I sat on my bed and cried, yet again. My heart ached for my child. Most of the books she had no interest in, and some she barely understood. The activities were a bust, too. She’d rather spend her days hanging upside down from a tree than making the “fun and educational” salt dough map of whatever country we were studying.

I obviously was a terrible teacher, and I wondered if I was really cut out for homeschooling. Everybody online loved the curriculum, and I knew that it was the absolute best one out there.

That meant that the problem was with me.

There must be something wrong with me, I thought.  

And I secretly wondered if there was something wrong with my child, too, who didn’t love the curriculum like everyone said she would.

It couldn’t be the curriculum.

It guaranteed that every child would love it, and implied that the people it wouldn’t work for were those who didn’t want what was best for their kids.

Was this true?  Nope.  But I had bought into the hype and marketing.

It was time to break up with our curriculum.

Why we delay changing curricula

There are several reasons why we stay with a curriculum even when it’s not working.

  • Loss of the dream
  • Admitting to ourselves that our dearly held beliefs are wrong
  • Feeling like we wasted our money
  • Feeling lack of integrity, especially if we were an outspoken proponent of the curriculum
  • Feelings of failure, “I or my child is a failure, because this is the “best” curriculum
  • Feeling we will give our child a sub-standard education if we use something else, because (say it with me) this is the “best” curriculum

Loss of the dream

Often we buy into the dream of what our homeschool will look like with a certain curriculum, whether it’s free or one that we purchased.

Our children will grow up loving reading, they will do all these projects with high educational value, they will be conversant in world geography and social issues.  

People outside the family will be impressed when you tell them about the volunteer soup kitchen your child organized all by himself as part of the Service to Others assignment in 10th grade.  

Your child will not only know how an internal combustion engine works, but be able to sew for the family and discuss the deeper themes of Shakespeare and grow prize-winning tomatoes.

kids hanging upside down from tree

But when our child doesn’t like to get his hands greasy, or thinks Romeo and Juliet were stupid teenagers, or would simply rather be hanging upside down from that tree instead of reading the books …. it can be unsettling.

What will the future look like if not what we’ve already envisioned?

Admitting to ourselves and others that our dearly held beliefs are wrong

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the hype and marketing and, yes, lemming-like activity of believing that there is One Best Curriculum to Rule Them All that we are crushed when we discover that it is actually not working very well for our own child.

Especially when we’ve told others that this curriculum is The Best.  

We have to admit to ourselves that perhaps we were mistaken, and that the others who also believe this are wrong.

This can be particularly painful if we’ve been the one convincing others that this is the best curriculum.

When we have the dearly held belief that this curriculum is The One True Way to Give Our Child a Great Education, we think that everything else is sub-standard.  

Other people may actually say this.

That you’re selling out your child if you switch.  

That you’re just not trying hard enough, or you’re not being strict enough with little Jimmy and by going a different route, you are sentencing him to a life of inadequate education just so he can be happy now.

Feelings of Failure

This is a big one that is often unvoiced.  We feel it in the deepest recesses of our soul, but are afraid to bring it to the light.

That little voice that whispers “this is the best curriculum for everyone… you’re a failure because you can’t teach it right … your child is a failure …. something is wrong with you both … this is the best curriculum for everyone ….”

The logic goes like this:  If this is the best curriculum for everyone, the best and only way for a child to get a great education, and every child loves it and loves learning, then

 … if my child doesn’t love it, I must be a terrible teacher

… if my child doesn’t love it, there is something wrong with her

… if my child doesn’t understand it, then she must be rather unintelligent and maybe doomed to a life of failure

The Truth About Curriculum

Here’s the simple, honest truth.

Curriculum writers are not gods.

We do not always choose the best books, but the best books currently widely available that we personally like.  That means we make compromises.

Curriculum writers do not know your child.  It is as silly to think there is one homeschooling curriculum that can work for everyone as it is to think that the one-size-fits-all curriculum of the public school system fits everyone.

There is not one and only one path to an excellent education.  There is not even one definition of an excellent education.

There are many homeschool methods and styles out there.  Even if you believe that a particular method is the best (cough, Charlotte Mason, cough), there are almost always several curricula out there that follow that method.

One is not inherently better than another.  One might be better for your child, or for you as a teacher, than another.

Oh, and those lemmings all jumping off the cliff to their deaths?  It was staged.

Breaking up with your curriculum

First, realize that leaving your current curriculum, even if you previously thought it was the best one, or even if everyone in the forum elevates it on a golden pedestal, is OK.

Your children will not curl up in their bed, catatonic, or spend the next 30 years playing video games 24 hours a day and not know the difference between Africa and Australia.

If your current curriculum is not working, it’s not working.  

It doesn’t matter if it’s because you don’t understand the method, or your child hates doing projects, or you can’t stand the religious worldview of the books … if it’s not working for your family, it’s not working.

Then, feel the freedom!  Once you leave one curriculum that you felt was the only right way to educate your child, the whole world opens up.  You realize that even if you stay within your chosen method, there are different ways to interpret it.  One is not better than another.

You can use books that your child finds interesting.  You can do science experiments or projects that mesh with her interests.  

You realize that your child will not be denied entry into college because you skipped that boring read-aloud when he was 8.

freedom after breaking up with your curriculum

I vividly remember the first time I left a curriculum that I had bought into the hype and marketing about.

We stayed with it for over 2 years, despite the fact that it didn’t match our worldview and my daughter would literally throw herself backwards on the couch and scream when I brought out the books.

I stayed with it because I was terrified that if we left, I would be giving her an inferior education.  I felt like a failure that I couldn’t teach it well.  I felt like there was something wrong with her because she didn’t like it.  I felt like we were both… wrong.

Outcasts.

Failures.

Then the company made a strategic marketing error that alienated a large part of their customer base, and I and others left in protest.

I dipped a toe into the water and got a few books from a competing curriculum.

When I got those books home and cracked one open, I cried.

THESE were the kinds of books that my daughter would want to take to bed with her at night.  THESE were the types of activities that she would love.

I realized that it wasn’t that there was something wrong with us, it was that the curriculum wasn’t a fit.

And breaking those chains was glorious.

It will be just as good for you.

Find what works for your family.  For your child.  For you.

Not what other people say is The One True Way.  Find what works for YOU.

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breaking up with your curriculum

Yesterday I saw the announcement that Whole Family Rhythms is closing on June 15, 2019, and they don’t know what they will look like when (if) they re-open in the Fall.

The good news is that all their products are 50% or more off; the bad news is that this might be the last time you can buy their guides.

I only learned about them a few weeks ago, but I loved their samples so much I became an affiliate for them.

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

So what makes them so special? They encourage building family connection and a slow childhood. They encourage handwork for the littles and for the caregiver. They encourage caregivers to take some time every day for reflection and/or meditation. They encourage rhythm.

They are visually stunning, and most of them are secular. Winter Family Rhythm and Christmas Festival guides are not secular as they refer to the Christian aspects of Christmas. The creator comes from a Waldorf background so they are also developmentally appropriate for childhood and they contain no academics.

