Month: November 2017

Bringing our own religious beliefs into a Charlotte Mason education can present a challenge, simply because there is no pre-made format for us to use.  As Heathens (Germanic Pagans) we are not “people of the book”, so while Charlotte Mason used the Bible from the time the children first started “school”, we don’t have a similar book to use.

You could argue that the Prose and Poetic Eddas fill that gap, but the Eddas were not written as a “holy book”.  Nor were they ever considered “divinely inspired.”  This is an older but good short article about why we shouldn’t use the Lore as religious documents.

While I do plan to introduce my little one to these books, it will be when she’s a teenager, not when she’s 6 years old.

What can we use then?

Stories about our culture.  Stories about our Gods.  Traditional fairy tales and fables.  All of these can contribute to developing the worldview that we are looking for.  In future posts, I’ll add resources for stories about our culture and traditional fairy tales.

Let’s start with stories about our Gods.

Mythology books — stories about our Gods

Heathen mythology - Edda

D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths

D’Aulaire’s is more colorful but the stories are written to children. This makes them accessible but also sanitized. There is also a very subtle Christian influence, particularly at the end where the Gods are replaced by the One God, and also the same subtle thread of women being inferior to men. (“it was so important that even the goddesses were invited”) Be aware of it so you can contradict it or edit on the fly.

Even with these issues, this is the book that we are currently using with our 6 year old.   She enjoys the colorful pictures.  I’ll be honest though — I much prefer the illustrations in D’Aulaire’s Greek Mythology to the ones in Norse Myths.  The illustrations in this book seem more harsh, not as pleasant.  The short episodes are the perfect length for early elementary.

The Heroes of Asgard by  Kearny and Keary

This is used in the PNEU programmes from the 1920s and 1930s.  It is a wonderful introduction to heathen mythology - heroes of asgardNorse/Germanic mythology written in a literary manner.  The only copies I’ve found on Amazon are either “facsimile” or CreateSpace, and the quality of these are always hit and miss.  It is on Project Gutenberg.  

It’s used in Form IIB, which is approximately 9-10 years old.  You could probably use it with a younger child, but don’t be surprised if you need to wait a bit with a much younger one.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s book is enchanting but without illustrations. The mythology is accurate, the stories delightful. There is a passing reference to lovemaking but nothing graphic. Struggling students will prefer D’Aulaires; more confident or older students may well enjoy Gaiman better.

This is one you’ll want to read aloud for the younger set, perhaps all the way through elementary.  I’ve heard such good reviews of this book from parents, though, that I’d not hesitate to make it a family read-aloud.

Nordic Gods and Heroes by Padraic Colum

While I haven’t read this particular book, I am familiar with other works by Padraic Colum.  They are on a level midway between D’Aulaire’s and Gaiman.    My copies of his other works don’t have pictures.  This may be dependent on the particular edition, but it’s something to consider if you have younger children.

In the Days of Giants by Abbie Brown (various printings, some abridged)

Imythology book ‘ve recently learned of this book, and it’s one that definitely has promise.  On Amazon, I found one that’s self-published.  The reviews say that it is significantly abridged, so something to be aware of.  You can read the original at Project Gutenberg to compare.

I’ve only briefly looked at this, but it seems to be on a similar level as The Heroes of Asgard.

The Takeaway

There you have it — 5 books of Norse/Germanic mythology to use in your homeschool.  It’s a great way to familiarize your children with the Gods.  If you are new to them, they are all a pleasant way to familiarize yourself, too.

You could stack these end to end in your child’s education, perhaps starting with D’Aulaire’s and ending with Gaiman’s.  Hearing the stories from several different stories is never a bad thing.  It can teach children how people read the same thing but interpret it differently.

Or you could choose one of these books and simply read through it multiple times over several years, letting the stories sink deeply into your child’s psyche.

Do you have a favorite Germanic or Norse mythology book that isn’t on this list?  I’d love to hear more suggestions!

I’ve lost my rhythm.

It stinks.

Not my music rhythm, though I haven’t been singing much lately, either.

No, this is my daily rhythm.  The one that keeps the household running smoothly, time spent with my daughter and husband, and our Charlotte Mason lifestyle moving forward.

I’ve lapsed into the TV trap and my house is a mess.

There are reasons behind the fall — I broke my right (dominant) wrist a month ago and had to have surgery on it, my husband has been unemployed for most of the year and so is home all day, I’ve been working hard on finishing Wildwood Curriculum Form II, and I’m developing a preschool guide to Charlotte Mason from a secular/inclusive viewpoint.

Any one of these things would throw my routine out of balance, and added all together everything blew apart.

