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

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

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

Do you want a music curriculum that brings in beauty?

That respects the homeschooling family?

That works with a Charlotte Mason philosophy without modification?

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

That teaches without a text?

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

 

Foundations of Music, Legends of the Staff of Musique

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOPICS COVERED

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

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

AGE RANGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, perfect for a Charlotte Mason education!

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

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

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

What’s included in Foundations of Music?

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

Also included is access to the member site where there are

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

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

Earlier levels

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

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

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

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

I cannot recommend this program highly enough.

THE TAKEAWAY

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

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

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

adore this music curriculum.

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

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

One of the biggest troubles newbies to Charlotte Mason have is reading books slowly.

You look at all the great books on a curriculum list and dive right in … but then you’ve finished an entire term’s worth of reading in two weeks and think “this isn’t enough!”

Or, you don’t follow anyone’s term schedule but just sit down with your kids and read. You’ve never even heard that you should read books slowly.

Your kids don’t want you to stop reading, so why should you?

Let’s find out.

SLOW READING: A CORNERSTONE OF THE CHARLOTTE MASON METHOD

In What Is Charlotte Mason, I mentioned that we savor rather than gulp our books.

But what does this mean?

It means that we read books slowly. 40-50 pages per 11-12 week term.

What? That’s crazy slow, you say. There’s no way we could make a book last that long!

Yes you can.

You read only 3-4 pages per week. Mostly, you’ll read this amount in a single session. In Form 1, for example, History is done once per week for about 10-15 minutes.

Each session you’d talk about what happened last week (see this post I wrote for Wildwood Curriculum), perhaps talk about what your kids think will happen next, read the pages, then have the children narrate (tell back) to you.

After narration, talk excitedly about what you read. Maybe bring out the map to find places you’ve read about.

This will take approximately 10-15 minutes. Does that sound too little? Another staple of Charlotte Mason is short lessons.

Jodi Clark put this very well:

“It is very important to stick to the time period set for a class–this is a key piece to the method; it enables the child to slowly digest the information presented, which fosters deeper learning, understanding, and relations.

It’s a good sign they are delighted with the book if they want you to keep going. But they’ll have to wait until the next time the class is scheduled–usually a week.”

 

BUT MY CHILD DOESN’T WANT TO STOP READING!

Stop anyway.

Yes, stop even if they want you to read more.

This builds anticipation for next week, and also lets those shorter chunks simmer in their minds. They will tend to think more deeply on the scenes and topics, because they are getting them in small pieces.

Remember that Charlotte Mason is like drinking from a cup rather than a firehouse.

A trickle rather than a pour.

It also helps to develop the memory when a student forgets from one week to the next, then has to remember.

Even if the memory is jogged in order to remember.

It’s similar to Spaced Repetition, though the aim of reading slowly isn’t to memorize.

DO I USE ONLY VERY SHORT BOOKS THEN?

No. Use normal length books.

Books are generally read over several terms, and often over several years (a year is made up of 3 terms, approximately 11-12 weeks each).

This is also a reason why you should use only high quality books, that aren’t written down to children, and are full of ideas rather than just facts.

When you use a book over a period of several months to years, it needs to be interesting and well written. Anything less will guarantee that you (and your kids) will be well sick of it.

Another reason to use books that will span multiple ages is that your children won’t grow out of them in a year.

Have you ever used a curriculum that was perfect at the beginning of the year, but your child had such massive growth mid-year, that by the end it was well beneath her level? It happened with my own daughter quite frequently.

By using high quality books that span ages, you’ll decrease the chances of this happening.

VERY SLOW READING DOESN’T APPLY TO ALL BOOKS

Can you imagine trying to read a single short book of historical fiction over an entire year? Or perhaps spreading out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone over a two year period?

That story would drag!
No, fiction isn’t generally included in slow reading.

That is to say, light fiction isn’t.
In Form I (approximate ages 6-9), books of fiction weren’t generally assigned. Instead, short biographies and fairy tales were.

Form II (approximate ages 9-12) is when we really start seeing fiction every term in the PNEU programmes. Still, these are done at the rate of 1-2 books per term.

The vast majority of books in a Charlotte Mason education are non-fiction.

BUT ISN’T CHARLOTTE MASON FILLED WITH BOOKS?

Yes and no.

