Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

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

April Lesson Plans

2012-2013

Whether big or small, I hope you have some gardening plans in the works for April and that you will participate in these lesson plans with us! A gardening theme is a great way to teach that faith is lot like a seed. Good things come to those who wait. If you have time, its fun to go into the archives of this blog and look back at what we were doing last April with the theme of faith, gardening, farming, and chickens (we narrowed things down this year because the theme was too broad). Let us know how your garden grows!
 
If you are new here, we invite you to join our Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs school by following along with our lesson plans at home! You are welcome to do homeschool together with us! Please take a look at Welcome Back to School for a basic explanation of each area of study that you see here in this monthly lesson plan (bold blue headings), as well as a description of the beauty of Charlotte Mason education methods. If you would like to preview other themes planned for the year, also see our 2013 masterplan. If you would like to call your school Little Lambs as well, see my post Founding Message of Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs, a sweet Bible lesson I presented during one of our very first circle times that you might want to use with your kids too!

Bible Theme: I have faith

Preschool Fun Theme: Gardening

Bible Stories:

Week 1 Hebrews Chapter 11, Parable of the Mustard Seed (Luke 13:18-189)

Week 2 Jesus Feeding the 5,000

Week 3 Jesus Walking on Water

Week 4 Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego

Memory Verse:

Review last years verse: If you have faith as small as mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

Learn new verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (Charlotte Mason used KJV, and we try to use it because it teaches literary language and vocabulary)

In other words: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Classical Art Study:

Choose from hundreds of Garden Paintings here.

In the Garden by Claude Monet, 1895

Hymn:

No Mp3 of this hymn available, so learn it beforehand using the link below, and then teach it to the children a cappella.

Faith is a Living Power from Heaven

Lyrics and tune

Poetry for memorization:

Annie’s Garden from a Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa

(by the way, mignonette is pronounced min-yə-ˈnet, and means ‘any genus of herbs’)

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Handwriting:

The children will practice printing:

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Word Building:

Use lowercase letters to build:

Week 1 hat

Week 2 sun

Week 3 mud

Week 4 wet

Extension: After building the assigned words, select other beginning consonant letters that form a new word from the same word ending (this can be done by the child or the teacher). For example, lay out letters b, c, f, m, p, r, s, to choose from and then have children make new words by taking off the h in hat and replacing it with a new consonant. Have the children sound out their new word and announce what word they built. The children will see that many words can be built from the same word endings ( word endings being –at, –un, –ud, –et). See Welcome Back to School post for more Word Building information.

Provide real objects or pictures during your word building lesson if you want.

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Literature and Reference Books:

Place books on hold on your library’s website today, or order from an online bookstore, so they will be ready for you on time!

Math:

(Activities are from the book Developing Math Concepts in Pre-Kindergarten)

Week 1  Measuring with Strings (p. 97)

Object: Children will be introduced to the idea of a measuring tool. Have the children use a length of string to find objects that are the same length, longer, or shorter than the string. Since we previously practiced measuring things around the room with our arms to find objects that are “the same as me”, ask, “Is it easier to measure with your arm or a string?” Do the children try measuring things that seem unlikely to be the length they are looking for or are they discriminating, measuring only those things that are fairly close to the length of their string? How close do the children need to get to an object before they can tell if they have found something that might be the same length?

Week 2 Can You Find It? (p.122)
Make number set cards (like the toothpick set pictured in my December lesson plan) with varying objects such as buttons, paper clips, bread tags, or beads on bracelets, beads strung on yarn, objects glued on popsicle sticks, etc. Each set should include at least 3 or 4 of each of the numbers from 1 to 10. Object: children will match quantities, count without touching, and practice recognizing quantities up to six without counting. Hand out 5-6 number set cards to your child. Hold up a number card set and ask if he/she has a card with the same number as yours. Do they need to touch the objects or can they count just by looking? Do they just check the cards that look similar or do they count the objects on every card even though it couldn’t possibly have the same number? When working with number sets of six or less, let the children know that it is good when they can tell you how many without counting. Counting when needed is good, but some children think they are supposed to count every time even though they don’t need to. Preschoolers can sometimes recognize groups of 2 or 3 without counting, but you want to encourage and work up to the instant recognition of numbers to 4, 5, or 6.

Week 3 Concentration (p. 123)

Object: same as week 2, but different format. Set up cups upside down in three rows of four. Use counters to place two sets of each number being worked with underneath the cups (two cups with 3 beans underneath, two cups with four beans underneath, and so forth) OR (one cup with 3 beans, one cup with 3 pennies, one cup with 4 seeds, one cup with 4 beads, and so forth). Have children uncover two items to see what number is hiding. If they uncover a matching pair, they remove them. If the pairs don’t match, they cover them again and the next child gets a turn. Do the children choose cups randomly, or do they remember what number is hiding underneath? Are the children able to recognize that different groups have the same number, even when they are different materials?

Week 4 Pattern Block Puzzles (p. 93 )

Object: children will explore how shapes fit into other shapes and find ways to fit shapes into puzzles outlines. Level one puzzles in the book have interior lines, and level two puzzles are without interior lines (see this advanced example of level 2). Have children find pattern blocks that he or she thinks will fit and fill in a puzzle shape (you can print out or draw). For example, give the children a puzzle that is the outline of a trapezoid, and see if they can discover that it will accommodate two triangle pattern blocks and one hexagon pattern block. Do the children test the blocks and move them around to make them fit? Do they know ahead of time what blocks to get?

Group Projects:

Plant and take care of a garden!

