How To

Do oral narrations make you cry? Here’s help. Follow these proven steps to painless oral narrations, from a homeschooling mom of 20 years.

She leaned conspiratorially across the picnic table. The warm breeze licked our arms as we corralled the discarded remains of half-eaten kid lunches, crumbled crackers, and a few random grapes.

“I would love to get Emma and Lexi together to read some Tales.” The words flowed in a rush. “I think it would help Emma with her narrations. She has such a hard time with them! I’m pretty sure she understands the material, but when I ask for a narration, she says she doesn’t know. And if I make the passage I’m reading shorter like people suggest, she just tries to repeat it word for word. Maybe if she did it with a friend, she would understand.”

Ahhhh.

She had fallen victim to one of the classic blunders. 

Pirincess Bride image still of Vizzini

The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this:

The old “shorten the passage advice.”

You know the one:

If your child struggles with narration, the passage is too long. Shorten it to a page. If he still struggles, shorten it to a paragraph. Then a sentence. 

I’m just going to say it: this advice is wrong.

If your child struggles with oral narrations, he needs your help to develop this skill, not to drill down to repeat one phrase at a time.

“If you try to tempt them by shortening the passage read, they will think that you want verbal memory — exact reproduction — and you will get it. But there has been no assimilation of knowledge. That way there can be nothing but disappointment.”

H. W. Household

We think of oral narrations as a single skill to learn, but it’s actually an amalgam of at least three separate skills.

If your child is struggling, the best thing to do is to break it down into its components and practice each one separately.

Three components of oral narrations

What are the three skills in oral narration? 

  • Recall details
  • Sequence
  • Verbalize

Recall is the most important, because without it you won’t get either of the other two. It’s simply being able to recall what you heard or read.

A key factor here is an engaging book or experience. If your husband calls to tell you all about the new engine he wants to build for his dream sports car even though you and he both know the dream is 20 years from being reality, and you don’t understand cars other than

  • Step 1: turn the key
  • Step 2: magic fairies under the hood make the engine come to life

chances are you won’t remember many details from that conversation.

The same thing happens with our kids. If the material we ask them to engage with isn’t engaging, then no matter how good a memory our child has, he won’t be able to give you much.

If you’re using a living book though and your child still can’t give you much, that’s ok! This is where we start from.

READ: WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK

oral narrations making you cry? learn my secrets from a homeschooling mom of 20 years. Girl in pink sundress curled in a ball on an off-white oversized chair with her head down and ears covered

Encouraging success in oral narrations

You know that imaginary toolbox we have? The one that stores all the best techniques we’ve accumulated over the years? Let’s dig deep in the dirty depths and drag out some grease-covered tools (grab a shop towel; we don’t want you ruining your fancy new top).

Open the toolbox, the one with the rubbed corners that creaks as you open it, the one with the lopsided hearts a toddler’s hand drew in red Sharpie (oh, the memories), and pull out three tools:

First, celebrate every success, no matter how miniscule they seem

If you ask your child to tell you what he remembers from the passage, and he only gives you the last word you said, celebrate that!

That’s a win! It’s the first baby step of a marathon, and we all have to start somewhere. Don’t compare it to his “best” day (don’t we all have good and bad days?). High five him, do a silly happy dance (it’s okay to embarrass him and get the side-eye), give a solemn presentation on the nature of the cosmos if that’s his thing.

Whatever it takes.

The next tool is to model, model, model.

We can’t expect our children to do something we can’t do, and sometimes — often — they aren’t really sure what we’re asking for. 

Remember to keep your modelling attainable, though. If your daughter can only give you a single word that she remembers, don’t model a 10 minute narration complete with details about the dress the girl in the story wore.

Model something reachable. Model one baby step further than where they’re at.

If she can’t recall anything and won’t even attempt one word, then model one word.

Kid: (mumbling) “I don’t remember anything.”

Mom: You know what I remember? I remember a bird.

You want her to think, “Oh, I can do that!” 

If she gives you the last word you read, celebrate that and model an object mentioned before the last word.

It could be from the same sentence, or it could be the key character in that passage.

But just model a word or a phrase.

Kid: “I remember a bird.”

You: “And I remember there was a king.”

Ask “do you remember anything else?” If your child says no, that’s all I can remember, then stop right there. Celebrate that you both remembered one tiny thing, and end the lesson.

It’s ok. 

We’re building this foundation one pebble at a time.

Each lesson that can be narrated should be, even if you’re getting a single word with each narration.

It will grow.

And the last tool in our handy-dandy toolbox?

EASILY REMEMBER THE STEPS TO GREAT NARRATIONS WITH THIS HANDY CHECKLIST — GRAB IT FROM THE RESOURCE LIBRARY!

Draw your oral narrations. (stay with me)

“But,” I can hear you say, “my kid hates to draw!”

No, dear. Not your child.

You.

And before you protest that you can’t draw, we’re not talking art gallery-worthy paintings here.

We’re talking stick figures… or even more basic.

When I draw narrations, I literally draw a circle with a line coming straight down off it for a person. I don’t even draw arms and legs.

This isn’t drawing practice, this is a tool for memory recall.

To reduce cognitive load — the amount of working memory resources we’re using — we need to separate recalling from holding that information in our head. Get it out on paper or chalkboard or a whiteboard.

I use a chalkboard from Ikea every day.

READ: MY FAVORITE CHARLOTTE MASON RESOURCES

When your child gives you that one word narration, draw it.

A bird? Make an oval with a beak and two lines coming down for legs.

Combine this with modeling, switching back and forth between the two of you, and before long your child will remember more.

Here’s a recent example:

We read The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, and previously I’d only been getting one word from my daughter.

This had gone on for weeks, but I’d been faithful with the chalkboard for a while.

After I asked her what she remembered from the story, she said “there was a rabbit”.

I drew a snowman-like rabbit with long ears.

“I remember there was a man,” I said as I drew a stick figure man. The one with a circle and a line.

And then out of the blue, success!

My daughter said, “Uh… he had a hat.”

Woo hoo!

black chalkboard with pine frame. A circle with a line straight down and a hat on top (left) and right side a simple stick figure rabbit. Drawing in pink chalk.

Remember what I said about celebrating all successes, no matter how small? Yep, we did a high five, enormous grins, the works.

But I didn’t give a lecture on the nature of the cosmos.

It’s not my child’s thing.

Now, a year later, we still draw everything, but I get much more than a single word out of narrations.

Practice this. Keep practicing. It might take months and that’s ok.

Second Oral Narration Component: VERBALIZING

You can either start this shortly after getting comfortable with “one word”, or you can wait until your child is at ease recalling a few more. It will depend on your assessment of your child.

Once you’ve drawn — or your child has, if she’s taken it over —everything you’re going to get for that passage, model how to use the drawings as memory markers to talk about the story.

You don’t have to do it in the order you drew them, and don’t start sequencing yet. Remember… One. Step. At a time.

Point to the first figure and say, “So we had a bird.” Point to the next figure and say, “and there was a man with a hat.”

After your child has seen you do this for several days, begin asking him to use the drawings to tell you about the passage. 

This is important: Don’t ask for anything that’s not drawn until your child is confidently verbalizing what’s on the chalkboard.

Do some of this in partnership as well. “There was a bird, and… what was this?”

Once this is easy, elaborate one small section. Don’t try to expand on every figure right off the bat. Keep it simple and attainable.

“And this is the dragon! Oh, I remember the queen jumped on his back and flew over the castle!”

Depending on time restraints, you can draw a stick figure with a crown on the dragon’s back, and a castle.

Gradually hand it over until your child is the one verbalizing all the figures.

Then you can start modeling multi-word phrases to recall. Instead of “I remember a bird” say “I remember there was a one-eyed bird with blue feathers”.

Remember to keep it attainable, and model only one baby step ahead of where they are.

I have one more secret for getting more out of my kid.

Using the secret power of AND to get more out of oral narrations

Now, this isn’t for when your child struggles to remember one thing. It’s not even for when your child has started giving you two things he remembers.

It’s for when your child has been giving you consistent multi-word phrases but seems stuck at one or two of them.

When that seems easy but at a plateau, pull out the AND card.

Child: I remember there was a dragon and he flew over the castle!

Mom: And?

(yep, that’s it! And see if the magic happens)

Child: And the king was scared.

Mom: And?

Child: And the queen threw her jewels down.

Mom: And?

Child: And…. that’s all I remember.

AND Celebrate!

If you pull out AND and your child says, “I don’t remember anything else”, that’s ok too. You pull out one more thing you remember, celebrate this lesson’s success, and put the AND back in your pocket to pull it out next week.

SEQUENCING

Once your child can consistently and easily give you many things from the passage, then slowly add in sequencing.

This doesn’t mean you have to wait until they can do it without drawing the narration. This step is easiest to take when everything that was said has been drawn in some way.

Those stick figure drawings will serve as a reminder so your child doesn’t have to hold everything in his head at the same time as trying to sequence it.

Again, you’ll start small.

After you and your student have drawn everything, go back through and have your child name each object and elaborate where he can. “This is the rabbit, and this is the man with the hat, and oh yeah he had a garden (draws quick square for garden), and this is the rabbit’s coat and this is the cat.”

Then take this into sequencing by asking, “which one happened in the beginning of the passage?”

If this is hard for your child, then stay at this one step for as long as he needs to. It may be days, weeks, or months, and any of those is fine. Remember we meet our child where she’s at, not where we think she should be, and this is an important foundation.

Your child doesn’t need to tell you the very first thing, just something towards the beginning. Remember to model, too. You choose something from the beginning. Maybe you circle it in bright green chalk.

Then stop, celebrate, and end the lesson.

When that’s easy (do you see a pattern here? We never move on until each skill is mastered and easy. Not just familiar, but easy) add ‘what happened at the end of the passage?’

Beginning and end are usually easiest because they’re like bookends. The middle is more nebulous.

Keep doing the beginning, but add the end. Circle the bits that happened towards the end with a different color chalk so it’s easier to visualize.

Once the end bits are easy, the middle is a tiny step. It’s whatever is left.

When this last step is easy, you’ll add one more piece of the puzzle: bringing everything together.

Putting it all together

After sequencing, you’ll put everything together: 

  • Recall and draw the story
  • Verbalize
  • Sequence

to tell the whole thing in sequence using the drawing as a guide.

First recall and draw the story, then verbalize the pieces, then sequence them.

Add the last piece: “Now that we know what happened in the beginning, the middle, and the end, let’s put them all together.”

(Point to the green beginning pieces) “First the book fell out of the tree at Merlin’s feet. The book was from the fairies and had words in it that Merlin used to build an enormous round table.” (point to the orange middle pieces) “Then Merlin used the words in the book to get the table inside the castle. The king was surprised.” (point to the blue-circled end figures) “The knights gathered all around the table and swore an oath to the king.”

And now you’re finished!

Before long, your child will be doing all the steps at the same time.

How long should we allow a child to use drawings? This is one area I deviate from Charlotte Mason. She felt that using drawings should be a short-term solution. But she was also referring to “typical” children.

I look at drawings as a tool rather than as a crutch. If your student has learning struggles, let him use the drawings as long as he needs to, even into and through high school. 

Some of these steps might take a few days until your child can do them easily, while others might take months.

But it will come.

The results?

A few weeks later, my phone pinged with a text notification. My friend had sent an update:

“After we talked about narration, I started doing longer history readings and let Emma use a whiteboard for narration. Here’s today’s, which she did in sequence! Depicting Cochise and one of his men discussing a plan to ambush a Tubac silver mine by sneaking through the mountains, hiding in the horse corral at night, and driving out the pack animals when it’s locked at dawn.

Thanks for your help :)”

oral narrations stick figure drawing on whiteboard

POSTS YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:

Dyslexia and Charlotte Mason: 8 Changes You Need to Make

What Charlotte Mason homeschoolers ought to learn from Waldorf

The Four Pillars of a Peaceful Homeschool

Finally, a secular, updated version of Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography! Living Geography for the Primary Grades

Reading Elementary Geography to my seven-year-old, I grimaced, face scrunched as I rushed to cover the blunder, “Whoops! We CAN go to the moon now. When this was written we couldn’t.”

Later, reading about hot and cold countries, my stomach lurched. My shoulders tightened as I thought, “Do we really need a throwaway line that people with dark skins live there? Because everyone who reads this must be light-skinned, right?” 

Wish you could read aloud from the book without pre-reading, without editing-on-the-fly, without your stomach doing gymnastics, and knowing you have everything you need for today’s lesson?

Me, too.

While I love Charlotte Mason’s geography book, some bits have always been sticking points. 

The religious imagery in poems, the outdated information, the colonialism.

Oh, the colonialism.

If I could write the perfect book, they would be gone.

I dreamed also of an updated version with a variety of poetry styles written by diverse authors, supply lists so I’d be able to easily do the demonstrations when we read about them, notes that would explain sticky portions.

After years of waiting, I finally realized no one was going to do it for me. Faced with yet another year of using Elementary Geography, I grabbed a notebook and pen and sketched out what my ideal version would look like.

Charlotte Mason’s voice, but better.

Be the change you want to see in the world, right?

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Your price stays the same.

Living Geography for the Primary Grades

Announcing: a completely secular and updated version of Charlotte Mason’s first geography book, with the new title Living Geography for the Primary Grades: Secular Charlotte Mason for the 21st Century.

