Tag Archives: Ambleside Online

How We Do…Art

Kid Uno has been an artist since birth. Even coloring was a social, collaberative experience for her when she was little. “Want to color with me?” Supporting her growth in art is an ongoing learning experience for me. My creative interests lean more toward tie dye, construction, and sewing with salvaged fabric. Hers are more fine art–ballet, classical music, satin and silk, paper dolls, and stacks and stacks of drawings, paintings, collages….I feel a bit out of my element, but Charlotte Mason includes picture study and handicrafts, so that gives me a bit of a framework. And one benefit of homeschooling is that you can tailor a child’s education, so I decided to beef up the art department as much as possible for Kid Uno. I have freely questioned kind uncles and aunts who have far more expertise than I in art and music. They been very helpful in giving me ideas about what supplies to purchase and how to encourage her. And I read an awesome (for me) book last year called The Art of Teaching Art to Childrenwhich I need to review. For someone with a great art background, it’s probably not too helpful, but for me it was great because the author covered several areas about which I am clueless (clay, printmaking…) and then broke it down step by step from planning to cleaning up. I was inspired to buy a Sculpey type clay, and then it sat in the cabinet for weeks, until we had free morning when all the stars and planets aligned. All four of the older kids (including my then two-year old) spent TWO solid hours at the table making clay tea sets!  And now they play with them in their treehouse.

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Uno (age 8) with colored pencils

My approach to art is two-pronged: creation and appreciation. They kind of go together. If you have some skill and exposure, you can create better, and if you understand the process of creating, you are more appreciative of other people’s art. So my goals for art education are providing the kids with materials that are enjoyable to work with and don’t frustrate them, providing them with time and space to create (and being generally tolerant of the mess), providing some opportunities to see art (whether Rembrandt at the National Gallery or fancy dresses at the mall or early pioneers’ handmade tools in a tiny rural museum), and providing them with basic skills in observing, drawing, photographing, sewing, sculpting, etc.

Here’s how we do art appreciation: In Year 0, we use A Child’s Book of Art: Great Pictures – First Words. I have her (Kid Dos right now) look at a painting closely for a few minutes. Then I take away the book, and she describes what she remembers. This is so she can learn to observe closely, to remember, and to translate a visual into words. Then we talk about the painting. Some days I’ll ask questions such as: Where is the light coming from? What is the first thing you notice when you see this painting? What kind of brushstrokes did the painter use? What season is it? What shapes did the artist use? What mood is that person feeling? Do you like this painting? How is this art like that other art? What kind of paint is that? How much of the canvas did the artist fill?

Then starting in Year 1, I pick three artists per year, buy a coffee table book of his/her art, and we spend twelve weeks on a single artist. Usually once a week, sometimes twice. Same process as Year 0. I think Ambleside Online has an ongoing list of artists each year. I just picked artist who I thought Kid Uno would like, I thought I would like, or we already owned a book. So that is picture study. I’d like to do more real-life art appreciation–when we lived in DC, we sometimes went to museums, but the kids were pretty young then. And the National Gallery of Art is the worst place I know of to take babies. Now that we are back in SLC, I’m slowly finding out about museums here, and cultural displays and things, but haven’t made much effort to actually get there 😦 Maybe this year. We have been to some ballets, though, and I think some concerts. So that’s something.

Now for creating art. One priority when we moved into this house was to round up a good variety of quality supplies, keep them near the kitchen for easy clean up, and put some things low so the kids have access them without help (and other things high, so they have to ask permission for play doh and paints!). That has worked out well. I also have a half-baked plan of doing a special project with all the kids, maybe monthly (like the clay). That hasn’t been so smooth, mostly because I have to be in just the right frame of mind to spend an entire morning intentionally making a mess, and then the next three days cleaning up the remnants! But I have some things in the works–needle felting, more clay, paper mache, plaster of paris, tree branch weaving…In the meantime, they all use reams of paper (for drawing, coloring, and cutting), love play doh, frequently use watercolors, use a paint program on the computer, take photos of the floor and walls with our old camera, build things all over the house and yard…there is no shortage of handicrafts around here!

