Month: April 2018

Do you think that Charlotte Mason’s method of homeschooling and Waldorf homeschooling are opposed?

They absolutely are not.

While they do deviate substantially once the student reaches age 10 or so,  there are several things that Charlotte Mason homeschoolers can learn from followers of Rudolph Steiner.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Charlotte Mason vs Waldorf

One thing I’ve noticed while hanging out in both Waldorf and Charlotte Mason groups is that even though Charlotte and Steiner shared many ideas, their followers stress different aspects of their philosophies.

On top of that, the way Charlotte Mason’s method is portrayed in many popular curricula is just one interpretation of CM.  But those who haven’t read her work often take those interpretations as The One True Way.

Waldorf schools as a system have been around for decades, and they quite frankly have been better at teaching certain aspects of the method than Charlotte Mason followers have.

Here are 6 things that Charlotte Mason homeschoolers ought to learn from Waldorf

1) Severely limit screen time

This is a given in the Waldorf world, to the point of judgmental attitudes towards those who don’t. But Charlotte Mason adherents are less likely to talk about it.

While documentaries (especially nature documentaries!) have their place, and we love Magic School Bus as much as the next family, screen time affects attitudes.

I’ve seen it in myself, in my husband, in my kids and grandchild.

I will admit, this is one area that I really struggle in. While we don’t do apps or ebooks, when my husband comes home from work, the TV is turned on.

And when Grandma comes to visit, she lets my daughter spend all day on her tablet or phone. When Grandma leaves, it’s a battle to cut the electronics again.

It’s so much easier to give in and turn on a documentary than it is to listen to whining.

Strategy: For our family, cold turkey works best. Choose a day, and turn off the TV. I hear whining for about 2 weeks, but if I’m prepared for it I can handle it.

When we’re transitioning away from TV, I make an extra effort to be outdoors.

2) Simple toys and imagination

You might think this is only for little ones, but big kids too don’t need a lot of toys.

Simple, open ended toys and imagination. They don’t need the latest video game, the latest fad toy, or expensive gadgets.

Tools and things they can do with their hands for older kids. Quite honestly, the same goes with younger kids.

My neighbor buys toys for his grandkids every time he goes to the store. Literally, every time.

Their bedrooms are filled with plastic tweeting birds that don’t work, little plastic crabs that change color in water, miniature rockets, hand slap goo, and all manner of other things.

The problem with this is that when they’re outside without their toys, they are at a loss for what to do.

They aren’t used to using their imagination, so instead they beg Grandpa to use his phone so they can watch YouTube videos.

And these kids are 7 and 5 years old!

Strategy: The book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne is my go-to book. I re-read it every year, and I give it as a baby shower gift.

Read it. Then read it again.

3) Delay Academics until almost 7

Experienced Charlotte Mason homeschoolers know this, but we seem to have a terrible time transmitting this idea to newbies.

I don’t know how many people come to a Charlotte Mason group and say “What should I be doing for schoolwork? My child is 4.” I’ve even seen people ask for phonics recommendations for children as young as 2!

While Charlotte Mason was not against kids learning phonics and everyday math if it wasn’t pushed on them, this is one area where I think we should take our cue from Waldorf.

No academics until 6 (or later)

We also do a disservice when we say “formal lessons start at 6.” Formal lessons could start at 6, but it wasn’t a requirement. Charlotte did not deny students 10 years of age admittance if they hadn’t started at 6.

The consideration of out-of-door life, in developing a method of education, comes second in order; because my object is to show that the chief function of the child–– his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power, because the first stages of mental effort are marked by the extreme activity of this power; and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being. (Home Education, page 96)

Notice how it does not say ‘as soon as the child reaches his sixth year, he no longer gets his knowledge through his five senses, but instead uses books.’

Many kids simply aren’t ready for formal – even play based – academics until 7, or even later.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

A good page on what to do with your 6 and Under child, before formal academics, is here.

4) Telling Stories

I rarely see this mentioned in Charlotte Mason circles, but I see it everywhere in Waldorf ones.
Charlotte Mason homeschoolers tend to be so focused on books and reading books and more books, that they forget about storytelling.

Tell, don’t read, your children stories.

Note that I didn’t say “young” children.

Your children of all ages.

Storytelling is a skill that all cultures have practiced for millennia. We seem to have lost it in past years.

When you have young children, rather than reading Cinderella, tell it to them.  Fairy and folk tales were meant to be transmitted orally. They were written down by ethnographers, but they weren’t meant to be passed on that way.

