Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 5th Grade :)

Summertime, a Fertile Growing Time

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Selections from Parents and Children (Vol. 2), pages 75-150

Danger of Eccentricity “Possibly, eccentricity is a danger against which the parents of well-descended children must be on the watch. These are born with strong tendencies to certain qualities and ways of thinking. Their bringing-up tends to accentuate their qualities; the balance between these and other qualities is lost, and they became eccentric persons…..Fill him with the enthusiasm of humanity. Whatever gifts he has, let them be cultivated as ‘gifts for men.’……The life blessed with an enthusiasm will not be dull; but a weight must go into the opposite scale to balance even the noblest enthusiasm. As we have said open for him some door of natural science, some way of mechanical skill; in a word, give the child a [differing] absorbing pursuit and a fascinating hobby, and you need not fear eccentric or unworthy developments.”

Moral Ailments Need Prompt Attention “Now here is a point all parents are not enough awake to–that serious mental and moral ailments require prompt, purposeful, curative treatment, to which the parents must devote themselves for a short time, just as they would to a sick child…..If parents recognized the efficacy and the immediate effect of treatment, they would never allow the spread of ill weeds. For let this be borne in mind, whatever ugly quality disfigures the child, he is but as a garden overgrown with weeds: the more prolific the weeds, the more fertile the soil; he has within him every possibility of beauty of life and character.”

Character “….it is the words and acts which come from us without conscious thought which afford the true measure of what we are. Perhaps this is why such serious weight is attached to our every ‘idle word’–words spoken without intention or volition.”

Sunday School “That parents should make over the religious education of their children to a Sunday School is, no doubt, as indefensible as if they sent them for their meals to a table maintained by the public bounty (i.e. soup kitchen).”

The Bible Tabooed in Education “For 1700 years, roughly speaking, the Bible has been the school-book of modern Europe…..all the literatures of the world put together utterly fail to five us a system of ethics, in precepts and example, motive and sanction complete as that to which we have been born as our common inheritance in the Bible.”

A Mother’s Diary “Every mother, especially, should keep a diary in which to note the successive phases of her child’s physical, mental, and moral growths, with particular attention to the moral; so that parents may be enabled to make a timely forecast of their children’s character, to foster in them every germ of good, and by prompt precautions to suppress, or at least restrain, what is bad…….Parents and teachers should endeavour to answer such questions as these: When do the first stirrings of the moral sense first appear in the child? How do they manifest themselves? What are the emotional and the intellectual equipments of the child at different periods, and how do these correspond with its moral outfit? At what time does conscience enter on the scene? To what acts or omissions does the child apply the terms right or wrong?”

Fairytales and How to Use Them “…..much of the selfishness of the world is due, not to actual hard-heartedness, but to a lack of imaginative power……something, nay, much, has been gained if a child has learned to take the wishes out of his heart, as it were, and to project them on the screen of fancy.’…..My first counsel is, tell the story. Do not give it to the child to read. The child, as he listens to the fairytale, looks up with wide-opened eyes to the face of the person who tells the story, and thrills responsive to the touch of the earlier life of the race, which thus falls upon its own. That is……. traditions should be orally delivered. …….[My second counsel is,] do not take the moral plum out of the fairy-tale pudding, but let the child enjoy it as a whole . . . Treat the moral element as an incident, emphasize it indeed, but incidentally. Pluck it as a wayside flower.’

Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 150-225 in Parents and Children (Volume 2) and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by September 15th. Together we can inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!

Daddy, Our New Spanish Teacher


We Loved Cat In the Hat by Bay Area Children’s Theatre


Our Fertile, Out of Control Tomato Plant (& pumpkin vine)


Our Corn Harvest Was Edible This Year!


Summer Mini-Lessons Before Breakfast


My Chicken Snacks Sweetie


My Conductor Cutie


The Burlap Playhouse (since most of the vines never sprouted for us)


Look at Me Growing! I Can Ride a Bike!


Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium


Seahorses at the Aquarium


What a Summer! Now I Can Swim!



Parents as Revealers of God

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Discussion of Parents and Children (Vol. 2), pages 1-75

My favorite quotes from the first portion of Parents and Children:


“It rests with you, parents of young children, to be the saviours of society unto a thousand generations. Nothing else matters. The avocations about which people weary themselves are as foolish child’s play compared with this one serious business of bringing up our children in advance of ourselves.” (p. 3)


Here is the divine order which every family is called upon to fulfil: a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, and, therefore, it matters infinitely that every family should realise the nature and the obligations of the family bond, for as water cannot rise above its source, neither can we live at a higher level than that of the conception we form of our place and use in life.” (p. 6-7)


The Rule of Parents cannot be Deputed––”Now, the first thing we ask for in a ruler is, ‘Is he able to rule? Does he know how to maintain his authority?’ A ruler who fails to govern is like an unjust judge, an impious priest, an ignorant teacher; that is, he fails in the essential attribute of his office. This is even more true in the family than in the State; the king may rule by deputy; but, here we see the exigeant nature of the parent’s functions; he can have no deputy. Helpers he may have, but the moment he makes over his functions and authority to another, the rights of parenthood belong to that other, and not to him.” (p. 10-11)


“In the first place, they (parents) are the immediate and personally appointed deputies of the Almighty King, the sole Ruler of men; they have not only to fulfil his counsels regarding the children, but to represent his Person; his parents are as God to the little child; and, yet more constraining thought, God is to him what his parents are; he has no power to conceive a greater and lovelier personality than that of the royal heads of his own home; he makes his first approach to the Infinite through them; they are his measure for the highest; if the measure be easily his small compass, how shall he grow up with the reverent temper which is the condition of spiritual growth? (p. 14)


“…..great men have great mothers; mothers, that is, blest with an infinite capacity of taking pains with their work of bringing up children. (p. 19)


To look at Thoughts as they come (developing a strong will)––”But what if from childhood they had been warned, ‘Take care of your thoughts, and the rest will take care of itself; let a thought in, and it will stay; will come again tomorrow and the next day, will make a place for itself in your brain, and will bring many other thoughts like itself. Your business is to look at the thoughts as they come, to keep out the wrong thoughts, and let in the right. See that ye enter not into temptation.'” (p. 46)