Besides that, we use Drawing Textbook daily (one drawing per day), and I assign an art project every week or every other week. For Year 1, we used The Usborne Art Treasury which I was very impressed with. For Year 2, I got the Scott Foresman Art books starting in Grade 1. They seem pretty good, though maybe a bit heavy on the cut/paste/color type projects–less variety than the Usborne book. The Drawing Textbook is surprising good, IMO. Not at all flash, but it starts out with very basic elements of drawing and slowly works up to complex, multi-dimensional drawing (of objects). It fits well with the concept of short lessons, but it builds little by little. It has been interesting to see its effect on Kid Uno’s personal drawings–her perspective and scale have developed a great deal over the last year and a half. She’s getting close to the end; I’m going to look into some figure and costume drawing next, since she constantly draws beautiful ladies in fancy clothes.

Besides that, the older two took a four week art class, and they love watching Youtube art instruction videos. They’ve both gotten some great art kits and supplies as gifts from friends and relatives. And they go through phases: paper dolls for several weeks, then a sewing project, then snowflake cutting, then weaving potholders, then whittling arrows. I’m looking forward to them getting older and more independent, since there is so much creative stuff they can do on their own! I will try to expose them to as much variety as possible, and then if they are super-interested in something (jewelry making, for instance) I will probably outsource at some point. And there’s always Youtube!

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How We Do…Math

MATH = TEARS

That was my homeschool math experience.  😦 I guess I liked it early on, when there were speed drills, and counting M&Ms that I got to eat, and pennies that I got to keep…but fast-forward a couple years, and math was the most misery-inducing subject imaginable. I finished homeschool knowing I was horrible at math, and had to take an intermediate algebra class at the community college before going on to Algebra 101 or whatever it was….and I almost laughed out loud when the sweet professor told me I was good at the class and should go on to higher math! No thanks….but it was amazing what a difference it made having a professor teach me concepts, and having tutors available to help, rather than staring at a workbook page and trying to figure out problems that didn’t come out right no matter what I did. This is not meant to reflect poorly on my parents; homeschooling options were a lot more limited in the ’80s and ’90s than today!

And Ambleside Online, like most un-boxed homeschool curricula, leaves it up to the parent to choose a method for learning math. So, when it came to our children and math, I had two goals: They will not be afraid of math, and they will have a strong foundation in math so they can choose STEM careers if that’s the direction they want to take. And I decided that math would be one of the core elements of our homeschooling (along with writing and reading). So I started sorting through all the options; good old process of elimination. A Beka–bad memories. Saxon–maybe, but so many years of workbooks. Singapore–very interesting, but still a workbook…maybe later. Math-U-See and Math Mammoth–weird names 🙂 An abacus based curriculum a friend gave us–I couldn’t figure out the abacus before Kid Uno started kindergarten 😦 Ray’s–hmmm, that looked promising! A hundred year plus track record, inexpensive, non-consumable, compact (one little book for 2 years of school), all mental math and no writing, lots of manipulative practice, teacher intensive…It has been a good fit so far. Teacher intensive is important for reading, writing, and arithmetic, in my opinion. I discovered the Eclectic Manual of Methods about halfway through the Primary book, and it has been a great help in knowing how to use Ray’s. (BTW, the manual also contains teacher instruction for the McGuffey’s Readers, as well as other vintage books). So Ray’s is our main math source. We do it daily, usually a lesson or half a lesson. Kid Uno started when she was about 6. We first worked through the Addition section, and then the Subtraction section, using beans or marbles or matches for each problem. Then we went back through both sections, alternating addition and subtraction problems, and she answered them without using manipulatives, unless she got stuck on a problem.