But the best part? It doesn’t matter your religious beliefs or cultural background; Whole Family Rhythms helps you craft traditions and routines that will fit your own family and values.

I included Whole Family Rhythms in my 13 Secular Preschool Programs for Charlotte Mason Homes blog post, but while the Whole Family Rhythm guides are created for parents of children ages 2-6, I thought they might still be appropriate for families with older children.

So I bought them all just so I could tell you about each one.

Yes.

Every. Single. One.

Not for myself, mind you. It was purely for research purposes. (ahem)

That’s what I’m telling my budget, at least.

The Seasonal Guides

Ages 2-7 as your primary guide, ages 7-9 as a supplement to your routine.

Let’s start first with the seasonal guides.

There are four seasonal guides, and when you purchase you are asked if you are Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

Each seasonal guide is three months, and each month has a sample daily rhythm, a caregiver’s meditation, and caregiver’s handwork project, in addition to weekly fingerplays, stories, simple recipes, crafts, beeswax modeling, weekly hiking ideas, and painting.

chestnuts for autumn

The recipes range in difficulty from baking bread (harder) to cutting watermelon slices with fish-shaped cookie cutters (super easy).

The hiking ideas are nature oriented but are not about learning or transmitting information. They are more about experiencing. For example, one Weekly Hike is “Perhaps you can find a muddy trail this week and let the kids sink their toes into the dirt” while another is “Take your little kite out for a walk in the park this week. You won’t need strong winds as it can sail along behind you” while still a third is “see if you can find a bee and observe it with your child in silence as it gathers pollen and flies from flower to flower.”

This will be a wonderful addition to our days with my almost-8 year old, but if you only have older children, the seasonal guides will not be useful to you.

Spring, Fall, and Autumn guides are secular, but Winter is not.

Winter has Christmas for December, including an Advent section, and several mentions of God and Jesus. However, the months of January and February included in the Winter Guide don’t have any religious references.

What’s the difference between the seasonal Family Rhythm Guides and the 3 in 1 seasonal Bundles? The Bundles contain the Family Rhythm Guide for either Spring or Autumn, the celebration guide for the season (Easter or Harvest), and the Return to Rhythm Mini Course.

If you are going to buy the seasonal guides, I highly recommend spending the little bit extra to get the 3 in 1 bundle.

Or you can get the All Seasonal Family Rhythm Guides (bundle).

Celebrations

All ages if you are crafting your own traditions, for ages 2-10 if using as-is.

Under the Celebrate tab are Whole Family Christmas eGuide, Easter, Harvest, and Birthdays.

If you have older kids and want to be more intentional about your seasonal celebrations, these are the guides you’re looking for.

The Harvest eGuide will walk you through incorporating your family values into your celebrations with questions like “Write down as many values as you can think of associated with Harvest Time and which you would like to model to your children.”

Then there is a deeper look at harvest figures and symbols, and then a short look at harvest festivals from around the world:

  • Michaelmas
  • Thanksgiving (Canada and United States)
  • Sukkot (Jewish)
  • Moon Festival (Chinese and Vietnamese)

You will create a Harvest Season vision board, brainstorm how you want to model the spirit of the season and how to prepare for the festivals so that you remain calm and present, and more.

harvesting a carrot

On top of that, there are stories and finger games.

Handwork is appropriate for a wide range of ages, from a toadstool felt covered matchbox for younger kids to waxing fall leaves and making a garland. While the felt covered matchbox probably wouldn’t appeal to teens, my teen would have enjoyed making the fall decorations like the waxed leaf garlands.

Caregiver’s handwork includes a crocheted field mouse and a wool felt pouch. The pouch would be a good thing for teens to do, and while the instructions are for a mushroom applique, you could very easily make any design you wanted.

There are also caregiver meditations/reflections.

Easter and Christmas are similar, but adjusted for those holidays.

Easter eGuide

The Easter eGuide does not focus on the Christian aspects (the resurrection), but instead on spring and rebirth and so can easily be used by non-Christian families.

Easter crafts are

  • Lambs for little hands
  • sewn felt egg
  • wetfelt eggs
  • herb and vegetable dyed hardboiled eggs
  • felt Easter basket
  • knitted bunny
  • eggshell candle holder
easter rabbit with eggs

Christmas eGuide

Out of the three Festival guides (Christmas, Easter, Harvest), Christmas is going to be the least useful to non-Christians from an open-and-go perspective. Our family does cultural/secular Christmas, so about 75% of the content is still useful — the planning pages, how I’m going to bring the values I want to my family, that sort of thing — but we won’t use the stories.

While there is mention of Yule as a solstice festival, the focus is on Christmas, with Advent as a countdown to Christmas. The Advent story is of Joseph and Mary, and while the guide says it doesn’t focus on the religious aspects and instead calls Jesus the Child of Light, there is still that underlying monotheistic vibe.

Crafts are:

  • Hanging gnome
  • Advent wreath (a clay ring with 4 candles; you could just make it without tying it to Advent)
  • Beeswax candle decorating
  • Hanging wreath (fingerknitted)
  • Jingle bell garland
  • Winter gnomes
  • Needle felted ball (tree ornament)
  • Wooden star

Whole Family Birthdays guide

Ages 2-7

The Whole Family Birthdays eGuide contains ideas for simple and nourishing traditions for your little one. This is appropriate for ages 1-6, and could be stretched to a wee bit older. My daughter turns 8 in May and while I can use a few of the ideas, most of it is things we already do for a simple birthday celebration. This is not a guide of party ideas, but more reassurances that simple is good.

Return to Rhythm Mini Course

All ages

Return to Rhythm Mini Course is wonderful! If you are struggling with a daily rhythm, this is for you.

Each section — mealtimes, playtimes, bedtims — has both a few pages of suggestions and also worksheets where you’ll think through what’s working, what you want to change, and then how to make the changes.

It’s a simple formula but so powerful, and for the high return on investment, completely worth the price.

More than any other single thing, having a strong family rhythm will help you create the life you want.

I’m going to dive right in this week on it. While you can use it as-is for your younger kids, it is still very usable with modifications for your olders. For the olders, you’ll want to work through the pages with them.

I plan to work through it as a family, with my husband, 22 year old daughter, and 7 year old.

Whole Family Herbs eGuide

Whole Family Herbs is the only guide that I would honestly tell you to pass on. There are several herbs included, with a recipe for using each one, but the growing information is minimal, and there are no explanations in the Wisdom section for how to actually use the plants.

For example, for Chamomile we have “Chamomile has many medicinal qualities but is best known as classic nervine. It nourishes our nervous system. It is great for insomnia, anxiety, depression, stomach upset due to nerves and headache. For children it is an excellent teething medicine and helps to calm children after lots of excitement or upset.”

The growing information is the same or less than you will find on the back of your seed packet.

And following there is a recipe for Sweet Chamomile Popsicles.

After reading this, I wonder what a nervine is or does, what does “nourishes our nervous system” mean, and how I’m actually supposed to use chamomile for insomnia, stomach upset, etc.

Do I give my child a popsicle before bed? Do I let her chew on a chamomile flower if she’s teething? Do I make it into a tea and rub it on her gums, or put it in a cup for her to drink? Should I make a chamomile salve and rub it on her tummy?

