More on Mother Culture

Mother Culture is part  of Charlotte Mason philosophy despite her never referring to the term itself.  Any one following a Charlotte Mason education should know Karen Andreola, her books and her beautiful blog “Moments with Mother Culture“.  Karen believes so strongly in  Mother Culture that she trademarked it as a concept.

She defines Mother Culture ~

Mother Culture is, simply put, an act of the mother in which she continues her own education throughout her mothering years. Its purpose seems to be to prevent burnout.  When the mother keeps growing, then she continually has something to offer to her children and household. “

Mother Culture encourages a mother to allow herself a bit of recreation, refresh herself by exploring her own interests, and to find a little time for herself especially when so many others depend on her.

From my experience I know that mothers with young children may feel that this is just too difficult!  So much time and energy is spent on coping with the myriad of demands her young family constantly call on her for, that there is barely time enough to have a leisurely shower, let alone learn and grow as an individual.  But there will come a time when this season deep in the toddler trenches ends and you’ll find space around you expanding with new opportunity to grow and develop yourself and expand your own learning.

May I encourage you to try add small but meaningful ways towards growth and discovery, towards adding the little touches that make your heart and home happythink of 5 minutes for your 5 sensessight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. 

Pick one skill you desire to learn and set aside a few minutes a day to learn this. This can easily be done after the children go to bed, but always include them in your growth of the skill, so they are seeing your example of education being for life.

  • Spend some time alone early in the morning before the kids wake up for quite prayer, Bible reading and journaling.   Why not brew yourself a lovely cup of hot coffee or tea and sip it slowly savouring the aroma and taste as you meditate and read.
  • Then simply add the next little touch such as lighting some lovely oils in a diffuser which fills your room with healing aromas, calms the nerves, inspires the heart and clears the head.
  • Play some classical music on your playlist as gentle music in the background.
  • Perhaps a beautiful hymn might inspire you, so why not learn a new hymn each month?  Play worship songs as you tidy, pack away or get the room ready.  Perhaps you could learn to play a musical instrument?
  • Display a beautiful artwork on an easel or propped up on a shelf for everyone to see and admire.  Once a week find another work of the same artist and hang it up to enjoy.
  • Pick flowers or pot some new pot plants and fill your rooms with touches and scents of nature.
  • Learn a new handicraft such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery, spinning or weaving.  These activities are a wonderful way of being quietly creative, keeping busy hands while still being able to listen to your children or watch them as they play.
  • This is also a wonderful opportunity to listen to an audio book or interesting podcast.
  • Why not take up a foreign language.  There are wonderful smartphone apps to make this quick and easy with just 10 minutes a day you could learn enough to inspire basic conversations which may well add to realising dreams of an overseas trip one day!
  • And while talking about learning a new skill, take time to plan your meals for the week.  This will help you remember to take out the meat to defrost and plan one new delicious, nutritious recipe for each week.  Try something new for the kids to bake or to prepare and cook with you, or find slow cooker recipes that take almost no time at all to place in the crock pot to simmer till dinner time.  Meal planning is essential to prevent that 5 o’clock panic which paralysed me when I didn’t know what to make for dinner!
  • And get physical — A brisk walk each day will help, or a short yoga session early in the morning, perhaps some gentle rebounding while the kettle is boiling or the washing machine runs the final spin?  A fit mom feels capable and strong enough to meet the physical demands on her during the day.  Exercise helps build up your immunity and helps ease anxiety, stress and sluggishness.

Brandy of After Thoughts wrote a lovely post On Mother Culture where she encourages mothers to devote time daily to Mother Culture.  She recommends that mothers read their own books daily and she says ~

What I’ve learned is that there is a time for reading a lot, and a time for reading a little, and though we should never stop learning and growing, it takes wisdom to know how much is appropriate.

Dollie of Joy In The Home shares on Mother Culture The What Why and How says that nature studies is a perfect example as a place for cultivating Mother Culture.  With a true Charlotte Mason education, when a child found something in nature, they would ask the mother what it was and the mother would have an answer for its name and something interesting to share about it. When mothers enjoy their own time in nature, observing, journaling, building up their own knowledge, they not only to provide any answer their child may have, but to develop their own lifestyle of interest and wonder. Read my post where I shared the joys of keeping my own nature journal.

