Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: Holidays, vol. 1

Our reading assignments came from Volume 5 and the Parents Review, but in contrarian fashion I'm drawing inspiration from the end of Volume 2:
"The old, old story has all its first freshness as we tell it to the eager listeners; as we listen to it ourselves with their vivid interest it becomes as real and fresh to us as it is to them. Hard thoughts drop away like scales from our eyes; we are young once more with the children's young life, which, we are mysteriously made aware, is the life eternal. What a mystery it is! Does not every mother, made wise unto salvation, who holds a babe in her arms, feel with tremulous awe that, that deep saying is true for her also, 'The same is my mother'?"    Volume 2, p. 281
Our piney woods, in a rare snowy moment.
Holidays provide an opportunity to rethink our treasured values and beliefs as we help our children experience them through family and community observances.  We also have the opportunity to encourage true humility as we focus on ideas larger than ourselves.

"Humility does not think much or little of itself; it does not think of itself at all. It is a negative rather than a positive quality, being an absence of self-consciousness rather than the presence of any distinctive virtue. The person who is unaware of himself is capable of all lowly service, of all suffering for others, of bright cheerfulness under all the small crosses and worries of everyday life. This is the quality that makes heroes, and this is the quality that makes saints."   Volume 2, p. 284
 May we all seek and receive God's grace in this endeavor!

Our topic today is holidays, and as a bevy of holidays approaches, we certainly benefit from wise inspiration.  So, onward!


nak explains Time Value , helping us to see how we really *can* fit everything in to the time available.

Ritsumei, in Thought Breeds Thought, beautifully visualizes the wonder of great ideas.

amy in peru also reminds us to think about the ideas behind the holidays in Unwrapping the Holidays .

Laura reminds us They Would Sell Their Souls for Love; we must not lose sight of their needs in the busyness.

Penney Douglas includes ideas for celebrating in Holidays Charlotte Mason - Style , but she also reminds us to remember our children's needs as we prepare.


Friederike exhorts us:  "I love the Christmas time and advent when we get ready for it w/ baking cookies, singing and playing Christmas Carols, practicing Christmas play, decorating just to celebrate our saviors birth"

Alisha mulls gift giving in Three Gifts For Christmas.

Angie shares Holiday Activities for the Coming Months.

Adding to The Beauty shares a Poetry Study ~ November 2011 ~ Thanksgiving.

Blossom reminds us to focus On Holiday- the Charlotte Mason Way {maybe} .

Janelle Cole shares some Christmas Traditions.

Phyllis Hunsucker thinks about Advent already? .

Your lovely blog hostess (that's me) has last year's plan for Advent (which will be this year's plan as well) and also a look at the end result of our Jesse Tree observance from a prior year.


Lanaya advises on Staving Off Impishness During Time Off of School.

Gladys Schaeffer sends Greetings and Salutations with a reminder to keep our priorities in line.


Laura Grace Weldon presents Mentor: Fancy Name For Grown-Ups Kids Need.

Lisa presents How We Implemented the Charlotte Mason Method.

Barb presents Four Fabulous Fauvist Paintings to Study  .

Denise presents An Ancient Mathematical Crisis « Let's Play Math!

Nature study has our focus:

Bethany presents Chestnut Trees.

Pamela Jorrick presents Lassen, saying, "Living in Northern California, we have abundant resources for nature studies right out our back doors. This week, we visited a volcano to go along with our geology studies."

Next Time

A list of upcoming Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival topics is available here.

Next up:  Music Appreciation & Composer Study on December 6.

CM Series:
vol 4 pg 30-32 - Music, the Great Joy we owe to Hearing.
vol 6 pg 217-218 - Musical Appreciation

PR Articles:
Art and Literature in the Parents' Union School
Music and Art in PNEU Schools 

We want to read your post in the next edition of the charlotte mason blog carnival; submit it using our carnival submission form.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Schedule Example

I've posted an example of one of my edited chart-format schedules, where I took the generic chart-format schedule (new up-to-date copies soon to be available on the AmblesideOnline website) and edited them for our use.  The formatting didn't transfer particularly well, but I think you'll get the idea.

Update 7-Apr-2013:  To respect AO's copyright, I've edited the sample chart to include only two weeks and a handful of the scheduled selections.  You can still get the general idea.  I also edited this post to reflect the new source for the chart-format schedules.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Year 1 Bible Schedule

A recent blog post inspired me to think about our Bible curriculum for school.  Long ago, I had planned to have a Bible curriculum for school, separate from what we did for our family devotions.  But when my oldest entered Year 1, we had craziness going on and I didn't do much research--I just used Penny Gardner's list of readings for Old and New Testament because it had been recommended and it was easy.  We read one passage a day and just kept going until we finished.  When my 2nd child entered Year 0.5 (our made-up year between K and 1st), I no longer wanted to use Penny Gardner's list, so I used a list from Calvary Chapel instead, and used it in much the same way.  I've not been completely happy with this, but since it was working and other matters seemed more pressing, we just kept on.