Let’s go through the changes.

READ: WHAT ARE LIVING BOOKS?

Secular Geography

I’ve altered all in-text references to “God” by either changing to “nature” or “the universe”, removing throwaway lines, or rewording the sentence.

The poems, though? Charlotte Mason loved poetry, that’s no secret. She felt we should read it every day. But many of the poems had Christian references in them, which right off the bat is a no-go for non-Christians.

I searched high and low for wonderful poems to replace her choices. Not only do the new poems reflect a variety of styles, but I deliberately searched for diverse poets.

READ: IS CHARLOTTE MASON ONLY FOR CHRISTIANS?

Diversity in Poets

This might be the improvement I’m most proud of. After I found replacements for all the religious poems, I sat back and looked at the poets.

My satisfaction turned to unease as I realized there was little diversity. Most poets were English.

As I searched for more diverse authors, I ran into a problem — there isn’t much in the public domain written by poets of color. There are many reasons behind this, but mostly it was difficult to get published as a non-white author before the early 1920s, which is what is in the public domain in the United States.

Though I had a limited pool to draw from, I was excited to find several amazing poems that slid right in to the themes in Living Geography. So many, in fact, I added even more poetry than Charlotte Mason had.

Here’s the breakdown of poets:

Deaf or Blind:

  • Fanny Crosby
  • Joseph Schuyler (2 poems)

Poets of Color:

  • Angela Weld Grimke 
  • James E. McGirt
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar (3 poems)
  • King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti
  • Langston Hughes
  • Sarojini Naidu

(8 of the 17 poems)

Male Poets:

  • James Schuyler (2 poems)
  • James E. McGirt
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar (3 poems)
  • Coleridge
  • King Akhenaten
  • Langston Hughes

(9 of the 17 poems)

Female Poets:

  • Jane Taylor
  • Eliza Cook
  • Fanny Crosby
  • Mary Howitt
  • Valerie Dohren
  • Queen Nefertiti
  • Sarojini Naidu
  • Angela Weld Grimke
  • Lydia Maria Child

(9 of the 17 poems — one is attributed to both King Ahkenaten and Queen Nefertiti)

Now, many of these poets do have a Christian background, but each poem is secular. No worries about being blindsided by a reference to heaven.

Living Geography: Updated Facts

Surprisingly, very little required updating here. Galileo lived about 400 years ago, not 300. Men have been to the moon and gotten off the planet. 

I’ve kept the bulk of the map-making lesson but reworded it to reflect that even though we now have satellites and computer technology, before those came into use people mapped the land by hand.

No More Colonialism and Gender Bias

The original Elementary Geography contained some cringeworthy colonialist phrasing, especially towards the end. Much of it couldn’t be salvaged.

Delete.

Women are and have been astronomers and mapmakers and serve in the army and navy, and our children need to see that.

I rewrote phrasing to “men and women”, “people”, or in one case, “humans”.

But you know what would make it even better? If you could have notes about facts and terms you’re not familiar with.

READ: ULTIMATE LIST OF LISTS TO DIVERSE BOOKS

Notes on Teaching

Many lessons now include a short “Notes on Teaching” at the beginning. These notes range from what “to speak a ship” means, to definitions of “star” and which one Charlotte Mason was referring to, to when and why the word “Negro” fell out of favor regarding Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. 

And that’s all good, but as you’re reading through the lesson in Elementary Geography, it says, “take an orange and run a knitting needle through it”.

You cast your mind to the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter and suck in a breath as you remember… all you have are bananas. 

Welp, you won’t be doing this demonstration today.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you knew ahead of time what supplies you needed for the lesson?

Supply lists, check

This new version includes not one, not two, but three supply lists.

  • A master list of all supplies you’ll need
  • a supply list sorted by lesson so you can look ahead at what you need this term
  • supply lists at the start of each lesson so you know what you need today

Yep, let’s make it easy.

Digitally enhanced images

All the original images are here, but they’ve been enhanced or recreated for crispness.

Teddy bears should be fuzzy, not illustrations.

Original Image:

fuzzy image of solar system

New Image:

crisp new image of solar system

The result of this massive reworking? 

An amazing living geography book, easy for busy homeschooling parents to use…written in Charlotte Mason’s voice but safe for all families.

No matter what ethnicity your family is, what spiritual beliefs you have or don’t have, or what gender your kids are, you can read through this book OUT LOUD without your stomach doing backflips.

RELATED POSTS YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

How to Schedule Form I (ages 6-9)

Do We Have to Start Lessons at 6?

What Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers Ought to Learn from Waldorf

How Fast Do We Read Books in a CM Education?

How to Make the Best Loop Schedule to Banish Overwhelm

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

pinterest pin girl in red shirt and braid lower rigth corner pointing to the sky, boy in blue striped shirt with aviator hat, binoculars, and scarf behind her, chimney behind them. text reads Living Geography for the Primary Grades checkmark secular checkmark supply lists check mark up to date checkmark diverse poets

Not just a Charlotte Mason timeline, learn exactly what a Book of Centuries is, how to make one, and how to use one. Includes free printable copy!

“A Book of Centuries is just a Charlotte Mason timeline book.”

I cringe when I hear those words. Like a grizzled fisherman casting his line into the water, my mind pulls up a dusty memory of a thick manila-covered book from Sonlight.

A dark line runs horizontally across the inside pages while evenly spaced vertical lines mark the years. My daughter wrinkles her nose as she lops off yet another timeline figure sticker from its sheet and slaps it on the correct page.

Another memory: As I run out the door of my 4th grade classroom, my childhood self glances at the sheets of heavy paper stuck along the top of the wall, large images of stately men with white wigs scattered stapled in seemingly random places. I have no idea who the drawings represent, and they are just another classroom decoration I ignore.

Neither of those timelines helps get a sense of how events relate to each other in a meaningful way.

And neither of those are a Charlotte Mason Book of Centuries.

What is a Book of Centuries

The Book of Centuries began as a way for children to record the history they learned at the British Museum. While it’s a way for students to keep track of time, it isn’t a “timeline”.

Way back in the early 1900s, a Mrs. Epps was involved with Charlotte Mason’s organization. She taught her students quite a bit of history by studying the exhibits at the British Museum.

Mrs. G. M. Bernau took that idea and ran with it, creating what we now call a Century Book, or Book of Centuries

“Up to that time we had put our dates and drawings in our exercise books with lines on each page, but in 1914 we started the present interleaved century book.”

G. M. Bernau, “Century Books” PUS Diamond Jubilee Magazine, p 42

The Book of Centuries has one century per two-page spread, typically with a lined page facing a blank page. This stays the same throughout the time periods we record.

We don’t change it to 25 years per two-page spread in recent decades, and we don’t cover 500 years per page for far past centuries.

We have so much more of a record of recent events than we do of events that took place long ago that it will be tempting to do that. Resist the urge and stay strong.

book of centuries sample page from charlotte mason archives showing 13th century a.d.

What goes in the Century Book?

Every child’s ‘Book of Centuries’ should bear witness to ‘a liberal and generous diet of History’…The children should be free to enter on their pages events and drawings which have interested them in their wide general reading of History (that ‘inexhaustible storehouse of ideas’) and of Literature.

The Book of Centuries and How to Keep One by G. M. Bernau

If we have facing pages of lined and blank paper, we can write events on the lined paper and draw objects on the facing blank side.

What exactly should we put in these books? We want our children to take ownership of them, so they should have the final say in what they enter and draw, but here are some ideas:

  • history from all areas they have read about or seen, whether or not they studied it during lessons
  • drawings of artifacts from museum field trips
  • copied drawings from books
  • household implements from the Bronze Age
  • grave finds

Because they choose what they feel is important and draw it in themselves, kids are engaged with their Book of Centuries. Students are more engaged when they look back on those previous entries than if they only slapped stickers in that show what other people think are the important things to remember.

READ: BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO CM TERMINOLOGY

What age is the Book of Centuries for?

From ten years old and onwards the P.U.S. children make these books, ‘putting in illustrations from all history studied during the term (Bible, British, and General History.’

The Book of Centuries and How to Keep One by G. M. Bernau

If you’re freaking out that your 7-year-old still hasn’t started her Book of Centuries, relax.

You don’t need to worry about this in the early years of a child’s school days.

Kids don’t begin the Book of Centuries until they’re about 10 years old, and starting older is OK too.

If you want to start one with younger children, create a family version — one all members of the family contribute to in some way.

READ: DO WE HAVE TO START LESSONS AT 6 YEARS OLD?

How to Make the Book of Centuries

If you can find a book with opposite lined and blank pages, that’s the best; however, I haven’t been able to find one in all of my searches.

There are two other options, then: search through your school supply stash and choose a composition book you picked up at the last Back-to-School sale for 75c, or design one on your computer and print it out.

Option 1: Composition Book

A composition book is cheap, it’s already bound, and if you want to pretty it up your student can draw a custom cover on a heavy sheet of paper and glue it to the front. Just be sure there are at least 21 lines per page.

Now the downside — (you knew there had to be a downside) All the pages are lined, and it can be annoying to draw on lined paper.

Option 2: On the Computer

Printing uses the cost of ink, which can be expensive depending on your printer type, and means you have to bind it.

Choices abound for binding, from grabbing a lonely and unused 3-ring binder (blow off that layer of dust first!) to having it spiral bound at your local Office Max.

If you’re feeling perky, here’s a handwork idea: Have your kids bind the printed pages into a book as a summer project! (We can dream, right?)

The Process

A picture’s worth a thousand words, so before I explain it and lose you, here’s an image from the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection:

Book of Centuries 4th century BC sample page from charlotte mason archives

If you use a composition book, start from the end and work your way backward.

Leave a few pages at the very back of the book, about 10, for maps of countries or perhaps cuttings of recent discoveries. Anything you glue in should be on very thin paper or else your book will become too thick to close before you know it.

Then on the pages before these write “21st Century A.D.” or “21st Century C.E.” (your choice) at the top of either the right or left side page. Then work backward in the book — 20th Century C.E., 19th Century C.E., etc.

Random factoid: C.E. = Common Era, B.C.E. = Before Common Era and they are used in place of the Christian terms A.D. (anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of our Lord”) and B.C. (Before Christ)

Want a done-for-you Book of Centuries? There’s a FREE one in the Resource Library!

As I go further back in time I tend to forget if 1377 is in the 13th century or 14th, so I like to also write the years the century covers, like so:

20th Century C.E. (1901-2000)

Go until the 1st Century C.E., then continue from “1st Century B.C.E.” until “54th Century B.C.E.”

“Year Zero,”, or “0 Century,” doesn’t exist, so make sure you skip it.

Yeah, I didn’t the first time and had to look it up. Because we’re always learning, right?

If you were lucky enough to find a book with lined and blank facing pages, then write the centuries on the lined pages. If you create this in a word-processing document or a composition book, then keep it consistent (and simple!) and write the years on the same side of the page (left or right) for all the centuries. In other words, if you’re going to print it out keep the lined pages on the same side all through the book.

Use the first few pages for the prehistoric times, like Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Early Iron Ages. These are best kept apart from the rest of the book since different regions passed through these periods at different times.

Now for the more tedious part:

For the C.Es, write a small figure 5 at the end of the first line, followed on down by 10, 15, 20, etc on the next lines. After 50, draw a heavier line across the page. For a nice visual, you can draw it in a bright color like red.

Then continue with 55, 60, and so on until you get to 95.

In the B.C.E.s you’ll do the opposite — the numbers will be at the beginning of the lines and start at 100, then 95, 90, etc and ending at 5.

book of centuries pages with arrows pointing to numbers for a.d. and b.c. pages

Each of the lines will cover 5 years. When you write in an event, visually divide the lines into 5 segments or use light pencil marks.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

Don’t get hung up on perfection. If you make a mistake, correct it and move on.

Take a look at the writing on the right side of the 15th century A.D. image. The person who did it started the numbers one line too high and then had to write darker and scribble out a bit to put the correct dates on the lines.

charlotte mason timeline page showing corrected mistakes

That’s okay. We don’t expect perfection. Remember, done is better than perfect.

A few more hints from Mrs. Bernau:

  • Don’t overcrowd any page with drawings and entries. Leave room for something you may want to add later.
  • Always draw in pencil first, very lightly, so you can easily erase the pencil marks showing.
  • Write clearly and neatly
  • Never be tempted to take two pages for a century that seems to interest you more, as it quite does away with the object of the book of the centuries.
  • Heading the pages is rather a wearisome business, but if you do a few each week, it will not seem so long. (I love her Victorian language! Translated that means don’t try to do it all in one sitting.)
  • Write events in the year they happened
  • Put famous people near the date they were famous

Have a set day to put entries in it, maybe twice a month, but don’t discourage kids from adding to it if they want to do it more often, especially after a museum visit!

It’s so easy to become rule-bound, but there are no rules.

And now you’re ready to create your own!

Let your kids take ownership of it, so their own book doesn’t become an unused, dusty memory.

OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE:

Reading Aloud? This Is the Best Way to Keep Your Child Engaged
8 Great Podcasts for Thinking Homeschoolers
6 Essential Charlotte Mason Resources You Can’t Live Without

WANT TO REMEMBER THIS POST FOR LATER? PIN IT TO YOUR FAVORITE HOMESCHOOLING PINTEREST BOARD!

