Discover interesting and twaddle-free TV programs for preschool to adult that are good for homes following Charlotte Mason’s methods of education.

When your child is too sick to spend a lot of time playing, but not sick enough to sleep most of the day, what do you do? 

Randomly flip through the channels hoping something catches your eye before your kid sees something you don’t want to watch?  (“No, we are not watching Robin Hood Men in Tights, because we watched it 5 times last week and you need some nutrition in your brain…”)

Ban all TV and play endless games of Gin Rummy and Canasta, while searching for the cards that slid down between the couch cushions?

While we generally don’t watch much TV during the day, times like these I do revert to TV to keep my little one resting. 

Most TV shows, especially ones created for children, are too loud and too obnoxious. They show attitudes I don’t want my kids picking up.

There are a few, however, that we do use in moderation. Hang around for a minute while I share our favorites with you.  Keep these in your back pocket to pull out the next time the flu makes its rounds and feel like an awesome mom.  And bonus points: these either directly or indirectly support a Charlotte Mason lifestyle!

Here are 5 mom-approved TV choices for kids ages 3 to adult.

(this post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, I might make a small commission at no extra cost to you)

For the Little Kids

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 

This old standby has been around for 40 years for a reason.  Background music is minimal, there are no flashy colors or two-minute sound bites.  My 6 year old calls this “The Calm Show”.  Mr. Rogers teaches our children to handle their emotions, to be nice to each other, to make simple things for themselves, and to visit the Land of Make-Believe on a regular basis.


What’s not to love?

Little Einsteins

Flashy.  Loud.  High pitched children’s voices.  Ugh.


Normally Little Einsteins is the type of program I’d stay away from, but it’s ok in moderation.  Each episode has a composer and artist of the day, and my kids have become familiar with several pieces of classical music through the show.  (Charlotte Mason felt that we should be familiar with beautiful music and art)

Too much of this program puts my little one on edge and makes it so she has trouble going to sleep that night.  This is best watched sparingly.

Kids – and adults – of all ages


We love documentaries.

Particularly good for a Charlotte Mason lifestyle are those about animals or nature.  Nat Geo Wild is a favorite around our house, with cheetahs and lions being our daughter’s current obsessions.

She also loves Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter.  His enthusiasm and attention to detail are contagious, but as with Little Einstein, he can put kids on edge after too much.  He, too, is best watched in moderation.

Besides nature documentaries, there’re also history and other science documentaries.  History in particular should be screened for age-appropriateness, especially biographies.

The Farm vids

A few years ago, the BBC filmed several seasons of re-enactments that were later collectively called The Farm videos.  They consisted of a small group of experts who lived for a year in a period-correct manner, recreating what it was like to live in Victorian England, Edwardian England, and Tudor England.


My kids from 4 years old to teen/adult have all loved these.  We often let them play in the background, as quiet motivators to do handwork or other useful skills.

There are no bright colors, quickly changing subjects, or obnoxious music.  The pace is gentle and slow.

In the series are:

  • Tales of the Green Valley
  • Victorian Farm
  • Edwardian Farm
  • Wartime Farm
  • Tudor Monastery Farm


TED Talks

You can find these short or long talks on any subject your heart desires.  From an innovative method of re-grassing drought stricken land, to hearing the experience of a North Korean defector, to pushing through failure:  if you have an inkling, TED will have a talk on it.

A word of warning:  you can get lost for days in TED talks …  like when you start out watching a Youtube video of fixing the brakes on your car and 6 hours later you’re watching a kitten and giraffe become best friends.

All TED talks are informative in some way, and almost all are extremely interesting.

Where do you find these shows?

Some you can get through Netflix, a documentary website, your local library, or even Amazon.

My go-to site, however, is YouTube.  If you can stream or cast YouTube to your television, that’s ideal.  

TED talks are often on YouTube, and they are also available with a Smart TV or just through your computer.

