Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

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

Roadmap For You

Do you have a roadmap yet for your next, or first, homeschool year? March is that time of year when I start planning, or more like dreaming, about next school year and I am especially eager this year, because Noah will be a kindergartner!!! I have already cried my tears as I realized that my Little Lamb is not so little anymore, and now that I have somewhat come to terms with the reality of my boy growing up, I am excited and ready for the next stage. My, my, my, what a big year ahead! The rails have been well laid for smooth and easy days at our preschool, and I am really looking forward to continuing preschool with Faith for a few more years, while at the same time, venturing out into the unexplored territory of ‘elementary school land’ with Noah. I am so thankful that by our all knowing God, we have been provided such a great roadmap for the years to come through Charlotte Mason. Discovering SimplyChalrotteMason.com was the light bulb moment that showed me how Charlotte Mason studies are just so beautifully different. If you aren’t totally sure where you are headed next year with your own homeschool, consider Charlotte Mason! And then peruse the exceptional curriculum offered at SimplyCharlotteMason.com!

Charlotte Mason studies can be done very inexpensively by using the library since living books, not scripted lesson plans and expensive curriculum, promote true learning. Learning really shouldn’t be outrageously expensive. However, great curriculum that uses Charlotte’s methods is certainly available for those of us who don’t want to be pioneers! I have looked into great curriculum such as Sonlight, My Fathers World, Heart of Wisdom, Veritas Press, etc. and they all have some nice aspects, but only Simply Charlotte Mason provides curriculum materials, guidance, flexibility, and freedom that I could just gush and gush about. Unlike the other curriculum mentioned, SCM material is perfectly true to Charlotte’s methods, not just adopting a few of her nicest ideas. After making some SCM purchases, plus perusing many of the free curriculum sample pages on the website, I have not found one thing that would disappoint. And I am not easy to please either. After all the years I have studied and worked in child education, I am not at all easily impressed by the array of educational materials available, and so I feel that I speak the truth when I say Simply Charlotte Mason is a gold mine to be discovered by homeschool families.

Another excellent resource on the Simply Charlotte Mason website is the discussion forum where moms have such wonderfully wise advice and tips, book suggestions, planning ideas in every subject area and grade, and lots more. Its like being mentored by other Charlotte Mason moms who have been there and done that already, and want to share it with you! I learn SO much on the discussion forum that I go there now just to read what other moms are saying of late. Another way I use it a lot is to Google “Simply Charlotte Mason, (plus whatever I want to know)”. Google seems to come up with more related posts, so I use their search engine rather than SCM’s for really specific inquiries. (For instance, look up that curriculum you are considering on the SCM discussion forum and you will find details from other moms who have used it, and often why they decided to use SCM materials instead)

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention SCM’s Bookfinder! So helpful for looking up Charlotte Mason type books to check out at the library or purchase at Amazon. I use it to find books on any subject at any grade level, and I can rest at ease that the books suggested are all delightfully written living books–never dry, never twaddle.

One Mom’s Really Organized Planner For Her 4th Grader Wow! I don’t know if I would ever be this organized but watching this little video clip certainly casts vision for me. Its done by a mom who regularly contributes on the SCM discussion board. You’ll see why I say these moms would make great mentors after you watch. 🙂

Happy Prayerful and Productive Planning to You, Fearless Road Mapping Homeschool Moms and Dads!!

You can find a lot of posts that I have written on my blog about my dear homeschool mentor Charlotte Mason. Here are a few:

Meet Miss Mason

Fabulous Fours and Fives–Curriculum Overview

Nature Study

Bible Study

We are behind on posting our pictures, so here are the ones from February when our theme was ‘I am Loving’ and ‘Valentines’, and even a few from January. Hopefully I can get March pics up a little sooner!

Happy 5th Birthday Noah!!!

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Love this Little Man!!!

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Best Gift From Christmas

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Push Me Please

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Hanging On For Dear Life

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Riding My Big Girl Bike

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Playing All Together

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After Babysitting Another Praying Mantis Egg Case for Months, One Day…..Babies!!

