be a lovelier and richer experience at our school this fall! I am hoping dear friends that you are beginning to see the potential that a Charlotte Mason education holds for your children as well, no matter what age they are. Although a Charlotte Mason school does not officially begin until age 6, there are still elements worth introducing in the preschool years. Today I would like to give you a glimpse of a Charlotte Mason preschool, including a thorough show and tell of our first week curriculum at Little Lambs Preschool. Oh boy, sharing time at preschool! I hope you will find some inspiration for home studies with your preschooler in this post.

Guidance for a Living Education

First of all, let me say how HAPPY I am to have discovered Charlotte Mason and the role she will play in our studies this fall, and many falls to come. She is the human mouthpiece of God that is guiding the course of my children’s long term education in homeschool. Her enlightened words are literally one of the single most life changing discoveries of my life. I know education methods, because of my degree and all my past work experience as a teacher, but it is all stagnant and lifeless in comparison to Charlotte Mason methods. My prayer, and also the heart of this blog, is that you will find life for your child’s education too. Give Charlotte Mason some serious study and you just may find the guidance, motivation, and calling you are looking for too. To prove my love for Charlotte Mason as my guide, I will let you eavesdrop on a little email conversation I had this summer with my friend Mary:

Me, long winded: “I love how I am starting to feel like Charlotte Mason is my friend, because I look up to her so much already as if she was a living being in my daily life influencing me. I love that this education is connected to a real person, an excellent role model, a Godly woman inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is not a faceless meaningless way of educating like every other homeschool method. I feel like I have a wise authority over me on this journey to lead me. The way this education is set up under a shepherding person feels so Godly to me, so very right. And you can hear the respect for CM that oozes out of every followers mouth, its not just me.”

Mary, succinct: “I’m in LOVE!! I’m Hooked!”

Set Great Expectations

At Little Lambs we are appropriately raising the bar this fall to keep our children moving toward the 3 basic academic goals of reading, writing, and understanding numbers. Handwriting letters (and possibly words), building/spelling words, and reading words will now be a regular part of our school Centers and Circle time, as well as each childā€™s home study time with family. Our masterplan of themes is still our guide this fall as it was all preplanned through December (the end of our school year) long before we met up with Charlotte Mason. Our masterplan is truly a masterpiece of the Lord. However, themes will play a less significant role at school this fall as they are not as necessary (or necessarily beneficial) in a Charlotte Masons education (not to mention SO much work!). If you would like to see our new Charlotte Mason based Fall schedule for our cooperative preschool, go here. However, what I really want you to see is a sample Charlotte Mason based homeschool schedule I designed just for YOU at the bottom of this post!

At Little Lambs we aim high academically, but without placing undue pressure for uniform performance. There are many ways to differentiate the same activity so that it is accessible to each child. For example, at a handwriting center, one child may be ready to write one letter from his name, one may be ready to write his whole name, and one may be ready to write her name in a small sentence (even Faithy scribbles on the blackboard!). Each child in our homeschool preschool will be given a custom education as much as possible so that everyone can succeed in the midst of great expectations.

Areas of Study to Include in Preschool

Let me highlight all the Charlotte Mason areas of study that we are including this fall at Little Lambs (two areas are mine, not Charlotte’s just to let you know), and share some examples of how they have been fleshed out this very first week at preschool. If you have any ideas or resources for the following areas of study, we all would love to hear from you in the comments. (FYI Links to my previous relevant Charlotte Mason education posts are provided in a chart below for further details. These previous posts are each dedicated to an entire area of study, each being the backbone of a Charlotte Mason education, and really important to read for full comprehension. Here I am only providing snippets of each subject. See the chart at the bottom of this post for links with in depth info.):

Poetry

We are focusing on one poem a month this fall with no pressure to memorize, but perhaps the kids will memorize anyway due to repeated exposure. We will also try to read more poetry at home during our nightly read aloud time. I suspect we will be pulling poems from multiple resources. Classic poetry writers will be a part of our school, but also the poems written in The Christian Mother Goose Big Book. I adore this book because it is SO sweet and full of powerful Christian truths. Noah loves the book as well. Such a good find for us. Here is the poem we are using this month with our September theme: All About Me/I am a Child of God.

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This was really cute. Tayler, future teacher, suggested that we paint our feet and hands to make prints after reading the You Are Special poem. How could I say no? Homeschool can be full of child initiated projects which builds confidence, and ownership of their own learning.

