Narration shows what your child knows

A new homeschool parent recently asked on Facebook,

How do you know what your child knows?

Charlotte Mason has a very simple method  that reveals what a child knows = narrations.

So how do you start with narrations?

Toddlers naturally retell their stories and nursery rhymes with accurate details.  Think of how they easily tell dad about their latest story or what they saw on their nature walk.  This is a narration.  Oral narrations are natural and, when practiced, form the basis for written narrations.
How then do you develop oral telling-back to written narrations?

Most young children find writing challenging and difficult.  Transition to dictated narrations where Mom writes or types out word-for-word what the child tells.  You act as their scribe.  Young children can illustrate a narration instead of “telling back”.   By and by, your preschooler will have a wonderful collection of dictated narrations in their own notebook.

Develop dictated narrations by writing out their narration using a light pencil, and ask your child to carefully trace over their narration.  Copywork is slow and difficult for children new to writing. Often they will grow weary after tracing over a few lines.  But, gradually, they can neatly copy their narration.

Older children enjoy typing on the computer as the spell check can highlight errors and they can type quicker than handwriting with a neat printout.

Use notebook pages ~

Little House Booklet notebook pages

These are printed pages with lines to assist young children space their handwriting.  Some notebook pages are decorated with borders, clip-art, headings and place for illustrations.  These pages give an incentive to write as the page provides some inspiration.  Young children find that the few sentences they write will quickly ‘fill up’ the lined area and they are less daunted by this than a large blank page.  Studies show that color and illustrations help with memory recall and the clip-art and photos or other visual layout on notebook pages assist them in remembering the information.

Pop over to download my free notebook and copywork pages.

Narrations inspire and expand a child’s vocabulary and instill good grammar without formal lessons. Narrations are far easier activities than fill-in-blanks lessons in workbooks, or memorizing facts from textbooks, or writing out tedious, long notes.  No more boring lessons!

Narrations are unique to each child.  Narrations reveal what each child personally connected with and remembered, and then expressed in their own style and individual character, while still remaining true to the original.

So using Charlotte Mason’s approach, your children will soon deliver the most accurate, detailed oral narrations.  Young children will tell back their story with interesting detail and imitation.  Their vocabulary and writing skills will naturally develop, and as they mature, your children will eventually fill their notebook pages revealing their amazing knowledge, writing skill and creativity.  Just take it slowly, encouraging your child to grow their skills.

With narrations you will easily know what your child knows!

Blessings, Nadene

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Freedom to play

Charlotte Mason’s approach is so liberating!  She listed some Rights of Children and said, “Children should be free in their play.”  So what does this freedom to play look like?

Most parents these days feel that store-bought toys and screen games are the answer, but the real freedom comes from open-ended, child-led activities.

Lara colecting flowers

Collecting flowers

I like to think of this recipe = Present some natural elements, add a sprinkle of inspiration, mix well for a few minutes and bake with fun = freedom!

She advised that parents don’t crowd out their free time.  She ensured that daily lessons were kept short so that the children would remain attentive.  She gave them full afternoon time with freedom to play and explore outdoors.

I have watched my younger girls play with creativity and vigor and enthusiasm whenever they have free time.  They often use the subject we are reading in their games.  They love to re-enact our core stories, or our family favorites DVDs such as Jane Austen’s “Emma”  or “Little Women”.

Kate picking wild flowers

picking wild flowers

Make believe

Make believe

They love dress up clothes and I make an outfit for them each season.  They have endless games wearing a bonnet and pinafore, or an American Indian squaw dress, or a corset and long skirt.  Boys love capes, a bow and quiver with arrows, a cowboy hat and chaps, or belts with swords.