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Write an Experience Story

“Today we planted a garden in our backyard with mommy and daddy. First, we planted a pumpkin behind the rosemary. Next, we planted planted peas in a large pot. Then we planted lettuce, carrots, radishes, corn, and onions in our raised garden bed. Finally, we made sure to water all our plants. We can’t wait to eat fresh vegetables from the garden!

Planting a garden together is a perfect opportunity to use something called Language Experience Approach (LEA), or dictated stories. The language experience approach is a “whole language” approach that promotes reading and writing through the use of personal experiences and oral language. Beginning literacy learners relate their experiences to a teacher, who transcribes them. These transcriptions are then used as the basis for other reading and writing activities. Through LEA the teacher is able to demonstrate important concepts about print such as: starting on the left side of the page, capitalizing proper nouns and at the beginning of a sentence, spaces in between words, punctuation at the end, how to proceed to the next line on lined paper, etc.

LEA is something useful I learned in my teaching credential program, and is very compatible with Charlotte Mason methods as it treats language as a “whole” experience. Teaching language arts as a whole means that speaking, listening, reading, writing are taught all together in a natural and meaningful way, and lessons to teach skills and mechanics of language are not taught separately because this takes them out of context, thus losing their meaning. Since LEA develops literacy through whole language, it develops literacy with the whole learner in mind. Real people love to read and write for real purposes. (FYI, learning parts of language out of a workbook is the exact opposite of whole language methods)

So to do LEA, make a shared memorable experience together, such as planting a garden, then sit down and have children all contribute to retelling the experience while you write down their words in large print that everyone can see (like chart paper or a blackboard). You may help provide the framework such as a topic sentence and transitional words such as first, next, then, after, and last. You can help provide correct grammar without totally changing the children’s story. Read your story, re-read it, revise it, make a book out of it, share it, journal it, or write it down in a memory/scrap book……..do you see all the purpose and the meaning?!

This activity is very beneficial because the children will see how the writing process works from beginning to end, they will also get reading practice as you all read and re-read the story together, and beginners enjoy the activity because it uses a topic of high personal interest and familiarity. Plus, teamwork gets the story done which makes it easy and fun for brand new writers.

Paint Rocks to Make Cute Vegetable Garden Markers. Make sure to spray varnish each side at least 5 times or colors will disappear rapidly! Last year we varnished a painted rock project only once or twice and the paint washed off in no time.

Grow a Sunflower House

Make mushrooms grow in the garden. I love this idea because I have a thing for toadstools, polymer clay, and garden decor. Last year we painted something made out of polymer clay, kept it outside all  year long, and it still looks great. I am surprised how well painted clay weathers, and so I think the mushrooms will stay pretty too.

Paint Sunflowers

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Nature Study:

Find unexpected natural treasures.

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Pick them, and then every time look very astonished at mommy’s no picking rule.

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God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures. –Francis Bacon

All good things are inspired by God! We share freely here to be a blessing to you with all that He has given us. Thank you for sharing what you have been given with others too. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8

 

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Habit Training at MY House

I pull in the garage from guitar lessons (after a quick stop at the grocery store) every Friday night, and who is flinging the garage door open with a big smile the second I park the car? My sweet little 2 year old Faithy, so happy to see mommy arriving home. Its like she hasn’t seen me in forever. Its the greeting I have always wanted, as Noah is usually the calm and cool “Oh, hey.”, type of guy. Sometimes Faith runs over to the car door, other times she stays at the garage door and keeps smiling big. Then she melts my heart because she purposely holds the door open for me while I come with grocery bags. As I approach, she stretches out her arms and quietly but eagerly says, “Here mommy, here mommy, here.” She wants to help me carry in my grocery bags! I have no idea where she got this from. No one else in our house holds the door for mommy or helps carry bags. I hand her a light weight bag which she can barely handle, but she tries with all her might to get it inside and keep holding the door open for me. Now she is muttering something softly in her high pitched voice like, “Its ok! Its ok! Its ok!” The same little thing she says when she is trying to comfort someone who got hurt or when something is difficult and she is soothing herself. She is a sweet blessing! I wanted to share that helper story to make you think about the blessings of your little helpers at home.

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If you noticed on our March lesson plans, the character trait, or habit, that we are working on is being a helper. Our habit forming themes provide a specific target to attach our faith to each month and believe God to do something extraordinary in that current area of focus. In February, the habit of focus was being kind and loving, in December, worshipful, in November, thankful. Our monthly themes are purposeful, and come from my 2013 masterplan that I drew up with the Lord’s guidance in order to give direction to our schooling month by month. I imagine that some of you may be following along with our monthly lesson plans, however loosely. I welcome any and all to come virtually be a part of Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs as you feel led! Whether you are working on the habit of helping right now as well, or one of your own selected character traits, I would love to hear about your habit training wisdom. How do you do habit training?

Today I will share with all you Little Lambs out there working on habit training, and anyone else who was inspired by my last post on habit training, my personal wisdom and a real life example of training at our house. I came up with a Helper assessment, or list of goals based on areas of need I have seen in my own children throughout the month in the area of being a helpful hard worker. These insights are God dropping things in my spirit bit by bit during the month as I am observing my children, looking for their strengths and weaknesses in being helpers, and taking mental notes of what I see. I love when God points something out in my child for me to pay attention to. It is really fun and personal to train up children with God’s amazing guidance in homeschool!! This special guidance is for every parent, not just me. God speaks habit training wisdom into the hearts of all parents seeking Him, as He is no respecter of persons. So just pray over our themes/your themes (whichever you are using, if any at all), put your faith out there, and see what He does. He is your habit training trainer!