When your children are older and reading their own schoolbooks, tell them stories at dinner.

…tell stories around a backyard campfire.

…tell stories from your childhood.

…tell stories from their childhood (reinforce family memories).

…tell stories from your cultural heritage (fairy and folk tales – you won’t run out!).

…tell stories from other cultures.

Strategy: Think you’re a terrible storyteller? Practice!

First, read or listen to a story. The next day, do the same thing. That night, tell it to yourself. The next morning, re-read it and tell it to yourself again. Now you’re ready to tell it to your kids!

It’s ok if the characters change. It’s ok if the words change. It’s ok if you leave out an entire scene, or make up a new one.

Adjust it as you need to for your family.

Know going into it that some stories will resonate much more than others. That’s ok, too.

5) Head, heart, and hands

“Head, heart, and hands” is talked about a lot in Waldorf circles, but rarely in Charlotte Mason groups.

It’s a great way of looking at the CM method though, and making sure you aren’t overbalancing in one direction or another.

Many people use Charlotte Mason education and only use the academics.

As with Waldorf, academics are only one part of a Charlotte Mason education.

Head, heart, and hands.

Head – academics – got that covered. Yep.

Heart – Christians would most likely consider this the religious aspect, but many of you reading this are not Christian.

We still need to address the heart.

Do you have a spiritual tradition? Great! No? That’s fine, too!  (Read Is Charlotte Mason for Christians only?)

Every student should be reading biographies that will inspire them to be better people.

Strategy: Consciously train your children in our social contract. The ones that most people agree is necessary for a polite society.

Some are obvious – Don’t kill someone unless it’s self-defense. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat. Tell the truth.

Others are not so obvious – Tolerance. Being polite. Good manners. Kindness. Standing up to injustice.

Other ways Waldorf followers practice “heart” is by letting beauty sink into their children. Painting, drawing, repeating stories, going slow. In  Kindergarten for your Three to Six Year Old from Christopherus, the author Donna Simmons says, “Think soul nourishment, not tasks accomplished.”

That one sentence says it all.

 

Hands – while Charlotte Mason circles will talk about handwork, that’s where they generally stop.

The “hands” part of a Waldorf education encompasses not only handwork, but also sculpting, painting, drawing, and body movement.

Did you know that clay modeling was done every year for ages 6-14 in the PNEU programmes?

Or that students were expected to ‘illustrate scenes from their tales, in brushwork’? That sounds like the painting of their lessons that Waldorf students do!

Waldorf education says that 1/3 of the curriculum is physical. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers should be doing just as much.

Playing outdoors, jumping rope, riding bikes, climbing trees, playing scout games, stalking birds-insects-lizards-frogs-animals, dancing. Even swimming is specifically mentioned by Charlotte that everyone over the age of 7 should do.

6) Primary Source reading

One thing that I see stressed in Waldorf groups is that you should read Rudolph Steiner’s lectures for yourself.

The same applies to Charlotte Mason’s works.

While those “in the know” always recommend reading her original volumes, many who consider themselves CM homeschoolers haven’t actually done it.

You may think that reading blogs and listening to podcasts will give you a sense of Charlotte Mason education, and you’re partly right.

But when you do that, you’re not getting Charlotte’s thoughts. You’re getting your interpretation of someone else’s interpretation of her words!

They are secondary sources – someone’s interpretation, summary, discussion, description, or analysis of the primary sources.

I always, always recommend that you read her works for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.

The original volumes are being reprinted by both Living Books Press and Simply Charlotte Mason. The Charlotte Mason Plenary has published both Volumes 1 and 6 along with study guides.  (Read my review of The Plenary)

But there is so much more than just the original six volumes!

From The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection website: “This database provides digital access to Charlotte Mason’s manuscripts, journals, correspondence and other archival documents housed in Ambleside (UK), where she established a teacher’s college.”

Not only are there several years’ worth of Parents’ Review volumes, but also A Liberal Education for All: Practical Workings of the PUS, letters, edited manuscripts, more than 12 years of PNEU programmes, and the Mother’s Educational Course with markups for future terms.

You can get lost in there for weeks (*cough* ask me how I know). And by immersing yourself in not only her volumes, but also the programmes, A Liberal Education for All, and the Parents’ Review, your understanding of the method will increase exponentially.

Here’s a little secret – I don’t agree with some of the interpretations of other “experts” in the Charlotte Mason community.

I don’t agree with them because I’ve read the source material for myself and drawn a different conclusion.