My point is that for this guide to be useful, you would need to have a good background already in how to use herbs… and if you do, then this guide isn’t very useful because you’d already know the information.

It assumes too much prior knowledge for a beginner, and is too basic for an intermediate user. The best skill level for this is an advanced beginner who is looking for some gentle ideas to incorporate some herbs into their children’s lives.

If you’re just looking for a single recipe using an herb, then this guide is ok. Rosemary is stew, chamomile is popsicles, calendula is an easy salve, violets is violet jelly.

#ourfamilyrhythm Printables Bundle

If you are a printables fan and want some for your daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythm, #ourfamilyrhythm Printables Bundle is a good choice. They are beautiful with watercolored pictures.

I am not a printables person. I am more likely to just grab a blank piece of printer paper to draw out my ideas and brainstorm on. I also don’t have a color printer, so to get the beauty of this pack I will need to send in a print order to Staples or Office Max.

Are they nice to have? Sure.

Necessary? Nope.

tl;dr

If you’re looking for guides that will hold your hand as you bring more rhythm and connection to your family, these are for you.

  • Return to Rhythm — all ages. Work through it together with your older kids and partner to craft your family rhythm.
  • Harvest, Easter, Christmas eGuides — all ages if using as a guide to craft your own meaningful celebrations, elementary and younger as-is
  • Seasonal Guides — (winter, spring, summer, fall) — ages 2-7 as your primary guide, ages 7-9 as a supplement to your days and to add connection
  • Birthday — ages 2-7
  • Herbs — probably skip this one
  • Printables — pretty but unnecessary

I purchased the All Guides Bundle and added on the Printables pack and Unplug Childhood Training. Since Unplug Childhood Training starts on Sundays, I haven’t yet received the first email to begin and give you a review.

Whole Family Rhythms is a wonderful group of guides to to bring peace, joy, and connection to your home. Visually stunning, and nurturing of both mama and child, I’m sure you will love them as much as I do.

blowing bubbles with child whole family rhythms review

form I early elementary timetables alarm clock

Learn the frequency and duration of early elementary subjects in a Charlotte Mason education, and update for modern life!

Have you looked at the time tables but are having trouble translating it to our modern world? Does it all look like a bunch of random subjects? What do you do if you don't want to do school six days a week?

Let's break down the timetable into manageable pieces and figure out how to bring it to our modern life.

(Just want to see the 5-day schedule? Jump to it)

We'll start with the originals. They can be found in A Liberal Education for All at this link. We are only going to talk about Form I (approximate ages 6-9) in this post.

Looking for other Forms?

Form II (approximate ages 9-12) Timetables for Today
Form III (approx ages 12-14) Schedules for Today

To start, for ease of use, I've transcribed Form I into this table:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

N.B. -- No "Home Work." "Narration" (Oral) at the end of each lesson. Form Upper I.A., an occasional written narration.

General overview

The first thing you might notice is that the increments are 10, 15, and 20 minutes. No lessons for these early elementary years are over 20 minutes.

The second thing you might notice is that there is a specific time for each subject. In other words, we don't "do math" for 20 minutes. We "do math" from 10:00-10:20. Practically speaking, that means that if your child is taking a long time to do his work, you don't do "what should take you 20 minutes if you would just focus." When 10:20 comes around, you stop math for the day.

It also means that if the baby has a poop explosion in the middle of your reading lesson and it takes 45 minutes to clean everything up, you check your timetable for where you would be when you're ready to start lessons again, not pick up where you left off so that you're still doing lessons at 3 PM.

Let's go through the time table a few subjects at a time, breaking it down to easily manageable chunks.

Bible and Geography

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

Old Testament and New Testament were alternated, doing each 2x per week for 20 minutes.  Notice how in general, spiritual instruction started off the day.

Geography was two times per week for 20 minutes each.

Bible: 4x per week @20 min per session

Geography: 2x per week @20 min per session

OVERWHELMED? READ: AN EASY AND RELAXED ELEMENTARY SCHEDULE

Math and Reading

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

Number was what Math was called in this Form. Like Reading, it was done every day, but the duration varied. For 4 days it was a 20 minute session, one day was 10 minutes, and then Saturday was 20 minutes. Also note how the time slot changed throughout the week. Variety is key at this age.

Reading was also daily, with a little bit of a twist. Saturday had a regular lesson, but for the IB students (first year, approx age 6-7), there was an extra lesson that day. Note also how it wasn't back-to-back; there is an hour and a half between those two lessons with a singing and movement break in-between, and the second Saturday session was only 10 minutes.

Math: 4x per week @20 min each, 1x per week @10 min, plus a 20 min Saturday session

Reading: 2x per week @10 min each, 3x per week @ 20 min each, plus a 10 min Saturday session and for Form IB (6-7 yo) an extra 20 min Saturday session on top of that.

History and Repetition

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

History only shows up here once or twice. One time per week for 20 minutes, then an additional Saturday session for the Form IA (approx ages 7-9) students for 20 minutes. 

Do you see that? History is only once per week. Twice per week MAX. When many people think of Charlotte Mason education, they think it's heavy on history, but this shows that it's not. Geography is done more often than history in these early years!

Next we'll look at Repetition. As you can see, it was done four times per week for only 10 minutes, and the material was varied.In the PNEU programmes (the term curricula sent out to Charlotte Mason's homeschools and member schools), each term usually had 1-2 hymns, a Psalm, a poem of the child's choice, a passage from the Old Testament and one from the Gospels to learn.

History: Form IB - 1x per week @20 min

                   Form IA - 1x per week @20 min, plus a 20 min Saturday session

Repetition: 4x per week @ 10 min each

Natural History and French

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

Natural History (science): 2x at 20 min each

French: 3x @ 10 min each, plus a 10 min Saturday session and 15 min of singing French songs

Handicraft and Tales

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

Handicrafts: 2x per week for 10 min each, 2x per week for 20 min each, plus a Saturday session of 20 minutes

Tales: 2x per week for 20 min each. In Form IB, there weren't enough Tales scheduled to fill these two slots every week (3 fairy tales and 3 Aesop's fables per term). What I do is use that extra time to retell the fairy tale, to let them really sink in to my child.

Writing and Picture Study

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

Picture Study: 1x per week for 10 min

Writing: 5x per week for 10 min each, plus Saturday session of 10 min

Drawing, Brush-drawing, and Week's Work

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

Week's Work: 1 Saturday session of 20 minutes. What is Week's Work? My best supposition is that it covered the material in the PNEU programmes labeled "Work". That is, helping in house and garden, as well as creating things. Since we have 5 slots for Handicrafts, my assumption is that this is deliberate instruction in "help in house and garden".

Drawing: 1x per week for 10 min

Brush-drawing: 1x per week for 10 min, plus a 10 min Saturday session

I want you to note where these drawing times are in the table. They are all towards the very end of the lesson day when attention is flagging. A little art break, particularly after 20 min of math when math is near the end of the lesson period. After these drawing and painting sessions there is only a single ten minute session left in the school day.