While I don’t recommend day in and day out watching TV, when we’re sick and I use TV, I can feel good about these shows.  They don’t spin my daughter up or let her pick up undesirable attitudes, and many of them are sneakily educational to boot.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I call them the four pillars of a peaceful homeschool.

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

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

What are they?

Self-care, Rhythm, White Space, and Gratitude

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

Pillar 1:  Self-Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some ideas:

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

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

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

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

And then do it.

Pillar 2:  Rhythm

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

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

Start with mealtimes and sleeping times.

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

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

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

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

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

However you decide to do it.

The most important thing is to be consistent.

Pillar 3:  White Space

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

You didn’t give yourself white space.

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

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

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

White space.  Margin.  Rest.  A breather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pillar 4:  Gratitude

The fourth and final pillar is gratitude and thankfulness.

This is just as important as the other three.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick recap of the four pillars of a peaceful homeschool:

  • Self Care
  • Rhythm
  • White Space
  • Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Here is a transcription of it:


To recite, beautifully, six easy poems and hymns.

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

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

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

To copy in print- hand from a book.

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

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

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

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

To be able to describe three walks and three views.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To subtract units from units, thus 8-3

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

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

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

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

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

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

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

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

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

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

*To be able to tell six stories of Saxon times

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

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

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

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

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

To be able to tell all about ten living creatures.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

A dozen — one every week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does that term mean?

How do I know if a book is living?

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

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

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

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

My definition of a living book

Here is my own short definition:

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

Let’s take that definition bit by bit.

  • A living book is a book

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

A living book is a book.

  • Next, “of literary quality

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

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

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

It is a book of literary quality.

Beautiful writing.  Varied sentences. Wide and rich vocabulary.

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

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

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

Continuing —

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

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

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

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

It is not a lecture that has been written down.

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

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

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

That’s what you want out of a book.

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


  • It transmits ideas rather than just facts.

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

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

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

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

Now read through it, without the pictures.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

And so on.

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

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

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

One last point —

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

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

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

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

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

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

If so, it’s probably a living book.

Want to remember the post What is a Living Book? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

pinterest book with pages in heart shape what are living books

Do you think that Charlotte Mason’s method of homeschooling and Waldorf homeschooling are opposed?

They absolutely are not.

While they do deviate substantially once the student reaches age 10 or so,  there are several things that Charlotte Mason homeschoolers can learn from followers of Rudolph Steiner.

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

Charlotte Mason vs Waldorf

One thing I’ve noticed while hanging out in both Waldorf and Charlotte Mason groups is that even though Charlotte and Steiner shared many ideas, their followers stress different aspects of their philosophies.

On top of that, the way Charlotte Mason’s method is portrayed in many popular curricula is just one interpretation of CM.  But those who haven’t read her work often take those interpretations as The One True Way.

Waldorf schools as a system have been around for decades, and they quite frankly have been better at teaching certain aspects of the method than Charlotte Mason followers have.

Here are 6 things that Charlotte Mason homeschoolers ought to learn from Waldorf

1) Severely limit screen time

This is a given in the Waldorf world, to the point of judgmental attitudes towards those who don’t. But Charlotte Mason adherents are less likely to talk about it.

While documentaries (especially nature documentaries!) have their place, and we love Magic School Bus as much as the next family, screen time affects attitudes.

I’ve seen it in myself, in my husband, in my kids and grandchild.

I will admit, this is one area that I really struggle in. While we don’t do apps or ebooks, when my husband comes home from work, the TV is turned on.

And when Grandma comes to visit, she lets my daughter spend all day on her tablet or phone. When Grandma leaves, it’s a battle to cut the electronics again.

It’s so much easier to give in and turn on a documentary than it is to listen to whining.

Strategy: For our family, cold turkey works best. Choose a day, and turn off the TV. I hear whining for about 2 weeks, but if I’m prepared for it I can handle it.

When we’re transitioning away from TV, I make an extra effort to be outdoors.

2) Simple toys and imagination

You might think this is only for little ones, but big kids too don’t need a lot of toys.