Learn the 8 ways you need to change Charlotte Mason for your dyslexic child.

My husband and I stared at the reading specialist on the other side of the Starbucks table, a mixture of relief and apprehension in our eyes.

The whir of the coffee machine and soft ’90s music faded to the background as the diagnosis rang in our ears.

Dyslexia: severe to profound.

A thick stack of papers lay in front of me, filled with test results and recommendations. I tried to concentrate on what our reading specialist said, but a million thoughts swirled in mind.

First the relief: I’m not a terrible teacher.

And it’s not that my child isn’t trying. She struggles so much with academics for a reason.

But hot on the heels of the relief rushed the panicky thought, “Can we still continue to homeschool with Charlotte Mason? Is it even possible?

And if it is possible … how?

Modifications for dyslexia

While a Charlotte Mason education is well suited to students with learning differences, you’ll need to make some adjustments.

Don’t worry– these alterations are painless but effective. Think of it as fine-tuning your child’s education.

What can you keep? The books, the writing, handwork, art and music, reading …you can keep everything!

But you will need to tweak how you use them.

Let’s walk through the eight changes you’ll need to make to your homeschool.

#1 — It’s not “cheating” to do this

Even if your child can read, the sheer number of books in a CM education can be overwhelming. For a child who is a slow reader, who struggles to decode or struggles with comprehension, audiobooks can be an education-saver.

We often think of using audiobooks or readers as cheating, because the students aren’t doing the “work” of reading for themselves.

But three kinds of reading exist– reading with your eyes, reading with your fingers, and reading with your ears.

If a person is visually impaired and uses Braille to read a book, would you ever tell them they weren’t really reading?

Of course not.

And yet this is what we think when we let our kids use audiobooks.

It’s not legitimate reading.

New research has shown that audiobooks activate the same areas of the brain as reading with the eyes. That’s because it’s all in how language is processed.

Your child will get the full benefits of reading. He’ll activate the same language centers, develop vocabulary, gain cultural and background knowledge – all while keeping the actual reading instruction separate.

Audiobooks can be used both for instructional books and for the lighter, literature portions of the curriculum.

Good places to get audiobooks

  1. The first stop is your local library. Ask how to access their digital collection if you aren’t already familiar with it. I can access OverDrive, Hoopla, and Freading through my various local libraries, but every county is different.
  2. Learning Ally — if you have a diagnosis of dyslexia or a visual impairment you’re eligible to use this huge collection.

    Learning Ally has professionally produced books and costs $135 per year, but also requires verification of a print disability.
  3. You can also use Bookshare. Bookshare uses good computerized voices to read the books, so if you want professionally read audiobooks this isn’t a viable choice. They require a diagnosis of a print disability that interferes with the ability to use traditional print materials.
  4. Audible is a division of Amazon and has many books that are professionally produced. The membership costs $15 per month, and you get 1 audiobook plus 2 “Audible Originals” for the price. You also get discounts on additional books and access to member-only sales.
  5. For ebooks that don’t have a professional audio version, if you can get them in .epub format you can use a computer program like Natural Reader to read them to your child.

    My non-reading daughter relies on the free Natural Reader browser extension to figure out the print on web pages.
dark skinned female with curly dark brown hair and orange shirt, smiling with eyes closed, white earbuds in ears

# 2 — Change the way you teach reading

Orton-Gillingham based

A combination of sight words, phonics, and word-building form the basis of the reading instruction in Home Education (Charlotte Mason’s first book). While this can be a fine way to learn to read for 80% of the population, students with dyslexia need something different.

They need a reading program which is specific, sequential, and explicit.

Orton-Gillingham is a research-backed approach to teach reading, not a method, system, or program.

We can buy several Orton-Gillingham based programs for homeschool. They vary in the speed they move through the material, how explicit the instruction is, and how scripted they are for the parent.

Examples of Orton-Gillingham based programs are

Logic of English and All About Reading are good for most mild-moderate dyslexic kids, but they moved too fast and the leaps were too big for my child.

Rooted in Language has online workshops that teach you how to teach your child with an Orton-Gillingham approach.

Barton is considered the gold standard for dyslexic students who are tutored at home. The downside is the cost, which seems exorbitant when compared to other reading programs.

Even Logic of English and All About Reading look downright cheap in comparison.

To bring the cost down, buy used and resell when you’re finished with the level. Or if more than one student in your homeschool group needs Barton, pool your money with those other families and share the program.

Before you buy any of these programs, it will pay to give the Barton Student Screening to your child. If your student can’t pass this screening, he’s not ready for any reading program and needs more work on the phonological parts of language.

Mother and teen with blond hair smiling and reading together

More reading instruction

For ages 6-9, all of the PNEU timetables scheduled 10 to 20 minutes per day for reading instruction and practice. If you use an Orton-Gillingham based program, you’ll need to spend 20-30 minutes per day.

They often recommend an hour per day several times per week.

But since we follow Charlotte Mason’s guidelines, we want to keep the lessons shorter.

#3– How to Handle Spelling, Copywork, and Dictation

Another area where we need to veer from Charlotte Mason’s method is in spelling, copy work, and dictation.

You won’t skip these, but you will do them a little bit differently.

With Charlotte Mason’s method, you would choose a paragraph, passage, or pages from the books your child reads, then use them for spelling, copy work, and dictation. The length of the passage depends on the age of the child.

A student would copy the selection, paying attention to the spelling of words and to punctuation, with the help of the parent.

Students visualized words to learn their spellings, but those words, in general, were ones the student didn’t know how to spell. They were not taught “explicitly and sequentially,” and a student didn’t always learn the spelling rules.

Instead of those passages from your literature or reading books, to modify for dyslexia you will use the spelling, copy work, or dictation provided with your reading program.

If your child reads well but the dyslexia shows up in spelling (this is more common than you might think!), use a spelling program for dyslexic students like All About Spelling or Sequential Spelling.

Sequential Spelling unlocked the spelling code for my two older children who could read but couldn’t spell.

Rooted in Language has an online workshop for parents about Intentional Copywork and Dictation. Though I don’t have experience with it, it looks like it would mesh very well with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy.

#4 — What About “Readers”?

One of the draws to Charlotte Mason is the wonderful living books, and the “readers” are no exception.

But when you teach reading with an Orton-Gillingham based program, you use leveled readers. These are not living books, but they are necessary for a student who struggles with dyslexia in the earlier stages of learning to read.

You will not be able to use readers recommended in Charlotte Mason curricula for “reading with the eyes” until your child has reached a certain level of proficiency in their OG reading program.

It’s so easy to feel like if your child isn’t able to read the assigned books in a curriculum, he will be “behind”.

Get rid of that thought right now.

We have to meet our children where they’re at, not where we think they should be.

And not where someone who has never met your child thinks an “average” child will be. Remember, homeschooling means we get to tailor the education to our child, not the other way around.

We don’t want to eliminate those wonderful “living books” readers, though. They are (usually!) engaging and full of adventure, and just plain old good stories. They’re also full of rich vocabulary and background knowledge which is the hallmark of a living book.

How do we get these benefits not have a child in tears? Go back up to modification #1 and use audio versions. The same areas of the brain are stimulated, your child still is exposed to the vocabulary and adventure, but the physical act of reading is separated.

# 5 — Narrations and Composition

One innovative aspect of Charlotte Mason’s method is she separated the mechanics of writing from composition.

Little modification is needed if your student is early elementary age. Do narrations orally, which is what a student that age should do.

Occasional written narrations were begun in Upper 1A at about age eight.

We’ll delay this even further though and wait until the student is strong in both reading and the physical act of writing before we expect written narrations.

As your child gets older, she’ll work on composition through oral narrations, but don’t expect her to write them down by hand until she’s a proficient reader and able to physically write with ease.

But we still want to reap the benefits of written narration. To get those benefits, once your child is about 8 or 9, add in a few other things.

Read up on the Natural Stages of Growth in Writing and the Absolutely Free Program at Brave Writer.

Introduce graphic organizers if your student is able to read well enough that he can understand them.

Do sensory awareness exercises, like those in this post from Nature Mentor. (I share several of these same exercises in my emails, because we had the same mentors)

Help your child come up with words to describe what they sense, or smell, or feel.

Ask questions like, “if you had to describe a color without saying the name of the color, how could you do it?” There is a lot of room for creativity with this, but possible answers to model are “her dress is the color of lemons” or “his shirt is the color of dried grass in the fall.”

#6 Writing and Composition

As with reading, students with dyslexia need explicit and sequential instruction in writing or composition.

Charlotte Mason didn’t begin specific writing instruction until Form 3 (ages 12-14). For children younger than 12, written narrations and whatever creativity flows out of them fulfill the role of composition.

Two of my favorite programs for the elementary and middle school years are Brave Writer and Write On!

Writer’s Jungle from Brave Writer will teach you how to develop your writer, while Write On! uses a guided method of explicit instruction to teach your child while using plenty of word-play and giving as much support as they need.

They are both for grades 3-8.

For both programs, do as much as you can orally.

At the junior high level, I would deviate from Brave Writer. Not because I don’t like her material, but because it wasn’t sequential or explicit enough for my dyslexic student.

The program expected her to infer too much about the structure of various forms of writing at the high school level.

When they are in high school, some students just need help editing their papers, and if you show them a model of different kinds of writing that will be enough.

But for our students who struggle with reading and writing, it’s not.

They need to work through a solid writing program.

What are other good options then?

#7 — The Tech Solution

The physical act of writing can be very difficult for a dyslexic student, so consider using dictation software.

Dictation software is best for middle school and up.

One good free option is to enable Google Voice Typing used in Google docs. You can do this through your computer if you have a microphone, or you can do it with a smartphone.

It’s not perfect.

Because it doesn’t have an option to learn your voice patterns, sometimes the transcription can range from weird to downright funny.

The best thing to do is proofread as soon as you finish, while you still remember what you said. Otherwise you’ll chew on your bottom lip as you gaze at your screen, saying the gibberish words out loud and trying to figure out what you meant when Google heard “the dog is raining”

While the work still requires editing, sitting next to your child and going through their paper to edit is a valuable learning tool.

If you’re willing to pay for dictation software, this blog post writes about how using Dragon Naturally Speaking helped several dyslexic and dysgraphic students.

Finish it off with Grammarly and you’re golden.

#8– We’ll Always Have Paris

I’ll admit it — this modification stuck in my craw. Oh, how I resisted it!

Foreign language is such an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education that I felt like if we stopped we would throw out a large part of what makes a CM education, well … Charlotte Mason.

But our reading specialist, also a homeschooling mom and familiar with Charlotte Mason, explained two things:

First, adding the sounds of another language when my child struggles with the sounds of English just delays her progress in English, and second, someone who is dyslexic is dyslexic in all languages.

Dyslexia’s difficulties “typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language” (from the International Dyslexia Association).

It’s difficult for people with dyslexia to learn to read, write, and spell in one language.

It’s very, very difficult for them to learn to read, write, and spell in more than one language.

People with dyslexia process language in a different way than the rest of the population.

But what about Charlotte Mason’s method of learning oral language first?

If your student struggles with the sounds of English, adding new sounds from a different language will hamper her progress in English.

A good alternative is American Sign Language (ASL). If you’re not in America use whatever your local sign language is.

ASL allows the student to learn a different language without having to process new sounds or learn to write a new language.

If your child is mildly or moderately dyslexic he can try to learn a foreign language orally. But be prepared to stop if it’s too challenging or if his progress stalls in learning to read and speak English clearly.

If you notice either of these, then you should delay work on that second language until your child reads and spells well and at grade level in English.

Besides American sign language, one foreign language that might work is Esperanto. As a created language, Esperanto is phonetically regular with no exceptions to spelling or pronunciation rules.

The problem with Esperanto? Very few materials for children exist, and the materials for adults are pretty much all print-based.

If you as a parent are not already proficient in teaching a foreign language, you’ll need to translate a children’s program from a different foreign language into Esperanto.

That takes a lot of time and effort, time we often don’t have because we’re doing additional instruction in reading.

I thought translating a Spanish program into Esperanto was such a fantastic idea, I tried to do it.

Twice.

Because apparently, I’m not a fast learner.

Both times I gave up a few weeks in. It’s not something I recommend.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

When our children struggle in one area, we have a tendency to focus most of our attention on that area until they can be “brought up to speed”.

But remember: a Charlotte Mason education is a liberal education, a broad education.

Don’t neglect the other areas of a Charlotte Mason education – the arts, physical education, work, music, drawing, and nature connection- to focus on reading and writing.

Here are my favorite video resources I’ve found very helpful:

TL;DR

While we can do a Charlotte Mason education with students with dyslexia, we do need to modify some portions.

  • Use audiobooks and audio screen readers
    Resources: Learning Ally, Bookshare, your public library’s digital collection, Audible, Natural Reader
  • Use Orton-Gillingham based reading instruction
    Resources: Logic of English, All About Reading, Rooted in Language, Barton, Foundation in Sounds, sightwords.com, LiPS
  • Spelling, dictation, and copy work should be those provided in your reading program
  • Use readers from your reading program, rather than those assigned in the CM curriculum. Use audiobooks for the readers in your curriculum
  • Composition and narration should be oral until physical writing is strong.
    Resources: Write On!, Brave Writer
  • Explicit, sequential writing instruction in Form 3 and above
    Resources: Write On!, Beyond the Book Report, Michael Clay Thompson
  • Dictation software like Google Voice or Dragon Naturally Speaking
  • Wait on foreign language until your student is reading well, and consider using American Sign Language instead of a spoken language

Can you homeschool with Charlotte Mason with a dyslexia diagnosis?