Drill, Sol-fa, Play, Dancing

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

Week's Work

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

A History

B Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

Writing

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

French

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill

Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

Number

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Reading

This is a more difficult set to analyze for the simple reason that so much of it is "or". Play OR drill. Dancing OR play. All of these are also the only ones that are 15 minutes instead of 10 or 20 minute lessons.

Drill: 3-5 days per week at 15 min each, with an additional Saturday session

Sol-fa or singing, including French songs: 2x per week @15 min each, plus Saturday for 15 min

Play: Daily for 15 minutes, as an option.

Dancing: 3 times a week for 15 minutes as another option

One thing I really want you to pay attention to here: dancing, play, drill or singing constituted a 30 minute movement break in the middle of every school day.

Each subject easily identifiable:

Bible: 4x per week @20 min per session

Geography: 2x per week @20 min per session

Math: 4x per week @20 min each, 1x per week @10 min, plus a 20 min Saturday session

Reading: 2x per week @10 min each, 3x per week @ 20 min each, plus a 10 min Saturday session and for Form IB (6-7 yo) an extra 20 min Saturday session

History: Form IB - 1x per week @20 min

                   Form IA - 1x per week @20 min, plus a 20 min Saturday session

Repetition: 4x per week @ 10 min each

Natural History (science): 2x at 20 min each

French: 3x @ 10 min each, plus a 10 min Saturday session and 15 min of singing French songs

Handicrafts: 2x per week for 10 min each, 2x per week for 20 min each, plus a Saturday session of 20 minutes

Tales: 2x per week for 20 min each.

Picture Study: 1x per week for 10 min

Writing: 5x per week for 10 min each, plus Saturday session of 10 min

Drawing: 1x per week for 10 min

Week's Work: 1 Saturday session of 20 minutes

Brush-drawing: 1x per week for 10 min, plus a 10 min Saturday session

Drill: 3-5 days per week at 15 min each, with an additional Saturday session

Sol-fa or singing, including French songs: 2x per week @15 min each, plus Saturday for 15 min

Play: Daily for 15 minutes, as an option.

Dancing: 3 times a week for 15 minutes as another option

Important observations

A few important observations I'd like to make about the timetables:

Movement and play

There is a full half hour movement and play break every day a little more than halfway through the lessons. After an hour and 40 minutes, the kids have a 30 minute movement/singing/play break, then come back to another 40 minutes of lessons.

Immediately after the play break they have a longer lesson of 20 minutes, then the last two lessons of the day are both short ones at 10 minutes each. 

Saturday School

Not everyone did Saturday school, and if you notice what was scheduled for Saturdays, it's nothing that can't be cut out. An extra session of reading, writing, and arithmetic, French, handicrafts, art. Help in house and garden.

So easy to just chop off that day and not even miss it!

Handicrafts

Four to five times per week! This is more than Geography, more than History, more than Natural History.

If you want to make a hierarchy of importance based on frequency and length of time, it would go like this

Math --> Reading --> Writing --> Bible --> Handicrafts --> Everything else

Handicrafts aren't something to be tacked on when we get around to it. It should be an integral part of our Charlotte Mason life!

Specific lesson times

Notice also that there are specific times for lessons. Not "10 min: reading" but "11:20-11:30: reading".

Why is this important? Because it's so easy to set a timer for 10 minutes of a subject, and then when the timer goes off, swap out the books, run to the bathroom, get set up for the next subject ... then start the timer for the next 10 minutes. In the meantime, you've lost several minutes of transition. This can add up to an extra half hour over the course of your day, making lessons drag on much longer than the 2.5 hours we'd like.

Modernizing the timetable

The first thing we'll do is trim this back from 6 days down to 5 days. Realistically, there are very, very few of us who do lessons 6 days per week.

Now, this Form is really easy to do that with because of the nature of the subjects for Saturday -- they are all things that you just work on "the next thing" without an assigned number of pages per term to get through, other than a slot of History for Form IA (approx ages 7-9).

We can just cut Saturday right off and never know it's missing. That extra day of History for Form IA? Don't sweat it. Really.

If you just can't let go of that 20 minutes of history, then one day a week read from your history book in the evenings or as a bedtime story. 

Do 20 minutes of chores or gardening with your kids over the weekend, and you're golden.

And for the IA students, slide an extra day of Sol-fa in as an option.

That brings us to this:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

History

Old testament

New testament

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition Bible

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible

Number

Repetition Hymn

9:50-10:00

French

Writing

French

French

Picture Study

10:00-10:20

Number

Handicrafts

Number

Handicrafts

Number

10:20-10:35

Drill

Sol-fa

Drill

French Song

Drill or Sol-fa

10:35-10:50

Dancing or Play

Play or drill

Dancing or Play

Play or Drill

Dancing or Play

10:50-11:10

Tales

Number

Geography

Tales

Natural History

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Modernize the subjects

Let's start swapping out subjects now, shall we?

Bible

We know that Charlotte Mason was Christian, but that doesn't mean that you need to be Christian in order to use her methods. Read this blog post for a more in-depth look at my thoughts on this.

What could those of us who don't want to use the Bible -- or use it so often -- do in the Bible slots?

  • Your own religious instruction
  • Your own spiritual instruction
  • Moral training
  • world religions
  • stories about your ancestors
  • anything that ties in with your own spiritual path

Repetition

Rather than Repetition Bible, Poem, and Hymn, instead just keep this a repetition slot of poetry, songs you find inspirational, inspirational speech excerpts or motivational sayings. You'll want to keep these age-appropriate, so for my 7 year old we are doing poetry memorization for about 5 minutes and then reading poetry the other 5 minutes.

French

Just change to this whatever foreign language you want to study with your children.

Drill

Drill was Swedish Drill and "Drill in Good Manners". Because this is a movement break, swap out Drill with yoga or another physical activity. 

Or, just give your child a full half-hour break depending on the weather and your child's needs. For IB (approx age 6-7), we do a half-hour play break every day at this time. It also gives Mama a rest!

New Time Table for today

After we chop off Saturday and swap out the subjects to modernize it, this is what we end up with:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9:00-9:20

Spiritual or moral instruction

Spiritual or moral instruction

History

Spiritual or moral instruction

Spiritual or moral instruction

9:20-9:40

Geography

Natural History

Reading

Reading

Reading

9:40-9:50

Repetition 

Repetition 

Repetition 

Math

Repetition 

9:50-10:00

Foreign Language

Writing

Foreign Language

Foreign Language

Picture Study

10:00-10:20

Math

Handicrafts

Math

Handicrafts

Math

10:20-10:35

Movement or play

Sol-fa (singing instruction)

Movement or Play

Foreign Language Song

Sol-fa or Movement

10:35-10:50

Movement or Play

Movement or Play

Movement or Play

Movement or Play

Movement or Play

10:50-11:10

Tales

Math

Geography

Tales

Natural History

11:10-11:20

Writing

Drawing

Handicrafts

Brush-Drawing

Handicrafts

11:20-11:30

Reading

Reading

Writing

Writing

Writing

Spiritual or moral instruction: 4x per week @20 min per session

Geography: 2x per week @20 min per session

Math: 4x per week @20 min each, 1x per week @10 min

Reading: 2x per week @10 min each, 3x per week @ 20 min each

History: 1x per week @20 min

                   Form IA - optional 1x per week evening session of 20 minutes

Repetition: 4x per week @ 10 min each

Natural History (science): 2x at 20 min each

Foreign language: 3x @ 10 min each, plus 15 min of singing French songs

Handicrafts: 2x per week for 10 min each, 2x per week for 20 min each

Tales: 2x per week for 20 min each.