Simple, open ended toys and imagination. They don’t need the latest video game, the latest fad toy, or expensive gadgets.

Tools and things they can do with their hands for older kids. Quite honestly, the same goes with younger kids.

My neighbor buys toys for his grandkids every time he goes to the store. Literally, every time.

Their bedrooms are filled with plastic tweeting birds that don’t work, little plastic crabs that change color in water, miniature rockets, hand slap goo, and all manner of other things.

The problem with this is that when they’re outside without their toys, they are at a loss for what to do.

They aren’t used to using their imagination, so instead they beg Grandpa to use his phone so they can watch YouTube videos.

And these kids are 7 and 5 years old!

Strategy: The book Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne is my go-to book. I re-read it every year, and I give it as a baby shower gift.

Read it. Then read it again.

3) Delay Academics until almost 7

Experienced Charlotte Mason homeschoolers know this, but we seem to have a terrible time transmitting this idea to newbies.

I don’t know how many people come to a Charlotte Mason group and say “What should I be doing for schoolwork? My child is 4.” I’ve even seen people ask for phonics recommendations for children as young as 2!

While Charlotte Mason was not against kids learning phonics and everyday math if it wasn’t pushed on them, this is one area where I think we should take our cue from Waldorf.

No academics until 6 (or later)

We also do a disservice when we say “formal lessons start at 6.” Formal lessons could start at 6, but it wasn’t a requirement. Charlotte did not deny students 10 years of age admittance if they hadn’t started at 6.

The consideration of out-of-door life, in developing a method of education, comes second in order; because my object is to show that the chief function of the child–– his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power, because the first stages of mental effort are marked by the extreme activity of this power; and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being. (Home Education, page 96)

Notice how it does not say ‘as soon as the child reaches his sixth year, he no longer gets his knowledge through his five senses, but instead uses books.’

Many kids simply aren’t ready for formal – even play based – academics until 7, or even later.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

A good page on what to do with your 6 and Under child, before formal academics, is here.

4) Telling Stories

I rarely see this mentioned in Charlotte Mason circles, but I see it everywhere in Waldorf ones.
Charlotte Mason homeschoolers tend to be so focused on books and reading books and more books, that they forget about storytelling.

Tell, don’t read, your children stories.

Note that I didn’t say “young” children.

Your children of all ages.

Storytelling is a skill that all cultures have practiced for millennia. We seem to have lost it in past years.

When you have young children, rather than reading Cinderella, tell it to them.  Fairy and folk tales were meant to be transmitted orally. They were written down by ethnographers, but they weren’t meant to be passed on that way.

When your children are older and reading their own schoolbooks, tell them stories at dinner.

…tell stories around a backyard campfire.

…tell stories from your childhood.

…tell stories from their childhood (reinforce family memories).

…tell stories from your cultural heritage (fairy and folk tales – you won’t run out!).

…tell stories from other cultures.

Strategy: Think you’re a terrible storyteller? Practice!

First, read or listen to a story. The next day, do the same thing. That night, tell it to yourself. The next morning, re-read it and tell it to yourself again. Now you’re ready to tell it to your kids!

It’s ok if the characters change. It’s ok if the words change. It’s ok if you leave out an entire scene, or make up a new one.

Adjust it as you need to for your family.

Know going into it that some stories will resonate much more than others. That’s ok, too.

5) Head, heart, and hands

“Head, heart, and hands” is talked about a lot in Waldorf circles, but rarely in Charlotte Mason groups.

It’s a great way of looking at the CM method though, and making sure you aren’t overbalancing in one direction or another.

Many people use Charlotte Mason education and only use the academics.

As with Waldorf, academics are only one part of a Charlotte Mason education.

Head, heart, and hands.

Head – academics – got that covered. Yep.

Heart – Christians would most likely consider this the religious aspect, but many of you reading this are not Christian.

We still need to address the heart.