Yes. Yes, you can.

It is possible.

Want to remember Charlotte Mason and Dyslexia: the 8 changes you’ll need to make? Pin it to your favorite pinterest board!

pinterest pin with boy in green shirt, text Charlotte Mason and dyslexia how to make it work

Learn 5 super-easy strategies to keep your child's attention during read aloud times. 

It happened again.

I had read an entire selection from our current read-aloud to my child. I could see her attention wandering, and by the end I knew I had lost her.

I knew it was an interesting book. I knew if I could keep her attention while I was reading aloud she would love it.

Bu when I finished with that short section, I asked her to tell me anything that she could remember.

Crickets.

Deer in the headlights.

It was obvious what I was doing just wasn't working. Being a being an analytical person, I knew I needed to figure out how to keep my child engaged during our read aloud times.

So I came up with 5 strategies that almost guarantee that my child will stay engaged (and yours, too!). 

I found them so useful that I made them into a bookmark that I use all the time! And It’s free for you to download in the CM Resource Library.

NOTE: Read aloud books are books that you read aloud to your children. They don't need to be fiction, but they should be living books for maximum engagement.

what you'll need to keep your child engaged during read alouds

1. Recap Last Week's Reading

Because we use a Charlotte Mason homeschooling approach, we read books slowly and over several weeks. This means we often read from a particular book only once a week.

This also means that if we pick up a book, that it's hard to remember off the top of our head exactly what happened the last time we read.

This is where the recap comes in.

Do you remember watching TV when you were a kid? Before Netflix when you could binge watch a whole season and one night?

When the episodes only came out once a week, at the beginning of each episode the announcer would briefly recap what had happened in previous episodes.

"Previously, on all my children."

Even cartoons would do this. "When we last saw our intrepid duo...."

We should do the same thing with our books. Help your child recall what happened the last time, so that they can get excited about what will happen next.

If you have trouble remembering, jot a few notes down on a Post-It note at the end of today's reading. 

Just a few words to jog your memory.

Stick it in your book with the bookmark below so you can easily refer to it next week.

That slides right into previewing what you're going to be reading this week.

2. be a movie trailer: preview this week's reading

Think about watching a movie trailer on TV.

It teases the exciting parts of the movie.

They don't give the whole plot away, but they give you just little snippets to make you want to watch it.

You call to your husband who is doing dishes in the kitchen while you're sitting on the couch, "Hey, honey? That looks so good. We're going to see that as soon as it comes out!"

A girl can dream, right?

Even without theatrical trailers, when you're telling someone about a movie that you want them to see, you'll tell them little bits of it. Just enough to get them to want to watch it,  but you're not giving them a full blow by blow account.

We want to do the same thing when we were reading to our child. If we've looked over the passage, we can give them just a little bit. Just enough to pique their interest.

No spoilers!

"Today we're going to find out what happened to Harry and Ron after they crashed the car into the woods."

Include your child in this.

Ask them, "What do you think's going to happen? Do you think their parents are going to be angry with them?"

Not only does this involve children in the story, but it also helps them develop the skill of predicting what will happen next.

It will help develop them into more active readers when they are reading their own books.

After you've recapped last week's reading, previewed this week's reading like a movie trailer, then remind them to listen closely.

3. Remember to Listen Closely

Even with getting kids excited about what's going to happen, it still helps to just give them that little reminder to pay attention.

I use a very simple, "Remember to listen closely now."

Or sometimes, I'll say, "Remember to pay attention."

Either one reminds your child what she's supposed to be doing.

It's just a little reminder but it seems to really help when they're told, that this is what they need to do.

Once we've recapped last week's episode, previewed this week's passage, and reminded our child to listen closely, now it's time to actually start reading.

And the only way to read is to read with feeling.

4. Read with Feeling

It doesn't matter how engaging a book is, if it's being read in a monotone voice it's hard to follow.

It doesn't matter how old the listener is. If the presentation is boring, the listener will be bored.

Think about your favorite audio books.

Chances are, the narrator is involved with the book. He's able to convey that by how he reads it.

This means doing the voices if you're reading something with dialogue.

It means putting emotion into your voice.

It means slowing down in the difficult places and speeding up in the exciting places.

Convey as much emotion as you can while you're reading to your kids.

Use your entire body. Use hand, arm, and facial gestures.

If you come to a part where a character slowly cracks open a door and peaks around the door frame, then act that out while you're reading.

If you're not used to doing this, it can feel really embarrassing. Even if your only audience is your kids.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

This alone is the number one way to keep your child's attention. 

If you are engaged, they are much more likely to be engaged.

But it doesn't matter how exciting you make the reading if those who are listening don't understand the words.

5. Define Words in Context

Listening comprehension is a complicated mix of being interested in the material, understanding the meaning of the words, and drawing on our previous experiences for background knowledge.

It doesn't matter how interesting the material is, if the vocabulary is too high.

One way around this is to define words in context. 

What that means is we're not going to write vocabulary words on a chalkboard before we start. We're going to give the definition of some of the difficult words as we're reading.

"Peter's coat and shoes were plainly to be seen upon the scarecrow, topped with an old tam-o-shanter of Mr. McGregor's." 

Look up from the book, look at your child, and say, "A tam-o'-shanter is a kind of floppy hat."

Then continue reading. "Little Benjamin said it spoils people's clothes to squeeze under a gate..."

See how this doesn't interrupt the flow of the story? But it gives your child enough information that they can picture things in their head. Even if they don't know the words.

Don't do this to every word. Just the ones that you know your child does not understand and that would be hard to figure out just from context. (Is a tam-o-shanter a scarf? A hat? A cape?)

If you're having to stop every sentence to define words in context, then the vocabulary of that particular book is probably too high.

Find a book that will be easier for your child to understand, that still has good vocabulary in it, and then work your way into these higher level books.

TL;DR

Did you skip to the end? Here are the five strategies to use every time you're doing a read-aloud with your child.

  • Recap last week's reading
  • Preview this week's reading (think movie trailer)
  • Say, "Remember to listen closely"
  • Read with feeling
  • Define words in context

I put these five tips onto a beautiful, simple, done-for-you bookmark to keep as an easy reference.

They are printed four to a page, so all you have to do is print out a sheet, cut on the solid lines, and then fold the top on the dotted lines.

One of the things that I hate about bookmarks is that they always slip out when I open a book. By hooking that folded part over the top of the page, the bookmark stays in place.

Not only is it a handy way to keep your place, but you'll be reminded every time you open that book to do these five simple steps.

Soon it will become second nature!

Does the idea of giving exams terrify you? Here's a step-by-step tutorial to walk you through the process. Exams don't have to be scary!

The purpose of exams

Unlike many exams where the purpose is to find out what the child knows and does not know, Charlotte Mason exams instead are designed to showcase what the child knows.

They are not only an assessment tool for the parent, but also let the parent or teacher know what the students are remembering and connecting with.

Why is this important?

When we see what our children are connecting with and remembering, we can also then see what they are not remembering, with no stress to the child. 

We can also see any misconceptions that they might have developed over the weeks and months since the last time we worked on specific material.

Exams are a confidence boost for kids because they get to show off what they know.

The questions are broad enough that they can almost always recall at least some information. No more staring at a blank sheet of paper in dread desperately trying to remember the non-metals of the periodic table.

How to Give Exams Step-by-step

Let's walk through step-by-step how to give Charlotte Mason exams. It's easier than you think!

step one: prepare the exams

But how do you come up with exam questions for your children? How do you know what sorts of questions are appropriate? If our only model is the example that we had in public school, how do we translate that to the very different educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason? How do we rephrase questions to be more along with Charlotte Mason was thinking?

This is where the primary sources come into play. We are lucky enough to have many copies of the Parents National Education Union programmes available to us as a model. (The PNEU was the organization that Miss Mason founded to administer her method to member homeschools and brick & mortar schools.)

The families of the PNEU received not only the plan for the term, (that is, what books and resources were to be used and activities that were to be done,) but also exam questions appropriate to the Form. 

Note: If  the terminology used in Charlotte Mason circles sounds like a foreign language, refer to this Beginner's Guide to CM Terminology.

Use these exam questions as your template for your own exams.

The first part of the file on archive.org is the program itself, but the second part is the exams that were sent out for that term. Each file on archive.org has at least Forms 1,  2,  3, and 4. Some of them also have Forms 5 and 6.

So we have plenty of examples of exams for students aged 6 through 14. but less for students ages 15 through 18.

Need a little hand-holding? Here's a step-by-step video walk-through of how to find the PNEU programmes and exams.

Step 2: Sub in exam information from your own resources

We can't just use the PNEU exam questions as written, however. Obviously when we change books many of the exam questions are no longer relevant to us.

That doesn't mean we throw the whole thing out; it just means that that we have to create our own exam questions based on the models.

Some questions we will be able to lift straight from the programmes. Questions like

  • Write a line of poetry from memory
  • Drawing: two kinds of wild fruits (from nature)
  • What music by Schubert have you heard this term? Say what you can about one of his (a) songs or (b) pieces for piano.
  • Reading: Father to choose unseen passage.

Some we will be able to use with only a small amount of modification.

  • Write in verse (which must scan), otherwise in prose, upon one of the following, (a) Prometheus, (b) General Gordon, (c) Wayland Smith, (d) Sir Francis Drake, (e) Puck.

Look at how many choices the students had! It wasn't simply write about A or B-- they were given five different topics that they could write about. This particular question was from Form 3, so ages 12 to 14.

It's simple enough to substitute the characters or situations we have read about in the last twelve weeks, no matter what books you are using. On this question, we have figures from mythology, from the biography read, from history, and from Shakespeare.

Remember that a term was twelve weeks long, so we don't want to go back further than that. It's tempting to let the terms drag out for five months if life has gotten in the way and you haven't gotten as much as you wanted to get done.

But rather than waiting until all of the material from the term has been worked through, and that comes six months down the road, instead simply call three months into your school year the end of the term no matter how much work you've actually gotten done.

Adjust your exam questions based on the material that you've actually gotten done within the last three months, not on what you had planned to get done.

step 3: spread the exam over several days

Give the exams spread across a week.

We want to keep the exams to about the same amount of time as we are allowing in our regular routine for each subject. If you are following the time tables or schedules from the PNEU or you have made your own, then you will still follow that plan for exam week.

But instead of doing your regular learning, you will be doing exams.

For Form 1, the student dictates all the answers except for the specific category of writing. For Form 2, ages 9-12, the students still dictate much of the answers, but can do some of the writing on their own.

What you don't want to do is let any student's slower writing ability impact the answers they're giving in the exams. So if your student struggles with writing, either written narrations or the physical act of handwriting, then you'll want to take dictation for him.

On the other hand, if a student writes freely and it's easier for her or for him to write than to tell the answers, then you will let the student write as much as they want.

The 12 to 14 year old, if they have no writing disability, should be writing as much of the exam as they can.

When spreading the exams over several days you will very likely get through the questions quickly. That will give a lighter week than a typical learning week so it also will make for easing into a break. 

Step four: One tip for giving the exam

Keep in mind that this is a new process for both you and your student.

If your child freezes, or gets frustrated, or wails, "I don't remember anything,"  or "I have no idea," this can be frustrating to us also. We think all of this time that we've spent the last three months learning this information is completely wasted.

Remember though that part of this can be performance anxiety, and the way to get through this is to not express disappointment or anger that they do not remember.

Now it might be that they legitimately don't remember, or it might be that they're just freezing from being put on the spot. Either way don't get angry with them.

Don't let them see disappointment.

This is not a reflection on you.

Remember that the purpose of exams is for them to show their knowledge, not for them to be caught out with what they don't know.

Simply say something like, "This is just like the narration that we've been doing. Can you tell me just one small thing from it?" If they can't, smile and say, "That's okay. We'll move on."

Don't make a big deal about it.

You want to ease their distress, minimize their stress, as much as you can.

One thing that I did find when I gave exams to my daughter was that if she could not narrate at the time that we went over the material, she rarely could narrate when we actually gave exams.

That narration was what cemented the material into her mind. Or it could be that the narration was what she understood at the time and she wasn't able to make other connections later. I don't know which one it was but it was an interesting point.

Oh, and one more thing. What you think is important to remember may very well not be what they remember.

That's OK.

These are not public school tests, where the student is expected to memorize certain facts. It's about building relationships with the material, and making connections on their own.

Step five: evaluate your exams

When you are finished giving those exams for the week, write down how it went

This is the step we always want to skip. We think that of course we'll remember what happened!

But you won't.

You won't remember the details any more than you remember what that brown lumpy stuff is in the Tupperware container in the back of the fridge.

Write down any pitfalls, any things that you took note of or noticed, any things that you would like to next.

Did you see that you need to be more consistent with your lessons? Did you see that there are some books or resources that were easier for your child to narrate or to make connections from or were somewhere more difficult? 

