Nature Study- A Time for Wonder

My parents gave me two gifts for which I am deeply grateful. First, they provided me ample access to good books. Second, my mother sent the whole “kit and caboodle,” as she called us, outdoors for long periods of time. I and my four siblings were allowed to roam the woods and fields at will, often only checking back for dinner, then out again for a game of kick-the-can before bath and bed. It was a good way to grow up.

While good books are as available as ever to the enterprising parent….outdoor time is another matter. Family life has changed radically since I grew up and few children have the luxury of roaming without adult supervision.

Nature is good for children

This seems fundamental and hardly necessary to point out. Yet, in recent decades parents have little by little eliminated unstructured outdoor time for their children. They opt instead to carpool to team sports, martial arts classes or other pastimes that do not involve direct experience with nature.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, says that children spend approximately 15 minutes outdoors each week. Louv points to the rise in attention-deficit disorders and suggests that corresponding decrease in outdoor time may be part of the problem.  Why is it so important for children to be outdoors?

Children spend an average of 6.5 hours a day with television, computers and video games.  A child is 6 times more likely to play a video game than ride a bike.

Truly seeing

What is the cure for this epidemic? In a phrase: “Study nature, not books.” The noted naturalist, Louis Agassiz coined this phrase. He wanted children to spend time in nature actually seeing the things at which they looked. Charlotte Mason called this “discriminating observation” (Home Education, p. 49). It is the skill of seeing closely and recalling the details perfectly. What parent would not want such a skill for their child?

Truly seeing in Nature Study results in delightful, sometimes profound discoveries. These discoveries become a lasting part of the child’s makeup.

The goal of Nature Study is careful looking. Albert Einstein said, “All great science begins with a close observation of nature.” Nature Study is one of the keys to a living books education because it develops keen powers of observation. Charlotte Mason taught that time spent in the outdoors is a “balm and a blessing” for children, not only when they are young, but also when they are grown and must deal with the stresses and strains of adult life.

Nature Study also nourishes a capacity for wonder. Rachel Carson, the seminal naturalist who called the nation’s attention to the harm of chemicals to our natural world, said:

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. 

What if I don’t know anything about Nature Study?

A homeschooling mom wrote me:

I realized a fear I have is teaching my children … about nature.  My fear is that I need to outsource this since I do not have a lot of information to teach the children in my brain already. What is your advice? 

Anxious feelings about teaching Nature Study or going outdoors to learn, is very common. In fact, (besides grammar) it’s the most reported fear of homeschooling moms who are learning to use the Charlotte Mason method. Nature Study is really simple. BUT, to say it’s really simple doesn’t help. Most moms don’t have a sense of what it is.

In my studies of the history of the Nature Study Movement in the United States I came across a turn-of-the-century nature study guide, Nature Study by Grades, by Horace Cummings (American Book Company, 1908).

Cumming’s book is very useful and can be easily found on Google books as a download. From it I gleaned four ideas which I have adapted. Applying them faithfully will ensure success with your children.

  1. Begin with what your child is already familiar.
    If a child is very young the world of grass or sand box is the place to start. What is in the grass? Or, under it? What creatures live because of the grass? What are their names and habits? If a somewhat older child already has spent time outdoors, still take the ordinary and learn from it. A child may know what bark is on a tree, but have he really looked and expressed to you the differences in bark? Done a rubbing for his nature journal? Identified the tree according to its bark? Peeled off a slightly older piece and seen the insects growing underneath?
  2. Give abundant observations, few inferences.
     In others words, model for your child how to look and express what you’re seeing by saying something like, “I see the tiny, thin anthers of the ant waving at us” or “I see the brown, rough bark grows up and down in ridges”. Not, “The ant is waving its anthers to sense you.” or “The bark grows in vertical ridges because of the type of capillary action of this tree.” The second type of response makes you the teacher rather than a fellow naturalist on a journey of discovery.
  3. Study a subject under natural conditions.
    If you have a topic you want to study, such as spiders, make sure the richly illustrated library books come out after you have observed the creature in its natural surroundings. The goal is close looking and keen observation. The revelation of a principle at work comes after many “looks”.
  4. Discovery of a principle is strengthened by oral expression.
    Narration, telling back, is the key to memory. When enough experience and impressions are expressed orally, connections are made. Allow your child plenty of time to talk about what he sees or hears or smells. Over time he will be able to discover the principles and that will bring him great joy.

 

Sheila Carroll

Living Books Curriculum Founder

For more on nature study and other tenants of homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way, download your free e-book “Teach Less while Your Child Learns More”.

Four Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Buy Curriculum

Buying curriculum is a commitment of money, time, and resources. It is the biggest decision you will make after deciding to homeschool.

How to buy the right curriculum for your family is often overlooked. When I was homeschooling Bridget, I bought a number of curriculums. Each was not quite right for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it was a matter of the amount of preparation time, or it didn’t suit my daughter’s learning style, or I thought it too low level. There were always reasons.

