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Continuing a summary of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles, we arrive at number 3:

If you need to go back and read about the first 2 principles, click here.

3. The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental

Notable: When Charlotte discusses this principle in Volume 6, it’s striking that she mentions The War.

Her first book on education was written in 1905. Volume 6 was 1922 – after she had seen the devastation of the first World War. It’s hard to overstate how surprisingly terrible this war was to people alive at the time. People suspected that Europe had reached a time of such peace, and humanity was on a trajectory that war was impossible. So 20 million deaths was unthinkable, but that’s exactly what happened.

The war informed Charlotte’s later ideas. 

And onto number 3:

She makes a point that authority is necessary to society. When we are under a proper authority, and obeying that authority, we are the most free. A Tim Keller sermon illustration that stuck with me is of a fish that wants to be free to walk on the land, but he is only actually free when he follows the rule to stay in the water. That’s what these ideas remind me of.

Charlotte says:

“Without this (authority), society would cease to cohere. Practically there is no such thing as anarchy; what is so-called is a mere transference of authority, even if in the last resort the anarchist find authority in himself alone. There is an idea abroad that authority makes for tyranny, and that obedience, voluntary or involuntary, is of the nature of slavishness; but authority is, on the contrary, the condition without which liberty does not exist and, except it be abused, is entirely congenial to those on whom it is exercised: we are so made that we like to be ordered even if the ordering be only that of circumstances. Servants take pride in the orders they receive; that our badge of honour is an ‘Order’ is a significant use of words. It is still true that ‘Order is heaven’s first law’ and order is the outcome of authority.

That principle in us which brings us into subjection to authority is docility, teachableness, and that also is universal. If a man in the pride of his heart decline other authority, he will submit himself slavishly to his ‘star’ or his ‘destiny.’ It would seem that the exercise of docility is as natural and necessary as that of reason or imagination; and the two principles of authority and docility act in every life precisely as do those two elemental principles which enable the earth to maintain its orbit, the one drawing it towards the sun, the other as constantly driving it into space; between the two, the earth maintains a more or less middle course and the days go on.”

I’ve heard some folks mistakenly say that the Charlotte Mason method is “child-led.” It’s certainly not that, and this principle should illustrate the point. The child is under the authority of the teacher. The child should understand that the teacher is under the authority of God and that they are both under the authority of God.

Principle 4:

4. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.

The delicate balance of teaching from authority and having children willfully obey and learn the first time, is something I have not mastered. But, going back to the first principle, “Children are born persons:” when you treat children with respect, they are far more likely to respect you back. Put knowledge in his hands, don’t force it down his throat and see what happens.

There’s no need to use fear or manipulation. 

This also reminds me very much of the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. I read it when my oldest was young and it influenced my parenting so much that I’m sure it’s one reason I’m draw to the CM method. I used to get it for every new mom. If you haven’t read it, stop and read it now.

So – authority and obedience should be natural but children are not puppies – Children are persons and should be treated with respect.

 

Here’s a principle that may ruffle some feathers, but stick with me here:

2. Children are not born bad but with possibilities for good and for evil.

At first glance, it might seem like Charlotte is talking about original sin, or, rather, a lack of original sin, but it’s actually more like a call not to be prejudiced against children for socio-economic status. Remember the part in Oliver Twist when Mr. Grimwig insists that Oliver will swindle Mr. Brownlow simply because Oliver was thin and poor? This is the exact culture that Charlotte Mason was raised in. When she went to teaching school, these prejudiced ideas were likely the norm.

Charlotte saw for herself that children from many backgrounds could be positively influenced by a proper education.

BUT – VERY IMPORTANT HERE: She did not mean attaching a “moral” to every story or lesson. In fact, she says in Volume 6:

“As for moral lessons, they are worse than useless; children want a great deal of fine and various moral feeding, from which they draw the ‘lessons’ they require. It is a wonderful thing that every child, even the rudest, is endowed with Love and is able for all its manifestations, kindness, benevolence, generosity, gratitude, pity, sympathy, loyalty, humility, gladness; we older persons are amazed at the lavish display of any one of these to which the most ignorant child may treat us. But these aptitudes are so much coin of the realm with which a child is provided that he may be able to pay his way through life; and, alas, we are aware of certain vulgar commonplace tendencies in ourselves which make us walk delicately and trust, not to our own teaching, but to the best that we have in art and literature and above all to that storehouse of example and precept, the Bible, to enable us to touch these delicate spirits to fine issues.” 

