Basics

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

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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.

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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!

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

napping kids using a relaxed schedule

Learn to create a CM routine with no timers or alarms.

Does the thought of keeping a rigid school schedule with a timer make you feel like you're back in public school drudgery? Does it give you flashbacks to gray hallway lockers and cliques of popular kids laughing as they walk past you?

Does a niggling part of your brain tell you that if you don't follow a time table, you're just not doing it right?

You're not alone in your dislike of bells and rigid lesson times. 

This year, I've tried to keep the timetable for Form I students (ages 6-9) for my 7 year old, and when we're able to follow it, it works wonderfully. Short and varied lessons, and neither of us --usually -- gets bored.

But I'll be honest:  we started our first term the last week of July. It is now the last week of March, and we've just finished.

Our first term.

Why? Because many days I would look at that schedule, shudder, and think "hmmm.... those blinds look like they really need dusting."

And then my daughter would ask to please please please make some homemade whipped cream for the picnic she's planning... and who can resist that

Because what I'm really avoiding is the feeling of a straight-jacketing schedule. The feeling that someone else is telling me what to do when.

And then I came across this in an article in the Parents' Review, the periodical edited by Charlotte Mason until her death:

I arranged her day in the following manner:  From the age of five or six to nine--Scripture, hymn, and English reading with me at 10; easy French lessons with her French bonne at 10.30; walk at 11; sleep at 12 to 1, or as long as she wished. I may add here that she slept regularly up to the age of nine, when this rest was had by lying on the floor for thirty minutes or so in the schoolroom.  In the winter, if fine, another walk or run till 3 o'clock, when a young daily governess came for an hour and a half or so for easy lessons in geography, sums, music, and writing.

Parents' Review alternate schedule

A-ha!  Not everyone followed a strict time table, even back in Charlotte Mason's day.

Writing that out into a schedule of sorts, we get:

10:00 Scripture, hymn, and English reading

10:30 French lessons

11: 00 walk

12:00 nap

(outdoors until 3)

3:00-4:30 geography, math, music, writing

Put more simply, an hour of lessons in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon, with plenty of time for both sleep and to be outside.

The article doesn't say what "English reading" consists of. Is this learning to read and literature, or does it also include history, tales, and natural history readings? 

Regardless, this is a very simplified schedule that most of us can apply to our own lives.

It's a rhythm

What strikes me the most after its simplicity is the easy rhythm. There is a daily walk as well as a daily rest.

It's rhythmic. It's regular. It's routine.

Lessons are naturally kept short not because of a timer, but because there were time blocks-- that is, blocks of time that were designated for a set of subjects.

Scripture, hymn, and reading for half an hour, then the French teacher came. An hour and a half to do geography, math, music and writing in the late afternoons.

This builds flexibility while also keeping lessons short. Not an hour and a half of geography one day, but an hour and a half of geography, math, music, and writing.

AND. 

Not or

Do you know what else is nice about this? It's not a checklist.  It's not a list of page numbers or even an amount of time that "should" be spent in each subject. It's a block of time in which you work on certain subjects.

Maybe today you want to spend 20 minutes on geography, but tomorrow only 5 minutes, or none. That's ok. This rhythm flows with you.

I love this idea. It feels so organic and natural. Create time blocks and a general order of subjects, but leave the details loose.

This is another example of how you can make Charlotte Mason fit your lifestyle, rather than molding yourself to fit Charlotte Mason.

If you can't do a timetable-like schedule, it's ok to have rhythmic one instead. Keep lessons short, but make Charlotte Mason homeschooling work for you.

WANT TO REMEMBER THIS? SAVE THE Easy ELEMENTARY SCHEDULE TO YOUR FAVORITE HOMESCHOOLING PINTEREST BOARD!

easy charlotte mason schedule


Insert Content Template or Symbol

form 2 timetables schedule for featured image
Learn the frequency and duration of upper elementary subjects in a Charlotte Mason education, and update for today!

