Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Icing on the Cake

I think so often when we think of homeschooling we see the benefits to our children, and there are many for sure, but have you ever considered what this journey might mean for you?

I think that the average Mother would perceive that to homeschool is to sacrifice for the sake of the children. To give up time, personal pursuits, etc. And yet looking at my own personal journey over the last year, I have to say that homeschooling - particularly CM homeschooling - has been the spark that lit the fire in my own personal life.

Somehow through reading about this Charlotte Mason philosophy of education and implementing it in my home with my children, I have reaped the additional benefit of coming alive to my senses and to the wonder and glory that surrounds me. What was once dull and seemingly finite has become infinitely magnificent and incomprehensible. I can't even begin to grasp how much there is I want to read, listen to, behold, perceive and comprehend. I can honestly say that the bush in our front yard holds more wonder in it than the entire 700+ channels offered on TV.

And how absolutely remarkable is it that we are able to discover and process these things together with our kids? It's just the icing on the cake.

Here's an article in Childlight USA's Weblog called "A Dangerous Adventure by Art in Kenosha" describing this very thing as someone else experienced it. "New eyes to see" "New ears to hear" - I hope you experience it too :)

"Life should be full of living" ~Charlotte Mason

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Method of Learning

I'm up late again, almost halfway through "the little green book", Charlotte Mason Reviewed and came across an explanation of the method of learning advocated by CM and thought it was definitely worth posting here. I've often found it difficult at times to dig up the "how to" in CMs 6 volumes of writings and was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this tonight. Although I think CM would insist that an understanding of her philosophy is most important, I think that with that, it is helpful for me to also see the method. Keep in mind this method is outlined for a classroom setting with multiple students.

1. Each lesson begins with some form of recapitulation of the previous lesson.
2. The day's lesson is then introduced, names, dates, pictures and difficult words learnt.
3. A passage is read aloud preferably by the pupils.
4. The passage must be long enough to capture the interest of the pupils and to hold their attention, leaving them with an appetite for more.
5. This passage is then retold by one or more pupils, beginning at the beginning and following the whole sequence of the argument. No corrections or interruptions are allowed during this narration (from the teacher or anyone other than the narrator). The passage is never reread.
6. The teacher then draws from the class any necessary corrections or emphasis of important facts through discussion and question.

The last 2 points helped to clarify a bit of confusion for me. Having read parts of her 6 volumes, I somehow came away with the perception that there shouldn't be much discussion or questioning about the material - probably from her idea of not filtering ideas and information or watering it down through the teacher. Anyhow, I think I had taken that to the extreme to where I wasn't saying much of anything so we were missing out on a lot of great discussions about our readings! Call me silly, but these things can happen when we're operating as an island in our own homeschools and there isn't a clear cut "How to do CM" outline for newbies. That's why I think our discussions and having others to talk through these things with while processing it all is so essential in actually implementing a CM education.

The book goes on to say narrations can be mixed up for variety by having the children illustrate their narrations or have dramatic representations. Kristine told me about how she had her boys position her and their brothers to look the same as the painting of The Knight's Dream by Raphael Sanzio, which was their art study for the week, so I stole her idea and did the same. What a fun time! They kept fixing and moving and finding things to use as props and fixing and changing things to resemble the painting and they giggled the whole way through. So fun :)

(As a side note: CM did not recommend children narrate until they were 6 yrs old and written narrations are not expected until they are around 10 yrs old.)

I'm realizing more and more that narration is not for the sake of my being able to gauge how much my kids remember or how much they're getting. It's really not for me, but for 'the children's sake'. My understanding is that narration is for them to process what is read and to organize it in their minds and through that process make it their own. For them to think through ideas and thoughts and how they apply in relation to what they already know. How it applies to their life experiences. For them to become skilled in the use of good language and to be able to express their thoughts clearly and skillfully. There are so many facets to what narration does for our kids, it is just amazing.

An audio I listened to tonight (link below) said that narration is an art, like composing poetry. It is something that is developed over time. I think it would be fun for us to try it sometime at one of our meetings (as Greta suggested before). I think I'll act the part of the facilitator since I know I am horrible at narration. If I can't refer back to it I am lost.

I love this quote, which I think applies to narration, from Jenny King in the book:

We value most those things for which we have striven, thus the knowledge obtained through a disciplined application of the mind is the knowledge we value and care about.

Oh, and what about this one:

As the power of gravity holds the universe in place so man's soul is held in the palm of God's hand.

Now that's a 'living' quote if I ever saw one!

Here's the audio I mentioned above put out by Childlight from one of their conferences called "Goods of the Gods: Respecting the Child's Proclivity to Narrate". It's really long and if you don't like Southern accents, you'll struggle with it, but if you're like me and you're working on figuring out this narration thing right now, it's a good one to listen to.

Okay, off to bed to give my brain a rest :)

Monday, September 21, 2009


Hi there. I am Greta. I am one of the contributors to this blog. I thought I'd better get on the ball since Naomi has posted 2 times, Johnna once and I, not at all.
I am not new to home schooling, but I am new to home schooling. It isn't as confusing as it sounds. I was home schooled myself, and now I am home schooling my own kids. This is our first year. So you see, it is new.

Charlotte Mason, however, is all new to me. I have just begun to explore her writings. I am very excited about it all. I feel like so many of the things I want learning and education to be for my family are part of her philosophy.
I admit, at first I was unsure. I didn't want to boxed in or to follow just one way of doing things. Isn't that the beauty of home schooling? That we can pick and choose what suits the needs of our children best?
However, the more I learn, the more free I feel. Let me give you an example.
My sons did some science experiments this weekend. First we read this old text book, and then we did the experiments. Now a text book is very un-Charlotte Mason. But I think the end result was very Charlotte Mason. It was real life learning, child led and not watered down. It was fun.
Please click on the link to my blog here, and read the full story. I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to seeing you back here soon.