Tying a story up with a nice moral “bow” completely takes away the magic of the story and doesn’t let the story do it’s work on the child. Imagine finishing Charlotte’s Web, children tearing up, and as you close the book saying, “Now remember kids, it’s important to be a kind friend.” Or, “If you wake up early, you might get to raise a pig.” Or “There can be redemption in grief.” Those are all things that one could pull from the text, but spelling it out for the child is *you* doing the work and taking the opportunity away from the child to draw their own conclusion.

Interestingly, even Aesop’s Fables, I have heard, did not originally include the “morals” at the end of each tale. So, when we read the stories, I always leave off the “moral,” and instead, we talk through what happened in the story. Often, the child will work out a perfectly fine conclusion on her own. And if she doesn’t, let the story marinate. The story will always be tucked away in the back of her mind to recall as needed. 

Let the child do the work. Trust that the Holy Spirit will do the work.

 

Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. After some time teaching, she became ill and this gave her plenty of time to think and write about education. In 1905, she wrote “Home Education” which included 18 principles of education and in 1922, she wrote “Towards a Philosophy of Education” which revised those principles and added 2 more. (There were 4 more books in the middle of these titles, which I’m sure I’ll discuss later.)

For the next several weeks, I will review those 20 principles and explain how they work out in real life. I’ve used these principles in our homeschool and also in my church/tutoring classes.

  1. Children are born persons.

This is simple, but some educational systems and adults completely overlook this fact. I will give some examples:

Often, I have been talking with a child and an adult will walk up and interrupt as if what the child is saying is not important.

I have seen adults hear the words children say, but not really listen and not care to understand.

I have seen adults discount children’s hopes/fears/interests.

If you believe a child is a real person, you will:

Talk to the child like a person. 

Treat even young children like they are important by what you say and do.

Trust the child to do the work of his or her education.

In Charlotte’s own words:

“This is, briefly, how it works:––

A child is a Person with the spiritual requirements and capabilities of a person.

Knowledge ‘nourishes’ the mind as food nourishes the body.

A child requires knowledge as much as he requires food.”

 

We don’t do children any favors by watering down learning material for them. They need good nourishment and all we have to do is put them in touch with age-appropriate readings/ideas for them to take in as they will. Ambleside Online does an excellent job sorting great books into age/grade-appropriate groups if you need some ideas. In general, children are capable of understanding much more than you think.

Examples: In my church classes, I have taught two different ways. At times, I have read the Bible passage myself, then used puppets, stick figures, or drawings to explain what happened to a group of children. This is fine. The children are often able to repeat back what I said and repeat back the inferences I made in my lesson. There’s a time/place for this type of teaching.

The other way I teach, more often, is: I read the passage ahead of time, but for the actual lesson, I do a few minutes of scaffolding (i.e. What is leprosy? How were taxes collected in Rome? What would it be like to be disabled in the first century?) Then I read the actual Bible to the children without my commentary. Every few verses, I ask, “What’s happening here?” The children jump in and are usually excited to tell back what they heard. 

Then, the most amazing thing happens: as they tell back what they heard, the children make their own connections and add their own commentary. The most striking example was with a 7-year-old girl telling about Genesis 3, The Fall. When she told back, “They ate the apple and started to die,” she added, “It’s like the apple was poison for their bodies. The sin is poison.” A 7-year-old girl. And it was one of her first times narrating in this way.

Whoever does the work learns. When we let children be the persons they are, and we let the children do the work, they will learn and reason more effectively than when we step in and do the work for them.

Children are, indeed, born persons. 

Summer Goals

Summer Reading | Book It

  • Lots of Splash Pads
  • Lots of Swimming Pools
  • Keep some structure
  • Catch up on a few school-ish items
  • Book-it Free Pizza

 

The lovely thing about the summer, for public school kids, is they are home! So you can do more to incorporate the family culture you desire because you have your kids with you more.

 

Some recommendations: 

Pick one composer and listen to their music for a little bit every time you’re in the car, in the evenings when you’re making dinner, or when everyone is getting ready for bed. Every once in a while, mention the name of the composer and what song is playing. Don’t overdo it! Just make this composer that you like part of your culture. 

Pick three great classic movies that you want your kids to watch. Plan one movie night per month to introduce them to your favorite films.

Pick a classic book to read in the mornings or evenings. 

Let your kids pick a country on the map. Learn about what the people there eat, how they dress, what music they like – let the kids prepare a meal from that country. 