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Dapper Dan and His Red Balloon

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Lovin’ My Overalls

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Pretty Girl

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Soaking Him In Cause Swaddle Days Are Coming to an End

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Hilarious Stuff

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Building a Snowman

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“This is the Day that the Lord Has Made” Sung with Jumping and Lots of Gusto Every Morning After Calendar

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Faith Just Starting to Word Build

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Faith Gets Her Own Reading Words Too

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Adorable in Big Brother’s Sweater

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Hanging With Daddy

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Valentines Friendship Tea Party with Eliana and Ashira

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Wiffle Ball Golfing

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A Happy Valentines Visit with Lois

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Yay Faith!! Awesome Fine Motor Skills!

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Noah’s Very First Copywork Page! Writing His Memory Verse for the First Time

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So Proud of You Buddy!!!

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Everyone Trying to Love on Daniel

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Pretend Baking

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Learning to Build With Legos

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Learning to Write Numbers

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Tayler Worshiping in Spirit and in Truth

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Many Pictures of Late that Depict Noah’s Heartfelt Thoughts About Jesus

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Rain Gear Girl So Eager to Play Out in the Rain

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Faith Showing Kindness to Bubs on a Rainy Day

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Two of Our Sweet New Chickies (We have four total)

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Welcome Back to School! 2012-2013 Curriculum Overview

Thrilling Threes and Fours!

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

Fall, a Season of Change

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

Guidance for a Living Education

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

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

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

Set Great Expectations

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

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

Areas of Study to Include in Preschool

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

Poetry

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

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

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Music Appreciation

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

Art Appreciation

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

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

Decoding

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

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

Read Aloud

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

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

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Word Building

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

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Bible Stories, Memory Verses, and Hymns

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

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

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

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

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

Thy power throughout the universe displayed……”

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

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Handwriting

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

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

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Nature Play

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

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

Math

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

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

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Why You Should Start Homeschool This Year

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

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

Sample Charlotte Mason Preschool Schedule for You

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

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

May Your School Be a Fountain of Life!

Everyday

Bible Story

Memory Verse

Poem

Song/Hymn

Art Study

Classical Music

Every Night

Decoding

Read Aloud

 

M

Word Building

Nature Play

T

Handwriting

Math

W

Word Building

Nature Play

Th

Handwriting

Math

F

Word Building

Nature Play

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Meet Miss Mason

Traditional Curriculum vs. A Living Education

After working for several years in the elementary school system as a substitute teacher and also while student teaching to get my credential, I formed quite a distaste for curriculum. I would open up a Houghton Mifflin or Open Court teaching manual and follow a scripted lesson with the children during Language Arts. The dryness made me want to gag and made the students want to get on to better things like recess. After looking over lots of homeschool curriculum recently, what I have come to realize is that the majority of curriculum is still traditional (workbook and textbook) which by nature is static, impersonal, and largely unrealistic in general. They all seem to be focused on the regurgitation of information and facts at a pretty low level of comprehension (Bloom’s Taxonomy, one of the best things I learned about in my teaching credential program, is soooo good to be aware of when teaching, or to use for evaluating the curriculum you are using or thinking of buying–does it use all low level thinking questions, or are there high level thinking questions too?). There happens to be lots of money in text book publishing, and sadly, literacy has been reduced to consumerism and instant gratification. School books, readers, textbooks, and the typical homeschool workbooks are dry as dust, dead as a door nail; a meal of saw-dust.

Rather than finding the perfect package of curriculum that simply does not exist, I have come to find and admire a role model, Charlotte Mason, whose educational principles seem to replace much of the need for store bought curriculum. What a relief, seeing as I seem to dislike curriculum’s pre-digestion of information approach so! Charlotte Mason lived and breathed the principles of a true education, education as a life, and was a pioneer in home education and major school reform in the late 1800’s. Charlotte Mason’s philosophies that live on in her 6 volumes, strike me as so right on as I continue to read about them. In her method of education, popular with homeschoolers, children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits. When I became sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that homeschool would be the vehicle of real learning in my children, and knew that it was going to have to look radically different from anything I knew of in the school classroom, my research discoveries revealed that Charlotte Mason’s philosophies and methods are rare gems of truth–perhaps the best thing out there to accomplish my goals. I want to share with you some of the things about a Charlotte Mason education that draw me in the most: living ideas, living books, and narration. I think Miss Mason’s philosophies will inspire you as a parent teacher eager to be able to better nourish your child’s mind.