Young children need to play outside.  They love to play with sand and water.  Offer plastic animals and encourage them to create their own farms or zoos or parks.  They will add stones, twigs and shells to their sand boxes, creating mini-worlds.  Encourage collections.  Let them collect insects, flowers, leaves, shells, pebbles etc. and store these in boxes or baskets on a shelf at their height.  They love to play with these elements!  A large sheet or blanket can provide wonderful opportunities for forts, tents or make-believe homes.  A big box can provide hours of fun as a space rocket, or car or ship!  Such simple things that provide wonderful opportunities.

We give our children such a precious gift when we let them play without too many rules, expectations, or parental pressure for performance.  This doesn’t mean that they are left unsupervised, but rather that they understand safety and safe-play boundaries and play within those rules (such as staying in the yard/ not going near the swimming pool/or into the street, or not throwing … at others).  Mom should stay nearby, keeping her eye on their play, smile and nod, but try not interfere with their games and interactions.

Most children withdraw when they know they are being watched while playing fantasy games.  Let them be free to create, imitate and act out their game without feeling self-conscious.  Don’t feel the need to instruct or praise your children while they play.  If they want your involvement, rather ask questions and make specific observational comments like, “I see you have all your animals … in groups,” or “Wow, look at all those different colored flowers …,” or “I wonder what will happen if you put …. in the water?”  “I see that you and your sister have made such a big ….(describing their fort/ block castle etc.)  “What can you do with this ….?” (and offer a new/ another item).

Enjoy your children’s natural love to play.  Their childhood and innocence is a precious gift. Thank you Charlotte Mason for instructing us in such a precious balanced approach!

Blessings, Nadene

Read Alouds Solve A Lot!

We all have seasons of tough times in our homeschooling.  Read alouds solve almost everything!

If your homeschool days are in the doldrums, start a new read aloud.

If your kids are sick, just read aloud to them.  Find something special they will simply enjoy.

If your days are filled with interruptions, find a moment and read aloud together.

If you are stressed, don’t sweat the small stuff.  Just cuddle together and read aloud.

If you have lost hope in your homeschooling, start afresh and read aloud to your kiddies.

If your child is finding school work too difficult and wants to give up, let him find refreshment and hope in a good read aloud.

It is the glue that holds homeschool together.

