I’ve been doing unit studies since we started homeschooling almost seven years ago. You’ve all seen how much fun we’ve had following Five in a Row and making our own literature-based studies. But then, my eldest got older (she’s nine now, gasp!), I had a new baby, and I’m doing a lot at home, that I lost a bit of my homeschool footing.
I was tired all the time and was just trying to keep a semblance of a homeschool routine. We could only go so far with a haphazard schedule that revolved around when the baby was asleep and milking!
I felt that I was doing my two older kids a disservice by not being consistent and for not having the time to think of what would really be best for their educational needs.
Enter Charlotte Mason
When I learned about Charlotte Mason (CM), met some moms who follow her philosophy of education, and explored it some more, I decided to take a leap of faith. It was at least something that I could do to make a change in our homeschool, which was badly wanted and needed.
I’m very grateful for the support of fellow CM moms Gina of Our Living Learning and my TLB partner Sanne in those early days. To pay forward their generosity, I’m sharing here how we transitioned to the CM philosophy.
For those who haven’t heard of Charlotte Mason, she was a 19th century educator who believed that the whole person of a child must be educated, and not just his mind. In short, it’s not just about academics. (Click here to know more about Charlotte Mason.)
Charlotte Mason promised (through Gina!) that our homeschool would be organized, short, and rich. I held on to that promise and decided to go for it.
1. I read everything I could to get a grasp of what the philosophy is about
The CM philosophy is not just about its well-known methods and classic book lists. It’s a philosophy, a set of beliefs about children and how they should be educated.
I started by reading the FAQ’s of Ambleside Online, as recommended by Gina. From there I looked at other free resources: Mater Amabilis, a CM-style curriculum for Catholics, and Simply Charlotte Mason, which has a lot of FREE ebooks about the philosophy.
During this research period, I got more convinced that it is for us… or that it was at least worth trying. Everything I’ve read so far appealed to me and I wanted to give it a shot.
Several months into it, I’m now slowly working through Charlotte Mason’s actual work. There’s nothing like going straight to the source, right? Everything that I’ve read are just interpretations of various homeschool moms and educators, and I want to truly understand what I’m getting my kids into.
2. I worked on myself first
More than just school “subjects” and its “living” book list, CM is about education being, in Charlotte Mason’s words, “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” (Here’s a free ebook about it on Simply Charlotte Mason.)
From my readings, I realized I really had to get my act together for my children even though I have an infant to take care of. I quit my job four years ago to do this, so I have to do this! I wanted to be true to my why.
As I reflected on what was making it difficult for me to make our learning time automatic and doable day after day after day, it dawned on me that my disorganization and daily unpreparedness were the main culprints.
I also identified my children’s late bedtime as an issue that must be resolved. So, my husband and I worked to re-establish a bedtime routine, which is earlier and more consistent. We decided to keep ourselves from working (or fiddling with our gadgets) while the kids are still awake.
3. I just followed the prepared curriculum
My mother-in-law once told me that when learning how to cook something new, it’s best to first follow a recipe to the letter before tweaking it according to my taste. I find this to be true in most things that I’m learning.
So, I focused on the hallmarks of a CM education – short lessons, living books, narration, and habits training. (Please do read the Ambleside Online FAQ for what these are!)
Instead of winging it and picking and tweaking, I deduced that I should just first follow the free curriculum by Ambleside Online. It helps too that most of the books on their booklist can be found for free on Main Lesson. This had made the transition easy for all of us as we learned how to focus and to do narration, the biggest “thing” in CM.
By working on those first, I was able to re-start our homeschool without being too overwhelmed.
4. I skipped the “sauce”
Charlotte Mason, the educator, believed in presenting children with a feast of ideas to grow on. So, other than the “core subjects” taught using living books, a CM education also gives children picture study, nature study, composer study, map work, poetry, hymns, handicrafts, folk songs, etc.
Those are known as “riches” in CM circles. In my cooking analogy, however, let’s call it the “sauce” of this generous education philosophy.
To keep myself from being overwhelmed, I chose to exclude those first. I don’t know what my mother-in-law would say about skipping the sauce, but I first needed to learn the main dish!
5. I did the work and just showed up
It seemed overwhelming at first, what with numerous books to read each day. I was afraid that it would take a lot of time to plan. But since I decided to do it, I thought I should JUST do it.
I made myself sit down and plan our lessons on a weekly basis. Lesson Trek, an online lesson planning tool, allows me to just copy, paste, and print my plans week in, week out. I learned that reading those numerous books is essentially just picking up from where we left off the last time!
But there’s such a thing called pre-reading, which is essentially reading all those books before reading them with or to your child. It gives you a grasp on what they’re narrating and will allow you to answer questions that they may ask.
But yes, yes, I’ve gone into our school day without reading anything beforehand, and I survived. But I find it important to pre-read so I won’t listen to my kids narrate with glazed eyes. So, I learned to squeeze pre-reading time while I’m nursing my baby or waiting for my kids in their various enrichment activities… in addition to my crochet hobby!
We’re now on our third term of CM education, and I’m loving it everyday. As promised by Charlotte Mason (again, through Gina!), our homeschool days are now more organized, shorter, and definitely richer!
To cap off this blog post, let me list down the resources that I use to learn more about classical, and specifically Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschooling:
- What is the Charlotte Mason method?
- Ambleside Online – “a free homeschool curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason’s classically-based principles to prepare children for a life of rich relationships with everything around them: God, humanity, and the natural world”
- Mater Amabilis – a Charlotte Mason style curriculum for Catholics
- Free ebooks on Simply Charlotte Mason
- Our Living Learning – a local inspiring blog about implementing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods here in the Philippines
- Home Education by Charlotte Mason – Kindle version
- Your Morning Basket podcast – I love this podcast about the details of classical and Charlotte Mason homeschooling! Full of ideas and inspiration.
- Main Lesson – a repository of free classic books (free because they’re already out of copyright)