I'd like to sit down now and read all the appropriate CM passages plus the relevant PR articles, but that's not going to happen just yet.  I'd like to look at all the PNEU schedules and map out a master plan for Bible for us for our whole school career, but that isn't going to happen either.

What I have done so far is to take the PNEU schedule for Bible for children age 6 and put it into my own Year 1 schedule. 

 The call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-5)
Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:27-34; 27:1-45)
Jacob's dream (Gen. 28:10-22)
Joseph's dreams (Gen. 37:1, 3-35)
Joseph in Prison (Gen. 39:1-7, 10, 16, 17, 19-23)
Pharaoh's dream (Gen. 41:1-16, 25-31, 34-43, etc.)
Joseph and his brethren (Gen. 42-45)
The birth of Moses (Exod. 1:7-12, 22; 2:1-10)
The birth and call of Samuel (2 Sam. 1:1a-3a, 9b-11, 17, 20, 24; 2:18-19; 3:1-21)
David the shepherd boy (2 Sam. 16:1, 4-20, 23)
David and Goliath (2 Sam. 17:1-11, 13, 17-18, 20-46, 48-53)
Elijah and the ravens (2 Kings 16:30-32; 17:1-16)
Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5:1-19)
Daniel (Dan. 1:1-4, 6, 7, 17-21; 3:8-10c, 11-14, 16-30; 5:1-16, 13-17, 23-31; 6:1-23)
Psalm 23

The story of the shepherds (Luke 2:1-20)
The story of the Wise Men (Matt. 2:1-15)
The Child in the Temple (Luke 2:25-32)
The boy Jesus (Luke 2:40-52)
The baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:13-17)
The call of the first disciples (Mark 1:16-20; John 1:43-51; Luke 5:27-32)
Early works of healing (Mark 1:21, 22, 29-45)
The daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43)
The stilling of the storm (Mark 4:35-41)
The feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-21)
Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)
The Entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11)
Easter morning (Mark 16:1-8; John 20:11-18)
Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-14)
The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
The widow's mite (Mark 12:41-44)
The lost sheep and the lost coin (Luke 15:1-10)
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
The Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18)
The Ascension (Luke 24:50-53; Mark 16:20)


Psalm 150
Psalm 19
Psalm 23

It works out to one story to read a week (plus Psalm 23 one week) and one psalm to memorize each term.  This is a lot less than we had been doing, but I welcome that.  If it's important to go slowly and savor the books we read, is it not equally important to go slowly and savor scripture?  This is also only our "school" Bible, not our "home" Bible, so this will not be all we do.  Add in what we do at church, with which I am usually very pleased, and I think we'll have a well rounded approach.

I still want to work out a schedule for Proverbs, and I want to decide how to handle doctrinal studies.  CM's students would have read Proverbs once per year over the course of a few weeks, if I interpret the schedule in the Book of Common Prayer correctly.  They would have covered doctrine as they studied the catechism for their confirmation.  I know many people recommend reading one chapter of Proverbs per day so that the entire book is covered each month, but I have never been comfortable with that approach as it bites off too large a chunk at once and goes through it too fast.  As for doctrine, we cover the essentials with Leading Little Ones to God, which we go through again and again during family devotions, covering one concept a week.  I'm looking at some other options for my older students, but haven't settled on one yet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Delightful Reading

Just today I finished, with my ds who is just barely 6 years old, the lessons for Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Rain", which are the first full-fledged reading lessons in the Delightful Reading package. Prior to this, for about 3 months now, we had done simple word-building work, using the word families suggested in the teacher guide. My ds appears to be a natural reader, along the lines of my oldest dd who in Year 1 was using the Declaration of Independence for her reading lessons because we needed something that challenging in order for her to have at least one new word in each lesson. I provide this information so you'll have context for my comments below.

The teacher guide supplies you with the text of CM's Volume 1 that applies to teaching reading, along with some helpful notes. It supplies you with suggestions for alphabet and word building activities to use before beginning reading lessons. It supplies you with reading lessons using primarily poems and scripture passages; the lessons include word families and sentences that can be created from the words in the families and in the actual passage.