Linda Johnson of Charlotte Mason help.com quotes in her post Mother Culture : What it is and What it is not

We mothers need to continue filling our minds with ideas that challenge and inspire us and this should be done primarily through the habit of reading. Otherwise, when our children grow older and take in more complex ideas and grapple with life’s challenging issues, we will not be able to offer them our valuable wisdom and insight. 

“Each mother must settle this for herself. She must weigh things in the balance. She must see which is the most important–the time spent in luxuriously gloating over the charms of her fascinating baby, or what she may do with that time to keep herself ‘growing’ for the sake of that baby ‘some day,’ when it will want her even more than it does now.” 

She describes her warm, close relationship with her adult daughters as a result of her investing in herself by “stimulating my mind so that I would have something of value to say to them when they came to me with difficult questions.”  Her discipleship in her parent-child relationship was built on her Bible readings and wisdom gained from reading great literature .  “This makes for a beautiful, life-long relationship and it prevents me from homeschool burnout. “

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I can thoroughly endorse her statements because I have also found the wonderful joy of close and meaningful relationships with my adult daughters.  This has come as a result of the deep investment of years of sharing, growing and learning alongside my adult daughters as well as lives lived together filling our home with singing, laughter, movies, chats and times of tears.  Our shared passion for music, arts, homemaking and deep spiritual lives has bonded us in wonderful ways that Mother Culture inspired in our Charlotte Mason homeschool journey.

As I enter my final homeschool year with my youngest daughter I can see the value of Mother Culture in keeping me vibrant, alive and excited for the new that is ahead.  No empty nest syndrome here – just precious time to grow and deepen my walk with the Lord, my husband and with others as I live out my calling and purpose.

Let me finish here with this quote from Linda ~

But, if we would do our best for our children, grow we must; and on our power of growth surely depends, not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness.
Keep on growing and learning, moms.  Actively add things to brighten and enrich your home and household.  Be the shining example of a fulfilled and interested person who knows and loves where she is and what she is busy with in each season of her life.
Much love, grace and Mother Culture to you.
Blessings, Nadene
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Add variety for sparkle

Image result for bright sparkEveryone loves and needs variety – from the foods we eat, to learning and homeschool,  to our normal day-to-day routines.  But when schedules seem to work well, it is easy to keep using the same approach and we may find ourselves eventually getting stuck in a rut.

Even when everyone is working well and making steady progress, homeschooling while in a rut may feel boring, dull and lifeless.  When this happens, Charlotte Mason’s approach allows for variety and interest.

Here are some ideas to add some sparkle to you homeschool days.  Simply mix things up a bit each term. You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel, but try not to be locked in to the same subjects at the same times on the same days year after year.

  • Daily themes 2015Swap different days for composer/music study, art/picture study or nature study.  I used Theme Days for our week which worked so well to help us fit all the extras into our routine.
  • Listen to or read aloud a new Shakespeare play or poet.
  • Start a new book or audio book and perhaps include a new genre such as comedy (Roald Dahl) or a mystery story.
  • Work through some exciting Science experiment books.
  • Add in a new lapbook for your Core reader or main theme.
  • Look for an interesting hands-on activity for your theme or Core book.
  • Go on a weekly park day with friends one term.
  • Start a new exercise regimen or outdoor family activity.
  • Begin the day differently or end it with a splash of something fun!  A fun action song works fabulously for younger kids!
  • Buy new art supplies and materials and enjoy new creative fun.
  • Download or stream new classical music and explore music genres.  My kids absolutely loved mom and dad’s “trip down memory lane” listening to famous songs and music from our generation!
  • Create a puppet show or make a quick finger puppet show.  You can download our Esther play and Nativity play which gave us weeks of fun and creativity!
  • Watch historical DVD or movies related to your Core study.
  • View appropriate YouTube videos.  Always preview and create your own playlist for your family.
  • Have your homeschool in a different room for the day.  Go to the library or museum instead, or have an outdoor day if the weather permits.
  • Play a “back-to-front day” and have fun inventing an upside down day!  The kids will absolutely love the spontaneous fun!
  • Buy each child a new nature journal or art sketchbook and start with new prompts.
  • Sketch Tuesday was a wonderful “break” from any tough, boring day.