“But how ready we are to conclude that children cannot be expected to understand spiritual things. Our own grasp of the things of the Spirit is all too lax, and how can we expect that the child’s feeble intelligence can apprehend the highest mysteries of our being? But here we are altogether wrong. It is with the advance of years that a materialistic temper settles upon us. But the children live in the light of the morning-land. The spirit-world has no mysteries for them; that parable and travesty of the spirit-world, the fairy-world, where all things are possible, is it not their favourite dwelling-place? And fairy-tales are so dear to children because their spirits fret against the hard and narrow limitations of time and place and substance; they cannot breathe freely in a material world. Think what the vision of God should be to the little child already peering wistfully through the bars of his prison-house. Not a far-off God, a cold abstraction, but a warm, breathing, spiritual Presence about his path and about his bed––a Presence in which he recognises protection and tenderness in darkness and danger, towards which he rushes as the timid child to hide his face in his mother’s skirts.” (p. 46-47)


“To bring the human race, family by family, child by child, out of the savage and inhuman desolation where He is not, into the light and warmth and comfort of the presence of God, is, no doubt, the chief thing we have to do in the world.” (p. 50)


Communing out loud before the Children––”How many times a day does a mother lift up her heart to God as she goes in and out amongst her children, and they never know……Is it possible that the mother could, when alone with her children, occasionally hold this communing out loud, so that the children might grow up in the sense of the presence of God?……..’I often pray in my heart when you know nothing about it. Sometimes you begin to show a naughty spirit, and I pray for you in my heart, and almost directly I find the good spirit comes, and your faces show my prayer is answered.'” (p. 55)


“Children are so imitative, that if they hear their parents speak out continually their joys and fears, their thanks and wishes, they, too, will have many things to say…..Think of the joy of the mother who should overhear her little child murmuring over the first primrose of the year, ‘Dear God, you are too good!'” (p. 56)


 Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 75-150 in Parents and Children (Volume 2) and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by August 15th. Together we can inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!

This is Good Stuff


Our New Favorite Pool Trick


My New Fishy


My 1st Swim Lessons


  Bravely Descending into Moaning Cavern


 Formations of Melting Roasted Marshmallows Everywhere


 A Cathedral of Stalactites


  Calaveras Big Trees State Park


 Inside a Fallen Tree


Majestic Roots Like a Piece of Art


A Giant Balance Beam Provides A Huge Sense of Accomplishment

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Raise a Hero, Be a Hero

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Home Education (Vol. 1), pages 300-352

The Way of the Will

One of the marks of a hero is a strong will. As children in our society today embrace a culture of hedonism and materialism that saps their spirit and leaves them cynical, ironic, and passive, Christian parents must pray for the resolve to raise up strongmen who go against the flow. Children who heroically stand up for what they believe in, face and overcome temptation, and stand strongly in the face of adversity. Children who grow up to powerfully serve the Lord and make a difference in this world. Christian parents who aim to raise heroes, must aim to raise strong wills. “The education of the will is really of far greater importance, as shaping the destiny of the individual, than that of the intellect.” (Dr. Morell, Introduction to Mental Philosophy) Learning is common, but self control is not. Is the goal of your homeschool to train your child’s intellect? Great, you may raise up a smart kid. Is the goal of your homeschool to train your child’s will? Even better, you may raise up a hero. The real purpose of an education should be to shape a person’s destiny, not just her intellect.

A person’s will is what controls her emotions, her appetites, and desires. The more a person is ruled by these passions, the less developed the will. What we want to be doing, what we know we should be doing, we do not do, as Paul says. And Charlotte Mason contends that the major reason is for lack of a developed will. What does having a strong will mean? How is strength of will grown in a child? How does any person for that matter make herself do what she should?

Stubborn Willfulness Really Indicates a Lack of Will Power

By “strong will,” Charlotte does not mean willfulness, as in a child who is labeled “strong willed” because he is determined to have his own way (much like a toddler’s strong determination/willfulness). A state of wilfulness actually reveals a lack of controlling power over oneself, or no strength of will. When my son can’t stop crying over some small trouble, and I am tempted to look on the bright side and think, ‘well at least he has a strong will’, he is actually showing “willessness” because he doesn’t have enough strength of will to restrain himself. This is not the moment to be proud of my son’s strong will. Instead, by strong will, Charlotte means strength of character. Character is the result of conduct regulated by will. When we say that So-and-so has a great deal of character, we are in essence saying that person has a vigorous will. Likewise, someone who has no force of will, lacks character. Will is the executive power vested in a person–it says go, and he does; it says do this, and he does. If the will is in the habit of being in authority, if it constrains obedience, the kingdom within is at peace and unity with itself. If the will is feeble, the kingdom within is ungoverned and torn with disorder and rebellion. In our world we know that “strong willed” children are hard to raise because of the disorder and rebellion that accompanies. Strengthening the will of a “strong willed” (ie willless) child then is the answer to arriving at peace.

A Disciplined Will is Necessary to Heroic Christian Character

Perhaps you have your sights set on raising a child with heroic Christian character. You implement hero study as a regular part of your homeschool classroom so that your child may grow to emulate Jesus Christ, his ultimate hero, as well as other admirable historic heroes. You believe that hero study works because “….it is only as we have it in us to let a person or cause fill the whole stage of the mind, to the exclusion of self-occupation, that we are capable of large-hearted action on behalf of that person or cause.” As wonderful as all this is, we should be aware that the training of our child’s will goes hand in hand with accomplishing the noble goals of hero study. A disciplined will is not necessary in order to be a Christian, but it is the key to heroic Christian character. As mothers whose highest desire is to train our children for the Christian life, we should realize that the power of our children’s service to the Lord can be unlimited through vigorous heroic willpower. “When he wakes to the consciousness of whose he is and who he serves, she would have him ready for that high service, with every faculty in training–a man of war from his youth; above all with an effective will, to will and to do of His good pleasure.” What a beautiful vision Charlotte paints for us of a useful hero raised up to serve Christ. “And here is the line which divides the effective from the non-effective people, the great from the small, the good from the well-intentioned and respectable; it is in proportion as a man has self-controlling, self compelling power that he is able to do, even of his own pleasure; that he can depend upon himself, and be sure of his own action in emergencies.” What is the opposite of a hero, or someone with no will at all? An evil villain. Evil is perpetuated in someone who is completely given over to his carnal passions–instead of using his will to control his violent passions, his will becomes an accessory in acting them out. Let us train up vigorous wills in our children, so that we can train up heroes passionate about righteousness.

