Monday, November 24, 2008

Charlotte Mason Companion

I have used my library's Interlibrary loan for the first time! But, wow that was a bit of a hassle. It took a few weeks for them to get it from Oklahoma. It has all these bookmarks and cards attached to it which will result in a fee if I misplace them. I cannot renew the book, which is due today. And there is a huge fine if it is late. I appreciate the effort it took for them to find it for me, but I don't think I'll be using this service again. I almost always renew my books and frequently get small fines!

But the book I got is a wonderful one, that I should probably just go ahead and buy, Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. I have heard a lot about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling over the years. In fact, many of the homeschooling families I most admire adhere to this philosophy of education. But it's a hard one to describe, not something I learned about in my education courses in college, and one that is taking me awhile to understand.

Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss and all the "Real Learning" blogs have helped me start to understand what this would look like in a homeschool. And what I've read and skimmed so far from the Charlotte Mason Companion has been a huge help to me. I heartily recommend both of the books to all homeschoolers and even non-homeschooling mothers of young children who wish to set an atmosphere of real learning in their homes.

I was hoping that as the school year went by, Mary Clare would be more agreeable to her schoolwork and things would be more enjoyable for the both of us. Unfortunately it's been just the opposite. Mary Clare is a very bright little girl, but she's also a very headstrong like myself. I knew that discipline would the hardest part of homeschooling. I'm just not very consistent and I also tend towards laziness.

And so each day, we muddle through. Her, whining about doing the work, trying to negotiate with me. Me, trying to be patient, trying to come up with creative ways to teach her. But overall we are just not that happy during our school time. Mary Clare has gotten halfway through 100 Easy Lessons and is starting to read fluently. But she isn't interested in trying new books to read, or even to try the next lesson. It's always a battle.

Math is going better. She enjoys the word problems and is slowly learning her addition facts without using her fingers. Her math and reading lessons take her about 10 minutes each to complete, but usually she is fussing about completing it for more time than that! We have learned several poems, are continuing our bible and journal narrations, and she really likes doing her Catholic Catechism Game and her Handwriting Without Tears workbook. But overall, school is a battle every day and we're taking this week off to have a fall break and to regroup.

Like I mentioned before, a lot of this is due to her strong will and her frustrations with not being 100% in charge of what she is doing. She doesn't like my help with things either; she's very independent. So this may just be something we're going to face with whatever curriculum or activities we do. But I'm also hoping that getting over my own laziness and taking the time to plan some more fun and exciting activities might help us both to enjoy our schoolwork more.

And so that's where Charlotte Mason comes into the picture. Many of you may have heard of the Five in a Row curriculum. The gist of it (and of Charlotte Mason techniques in general) is that instead of teaching from textbooks, you use good quality children's literature, i.e. "living books", to pull out lessons in all the different subject areas. For example, Elizabeth Foss creates a lesson based on Jan Brett's Twas the Night Before Christmas book here. You might read the book together and then write down a child's narration of it and have them illustrate. You might make a "lapbook" about the life of St. Nicholas, about the country Turkey, about bishops, and also about gift-giving as St. Nicholas did. You would find an appropriate passage in the book to use as "copywork"--a sentence or two for the children to copy in neat handwriting. You might memorize a poem about St. Nicholas and study an icon of the saint. You can make St. Nicholas crafts, learn a St. Nicholas song, and even bake St. Nicholas cookies!

This was the essence of "unit studies" that we learned to do in college. And so I always thought the Five in a Row program or similar was silly. I mean I am trained to create lessons like this! How hard is it to come up with some activities based on the themes of a children's book? But the time it takes to create my own lesson extensions is obviously limited,with three young children. Obviously, since I have yet to do something like this yet! So I hope that having Elizabeth Foss' ideas, Cay Gibson's Catholic Mosaic, and also the Five in a Row series will be beneficial to me. Not that I can't come up with my own ideas for some of our favorite books, but it's going to take some effort and creativity on my part and it will be nice to have these resources to fall back on.

So as we prepare for Advent, I will be preparing some fun lessons based on good children's Christmas literature, likely the Jan Brett and Tomie dePaola units on Elizabeth Foss' site. We'll probably continue with our math program, but let the rest of the subjects fall into place through our book studies. And I hope this will help us to be a happier mommy and daughter/teacher and student team! I hope it may help you too!

I hope to buy the above book and give a better summary and review of it. It really is a beautiful way to approach education. The Wikipedia entry under "Teaching Methods" gives a great summary for those who are interested. And hopefully I'll finish this book in the very near future and can give an even better review!

Hope you all have a blessed Thanksgiving week! We'll be busy with playdates, dentist, portraits, baking, and more. But hopefully I'll find some time to add some blogging in here and there. I'm so thankful for this blogging community of friends! God bless you all!


Juli said...

I just bought Real Learning a month or two ago and that paired with the Real Learning blogs have really affirmed the way I want to teach my children. I also just ordered The Catholic Mosaic and can't wait to take a look at it. I actually saw your blog on Real Learning Blogroll and started reading it.

Blair said...

Great to meet you, Juli! Thanks for reading my blog. I didn't realize I was on the Real Learning blogroll...guess that means I really need to follow through with my CM plans!

Catherine said...

Hi Blair! I have just been thinking of purchasing Real Learning and this CM book. School is a big struggle every day for us too, and I am working on a change of structure too. I hear you!! God bless!

K said...

I have both books Blair, if you'd like to borrow them. I need to call them in from where they've been loaned out. This lady has had them for quite some time now.

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