Here is the rub; it took money, time and resources to discover what I didn’t want. I was often spinning my wheels trying to find the perfect curriculum. After much trial and error I learned I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking questions like: how many hours does it take to do, or, what level is the reading, or, what is their refund policy.

Now, as a seasoned homeschooler, I see the problem was I had not yet formed my own philosophy of education. If you want to make sure you get the maximum value from homeschooling, you need a philosophy of education. If you think you just reading a book on home educating is enough—it isn’t. You will need to drill down and ask: How does this curriculum align with my own deeply held values about learning, the child, the purpose of education, and my worldview?

I have developed the following four questions aimed at helping you develop your personal view of education and to get a curriculum that meets your needs. Likely there are more than four questions to ask but these cover the foundational issues.

You will note I offer Charlotte Mason’s views as the better part of the answer to challenges facing a homeschool family. I can think of no beter philosophy of education than hers, but you must decide for yourself.

  1. What is their view of the child?

There are two views of children in education; others are variations on these two. The first sees the child as a product of his environment. I call it the “child as bucket” approach, from the quote by W.B. Yeats:

 Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.

In this view the child is a tabula rasa (blank slate) on which to write or a bucket to fill. Put another way, the child is born with no built-in mental content, in a word, “blank.” His fund of knowledge is built up gradually through delivery of information via the educational process. In this view, content from the academic disciplines is divided into twelve parts called grades. Each grade is added to the bucket. At the end of twelve years, ideally, the bucket is full and the child is finished with basic education.

You can see this view in operation when doing worksheets. Complete all the answers correctly and you have added a little bit more to your bucket. The problem with this view is that most workbooks ask you to memorize facts which are usually out of context. The facts go into short-term memory and are retained long enough to “get the grade” and seldom longer.

The second view is “the child as person.” In this view the child is seen as coming into the world complete and full of endless possibilities. Your duty as parent is to respect the personality of the child and call forth the inborn possibilities. This view is central to the teachings of Charlotte Mason. Just as viewing the “child as bucket” affects every aspect of learning, so too the “child as person” changes everything.

Children become adults through the process of taking up knowledge that is proper to them through the effort of self-will. What they lack is not maturity but guidance, nurture, and opportunity. Your role as their teacher is to provide those things. How is this done? Miss Mason in her twenty principles made it clear: We are limited to three educational instruments—the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.

Miss Mason was the quintessential homeschooling mother even though she had no children herself. She saw the home as the natural environment for the child.  Rather than an artificial classroom with a great deal of glitzy teaching aides, she felt a child thrived on a few, high quality books, time in the out of doors and “hands-on” learning. When she spoke of “education as an atmosphere” she meant that a child not only learns from book but in an environment where his learning is

  1. What do they see as the purpose of education?

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (it’s where principals and superintendants hang out) wrote recently:

For years educators based the purpose of education on the definition by John Dewey—that the general purpose of school is to transfer knowledge and prepare young people to participate in America’s democratic society.” But, says Carter, that definition is insular and inadequate in the 21st century. Instead he’d rather that “purpose of schools must be preparing children to compete in the global environment.”

This definition of the purpose of education shows what is called a utilitarian view. Education is to make sure your child can compete in the global community. Many homeschool curriculums subscribe to this idea and focus on “skill building.”

The other view of education is that the learning prepares a child for a full, ample life. Charlotte Mason, in School Education, said it this way:

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?

  1. What worldview do they promote with their materials?

A “worldview” refers to a comprehensive conception of the world from a specific standpoint. A “Christian worldview,” then, is a comprehensive conception of the world from a Christian standpoint. Usually the worldview answers three big questions: Who are we, where did we come from, and where are we going?

A person’s worldview is his “big picture,” a harmony of all his beliefs about the world. It is her way of understanding reality. One’s worldview is the basis for making day-to-day decisions and is therefore extremely important.

Many homeschool curriculums call themselves “Christian” meaning they have books that explicatively teach biblical concepts. That is not a Christian curriculum; it is a secular curriculum which adds in Christian content. Often the curriculum is a mix of worldviews.

A Christian worldview will answer the question of who are we, where did we come from and where are we going as a story of Creation, Redemption, and Return. The company’s view should be apparent in the book choices. The books do not have to have religious sounding titles…actually that should steer you off. The books should be high-quality classic works, for the most part.

Charlotte Mason’s idea is that all knowledge comes from God, whether it is labeled secular or religious. It is also a matter of how the books are presented. That’s where the scope and sequence comes in. Have a look. Does history begin with Creation? Do the biographies include moral people who may or may not be Christian but are present in the curriculum because they support an idea such as God’s hatred of slavery? Generally, book choices should be made based on whether they are “living” and nourish the mind, regardless of whether they use Christian terminology.

  1. What do they see as the best way to learn?

Learning is not the same as remembering. They are closely linked—but they are not the same thing. A person can recall facts of a topic, but that doesn’t mean he have learned it. True he possesses something; but how far can these facts take him? Can he create a new thought with the facts, assess the truth of them, or generalize to grasp underlying principles?