The Way the Will Works Should be Taught to Children

How do we strengthen the will of a child (or our own for that matter) so that by and by the child may employ it to control his own life? The will grows in strength only by exercising repression and direction of passions, desires, and appetites. “Let your child know the secret of willing; let him know that, by an effort of will, he can turn his thoughts to the thing he wants to think of –his lessons, his prayers, his work, and away from the things he should not think of;–that, in fact, he can be such a brave strong little fellow, he can make himself think of what he likes; and let him try little experiments––that if he once get his thoughts right, the rest will take care of itself, he will be sure to do right then; that if he feels cross, naughty thoughts coming upon him, the plan is, to think hard about something else, something nice––his next birthday, what he means to do when he is a man. Not all this at once, of course; but line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, as opportunity offers.” No work is too laborious for someone who has a happy frame of mind, or in other words, who has formed the habit of thinking of something else. No feelings of resentment can overtake a person who has formed the habit of thinking of something else rather than dwelling on the bitter feelings and allowing them to grow. The person who allows herself to later go back to the cause for offense, when all potency of feelings have worn off, is able to look at the matter with the coolness of a third person. (Don’t we always get into trouble when we are arguing with someone, and we just can’t make ourselves drop it for the moment?)

Our job as mothers training up children is to help them want to obey through the cooperation of the will. The goal is for children to compel themselves to obey. “Every effort of obedience which does not give him a sense of conquest over his own inclinations, helps to enslave him, he will resent the loss of his liberty by running into license when he can. That is the secret of the miscarrying of many strictly brought-up children. But invite his co-operation, let him heartily intend and purpose to do the thing he is bidden, and then it is his own will that is compelling him, and not yours; he has begun the greatest effort, the highest accomplishment of human life––the making, the compelling of himself. Let him know what he is about, let him enjoy a sense of triumph, and of your congratulation, whenever he fetches his thoughts back to his tiresome sum, whenever he makes his hands finish what they have begun, whenever he throws the black dog off his back, and produces a smile from a clouded face.” Doesn’t this shed light on the type of encouragement that is instrumental in the discipling process of children? Your insightful and well timed encouragement can practically illustrate living examples of the way of the will to your child, the secret of being strong. And working on developing a cooperative will in your child is worth it since its the key to training up an obedient child.

What About my Own Weak Will?

How can we train the wills of our children, if we as mothers can’t make ourselves do what we desire, let alone our children? How do we train our children to have strong wills if we ourselves do not? The world is full of weak willed adults hoping to display just a little bit of heroism in their family, the work place, the church, the community. Many of us were trained up in school settings, and in homes, where training of the will was perhaps not an important part of our rearing. Consequently, we know we should be eating healthy, we know we should be praying more, we know we should be spending less, we know we should be waking up earlier, we know we should stop mulling over other people’s faults, we know we should be cleaning out the cluttered drawers and closets, we know we should be watching less TV, staying more patient, worrying less, helping others more…..but we do not for lack of will to do it. Slaves to our natural desires, passions, and appetites. Not exactly the portrayal of heroic character before the ever watching eyes of our children that we would hope to be. In order to teach our children to have strong wills, I feel that we must try our best to exemplify it in our own lives, and this is the clincher for all of us. We obviously need to address our own lack of training at the same time we are training up our children in order to be successful.

The Secret to a Happy Life

Changing your thoughts by a sheer act of will–a thousand times of day if necessary at first–is the secret to a happy life! A happy life all begins in the mind because poor thinking leads us away from God’s will, and down the wrong path. “It is by force of will that a man can ‘change his thoughts,’ transfer his attention from one subject of thought to another, and that, with a shock of mental force of which he is distinctly conscious. And this is enough to save a man and to make a man, this power of making himself think only of those things which he has beforehand decided that it is good to think upon.” Its sounds so simple, but are you cross? Change your thoughts. Are you tired of trying? Change your thoughts. Are you craving things you are not to have? Change your thoughts. Bribing, rewarding, or punishing yourself is not as effective as simply applying the opposing force of thought. God gave you the power within you to always think of something else–something noble, pleasant, pure, lovely, praiseworthy. This is why we are commanded to dwell on the Word. You have the power to turn unhappy and wrong thoughts into happy and right thoughts. “And this is the exceedingly simple way in which the will acts; this is the sole secret of the power over himself which the strong man wields–he can compel himself to think of what he chooses, and will not allow himself in thoughts that breed mischief.” And the more you make yourself think right thoughts, the easier it gets (twenty times a day rather than a thousand!).

Charlotte’s advice is distinctively Christian, distinctively Bible. The Word says to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Proverbs says that as a man thinks, so is he. God wants us to understand the power that our thoughts have over the direction of our lives, and that we must get control in order to really make the difference of a hero in this world. We all need spiritual guidance to learn how to control our thoughts. I hope your church has been teaching its believers this fundamental truth regularly and powerfully. This online article explains how to be victorious in your thought life step by step by “taking every thought captive”.

Raise a Hero!

If education of the will is of utmost importance in an education, then who should be the one to undertake the monumental job of educating your child’s will? What teacher can spend her days in and out of the classroom attending to the formation of the will of a child, have the acute attention and insight that it requires to help develop something as complex as the will of a human being? Mother (or father), the one with maternal love to pour into the education of her child hour by hour, and the one with expertise in the strengths and weaknesses of her child is the only qualified teacher.

By training our children in the way of the will, we can give them the power to help themselves, and someday many others as well. When God puts His divine grace on top of all that, there is nothing our children can not accomplish. Just think what a vigorous will is possible for those who have been freed from the chains of sin! What a privilege to be born into a Christian family. What a privilege to have the opportunity to be a hero for Christ!

Prayer and Vision:

Don’t forget this all requires prayer. A mother needs wisdom from above. Write down or keep a journal of words of vision for your children’s lives that speak to your heart so you can keep it before the Lord in prayer. These words from God can pop up anywhere, but just don’t let them slip away because they may end up forgotten. My prayers from reading this section of Home Education are:

Let my children be men of war from their youth, to will and to do of His good pleasure!

Send noble, mighty, and Godly exemplars into my children’s lives that they also may become mighty men!


Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 1-75 in Parents and Children (Volume 2) and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by July 15th. Together we can inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!
  • “Faith, Do You Want to Go to the ‘Wildness’ With Me?”


    “I am Going Off Into the ‘Wildness’ Mommy”….My Little Hero


We Love Sighting this Bird at the Nature Park



Noah Picked Me a Little Rosemary for My Pot Roast


Noah Cut up All the Broccoli for This Salad With a Butter Knife!

The kids love this raw broccoli salad– they see it as a treat. They were great helpers one day and helped me make it. The ingredients are bacon, dried cranberries, golden raisins, red onions and a veganaise, honey, vinegar dressing.


Noah Also Wanted to Help Me Vacuum a Couple of the Bedrooms


Whoops! I Sucked up Faith’s Pajamas!



How Do I Teach That Subject??

