… Charlotte Mason.
Hey guys, sorry I’ve been MIA for weeks. Blogging is my passion and it always will be, but I have been cheating on my blog with journaling. Homeschool journaling is a cross between a scrapbooking, a research paper, a sketch book and a journal. The book can be as personal or as shallow as one makes it. Naturally I bought books for every person in my family and 3 for myself. I like plain composition books for homeschool and Smash Books for personal journaling. When I get into something, I really get into it… so that’s what I’ve been doing with my blogging time. Journaling. Real paper, nice gel and felt pens, notes, scribbles, sketches, quotes, phrases, diagrams, and lists upon lists. Most of my journaling led to one place… Natural unit study, Charlotte Mason, literature based homeschooling. The more information I collected for my notebooks and the more I put together pages of beliefs and knowledge and all of those lists, the more I began to see just who I am as a homeschooler. It’s all tied in very closely with my spiritual beliefs, my mothering style and our lifestyle, but this post is almost purely about the academics of this thing we do called homeschooling.
It’s been the better part of a decade since I bought that very first A Beka and Sonlight curriculum for my budding little future president. I wanted to be thorough and so I bought everything. Over the next several years I would go on to collect another Sonlight core, 2 KONOS volumes, The Weaver, 4 Heart of Dakota bundles, Five in a Row, a ton of smaller curriculums, and this past year we used My Father’s World for the first time. I am a curriculum junkie. You name the homeschool company and I have probably tried at least one workbook from them. I get around. Our latest stint with My Father’s World started off really well, but after a few weeks I came to see that if I took this out and added that and if I used this book for this instead of that, the kids would get so much more from it… I tweaked the plans until it was no longer what I could even call My Father’s World’s curriculum anymore. And I do this every year. I end up dropping the instructor’s guide, adding a few of my own “tried and true” books and just going with the book lists and my trusty, well-worn Charlotte Mason manuals. With the exception of KONOS and Sonlight, I have found each Instructor Guide ever purchased to be a waste of my money, since it hinders us instead of inspires me. And that is what curriculum should do… inspire me to inspire my kids. Math is excluded from this statement as I found the math course which works and we have been following it since our second year homeschooling. Our math is based on the mastery approach (Singapore Primary/Miquon) as apposed to a spiral approach (Horizons). Both lovely programs as I have tried them all, but mastery certainly works better for my boys when it comes to math. It makes much more sense to the teacher in me as well, although I can understand the benefits of a spiral approach and why that would work for others. It’s such an individual and personal matter. What works for one does not work for another. That is why we have so many wonderful choices “out there” and I am grateful for all of the companies and families who work so hard to give us these choices.
We are now in our 7th year… by no means a veteran hs’er, but definitely a tad of wisdom under my belt. In my years of journaling I have found Charlotte Mason and her life’s work to be the philosophy and guidance that fuels our homeschool. And since journaling itself is strongly encouraged by Miss Mason I have been spending the last several weeks adjusting to what feels like a shedding of skin in our home education and revealing the refreshed and renewed vision set before us. Journaling/Notebooking/Lapbooking. We have done plenty of lapbooks, especially when we used Five in a Row. It was fun, engaging, and a style that fits like a glove with me and my artistic children. So as I journaled up a storm, once again going through my Charlotte Mason (and Ruth Beechick) companion books, it occurred to me that the one constant in all of my trial and errors has been the love of the book list. Every boxed up curriculum we purchase includes a large pile of living books. A living book (term coined by CM) is one written by an author who took special interest in his subject. The facts are presented in story form (so, textbooks are definitely not living books). The illustrator aims at accuracy. Living books, unlike compressed compilations of books, are saturated with ideas and convey information as well. My kids hate text books and thrive on living books. Twaddle bores them to death and they no longer read books that have been dumbed down with silly pictures and words obviously written and drawn by an adult who thinks that children are not intelligent enough to understand good writing. I can hardly take the credit for this as it was Sonlight who taught me and my children to listen, comprehend, and then narrate back what was read. This is how children learn. Try to do this with a book that is not a “living book” and you’ll notice the difference. Writing in which no human feeling enters is not literature, but a dry style of writing given to children in textbooks. Certainly not what I want for my boys. The reason I have been revisiting my collection of homeschooling classics is to brush up on my foundation as an educator. I am switching us over to notebooking/journaling/lapbooking in every subject.
