Tag Archives: charlotte mason

Our “Classroom”

From Towards a Philosophy of Education, by Charlotte Mason:

When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions.

With that quote in mind, and the beginning of a new school year fast approaching, I thought it might be fun to show you our home learning environment.

classroom 2

Our homeschool “classroom” is actually our kitchen (and often our living room, too). This setup works great for us because Lillia can do schoolwork at the table while Zane can engage in pretend play with his “kitchen,” or play with playdough, or eat a snack, or do some painting…it’s nice to have everything all in one place.

classroom 4

We made the tree branch mobile last year and we change it with the seasons. Right now we have apples hanging from our “tree” but soon we will have brilliant fall leaves — it brings nature indoors for the kids, and gives us lots of opportunities for seasonal crafts.

classroom 3

Zane loves to help make the paper decorations and often comments on them for several days after they are changed.


Here is the same branch mobile at the beginning of April — no leaves yet, but lots of early spring birds.


So, there you have it! The humble “classroom” where much of this coming year’s growth and learning will take place. Do you have a special room designated for homeschooling, or do your rooms serve multiple purposes (like ours)? I’m always interested in seeing the “where” of other family’s homeschooling experiences.


Filed under 2014, Planning

The Thirtieth Week

This is going to be a super short post because I have a ton of cleaning to do (toddler + bowl of corn chex = mess). If I have a chance, I might add some pictures at a later date, but it’s text only for now, folks!

Lillia’s Adventures

We’re cruising right along in our study of Ancient Greece. This week we learned about the Myceneans and the early Greek cities or ‘poleis.’ Did you know that the city of Mycenae had more gold than all other Greek cities combined? We also learned about the Dorian invasion. The theory goes that the Dorians were a people from the North part of Greece who invaded and conquered the Myceneans. Our textbook speculates that the Dorians were able to defeat the Achaeans (what the other Greeks called themselves) because of their superior iron weapons. The Achaeans were still using bronze weapons, and iron is a stronger metal. The only city that was not overtaken by the Dorians was Athens, though some Achaeans fled to the west coast of what is today Turkey and formed colonies there — these people were called the Aeolians and the Ionians. Whether or not it actually happened this way is still a matter of controversy, but it was proposed as an attempt to answer what happened to the Mycenean culture and language.

This week we also started using these handy “Book of Centuries” templates from Tanglewood Education to record information from our Humanities lessons. I find it’s easiest to print out 3 or 4 pictures that have something to do with our lesson and then let Lillia write descriptions for them. That way, she has to do some independent reflection but she’s not overwhelmed by trying to remember everything we read. We don’t adhere 100% to the Charlotte Mason method, but I do love many things about her educational philosophy. The “Book of Centuries” is a concept that many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use, and I am quite fond of it. It’s so nice to have something to look back at when you come to the end of the year, and it satisfies my need to have tangible evidence of Lillia’s learning. We started out doing our own pages, but after the first unit we got quite lazy and stopped doing them entirely. However, these templates make it so easy and Lillia actually likes to do them, so I’m planning to have her do a couple of them for those units we skipped.

In Math we are continuing to work on addition, subtraction, and multiplication. This week we reviewed the multiplication facts we learned last week, and we also learned how to multiply a two-digit number by a one-digit number (ex: 14×2). I am so impressed once again with the way that Stanley Schmidt chooses to teach more complicated math concepts right from the beginning. Instead of waiting until we’ve learned all of the multiplication facts, he introduces the concept of two-digit multiplication when we only know a few…but we know enough to do the problem, so we feel smart and successful! I know I say this every week but I LOVE LIFE OF FRED!