So when things seem dull or lifeless or you just need a change to liven things up, add some variety and keep things fresh.  Add a sparkle to your homeschool days!

What worked for you?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene
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Updated Book of Centuries to 2029

Book of CenturiesRecently a mom wrote to me requesting that I add a few more pages to my free Book of Centuries download. I was shocked to realize that we end this decade this year!  My, how time flies!

Charlotte Mason  encouraged her students to  enter records, illustrate and write brief notes and mark dates of famous people, events, wars, eras, inventions and significant breakthroughs in their Book of Centuries once a week as they study.

Book of CenturiesI wrote about my joy of using a Book of Century as a mother’s record of work and I still love browsing through my BOC and delight in the scope and richness of the education we have journeyed through these 19+ years.

Pop over to my blog posts – Practical Tip Book of Centuries for mom and kids and Mom’s Book of Centuries Record of Work

Here are some links and free Book Of Centuries downloads:

 Blessings, Nadene
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25 Smartphone Homeschool Apps

In my early homeschooling days before smart phones existed, I carried a basket full of books, CD’s with CD player, an Atlas and reference books next to me when we studied.  But once I bought my smartphone I reduced the pile of books to mostly just our read alouds.

In 2015 I included a smartphone as one of my 3 Ingredients I would select for homeschooling.  As techno-savy mom, I have added many more homeschool apps for planning, specific subjects and especially for references.  Here are some I used with our middle school and high school children.

  1. Kindle – with current Ebooks, downloaded novels, and any pdf files
  2. Bible – I use You Version, and enjoy the different Bible versions and reading plans and Bible studies.  Sometimes we follow good Bible plans for teens and family devotions.
  3. Dictionary and Thesaurus (download the offline versions)
  4. Google Translate for 2nd language studies
  5. Duolingo or Babbel for 2nd language practice
  6. Wikipedia our go-to favorite!
  7. YouTube subscriptions, playlists or general looking up
  8. World Atlas especially with flags for Current Affairs and Geography
  9. Google Sky Map for Astrology studies
  10. Google calendar for all my planning
  11. Just plain old Google to look up anything
  12. Music playlists containing our Hymns, Geography Songs, as well as current classic musician’s music
  13. Radio streaming app such as Spotify with our favorite genres and artists while we do handicrafts and art
  14. Timer for Maths drills, arrows games, and revision
  15. Audio Recorder to record oral narrations
  16. Audible for audio books.  (I download the book for my daughter so that she can listen to her story offline)
  17. Camera to capture nature finds
  18. Bird, Tree and Plant reference apps for Nature Study
  19. Photo editor for art and drawing reference, as well as for sharing art with other family members
  20. Podcast app with my favourite homeschool posts such as TEDtalks  for Kids and Family
  21. News for our Current Affairs (note – I preview before I share)
  22. Khan Academy especially for high school Maths and Physical Science
  23. Online games for Phonics and Spelling such as Spell City, Starfall, The Spelling Bee,
  24. Shopping list app for mom’s weekly shopping. Add a menu planner and a recipe app and you’ll be completely sorted for all your meals
  25. Dropbox which enables everyone to safely store and access documents across different computers.

There are dozens of phone apps for toddlers and kindergarten, but I prefer to encourage real-life interaction and limit screens for young kids.  It is really addictive!  Also, be aware of “fluff” or “candy floss” apps which are simply fun and not really educational.  Nothing replaces time for real play and exploration and time to be creative.

As technology sometimes fails, always save and make physical pencil-on-paper plans, records and notes. I always start here and then look online for educational support.

For families with limited WiFi, opt for offline versions and select and download specific information for subjects. We made the decision to only use free online educational games and not pay for subscriptions even though many were excellent.