Picture Study: 1x per week for 10 min

Writing: 5x per week for 10 min each

Drawing: 1x per week for 10 min

Week's Work: help in house or garden on the weekend

Brush-drawing: 1x per week for 10 min

Movement: 3-5 days per week at 15-30 min each

Sol-fa or singing, including French songs: 2x per week @15 min each

Play: Daily for 15 minutes, as an option

There should be a half hour movement/play/singing break a little more than midway through the day.

By dropping Saturday and modernizing the subjects, you can make a schedule that will work for you. Use this as a template to create your own schedule, or use it exactly as written (that's what I do!)

Feel free to play around with it, moving subjects around for what works for your family. Give it at least two weeks before tweaking though, to give yourself time to get into a new routine.

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Have you struggled to find diverse books for your children?   One of the problems we face as home educators is finding books with main characters who are not of European ancestry.   This diversity is important so that children can both look into a mirror (see characters that are like them) and peer through a window (see characters that are not like them).  

 Sure, we can find lists here and there scattered across the interwebs, but I've longed for a page that has all those links gathered in one place.

Since I couldn't find one, I made one.

Without further ado....

(If the pictures of the books don't show up, make sure your ad-blocker is turned off.  They are Amazon links, and if you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you)

Indigenous American Books

Our Stories: Children's Books on the Native North American Experience (San Francisco Public Library)

from the American Indian Library Association:

Favorite authors:

Julius Lester

Kadir Nelson

Hispanic/Latinx

Our Latino Heritage: 2nd-8th Grade

Our Latino Heritage: PreK-1st Grade

Best 15 Latino Books from 2013

Sampler of Latino Children's and YA Authors and Illustrators

Teen Latino titles by Reforma

Latino Books for Kids by Seattle Public Library

Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award

10 Latino Poets Your Children Should Know

Hispanic Heritage Month from poets.org

Pura Belpré Book Award

Américas Award

Asian

13 Books for Kids That Celebrate All Things Asian

Top 10: Chinese American Children's Books (ages 2-14)

Books with Asian Children

Asian American Books for Children of All Ages (another page of links)

6 Asian Culture Children's Books

Our Asian Heritage: Children’s Books on the Asian-American Experience (3rd to 6th Grade)

Our Asian Heritage: Children’s Books on the Asian-American Experience (PreK to 2nd Grade)

Asian Heritage in Children’s and Young Adult Books
South Asia Book Award

Favorite author:

Grace Lin

Mixed Race and Multi-Racial

14 Children's Books with Multi-Racial Families

70+ Picture Books about Mixed Race Families

50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Read from the National Education Association

21 Middle Grade Novels With Multiracial Characters

18 Multicultural Books About Friendship

50 Diverse Children's Books About Strong Girls by Biracial Bookworm

Middle Eastern

Arab American Book Award

Middle Eastern Heritage for Kids from San Francisco Public Library

Middle Eastern Book Award

Top 10: Best Middle Eastern American Children's Books

15 Must Read Books by Middle Eastern Authors

20 Books by Arab-American authors

Children's Middle Eastern Heritage from King County Library System

Disabilities

Children's Books About Disabilities

60 Books About Disabilities and Differences for Kids

Schneider Family Book Award

Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award

Books with Characters Who Have Physical Disabilities

10 Captivating Fiction Books That Portray Disability and Disease

Children’s Books with Characters Who Have Physical Differences

25+ Children's Books Featuring Visually Impaired Characters

Disability in Fiction: Top Ten SFF / YA Books

Translated into English

Batchelder Award

100 Great Translated Kids Books from Around the World

Required Reading: The Books that Students Read in 28 Countries Around the World

And lists that didn't fit into a category:  

What is family? Picture books about loving families in many forms

Related PostsWhat Are Living Books?

Your spouse is almost home from work and you still have no idea what you’re cooking for dinner.  You guess it’s spaghetti again, and hope the family doesn’t complain that it’s the second time this week.  You’ve been running all day but can’t figure out what you’ve done, and you still haven’t gotten a full day of all the lessons you’re “supposed to do” in, and you wonder how in the world people pull off this Charlotte Mason thing.

You want to do more intentional work with the kids, but there’s always someone asking for something, and the living room floor strewn with toys and half-finished projects covering the dining table nag at you.  And you’re just so tired!

You get the kids in bed and plop on the couch to veg and watch a few Netflix shows that you don’t even care about, but you can’t think about doing more.

You finally drag yourself to bed and sigh when you see the piles of clean clothes you dumped there this morning.  You didn’t get around to folding them today, but you’re so exhausted it’s not going to happen now.  Sweeping them off into the clothes basket, you promise yourself you’ll fold them tomorrow.  Then you remember the wet clothes still in the washer.

You love your family, love your kids, but can’t help but think, “Is this all there is?”

Sound familiar?  I’ve been there.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can be fulfilled, joyful, happy, and have a life that feels easy (or at least doesn’t feel hard all the time).

Over the last several years, I’ve come to see that there are things that when instituted consistently, bring this peace to a homeschool.  It doesn’t matter what kind sort of homeschool philosophy you follow; these principals are universal.

I call them the four pillars of a peaceful homeschool.

Why pillars?  I love this visual of Greek architecture.  Pillars are what hold up great amounts of weight.  They are so much more than just decorative accents, but are instead integral parts of the structure.  Take a pillar away and the entire thing can come crashing down.  At the same time, they are more than just utilitarian.  They can be beautiful in their own right.

The beauty of these four pillars is that they not apply no matter what homeschool philosophy you follow, but they aren’t dependent on a religious tradition or a specific culture.  They are universal.

What are they?

Self-care, Rhythm, White Space, and Gratitude

Each one is just as important as the others.  Let’s take each one in turn.

Pillar 1:  Self-Care

You’re laughing to yourself right now, aren’t you?  You can’t even go to the bathroom alone without little fingers sticking under the door, how can you even think of self-care?

In order to continually give give give to your family, you have to also take care of yourself.  You know how when you fly on an airplane they tell you that if the oxygen masks fall, put it on yourself first and then help those around you?  They say this because you can’t help anyone else if you’ve passed out from lack of oxygen.

The same applies to your life.  You can’t give endlessly of yourself if you’re not taking care of yourself.  Sure, you can force yourself through for awhile, but it shows up in snappish attitudes, short tempers, impatience, depression, feeling like chores are endless and a drudgery, resenting your family, and avoiding doing the daily tasks that need to be done to run a smooth house and homeschool.

When I first heard of self care I imagined a woman going for a weekly manicure and massage, putting on a full face of makeup every day, and going on regular shopping trips with her friends while her kids ran wild at home.

