A Charlotte Mason Education
Catherine Levison
Cathy Duffy
"I found these books extremely practical and thoughtful."
A Charlotte Mason Education
Catherine Levison

Q and A 


Have a question? Send your questions to CatherineLevison@yahoo.com


Book Lists & Scheduling

Group Narrations & Unit Studies

Teaching Teens 

Dictation

Getting Children to Read

Chonological History & Schedules    

Transitioning from Textbooks

Kindergarten & Young Children



Book Lists & Scheduling


  • Dear Catherine, 
  • I have a question. I have read all three of your books and I think they are great! Your books are the reason I was introduced to CM and decided to stick with CM. The [3rd book] A Literary Education is a great list of books and info about them but I was wondering if you have ever compiled a schedule and booklist of what books you used for certain subjects and what age or grade you used them? My children are young, what books should I use for science and history?  Thanks again for the website and all the books! 


Yes I have lists of what books I used for what subjects and at specific ages. But that is all written in my planners that I’ve kept over the years.


One reason I didn’t write out an “age list” is because I had five children so we grouped together and covered the same topic. Meaning the six year old was learning and reading the same book as the eight year old, the thirteen year old, etc.


If you think of skills and topics as separate it helps you to make things practical. Skills are learning to how to read, write and progress in math, to name a few. Different children at different ages will naturally be at different levels. Spelling is another good example because it is an area where you need to direct the assignment according to the skill level of the child.


With knowledge based topics we would all cover the same thing from the same book regardless of my children’s varying ages. If my family is going to cover volcanoes then we will obtain some interesting books on that topic and cover it as a subject all together.


With skills we would have to cover the subject according to age level. Like math for example. My eight year old would have a math book for an eight year old. There is little doubt that he would need a book geared for his age group and unless he is gifted he would not be covering the same kind of math his sixteen year old sister is learning how to do.


I tried to help parents with age appropriate books by including the IRL, independent reading level in A Literary Education while knowing that read alouds would occur with younger children. In other words, little children are able to learn about George Washington from a book written to an older child or even an adult if it is read out loud to them. Sure, they might not catch everything in the book but they will understand the majority of the content and their vocabulary will be improved too. I also tried to help parents know what topics to cover at what age level with the national scope and sequence in the back of that book.


Charlotte Mason destroyed her curriculum yearly and if I wrote the kind of thing you are asking about I would be writing a curriculum rather than a book list. Mason didn’t think her methods revolved around a curriculum and she did not want teachers or parents becoming bored by the sameness. I’m not saying that writing a curriculum is bad, not at all. I write mine for my personal use, but like Charlotte I ignore it the next year and start fresh.


With children as young as yours, the sky is the limit. There are so many “living” books in the area of history and science designed for the young child you almost cannot go wrong. Just keep a couple of things in mind:


Is the book interesting? Will it promote the “love for learning?”


Should you happen to get a book that is too advanced for your children you can always hang onto it until they get a little older. Even if your family is not covering volcanoes, for example, you will still need plenty of reading material for them to practice their reading skills as they mature so it would not go to waste. I believe that armed with the book lists you have and being connected with other Charlotte Mason mothers online you will have more than enough resources to use with your children.


Thanks for the questions,

Catherine


Comments:

Catherine…I love the way you described that….topics and skills…I’m going to have to reread that one and make it stick! THANKS for that perspective!



Group Narrations & Unit Studies


  • Dear Catherine,
  • I’m really interested in learning more about the CM method, I’ve read both of your books and [another book] and I’m still a bit confused as to How I would incorporate CM’s methods using curriculum that I already have? We are using TOG this year and I really like it and would prefer to continue using it. Does this mean it would be better for me not to try to use CM’s methods? I know she wasn’t too keen on unit studies. How would I go about doing narrations with four kids? How short should the lessons be for a 9th, 8th and 5th grader? I was thinking 20min. for the 5th grader and 30min. for the 8th and 9th grader. Would they use these time limits for lit./history reading also? I have some more questions, but I thought I’d post these first.