Memorizing facts is a relatively low-level of learning and there is little real thinking going on. Yet this is primary activity in a workbook/ textbook education.  In a Charlotte Mason education children are always working towards higher levels of the thought, yet at the same time are making regular use of memory.

One helpful way to understand differing types and levels of thinking is to look at Bloom’s Taxonomy of Thought. Benjamin Bloom and several colleagues studied learning and identified six types of thought that go from the simplest to the most complex. The categories can be thought of as degrees of difficulties. That is, the first one must be mastered before the next one can take place: Here the six levels with action verbs to describe them:

  1. Knowledge—name, list, define, copy
  2. Comprehension—associate, compare, distinguish, extend
  3. Application—apply, classify, change, illustrate, solve, demonstrate, calculate
  4. Analysis—analyze, arrange, connect, divide, infer
  5. Synthesis—combine, compose, generalize, modify, invent, create, integrate
  6. Evaluation—assess, decide, discriminate, measure, rank, conclude, judge

Levels 1 to 3 are called “lower-level thinking” and Levels 4 to 6 are called “higher-level thinking”. Because typical education must be able to measure results in quantitative terms, using standardized tests, the first three levels are used almost exclusively. A child earning an A or 100% at the first three levels has demonstrated that they can recall and use facts.

A child who can create an original work from the facts or assess the truth or worth of the facts is said to use “higher-level thinking skills”. Because it is difficult to quantitatively measure higher-level thinking skills, they are often ignored in the workbook/textbook method.

How can a homeschooling parent move their child from the lower three levels to the upper three of thinking? The most effective means is narration. Again, Charlotte Mason shows us the way.

Narration is retelling in one’s own words what has been read (either aloud or silently). It is a natural way to demonstrate and organize learning, and it uses all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

 “Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting…it is there in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the process of disciplinary education.” (Home Education, p. 231)

Charlotte Mason’s idea of narration as a tool for self-education and assessment is far broader in intent than mere “parroting back” of information. Narration involves really attending to the reading and restating it in one’s own words. Children are capable of absorbing and recalling an enormous amount of information, as long as it is in context. This is the key to learning. Give a child great literature and the ideas he takes up will be great and, it follows, that the narration of these ideas will be of equal quality.

If you would like to read more that will give you insight into developing a philosophy of education for yourself, I recommend Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake and John Gatto’s  Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.

We the Government…oh wait, that’s not how it goes?

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect
Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the
common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and
establish this Constitution for the United States of America…

This, the preamble to the foundation for the judicial system of our country, is perhaps the least understood document in the entire United States of America.

Whether we agree or disagree with the current administration, previous administration, or even the founding fathers, it is imperative that our children have an understanding of the intentions of those who made the United States an organized country.

Employing critical thinking and creating informed solutions to improve the future of the country can only be achieved through study and understanding of the founding documents and how they have (or perhaps have not!) been applied throughout history and in the current time.

Constitution day is Sunday, September 17th (Observed, Monday, September 18th). Grab your free holiday helper with poems, pictures, copywork quotes, and other resources to dive back into history and sit with the founding fathers for a day (or more!).

Finding the Calm Amidst the Chaos

Do you need a calm place to rest amidst the chaos?

Posted by Living Books Curriculum on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How are you?


Like really, seriously, how are you?

Not the “Oh I’m fine, just a little busy” kind of how are you.

 
But the warm, firm handshake with a knowing look into your eyes, "how are you?"


There’s a lot going on in the world right now- hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes - and that’s just what’s making the news.


As I watched the weather reports, viral pictures of feet of standing water inside homes and nursing facilities, and updates from friends roll in, I felt helpless seeing friends, family, and strangers go through heartbreaking tragedies.


What can I, a Michigan born and raised girl with no experience with virtually any kind of inclement weather do to help?
 

I’m too far north for offering a place for evacuees to be remotely practical. With small children at home I can’t exactly up and travel down to help with reconstruction efforts- and that really isn’t my skill set anyway.



But then I began to think- maybe I do have something to offer. I started to hear of homeschooling families who were feeling lost in the midst of the heartbreak surrounding them. I saw families who lost all of their worldly possessions- book collections included.


Whatever you’re going through, I want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay.

 
Life on this earth is hard sometimes, and it’s okay to take the time to sit in the mud and grieve that a little bit.


Maybe you’re not even in the area affected by the hurricanes- but your family has been going through your own personal tragedy. Perhaps you’ve lost a loved one, been laid off from a job, or just been so busy all going your separate directions that your family feels scattered and lost from one another right now.


I would like to extend an invitation to you for The Calm After the Storm bundle.


I wish I could wave a magic wand and wipe away all the tragedy in the world.


But until I get that magic wand- this is my way of saying “I see you. You matter. Your family is worth fighting for and you’re going to get through this."


The best way I know to all come together in the face of tragedy- no matter what it is- is over a good story.