And celebrate their successes! Any little thing that you were surprised at or that they did particularly well, write that down because it's so easy to remember only the tough parts, the things that didn't work.

But it's more important to look at what they did remember. At the connections they did make.

If they were not able to narrate at all from one of the books, then think back on that.

Is this the book that they showed no interest in while they were reading it or you were reading it to them, if they're younger?

During the term did this seemed like a book that they simply did not understand? If so, and at the end of the exam you found that they really couldn't remember anything from it, then seriously consider either changing out that book or doing something during the next term to help them interact with that material even more.

Narration is the act of interacting with the material, listening to the material, processing it in the mind, pulling it back out of the mind, in order to really assimilated.

It does not have to be done orally-- it can be drawn, it can be acted, it can be written.

There are all sorts of ways that you can do narrations.

However, if they are interacting with the material well during the week during the regular term and you feel like it's that they simply we're having problems with the exam itself, then the answer to that is just to make exams regular and stress-free.

I do not mean monthly, I mean at the end of every term. 

At the end of every three months of your school, make sure that you are doing a week of exams.

quick recap

Giving exams is an important part of a Charlotte Mason education.

  • They should be done every 3 months during the school year
  •  prepare the exams using the PNEU programme exams as examples
  •  substitute information from the books that you were using in your own studies
  •  spread the exams over a full week
  •  don't express disappointment or anger if your children do not remember what you want them to remember
  •  evaluate at the end what went right, what went wrong, what do you want to change for next term if anything, and what do you want to do differently the next exam

I hope this has eased some of your anxiety about giving exams.  

One last thing -- have a treat at the end.

Ice cream is good.

lessons learned you can apply immediately to your own homeschool. What happened when I gave my child Charlotte Mason exams for  the first time?

I gave my first exams last year.

I have been Charlotte Mason homeschooling for 15 years, and yet it took me that long to work up the courage to do exams. I just didn't think that they were all that important.

Isn't Charlotte Mason about not giving tests? But in her books, Charlotte Mason says that giving exams is essential to her style of education.

Not just something fun to do. (and seriously? who equates exams with fun?)

Essential.

So I finally bit the bullet and did it.

I was so nervous about them! But determined to do CM the "right" way, I figured I had to at least give it a shot. And what harm could it do?

I decided that even if they went horribly, I could always choose to not do them in the future, right?  

But I wanted to see if it was really as important as Charlotte Mason said, and if my child would really love it as much as she said, (again, really?)

Giving CM Exams for the first time

Of course I went straight to the source:  the PNEU programmes from the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection. 

The PNEU was the Parents' National Educational Union, the organization that Miss Mason began to administer her method and curriculum to both homeschools and later, physical schools. Every term they sent out not only the booklist with required pages but also exam questions that were to be sent back at the end of the term.

I substituted my own books that I had used. While I used some of the books from those original PNEU programmes this last year, most of the books were my own choices.  

I couldn't  just reuse her exam questions word for word. However, what I could do was  use them as a model.

I typed up a so I opened up a word document, substituted my own books, and went to work.

How the exams actually went

Honestly?

At first it was horrible.

Every time I would ask my daughter a question she would cry, "I don't know anything! I don't remember anything!

My stomach churned as I thought, "there is no way that this is going to work. She can't remember anything."

Even things that we just did last week.

All those years of planning... WASTED! (gratuitous The Swan Princess reference)

But  I kept asking her questions, being encouraging even if she said she couldn't remember. 

"That's okay, honey. It's not a big deal." (I was sweating bullets inside. I tried not to show it)

This helped ease some of her nervousness.

Because you know what? She was nervous too.

She hasn't ever been to public school, so the only reason I can think that she'd be anxious is just that new-ness.

But then suddenly she started to give me some narrations.

And then as we went along, she was able to give me more and more. Some of the bright spots were that when she did give me answers she remembered details from the books that I didn't even remember until she said something.

And then I thought, "Ooh wow, that's right! That was in the book!"

She also acted out a fable fully from beginning to end, rather than giving me just a short section of it.

Another thing that I noticed was that if she had not been able to narrate it weeks before while we were actually reading the book, she was not able to narrate it for the exam.

While occasionally she came up with a few details that she had not originally narrated, that was the exception rather than the rule.

This brought home how important it is to  narrate after every lesson. It's the way our children interact with the material and then cement it in their minds.

Lessons Learned giving cm exams

Lesson the first- your child won't remember what you think she will

What speaks to me is not what will speak to my child and vice versa. Things that I had felt were the important parts of the story were not the details that necessarily stuck in her mind.

This is one of the things that Charlotte Mason says, that we need to get out of the way between the student and the author (or the expert), and let the child get information mind to mind. When we put ourselves between them either through lectures or by  interpreting, we don't let them experience the material directly.

And we have no idea what's actually going to catch our children's interests.

Lesson the Second- keep terms to 12 weeks or less

Don't let those terms drag on.

I didn't give exams until March of this year even though we started lessons in August.

That's because it took that long to finish our Term 1 work.

I felt like we had to be completely finished with Term 1 work before I could give exams. (Rule Follower here!)

But trying to remember things from 9 months ago was just too long to expect. Next time, even if we aren't finished with the work, I will still give exams at the end of that 12 week session.

Why twelve weeks? That was the length of a term in the PNEU.

That's three months. I don't know why it's easier to wrap my head around "three months" than "twelve weeks", but it is.

If we still want to continue with the work before moving on to Term 2 that's fine, but I won't wait that long between giving exams.

I'm the one that gets to make up the questions, so I get to decide.  I simply won't give questions from material that we haven't covered yet.

It sounds so simple when put that way, but I was so concerned with having to finish all of our Term 1 material that I waited 9 months to give those exams.

Lesson the third- more consistency

 I need to be more consistent with both entries into the nature notebook, and about asking my child to describe orally what she is seeing.

That doesn't mean that she can't draw it. My daughter is dyslexic; drawing is how she does most of her narrations. However, once she's drawn it, that material sticks in her mind much better if then I also have her describe what she has drawn

Conclusion

This actually was a good experience for us.

And I will now do exams at the end of every three months in our school, regardless if we have finished the material that I had set for that term.

It allowed my child to show me what she knew, and that alone increased her confidence. It also gave her another opportunity to bring up those older memories of our lessons and interact with them again.

Exams not only helped her confidence, but it also was another learning aid, bringing things from her long-term memory back to her present memory. It  gave her another opportunity to bring up those older memories of our lessons and interact with them again.

We did exams over a week's time, and since the questions were so short it also served as a nice vacation week.

She also got to show off to her dad all of the handwork that she had been working on. And having it all in one place rather than just seeing little bits at a time really helped my husband see the progress we had made over the last several months.

Quick recap of lessons learned

  • What speaks to you in a passage is not what will necessarily speak to your children and vice versa. Giving exams gives you a window into their mind to see what sorts of things stuck with them and what didn't. 
  • Keep terms to 12 weeks. Don't let them drag on even if you aren't finished with some material
  • Be consistent with both lessons and things like nature notebook and painting. Those "extras" aren't really extras, but because they aren't part of our normal lesson time in the morning they feel like they're extras. Doing exams showed me that I had been slacking in this area.Save work

Giving exams showed me the weaknesses in our own in the way that I administer our homeschool. And it helped me to change those things that needed changing.

What have you learned from giving exams to your own children? Did you make any changes to your school routine after giving them? Leave me a comment and let me know.

WANT TO REMEMBER THIS? SAVE lessons learned from CM exams TO YOUR FAVORITE HOMESCHOOLING PINTEREST BOARD!

pocketwatch for scheduling

LEARN THE FREQUENCY AND DURATION OF Middle School SUBJECTS IN A CHARLOTTE MASON EDUCATION, AND UPDATE FOR TODAY!

Making a homeschool schedule can overwhelming.  What is realistic? What's too much? How often should we do math every day?

Moving into middle school/junior high can feel even more daunting.

We don't just want to hand our kids a list of assignments and pages to be read at the beginning of the week and then say "have at it" with no other guidance.

While that may work for some small subset of kids (not mine!) most will need help building their week.

And when we start with just a list, it's so easy to say "we got the big stuff done, let's just skip the rest today."

And that happens again, and again, and again.

Before you know it, you're two months into the school year and you're no longer feeling the joy because while you're doing the "important things" (who decides what's important, anyway?) you're routinely skipping the things that actually bring joy to your homeschool.

Or suddenly it's Winter Break and  (whoops!) you realize that you're still on the first lesson in Latin and you vow to yourself that NEXT term, by golly, you'll get it done!

The answer to both problems is having a weekly routine, one that allows all lessons to be done in a timely manner, without spending too long on this subject but also not skipping that other subject altogether.

Charlotte Mason's member homeschools were sent sample time tables that they could then adjust to their needs. We can use these original timetables from the PNEU (Parents' National Education Union) as our guide, but we need to bring them to our modern world, both in the subjects and the in the amount of time that a modern homeschool typically spends on lessons.

I don't know about you, but I am not about do lessons six days a week!

This post is about Form III (approximate ages 12-14). If you are looking for a different age group, I've broken down the other Forms, too:

Form I Timetables for Today (approximate ages 6-9)

Form II Timetables for Today (approximate ages 9-12)

Original schedules

Let's get started.

We have two originals from A Liberal Education for All that we can use to guide us. One is from 1928 and the other 1933.

Are you struggling to figure out how to take Charlotte Mason's timetables and apply them to our modern life? Let's work through them together.

This time we are working through Form III (approximate ages 12-14). If you're looking for the other Forms, here they are:

Form I (ages 6-9)
Form II (ages 9-12)

As always, let's start with the originals from A Liberal Education for All.

original table of pneu timetables form 3

Oooh, but here's an interesting tidbit: that's the 1928 edition. The 1933 edition has one significant change.

Form 3 timetables from 1933

Do you see it?

Look at the 12:15-12:45 slot.

Every block in that time slot has "A" at the beginning of it. This means that only students in Form IIIA should do that part. Form IIIB doesn't

(Remember that the first year in Form 3 is called B, and the second year is called A. Think of it like Beginner and Advanced).

So why is this important? Well, for one thing it means that Form 3B students are stopping half an hour earlier than the Form 3A students.

Some of these subjects for 3B students are moved to earlier in the day, while others are dropped altogether. 

In the 1928 time table, there is no distinction between 3A and 3B, but do you notice that there are some changes penciled in? Most notably, Picture Study, Composition, Reading, and Singing are shifted to the afternoons.

I think this is an important consideration in our own planning. You could do this several ways.

  • You could use the 1933 guidelines and have your Form 3B student end at 12:15, waiting on certain subjects (2nd foreign language, Composition) until next year.
  • You could use the 1928 time table as is.
  • You could use the 1928 time table and shift Picture Talk, Composition, Reading, and Singing to the afternoons along with Nature Note Book, Handicrafts, Gardening, and Drawing.

Because it's already marked as A and B, we'll use the 1933 time table as our guide this time.
And let's make this easier to work with by typing it up into a table:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A Composition

A Geography

N.B. -- No "Home Work." "Narration" (oral and written) at the end of each lesson. At least two written narrations each day. B Works till 12 noon only. For afternoon work see General Notes on the Programme.

General Overview

Similar to Form I and Form II, lessons are kept generally to the morning hours. But we do see a gradual lengthening of the lessons. If we look at only the 1928 timetable, students worked in 10-45 minute sessions, for an overall time of 3 hours, 45 minutes.

We don't know who penciled in the changes, whether that was a parent or an administrator of the PNEU.

Looking at the 1933 time table, one of the notes reads "B Works till 12 noon only." This is important because it shows that these subjects weren't pushed aside for the afternoons, and that second-to-last time block goes until 12:15. If "B" students work until 12 noon only, then that 45 minute session is only a 30 minute session for them.

It makes you wonder why this change. Had they been getting feedback that the almost 4 hours of work was just too much for most 3B students? Did they see in the exams that many 3B students weren't getting all the subjects in because their attention flagged towards the end?

Was it a unilateral decision from upper management?

I don't know, but it gives us "permission" in our own homes to cut back.

I mentioned in the Form II post that I think of "B" years as transition years.  Form 3 itself is a transition from the elementary years  into high school.

If we look at the 1933 timetables of Forms 3 & 4 as a whole (Form 4 being the first year of "high school" and itself a transition year), we see that similar to Form 2B, Form 3B eases the student into the higher level work but with slightly shortened hours.

Everything I see in the timetables and the programmes reiterates to me the gradual progression of a Charlotte Mason education. Not many would call Forms 5 and 6 "light" education, but the students aren't expected to start out there. They gradually build up to that level, piece by piece.

Students generally spent two years in Form 3, unlike the three years spent in each of Form 1 and 2. The first year in Form 3 was designated "B" and the second year designated A. Students are generally ages 12-14.

And did you also notice that these early teenagers still had a half hour movement/play break? I love that!

Just as in earlier Forms, the timetables have specific times. It's Geography from 11:00-11:30, not Geography: 30 minutes.

This is important! Charlotte Mason wrote that one time is not as good as another to do things.

When we keep our lessons on a time table, it prevents them from overflowing into the afternoons and evenings. We see that this is also reiterated with the bottom note "No Home Work."