No thank you!  I’m not a shopper, I don’t ever do my nails, and I’m not about to spend the money on relaxing massages.

Self-care doesn’t mean you’re selfish and it also doesn’t need to take a lot of money.

Think of a few small things that you could do every day that would refresh you.  That are for you and you alone.

Here are some ideas:

  • sit on the back porch in the morning
  • get up earlier than the kids (highly recommended!) to have a few minutes just to yourself
  • set aside 10 minutes at night to read a book that has nothing to do with homeschooling and that’s just for you
  • take 10 minutes while you’re outside with the kids and take off your shoes to stand barefoot on the earth
  • put on under eye concealer and mascara
  • read from a book of wisdom from a spiritual tradition
  • let your spouse put your kids to bed while you take a bath

Plopping on the couch to watch Netflix in a daze after the kids are in bed is not self care (though being intentional about it can be).  Surfing on your phone mindlessly watching cat videos is not self care.

A good barometer is to ask yourself afterward, “Do I feel refreshed?  Or do I feel like I just wasted that time?”

Write down your own list.  Then look at that list again and decide on one or two things that you can realistically carve out time for on a daily basis.

And then do it.

Pillar 2:  Rhythm

Regularity.  Routine.  Cycle.  Predictability.  A template for your day, your week, the season, the year.

Knowing what’s coming because you have a regular routine frees up valuable brain space.  It’s important for kids because it makes them feel secure about the predictability of the their world, but it’s just as important for adults.

Start with mealtimes and sleeping times.

A regular bedtime for both the kids and you, early enough that they and you can get enough sleep to be rested during the day.

Naps are good too, for both young kids and nursing moms.

Develop reasonable times for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.  They don’t need to be bam-on-the-dot every day, but try to shoot for a 15 to 20 minute range.

Once you have those pretty well in hand, try time blocking the rest of your day.  You don’t need to be a slave to a schedule, and certainly not one that’s scheduled to 15 and 30 minute increments.

Instead, time blocking means that maybe you decide to do lessons in the morning and household work in the afternoon.  Or an hour and a half of lessons in the morning, an hour of working on the house, then after lunch you have two hours of time for family activities with your kids.

However you decide to do it.

The most important thing is to be consistent.

Pillar 3:  White Space

“The beginning of the week was great!  We got everything done, I was so productive and finished several projects I’d left unfinished, we ate on time and the kids slept.  But halfway through the week I didn’t even want to look at the schedule I’d made for us and instead I spent the rest of the week on Facebook.  What went wrong?”

You didn’t give yourself white space.

White space in graphic design is negative space.  It’s not “nothing” — it has a specific purpose, and that’s to let the eyes rest so that the other elements of the page stand out better.

Think of a page in a book.  Words don’t start at the top edge of the page and continue uninterrupted to the bottom.

There is a margin around all sides of every page with text.  There is spacing between the lines so they don’t overlap.  Words have spaces between them, letting us know that one word stops and another begins. Even individual letters have a small amount space between them; they are not bunched up right next to each other.

White space.  Margin.  Rest.  A breather.

You need to work this into every single day.  Not only once, but multiple times during the day.

This is where ease and spaciousness comes in to your life.

Letting things flow naturally from one thing to the next, rather than rushing to do the next thing.

This is not time to be on your phone scrolling through social media, but time to simply BE.

Slow down your pace.  Take some deep breaths.  Don’t schedule activities back to back.

Stop lessons or this activity or that one a few minutes before you think you’re “supposed to” to give yourself time to transition to the next.

Leave a part of your day unscheduled, and don’t fill that time with TV or scrolling on your phone.  Give yourself that extra time to do what feels good in that moment.

Maybe it’s looking at the lizard your daughter caught.  Maybe it’s writing a letter to your 97 year old Grandma.  Maybe it’s doing some yoga positions.  Maybe it’s lying in the grass looking at cloud pictures in the sky.

Do you know what Charlotte Mason called this?  Masterly inactivity.

Pillar 4:  Gratitude

The fourth and final pillar is gratitude and thankfulness.

This is just as important as the other three.

Gratitude will change your attitude.  It will change your outlook.  It will change your focus from what is wrong with your life to what is right about it.

It is the simplest of the four pillars, and perhaps the most powerful.

How to incorporate this into your day?  Start with a 5-minute journal.  You can buy one on Amazon, or you can just use a $1 composition notebook.

Every morning write down three things that you’re grateful for.  Then write down three things that will make today great.  Finally, write an affirmation.

In the evening, write down three things that made today amazing, and then how you could have made today even better.

That’s it.  It’s that simple.  Do it consistently though and watch how it changes your life.

You can add your children by having them write their own thoughts, or simply talk about what you’re grateful for as your introduction to morning lessons.  Sometimes I read Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, other times my daughter and I just take turns saying what we are thankful for.

I like the Giving Thanks book because it focuses our thoughts on the natural world, and starts “To be a human being is an honor.”

Quick recap of the four pillars of a peaceful homeschool:

  • Self Care
  • Rhythm
  • White Space
  • Gratitude

Take these one at a time and incorporate them into your life.  Start with the easiest one for your situation; success breeds success.

Having just one pillar in place will improve your satisfaction with your homeschool life.  Each additional one will create a firmer foundation on which to rest.  Having all of these in place is a huge step towards ease and peace.

Want to remember the Four Pillars of a Peaceful Homeschool? Pin it to your favorite homeschooling Pinterest Board!

I know you’ve seen it around. The Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six.

Maybe you’ve wondered what exactly it’s supposed to be. Maybe you’ve looked at it and your own child’s skills, and felt lacking. Like there’s no way your child is there, so obviously it’s a ridiculous and outdated set of standards and you’ll just skip it.

Or maybe you’ve looked at it and thought, yep, my 6 year old can do all that. We’re good. Now I can move on to my other curriculum knowing that I’ve got those boxes checked.

But what exactly was the purpose of the List of Attainments for a Child of Six?

I dug deeper to find out, and what I found was that there are a lot of misinterpretations floating around the interwebs.

THE MOST COMMON PERCEPTIONS:

The first is that it is a list of what your child should know before he or she starts a Charlotte Mason education. A list of First Grade Readiness Skills, as it were.

These parents want to use the list as a preschool curriculum, to make sure their child is ready to begin Charlotte Mason homeschooling at 6.

The second most common perception is that it’s a list of six year old developmental milestones, circa 1890. You know the type: “By the age of 4, most children can kick a ball, stand on one foot for four or five seconds, and use scissors with supervision”.

This creates quite a bit of panic among new homeschoolers, who look at the list and think, “my child can’t recognize 3 birds! Oh no!”

Most places online attributed the List to Ambleside Online, but there was no attribution there either, other than “a curriculum outline from the 1890s”. No specification to what year.

But it does say “a curriculum outline” … which means that it’s the outline of a curriculum, not pre-requisite skills.

I found one post that said it was from a Parents’ Review article published in the ’90s by Karen Andreola, so I searched every Parents’ Review article digitized at the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection before I realized that, ahem, the blog author meant the 1990s, not the 1890s.

