Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Revolutionary Idea

"An idea fitly put is taken in without effort, and, once in, ideas behave like living creatures––they feed, grow, and multiply." Charlotte Mason, Vol. 2 pg 77 of Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series

Atheistic, secular humanists have taken over public education and they have won the hearts and minds of the youth in our country.  They have removed any ability for a public school educator to teach the Bible as God’s truth.  Children are treated like they are computers, a product of their mechanistic biology. The goal of the public school education is to have an equal output for all.  The way this is done is to give every child the same input, so that every child will have an equal output.  It is measured mechanistically by testing.   The result is generations of children leaving school uneducated and indoctrinated.  They can reproduce the propaganda, facts, or information poured into them to regurgitate on a test and then to be quickly forgotten.  They can repeat what they were taught to think in short pithy sound bites, but they have not been educated on how to think critically for themselves.  This has been disastrous for our country and a recipe for the masses to be controlled by its rulers.

In the middle ages, the Christian church opened schools and began to educate the people.  The concept of the university was a Christian one.  The impact it had on western civilization was transformative.

What if the Christian churches in America or around the world offered a free education to their church member’s children and to the public?  Give the parents in this country a viable alternative.  The teachers in the Church schools would not be muzzled like they are in public schools.  Children would learn God’s truth.

“What about the cost?” you ask.  Who would fund this endeavor?  The church would.  Think for a moment how much money is sent by the church for overseas missions every year.  The amount of money is in the billions.  What if some of that money was invested in the missionary outreach in our own communities to reach the hearts and minds of the youth for Christ?  Do you think that it would be possible?  I do.

As thousands of homeschooling families already know, a quality education does not have to be costly.  With a free online curriculum like Ambleside Online,, that offer’s a guideline for a quality education following the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, it would be affordable.  Most of the high quality books needed are already available as free ebooks and audiobooks in the public domain.  For the books that needed to be purchased, they can be purchased as used at a fraction of the cost of a new book.

A Charlotte Mason education starts with God as the creator and children as persons, made in the image of God and capable of intelligent, independent thought.  From birth they have all the faculties they need to learn and build relationships with everything and everyone in the world around them.  With an insatiable desire for knowledge, the mind of the child grows and thrives on ideas.  Provide their minds with a feast of the best ideas from the best minds throughout mankind’s history and include a wide subject areas and the child will learn and grow.    Study the works of the best poets, writers of literature, composers, artists, historians, as well as language, geographies with history taught from the begin, “God created the heavens and the earth” to present times as a proper context for the ideas.  History taught rightly as the story of the relationship between God and his creation, our story, the story of mankind.  With the aide of the Holy Spirit and God’s truth from the Bible, student’s world view will connect them to reality as it really is in Truth.

Can you just imagine how that kind of education of millions of children would impact our world?  The church providing an education for all and winning the hearts and minds of our youth for Christ.  Its revolutionary!  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Method of a Lesson

What is the method for teaching a lesson in a Charlotte Mason education?  It is the method of a lesson and what comes before or after it that sets it apart from how lessons are taught in a traditional education.  This is where her philosophy is put into practice.

The following three videos are of educators from Ambleside Schools International as they explain Mason's lesson method and how to put it into practice.  What do you notice that is different than conventional schooling?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Joy in God's Grace

I would love to share with you what God is doing in our trials.  The last three weeks have been a whirlwind in our family.  In my last post I announced that I would not be homeschooling for the first time in my sons education.  The economy such as it is has driven the big changes in our home.  We have our house on the market to sell [Let me know if you are looking for a house in TX].  We need to eat so I have to work.

My son has special needs.  Last spring he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD which is a neurological disorder causing difficulties with taking in, processing and responding to sensory information about the environment and from within his own body (visual, auditory, tactile, olfaction, gustatory, vestibular and proprioception).  You can learn more about it at  Our years of homeschooling have been exactly what he has needed, providing an environment in which he learns best.  Sending him to the local public school was like having to send him into a sensory battlefield.

We felt that if it was God’s will at this time for him to be in a large classroom environment, then He would provide for us and help him through it.  God is very good and gives us what we need.  A dear friend of mine approached me with the name of a friend, Mrs. Baker, who would homeschool our son.  She has had experience teaching special needs and has a daughter with SPD.   She also has a friend who can help her with occupational therapy for him as well.  Our specific needs were met so kindly by God through this special lady and we are grateful.

This week was his first week of school.  The first morning was full of anxiety of the unknown, but the boy I picked up after school and pictured above with his teacher, was brimming with joy.  He loved his teacher.  He got to meet lots of new children and made some friends.  One of his co-ops are with children who also have SPD which means he is no longer the weird one in the group.  They all understand each other and don't look at his behaviors as odd or different.