If your family needs something to bring you all together right now, whether that’s because you’ve lost your books to flooding, your child’s school has shut down, or life has taken some unexpected turns and you’re just overwhelmed- please, take this package as a free gift. All I ask is that you use it together as a family to take a few minutes each day to read a book, listen to a folktale, or enjoy a poem with one another.

You don’t have to tell me what you’re going through or submit an application-I trust that this message will reach the right people and they will be blessed by it.


My prayer is that this brings you some small ray of encouragement through the darkness and helps your family to draw together for a few moments to enjoy something lighthearted and be strengthened to go on.

 
What’s included in the Calm After the Storm digital package:


Folktales to Read And Listen Together


The Nightingale

Why the Sea is Salty

Pied Piper

The Princess and the Pea

Jack and the Bean Stalk

 

Books to Read Together


David Copperfield

Little Women

The Boys and Girls Plutarch

Pilgrim's Progress

Just David

 


Stories to Read Together


The Tale of Solomon Owl

Stories of Courage and Heroism

Would Be Goods

 



Stories to Listen Together


The Extraordinary Cat and other Stories

The Would Be Goods

 

Poetry

Mother Goose

Five Poems Every Child Should Know

 

Four “Firsts” That Will Make You Ditch The Textbooks for Good

Karen, a homeschooling mother, called me in tears, “I can’t seem to get school done in a day. We start at nine and are still working at three or four in the afternoon, with only a break for lunch. I make the kids stay until their worksheets are done. They hate school and I am worn out. What can I do?”

This mother was doing her utmost to give her children a quality education but she didn’t see joy in
learning. I asked her why she chose to use workbooks and textbooks for her homeschool curriculum. “It’s what I used in public school. Isn’t that what you do when you homeschool—bring school home?”

“No,” I said, “Your home is a garden of learning and your children are tender plants. You must give them what they need to grow.”

“How do I do that?” she asked.

“Well, there are four “firsts” that when you have mastered these you will be well on your way to joyful
learning.”

1. The Child as Person
The first “first” is to see your children as persons. There are usually two views of children in education; others are variations on these two. The first sees the child as a product of his environment. I call it the “child as bucket” approach, from the quote by W.B. Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire”

In this view the child is a tabula rasa (blank slate) on which to write or a bucket to fill. Put another way, the child is born with no built-in mental content, in a word, “blank”. His fund of knowledge is built up gradually through delivery of information via the educational process. In this view, content from the academic disciplines is divided into twelve parts called grades. Each grade is added to the bucket. At the end of twelve years, ideally, the bucket is full and the child is finished with basic education.

You can see this view in operation when doing worksheets. Complete all the answers correctly and you have added a little bit more to your bucket. The problem with this view is that most workbooks ask you to memorize facts which are usually out of context. The facts go into short-term memory and are retained long enough to “get the grade” and seldom longer.

The second view is “the child as person”. In this view the child seen as coming into the world complete and full of endless possibilities. Your duty as parent is to respect the personality of the child and call forth the inborn possibilities. This view is central to the teachings of Charlotte Mason. Just as viewing the “child as bucket” affects every aspect of learning, so too the “child as person” changes everything. Children become adults through the process of taking up knowledge that is proper to them through the effort of self-will. What they lack is not maturity but guidance, nurture, and opportunity. Your role as their teacher is to provide those things.

How is this done? Miss Mason in her twenty principles made it clear:
We are limited to three educational instruments—the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.

Miss Mason was the quintessential homeschooling mother even though she had no children herself. She saw the home as the natural environment for the child. Rather than an artificial classroom with a great deal of glitzy teaching aides, she felt a child thrived on a few, high quality books, time in the out of doors and “hands-on” learning. When she spoke of “education as an atmosphere” she meant that a child not only learns from book but in an environment where his learning is.

2. Whole Books
The second “first”….you must use whole books, not adaptation or summaries.
“Even for their earliest reading lessons, it is unnecessary to put twaddle into the hands of children.” (Home Education, p. 186)

Most textbooks have short descriptions of a topic, which is then broken down into subtopics. Literature textbooks are usually adaptations or excerpts of classics. Miss Mason termed these, “dumbed-down” texts. The publishers were attempting to create a book that could be used by students of every level of ability. The only way to produce a text for all is to lower the level of material to the lowest common denominator. This is commonplace today.

A textbook publisher expressed his dismay at the continuing decline of the quality of textbooks: “In the past few years, the demand for dumbed-down books has increased because many schools have abandoned the strategy of grouping students according to their abilities. Instead, these schools indiscriminately mix together, in the same courses and the same classrooms, students who vary widely in their talents, intellectual capacities, goals, and states of preparation.” (William J. Bennetta, The Textbook Letter, May-June 1997)

In sharp contrast, Miss Mason recommended using only high-quality literature which she called “living books”. Living books are books by a single author who has a passion for his subject and has written compellingly and expressively. A living book should be not only enjoyable to read, but challenging and memorable for the listener or reader.