Multiple books are read every term, sometimes 3-4 books per subject. But they are still read slowly. They are still read at the rate of 40-50 pages per term.

Books are an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education, but they are only a part of it.

Just as important is working with your hands, cultivating a sense of beauty, and becoming a naturalist.

It is a well-balanced approach to education.

By reading books slowly, it keeps the reading manageable.

EVALUATING CURRICULA

In light of this, it should be easier to evaluate curricula that claim to be Charlotte Mason or draw from CM.

  • Lots of books listed? Fine – could go either way
  • Mostly historical fiction? Ehh …. you’ll definitely want to dig more. Charlotte Mason used some historical fiction starting in Form II, but only 1-2 books per term.
  • Are the books read quickly or are they spread out over several terms (or years)? While it’s ok for some books to be read more quickly, the majority should be read slowly.

If the books are read more quickly, consider that the curriculum might actually be more Waldorf or Classical. These are both valid homeschooling styles, but they aren’t Charlotte Mason.

THE TAKEAWAY

  • Keep readings short
  • Read only 3-4 pages per week from each book, on average, to let the material simmer
  • spread each book over several terms or even years
  • Stay strong when your child begs for one more chapter to build the anticipation

Have you tried slow reading in your homeschool? I’d love to know how it works for you! Let me know in the comments, or shoot me an email.

You’ve heard things about this Charlotte Mason method, and the more you read the more it sounds like exactly what your family is looking for.

But there’s one problem: you keep seeing on blogs and Facebook groups that Charlotte Mason is for Christians only, and can’t be used by those who aren’t.

But you’re not Christian.

Do you need to leave this method behind and look for another that will welcome non-Christians? Does Charlotte Mason’s method of education really only work for those who have committed themselves to her god? Is there something different about the biology and brain of children of Christian parents that makes this method unsuitable for those of us that aren’t?

Of course not!

Charlotte Mason was Christian

Let’s get this out of the way right now — Charlotte Mason was Christian. More specifically, Anglican. In the U.S., this is the modern Episcopalian Church. Her worldview was saturated with it, and she couldn’t conceive of any other religion being ‘right’, just as many modern-day Christians can’t.

However, she also taught Jewish students, and had friends and close co-workers who were Jewish. Nowhere in her writings have I found where she said that Jewish or any other religions should not use her method. On the contrary, she says that her method works with all children. Are we to believe that her ‘all children’ actually means only Christian children, and that children are biologically different depending on what religion their parents follow?

I don’t think so.

How to bring your own beliefs to a CM education

With the proliferation of Christian curricula where the entire thing seems to be saturated with a certain brand of Christianity, and the inclusion of generally Young Earth resources in these, you’d think that Charlotte Mason held those same views.

Nope.

Her programmes (from the PNEU) are filled with books that are only mildly Christian or that are outright secular. She used books that taught current scientific theory (Darwin), and she says in Volume 1 concerning which Bible commentaries to use: “Mr. Smyth brings both modern criticism and research to bear, so that children taught from his little manuals will not be startled to be told that the world was not made in six days; and, at the same time, they will be very sure that the world was made by God.”

So what do we as non-Christians, or Christians whose beliefs don’t follow other curricula, do?

First, “We must teach only what we know.”

What does this mean? It was actually this singular passage that brought me back to my non-Christian beliefs. I was trying to raise my daughter with Christian materials, because that was all that was available 15 years ago. I read this passage, and realized that I didn’t believe what I was trying to teach my daughter.

“In the first place, we must teach that which we know, know by the life of the soul, not with any mere knowledge of the mind. Now, of the vast mass of the doctrines and the precepts of religion, we shall find that there are only a few vital truths that we have so taken into our being that we live upon them––this person, these; that person, those; some of us, not more than a single one. One or more, these are the truths we must teach the children, because these will come straight out of our hearts with the enthusiasm of conviction which rarely fails to carry its own idea into the spiritual life of another.” (Home Education p 347)

What are the core beliefs that you carry in your soul? These may or may not align with the religion that you belong to. However, these core beliefs are the only ones you can teach.

How do you make this into a curriculum?

The easiest way is to use a curriculum that aligns fairly closely with what you already believe, and then tweak from there.

The great thing about Charlotte Mason’s curriculum as found in the PNEU programmes is that there are few religious books outside the Bible portions, so it’s easy to take a curriculum that is modeled after these programs and tweak it to fit your own worldview.