You’ll be amazed what reading aloud accomplishes –

  • Amazing learning!  Kids learn and pick up so much through living books.  Themes, topics, facts, ideas and character qualities become life-long lessons. They will learn about great minds, great thoughts and good morals and values.  They will often live it out, act it out, and try it out.  No textbook can ever hope to inspire what great books can inspire!
  • Increased vocabulary – Children love learning new words, and listening to read alouds enlarges their vocabulary, especially with toddlers!  Because new words are heard  in context (in sentences with clues to their meaning), children can express and pronounce new words correctly, fully understanding its meaning.
  • Unity – Nothing brings a family together quite like listening to a great book.  The story brings everyone together and takes them on a journey of exploration, discovery and delight. If your family have ever listened to a radio drama or audio book in the car on a long journey, it is the same experience!
  • Humour – When your homeschooling seems to have hit a wall, start a Roald Dahl or some other funny book .  Nothing revives dulled and dreary souls more that some good laughs!  It will bring the spark back to your family time!  Humour learnt from our read aloud books became an underlying comedy line in our family’s humor.  My kids still quote funny lines from books I read to them when they were young.  And my children, now young adults, still giggle and tease me for my ridiculous Italian and deep Southern American and Spanish accents I used when reading aloud!
  • Continuity – Pick up the story where you left off last, maybe review the last moments,  read on, and the journey continues.  Despite disruptions, delays and interruptions, read alouds hold homeschooling on track.  Even if your children don’t do any seat work (3R’s such as Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) for days, even weeks, they will not fall behind.  If you continue to just read aloud to them they will learn.  I promise that this is true.  I have proved it over and over during my 20+ years of homeschooling.
  • 3rd voice – A read aloud acts as a 3rd party and helps parents “speak” with their children about difficult topics and themes.  This is especially helpful with teens.  A book presents ideas which both the child and parent can talk about without feeling trapped or shy.  Books about purity, modesty, money matters, personal hygiene, logic and reasoning, divorce, death, faith, dangers of social media, etc. deal with tricky issues in an open and non-threatening way.
  • Writing excellence – I have never ever taught my children creative writing lessons, but, through living books and great literature, they have all become incredibly gifted writers.  They imitate what they are regularly exposed to and develop a keen idea of how to write well.  They have a discernment for what is “schlocky” or “trashy” books, and what is good.  I have spoilt my children for cheap, rubbish paperback books for ever!
  • Oral narrations work – If you read aloud to your children and ask them to listen carefully and narrate (tell you back in their own words) what they have just heard, they will make it their own in ways that defy memorizing facts, or learning dry, dull information.  A child who thinks about what she has heard and understood, should express those ideas clearly and simply.  Older children should aim to remember at least 8 things from the reading and try express them in as similar a style as the author penned them.  This is advanced learning that requires focussed attention, massive mental connections and personal interpretation.  It is not easy!  It doesn’t matter if you have “nothing to show” for lessons narrated orally.  Your children will learn well!
  • Keep going – read alouds are for young adults too!  Don’t stop when your kids become teens!  We still read aloud, often at the dinner table, or when we are sewing and doing arts and crafts.  Expand the types of books to read aloud and cover a diverse range of books and topics.
  • Ongoing – Children who enjoy read alouds learn to love books and often develop into bookworms!  Homeschool children who have continuous exposure to books learn to love to read,  and they will keep reading for pleasure and information long into their adult lives.
  • Make it special – Read aloud time is a special time!  We looked forward to joining each other on a cuddly couch after all the seat work was done.  We would gather in a sunny spot with hot chocolate or mug of tea and cookies in winter, or lie in the shade under a tree on hot days with some bubbly water for our read aloud time.  We all had a sense of relief for this time together.  There was no sense of pressure or strain.  Young toddlers are welcome to play quietly nearby, absorbing the story and being part of the learning moments.  Even Dad coming into the house for a tea break, or my young adult daughter, long since graduated, sometimes joined us because our read aloud time was so intimate, and so wonderful.

Start with the easy stuff = read alouds.  Cait at My Little Poppies  shares why you should start your day with the easiest thing.   Begin your day reading aloud and you will accomplish much and solve everything … well, almost everything!

Blessings, Nadene

Artworks inspired by great literature which we sketched and painted .

Rich Wide Education

Charlotte Mason advocated giving children a rich, wide curriculum.

Sewing and handicrafts in the afternoons

This generous curriculum can only realistically be covered by keeping lessons short.   I call it “short and sweet“, where these 10 to 20 minute lessons encourage a child to give her utmost attention, especially with subjects, such as maths, phonics, handwriting, spelling and grammar.

To keep the daily schedule enjoyable, alternate disciplinary lessons with Bible, poetry, history, fiction, art, folksong, outdoor nature study, chores and life skills like cooking.  This variety keeps a child’s minds bright and encourages enthusiastic and motivated participation.  Some children prefer to “get all the seat work done first” and then move onto the freedom of the rest of the subjects.  You may need to try each approach to find what works for your family.

It isn’t the number of subjects, but their duration that tires the mind.  What child wants to sit still and concentrate for long lessons?   Quick math drills every morning, practice spelling while jumping on a mini trampoline, or quick laminated chart handwriting practice, or play a quick round of the amazing arrow games, provides younger children the necessary stimulus and physical exercise, and a short review of the same facts before supper results in a better memory of facts and skills.

Memorizing Scripture (which is the living Word) or poetry (which opens the eyes of imagination) verse by verse takes just a few minutes every day. Scripture and poetry also provide deep and meaningful insights and enlarges the child’s heart and mind. They lessons are not dull, dry facts or tiresome workbooks, textbooks or worksheet lessons.