The Kids Putting Away Noah’s Laundry

I absolutely love that Tayler enjoys helping Noah and Faith put their laundry away. They have been doing laundry all together on Mondays, which is cleaning day here, for almost a year now. They are almost independent with this chore by now, and that reward reminds me of how delightful habit training is. Noah likes to “save his laundry for [Monday] when Tayler can help”.

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Helper Assessment

Questions and Examples

1. Do I do my regular chores/jobs before being told?

-I get dressed and make my bed first thing before I am asked (what joy habit brings to a mother’s heart!)

2. Do I do what I am asked the FIRST time I am asked?

-I clean up the first time I am asked because waiting until the second time is disobedient

3. Do I have a happy heart when I am asked to help?

-I smile and say “yes mommy”, never frown or whine, and my face is cheerful while I am working

4. Do I work quickly?

-I don’t dawdle because hard workers enjoy doing tasks with all their might

5. Do I help even when “I don’t feel like it”?

-I don’t whine, “but I don’t feeeeel like it”, because feelings don’t always help us to do what we ought to/what is right, but the Word of God does help us. So what I do is start saying my promise/memory verses, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” or “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”, and strength to do what is right starts coming into me as I say it again and again with all my heart.

6. Am I thorough, or do I quit when the job is mostly done?

-I check every corner of the room I am cleaning up before deciding I am done. When I think I am done with a job, I always double check my work to make sure I did it all. (I will ask Noah, “Did you check your work?” when he is vacuuming under the dinner table for example.)

7. Do I go above and beyond what is expected in my work?

-If I am expected to wash my plate after a meal, I wash somebody else’s too. If I see food all over the sides of the sink while I am washing my plate, I make sure to clean up the sink while I am at it.

8. Am I always on the lookout for ways to be helpful?

-I go grab the hand vacuum and take care of some dirt that I see has appeared upon the floor, rather than walking by it and going about my business, or calling it to mommy’s attention to take care of.

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Drill the phrase: “Obedience is cheerful, immediate, and thorough!”

What are you working on with your child? What are your goals? We would love to hear!

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A little advice on putting any habit assessment you draw up to use at home. Write down/take mental notes of examples of how your child has met the above goals, and also ways she has fallen short. Use the information about her weaknesses to head off and prevent typical problem areas. For example, give a preventative reminder before the assigned chore to assist your child in succeeding: “remember to check your work when you are done” is better than noticing later that the job was not done thoroughly (again!), and calling her back in frustration to do the job right. Next, use your habit assessment observations to pray, and then to reach your child’s heart on the topic of being a helper during circle time/devotion time/heart to heart time. Your discussion will be insightful, personal, and applicable. Use your teaching time to both encourage (provide personal examples of how you have noticed her being an awesome helper), and to exhort (provide personal examples of how she could improve on being a good helper). Also, mention how the habit will benefit both herself and the family in the short term and long term. Finally, pray with your child about their areas of need. Your child will definitely be thinking about how to be a better helper after all this! Now just watch what happens and give God all the glory!

So Excited to Be Back at the Nature Park

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We Found Lots of Signs of Spring

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The Camera is Poised and Ready for Spontaneous Cute Poses

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Putting Our Backyard Vegetable Garden In

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Unbelievable!

I said, “which one did I write??,” in disbelief. Its hard to tell!

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Tips I Have Learned for Conducting Successful Handwriting Lessons:

-Use a chalkboard! Whether starting to print or do cursive, don’t let your child’s handwriting be chicken scratch on paper or the whiteboard. Remember my last post on habits? Everyday, your child is forming either chicken scratch habits or beautiful letter formation habits that may persist for a lifetime. The roughness of chalkboards provide the necessary tactile feedback for optimal letter formation.

-Use small chalk bits! Small writing utensils force children to use the correct tripod grip. An incorrect grip practiced for too long can be hard to change later. Even coloring matters–use small broken crayons to encourage the tripod grip. Always correct an incorrect grip so that a poor habit does not become engrained. When a child is ready to switch to pencil and paper for handwriting, do not use regular pencils or jumbo size kindergarten pencils, use golf size pencils. Small hands require small tools in order to write correctly. The weight of large pencils make the tripod grip more difficult.

-Two lines are the easiest format for writing. The standard three line kindergarten paper is very confusing for children, and very unnecessary. Make your own wide ruled two line paper if you want. Otherwise, two line paper, chalk bits, and two line chalkboards can be purchased at Handwriting without Tears.

-We choose to learn handwriting through one theme relevant word a month, rather than writing a string of letters one letter at a time, because it makes handwriting more meaningful. The children see that handwriting is for the purpose of making words which is for the purpose of reading. That is satisfying. We are in no hurry to try get all 26 letters covered in a certain time frame anyway.

-I started doing a mini lesson every time before the children write because I realized they need to be drilled in order to remember some things (and it makes handwriting practice go much smoother):

-I ask, “What letter comes first, next, next, last?,” to push them to recall the spelling of a word without looking at a reference. They were previously not remembering the spelling of a word after a whole month of practicing writing it.

-I ask, “Where does ‘b’ start?” “Now what do I do?” (go down, up, over, and around) “Where does ‘i’ start?” “Now what do I do?” and so on. The correct starting point of each letter is the hardest thing to remember about each letter and requires special mention every time.

-I point out an area of concern if necessary: today, Noah I want you to work on making your ‘b’ and ‘d’ bellies nice and fat rather than skinny. Today, Tayler I want you to make sure your letters don’t have too much space in between.