The kit also supplies you with cardboard alphabet cards and word cards to cut out, with little baggies to store the cards, labels for the baggies (separated by each line or section of the reading), and a lovely bag in which to keep all the baggies. It further has a little booklet that contains all the reading passages from which the reading lessons are drawn as well as pages following each passage with sentences built from words in that passage, separate pages with sentences built from words in each section of the passage.

This is all very handy to have at your fingertips like that. You can create just such a kit yourself--I figured since I have two more children learning to read, I'd go ahead and spend the money and check it out since I really didn't want to spend the time putting my own package together this summer. I am pleased with what I have, mostly.

However. . .

Some choices were made in putting this package together that I would not have made and which may create problems for some young readers. Specifically, I have concerns with some of the word family choices. IMO, word families should contain only words which use the same spelling to represent the same sound. Therefore, the word "fall" could have in its family "small" and "wall" but not "shall". The word "rain" could have in its family "main" and "lain" but not "again" (unless you're from a place where "again" is pronounced the same way as "rain"! lol).  The word "around" could have "wound" (as in "the clock was wound") but not "wound" (as in "the wound was slow to heal"). By mixing in words that have dissimilar sounds for the same spelling, you introduce ambiguity that should not be present, particularly in the first lessons, imo. My ds who is using this package right now gives every appearance of becoming a strong reader quite quickly, so these inconsistencies, although confusing for him, are not likely to throw him completely off. My dd who I am still teaching to read at 8 years old would have been devastated by these--for her I didn't even use real literature because there wasn't enough repetition of word families, so we used the McGuffey Primer and have taken more than 2 years to work through it!

This package would have worked excellently with my oldest dd and should work excellently with my ds (although I am omitting the words that do not fit in the given word families). My second dd would not have been able to progress with this at all, not because CM's methods don't work for her (they are the best methods she can use!) but because the progression in these reading passages is too fast. That's probably not an indictment of this package, because it is not aimed at children like her and in order to serve her would have to offer up a completely separate set of materials.

[This post was edited to reflect an additional problematic word family situation and an adjustment I am making with my ds.]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Our Spanish Plan, This Year

This summer I sat down and read the first few chapters of Barry Farber's book "How to Learn Any Language". I made notes on his suggestions for how to begin with a foreign language (because although we've been working with Spanish for several years, I still consider dd to be a beginner). The part with suggestions begins in Part II, "Gathering Your Tools", although the previous chapters help you to understand what you are trying to accomplish and why you are using these methods.

After I made my notes, I pulled out my bin of Spanish resources and chose what would best fit my needs. I scheduled out a term's worth of work, written work from a textbook and audio work with Pimsleur. I have a whole collection of Spanish textbooks, some of which we've dabbled in before, but based on Farber's explanation of our goals I chose one I picked up at a homeschool booksale on a whim, "Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish" by Margarita Madrigal. With Pimsleur, we're still working through their inexpensive 8-lesson set. I'm not in a hurry with it, and when we finish that I've got Learning Spanish Like Crazy we can work through (also with their cheap 8-lesson CD set).

When this term ends (in only 2-1/2 weeks for us! Ahhhh!) I will need to make a new plan for the next term. We'll add in work out of a Spanish-language periodical or maybe from a Spanish-language Bible--I'm not sure yet. We'll still be following Farber's guidelines, just moving on to the next phase.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Planning Your Ambleside Year

The Ambleside Online curriculum supplies you with a booklist and a schedule for all the readings, so most of your planning for each school year is already done. However, you must still do some planning of your own to prepare for the coming year.

Start by reading through the AO FAQ. If you've already read it, skim through it looking for areas you may not recall well or that you may need to do this year but have not done in the past. The FAQ will help you with implementation details.

Next, check the booklist for the year you'll be using and make sure you have all the books. If there's a free copy of the book available online, the booklist will usually link to that.

Then, you need to tweak the weekly schedule to fit your scheduling style and to include all the extra areas you want to cover each week. I do not try to plan by the day. Instead, I try to have a plan for how much we will cover each day, but then allow my dc to choose or help to choose exactly what we do each day within those parameters. I've tweaked the schedule to facilitate this in two different ways.

I've copied the weekly schedule text right off of the website and pasted it into a word processor, added areas I wanted to include that weren't listed (math, artist study, etc.), then added little blanks (_______) next to each weekly item and multiple blanks (____ _____ _____ ____ ) next to items that need to be done more than once a week. That made a nice checklist that allowed me to easily see what was already done for the week and what remained.

I've also used a chart format schedule (watch the Ambleside website for new, revised chart format schedules). I add rows for the extra subjects I want to include, delete rows for the options I'm not using, and add checkboxes to items that need to be done more than once a week. (I use a large letter 'O' for this. I put several of them into each weekly cell of the spreadsheet.)