Why is it important to give children good books? Because, they are good! By reading great literature, children enter into a common understanding of what it means to be human. Without this body of literature they remain limited in their knowledge to only what is within their immediate surroundings. Great literature illustrates the basic principles of life and shows how one’s own culture fits into a larger scheme. Great literature fosters creative thinking, and provides models of thinking, feeling, and acting that are in accordance with the best of human nature.

3. Learning Is More than Remembering
The third “first” is to understand the difference between learning and memory. A common misconception is that learning is the same as memory. They are closely linked—but they are not the same thing. A person can recall facts of a topic, but that doesn‟t mean he have learned it. True he possesses something; but how far can these facts take him? Can he create a new thought with the facts, assess the truth of them, or generalize to grasp underlying principles? Memorizing facts is a relatively low-level of learning and there is little real thinking going on. Yet this is primary activity in a workbook/ textbook education. In a Charlotte Mason education children are always working towards higher levels of the thought, yet at the same time are making regular use of memory.

One helpful way to understand differing types and levels of thinking is to look at Bloom’s Taxonomy of Thought. Benjamin Bloom and several colleagues studied learning and identified six types of thought that go from the simplest to the most complex. The categories can be thought of as degrees of difficulties. That is, the first one must be mastered before the next one can take place: Here the six levels with action verbs to describe them:
1. Knowledge—name, list, define, copy
2. Comprehension—associate, compare, distinguish, extend
3. Application—apply, classify, change, illustrate, solve, demonstrate, calculate
4. Analysis—analyze, arrange, connect, divide, infer
5. Synthesis—combine, compose, generalize, modify, invent, create, integrate
6. Evaluation—assess, decide, discriminate, measure, rank, conclude, judge

Levels 1 to 3 are called “lower-level thinking” and Levels 4 to 6 are called “higher-level thinking”. Because typical education must be able to measure results in quantitative terms, using standardized tests, the first three levels are used almost exclusively. A child earning an A or 100% at the first three levels has demonstrated that they can recall and use facts.

A child who can create an original work from the facts or assess the truth or worth of the facts is said to use “higher-level thinking skills”. Because it is difficult to quantitatively measure higher-level thinking skills, they are often ignored in the workbook/textbook method.

How can a homeschooling parent move their child from the lower three levels to the upper three of thinking? The most effective means is narration. Again, Charlotte Mason shows us the way. Narration is retelling in one’s own words what has been read (either aloud or silently). It is a natural way to demonstrate and organize learning, and it uses all levels of Bloom‟s Taxonomy.

“Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting…it is there in every child‟s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the process of disciplinary education.” (Home Education, p. 231)

Charlotte Mason‟s idea of narration as a tool for self-education and assessment is far broader in intent than mere “parroting back” of information. Narration involves really attending to the reading and restating it in one‟s own words. Children are capable of absorbing and recalling an enormous amount of information, as long as it is in context. This is the key to learning. Give a child great literature and the ideas he takes up will be great and, it follows, that the narration of these ideas will be of equal quality..

4. Habit Formation Is Essential

The fourth “first” is to put at your disposal one of the most powerful tools of education—the formation of good habits. If the child is given dumb-down textbooks and worksheets,he quickly learns to either dawdle or get done as quickly as possible. Neither one is desirable and neither one taps into those all important higher levels of thought. With “the child as person” view, we understand that the child will need guidance and nurture to know how to consistently take up knowledge.

This is habit formation:
“Habit is ten natures…We all know how the physical effort of smiling affects ourselves in our sour
moods…Both (soul and body) are at our service in laying down the rails, so to speak, upon which
the good life must needs run.” (Philosophy of Education, p. 100)

Miss Mason’s point is that the power of habit is greater than the power of our own natures. This principle, if rightly understood, is the most powerful of her ideas. A workbook/textbook education does not teach habits per se, because is assumed that habit formation is not the work of education. Charlotte Mason education sees habit formation as the key to a full, rich life.

The formation of habit affects the educational process in every way. For example, if we teach a child through repeated action to attend to our words, after a time he will do it without effort. The child has harnessed his will to attend when you speak. The opposite is also true. We can actually teach children to be inattentive by doing things that reinforce the behavior, for example, over-long lessons, inappropriate learning materials, or too many of the same kinds of lessons.

Neuroscience indicates that repeated actions of the body or the mind, whether good or ill, produce a physiological effect on the nervous system and the brain. There is literally a new “neural pathway” formed in the brain to accommodate the new habit. So, it becomes easier to do the thing for which there is a pathway (rail) laid down in the brain.

Often parents impose their will on a child to make him do what they want, thinking this is habit formation.This teaches the child to bend to the parent’s will, but it does not give the child practice in the exercise of his own will to do what is right.

The formation of good, effectual habits in the life of a child is accomplished by patience, tact and watchfulness. Some of the educational habits to be desired are: careful thinking, imagining, obedience, physical training, sweet thoughts, finishing, being of use, attending closely to what is said, and excellence.