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Music Appreciation

Preschoolers can very easily be exposed to classical music regularly while sitting down for snack, in the car, or during a meal. We use the radio in our itunes where we have a hundred different free classical music stations to choose from. Keeping the Beat is also a good CD of classical music for young kids.

Art Appreciation

I think a day by day calendar of fine art is a fine way to teach art appreciation to preschoolers. We have purchased the 2013 Metropolitan Museum of Art calendar which we will use during breakfast as our art study. Another great way to do art study is to check out books at the library that have full page illustrations of art created by the classic artists. Put it on a book stand in a prominent place where your child can stare at the work daily.

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How do you do Charlotte Mason art study? You just let the art speak to the child. You don’t say much if anything. Just let the art speak to the child. The little that you do say may include mentioning the name of the artist and the work of art. But by no means do you need to give a lecture about the work.

Decoding

You may want to cuddle up every night and read from a Primer/Reader as part of your daily routine like before bed or nap. However, decoding work in readers is my personal current preference, and not Charlotte’s–especially in preschool. She felt word building was enough to teach reading (at age 6), and in my estimation she is probably correct, but you will have to assess whether you will feel comfortable straying considerably from mainstream reading instruction methods or not after more fully researching Miss Mason’s reading methods. The problem with readers is that they are notorious for being written as twaddle (what Charlotte Mason called dry, dumbed down literature). If you do decide to use readers, try to choose ones that have a storyline and ideas to think upon. The Frog and Toad series is an example of a great set of readers, which I love. There really seems to be only a handful of readers that would qualify as non-twaddle. Look up “Beginning First Readers” on the Ambleside Online Year 0 Booklist for reader suggestions. I ordered the listed Treadwell Beginning Reader which is comprised of classic stories, like The Little Red Hen and The Gingerbread Boy, told in as simple language as possible. I selected this reader to start because it seems easier than Frog and Toad. Finally, just make sure time spent in readers does not take away from what should be the meat and potatoes of reading instruction: read aloud and word building.

Whether done in a reader or not, decoding work includes sounding out phonetic words (cat, frog, help), and memorizing sight words that can not be easily sounded out (said, one, the). If you work on sight words outside of readers (like drill with flashcards), it could be helpful to make word selections based on which ones will be coming up in your reader. A less custom approach would be to print off the dolch sight word list, have your childĀ  build the words, and you could also make flashcards to go over. The Dolch word list includes the most common 220 words and 95 nouns encountered in childrenā€™s books. Dolch words, or sight words, represent high-frequency words that are difficult to sound out.

Read Aloud

This is basically the story time that we have always done, but with a new emphasis………use the best classic books illustrated by good artists. Definitely not your everyday run of the mill picture book! We want to find stories that inspire children to greatness with beautiful, noble, living ideas. Select books from a Charlotte Mason type of booklist so that you can intentionally discourage your child’s tastes for easy reading that will undermine their ability to read classics later.

We will not always be selecting theme related literature, but only as it happens to work out. This week I happen to have found Yellow and Pink, a picture book full of “living ideas” that will compliment our study of God’s creation. Yellow and Pink is a story for all ages about two wooden figures who attempt to figure out how they came to be. As they become conscious of their presence in the world, they begin to wonder how they got there and how they can know this for certain. Here is an interesting guide to philosophizing with children while reading the ideas of creationism vs. evolution introduced in Yellow and Pink.

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Word Building

This week we are learning about the Bible story of creation and found some easy animal words for the kids to build. The kids were instructed to choose an animal, sound out its name, spell the name, and then check their work by peeling back the blue tape. They are not fully independent with this task yet, but not totally reliant either. These animal cards are just about the only flashcards I own, and so I haven’t decided how we will proceed with our Word Building center next week. We may use actual objects when possible, or print off picture cards that could also have a “blue tape” answer key. Please find the word building link in the chart below to learn more how-to.

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Bible Stories, Memory Verses, and Hymns

Our Bible Story time is becoming more Charlotte Mason because I plan on telling stories from my own heart, rather than using picture Bibles. During personal devotions with Noah I am back to reading straight from the KJV. Ā  Although written for all ages of children, see my last post “Teaching Children the Bible” for more information on a Charlotte Mason approach in spiritual areas (also linked in the chart below).

Hymns will now be a regular part of our co-op and family devotions. Hear our creation themed hymns we chose for this month: This is My Fathers World and How Great Thou Art. So beautiful……

“This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought

of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; his hand the wonders wrought……”

“I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed……”

This is where we will study our memory verses now–on a chalkboard next to the kitchen table! I love our new chalkboard that Dean built!! Thank you so much Daddy! And Tayler’s hand and footprint idea really helps bring the theme to life, and looks so cute too.