Daily themes 2015It is very easy to just “do the basics” and call it a day, but I found that the only way we could regularly cover all the diverse subjects was to use our “Theme of the Day“.  Allocate all these extra subjects across the weekly schedule, enabled us to maintain a full, rich, wide curriculum.

You don’t have to fear trying to “do it all”.  Just start with the basics, keep it short and sweet and do a little every day.  Ease into the rest of the schedule by adding one extra subject and you’ll be amazed how much your children will learn in a relatively easy, quick, daily schedule.  This way you will offer your children a banquet, but don’t rush them, while also avoiding “force feeding”.  A generous education is a homeschooler’s privilege and pleasure!

Blessings, Nadene

Stimulating Story Time

Good children’s literature and read alouds are an essential component of a Charlotte Mason education.  Literature is foundational to learning language, building vocabulary, discovering the world and ideas and stimulating creative imaginations!

Reading aloud is a vital skill and here are some tips to making story time stimulating and fun ~

book-farmPictures Your child’s first books should have interesting illustrations.  Many children’s books have amazing artistic pictures which inspire children’s imaginations.  Non-fiction books need bright, clear photos or illustrations.  Don’t hesitate to stop and enjoy each illustration and use them to connect your child with the story.  Very young kids love to find things in detailed pictures. “Can you find the little yellow duck?”  “Where is the red bucket?”  “How many blue balls can you see?”  Older children enjoy copying illustrations they find inspiring.  I often encourage my young kids to illustrate their narrations.

indexSounds – When reading aloud to your children, you and your kids should try make sound effect noises for animals, machines, weather and simple things that may happen in the story such as knocking on a door.  Young children love to participate in the stories with all the sounds and actions.  Boys, especially seem genetically created to make sound effects, so use it to make your stories come alive!

Accents and voices – Be ridiculous and make funny voices and accents for different characters.  red-sails-to-capriMy teenagers and young adult children still smile when they remember my ridiculous Italian accent when I read “Red Sails to Capri” and my over-the-top American accent (we are South Africans, so this was unusual for us) when I read “Strawberry Girl“.  Even animal characters need their own voices.  Go ahead and dramatize the story with your voice — your kids will love it!

Tone and emotion – Ue your voice to create moods and convey feelings.  Read aloud and vary your voice for effect — soft and slow for scary sections,  high, excitied voice for a happy piece, or slow and low voice to convey someone who is sad or depressed.

Pause – Use a pause to create tension and encourage your child’s participation.  A young child will jump in with a prompt when the story is paused for a brief moment — “The three bears walked into the bedroom and saw …” pause … “Goldilocks!” I loved using cliffhangers, and my children would beg me to continue.  Isn’t this the true joy of learning through literature?

And if all else fails, invest in audiobooks.  Librivox provides free audiobooks, but check the version before downloading as some books are recorded with monotone voices and dreary pacing.

Encourage your children to read aloud to you with expression.

Wishing you many happy years of amazing reading aloud in your homeschooling!

Blessings, Nadene

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Illustrated Narrations

A reader wrote and asked me,

“I understand that my 10-year-old should be writing some of his narrations, but he still balks when faced with his blank notebook page.  How do I encourage his early written narrations.  He’s very visual and artistic.  Does an illustration count as narrations?”

Narrations (or “telling back”) are the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education and this complex learning activity takes years to master before your child can confidently write his written narrations.  Illustrations are an excellent starting point for early narrations.