Maybe you will draw a completely different conclusion than I or other people do. That’s ok! But you will never know unless you read for yourself.

THE TAKEAWAY

Six things you should be incorporating into your Charlotte Mason homeschool if you aren’t already –

  • Severely limit screen time – it builds the imagination
  • Simple toys
  • Delay academics
  • Tell stories, don’t just read them
  • Head, heart, and hands – balance book work, beauty and ethics, and physical movement. Think soul nourishment, not tasks accomplished.
  • Primary sources. The Volumes and the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection.

What else do you incorporate from Waldorf into your homeschool?

Want to remember this? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

Do you struggle with how to teach your preschooler a foreign language? Charlotte Mason suggested beginning at the earliest ages, but how do we do that when we don’t speak the language ourselves?

We know that using a curriculum for this age group is anathema to a Charlotte Mason education, but what should we do instead?

Should we even teach a foreign language to our little ones, or is it better to just wait until school age?

As so often happens, I’ve found the Parents’ Review addresses just these problems. Isn’t it amazing that parents have had the same struggles and doubts for 130 years? It really puts things into perspective when you look at it that way.

To begin:

Yes, we should teach our young ones a foreign language. It is never too early. But how to start?

First Steps in learning a language for preschoolers

For this article, we’ll look at the Parents’ Review Volume 1, No 4, pages 269-273  : Nursery French

“Many of the mothers of to-day will still remember the sad bewilderment and weariness of their first French lessons, when at the age of nine or ten they were considered old enough to “begin” French, and were suddenly called upon to grapple with the difficulties of reading and writing in a foreign language, whose words, pronunciation, construction, were all alike equally strange and uninteresting to them.

Believing, as we do now, that children should learn a foreign language as they learn their mother tongue – they speak it long before they learn to read and write – we endeavour to give the little ones while still in the nursery a joyous and interesting oral introduction, by means of games, songs, and stories, to the future study of the language as read and written.”

Here we see that our preschool language learning should be entirely oral, and done by means of games, songs, and stories. These will lay the foundation for future book studies of the language (starting in Form 2, around the ages of 9-10).

This is good for me to read, because I tend to think that early learning can (or should!) give a complete grasp of the new language. The author, Francis Epps, is telling us though that we are simply laying a foundation at this point, and more in-depth studies will come later.

Let’s read on:

“Passing over the baby stage of learning, the names of the objects in sight, at table, round the room, out of doors (never omitting the article), and the learning of little sentences by slow and careful repetition, e.g., “J’ai une rose,” “le chat dort,” “j’aime ma mère,” the little one will soon be ready to join in the lively dancing and singing games of his elder brothers and sisters…”

Whoa, I need to stop there! The sentence continues, but I want to break this down into manageable bits.

Have you done this with your child yet? I haven’t!

Words

Before we even get to singing games and lively dancing, it is assumed that we have finished the “baby stage of learning,” the names of everyday objects both in and outdoors.

Silverware, simple furniture, trees, plants, birds … these are all words we can learn with our young ones.

How? Perhaps we get a 100 First Words in French (or Spanish, or whatever your target language is) and work through it. This would introduce the written word to the children, though, and that is not what we want.

How about learning 3-4 new words per day, and using a tool like Google Translate to do it? Use the small speaker icon to learn proper pronunciation. Make sure to use the ‘article’ with the noun (whatever means ‘a’ or ‘the’ in your target language, so your children naturally learn the gender of the noun).

If 3-4 new words per day is too much, try 1-2. Use them in your conversation throughout your day. Slip them in, substitute the words for typical English words.

“Lexi, it’s time to come to la mesa for dinner!”

“Joey, put your zapatos on please, we’re going outside!”

Sentences

Then learn little sentences by slow and careful repetition. The examples given here translate to “I have a rose,” “The cat is sleeping,” and “I love my mother.”

This exercise alone could take several months before you run out of words in your immediate surroundings.

The rest of the sentence talks about specific actions in specific nursery songs. One in particular that many of us know is “he will before long be quite … successful … in ‘washing his face’ with dancing round the ‘Mulberry Bush’”

I had to look this up (shame!) but, there’s more than one Mulberry Bush song. While what came to mind was the monkey chasing the weasel, there’s another that I’d forgotten:

Here we go round the mulb’ry bush, the mulb’ry bush, the mulb’ry bush. Here we go round the mulb’ry bush so early in the morning.

Next verses are This is the way we wash our face, then This is the way we comb our hair, etc.

