Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Art, Music, and Mathematics with Charlotte Mason....


There are few subjects regarded with more respect and less confidence in our schools than this of 'Art'.  Of course, we say, children should have their artistic powers cultivated, especially those who have such powers, but how is the question.  The neat solution offered by South Kensington in the sixties, - freehand, drawing, perspective, drawing from the round, has long been rejected; but nothing definite has taken its place and we still see models of cones, cubes and so on, disposed so that the eye may take them in freely and that the hand may perhaps produce what the eye has seen. But we begin now to understand that art is not to be approached by such a macadamised road.  It is of the spirit, and in ways of the spirit must we make our attempt.  We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words.  But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves.  A friendly picture-dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term.  After a short story of the artist's life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail.  Then the picture is turned over and the children tell what they have seen, - a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road but nobody with the dog.  Ah, there is a boy lying down by the stream drinking.  It is morning as you can see by the light so the sheep are being driven to pasture, and so on; nothing is left out, the discarded plough, the crooked birch, the clouds beautiful in form and threatening rain, there is enough for half an hour's talk and memory in this little reproduction of a great picture and the children will know it wherever they see it, whether a signed proof, a copy in oils, or the original itself in one of our galleries. - Charlotte Mason (Vol 6, A Philosophy of Education, p 213-214)

In Charlotte's schools, students studied art for both expression and appreciation.  She describes her method of appreciation above, using picture study to get to know an artist.  The children then drew on this appreciation of art, as well as the beauty of their natural surroundings, to create their own masterpieces through painting, drawing, clay modeling, etc.  Charlotte also encouraged handicrafts as part of expression.  Whereby, the children would create useful items through knitting, sewing, carving, leathercraft, sculpting, etc.

The points to be borne in mind in children’s handicrafts are: (a.) that they should not be employed in making futilities such as pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b.) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c.) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d.) and that therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass. – Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1 Home Education, p. 315)

We love Simply Charlotte Mason's Handicrafts Made Simple DVD series!  Riley is working through Hand Sewing.  


Music, the Great Joy we owe to Hearing. - Hearing should tell us a great many interesting things, but the great and perfect joy which we owe to him is Music.  Many great men have put their beautiful thoughts, not into books, or pictures, or buildings, but into musical score, to be sung with the voice or played on instruments, as so full are these musical compositions of the minds of their makers, that people who care for music can always tell who has composed the music, they hear, even if they have never heard the particular movement before. Thus, in a manner, the composer speaks to them, and they are perfectly happy in listening to what he has to say.  Quite little children can sometimes get a good deal of this power; indeed, I knew a boy of three yeas old who knew when his mother was playing 'Wagner,' for example.  She played to him a great deal, and he listened.  Some people have more power in this way than others, but we might all have far more than we possess if we listened.  

How to get the Hearing Ear. - Use every chance you get of hearing music (I do not mean only tunes, though these are very nice), and ask whose music has been played, and, by degrees, you will find out that one composer has one sort of thing to say to you, and another speaks other things; these messages of the musicians cannot be put into words, so there is no way of hearing them if we do not train our ear to listen. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 4, Ourselves, p 30-31) 

Again Charlotte taught music through appreciation and expression.  The children studied various composers much in the same way as studying artists, by reading a brief biography about the composer and listening to some of their works.  The children also sang and learned to play piano as part of their music study.  

In Music their knowledge of theory and their ear-training should keep pace with their powers of execution. - Charlotte Mason (Vol 3, School Education, p. 302) 

In an effort to use Charlotte's methods in our homeschool, this year, I've incorporated singing and artist study.  The children and I are leaning to sing one hymn and one folksong per term.  The first term we are singing The Star Spangled Banner and Come Thou Fount.  We will also be reading about misc. artists and composers including Francis Scott Key, Benjamin West, and John James Audubon.  The children draw as part of their nature study and narration.  In addition, they produce handicrafts as noted above. 


The practical value of arithmetic to persons in every class of life goes without remark.  But the use of the study in practical life is the least of its uses.  The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords to the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders.  There is no one subject in which good teaching effects more, as there is none in which slovenly teaching has more mischievous results.  Multiplication does not produce the 'right answer,' so the boy tries division; that again fails, but subtraction may get him out of the bog.  There is no must be to him; he does not see that one process, and one process only, can give the required result.  Now, a child who does not know what rule to apply to a simple problem within his grasp, has been ill taught from the first, although he may produce slatefuls of quite right sums in multiplication or long division.  - Charlotte Mason (Vol 1, Home Education, p 254) 

Let his arithmetic lesson be to the child a daily exercise in clear thinking and rapid, careful execution, and his mental growth will be as obvious as the sprouting seedling in the spring. - Charlotte Mason (Vol 1,
Home Education, p 261) 

Though Charlotte references mathematics many times in her six-volume series, there is not a lot of practical application.  I find her writing on this subject to be more philosophical.  This frustrates me since my black and white brain likes clear instruction, particularly in mathematics.  This is one subject, and may be the only subject, where I want Charlotte to tell me exactly how to teach x, y, and z.  