But I also wanted to have the kids learn things from different angles; that way, if one approach doesn’t click, hopefully they won’t get bogged down and discouraged. So I started looking into some supplements. Life of Fred looked interesting. I bought the first couple elementary books, and Kid Uno loves LoF (she likes the stories and the questions) and I enjoy reading it. DH thinks it’s weird; obviously, he must have a different sense of humor! 🙂 I know some people use it as their main math, but I like it as a supplement…we read it once or twice a week, and I love how it introduces “advanced” concepts so naturally, and it just feels like a lighthearted approach. It is spendy, so it’s definitely the frosting on the cake. If I had to drop anything based on budget, LoF would be the first to go. Miquon is our other supplement, which Kid Uno does once or twice a week. It’s a very novel approach for me, so there is a little bit of prep involved before I hand her a few pages to complete. I definitely need the Lab Sheet Annotations–I don’t think I would understand how Miquon works without it. I haven’t used their other two books for teachers. I like that it gives her a bit of practice with writing and reading math problems, and how it covers math topics with a less straightforward approach than Ray’s. It also fills in some gaps (telling time, measurement, geometry). And although it’s consumable, it’s cheap enough that I don’t mind buying it for each child. Our final supplement is living books–there are some fun math books out there. Life of Fred fits in this category, and I also bought the I Love Math series, and some Anno books, and a few of the Young Math series. Our library has some random good options, too. Kid Uno picks whichever book she wants, and reads it for about 20-30 minutes once a week.

So far, so good! With Ray’s, Kid Uno covered Addition and Subtraction in Year 1, and I anticipate her working through Multiplication and Division in Year 2, as well as the measurements and other miscellaneous topics at the end of Ray’s. I plan to work through the Intellectual and Practical books after she finishes the Primary. According to the Manual of Methods, they are supposed to be used simultaneously, not subsequently the way Mott Media shows them.

She worked through a good chunk of the Miquon Orange and Red books; I think she’ll finish the series by the end of Year 3. And we will probably just keep reading through the Life of Fred series.

I also have Kitchen Table Math which I read and liked but haven’t really used. Maybe I’ll do some of it with the younger kids. Three or four different math approaches have been more than enough for me to juggle. 🙂 Ruth Beechik’s The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 have been really useful resources for me, and they include a scope and sequence for each grade, if that is important to you. There are plenty of other resources out there for those of us without a strong background in math who might be a bit intimidated at teaching it to our kids!

After the kids complete the Ray’s series, I’m not sure what to do….maybe Singapore? Maybe Khan? We have a couple years to decide. Meanwhile, Kid Uno and Kid Dos are counting the money they just earned selling lemonade at the park 🙂

 

 

Year 1 Wrap-up for Kid Uno (her version)

If you want to know what a Year 1 student really thinks of the Ambleside Online selections, you’re in the right place. Here are Kid Uno’s year-end summaries, in her own words (my Year 1 page has links for everything we used):

  • Rate each book (like, neutral, dislike).
  • Add a few comments.

 

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Dislike. It’s hard to read and not very interesting.

When We Were Young & Now We Are Six

Neutral. There are only a few poems that I like. One is the Sailor and there are a few others.

A Child’s Book of Poetry

Neutral. But I loved Christina Rossetti.  I kind of didn’t like the rest.

Classical Kids CDs

Like. Mostly Song of Unicorn, Hallelujah Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart’s Magical Fantasy.

Hymns

Neutral. My favorite was Crown Him With Many Crowns.

 

Tales From Shakespeare

Like. It was fun and there were lots of exciting stories.

Blue Fairy Book

Like. It was fun–lots of magic fairies, beautiful girls, and stuff.

Just So Stories

Like. There were lots of animals, and my favorite was How the Elephant Got his Trunk, Leopard, Butterfly.

Aesop’s Fables

Like. I loved it because it has such fun stories.

 

One Small Square Cave

Like. Really fun. I liked how it told me about the caves.

One Small Square Swamp

Neutral. It wasn’t very interesting.

One Small Square Arctic Tundra

Like. It told me lots of things about the tundra.

James Herriot’s Treasury

Like. I loved it. You should know I loved it! It had lots of stories about animals and I like animal stories a lot.

