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'rejust 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
(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.
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.
We continue today with reading through The Parents’ Review  Vol 1, No 4. I’m quite excited about today’s entry — it’s not an instructional piece, but rather reader submitted book recommendations!
Reader Submitted Living Book Recommendations, circa 1890
(Not sure what a living book is? Readthis post for my explanation)
(Disclosure: This post probably contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.)
The first recommendation is for Uncle Remus books by Joel C. Harris. These are apparently the “original” ones, or perhaps I should say the first ones published. They are available free online at Project Gutenberg
The next set of books is recommended by a different reader, and these too are American books.
A set of Reading Books “Seaside and Wayside,” in three volumes, by Julia Wright…is perfect , because its aim is to present facts in simple short Saxon words, and give living teaching; thus I found it evoked a real interest in reading in a child of nine, who simply could not and would not read from the “Primers” generally used. This interest has never flagged, but gone on increasing in the most satisfactory way.
I was delighted to find that two of these three volumes are still in print, but not under their names of Seaside and Wayside. No, they are now Books 2 and 3 of the Christian Liberty Nature Readers! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the copyright pages (if it doesn’t show for you, click “View Sample” towards the top) These two books of the Christian Liberty series were my own daughter’s favorites. After these, she lost interest. I’d thought it was simply changing tastes as she grew older, but now I wonder if it was the change in author. I hadn’t realized before this that the Nature Readers aren’t all written by the same person.
A word though — as you can tell by the series title “Christian Liberty Nature Readers” the author does come from a Christian perspective. They are not “young earth creationist” (at least not these two books), but you may see an occasional reference to “God’s plan”, or wording similar to that. They are not overbearingly Christian and they don’t seek to convert, but it’s something to be aware of if it’s an issue for you.
They are also in public domain and available through both google books and archive.org, as well as two more books in the series.
The publisher Yesterday’s Classics publishes two more books recommended by this same Parents’ Review reader —
Seven Little Sisters Who Live on the Round Ball that Floats in the Air, and
The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children, both by Jane Andrews.
I have not read any of these, except for the Christian Liberty Nature Readers, so I can’t vouch for language or attitudes. But I am so thrilled to know that we still have access to these books that were enjoyed by children generations ago!
Do you struggle with how to teach your preschooler a foreign language? Charlotte Mason suggested beginning at the earliest ages, but how do we do that when we don’t speak the language ourselves?
We know that using a curriculum for this age group is anathema to a Charlotte Mason education, but what should we do instead?
Should we even teach a foreign language to our little ones, or is it better to just wait until school age?
As so often happens, I’ve found the Parents’ Review addresses just these problems. Isn’t it amazing that parents have had the same struggles and doubts for 130 years? It really puts things into perspective when you look at it that way.
Yes, we should teach our young ones a foreign language. It is never too early. But how to start?
First Steps in learning a language for preschoolers
“Many of the mothers of to-day will still remember the sad bewilderment and weariness of their first French lessons, when at the age of nine or ten they were considered old enough to “begin” French, and were suddenly called upon to grapple with the difficulties of reading and writing in a foreign language, whose words, pronunciation, construction, were all alike equally strange and uninteresting to them.
Believing, as we do now, that children should learn a foreign language as they learn their mother tongue – they speak it long before they learn to read and write – we endeavour to give the little ones while still in the nursery a joyous and interesting oral introduction, by means of games, songs, and stories, to the future study of the language as read and written.”
Here we see that our preschool language learning should be entirely oral, and done by means of games, songs, and stories. These will lay the foundation for future book studies of the language (starting in Form 2, around the ages of 9-10).
This is good for me to read, because I tend to think that early learning can (or should!) give a complete grasp of the new language. The author, Francis Epps, is telling us though that we are simply laying a foundation at this point, and more in-depth studies will come later.
Let’s read on:
“Passing over the baby stage of learning, the names of the objects in sight, at table, round the room, out of doors (never omitting the article), and the learning of little sentences by slow and careful repetition, e.g., “J’ai une rose,” “le chat dort,” “j’aime ma mère,” the little one will soon be ready to join in the lively dancing and singing games of his elder brothers and sisters…”
Whoa, I need to stop there! The sentence continues, but I want to break this down into manageable bits.
