A Charlotte Mason education is rich in Humanities, with living books and narrations. She recommended that Disciplinary Studies such as Maths, Handwriting and Spelling lessons were kept short. Short lessons enabled children to “develop the habit of attention, preventing the contrary habit of dawdling over lessons.” (Charlotte Mason Study Guide by Penny Gardner, pg.43)
Short lessons are easy to describe. We think of 5, 10, or a maximum 15 minute lessons. You may wonder if a child can learn anything in such a brief lesson, but working one-on-one with a child, they can complete a spelling drill, write neat sentences in a handwriting, complete a copywork or dictation exercise, and work through a page or two of a maths lesson.
What do you need to create successful lessons? A child’s mastery and ease in learning? A mom’s delight in instructing with clarity and understanding? Happiness? Smiles, confidence and some excitement? A sense of joy and anticipation? This is not always the case!
For successful lessons you need to ~
- Plan ahead. Print out the work for the week/ month/ school term or year. Good preparation is vital to successful lessons! Most of this work is done for you if you use workbooks or purchased curriculums.
- Prepare suitable material. Prepare age-appropriate, learning-style-suited content. The lesson approach and presentation should be suited to your child’s ability.
- Adapt and modify, amend and add other lesson elements. One size does not “fit all”. If it is too easy, move up a level or add a creative element. If it is boring or too difficult, change your approach or method.
- Explain your expectations. Lay out the lesson with clear instructions and define the result, e.g.: “Using your neatest handwriting, I want you to copy this passage neatly on the lined paper.” Charlotte Mason urges parents to “Expect prompt, cheerful obedience.” These short lessons is not only skills-based, but habit and character training.
- Be fully present and available. Physically arrange your seating so that your can read and help each child. I usually sit between my youngest children. Avoid distractions, delays and procrastination. Also guide your child through any difficulties and encourage them to do their very best. Remember – NO nagging!
- Create structures that encourage independent uninterrupted learning. My children enjoy working through their lessons in a ring binder and their workbooks. Workboxes are a huge hit with many homeschoolers. Whatever method you use, keep all the books, lessons pages and materials in a box, or chair bag, a basket, or on bookshelf right near your child. You do not want your child to leave his seat throughout this period. Disruptions destroy focus and energy! However, you may find the next point very helpful …
- Pop in a quick stimulation physical breaks. Young children have loads of energy! Let them quickly do some “Brain Gym” exercises, or use my amazing arrow chart for quick directionality exercises, or jump on a mini trampoline skip counting or calling out times tables! 30 seconds, and then quickly back in their seats for the next short lesson. Older children should devote themselves to all their brief lessons without any need for breaks.
- Water in a spill-proof bottle. Many children need to sip water to help them think! The brain needs water. Have them fill up a sports bottle with fresh water before coming to the table.
- Chose to work in an appropriate time in the day. Many young children are fresh and alert early morning after breakfast. Teens seems to only get focused after 10am. Some families find that their children work better after lunch. Whatever time suits you and your children, make the most of their vital, alert hours for Disciplinary Studies. This is the joy of homeschooling. It is not School-At-Home with rigid timetables, but a tailor-made environment that stimulates and inspires learning.
- Finally, give your child very specific descriptive feedback. Find the success in every lesson. Ask your child to circle their best handwritten letter or word. Mark and correct all work immediately. Children love to mark their own work too! If there are mistakes, fix them there and then. If there were too many mistakes, review the lesson and try it again the next day. Children love to see that their work was successful. A positive comment can make a child’s day! This helps your child feel that they are on track, coping well and mastering the work, which helps them face with the next lesson with enthusiasm.
Hope that these tips help new homeschool moms who love and use a Charlotte Mason approach.