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Home Education (Vol. 1) pages 225-300

“Lessons as Instruments of Education”

For Children Ages 6, 7, and 8 Years of Age

I will highlight what stood out to me about some of the subjects Charlotte covered in “Lessons as Instruments of Education”. However, in Home Education, Charlotte provides a much fuller training for anyone who wishes for guidance on how to teach all the subject matter of education.


Every child may be taught the art of beautiful and perfect speaking, and in learning to recite, a child learns much about public speaking. Our children learn enunciation and how to delicately render each nuance of meaning  by reciting poetry. Let the expression be their own, as they will learn just expression of thought for themselves with time. Setting forth the pattern to ‘say it as I say it’ is unwise. Children can expresses what they think the poem’s author means, and should not be using mere tricks of parroting. Do not have your children memorize the poem, or say it over and over to themselves, but simply let them hear it read over several days and the children will be able to reproduce it without much mental effort. In this way, the children’s enjoyment is not worn down by weariful verse by verse repetitions.


A few ideas about the subject of reading for children who can already read to themselves: (Teaching a 5 or 6 year old child how to read is covered in a previous section of Home Education)

  • Let your child acquire the habit of reading early on. As soon as she can read at all, she should read to herself and be trained that one reading is sufficient. Narration after a single reading will train a child to use slow, careful, intelligent reading habits where she reads with an eye to the full meaning of every clause.
  • She should also have practice reading aloud (including poetry books) so that she is accustomed to saying beautiful words beautifully.
  • It is delightful for parents to read to their children, but Charlotte says this should only be an occasional treat such as at bedtime for children who can read. Children will shirk the labor of reading to themselves for, “indeed we all like to be spoon-fed with our intellectual meat, or we should read and think more for ourselves and be less eager to run after lectures.” If a child can read his own books that are being used for his term’s work, his education is not completed, but it is ensured.

Use Narration, Not Comprehension Questions

Karen Andreola, author of the Charlotte Mason Companion, says, “Today’s children are exposed to much information and come away with little knowledge. Why? Because they have never thought the writer’s ideas through and made them their own.” Charlotte’s remedy was what she called narration. A child tells back what she has just learned from the passage just read, which gives the child the opportunity to digest the mind-food offered by brilliant authors. Direct questioning and workbooks on the subject matter of what a child has read is always a mistake because they are very wearying to most children. (Charlotte does say that, “Questions that lead to a side issue or to a personal view are allowable because these interest children–‘What would you have done in his place?’) Instead, let a student narrate what she does remember, and she will enjoy this form of “testing”. Narration is effective because its a natural inherent power waiting to be discovered in children, and its not the result of disciplinary education. “‘Let him narrate’; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease.” Just think of what an ability to remember will be formed in our children as we use this method! Yet, this amazing gift of narration lies unused in most educational settings.

Kids love to tell what they know! But start testing them with endless questions to see what they know, and they start to shut down. Noah loves to tell me what he knows (often made up stuff) all day long. Kids are natural narrators. The only narration we ask of Noah, who is only four, is after we read him a simple Bible story from Faith’s Bible, we ask him to tell it back to us. He does great, and is now able to recall the story we read last time because narration is causing him to remember what he has heard. However, as soon as Dean and I can’t ignore the itch to ask and probe for more information as he is narrating, the error of our methods are soon revealed by Noah’s obvious signs of frustration. We feel like we are “helping” him along, probably because inside we are thinking ‘surely he remembers that part and just accidentally left it out!’, and so we mistakenly think we can gently lead him towards remembering. Usually its a mistake because as soon as he can’t come up with the right answer, frustration comes into his eyes or he slaps his hands down on his legs in defeat as he has little patience for riddles. Not at all how we want Noah to feel about learning! Frustrating educational methods will turn children off to learning, dangerously dashing the confidence of parents as some start to wonder, ‘why can’t I teach my child??’ We have to be careful not to fall back on all the methods we are so accustomed to, such as direct questioning and testing, as they really are inferior methods of checking for understanding.

By the way, be careful not to form the habit of inattention by allowing your child, who can not narrate after a single reading, to have the notion that she may, or must, read a portion of text again. The power of reading with perfect attention will not be formed in a child who is allowed to moon over her lessons. A simple look of slight regret will be enough to motivate the child to pay more attention next time.

Examinations are not necessary when you use narration because narration proves better than testing whether a child knows the information at hand. What, school without tests?! Woo hoo! Also, teaching writing (composition) to young children is unnecessary because to children who have learned to narrate well, writing will come later as naturally as running and jumping. Let them be fed a steady diet of good rich ideas from the best authors, and later they will write with similar tone, vocabulary, and expression, but their composition will be original and their own. However, try to have a young child write an essay, and she will need to be taught how to build a sentence and how to bind sentences together (unnecessary for the older child who is accustomed to narrating). The young child will also learn to stick ideas of commonplace thought into her essay that sound good, but are not her own. Requiring a child under nine to write compositions is futile because they are not ready; narration is composition for a young child.

Learn more about narration: Karen Andreola explains much more in “Narration Beats Tests”.


The whole secret of spelling lies in the habit of visualizing words from memory. The eye must in a sense take a photographic picture of words in order to spell them. Good spelling comes form much reading combined with the habit of imaging the words as they are read. Bad spelling usually comes from sparse reading or hasty reading without the habit of seeing the words. Also, most of us have trouble spelling certain words over and over again because we learned to spell it incorrectly in the first place, and now we have an permanent image of that mispelled word. Once the eye sees a mispelled word, that image can remain and always give us trouble. Children misspelling words should therefore be avoided and prevented, and Charlotte’s method of teaching spelling is focused on that objective.

Learn Charlotte’s step by step instructions of how to do spelling lessons by prepared dictation on page 242 of Home Education.

Natural Science

“He must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible, in the country; must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why––Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his questions for him; let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him. Above all, when you come to the rescue, let it not be in the ‘cut and dried’ formula of some miserable little text-book………As I have already tried to point out, to get this sort of instruction for himself is simply the nature of a child: the business of the parent is to afford him abundant and varied opportunities, and to direct his observations, so that, knowing little of the principles of scientific classification, he is, unconsciously, furnishing himself with the materials for such classification.”