If a student doesn't get their assigned work done in the time slot, other time is not taken away "until you get it done."

Books and resources should be interesting and engaging, not something that you need to drag your kids through. If that's the case (that you have to drag them through their lessons), you should take a hard look at what needs to change.

Family time and time for individual pursuits is just as important as lesson time. That doesn't mean that lesson are not important. We have specific times each day for them. It means that lessons should not become the sole focus of our or our children's day.

Let's work through the table a few subjects at a time and see where it takes us. We will be using the 1933 table as our main one, but referring to changes from the 1928 table, too.

BIBLE and picture study

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

As in earlier Forms, Spiritual Instruction (Bible Study) is the start of almost every day. Old and New Testament are alternated, and this study doesn't include memory work that is done a bit later in the day.

Picture Study again has a designated time every week, also. 

Bible: 3x per week for 20 minutes, plus a Saturday session of 20 minutes

Picture Study: 1x per week for 20 minutes

As with Forms 1 & 2, Bible was done for 20 minutes 4x per week, at the start of the day. Old and New Testament readings were alternated.

Once again, Picture Study also has its own slot in the timetables. It's not something to be set aside and gotten to whenever, but a scheduled part of the day. 

In the 1928 version, it's penciled in to shift Picture Study to the afternoon, which is certainly a viable option. If you do so, though, make sure that it's not something that's forgotten about in the hustle and bustle of afternoon activities.

Perhaps make a point to do it at lunch on Fridays, for example.

Bible: 4x per week @20 min per session (one was a Saturday session)

Picture Study: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Natural History, botany, and general science

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A Composition

A Geography

In a change from the lower forms, we now have separate time slots for natural history, botany, and general science.

What's the difference? Natural history is the study of natural objects in their environment. It includes animals, plants, fungi, and even rocks and minerals and is often based on observation.

In General Science, the PNEU programmes (the course of study sent out by Charlotte Mason to her member schools and homeschools), General Science included such things as electricity, space, and various other topics that we'd still put under a "general science" course now.

General Science in the 1933 time table is listed for Form A only, so if your child is in the first year of Form III (so Form IIIB) it's ok to skip this part if you're overwhelmed.

Natural History and Botany were expected for all years of Form III.

Natural History was for 20 minutes 1x per week. Botany was 30 minutes once per week, and the books assigned often contained experiments.

General Science was for 3A students, though the 1928 schedule had it for all Form 3 students. Because of that change, I consider it optional for 3B.

Natural History: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Botany: 1x per week for 30 minutes

General Science: 1x per week for 30 minutes for 3A, optional for 3B

arithmetic, Geometry, and algebra

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

The second block of the day is usually filled with math of some kind. This is a 30 minute block, and it makes sense to do it at this time because "the mind is still fresh". I find it very interesting that there's one random block at the end of the day for 3B once per week.

All students did Geometry, Arithmetic, and Algebra, but 3A did an extra block of Geometry, while 3B did an extra block of Arithmetic. This means that the younger students get a bit more practice on "numbers" (calculation) and then the following year when that is more solid, they shift a bit to get more of the spatial/logical training that comes with geometry.

Notice also that Tuesday has Geometry OR Arithmetic. You could therefore call Geometry optional for Form 3, especially if you're at a point in your curriculum that your child's brain needs a bit more time to develop before being able to understand it. A lot of connections are made around the 12-13 year time frame, so it's not surprising (or anything to feel bad about!) that some students need to wait an extra year.

Another thing I want to point out is that students weren't doing a full course of Algebra, Geometry, and Arithmetic each year. The programmes have 10-15 pages assigned per 12-week term in Algebra and Geometry. That's about 1 page per week, and if you think about doing one session per week of geometry and algebra, again that makes sense.

I used to think that when people said Charlotte Mason did Algebra, Geometry, and Arithmetic all at once, that that meant she recommended an integrated program (a program that covered all those topics).

It wasn't until I dug into these timetables and the PNEU programmes that I realized that no, she did use 3 separate programs, she just worked through those three programs a little bit each week.

Another thing to pay attention to: Arithmetic was both oral and written. Don't hand your kids a Saxon math book and expect them to work through it independently. Oral work was rapid work with tables, oral computation, and even oral word problems. Arithmetic should be a mix of oral and written, and not rely exclusively on one or the other.

Just as in earlier Forms, math of some kind is done every day.

Arithmetic: 3-4 sessions of 30 min per week, plus an additional 30 minutes for 3B, and an additional Saturday session of 30 minutes

Geometry: 0-1x per week for 30 min, plus an additional 30 minutes for 3A

Algebra: 30 min 1x per week

Geography, Plutarch's Lives, and citizenship

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

In the PNEU progammes, Plutarch's Lives is listed under Citizenship. so having it's own slot in the time table may mean that the PNEU (and Charlotte Mason by extension) felt that Plutarch was important enough that it needed a dedicated time each week (do you think it's possible that families were skipping Plutarch, so they gave it its own time slot?).

Also, notice that it's an entire 30 minute block. Reading through a single life over a term, sometimes even over two terms for the longer ones, means that you are reading it very slowly and leaving plenty of time to discuss it.

But also notice that Geography gets just as much time as Citizenship and Plutarch do, and for 3A students they get an extra slot of Geography. Learning about other cultures and people is a high priority in a Charlotte Mason education.

Citizenship and Plutarch's Lives: 30 min 2x per week (1 session each)

Geography: 30 min 2x per week, plus an additional 30 min Saturday session for 3A

Dictation and writing, composition, and latin

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

Dictation and Writing were done by both Form 3B and 3A students twice per week for 30 minutes, though at different times. If they were both doing it for the same amount of time, why split them up? Why not have both 3A and 3B students do Dictation on Friday morning at 9:20?

I have no idea what the logic is here. My first thought was that 3A is doing Geometry as the second subject of the day, to keep with the same rhythm as the rest of the week, but then 3B's Arithmetic session on Friday is shuttled to the 11:30 slot.

So who knows? The PNEU sometimes worked in mysterious ways....

Dictation continued along the same lines as Form II. The student (with a parent's aid) works through 2-3 pages of a chosen book, noting grammar and punctuation. Any words the student finds tricky to spell are visualized until the student feels he has them firmly in his mind.

This may take one session or several. Go at the pace of your student.

When the student feels confident in his knowledge of the passage, the parent chooses one paragraph and dictates it while the student writes it down.

"Writing" on the time table refers to continued handwriting practice, either drill pages or copywork or writing favorite passages or poems in a notebook.

It could also be used for written narrations after the fact. Form 3 instructions say to occassionally read something on Tuesday and then write a summary of it on Thursday. Because one of the Writing slots is set for Thursday, I'd feel just fine using it for that purpose rather than continued handwriting practice.

Now here is where Composition finally comes in. In the 1928 timetable, it's set for both levels of Form 3, but it's also been penciled in to shift it to the afternoon.

Contrary to popular CM mythology, there is actual instruction in composition. It is not all "the natural method". We just wait on specific instruction until junior high, rather, which allows time for a child to experience years of good writing without pressure.

This 30 minutes of weekly instruction in Form III is when the student finally gets focused instruction on different modes of composition.

Latin is 2x per week for both B and A, but note that the 1933 timetable says that B works till noon only. That means that the 45 minute time slot from 11:30-12:15 is actually only a 30 minute slot for Form 3B.

Dictation and Writing: 2x per week for 30 min each

Composition: 3A- 1x per week for 30 minutes (optional for 3B)

Latin: 3B- 2x per week at 30 min each (one is a Saturday session)
             3A - 1x per week for 30 min (Saturday), 1x per week for 45 min

English Grammar and French

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

Here's another area where there is a slight change from the 1928 to the 1933 timetable.

The 1928 timetable had English Grammar & Parsing, and then another slot for English Grammar & Analysis. The 1933 timetable (shown above) has one block for English Grammar, and one block for Analysis and Parsing.

What's the difference between Analysis and Parsing? "Parse" comes from the first element of the Latin term for "part of speech" - "pars orationis". It means to tell the parts of speech of the individual words of a sentence, and how they relate to each other.

"'of' is a preposition; 'the' is an adjective (article) modifying 'words'; 'individual' is an adjective modifying 'words'; 'words' is a noun and the object of the preposition 'of'."

Analysis is the breaking down of a whole into its parts. It would be not breaking down a sentence into parts of speech (parsing) but the parts of a sentence: subject, predicate, the various clauses.

We don't have access to a copy of the grammar book that was assigned in the PNEU programmes, but my guess is that Grammar was specific instruction, and perhaps also instruction on the various tenses of verbs (past perfect continuous, anyone?) while analysis and parsing was actually doing exercises on the parts of a sentence and parts of speech.

Regardless, students spent 30 minutes 2x per week doing various grammar exercises.

For 3B, French was 30 minute sessions, 2x per week with an extra Saturday session. For 3A students, those same French sessions were 45 minutes per week. And we still have scheduled time to learn a French Song once per week during the singing/movement break.

Grammar, Analysis, and Parsing: 2x week at 30 minutes each

French:  1x per week practice a French song
                 3B - 2x per week at 30 min each, plus a Saturday session of 30 min
                 3A - 2x per week at 45 min each, plus a Saturday session of 45 min

Drill, Singing, and Play

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A Composition

A Geography

That brings us right into Singing, Play, and Drill.

It is at this age that we typically start to think that kids don't need that play break anymore. Sure, we can embrace it for under-12's, but shouldn't they be past this by now? They're teenagers!

But no.

We still have a half hour play/movement/singing break every day.

Midway through the lessons. 

Every.

Single.

Day.

Let me share a little secret with you --

Students had a play/movement/singing break scheduled all the way through Form 4 (approx age 14-15).

And ages 15-18 (Forms 5 & 6) still had a movement/singing break.

Please do not expect your students to sit for 3 hours doing schoolwork without a break.

Ever.

Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It's a productivity technique developed in the late  1980s, where you set a timer for 25 minutes and work uninterrupted for that time. Then you take a 3-5 minute break, then go back for another 25 minutes of uninterrupted work.

Repeat that for four 25-minute chunks, then take a 15-30 minute break. Then start again.

Hmm.... these timetables look suspiciously like that, though instead of taking a 3-5 minute break after each chunk, the student merely changes to a subject that uses a different part of the brain or body to refresh the mind.

Productivity experts say that we work best in 1-2 hour time blocks, then need a break.

Do not skip this step.

Every day for a half hour the student either does Drill and plays, or sings and plays. Singing and Drill are alternated.

Drill referred to Swedish Drill, a specific set of movements based on military drill and similar to calisthenics, though not as vigorous.

Singing alternated between English songs, French songs, and then just ... singing. Regardless, get your child to stand while singing and get that blood pumping!

Drill, Singing, and Play: 30 minutes every day that lessons were done, an hour and 20 minutes into lesson time.

Repetition, week's work, map of the world

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A Composition

A Geography

Right after the movement/singing/play break, we start with a 10 minute slot for Repetition or Map of the World.

When I look at this I wonder, did Charlotte Mason do a 10-minute slot here to bring the rest of the timetable back on a half hour schedule (so they ended at 12 instead of 11:50) or did she do it to ease the students back into lessons after being given a break, or was it for some other reason?

Remembering back to when my older daughter was this age, I always had a hard time bringing her back to lessons once I let her play outside.

I tried to get around this by not letting her play until lessons were done, which wasn't actually a good idea and didn't work well.

I wonder if I'd used this strategy, to do a quick 10 minute easy block, if that would have helped?

Whether or not that was Charlotte Mason's thought, I think it's a great way to reel our kids back in.  It's also done in Form 4.

We have that 10 minute slot of Repetition daily after the play break, alternating between poetry and Bible memorization, with Latin memorization thrown in there for good measure for 3A students.

3B students will be working on the Map of the World for 10 minutes. 3A students do as well, but that's included as part of their Geography studies while the 3B students have a dedicated time block of it.

Week's Work again is a stumper. It's scheduled for Forms I and II also, but shares a 10 minute slot with Repetition once per week on Saturday.

There is a category for "Work" in the PNEU programmes. It consists of "definite house or garden work", needlework, cardboard modelling, claymodelling, toymaking, sewing and mending, making Christmas presents, leatherwork, putting on plays, and Scouting tests, among other things.

For the 12-14 year old child, this could not possibly all be completed in a short 10 minute weekly time span.

One idea is that this time is for the parent to review the student's progress, to look over what has been done for the week. Inspect the mending, show off the clay models or toys, see how much was done on the Christmas presents.

Repetition: 3A - 5x per week, 3B - 4x per week @10 minutes per session, plus an additional Saturday session for both

Map of the World: 3B - 1x per week for 10 minutes 

History and Italian or german

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

As in Form II, there are separate days for the different history streams of a Charlotte Mason education.

English History has its own half hour slot, and General history has another. General history was Indian or world history, and ancient history. Indian (or world history) and ancient history were both under the heading of "general history" in the programmes.

This is how multiple history streams were handled in a Charlotte Mason education. They were simply done on different days. We don't try to cram all three history books into a single "history" slot every day, but instead we have specific days for reading English, Indian (or world), and ancient history.

Italian or German was reserved for Form 3A students in this time table, though in the 1928 version there was no distinction between 3A and 3B for languages.