Some things I have come to learn over the years about Mason's teaching of mathematics are...

1. Charlotte used textbooks for math teaching.  She did not use living books for math.
2. Mathematics was used to train both mental and moral habits in Charlotte's schools.   
3. Children must learn the why behind the how.  Charlotte believed in starting mathematics teaching with manipulatives so children could see and physically manipulate the numbers. 
4. Charlotte believed the study of mathematics necessary, but she commented multiple times on being careful not to give math undue importance at the expense of a full and generous curriculum.  

But education should be a science of proportion, and any one subject that assumes undue importance does so at the expense of other subjects which a child's mind should deal with.....In a word our point is that Mathematics are to be studied for their own sake and not as they make for general intelligence and grasp of the mind...To sum up, Mathematics are a necessary part of every man's education; they must be taught by those who know; but they may not engross the time and attention of the scholar in such wise as to shut out any of the score of 'subjects,' a knowledge of which is his natural right.  - Charlotte Mason (Vol 6, A Philosophy of Education, p 231-233)

Simply Charlotte Mason published an invaluable book written by Richele Baburina titled Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching.  Baburina studied Charlotte's writings as well as several sources used by Charlotte's teachers and parents and then compiled the book as a means to practically apply Charlotte's methods to the teaching of mathematics.  I own the book, but shamefully have not given it the habit of full attention.  I'm adding this to my to-do-list ;-)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Year 4 & 5 Term 1 Checklists...

This is the final piece of our 2014-2015 curriculum posts. Last week, I gave a complete listing of the resources we will use this school year. This week, I posted our Year 5 Term 1 Schedule and our Year 4 Term 1 Schedule. Today, I will share the weekly checklists for years 4 & 5 to show how each resource is scheduled per day. You will notice that some subjects vary each day. Also, the number indicated before each subject is an estimated amount of time the subject will take. My attempt in creating these was in keeping with Charlotte Mason's method of cultivating the habit of attention with short lessons and varied order of subjects. We do not necessarily study each subject in the order listed.

Riley Year 5 Daily Checklist

Ruben Year 4 Daily Checklist

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Year 4, Term 1 Sample Schedule...

Monday, I posted RileyAnn's Term 1 schedule. Today, I'm posting Ruben's schedule. Again, the items in blue are things he will complete on his own. The black items we will complete together. As with each of our children, this schedule has been built to personally meet Ruben's needs. I LOVE this about homeschooling. We teach each child where they are at!! You may notice that Ruben does not have a "Free Reading" list. Due to his dyslexia, we do most subjects together. I pick and choose books according to his reading level, which fluctuates. Rather than trying to anticipate his future reading level, we will choose books weekly wherever he's at.

Drywood Creek Academy Year 4 Term 1 Schedule

Monday, September 8, 2014

Year 5, Term 1 Sample Schedule

Last week, I posted our 2014-2015 curricula.  Today I'm sharing Term 1 of RileyAnn's schedule to show how it all comes together. 
Blue indicates items Riley will complete on her own. Black items are subjects we work on together, some as a family, and some just her and I.

Drywood Creek Academy Year 5 Term 1 Schedule

Friday, September 5, 2014

2014-2015 Curriculum...

I've hesitated to post this because I don't want anyone to feel pressure.  Disclaimer....We do not do every subject daily and RileyAnn is not reading all the books listed at one time. 

Quite honestly, our first week of school didn't kick off quite as strongly as planned.  Life took over!  But, we will pick up and try again next week :)  So, without further ado, here are our 2014-2015 curriculum choices...