-During practice time, the children use my written word sample as a reference while they are writing, even tracing my letters on my chalkboard first if needed to recall directionality. But they do little tracing because usually after all this thorough instruction, they do not require me to write letter on their board to trace, they just take off writing all on their own!

Noah did Small and Big Sorting with our Button Collection

We have also sorted by number of holes, smooth and bumpy, wavy and not wavy (Tayler’s idea that made sense in her mind). See March math lesson plans for instructions

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Our New Favorite way to Build Words

The kids think it is so funny to spell out huge nonsense words and then have me read it. Today Noah used the whole alphabet, sounded it out himself which was great, and then he and Tayler cracked up like its the funniest thing ever. Even though I hardly ever picture it, we do word building on every school day (see Welcome Back to School post for word building information). The real word to build for today was ‘bus’. The kids are doing really great with hearing all the sounds in 3 letter words at this point in the year. So pleased!

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Word Building is Hilarious Stuff Lately

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Faith’s First Time Helping with Calendar

She noticed me preparing to do calendar time, and before the older kids could jump on being the helper, she started sliding her chair over to the calendar saying, “My turn!”

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Smooth and Easy Days with Our Children

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Home Education (Vol. 1) pages 75-150

Habit Training

“My kids drive me crazy! I could never homeschool them!” is an honest confession that I have heard from some mothers. Others put it milder, “I need some me time while my kids are at school. I need that break.” If mothering was easier, even blissful, I wonder how many would take a second look at homeschooling? The reality is moms understandably need a reprieve from the noise, the half cleaned up messes, the silly chatter, disobedience, possessions not properly cared for, cupboard doors left open, instructions going in one ear and out the other, dirty laundry left on the floor again, requests and demands, lack of courtesy, the style and tastes in discord with her own preferences–all the normal things kids do that grate on mom’s nerves. And doesn’t it seem like it gets worse with time as the kids get older? Is there any hope for smooth, peaceful, and enjoyable days as the norm with our children, or do we just cope through weary days by taking breaks, hot baths, deep breaths, and drinking strong coffee?

Today I hope  to show how parenting can be smooth and easy by sharing the secrets of habit training set forth by Charlotte Mason, my esteemed mentor. Our children’s habits of thought and action will effect not only who they are today, but ultimately form who they become someday, and parents have the power to influence every one of those important habits acquired in childhood. We know that thoughts and actions, whether purifying or defiling, all follow the same natural law: one after another develops, matures, and increases after its own kind. Good habits will beget goodness in our children and homes, and goodness provides the pleasure of family life that is desired by the heart of every parent. Parents sow seeds of good habits into the open souls of their children, which shall germinate, blossom and bear fruit. The Lord gives parents seeds of truth to sow, and the love and patience required to continue tending the garden of their children’s hearts.

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character,” the maxim goes.

Habit training is the answer to securing smooth and easy days for parents simply looking to enjoy their vocation of parenthood more, a Christian family looking to instill Christian character in their children, or a homeschooling family looking to avoid the weariness of the homeschool room–whoever you are, I promise this information will be relevant to what you want for your family. Everyone wants to have an easy life, its a natural desire, and there is a way to bring you and your children on the same page, making your days together a joy rather than a frustration. Charlotte Mason says, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children. All day she is crying our, Do this!’ and they do not; ‘Do that!’ and they do the other.” Don’t live in frustration, study and implement Charlotte Mason’s principles of habit training with me, and after much diligence, we shall delight in the sweet fruit of our labor all through the years to come with our children.

Charlotte warns that too many Christian parents expect that they can “let a child grow free as the wild bramble, putting forth unchecked whatever is in him––thorn, coarse flower, insipid fruit,––trusting, they will tell you, that the grace of God will prune and dig and prop the wayward branches lying prone. And their trust is not always misplaced; but the poor man endures anguish, is torn asunder in the process of recovery which his parents might have spared him had they trained the early shoots which should develop by-and-by into the character of their child.” Divine grace doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take the trouble to understand how to best educate and train our children. Divine grace is exerted on the lines of enlightened human effort.

Habits Are Why I Homeschool

There are lots of reasons why I homeschool, but habit training, which ultimately develops character in my children, is at the top of the list. I think about all the habits in which I am training my children and could not possibly imagine any other other option than having them at home with me all week in order to train them up successfully. Lets take just one small segment of the day–mealtime–and list all the things that I (and perhaps you too), daily without miss, train my children to do: remembering to go potty before a meal, keeping cups off the edge of the table, sitting forward in their chairs, not wiggling, serving others first, not interrupting in conversation, use voices at an appropriate volume, allowing no potty talk or fluffing at the table, keeping silliness and (annoying) noises to a minimum, waiting patiently for food, using please and thank you, asking daddy about his day, sharing details with daddy about their day, waiting patiently for everyone to finish their meal before being excused, cleaning up after themselves, asking to be excused from the table, washing their hands and face and dishes at the sink. When I think about what habits we are trying to instill in the course of a whole day, it is astounding– it is so so so much!! Obviously habit training is time consuming when taking the whole picture into consideration (see Charlotte Mason’s entire list of habits).