Here are some creative narration ideas ~

  • Draw or illustrate the most important scene/ the ending/ the main character/ the surroundings/ machines or inventions mentioned.  Draw articles mentioned instead of making lists.  My kindergartener start drawing pictures of their narrations in a large jotter.   Sometimes this was part of their “busy hands with listening ears” activity while I read aloud.  Afterwards,  as they told me what they remembered of the story, I jotted their narrations next to or under their illustration, capturing a detailed, personal retelling.
  • Earth Solar System Comics 004Mom prints the child’s dictated narration next to or under their illustrations in pencil.  Encourage young writers to then trace over the penciled narration with a colored pen or felt-tipped pen.  This forms excellent handwriting practice and develops the child’s handwriting stamina.  It also looks like “their own” narration — which it is!
  • Draw a comic strip of the narration.  A comic strip can include a massive amount of information!    Comics with just 6 blocks can easily sum up entire chapters and are great for imaginative, visual children.  Comic strips help a child order or sequence their narrations. We did a whole series of comic strips for our Astronomy studies.  Here is my free blank comic notebooking page.
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/p1080498.jpg?w=300&h=225Make a model or 3D image.  Children love creating paper or cardstock models, like the 3D Little House in the Big Woods.  My children loved to illustrate, color in and cut out the windows, doors, and other folds which, when pasted correctly, formed three-dimensional illustrations.  Young children love to lift flaps and look inside doors and windows!
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/p1080139.jpg?w=401&h=301Use those Lego blocks for narrations!  Children draw the backdrops and characters for the scenes in the reading.  Punch suitably sized and spaced holes into the cardstock to fit the Lego blocks and clip in between Lego blocks to stand upright.   Children can “act out” their narrations.  They placed their cardstock scenes and characters into an envelope pasted on their notebook page to store them safely.
  • https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/p1070351.jpg?w=300&h=225Use minibooks instead of a large notebook page.  This helps the child feel more confident that he just has a small space to fill  and he need not fill a whole blank notebook page.   I often combined minibooks with my notebook pages.  The image and heading on the front of the minibook provided an excellent narration prompt.  My young kids loved these minibooks and enjoyed planning their own page layout and often filled a large notebook page with several narration-filled booklets.  A real Win-Win!
  • Lapbooks follow the same principle mentioned above and we used lapbooks for almost all  middle school subjects.   I believe that lapbooks are an excellent transition to formal notebook narrations.

I hope that these ideas help and encourage you and your child develop creative narrations!

Blessings, Nadene

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Oral narrations when a child hates writing

A reader wrote and asked me ~

“How can I help my son?  He absolutely hates writing narrations!  He sulks, delays, refuses and sometimes has a complete meltdown.  I know that he knows the work, but he just hates putting pen to paper.  What can I do?”

Here are some suggestions ~

Firstly, ask yourself why he is reacting so strongly.  Stress, immaturity and lack of readiness and writing skills can result in negative emotional reactions.  Take the pressure off and back up and away from any writing.  Go back to oral narrations.   Remember that oral skills develop long before written skills.

Some young children even battle at this stage. They freeze when they have to formulate their own version of the story or theme they have listened to.  My youngest couldn’t figure out how to start.  Or there were chapters which she found difficult to order (sequence) correctly.  My one child didn’t know how to keep to the point and rambled with long, draw-out sentences.  p1150685

Narrations require powerful mental strength! While the child actively listens, he  connects to the story, visualizing, comprehending, synthesizing and then remembering and articulating his thoughts.  He must take all the new information and sort, arrange, select, reject, classify and relate all the intricate details of the selection he heard.

Here are some tips on how to break down oral narrations ~

  • Prepare your child before you read.  Tell them, “I want you to listen carefully to the read aloud and after I have finished reading, I want you to tell me back what I have read to you.”
  • Paragraphs ~ Only narrate short stories or selections about one paragraph long.  Read a simple story such as a nursery rhyme or an Aesop’s fable.  By eight or nine years of age, a child should be able to narrate several paragraphs, and only at about 10 years should a child be able to narrate a chapter.  This would apply to all subjects.  Until your child manages to convey detailed, accurate oral narrations at this stage, he is not going to manage any written narration.
  • Prompts ~ Instead of telling back the story, use questions to focus on a specific aspect of the story such as:
    • What is the main event?
    • What did the main character do/ say/ or discover?
    • Why do you think the main character did ….?
    • Can you think of your own ending to this chapter?
    • Can you list at least 5 main points in this reading?
    • Can you sequence (put into order) the events that happened?
    • Give a very detailed description of the place/ season/ weather/ surroundings in this reading.
    • What action or character’s reaction impressed you?
  • Pictures ~ many young children find looking back at the illustrations in the story very helpful.  As they mature, they will learn to form and remember  their own metal image of the reading.  Looking at a timeline,  a natural science lifecycle or illustration is absolutely fine.  Gently encourage your child to develop this mental process and ask them to look and then tell without looking.