We've looked at modernizing the Form 1 time table (approx ages 6-9); now let's do the same thing to the Form 2 time table (approximate ages 9-12).

Looking for scheduling help for other ages?

In general, students were in Form II for a total of 3 years, approximate ages 9-12 depending on when their birthday was and also when they began with the PNEU (the educational program that Charlotte Mason administered to both homeschools and brick and mortar schools).

The first year of Form II was called Form IIB (or 2B).  This was a transition year from Form I, or also can be used as a transition to Charlotte Mason schooling if you and child are new to it.

Once a student completed that first year, they spent two years in Form IIA (or 2A).  The same books and pages would be read by all students in Form 2A, regardless of how long they had been in that Form.  A student who was doing 2A for the first year would be called 2A Lower, and the second year would be called 2A Upper.

I've taken this original from page 43 of the 1928 edition of A Liberal Education for All and brightened it:

charlotte mason form 2 time table

To make it easier to work with, I've retyped it into this table:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

N. B. -- No "Home Work."  "Narration" (oral or written) at the end of each lesson.  Form A two written narrations at the end of two lessons each day (10 min).  B. one.  

General Overview

The Form 2 timetable is a bit different from Form 1, but still retains some of the same elements.

While in Form 1 subjects were done in 10-20 minute increments, in Form 2 we extend those into 20-30 minute increments, with a single 10 minute segment for repetition or map work.

Just like in the other Forms, there is a start and end time for each subject. What that means is that we don't "do math" for 30 minutes.  We "do math" from 9:20-9:50.

What's the difference?  If something happens in the middle of math time, say the bathroom floods because the toddler threw a matchbox car down the toilet, you don't "finish the 30 minutes when the mess is cleaned up". 

Instead, when the mess is cleaned up you pick up the schedule at whatever time it is.  Yep, sometimes this will mean that you only actually do 5 or 10 minutes of math that day.

It's ok.

Charlotte Mason said that one time is not just as good as another to do things.  We don't push aside other subjects, other learning opportunities, other times of rest, to make way for academics.

Every part of the day is as important as the other parts. Rest is as important as studies. Family time is as important as rest.

Form 2 time tables are also a tad longer than Form 1. The students still start at 9, but instead of ending at 11:30, they now finish at 12 noon. That's 3 hours of lessons in the mornings.

Another difference is that there are fewer different things to be done each day. While Form I had 9 time slots (actually 10, but Drill and Play were broken into two slots while in Form II, they are put in one), Form 2 time table has only 7 time slots.

We still get a good deal of variety, but the attention span of a 9-12 year old is expected to be a bit longer than that of a 6-9 year old.

Yet another difference between Form I and Form II is that Form I had handicrafts, drawing, and brushdrawing as part of the morning lessons, while in Form II those are shifted to the afternoons.

Let's work through the table a few subjects a time and see where it leads us.

Bible and Natural History

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Old Testament and New Testament alternated, doing each for 20 min each 2x per week, for a total of 20 min 4x per week of Bible reading.  Notice how four out of the six days, spiritual instruction starts off the day. 

Natural History is 2x per week for 30 minutes each.

Bible: 4x per week @20 min per session (one was a Saturday session)
Natural History: 2x per week @30 min per session

Arithmetic and geography

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Math is a bit different depending on if your student is in Form 2B or 2A.  (2B is approx age 9-10, while 2A is approximate age 10-12.  Form 2B is the first year of doing the more difficult work of Form 2, so it's a transition year).

For Form 2B students, Math was all arithmetic, and done 5 times per week for 30 minutes each. Notice how, unlike Form 1, it is done always at the beginning of the school day, right after spiritual instruction, when the mind is still very fresh.  

In the 2nd year of Form 2A (also called IIA Upper), a student would add Geometry or Algebra to their day.   This was done 1x per week for 30 minutes, and took one of the early arithmetic slots.

