My goals for homeschooling are many but having my kids enjoy learning is a huge part of it and while we were still learning while following a more rigid homeschool schedule, it took away from the times we wanted to follow random interests or the amount of YouTube videos we could watch after a child asked how batteries worked.
There is so much I enjoy about the Charlotte Mason method and the type A side of me is disappointed that it didn’t work for us, even though I really wanted it to. But I’ve been feeling really blah about homeschooling lately and I think it is partially because I was trying to make something work that just wasn’t our style, and even though we haven’t really been doing the CM method for the last few months I was definitely feeling some lingering guilt over it. Some how announcing we are no longer trying the CM method helps lighten that burden.
WHAT WE ARE DOING INSTEAD
So, we are sticking with homeschooling as a lifestyle, and for me that includes a little bit of intentional learning as well. I recently read Pam Barnhill’s Better Together which is about the concept of Morning Time, I don’t like the term “morning time” but I like the concept so I did some brainstorming with the kids and Raeca came up with the idea of Brain Stain (because you use your brain and what you learn leaves a mark on your brain – I was impressed by her idea).
I have created a Brain Box (my twist on a morning basket) that I plan on switching up monthly. I hope to share what is in our box on a monthly basis, so watch for the December post soon!
In addition to Brain Stain we are leaving room in our days for free play, game schooling (I’ll be updating our games post soon!), lots of audiobooks, pursuing the kids’ interests and following rabbit trails as they come up. I also subscribe to a number of educational YouTube channels and whenever interesting videos pop up about history or science or geography I call the kids over and we watch those and sometimes that creates it’s own rabbit trail.
We are also planning a Europe trip (aiming for next fall) and the kids are going to be heavily involved in choosing where we go and what we see and big part of that is learning European history and geography. (I’m super excited about this!!!)
That in short, is why we are no longer using the Charlotte Mason method and what we are doing instead! Have you ever tried a homeschool method or philosophy and realized it just isn’t for you?
Like I’ve mentioned in my previous posts I have always loved the idea of the Charlotte Mason method but have struggled with how it actually works. Obviously I have a bit of troubles taking something abstract and turning it into a concrete plan.
A few months ago I took a few weeks to really try to figure this out and I think I’ve come up with something fairly straightforward and yet will be really great for our family.
In this post I am going to tell you how I am taking all our lists of books and resources and turning them into a daily/weekly schedule. You can totally do the same thing if you want to make your own DIY CM schedule. You would just take a look at the different subjects and gather different books and resources and then plug them in as I share in this post and voila; your personalized Charlotte Mason curriculum.
One thing I did not do is create a detailed plan for our full year filling it exactly what we are going to do each week. I have decided to take each week as it comes. This is for a couple of reasons: first of all, we are coming from a more relaxed homeschool with no schedule and I feel like if I create a schedule we’ll fall behind immediately and then I’ll just scrap the whole thing, I don’t want that. I also wanted to do it this way because I want to be flexible, that is a huge reason we homeschool to begin with so it seems counter-intuitive to create this rigid schedule. This has already proven to be useful because I had planned for us to start school today but instead we will be attending my husband’s grandpa’s funeral. I find that the ability to be flexible in our schedule helps me to be more present in life because I don’t have to constantly feel behind.
This coming summer I actually plan to “take the summer off” at least more than we have in the past so anything that I really wanted to get done this year that we haven’t finished but the time summer comes we can carry over into the summer.
I actually got this idea of my weekly layout from somewhere but it was after many internet rabbit trails and I’m not sure exactly which site it was from now, if I come across it again I’ll definitely add a link in here.
For my weekly plan I decided to separate our daily activities and our weekly ones. Oh, and one other note, I am only planning for four days of school, most weeks I am hoping four days will work for us, and then if we need we can use the fifth day for catch up.
On the list for our daily activities are: reading, writing, recitation, narration and outside time. Then our weekly list includes: art/art study, cooking/baking, drawing, geography, handicrafts, hymn study, music study, nature study, and poetry. There are a couple of subjects that aren’t included in either our daily or weekly list that are covered in the “readings” section of the schedule.
I’ve included circles to fill in with each of the subjects and readings. So each day I make sure we will do some reading (that’s independent for my third grader and reading practice for my kindergartner), writing, recitation, narration and outside time. And then for our readings I will pick a few to do each day. The books that we do multiple readings of I make sure to spread out throughout the week so we don’t read all the chapters of Pilgrim’s Progress on one day but rather do one a day.
Our weekly activities are often done in the afternoon. They tend to be the more “extra curricular” activities.
The Charlotte Mason method can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many good resources a person wants to get to!
One way to ease into this type of schedule is to start by disregarding the weekly activities and slowly adding a couple in each week. We did a bit of this in the summer and I’m actually leaving handicrafts off our list for a few more weeks.