Family Study

Bible Study Guide for All Ages
Scripture Memory
Beautiful Feet Geography
Misc. History books covering approx. 1800-1865 - Lewis & Clark to the Civil War
God's Design for Heaven and Earth
Artist Study
Hymn Study
Folksong Study
Nature Study
Life Skills

RileyAnn Year 5

Plutarch using North's Translation and Anne White's Study Guides
This Country of Ours by H E Marshall
Lincoln's World by Genevieve Foster
Of Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
Narcissa Whitman by Jeanette Eaton
The Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson
Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day
Hitty Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field
Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The Story of Clara Barton of the Red Cross by Jeanette Nolan
Beautiful Feet History of the Horse
Poetry for Young People Rudyard Kipling & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Study John Greenleaf Whittier & Paul Dunbar's Poetry
Michael Clay Thompson - Town Level
The Logic of English Essentials
Strayer-Upton Practical Arithmetics
Latina Christiana
Lambs Tales from Shakespeare
Book of Centuries

Ruben Year 4

The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre
Misc. reading books
Explode the Code
The Logic of English - Cursive
Daily Grams
Aesop's Fables
Misc. math - skills to include multiple digit addition/subtraction; multiplication tables; continuing time and money

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School...

It's back to school week for many, including us here on Drywood Creek...though it's been a bit crazy with the holiday and misc. appointments.  We kicked off our studies for the 2014-2015 school year on a lighter note.  Riley loves it all and Ruben not so much.     

I also had the privilege of attending the  P.M.E.U. fall book discussion Tuesday evening.  Gathering with other homeschooling families is such a treat!!  The Farmer and I drove over 4 hours to attend.  I cherished our time alone together and was encouraged by the fellowship of other Charlotte Mason families.  

The discussion covered Ourselves Book I by Charlotte Mason (Vol. 4) pp. 179-203 regarding opinions, principles, and justice to ourselves.  After the book discussion, we were treated to application of theory by Nancy Kelly of Sage Parnassus.  Nancy spoke of the significance of the flowering rush, or the "Humble Plant", and its representation of humility in Mason's schools, referencing Ourselves, Book I, Part III, Ch 10, p 126-130.  I will not give away her talk in case you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak.  We also practiced written narration through drawing an illustration as well as oral narration.  It was an enjoyable evening. 

An Opinion worth having. - We may gather three rules, then, as to an opinion that is worth the having.  We must have thought about the subject and know something about it, as a gardener does about the weather; it must be our own opinion, and not caught up as a parrot catches up its phrases; and lastly, it must be disinterested, that is, it must not be influenced by our inclination. - Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, Vol. 4, Book 1, p 180

Friday, August 29, 2014

Charlotte Mason on Language Arts....

Unfortunately, uttering the term "Language Arts" today among homeschoolers often brings mothers to tears.  It is a new term, not spoken in Charlotte Mason's day.  However, language arts is certainly not a new concept.  Language is the method of human communication either spoken or written.  Art is a branch of learning.  Therefore, the study of language arts is the act of learning to communicate. 

If we think in terms of communication, language arts has four components: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  You've actually been teaching your child language arts since birth!   They listened to the sounds you made, watched your lips form words, and then started speaking. 

To begin our discussion, I'm going to focus on writing or composition since this is often the part of language arts that freaks people out...including myself before finding the Charlotte Mason method.   Much to my chagrin, I am guilty of getting out my red pen and going crazy on Angel's papers.   Truth be told, I also royally screwed up dictation.  Anyway, thankfully, I feel like I'm finally getting on the right track  :)

Composition comes by Nature. - In fact, lessons on 'composition' should follow the model of that famous essay on "Snakes in Ireland" - "There are none."  For children under nine, the question of composition resolves itself into that of narration, varied by some such simple exercise as to write a part and narrate a part, or write the whole account of a walk they have taken, a lesson they have studied, or of some simple matter that they know.  Before they are ten, children who have been in the habit of using books will write good, vigorous English with ease and freedom; that is, if they have not been hampered by instructions.  It is well for them not even to learn rules for the placing of full stops and capitals until they notice how these things occur in their books.  Our business is to provide children with material in their lessons, and, leave the handling of such material to themselves.  If we would believe it, composition is as natural as jumping and running to children who have been allowed due use of books.  They should narrate in the first place and they will compose, later, readily enough; but they should not be taught 'composition'.  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 247)

OK, so I don't know about you, but this was a huge relief to me!  Reading great books and requiring the child to narrate serves as composition lessons in the early years.  Charlotte actually did not start formal composition until high school.  She was able to encourage the elementary students to explore the four types of writing (narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive) via narration. 

Charlotte used copywork to teach handwriting....