What others are sharing:

What other smartphone apps do you use for homeschool?  Please share in the comments below.

 Blessings, Nadene
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Beatitudes Copywork Pages

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount contain His “Blessed are …” blessings called The Beatitudes, one of the most loved portions of the Gospel.

Jesus describes a character trait or action that is often not associated with blessedness. He then describes the reward or blessing of such people who follow God’s ways.

I have created these Beatitude Copywork pages which include a detailed discussion of Charlotte Mason’s Copywork approach, the full Beatitude Scripture followed by a copywork page for each verse with a personal response or interpretive writing prompts.

Charlotte Mason’s  Copywork lessons are power-packed and very naturally offer short lessons where the child can practice beautiful handwriting, develop correct grammar and improve spelling, increase vocabulary, and seamlessly teach good writing style.

More importantly, these Scripture Copywork lessons provide an opportunity for your child to learn, understand, memorize and make the Scriptures a meaningful personal part of their lives. (Read this post describing Copywork stages in detail.)

Back in 2010 I created a Beatitudes slide strip page to help memorize the scriptures.

The child inserts the 2 strips and slides them to match.

 

For greater mastery,  when the child knows the verses well, she can leave one strip out and memorize the missing part of each verse.

A great way to help memorize the scriptures.

 

For fun, I made a Matching Beatitudes Card Game.  Here 2 or more people can play “memory” with the Beatitudes cards.

 

Here are your  Free Beatitude pages ~

Pop over to my Copywork Pages for all my other free downloads.

Blessings, Nadene

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Making Adjustments

Encouraging new homeschool moms, and moms starting a new curriculum ~ You may need to adjust or adapt your homeschool approach, content, schedule and expectations.

Sometimes, a little tweak will provide the necessary space and grace to accomplish the work without undue stress and frustration.  When you or your child  experience some of these negative emotions on a daily basis,  you may need to make some more serious adjustments.

Here are a few Charlotte Mason-inspired suggestions ~

Size
P1070277One of the simplest ways to tweak the content is to select its size.  For example:

  • Narrations = decide how much you will read before asking for a narration.  Start with a paragraph before moving on to a full chapter.
  • Adjust the length of copywork = give shorter selections, especially for a young child who is still learning to master his handwriting.
  • Adjust dictation passages = adjust the size of the passage to fit your child’s reading fluency or adjust the size of the phrases you dictate for her to write.  Adjust the length as the child’s confidence strengthens.
  • Any other lesson or activity = select the amount work that the child does to suit their ability; tick off the maths problems or draw a line under the work needed for that day.

Highlight

Assist your young or struggling child by writing out the key words or important ideas from the passage.  As your child matures and manages to remember the content and details of the chapter, he will make these notes himself and eventually rely on mental memory rather than notes to recall his narrations.  An effective spotlight will allow the student to think for himself and make his own personal relations, and not be ‘spoon-fed’.

  • Create a word bank with key words on a board, or create a short list to spotlight the key ideas of the passage.  This list provides reminders for the child’s narration.
  • Use textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.  Here the child highlights the most important ideas, in different colours, to help note key concepts.
  • Number the correct sequence to help keep events in the correct order = or use these sequential clues = “First, this happened. Then …  After that, such-and-such happened … Finally…”  This helps a child remember the story sequence.
  • Gently encourage your child to write an opening sentence and then the concluding sentence. Work on developing 3 sentences that form a paragraph.  Before long he will be doing more and more of his own written narrations.
  • Spotlight specific topics  in subject = a specific focus in nature study.
  • Spotlight specific techniques used in handicrafts or art instruction.