Interestingly, that same day there is another 30 minute arithmetic slot at the end of the day for 2A students.

It's unclear if this was only for the second-year students who were doing Geometry or Algebra earlier in the day, or if this was for all 2A students.

Math had become an increasingly important part of the day's work.

Geography was 2x per week for 30 minutes, plus working with the map of the world for 10 minutes once per week.

The PNEU programmes state "map questions to be answered from map before each lesson; then reading and narration; memory sketch maps.  All Geography to be learnt with atlas. Ten minutes' exercise on map of the world every week; know something about foreign places noticed in the current newspapers."

Map work was done at the start of each geography lesson, but there was an additional 10 minutes of work on the world map every week, with particular emphasis on places that were in the news.  Charlotte Mason had a really strong focus on both geography and current events!

Math:  5x per week for 30 minutes;  2nd year of 2A adds 30 min of geometry or algebra once per week; 1st year of 2A might have an additional 30 min of arithmetic instead of geometry. (One session was a Saturday session)

Geography: 2x per week at 30 minutes per session, plus 10 minutes world map work

Dictation, writing or transcription, and Latin

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Here's another area where 2B is different than 2A.

Form 2B students had 4 sessions of 30 minutes each of Dictation and Writing, and 1 session of 30 minutes of Dictation and Transcription.

This is interesting.  What is the difference between Transcription and Writing?

The PNEU programmes have three headings for what we could consider "writing" for Form 2:

  • Writing
  • Dictation
  • Composition

Let's say that the "writing" part of "Dictation and Writing" falls under the Writing category. 

The PNEU instructions are:  Transcribe some of your favorite passages from the Shakespeare play or poetry books set.  Two perfectly written lines every day.

And then it gives the handwriting resources to be used, either A New Handwriting or Print-Form Writing Exercises.

If Writing equals "Transcribe some of your favorite passages", then how is that different from Wednesday's slot of Dictation and Transcription?

It could mean the second part, "Two perfectly written lines every day" but again, how is this different from transcription?  

It's possible that Writing refers to penmanship exercises, while Transcription is when the child is taking from his favorite passages.

It's possible, though I find it less likely, that Writing refers to Composition.

Composition in the programme says:

Stories from the term's reading. Children in B who cannot write easily may narrate part.

And again, very ambiguous.  Does this mean that "a child who cannot write stories easily may instead do written narrations as part?"  

Or does it mean that "a child who is not fluent at handwriting may orally narrate part"?

The fact that there is significantly more time for writing in 2B then in 2A could go either way. It could be that 2B student are writing more stories before going to the more academic subject of Latin 2A.

The Writing part of Dictation and Writing could refer to additional handwriting practice for Form 2B students, because they are still developing the fine motor skills needed for fluent handwriting.

This is different from Transcription in that with Transcription, the child chooses his favorite passages to copy rather than doing specific penmanship exercises.

When they move into 2A, students lose three of of the Dictation and Writing slots, and two of them are replaced with Latin. 

This is one of those times where you need to use your own judgment with your child. If you feel he needs more handwriting, then spend more time on handwriting in 2B. If he has handwriting down, but needs more explicit instruction in writing, like using more descriptive words in his narrations, then spend more time on that. You can mix and match depending on what your child needs.

2B -- Dictation and Writing: 4x per week @ 30 min each (includes one Saturday session)
           Dictation and Transcription:  1x per week @ 30 min

2A -- Dictation and Writing: 1x per week @ 30 min each
           Dictation and Transcription:  1x per week @ 30 min

Latin:  2A only, 2x per week @30 min per session (one was a Saturday session)

English Grammar and French

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

English Grammar is done 2x per week for 30 minutes.  You might be wondering, what's the difference between analysis and parsing?

That's a great question! (and one that I had to look up because I wasn't sure, either) 

Parse comes from the Latin pars orationis meaning parts of speech, while analysis refers to the parts of a sentence like subject, predicate, objects, and clauses.