Just today we went on a walk and Noah observed magnolia buds covering a magnolia tree, collected pine cones, and found a baby bird that lay dead in the dirt 😦 (this was a first for me!). Later he was excited because he discovered that seeds came out of his pine cone (I can’t believe I have never seen pine cone seeds before!), and now he is seriously going to try to plant a pine tree in the backyard (I told him he could but we would have to pull it out before it got too big). Yesterday he caught water striders in a creek and insisted that we research what they eat so they wouldn’t die. Then he went outside and found a tiny insect for them to eat. He is an observant little guy and quickly becoming fascinated with nature! Natural treasures are becoming part of his bedroom decor because he wants everything near and dear to him to have a special place in his room. I am astounded at how my simple efforts to follow Charlotte Mason’s nature study methods are really working! I remember how not long ago my children had tunnel vision for toys every time we stepped outdoors and it disturbed me, but now I am thrilled that my children are enjoying and learning from nature rather than overlooking its secrets.

Now is the time to allow our young child’s interest grow in all sorts of natural phenomenon as this will lay a firm foundation for all the scientific knowledge that will need to be built on top of that foundation of interest. Homeschoolers have the freedom to form a true passion for nature, and then later learn the scientific nomenclature. School, on the other hand, pours all sorts of hollow information into young brains–laws, principles, theories, classification–hollow because there is no regard for the necessary preceding of information with a passion arising from real outdoor nature study. Scientific nomenclature means little to nothing to most children because they have never formed an interest, or a personal relationship with the array of natural science topics covered in a textbook. Sad it is when children have to learn about life cycles or astronomy from a text book and they have never personally witnessed the lifecycle of a butterfly or ladybug, never observed the rising and setting of the stars, the phases of the moon, or used a telescope. School could never plan enough field trips to properly prepare children for all the test book information that is taught to them. Serving up information before there is interest is normal in school, but it should be abnormal in homeschool. Learning scientific nomenclature before observing the real thing is backwards!! Say your child loves trains: “It is not possible to explain every detail of a locomotive to a young pupil, but it is perfectly practicable to explain its principles so that this machine, like others, becomes a mere special case of certain well-understood general laws.” Try teaching these same scientific laws without there first being an interest in trains or machines, and lessons become dry, forced, meaningless, and soon forgotten anyway.

What science topics are all children interested in? How everything around them works! So dive into books that explain everyday life and children’s endless curiosity about it–why water pipes burst by frost, why the kettle lid jumps up when the water is boiling, why they feel cold sitting in damp clothes, why they can see their breath on a frosty day, what is dew for, why a glass sometimes breaks when hot water is poured into it. Rather than using textbooks that try to cover everything, explore the true interests of a child in living science books that awaken the imagination, stimulate observation, and excite a living and lasting interest in the world that lies about them. From these everyday life type of curiosities, these books will gently introduce the general laws, principles, theories, and classification systems of of science, resulting in much true understanding of the subject matter.

After a day out in nature, one child is like “No-eyes” and another is like “Eyes” according to Charlotte. “No-eyes comes home bored; he has seen nothing, been interested in nothing: while Eyes is all agog to discuss a hundred things that have interested him.” May we provide our children with with the opportunities to become “Eyes”!


“History is a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behavior of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation. This is what the study of history should do for the child; but what is he to get out of the miserable little chronicle of feuds, battles, and death which is presented to him by way of ‘a reign’––all the more repellent because it bristles with dates? As for the dates, they never come right; the tens and units he can get, but the centuries will go astray; and how is he to put the right events in the right reign, when, to him, one king differs from another only in number, one period from another only in date? But he blunders through with it; reads in his pleasant, chatty little history book all the reigns of all the kings, from William the Conqueror to William IV., and back to the dim days of British rule. And with what result? This: that, possibly, no way of warping the judgment of the child, of filling him with crude notions, narrow prejudices, is more successful than that of carrying him through some such course of English history…”

‘The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn ‘outlines,’ or a baby edition of the whole history of England, or of Rome, just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

“In these early years, while there are no examinations ahead, and the children may yet go leisurely, let them get the spirit of history into them by reading, at least, one old Chronicle written by a man who saw and knew something of what he wrote about, and did not get it at second-hand. These old books are easier and pleasanter reading than most modern works on history, because the writers know little of the ‘dignity of history’; they purl along pleasantly as a forest brook, tell you ‘all about it,’ stir your heart with the story of a great event, amuse you with pageants and shows, make you intimate with the great people, and friendly with the lowly. They are just the right thing for the children whose eager souls want to get at the living people behind the words of the history book, caring nothing at all about progress, or statutes, or about anything but the persons, for whose action history is, to the child’s mind, no more than a convenient stage. A child who has been carried through a single old chronicler in this way has a better foundation for all historical training than if he knew all the dates and names and facts that ever were crammed for examination.”

I can sum it up no better than Charlotte! Use original sources, use stories that stir the heart, and biographies of historical heroes.


  • Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 300-352 in Home Education (last portion of the book) and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by June 15th. Together we can inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!


Hanging Out on the Fence at the Nature Park


Noah Catching Water Striders


Throwing Stones in the Creek


Knee Deep in Ivy


Noah’s Self Initiated Project after a Fieldtrip to the Zoo


What Bugs Have We Been Sighting Lately?

Mating Dragonflies


All On One Plant in Our Backyard:

A Bumblebee


A Baby Ladybug (larva) & Aphids


A Ladybug Shedding its Skin (Pupa)


A Red Backed Jumping Spider



Is Kindergarten the Best Training Ground for a Child?

Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, Home Education (Vol. 1) pages 150-225

  • This post dovetails my To Preschool or Not to Preschool post–one of my very favorite posts ever written!! If you have, or will have, a preschool age child please read it!
  • FYI, when Charlotte Mason refers to kindergarten, she is referring to nursery school, a pre-school: a place intended to get 2 to 6 year olds ready for school (Charlotte’s kindergarten years 2-6 = American preschool + kindergarten years). Charlotte Mason’s methods recommend beginning formal lessons at age 6.

Kinder-Garden, A False Analogy

The first kindergarten was established in Germany in 1840, and “kindergarten” originally meant “children’s garden” because it was intended to be a place for children to be taken care of and nourished like plants in a garden. No doubt kindergarten, or preschool, was originally intended to be an out of door life in the garden for children. A beautiful idea in theory, however, we must admit that modern kindergartens and preschools resemble nothing of the sort.

Charlotte notes the homogenizing effect on children in a kinder-garden tended by a teacher: “the exactly due sunshine and shade, pruning and training, are good for a plant whose uses are subordinate, so to say, to the needs and pleasures of its owner.” Plants are not created to have purpose, but children are. Learning is hampered in the traditional learning environment where twenty children are focused and dependent on the teacher, and where children become dependent upon her constant direction. Everything is planned, expected, suggested by her–nothing gets to the children without her processing it first. Children lose a lot of their individuality and purpose. On the other hand, learning at home is more spontaneous and child centered, rather than teacher centered; individuality is inherent in a homeschool environment because children direct much of their own learning. The habit of self direction over the years becomes a powerful momentum in their education and lends to a very gratifying sense of purpose.