PS I am trying to figure out how to post at my blog and this one simultaneously, but it is very late and a tad bit complicated for me right now. Soon I'll figure it out and you won't have to go here, there and everywhere. Until then, I appreciate your patience.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Joy in Everyday Living

Let me introduce myself as a contributor to this new CM blog, a journey in which I am so excited to be part of with our dear friends. I am Johnna, a mama of two beautiful blessings, Julia and James. We use Ambleside Online curriculum and just last week started year 2 with our daughter. Our son is 3 and being richly blessed by living in a CM educational atmosphere.

Last year Mary Cassatt was one of three artists we studied. Actually, we really just enjoyed looking at her paintings and talking about them while nourishing our bodies at our kitchen nook. On our table a wrought iron cookbook holder displays the artwork I had printed out from Ambleside Online. Mary Cassatt depicts sweet tenderness in her paintings of mother and child. There is beauty to behold and joy to be felt in our everyday moments with our children. I am so thankful to the Lord Jesus for the little blessings He has given my husband and me to tenderly love and disciple everyday.

"It is wholly impossible to live according to Divine order, and to make a proper application of heavenly principles, as long as the necessary duties which each day brings seem only like a burden grievous to be borne. Not till we are ready to throw our very life's love into the troublesome little things can we be really faithful in that which is least and faithful also in much. Every day that dawns brings something to do, which can never be done as well again. We should, therefore, try to do it ungrudgingly and cheerfully. It is the Lord's own work, which He has given us as surely as He gives us daily bread. We should thank Him for it with all our hearts, as much as for any other gift. It was designed to be our life, our happiness. Instead of shirking it or hurrying over it, we should put our whole heart and soul into it."

by James Reed

A quote found in this classic devotional:

Charlotte Mason Reviewed

Kristine loaned me this little book called Charlotte Mason Reviewed, republished by Childlight and I started reading it this weekend. Don't you just love it when your friends double as a library full of books you can't wait to read!

The book was first published in Great Britain , 1981. Ah, just yesterday, I thought; until I realized that's almost 30 years ago! The author, Jenny King, is a CM trained teacher who graduated from the Charlotte Mason College, Ambleside in 1935.

I love sharing what I read so I thought I'd post some of what I found interesting in the book.

Some quotes from the forword by Joyce van Straubenzee, also a CM trained teacher:

It was perhaps unfortunate that Charlotte mason was so strongly averse to the use of her own name. This gave rise to the ugly letters PNEU.

So true! Reminds me of PEEE EEEEWWW!

The nourishing of the mind through the reading and narration of well-written books is not easily understood without training. Indeed, I can say that this particular aspect of the training in the Practising School at Ambleside was usually the last to be grasped.

I wonder if she meant not easily understood by the teacher or by the child. It sounds like perhaps she's talking of the child here. Interesting. And to think that I sometimes become frustrated when my daughter "can't remember anything."

From Part One:

A hundred years ago the gentle voice of Charlotte Mason was heard and listened to by many people interested in a liberal education for all. It is the purpose of this book to record that voice anew because we still have no unifying principle, no definite aim, no philosophy of education.
We are surrounded by voices crying first for one reform and then for another, a little here and a little there. Energies and finances are dissipated in a welter of theory, while what we seek, an education which draws out the best of every child and builds a nation of responsible citizens, eludes us at every turn of the road.

Could this have been written today? Easily. She goes on...

The solution to our problems does not lie in more nursery schools, bigger comprehensives, a return to 'Eleven Plus' and the re-establishment of grammar schools. It lies in the child himself.

Of course, this leads to CM's philosophy that the child is born a person and that there are ways to make the most of the potential that exists in every child; a potential that God himself placed within them. Not something we need to fill them up with, but to cultivate; a treasure awaiting inspiration.

Can't wait to read the rest!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Momentous Event!

At midnight (my most productive hour of the day) on this day; Friday, September 18th, let the "Living Charlotte Mason in California" Blog begin!

I hope this will be a place where we can post our thoughts, ideas, and reflections on living a Charlotte Mason Education with our children in this harsh and arid land that is California :)

In addition to the usual talk of CM things like narration, nature study, composer study and the like, we can also use this platform to talk about things like the need for a "West Coast" version of Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study where Oak leaves are accurately depicted as oblong, not lobed, and why Paddle doesn't come down the Colorado River and learn about droughts and the struggles that arise between farmers and Native Americans over water supply :)

If you've been invited to be a contributor on this blog, feel free to post at anytime about anything CM. I'm planning on linking to some of the "What is CM" and "How do I CM" blogs and sites so that we can be free to post about our own personal experiences, reflections, and thoughts that come up as we implement CM in our home and our lives. Thus, "living CM" in the title. Which, by the way was Johnna's great idea for a title - thanks Johnna!

Any thoughts, ideas on the blog's appearance, layout, etc. let me know. (I'm already working on widening it). We do need a header for the blog. Jen, were you going to look into some of your journal drawings?

This is a public and open blog so only post what information you feel comfortable with the entire world knowing, although I somehow find it unlikely that too many non-CM enthusiasts would happen this way.

Now let the posting begin!

But before I leave this post with text only, look at this little treasure one of the boys found in the harbor today. The first picture is the top of it, the second is the underside. Anyone able to find this in their field guide? (Note the very wrinkly fingers! A telltale sign of hours of fun in the water!!)