Don’t worry if your older child spends longer developing these oral narration skills.  Keep working on his mental processes and articulating his thoughts clearly before moving towards capturing written narrations.

Some children may have the necessary verbal skills, but have writing issues.  It may be the stress of physical mastery in actually writing print or cursive, or fear of spelling errors or fatigue when trying to capture everything on paper.  Again, break down the problem and use alternatives.

Here are some creative variations ~ 

  • Record the oral narrations – on a smart phone/ on the computer/on a tape recorder/ use a dictaphone/ use a video recorder.  Play it back and let him edit or re-do it if he is not satisfied.
  • Be his scribe and write out/ type his narrations for him word-for-word as he speaks.
  • Dramatize the narration if it is possible.  Some children lacking verbal skills may more effectively mime and dramatize their thoughts.  Act out a scene from the story/ create the introduction or ending of the chapter.

I wrote “What Works ~ Teach Creative Writing Without Lessons” post after my eldest graduated from homeschool and I can absolutely guarantee that narrations, first oral, then dictated, and written, have given my children all the writing skills they have ever needed for high school.  Not only that, but they are exceptional writers!  (Pop over to this post to read examples of their essays and narrations!)  They are eloquent, creative and highly skilles writers … without ever teaching them creative writing!

Narrations are the foundation for all learning!

Hope that these suggestions help you bring the relief and joy back to your narration sessions.

Blessings, Nadene

 

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Natural Language Arts

Most people think of Language Arts as a formal, tedious grammar program. but essentially, language flows naturally from listening and mimicking (copying) and speaking to reading and writing.  (Think how a baby learns to speak.)

Reading good literature is the best way to learn grammar.  Using living books and reading aloud regularly, your child  will not require formal instruction to naturally learn new vocabulary and the essential grammar concepts for quite a few years.

Begin this natural language learning with this simple Charlotte Mason approach = Read aloud + active listening followed by oral narrations (retelling the story in their own words).  For older children, continue with dictated narrations (child tells the story while mom jots or types it word for word.   (Read my post Mom the Narrations Scribe) and finally the child’s own written narrations.  No formal written Language Art lessons yet.

I discovered how true this was when my preschooler narrated the story I had just read aloud to her.   When she retold the story, she used an unusual, new word, “skittered”.  She enjoyed this lovely, descriptive word in the story and made it her own in her narration.   A 4-year-old can narrate with detail and passion!  Read how I capture preschoolers and junior schooler’s narrations in a jotter.

You can start some Copywork once your child starts mastering their handwriting.  Select a simple sentence or two, such as a memory verse or from a reader and encourage your child to first read it aloud and then copy it out neatly.  This daily practice reinforces meaningful handwriting practice, but, more importantly, it provides daily examples of good language and sentence structure.  You’ll be amazed how such a simple activity can build your child’s own language and writing skills!  (You can find loads of my free copywork pages here.)

Wait until your child is about 9  or 10 years old before including formal grammar rules and language art lessons.  Use extracts from their current read aloud (or other suitable examples) and examine the building blocks; the formal aspects of how the sentences are built and arranged.

Now, don’t get too stressed about what extract to use.  Your extract can be anything simple.  Bible verses, memory verses, famous quotes, poems or simply a sentence or two from the real aloud will be good.  I must emphasize that this is the great part of this natural language learning = it is meaningfully in context.  In other words, your child is not doing numbered sentences or lists applying a rule to random sentences, but can see its significance and importance in the relevant extract.