SimplyCharlotteMason.com, A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola, or A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison are great resources for more information about Charlotte Mason methods.

Living Ideas

One problem in school classrooms is that children are taught at. Did you know there was a time when books were so expensive that schools did not use them? The lecture system of classroom education came from that situation. The teacher had to convey his knowledge to the student without any books. Even though books are available now days, unfortunately we have not departed from the lecture system–we teach at our children, spoon feeding them all the things they are to think, instead of coming along side them to grow them into deep thinkers. Most likely our own school experiences taught us that “we learn that we may know, not that we may grow; hence the parrot-like saying of lessons, the cramming of ill-digested facts for examinations, all the ways of taking in knowledge which the mind does not assimilate” (CM, Vol. 1)

I agree wholeheartedly that we should educate our children so they may grow. And just as their physical bodies grow on the food that is good for them, so their minds grow on a certain type of mind-food. “The mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body” (CM, Vol. 6). Those who believe we learn in order to know emphasize information. But those who agree with Charlotte Mason that we learn in order to grow, give their children ideas. If our children are going to stand against the ideas of the 21stcentury, this is how we must approach education. Ideas are so much more than mere facts or information. Ideas plant a powerful seed, that captivates thoughts, motivates deep pondering, and produces true learning that becomes a part of you. To really know something, it must penetrate past the outer court of the mind and gain access into the inner place where it stirs the imagination, touches the feelings, and affects the person. This outer court is where we keep facts that don’t seem to affect us personally. We may memorize them and spit them back out when required, but they don’t truly educate us. When something influences our lives, that’s when it has truly educated us. That’s when we truly know. (simplycharlottemason.com)

Oh my, in light of that, I think my education really started once I graduated from school. How about you? All I used to do was numbly regurgitate information only to be forgotten later, but now my mind is hungrily feasting on the grand ideas of well-worded books. I think I am finally learning something that I won’t soon forget.

“The difference between educated and uneducated people is that the former know and love books; the latter may have passed examinations.” –Charlotte Mason

Living Books

The most enticing aspect of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy to me is the idea that children’s minds should be fed with only the best ideas from the best books. Books that challenge the mind and soul with deep and noble thoughts and whose literary style leaves “beautiful impressions”. Books that help teach us about the moral world around us and inspire us to be better than we were. Living books are high literary quality books, first hand sources, classics–not the abridgement of an abridgement (as in Houghton Mifflin and open Court) so stripped down that it hardly bears resemblance to the original work, drained of its drawing power upon the reader. “Let all the thought we offer our children be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do; given the vitalizing idea children will readily hang the mere facts upon the idea. . . . Let their books be living books, the best that can be found in liberal supply and variety” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 51).

What taste are we cultivating in our children over time as we allow them to read what Mason called “twaddle” (books written down to children)? What enthusiasms are cultivated by silly stories unable to grow a person? Dumbed-down literature is easy to spot. When you’re standing in the library and pick up modern-day, elementary-level books, you’re apt to see short sentences with very little effort applied to artistically constructing them to please the mind. Miss Mason said, “They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told”. (CM)

Give children fruitful ideas, rather than bushels of information (as most history and science texts for example shove fact after fact at you). Miss Mason said, “An idea is more than an image or a picture; it is, so to speak, a spiritual germ endowed with vital force–with power, that is, to grow, and to produce after its its own kind.” (Wow, that is powerful. I can hear my Pastor, Bishop Carl Smith’s, voice in that statement as he has taught us over and over again on the power of the Word of God being able to produce after its own kind as we think it and speak it) What you want your child to become, is what you should be giving them to read–the ideas in the books planted like seeds in their minds will “produce after their own kind.” Give them the Bible, the living Word, and other “living” rich literature for learning the great ideas of life from the greatest minds down through the centuries. Yes, mom has to read the books too in preparation for rich discussions in which these ideas will be worked out. As you and your child’s mind feasts upon the ideas of C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Dante, Mark Twain, John Bunyan–who will you become together?! Its unfathomably exciting.