So one day during the week you'd be concentrating on identifying the parts of speech, and another day you'd be focusing on identifying the parts of the sentence.  For Form 2, this would be subjects, simple predicates, and objects.

French was done 3x per week for 30 minutes each, plus one session of French Songs combined with Play (combined 30 minutes).

English Grammar, with Parsing and Anaylsis:  2x per week at 30 minutes per session

French:  3x per week at 30 min each (one Saturday session), plus one session of French songs

Drill, play, and singing

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

A Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Unlike Form I that had two 15-minute sessions per day of either drill, play, or singing, in Form 2 those are combined for us into one 30 minute session each day.  I'm not sure why the change.

However, notice that every. single. day. there is time to play mid-way through the lessons, even for students as old as 12. 

Drill referred to Swedish Drill, a series of specific movements meant to strengthen and tone and based on military drill. The Manual of Swedish Drill for Teachers and Students is one resource that was available in the time period.

Drill was done 3x per week, on alternating days.   The other days were singing, either English songs, French songs, or sol-fa (singing instruction based on the Curwen method).

Regardless, every day had a half hour movement, singing, and play break midway through the lesson time.

Start with an hour and twenty minutes of lessons, then this half hour break, then an additional hour and ten minutes of lessons.

Drill, singing, & play:  6x per week (daily) for 30 minutes

Repetition and map work

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

A Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Right after the 30 minute movement break, we start with 10 minutes of something easy. Repetition is either pure memorization, or reciting poems or passages with feeling while the student is reading, much like public speaking practice.

Notice that this is a 10 minute transition from play, so that our students aren't expected to come in from playing and immediately sit down to a grammar or geography lesson.

Repetition is almost a mindless task.  This small interlude lets the body settle down while at the same time not being too taxing on the brain.

Poetry is alternated with Bible passages, and Old Testament is alternated with New Testament.  Variety, variety, variety.

Once a week there is a 10 minute session on the map of the world.  Map work is also done at the start of every geography lesson, but this is a specific 10 minute session to look at the entire world and get familiar with it.

The last Repetition says Week's Work after it.  There is nothing under Work on the on the PNEU programmes (the term programs that were sent to the homeschools and other schools that Charlotte Mason's program administered) that could be considered repetition.

It may be that since the items under "Work" were done in the afternoons (note that there is no longer a space for Handwork during the lessons, though there was in Form I), that this slot was an opportunity for kids to show their parents what they had worked on during the week.

Repetition: 4x per week for 10 minutes, with an extra Saturday session of 10 minutes

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

History and Reading

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

A Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Here's something noteworthy. People often ask how to do the multiple streams of history in a Charlotte Mason education. The answer is in the timetables.

The different streams were done on different days of the week. The English History book was read on Tuesday, the French History book was read on Thursday, and Saturday was for Ancient history or for 3B, possibly catching up or working on the Book of Centuries.

English History:  1x per week for 30 minutes, with an extra Saturday session for 2B

French History:  1x per week for 30 minutes.

General History:  1x per week for 30 minutes for Form 2A (Saturday session)

Reading:  1x per week for 30 minutes

Citizenship, Plutarch's Lives, and picture study

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

A Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Citizenship for 20 minutes 1x per week and Plutarch's Lives for Form 2A for 30 minutes 1x per week.

Here's an interesting tidbit:  We also have access to A Liberal Education for All with a 1933 publication date (the timetable we are using here is from 1928), and in that one it has A: Plutarch's Lives, B: Stories from the History of Rome in the Friday slot.

There was no citizenship book for the B level in the programmes other than Stories from the History of Rome.

This means that that 20 minute slot first thing Wednesday morning is open for 2B to do with what we wish.  Or, if you are able to easily get Stories from the History of Rome done in 20 minutes, you have a 30 minute slot on Friday that is free.