Have you done this with your child yet? I haven’t!
Before we even get to singing games and lively dancing, it is assumed that we have finished the “baby stage of learning,” the names of everyday objects both in and outdoors.
Silverware, simple furniture, trees, plants, birds … these are all words we can learn with our young ones.
How? Perhaps we get a 100 First Words in French (or Spanish, or whatever your target language is) and work through it. This would introduce the written word to the children, though, and that is not what we want.
How about learning 3-4 new words per day, and using a tool like Google Translate to do it? Use the small speaker icon to learn proper pronunciation. Make sure to use the ‘article’ with the noun (whatever means ‘a’ or ‘the’ in your target language, so your children naturally learn the gender of the noun).
If 3-4 new words per day is too much, try 1-2. Use them in your conversation throughout your day. Slip them in, substitute the words for typical English words.
“Lexi, it’s time to come to la mesa for dinner!”
“Joey, put your zapatos on please, we’re going outside!”
Then learn little sentences by slow and careful repetition. The examples given here translate to “I have a rose,” “The cat is sleeping,” and “I love my mother.”
This exercise alone could take several months before you run out of words in your immediate surroundings.
The rest of the sentence talks about specific actions in specific nursery songs. One in particular that many of us know is “he will before long be quite … successful … in ‘washing his face’ with dancing round the ‘Mulberry Bush’”
I had to look this up (shame!) but, there’s more than one Mulberry Bush song. While what came to mind was the monkey chasing the weasel, there’s another that I’d forgotten:
Here we go round the mulb’ry bush, the mulb’ry bush, the mulb’ry bush. Here we go round the mulb’ry bush so early in the morning.
Next verses are This is the way we wash our face, then This is the way we comb our hair, etc.
Sing this in your target language and do the actions at the same time, and it’s a fun way to learn more of the language. The children dance around and do the actions, having fun and cementing the words and phrases at the same time.
A good option here is a CD of nursery rhymes, preferably sung by a native speaker, and also preferably with full directions given for the action songs.
“The children will, naturally, learn the words slowly and carefully, with their meaning, as well as the actions and music.”
A few games are also suggested in this Parents’ Review article:
1) I have a basket.
“all sit round the table, or the fire, and the mother says to her right-hand little neighbour, “J’ai un panier.” [I have a basket] This calls for the interested question, “Que mets-tu dedans?” [What do you put in it?] and its answer by mother, “J’y mets des poires,” [I put pears in it] “ des œufs,” [eggs] or any other familiar object. The little neighbour first spoken to then tells her right-hand neighbor “J’ai un panier,” and so the announcement, questions, and answer pass round the circle. Generally, the children try to think of something amusing to put in their baskets, and the game goes on amid a ripple of merry laughter.”
2) Picture bingo (“French Loto”)
“each child has a card with about twenty little pictures of familiar objects on it, and a heap of as many counters. The leader of the game reads out from a list she has the name of one of the objects represented on a card, perhaps “la chaise.” The child who has the picture on her card says, “J’ai la chaise,” and covers it with a counter; the one who gets all the pictures on the card covered first, wins the game.”
It is agreed before the game that a certain number, say “seven” (whatever the number is your target language) shall not be mentioned, either by itself or in seventeen, twenty-seven, etc, and that “Buz” should be said instead. The counting goes regularly round and round, each one saying the number which comes next. Uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, seis, buz, ocho …. Children eagerly await their chance of saying buz and of catching the forgetful one who says vientesiete.
4) 20 Questions and I Spy, both played in the target language.
Next we are told that “besides the words of the songs they sing, children much enjoy learning to recite little fables and stories….”
For those learning Spanish, Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Salsa series is wonderful for this. For other languages, look for simple repetitive fairy tales. Especially good for parents are those that have been recorded online by native speakers.
You can go to your local library and ask the librarian if your library has any resources for these. There may be audio books, or digital resources, or even story time if the language is one that’s widely spoken in your area.
Here we come to the crux of the matter.
“How are we to secure a good accent for our children? A mother may do her painstaking best in her nursery French games and plays, but most likely she will feel, unless she has been educated in France, that there is a too conscious effort about it all…”
Over the last pages of the Parents’ Review article, Frances Epps suggests the same thing Charlotte Mason did – that a French woman be employed for a few hours per week to tell stories and converse with the children. To cut costs, she suggested the expense be shared among several families, to create a group of about 12 children.