Tweaking curriculum for your views

Wildwood Curriculum is a strict Charlotte Mason curriculum, but without religious dogma.  It is easily customized to fit your own beliefs.

If you belong to an organized religion with educational materials for your religion, just put those in in place of World Religions/Philosophy. Easy peasy.

If you don’t have such a simple option, it will take a bit more work.

Take a few days to think about what ideas form your spiritual beliefs or core values. Besides those, what knowledge (spiritual or mindfulness) do you think is important to have? What qualities and morals do you want to cultivate in your children?

If you’re a visual person, you might find an outline or a mind map helpful to organize your thoughts. Don’t rush it. It will be a work in progress. Here’s a copy of mine so you can see where I’m coming from.

After you’ve figured out what ideas you want covered, use that as your guide when planning your year. What resources are available to you to convey these ideas to your children? Think outside the box — they don’t need to be books; they can be experiences or you modeling actions. At the same time, they can be books.

Hang with people going through the same thing

Finally, consider joining Facebook homeschool groups that reflect your spiritual views, especially if you can find ones that follow Charlotte Mason.

I prefer groups that embrace both religious and non-religious viewpoints. Here are a few resources:

Charlotte Mason Secular Homeschoolers
Wildwood Curriculum (this is the link to the homepage.  If you are planning to use the curriculum, there’s an active Facebook group, too)
Charlotte Mason Plenary

Up Above the Rowan Tree

Charlotte Mason’s method is for everyone, no matter your religious beliefs (or lack of them!)

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

 

woman in yoga pose next to lake with text Charlotte Mason is not for Christians only

 

Artist study is one area I’ve always struggled with.

I don’t know much about the artists or styles or periods that they worked. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Impressionist and Post-Impressionist.

I’ve always been stumped about what to actually do with my kids during art appreciation. Do we just look at the picture? Am I supposed to point out the use of color? How do I help my kids learn about art if I don’t know anything myself?

Have you felt this way, too?

Reading through the Parents’ Review articles I was happy to find an article titled Art for Children written by Thomas Rooper.

What sort of art to use for artist study—

On page 248, it says that the wisdom of the day was that children couldn’t appreciate high minded art, and both the subject and treatment should be simple or children won’t like them.

We still get that today. A quick search for art for children’s rooms turns up nauseatingly simple designs of giraffes and rabbits, with bold, simple colors.

There is no beauty, no subtlety.

Instead, Mr. Rooper reminds us of this:

“’Young citizens,’ says Plato in the Republic, ‘must not be allowed to grow up amongst images of evil, lest their souls assimilate the ugliness of their surroundings. Rather they should be like men living in a beautiful healthy place; from everything that they see and hear, loveliness like a breeze should pass into their souls and teach them without their knowing it the truth of which beauty is a manifestation.’ In the study of art ‘liking comes by looking.’ Children cannot learn what a beautiful work of art really is unless they have an opportunity of seeing good specimens almost every day of their lives. A love for the study of beautiful things is gained by a slow process; it cannot be dinned into the mind like the multiplication table, it was never imparted by the rapid method of acquiring knowledge which is known as ‘cramming.’”

There’s our first step — choose beautiful pictures. Not cute, not ugly or disturbing. Beautiful.

artist study

NEXT

After you’ve decided on suitable art, how do you bring it to the children?

“Leaving to others the study of the technical skill displayed by the artist, and of the position of the painter in the closely connected schools of European Art, I will direct attention to the subject which has been chosen, and then to the thoughts which the present treatment of it may suggest.”

Ah-ha! We don’t need to talk about whether an artist was Impressionist or talk about how he used color in this way and that artist uses it in that way.

Instead, we draw the children’s attention to the subject painted.

That’s not to say that you can’t talk about the schools of art, or that you shouldn’t as a child gets older. But this is not something you need to go deeply into.

For older students, a quick biography or object lesson concerning the artist of the term will suffice, while younger children don’t need even that.