Just Added: This week’s digital drawing. You can see that she’s been working on eyes. This drawing also has some really nice shading. It took her about 4 hours, total. She says it’s a “Telzerath.”
species concept

Zane’s Adventures

Zane had a language explosion this week. He is using so many words now. I still have to act as translator sometimes but he is really working hard on his verbal communication skills. We’ve been taking walks with “Dada” (my husband) every day at lunch and Zane loves to see what’s going on in the world. He always points out interesting vehicles, other kids (there’s a child care center at the end of our street), dogs, or whatever strikes his fancy. If we don’t acknowledge his discovery immediately, he will continue to yell “Mama” or “Dada” until we say, “Oh, yes, Zane. That is a beekawoe (motorcycle)!” He’s definitely not a “baby” anymore, which is heartbreaking but also exciting.

His current favorite book is Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, because it’s about trucks, of course! He’s been requesting Baby Beluga a lot, too. He calls it “Baby Babooba,” which kills me. He’s also become very demanding about reading time. If he wants to hear a story, he will throw the book at you and say, “Read. Now.” We’re working on please…

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Filed under 2013, Weekly Update

The Adventure Begins

We have decided to…

Before I go into any details, I must first apologize for my complete lack of posts for the last few weeks. I meant to keep updating during our trial period, but it only ended up lasting a week. Then, we were going back and forth with our decision, and I just didn’t feel I had much to say in this space. But, now that we’ve decided for sure, I feel I can write posts again.

As you may have noticed, we have a new header, and our “homeschool experiment” is upgraded to an “adventure!” It took my husband quite a long time to come around to the idea. So long, in fact, that we actually ended up switching positions at the end — I was ready to send her to school! But, it had to happen this way because I wouldn’t have been successful without 100% of his support. There can be no acquiescing in this sort of decision.

During our trial week I learned A LOT about what would/wouldn’t work for us in a homeschooling situation. I have so many questions, but they will remain unanswered until we start our program in the fall. I think that it will be a “take it as it comes” sort of adventure, and I am okay with that.

We are still going to use some of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, but others just won’t work for us. And, though I love the Ambleside curriculum, I feel much more comfortable designing my own. Lillia will read many well-written, not-dumbed-down books. I am creating humanities “unit studies” based on various periods of history, and incorporating primary source literature as much as possible.

I feel very strongly that children should have access to primary sources when studying history. Professional historians use primary sources, not textbooks, for their work. If we want to stay true to the discipline, we should teach it the way professionals practice it. Also, children should be free to make their own connections and interpretations about the past. Simply memorizing names and dates does not make history meaningful.

We will also be combining the humanities unit with a science unit that is in some way connected. For example, during our first six weeks we will study Prehistory and Climate Change, which played a huge role in the development of human civilizations (people couldn’t really develop agriculture during the ice age…). This will ensure that Lillia learns modern science, but not in a void. She will learn the history of the science topics and why they are important today.

I have chosen to do the humanities units in chronological order because, as a history major, I find it completely illogical the way children learn history in school. They jump around between time periods, so everything is always out of context. There wouldn’t have been an Enlightenment without the Renaissance. There would be no U.S. History without the Enlightenment. See where I’m going with this? So, for the coming year, we’re going to cover Prehistory through Ancient Rome. If we decide to homeschool again next year, we’ll do the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment, which is a whole ton of stuff, especially because the closer we get to the present, the more cultures there are to study. And, each time period left more and more literature behind for us to read!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Reading List

I’ve decided to go with the Charlotte Mason method as a main approach, though we’re adapting it to be secular, and then supplement that with whatever seems fun or educational from other methods (such as Waldorf, Place-Based Education, etc). Below is a list of the books I’m planning to use, for myself and for Lillia. Some of these books deal more with homemaking than education, but I feel that is relevant for two reasons: 1) Homeschooling takes place in the home, therefore the home is integral to the learning, and 2) We have a little one who will not be doing formal “schooling” of any kind, but he will be learning, and the home is his main, and for the most part only, source of learning in the first few years of his life.

These are the books I will be using/referring to. I own all the titles on this list, and was able to do so fairly inexpensively by buying used copies, but I’m sure a well-stocked library would have most of them.

