Saturday, August 6, 2011


My friend, Shana, asked me to talk about what we're doing this year for homeschooling--specifically about the Charlotte Mason approach we are taking.

Let me back up a bit.

I said, "I will never homeschool unless I live in the jungle."

Well, this little town isn't a jungle, but here I am, homeschooling and eating a heaping plate of crow.

Last year, I homeschooled Sam.  I took a very traditional approach because frankly, it is what I am most comfortable with after having taught in a traditional school setting for a couple of years and being raised in that same kind of school.  What I found was that Sam learned a lot--all he was "supposed" to learn and more.  What I also found was that I HATED his math curriculum with a passion because there were SO MANY stinkin' activities for each lesson and tons of prep for me--FOR KINDERGARTEN!!!  Also, I found that Sam and I were not getting along (just as I knew it would be) because I couldn't seem to find my role as parent AND as teacher.  My authority and his submission were at war, and it began to affect his perception of education.  He didn't like it or get excited about anything we were learning.  I was tired of threatening him and having to make it so rigid so I could be "in control."

It was exhausting at times, and I wasn't enjoying it.

Yet, I knew I was supposed to continue this year with Sam AND Maryn.  I began hearing and reading bits about Charlotte Mason.  I have a friend who is a missionary to Asia who homeschools her six children and uses the Charlotte Mason approach.  I was unaware of this when I approached her about advice regarding schooling more than one child.  She said, "I want you to read this book, For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer Macauley.  Read it, and then call me."

I got the book.  I read it.  I tried to get in touch with her, but she's a busy lady, and I haven't gotten a chance to chat with her.  However, the Lord blessed me with an opportunity to chat with another mama who uses this approach, Michelle.  She homeschools her four oldest children.  I was so encouraged to talk with her and get some ideas for how to practically bring the Charlotte Mason approach into our home.

Who was Charlotte Mason?

She was an educator at the end of the 19th century in England.  She viewed children as people (imagine that!).  Children were not vessels to be filled with facts and figures but people, made in God's image, to be nurtured and exposed to all the truths of God (because ALL truth is GOD's truth).  In her opinion, children should be exposed to the truth of God's Word, living books (firsthand accounts, books written by single authors instead of textbooks written by a plethora of people), nature as a hands-on study, art and music.  She felt that the bulk of structured learning should take place before lunchtime so that the children would have the afternoon free for playing outside, exploring and imagining (still learning!), for crafts, baking, cooking, and all other active endeavors.  Doing math first thing in the morning makes sense because children are sharpest early in the morning.  There would be plenty of time for the mother to read aloud to the children.  The focus of education was not to earn a grade but to better oneself--to learn for the sake of learning.  I cannot possibly continue to describe all of Mason's approach--get the book and read it!  This is just the nutshell version.

As I read Macauley's book, I found myself, "Aha!"-ing and, "Yes!"-ing.  Her approach resonated in me and helped me to see where I had gone wrong.  I was trying to cram a bunch of information into my child as if he were a vat to fill rather than a person who needed to be exposed to God's world and truth.  Education is but a means to know more of God.

So, this is what we are doing:

We begin our day with Bible reading of some sort (it usually involves art or story or both).  Then, we pray for a missionary we support (and we will soon be adding prayer for unreached people groups using Window on the World--Michelle gave me this idea).  We ask God for something and thank Him for something.  Simple.  Short.  And definitely sweet.

We do math next while they're still fresh and sharp.  I am using Singapore math this year, and so far I love it.  Love, love, love it.  The books are GREAT.  The concepts are amazing.  I love seeing this math process.  It makes so much sense to me, and I wish I had used it as a child.  I do not think this curriculum will include things like the seasons and the calendar, but that is easy to do without a curriculum.  :)

Next, we do our phonics and reading.  I prefer A Beka for this subject--I was raised on it, and I taught it.  I think it is a really well-developed program.  I was very impressed with how well it prepared Sam for reading.  We review some phonics rules, they do use workbooks, and then they read to me in their readers (and Maryn also reads Bob Books to me or the Nora Gaydos' Now I'm Reading! books).

This year, I added Spelling and Language for Sam (also A Beka).  He has a little more work than Maryn, but I love how both subjects are coordinated with what he is learning in phonics.  It is very thorough and consistent across the board.  If I had to guess based on reading assessments, Sam is reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level.  I don't know if I should attribute that to him being a firstborn or the curriculum.  :)

We finish with handwriting.  We use Handwriting Without Tears.  I LOVE this program.  It was developed by an occupational therapist for children with developmental delays like dysgraphia and dyslexia.  The approach is very logical, and I love how easy it is to teach and to learn.

I give the children a break between each subject.  Sometimes we listen to a Laurie Berkner song or do a silly dance or just play.  Sometimes we will have a snack together if it is around that time of day.  After we have finished all our work, we settle in together and I read aloud to them.  We're currently reading the first Boxcar Children book.  We also picked up a lot of books at the library about different kinds of dogs (inspired by Sam's question, "What kind of dog is Woodrow?").  We have been looking through those and learning some neat things about dogs--did you know that Dalmatians are typically the only breed of dog that horses will tolerate?  We have loved reading James Herriot's stories of his life as a veterinarian in the English countryside.

And we are usually done with all of this in 90 minutes to 2 hrs.  We spend time outside as much as we can (which hasn't been a whole lot in this heat).  We've tried to identify some nuts from trees in our yard as well as feathers, spiders, and other insects.  I am looking forward to Fall and Springtime for our nature studies!  I also plan to incorporate a bit of art and music study here and there, though not daily.  None of this is hard-core--just exposure-oriented.

I am also learning to alter MY attitude towards education.  I am enthusiastic and draw the children TO me in times of disagreeableness rather than threatening them when they refuse to do their work.  I try to bring everything back to God and His work in the world, and I have been floored by the questions my children are asking me.  I am so thankful I learned about this approach!!!

So, that's what we're doing!  I appreciate the interest and hope I didn't bore you!

If you are interested in more resources concerning Charlotte Mason curriculum ideas, check out these sites!  I hope to spend more time on them soon and incorporate more new-to-me ideas.  :)

Ambleside Online

Simply Charlotte Mason

Simple Homeschool

An Old-Fashioned Education


  1. Thank you for spelling 'curriculum' correctly

  2. @JillYou're welcome, but now I'm paranoid!

  3. Awesome post! Makes me want to read For the children's sake again. It has been awhile.


  4. Amanda, this is a beautiful approach to learning. Press on, you are a faithful mommy.

    In Him,
    Laura Berry

  5. @Anonymous Thanks, Laura. You are so kind. God is good.

  6. This fits you beautifully & I'm proud of you!

  7. I am homeschooling my son for kindergarten this year and appreciated this post. I am excited and nervous but mostly excited. :)

  8. I am very grateful for your post. We start tomorrow. I will have two too... Bowden in Second grade and Evynn in K. I needed mush of your insight. I am very outcome oriented and all about "getting done". I miss the joy in the journey most days. My prayer tonight is that this year will not be about what they learn academically but how we learn. and I mean all of us when I say we. God has called me to homeschool but I am beginning to realize that I am not being obedient if I do what He has called me to but do not do it in a way that glorifies Him.


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