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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Letter 21 – Time

Back in 2016, I wrote a series of Letters to “my younger self” reflecting on  thoughts, attitudes, ideas and approaches in my 20+ years of homeschooling, which I hope will be an encouragement to you in your homeschooling journey.  So, picking up from where I left off, here’s Letter 21 ~ Time

Dear younger Nadene,Image result for grandfather clock

Homeschooling allows you to be free to follow the time-frame needed for your family.  Take more time when you feel stressed and frazzled.  Take some time alone to pray and journal.  Write those things down that frustrate and bewilder you.  The Lord is near to all those who call on Him and He has a gentle and very intimate listening ear.

Give yourself time to figure things out. You are not “supposed” to know how-to, what-to, and when-to do everything all the time.  Take a moment and just breathe in belly deep and slowly exhale and begin to ask the Lord and yourself some good questions. 

  • Ask the Lord to show you what is important right now, in this season.  He is faithful and will always gently remind you that it is always “People before Things“, it is always about relationships and not stuff!  Focus there first. 
  • Ask who needs the most love right now ~ that is your ministry! What does that person need right now to feel most loved and understood? When we relate to that precious person in grace and love, seeing their fears and failures through the Lord’s eyes of compassion, we become His hands, His heart, and His hope.  
  • Ask the Lord what that individual needs to learn and how to teach it … and this is not necessarily education, but rather character and faith, and pray specifically for those areas of the person’s life.  Often the Lord gives me one or two words to focus on such as “Trustworthiness” or “Truth” or “Transparency”.

Each child’s age and stage constantly changes, and with this growing and shifting, you need to adapt your approach and expectations.  When a child no longer fits the expectations you have, take a moment to reconsider who they are and what they need now, at this stage of their lives.  Relax and back off if you feel you are pressing them too hard, or remind and be consistent in those areas that need to be established. 

Remember that it is better to stop “school” to work on good habits, the right attitude and godly character, than to relent or ignore real issues to focus on school work.  Life is the lesson!  Don’t back off from quietly insisting on a positive response, or kind behaviour towards siblings, or obedience to important instructions.  Time spent here is worth every minute!  It may seem really hard when your days are constantly “interrupted” by behavioural issues. but it is not easier to send them to school for someone professional to ‘sort out’.  This is your child and you are their perfect parent, and this is your responsibility and your privilege. 

Take time to figure out how.  Ask for help if you need it.  Work as a team with your hubby.  He has a very different approach and if your work together in unity, you will accomplish much!  You are created for dependence and don’t need to do this alone.  Trust the Lord.  He has purposed you for this ministry and He will provide for everything that is needed to accomplish it.

You can do this!

With gracious love, 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:

 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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Free Never-ending Card Butterfly Lifecycle

A butterfly life-cycle is continual, and is often represented in circular fashion, so it makes perfect sense to create a never-ending card to display the connected stages.

Here’s video to demonstrate how the never-ending card works ~

(Please excuse the poor quality of printouts of all these examples, but this was my trial version 😉 )

Although the never-ending card seems very complicated, it is essentially made from  2 base cards glued together at the top and bottom corners. The cuts and folds on these base cards allow the card to open horizontally or vertically providing 4 different page templates.  Cut and paste all the images for each layout on to the base cards. Viola!  The never-ending card is ready!

I have created a free download of the never-ending card of the butterfly lifecycle for your nature study lessons.

The download contains the instructions, how to connect the 2 base cards, the templates and the images for each layout in both black & white or full color formats.

Never-ending cards are great for kinesthetic learners because the images and notes pasted on the card provide excellent narration and revision prompts.  This activity is ideal for busy hands!

Click here for your free download ~ Never-ending card butterfly lifecycle

Blessings, Nadene
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“Behind”- But Not

Almost every homeschool family experiences delays or disturbances that put homeschooling on hold or cause plans to seemingly fall apart somewhere along the journey.  I want to encourage you that in the great scheme of things, you are never truly behind, but exactly where you are meant to be in your life.

Life — and homeschool — is a journey and not lesson plans, schedules, timetables  and deadlines.  Sure, there are homeschool goals and graduations, and for those you need a strategy and specific plans, but especially for young children, they will always be learning, growing, developing and maturing, and they will seldom truly fall behind even when homeschooling does not happen.