History: 1x per week for 30 minutes for English history, 1x per week for 30 minutes for general history plus a Saturday session of 30 minutes

Italian or German: 2x per week for Form 3A, one session of 30 minutes and one of 45 minutes

Literature and reading

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

Arithmetic (oral & written)

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

Latin

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

Singing and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

General History

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Italian or German

B Arithmetic

French

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

A Geography

Recall that 3B students stopped at 12 noon, so while 3A did Literature for 45 minutes, 3B only did it for 30 minutes once a week.

Reading for 3A was a half hour slot.

I sometimes wonder about this, because the Reading selections in the programmes were the same for both 3A and 3B, and the notes say that lighter portions of the program like plays and novels should be read in the evenings and on holidays.

I'm not sure why 3A got their own dedicated time slot here for Reading. It could be just another way to help ease the transition to the higher grade levels. By having a Reading slot here, it meant that the student didn't need to spend other afternoon time doing more reading, and was a way to keep the book work manageable.

Literature: 30 min 1x per week for 3B, 45 min 1x per week for 3A

Reading: 30 min 1x per week for 3A (3B students had assigned reading also, but no designated slot for it)

all the subjects easily identified

Bible: 4x per week @20 min per session (one was a Saturday session)

Picture Study: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Natural History: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Botany: 1x per week for 30 minutes

General Science: 1x per week for 30 minutes for 3A, optional for 3B

Arithmetic: 3-4 sessions of 30 min per week, plus an additional 30 minutes for 3B, and an additional Saturday session of 30 minutes

Geometry: 0-1x per week for 30 min, plus an additional 30 minutes for 3A

Algebra: 1x per week for 30 min

Citizenship and Plutarch's Lives: 30 min 2x per week (1 session each)

Geography: 30 min 2x per week, plus an additional 30 min Saturday session for 3A

Dictation and Writing: 2x per week for 30 min each

Composition: 3A- 1x per week for 30 minutes (optional for 3B)

Latin: 3B- 2x per week at 30 min each (one is a Saturday session)
             3A - 1x per week for 30 min (Saturday), 1x per week for 45 min

Grammar, Analysis, and Parsing: 2x week at 30 minutes each

French:  1x per week practice a French song
                 3B - 2x per week at 30 min each, plus a Saturday session of 30 min
                 3A - 2x per week at 45 min each, plus a Saturday session of 45 min

Drill, Singing, and Play: 30 minutes every day that lessons were done, an hour and 20 minutes into lesson time

Repetition: 3A - 5x per week, 3B - 4x per week @10 minutes per session, plus an additional Saturday session for both

Map of the World: 3B - 1x per week for 10 minutes 

History: 1x per week for 30 minutes for English history, 1x per week for 30 minutes for general history plus a Saturday session of 30 minutes

Italian or German: 2x per week for Form 3A, one session of 30 minutes and one of 45 minutes

Literature: 30 min 1x per week for 3B, 45 min 1x per week for 3A

Reading: 30 min 1x per week for 3A (3B students had assigned reading also, but no designated slot for it)

Some observations

Before we start to modernize this time table, I want to re-iterate a few things.

The 1933 timetable is an easier transition to the higher level grades than the 1928 one. I'm of the opinion that most students will be most successful if the transitions are small.

Remember that every day there is a mid-lesson break for movement, singing, and play.

Do not think that your young teen is too old for recess.

We tend to think that our 12-14 year-olds should be able to sit through a full morning of lessons, but this is not something that Charlotte Mason expected.

Please don't leave this part out. It provides a much needed refreshment in the midst of focused lessons.

In general, start off most days with spiritual instruction, then do math next while the mind is still very fresh.

Handicrafts, brushdrawing, drawing, painting, modeling, toymaking, hobbies, and the Nature Note Book were done in the afternoons.

These aren't scheduled, but again are not something that should be left out of a CM education.

In fact, the programmes for Form 3 state that "the work of the programmes cannot be fully carried out unless each child keeps a Nature Note Book and a Century book."

You should be insisting on a Nature Note Book at this age. It doesn't need to be (and in fact, shouldn't be!) an artist's portfolio of perfectly drawn specimen.

Think of it more as a field notebook, where the student draws quick sketches with arrows and bullet points of what she sees.

Saturday School

Not everyone did Saturday school, even if they were enrolled in the PNEU. As we go higher in the forms it gets harder to bring the schedules to a 5 day week, but it is still doable. If you are going to make a 4 day week, adjust subjects proportionately rather than leaving off entire subjects, if you can swing it.

But if you can't, don't sweat it either.

I never managed to do Latin with my older daughter, and we didn't do Plutarch until she was 15. As an adult, she is still an engaged citizen who understands both her rights and duties as a citizen of our country.

No on to creating a timetable that fits your life!

Modernizing the Time Table

Let's look at how we can use the time table as our guide but still adjust for modern life.

The first thing we'll do is to revise to a 5 day week rather than 6 day week. Very few homeschoolers do lessons 6 days a week. If you do, more power to you, and you have it easy to update the time table!

The Five Day School Week

On Saturdays, the schedule has Bible, math, Latin, Singing & Play, Repetition, General History, French, and Geography (3A).

Bible is done 3x per week otherwise, so it's safe to kick that Saturday session out.

Math, Repetition, and Singing & Play are also done daily, so we can delete those, too. However, since it's not just "Singing" but Sol-fa in particular, let's shift Sol-fa to the English Songs space and we'll just sing English Songs around the house throughout our days.

That leaves us with Latin, Week's Work, General History, French, and Geography.

Latin

What to do about Latin? There's only one other time Latin is done during the week, other than some repetition work for the second year (3A) students.

I would put this in the Italian or German space on Friday afternoons for Form 3A students, and not worry about it for the 3B students.

What are we doing then with Italian or German (second foreign language)?

In A Liberal Education for All on page 41, it has a note that "Less time may be given if desired in any Form to Science and Modern Languages and more to Classics and Mathematics. The English periods may not be altered."

Taking advantage of this, I would delete that second Italian/German slot for 3A in favor of Latin.

If you don't want to do that, you could either have your student do a stand-alone session of that second foreign language on a Saturday (this would work especially well if you do an online tutoring session, or if you're using the ULAT), or you could cut back on Latin in favor of that second Italian/German slot.

Week's Work

Keep this on Saturday, or even Friday evening. Just don't have regular lessons around it.

Regularly check on your child's household responsibilities as well as admire the handiwork he's doing. 

General History

General History is penciled in as "A" (Form 3A) in the 1928 time table, so again it would be safe to skip this extra period for 3B students.

There is still another time slot for General History on Thursdays, but it might be difficult to try to fit both Indian/World History and Ancients into that one slot.

However, on the 1928 time table, Picture Study is also penciled in as "afternoon". We can either shift Picture Study to afternoon entirely, or we could alternate Picture Study with an extra session of General History on opposite weeks.

Which way would be best? I would say that if you tend to skip Picture Study in the afternoons, then it would be better to schedule it in in the mornings.

French

As with Italian/German, I'd just throw this Saturday session right out.

If you want to get more practice in, then do a standalone session on Saturday instead of Italian/German.

Geography

Geography already has two 30 minute slots on Monday and Wednesday, and it's penciled in as "A" (for Form 3A) on the 1928 time table.

Let's just take that Saturday session out altogether. With those two time slots the rest of the week, you'll not even miss it.

For Form 3A students, do 10 minutes work on the world map once a week at lunchtime. It's scheduled in for Form 3B students, so that's already covered.

This is what we are left with.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Natural

History

Old testament

Picture Study or General History

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Drill

French Song and Play

Drill and

Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

11:30-12:15

French

Latin

Literature

French

A Latin

B Arithmetic

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A Italian or German

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

At lunch: 10 minutes Map of the World for 3A students, English songs throughout the day

Saturday: French or Italian

Modernizing the Subjects

Starting at the top, we'll change Old and New Testament to Spiritual or Moral Instruction, because Charlotte Mason's methods are for everyone, regardless of your religious background.

Instead of Repetition: Bible, your student could learn more poetry, speeches, motivational sayings, or spiritual passages from your own tradition.

We'll add the notes from the 1933 time table to the end.

French becomes the foreign language of your choice, and Italian or German becomes the 2nd foreign language of your choice. I'm gong to designate that as Repetition: Choice to make it easy.

Most of us don't do Drill anymore, but if you'd like to do it I found Swedish Drill Revisited, written by a Physical Therapist (I haven't used, but would love reviews if you do). Instead of specifying Drill, let's change that to Movement.

And there we have it: A modern Charlotte Mason timetable on a 5 day schedule.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9:00-9:20

Spiritual/

moral instruction

Spiritual/

moral instruction

Natural

History

Spiritual/

moral instruction

Picture Study or General History

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral & written)

Geometry or Arithmetic

Citizenship

Arithmetic (oral & written)

A Geometry

B Dictation

9:50-10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar

Algebra

General History

Plutarch's Lives

10:20-10:50

Movement and Play

English Song and Play

Play and Movement

1st foreign language Song and Play

Movement and

Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition

Poem

Repetition

Choice

Repetition Poem

A Repetition Latin

B Map of the World

Repetition

Choice

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

 Analysis and Parsing

Botany

11:30-12:15

1st foreign language

Latin

Literature

1st foreign language

A Latin

B Arithmetic

12:15-12:45

A Reading

A General Science

A 2nd foreign language

A Dictation and Writing

A
Composition

Notes -- No "Home Work." "Narration" (oral or written) at the end of each lesson. At least two written narrations each day. B works till 12 noon only.

Afternoon work -- 3A 10-minutes on Map of the World once per week.  Singing throughout the day. Handicrafts, drawing, Nature Note Book, Gardening, Reading (lit)

Saturday -- conversational foreign language practice (consider a Skype tutor or italki.com)

Making it your own

This is only a guide to one way to change the time tables. If you have multiple students, you'll need to adjust because there is only one of you, and you are not Super Woman.

If you want to do a 4 Day Schedule, I wouldn't advise just chopping off another day. Instead, try to trim back the subjects evenly so they stay proportionate.

I did just that this year by figuring out the percentage of time spent on each subject, then multiplying that percentage by the new amount of minutes we'd be working each week for my Form I student.

Everything got cut back a little, but we're still able to get everything in with no stress.

It did mean cutting back on the amount of reading in a term we're doing in some subjects, but that's simply an adjustment that has to be made.

We can't expect to cut down from a six day to a four day schedule yet still do the same amount of work.

WANT TO REMEMBER THIS? SAVE FORM 3 SCHEDULES FOR TODAY TO YOUR FAVORITE HOMESCHOOLING PINTEREST BOARD!

pocketwatch junior high schedule
pinterest pin How to improve Charlotte Mason's jr high schedules for stress free days

essential resources paint palette

Discover the six essential resources that will help you create the Charlotte Mason homeschool you’ve dreamed about.

Are you tired of asking for resource ideas, only to get overwhelmed by long lists of books, overly religious content, or the same books recommended over and over?

Just tell me what I really need, you think. I don’t want a a list of thousands of books, I just want to know what are the best resources to support my CM journey.

Who has time to read the 1,347,567 “most essential” books? Not me!

Instead, I’ve narrowed down my favorites list to just six resources that I consider necessary (and they aren’t all books, either — because a Charlotte Mason education is about so much more than books).

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Essential Resource #1: Charlotte Mason Digital Collection

The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection is a treasure trove of primary source material.

From the original volumes to Parents’ Reviews and personal correspondence, the CMDC is an online repository for all things Charlotte Mason. You can do hundreds of hours of research here.

Most of the digitized items are also available at the Internet Archive.

My favorites outside her original volumes are the Parents’ Review, the PNEU programmes, and A Liberal Education for All.

Essential Resource #2: Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young

If I could only have one resource outside of Charlotte Mason’s own writings, it would be Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young.

One of Charlotte Mason’s top goals was to raise naturalists, and no other book or guide provides the sort of instruction that this one does.

It is full of not only inspiration but also hand-holding and thoroughly tested activities that engage children in nature connection, and so sneakily that they often don’t even realize it’s happening.

I have two copies: one for own home and one for our cabin. That’s how essential I consider this book.

If you are outside the U.S. and shipping is prohibitive, 8Shields.org sells it as a digital download, too.

Unsure if you’ll like Jon Young’s style? Watch some of his videos that are on YouTube to check him out first.

Essential Resource #3: Good Watercolor Paints and Decent Brushes

Painting (or “brush drawing”) is an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education.

Crayola-type watercolor pans will last a whole entire weekend at my house, and I just can’t afford to keep my daughter supplied. (Let’s not even mention the crappy brush that comes with in those pans!)

Instead, I made a small investment in tube watercolor paints, decent paint brushes, and a palette that closes securely.

Now, these are not professional tools or even super-high-quality, but they do the job well. I bought them all four years ago and they are still going strong.

You could easily get away with fewer paints (my set has 30 and many of them I haven’t even touched). This one is only 12 tubes and cheaper.

The tube colors are so much richer than the Crayola pans.

Here’s how to use them for CM-style dry-brush drawing:

  • Put a dollop of watercolor paint into a section of your palette and let it dry. This will take from 12 hours to a few days, depending on your air temperature and humidity.
  • Once they are dry, wet your brush and use it to drip a teeny amount of water on the top of one of the palette squares of paint. You just want to rehydrate the top layer, not make a big sloppy puddle.
  • When the paints have been slightly rehydrated, they are ready for use. You want that layer on top thicker than water, thinner than glue. Probably a milk or even light cream consistency will be close.
  • Dip the tip of a damp brush into the rehydrated watercolor, and paint away.