SETTING THE STAGE

The painting used in this example is called “Circe” by Briton Riviere circe and her swine by briton for artist study

“Have you ever gone to see the pigs fed? … As we approach the sty bearing a heavy bucket of bran and meal stirred up into a thick creamy mixture, we hear inside pushing, struggling, squealing, grunting, shrieks of excited greedy anticipation mixed with squeals of disappointment, as some porker gets shoved away by an old sow from a place near the trough which is to receive the cause of all this babel of sounds. Now we pour out the luscious nutriment. Wonderful result! In a moment the din stops. Not a sound is heard but of a furious supping, interrupted by an occasional subdued and comfortable grunt of utter enjoyment and satisfaction.”

At this point, the author isn’t even talking about the picture. He’s just setting the stage for it, talking to the children about feeding pigs. He’s using descriptive words, making it fun, and letting us feel like we’re actually out throwing the slop.

Once we have this background, we can start talking about the painting itself.

“If we now study the picture we shall see that the pigs are painted as at the moment when they expect to be fed. See them crowding up, pushing each other over, uplifting their ugly heads, stretching their throats …”

Interesting! He’s not just putting the picture in front of the children and letting them ‘get what they get’, he’s actually drawing their attention to certain bits. Because he’s set the scene, we can see exactly what he’s talking about. If he hadn’t had us imagine that we were feeding the pigs, we might not have understood when he says “we see that the pigs are painted at the moment when they expect to be fed.”

“Look at their flexible coarsely-shaped snouts, their huge wrinkled brawny faces with small greedy eyes, and ask yourselves whether the artist has not studied nature to good purpose, in depicting the scene of animal selfishness which I have just described.”

And again, he’s specifically pointing out how they are portrayed. Their huge wrinkled brawny faces. Their flexible, coarsely-shaped snouts. I can almost see a pigs snout moving and snuffling just from this description; how much more alive will this make the painting!

“Let us now turn … to contemplate the fair form of the woman who sits and surveys it. What a contrast! What grace, refinement, and beauty are here! Observe the long fall of hair, gathered above the neck in a single circlet of gold, the graceful curve of the seated figure …”

And then here, he’s contrasting. He’s pointing out the difference in how the woman is drawn to how the pigs are.

But do you see? He’s not only pointing out the contrast, he’s also drawing the children’s attention to details they might otherwise miss. The single circlet of gold in her hair, the graceful curves.

By directing children’s attention, we are also refining it. We are modeling for them what close observation of a painting looks like.

THE NEXT STEP

After the picture itself is admired and studied, the author gives even more background.

It is not simply a painting of a beautiful woman feeding pigs, but an illustration from Homer’s Odyssey. Then he tells the children an abbreviated version.

Do you think a child, after studying this painting in this manner, might want to go further and listen to an audiobook of a dramatized version of The Odyssey?

This might even be a good lead-in for an older student before beginning to read The Odyssey for himself.

But what if you have no idea if there’s a story behind a painting?

The internet is our friend.

Spend a few minutes on Wikipedia before presenting a painting, so you are armed with at least a bit of knowledge before starting.

WHERE TO GET ARTIST PRINTS

Now that you know a good way to present art to your children, are you wondering where to find it?

  •  One easy way is artist calendars. Calendars.com has many calendars for $14.99, or you can look in bookstores or even discount stores. While it sounds expensive, at 12 prints per calendar (make sure you get one with different pictures for each month), it works out to $1.25 per print.The paper is heavy and fairly resistant to grubby fingerprints.And they are easy to cut up to hang on walls or otherwise display.
  •  Come Look with Me series by Gladys Blizzard. These are cheaper than calendars, come with artist bios and questions, but can’t be cut up to be displayed.
  • Download and print

The Met Museum has released 400,000 digital images of its collection into the public domain.

They also have hundreds of art books free for download.

THE TAKEAWAY

There you have it, folks. Artist study should be guided somewhat, but we can leave the technical talk out of it.

Do a bit of research yourself before presenting a print to your child. Set the scene. Draw their attention to details. Then give backstory and connections if there are any.

That’s it.

Like so many things in a Charlotte Mason education, so very simple, but so effective.

Do you have a favorite artist or piece of art? Share it in the comments!

You’ve wanted to discuss Charlotte Mason’s works in an inclusive, accepting group. One where you felt comfortable sharing your own interpretations of Charlotte Mason’s words based on your own spiritual values. One where you didn’t have to wonder if you’d be asked to leave or simply blocked because you don’t share others’ religious beliefs.

That place now exists.

Disclaimer: This post probably contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I use and love myself.