To begin a new habit, you must determine first if you possess that trait. Are you a good example of the habit you want to instill? If not, then this must be accomplished first. Once ready, the parent discusses with the child what is expected. It is not presented harshly or in an authoritarian tone, but rather with a sense of expectation that what you say will be done. Then, you must watch over the seed you have planted to gently remind the child what is the thing to be done. Always speak with a sense of anticipation that the thing will be done. Approaching it this way makes you the child’s ally rather than his adversary.

Four Reasons and More…

Karen began to apply the four “firsts” and little by little she saw her children‟s smiles return. Now they eagerly ask for their school books to be read to them. Karen is one of many moms who know in their heart that there is more to homeschooling than bringing school home. And there is. Your view of the child as a person, whole books, understanding learning and habit formation are four reasons why Charlotte Mason’s methods give your child a far better education than using workbooks or textbooks.

But, there’s more. Read the free e-book “Teach Less While Your Child Learns More”. It is a treasure-trove of insight into children and learning. Begin to use the methods in your homeschool. See for yourself how they transform learning. You‟ll be glad you did.

 


Sheila Carroll
Living Books Curriculum
Previously published in LINK Homeschool Magazine, February 2009.

Electronics in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool?!?!

 

I know you think about all the electronics, television, cell phones, and video games being thrown at our kids these days and get a sinking feeling in your stomach.

It’s everywhere. There is no escaping electronics in the digital age we live in.

The messages are coming at us from all sides – “NEVER ever ever let your children watch television or play video games- they’ll turn into violent serial killers” …..”Videos are now vital to education, you can’t teach without them”…and on and on it goes until our heads spin.

We get asked frequently about what place digital media has in a Charlotte Mason education.

Since the height of her work was in the late 1800s and early 1900s, it’s not a topic that CM addressed directly herself of course.

But it’s a huge part of everyday life in the 21st Century. And in this digital age, the reality is, our children WILL come into contact with digital media.

In fact, the vast majority of our children are going to spend a lot of time working on computers, phones, or tablets, regardless of what industry they end up in as adults. We would do them a disservice by not incorporating these things into their education.

BUT, as their guides in the educational process, it is important that we model good use of electronics and set them up to make informed choices about the amount and type of digital content they consume.

That’s really one of the foundational purposes of Charlotte Mason education- to prepare the child to be a critical thinker who investigates and learns for himself in all settings.

 

Here are 4 tips for managing electronics in a CM education:

  1.       The YOUNGER the child, the LESS digital media.

Young children’s brains are still developing and screen time can literally interrupt the forming of neurological pathways.

The work of childhood is discovery and imagination.

Watching videos robs the child of this ability to imagine the scene for himself as he does when listening to a book being read aloud or reading one for himself.

If the young child becomes accustomed to having the scenes played out for him, it is much more difficult to interest him in books later as he has not developed the skill of imagining a scene for himself.

 

  1.       Digital media MUST SUPPLEMENT, not replace, your core materials.

Literature, art, nature, and music are still your primary teachers.

Similarly to the young child who never learns to imagine scenes for himself, the child who has their core materials replaced with digital media will soon lose the skill of imagination as the “muscle” of the brain is not exercised.

 

  1.       Use high-quality digital media.

The same criteria for choosing living books also applies to choosing videos, games, or other digital learning tools.

 

Look for things like documentaries or observations of real-live animals, nature, or events versus pre-packaged “lessons” artificially engineered to teach a specific topic for children.

 

Movies with high level graphics or music that leave the viewer open to interpret meanings, morals, and lessons for themselves are also good choices for the occasional relaxing family night.

 

  1.       Remain involved.

Having active discussions with your child during the use of digital media mitigates many of the negative side effects of the screen time.

If there is high-quality music involved, sing the songs together!

Watching a documentary or biography? Split it up over multiple days and have the kids narrate after each section.

 

Electronics are everywhere! But, we don’t have to fear them. They do have a place in your child’s education.

Follow the four simple tips:

  1. The younger the child, the less digital media
  2. Digital media must supplement, not replace, your core materials
  3. Use high-quality digital media
  4. Remain involved

 

This will ensure that you are modeling good use of electronics and setting your child up to make informed choices about the amount and types of media they consume in the future.

 

Eager to learn more about Charlotte Mason and the Digital Age?

Join us LIVE August 12th 2017 for A Day of Charlotte Mason

 

Early registration is open now just for you!

We also want to offer you amazing bonuses including a private Facebook community just for this event. But there is only space for 100 individuals in the bonuses so make sure you register today. Registration is now open to the public.

There will be a keynote address, 6 workshop options, and a Q & A session during which we:

  • Break down all the little details of a Charlotte Mason Education so that you can clearly see which parts of your homeschool are out of alignment AND how to get them connected back together
  • Have plenty of Q & A time to make sure you go back confident knowing exactly how to apply the techniques to your specific situation
  • Fellowship with other CMers to plug into a community of support

Potential topics include:

  •         Charlotte Mason and the Digital Age
  •         Music- The Glue of Your Child’s Learning and Growth
  •         Charlotte Mason Homeschooling and Your Parenting Style
  •         Assessment
  •         Nature Study
  •         Writing/Narration
  •         Charlotte Mason High School
  •         Charlotte Mason Preschool

 

BONUSES for early bird registration! Only available for the first 45 registrants.