(I've blogged about my schedule formats before.)

After I have my schedule set up, I look for any extra resources I will need.

I print the art selections. (I have mine printed in color at a local print shop. I upload the files through their website, place my order and pay online, and simply walk into the shop to pick up my prints when they are ready. I prefer to use the prints from the AOArtPrints Yahoo group.)

I make a CD of the composer selections. (I use Classic Cat to find free and legal downloads. If I can't find a free download, I look for an inexpensive one to purchase from Amazon or iTunes or eClassical. Sometimes I even purchase a CD if I can find one with all or most of the selections, in their entirety, for a good price.)

I look for YouTube videos of the hymns and the folk songs we'll be singing, and I print the lyrics.

I think about what geographical areas we'll be studying for geography and history, and I print maps for those. Sometimes I use generic maps and sometimes I do a search for more specific maps for that historical situation.

The Ambleside forum often has links to maps and other resources for various books. I look through those links for resources we might want to use, and I look in the Files section too. I also save emails from that email list when they have references to resources or advice for future years. I put them in email folders designated by year, and before each new year I read through those for ideas. (If I didn't save the emails, I could search the message archives for the same type of information.)

I usually put everything I print out into a notebook for the student, divided by subject. That way most of our material for the year, apart from books and manipulatives, will be in one place for easy reference.

And then I'm done!

(Updated 7-Apr-2013 to change references to out of date resources.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is a Charlotte Mason Education? Preschool Edition

When my oldest was 3, I told a group of older homeschooling moms that we were going to have a CM homeschool. They laughed at me! They told me I'd soon give it up because it would be too hard, primarily because at the time there was not a curriculum available (or at least not well known) that used CM's methods. *Now* we run into a different problem--there are so many choices that it becomes confusing. What *is* a CM education?

It's hard to find out what a CM education means, these days, because the idea of it has become fairly popular and lots of curricula, websites, blogs, etc. have picked up on key CM terms and may even call what they're doing CM, but aren't necessarily actually following Charlotte Mason's methods.

Also, a CM education changes dramatically over your child's life. In other words, what it looks like in preschool is very different from what it looks like in high school, and there are a couple of shifts in between as well.

During the preschool years, you focus on just a couple of areas:

* developing a love of nature by helping your child to interact with nature and observe it first hand. This builds a variety of skills in a developmentally appropriate way: fine motor skills, large motor skills, attention, observation, visualizing (making a mental picture of what you have seen, which is needed for reading and spelling), visual and auditory memory, and probably others I'm not thinking of. You could buy a workbook, or a whole curriculum, to work on these skills, but God designed the natural world to develop them in just the right way at just the right times.

* developing key habits that will help your home and school to operate smoothly. Choose one habit to form at a time and work on it for a month to six weeks. Once it's ingrained, don't neglect to maintain it even after you begin working on another. This will benefit your child throughout life because these habits will be second-nature and he will not have to even choose these positive paths.

Beyond that, just including your child in your normal activities (cooking, cleaning, working in the yard, etc.) actually develops the foundations for school much better than any worksheets or packaged activities. I sometimes use worksheets or packaged activities, but I do it because the kids find them fun, not because I feel the need to include them in our preschool. I used to use Montessori activities, until I read CM and realized that I could accomplish the same goals more meaningfully through everyday life experiences if I just intentionally aimed at those goals.

A Charlotte Mason education during the preschool years has more facets than just these, but this is a good place to start. Once you've begun to work on these areas, read Volume 1 and Volume 2, preferably with a group committed to understanding CM's principles. Choose one area to work on at a time, for yourself, and begin to add in more of the elements of a CM education little by little.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Choosing Extra-Curricular Activities

Many activities are nice things to do, but life being what it is, only so many deserve inclusion in our schedule.  How do we decide when a child is ready for activities?  How do we decide which activities to introduce?  How do we decide how many activities to introduce?

I've been reading Volume 3 this year, and there are a few places where CM touches on these issues.

This chapter made me stop and think about *which* activities we were choosing.  As a result of reading it, I firmed up my inclination to drop ballet.  We now do taekwondo as a whole family, all together in class (mom and dad too).  I will make sure each child has some team sports experience, but we're going to focus on taekwondo and orienteering, both of which teach life skills, can be done throughout your life, and involve our whole family together.  (This does not mean you should choose these activities.  I'm just showing how we thought through this.)  We also do 4-H, which all the children from kindergarten through the end of high school can participate in, and in which we parents can be very involved.  4-H allows us to incorporate many valuable life skills, plus the children get experience managing the meetings themselves.  (CM talks about the importance of the self-management aspect somewhere, but I can't now remember where.  I think it was probably early in Volume 3.)