Have you created your own Charlotte Mason schedule before? I would love to hear how you go about it!
Alright, I’ve been promising to share our Charlotte Mason homemade homeschool schedule/curriculum that I’ve put together for this year and it’s taken me awhile to get it all sorted out but here it finally is!
Just a few things to note before we get into it . . .
We are not Charlotte Mason purists. Our previous two years have been very relaxed, interest-led homeschooling. Also, I have read A Charlotte Mason Companion and I’m currently reading Charlotte Mason’s Home Education series so while I know where she stands on some things I haven’t read all her ideas to really know everything, so let’s just get that out there: I don’t know everything.
My kids are in what would be considered Year 0 and Year 3 aka kindergarten and grade 3. Charlotte Mason did not recommend doing any formal schooling before the age of six and so most of what I share here will be geared towards my third grader. My biggest goals for my kindergartner are that he learns to print (fine motor has been a struggle), begins to learn to read and understands basic math. He will be in on all the Year 3 stuff so he will have tons of exposure to great literature and all sorts of other amazing learning resources but I won’t be requiring much from him.
If you know anything about Charlotte Mason it is probably that she strongly promotes living books (yay!) and she doesn’t like or recommend young reader or abridged versions of books. We will not be following this. This is partly because there are some great young reader versions of books (which I’ll share more about shortly) and also because we are jumping in with Year 3 with my daughter she doesn’t have all the build up that Charlotte Mason recommends.
Also, Charlotte Mason is long to type out all the time, I will often just refer to her as CM.
Some of the books I will be sharing in this post we’ve started already and love and some of the others are new to us. We may end up starting them and realizing they aren’t a great fit. That’s okay with me. I do my best to make sure the new books we get out from the library first so I can see if purchasing them is actually worth it.
Hmm, what else. Oh yes, I realize the fact that a whole “homeschooling method” that has been formed off a woman who taught schools is slightly ridiculous. But, that being said, I think she had some really great ideas, some of which I shared in my post where I explained why we are switching to Charlotte Mason.
WHY WE ARE NOT USING AMBLESIDE ONLINE
If you’ve been around the Charlotte Mason method for awhile you’ll probably know that there is a website titled Ambleside Online that has free CM yearly schedules. There are a few different reasons we are not using Ambleside:
first of all, I found it so hard to decode (and by the time I did decode it I wanted to make my own anyway)
we are Canadian and I feel like a lot of AO is American based and if I’m going to change out all of that stuff, why not just make it all up?!
I wanted to study history chronologically and without the heavy American emphasis
we are starting in Year 3 and I wanted to pull some books and resources from Year 1 and 2 that we missed
there are so many great resources (read: books!) that I know of that I want to incorporate into our year
I think Ambleside looks amazing and if you are American and want to follow the CM method I would highly recommend checking it out and seeing if you can decode it. 🙂 There are some wonderful people I know in person and online that follow AO, I’ve got nothing against it, it’s just not what I wanted to do. (That being said, we are actually following the AO Bible reading for our year.)
For the rest of the post I am going to share what we are using for resources in each of the different subject areas and then in the next CM post I write I am going to explain how we are taking all these resources and turning them into a schedule we’ll follow (and how you can take that idea and run with it for your homeschool).
Like I already mentioned, we are following the Ambleside Year 3 Bible schedule this year. In addition we will continue reading through The Ology, we started it last year but only got to number 25 or so. I aim to try to read two sections each week.
In addition we will also be learning some Bible verses and passages. I’ve got a few verses on my list already and I know this year I want them to learn Psalm 23. Each week we will also review our previous verses.
Last year we started Story of the World for the first time. We ended up skipping volume one (ancient history) because it didn’t interest me and jumped right into volume two. I’m kind of regretting that we didn’t start with history from the beginning so we are going to back pedal a bit by reading the first bit of A Child’s History of the World until we get to the point in history we were at with Story of the World. Since A Child’s History of the World is fairly short that shouldn’t take us very long, after that I hope to finish SOTW volume two and maybe start volume three? That may be pushing it but I have the books on audio this year so I think that will help us go through it a bit faster.
In addition we will be reading through a number of historical fiction books and I will be assigning a couple to Raeca to read on her own.
Math is an interesting subject for us, we’ve never followed a curriculum and I think this year we will continue to do the same. We do the odd worksheet here and there and kind of just focus on different math skills that I think are important for them to know at this stage. That probably sounds too relaxed for a lot of people but it is working for us!
Each day my kids are expected to do a little bit of reading and writing. For Ephraim this will look more like letter practice to begin with and Raeca will be writing letters to her pen pals and we will work on different elements of stories and she will be writing her own. Plus, Raeca wants to learn cursive this year so we will also be doing that.
The reading time will be reading practice and listening to audiobooks for Ephraim and for Raeca she will either be able to read from a book she chooses or I will occasionally assign one to her.