To answer one of your questions this is how you do group narrations with four or more children when working all together. Read the material, or go on the field trip or anything in between, in other words cover the subject matter. The key is to not tell any of them which child you will call on. When the time for narration comes choose a child randomly, or make it appear as though it were random, and have only one narrate the information. All the other children will hear the narration, of course, and powerful thought processes will occur even to those children who are only listening to the narration. Within their own mind they may disagree or find that the key points being shared are not the key points they would have spoken. Much of the benefits of narration will still happen for them, they will remember the material better even when they are more passive during the narration. I know this happens when I listen to narrations. My mind protests to some degree as I listen and think of how I would have narrated the passage. As long as the brain is active and is concentrating on the material to be learned then everything is good. Not to mention, if the children do not know who will be called upon then all 4 have to listen and pay attention as if they will be called upon. Make sense?


As to short lessons with varying ages I think your own answer is correct. 20 mins. for the 5th grader and 30 or so for the 8th & 9th. And yes, the time limits, aka short lessons are for the history and lit reading as well.


I cannot answer any questions about TOG because I am not familiar with it. I can say that you are correct that CM is not “keen” on unit studies in every aspect. I think unit studies are beneficial when a topic is tackled and covered thoroughly, that is a good thing. The difference with CM topical studies and the standard unit study is that CM believes that life is connected and that children will very easily form connections (with very little effort). What that means is that Mom does not have to bend over backward “connecting” details in the unit study. Instead select a topic. such a bird species or historical period and study it hard and look at it from many angles. Connections will happen and coinciding events and documentaries and the like will be all around you. It’s just like learning a new word and then hearing and reading it all the time right after you found it.

Catherine



Teaching Teens 


  • Dear Catherine, 
  • Hi I have twin 14 year old daughters who I am now home schooling after having removed them from Public School. I am very attracted to using the Charlotte Mason method, but don’t find much info on teaching teens. I will say they are excellent readers, and we read excellent literature as a matter of course in our family, I have never appreciated twaddle. I would like them to narrate verbally and in writing however they have no experience of this and I am not sure how to start. I loathe the idea of using study guides and things for literature as I think it can lead to a total dislike of reading, so narration seems to fit the bill. My other big concern is science – how do I make sure they have a good science education – we looked at [something] but it was too text book for them and they did not find it appealing – however we are doing an Equine Science text book as my daughters have a great interest in horses and one of them wants to be a competitive rider and instructor when she is older. I want them to be well rounded and I feel somewhat pressured that as I am starting late, I cannot afford too many mistakes. I have to say that in all the years the girls were in public school they seldom had science or history, so those subjects are pretty new to them – also I have found math is sadly behind, so we will work on fixing that with a few good math books. I also wonder how you document this learning and then prepare it for a transcript – it is all a little baffling to me. I would really appreciate any advice you can give me.

  • Thanks in advance,
  • L L 


Wow, that is a lot of questions. Laugh. First of all I don’t intend to sound as if I’m a salesman for my book but….in my second book “More Charlotte Mason Education” I wrote everything I could ever think of about high school CM education in the high school chapter. That chapter will help you, I can tell by your questions. This book is in the library system, ask for a inter-library loan and read that high school chapter.


In the meanwhile I understand what you mean when you speak of not wanting to make mistakes. I understand completely because these next few years are going to fly by for you, and the teenage years will soon be over. You are off to a good start because you already avoid twaddle.


Narration and the older child is no different than with younger children. If they are inexperienced with “how” to do it then they have to learn through practice. Start with smaller quantities of reading material and make sure it is straight forward material and ask them to tell you what it said. If the twins are not excelling at that then try “catching” them at narration. In other words if they run into the kitchen and start telling you all about some documentary or phone call or event congratulate them on a great narration when they are done. Also, narrate for them on occasion. Read something and then just tell them it seems like your turn. Then narrate the material briefly, skim across the high points and make it look easy!! That will show them that it is not that difficult of a task.


Okay, the science question. I am asked this all the time for the older grades. First of all if either of them is going to be a scientist you would probably know that by now. They would be the kind of daughter that got A’s in chemistry and loved every science book she ever saw. You would know that she is going on to university and majoring in one of the sciences. What I am saying here is proved by what you write about the interest in horses. Helping her to pursue that interest is just that, helping her. She has already proven, or at least shown, her interest, your job is to aid her in that.