In this chapter CM makes plain that lessons are as nothing compared to real, meaningful experiences.  The meaningful experiences need to come first and take precedence over structured activities or lessons.

<<And here let me say a word as to the 'advantages' (?) which London offers in the way of masters and special classes. I think it is most often the still pool which the angel comes down to trouble: a steady unruffled course of work without so-called advantages lends itself best to that 'troubling' of the angel––the striking upon us of what Coleridge calls 'the Captain Idea,' which initiates a tie of affinity.>>

What I took from this quote is that children need peace and quiet, they need steady work, not a frantic grind of running from one appointment to another.

So I look for what we can make a part of our home life.  I look for what we can make a part of our family experience.  I look for what doesn't leave us exhausted and frazzled.  I look for what can be made to work over a wide stretch of ages, so my children can all participate together rather than going off to separate activities.

I recommend you read these CM chapters and then make note of what you take away from them, then use that to make a short list of important characteristics *for your family* for the activities you choose.  That will help you decide *what*, *when*, and *how many*.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When Your Child Balks at School

Even with the most exciting lessons, most children will at some point resist having school.  Some children will resist frequently.  Forcing compliance through punishment will not get the child's willing cooperation, but there are other ways to approach the problem.
Talk to her about what the purpose of school is (preparing your mind and body for adult life and the work God has planned for you to do) and how each thing you do in school works toward that purpose.  (Make sure everything DOES in fact work toward that purpose!  No busywork.)  After that, wait for a day when she is especially uncooperative.  Calmly close up your book, put away the supplies, and get out the cleaning supplies.  Explain that today is going to be a day for a different type of preparation for adulthood--housework.  Adults have to know how to do that too, and since the schoolwork isn't going well you're both going to work on housework instead during the time that is always set aside for preparation for adulthood.
Years ago, one of the Ambleside Advisory members (I think) said that she began each school year by sitting in a chair with a cookie recipe in hand, orally directing each of her children through the cookie-making process.  If they listened and followed instructions, they ended up with cookies to eat.  The idea was to emphasize the importance of following her instructions as she guided them through school.
Another Advisory member mentioned a book she used (I cannot remember the name right off and don't remember where my notes are) that discusses the godly purpose behind each school subject.  She would use tidbits from that at the beginning of each school year, if I remember rightly.
Some children more than others need to know the *why* of what they are doing--they want to do something meaningful.  We can show them the why of it.  But then we must insist on the work as well, even when they don't feel like it.  That too is part of preparation for adulthood.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Scheduling an Independent Student, Part II

Ideally, by about Year 4 an Ambleside student will be taking responsibility for quite a bit of his own work.  In an earlier post, I described the way I set up our paper schedule to facilitate that independence.

Another help to us was blocking out our day into segments.  Each segment fit into a certain part of the day and had its own assigned work.  While planning the year, I listed all the work my Year 4 dd needed to complete each day, assigned each a rough time estimate, and then sat down with dd to decide which work should be done at which point in the day.  We actually assigned times to the work for this exercise, although we knew those times were merely for scheduling purposes and would not actually be used when the schedule was implemented.

For our schedule, we put work for which she needed me in the morning.  This was math and her readings (which need to be narrated) mostly.  Her work that could be done entirely or almost entirely on her own went right after lunch.  This was instrument practice, copywork and dictation, typing, and that sort of thing.  We even saved a couple of subjects for the evening, after supper (and realistically usually after the little ones went to bed).  Because we broke up our day so much, school lasted all day.  But once the work for a particular segment was complete, dd was able to have free time until another segment began.  This allowed her to have breaks during the day when the other children were free.

Dd was busy in the mornings, but busy with the type of work that can travel with us to the park or anywhere I choose to take the younger children.  She often did her work outside in the backyard.  It was not too hard to take a break to listen to a narration even with all the other kids around.  Her work after lunch was done while I was sitting with my other dd, who was in Year 1.  My Year 1 student did almost all her work in one sitting while the younger children were napping.  My pre-K student sometimes did a little work right after lunch, before naptime or just after naptime began.  We scheduled my oldest's after-lunch work to be the sort that needed to be done at home, since almost every day we would be home for naptime and for school for my Year 1 student.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scheduling an Ambleside Day

To structure your Ambleside Online school day, begin with the weekly schedule for the year you're using.  Look at the list of readings for the week from the Ambleside weekly schedule, plus your list of other work you want to do each week (which is mostly listed on the weekly schedule--nature study, math, phonics/reading, etc.).