Sing this in your target language and do the actions at the same time, and it’s a fun way to learn more of the language. The children dance around and do the actions, having fun and cementing the words and phrases at the same time.

A good option here is a CD of nursery rhymes, preferably sung by a native speaker, and also preferably with full directions given for the action songs.

“The children will, naturally, learn the words slowly and carefully, with their meaning, as well as the actions and music.”

Games

A few games are also suggested in this Parents’ Review article:

1) I have a basket.

“all sit round the table, or the fire, and the mother says to her right-hand little neighbour, “J’ai un panier.” [I have a basket] This calls for the interested question, “Que mets-tu dedans?” [What do you put in it?] and its answer by mother, “J’y mets des poires,” [I put pears in it] “ des œufs,” [eggs] or any other familiar object. The little neighbour first spoken to then tells her right-hand neighbor “J’ai un panier,” and so the announcement, questions, and answer pass round the circle. Generally, the children try to think of something amusing to put in their baskets, and the game goes on amid a ripple of merry laughter.”

2) Picture bingo (“French Loto”)

“each child has a card with about twenty little pictures of familiar objects on it, and a heap of as many counters. The leader of the game reads out from a list she has the name of one of the objects represented on a card, perhaps “la chaise.” The child who has the picture on her card says, “J’ai la chaise,” and covers it with a counter; the one who gets all the pictures on the card covered first, wins the game.”

3) Buz

It is agreed before the game that a certain number, say “seven” (whatever the number is your target language) shall not be mentioned, either by itself or in seventeen, twenty-seven, etc, and that “Buz” should be said instead. The counting goes regularly round and round, each one saying the number which comes next. Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, buz, ocho …. Children eagerly await their chance of saying buz and of catching the forgetful one who says vientesiete.

4) 20 Questions and I Spy, both played in the target language.

Here are directions for playing in Spanish.

Next we are told that “besides the words of the songs they sing, children much enjoy learning to recite little fables and stories….”

For those learning Spanish, Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Salsa series is wonderful for this. For other languages, look for simple repetitive fairy tales. Especially good for parents are those that have been recorded online by native speakers.

You can go to your local library and ask the librarian if your library has any resources for these. There may be audio books, or digital resources, or even story time if the language is one that’s widely spoken in your area.

The Accent

Here we come to the crux of the matter.

“How are we to secure a good accent for our children? A mother may do her painstaking best in her nursery French games and plays, but most likely she will feel, unless she has been educated in France, that there is a too conscious effort about it all…”

Over the last pages of the Parents’ Review article, Frances Epps suggests the same thing Charlotte Mason did – that a French woman be employed for a few hours per week to tell stories and converse with the children. To cut costs, she suggested the expense be shared among several families, to create a group of about 12 children.

How can we do this now?

Think about what resources are available to you. Does your library have a language time for tots, with a native speaker? Do you have a friend or family member who speaks the language that would be willing to spend regular time with your child?

Perhaps a local language school has a Mom and Me time (this would be more common in large cities).

Can you afford an internet language tutor for half an hour 2x per week, one who works with kids?

Your last option might be watching children’s dvds in the language you’re learning, simply for the accent.

Music and youtube videos aimed at children, especially when done by native speakers, is another way.

Read this excellent article from Fluent In 3 Months on why you should teach your children a foreign language, even if you aren’t good at it yourself:   Why I’m Teaching my Kids to Speak French Badly (And Why I Think You Should, Too) 

The Takeaway

  • Start with “baby French” (or whatever language you choose).
  • names of objects in sight, around the room, and outdoors
  •  little phrases and sentences, spoken as a whole and memorized (“I love my mother,” “This is a beautiful flower”)
  • Move on to nursery rhymes, action games, and other children’s songs.
  • Then add simple games that are played as much as possible in your target language.
  • Next, fables and stories.
  • And last, take advantage of any native speakers you have available to you.

Though we will begin with “baby French”, the next steps don’t need to be done sequentially. They can be done in any order or all at the same time.

Whatever works well for you!

Have you introduced a new language to your young children? I’d love to know what resources you’ve used, and whether or not you felt they were worth the time or money!

Want to remember How to Teach Foreign Language to Young Children? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

 

Legends of the Staff of Musique review pinterest with bouncing gold musical note

Do you struggle with how to teach music to your early elementary student? Have you tried music books written for teachers, but been frustrated? They either assume you have a background in music, or at the very least that you are substituting in a music class with 15 children!

Almost every lesson needs to be reformatted to work with your one, or two, or three children.