If any child is simply not interested in science or only nominally interested then proceeding with ordinary CM science should suffice. Read about astronomy from a whole book, or botany or get a really written biography about a scientist. That’s only the beginning though. Get outside all the time and do that nature sketching that is good science not just some Victorian pipe dream. The nature sketching teaches deep observation and how things really look. Charlotte Mason’s college students had to keep a garden according to botanical properties and they were made to continue the sketching. Don’t force the twins to sketch but make every opportunity for them to sketch.


Right now my family is studying evolution from Ken Ham’s prospective as our primary goal. However, we are involved with an on-going study in undersea life, other animals and the nature work and all of my children are teenager or above at this point.


Another thing about history and science not having been emphasized in their past education may well be due to the fact that those two areas are not highly valued on state assessment tests. All those IOWA basic skills tests and the like. Not always, but frequently those areas are neglected in testing and if teachers know that in advance then they do not worry about them as much. Not to mention those two areas are difficult to test for. What kind of questions do you craft to find out if the nation’s children are learning history? History is so huge that narrowing down a few “fill in the bubble” test questions is really difficult.


I like what you said about being well rounded, that is the goal!! Read Shakespeare and poetry and visit museums and take an art class. Read the sciences widely and go hiking and raised them to be well rounded, that is great that you want that for them.


Transcript keeping is fairly easy. My approach was to obtain a high school transcript and copy it. I had one of those in hand as I started high school with my oldest, plus I had their scope and sequence so I covered exactly the same topics they did, only I did it my way. Then end result was a good education and a professional looking transcript. Although only one person has ever asked to see it to date, it was worth compiling. I believe I wrote more about this in the second book as well. I also wrote a third book that is an annotated book list but in addition to that I wrote a national scope and sequence for all grade levels for the appendix. It’s titled “A Literary Education.”


I think that your questions are probably universal, although you seem to have a head start with your understanding, and that means that other mothers may have your exact questions and would benefit from them.


Thank you for writing,

Catherine Levison


Comments:

I am so grateful that you have written me such a wonderful reply, I feel much better now. I actually have your book “A Literary Education” and have a lot of the books in it. While I was still living in England I was able to get a lot of HE Marshall’s books and I got the “Fairyland of Science” and various others all through your recommendations (it is a blessing that they are now being reprinted for people to enjoy) – so we do have a big library of wonderful books – however, I guess I always felt it may not be enough especially with science – your words have helped me feel differently and I am encouraged as I know neither daughter wants to be a scientist. I studied History and Geography in college, I did it the boring way, but I love it none the less and I will enjoy digging into whole books with the girls on that, so that should work well. I will take all your suggestions on board and I hope to read the chapter in your second book soon. Many, many thanks for offering all the sound advice – I do very much appreciate it and I am sure my daughters will as well.

Sincerely,

L L



Dictation


  • Dear Catherine,
  • I met you briefly in the summer at the conference in Victoria. I have been very much enjoying your second book, “More Charlotte Mason Education”, which you recommended since I have been homeschooling a few years. I asked you a question about dictation, regarding one-time learning and selected dictation passages. You said that dictation should be assigned at the beginning of the week and then tested at the end, therefore putting the onus on the child to know what is coming and thereby avoid repeating sentence. However, I noticed in the appendix of the book that your schedules show dictation being done 4 or 5 times per week. Does this mean you assign more than one passage per week for testing, or that some dictation periods involve unseen material, while others involve previously studied passages? I have been using your suggested method with my girls since the beginning of the school year, giving an assigned passage on Monday and testing it on Friday. However, my kids are finding it tedious and boring. We have been using bible passages, which may explain some of their frustration, because there is allot of punctuation in this writing. Should I choose prose from a favourite book, or should I let them choose their own passage? I had just surmised that if we did bible for dictation that I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. What would you recommend? My girls are in grades 5 and 7. Also, I have a daughter in grade 3 but decided that she was too young yet for dictation. At what age do you recommend starting kids with dictation?
  • Thank you in advance for your time.


I will answer these by pulling out each question individually.


#1 Why is dictation scheduled every day of the school week if the assignment is given on Monday & the testing is done on Friday?