Essential Resource #4: Golden Guides

The Golden Guides from St. Martin’s Press are our go-to field guides. They’re the first ones we grab because they contain the most common specimens we’re likely to see and they are accessible for both kids and adults.

Enough information to give you a good overview of what you’re looking for without going into so much detail that it’s overwhelming.

We will often first identify a specimen in our Golden Guides, then if we want to dig deeper we’ll go to a thicker, more comprehensive field guide. Often, the bigger field guide doesn’t really have more information than the Golden Guide.

There are over 30 Golden Guides in the series, but our favorites are Birds, Insects, and Reptiles and Amphibians.

Essential Resource #5 Simplicity Parenting by Dr. Kim John Payne

Not a specifically Charlotte Mason resource, but the best guide on parenting that I’ve ever read.

I re-read it yearly (it applies to young children all the way through teenagers) and also give it as part of my standard baby shower package.

I can’t even remember how many copies I’ve bought to give away.

Read.

This.

Book.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

Essential Resource #6: Sturdy Unlined Notebooks

For Nature Note Books, for drawing the lizard the kids just caught, for making notes about the tracks in the puddle in the muddy spot in the backyard.

My favorite are the heavy coil-bound sketch books you can get from JoAnn’s, Michael’s, and even Walmart.

Stay with 50lb paper or heavier. I’ve used Strathmore, Canson, and Art 1st and have been very happy with all of them.

We even have a tablet from Melissa and Doug, but at 8.5″ x 11″, it’s a bit big.

For easy portability, 5.5″ x 8.5″ or 6″ x 9″ work well.

JoAnn and Michaels often have their sketchbooks on sale, and I wouldn’t pay full price for them. They also often have 40% off coupons if you don’t want to wait for a sale.

And, both Michaels and JoAnn give their Teacher Discount to homeschoolers, which gives an additional 15% off.

These are my favorite resources for a Charlotte Mason lifestyle

Quick recap (because who wants to scroll all the way back through the post?)

Do you have others that you love? Let me know in the comments!

Want to save this for later? Pin it to your favorite homeschool Pinterest board!

charlotte mason essential resources

CM termininology featured image with dictionary

Crack the code to Charlotte Mason lingo and feel like an insider.

A big stumbling block to any new field is learning the lingo associated with it. Do you remember having to learn vocabulary at the beginning of a new course? It made the rest of the class go much more smoothly. Charlotte Mason is no different.

Here's your guide to unfamiliar terms often trip up new people -- and even some veterans!

(Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

Afternoon Occupations

An activity that is engaged in during the afternoons that is an important part of a Charlotte Mason education but that is not included in the morning academic lessons.

These include music, handicrafts, field work (nature study and experiments), dancing, nature notebooks, book of centuries, gardening, singing, and/or picture study.

In Form I (approximate ages 6-9) these were often done as part of morning lessons, but in Form II and up, they are often done in the afternoons.

Literature could be read in the afternoons or evenings.

Atmosphere

From Volume 6, A Philosophy of Education, page 94:

When we say that "education is an atmosphere" we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a child-environment, especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level.

Atmosphere means both the physical surroundings and the influence of the people around the children.

Physically, the space should be natural and suitable to living, not a specific "child-environment". A family's home is better for the child than a kindergarten classroom, for example.

It is also the "actions that speak louder than words."

For a more in-depth look at this, watch A Charlotte Mason Plenary's video on Principles 5 & 6, beginning at about the 2 minute mark.

Book of Centuries

The Book of Centuries is not a timeline book as many commonly think of a timeline book.

It starts off as a blank book, with each two page spread covering one hundred years.  Ideally, one page is lined and the facing page is unlined.

The student numbers the lined side in 5 year increments, and gradually fills it in with what he feels are the most important events.

The blank side is reserved for drawings.

More pages aren't used for more recent centuries.  Instead, all centuries receive the same two page spread, so that students become aware that more recent events aren't more important than earlier events.

The Book of Centuries was assigned beginning in Form 2, or approximately age 10.

Here is an actual 2-page spread of a Book of Centuries from the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives

book of centuries image

Calendar or Book of Firsts

We do not have an existing example of the Calendar of Firsts (also called Book of Firsts in the CM community), but this is what we do know:

It is a capital plan for the children to keep a calendar--the first oak-leaf, the first tadpole, the first cowslip, the first catkin, the first ripe blackberries, where seen, and when. The next year they will know when and where to look out for their favourites, and will, every year be in a condition to add new observations.

Notice that this is a calendar that they keep year to year. No mention is made of drawings, but the children are to note "where seen, and when".

There are two ways I can picture this: a list kept year to year that you can flip back through and refer to later, or a blank calendar that has dates but not years and can be added to every year, similar to a weather journal.

Commonplace Book

A journal that is used to record passages that particularly strike you, poems, quotes, your impression of the author's work, and the like. 

It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or any part of it; but not summaries of facts. Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review.

Drill

The "drill" that is mentioned in Charlotte Mason's books was one of a few types:  Swedish drill, position drills, and drill in good manners.

Most often when you see "drill" referred to in a CM context, it refers to Swedish drill.  According to the book The Swedish Drill Teacher, 

Swedish drill, or Free Standing Gymnastics, belongs to that branch of the Swedish system of physical exercise which is known as Educational Gymnastics ... The Swedish system of movements is directed more especially towards the improvement of the general health of the body rather than towards muscular development.

Drill could also refer to position drills (sit up straight, shoulders back, head erect) or drill in good manners, where a dozen scenarios are role-played so you can teach your children things such as offering to carry a package, how to give directions, or how to introduce someone.

Drill is never used in the modern sense of rote memorization of facts.

Forms

"A form is an educational stage, class, or grouping of pupils in a school. During the Victorian era a 'form' was the bench upon which pupils sat to recieve lessons. In some smaller schools the entire school would be educated in a single room, with different age groups sitting on different benches." -- Wikipedia

In the PNEU (Parents' National Education Union) programmes, and in Charlotte Mason's other writings, children were separated into Forms. A student remained in a form for several years.

In general, students in Form I were ages 6-9, Form II ages 9-12, Form III ages 12-14, Form IV ages 14-15, Form V ages 15-17, and Form VI ages 18-19.

Form

Years spent

approximate ages

U.S. School equivalents

Form I

3 years

ages 6-9

early elementary

Form II

3 years

ages 9-12

late elementary

Form III

2 years

ages 12-14

junior high

Form IV

1 year

ages 14-15

early high school

Form V

2 years

ages 15-17

high school

Form VI

1 year

ages 17-18

Masterly Inactivity

Free, unscheduled time that the children can pursue their own interests during, or be bored. Don't be afraid of boredom, because that is where imagination begins.

It is "masterly" in that the children are not allowed to run wild, and are still under the authority of their parents.

They are not allowed to break rules or cause harm or damage; it is not a time of "anything goes" but rather time for the children to stare at the clouds, to play in forts (whether an armchair fort or a treehouse), to work on that project they're interested in.

Morning Basket

This is not a Charlotte Mason term, but you may see the concept used within the Charlotte Mason community.

The Morning Basket (or Morning Time) is a concept that is used in multiple approaches, from Waldorf to delight-directed learning.

Basically, it is a basket (or box, or bag, or pile on the table) of books and activities that you start your day with.

While it can contribute to your lessons, it is not "lessons" as such.  The books or resources are often chosen to start the day off relaxed, and with beauty and delight.

Some things that people put in their morning baskets:

  • spiritual resources
  • their current read-aloud
  • Shakespeare
  • poetry books
  • resources for the current term's artist
  • nature stories

One blogger describes it as a way to start the day with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

Mother Culture

Not the culture of motherhood.

Culture is used in this term as one of the less common definitions:  the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties, especially by education.

Mother culture is not learning how to be a better mother, a better cleaner, a better cook, or become more content in the role of raising children.

Mother culture is the purposeful act of taking time out of your day to cultivate your mind.

Then it is that, in her efforts to be ideal wife, mother, and mistress, she forgets that she is herself. Then it is, in fact, that she stops growing.

Mother must have time to herself. And we must not say "I cannot." Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we "cannot" get one half hour out of the twenty-four for "Mother Culture"? --one half-hour in which we can read, think, or "remember."

Narration

Narration is the primary form that is used by the student to cement the information just learned.  It is the simple act of retelling in their own words what they remember from either the lesson or the reading.

It is not an outline or a summary, and the student may or may not be able to tell you the main point or central idea of the passage.  

The purpose of narration is for the student to interact with the material, to have to remember what was listened to or read, and then use his own words to retell it.

Narrations are entirely oral in the beginning, then gradually shift to both written and oral.

Because they are also the foundation for composition, they are an a very important part of a Charlotte Mason education.

Narrations of any kind should not be expected before a child is 6 years old.

Picture Study vs Picture talk vs Drawing vs "Picture painting"

Ah, the different forms of art in a Charlotte Mason education.

Picture Study and Picture Talk 

Generally these are two different terms for the same thing, what we now call Art Appreciation.

Rather than a lecture, however, a student looks at a piece created by the term's artist, then without looking at it tries to narrate (or tell back) what he remembers of it.

For the youngest students it can be as simple as that. Older students might have the teacher set the scene and draw their attention to certain aspects of the painting (read this blog post for step-by-step instructions). Still older students might learn about the art movement (Impressionism, etc).

drawing

Specific instruction in drawing techniques. The PNEU programmes almost always had a note that "pencils should not much be used."

"Picture-Painting"

Completely separate from art, this actually refers to "taking mental photographs, exact images, of the beauties of Nature", and developing the visual memory.

From Home Education:

Get the children to look well at some patch of landscape, and then to shut their eyes and call up the picture before them, if any bit of it is blurred, they had better look again. When they have a perfect image before their eyes, let them say what they see.

Thus: 'I see a pond; it is shallow on this side, but deep on the other; trees come to the waters edge on that side, and you can see their green leaves and branches so plainly in the water that you would think there was a wood underneath. Almost touching the trees in the water is a bit of blue sky with a soft white cloud; and when you look up you see that same little cloud, but with a great deal of sky instead of a patch, because there are no trees up there. There are lovely little water-lilies round the far edge of the pond, and two or three of the big round leaves are tuned up like sails. Near where I am standing three cows have come to drink, and one has got far into the water, nearly up to her neck,' etc.

Scaffolding

Not a Charlotte Mason term, but you will see the term used in Charlotte Mason communities.

Scaffolding can have different meanings depending on the context it's used in.  Some people use it to refer to "preparing a lesson" (vocabulary, geography of the passage, etc) and also linking back to the previous lesson in that subject by asking the student to recall the previous reading.

More properly, however, scaffolding in the educational sense refers to teachers providing "successive levels of temporary support that help students reach higher levels of comprehension and skill acquisition that they would not be able to achieve without assistance. " (The Glossary of Education Reform)

Some examples of scaffolding strategies are:

  • giving the student a simplified version of a lesson and then gradually increasing the difficulty over time
  • describing a concept in multiple ways to increase understanding
  • giving the student a model for the assignment
  • going over vocabulary before beginning the reading
  • the teacher explicitly making connections between previous lessons and the current lesson

There is definite controversy in the CM community over whether or not scaffolding is a legitimate Charlotte Mason practice.

Sloyd

The word "sloyd" is derived from the Swedish word Slöjd, which translates as crafts, handicraft, or handiwork. It refers primarily to woodwork but also paper-folding and sewing, embroidery, knitting and crochet.  --Wikipedia

The Sloyd educational system trained students in skills by building or creating a series of carefully graduated items, each of which introduced basic tools and skills, and built confidence.

In the Parents' National Education Union programmes (the booklets sent each term to families and schools enrolled in Charlotte Mason's program), the children first did paper sloyd and then cardboard sloyd up to age 12 or so.

Some consider it to be a precursor to geometry and therefore vital for math education.

Also termed paper modelling or cardboard modelling in the Programmes, sloyd was always listed under "Work" or "Handwork".

A search for "sloyd" at archive.org yields many instructional manuals from the turn of the century.

Spread the Feast

Again not a term that Charlotte Mason herself used that I am aware, but a phrase that is common in the CM community.

A Charlotte Mason education is a liberal (broad) education, and as such has been likened to a feast.

We put before our children a large amount of choices and subjects, and they sample small amounts from these many choices.  Just as at a feast you aren't expected to fill your plate with one or two items, the same applies to a CM education.

The student isn't supposed to concentrate all efforts on just a few subjects, but instead take small amounts of many different subjects.

"Spread the feast" is the act of giving your children a wide range of experiences and resources in many areas.

It also commonly refers to making sure that what other philosophies consider "extras" are a fundamental part of the school day: artist study, art appreciation, art instruction, music appreciation, music instruction, singing, nature study, and handwork.

That's it, Folks

Once you understand the terminology, new doors are opened. Use these definitions as your key to unlock those doors.

If there are other terms you can't figure out, please let me know in the comments. Let's keep adding to this list so it becomes a resource for Charlotte Mason homeschoolers.

beginner's guide to cm lingo