How can we do this now?
Think about what resources are available to you. Does your library have a language time for tots, with a native speaker? Do you have a friend or family member who speaks the language that would be willing to spend regular time with your child?
Perhaps a local language school has a Mom and Me time (this would be more common in large cities).
Can you afford an internet language tutor for half an hour 2x per week, one who works with kids?
Your last option might be watching children’s dvds in the language you’re learning, simply for the accent.
Music and youtube videos aimed at children, especially when done by native speakers, is another way.
Artist study is one area I’ve always struggled with.
I don’t know much about the artists or styles or periods that they worked. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Impressionist and Post-Impressionist.
I’ve always been stumped about what to actually do with my kids during art appreciation. Do we just look at the picture? Am I supposed to point out the use of color? How do I help my kids learn about art if I don’t know anything myself?
On page 248, it says that the wisdom of the day was that children couldn’t appreciate high minded art, and both the subject and treatment should be simple or children won’t like them.
We still get that today. A quick search for art for children’s rooms turns up nauseatingly simple designs of giraffes and rabbits, with bold, simple colors.
There is no beauty, no subtlety.
Instead, Mr. Rooper reminds us of this:
“’Young citizens,’ says Plato in the Republic, ‘must not be allowed to grow up amongst images of evil, lest their souls assimilate the ugliness of their surroundings. Rather they should be like men living in a beautiful healthy place; from everything that they see and hear, loveliness like a breeze should pass into their souls and teach them without their knowing it the truth of which beauty is a manifestation.’ In the study of art ‘liking comes by looking.’ Children cannot learn what a beautiful work of art really is unless they have an opportunity of seeing good specimens almost every day of their lives. A love for the study of beautiful things is gained by a slow process; it cannot be dinned into the mind like the multiplication table, it was never imparted by the rapid method of acquiring knowledge which is known as ‘cramming.’”
There’s our first step — choose beautiful pictures. Not cute, not ugly or disturbing. Beautiful.
After you’ve decided on suitable art, how do you bring it to the children?
“Leaving to others the study of the technical skill displayed by the artist, and of the position of the painter in the closely connected schools of European Art, I will direct attention to the subject which has been chosen, and then to the thoughts which the present treatment of it may suggest.”
Ah-ha! We don’t need to talk about whether an artist was Impressionist or talk about how he used color in this way and that artist uses it in that way.
Instead, we draw the children’s attention to the subject painted.
That’s not to say that you can’t talk about the schools of art, or that you shouldn’t as a child gets older. But this is not something you need to go deeply into.
For older students, a quick biography or object lesson concerning the artist of the term will suffice, while younger children don’t need even that.
SETTING THE STAGE
The painting used in this example is called “Circe” by Briton Riviere
“Have you ever gone to see the pigs fed? … As we approach the sty bearing a heavy bucket of bran and meal stirred up into a thick creamy mixture, we hear inside pushing, struggling, squealing, grunting, shrieks of excited greedy anticipation mixed with squeals of disappointment, as some porker gets shoved away by an old sow from a place near the trough which is to receive the cause of all this babel of sounds. Now we pour out the luscious nutriment. Wonderful result! In a moment the din stops. Not a sound is heard but of a furious supping, interrupted by an occasional subdued and comfortable grunt of utter enjoyment and satisfaction.”
At this point, the author isn’t even talking about the picture. He’s just setting the stage for it, talking to the children about feeding pigs. He’s using descriptive words, making it fun, and letting us feel like we’re actually out throwing the slop.
Once we have this background, we can start talking about the painting itself.
“If we now study the picture we shall see that the pigs are painted as at the moment when they expect to be fed. See them crowding up, pushing each other over, uplifting their ugly heads, stretching their throats …”
Interesting! He’s not just putting the picture in front of the children and letting them ‘get what they get’, he’s actually drawing their attention to certain bits. Because he’s set the scene, we can see exactly what he’s talking about. If he hadn’t had us imagine that we were feeding the pigs, we might not have understood when he says “we see that the pigs are painted at the moment when they expect to be fed.”