What needs to be done on any particular day is 1) all the daily work (math, poetry, etc.), 2) some number of reading assignments (I usually take the number scheduled for the week and divide by the number of days we'll be schooling to figure out how many to read each day; if a reading is particularly long or difficult it counts as two), 3) some number of other assignments that happen at least once a week but not every day (nature study, artist study, etc.).

I school my new student during nap time so that I can focus my attention on the student. (My older dd doesn't need this focus, so she schools throughout the day with lots of breaks in between because she prefers that.) Year 1 takes about 1-1/2 hours each day, perhaps 2 hours, if you remember to keep each lesson short and move efficiently from one to another. I let my student choose the order of the work (but not how much work is done), although I provide some guidance so that we move from one type of activity to a different type of activity.

The work we do comes straight from the weekly schedule. Daily items happen daily. Items that occur more than once a week but less than daily need to be balanced so we don't end up doing all of them in one day, but I have them on my list and cross them off as we do them so I can easily see how many we have left to do. We do as many of the weekly items as we need to each day to stay on track for the week.

Some subjects we don't cover during this official school time. For instance, composer we listen to during supper. Hymn we listen/sing at breakfast. Folk song is covered at lunch.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Philosopher at Home

Charlotte Mason's Volume 5, Part I, 1

Although we do not know how old Guy is, it seems clear he is at least 5. The age is somewhat important, since what can be expected of a 5 year old is quite different than what one would expect from a 3 year old, and the
treatment will be somewhat different too.  He has been throwing tantrums since he was a baby, so this is a well entrenched habit.

Guy is obviously spirited.  Notice that his temperament was clear in infancy.  Also, this:
<<Guy, very sensitive to the moral atmosphere about him, got, in Nurse's phrase, out of sorts.>>
Spirited children are the "canary in the coal mine".  They react strongly to any emotional upheaval in the home.

The parents in this account do not exactly follow Charlotte Mason's prescription for forming new habits (beginning on p. 175).  Step six on the list does not come into play here until after step nine.  This may be because CM felt it was not necessary to always follow that exact order or because this is in fact a true account and she has not changed it to fit her own recommendations.

When the need for action became clear, the first phase of treatment consisted in careful monitoring of Guy so that he could be distracted *before* he had a chance to erupt.  This was done without his knowledge. If the parents had followed CM's guidelines, they would have spoken with Guy about the issue first.

When an eruption occurred, then the course was to make him feel an estrangement from everyone with a concern for him.  However, keep in mind that this was not meant to be blackmail: "I will not speak to you until you respond in a way that pleases me."  It was more of "I cannot but feel sadness as long as you are unwilling to be sorry for your fault."  Also, his father made this stipulation:
<<"I think so, in his small degree; but he must never doubt our love. He must see and feel that it is always there, though under a cloud of sorrow which he only can break through.">>

Only after this did his father take him aside and speak to him about it.  It is clear, though, that the boy knows his behavior is out of bounds and has known this for a long time.  We may say that it isn't fair to punish the boy without advance notice.  This estrangement, however, was a natural consequence from which the boy had for too long been shielded.

After all of this, the father takes the boy aside and together they agree to a plan for dealing with his tendency to lose his composure.

This chapter, like the others in the first part of Volume 5, is not meant to be a by-the-numbers guide to habit training.  I do not believe you can list off what these parents did and then go and apply it formulaically to your own situation.  But you can see how they applied CM's principles, and perhaps that will give you some ideas for how you can apply them.

Remember that this process must be used for only one habit at a time, and that one must be pursued consistently for weeks until it is well ingrained.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Habit Training

Habit training seems daunting, so simple and yet so elusive in implementation.  I claim no expertise, but I do know a few truths about habit training.

You must choose one problem area--just one!  Focus on it like a laser.
Write it down so you don't get distracted and so you can keep track of what you've already worked on.
Name the complementary good habit you'll be developing.
Pray over it with your spouse.
Read about effective interventions.
Find appropriate scripture to meditate on and perhaps to share with your dc (but carefully).
Find good stories illustrating the contrary good habit in action if you can, but do not overemphasize the moral.  Let the story mostly speak for itself.  Also, avoid twaddly moral stories.  The story should be good in and of itself, not a story designed just to illustrate a moral.
Intervene gently, preferably BEFORE the problem occurs.  This requires vigilance.
Practice the positive behavior that will replace the negative one--make it fun!
When the negative behavior occurs, have a do-over.  Be patient and allow your dc to agree to try again.
Keep everything positive!
Acknowledge baby-steps.
Stick with it for at least six weeks, just working on this one thing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Exam Questions

I am no expert at writing exam questions, but I'll post these just to give an example of the sort of open-ended questions you might use.