Burgess Bird Book

Neutral. Told a lot about animals but just about birds. I like animals but not really birds. One bird I loved in that story was the Welcome Robin.

Among the …. People

Like. That was fun because it was about lots of animals.

Nature Connection

Neutral. It was just about nature not animals or stories.

 

Trial and Triumph

Neutral. It had not very fun stories; just about people and not what that said.

50 Famous Stories

Like. They’re really exciting. It tells a lot about people, and I get to read some [independently], and it tells about a few people I already know.

Our Island Story

Neutral. A few fun stories and a few not good stories.

Viking Tales

Like. I love them….King Harald the Great!

 

d’Aulaires Pocahontas

Neutral.  I liked it but it’s not very fun. It had just Indians and I don’t like just stories about Indians because they scare me [I think this response actually arises from Kid Uno’s immersion in the Little House books…I need to find some good books where the Indians aren’t constantly portrayed as “savages”].

d’Aulaires Benjamin Franklin

Like. I loved him and Washington. Wasn’t he [Franklin] a president?

d’Aulaires Buffalo Bill

Like. You already know that I like it! He’s really exciting. The only people I don’t like in it are the raiders that try to hurt him and the Indians even though they are his friends.

d’Aulaires George Washington

Like. That he was so brave.

 

Paddle to the Sea

Like. I loved it–it was so exciting.

 

Rod&Staff Penmanship 2

Dislike. They are so hard.

Rod&Staff Penmanship 3

Dislike. It’s hard to copy the words, and it’s long.

 

Life of Fred

Like. I loved LoF. It helps me do it and then it has fun stories.

I Love Math books

Like. I loved them when I first did them but they aren’t interesting anymore.

Ray’s Primary Arithmetic

Dislike. It was really hard.

Miquon

Dislike. Because they are so hard and take a lot of time.

 

Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

Dislike. No way, Jose. I don’t like reading out loud.

McGuffey’s Second Reader

Like. I love it. I get to learn a few things…like about sharing…and about selfishness.

 

John Singer Sargent

Dislike. It’s so hard to remember.

Van Gogh

Like. I got to see a few interesting and beautiful pictures.

Caravaggio

Neutral. It’s hard.

 

Art Treasury

Neutral. It’s kind of hard, and I did the first easy ones which were really nice but then I didn’t really like the others.

Drawing Textbook

Dislike. It’s too hard. At least the first easy ones were fun but I didn’t like the last ones which were hard.

Youtube Drawing Videos

Like. Because I got to draw a lot of things.

Nature Journal

Neutral. I have to draw things that I don’t want to do.

Mesa Art Classes

Like. Loved! Because I got to draw a whole lot of things that I liked to do. And I got to learn a few things about drawing. That you should draw it carefully and not hurry. That you can mix things together and make pretty colors. And you should draw a line like this–a horizon line.

 

Soccer

Like. I loved it because I got to learn a whole lot of things like kicking it with the side of your foot. But with your toe if you are kicking in in the goal. And you should shove a little bit if the person has the ball. And that I should be happy if I lose or I win, and that everyone wins. A— told me that everyone wins. Does everyone win? I got to have the ball a few times, and got to kick it to the goal. And I had a few friends. And there were a few people cheering for us. The one thing I don’t like about soccer is that I don’t like that one team said we look easy, and we’re not easy, we’re hard. And I got to run a lot, and A— talked to me a lot and helped me. And soccer was the funnest sport of my life. And I get to be with my friends.

Year 1 Wrap-Up for Kid Uno (my version)

If you’re wondering what we really think of the Ambleside Online selections for Year 1, you’ve come to the right place. These are my thoughts and notes to myself from the end of the year (my Year 1 page has links to everything we used):

 

  • Average weekly time: Together (5 hours), Kid Uno alone (2.5), total 7.5
  • Rate each book (like, neutral, dislike).
  • Add a few comments.
  • Any changes for next child?

Poetry and Recitation

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Neutral. Sentimental and a few racist. Classic, and several fun poems. Nice illustrations.