There are a lot of different books we will be reading this year, most of them we will follow Charlotte Mason’s recommendation by reading a little bit each day over the course of the year or so. I don’t have all of our books for the year picked out yet because I have a hard time judging how long all our readings will take place, but these are the ones we will be reading slowly over the year:
We will be also working on narration, in true Charlotte Mason form. In short, after our read alouds (including history and our literature books) the kids will each take some time to tell back what has just been read in their own words. Charlotte Mason recommends only doing this with kids who are six or over unless younger kids express interest and while Ephraim is just five he actually really enjoys narration so he’ll be doing it as well.
This year I’ve created a few specific areas we want to study for nature study. We will be starting with birds, and also learning about seeds (I know that spring seems like the best time to learn about this but we may do it earlier). I’ve currently just to those two picked out and once we are done them I will pick out some more.
I love travelling so geography is an important subject for me. We will be learning some geography as we learn about history but I also want to focus on Canadian geography (since we are Canadian) and European geography since we hope to take a trip to France and Italy in a couple of years.
A lot of this learning will come through reading good books and also watching some nature documentaries about the countries.
This is the first year that I am attempting to do some actual recitation (minus Bible verses). I think for the most part this year this recitation will be in the form of poetry. Originally I had though my kids could learn a new poem each month but then my daughter had her first one memorized in less than a week and my son picked a fairly long one for a five year old so he’ll be working on his for longer, so we are just going to play it by ear. I may also end up assigning some poems to them for recitation but first I want them to pick out poems they enjoy because I want it to be fun for them.
We will be learning one hymn every month as well as the story behind it each month. In August we learned about the song It isWell (one of my favorites), and I’m looking forward to digging into the history of other hymns throughout the year. My choir teacher did this with us in high school and it left a lasting impression on me.
We will be studying a few different artists this year, Leonardo Da Vinci and Jan Van Eyck for sure and then maybe one other one, I haven’t decided yet. I tried to pick artists that correspond with our history time period as much as possible.
One of Raeca’s requests was to learn to cook this year. This will be partially cooking and partially baking, I’m planning on usually corresponding this with our poetry tea time days so we can eat the goodies we make when they are fresh.
Speaking of poetry . . . I plan on having us study one poet each month and reading one of their poems every morning. I like the Poetry for Young People series for this. We are kicking this month off learning about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow because I’m reading his poems this month for my own mother culture curriculum I’ve created for myself.
In addition we will continue having poetry tea time once a week, this is a major highlight for the kids and I’m thinking of what other subject I could pair up with tea time, I think it would be fun to do this with two different subjects.
I had shared in my CM resources post that we would be working on Spanish this year but since we’ve decided to plan a France and Italy trip Raeca has decided to switch to French instead. As Canadians that is actually probably a better choice, it will be a lot easier to find local French resources than Spanish ones.
I have good intentions of doing some composer study this year but I feel like this is one area I usually fail at. We’ve listened to a few of the Classical Kids CD’s before and this may just be all we do for music and composer study this year.
This is another area I’ve been struggling with. I really like the idea of handicrafts but my daughter struggles with long-term projects. I do plan on pushing through that this year and having her create something beautiful that takes awhile I just haven’t decided what yet. I am open to suggestions!
I think this is a subject that we will wait to start until November-ish or so, that way we can ease into school a little slower, plus the idea of working on a long-term project all winter sounds good to me.
Okay, this has gotten long and I haven’t even told you how I am going to take all that we are doing and turn it into a weekly plan/schedule! I think I will leave that for the next post and then in the one after that I will share how you can create your own DIY Charlotte Mason curriculum. UPDATE: You can read that post here!
If you have any questions about our resources or questions you would like answered in upcoming Charlotte Mason posts just leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer!
I know many of you have already started your homeschool year. Here where we live the school system doesn’t start back until the day after Labor Day and while we usually start our homeschool year earlier this year we are delaying until at least the Wednesday after Labor Day.
A large part of this delay is the fact that we (I) recently decided to switch things up and we will be following the Charlotte Mason method this year.
Our previous method I dubbed Homeschooling as a Lifestyle and while I still really love this method there are a few different things that have us switching to Charlotte Mason this year.
I am just finishing planning our homeschool curriculum for the year and plan on sharing that soon as well as a post on how you can create your own Charlotte Mason curriculum.
So, why the switch? First off, and kind of surprising, my daughter and I are both looking for a bit more of a routine and schedule this year. We are both rebels and don’t really like following a schedule but it feels like it would be a good change for us this year.
Also, it was actually the Charlotte Mason method that had me falling in love with the idea of homeschooling years ago. While it was unknown to me at the time the group of ladies that I followed on Instagram that had such inspiring homeschool photos were all following the Charlotte Mason method and so many of the aspects that I loved about their homeschooling were pulled directly from Miss Mason.