–          Register to attend live and get the recordings FREE

–          Access to private Facebook community

$35 for individual or $45 per couple

Limited Childcare Available. Reply to this email to save a spot for your child.

 

We want to include our long-distance friends too!

Pre-register to receive all 6 workshops and the keynote address recordings for $30

BONUS:

Access to private Facebook community- ONLY for the first 55 registrants!

  • Network with other CMers
  • Submit questions you want to see answered in the workshops
  • Ask follow-up questions and re-create the live experience with a Q & A thread for each session where you get to post your top Q about the topic and we’ll reply with a video addressing it just for you.

 

Click here to secure your spot for this event and bonuses.

 

Three Ways to Sloooow Down and Enjoy Christmas

This christmas-logopost is an old favorite of mine. I wrote it some years ago when I was a mother of a young one and desperately needed to find a way to sloooow down. Enjoy….Sheila Carroll

Secret #1

Call off homeschool for the Christmas season. 

You are probably saying, “What! That will put me behind in our school work.” Years ago, my homeschooling mentor told me that she suspended regular homeschooling for the weeks leading up to Christmas. Instead she had the learning relate to Christmas-stories, math, crafts, cooking, writing and so on. I tried it. Instead of stress and burnout, it was fun and real learning was taking place. You might want to try it?

Secret #2

Read Christmas stories together every day

Another question which shows up this time of year is ‘How can I slow down the Christmas rush?’ The answer is: By reading high quality Christmas stories together. Sound too simple?

We started a family tradition of reading a Christmas story each day for the seven days before Christmas. It was a big hit. At the time my daughter was in her early teens and not willing to listen to “baby stories”. I scoured the Internet and library and found a wonderful selection. Just the commitment to sit together 15-20 minutes a day to read these special stories made our pulses slow and the smiles come back.

I put them into a notebook for future Christmases. The Christmas Holiday Helper will be coming your way in a day or two. In it are some of the same stories my family enjoyed. Be blessed and love one another the more this holy season.

Secret #3

Enjoy the Christmas story in great art

Children need the images of Christ’s birth etched in their hearts. What better way to do it than through the art of the masters. Charlotte Mason expressed this idea very eloquently:

The study of such pictures (are) a valuable part of a child’s education; it is no slight thing to realize how the Nativity and the visit of the Wise Men filled the imagination of the early Masters, and with what exceeding reverence and delight they dwelt upon every detail of the sacred story. This sort of impression is not to be had from any up-to-date treatment, or up-to-date illustrations; and the child who gets it in early days, will have a substratum of reverent feeling upon which should rest his faith. But it is well to let the pictures tell their own tale. The children should study a subject quietly for a few minutes; and then, the picture being removed, say what they have seen in it. It will be found that they miss no little reverent or suggestive detail which the artist has thought well to include.

~From Home Education, pp. 245-253

Studying these wonderful pictures with your children should not be a burden or an art lesson. Simply look at the pictures together and let the children tell you what they see. Do not interpret for them. Let the children encounter the pictures on their own and let the Holy Spirit speak to them through the images.

There are several excellent sources online for art. One I especially like is Art and the Bible (http://www.artbible.info ). Once on the site, type “Nativity” or “Birth of Christ” in the search box and you will find many examples of great art.

Will the real Thanksgiving please stand?

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our bounty in life. Right? Yes, but that is not the real reason we celebrate Thanksgiving.

Okay, then, Thanksgiving is a time to have reenactments of the Pilgrims like at the first thanksgiving in Plymouth Colony in 1621. Right?

Actually, no, the harvest festival of the Pilgrims was in gratitude for the less than fifty-percent who survived the first winter in a new land. Those who survived did so chiefly because of the compassion of the Native-Americans. But, that is not why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

thanksgivingIt most definitely was not the reason for our current holiday. (See the end of the article for my free Thanksgiving Holiday Helper.)

Okay, okay, Thanksgiving was a holiday started after some war, probably World War One or Two. Right? Almost right. It was a war, our first as a nation.

On October 11, 1782, mere months before the end of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation for a day of giving thanks. The Congress expressed in their document that they were mindful of God’s hand on their behalf in the war of independence from monarchical rule. The establishment of a nation of self-ruled individuals was, indeed, cause for gratitude.

The Congress chose November 28, 1782 as the date. Congress recommended that all thirteen states give thanks on this day for the creation of the new nation and for God’s hand in it. Further, they stated that all pray, give cheerful obedience to His laws and practice true religion. True religion in Biblical terms is care of widows, orphans and to keep oneself pure from evil practices.

The proclamation read in part: We do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies.