Substitute

2013-06-17 21.37.09Adjust the content of your curriculum with through substitutions.  Here, the library may provide your best options:

  • Substitute a different book for your student. It should be a well-written living book, one that contains worthy thoughts well put and inspiring tales well told.  Find a story that “clicks” with your child.
  • Grade up or down as needed.
  • Personalize mental math by substituting names of people or objects in your child’s life according to  their personal interests.
  • Substitute the pictures you use for picture study.  Feel free to substitute a different work by the same artist.  You want your child to connect with the artist and his works.  I often provide 6 examples and allow my child to choose the 4 we will study each week for that month.
  • Find an alternative activity that your child enjoys instead of the prescribed narration – there are so many options and alternatives!  Purchase my Narration Ideas booklet with over 100 ideas and options instead of just writing!

Speed
My golden rule = Add more time!  Adjust the speed at which you move through the lessons especially with skill-based subjects  such as math or language arts skills like reading, writing, and grammar.

  • Don’t move on to the next concept until your child has a comfortable grasp of the current one.
  • So much of math and language arts builds step by step: the next concept that will be introduced depends on mastery of the current concept. So don’t get in a hurry.
  • Charlotte believed strongly that math and language arts lessons must proceed at each child’s speed, regardless of what grade level he might be:

“In grammar (English and foreign) and in mathematics there must be no gaps. Children must go on from where they left off, but they will be handicapped in the future unless they can do the work set for this Form” (PNEU Programmes 90–94, May—July 1921 through December 1922).

  • Adjust the curriculum to go at your child’s pace. It is more important that your child understands the concept than that you check off the lesson as done.  
  • Add other exercises from alternative books or games to practice more on certain skills or activities.

Here are several posts I have written on this topic over the years ~

Hopefully the examples shared above will give you some ideas of how you can adjust the size, spotlight key concepts, make personalized substitutions, or adjust the speed of the content as you use Charlotte’s wonderful methods with your student.

Blessings, Nadene
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CM Too Simple?

Any homeschool parent who is new to Charlotte Mason’s methods could say,

“Surely it couldn’t be this easy and enjoyable?” 

Well, after applying her methods and principles in our homeschooling for over 20 years, I can honestly say, it can be simple, easy and enjoyable!

A Charlotte Mason approach mostly depends on great authors and living books to do much of the teaching, taking the pressure off the parent to be the “fountain-head of all knowledge”.  In fact, Ms Mason instructed the parent to not “get in the way” of a child’s learning.  Her methods gently leads the student to become a self-learner and to love learning.

Based on short lessons with expectation of full attention and best effort on the part of the student,  a CM education focuses on quality over quantity and eliminates all  the busy work and boring worksheets and textbooks,

Charlotte explained, “We are able to get through a greater variety of subjects, and through more work in each subject, in a shorter time than is usually allowed, because children taught in this way get the habit of close attention and are carried on by steady interest” (School Education, p. 240).

Narrations eliminate any need for tests and exams. After listening attentively to the chapter, the child tells back what they remember and understood.  This method is deceptively simple and profoundly effective. Read more here and find a collection of over 100 narration ideas here.

A Charlotte Mason education is rich and wide, offering learning in foreign languages, Nature Study and an emphasis on the Fine Arts. Ms Mason recommended daily time spent outdoors in nature.  Her students kept nature journals and learnt about biology and botany from detailed their observations and reference books.  In a short weekly Fine Arts lesson, her children were regularly exposed to famous musicians, classical music, famous artists and their masterpieces, as well as poetry and Shakespeare in a very simple and enjoyable way.

I discovered that  reading living books was the key to keeping our homeschooling simple and enjoyable.  Good literature, well-written stories, diverse subject matter, noble ideals, following a character’s struggles or discoveries, and exposure to complex vocabulary offered daily opportunity to learn and grow.  It is really that simple and it works.

So don’t make it harder than it is by teaching your children the way you were taught in school. Try and trust and enjoy this delightful way of learning and living alongside your child—the Charlotte Mason way!

Blessings, Nadene

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Calendar of Firsts & free downloads

Charlotte Mason’s encourages the wonderful practice of nature study and keeping records of nature observations in a child’s own nature journal.  In addition to this wonderful outdoor activity, Charlotte Mason encouraged her students to keep what she called a ‘Calendar of Firsts’.

This was a calendar where a child would record the day that they saw any ‘first’ observations seen on their walks to monthly pages, adding to the same page each year.  This way of journaling encourages a child to naturally learn what happens in nature that time of the year. This calendar of firsts would build up year after year, with the child adding their new firsts as they found them.  This is similar to keeping a perpetual nature journal or adding a sketch to a Phenology Wheel.

Lynn of Raising Little Shoots has kept amazing Calendar of Firsts diaries and she  shares her beautiful pages, and she gives tips and examples to set up a diary for this purpose.  Watch her flip-through video to see how creative, colourful, simple and  do-able this practice can be!

What I really love about Lynn’s blog is that you can see how her children have followed her example and how they all create messy, colourful, “non-perfect” diary entries.  If you feel that it is impossible to draw or paint in your nature journal like Lara Gastiger’s, then Lynn and her family’s Calendar of First diaries are a breath of fresh air!

How to use a Calendar of Firsts ~

  • Add a small sketch or writes a few notes on the date they found it.
  • Note the first day of the four seasons and colour or sketch a picture that symbolizes that season.

How to create your own Calendar of Firsts ~

Have you started nature journaling or used a Calendar of Firsts?  Please share your experiences with us.  Mom’s,  I encourage you to start this practice as part of your Mother Culture and wonderful way to continue a lifetime of learning.
Blessings, Nadene
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Phenology Wheel

I am using a Phenology Wheel in my nature journaling for the first time!

A phenology wheel is basically a visual, artistic summary of an entire year on a circular chart.  I first saw a beautiful phenology wheel in progress by Lynn of Raising Little Shoots  who creates the most wonderful phenology wheels and encourages her children to capture their nature ‘moment’ for each month on theirs .  She sells a starting guide eBook.

Each month I will sketch and paint something significant that I experienced in nature  on my wheel.  You can see that my phenology wheel is part of my perpetual nature journal. open here at January Week 2.  The center circle of the wheel is for a spiritual symbol or something personal.

Because I live in the Southern Hemisphere here in South Africa, I changed the corresponding months and seasons on the downloaded wheels.  You can download the Phenology wheel for Southern Hemisphere here ~ with the moon cycle or without. Visit Partners in Place to download their wheels of Time and Place and view their gallery of  phenology wheel examples.  

Here is another beautiful example of a phenology wheel used as a perpetual day-month-season-calendar display ~

Here’s some more inspiration on Pinterest circular calendar examples

Blessings, Nadene

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Make your own perpetual nature journal

Previously, I shared Lara Gastiger’s perpetual nature journal.  Today I want to share how to make your own frugal perpetual nature journal.

This journal I made is very cheap!  I used 2x A5-sized blank paper exercise books; one with 72 pages and the second with 48 pages.   But you may prefer a spiral-bound journal or sketchbook instead.  Just check that it has least a 120-pages.

Start on the first right-hand page of your journal and label your first month.  Now turn over and allocate 4 pages for each week.  These facing-pages provide a double-page spread for each week.    Now label the main month page and label the top left corners of each double-page with the month and the week number, e.g.: January Week 1, flip the facing page and label January Week 2 on the next left-hand page, etc until you have labeled all 4 weeks. Continue this pattern for all the months of the year.

The first 1-month page can be used as a “Calendar of Firsts” for each month with either numbered a list from 1-31 or calendar blocks or decorate it with poems or season-inspired quotes or Scriptures.  (I’ll share more on Calendar of Firsts in another blog post.)

Perhaps you may create a blank lined or column page to keep lists such as your Bird lists for the year at the front or the back of your nature journal.

I removed the original soft thin cardboard exercise book covers and joined my 2 exercise books with journal stitching.(You can see a very clear tutorial here.)  I made a new cover that wraps around the journal using an old cereal box which I covered with fabric using Modge Podge.  I attached a tie to wrap around the journal to keep it neatly closed.

And there you are!  A frugal perpetual nature journal.

You can start right away by making your first entry in the week you are currently in, drawing a sketch, writing some notes or adding some details of nature finds or firsts.

You can read how I made a frugal Frugal Timeline Book also using cheap exercise books.

Blessings, Nadene

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