Year 1, Term 3
Tell a story about King Alfred.
Tell about Edmund Ironside and Canute.
How did Harald marry Gyda?
What did Buffalo Bill do that was so amazing?

Name one of the Great Lakes and tell what it looks like.
Explain how a lock works.

Tell all you know about two different birds (cardinal, catbird, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager, brown thrasher, mockingbird, thrush, linnet, goldfinch, tree sparrow, junco).

What poor choices did King Lear make?  What happened because of them?
How did the cat in Just So Stories manage to be allowed to live in the cave?

Year 4, Term 3
Explain the importance of either John Newton or David Brainerd.
How was the French Revolution different from the American Revolution?
Tell all you can remember about one of the battles of the American Revolution.
How did Abigail Adams affect American history?

Describe in detail two interesting features of the Mississippi river or the areas along the river.
Explain longitude and latitude.

Explain one argument against the idea that life just evolved.
Which planet would you most like to visit?  What would you likely find there?

What advice would you give Dion, and how would that advice help him?
Which character in Hamlet was the most responsible for what happened?  Why?
Tell the story either of Cupid and Psyche or of Ceyx and Halcyone.


I just now realized that I wasn't getting emails when comments were left here, so I apologize for ignoring everyone's comments for so long!  I'll try to stay on top of them now.

Scheduling an Independent Student

This year my oldest was in Year 4 and working fairly independently.  Because in Year 4 the AO schedule has a more complicated reading schedule than in the past, I had to modify our schedule to accommodate that, and I had to find a system that let my dd work independently while making sure she completed her work well.

We still used the chart format schedules (new, up-to-date versions soon to be available on the AmblesideOnline website).  I edited the chart to reflect the additional work I wanted us to be sure to get done and also to reflect our choices when more than one option was provided.  I added checkboxes to items that must occur more than once a week.  I then organized the various rows of once-a-week work into categories, each category containing approximately four or five assignments.  The categories were chosen to group work of similar difficulty together.  Each day, dd must do all the daily items, plus one from each category.  That way, by the end of the week all the assignments would be complete, and each day would have assignments of various difficulties.

This sounds slightly complicated, but it really wasn't hard.  I put the really hard readings in one category, the easier readings in one category, the books with assignments (like experiments) in one category, and so on.

I printed the schedule for each term using my printer's option to print up to four pages on a single sheet of paper as a booklet.  That meant that each term's schedule fit on a single sheet of paper.  To begin the year, I had my dd report to me as she finished each assignment, and I checked them off in my app on my iTouch.  I think next year I will actually keep my own copy of the full schedule and mark it off as each item is completed, at least at the first of the year, so we can make sure we are staying on track and not skipping anything.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

William Wordsworth, on Over-Educated Children

 This is from Wordsworth's "Prelude", quoted in Charlotte Mason's Volume 3, Chapter 19:
<<     "That common sense
          May try this common system by its fruits,
          Leave let me take to place before her sight
          A specimen pourtrayed with faithful band.
          Full early trained to worship seemliness,
          This model of a child is never known
          To mix in quarrels; that were far beneath
          Its dignity; with gifts he bubbles o'er
          As generous as a fountain; selfishness
          May not come near him, nor the little throng
          Of flitting pleasures tempt him from his path;
          The wandering beggars propagate his name,
          Dumb creatures find him tender as a nun,
          And natural or supernatural fear,
          Unless it leaps upon him in a dream,
          Touches him not. To enhance the wonder, see
          How arch his notices, how nice his sense
          Of the ridiculous; . . . . he can read
          The inside of the earth, and spell the stars;
          He knows the policies of foreign lands;
          Can string you names of districts, cities, towns,
          The whole world over, tight as beads of dew
          Upon a gossamer thread; he sifts, he weighs;
          All things are put to question; he must live
          Knowing that he grows wiser every day,
          Or else not live at all, and seeing too
          Each little drop of wisdom as it falls
          Into the dimpling cistern of his heart:
          For this unnatural growth the trainer blame,
          Pity the tree...
          Meanwhile old grandame earth is grieved to find
          The playthings, which her love designed for him,
          Unthought of: in their woodland beds the flowers
          Weep, and the river sides are all forlorn.
          Oh! give us once again the wishing-cap
          Of Fortunatus, and the invisible coat
          Of Jack the Giant-killer, Robin Hood,
          And Sabra in the forest with St George!
          The child, whose love is here, at least, doth reap
          One precious gain, that he forgets himself."'>>

This is not a plea for unschooling, but rather a plea to let children be children and to experience the world around them directly and in childish ways.  Then when they learn about the world in more academic pursuits, they'll have the life experience through which to filter that learning.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Scheduling AO

Sometimes Ambleside Online seems daunting to implement, and usually it's the scheduling that seems difficult.  However, the scheduling is really already done for you--it's just a matter of finding a method of recording the schedule and your progress through it.