When We Were Very Young & Now We Are Six

Like. Funny and child-like and fun to read.

A Child’s Book of Poetry

Like. Nice selection. Beautiful illustrations. Rosetti was Kid Uno’s favorite poet.

 

Music

Classical Kids CDs

Like. Kid Uno liked stories. Not as much emphasis on music as I hoped.

Hymns

Like. Need to re-type and correct the gender-neutral versions for future years.

 

Literature

Tales From Shakespeare

Like. Very long. Difficult to read aloud (vocabulary, names, dialogue, long sentences). Need to look up name pronunciations in advance. Read and narrate in very small segments. I usually narrated instead of Kid Uno. Review characters frequently. Listen to on Librivox after reading. Watch play after reading. Kid Uno especially liked the female characters.

Blue Fairy Book

Like. Very long. Change schedule so they don’t coincide with Shakespeare readings. Kid Uno’s best narrations were probably from this.

Just So Stories

Like. Very long. N-word and some other racism in Leopard. Hard to read aloud at first but got easier and will be more fun second time around. Kid Uno enjoyed.

Aesop’s Fables

Like. Very short. Almost verbatim narrations. Kid Uno enjoyed and finished rest of book.

Science

One Small Square Cave

Like. Good illustrations and organization. Not easy to narrate but retained fair amount.

One Small Square Swamp

Like. Good illustrations and organization. Not easy to narrate but retained fair amount.

One Small Square Arctic Tundra

Like. Good illustrations and organization. Not easy to narrate but retained fair amount.

James Herriot’s Treasury

Like. Good stories, beautifully illustrated. Old, but not dated. One of Kid Uno’s favorites.

Burgess Bird Book

Dislike. Boring, repetative,  and conversation is dull to read aloud. Birds are difficult to keep straight with nicknames and without pictures. Kid Uno may have learned a bit about identifying birds based on plumage and nests, but I will look for something better (Arnosky?) and either ditch this or use as free read with next child.

Among the …. People

Like. Old and quaint. Nice combo of accurate animal descriptions and slight moral. It grew on us.

Nature Connection

Like. Practical and versatile. Weather section was good for Kid Uno’s current interests.

 

History

Trial and Triumph

Like. Difficult to read aloud, and mostly over Kid Uno’s head. Specialized and advanced vocabulary. Need to look up name pronunciations and define lots of words in advance. I learned a lot of church history. An older kid would get more out of it, but it’s ok as a read-aloud at this level. Slight Protestant slant so far but not anti-Catholic.

50 Famous Stories

Like. Short and interesting. Good narrations from Kid Uno. I learned a lot too. Schedule in entirety and in chronological order for next child.

Our Island Story

Neutral. Well-written, but more appropriate for older kid. I ditched after 2nd term; decided that much detailed British history was not what I want to focus on this year or next 2 years. Maybe for student to read alone in Year 4 or 5. Not much retention except for Boadicea 🙂

Viking Tales

Like. Need to define lots of vocabulary in advance. Good mapping. I learned a lot, and Kid Uno had good narrations. Nice combo of anthropology, mythology, battles, and history. Incorporate 2nd half of book with next child.

Biographies

d’Aulaires Pocahontas

Like. Nice to have a female history character.

d’Aulaires Benjamin Franklin

Like. He came alive. Lots of mapping.

d’Aulaires Buffalo Bill

Neutral. Mostly like, but uncomfortable with “savage” Native American depictions. May ask DH for second opinion. Lots of mapping.

d’Aulaires George Washington

Neutral. Mostly like, but uncomfortable with “happy slave” depictions.

 

Geography

Paddle to the Sea

Like. Short. Lots to map. Fairly engaging story. Positive (if slightly stereotypical) depiction of Native American.

 

Copywork

Rod&Staff Penmanship 2

Like. Mostly self-directed, takes about 10 minutes a day. Beautiful penmanship, and I like that the copywork is Bible and bird/animal themes.

Rod&Staff Penmanship 3

Like. Mostly self-directed, takes about 10 minutes a day. Beautiful penmanship, and I like that the copywork is Bible and bird/animal themes.