Why am I writing about this here?  Because this blog isn’t just about Charlotte Mason methods, but about our lifestyle.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Because I know that you’ve had times, maybe months or even years, when you’ve struggled with rhythm, with getting things done and still maintaining a reasonable level of cleanliness, getting meals on the table, and feeling like you have things under control.

We’re going to identify, brainstorm, and implement solutions.  I’m going to walk through what I’m doing in the hopes that it can help you, too, dear reader.

First, identify the problem areas.

I’m doing good on getting breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table at consistent times, having a decent bedtime for all of us, and keeping laundry under control.  Though they could be better, they aren’t big issues for me right now.  My biggest problem areas right now are:

  1. House is a mess
  2. spending too much time on the computer (between Wildwood, the preschool guide, and general surfing)
  3. letting my daughter watch TV
  4. spending too much time on Wildwood to the detriment of other projects that are also important
  5. Not singing

Next, identify possible solutions

Here’s where I brainstorm ways to get my problem areas under control.  I won’t use all of these, but it gets the ideas flowing.

— House is a mess:  spend a set amount of time cleaning every day, do morning and evening routines, enlist family’s help to keep things picked up (I’m still on doctor’s restrictions for my broken wrist, which limits how much I can do without causing further damage); start doing morning and evening routine again

— Too much computer time:  designate specific days to work on different things on the computer, and set a timer to enforce limits for myself.  turn the computer off during the day, rather than having the laptop open, on, and easily accessible

— letting my daughter watch too much TV:  keeping the TV off during the day (difficult because my husband likes to have it playing all day in the background.  Get her into a rhythm too, where we do outside time in the morning and activities like playdough and painting in the afternoon

— spending too much time on Wildwood:  This goes back to computer time, and I need to set firm limits

— not singing:  Sing!  These don’t have to be specific nursery rhymes or folk songs, just little made up songs through the day.  Maybe to call my family to dinner, while I fold laundry, or while playing.

Baby steps

This is too much to tackle all at once, so I’m going to take small steps.

On cleaning the house — for this week, I’m going to do my morning and evening routine, and the daily chores from Motivated Moms,the housekeeping app I usually use and love.  (Want to try it? Use coupon code juniper for $3 off your first year!) Also, 5 minutes per day on the worst room of the house.  That’s all.

Set a time limit for computer time — I’ll have my laptop closed between 9AM and 6PM.  Off and put away.  Work needs to be done before and after that time, maybe 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening.

Insist that if my husband is not actively watching TV, that it stays off.  His downfall is having NFL Network playing all day in the background.  If my computer is off, it will be easier to convince my husband to keep the TV off.

Sing throughout my day.  Not anything specific, but just start being intentional about singing little nonsense songs, nursery rhymes, and folk songs.

Rhythm

You may be wondering how this all ties into rhythm.  The cornerstones of my rhythm are sleeping and eating at consistent times, but I still need consistency throughout the day, too.

If I do my morning and evening routine every morning and evening, it brings rhythm back into my life.  It also creates white space because I’m not constantly thinking “I need to be cleaning”.

By keeping work to certain hours, it keeps it from leeching into the rest of the day.  I can spend more time on my daughter without guilt.  I can also work without guilt.

Results

I just started today, so no big results as of yet.  I’ll update more as I go.  Today, though, I shut down the laptop at 9:30.  Oh, the temptation to just ‘take a peak!’

Morning routine and evening routine were done.  The house is just a tad cleaner than it was yesterday.

 

I’m sure you’ve seen them — curricula that people tell you is Charlotte Mason and is absolutely loaded with historical fiction.

When I first started homeschooling 17 years ago, the choices for curricula were slim.  Facebook didn’t exist, forums were in their infancy, and email lists were spread mainly through word of mouth rather than search engines.  Even learning what curricula was available was a challenge.

I chose a literature-based homeschooling curriculum, but we struggled with it.  Later, we switched to a different literature-rich curriculum with less historical fiction.  And suddenly, our joy was back.   It’s no that the first curriculum was bad.  With that switch,  I realized that my daughter simply did not learn well from historical fiction.

Sure, they were fun, but as far as learning history that way?  A bust.

Both of these curricula though were — and still are — widely touted as using the Charlotte Mason method.  

I thought that while Charlotte Mason was a nice philosophy, it obviously couldn’t work for my kid-who-doesn’t-like-historical-fiction.

I was wrong.

Historical Fiction in the Programmes

When I first began really digging into the PNEU programmes in preparation for writing Wildwood Curriculum, I still held that deeply ingrained belief that Charlotte Mason = historical fiction.

What I found was something else entirely.

