10 Tips on Reading Aloud

We have always used living books in our Charlotte Mason-based homeschooling.  Literature-based education requires a lot of reading aloud.  It takes effort, practice and skill to read aloud in a way that is engaging and entertaining.

Here are 3 lists of 10 tips on how to read aloud well ~20151210_180943

I absolutely love alliteration and when I researched this topic, I found Emily Guille-Marrett’s from Reading Fairy top tips on “How to read aloud well“.  She used P to begin each word in her list.  (I have added my own suggestions and points* to her list.)

  1. Purpose – Select a book that is written well and is suitable for being read aloud. Choose a book that features a character or a story your child can relate to. You must enjoy the book that you are reading  – your enthusiasm will be infectious!
  2. Preview – Read the story yourself first to know the story, characters, the vocabulary and style.  To read aloud well, it helps to read it yourself in advance.
  3. Prepare – When starting a new book, show your children the cover and illustration and describe the title and storyline. Tell them a little about the author and spend a few moments briefly telling them something about the story and characters.  When starting the next session, spend a moment with a quick recap of the previous reading.  Ask your children some leading questions such as, “What happened to …? How did our story end?” or begin with a short reminder of the last points of the earlier reading such as, “Remember last time …”
  4. Place – Choose a comfy couch to enjoy the read-aloud.  Allow children to snuggle close, or keep busy hands with quiet colouring-in or playdough or other hands-on activities while they listen.  Plan your reading aloud times and be consistent.
  5. Perform – Show enthusiasm! This is vital!  The key to successful read-aloud performance is to skim your eyes ahead to anticipate the story dialogue or action.  Then when you read aloud, read slowly.  This gives you time to change your voice for different characters, use accents,  use funny voices or pull different facial expressions,  even use appropriate movements,
  6. Projection, pitch, pace, pause and pose – Vary your voice with loud and soft, high and low, fast and slow.  Use pauses and silence for drama and impact.  My kids loved the suspense of cliff-hanger endings!
  7. Props and puppets – Kids love to participate.  They love interaction in read alouds!  Encourage them to make sounds effects such as animal noises, rumbling of thunder, clapping hands, adding hand movements or pretend to be the character.  This dynamic involvement makes a story unforgettable.  Encourage them to narrate the story after the reading using finger puppets, masks or hats which are quick and easy to make and use.   See the next point –
  8. *Presentations– Encourage active listening before you begin and tell your children that you require a detailed, accurate narration (telling-back) from your children when you have completed a paragraph, page or chapter.  Their narration should include the same style, vocabulary and detail used by the author.  This skill is a powerful teaching method.  Living books with narrations really teach!
  9. *Persevere –  Keep reading aloud to your children even when they can read for themselves.  Listening to read alouds required less concentration and skill to enjoy the story than reading to themselves and the intimacy and the dynamic of the performance of a read-aloud makes a book come alive.  Teens and even grown young adult graduate children still love read-alouds.  It is a family experience and not a school lesson.
  10. *Practice – Practice will make perfect, so keep practising.  You will be amazed by how your read-aloud skills develop as you keep going.

Here’s a summary of Anna of The Measured Mom’s  10 tips for reading aloud to kids of all ages.

  1. Start as soon as possible – even as babies, in the high chair or in the bath.
  2. Start with rhyming books – words and sounds that children love to hear over and over.
  3. Start simple and build to more complex books – begin with hardboard books, then go on to short picture books, more complicated picture storybooks, short chapter books,  funny stories, classic books, complex chapter books.
  4. Choose books that are appropriate developmentally – suitable for your child’s emotional and intellectual maturity.  Be aware of triggers or concepts that may alarm or frighten your children.
  5. Read them yourself first before reading aloud to your children.
  6. Do not be afraid to abandon a book that doesn’t suit or connect to your children or has content you are not comfortable sharing.  Don’t be afraid to skip parts of a book.  Replace bad language or skip any long boring passages,. Shorten sections when children are not interested.
  7. Follow through and be consistent.  Read regularly, read daily.
  8. Chose books that you enjoy reading aloud yourself.  You may not want to read books based on children’s movies or TV stories.  Chose quality books that you know is not fluff.
  9. Be interactive as you read.  Make your children part of the story.  Pause to ask their thoughts, opinions, consider what may happen, what a word means.
  10. Do not stop reading aloud when your children can read on their own.  It is important to keep reading because they can listen at a higher level than they can read.  It builds vocabulary,  teaches writing style, covers topics that teach and inform them.   High schoolers love good stories, fiction and non-fiction
  1. Preview the Book.
  2. Prepare a Comfy and Roomy Read-Aloud Area.
  3. Introduce the Book.
  4. Notice How You Hold the Book.
  5. Give It All You’ve Got!
  6. Involve Your Listeners.
  7. Help Children “See” the Story.
  8. Invite Children to Use Their Senses.
  9. Develop Ways to Respond to Questions
  10. Take Time for Discussion

