Friday, May 23, 2008

Year 0 Introduction

The early years with Charlotte Mason require a bit of a different focus than most of us are used to. Instead of academic goals, we focus on the "many relations waiting to be established; relations with places far and near, with the wide universe, with the past of history, with the social economics of the present, with the earth they live on and all its delightful progeny of beast and bird, plant and tree; with the sweet human affinities they entered into at birth; with their own country and other countries, and, above all, with that most sublime of human relationships–their relation to God." (Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, pp. 72-73) The rest will come! This may even sound like a huge task, but in reality we accomplish this through simple activities and interactions–no scope and sequence is necessary.

The most important Year 0 goal, according to Charlotte Mason, is time spent outside. ". . .[T]he chief function of the child–his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life–is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects. . . ." (CM’s OHS, V1, p.96)

A close second in priority behind outside time is habit formation. ". . . [T]he education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions–a running fire of Do and Don’t; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose." (CM’s OHS, V1, p.134) CM has much to say about the why, what, and how of habit formation, which involves far more than just establishing a routine. CM refers to such habits as obedience, attention, imagining, cleanliness, and more. Take the time now to learn about it and implement it. Volume 1, Volume 2, and the first part of Volume 5 help explain how to do this.

As for scheduling, that depends on the age of the child. Many moms (or dads, grandparents, etc.) on this forum have one or more children in Year 1 or higher. For those children they are probably planning 2 or 3 hours (or so) of formal lessons each school day. Sometimes when a post talks about scheduling and planning, it’s referring to children in that age range (6 or 7 and up).

Year 0 is sort of a kindergarten year, so some moms are using it for a 5 or 6 year old. Those moms may be beginning some formal lessons, like reading. Generally those wouldn’t be more than 1 hour a day. Year 0 doesn’t require this sort of structure, but as long as it is kept short and lots of time is left for time outside and other non-academic pursuits, it’s still in line with CM.

Year 0 also encompasses the preschool years, below the ages of 5 or 6. Those years should not have formal academics, but some moms may plan short activities each day. The most important objectives at this age, though, are lots of time outside, building relationships (including a relationship with God), and habit formation. Select only the very best books, and don’t let reading keep you from more important activities. Charlotte Mason actually recommended learning a few excellent stories and telling them to your children instead of reading books, during these first few years. "Away with books, and ‘reading to’–for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets." (CM’s OHS, V5, p.216)

Children in these early years should be working with concrete objects from the real world, like planting a flower and watching it grow. Between hearing great stories and spending time with nature, you’ll be amazed what they’ll learn.  For more learning goals for the preschool years, look at the items on the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six, an excerpt from a curriculum outline from one of CM’s schools.  You can read it at the bottom of the page here.  Remember that this list was meant to be addressed after a child turned six, not prior to the child turning six.

The Year 0 years provide an opportunity to begin Ambleside art appreciation, hymn study, folk song, and classical music.  Try gently beginning a foreign language.  Develop the habit of tea times.  Teach them to sew and draw, hammer and paint.  Play card games and board games.  These are all CM friendly activities for the Year 0 ages.

Check out our Yahoo group site. Look in the Links section, the Files, and the Database. All three sections have the content categorized by subject, so be sure to look at more than one category.  You’ll find many helpful resources.  Then read Charlotte Mason’s writings.  They are the key to implementing a Charlotte Mason education.