I use the chart-format schedules (new, up-to-date copies soon to be available on the AmblesideOnline website).  I then edit them to add things that I want to be sure we do daily or weekly that aren't already listed.  I take out what I don't want to do.  For things that need to happen more than once a week, like copywork, I put little checkboxes in the weekly chart box.  Then each day, we look at the column for the week.

We start with the things at the bottom of the column, the work that needs to be done daily or multiple times a week, and we do those in whatever order we choose, marking them off as we go.  I look at the readings for the week and figure out how many readings we'll need to do each day to finish in the week, and I let dd choose which ones to do that day.  Sometimes we mix those in with the other work, and sometimes we do them after the other work.  Sometimes I have to give input about what readings to choose so as to be sure we don't do two easy readings in one day and leave the hard readings to all be done on another day.

I've also used a checklist format, just taking the weekly schedule and putting little lines next to each item.  I used that for the first three years, but now that I've got two schooling the chart format works better for me because it is more compact. In fact, with my laser printer's option to print four pages to a sheet, I can print the entire term's schedule for one AO year on a single sheet of paper that folds into a little booklet.

Update 7-Apr-2013:  Post changed to reflect changes to available resources.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How I Organize My Life

Last spring my dh bought me an iTouch.  One of the first apps I looked for was a planner, a task manager.  I looked at quite a few, tried out a couple, and settled on an app called 2do.  This has become a mainstay of my life organization.  I use it to keep track of general tasks that need to be done, kids' school schedules, kids' chores, whose turn it is to do various things for which the kids take turns, gifts I need to buy, prayer requests, trip planning, event planning--you name it, I'm tracking it here!

I'm going to try to describe *how* I use 2do to track all of this.

First, I set up my "calendar tabs".  These sort the tasks on my list into various separate screens, each with its own colored label. 

When I choose a view that includes all the calendars together, each task item shows a colored bubble identifying the calendar to which it is assigned.  Therefore I defined my calendar tabs as people in my household, so that I could easily see which person needed to do which task.

I also began assigning tasks to categories.  These don't display unless you drill down to the details of a task, but I can search for a category and then define a custom calendar tab that isn't really a separate calendar but that displays the results of that search.  So I can make a tab that shows all the "school" items anytime I click on it, for instance.

A couple of types of tasks needed special handling.  School tasks and chores didn't work as well when they were defined just as regular tasks--they tended to overwhelm the to-do list so that other tasks were obscured.

Chores I set up as a special type of list item called a checklist.  The individual items on the checklist are not set up to repeat, but the checklist itself is set to repeat weekly.  So during the week we mark off the items as they are done, and at the end of the week we mark off the whole checklist, and it regenerates itself with all its items just as it was before, but with a new due date.

School I set up as a special type of list item called a project.  This way I could assign a time to each item.  However, this type of list item causes each to do on it to display individually on the calendar, and I wanted them all to be contained inside the project like the checklist items were.  I only wanted to see the individual items when I drilled down.  So after I defined all the tasks and assigned them their times, I changed the type of list item for the "school" project from project to checklist.  The times remained (but I can't change them without changing back to project) but the tasks no longer show up unless I drill down inside of school.

One other key point:  when you set the recurrence for a task, you have the option of having the item repeat "on due date" or "on completion".  That means that when you mark the task as completed, it will generate a new task with a due date that is either based on the date on which you marked it as complete or the date on which is was due to be completed.  For some tasks it doesn't really matter.  But for others this is important.  For instance, if I forget to mark school as completed on Monday, but I mark it on Tuesday, I still want it to generate a new school item due on Tuesday.  That means I want to set my recurrence based "on due date" so that it regenerates on the next day after the items was due.  If I had marked "on completion" that item that I marked as complete on Tuesday would regenerate as due on Wednesday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life

We know well that "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life." In other words, we know that parents and teachers should know how to make sensible use of a child's circumstances (atmosphere) to forward his sound education; should train him in the discipline of the habits of the good life; and should nourish his life with ideas, the food upon which personality waxes strong.
Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, p. 182

This sums up what we are called upon to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Preschool Handwriting Resource

I just found an interesting preschool handwriting resource.  I have not yet had time to look through it more than cursorily, but I'm going to pass along the link anyway.  This is from the Peterson Directed Handwriting website, where they have other free resources in addition to their fee-based materials.

Read Write Ready

I'm also looking at their guide for working with lefties:
The Left-Handed Writer