Charlotte Mason used literature and adult level books as early as first grade. This is one reason the parent reads aloud to the student much of the time in this method. It is an excellent way to bring the best and most vital books to children long before they are capable of reading such things as Shakespeare on their own and without our help. Another advantage is raising the child’s vocabulary level at an early age while exposing them to good sentence structure and content.

When selecting living books for your child, its easy to feel overwhelmed by all the choices, but look for ones that will reinforce your priorities. Many people recommend a myriad of books for various reasons, but your choices should ultimately reflect the ideas that rule your life. Its entrusting a lot to a school to allow them to choose those books for you, ones that will reinforce what is uniquely important to your family. Ultimately I feel that only parents can truly choose the reading materials that will shape, form, and grow their children’s minds in alignment with the family’s values, priorities, and interests. I think parents should really weigh whether they want to give the school system, Christian or not, the privilege of feeding their child’s mind, and thereby owning that mind. At my well respected high school, I was reading about homosexuality, incest, and rape in The Color Purple at school under the tutelage of my gay and lesbian Core teachers–my parents totally unaware. What will be fed to your child’s mind at school?

Narration

Great Literature is to be used in every subject according to Charlotte Mason. In schools, classic novels are snacked on here and there in one subject only–Language Arts. But then the story is staled by focus on comprehension questions, vocabulary, and analysis. It is the person forming the question who is actually doing the most thinking. When a book is “taught” and then “tested”, the reading becomes mechanistic as the student tries to guess what the teacher wants in order to get an A.  At the end of the test, the book may be either remembered fondly or dumped completely by the child’s mind.  On the contrary, when literature is savored for its own sake, narrated through the individual personhood of the child, and shared in an intimate way with others, the book becomes a permanent part of the child’s life.  It becomes a way to build good character and healthy relationships as children are invited into the “great conversation” of mankind that transcends time and place.

If you don’t test the reader, how do you know that all this noble well written literature is indeed growing his mind? Let your child narrate, or tell back what she has heard. So you read a portion of a living history book. Then you require your child to narrate. He should tell back in his own words everything he can remember from the reading. Narration demands a much higher thinking level than true/false, multiple choice, or fill-in-the-blank questions. You are asking your child to pay full attention and compose a mental essay, in a sense. Narration may seem easy until you try it for yourself. Charlotte encouraged adults to use this method to help them learn too. When you understand its potency, you will see why Charlotte used it in teaching many subjects. Since our children are unique individuals; they will form their own relations with what they read. Narration is the peephole that gives us a peek into our child’s “inner court” and lets us see what has been admitted there. Read this article for a really clear example of the excellence of living books over textbooks, and the wonderful advantage of narration.

I think that one of the most difficult things of the paradigm shift required to implement narration is that we are not the center. Teachers and parents are not the fountain from which knowledge springs for our thirsty students.  It is not the parents’ jobs to provide all the answers.  When we do, we rob our children of an opportunity to exercise their own minds, and a lack of exercise leads to atrophy.  It is not for us to draw all the connections for our students through the development of units. It is also not for us to determine which ideas are most important from our reading. Mason stressed the importance of laying out the feast of ideas for children and then allowing them to deal with it as they were able.  This means they may not get every point that we think is important. One of the hardest things to let go of is the need to ask questions that points them to our way of thinking. However, to raise your child to be a thinking, articulate individual, child produced narration is an excellent means.