Thirdly, I really resonate with a lot of the main points Charlotte Mason tried to teach, some of them come naturally to me and others don’t, so I think this will be a great year of growth.
And lastly (at least for now), what I really love about the Charlotte Mason method is how simple it is. We really try to have a minimal homeschool (and home) and I think this works very well with Charlotte’s method.
WHERE TO LEARN ABOUT CHARLOTTE MASON’S METHOD
Want to learn more about Charlotte Mason’s method? There are a few books I would recommend: I am currently reading through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education series, there are six volumes and I am just over halfway through the first. It will take me awhile to get through them all. Though, even before reading the series I would highly recommend reading A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola, it’s an easier read and gives a good overview of Charlotte’s philosophy.
In this post I am going to highlight ten of the major distinctions of the Charlotte Mason (though there are a few more, I’m keeping it to ten) and give you a bit of an idea on how we are going to be applying them into our homeschool.
If you have been around here for any length of time you’ll know that we love books in our family, and not just any books, good books. Charlotte Mason promoted what she called living books, she didn’t use textbooks but rather preferred to use books that included first hand stories or books where the author was knowledgeable and passionate about the topic. She wanted children to read the best of the best, not dumbed down, twaddle books.
“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.”
– Charlotte Mason
I’ve got a number of living book lists started that I will be sharing over the course of the next few months, stay tuned for that!
Charlotte Mason also taught about the idea of narration, which is such a simple and yet effective teaching strategy. To put it simply, after reading a passage from a living book to a child you will ask them to tell back the story in their own words. This not only works as a method of testing (it gives you a chance to see how much the child understood) it also helps to cement the lesson in the child’s mind. Often to really learn something it is best to teach it, and this is a very simple way to do so.
Charlotte suggestions not starting narration until the child is six though I think it depends on the child. My five year old actually enjoys narration more than my seven year old and is better at it at this point. If he wants to narrate I’m not going to say no!
She also suggests by starting slow, maybe you read one paragraph of a story and then get them to narrate that one paragraph, slowly increasing the length of the passage they narrate. This is also where short chapters are good. I’ve found so far that Little Pilgrim’s Progress is my kids’ favorite book to narrate and the chapters are short so usually they narrate back after I read half or a full chapter.
As children narrate you can copy their words down for them and as they get older they can start writing down their own narrations and doing a combination of drawn and written narrations.
FORMATION OF HABITS
I think every mother understands the benefits of teaching children habits, though it can be a long road there. Unfortunately, I don’t think I did a good job in my first few years of parenting working on good habits so we have some bad habits to unlearn while trying to learn good habits.
I think I will probably share a full post about habits in the future, there is so much to say on this topic!
Nature studies is a large part of the Charlotte Mason method, one that I aspire to enjoy but it is definitely not my natural nature to want to spend time outdoors (I’m a bookworm content to sit in one chair and read book after book). I have learned so much in our nature studies so far and have been really enjoying it.
Charlotte Mason was a big believer in short lessons, 20 minutes on one topic for elementary students before moving on to a different topic. Of course this idea just makes sense if you know young children, while you want them to build the habit of attention you also need to work with their natural abilities.
With the idea of short lessons you can cover a variety of different subjects and topics in one day.
Charlotte also encouraged copywork, from my understanding this is to teach children to print perfectly; by copying from a perfect example they will learn how to print neatly, spell correctly and the major rules of grammar.
Copywork is really easy to do, I love finding poems, Bible verses or quotes for my children to copy from.
Picture study is what Charlotte called the study of great art. Children would look at and study one piece of art and then retell all the details they could recall from the piece.
We will be following her idea of studying one artist per term and studying a handful of that artists works. Near the end of the term the kids will be able to pick their favorite piece to try to replicate to the best of their ability.
We will also be studying hymns, one every month or so. We will be learning the history behind the hymn (so many great stories behind them!) and learning all the lyrics.
Charlotte also believed that children should study Shakespeare, I personally enjoy a challenge so we are going to give it a try! We are going to start out by using Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb. I read a few of Shakespeare’s stories in high school and university and honestly didn’t really understand any of them, I’m hoping to be able to teach them to my children in a way that actually makes sense (to them and me!).
Another aspect of Charlotte Mason homeschooling is the study of a foreign language! I think it makes the most sense to pick a language you are the most interested in. My daughter and I have been learning Spanish but we recently made some decisions as a family to plan for a Europe trip in about two years and visit France and Italy so my husband and children have decided to learn French and I’m learning Italian. Since we recently made the language switch I need to find some resources for both of these languages.
And that’s the Charlotte Mason method and why we are switching to it in a nutshell! If you have any questions or want to share what you love about the CM method leave me a note in the comments below!
I will be sharing our full Charlotte Mason schedules for kindergarten and grade three soon!