7 years ago Jimmie Quick at wrote a post Homeschool—Help! I’m Behind!  Jimmie’s counsel is that homeschool is not school at home.   She says,

You are the teacher, mom. You can make the decisions about what, when, and how to teach your children. So you can’t truly be behind.  Yes, you made a plan. You were diligent to organize your lessons and make goals for the term or the year. But life interrupted. Don’t accept the guilt or panic. Instead, get productive.  RE-plan for where you are NOW.  Don’t even try to “catch-up.” Just keep working forward.

And in her post she linked to Lani Carey of The HomeSchool Flame‘s post “Getting Behind?”  where Lani wisely says,

You are not behind!! Who told you that? You might not have gotten as far in the curriculum book as you would have liked, but so what! Is your child learning? If so, then you are not behind. Behind is when the kids are going backwards, which some of our moms with LD children are struggling with. But even then, you are not on a time-table, so you can keep going over the same material again and again if that’s what the child needs and not worry about “getting finished”. 

We need to just enjoy the ride! 

Jimmie also linked to my post “How to recover from Disturbed Schooling
where I recommend to Spot, Skip or Speed when school is disturbed by life’s problems.

  • SpotStick to one important subject for the whole day and catch up everything; read, discuss, watch videos, do the lapbook and notebook pages, complete a fun hands-on activity.
  • SkipSkip the core subjects (History, Geography, Science) and only do the seat work/ basic discipline subjects or skip all the seat work and only do only core subjects till you have caught up on your schedule.
  • Speed = To make all the basic lessons short and sweet put a timer on and stop when the bell goes.  Let them orally narrate or do a quick finger puppet narration instead of lengthy written narrations.

So this post was written 7 years ago!  And now, as a homeschool veteran mom with 2 homeschool graduates, I absolutely believe now what I shared then.

I have learnt to allow my children much more freedom.  I can see the bigger picture and realize that I am no longer the one in control, but the one who comes alongside each child to facilitate their learning experiences.  Homeschooling is much more “in the moment” and much more intimate.  For each child, there are goals, specific plans and a general outcome, but I no longer fret about finishing things according to someone’s schedule.  If there are disruptions, I have learnt to take a moment and figure our way forward again.

If you are distressed and discouraged by “falling behind” may I encourage you to spend some quiet moments with the Lord and pray for His peace and for His strategy.  Ask Him to show you what really matters, what is important in His plans for your family and each child’s life right now.  With these thoughts, focus on what you can start with and begin fresh from there.

Paul says in Phil. 3:13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”  The Message translation – “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward-to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So, simply do the very next thing — push onward, forward, upward toward the goal.  

Blessings, Nadene
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Test your homeschool style

Most new homeschool moms choose a homeschool curriculum based on their children’s learning style, but forget that they are a vital part of the homeschool approach, vision and energy.  Your homeschool style is how you naturally approach homeschooling.

There are 6 main homeschool styles:

  1. Traditional
  2. Classical
  3. Charlotte Mason
  4. Unit Studies
  5. Unschooling
  6. Eclectic

If you choose a style that doesn’t suit you, you may find yourself becoming anxious, stressed, fearful, negative, bored, confused, scattered, or even burnt-out!   When parents follow a homeschool style that is a good fit with their unique attitudes, values, vision and passion, homeschooling becomes an exciting journey with their children.

For example – a mom who loves the idea of project-based learning, but hates a messy house will begin to quench the natural flow of hands-on activities.  A mom who wants her children to learn “naturally” will become utterly frustrated by a curriculum that is highly scheduled with tests, workbooks and exams.  A Unschooling approach may make a mom nervous about not covering all the subjects  and skills she feels need to be covered daily.  Many moms that do not want to be involved in teaching every lesson and prefer independent-type lessons may become exhausted by an approach that requires intensive parent-led involvement.

Parents often choose out of fear!  Some choose a school-at-home-approach with the aim of keeping in line with traditional schooling in case homeschooling “fails” and their child has to return to school.  These parents hardly ever discover the joys of following a homeschooling style that is filled with excitement, involvement, vision  and enthusiasm.  Many new moms chose a detailed, scheduled curriculum designed by professionals because they feel unsure as their child’s educator, but learn through time, that they can build their own curriculum designed for their family that fits perfectly.