Set good copies before him and see that he imitates his model dutifully: the writing lesson being, not so many lines, or 'a copy' - that is, a page of writing - but a single line which is as exactly as possible a copy of the characters set.  The child may have to write several lines before he succeeds in producing this. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 235)

An ah ha moment for several of us moms regarding copywork came while watching SCM's Learning and Living DVD series.  Charlotte did not encourage copywork until the child was able to read.   She also didn't encourage a full page of the letter "b", for example.  Rather, she required "a single line which is as exactly as possible a copy of the characters set".   In other words, the children were to produce one perfectly written line. 

Regarding spelling....

Early Spelling. - Accustom him from the first to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made.  This is important.  Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a work; and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do so without effort. 

If words were always made on a given pattern in English, if the same letters always represented the same sounds, learning to read would be an easy matter; for the child would soon acquire the few elements of which all words would, in that case, be composed.  But many of our English words are, each, a law unto itself: there is nothing for it, but the child must learn to know them at sight; he must recognise 'which,' precisely as he recognises 'B,' because he has seen it before, been made to look at it with interest, so that the pattern of the word is stamped on his retentive brain.  This process should go on side by side with the other - the learning of the powers of the letters; for the more variety you can throw into his reading lessons, the more will the child enjoy them.  Lessons in word-making help him to take intelligent interest in words; but his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the 'reading at sight' lessons. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 203-204)

The above passage intrigues me.  I agree and disagree at the same time.  I totally get what Charlotte is saying here and in theory she has many good points.  However, my dyslexic kiddo would never read or spell if I solely relied on the sight method of teaching him because of the irregular patterns in English.  I believe in phonics teaching over the sight method. 

Charlotte always taught spelling in context, again using good literature.  First the children looked at words and recreated them, "word-making" as she called it.  Then the children did 5-10 minutes of copywork, eventually transitioning into transcription of longer passages.  Finally, Charlotte used prepared dictation to teach spelling. 

Steps of a Dictation Lesson. - Dictation lessons, conducted in some such way as the following, usually result in good spelling.  A child of eight or nine prepares a paragraph, older children a page, or two or three pages.  The child prepares by himself, by looking at the word he is not sure of, and then seeing it with his eyes shut.  Before he begins, the teacher asks what words he things will need his attention.  He generally knows, but the teacher may point out any word likely to be a cause of stumbling.  He lets his teacher know when he is ready.  The teacher asks if there are any words he is not sure of.  These she puts, one by one, on the blackboard, letting the child look till he has a picture, and then rubbing the word out.  If anyone is still doubtful he should be called to put the word he is not sure of on the board, the teacher watching to rub out the word when a wrong letter begins to appear, and again helping the child to get a mental picture.  Then the teacher gives out the dictation, clause by clause, each clause repeated once.  She dictates with a view to the pointing, which the children are expected to put in as they write; but they must not be told 'comma,' 'semicolon,' etc.  After the sort of preparation I have described, which takes ten minutes or less, there is rarely an error in spelling.  If there be, it is well worth while for the teacher to be on the watch with slips of stamp-paper to put over the wrong word, that its image may be erased as far as possible.  At the end of the lesson, the child should again study the wrong word in his book until he says he is sure of it, and should write it correctly on the stamp-paper.  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 241-242)

I did try prepared dictation last year with RileyAnn and it was much more successful than I thought it might be.  I do plan to continue at some point with her. 

Lastly, I want to touch briefly on grammar...

Grammar a Difficult Study. - Of grammar, Latin and English, I shall say very little here.  In the first place, grammar, being a study of words and not of things, is by no means attractive to the child, nor should be hurried into.  English grammar, again, depending as it does on the position and logical connection of words, is peculiarly hard for him to grasp.  In this respect the Latin grammar is easier; a change in form, the shape of the word, to denote case, is what a child can see with his bodily eye, and therefore it's plainer to him than the abstract ideas of nominative and objective case as we have them in English.  Therefore, if he learns no more at this early stage than the declensions and a verb or two, it is well he should learn thus much, if only to help him to see what English grammar would be at when it speaks of a change in case or mood, yet shows no change in the form of the word. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 295)

Charlotte postponed grammar until around age ten.  She used a text book for teaching.  Then followed with living books/literature for practice.  Charlotte was very straight forward in her teaching of grammar as she believed grammar was abstract knowledge, which is difficult for young minds.  She talked specifically about being careful not to dumb down the lessons. In fact, she said....

But a child cannot dream parts of speech, and any grown-up twaddle attempting to personify such abstractions offends a small person who with all his love of play and nonsense has a serious mind. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, pg 210)

Hopefully, I've given you some food for thought regarding teaching language arts using Charlotte's methods.  For further interest, a while back, I posted some notes regarding Ruth Beechick's philosophy on teaching reading here and writing here