We are so proud when our preschooler comes home from preschool able to identify a rhomboid from a pentagon, a primary color from a secondary color, when he can cut and fold paper–we feel like “my child is learning!” But Charlotte believes “this is at the expense of much of that real knowledge of the external world which at no time of his life will he be so fitted to acquire.” Real learning for our young ones is giving them as much outdoor time as possible, and to guide them toward developing powerful habits of attention during that outdoor time. Spending hours in nature every day far surpass the results of the organized academic work they get in even the best kindergarten situation. Developing powers of observation in young children is the main goal of early education, and home is the growing place that provides countless observation opportunities–like straightening a tablecloth or a picture, or wrapping a package–which would never present themselves in a classroom setting. Unfortunately, the contrived lessons taught in the artificially controlled environment of a classroom make for a poor growing place with much less opportunity for real life observation skills to be honed.

Masterly Inactivity

Children must be given the freedom and time to learn to direct themselves and think for themselves. The direction parents give in the continual guarding of habits and guidance of character is very important. However, the other part of raising children is leaving them alone, or what Charlotte Mason calls providing “Masterly Inactivity’. Children should be left alone to develop according to their own nature as long as they do not become spoiled. They should be left alone to create their own games and imaginary play with no adult influence. A few good quotes from Charlotte on Masterly Inactivity:

“Children must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this––that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder––and grow.” 

“Children need time to make up episodes, carry on pretend adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and defend forts, even if the fort is only an old armchair. Adults must not interfere or tell the children what to play. They need to accept the fact that this is something they don’t understand, and, even more, their very presence carries the cold breath of reality that makes the pretend illusion dissipate and fade away. Think what it must be like for a commanding general leading his soldiers when some intruder into his play-world tells him to tie his shoes!”

“The educational error of our day is that we believe too much in mediators. Now, Nature is her own mediator, undertakes, herself, to find work for eyes and ears, taste and touch; she will prick the brain with problems and the heart with feelings; and the part of the mother or teacher in the early years (indeed, all through life) is to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted. Mothers shirk their work and put it, as they would say, into better hands than their own, because they do not recognize that wise letting alone is the chief thing asked of them, seeing that every mother has in Nature an all-sufficient handmaid, who arranges for due work and due rest of mind, muscles, and senses.”

The Perfect Teacher

Imagine the perfect kindergarten teacher–a sweet voiced goddess, a joyful singing enchantress who makes the classroom like a little piece of heaven below. She lulls children into nice little games of frisking like lambs, flapping their fins, and flying around the room like butterflies.” Its not exaggerating to say that the direction exerted by preschool/kindergarten teachers over the children even extends into the area of play. (“However, put the commonplace woman in charge of a large group of children, and “the charmingly devised gifts and games and occupations become so many instruments of wooden teaching.” So true!)

Ah, but the children in a good preschool classroom look so happy! Charlotte says, “It is a curious thing about human nature that we all like to be managed by persons who take the pains to play on our amiabilities.” It is little wonder that children can be wooed to do anything by someone who charms them. Be assured that there is a kindergarten teacher even more perfectly suited for your children than that singing goddess……….and Charlotte asserts that it is you: “If the very essence of the Kindergarten method is personal influence, a sort of spiritual mesmerism, it follows that the mother is naturally the best Kindergarten teacher; for who so likely as she to have the needful tact, sympathy, common sense, culture?”

Small Children Have Great Powers of Mind

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher once said, “I don’t want any more Kindergarten materials . . . I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think, whereas if the child is left to himself he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things, and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.”

The biggest problem with preschools is that they are notorious for having a great deal of twaddle in song and story and projects–stripped down, dumbed down, spoon fed ideas and language. In preschool, not only are ideas and information constantly distilled and interpreted by the teacher herself, not only are children taught how to play by adults as if the child’s whole job was continual imitation, but children are exposed constantly to very simply worded books, poems, and songs. I never realized how much people undervalue the intelligence of little children until I discovered how uneasy I felt about replicating what other children are learning at preschool in my own homeschool preschool. Charlotte says, “Generally, children who grow up with adults and never have juvenile books are better able to glean from the literature of adults.” I believe that more and more as I follow Charlotte Mason methods. I just read the original tale of Beauty and the Beast to my children during story time at school and was thrilled that they enjoyed the beautiful fairytale while being exposed to incredibly rich literary language and wonderful examples of moral character. Try reading more classic literature like this to your young ones, and then decide for yourself if anything offered at preschool or any other school could ever equally lay the foundation for one day forming a highly educated young person.

Instead of being taught how to play at baaing like lambs with a teacher at preschool, little children can join in the play of older siblings at home in complicated imaginative play like Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island. Instead of learning from the weak literature presented at preschool, little children can benefit from joining in with some of the higher studies of older siblings at home–poetry, history, nature study, Bible, art, and foreign language–family friendly subjects (rather than skill dependent ones like math and handwriting). Or in homes where all the children are still young, they can thrive from intelligence valuing homeschool lessons developed just for them– like the lessons we do at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs :).

Give Your Child Free Growing Time!

Preschool at home is anything but a scene of orderly peace on some days, but it is the better growing place. The children grow with vigor and individuality apart from the preschool environment where there is no letting alone, no immersion in rich literary language, no influence of older siblings, no significant time in nature, no masterly inactivity, no thinking for themselves, no growing time. Provide your little ones with a quiet growing time at home.

In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet and growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part spent out in the fresh air. ~Charlotte Mason

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  • Reading instruction was another important topic covered in this month’s reading. It is too technical to cover here, so I encourage you to read for yourself Charlotte’s methods for doing reading lessons with children ages 5-6 (p.199-230). Especially helpful if you are not sure how to teach reading at home or if the method you are currently using is drudgery! I personally will be using Delightful Reading by Simply Charlotte Mason, a great curriculum that follows Charlotte’s methods to a tee.
  • Do you want to be a part of my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club? Read pages 225-300 in Home Education and bring some thoughts to share on the Little Lambs blog by May 15th. Together we can inspire others to bring the atmosphere of a living education into their home too!

Our Praying Mantis’ Hatched!


We Found this Egg Case in Our Yard and Kept it in a Jar Since Last February


Look at All of Them!


Praise Dance at Circle Time (Kids Idea)


Rainy Day Art

Yay, Noah made something besides “traffic” (scribble)!!