While historical fiction can be used to help ‘flesh out’ studies or even bring them to life, they are not a major component of a Charlotte Mason education.

In Form I in the PNEU (Parent’s National Education Union) programmes from the 1920s and early 1930s, we see no historical fiction used for either literature or history.

What we do see is books about children in other countries, and fairy tales from various cultures.

Literature vs. History

Forms II and above for that same time period do have historical fiction, at a rate of 1-2 books per term. These are listed under “literature” rather than “history”.  While they could be used to add flavor to the historical studies, they were never intended to replace the non-fiction living books used for history.

This is good news for those of us whose children shy away from historical fiction.  If your child doesn’t like it, simply use a different high quality book for literature.

Look at those figures again — 1-2 books per term.  That’s 3-6 books per year, though I found that the programmes tended to have 3-4 books per year of historical fiction.  This is a far cry from the literature-based curriculum I used when I first started, which has 25 books of historical fiction for their program meant for ages 8-12.

What would Charlotte do?

Some would argue that historical fiction was in its infancy in this time period, and that is the reason that Charlotte Mason didn’t use historical fiction as extensively as many literature-based curricula that call themselves CM do today.

This is a rather touchy argument. It’s rather like saying, “If this were as popular and widespread when Miss Mason was alive as it is today, surely she would have used it more. Therefore, we are justified in using these in a much higher proportion than she did.”

This is problematic on a few levels. First, no one actually knows what Charlotte Mason would do with today’s resources. She may have used historical fiction much more than we do now, or she may have used it much less. She may have used exactly the same amount, that is, approximately one book per term.

Second, when we say with a broad stroke “this is what she would have done,” we take away from the purpose of studying her works and programmes. In my opinion, it’s fine to say “this is what I have decided for my own family” but not “this is what Charlotte would have done if only ….”

Third, historical fiction as a genre was actually established in the early 1800s. Sir Walter Scott was the one who brought it to popularity, but he wrote Waverly in 1814. There had been a full hundred years of additional historical fiction to draw from by the time the PNEU programmes were in use.

And yet, we still see generally only one book per term that might be considered historical fiction today.

Does “Living Book” = Historical Fiction?

Why the disconnect? I think it’s the emphasis on “living books” in a Charlotte Mason education. That is not a problem; as a matter of fact, living books are indispensable to the method. The problem comes when people think that “living book” equals “fiction.”

I plan to do a blog post on living books in the near future, but let me just say this here: while a living book can be fiction, it is not a requirement. The requirement is that they be written in a literary manner.

As a matter of fact, the vast majority of living books in the PNEU programmes were non-fiction.

The Takeaway

Judicious use of historical fiction in a Charlotte Mason education is fine, but don’t rely on them for the bulk of your children’s education.

One to two books per term should be the maximum, beginning at approximately 9 or 10 years of age (Form II).

More than that and you are taking away from other essential elements of a CM education.

 

Habit training:  give me a shout if you love it.

(Silence)

Yeah, me neither 🙁

I think habit training is one of the areas that we get asked about the most, both from a Charlotte Mason lifestyle perspective and simply a parenting one.  In particular, ones that don’t come from a strictly Christian viewpoint.

While I don’t have any modern secular resources to offer you, we do have Charlotte’s own words from the May 1890 Parent’s Review.  Yes, that’s right:

Parents have been struggling with dawdling children for at least 120 years.

You are not alone, my friend.

How to cure a dawdling child

p 243:  “How is the dilatory child to be cured?  Time?  She will know better as she grows older?  Not a bit of it”

Don’t think this is something your child will grow out it.  She won’t.  At least, not on her own.  However, we have specific instructions on what we can do to help our child break this habit.

p 244: “This inveterate dawdling is a habit to be supplanted only by the contrary habit, and the mother must devote herself for a few weeks to this cure as steadily and untiringly as she would to the nursing of her child through measles.”

Here we go — dawdling is a habit, and can only be countered by replacing it with the habit of *not* dawdling.  This requires the parent’s devotion for several weeks.

Not a day or two, but several weeks of determined effort.

“Having in a few–the fewer the better–earnest words pointed out the miseries that must arise from this fault, and the duty of overcoming it, and having so got the (sadly feeble) will of the child on the side of right doing, she simply sees that for weeks together the fault does not recur.”

We’re not going to give a long lecture.  We all know that kids tune those out anyway, right?  We tell them short and sweet why dawdling is bad, and get their agreement that they will work on it.

Note the “sadly feeble” will of the child.  Miss Mason didn’t pull any punches here, did she?  LOL  She knew that your child is likely to give you a sigh and “ok” rather than an enthusiastic “yes!” to which you will have to put in no further effort.