Ha!

Karen Andreola published a new version of the Parents’ Review in the 1990s. I’ve immersed myself so much in Charlotte Mason primary sources that it didn’t even occur to me I was looking in the wrong century!

I contacted Karen, and she has been very gracious answering my questions. While she couldn’t remember the exact year that she got the curriculum outline from, nor if she’d renamed it herself to A Formidable List of Attainments (and who could blame her? This was 20-some-odd-years ago!) she was kind enough to snap a picture of her original republishing and send it to me.

Here is a transcription of it:

A FORMIDABLE LIST OF ATTAINMENT FOR A CHILD OF SIX

To recite, beautifully, six easy poems and hymns.

To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm.

To add and subtract numbers up to ten, with dominoes or counters.

To read — what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child; children vary much in their power of reading.

To copy in print- hand from a book.

To know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows.

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

To describe any lake, river, pond, island, &c, within easy reach.

To tell quite accurately (however shortly) three stories from Bible history, three from early English, and three from early Roman history.

To be able to describe three walks and three views.

To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

To do the same with the leaves and flowers of six forest trees.

To know six birds, by song, colour, and shape.

To send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed.

To tell three stories about their own “pets” — rabbit, dog, or cat.

To name twenty common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences.

To sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song.

To keep a caterpillar, and tell the life story of a butterfly from his own observations.

A formidable list of attainments for a child of five or six, but it is nearly all play-work, and to be done out-of-doors. The “sit-still” work should not occupy more than an hour and a half daily, and the time-table will show how all can be done, little by little, by day-by-day efforts. Our aim is to gather up the fragments of the child’s desultory knowledge, so that nothing be lost. There is no waste more sad than the waste of those early years when the child’s curiosity is keen and his memory retentive, and when he might lay up a great store of knowledge of the world he lives in with pure delight to himself; but this fine curiosity is allowed to spend itself on trivial things, and the retentive memory — does it not sometimes store the idle gossip of the maids?

When we look at that last paragraph, it says “A formidable list of attainments for a child of five or six, but it is nearly all play-work, and to be done out-of-doors.”

This is where I believe Ms. Andreola took the title from.

THE FORMIDABLE LIST VS. 1891 CURRICULUM PROGRAMME

After reading quite a bit of primary source material, I came across a curriculum programme from 1891, and it is a pretty darn close match to the Formidable List of Attainments.

This led me to believe that the List is neither a list of readiness skills nor a list of milestones, but rather a curriculum outline to be used and taught.

Let’s compare (I’ve re-ordered the 1891 programme to make this easier):

Formidable List1891 Programme
Recitations:
To recite, beautifully, six easy poems and hymns.

To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm.

To recite, beautifully and perfectly, three poems, three hymns, a parable, and a psalm.
Math:
To add and subtract numbers up to ten, with dominoes or counters.

To add and subtract numbers up to 20, with counters, dominoes, etc.

To make figures up to 10 — a fortnight to be given to the mastery of each figure.

To add little sums, where the answer comes to less than 10, thus 2+3+4.

To subtract units from units, thus 8-3

To work out and learn the multiplication table up to 3×12=36
Reading:
To read — what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child; children vary much in their power of reading.

To read 500 words (see lessons in P.R. for August, 1891)
Writing:
To copy in print- hand from a book.


To be able to copy from a book in simplest print characters, thus, A B C D E F G, etc.

To make good firm strokes and pothooks
Geography:
To know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows.

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

To describe any lake, river, pond, island, &c, within easy reach.

To be able to describe three walks and three views.
(No geography - but:)

To do six Calisthenic or Swedish exercises.
Stories:
To tell quite accurately (however shortly) three stories from Bible history, three from early English, and three from early Roman history.

To know six stories from the Life of Abraham (Gen xii to xx)

To know six stories from the first six chapters of St. Mark.

*To be able to tell six stories of Saxon times

*To be able to tell six Greek stories.
Natural History:
To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

To do the same with the leaves and flowers of six forest trees.

To know six birds, by song, colour, and shape.

To tell three stories about their own “pets” — rabbit, dog, or cat.

To keep a caterpillar, and tell the life story of a butterfly from his own observations.

To be able to tell all about ten living creatures.

*To mount in scrap-book six wild flowers, with leaves; to know their names, and whether they grow in field or hedge or marsh.
Work:
To send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed.

*Three little pieces of work, knitting, cross-stitch and (boys and girls) sewing. Wild flowers, work, kndergarten work, etc, to be sent in for inspection at the end of the term.
French:
To name twenty common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences.


To know forty French names of things; twenty little French phrases.
Singing:
To sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song.

To sing one French song; and to do Tonic Sol-fa Lessons in P.R.

Do you see how very similar these two are, when put side by side? The 1891 programme is a tad bit more difficult, including multiplication tables up to 3×12 for example, but it was also for all of “1st Class”, which is what we would now call Form 1.

In other words, this 1891 programme covered instruction for students ages 6-9.

THE FORMIDABLE LIST WAS A PROGRAMME OF STUDY

Now notice that the List has a line that says “send in work”, which implies that what the child is doing is being sent to a central authority of some kind, rather than simply the detritus of childhood.

When we look at the bits in it, we see that it says “to send in certain Kindergarten or other handwork, as directed” and “the time-table will show how all can be done, little by little, by day-by-day efforts.”

Work was sent in. A time-table was provided.

Those are parts of a directed program, not of a random slew of developmental milestones. And as a directed program, it is not a pre-requisite to that same program.

Another point — the Formidable List has “To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.”

A dozen — one every week.

Twelve weeks. This was to be done over a twelve week period. We know that a ‘term’ was 12 weeks ….

We can see that not only are the two very similar, but as the 1891 programme shows, it is for one term of work.

Let me say that again: A programme of study for a single term.

That means it was directed, with deliberate guidance from the parent.

The student wasn’t left to ‘pick up the information’ on her own. Mother guided the child to these.

If you look at the later programmes for Form IB, you see that, while it has been expanded and made more specific, it is also very similar to both of these.

The Formidable List of Attainments was not a list of “what your six year old should know”, nor was it a list of skills and knowledge a child should have acquired in her preschool years.

It is simply a guide for a term of study, that a child of approximately six years old could do.

If you are delaying starting Form IB until your child is 7, using this as a guide for that “Kindergarten” year of 6 years old is a lovely idea. You still might need to leave off reading and writing, but this is actually quite similar to what I’m doing did with my own six year old.

As the ending paragraph says, “it is nearly all play-work, to be done out doors”.

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We continue today with reading through The Parents’ Review [1890] Vol 1, No 4.  I’m quite excited about today’s entry — it’s not an instructional piece, but rather reader submitted book recommendations!

Reader Submitted Living Book Recommendations, circa 1890

(Not sure what a living book is?  Read this post for my explanation)

(Disclosure: This post probably contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Uncle Remus

The first recommendation is for Uncle Remus books by Joel C. Harris.  These are apparently the “original” ones, or perhaps I should say the first ones published.  They are available free online at Project Gutenberg

I love that the Parents’ Review points out the objection that the dialect is hard to read.  “The answer to this is — Read the tales aloud, and the dialect becomes easy and natural.”