There are so many videos and articles on how to read aloud well, but nothing replaces good old practice.  Just do it!   Read aloud often.  Read aloud dynamically and your children will love it and learn from it!

Do you have any read-aloud tips to share or problems you would like to discuss?  Please share in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene
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Mom’s Rhythm & Theme For Each Day

Many of you may know Emily P Freeman and her wonderful podcast “The Next Right Thing“.  I have loved listening to her gentle, wise counsel she shares in her weekly short 15 minute podcasts.  This March I bought her book also called The Next Right Thing, and along with my pre-order of her book, I received free access to her online course Discern & Decide where I learnt to apply many of her concepts she shares in her podcasts.  Today I want to share on how her Design a Rhythm of Work – Theme Days  made such a simple, but wonderfully freeing difference to my work each day.

In a very similar way, we have used Themes of the Day since 2012 in order to cover all the subjects that provide the richness of a Charlotte Mason education.  Here are some examples of  our themes which I refreshed each year.

Daily themes 2015

This simple daily focus reminded us to spend time on the specific subject of the day, usually before lunch, and this helped us fit in all the extras.   Here are our updated Themes for 2016 ~

I don’t know why I never thought to apply this approach to my own work days.  It is such a simple adaption which provides enormous focus and freedom.  As Emily shares,

“Designing a rhythm of life is something anyone in any season of life can do. It’s simple and life-giving and creates a beautiful and flexible framework for decision making.”

She encourages us  to look to topics rather than the tasks to allocate different theme days and says, “Theme days are not about completion, they are about focus.”

In my personal rhythm planning, I  prayed for the Lord’s guidance and wisdom, for His “yeses” in my life.  Then listed my main topics and tasks (my basic job descriptions or responsibilities) and I allocated one or two per day in the way that felt most compatible with our lifestyle, and, voila! I had my Rhythm of Work planned.   Most of these main themes are allocated for afternoons or after my daily farming activities (I hand-milk our cow Milly and I make cheeses every second day) as well as specific household chores or regular tasks which happen daily anyway.

For me this is what it looks like ~ Mondays are for laundry and the week’s planning, Tuesdays are for Lucerne Tree Farm business‘ marketing, bookkeeping and blog content, Wednesday for Practical Pages homeschool content and development,  Thursdays for town trips & appointments, Fridays to clean house & water plants, Saturdays for gardening and cleaning the chicken coop & ironing (if I don’t plan this I keep putting it off) and Sundays as a day of rest.

Because we live an hour away from our nearest town and because we don’t travel to town for shopping the same day each week, we have all learnt to be flexible and find our flow around this variable and simply shift a day’s theme.  We have always kept a 4-day homeschool schedule and we have completed all our work in this time-frame.  Having one “free” day is really very grace-giving and life-giving.

I have found that now I seem to have much more time for business development and blog content because I have a “whole day” for that theme.  As a result, I have managed to post more regularly and have seen some growth in readership and followers in both my homeschool blog and our business.  I feel much more focused when writing blog content because there are regular flow and continuity.  I find that I can delve deeper into each topic because it is the focus of my day.

This “work before play” approach and the simplicity of my daily rhythms provides wonderful peace and contentment and I love the simplicity of knowing what to focus on each day. And strangely enough, I also seem to have more time for my own interests and I have enjoyed a lot more daily art and art journaling.

Have you found the rhythm of your days?  Why not give this approach a try?  It may well be a method that helps you develop  a creative, fulfilling, life-giving work that can make a difference to yourself, your family as well as your homeschooling … even the world!

Blessings, Nadene

More on Mother Culture

Mother Culture is part of Charlotte Mason philosophy despite her never referring to the term itself.  Anyone 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 are 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 adding 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 is for life.