Picture Study is once again scheduled into the day, but though in Form I it was only for a 10 minute slot, in Form 2 it is lengthened to 20 minutes.  We are expecting a longer look, more in depth narrations, and more discussion of the picture from this age group than we did for Form I.

If you're wondering how to do Picture Study with this age group, here are instructions using a Parents' Review article as a guide: Artist Study with Charlotte Mason.

Citizenship: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Plutarch's Lives (2A):  1x per week for 30 minutes

Picture Study: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Each subject easily identifiable:

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

Natural History: 2x per week @30 min per session

Math:  5x per week for 30 minutes;  2nd year of 2A adds 30 min of geometry or algebra once per week; 1st year of 2A might have an additional 30 min of arithmetic instead of geometry. (One session was a Saturday session)

Geography: 2x per week at 30 minutes per session, plus 10 minutes world map work

2B -- Dictation and Writing: 4x per week @ 30 min each (includes one Saturday session)
           Dictation and Transcription:  1x per week @ 30 min

2A -- Dictation and Writing: 1x per week @ 30 min each
           Dictation and Transcription:  1x per week @ 30 min

Latin:  2A only, 2x per week @30 min per session (one was a Saturday session)

English Grammar, with Parsing and Anaylsis:  2x per week at 30 minutes per session

French:  3x per week at 30 min each (one Saturday session), plus one session of French songs

Drill, singing, & play:  6x per week (daily) for 30 minutes

Repetition: 4x per week for 10 minutes, with an extra Saturday session of 10 minutes

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

English History:  1x per week for 30 minutes, with an extra Saturday session for 2B

French History:  1x per week for 30 minutes.

General History:  1x per week for 30 minutes for Form 2A (Saturday session)

Reading:  1x per week for 30 minutes

Citizenship: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Plutarch's Lives (2A):  1x per week for 30 minutes

Picture Study: 1x per week for 20 minutes

Important observations

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

Movement and Play

Even at this age, 9-12 years old, there is still half an hour of movement, singing, and play every day midway through lessons. We tend to think that kids at 10 or 11 "should" be able to sit through 2 1/2 hours of lessons easily, but this is not something that Charlotte Mason expected.

Play was

Every. 

Single. 

Day.

handicrafts and other artistic pursuits

Handicrafts, brushdrawing, and drawing are no longer scheduled during morning lesson time. This is expected to be done in the afternoons. Presumably the habit has already been set in the earlier years. If not, definitely make it a point to schedule handicrafts, art, and music lessons for the afternoons.

If you find that you are simply never getting to them, then cut back on a few of the morning "academic" subjects and slide handicrafts, art, and music into the mornings. These are just as important as the academic lessons in a CM education.

Saturday School

Not everyone did Saturday School, even if they were enrolled in the PNEU. Though not as easy to cut out as it was in Form I, we can still do it.

Reading

Reading is only scheduled for 30 minutes once per week.  Lighter portions were meant to be read in evenings, on weekends, holidays, and breaks.  This 30 minute weekly session may have been for the more difficult reading like Bulfinch's Mythology, or for focused instruction.

If your child is not reading easily yet, you will want to cut back on a few other subjects to get the daily reading practice and instruction in.  

Similarities to Form I

Bible/spiritual training still starts off most days. There is still that half hour per day for movement and play.  

We can also see that the "B" level is, like Form 1B, a transition year. It is a slightly lighter year than the two years of Form 2A, and serves to transition the student from the easier work of Form 1 to the more demanding work and schedule of Form 2.

Modernizing the Time Table

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

As with Form I, the first thing we'll do is trim it back from a 6-day week to a 5-day week. Realistically, very few of us are doing school six days per week.

For Saturday, we have Bible, math, Latin or dictation/writing, sol-fa and play, repetition - week's work, history, and French.

Bible, math, repetition, and dictation/writing for 2B are all done several other times throughout the week, so we can feel comfortable just cutting those out.

This leaves Latin for 2A, Sol-fa, history, and French. 