* We do use workbooks; the close cousin of the textbook… I am aware of their value when used as a side supplement. When we tried the textbook method they were able to fill their heads with knowledge, but other than memorizing, they didn’t learn by thinking. The only textbook we use is in math. However, workbooks are a wonderful tool when used here and there. The workbooks we use compliment (and are purchased alongside)Sonlight’s language arts program… Explode the Code, Wordly Wise, MCP Phonics, and we use Rod and Staff Spelling- it’s very thorough. Sonlight’s spelling list always seemed like it was a year “behind” the reading level and Rod and Staff fit nicely as a substitute. The way Sonlight works is suited right to us… we pick the collection of books we want to read for “school” and they send the box of books along with a Charlotte Mason style LA pile of papers. Some of the pages are for mom to read and some are for the student. It’s never failed us. And my favorite part… we are simply notebooking our reading and writing when we “do” language arts.
“Words put together so as to make sense form what is called a sentence, and this is Lesson One in the study of grammar.” -Charlotte Mason
As we make the switch over to Notebooking (from here on out every time I write the word Notebooking, it includes “lapbooks and journaling” as well) as our main method of schooling, I will share bits from my “notebook” here on my blog. After much research I am confident that this will stop the endless cycle of buying unnecessary manuals year after year and driving myself crazy trying to turn something natural into a “school subject.” What do I mean by natural? First I’ll give a mini-explanation of CM’s style and then I really really want to share with you what we are doing with all of our living books. The entire time I was away from my blog putting together homeschool plans, I was super excited to get back with you to share them…
From Charlotte’s viewpoint, we need not depend on those “How to Write” books meant for our young students. Instead we put trust in their natural ability to communicate through the practice of narration. Oral composition (narration) in grades one, two, and three lays important groundwork in future reading and writing. Written narrations (the core of notebooking) begins at about ten yrs. old. By this time the student will have several years of narrating under his belt and writing will come as naturally as speaking. Charlotte Mason declared narration to be the most natural process for a child to learn to deal with words, with stories, and most importantly, with knowledge from books.
Reading. Writing. Time together. Taking notice… of everything… and recording it in their own words & sketches. Taking a concept and mastering it before moving on. Gradually becoming independent learners. This is the academic goal and this is why notebooking will work so well.
Each day the boys will open their composition book to a new page and write the date, the day of the week (I have two young boys still learning how to spell the days) and then they will record the day. The weather. The temperature, inches of rain, type of clouds in the sky, the time each of these recordings were made. They’ll note any classes, appointments, or anything special about the day. When we plant the garden again in the spring they’ll measure growth and changes in that as well.
Everyday they’ll have their Bible (I include all moral/missions-centered/and character reading under this heading) reading, their Literature reading (basically readers for younger kids and a reading list put together by me and Sonlight for Big Bird, and then they alternate between science and history notebooking each week. One day a week we work on the science lab or art/history project. My kids hate nature journaling the way Charlotte Mason describes it, but they have their own way of doing it so I let them journal a nature study their own way. Basically the same schedule as before, only this time we will use living books and notebooking.
Notebooking in homeschool takes a lot of words and a lot of time to explain, therefore I will be sharing the bulk of how it works and all the particulars in another post. This one is getting too long.
Thank you for reading and Happy Martin Luther King Day!! Off to write the second half of this post labeled #2… to be posted tomorrow.
Also, if you notebook/lapbook/journal your way through homeschool, please write to me! I want to connect. Thanks.