“Look at their flexible coarsely-shaped snouts, their huge wrinkled brawny faces with small greedy eyes, and ask yourselves whether the artist has not studied nature to good purpose, in depicting the scene of animal selfishness which I have just described.”
And again, he’s specifically pointing out how they are portrayed. Their huge wrinkled brawny faces. Their flexible, coarsely-shaped snouts. I can almost see a pigs snout moving and snuffling just from this description; how much more alive will this make the painting!
“Let us now turn … to contemplate the fair form of the woman who sits and surveys it. What a contrast! What grace, refinement, and beauty are here! Observe the long fall of hair, gathered above the neck in a single circlet of gold, the graceful curve of the seated figure …”
And then here, he’s contrasting. He’s pointing out the difference in how the woman is drawn to how the pigs are.
But do you see? He’s not only pointing out the contrast, he’s also drawing the children’s attention to details they might otherwise miss. The single circlet of gold in her hair, the graceful curves.
By directing children’s attention, we are also refining it. We are modeling for them what close observation of a painting looks like.
THE NEXT STEP
After the picture itself is admired and studied, the author gives even more background.
It is not simply a painting of a beautiful woman feeding pigs, but an illustration from Homer’s Odyssey. Then he tells the children an abbreviated version.
Do you think a child, after studying this painting in this manner, might want to go further and listen to an audiobook of a dramatized version of The Odyssey?
This might even be a good lead-in for an older student before beginning to read The Odyssey for himself.
But what if you have no idea if there’s a story behind a painting?
The internet is our friend.
Spend a few minutes on Wikipedia before presenting a painting, so you are armed with at least a bit of knowledge before starting.
WHERE TO GET ARTIST PRINTS
Now that you know a good way to present art to your children, are you wondering where to find it?
One easy way is artist calendars. Calendars.com has many calendars for $14.99, or you can look in bookstores or even discount stores. While it sounds expensive, at 12 prints per calendar (make sure you get one with different pictures for each month), it works out to $1.25 per print.The paper is heavy and fairly resistant to grubby fingerprints.And they are easy to cut up to hang on walls or otherwise display.
Come Look with Me series by Gladys Blizzard. These are cheaper than calendars, come with artist bios and questions, but can’t be cut up to be displayed.
I think habit training is one of the areas that we get asked about the most, both from a Charlotte Mason lifestyle perspective and simply a parenting one. In particular, ones that don’t come from a strictly Christian viewpoint.
While I don’t have any modern secular resources to offer you, we do have Charlotte’s own words from the May 1890 Parent’s Review. Yes, that’s right:
Parents have been struggling with dawdling children for at least 120 years.
You are not alone, my friend.
How to cure a dawdling child
p 243: “How is the dilatory child to be cured? Time? She will know better as she grows older? Not a bit of it”
Don’t think this is something your child will grow out it. She won’t. At least, not on her own. However, we have specific instructions on what we can do to help our child break this habit.
p 244: “This inveterate dawdling is a habit to be supplanted only by the contrary habit, and the mother must devote herself for a few weeks to this cure as steadily and untiringly as she would to the nursing of her child through measles.”
Here we go — dawdling is a habit, and can only be countered by replacing it with the habit of *not* dawdling. This requires the parent’s devotion for several weeks.
Not a day or two, but several weeks of determined effort.
“Having in a few–the fewer the better–earnest words pointed out the miseries that must arise from this fault, and the duty of overcoming it, and having so got the (sadly feeble) will of the child on the side of right doing, she simply sees that for weeks together the fault does not recur.”
We’re not going to give a long lecture. We all know that kids tune those out anyway, right? We tell them short and sweet why dawdling is bad, and get their agreement that they will work on it.
Note the “sadly feeble” will of the child. Miss Mason didn’t pull any punches here, did she? LOL She knew that your child is likely to give you a sigh and “ok” rather than an enthusiastic “yes!” to which you will have to put in no further effort.
Here’s how she sees it playing out:
“The child goes to dress for a walk; she dreams over the lacing of her boots– the tag in her fingers poised in mid air–but her conscience is awake; she is constrained to look up, and her mother’s eye is upon her, hopeful and expectant.”
