February 25, 2013

Finding My Inner Charlotte Mason

Last summer, Catherine Levison came to our state homeschooling conference.  She's a huge Charlotte Mason guru.  I went to several of her lectures and just loved some of her methods.  The way they study history with a history timeline and their nature study really appealed to me.  One thing I learned that really stuck out is that the Charlotte Mason method is not unschooling and it's not "no schooling."  The more I learned, the more I realized how hard core that Charlotte Mason lady was, yet how gentle and easy she made it seem.

It didn't really have much impact on our school year.  We went about homeschooling the Well Trained Mind way.  It was all laid out for me.  It did include some Charlotte Mason methods (narrating, copy work, good books (I refuse to use the term "living books."  Shoot me if you must, but I just can't do it)) so I figured it was good.

Sometime in November I hit a crisis of sorts.  The homeschooling was fine, Pigby was doing well, we had found our groove.  But the rest of my life was too chaotic. Apparently when you homeschool, kids still need to be fed and homes still need to be cleaned. *grumbles grumbles grumbles*  I've posted before about my house keeping woes, it hasn't got much better. 

Some homeschooling friends recommended that I take a break.  That was frustrating.  It felt like failure.  Ummm...hello?  How can I homeschool long term if I can't even make it past the first semester of first grade?!?!?!  (To be fair, we had been going since the first week of July.  A break was a good idea)

We kept trying to add school back in and I kept meeting resistance from Pigby.  A lot of resistance, not just the whiny 7 year old type.  So that led to more confusion and delays on my part.

A few weeks ago, those same friends and I started a Charlotte Mason online book club.  The Kindle Edition was on sale for only 99 cents.  As of this writing, it's still only 99 cents (available here)

Here are some methods we've adopted in our own homeschool:

Narrations-We used to do narrations the WTM way.  We used Writing With Ease, Story of the World w/ Activity Guide, and Elemental Science.  WTM way=reading the passage, asking questions about the passage, then asking them what they remember about the passage and you would write it down for them.  Charlotte Mason way (at least for kids first starting out)=reading one paragraph, no repeating, no questions, no hints, asking them to tell you what just happened.  Continue for each paragraph.

How the change has worked for us-Very well, I think.  He used to dislike narrations a lot.  Would often give an "I don't know" or just repeat one single thing, when he'd previously been able to repeat many facts.  The first time we started the CM way, I started reading Ramona's World to him.  The first few paragraphs were met with "I forgot" from him.  I told him he needed to pay better attention or he'd miss out what was going on in the story.  Then he started doing it perfectly!  We did a ton of pages, probably over the recommended 15 minutes (which I found out about later).

I started with a fiction book in the hopes of him not noticing that it was work.  My plan worked!  Eventually we started using this method with SOTW and he did figure out that it was work.  He resisted a bit, until he realized the chapter we were doing was one of his favorites.  He hasn't complained since then.

I also have him draw a picture of what happened after we're done with the SOTW section.  I included a sample up above.  He wrote the word "Mummies" half in print, half in cursive.  Why? I am not sure.  But I thought it was cute his afterlife picture looks like the earth.  Is this kid LDS or what?

Spelling-Previously we used All About Spelling.  Now, we still use AAS, but we add in the CM technique of having him close his eyes and picturing the word in his mind and then saying it out loud.  I do add another step, one that I learned in tenth grade.  After he pictures the word on the chalkboard in his mind, he needs to spell it out loud forwards and backwards.  This really cements the "picturing it in his mind step."

Outdoor time-We've always been terrible about getting outside and enjoying nature.  I've turned into somewhat of a hermit ever since Pigby was born and it's just gotten worse the more kids I had.  Now, we're not following CM's instructions exactly.  Her nature studies were much more than walking around and looking at how pretty nature is.  This is extremely hard core stuff, people!  Most of the things she recommends, I wouldn't even know how to do.  So we're not, not yet anyway.  For us, it's enough to get outside and get some fresh air.  Even if that air is nasty, polluted Utah air.

Reading-Pigby already knows how to read, but CM has an interesting take that we'll keep in mind when Digby is ready to read.  It's more hands on, more everyday type of reading instead of the dry, boring phonics rules drill.  I'm not sure I'll explain it correctly as I only had it explained to me last night.  I had read the passage and was thoroughly confused, not to mention freaking out at what appeared to be whole word instead of phonics.  But here is how my friend explained it: You take a sentence (CM recommends a Psalm) and write it down.  You go through all the words and have the child sound it out over and over until they really know it.  Then you cut out the words and rearrange them.  The child sounds out the words in the mixed up order.  Then they have to put it back in the correct order and read it again.  The phonics instruction is there, you just teach them as they come up, not in the regular fashion.

Ok, those are all the subjects we've implemented so far.  They have really eased us back into schooling and I do love how it is stretching his mind and making him think, but it's not so overwhelming that he gives up completely.  Any other Charlotte Mason fans out there?  What do you do?  For those who haven't read Charlotte Mason, what do you think of when you hear "Charlotte Mason" as a homeschooling method?  I know there is much more that I haven't gotten in to yet: habit training, picture study, short lessons, etc.  It's all so very interesting to me.

Megan is the proud mama of Pigby (boy, age 7), Digby (boy, age 3), and Chuck (girl, age 2).  She occasionally blogs over at AndWiththeMorn.blogspot.com.  These are the tales of a first year homeschooler who's trying to figure things out as she goes along.  PS, none of the links are affiliate links.  I'm just a fan of linking so people can understand what it is I'm talking about.

3 comments - Add a comment below -:

Jaelle Kaylor said...

I've always loved the Charlotte Mason method.... and I also bought the 99 cents kindle download... and I'm plugging right along in reading it! I loved your ideas of how to put it all into motion! :)

Desiree said...

This is great, thanks for the motivation to get to know Charlotte Mason method better. I love it, but don't often implement it fully because I just don't know enough about it.

Stephanie said...

I, too, have recently fallen in love with Charlotte Mason! I highly recommend reading "A Charlotte Mason Companion" by Karen Andreola (if you haven't already). It's a great and inspiring hand-book! We're still far from the point where we've implemented all of her great ideas, though. I'm particularly weak on narration, for example! We do tons of reading together, but I somehow never remember to ask questions afterward. I've got to get into that habit. Anyway, God bless you in your C.M./homeschooling journey!