Answer: To allow the child time, each day, to work on it. The 10 to 20 mins. allowed on the schedule not only gives them time to work on the memorization of the passage but also serves as a reminder that they are responsible to have this thing done (and done right) by Friday. I encourage each child to at least read the passage daily but I also suggest that they write it out at least one time during the week. What I am looking for on Friday is this: The ability to take the dictation from me verbally while getting every word, every comma, every semi colon, capitalization (in other words everything) correctly written. When I used the word memorization above I don’t mean that as we usually think of the word. Normally that brings recitation to mind. There is no recitation, but a successfully done dictation assignment has brought about a type of memorization. And let’s not forget the main point. Language Arts; yes, they are all being learned, well many of them are, with each successive passage. One passage may teach the capitalization of cities or names and another may teach one proper use of the semi colon.


#2 Does this mean you assign more than one passage per week for testing, or that some dictation periods involve unseen material, while others involve previously studied passages?


Answer: No to all three questions here. I only assign one passage per child per week. There is no unseen material and no, there is nothing in the way of studied passages.


#3 However, my kids are finding it tedious and boring. We have been using bible passages, which may explain some of their frustration, because there is a lot of punctuation in this writing. Should I choose prose from a favorite book, or should I let them choose their own passage? I had just surmised that if we did bible for dictation that I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. What would you recommend?


Answer: We do not want the children to find this exercise to be boring. In fact the love for learning does not allow much room for boredom. Boredom is the enemy at all costs. But the Language Arts HAVE to be taught. My children have uttered a complaint here and there about dictation over the years. I always do the same thing. I pick a textbook from the storage area and the very next week we work out of the “English” textbook. Normally, that would be either Abeka or Rod and Staff, only because that’s what I have handy. The same thing always happens, the child does NOT LIKE it at all. I then offer to return to dictation on the following Monday, this works around here and quickly takes care of complaints. It would be similar to me with a certain water faucet I have. It takes an unusually long time to “warm up” and I wind up standing there fairly unhappy each time I use it. Let’s say that for one week I had to go “out back” and fetch some water from the pump, aka well, in the dead of winter. And let’s say that I had to warm the water over the wood burning stove and wait for it to warm up before I could wash my hands. Wouldn’t I be a happy, happy girl the next week when I was able to return to indoor heated plumbing?


Now as to what kind of passages to select. It does not need to be an entertaining bit of writing. I have resisted the urge to kill two birds with one stone for a long time. I mean, if the book is at all worthy of being in your house it must have some redeeming information in it, and the child does spend much time with the passage, they will get to know it’s content. However, I do not choose according to content near as much as I analyze the passage for its Language Arts characteristics. One week I want to choose a passage with strange spellings, another I want the m-dash, or the quotation marks to be emphasized. We read the Bible daily, and it is my favorite book because it’s no ordinary book, it’s God’s Word but I NEVER use it for dictation. The structure and the grammar and the punctuation are not what I’m looking for. Neither would I choose the child’s favorite book. We don’t want to kill their esteem for that book by making them “work” in it. I do use a favorite book for penmanship however.


#4 At what age do you recommend starting kids with dictation?


Answer: They have to be able to read and write, that’s for certain. I have used “readers” as first dictation passages for children about 7 to 8 years old. Their assignment would only consist of the very few words on the page. You want the child to feel successful so you don’t want the work to be too hard for them. Also, this gives the younger child a chance to do the same work as the older sisters are doing. During dictation time the younger child also has an assignment to pull out. As the child is getting to be 10 to 13 years old the passages become longer and more challenging. In fact, by grade 8 and grade 9 more than one page can be assigned. So much is learned and that is a great thing. Only be careful to not assign things just for the sake of busy work or to have an assignment on hand. Make sure that there is some Language Arts to be learned (or reviewed) with each selection made.


I am hoping I may have been of some help.


I always appreciate questions that come in after someone has read a book of mine. It helps me to know what kind of situations a person comes across as they begin to implement the Charlotte Mason methods.

Thank you for writing,

Catherine Levison



Getting Children to Read


  • Dear Catherine,
  • I love the CM approach, I have a problem with putting it into action. I hate to say *I can’t get my kids to read* but it’s pretty much true. Even if I take the blame, how do I fix it? I have a 12 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. They do like to watch TV and play video games, but I don’t let them do that too much, probably is too much if the truth be known. Is that the problem? I let them choose the books they want. DD likes books about horses and DS like anything medieval. I bought them probably 4 books each, but I have to *make* them read. Once they start reading, they are okay, but they don’t do it on their own. Or I’ll tell them they have to read before they can watch TV or play video games. I also tell them if they would read, we could cut out some of the *text* books because they could get everything from reading good books. That doesn’t do any good. It’s very hard for me to make them do what’s right.  Please be blunt with me, I need a honest opinion. Surely I’m not the only one with this problem. 