For a wonderful, modern retelling of Uncle Remus, look for Uncle Remus: The Complete Tales by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Seaside and Wayside

The next set of books is recommended by a different reader, and these too are American books.  

A set of Reading Books “Seaside and Wayside,” in three volumes, by Julia Wright…is perfect , because its aim is to present facts in simple short Saxon words, and give  living  teaching;  thus I found it evoked a real interest in reading in a child of nine, who simply could not and  would not read from the “Primers” generally used. This interest has never flagged, but gone on increasing in the most satisfactory way.

I was delighted to find that two of these three volumes are still in print, but not under their names of Seaside and Wayside.

No, they are now Books 2 and 3 of the Christian Liberty Nature Readers!

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at the copyright pages  (if it doesn’t show for you, click “View Sample” towards the top)

These two books of the Christian Liberty series were my own daughter’s favorites.  After these, she lost interest. I’d thought it was simply changing tastes as she grew older, but now I wonder if it was the change in author.  I hadn’t realized before this that the Nature Readers aren’t all written by the same person.

A word though — as you can tell by the series title “Christian Liberty Nature Readers” the author does come from a Christian perspective. They are not “young earth creationist” (at least not these two books), but you may see an occasional reference to “God’s plan”, or wording similar to that. They are not overbearingly Christian and they don’t seek to convert, but it’s something to be aware of if it’s an issue for you.

They are also in public domain and available through both google books and archive.org, as well as two more books in the series.

Sea-side and Way-side

This same reader also recommends Miss West’s Class in Geography 

The publisher Yesterday’s Classics publishes two more books recommended by this same Parents’ Review reader —

  • Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball that Floats in the Air, and
  • The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children, both by Jane Andrews. 

I have not read any of these, except for the Christian Liberty Nature Readers, so I can’t vouch for language or attitudes.

But I am so thrilled to know that we still have access to these books that were enjoyed by children generations ago!

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One of the most frequently asked question by those new to Charlotte Mason is, “what exactly is a living book?”

What does that term mean?

How do I know if a book is living?

When I first started learning about Charlotte Mason through curricula that billed itself as CM (but actually wasn’t), and reading blogs here and there, I developed the idea that living book meant historical fiction.

Other places I’ve seen people say that a living book is wrapped in a fictional story, or any book that ‘draws a reader in’ is living.

This leads to the erroneous conclusion that all you have to do to make a bunch of facts into a living book is to write them in a fictional story, or even that junk-food type books that kids love (Junie B Jones, Magic Treehouse) are living books.

But just because a child loves a book doesn’t mean it’s a living book.

My definition of a living book

Here is my own short definition:

A living book is a book of literary quality, often written for a popular audience by a single author (sometimes two) who is passionate about his subject.  It transmits ideas rather than just facts, and feeds the mind.

Let’s take that definition bit by bit.

  • A living book is a book

I think we should start here — by definition, a living book is a book.  Not a movie. Not a youtube video or documentary. Not a radio production or a video game.

A living book is a book.

  • Next, “of literary quality

This does not mean… ‘anything wrapped in a story shell.’

…It doesn’t mean any book that is narrative.

…It doesn’t mean any book that ‘draws a child in.’

It is a book of literary quality.

Beautiful writing.  Varied sentences. Wide and rich vocabulary.

It is a book that you as an adult love to read as much as your children do, because the quality of the writing is excellent.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” — C. S. Lewis

I will say the same thing about a living book.  If you don’t enjoy it as an adult, if it is a pain to slog through because the writing is so stilted or written on such a low level, it is not of literary quality.

Continuing —

  • often written for a popular audience by a single author who loves his subject

Not a book written by committee.  Not a textbook. Not meant for ‘educational purposes only.’

This is a book that is written with such passion and joy, and written so lucidly, that everyone can enjoy it.

Even if they aren’t assigned it for school.  Especially if they aren’t assigned it for school!

It is not a lecture that has been written down.

If you open up a book, read a few pages, and would never think of reading it if you weren’t required to, then put it back.

Have you ever known a person who you could listen to them talk for hours, no matter the subject, because they had such a way with words that listening was a delight?  Or that was able to transmit their enthusiasm and draw you in to their subject even when you had no prior interest in it?

Or that could take anything and wrap it in a story of personal anecdote so skillfully that you hardly even realized you were learning because they were such a joy to listen to?

That’s what you want out of a book.

You want a book that grabs you by the collar, pulls you in, and won’t let go, even if you have no prior interest in the subject.   Because the author writes so well.

 

  • It transmits ideas rather than just facts.

This is a harder one to define.  Ideas. But let’s take a look at some books that just transmit facts and pull kids in, for comparison.

The most common style of books you’ll find in the non-fiction children’s section these days is the DK Eyewitness style.  They are not all published by DK, but they share the style.

Lots of pictures.  Little snippets of text.  Fact. Fact. Amazing fact! More pictures.

Now, look at a page of this book.  Take out all the pictures, and just leave the text.  Since there are often text boxes scattered all over the page with one or two central paragraphs, you’ll need to mentally draw those odd pieces of text together.

Now read through it, without the pictures.

Does it flow?  Is it beautiful?  Does it draw you in?

Or is it choppy?  Clunky? Does it read like a list of facts for a 4th grader’s book report?

I’m going to write a few pieces from my daughter’s favorite book about bugs here, so you can see what I mean.

On the page titled Wasps, we have three paragraphs telling a little about different kinds of wasps, then several drawings of different kinds of wasps.

California oak gall wasp.  This type of wasp lays her eggs in oak leaves.  Blue-black spider wasp. The spider wasp catches spiders to feed her young.  Giant hornet. Like the yellow jacket, the hornet is a wasp with a powerful sting.

Etc.

Then we move into some more interesting text, also scattered around a large drawing of a wasp:

The bright colors of the wasp probably acts as a warning to its enemies–keep away or else.  When a creature such as a bird attacks a wasp and gets stung, it learns to link the black and yellow stripes with the painful sting.  This makes it less likely to attack another wasp. The wasp’s antennae are covered with tiny hairs and are highly sensitive to touch and smell.  The antennae may also detect changes in temperature and humidity.

And so on.

But do you see here?  It’s all just fact after fact.    There’s no … personality.   It’s like listening to someone read from an encyclopedia entry.

If it weren’t for the large drawings and pictures over every page, my child would not be interested at all.

Pictures should enhance the text, not make it so the text is bearable!

One last point —

Living books can be fiction or non-fiction.  They can be historical fiction, they can be non-fiction wrapped in a fictional story.

They can be classics (20 years old or more) or newly published.

But just because a book is fiction, or historical fiction, or wrapped in a fictional story, does not necessarily make it a living book.

The litmus test is not whether or not it’s told in story form.

The litmus test is if it is literary quality and transmits ideas rather than just facts (food for the mind).

When you evaluate a book, is the quality so high that you want to save it for your grandchildren or even great-grandchildren?

If so, it’s probably a living book.

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pinterest book with pages in heart shape what are living books

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.

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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?

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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!