Kid is tying her shoes and starts day dreaming mid-tie. (is CM spot on here or what?) Kid feels mom’s eyes boring into her, and glances up — yep, mom is looking at her with a pleasant face and eyebrows raised. Not scowling. Not rolling her eyes. Just that gentle reminder… maybe a cough is in order here, a gentle reminder if Kid says in confusion, “what?”
“She answers to the rein and goes on; midway in the lacing of the second boot, there is another pause, shorter this time; again she looks up, and again she goes on.”
There. Right there. Our child, whom we have just reminded not to daydream while tying her shoe, is now daydreaming while tying the other shoe.
We’ve all been there. Moms have been there going back generations. Here’s your proof.
“The pauses become fewer day by day, the efforts steadier, the immature young will is being strengthened, the habit of prompt action acquired. After that first talk on the subject, the mother would do well to refrain from one more word on the subject; the eye (expectant, not reproachful), and where the child is far gone in a dream, the lightest possible touch, are the only effectual instruments.”
Note here, that the pauses become fewer day by day. Not that this is an instant fix, but that it has to be done day by day. And probably with both shoes day by day 🙂
I also want you to notice the next part — we are not yelling at the child. No “come on, Sally! How many times do I have to remind you?” Just an expectant look, or for those kids who are so caught up in a daydream they don’t see it, a light touch. Maybe a cough (my own mother’s favorite prompt)
The habit is formed
“By and bye, ‘Do you think you can get ready in five minutes to-day without me?’ ‘Oh, yes, mother.’ ‘Do not say ‘yes’ unless you are quite sure.’ ‘I will try.’ And she tries and succeeds.”
Yeah! Success! And we are done now, right?
“Now the mother will be tempted to relax her efforts– to overlook a little dawdling because the dear child has been trying so hard This is absolutely fatal. The fact is, that the dawdling habit has worn an appreciable track in the very substance of the child’s brain During the weeks of cure new growth has been obliterating the old track, and the track of a new habit is being formed. To permit any reversion to the old habit is to let go all this gain. To form a good habit is the work of a few weeks; to guard it, is a work of incessant, but by no means anxious care.”
How many of us have done this? I know I have. “Oh, just this once, she’s been so good lately!”
And then we’re back at square one.
It has taken us weeks (or longer!) of sustained attention on our own part to help our child overcome the dawdling habit in this one area. Now it will take months of a watchful eye to avoid relapse.
Habit training is not for the faint of heart. It requires as much discipline in the parents as it does in the kids. More so, I’d wager.
“One word more, — prompt action on the child’s part should have the reward of absolute leisure, time in which to do exactly as she pleases, not granted as a favour, but accruing (without words) as a right.”
What this means, is that if you’re working on not dawdling while getting dressed for an outing, then if the child does everything promptly and it’s not yet time to go, the child should have that time to play, to read, to do whatever she wants (within the rules of course). She shouldn’t have extra chores piled on top of her (oh, since she got ready so fast she can quickly clean the bathroom).
Habit training for dawdlers in a nutshell:
The child will not ‘grow out of it.’ It is up to the parents to help replace the habit of dawdling with the habit of prompt action. Take on one thing at at time. Not all dawdling, but start with a single instance, like dawdling while getting ready to go out.
Talk to your child briefly (don’t lecture) and get her agreement to work on this. This does not mean you then call it done and start yelling the next day when she doesn’t. The child has a “sadly feeble will.” It’s normal.
Be diligent! Kid will daydream while tying shoes. A light cough or touch if she doesn’t catch it herself, and you don’t yell. A raised eyebrow with expectant look, or a very, very brief reminder if the child is truly clueless why you’re looking at her.
Again with the second shoe. Really. It’s normal. Count to 10 internally and smile, and remember that your great-great-grandmother had this same struggle with your great-grandmother.
Repeat, day after day, week after week, never letting down your guard on this one expression of this one habit. It will be weeks. This is not Jello Instant Pudding.
When the habit is formed, child will slip and you’ll be tempted to let it go. Stay strong. One false move and all is lost.
Guard this habit as if your sanity depended on it (because it very well might).
And last, don’t add extra work as a “reward” for not dawdling.
How are you at habit training? Is this something you want to try?