  • Spend some time alone early in the morning before the kids wake up for quiet 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 audiobook 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 crockpot 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 are 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 deeply 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 within each season of her life.
Much love, grace and Mother Culture to you.
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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Tip ~ Bedtime Moments

I found bedtimes to be a good time to build relationships, deepen our understanding of each other and to even cover some of the reading we had on our homeschool schedule.  Here’s some of our bedtime activities ~

  1. Read alouds at bedtime – Often this was with just one child, but in the seasons where my daughters shared a room, they would both listen to the story before sleeping.  I usually read their fiction books in our curriculum at bedtime.  Night-time story time helped me keep our school time shorter in the mornings.   Bedtime stories also sometimes helped me catch up if there were interruptions during the day.  Read alouds are our homeschool glue and often saved our days! We read books when all else failed. We love reading any story.  It didn’t have to be a book from the school schedule.  Regularly reading good stories built a love for reading and a love for books in our family.
  2. Reviews and oral narrations – Narrations or telling-back is a very natural way for a child to relate what they understood and remembered from the read alouds.  At bedtime, lying cuddled together in bed, my daughters seemed so relaxed and thoughtful, and they could easily tell me what they learnt from the read aloud.  Charlotte Mason’s narrations are power-packed with skills and narrations are a fabulous way to assess your child’s learning.
  3. Best and Worst moments – Nighttime reflection is a wonderful way to connect with your child’s experiences through the day.  It is a good time to listen to their happy moments, their joys, their delights, as well as their fears, hurts and disappointments.  I reflected back what they just told me by saying what they said in my own words, without commenting, e.g. “You really loved playing at the pond today…”  Or I acknowledged their feelings without judgement, saying, “You must have felt really mad when …”  which helped them feel that I hear and understood them.  It is a very important way to validate and empathize with your children., building strong, trusting relationships.
  4. Pray together – Night time prayers flow so easily from #3 “Best and Worst Moments“, praising and thanking the Lord for all the best and praying over the worst.  Teach your child to be thankful.  Thankfulness and gratitude are powerful resources to motivation and health.  Teach your child how to forgive others, to ask for forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.  Dealing with challenging circumstances, difficulties, challenges, or repeated failures is very hard for a child.  Praying together over any of these issues helps your child roll the burden onto the Lord, to learn to trust Him and to know that your child is not working through these things alone.
  5. Affirm and encourage – Bedtime is one of the best times to affirm and encourage your child.  Focus on building up your child with positive affirmations and genuine, focused acknowledgements of your child’s character, personality and her importance to you and others.  Again, relationships are key, but this is also a good time to acknowledge where your child did something well, accomplished something challenging or coped with some difficulty.  Long after the lights are out, as your child lingers in the dark, falling asleep, these words penetrate deeply and are the final thoughts for the day.
  6. Ideas for the next day –  Talk about the upcoming events, or meetings with others,  or dentist appointments, etc. at night gave my child the time to prepare emotionally.  I found this very helpful, especially for my more anxious child. Sometimes we would talk about how a meeting with so-and-so would go, imagining and talking about how to handle the situation. Sometimes using humor made these discussions funny and gave a different perspective to something my child felt anxious about.  It was a good time to gently discuss my expectations about my child’s behaviour, being very positive and encouraging.
  7. Bedtime notebooks – Once your child can write, we enjoyed private and very special notebooks which we would slip under each other’s pillows at night.  I treasure their deeply personal letters.  They often shared things we could not speak about.  This is really valuable when children reach their tweens and teen years.

My children really valued these special night-time moments together with me and generally we would be done by 8:30pm, but  I must confess that I did not cope well as a mom after 9:00pm.  By then I was exhausted and I needed time to be alone with my hubby and to have some time by myself.

There were times where dad took over their  bedtime routine  and his bedtimes with the kids was very different from mine.  He often was louder, funnier and their bedtimes activities were often far more physical.  They often spent their time with dad doing tickles, wrestles, pillow fights and jokes. They loved him reading funny stories, usually with sound effects, and they would eventually go to sleep, happy and exhausted, which was a win for me!

What special moments do you have with your children?  Please share with us in the comments below.

Trusting your family has very blessed bedtimes.

In Grace, 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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