Here’s how she sees it playing out:

“The child goes to dress for a walk; she dreams over the lacing of her boots– the tag in her fingers poised in mid air–but her conscience is awake; she is constrained to look up, and her mother’s eye is upon her, hopeful and expectant.”

Kid is tying her shoes and starts day dreaming mid-tie.  (is CM spot on here or what?)  Kid feels mom’s eyes boring into her, and glances up — yep, mom is looking at her with a pleasant face and eyebrows raised.  Not scowling.  Not rolling her eyes.  Just that gentle reminder… maybe a cough is in order here, a gentle reminder if Kid says in confusion, “what?”

“She answers to the rein and goes on; midway in the lacing of the second boot, there is another pause, shorter this time; again she looks up, and again she goes on.”

There.  Right there.  Our child, whom we have just reminded not to daydream while tying her shoe, is now daydreaming while tying the other shoe. 

We’ve all been there.  Moms have been there going back generations.  Here’s your proof.

“The pauses become fewer day by day, the efforts steadier, the immature young will is being strengthened, the habit of prompt action acquired.  After that first talk on the subject, the mother would do well to refrain from one more word on the subject; the eye (expectant, not reproachful), and where the child is far gone in a dream, the lightest possible touch, are the only effectual instruments.”

Note here, that the pauses become fewer day by day.  Not that this is an instant fix, but that it has to be done day by day.  And probably with both shoes day by day 🙂

I also want you to notice the next part — we are not yelling at the child.  No “come on, Sally!  How many times do I have to remind you?”  Just an expectant look, or for those kids who are so caught up in a daydream they don’t see it, a light touch.  Maybe a cough (my own mother’s favorite prompt)

The habit is formed

“By and bye, ‘Do you think you can get ready in five minutes to-day without me?’ ‘Oh, yes, mother.’  ‘Do not say ‘yes’ unless you are quite sure.’ ‘I will try.’  And she tries and succeeds.”

Yeah!  Success!  And we are done now, right?

Wrong.

“Now the mother will be tempted to relax her efforts– to overlook a little dawdling because the dear child has been trying so hard  This is absolutely fatal.  The fact is, that the dawdling habit has worn an appreciable track in the very substance of the child’s brain  During the weeks of cure new growth has been obliterating the old track, and the track of a new habit is being formed.  To permit any reversion to the old habit is to let go all this gain.  To form a good habit is the work of a few weeks; to guard it, is a work of incessant, but by no means anxious care.”

 

How many of us have done this?  I know I have.  “Oh, just this once, she’s been so good lately!”

And then we’re back at square one.

It has taken us weeks (or longer!) of sustained attention on our own part to help our child overcome the dawdling habit in this one area.  Now it will take months of a watchful eye to avoid relapse.

Habit training is not for the faint of heart.  It requires as much discipline in the parents as it does in the kids.  More so, I’d wager.

“One word more, — prompt action on the child’s part should have the reward of absolute leisure, time in which to do exactly as she pleases, not granted as a favour, but accruing (without words) as a right.”

What this means, is that if you’re working on not dawdling while getting dressed for an outing, then if the child does everything promptly and it’s not yet time to go, the child should have that time to play, to read, to do whatever she wants (within the rules of course).  She shouldn’t have extra chores piled on top of her (oh, since she got ready so fast she can quickly clean the bathroom).

The takeaway

Habit training for dawdlers in a nutshell:

  1.  The child will not ‘grow out of it.’  It is up to the parents to help replace the habit of dawdling with the habit of prompt action.  Take on one thing at at time.  Not all dawdling, but start with a single instance, like dawdling while getting ready to go out.
  2. Talk to your child briefly (don’t lecture) and get her agreement to work on this.  This does not mean you then call it done and start yelling the next day when she doesn’t.  The child has a “sadly feeble will.”  It’s normal.
  3. Be diligent!  Kid will daydream while tying shoes.  A light cough or touch if she doesn’t catch it herself, and you don’t yell.  A raised eyebrow with expectant look, or a very, very brief reminder if the child is truly clueless why you’re looking at her.
  4. Again with the second shoe.  Really.  It’s normal.  Count to 10 internally and smile, and remember that your great-great-grandmother had this same struggle with your great-grandmother.
  5. Repeat, day after day, week after week, never letting down your guard on this one expression of this one habit.  It will be weeks.  This is not Jello Instant Pudding.
  6. When the habit is formed, child will slip and you’ll be tempted to let it go.  Stay strong.  One false move and all is lost.
  7. Guard this habit as if your sanity depended on it (because it very well might).
  8. And last, don’t add extra work as a “reward” for not dawdling.

How are you at habit training?  Is this something you want to try?