So does habit training end when kids are school age and can no longer be under our constant supervision? Habit training at home does not end, it only evolves into bigger and more important goals as children grow, which poses a compatibility problem with the typical school day schedule and homework. And how capable are our young ones of holding onto to what we teach them while they are away at school? Is school supposed to take over habit training so that your child learns from her peers or the teacher while away from us? I could never expect a teacher of an entire classroom to have the time to continue my child’s personal habit training for me. Its simply unrealistic to believe that a teacher could properly and consistently train each student in the habits they personally need to acquire (or that the teacher even has the same views/emphasis/priorities about habits as I do anyway). As for peers having worthwhile character developing influence on our children, we only have to recall my posts reviewing the book Hold Onto Your Kids to know that is an alarming myth. So I wonder why most of us send our children away 6 hours a day, where habits we’ve been working so hard on at home become dangerously unguarded for the most part, and find our ourselves surprised when our child is constantly coming home with new contrary habits that require an immense effort of constant undoing? Sounds like a weary never ending battle.

Charlotte Mason’s List of Habits
Decency and Propriety Habits
Cleanliness
Courtesy
Kindness
Manners
Modesty and Purity
Neatness
Order
Regularity
Candor
Courage
Diligence
Fortitude
Generosity
Gentleness
Meekness
Patience
Respect
Temperance
Thrift
Mental Habits
Attention
Imagining
Meditation
Memorizing
Mental Effort
Observation
Perfect Execution
Reading for Instruction
Remembering
Thinking
Accuracy
Concentration
Reflection
Thoroughness
Moral Habits
Integrity
Priorities
Finishing
Use of Time
Borrowed Property
Obedience
Personal Initiative
Reverence
Self-Control
Sweet, Even Temper
Truthfulness
Usefulness
Physical Habits
Alertness to Seize Opportunities
Fortitude
Health
Managing One’s Own Body
Music
Outdoor Life
Quick Perception of Senses
Self-Control in Emergencies
Self-Discipline in Habits
Self-Restraint in Indulgences
Training the Ear and Voice
Religious Habits
Regularity in Devotions
Prayer
Reading the Bible
Praise
Reverent Attitude
Sunday-Keeping
Thanksgiving
Thought of God

The purpose of habit training should be to secure beauty, order, and goodness at home and in each others eyes. “A mother whose final question is, ‘What will people say? what will people think? how will it look? and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not of being; they are content to appear well dressed, well mannered, and well intentioned to outsiders.” Homeschool is stripping me of a lot of my “appearance” hang ups and helping me to focus in on what really matters–internal beauty and goodness starting at home.

Truthfully, the last thing we want is for our kids to drive us crazy, but the solution for preventing discord sounds like counter logic: keep your children with you. The irony is that, the more children are sent away so we can have a break, the more they will drive us crazy, because they become less responsive to our parenting. The more we send them out of our watchful care, the more our children will accumulate contrary habits from outside influences, plus we will have less time together to work on habits at home that create harmony. Harmony in the home is a treasure worthy of your life’s pursuit. Habit training is a full time job, too precious and personal to delegate out to anyone else.

To me, the crucial nature of habit training is what makes homeschool so necessary and so appropriate for families who value character education as a #1 priority. That means that no matter how inadequate we feel we are are at teaching certain academic subjects, for those of us who hold the educational priority of character development at the top of our list, home is still the very best place for our children to receive their education. My philosophy about education is that above all else, it shall secure the step by step progression of my children’s character development. If my children’s education teaches math and language and science, but is ineffective at forming character in them, it is a failure.

A Real Education is About Character

Charlotte began her teaching career with zealous enthusiasm believing that there wasn’t anything a teacher could not influence her students to do, and that it was the teacher’s fault if any child was not succeeding in school or out of it. The disappointing thing was that she found nothing extraordinary happened. The kids were good and came from good families on the whole, but it was clear that they still behaved very much as it was their nature to. The good meek little girl still told fibs. The bright generous child was incurably idle. The dawdling child went on dawdling, the dull child became no brighter. She felt disappointed and like they were playing at education, getting on a little bit with sums and French and history each year, but she wondered: would not the application of a few hours later in life effect more than years drudgery at any one subject in childhood– for who remembers the scraps of knowledge he labored over as a child? “If education is to secure the step-by-step progress of the individual and the race, it must mean something over and above the daily plodding at small talks which goes by the name.” A real education is about character development, much more than it is about academics. Who cares what you know when you grow up if you haven’t the character to make any use of it?

Whether you choose to or not to take any trouble about the formation of your child’s habits, it is habit, all the same, which will govern 99/100ths of your child’s life. Is it really possible for parents to form in children desirable habits of doing and saying, even of thinking and feeling? Although there is some goodness in the heart of every child, they are all incapable of steady effort, because they have no strength of will, no power to make themselves do that which they knew they ought to do. Children, immature of will, do not do what they should do, or think what they should think. People, especially children, think as they are accustomed to think. Adults have the will to stop some trains of thought that they object to, but it requires great effort. A child has feeble moral power, a weak will, and is unused to the weapons of spiritual warfare. “He depends upon his parents; it rests with them to initiate the thoughts he shall think, the desires he shall cherish, the feelings he shall allow. Only to initiate; no more is permitted to them; but from this initiation will result the habits of thought and feeling which govern the man–his character, that is to say…….The child is born, doubtless with the tendencies which should shape his future; but every tendency has its branch roads, its good or evil outcome; and to put the child on the right track for the fulfillment of the possibilities inherent in him, is the vocation of the parent.” Overseeing the development of character in our children is our primary job as parents. Are you willing to get some job training, and then faithfully lay your life down for your child that your job may be well done?