At A Charlotte Mason Plenary, owner Rachel Lebowitz is committed to providing everyone a safe place to discuss Charlotte Mason’s works.

Her first session, a study of Volume I: Home Education, started in early January but I’ve waited to write a review.

I wanted to see how the concept would play out.

How it works

They have several Plenary sessions scheduled for this year, and though I can’t speak to future ones, I can tell you how the book discussion is working.

First, you get a download of the volume that they’ve edited and formatted for easy reading and note-taking. Not only that, but it is annotated with definitions of obscure words, fun facts, and explained references.

Then there is a members-only Facebook group in which Rachel leads a discussion of the material. The discussion has been lively, with viewpoints all over the spectrum. Members vary widely in their religious beliefs, and the conversation is kept respectful and inclusive. We are encouraged to discuss how we can reconcile Charlotte’s words to our own beliefs.

Sometimes this is easy.

Other times we wrestle with it.

Rachel is an admin at Charlotte Mason Secular Homeschoolers (disclaimer: I am a moderator there) and has led inclusive Charlotte Mason groups in her hometown.

The Takeaway

Though I haven’t participated as much as I’d like to, I’ve found the conversation at the Charlotte Mason Plenary welcoming and respectful.

I highly recommend The Plenary if you are looking for resources to help you apply Charlotte Mason’s method to your life without the dogma.

Charlotte Mason picture

You took an online quiz that said you scored high for Charlotte Mason, but you have only a vague idea what it is. You’ve looked at blog after blog, website after website, but you’re still fuzzy on the details.

You don’t want to spend days reading about the fine points of a CM education, you just want a general overview so you can see if it might even be something you want to look deeper into.

Here it is.

A simple, easy to understand overview of Charlotte Mason Philosophy.

SHORT AND SWEET

Charlotte Mason was a late 19th/early 20th-century educator who used a whole child approach with a liberal (broad) education, using real books written for a popular audience by authors who love their subjects. No workbooks or worksheets, and plenty of space for childhood.

NEED A BIT MORE?

Intrigued? Let’s go a bit deeper.

A LIBERAL (BROAD) EDUCATION

Charlotte Mason believed in giving all children a liberal education. That has nothing to do with political leanings, rather it’s used in the sense of a liberal arts degree in college — a broad education, covering a multitude of subjects. It is not, however, limited to the ‘liberal arts.’ Charlotte Mason used cutting-edge science books and her aim was to raise naturalists.

LIVING BOOKS

Living books give new people more fits than any other area, I think. Living books are literary quality books filled with ideas rather than simply a litany of facts. When I say ‘literary quality’ I don’t mean narrative or wrapped in a story. They sure can be, but it isn’t necessary.

The language should be beautiful but not excessively flowery. It should not be dumbed down using simplified words and sentence structure.

They can be either fiction or non-fiction, though most of the books in the PNEU programmes are non-fiction. Fiction books tend to be catogorized under Literature and Reading.

Most classics are living books, but that doesn’t mean that modern books can’t be. It’s simply that living books tend to stand the test of time, so classics tend to be living. However, modern books like A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition), and A Little History of the United States are also living books.

Ask yourself these questions when looking at books:

  • Would I read this if it weren’t required for school?
  • Is it written well enough that both children and adults find it interesting?
  • Will the writing stand the test of time? Would I want to save this for my grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren?

It’s something you have to develop a sense for.  Read this post for for a more thorough discussion of living books.

One more point about Charlotte Mason and books — books are savored rather than gulped. They are read slowly, often only 4-5 pages per week, and often a single book is spread over several years.

RAISING NATURALISTS

Charlotte Mason’s aim was to raise naturalists. People who had a deep knowledge of place, a thorough knowledge of their surroundings. We try to educate our children in such a way that they develop a profound connection to their environment, the plants and animals that live in their same space, and the land itself.

We do this through journaling, yes, but also through adventures. Scout games and adventure was an integral part of a CM education. Nature should be experienced, not read about or quietly observed!

INTERESTING EDUCATION

This is not a boring education filled with dry, dusty old books. Children are not dragged through the school day, but “children delight in their studies.” If your kids think their CM education is dreadfully boring, then something is very wrong.

We read books about exciting, inspiring people, both modern and old. We read tales of adventure and travel around the world meeting other cultures.