Summer Plans


We do not do official school year-round. Some families do, and that’s fine. But we need an extended break and we do that in the summer time. 

However, we need structure and a schedule or else we feel crazy. So our summer days include a “morning time” that is a bit less intense than our normal “morning time.” It’s time for Summer Homeschool Plans….

In the summer, we will:

  1. Read Proverbs
  2. Read scheduled Bible passages from Ambleside Online.
  3. Read Animal Farm and Watership Down.
  4. Finish Robin Hood.
  5. Finish Lord of the Rings.

I pick these books because they are coming up quick on my kids’ curriculum and if we read them in the summer, it frees up time during the school year.

We will also work on little skills that need work…(I’m looking at you, copywork.)

Every homeschool family I know does summer a little differently. We need lots of time for my full work schedule and the kids need a break from some things (like math and Latin). 

“You have to do what works for your family.”

Summer Reading

Book It

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Science, Nature Study, and Charlotte Mason

Maybe the most common question I get after “What curriculum do you use?” is “What about science?” There’s a bit of a misconception out there about Charlotte Mason and her approach to science. People think she was light on science, maybe because she was so heavy on literature. 

The thing to keep in mind is: the Charlotte Mason method says that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Just because we aren’t pulling our hair out trying to make random science experiments work or buying expensive science curriculum does not mean we are not learning biology, chemistry, physics and more.

There are several ways we incorporate science in our lives:

Nature Study

Charlotte recommended hours and hours of outdoor time in the afternoons after lessons are completed.

This is so special and also impossible for our family (and I suspect yours, too.) We do school in the mornings and our afternoons are full of dance lessons, church, and work commitments. 

But one morning a week, we meetup with a small group and visit a local park. We are fortunate to have a one nearby park that is entirely nature-focused. There’s a creek to play in, paths to hike, a few fishing ponds. It’s really great.

12-week Focus

If we just took nature in as we found it, we would find a great deal: trees, birds, bugs…But there are so many things out there so:

12 weeks at a time, we pick a nature topic from Anna Cromstock’s Book of Nature Study. Usually we follow along with the plan at Amblesideonline.org.

During that 12 weeks, we seek out opportunities to learn about our topic. For example, last term, we learned about Rocks and Minerals so we reached out to a local Gem and Mineral Club and discovered they offer a free kid’s class on Geology. Next term, we will learn about fish, so we will visit an aquarium and go fishing. 

Memberships

One educational investment we make is memberships to our local museums and zoos – but a membership to all of them at the same time is not financially feasible – so if there happens to be a location that is specific to our 12-week focus, we will pick up a membership for that location.

For example, mammals and reptiles were both on our nature study list for last year, so we made sure to get a membership to our zoo. This year, since one focus is fish, we will get a membership to our state park so we can fish/camp easily.

When it’s time to learn about flowers, head to the arboretum or invest in some new flowers for your own garden. Let the kids pick them out and help plant them.

Science experiments

In my experience, when we’re doing a mom’s-idea science experiment, mom is the one doing all the work, the kids are not very interested, and half the time, the experiment doesn’t work anyway. However, the times my kids got an idea and wanted to try something out, the whole situation turned around. They were the ones searching for experiment ideas. They were the ones gathering supplies. They were the ones excited about seeing the results. And if it failed, they were the ones trying to figure out what went wrong and trying again.

Whoever does the work, learns. This is not child-led education. There are plenty of ways to get a kid wondering about a science topic to the extent that they ask a question that requires an experiment. And those are the science moments they will remember.

 

In Summary

It may sometimes look like science learning is not happening, but that’s just because there are no worksheets and vinegar volcanos (although, we did make a vinegar volcano once…). When nature and all the science that comes with it is a normal part of your life, the learning comes naturally.

Poetry

Filling your children’s heads and hearts with poetry is one of the most important things you can do. No one is bored when they have a poem to recite. Internalizing those rhythms and rhymes will help with writing and style later in life. Here is what we do for poetry time each morning.

Who: We chose poets based on what year our children are studying at Ambleside Online. Over the years, we have read Mother Goose, A.A. Milne, John Dunbar, James Riley-Whitcomb, Longfellow, Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter De La Mare, Emily Dickenson, and many more.

 

What: Most of the years, Ambleside has a free, printable list of poems on their website. Some years we have printed the list and read from it. Other years, we have bought a small collection of poems from Half Priced Books. 

We study the same poet for 12 weeks.

How: First, we read one poem per day by our poets. It can be that simple and still be effective. 