  • I also need some direction in teaching a highschooler. 


The truth is that some children are born readers and some are not. It’s a lot like spending or saving money and it’s a lot like the way people are with house keeping.


I have five children. Two of the girls had to share a room for a few years. One was Felix and one was Oscar, meaning one was neat and tidy and made her bed with great care and the other was very messy. This is how they came into the world, they had these tendencies.


I also had children who spent every cent they ever had and I had some children who saved money very well.


I found the same thing with reading. Even if TV had never been invented some people really, really like to read and others do not. The other group might prefer painting or hiking over reading.


However, we all need to know how to read well and do what CM calls “Read to Know.” That is reading with comprehension. The one chance reading coupled with the narration is the way that good habit is established. It is a great time saver all of one’s life to read something one time and understand it completely.


So, your children need to practice reading even if they don’t like it. Keep in mind that they don’t like it that much and have mercy on them.


But do assign reading to them.You’re on the correct tract, I believe, by bargaining with them to a certain degree. Present two books and make one interesting and the other a boring textbook. Tell them they have to spend 15 mins reading either one they choose but in either case they WILL be narrating the reading to you.


Children need to know and thrive from knowing what is expected of them. If you make it a habit to be perfectly clear on what the reading assignment is and how long it is to last and what accountability will be asked of them after I think you’ll find that they comply much better.


Having said that, if at anytime your children will not do what you tell them to do then you have entered into a discipline problem and you need to handle that according to your own standards. Believe me, there’s not a parent among us that does not run into discipline problems with our children. It as though some children were born to test the limits on every situation and of course some are compliant and very easy on their parents.


For high school everything I could ever think to say I wrote in my second book, “More Charlotte Mason Education” and you might consider borrowing a copy of that to read my chapter there.I hope I’ve been of some help here.

Thanks,

Catherine Levsion


Comments:

Hi Catherine, Thanks for getting back to me. I like the idea of giving them a choice of books, one being a text book! You know, if they ever get started reading they enjoy it, it’s getting them going. DS used to read much more. He read the two Eragon books back to back and is still upset that Christopher P. hasn’t written the third one! I’ll look for your book. 


Thanks so much, I didn’t think there was much hope with my two. You given me something to look forward to. 

Thanks again.



Chonological History & Schedules    


  • Dear Catherine, 
  • I am having a little trouble trying to comprehend what to do with my children and how to schedule them. They are in 1st and 3rd grades. I would really like to know, do I have to follow History in chronological order, do you recommend that geography always compliment and go along side History and does Bible and History have to go together or can I do CM anyway it fits, and it will all still work out?? And about science and Nature studies, how to go about it besides reading the Living books. And can I get most of what I need at the library? I know that I am asking a lot, but my children love when I read to them and when we talk together and I thought the CM approach and using Living books was for us. We tried the “DRY” curriculum with my daughter for the first couple of years and all she did was cry when we would do school, so we are changing. I was going to use Five in a Row, and did start, but it still is not the way I would like to school. And I would like to school both children at the same time as much as I can. 

  • I would like to know which of your books would help me the most with these things.  Thanks for your time and God Bless you for helping so many others like myself!!! 


I have schedules in both A Charlotte Mason Education (the 1st book) and in the 2nd book, More Charlotte Mason Education. My third book is a book-list book that guides CM moms toward the titles that Charlotte Mason used in her schools and many more books the we current CM followers have found. That book gives clear indication as to age appropriate books and “why” any given book is a good choice for a well-read child. Also, that 3rd book has a scope and sequence in the back that is very clear and accurate as to “what” children in the USA cover in each grade level. It’s called A Literary Education; An Annotated Book List.


The answers to your questions are in all 3 of my books and I don’t want to sound like I’m giving you the hard sell but with the age of your children I think you need them all. You can get them at the library if buying 3 books is more than you were wanting to do. Even if your library doesn’t have my books on the shelf they can inter-library-loan them for you. Just ask them to do that.