 

Math

Life of Fred

Like. Kid Uno loves it. Fun, and concepts I’ve never heard of (commutative principle). Apples, Butterflies, most of Cats.

I Love Math books

Like. I actually haven’t looked at them much; Kid Uno likes to pore over them for about 20 min. as an assignment 1-2x week.

Ray’s Primary Arithmetic

Like. Methodical and easy to use (with Eclectic series teacher guide). Have thoroughly covered addition and subtraction with single digit carrying and borrowing up to 100. Boring for Kid Uno, but we do it daily and she spots patterns and likes the word problems.

Miquon

Like. Have done most of orange and some of red. Takes a lot of preparation for me since it’s an unfamiliar method. Will be easier for me second time around. Love that it introduces concepts (like equations and negative numbers) far earlier than traditional math. Also measurements and geometry and time not covered (so far) by Rays. Kid Uno does several pages 1-2x per week. Usually enjoys it.

Bible and Memorization

Ambleside Online Bible Selections

Like. Good selection; maybe a bit short and sparse. Frequently need to provide context. Would like to discuss a little more than we did. Kid Uno reads aloud from NIV.

Simply Charlotte Mason Verse Packs

Dislike. Liked at first because free and self-directed, but dropped after 2nd term as the verses were so random and out-of-context. Memorized Ps. 136 together for 3rd term. Big improvement.

 

Reading

Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

Dislike. SO BORING for us both. And at least 2 typos and weird formatting. Flew through the first .75 of book. Last .25 helpful for covering phonics, syllables, roots, etc. but there’s got to be something better for phonics follow-up of 100 EZ Lessons.

McGuffey’s Second Reader

Like. Great for student read-aloud skills. Great for vocabulary. Will be great for spelling and recitation if we need it in the future. I find the extreme moralistic tone highly entertaining, and Kid Uno loves the stories. Covers interesting topics.

 

Art Appreciation

John Singer Sargent

Like. Pictures are small.

Van Gogh

Like. Not as many familiar paintings as I anticipated.

Caravaggio

Like. Good size pictures.

Art Instruction

Art Treasury

Like. Kid Uno complained about it but produced nice art. Great selection of artwork. I bought and consolidated all the supplies at the beginning of the year, and it was nearly all self-directed after that.

Drawing Textbook

Like. Kid Uno complains but does one lesson daily and seems to have incorporated some principles into her regular drawing. Usually self-directed, but pretty easy for me to demonstrate if she needs help.

Youtube Drawing Videos

Like. Free. Kid Uno loves them. Lots of variety.

Nature Journal

Like. Combo of observation and art. About 1x per week. Might help to make it a bit more methodical but I think it’s ok as-is.

Mesa Art Classes

Neutral. Kid Uno and Kid Dos loved them, but I don’t think they learned much art for the amount of my time and money invested. More of a social experience.

 

Sports

Soccer at Rec Center

Like. A fun family experience if not a lot of skill-building 🙂 Kid Uno loved it.

Purpose of This Blog

Why add yet another blog to the billions out there? And why blog about a Charlotte Mason education when there are others far more expert than I? The short answer is that Charlotte Mason lived about a hundred years ago, and while her educational principles remain the same, the world has changed, and we have access to lots of more up-to-date material than what she used. The internet, for example!

We are loosely using the resources and schedules at Ambleside Online  to homeschool our children. The hard work put into that free curriculum is amazing, and has made it easy for me to get started without starting from scratch. It has its weaknesses (for our family and goals), but I love to tweak, so I’ve made lots changes to fit the curriculum to our family.  I’m hoping to use this blog to keep track of all my changes (and the reasons for them), and do a yearly wrap-up of what worked and what didn’t. And maybe it will be helpful for other homeschoolers.