Habit is the Strength of Ten Natures

Every child is born with a weak will and a strong nature (disposition or personal natural tendencies of behavior), but the good news is that, as Charlotte Mason says, habit has the strength of ten natures. Suppose that the doing of a certain action 20 or 40 times in unbroken sequence forms a habit which is easy to follow, and then persist in that habit without lapses for many years, and the habit now has the strength of ten natures. How does the doing of an act or the thinking of a thought 20 times in succession, make that habit so strong that it becomes a part of a child’s nature? Charlotte studied the physiology of habit to find some answers.

Muscular tissue is constantly regrowing according to the modes of action required of it. As a child learns to write, his muscles are adapting to the action required of them and the better he gets, the less his mind must be engaged to tell him how to do it–the action is becoming automatic. The greatest growth and adaption of muscles takes place with the greatest ease in youth. Dancing, swimming, sports, etc. are all learned best when young or by an adult whose muscles have kept up the habit of adaption through regular exposure to new physical activities. Charlotte says, “But teach a ploughman to write, and you see the enormous physical difficulty which unaccustomed muscles have in growing to any new sort of effort.” Hour by hour children’s muscles are forming their habits, and this is why Charlotte says it is important to even keep watch over habits of enunciation and posture. She says, “The poke, the stoop, the indistinct utterance, is not a mere trick to be left off at pleasure ‘when he is older and knows better,’ but it is all the time growing into him becoming a part of himself, because it is registered int he very substance of his spinal cord……And to correct bad habits of speaking, for instance, it will not be enough for the child to intend to speak plainly and try to speak plainly; he will not be able to do so habitually until some degree of new growth has taken place in the organs of voice whilst he is making efforts to form the new habit.”

Interestingly, habits which do not appear to be in any sense physical–a truthful habit, an orderly habit, a habit of inattention–also make their mark upon a physical tissue, and it is to this physical effect that the enormous strength of habit is probably due. The brain is always modified by the work it has to do. “….it is as if every familiar train of thought made a rut in the nervous substance of the brain into which the thoughts run lightly of their own accord, and out of which they can only be got by an effort of will.” The cerebrum of man grows to the modes of thought in which it is habitually exercised. We find ourselves automatically prompted to think, feel, or do what we have been before accustomed to think, feel, or do. At first an action requires all our attention and volition in order to perform it, but by frequent repetition, it becomes part of us, and is performed without volition or consciousness. Thoughts headed in the same constant direction in the tissues of the brain traces out a rut or path, a line of least resistance, along which the same impression, made another time, will find it easier to travel than to take another path. The habit of action or thought now has right-of-way in the traffic of the brain. So parents who diligently oversee their children’s habits of doing, saying, thinking, and feeling; and allow little opposing traffic from outside influences, are laying down rails on which our children’s whole lives can run smoothly. The deeper the ruts, the better.

Soooo what does all this mean?

Charlotte explains, “Why, that the actual conformation of the child’s brain depends upon the habits which the parents permit or encourage; and that the habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, ‘It doesn’t matter,’ ‘Oh, he’ll grow out of it,’ ‘He’ll know better by-and-by,’ ‘He’s so young, what can we expect?’ and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”

How are bad habits to be cured? By time? Rewards? Punishment? Not at all; the only way to cure a habit is by supplanting it with the contrary habit, and “the mother must devote herself for a few weeks to this cure as steadily and untiringly as she would to the nursing of her child through measles.” If you would like a real life example of a mother doing this, and without nagging or reproach, make sure to read Charlotte’s Habit is Ten Natures (page 120). The fatal mistake in habit training is to relax your efforts–to overlook a little dawdling or white lie or tardiness–because your little sweetie has been trying so hard. A little relaxation means the formation of another contrary habit, which must be overcome before your child gets back to where he was before. Remember, a habit by definition is something that has become easy and natural, done without thought. There is no need to take pity on a child as if her habits still require great effort–she is doing it now without even realizing that she is! Again, read a real life example of the fatality of “letting your child off once” in Habit is Ten Natures (pages 122-124).

I don’t have time my friends to discuss all that Charlotte says about training each specific habit, but you will find that Home Education specifically addresses each of the habits listed on the chart above. If you are interested, you should think about reading the book or even the whole series, as a Charlotte Mason education is largely about character development!! Or if you enjoy taking the easy route :), simplycharlottemason.com has compiled what Charlotte has to say about habits from all 6 of her volumes, into one very useful handbook called Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook.

Habit Training is a Pleasure

“The boy who has been accustomed to find both profit and pleasure from his books does not fall easily into idle ways because he is attracted by an idle schoolfellow. The girl who has been trained to speak the exact truth simply does not think of a lie as a ready means of getting our of a scrape, coward as she may be.” Habit training has huge rewards, and to succeed, parents only need to be tactful, watchful, persistant, and prayerful. To form a good habit takes a few weeks, to guard it takes never ending watchful care. However, guarding habits already formed is not hard work, it just takes persistant watchful effort. Forming a new habit takes a lot of diligence and so we should only choose one or two at a time to work on with our children (choose one off the chart that is most needed in your child).

Habits make life easy and thank goodness for that. What if we still had to think about how to carry out simple small talk, take a bath, write, or read? We would be worn out. Habits make tasks perfectly easy and natural. Charlotte describes forming habits in children as no laborious task “for the reward goes hand in hand with the labor; so much so, that it is like the laying out of a penny with the certainty of the immediate return of a pound. For a habit is a delight in itself; poor human nature is conscious of the ease that it is to repeat the doing of anything without effort; and therefore, the formation of a habit, the gradually lessening sense of effort in a given act, is pleasurable. This is one of the rocks that mothers sometimes split upon: they lose sight of the fact that [a good habit is a real pleasure].” What becomes tiresome in parenting then is not habit training, but the undoing of habits by outside influences such as children at school, or the undoing of habits by inconsistent training at home, and having to begin all over again. The more time you are able to devote to training habits and guarding character, the greater your pleasure in your children will be.