Ariadne’s Awakening, by Margli Matthews, Signe Schaefer, and Betty Staley
Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker, by Manfred Schmidt-Brabant
Homemaking as a Social Art, by Veronika Van Duin

Early Childhood:
Creating a Home for Body, Soul, and Spirit, by Bernadette Raichle
Festivals, Family and Food, by Diana Carey and Judy Lange
The Children’s Year, by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Fynes-Clinton, and Marye Rowling

Charlotte Mason:
A Philosophy of Education, by Charlotte Mason
A Charlotte Mason Education, by Catherine Levison
Charlotte Mason Study Guide (Secular Version), by Penny Gardner

Fourth Grade Math, by Oak Meadow
For the Love of Literature, by Maureen Wittmann
Read Any Good Math Lately?, by David J. Whitin and Sandra Wilde
Math Through Children’s Literature, by Kathryn L. Braddon, Nancy J. Hall, and Dale Taylor
Bunches and Bunches of Bunnies, by Louise Matthews (from the library)
Each Orange Had 8 Slices, by Paul Giganti (from the library)
Two Ways to Count to Ten, by Ruby Dee and Susan Meddaugh (from the library)

The Education of the Child, by Rudolf Steiner

I’m going to be following the Ambleside Online curriculum for the most part during the trial period. I figured it was easier than re-inventing the wheel, and would give us a good idea of whether or not the CM approach will work for us. I’m starting with their Year 1, even though Lillia is technically going into “third grade” in the fall. Of course, I’ll be adding my own things here and there, and this doesn’t cover everything, including science, art, music, and handicrafts. I’ll write more about those in a bit.

These are the books Lillia will be reading during our trial (again, we own these but bought most of them used):

Ambleside List:
Our Island Story, by H.E. Marshall
Fifty Famous Stories Retold, by James Baldwin
Parables from Nature, by Margaret Gatty
Aesop’s Fables for Children, by Milo Winter
Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling
A Child’s Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Paddle to the Sea, by Holling C. Holling
Burgess Bird Book, by Thornton Burgess (we also love his other books about animals and have many from the Dover paperback series)
The Blue Fairy Book, by Andrew Lang

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Filed under Books, Methods

Getting Started: Research

Since we have talked on and off about homeschooling for a couple of years now, I have had plenty of time to think about what “philosophy,” if any, we might use to educate our daughter.

While I was, at first, drawn toward Waldorf education, my daughter was (self-taught) reading chapter books by the time she was six. I didn’t see how an educational philosophy that didn’t even begin to teach reading in a formal way until third grade would work for her. But, there are some things I love about Waldorf, like the “real work” and home arts — baking, sewing, knitting, etc — and so I will be using some of them in our program. I also have a lot of books and materials leftover from my daughter’s year at a Waldorf kindergarten, and from a Waldorf-based professional development course that I took several years ago.


Lillia at her Waldorf kindergarten May Day celebration.

I’m also intrigued by something called Place-Based Education, which is a method for teaching children using the local environment as a classroom. We have a conservation area right behind our house, which consists of a pond and miles and miles of hiking trails. I can’t wait to implement some of the Place-Based Education activities using our own yard, and extended spaces beyond it.

may7lilandzane copy

My kiddos engaged in unintentional Place-Based Education.

Most recently, I came across the work of Charlotte Mason, and I fell in love! Using literature to teach core subjects? Genius! I think this approach will work especially well for our daughter, who is a very advanced reader. I’m also looking forward to helping her improve her handwriting with “copywork.” I found a link to this site that allows you to create your own copywork sheets using print or cursive handwriting. I already made our whole three week’s worth, and it only took me about 20 minutes or so this afternoon. I’m also definitely going to do nature journaling with Lillia, which kind of goes hand in hand with the Place-Based Education, if you ask me.

I try to do what I can to avoid being dogmatic, about anything in life, really. That was one of the reasons why we left the Waldorf school system. I had questions, and I felt it was frowned-upon to ask questions. We were just supposed to accept what Rudolf Steiner said as law. Personally, I want the freedom to choose what feels right, using my intuition and my intellect as a guide. I would love to hear from anyone who uses any of these methods, or who has created a hodge-podge of theories.


Filed under Methods