I am a real home school mom and I still home school so as I attempt to answer some of your questions please remember that I’m using my experience along with Charlotte Mason’s written works, a combination, so to speak.


No, I do not study history in chronological order. If you do then you have to start way, way, way back in time when the children are far too young, in my opinion, to be exposed to such ancient history. PLUS, the nice, living books intended for the younger children are mostly about Pioneer times for America and/or the Explorers, or Colonial America. Now, CM did mention to study topics in chronological order but I take her to mean that when you cover a country or a certain war or a life (biography) by all means do that study in chronological order. I don’t think we have to start at the beginning of time with our little 1st graders. Not everybody agrees with me on this, but you know, home schooler are individuals not clones and it is okay to think for oneself.


And no, the daily Bible reading does not have to coincide with anything else you’re covering. Life does overlap and connective topics do come up, on their own, you don’t have to force the connections. Both Charlotte Mason and I think that.


I won’t go into a lengthy answer to your science questions here but there is a chapter on that in the first book. Do go outside a lot, do try a voluntary nature notebook, (aka nature diary) and always teach the practical before the abstract. And yes, use lots of living books.


To teach two children at the same time divide everything into two groups, skills and knowledge. Skills are aged based and need to be taught at that child’s level. Learning how to read, spell, write, and do math are some skills. You will probably have to teach that side of education at separate levels, if you don’t then good for you!! You have an advantage that most of us don’t have. All other topics, subjects, classes, etc can be learned all together. For example, cover elephants and volcanoes, and biology and history together, with both children, using the same books and field trips. The younger one will respond and narrate at a different level than the older one will but that’s okay, the two of them do that on everything they experience in your house. One of them is older than the other one and they are probably used to that.


Please avoid anything dry and boring. The very second you see that something is causing tears and boredom drop it like a bad habit. There will always be a more interesting way to learn something and there will always be a more boring way to learn something. Keep yourself to the interesting and the children will love to learn. That is the whole key to CM. The love of learning.


Thank you and I hope I’ve been of some help,

Catherine Levison


Comments:

Catherine,  Thank you so much for all your expert advice!!! I will definitely get all three of your books to read and have as a reference.  God Bless



Transitioning from Textbooks


  • Hi Catherine, 
  • I’ve been doing a lot of research on Charlotte Mason and her ways of educating a family and making it an atmosphere!! How refreshing – this is our second year of home schooling – we spent last year doing [textbooks] and it was just like taking the school room into our home. Although I’ve learned a lot about CM and her ways – I am having a hard time grasping it and nailing down a starting point. I have 3 children – 2 of which I will be home schooling – GR 3 and GR 1 my other child is 2. I know that I can incorporate most of the subjects with them together – my problem is understanding what each needs to know for their grade level. Sure, we love to read, but how do they learn their grammar, writing, spelling and math. Is this something I must supplement with workbooks? I am having a hard time with this! I really do hope you can help!! 


You’re a lot like me when I first started in the 80′s. I had one student my first year, one toddler and one newborn. I did textbooks the first year and didn’t like it at all. It caused me to burn out on home schooling the very first year. I almost put my oldest back in school but I never got the “peace” to do that so I muddled on.


How I got going with Charlotte Mason was to read all I could and then I had an all Charlotte Mason Summer School. I had nothing to lose because any thing I did was just extra. It was the best summer ever and we all learned more than we had ever learned before.


You ask about the 3 R’s. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Those are skills and need to be taught individually and geared for the age level of each child. Exactly what is taught grade by grade is detailed in the closing portion of my third book, “A Literary Education”. There I have painstakingly gathered scopes and sequences for the USA and boiled them down to an easy to read, easy to use guide to “what” to teach for each grade. From your question I gather you’re writing from Canada and even though I did attend school in Canada as a youth I do not know exactly what is covered grade by grade as well as I do for the States.


Then as to “how” to teach grammar, spelling, and writing those three topics are covered in my first book, “A Charlotte Mason Education” which you can read in a few quick minutes.