We have 3 days of Drill, so I'd put swap out one of those for Sol-fa.  Either that, or shift English Song (folk songs) to be sung while doing chores or dishes, and put Sol-fa in that place.

History I don't feel comfortable just chopping off, especially since Form 2A's General History doesn't show up any other place.

Where else can we find some extra time?

We have a lot of Math slots, and 2A has an extra one even over 2B.   What if we take that extra Friday Math out?

We also have both a Citizenship slot and one for Plutarch's Lives (2A only).  Let's combine them into Citizenship/Plutarch's Lives (alternate these for 2A) so we free up the 20 minute Citizenship slot.

French is done 2x per week without the Saturday slot.  This could just be cut off, but we also are losing a Latin slot for 2A.  I would put either Latin or French in the Friday Arithmetic place.

Which one?  Well, depends which is more important to you:  more time on Latin or more time on a living foreign language?  That's a decision only you can make.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

Citizenship

Old testament

Picture Study

New Testament

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

Arithmetic (oral and written)

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

A Plutarch's Lives

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

English Song and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

Repetition

Week's Work

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

A General History

B History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A Arithmetic

B Dictation and Writing

French

Once we make those changes, it looks like this:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9:00-9:20

Old Testament

New Testament

A General History

B History

Old testament

Picture Study

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

French History

Plutarch's Lives/ Citizenship 

10:20-10:50

Drill and Play

Sol-fa and Play

Drill and Play

French Song and Play

Drill and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition Poem

Repetition Bible (O.T.)

Repetition Poem

Map of the World

Repetition Bible (N.T.)

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

11:30-12:00

French

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

French

A French or Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Modernizing the subjects

Now let's modernize the subjects.  We did this for the Form I time tables, too, and it's pretty much the same.

Bible

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

What do we do then if not Bible?

  • Your own spiritual or religious instruction
  • Moral training
  • Philosophy, logic, or ethics
  • World religions
  • Stories about your ancestors

Repetition

Rather than Repetition Poem and Bible, do recitations (either memorized or not) of speeches, poetry, or inspirational passages.  

Anything that you or your child feels is worth memorizing, from the Kings and Queens of England to the Declaration of Independence to a Shakespearean speech to ...

your favorite passage from Twilight (yes, I said it).

french

Whatever foreign language you would like to study, if you do not want to study French.

French History is what we at Wildwood Curriculum call "Second History". It is the history of another country that is tied to yours, either politically or geographically or both. This could be a country whose history is tied to the place where you live, or even one that is tied to your ancestors (or you, if you are an immigrant).

In the Southwest United States, this "Second History" could be Britain because of the ties to the founding of the U.S. Government, Spain or Mexico because of historical ties of the land and many people who live here, or Poland if your family recently immigrated from that country.

Drill

Drill was not modern drilling of facts, but was Swedish Drill and Drill in Good Manners. Swedish Drill was based on military movements and calisthenics, also called Swedish Gymnastics, and was specific muscle movements rather than free play.

You could do any sort of mindful movement here like yoga or dance, or you could just extend the play break to a full half hour.  I would, however, make sure that this is a movement break and not a build-a-lego-tower break.

New Time TAble for Today

After we take off Saturday, shift a few of those subjects to the week, and modernize the remaining subjects, this is what we have:

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

9:00-9:20

Spiritual or Moral instruction

Spiiritual or Moral instruction

A General History

B History

Spiritual or Moral instruction

Picture Study

9:20-9:50

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Natural History

Arithmetic (oral and written)