Do you have a spiritual tradition? Great! No? That’s fine, too!  (Read Is Charlotte Mason for Christians only?)

Every student should be reading biographies that will inspire them to be better people.

Strategy: Consciously train your children in our social contract. The ones that most people agree is necessary for a polite society.

Some are obvious – Don’t kill someone unless it’s self-defense. Don’t steal. Don’t cheat. Tell the truth.

Others are not so obvious – Tolerance. Being polite. Good manners. Kindness. Standing up to injustice.

Other ways Waldorf followers practice “heart” is by letting beauty sink into their children. Painting, drawing, repeating stories, going slow. In  Kindergarten for your Three to Six Year Old from Christopherus, the author Donna Simmons says, “Think soul nourishment, not tasks accomplished.”

That one sentence says it all.


Hands – while Charlotte Mason circles will talk about handwork, that’s where they generally stop.

The “hands” part of a Waldorf education encompasses not only handwork, but also sculpting, painting, drawing, and body movement.

Did you know that clay modeling was done every year for ages 6-14 in the PNEU programmes?

Or that students were expected to ‘illustrate scenes from their tales, in brushwork’? That sounds like the painting of their lessons that Waldorf students do!

Waldorf education says that 1/3 of the curriculum is physical. Charlotte Mason homeschoolers should be doing just as much.

Playing outdoors, jumping rope, riding bikes, climbing trees, playing scout games, stalking birds-insects-lizards-frogs-animals, dancing. Even swimming is specifically mentioned by Charlotte that everyone over the age of 7 should do.

6) Primary Source reading

One thing that I see stressed in Waldorf groups is that you should read Rudolph Steiner’s lectures for yourself.

The same applies to Charlotte Mason’s works.

While those “in the know” always recommend reading her original volumes, many who consider themselves CM homeschoolers haven’t actually done it.

You may think that reading blogs and listening to podcasts will give you a sense of Charlotte Mason education, and you’re partly right.

But when you do that, you’re not getting Charlotte’s thoughts. You’re getting your interpretation of someone else’s interpretation of her words!

They are secondary sources – someone’s interpretation, summary, discussion, description, or analysis of the primary sources.

I always, always recommend that you read her works for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.

The original volumes are being reprinted by both Living Books Press and Simply Charlotte Mason. The Charlotte Mason Plenary has published both Volumes 1 and 6 along with study guides.  (Read my review of The Plenary)

But there is so much more than just the original six volumes!

From The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection website: “This database provides digital access to Charlotte Mason’s manuscripts, journals, correspondence and other archival documents housed in Ambleside (UK), where she established a teacher’s college.”

Not only are there several years’ worth of Parents’ Review volumes, but also A Liberal Education for All: Practical Workings of the PUS, letters, edited manuscripts, more than 12 years of PNEU programmes, and the Mother’s Educational Course with markups for future terms.

You can get lost in there for weeks (*cough* ask me how I know). And by immersing yourself in not only her volumes, but also the programmes, A Liberal Education for All, and the Parents’ Review, your understanding of the method will increase exponentially.

Here’s a little secret – I don’t agree with some of the interpretations of other “experts” in the Charlotte Mason community.

I don’t agree with them because I’ve read the source material for myself and drawn a different conclusion.

Maybe you will draw a completely different conclusion than I or other people do. That’s ok! But you will never know unless you read for yourself.


Six things you should be incorporating into your Charlotte Mason homeschool if you aren’t already –

  • Severely limit screen time – it builds the imagination
  • Simple toys
  • Delay academics
  • Tell stories, don’t just read them
  • Head, heart, and hands – balance book work, beauty and ethics, and physical movement. Think soul nourishment, not tasks accomplished.
  • Primary sources. The Volumes and the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection.

What else do you incorporate from Waldorf into your homeschool?

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

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

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

But you’re not Christian.

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

Of course not!

Charlotte Mason was Christian

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

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

I don’t think so.

How to bring your own beliefs to a CM education

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you make this into a curriculum?