One goal of AO was to make the curriculum cheap and accessible by using mostly public domain texts. Another goal was to re-create as nearly as possible the type of education Charlotte Mason provided her students. Neither of those are my goals, so a lot of my tweaking reflects my attempt to modernize some of the content (especially history and science), and to use books I prefer over some of the free, vintage books. I’m using  “modernize” loosely; lots of our books were published in the 1950s and 1990s 🙂 And lots are from the 1800s.

Many homeschool curricula these days revolve around history. For us, it’s not the center. My academic tiers are skill subjects first:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Arithmetic

and then all other content subjects are second tier, have more or less equal value, and may depend somewhat on the interests of the child. For example:

  •  Geography
  • Music theory
  • Astronomy
  • Botany
  • Public speaking
  • Drawing
  • Art appreciation
  • Poetry
  • History
  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Test-taking skills
  • Zoology
  • Ballet
  • and so on

So I want our children to develop strong abilities in the first three areas, and then to have at least a taste of all the other areas. This is for ages 6-12…I haven’t planned much past that…yet. 🙂

What Charlotte Mason Means to Me

Have you read Charlotte Mason’s original writings? I haven’t — I have read a fair amount of the paraphrases done by Ambleside Online, and most of the books published about a CM education. I’m not one of the WWCMD [What Would Charlotte Mason Do] type of people.

Some things just won’t work for us. Picture her ideal of a mother sitting outdoors on a blanket for 4 hours, while her children cheerfully bring back natural objects for her to see and talk about. That’s where I start laughing (or crying, depending on the day). Hahahaha….what happens when the very-pregnant mother is desperately searching for a restroom 30 minutes later? Or the 2 year old falls in the creek and is turning purple and we forgot to bring a change of clothes? Or the three older kids are fighting and someone needs some discipline and someone else needs a snack and someone else needs some alone time…and we are supposed to do this every day?!

But what I take away from that ideal is that outdoor time is beneficial, and so the way I accomplish that is by sending my kids outside to play…while I nurse the baby in a comfortable chair and get stuff done around the house. Or we spend a weekend camping. Or go for a hike on a Saturday when DH is here to wrangle kids with me. Or meet a friend at a park or the zoo. And we encourage cups and jars full of bugs and worms and spiders, and bouquets from the yard or the mountains, and getting dirty and playing in the treehouse with friends. All of that helps accomplish nature study, in a way that is practical for us. Anyway, here are the main ideas that add up to a CM education for our family:

 

  • Literature-based learning. This means we use very few (if any) textbooks, read lots of real books, and supplement with DVDs, excursions, classes, concerts etc.
  • Living books. The books we read differ from textbooks in that they are written by a single author with a passion for and knowledge of the topic, and are written in an engaging style. Living books are not necessarily old! There are old “dead” books, and new living books.
  • Slow readings. Reading lots of books spread out over a long time (a term, or 1-2 school years) allow time to chew and digest the material.
  • Short lessons and lots of subjects. We cover lots of topics, but spend a short time daily or weekly on each. We want to expose the kids to as much of the wide world as possible. Alternating subjects allows the brain to rest. Short “school” sessions equals more time for childhood.
  • Narration. At this stage (age 7 and under), I read aloud, and then the child tells me back in her own words everything she remembers. This trains the child to listen carefully the first time around, helps her assimilate the information, and lays a foundation for future written compositions and public speaking skills.
  • Emphasis on nature and outdoor time. This is great for children’s development and health. They also gain familiarity with and ownership of nature, and get first-hand experience with concepts they might otherwise just read or hear about.
  • Beauty, truth, and challenge. We aim to give our kids material that is beautiful and true, and that challenges their ability to understand, think, and express.
  • Good habits. Obedience, diligence, persistence, helpfulness, neatness…these are all things we work on while the kids are little. They are essential qualities for (relatively) smooth school days, and are characteristic of the kind of adults we hope they become.
  • Delayed academics. Our kids do nothing academic before age 5, and very little before age 6 or 6.5. More on that in another post.

It seems most useful to me to figure out the “whys” of what CM did what she did, and then decide how to incorporate those principles today, rather than to try to re-create what she did. Around here, practicality trumps mostly everything else! 🙂