Many parents use multiple approaches.  Your homeschooling may shift and change as your children mature and as your experiences redefines what works.  This is normal, so don’t feel guilty about not being a purist!  Find what works for you and each child and  aim to become their facilitator and inspiration while remaining energized, passionate and involved.

By taking a simple quiz, you can discern your dominant homeschool style and these results can help you tweak your approach to be more of what you want. A quiz helps to analyze what is working and what isn’t, to think about your values and goals and if your approach is facilitating that or working against it.

So grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and click a quiz and get started ~

Has taking these types of quizzes helped you in your homeschooling?  Please share with the readers in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene
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Routine versus Schedule

Homeschooling  works better when you have a plan, and most new homeschool moms feel more secure when they have a detailed schedule.  But in my first year of homeschooling, I was almost a slave to a very detailed schedule, and this approach produced a lot of stress and anxiety.  May I offer you another option?
First, let’s look at the difference between schedule  versus routine ~
schedule (noun) ~ a list of planned activities or things to be done showing the times or dates when they are intended to happen or be done or timetable or  list of the times when events are planned to happen.

versus

routine (noun) ~ a sequence of actions regularly followed or  a usual or fixed way of doing things.

A schedule tells you what to do and when to do it.  It is usually filled with times, lists, blocks, and boxes to tick off.

A routine is a pattern by which you live. It gives structure and order to your day, but it doesn’t dictate exactly when things should be done. It allows you to find a flow that works for you on the day you happen to be living.

By now you have realized that it may be better to follow a routine rather than a schedule as Mary shared at Parnips & Paisley, but when one starts a new educational program or curriculum, a schedule is often necessary to ensure that the work is covered in the allotted time.

If the schedule has you constantly looking at the clock and rushing from one task to the next, and feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you could easily fall into striving and performance instead of enjoying the learning journey, especially if you suffer from perfectionist tendencies,

I tried to schedule everything. I often became discouraged and felt like a failure.  When I decided to ignore the times listed on the schedule and follow the schedule as a suggestion or proposed outline, I immediately felt relieved and revived.  I gained confidence as we gradually found our own basic routine, and I freed myself from the self-inflicted torture that each failed schedule brought.

So, how does one set up a routine?

  1. Decide what is really important such as – building faith, making and eating meals together, working together as a family in caring for home and animals, reading good books, and learning about ___.
  2. Find the time-flow for your family – who is an early riser or who needs more time to wake? When does your family get their best work done? When are their creative times? Homeschooling allows the freedom to set suggested starting times for the different elements of the day.  With young children, it is often best to start early and work until tea-time, lunch and nap times.  Teenagers often move into a very different time flow and this is when it is best to give them the liberty to sleep longer and work later in the day.  Moms, remember to consider your own energy levels!
  3. Identify your important daily events which form pillars in your home such as mealtimes – where activities fit before and after breakfasts, lunches and dinners at more or less the same time each day. We are farmers, and so daily milking forms an important daily event. Create your routine around these times.
  4. Create habits – start with your important daily events and add the most important activities  around those; such as morning chores before breakfast, school seat-work before lunch, creative hobbies after lunch, pack away before dinner, etc.  Keep it simple and don’t throw everything in it at once. Once your family find their flow in those elements, you have space to add more things in. Stick to it to create habit.
  5. Be flexible. This may seem to be contradictory, but if your routine isn’t clicking and something feels off, adapt or change it. You are the ruler of the routine, it shouldn’t rule you. If one day you feel like straying completely from the norm, by all means, do it. Those days make life memorable. You are in charge. You don’t need to worry that you’ve blown it, the set routine will be back tomorrow.
  6. Daily themes 2015Offer options and extras such as different themes for each day.  This was a wonderful way to fit in all the extra subjects in our homeschooling without feeling overwhelmed.
  7. Add freedom and create space for your children to explore their gifts, passions, interests and talents.  Let them be bored.  Offer them the materials and some inspiration and see what they create!