“There is nothing which a mother can not bring her child up to.” –Charlotte Mason

Your child has been sending you signals all along that “I need you mommy!!” Have you noticed? The way he gets clingy at times or the way he lights up when you spend quality time with him. The way he behaves well when he is just with you, but when your attention is diverted to something or someone else, he starts acting up. Whether he can express it or not, deep down he knows that you and daddy are the only ones who can help him grow up into who he is to become. If you could hear his heart, he would be crying out, “I need you so much mommy! All these habits in life that are so easy and automatic for you, are very wearying to me, because I am a child and everything is brand new for me. Won’t you hold me close through it all? Will you keep holding onto me through the years so that I can grow into the man God wants me to be? I need you so much to help me grow into maturity!” Please don’t think that signals of dependance quieting down in your older school age child means that he is ready to be independent from you. More likely it means that he has acquiesced your need for time apart, and since the void for attachment doesn’t just simply disappear, he has started to look elsewhere, like peer relationships, for someone to guide him, and essentially train him up. Yikes!! Please review the posts Hold Onto Your Kids Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV as they go hand in hand with today’s topic of habit training.

You know you have always said that your child comes before anything else in your life. He or she is your priority above anything else. Does your lifestyle back up your conviction? There is nothing that you can not bring your child up to. Now the question is……….how will you rearrange the commitments in your life to make time with your children your top priority?

Someday after we mothers have enjoyed many years together with our children in sweet fellowship, our children will come to realize how much they have been preserved from by growing up under our ever protecting wing, and I foresee this as the day that they will “rise up and call us blessed” (Proverbs 31:28). You are the virtuous woman who is taking great pains in your duties, and you shall take pleasure in the sweet fruit of your labor.

If this post has helped you, please share it with another parent you care about–or all the parents you know!
 
Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 150-225 in Home Education and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by April 15th. Let’s inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!
 

Daffodil Heaven. I Heart Daffodils.

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Easter Garden Baskets Are Probably My Favorite School Project of the Whole Year

See March Lesson Plans for more details. We used Irish Moss (Sagina Subulata), purple Campanula Get Mee (Campanula Portenschlagiana), and an indoor plant that I don’t know the name of. I wanted something frilly to keep indoors since last year we did hearty succulent plants (the advantage was that the basket lasted all year).

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Reminders of the Cross Sitting Pretty in Our Kitchen

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The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock, The Foolish (Wo)Man Built His (Her) House Upon the Sand

This was our Bible story in circle time this week since being hard working helpers is our theme this month. The blocks represented work we do and aspirations we have, and how we build our lives on the rock of Jesus Christ by doing “every task heartily as unto the Lord” as the Bible says, or on the sand by doing things “unto man”. With the first two blocks representing Tayler’s dreams of doing gymnastics and becoming a nurse someday, we discussed with very practical examples, what it would look like to build her dreams on the rock verses the sand. The next block represented building a life of doing kind things in a showy way so that man rewards us (sand), or doing kind things in secret as the Bible says to so that only our Heavenly Father knows and He will reward us (rock). The last block represented school, and how we prepare our hearts and attitudes through early morning devotions and using God’s promises in the Word when frustrations arise (rock) or doing it all in our own strength (sand). Their favorite part was making the storm come and knocking down blocks built on sand of course. You should have heard the peals of laughter. Its so fun to be 4 years old.

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I Love Mud!

That is all Tayler kept saying as I watched her help herself to playing in the mud. Then I asked, “Has your family ever let you play in the mud before?” “No,” she replied. Ooops?

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Make No Little Plans

Christian Home Educators Association of California Convention

Even though I am definitely following Charlotte Mason methods in our homeschool, I still want to attend a homeschool convention where I will be exposed to a broad array of methods, strategies, curriculum, homeschoolers, etc. all at once in one place. It is like a homeschool party! It is a great way for some of us to simply get acquainted with homeschooling, and for others of us to dive into the the detailed specifics of each subject.

I recently recalled that the annual California Christian homeschool convention of the Bay Area, occurs every year in April–which happens to be right around the corner! This year the Bay Area conference is in Santa Clara on April 12th & 13th (there is also a conference in June for SoCal by the way). I found out that families whose eldest child is 5 years or younger can attend on Saturday for free if we register by March 11th. I know that is only a few days away, but I definitely want to go, and if you do too, let me know! We can meet up at the party!

A good alternative idea to attending the conference in person is to order audio recordings (only $4 each) of interesting workshops to listen at home. I plan on investing in this resource myself to glean from the 2009-2012 convention workshops that are of high interest to me, such as teaching creation science. If you are too busy during the school year to think about conventions, perhaps you could plan some easy at home development time into this coming summer for you and your husband with audio workshops. Personally, the free time of last summer provided a profitable season for my own learning and growth as a mom and home educator, and I look forward to doing the same this summer through books and workshops. I will keep you posted on these plans!

Baked Oatmeal Cooking Project Planned by Miss Sheila. Yummy!

Thanks for the recipe Miriah!!

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We Added Apples, Raisins, and Banana into Our Baked Oatmeal, but Berries with Bananas is also Delicious

(Click on Picture for a Recipe from Skinny Taste)

Beautiful Spring Art To Hang on the Fridge

We added each child’s favorite stanza from the poem Daffodils By William Wordsworth.