If there is a good, short biography on our poet, we may add that.

If we are feeling very creative, we might pick a poem and do an art project inspired by the piece.

We have also had seasons of life that we hosted a Poetry Hour at our home. We picked a poet, had friends over to read a few of his/her poems aloud, and did a small project based on the poems we liked (like painting a rock about our poem, for example.) It helped us to focus on a poet and allowed some kids to recite their poetry in front of peers. Fun all around.

Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason


This is the issue. My husband and I speak Spanish. Spanish was my minor in college. You would think it would be easy for me to teach Spanish to my kids just by talking to them and letting them “pick it up.” But you would be wrong.

Spanish is not my husband’s nor my native tongue and we didn’t want our kids growing up internalizing bad Spanish – so we’re using a simple curriculum, with several aids along the way, to help them learn to communicate with their neighbors.

Charlotte Mason and Foreign Language

CM encourages French

Alot of CM guides will recommend French as a second language. I’m fairly certain this is because Miss Mason lived in England and their closest neighbors were the French.

I did, in fact, let my daughter try to learn French one year. I bought a simple curriculum and tried to help her along – but…I don’t speak French and did not care to learn. My daughter did not have any French speakers to practice with – so now she’s back on Spanish like the rest of us.

We live in Texas

Applying the CM principles to our own lives, we can look and see who our nearest neighbors are and learn their language.

Our closest neighbor is Mexico and we attend a bilingual church, so Spanish made sense for our family. My kids get to practice with native speakers several times per week.

Many resources available

The truth is, whatever language you pick for your students to learn, there are so many resources available.

Charlotte Mason’s method is meant to mirror the way we learn our first language: hearing, speaking, and then writing.

The easiest book I have found is Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois.

Speaking Spanish

How we use Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason


Theme Phrase

Me Levanto

For example, on page 9 of our book, the phrase at the top is “Me Levanto” followed by some other phrases about getting up and dressed in the morning.

The weeks we did page, we acted out getting up, brushing hair, etc. while saying the words.

Secondary Topic

Dias de la Semana

The secondary topic for this page is the days of the week, so we practiced saying these days in Spanish.

We spend time reviewing previous topics as well. When we review the days of the week, we will do an art project – making a calendar with pictures of what we do on each day.

You Tube

Senor Jordan and Amigos

My kids learn alot through music and I am not creative enough to make up songs for every subject. 

Enter Senor Jordan and other You Tube creators like him. There is great content out there that can help your kids learn.

We spend a week or two on each page and go back to review every so often. I also own several children’s books in Spanish, and we pick one to read once a week or so. Reading the children’s book together is not my kids’ favorite activity, but it is helping them learn Spanish so we are sticking with it. 

Proverbs, Verses, and Catechism


Every morning, our first order of business is learning God’s Word.

Proverbs

There are 31 Proverbs in the Bible and, often, 31 days in a month.

Monday-Friday, we read the proverb that corresponds with that day of the month. By the end of the year, we’ve read all the proverbs multiple times.

We do:

Pray that God will help us understand and apply his word.

Stay as consistent as possible.

Let the Holy Spirit speak to each child.

Point out, very rarely, if one verse applies to a situation our family currently experiencing.

We do not:

Preach during Morning Time.

Point at each child and say, “Did you hear that? God says you’re being foolish!”

Play “catch up” and read extra if we missed a day.

Ambleside Online recommends King James Version, but our family uses ESV and CSV because we prefer them.

Proverbs

 

Foundation Verses Flip Book and Fighter Verses Binder

Bible Verses

We use two tools for deciding which Bible Verses to memorize. Both are from Truth:78

Foundation Verses – Desiring God used to sell small flip books with short Bible verses for young people to memorize. Now they are available through Truth:78.

Fighter Verses – Longer sections of scripture for older children and adults, also available through Truth:78.

We just read a few verses daily until most of us have memorized the verse. The memorized verses switch to “weekly” and we move on to more verses.

In theory, the joy of learning God’s word is a reward in itself. In practice, especially with my kids, a tangible reward helps. We buy small gifts from FiveBelow and when the kids memorize as many verses as they are old. (So the 7 year old gets a prize when he learns 7 verses.)

Truth78

 

New City Catechism

Catechism

Learning the catechism has been a great tool for my children to internalize truths about God.

Our family chose New City Catechism. They have a plethora of resources to help your family incorporate this tool in your morning time routine.

We used New City Catechism in our Sunday School a few years ago. It was amazing to see the children and teens make connections learn about God in this orderly, logical way.