Ruth Beechick’s “A Strong Start in Language” (ISBN number in my Book List page) is perhaps the best simple book on how to teach language!  Ruth Beeschick gives loads of basic examples, lays out all the suggested grade levels and makes simple and easy-to-apply suggestions.  With this book in hand, you can create all your children’s language arts lessons! 

Note:  Do language arts as a short separate lesson and not while reading aloud.  If you constantly pepper reading aloud with grammar and vocabulary extension tips and lessons, you will kill your child’s enjoyment and frustrate their listening.  I did this in my early years of “mom-the-teacher” enthusiasm and in my desire not to “miss a learning moment”.  Silly me.   When I learnt to trust a child’s natural learning process through listening, reinforced with short, sweet separate LA activities, I relaxed and let the reading flow.

What are the basic Language Arts?  Grammar is the building blocks of language. Essentially it is not necessary to get too technical and do sentence analysis and sentence diagraming.  Simply let your child find the proper nouns or nouns/ or verbs/ adjectives/ etc. in the given extract.  My kids loved underlining, circling, boxing, ticking or highlighting the correct words.  They enjoyed drawing ticks and arrows above punctuation marks.

LA 001

an example of what my kids called “circles and squiggles” LA

Include some word searches, dictionary work, finding or writing their own antonyms and synonyms and you have a great vocabulary extension exercise.

LA 001-001

Look up definitions in a dictionary, or find/ match words to their meanings or find antonyms and synonyms expands a child’s vocabulary!

Then, importantly, encourage your child to apply this in their written work.  I often include a “make it your own” prompt and encourage creative writing.

Another important note:  Don’t kill your child’s own written narrations with grammar corrections! No one enjoys seeing red pen marks all over their work!  Make a side note when you notice repeated, glaring and important grammar mistakes in your child’s written narrations and then find examples in extracts from readers to point out the grammar rule.  in a short copywork exercise, let your child practice this rule and then encourage them to apply it to their written work.  Keep reinforcing the grammar activity until you see that they have understood and can apply it naturally in their writing.

Be creative with language arts.  Use relevant magazine and newspaper articles or comic strips, especially for older children.  (Read my suggestions for a Charlotte Mason approach for Remedial Course For Older Children.)

Once you embrace the nature language learning method, you can apply short, formal English lessons to the same extract for 5 days, focusing on new skills each day as follows:

  • Monday = Copywork  (copy the passage, taking note of new, unknown words, sentence structure and punctuation)
  • Tuesday = Language Arts  (analyzing the grammar elements)
  • Wednesday = Vocabulary Extension and Spelling (learn thematic words, work on spelling rules or spelling lists)
  • Thursday = Creative Writing (apply the concept from the extract or reader in a creative written exercise)
  • Friday = Dictation (The child reads and learns the extract each day and now writes it as a formal dictation without looking at the passage)

These are all about a 10-minute lesson.  Keep your formal English lessons short and sweet!

I trust that this post encourages homeschool parents who feel concerned about their child’s formal language arts.  Relax.  Trust me.  It will work!

In Grace, Nadene

 

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Practical Tip Book of Centuries for mom and kids

Here’s this week’s practical tip ~

Book of Centuries

A Charlotte Mason education includes a Book of Centuries.  Following Ms Mason’s approach, children 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 as they study.  https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/p1070785.jpg?w=373&h=280

For a young child, a visual timeline  chart or line along a wall or around a room is best.  It gives a child a bird’s-eye view of events in time; with Biblical and ancient history starting way back, with modern and current dates stretching out.  My young kids loved pasting the pictures on our timeline that went all around our room!  Finding the right date and placing for the picture on the timeline was an excellent introduction activity to a lesson or theme.

https://practicalpages.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/p1100650.jpg?w=348&h=261Middlesdchoolers enjoy their own book or notebook version.    Older children enjoy adding their own notes and illustrations or clip art.  Allow your children freedom to express their thoughts and details in their own, personal way.  Some kids prefer pasting clip art and drawing pictures, while others like to write lists.  I often provided a detailed timeline for specific themes, like World War ll, for example, which can be folded and pasted onto the relevant BOC page.  Over the years, their books fill up and become a wonderful reflection of the history they have studied.  This activity is an excellent conclusion to a theme or topic.