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Handwriting

We use blackboards at school right now since our 3 year olds are in the beginning stages of handwriting. Handwriting in preschool is my idea, and not necessary to a Charlotte Mason education. See the Handwriting link in the chart below for more information.

This month we will work on handwriting our names since we are doing an All About Me theme. This week we are starting with the first letter in our name. The top blackboard is the teacher’s board on which we write sample letters while the child is watching closely.

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Nature Play

Remember some of what is suggested in my Nature is For Kids post is for ages 6 and up. So with preschoolers, simply get out and make lots of observations, but consider holding off on more advanced things like nature journaling unless your child shows a lot of interest. At Little Lambs we will be going out into nature together for at least a couple hours 3 Thursdays a month. Yay! Plus, we as individual families will be going out plenty more times to enjoy God’s creation with our little ones. Time in nature is a very important aspect of a Charlotte Mason education that optimally occurs on every fair weather day for hours on end. What a blessing to do school in the great outdoors! See the Nature Play link in the chart below for more information.

By the way, on rainy days, when nature play is not possible, you could put the time towards other fun preschool activities not mentioned on this list–cooking, art projects, science experiments, etc.

Math

I have not studied much of Charlotte’s views on teaching math, but from the little I know, it sounds like they align with the hands on math curriculum book I use. See the Math link in the chart below for more information about a good Pre-K level math curriculum.

I was especially pleased with the math activity from off the top of my head this week because it provided the just right challenge for the kids. Noah actually said math was his favorite part of the first day of school (“math” happens to be a first time answer to this often asked question). The instructions were to copy my work: a rainbow staircase. It sounds pretty simple to us grown ups, but I could see the gears turning while our 3 year olds manipulated this math.

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Why You Should Start Homeschool This Year

The best part about starting homeschool early on, like in preschool or before, is yes, the time to plan your long term course, but also the luxury of gradually building up your curriculum year by year. The studies and methods that I have carried over from last year to this school year are simply our lifestyle now, second nature, and effortless in effect. Lets say Bible stories, memory verses, classic literature stories, classical music, poems, classical art, and nature play are all things you already do regularly with your child at home as part of your family life. You can pretty much check these areas off the “school to-do list” because its how you “do life” (albeit an uncommonly cultured one ;)) You don’t have to schedule “school time” for studies that are already a part of your life. So the goal is to make as much of your studies a part of your life as possible!…….And then it won’t feel like you are doing school at home. The special thing about homeschool is that so much of what you are learning becomes your life. Homeschool is not a separate department of life in which unrelated facts are derived from the classroom and soon subconsciously rejected for its lack of relevance, but rather a wealth of life shaping knowledge that makes itself at home in our minds, hearts, family, routines, philosophies, etc.

Optimally, studies gradually introduced in your homeschool would just naturally become a way of “life”. Starting a homeschool in the children’s early years, then adding depth and scope every year, will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by the sudden full blown homeschool start-up required by a decision to start in the school age years. It seems many parents lament that homeschool would take too much dedication or work on their part. I would suggest that it is easy enough…….if you start early. Your homeschool will be built in stages if you give it time, and the foundation will be strong if you are not rushed. What seemed like a challenge to incorporate last year, will be smooth and easy this year, and so now you are able to take on more without it being too much. Starting homeschool later, in 3rd grade or even kindergarten for example, I think can drive families to seek out a boxed curriculum package (that I warn against), that is all “done” for you, because it can feel overwhelming to jump in midstream. I bring this up because many say “I have time to figure it all out” concerning their decision to homeschool their young ones, but if you want smooth and easy days, and a strong foundation, consider that now may be the best time to start.

Sample Charlotte Mason Preschool Schedule for You

I made the following chart for you who want to teach your own preschooler at home. This is not the schedule we at Little Lambs follow since school activities for us are heavy on Tuesday and Thursdays, days we meet. However, this is the schedule I would likely follow if I were flying solo with homeschool. I would have almost all the “Everyday” activities done before and during breakfast, and then go right into “school” after breakfast with word building, math, and handwriting (10-15 minutes each max). Then the rest of the morning and afternoon would be free. On Nature Play days we would be out of the house for the whole morning and early afternoon at a favorite nature place. Usually families read to their children at night, so the “Every Night” study is intended to flow naturally with your pre-established routines. Sounds like an easy peasy schedule, right?? After breakfast school seat work consists of only 15-30 minutes of work!