In those earlier times, states had far more independence than now. This proclamation was not binding on all states. As a result not all celebrated and of those that did, some celebrated on a day other than November 28. New York was the first state to make Thanksgiving a legal holiday (1817).

By the Civil War most states celebrated Thanksgiving a state holiday. But, remember, this was still an occasion to give thanks to God for His provision, mercy and guidance–not to celebrate the harvest feast of the Pilgrims. Abraham Lincoln issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863 that there should be a national day on the last Thursday in November. He issued this proclamation after three and one-half years of bloodshed and sorrow. His proclamation was all the more touching in that he spoke of the loss and pain, then said, “Notwithstanding…” and went on to declare God’s presence and care in the midst of suffering.

Since that day each sitting president has issued a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would be on the third Thursday in November. In 1941 Congress approved that declaration.   In 2007, President George Bush issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation referring back to the original one issued by the Continental Congress in 1782: Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace.

What should you be grateful for this Thanksgiving? Consider this: God has preserved us as a nation for over 230 years, in spite of wars, depression, disease, dissent and difficulty. What a good and gracious God.

I wish you a truly grateful Thanksgiving.

Want help to homeschool at Thanksgiving in a meaningful way? Get my free Thanksgiving Holiday Helper by clicking the link. Download Your PDF Now >>

What Is the Real Cost of Homeschooling?

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Depending on how you look at it, homeschooling is cheap — or expensive.

Let’s say you spend $500 per child per year. When you compare that with the public school system which spends $5000-8000 per child each year, that’s cheap.

But, if you are a one-income family, as most homeschooling families are, and you have 3-5 children that might seem expensive.

Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund says:

The average cost per student in the public school is $6,000 per year. What does it cost to homeschool a student? In 1996 national survey found that the average family spent $546 to homeschool their child…principally for curriculum materials…homeschoolers save U.S. taxpayers about 7.5 million dollars per year.

One of the delights of a Charlotte Mason education is the cost.
The homeschooling family buys high quality literature that become part of the family library. They have a long-term relationship with the books, rather than a textbook or workbook that will be tossed out or sold at the next curriculum sale. The cost can be quite low.

In contrast, another author on the topic of the cost of homeschooling argued that parents must make sure their child can compete with public school children:

The actual cost of educating a child at home is surprisingly high. Up-to-date textbooks, course materials, a library, computing equipment, lighting, specially designed furniture all cost money.

Specially designed furniture? Up-to-date textbooks? Nothing could be further from the tenets of a Charlotte Mason education. The furniture of the home is the best possible for a child. Of course, the table may have to be adapted for writing, but a large dictionary works just fine.

“Up-to-date” textbooks are not what they seem. They are generally acknowledged to be dumbed down to in order appeal to the lowest common denominator. William J. Bennetta, author of the Textbook Letter, says:

Of course, schoolbook companies can’t promote these books by saying outright that the books are aimed at backward students and dullards, so some companies have taken to using a code-phrase. The phrase is all students, as in “This is a book for all students.” Knowing that all students means the least capable and worst-prepared students.

So if you don’t buy into glitzy textbooks and workbooks, the cost can be quite modest.

The Real Cost of a Charlotte Mason Homeschool

Where does this leave us regarding the cost of homeschooling? Right where we should be, if we faithfully follow Miss Mason’s methods. A CM homeschool should have a few math books, penmanship and copy books, perhaps a science or language book for the later grades, paper and pencil, craft supplies, lots of inspiring art and music. The rest should be captivating, well-written, well-told books that delight and refresh.

Living Books Curriculum strives to provide such books. In fact, our curriculum packages usually contain at least 40 books–all carefully chosen. The cost of our curriculum, which includes all standard academic subjects (except math), is less than $2 a day. The literature becomes part of a family’s permanent collection, and the sharing of music, poetry, art and nature study build family closeness that lasts a lifetime.

What is the real cost of a Charlotte Mason education? Priceless.

A Little Charlotte Mason…Does It Work?

A mother wrote me the following: ” We use unit studies along with a little Charlotte Mason and classical. Which grade level do you charlottemason-yatessuggest when choosing your curriculum?”

Another, on a well-known forum said, “I use living books, we go on nature walks and I have my children narrate–aren’t I pretty much already doing a Charlotte Mason education?”

For all our dear readers, please know that adding any component of a Charlotte Mason education will enhance the learning experience of your children, especially high quality literature and narration.

However, and this is a BIG however….

Unless you are in agreement with the 20 Principles and apply them to the best of your ability, you won’t get the kind of results seen in Miss Mason’s students. A Charlotte Mason education is one that fully embraces the principles as detailed in her books.

Charlotte Mason wrote in A Philosophy of Education:

The reader will say with truth,–‘I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles’; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering, not ‘more or less,’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of millions of lives has resulted from the adoption of the great surgeon’s antiseptic treatment; that is, from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied, for the rather casual ‘more or less’ methods of earlier days.

If you would like to see greater breadth and depth in your child’s learning, then consider giving CM a full year’s trial without mixing it together with other methods. You will never regret it. I promise.