I wrote a post on how you can make you own very cheap, frugal Book Of Centuries using a store-bought notebook, or convert a spiral bound book into a BOC. This post includes the spacing and page layout suggestions.

I 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.  (In response to @Leanne’s comment about not having kept her own records in her BOC, I wrote, “@Leanne, If this is an idea you enjoy, just go ahead and do it! I “caught up” my BOC in one afternoon a few years ago! I simply took each History Core book we had studied and wrote in all the events, wars and famous people studied. The next day I took my Art Era Timelime and cut it up and pasted all the thumbnail-sized pictures in the main art eras, included all the famous art works and artists, and my BOC was instantly filled with color and info! In fact, if this is something your kids have let slide, it makes a good recap and overview activity which they might also enjoy!)

Here are some links and free Book Of Centuries downloads:

Wishing you every blessing, Nadene

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Letter 12 – Casual Classical Music

Here’s the next letter my series ~ “Letter To Mereminding myself, and, hopefully encouraging other new homeschoolers,  with what I wish I had known when I started out on our homeschooling journey ~

Dear Nadene,

Follow Charlotte Mason’s approach and play classic music in your homeschooling.  Just forget about  all the formalities such as reading the biographies, writing notebook pages, and over-analysis of the music.  If you make classic music a formal lesson your children will sigh and shut down.  (Add formal lessons gradually … informally … gently … not every lesson needs to be narrated!)

Simply enjoy it!  Let it waft over you all.  Let the music fill the room.  Quietly let the music evoke a response.  Play it in the background, listen to it while cooking or folding laundry or cleaning house together. Beathoven's Wig

Your young kids will love all the “Classic Kids” CDs and the ridiculous and fun lyrics of  Beethoven’s Wig, so that is a good investment, but you don’t have to buy all the CDs and books.  Gradually add a CD or two to your collection.  Simply stream music.  Download music.  Watch YouTube videos.  There’s plenty of free music and music appreciation lessons.  Join Barb’s Music Appreciation Monday or Patti’s All Things Bright and Beautiful.  They’ve done it all for you — so no excuses!

Add movie soundtracks to your collection.  They are often filled with amazing classical music, including choirs and the opera, like in “Room with a View” and many of Jane Austen’s and Narnia movies.  soundtracks of animated movies

Now and then, share your own “Best of ….” YouTube videos.   We have had the best enjoyment sharing our favourite singers and musicians from our era.  My children were amazed to find that much of the music in animated children’s music (like Shrek) came from original hits of yesteryear.  piano guys

Back in the 80’s the saxophone was the most popular classical instrument.   Right now the Piano Guys (their complete playlist) are a hit, as are the extremely popular 2Cellos.

Importantly, listen to your teen’s music!  Enjoy it with them and don’t judge.  Be interested in their music, artists and current music styles.  Their music is a vital connection to their hearts because music is the montage to their lives.  Their playlists connect to all their experiences and opens you up to their souls.  They have cried to their sad music and danced to the fun stuff!   Dance with them.  Learn hiphop and some current songs and sing it with them.  It is fun and it forms deep connections and lasting memories  .

Without ‘teaching’ the classics, simply expose them to classical music casually.  You are building a rich culture and your kids will remember it and appreciate it for the rest of their lives!

With hindsight blessings,

Nadene

I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic!  Please would you share yours in the comments.

In case you missed any of my previous “Letters To Me” in this series: