homeschooling littles using charlotte mason.

Happy Monday, my friends!

Can you believe we made it to Christmas week!?

Today I want to answer another question from my recent homeschooling q and a series. I thought I’d separate it from the series, because I think there are some lovely quality-time ideas in here for any parent (or grandparent! or babysitter!) of littles, whether or not you homeschool.

Perhaps your child does part-time preschool and you’re looking for some ideas for the remaining days. Or maybe you’re thinking ahead to those long stretches of boiling hot summer days and what you’ll do with all that free time. Or you’re a nanny and would like to give your mornings a little more structure.

I’m inspired every single time I talk to my friend Annie about parenthood, so I asked her to tell us about how she discovered the Charlotte Mason model of homeschooling, which is a good bit different than the way I homeschool, and how that looks practically in her home with a five-year-old, three-year-old, and one-year-old. I enjoy learning from her!

Welcome, Annie!

So let me begin by saying that I feel honored and a little intimidated to be writing this post on the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. I am a new homeschool mom of my 5 and 3 year old daughters with a 19 month old son participating when he wants to.

I feel our homeschooling journey began blooming in my heart two years ago when my oldest daughter was just 3 years old. For some reason or another, I’d ordered a book by Clay and Sally Clarkson called Educating the Wholehearted Child. This book opened up a world of new thinking surrounding homeschooling that I didn’t know was possible.

So often I think that homeschool families try to literally bring a school classroom into their houses when I feel the beauty of educating at home is the freedom to be a family with a one-piece life … where your days and rhythms flow and change in the way you desire them to.In the Clarkson book, the Charlotte Mason way was delved into quite a bit…so being the “research lover” that I am, I got all the books I could about her and started reading.

I fell in love. To put it simply, the foundation of the method is built on Charlotte’s firm belief that each child is a person, and their education is an “atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

So many things about this method tugged at my heart. Charlotte Mason used living books rather than textbooks so that the things being learned were stories that came alive in the child’s imagination, creating an excitement and passion in them, rather than just a list of facts to be memorized or recounted.

I have seen this spark so much love for learning in my small kids. They connect, get excited and remember all kinds of wonderful things when they are in the form of a story!

We begin each day with our morning time crate/basket which includes a hymn we are learning, Scripture memory, poetry, a devotional (currently using Sally Lloyd-Jones Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing), a reading of a portion of Scripture and a read-a-loud (currently Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods).

Then we go on with our morning with our other “subjects” including history, math, reading, and science.

I feel the heartbeat of the Charlotte Mason way is in narration. This takes the place of traditional tests and worksheets … which I love. I use this in a small way (she doesn’t recommend children so small to do full narration) by asking my girls to retell whatever I have just read. So simple yet so profoundly impactful in their comprehension.

When they are older, a mix of written and oral narration will be included in our days. I also use something I call Writing Projects and this can be used for any subject. It ties in art, handwriting, narration and comprehension all into a neat little package. We read/learn something and I ask the girls to boil it down to one sentence (for Zoe, 5) and a couple of words (for Violet, 3). I write the words perfectly for them and they copy them and then illustrate what they have written using different types of art media.  Their favorites are oil pastels.

Another part of our days is handwriting. Charlotte taught this by using passages from books. I am using a resource from Simply Charlotte Mason for each of my girls. This is one of their favorite things to do each day, which I did not expect!

Our science time happens in the form of what Charlotte Mason called “nature study.”  We get outside and interact with creation and then learn about what the kids observe. We have nature journals and handbooks to look up what we have seen.

It’s a beautiful thing!!

When it is cold and rainy (or really just added onto any day because my girls love science) we read books about animals or flowers or space or the body and they learn so much!  Zoe loves encyclopedias and maps…so we embrace that and just read them!

Something that my girls look forward to each week is our artist and composer studies.  We look at a different one every 5 or 6 weeks and just discover their art or music together.  They are being exposed to beauty that will make a difference in how they view the world.

It is a common saying in the Charlotte Mason community that Charlotte wanted to spread a feast of ideas from vast array of sources.  We dabble in History and Shakespeare and poetry, daily habits and math, hymn study and Bible reading, reading lessons and reading aloud.

One reason I love Charlotte Mason’s teaching is her ability to take all of the disjointed subject of “school” and weave them into actual life. No more asking the question “When will I ever use this?” or “Why are we learning this?” It will make sense because it is a natural part of our days…it is in the flow of our life and in the fabric of our hearts.

We are learning because we love to do it, not because we have to.

I feel like I could write on forever about all of this and I know I have left out so much … but that is a very basic overview of how I use the Charlotte Mason Method in my days with young kids.

What has impacted me more than anything is the time spent cuddled up reading or enjoying beautiful art or poetry or music with my little ones. It is a beautiful, slow, steady life. One where they know the rhythms of our days and they can rest in that.

A lot of people ask what I do with my son while we are doing school … and the answer is … let him join!!! One of the best parts of homeschooling is letting my kids do life together! It is a little loud and messy at times, but it is good. Usually Jude is asleep for our morning time but is awake for the reading and other subjects … but he has just learned to listen or play or color and just do life right alongside us.

One of the things I want my kids to know is that learning is a life, not a worksheet or test with a perfect score on it.

As my husband and I talked about homeschooling, something that we agreed on was that we didn’t want our children to be known only as “smart” or “studious” or as a “straight A student”…we wanted them to be known as kind and loving and humble…always ready to help and care for others.

We are raising children who will one day be adults and we want them to have rhythms and routines formed that set them up for success, not of an “American Dream” kind…but success of heart and humility before their Creator.

That is our goal, and in my opinion for my family, the Charlotte Mason Method has been such an invaluable resource.

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