Of course, you can arrange your schedule however you like, this chart is just a sample to get you thinking. Thank the Lord, I have already discussed most of the subjects listed below in depth in past posts and won’t have to detail everything here. Yeah!!! Click on the following links to refresh your memory of relevant info, or so that you can find out more if you are not a regular here.

May Your School Be a Fountain of Life!

Everyday

Bible Story

Memory Verse

Poem

Song/Hymn

Art Study

Classical Music

Every Night

Decoding

Read Aloud

 

M

Word Building

Nature Play

T

Handwriting

Math

W

Word Building

Nature Play

Th

Handwriting

Math

F

Word Building

Nature Play


2 responses to “Welcome Back to School! 2012-2013 Curriculum Overview

  1. Natasha says:

    Hi Lynn! I’ve been meaning to post ever since your Miss Mason post but am just now getting to it I really enjoyed reading that post. I spent some time at the website and downloaded some of the free e-books on the site. I’m only part way through one but have enjoyed it so far. I mentioned in my last comment that I decided to go with a boxed curriculum this year. I knew that it had some Charlotte Mason leanings in it, but I didn’t realize how many things aligned until checking out her website. The curriculum I chose, My Fathers World, uses the “techniques” of short lessons, living books, narration, dictation, copy work, manipulatives, nature study, poetry, hymns, and read alouds. I love that it uses methods that allow the child to use their imaginations and learn through hands on experiences. I know you are “anti” boxed sets, but I wanted to point out that there are curriculums out there that are not just dry textbooks or simply trying to be school at home. At this season in my life having 4 kids ages 6 and under, I appreciate having the basic planning and leg work done for me while I add in additional books and activities. It meets our needs at this time. I admire those that have the time and interest in planning lessons from beginning to end, but I don’t feel like I am doing my children any disservice or am any less of a homeschooling mom for choosing a curriculum. šŸ™‚

    You asked in this post for ideas to implement in your lessons. My Fathers World recommended a couple of poetry books for young kids. Poems and Prayers For the Very Young by Martha Alexander and Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young by Jack Prelutsky. They also recommend Honey For A Childs Heart. It is a book list of twaddle free literature for all ages. Pinterest is full of ideas for word building and decoding. I also recently found the website kidscount1234.com. It has a lot of center ideas for math and literacy. Also doing a google search for “busy bags” or “work boxes” will give a lot of ideas for hands on activities.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I look forward to seeing how your semester progresses! šŸ™‚

    • Miss Lynn says:

      Hey Natasha, Thank you so much for all the book and lesson ideas!!! I will look it all up! So it sounds like we are more on the same page than we realized! My Fathers World is one of the few boxed curriculums that I would use myself. It is a good one! Knowing me however, I would still probably be tweaking it too much to make it worth it for my family though. šŸ˜‰ I look at boxed sets and interpret it as “work”, while you find “relief”. Funny how we see that polar opposite.

      I am so glad to hear you are reading the free e-book links about a Charlotte Mason education. Keep looking into SimplyCharlotteMason.com because there are a lot of pros to a fully CM education. It really is easy and so freeing. For one, its incredibly inexpensive. Two, its incredibly flexible and adjustable to each child. Three, you can teach your children together for most of the subjects (see how many here: http://simplycharlottemason.com/planning/scmguide/). That is a huge time saver and money saver!!! It is not like CM has to be curriculum free either–the SCM bookstore is full of great curriculum– but it is curriculum that is easy to tweak before you buy.

      Yes, you have to do some of your own planning, but there are planning helps too, like the book Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education. It would take a little time over the summer to do your own planning, but the reward would be having a year of perfectly customized curriculum for your family.

      http://simplycharlottemason.com/books/planning-your-charlotte-mason-education/

      If you are interested in reading about CM vs. My Father’s World, you can read what moms who have done both methods have to say on the SCM forum.

      http://simplycharlottemason.com/scmforum/topic/cm-or-my-fathers-world-i-need-to-decide

      Sorry if you feel proselytized ;). My intention is to provide you future curriculum options that may make homeschooling as smooth and easy as possible–especially since you have four children, someday all to be school age! šŸ™‚ Thanks for reminding me and others on the blog about My Father’s World. I will be keeping it in mind as one of my options too.

      Send me some pictures, if you want, to appear on the blog with your fun MFW curriculum activities!

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