Arithmetic  or II.A (2nd year) Geometry or Algebra

9:50-

10:20

Dictation and Writing

English Grammar and Parsing

Dictation and Transcription

Second

History

Plutarch's Lives/ Citizenship 

10:20-10:50

Movement and Play

Sol-fa and Play

Movement and Play

Foreign Language Song and Play

Movement and Play

10:50-11:00

Repetition 

Repetition 

Repetition 

Map of the World

Repetition 

11:00-11:30

Geography

English History

Geography

English Grammar and Analysis

Natural History

11:30-12:00

Foreign Language

A Latin

B Dictation and Writing

Reading

Foreign Language

A Latin or Foreign Language

B Dictation and Writing

Spiritual or moral instruction: 3x per week @20 min per session

Natural History: 2x per week @30 min per session

Math:  4x per week for 30 minutes

Geography: 2x per week at 30 minutes per session, plus 10 minutes world map work

2B -- Dictation and Writing: 3x per week @ 30 min each
           Dictation and Transcription:  1x per week @ 30 min

2A -- Dictation and Writing: 1x per week @ 30 min each
           Dictation and Transcription:  1x per week @ 30 min

Latin:  2A only, 1-2x per week @30 min per session

English Grammar, with Parsing and Anaylsis:  2x per week at 30 minutes per session

Foreign Language:  2-3x per week at 30 min each, plus one session of Foreign Language songs

Movement, singing, & play:  5x per week (daily) for 30 minutes

Repetition: 4x per week for 10 minutes

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

English History:  1x per week for 30 minutes, 1x per week for 20 minutes for 2B (if your 2B student doesn't need this extra 20 minutes, you could add an extra session of Foreign Language here)

Second History:  1x per week for 30 minutes.

General History:  1x per week for 20 minutes for Form 2A

Reading:  1x per week for 30 minutes

Citizenship/Plutarch's Lives: 1x per week for 30 minutes

Picture Study: 1x per week for 20 minutes

There should be a half hour movement/singing/play break midway through the lessons.

By dropping Saturday and modernizing the subjects, you can make a schedule that will work for you.

Play around with it.  Use this as a template or as-is. Adjust it as needed for you family and your situation. 

If you need to cut back even further to a 4 day week, or you have multiple children and so need to trim, try to cut fairly evenly across the board. Perhaps do some things every other week rather than weekly. Trim page counts rather than letting the lessons drag on all day.

Remember that it's not just your kids who need down time.  You do, too.

Feel free to play around with this schedule, tweaking where needed. Make it work for you.

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pinterest clock with charlotte mason late elementary modern schedule
pinterest image How to make Charlotte Mason's elemenary schedules work for you

are lessons required at 6

Your six year old isn’t ready for lessons – is she doomed to a life of failure?

Your little one just turned 6 years old and you can finally start homeschooling! You’ve been waiting for this for months, dutifully following Charlotte Mason’s suggestion to delay academics until 6, and now you’re raring to go.

At first everything was fine. You were excited, little Junior was excited … but soon (was it days? weeks?) your once eager student started hiding.

Throwing himself backwards on the couch and screaming when you brought out the math book.

Putting his fingers in his ears and singing “La La La La Laaaaaaa” at the top of his lungs.

What is wrong? Are you just not cut out to homeschool?

Nah… what’s really happening is that your eager child is just not ready for formal lessons.

If you’ve read up on Charlotte Mason and have a young child, you know that she opposed formal lessons for children younger than six years old.

I know it’s tough to wait when you’re chomping at the bit to offer the richness of a CM education to your child. Some moms start sit-down lessons the month – or even week – their child turns that magical age.

But is this really the right choice?

Many children simply aren’t ready for academic sit-down lessons when they are newly six years old. Six and a half or even fully seven is often a much better choice for most. I’m not a neuro-anything-expert, but it has to do with brain development. If your child isn’t ready, it doesn’t mean that he or she will never be ready.

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

How to know if your child isn’t ready for lessons

The first question you’re probably asking right now is, “But how do I know if my child isn’t ready?”

There are no hard and fast rules here. In general though if you see any of the following signs:

  • resistance to lessons
  • tears (theirs or yours)
  • throwing himself backwards on the couch and screaming
  • spinning in circles laughing and not paying attention
  • running out of the room and giggling

or any variation thereof… wait for a few more months.