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

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

Tweaking curriculum for your views

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hang with people going through the same thing

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

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

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

Up Above the Rowan Tree

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

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


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


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

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

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

What can we use then?

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

Let’s start with stories about our Gods.

Mythology books — stories about our Gods

Heathen mythology - Edda

D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths

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

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

The Heroes of Asgard by  Kearny and Keary

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

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

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

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

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

Nordic Gods and Heroes by Padraic Colum

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

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

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

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

The Takeaway

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

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

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

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

I’ve lost my rhythm.

It stinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, identify the problem areas.

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

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

Next, identify possible solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baby steps

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


daughter joyful in dress she made - sewing is passion

I read homeschooling articles all the time that talk about “finding your child’s passion” and going with it, but I never really understood how to translate that to my own daughter and her lack of focus, her Aspie traits, her, yes, weirdness.

When she was 6, and 7, and 8, and 9, her absolutely favorite book was Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Healthcare Handbook.

Ah ha! thought I. Her passion is medicine. I must foster that.

Ummmmmm ???

She has always adored science and nature. We’ve done primitive skills, been involved with a primitive skills group, she’s flintknapped, gone to weeklong overnight wilderness camps. We’ve participated in WinterCount (a primitive skills gathering). By the time she was 8, she knew how to navigate by the sun and landmarks, knew how to make a compass using the sun, how to start a fire without matches, could throw knives (at a target LOL), could hike 6 miles in a wilderness area to see hidden petroglyphs, knew many local edible & medicinal plants…. the list goes on.

In years past, we’ve tried Prepare and Pray and Blessed Assurance, both primitive skills/survival type curricula. We’ve always stopped after a little while as we both lose interest in that format.

This year, she is working through Kamana 2, step 2 of an intensive naturalist training program, as her science.

But this isn’t her passion. She does it, she enjoys it, but ….

When she was 10, she wanted to do ballet. I enrolled her in a local class, despite her being so uncoordinated that she couldn’t even jump rope. We were with that school for about three years, at which time the teacher pulled me aside and basically told me that unless my daughter started acting more mature than her age, she needed to quit.

Yeah, it was weird.

She quit.

At 8, we sent her to a week-long spring break drama day camp through the local children’s theater. She loved it. We searched out opportunities for her to do more, and found another youth theater that had homeschool programs. She did several with them and had such JOY with it, but she would always grin and laugh on stage because she loved it so much.

She learned to have her lines down by week three of a program — the first week was the ‘getting to know you’ week, the end of the first week or beginning of the second they’d get their parts and a copy of the script, and the third week they were expected to not need their scripts anymore.

She was – and is – a big ham, but then we got to a point where to go any further she’d need to do actual youth theater rather than programs. With daily practices and two hours round trip, that is simply out of our reach.


We found that our local high school was going to offer Drama as a class for the first time, so we signed dd up for it. She was shocked at the amount of wasted time and how long the kids took to learn their lines. After working with Youth Theater for several years, she just wasn’t feeling the step down.

At about 12 she got a game by Project Runway. She and her friends would spend hours spinning the pointer and then drawing designs. She asked for the Accessories add on for Christmas. After about 6 months the whole thing got lost in her room. Occasionally she’d find it and use it for a few days, then it would get lost again.

A few years ago, she started writing fan fiction. She got several followers and her stories were actually quite good. Two years ago a homeschooling friend told us she was going to have her daughter write a novel for English that coming year. Since we’d just finished an IEW course with them, we decided that our daughters would work through A Guide to Writing Your Novel together, and get together weekly to go over their work.

Then we moved cross-country. No matter, Skype to the rescue! They wrote and wrote and wrote and had a grand time.

I gave my daughter a choice of what to study for history last year, and she chose the Middle Ages because she wanted to set her books in that setting. She wanted her history to be research for it. Then she started using The Sims to storyboard her stories. To do that she needed to figure out what they were going to wear. She bought a book about designing fashions, something like Fashion Workshop, and started drawing.