We use the pdf that someone created. It does have a few typos but it would be too much work for me to redo the whole thing to add in missing a word or two so we use it as is. Plus, it’s free.

There’s also an app for you phone so you can work on your catechism on the go.

We learn the questions in the same way that we do the Bible Verses. Starting with Q1-Q5, we read them daily. As they get memorized, they move to a weekly rotation. At the end, we should be about to answer about 10 questions per day and get through the whole thing in a week.

New City

 

“Homeschool moms love planning more than the actual homeschooling.” — I’m not sure who said that, but sometimes it’s true.

Proverbs, Bible, Catechism are for everyone.

Spanish – We use Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois

Pilgrim’s Progress – we have an old copy. We may be switching to Dangerous Journey soon.

Poetry – We follow Ambleside’s poetry rotation depending on the year my kids are in.

Shakespeare – Ambleside Shakespeare Rotation. (Usually)

Free Read –  a book I pick that I want us to read aloud together.

Halliburton – His “Book of Marvels.”

Art Study – Ambleside’s Art Rotation – using a study guide from either Humble Place or Simply Charlotte Mason.

Composer – Reading a book about our composer, chosen from Ambleside’s Composer Study.

Art Instruction – You Tube Videos, usually connected to another topic. More on that later.

Geography – From from both Home Geography for Primary Grades by Long, and/or Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason 

Plutarch – We used Anne White’s Study Guides. This is aimed at my older kids, but the younger one listens, too.

Nature Study – Using Anne Comstock’s book as a guide plus the Ambleside Nature Rotation.

Dictation – For my oldest, we had to add Diction to the list so we would remember to do it.

Morning Time

This posts contains some affiliate links,

“Morning Time,” while not strictly Charlotte Mason, is an essential part of our homeschool. It’s the time that we read the Bible together, do any lessons that all the kids need, and review our day so everyone knows what to expect.

And this week I’m planning for next term.

To keep myself as organized as possible, I make a list of goals for each week. Ambleside runs 12 week terms, so I work in 12 week chunks.

I print one page for each week. Each pages as a “daily” section and a “weekly section.” We do the daily items daily and try to get in 2 weekly items per day.

Daily sample:

Proverbs

Bible Verses

Catechism

Spanish-imperatives

Pilgrim’s Progress (10 pages per week)

Poetry – Whitcomb-Riley and Whittier

Shakespeare – Two Gentlemen – 1 scene per day

Two from weekly list

Free Read

Weekly sample:

Halliburton

Art Study – Botticelli

Composer – Bach

Art Instruction –  TBD

Geography – TBD

Plutarch-Pompey

Nature Study – soil/erosion

Dictation (x3)

Look mysterious? Over the next few months, I’ll be posting more about each of our morning time activities. I hope these ideas may help you on your homeschool journey!

 

For an excellent podcast about morning time

Check out Cindy Rollins – The New Mason Jar or Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket. Both have seriously influenced my homeschool journey in a big way.

For further reading on Charlotte Mason

You can always read Charlotte’s words herself for free on the web, or check out Susan Schaffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake

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Be Still My Soul

Art Inspiration

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The first time I heard the hymn “Be Still My Soul,” I literally cried and texted my two oldest friends to tell them I wanted it played at my funeral. I’m not even kidding. It’s beautiful, insightful, and true.

The version I heard was by Page CXII and you can listen here, although there are several more versions online that are super good.

At our home, to do hymn study, we follow Ambleside Online’s monthly plan. I make a Spotify playlist with a few versions of the hymn of the month plus a couple of other songs that match thematically or musically. We listen throughout the month and learn the lyrics if we can. After you’ve heard the same song everyday for 30 days, you’ve pretty well got it.

Over the course of the year, we are familiar with 12 new hymns. If they are a good fit for our Sunday School class, we learn them there, too. Honestly, pouring deep, meaningful hymns into your life is nearly as good as learning a catechism. When the children I work with come back and tell me a hymn was stuck in their head all week, I know they hymn is doing it’s work.

In my own home, if I can tell my kids are really loving a certain song – maybe they request it or just really belt it out in the mornings- I will add it to our family hymn playlist. We listen to it in the car, usually if we are going somewhere in the mornings and need some peace. A slow, sweet hymn played at just the right moment can calm many nerves.

Then once per year, we go over the whole list as a family and see if anything needs to come off…except for Page CXVI’s Be Still My Soul. That one stays! Mom says.