We play scout games and get covered in mud, track animals after a rain, pretend to be the boy from My Side of the Mountain. We build forts and live life outdoors. We play with the chickens and come inside with straw all over our clothes.

EDUCATING THE WHOLE CHILD

Body, Mind, and Soul. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.

  • Body — working with our hands to make useful objects, gross and fine motor movements, breaks in the school day for play, dancing, physical activity, as well as plenty of time every day outside to practice whole body movements naturally (read: climb trees and roll down hills)
  • Mind — Academics. CM is gentle but rigorous and thorough. Our students get not only the standard school subjects, but also art and music appreciation, Shakespeare, multiple foreign languages, and high quality literature.
  • Soul — Religion or philosophy, appreciating art and music but also creating both. Plenty of time in nature feeds the soul.

CULTURES

Charlotte Mason believed that people should not insulate themselves.  They should be exposed to a broad variety of cultures around the world, and speak several languages.  Cultural exposure begins early, and by the time a student was in 15, he would be studying 3 languages,  not including English.

WHAT IT IS NOT

After all that, you may be wondering what Charlotte Mason is NOT. Here’s a few:

IT IS NOT WALDORF

While very similar in the early years, the academics deviate significantly around 3rd grade. Also, Waldorf is done in blocks while CM is not. With Waldorf, you’ll dive deeply into a subject for 3-6 weeks depending on grade level. In Charlotte Mason, you’ll spend a year on that same information, but you will also be working with multiple other subjects at the same time.

Waldorf is a pour of one topic, Charlotte Mason is multiple topics dripping at the same time. Over the course of several years, you’ll have covered a similar amount of information.

IT IS NOT UNSCHOOLING OR CHILD-LED

Charlotte Mason is structured, and no provision is made for children’s interests in the choice of school books.

CM doesn’t discourage children’s interests; on the contrary, hours every day are left for the child to pursue his or her own interests. They are exposed to a wide variety of activities and subjects so that they can experience and then choose what they’d like.

But there is a definite structure. It is not leaving your child to decide what he wants to study when.

IT IS NOT INDEPENDENT

By that same token, CM is not a method where you hand your kids the books, tell them what to read, then see them hours later.

Charlotte Mason requires discussion and interaction. Discussion allows the parent to clear up misunderstandings, help develop the student’s logic and thinking skills, and share the material.

Parents are also expected to provide object lessons occasionally, where a specific point is cleared up, or information that is not provided in the books is covered. Object lessons can be done in any subject.

IT IS NOT TEXTBOOK OR COMMON CORE

Some textbooks may be used in the older high school years, and a grammar text was used in the PNEU programmes beginning at about age 10. But the vast majority of books used are real books written by one person who is passionate about the subject.

There is no effort to align a Charlotte Mason curriculum with Common Core, and textbooks in general are avoided. They are usually written by committee and transmit facts rather than ideas, the opposite of a living book.

The Takeaway

I hope by this point you have enough of a picture of CM to know if you want more information, or to be able to say nope, this isn’t for us.

If you’d like to continue learning about Charlotte Mason, there is no better place to begin than with her own books. She wrote six!

I plan to start a podcast soon about living a Charlotte Mason lifestyle, regardless of your spiritual beliefs. I’ll keep you posted!

Do you have specific questions about Charlotte Mason? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe (button on the right) to get tips and techniques for a Charlotte Mason education.

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

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

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

What can we use then?

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

Let’s start with stories about our Gods.

Mythology books — stories about our Gods

Heathen mythology - Edda

D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths

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

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

The Heroes of Asgard by  Kearny and Keary

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

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

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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

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

Nordic Gods and Heroes by Padraic Colum

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

I’ve lost my rhythm.

It stinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, identify the problem areas.

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

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

Next, identify possible solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby steps

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

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

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

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

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

Rhythm

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

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

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

Results

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong.

Historical Fiction in the Programmes

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

What I found was something else entirely.

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

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

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

Literature vs. History

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

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

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

What would Charlotte do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does “Living Book” = Historical Fiction?

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

 

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

(Silence)

Yeah, me neither 🙁

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

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

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

You are not alone, my friend.

How to cure a dawdling child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how she sees it playing out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The habit is formed

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

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

Wrong.

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

 

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

And then we’re back at square one.

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

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

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

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

The takeaway

Habit training for dawdlers in a nutshell:

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

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