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What Our Homeschool Looks Like this Year

This year we have taken on a Charlotte Mason flavour to our home school. I have always looked on with admiration at the method, but never knew quite how to go about the method with children of multiple ages. One friend who I look up to as a Charlotte Mason devote told me that they introduced things bit by bit over the years, not trying to do everything at once. With this knowledge I have moved in that direction. We do not rigorously follow a Charlotte Mason curriculum but have taken little steps in that direction. Introducing Charlotte Mason for the boys I have used the book list found on Linda Fay’s excellent website Charlotte Mason help. I find her curriculum less daunting than the one found on Ambleside Online, although this is still an excellent resource and I use it frequently. For the boys I am starting them all, regardless of age, on the history books listed for Year 1. The reading list here, even for my nearly 10 year old has something for each boy to take something away from. We read the material and then do dictation based on the material read. This is adapted for the different boys. The younger boys use the year 1 material for general literature reading and poetry. Whereas for Noah I have used some of the material from the year 3 schedule. This seemed a good place for him to begin, however I do not use the history books for him here. He is also doing Apologia Science this year, he chose to study Astronomy, and he is enjoying it. The boys also do copy work year day, Noah from the Bible, and Jude from a free printable booklet off of Simply Charlotte Mason. For maths the two older boys are using Galore Park maths books, and Thomas who is just starting this year is doing the Maths Enhancement Program, this is a free curriculum devised by the University of Plymouth. I still do a little text book work for the boys. Thomas is doing the Jolly Phonics program, and Jude Jolly Grammar. Noah is using Galore Park Junior English books- I have not been brave enough to leave the text books totally behind. The younger boys are also doing Mystery Science, a free online science program. Starting Secondary “School” Rebekah who is now of an age for secondary school, has started using Omnibus books. These are a very comprehensive series of books which teach history and literature from source texts. The books are written from a classical perspective. She...

Treating Children as “Persons”

My big boy approached, head down, shoulders slumped, face downcast. What has happened? Has he fallen out with someone? Did he get himself in trouble? These questions run through my head. As he approaches I ask how his morning has been. “They treated me like a baby!” came the sullen reply. Oh! He had spent the morning taking part in the children’s ministry at a conference. I try to sooth the offence, pointing out that there are younger children there too. As the day goes on he expounds on what it means to be “treated like a baby”. The verb that best encapsulates this is “to patronise”. And it is all to common when we look at the things on offer for children. Language is dumbed down, those working with children are unnaturally excitable, praise is offered for the least little thing- it’s all so false. We live in a culture where there is an attitude that things have to be dumbed down to make them palatable to children. So many books in the kids section of the library or book store are filled with inane drivel. Children see through this. When we treat children as persons they rise to the challenge. Talking to children normally i.e. as people, listening to them with intent. Reading books that make them think. A good rule of thumb when picking a book: if you can’t stand reading it, don’t expect them to enjoy having it read to them. When I was lately reading more about Charlotte Mason’s educational ideas, one of her basic principals is that children are born persons. This idea resonated with me. It is something that I have come over the years to find true with all my children. Young children ask profound questions, they may not frame them in the sophisticated language of an adult, but they are truly profound. Their questions deal with very things of life, questions of eternity. Their questions clothe their hopes and fears. And we do well to treat them as precious. Lately I heard a prophet prophecy over a group of children, they were aged from babies right up. As this man of God spoke into these young lives it struck me that God knew the deepest thought of these children. He knew the fears of the youngest child, and to God these were precious and as relevant as any adults fears. God cares about children’s questions, hopes and fears. God does not regard them as less important, or as inferior because they do not come from the mind of a “grown-up”....

Quality Literature vs. “Twaddle” for Children...

Anyone familiar with the Charlotte Mason curriculum will know that she believes in high quality literature as the only source of reading for children and warns against the evils of “twaddle”. Twaddle does not seem to have any clearly defined perimeters, but can be thought of as badly written rubbish, books without much value, and abridged versions of great works of literature. So for today’s children that would discount A LOT of children’s books. Although I do find almost any book written that comes from a cartoon, or Disney movie is badly written trash. Now I do believe that it’s important to expose and encourage a child to read the best quality books as possible, I think there is something far more important… a general love of reading. I have two children who come in at two extremes of the reading spectrum. The Girl LOVES reading! She will read anything, and is naturally very good… something I contribute to blessed genes more than anything else. Her brother, The Jedi Boy, although able to read well enough for his age, does not have his sister’s love of reading. For him, at this time, the important thing is to grow in confidence and slowly nurture that love for reading I want him to carry. He may never want to read War and Peace (well, you never know!!), but I want him to grow into a young man who will read for pleasure! His sister at this rate will be working on War and Peace by the age of 10! The Jedi boy is not happy to just sit and listen to just any story (even now The Girl will happily listen into her 4 year old brothers bedtime stories), The Jedi Boy needs to WANT to listen. He needs to be interested in the book. And I have found he seems to like these abridged versions of great works of children’s literature (how Miss Mason would frown). He wants books that are interesting for his mind, but nothing too long, too taxing. And if he is enjoying books is that not what’s important. In a culture where boys “don’t do reading”, should we not encourage the times they find books they want to read? Children are good at challenging our dogma, and testing what is really important. With regards to reading, fundamentally the best thing we can give our children is confidence in reading, and a love of reading: what they read will develop over time and in accordance with their personality. And I can only hope in a few years...
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