My first Charlotte Mason term during October-December of last year was not what I would term a great success. Perhaps I was overambitious. But that’s not such a bad thing. I learned some important lessons about nearly every subject we attempted. We began a new term this week, and I’m quite pleased with the results so far.
We’ve worked out family scriptures quite well. Raj quietly looks at pictures in the Friend magazine with Daddy while I read aloud two or three verses from the Book of Mormon. Before we start, I ask a brief question to recall what we read yesterday, and one of us answers with a short recap. Then I read. Then Axa asks me questions and I ask Axa questions, to make sure we understood and talk about what thoughts it gave us. Axa often brings up related stories from her Bible reading (today we read the last two verses of Jacob, and she told me most of the story of Jacob and Esau, which she had read with Daddy the night before). Tony reads her a story straight out of the King James Bible (I got my list of stories from here: ) every night as a bedtime story. He says he’s getting a better sense of the flow of history in the Old Testament than he ever had before).
For Literature and Tales, I was reading aloud The Wind in the Willows as a family read aloud at night. But it was too long, and some nights it didn’t keep everyone’s interest. So we don’t do family story time right now. For naptime reading we read a fairy tale or King Arthur or mythology picture book I’ve checked out from the library. Tony is reading Little House in the Big Woods to himself, and suggested it might make a good family read-aloud, so we may try it this week to see how it goes over.
As far as phonics, I haven’t done much, but Axa notices many letters all around, and I answer her questions about what sounds they make. She knows the sounds for about half, I’d say, from my last reading of a charming Eric Carlyle alphabet book with her.
Nature study. I have both success and failure here, although I consider my success more important than my failure in this case. I have a pretty good routine going of getting outside every morning at 9 or 10, and staying out till lunch. We have a city park right across the street, which thankfully has no play equipment. That means they spend their time running in the grass, playing Chronicles of Narnia, making polite conversation with people walking their dogs, and examining mud, leaves, sticks, birds, and other natural objects. We also sometimes make it outside again after naptime for another outside hour. In the month and a half that we have been going to this park nearly every day, Axa and Raj have gone from sitting by me and doing nothing at the park to immediately running off to play when we get there. I had lofty goals of driving them to the beach each day with a picnic and doing lots of nature observation activities, which have been realized only occasionally. But I feel O.K. about it. By far the more important of the two is the hours of imaginative play outdoors.
Poetry. We read lots of Mother Goose. We recently started doing teatime after lunch and reading poems. I’ve chosen William Blake for this term, and I also sprinkle in some lighter poems that I have memorized (like Jabberwocky, The Owl and the Pussycat, etc.). This is going well.
Foreign language. I failed miserably at this last term. I had a plan of Italian TWS and Spanish MWF, and learning a sentence per day that we could build on. I needed some more planning than that to make it work. But this term we’ve started Pimsleur Italian, and it’s great. I checked it out from the library. We listen every day, usually while we make meals or clean. Even Axa and Raj repeat the phrases back. Fun, and very effective. We’re going to get a solid base in Italian and then move on to French, Spanish or Arabic.
Ancient languages. I’ve found an inductive Latin approach called Lingua Latina, which I’m excited to start with Tony. It’s just a text of graduating difficulty. One learns grammar and vocabulary inductively, through reading the story. I have high hopes for it. I have a good college latin background, so we should be able to make it through just fine. I already have my eye on a similar approach to Ancient Greek called Athenaze. To supplement those, we’ll get something like Rummy Roots and I want to get posters to hang on the wall of the various alphabets (Greek, Arabic, etc.). I saw a set of cookie cutters of the entire Hebrew alphabet the other day 🙂
Math. I’m contemplating this one. Nothing formal at all here for at a least a few years, of course. Axa cooks with me, and we’ve talked some about telling time. I’m spending a lot of time on the livingmath.net website. It has an absolutely wonderful section on math in children’s picture books. I also get emails from the livingmath yahoo group, so I’m getting familiar with the living math idea. The list is full of unschoolers, so it’s a fun change from all my Charlotte Mason focused Ambleside lists. I’ve heard good things about Math on the Level, a new CM-friendly math approach. So I’ll keep working on the math end of things.
Artist study also failed miserably last term. I still have Boticelli’s Fortitude up, and we never even talked about her (Fortitude, that is. Boticelli is a him). However, I’m redoing Boticelli this term (we want to go to Florence when we go back to Italy, and most of his work is there). Today at teatime we spent five or ten minutes talking about Primavera. I was going to do the CM thing and have us all look at it and then hide it and tell what we remembered. But Axa just had a lot of questions about who people were and how they were dressed, so I answered those instead. Luckily, someone at Ambleside had put together a lovely summary of the allegorical elements, which enabled me to answer all Axa’s questions.
We’re doing Bach again for music study. I checked out some CD’s from the library. The Bobbles like to dance to them. We do no formal study. We just listen all day long.
Hymns. We choose a hymn or primary song, sing it every day at scriptures in the morning and family prayer at night until we all know it, and then choose a new one. This is working quite well. Right now we are singing Love One Another, with sign language, which Axa and Raj love. I’d like to incorporate some hymns in Italian. Tony found a youtube video of someone singing Come Thou Fount in Italian, with a guitar. Unfortunately, he was too out-of-tune for me to be able to stand listing through once, let alone every day. (An Italian singing out of tune, you ask? Yes. In real life, I have never met an Italian who sang out of tune. But somehow, there he was on youtube).
For Art and Handicrafts, we got Axa an easel for her birthday, and she is enjoying exploring with paints and the chalkboard. Tony just picked up a set of watercolor pencils, and is going to take up drawing. I should follow their good example.
One of the most exciting developments at Casteluzzo Academy is that I came up with a reading schedule for Tony and me (since Axa and Raj are too young to begin formal reading and narration). We read from 6-7:30 a.m. Each morning we read from four books, narrating to each other as we go along. We’re doing a combination of Ambleside years 1 and 6. We want to preview all the books Axa will begin reading in two years, and we’re also starting Year 6 to begin history on an older level. We started on Monday, and it has been both enlightening and enjoyable. We’re following a CM schedule, which means just one chapter per week from each book. The felicitous results are plenty of time to digest the material, noticing many connections between books, and being able to read many, many books. These are our selections for the term:
Our Island Story (a history of Britain for children)
Fifty Famous Stories (we read the Sword of Damocles this week)
Paddle to the Sea (a picture book about a little canoe)
The Burgess Bird Book
Kipling’s Just So Stories
Parables from Nature (lessons on Christian topics from the natural world)
Modified Year 6:
School of the Woods (delightful stories from a naturalist about how mother animals teach their young)
Old Testament and Prophets (Volume 1 of Hugh Nibley’s collected writings)
The Epic of Gilgamesh
Macbeth (The Ambleside Online Shakespeare play for the term)
Alciabades (The Ambleside Online Plutarch life for the term)
Bullfinch’s Age of Fable
The Illiad (Pope’s translation)
Livingstone’s own account of his Missionary Travels
Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education
If I had not already been sold on Charlotte Mason’s methods, I would be after this week. I would never have thought of reading all these books at once. It seems a little crazy. Yet I remember perfectly what we read this week from each one, and found every reading very enjoyable.
Charlotte Mason says that the mind must be given its proper nourishment of ideas. She has taught me a new way to feed my family, and our lives are richly blessed for it.