Here’s to you finding your rhythm and flow in your homeschool days!  May you homeschool in grace.  Feel free to share your family’s routines and schedules in the comments below.

Blessings, Nadene

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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Find Your Fit

Recently I shared some ideas on how to Tailor-make your curriculum.  Just as when you buy your children’s clothes, you may sometime need to try a size smaller or larger to get the best fit, so, too, it is with finding the right fit for your child’s homeschool curriculum.

Your child’s age is often a starting point, however your child may need to begin at an earlier grade, or stay on a level longer than the professional calculated for the average child. Your child may need to skip over a grade where he finds work too easy in order that he finds the level that stimulates and challenges him.

This individualization should be the practice in every classroom, but the school system usually focuses on the average child and so the more gifted or special-needs child often fall through the cracks.  Because homeschooling is a one-on-one education, it is far easier for a parent to find the perfect fit for their child.

You are tailor-making your child’s learning experience – read more Tailor made and Offer a learning buffet  and Tailor-make your curriculum.

I urge you to customize your curriculum and subjects for each child.

Some of the most challenging subjects that require individualization are
Reading, Writing and Maths.  This post has quite a few links to my archives.  Please bookmark them to read later if you don’t have time today.)

Reading

  • Teach your child their phonics so that they know how to sound out every letter in the alphabet and then combination letters called blends.
  • Use flashcards, charts and picture games to practice and master phonics.
  • Find a series of early readers that are both entertaining and interesting and which contain almost all the words your child can sound out and read.
  • Use partnered reading where your child sits on your lap are next to you, and you whisper in their ear as they read and sound out their words.  You can see that we use a ruler or pointer to help with tracking along the sentence.
  • Read more about partnered reading technique I used with my youngest child — Partnered Reading Helps Improve Reading and Partnered Reading ~ moments I treasure and Slow learner Joys discovered.

Writing 

  • Don’t fret/ push/ demand/ panic if your child isn’t ready to write out his own narrations / or write neatly.
  • Keep on assisting him and encourage oral dictations, recorded narrations or dictated narrations, or traced over or printed dictated narrations. The vital skill of narration is being practiced and the writing will come later.  Read about being your child’s Narration Scribe
  • 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.
  • Use a word bank  or textmapping to help your child remember their ideas.
  • 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!
  • Writing is such an important skill that you should find a way for your child to present his thoughts and understanding with narrations because Narrations show you what he knows.

Mathematics

  • Mathematics is a very important subject and it is vital to find the right level and pace and approach for each child.
  • Swap or add another Maths book if the course your child uses progresses too quickly.  Look for an exercise or book that offers more practice lessons, or one that provides more visual or practical work.
  • Use concrete apparatus for as long as is needed.  Work with beads, blocks, number lines, counting fingers or whatever helps your child.  It really doesn’t actually matter how long your child needs these “props”.  If it helps, then use them!  Don’t shame your child or let him believe that he is immature.  Make physical apparatus options available.
  • Gently encourage your child to do the same activity again without the physical apparatus and teach him how to picture the blocks or bead in his head.  It may just suddenly ‘click’ and he will be able to continue his work without the objects.
  • Maths butterfliesEncourage Maths drills with games and mental Maths worksheets.
  •  Use different approaches as and when needed, for example, use blocks, flashcards, use number lines, and or computer games to teach, practice and master a concept.
  • Work for mastery — you want your child to feel a sense of confidence.  Maths is a very emotionally charged subject for some children.  Don’t give up at a point of anxiety or stress.  Look for creative ways of doing the work so that your child feels good about themselves.

Time

  • Start by stretching out a one-year curriculum over 18 months to provide a wide margin of time to enjoy themes and topics that your children enjoy, time to take detours or take longer scenic stops.
  • Continue working longer on any concepts to practice and fully master a skill.
  • Read about my experiences extending time on a curriculum — Re-using Sonlight and doing it differently and Best Homeschooling Decision-More Time .

In every subject, in every grade, adjust your course to suit your child’s interests, ability and pace.  Try find the balance between challenging and mastery, gently increasing the work load and difficulty, but allowing for their sense of “I can do it!”

Blessings as you find your fit, Nadene

 

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