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A Day in the Life of a Charlotte Mason Homeschooler: Bethany

Story 2: Bethany

Kids Ages: 9, 7, 4
Style: Charlotte Mason

Last fall, my family took a road trip throughout Washington and Oregon. One day, while visiting Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, I heard my 7 year old shout “Mom! It’s my friend Sacajawea!!”. Sure enough, there was a statue of the bravest Native American woman we know of, standing proud, yet with a kind face, with her baby on her back.

Our family values well written literature. We use history as a base for all other learning. From Kindergarten to 12th grade, my children will go through 2 cycles of 6 years of history (Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Medieval/Renaissance, Early Modern and Modern history) for both US and World history. We spend time with people and places of the past so that very quickly, they become cherished old friends.

Our Approach

Children are born persons. They deserve dignity and respect. Children are not empty vessels waiting to be filled by a teacher more knowledgeable than they. Instead, children are born with abilities, an imagination and a thirst for learning. We must educate the entire person, not just the mind. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

These are the profound yet simple ideas which Charlotte Mason shared with the world in her 6 book series. She was an education reformer in England during the late 1800’s.  Charlotte Mason believed in a liberal education for all! In those days, children who were born poor were not expected to climb up from that social and economic rung. Their education suffered for it. Charlotte Mason entered public schools in England, did away with dry textbooks and brought in the arts, music, nature study, poetry, and much more play.

Our family spends equal amounts of time on mathematics, writing, reading, Shakespeare, poetry, and becoming acquainted with composers and artists throughout the ages. We spend a minimum of 2 hours outside every day and makes notes of the changes we see in nature throughout the seasons. My children keep a nature journal and can identify birds by their songs.

Instead of textbooks, we read living books; books that ignite the mind and give the children living ideas that would last a lifetime. Living books require that children think for themselves. Answers or facts are not being spoon fed. Instead of reading a quick paragraph on Haley’s Comet, we’ll spend 12 weeks reading multiple biographies on Haley. We’ll find out that he and Sir Isaac Newton were contemporaries and they’ll become some of our dearest friends 🙂

“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.”
This is the reason we clothe ourselves with Value Village finds, haha! Lucky for us, Value Village is an excellent place to find cheap living books.

In lieu of workbooks, we study maps and then draw them later from memory. We learn grammar through learning Latin, and spelling skills are learned by reading excellent literature, making notes of the words we don’t understand and practicing them in our copy workbook. We begin a second modern language in 1st grade and add a third in middle school.

This may sound like a lot, and it kind of is!! My 4th grader covers 24 subjects in a week! The material we cover is similar to that in a Classical Education, but the method couldn’t be more different. There is no emphasis on memorization, but instead, children come to their books excited to go on an adventure. The emotional connections they make while discovering new people and places is top priority, not just memorizing facts. From an early age, children are making connections on their own, thus leading the way.

“The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”  Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of children playing, observing and exploring their natural world in the early years. Formal education does not begin until 6 or 7 years old. She was the first to see the educational potential of “scouting” applied to children. Mason organized scouts groups for both boys and girls and thus began the scouting movement.

“…my object is to show that the chief function of the child–his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life–is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses…”  Charlotte Mason

A Common Day

So what does a typical Charlotte Mason education day look like? For us in this season, with 3 children 9-4 years old, it looks quite lovely! Our year is split into 3 terms of 12 weeks each. Each term, we have a new poet, composer, artist, Shakespeare play and personal habits that each person is working towards (habits like fortitude, truthfulness, manners, discipline, etc). We begin our morning with Bible and poetry. Then, while the 4 year old plays, the older boys spend 2 hours practicing their French, cursive handwriting skills and their math facts. Those 2 hours also give them ample time to read a chapter in a biography, their literature for that week, and a science reader. They also enjoy recording their historical “friends” in our family Book of Centuries. Around lunch, we try to take a quick nature walk and record animals or plants in our nature journals. The day is structured, yet flexible. I curate their materials, but the children lead the way. We do have 2 scheduled hikes (1-3 miles) each week. Bellingham is the perfect place to implement a Charlotte Mason education!

Additionally, I work through a number of books each term. We read aloud together about 2 hours a day. Sometimes that’s during a meal, or snack time. Sometimes it’s to ward off witching hour and we’re always reading to them at bed time. We love authors like the D’Aulaires and Jean Fritz for biographies and history, Holling for geography, Ruth Heller for grammar and so many more!!! Remember, there are very few workbooks and no textbooks (like Usborne books with bits of facts in them, although those are great for reference), so our house is filled with baskets, shelves and stacks of books.

Afternoons are purposefully left open for free reading, free play, creativity and connecting all of those beautiful ideas they’ve discovered in their morning learning. We work on handicrafts like sculpting, sewing, woodworking, origami, and gardening. We also leave afternoons open for playing with friends and music lessons or our co-op classes.

A Charlotte Mason education is built around a reverence for God, but there are great secular curriculum out there as well. Montessori, Waldorf and Classical methods all have elements of Charlotte Mason in them.

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