I have also written before about whether to use workbooks or not in the 2nd book, “More Charlotte Mason Education.” I can see a few reasons to use them on occasion. One would be if/when you are extremely ill or caring for someone who is. Another would be when you simply “find” the perfect workbook for the some subject and it just fits well for the situation. Lastly, if you had a particular child who thrives in workbooks and children like that do exist. Even if you have one of those I wouldn’t throw a pile of workbooks in her direction and call it good. I wouldn’t rely on workbooks for anything other than math. But, the occasional workbook can be good idea at certain times.


Let me say one last thing. Sometimes the best way to get going with the Charlotte Mason method is to not jump in with both feet. Meaning, try one or two CM techniques at a time. Try art appreciation or try the nature notebook or the book of the centuries but keep at textbook/workbook system running along side in order to keep abreast of “what” all the other 3rd grade children are covering. As you gain confidence in the Charlotte Mason style and in exactly “what” subject matter you ought to be teaching then you can forego the workbooks and textbooks. Referring to them to whatever degree is a good way to know “what” to cover but don’t stay with only the textbook. Use its information to cause you to check out real books, living books on the same topic and then incorporate field trips to also augment.


I knew I couldn’t answer these questions without at least beginning to rewrite all that I’ve written before. Without sounding like a salesman let me point you toward reading my books because I am sure they will help you. I base that opinion on your questions.


I hope the very, very best for you. I hope you enjoy homeschooling as much as I do—and I really do enjoy it. Thanks for writing and let me know if I can do anything else for you.

Catherine



Kindergarten & Young Children


  • Dear Catherine, 
  • My name is **** and I wrote before last summer. You told me to teach my 5 year old to love to learn. We are spending a lot of time outside. I am not very good at naming trees and plants, but I am trying. I have tried to do some solar system teaching. I am having difficulty figuring out where to start. I really appreciated the letter you sent before and any help you could give now I know would help again. 

  • I am using [a book] for reading and writing, phonics and spelling. It is working but it seems to be a little above her. The spelling mostly. I do not really have a math program, I can’t figure out what to do. I am using some preschool material I had left over. I have [work books] but She does not seem interested in doing much written work. I do not want to push her, but I do not want her to fall behind either.
  • Thanks again for the help. 


It is difficult to know whether to advance a child or hold back a little. That is the job of a home schooling mom. Charlotte Mason wants us to challenge their minds and spend as much time as necessary in finding the materials that will create that love of learning. Charlotte knew that was difficult but she held to that. Moms need to look and look and look trying their best to find the good stuff and the age appropriate stuff. It is a task but you’ll be rewarded when you watch her learning true retainable knowledge.


Let me caution you about her age. I know you do not want her falling behind but at five years old she is not fully responsible for very much book work at all. I do not know what I may have said to you last year but if Charlotte Mason were raising her she would have her outside and you are doing that. She would have her learning the names of plants and you are aware of that. She would have her look at the constellations and you know of that. Early reading skills can be introduced with the view of love of learning (combined with challenging material) all done in a delicate and child friendly manner.


When she is six years old you can start to work and challenge her more. At that age she will learn to read and she’ll learn to narrate (tell back) things that she has learned. You will read out-loud to her a lot and you’ll want to keep taking her outside. I think a well-rounded six year old education looks a lot like a well-rounded sixteen year old education. She could enjoy classical music, trips to the museum, looking at fine art from a book on the couch too, working with paint and clay and colored pencils. She could take a class in dance or gymnastics, she might want to learn knitting. All of these fun, broad, mind opening and healthy occupations combined with math and alphabet writing.


As to these specific work books you have mentioned I am not familiar with them enough to comment and I don’t really have a favorite math program to recommend. I counsel you to keep looking, your eyes always alert, because even the K-Marts & Target stores have math workbooks. If you are always aware and looking you will find acceptable and enjoyable math materials.


To end, please don’t worry about her lack of interest at this precious young age. She’s still very young and don’t trouble yourself or doubt yourself if she doesn’t want to do any book work at all. When she turns six then you can begin, in a gentle and gradual manner to bring the interesting book work into her life and if she is involved with the outdoors and she has good habits and a healthy interest in the world around her she will be a learner and she will develop that love for learning.


Thanks for writing,

Catherine


New: An Interview with Catherine about Charlotte Mason Homeschooling on SuccessfulHomeschooling’s website. Part One and Part Two


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