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Daffodil Art How-To

Supplies: 3 stems & several leaves (folded up a little for dimension), 3 flower cut-outs with 6 petals each, 3 fringed flower centers, and 3 stamens. Place an apple corer in the middle of each flower and bend the petals up for dimension. (Any similar sized cylinder would work if you don’t have an apple corer.) One side of the fringed center piece I notched so that the paper splays out a little for gluing purposes. The stamen is a rolled up long triangle shape with notches at the bottom for gluing as well. This was a great one on one project, but would have been too difficult to do as a group since preschoolers need a lot of guidance with a project like this.

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Book Time in the Sunshine with Peter Rabbit Books

(a cute idea planned by the kids’ themselves)

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More and Less Math

(see March lesson plans for instructions)

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Time to Start Planning a Garden!

Now is the time to decide together with your family if you will plant a garden this year, and if so what will you grow? Even if you plant one thing, I think its so worth it!! Our theme next month at Little Lambs is gardening and so we are already starting to make planting plans. We stopped by Navelet’s the other day and it was like kids in the candy store. Our kids immediately and enthusiastically started picking out seed packets for planting in our garden (unsolicited help, but very cute none the less). Noah had piles of seed packets in his hands and Daddy asked somewhat rhetorically, “What is he doing?” “Dreaming,” I said with a smile. Your kids will definitely want to help plan your garden too and a trip to the nursery is a great way to start.

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Our Other Little Garden Dream This Year

A botanical playhouse for the kiddos grown next to our vegetable garden (inspired by the book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots). Your garden can be such a magical place for your little children with just a little bit of forethought and ingenuity!

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

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Guest post! A little lesson on nests… and nesting!

Hi Everybody! This is Lynn’s little sister, Tara, and I thought I would pop in and share some highlights from a lesson we did over here in the great state of Oklahoma! And quickly, too, because I’m due to have my third little boy in just 2 more weeks!

Soon there will be three little button-noses to smile with! Yikes! :)

Soon there will be three little button-noses to smile with! Yikes! 🙂

I have been using a curriculum from My Father’s World and adapting it when I have time! One lesson we recently completed was all about how the Lord takes such good care of us and provides the perfect shelter for us to abide in. This truth is made evident to the children through an intimate look at birds and the different nests they build for their young- perfect for Spring! My eldest is an animal lover and aficianado, so he was raving about everything we did.

Lunchtime might be Levi’s favorite part of school! 

Getting ready to chomp down on our "bits and pieces" lunch. This was Roman's fun idea, "because birdies don't eat whole meals, but a just a seed here and there."

Getting ready to chomp down on our “bits and pieces” lunch. This was Roman’s fun idea, “because birdies don’t eat whole meals, but just a seed here and there.”

This lesson was particularly poignant for me though, as well. I was never that girl who drooled over babies or yearned to test my maternal wings, but the Lord saw otherwise! With each child I’ve had, I feel more and more what a profound calling it is to be a mother and a “homemaker,” to make a home that is more than just a physical shelter, but a haven, a launching pad and a spiritual training ground for (in my case) some powerful men of God of the future. I used to really miss a more corporate world, but I’ve come to feel more and more content simply doing the “mundane” tasks of maintaining a home because I know it matters to these wee ones and my time with them is really so short. My husband and I find ourselves bleary-eyed every time we talk about how big they’re getting, as if they’re already leaving for college. But we know it will be upon us so soon and we want to soak up every second of their chubbiness, their lisping words, their endless curiosity and their cherubic laughter. Squeeze!!

My love for them feels so consuming, so invigorating and, at the thought of them leaving my nest one day, so painful, too. And yet, I think of the Father’s love for us… millions of us, all at once, consuming Him, motivating Him to give all He has to us, to prepare such a place for us, to die for us, to open His heart to us over and over and over knowing full well that so many of His children will reject His perfect love. Let us be inspired this month to love our children and the lost as the Father loves them.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29

“Even an Ostrich Needs a Nest” is a very interesting read about birds around the world. Some birds are so hard-working and sacrificial, while others try to coast in on the work of others. Sound familiar? The cuckoo lays it’s eggs in the nest of other birds and lets them feed their babies! Roman was quoting facts from it for weeks! 

Glued together with peanut butter and chocolate, these shredded wheat nests were a big hit and fun to have the kids help with! You can make them healthier with nuts and seeds, but our were just a treat.

Glued together with peanut butter and chocolate, these shredded wheat nests were a big hit and fun to have the kids help with! You can make them healthier with nuts and seeds, but ours were just a treat.

It was so fun to document the walk with a camera and the kids can help you take the pictures!

We spotted 11 different nests, a couple of birdhouses, and even got a few shots of some birdies!

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It was fun to hypothesize what sort of birds we thought might live in each nest and to stand quietly and listen for the different kinds of chirps we heard all around us. Be sure to take a camera with a great zoom! Allowing the boys to snap shots of all that we found was half the fun!

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Roman ran right home to build a nest of his own, complete with little blue eggs!

Roman ran right home to build a nest of his own, complete with little blue eggs! Ever since our lesson on nests and with the coming birth of little brother, the boys have been so nurturing. They make cribs and car-seats daily for their stuffed animals and nestle them down with scads of blankets. Precious. 

Another fun project we did was to make bird feeders out of huge pretzels, peanut butter and seeds. We hung them right outside the boys room so we could watch the birds arrive with a sound barrier between us! It’s hard not to startle birdies when you’re so excited to see them. 

http://www.busybeekidscrafts.com/Easy-Pretzel-Birdfeeder.html

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