Watering the Radishes


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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
Modesty and Purity
Mental Habits
Mental Effort
Perfect Execution
Reading for Instruction
Moral Habits
Use of Time
Borrowed Property
Personal Initiative
Sweet, Even Temper
Physical Habits
Alertness to Seize Opportunities
Managing One’s Own Body
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
Reading the Bible
Reverent Attitude
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 :), 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.


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).


Reminders of the Cross Sitting Pretty in Our Kitchen


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.


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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Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club

Home Education (Volume 1), Pages 1-75 Discussion

Mother as Teacher

First, a little encouragement about mother as teacher. Charlotte quotes the Reverend F.D. Maurice, “the woman received from the Spirit of God Himself the intuitions into the child’s character, the capacity of appreciating its strength and weakness, the faculty of calling forth the one and sustaining the other, in which lies the mystery of education, apart from which all its rules and measures are utterly in vain and ineffectual.” This is such an uncommon train of thought–mothers as best educators– but it is invaluable for homeschooling moms to meditate upon. Also, Charlotte felt that children “should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours.” That is a homeschool mom! Many parents today justify their long hours at work away from their children as a way to be fresher for their children when they finally reconvene in the evening. I know my best hours with the children are during the day when the demands of dinner, baths, dishes, clean up, etc. are not sucking up all my time.

Out of Doors

In the Out of Doors Life for Children section, Charlotte discusses lessons that can be taught while enjoying and learning in nature-nature study being a very important part of a Charlotte Mason education. (Some of what I read has been covered in my Nature is for Kids post, so I will only cover a few brand new ideas here.) Once the children have had an hour or two of vigorous play and wild scampering, while wits are still fresh and eyes keen, their mother can send them off on an Exploring Expedition. Who can see the most, and tell the most, about such and such off yonder. All done in the air of a game, the children come running back excited to tell all that they saw, and the mother clarifies and asks for specifics (“What side did you say you saw the fruit trees on?”), which ensures that the retelling includes the exactness of a lesson. “This is the mother’s chance to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of a child, which shall germinate, blossom and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers.” Our own childhood memories are often hazy and fragmented because we were never trained to take the time and effort to fully see a scene. Training a child’s powers of observation while they are young is a gift you can give them that they will take into old age. What a delightful possession to have a set of unmarred beautiful images, feature by feature, in the sunny glow of a child’s mind.

Similarly, in the method of Picture Painting, the mother has her children stare at some patch of landscape until they can close their eyes and reproduce the picture before them verbally. If any bit is blurred, they look again. This is an exercise to do only every once in awhile because Charlotte says recalling and reproducing a picture is fatiguing for children. However, the benefit is that seeing fully and in detail is likely to be repeated unconsciously until it becomes a habit of a child required to do this exercise, and having the power to fully see is altogether pleasurable. This power of observation is what empowers every great artist and poet, and yet this act of seeing need not be some high poetic gift that the rest of us must only be content to admire. It is the reward for all who take the pains in the act of seeing– which parents may do a great deal to confer upon their children.

I think many of us view Nature Study as a type of “tour”, where mother or father take the kids on a walk and spout off names of every form of plant life that is passed by. This method of instruction, filling children’s minds like empty vessels, is very anti-Charlotte Mason style. The result is much teaching with no real learning. Doing Nature Study the Charlotte Mason way takes some of the pressure off of us to be botany experts……….some. A child who returns from an Exploring Expedition, for example, and can not describe whether a tree had pointed or rounded leaves, rough or smooth bark, etc. shall get no encouragement (ie. no tree identification help). Mother shall not move a foot in the direction of the tree to go see it until her child is sent off again and can come back with more descriptive detail. Finally when she concedes to give the name of the tree, the child is full of glee, and carries her off to go and see.

Wow, the way Charlotte puts it, receiving knowledge sounds like candy gumdrops, or drops of water upon a parched tongue. Information offered just when a child is hungry for it is gobbled up. I think any good educator knows this, and gives the uses and names of objects as the need for the knowledge arises and after interest has already been peaked–noted by ‘What is that?’ and ‘What is that for mother?’ type of questions. Information offered at the wrong time, or in the wrong manner (like a tour or like lecture style teaching at school), goes in one ear and out the other. A Charlotte Mason education is based on the premise that “Its not how much a child knows, its how much a child cares.” And of course this is the education method that teaches children to care, and the more they care, the more they really learn.

So we parents do need to know something about the native plants in our community in order to supply doses of knowledge at the right time, but we only need to offer a little information here and little there at the opportune moments. I must get my hands on the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock and start learning more about the plants around me while my kids are still little!

The last idea in the Out of Doors section that made an impression on me was that by doing Nature Study together, we are literally teaching our children to “consider the lilies of the field and how they grow”, as the Bible says. As they study nature, starting early on, they will become so absorbed and in love with nature over the years, that this passion implanted while young, will seem inborn. It will consume their thoughts and energy in a healthy way. With so much lure of glamour, materialism, and temptation for impure interests surrounding our older children and teenagers, a pure absorbing pursuit of “considering the lilies of the field” developed at a young age will do much to preserve our children from future recklessness. Imagine a young person’s room filled with her Nature Study collections of shells, fossils, and flowers, rather than littered with teen magazines and posters of pop stars. What an awesome side benefit of Nature Study.

Children Are Made to Know God

Finally, I would like to share Charlotte’s wise words about not hindering our children’s relationship with Almighty God: “perhaps it is not too beautiful a thing to believe in this redeemed world, that, as the babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flowers turn to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Savior and God with unconscious delight and trust.” Because it is so natural for a child to come to Jesus, now, during childhood, is the time to nurture, not overlook, this relationship.

Let’s Consider the Lilies with Our Children this Spring!!!

Valentine’s Day Friendship Tea Party


We Used Our Best Manners and Served Each Other


Faith’s Hand Really Wanted to Put That Strawberry on Her Own Plate


Noah Was All About the Food (“What’s Next Mommy?”)

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Hearts, Cinnamon Sugar Apple Hearts, and Coconut Cinnamon Banana Hearts


Tayler’s Valentine from Noah and Faith


Our Surprise Tea Party Guests


Just a Few Days Old


So Sleepy


So Soft


Even Comfy Upside Down


Playtime with Chickies


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January, a Time to Slow Down, a Time for Vision

We are on break here at Jesus Precious Little  Lambs Preschool this month, but we will be back in February!