Soon one whole wall was covered with her dress designs.

About this same time we found and joined a Civil War reenactment group. She sewed her own corset.

She took a Landry Academy [note: Landry Academy is no longer in business] class called Forensic Anatomy and decided she wanted to go into forensics.

She took a research class and did her final research project on Mid-19th Century Women’s and Teen’s Fashions in the US. She was one of only two students to do historical research rather than scientific research for the class, and she got a 147/150 on the final project.

She continued sewing, especially for her baby sister, and told me that she’d like to get a book on how to make patterns so she could start actually making some of her designs instead of just drawing them. She decided she either wants to be a forensic analyst or a fashion designer or a novelist. I’m worried about job prospects.

She finished the first draft of one novel, and is working on two others.

We found a class from Landry called Clothing Construction and Design and enrolled her. And then a member of our re-enactment group forwarded me a link to the Minnesota Historical Society’s page where they announced an internship opportunity for girls aged 15-18 to work together with girls from Palestine, performing historical clothing research and designing clothing together to culminate in a fashion show in April.

My daughter applied. She interviewed on Friday. I was so nervous! This is the kid who I still have to remind to not interrupt. To not hug everyone she meets. To not talk about bowel habits in a public restroom.

We practiced handshakes the day before the interview. She brought in some of her designs, a dress she’d sewn for her sister (chosen because of the many elements it used — set in sleeves, gathered waist, lined bodice, handsewn hems), and walked in confidently.

Today, she got the call that she was chosen. Twenty positions, over fifty applicants, and my homeschooled, weird, she-will-never-stay-focused-or-be-able-to-get-a-job kid was chosen to participate in a cross-cultural design group.

Whoo hoo!

I don’t know if she’ll end up in fashion design. We call last year the Year of the Novel. This year is The Year of Sewing.

So there you have it — false starts. Starting and stopping. Tangents. Losing passions under a mound of dirty clothes. And yet…. still they grow. Still we nurture. Still they succeed.

I wrote the above five years ago.  That same daughter is now a junior in college.

She cut her finger that year, a minor cut but she dripped a few drops of blood.

She passed out.  You guys, she passed out.

There goes any medical career.  😀

Where she is now

She took a few drama classes at college but has since decided that while she loves acting, it’s not a career direction she wants to go in.  (Can you hear my mama’s sigh of relief, especially after the Harvey Weinstein scandal?)

She still writes, but she does it for pleasure.  Perhaps one day she will make a living off it.

Her real passion?  Still sewing.  daughter putting the finishing touches on the historically accurate ballgown she designedTo the right is her putting the finishing  touches on her historically accurate ballgown that she designed, drafted, and sewed with minimal help from me at 17.

She designs, drafts, and sews many of her own clothes, including bathing suits.  She is seriously considering opening up a cosplay business online, and selling custom creations.

A Charlotte Mason education is excellent for allowing your children to follow their passions.  It introduces them to a broad variety of subjects that they might not even know exist.

It gives them time in the afternoons to pursue those passions, yet not tie them so thoroughly to those passions that changing mid-leap is disastrous.

Let your children explore their interests while still giving them a solid base.  Don’t let worry overtake you if you can’t see any passion developing.  Life is full of stops and starts and changes in direction.

What about your own older children?  Do you notice a single consuming passion or are they still jumping around?

Classical Music for Halloween

Add this beautiful spooky music to your Halloween playlist.

We want our families to experience and learn to appreciate beauty.

But who says that beautiful music must only be light and upbeat?

Classical Music for the Halloween season

Here are several classical music pieces that are perfect to add to your Halloween repertoire.  Play them throughout the day to add some spookiness to your life.

Night on Bald Mountain

Danse Macabre

Marche Funebre d’une Marionette

March to the Scaffold

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Toccatta and Fugue in d minor

Ride of the Valkyrie

I’ve even made it easy for you with a YouTube playlist!