Your Child, an Image Bearer

The reason Miss Mason had such lofty educational standards is because she understood that children have very capable minds to learn, think, and read. Unlike the modern behaviorists who believe that children’s minds are like an empty vessel to be filled with information (the same devaluing premise of our lecture style based modern education; the same beliefs in the mind of many a teacher), Miss Mason believed what the Bible says: children are created in the very image of God himself. Children come to us with compelling inborn powers of mind in place, yet also with ignorance, which like an appetite, must be fed on mind food from living books and ideas, life and experiences. Children are already born a person–not an object to be manipulated as the behaviorist believes. Not a rudderless and morally neutral explorer, or an animal at the mercy of drives beyond his control. If your child is not being read literature way above grade level at school, or is being “taught at”, seriously consider which premise your child’s school is functioning on. Don’t allow anyone to devalue the personhood of your child. Education must be built upon a Godly understanding of our little people, or it will be devoid of the real mind food children are ravenous for.

A No Curriculum Home School

I am pleased to point out that the Charlotte Mason method need not involve the purchasing of a curriculum and once understood, could potentially be done solely through the library at no cost. It allows you to be Spirit led as you pray about the just right book selections you will make for growing your precious child’s impressionable mind. A Charlotte Mason education is not structured or unstructured—apply the method in the way that works best for you. School recommended by Charlotte Mason starts at age 6 and is typically during the morning hours only (9 to 11:30 or 12 up through 6th grade, 1 pm for upper grades). Children are encouraged to learn constructive entertaining things such as pottery, wood working or painting in the afternoons. There is time set aside everyday for this type of enjoyment, time to follow their own interests, along with plenty of time out in nature. Miss Mason loved children, and wanted them to enjoy that special time of their lives and not have it pass by in a blur.

If you research the practical application of Miss Mason’s methods in subject areas of spelling, grammar, composition, etc., you will see why no curriculum per say is needed. You can find sample schedules of a morning in a Charlotte Mason home school to see how it all falls into place. You can buy the aforementioned books which will include philosophy, practical application or “how to”, schedules, and living book lists. Basically little store bought curriculum is needed because living books are the content of a Charlotte Mason curriculum, and skills are taught in a very simple systematic way directly out of the literature currently being read.

Homeschool does not have to look anything like school with its traditional ways of teaching and high dependence upon curriculum. If you toss the age leveled curriculum, you can teach your children all together as a family in several subject areas. As for the “helpful” scope and sequence (what to teach and when) that curriculum tries to offer, I contend that the one size fits all nature can actually only complicate matters. Being free from this type of timeline is very important in order to match what your child is learning to what he actually needs to be/is ready to be learning. A 1st grader may be above in some subject areas, and below in others, making a 1st grade curriculum package a pretty good waste of money. Its really hard to find the just right fit in every subject area for each child. Besides, where can you find curriculum that teaches Charlotte’s Web to a preschooler; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to a second grader; and Shakespeare to a 5th grader like a Charlotte Mason school would?

Raise up a Daniel!

It is in the rare homeschool that wholeheartedly believes in the incredible God given abilities of a child created in His image, and feeds his mind accordingly, that I think we will find our future Daniel’s of the Bible. Youth of deep conviction, wiser in understanding and knowledge than their peers, chosen and favored by man and God. Its a great privilege and responsibility to raise up a Godly generation of Daniels in the 21st century!

Aim high my friends! Train up your children’s minds in the way they should go, and may your children be found as….

“Youths without blemish, well-favored in appearance and skillful in all wisdom, discernment, and understanding, apt in learning knowledge, competent to stand and serve in the king’s palace.” Daniel 1:4

A Twaddle Book

Noah’s first real attempt to read a book captured on camera. Mommy is so proud! Perhaps we shall decide to allow a little twaddle only for the purpose of decoding practice.

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A Living Book

Most of our reading time is spent with mommy or daddy reading aloud out of living books like The Velveteen Rabbit. My favorite book from childhood! The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic story from 1922 about how toys and people become real through the magical experience of loving and being loved. The message of this story is heart warming and one that is never forgotten. I recently checked it out from the library after reading about Charlotte Mason’s beliefs that children need to be read to from the best books. It didn’t occur to me to read a book of this level to my 3 year old or that I would find him captivated enough to finish the whole book in one sitting together. Thank you God for raising my sights through my acquaintance with Charlotte Mason.

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