… Even if your child has already been to public or private school and could sit through the entire day there.

… Even if your child has made it through a few weeks or even a few months compliantly and with flying colors.

Even if you are sure that your child is different and is perfectly capable at the ripe old age of six of doing this thing and is simply choosing not to ….

Wait.

But won’t I be sentencing my child to a life of “Behind” if we wait?

In a word, no.

Children catch up quickly when they are ready.

Not only that, but you can always skip ahead if you feel your child is ready for higher level work at a later time. Don’t worry about missing things – there is no way that you can possibly learn All the Things in even an entire lifetime.

Remember that “can start at six” or “children begin at six” doesn’t equal “must start at six” or “all children regardless of circumstances or readiness must begin at six or they will be lifelong failures and eating Cheetohs in their parents’ basement when they’re 42.

Would you ever tell a mother with a 10 year old child who wants to bring Charlotte Mason into their homeschool, “Nope, sorry. If you didn’t start when your kid was 6, there’s no way it will work now. You’ll have to find a different educational philosophy.”

It sounds absurd when we frame it that way, doesn’t it?

Then why do we think that our own children must definitely start at six years old?

What would Charlotte do?

Not all students entered the PNEU schools at 6 years old. Some started at 10 or 12 or even later. (The PNEU was the correspondence-type school that Charlotte Mason administered)

We know that in general, children were put in the form appropriate to their age range. However, sometimes a student would be started in a lower form. This student, she says, always interacted with the material in a manner appropriate to his age, regardless of the difficulty of the material.

What does this mean to us? It means that if you wait a year until your child is 7, you will probably want to start your child in Form IB.

But if you wait until your child is 8 or 9, you wouldn’t start at the very beginning of a curriculum in IB (1st year) but instead in IA (2nd or 3rd year) or perhaps even IIB (4th year), depending on where you think your 9 year old child would fit the best.

But remember this: year or form levels in a Charlotte Mason education are not grade levels.

What should I do if not lessons, then?

I don’t recommend that you do absolutely nothing.

Though this can be a viable option.

Instead, give your child that fertile ground in which to grow.

  • Develop a healthy home rhythm with regularity and simplicity if you don’t already have one. (Not sure how? Find out in How to Create a Healthy Home Rhythm)
  • Spend as much time in nature as you can. If you don’t already own the book Coyote’s Guide to Nature Connection by Jon Young, I highly recommend that you get it. If you’re not in the US and shipping is too expensive, you can get it in .pdf form from 8Shields.org
  • Play with letters. Letter blocks, letter tiles, point out letters, make them with pasta shells or draw them in the sand. Just play.
  • Count everything. Sparrows, eggs, ants, acorns. Make up simple math problems using these, but do it in a natural way. “If Henrietta hadn’t laid an egg today, how many eggs would we have?”
  • Use Math Games by Peggy Kaye
  • Tell stories. Then tell them again.
  • Play in sand and mud and water. Go to swimming lessons.
  • Work through the free Phonemic Awareness curriculum at Sight Words
  • Sing. Always. Sing while folding laundry, while kneading bread, and while finger knitting. Sing when you’re getting dressed. Just sing.

If you’re looking for more handholding, A Quiet Growing Time: Charlotte Mason with Your 3 to 6 Year Old is full of practical ideas to use with your children who aren’t yet doing academic lessons.

catching snake in a jar nature study

Go see children’s theater. Go to museums. Go to homeschool park days. Visit local fields to learn field crops in all stages of growth. Draw lizards in a notebook and let your child dictate to you what to write in it. Talk about the natural objects your child finds.

Don’t Force Your Flowers Before They’re Ready

Not being ready for lessons at six doesn’t mean your child is a failure, or has a lower-than-average-IQ. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure at being a homeschool mom, or that CM won’t work for you.

It just means that your child needs a bit more time.

Remember that children are like flowers and they will bloom when they are ready. We simply provide fertile ground and nourishment.

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