Do you want a music curriculum that brings in beauty?

That respects the homeschooling family?

That works with a Charlotte Mason philosophy without modification?

That knows you might have only one student, or two?

That teaches without a text?

I searched for years for one myself, and finally Crystal Hosea has released just what we are looking for!

 

Foundations of Music, Legends of the Staff of Musique

Foundations of Music is based on Kodály (pronounced ko-DIE, rhymes with eye) music philosophy. Zoltán Kodály believed that every child has music inside of them, and it is our duty as educators to bring that out through the folk songs of our culture.

When I first read about Kodály, I thought it sounded exactly like what Charlotte would do!

Foundations of Music is based on 7 lessons, each with a 4 day schedule. Crystal recommends a once per week rhythm, with each lesson lasting no more than 20-30 minutes. With this schedule, there is plenty of time in the school year for breaks, for being sick, for repeating days that were especially fun.

I would even venture to say that if it seems like a lesson will take you 30 minutes, perhaps consider splitting it up into 2 days, especially if your kids are starting to get wiggly.

Crystal is a homeschooling mother herself and knows our struggles. Her music program is written for us, which is so refreshing! Using other music programs written for teachers, I’ve felt like I was an interloper, like I was an imposter using material that wasn’t meant for me.

She doesn’t assume that you know anything about music yourself.

TOPICS COVERED

The topics covered are similar to those in Jolly Music Beginners, which I also own. The difference is that Jolly Music is written for a teacher with 15 or more students in a class and all the activities reflect that assumption.

Foundations of Music explores high/low, soft/loud, fast/slow, smooth/jerky, short/long, and beat.

AGE RANGE

Foundations of Music is good for ages 6-9, but was written specifically for the 7 year old student using Waldorf methods.

However, there is nothing specifically Waldorf in the lessons. By that I mean, there is nothing that won’t work well with a Charlotte Mason education, and there is no talk of anthroposophy. In the introduction, Crystal touches on who Rudolph Steiner was and his philosophy of education, while the lessons have your child make a Main Lesson Book.

If you don’t want to make a Main Lesson Book, just use loose sheets of paper to do those activities.

It is wonderful for Form 1 students using Charlotte Mason’s methods.

Since we are starting Wildwood Form IB next year when my daughter is 7, I haven’t started using it yet. But the activities look fun, and they are in the spirit of Wildwood Curriculum Form 1. They are beautiful, joyful, and gentle.

In the PNEU programmes, solfa (sight singing with hand signs) wasn’t begun until Form IA, and then it was still very gentle. Foundations of Music also doesn’t teach solfa; that will come in Level 1 which is currently being developed.

Again, perfect for a Charlotte Mason education!

I love this program so much! My only wish is that it had been released just a few months earlier, before I’d spent the money on Jolly Music. Since I did buy Jolly Music, I’m working through that program slowly and modifying every lesson.

But my plan is to work through Foundations of Music next year when my daughter will be in IB and 7 years old.

The material is presented so differently from Jolly Music that  I know my daughter will love it, even though the information is the same.

What’s included in Foundations of Music?

  • detailed lesson plans
  • captivating companion stories
  • engaging projects and games
  • sheet music for songs referenced in the curriculum
  • samples of student work

Also included is access to the member site where there are

  • quality recordings of listening examples
  • “compose yourself” videos
  • recordings of songs referenced in the curriculum

The singer (I assume it’s Crystal) has a clear and pleasant voice that is easily understandable.

Earlier levels

Legends of the Staff of Musique also has a program called Early Childhood – Cantiamo Tutti. We are currently using it and love it! Again, it falls so completely in with a Charlotte Mason lifestyle that you wouldn’t even know it was Waldorf-inspired if Crystal didn’t tell you.

Still not convinced? There are samples of both Early Childhood and Foundations at the Staff of Musique website.

These are not affiliate links; I am simply in love with this music curriculum and want to share it with the world.

If you buy, send Crystal an email or PM and tell her I sent you.

I cannot recommend this program highly enough.

THE TAKEAWAY

… if you’re looking for a gentle foundational music curriculum for the voice, that is perfectly suited to your Form I student (ages 6-9) and written for a homeschooling parent without a music background…

… if you want the beauty that Waldorf brings to this age group

… then get Foundations of Music from Legends of the Staff Musique

adore this music curriculum.

Want to save the Legends of the Staff of Musique review for later? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

Legends of the Staff of Musique review pinterest with bouncing gold musical note