Hugs until then………

Its a good time to slow down this month and take some time to get more vision as mothers and educators so that we don’t perish along the way (“Where there is no vision, my people perish.” Prov. 29:18) I am starting to get equipped for homeschool kindergarten 2014 so that I am well prepared to teach Noah come that special first year of school. I can think of no better way to get prepared than with Charlotte Mason’s six volume homeschool and parenting series chock full of wisdom and practical instruction for moms and dads. I can not wait to get into it and I would love if you would read it with me!!! If you are interested in joining my Charlotte Mason Friends Book Club, now is the time to get your books! I ordered the book series because I like reading paper books. However, the whole series is also available to the public at for free if reading on the computer is your style! If you feel unsure about whether you would benefit from this series, I encourage you to at least take a look at the free series online. Nothing to lose, and you can even find summaries of all 6 volumes, as well as the whole series paraphrased into modern English. Pray about joining and let me know if you are in!

If you would like to join the book club, you can join me in:

Reading 75 pages a month

Reading the 1st 75 pages by February 15th, next 75 by March 15th, and so on…

Discussing our thoughts here on the 15th of each month


So grab a cup of tea or hot chocolate, curl up on the couch, get to know Charlotte Mason, and find your visionary juices flowing for 2013 and beyond!
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You Are Invited to Join My Book Club!

My Little Request

Can you believe Thanksgiving is upon us already?? Which means Christmas and all the ensuing festivities are just around the corner!? I know you are feeling like you have a lot to do simply because of what time of the year it is. So not to add something to your “to-do” list, but to put ammunition in your vision for the coming new year, I want to ask you to consider doing something courageous, radical, and worthwhile with me come January. I want some of us to step off the edge of our comfort zone and seize this moment in time to make a life determining decision for our children. This request fits anyone who desires to be influenced by the greatest minds of parenting wisdom; anyone really concerned about their children getting an excellent education; and it goes without saying that this request if for anyone who is homeschooling, possibly planning on homeschooling, or wondering if she should homeschool! I hope I got everybody falling into at least one of the aforementioned categories! 😉 Your child may very well be in a nice comfortable school right now where everyone is nice and things are good, but I hope you will still consider. Check your heart of hearts and make sure that good and nice were your original highest goals for your child before declining.

Ok, so all I am going to ask is for you to read some books with me. No big deal right, only like 15 to 20 pages a week along with a short thoughtful personal response. Probably only one hour a week. But it is a big deal because your diligence to stick with it week to week will take courage, your well fed mind will be radically different by the end, and your participation I hope will prove to be one of the most worthwhile things you have ever done. I am blogging today to ask if you will be part of my Charlotte Mason Book Club? We will read a six-volume series written by Charlotte Mason that includes over 2,400 pages on education, child training and parenting. We will share our thoughts about the assigned weekly reading right here on the blog to encouraged and sharpen each other. We can pretend that we are having tea and cookies in the living room while discussing grand ideas. Wouldn’t that be lovely? If only we all lived closer to each other!


The titles of the 6 books in Charlotte Mason’s Original Home Schooling Series:

Home Education

Parents and Children

School and Education


Formation of Character

A Philosophy of Education


The Amazon description of  The Original Home Schooling Series states, “Recognized as a pioneer in home education and major school reforms, Charlotte Mason’s practical methods are as revolutionary today as when they were first written. These books were out of print for over 80 years until Dean & Karen Andreola brought them to America in while returning from a missions trip in the spring of 1987. A Charlotte Mason educational revival soon followed.” Speaking of revival, that makes me think–are you looking for the Lord to bring revival in this land? Our current education methods are mind numbingly effective in shutting down wonder, hope, curiosity, charity, a longing for truth, introspection……… which consequently numbs this generation to its longing for spiritual regeneration– its longing for God. I think long term spiritual revival is tied to educational revival. I think well trained minds taught at home have great potential to revolutionize the world.

I hope reading and discussing Charlotte Mason ideas will shatter any false preconceived notions about home education, infuse your being with the confidence to make dreams possible, and enlighten you on how profoundly wonderful a child raised in the atmosphere of a living education could be. If anything on this blog has helped you or inspired you, please consider joining the club because I think being in this book club will just be all that much more helpful, and will take you to another level.

Jog My Memory, What’s SO Wonderful Charlotte Mason Again?

In Charlotte’s philosophy, living ideas were for human children (and adults). It was never acceptable to teach a child something without meaning (such as lists of facts). Memorization is for the heart and mind and soul, not just the intellect. To divorce a subject from its meaning was the error of modernity, a mad quest to produce more in less time. The classical authors and educators from antiquity until now were not searching for efficiency and it is puzzling that modern classical educators have missed this point.

“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” CM

“In this way: give your a child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.” CM

Books are chosen not for cultural literacy so much as the literary quality with which they were written, and even more, their ability to develop the whole person and inspire his character. For all those years that children are getting a CM education, what’s really being trained more than anything else is their character. Students receiving a CM education don’t need any character building program because the entire curriculum is geared towards building character with the use of personal habits, quality books, teacher guidance, the work of the Holy Spirit and personal reflection.

“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” CM

If anyone has read and re-read what this blog has to say about Charlotte Mason, it is me. (I just love re-reading my blog! I get inspired all over again! ;)) To help you make your decision about joining my Charlotte Mason Book Club, I encourage you to go back and remind yourself what is so exciting about Charlotte Mason’s philosophies from some of my archived posts:

Meet Miss Mason

This Could Be You

Nature is For Kids

Teaching Children the Bible

Welcome Back to School!

Book Club Starts in January!

Finally, you don’t have to decide today, but please pray about joining? We will wait until the freshness of the new year has arrived and the busyness of the holidays is behind us before adding a book club to our lives. Pray about joining the Charlotte Mason Book Club from now until the kick off date in January. Yes, 2,400 pages at 15-20 pages a week will mean a couple year commitment, but don’t let that deter you as I don’t think this needs to be an all or nothing venture. I think we should go into this Book Club determined to participate for the long haul, but for whatever portion you can actually participate, be assured that some is definitely better than none. Do some more research on Charlotte Mason yourself in the meantime and decide if you feel that she is worth placing as a mouthpiece of wisdom over your life. Especially if your children are still little, this is the the perfect time to read, read, read, and form a vision for all their years ahead. I hope you will be able to make the time to join in! This is for the ultimate excellence of our children– what could be more important? Thanks for keeping it in your prayers friends, and if I don’t hear from those of you that I know personally, you may hear from me. 🙂

A Photo Session Prompted by Autumn Splendor

Collecting Leaves

Imaginations Running Wild

Fall Themed Shortbread Cookies for Firefighters

With Lots of Sprinkles

Lovin’ Our Zoo Packs

Packing a Shoebox for an Operation Christmas Child

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