In my last post I expressed how my going back to work and my son having to be public schooled has been a back cloud that has always hovered over my staying home with my son.  I know that it is the same with many, many homeschooling single income families.  Over the last year and a half the Lord has been dealing with my sin of worry.  I keep going back to what Jesus says on the sermon on the mount in Matthew ch. 6.

The Cure for Anxiety

“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?  And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?  And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,  yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!  Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

When I worry about what is going to happen tomorrow, I demonstrate that I don't trust God to provide for whatever that future may bring.  Again He has demonstrated that He will provide for us and give us exactly what we need in our situation today.  I also try to remember that God is much more concerned about my character and Christ likeness than He is in my comfort.  Sometimes He has to take me out of my comfort zone to teach me a lesson I have not gotten any other way.  So today I rejoice that our financial situation is difficult, because I have been given the opportunity to see God's loving provision for our family in this special way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Waves of Change

Throughout our homeschool journey, there has always been a black cloud hanging over this endeavor.  Could we continue to afford to have me home homeschooling our son or would I have to go back to work full time?  By the grace of God we have been able to do it all of these years and by the grace of God I must now go back to work full time.  This transition has been wrought with anxiety and worry which has sent me to the Bible in Matthew chapter 6 of the sermon on the mount where Jesus explains how we are so much more precious to God than the birds of the air.  He provides for the birds and he will provide of us even more.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Today we are looking at some options for our sons education and pray that it is temporary.  We trust that the Lord will provide for all of our needs in this time of change and look forward to the day we can resume our homeschooling journey.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ambleside Online Years Are Not Equivalent to Traditional Schooling Grade Levels

"One limitation I did discover in the minds of these little people; my friend insisted that they could not understand English Grammar; I maintained that they could and wrote a little Grammar (still waiting to be prepared for publication!) for the two of seven and eight; but she was right; I was allowed to give the lessons myself with what lucidity and freshness I could command; in vain; the Nominative 'Case' baffled them; their minds rejected the abstract conception just as children reject the notion of writing an "Essay on Happiness." But I was beginning to make discoveries; the second being, that the mind of a child takes or rejects according to its needs.

From this point it was not difficult to go on to the perception that, whether in taking or rejecting, the mind was functioning for its own nourishment; that the mind, in fact, requires sustenance––as does the body, in order that it increase and be strong; but because the mind is not to be measured or weighed but is spiritual, so its sustenance must be spiritual too, must, in fact, be ideas (in the Platonic sense of images). I soon perceived that children were well equipped to deal with ideas, and

that explanations, questionings, amplifications, are unnecessary and wearisome. Children have a natural appetite for knowledge which is informed with thought. They bring imagination, judgment, and the various so-called 'faculties' to bear upon a new idea pretty much as the gastric juices act upon a food ration. This was illuminating but rather startling; the whole intellectual apparatus of the teacher, his power of vivid presentation, apt illustration, able summing up, subtle questioning, all these were hindrances and intervened between children and the right nutriment duly served; this, on the other hand, they received with the sort of avidity and simplicity with which a healthy child eats his dinner." Vol 6 pg 10-11

The years in the Ambleside Online curriculum do not correspond with the grade levels of traditional schooling. The following is an example of some books read in year 4 and their corresponding reading level.

Year 4
Holling: Minn of the Mississippi (6th grade)
Stevenson: Kidnapped (6th grade)
Bober: Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution (9th grade)
Bulfinch: Age of Fable (9th grade)
Burnford: Incredible Journey (12th grade)
Defoe: Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (12th grade)
Irving: Legend of Sleepy Hollow (College Junior)
Plutarch's Greek Lives; Stadter version (Graduate Level)

My 9 year old year 4 student will not be able to read these particular books on his own but when they are read to him, as the above quote states, he will take or reject the ideas from these books according to his needs. He will bring his natural appetite for knowledge, imagination and judgement to these books and he will receive the sustenance his mind requires to be healthy.

Complete Year 4 Curriculum

Daily Lessons:

Penmanship or Copywork
Foreign language
Musical Instrument Practice

Weekly Lessons:

Art Appreciation
Grammar (AO's Language Arts Scope and Sequence for this level is here.)
Correspond history readings with a timeline or century book and map
Music Appreciation, including folksongs and hymns
Nature Study
One Life from Plutarch
A Shakespeare play


This site has many versions. [note] x Penny Gardner has a list of Old and New Testament stories to read straight from the Bible that may be useful for Bible time. | Bible timeline | Study questions with nice maps |

History: 1700's up to the French and American Revolutions

This Country of Ours by HE Marshall (purchase) (purchase for Kindle) Charles I-George III [note]
** ***George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster (purchase) 349 pages
OR The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon (purchase/purchase for Kindle) [note] x
optional supplement: ***An Island Story [note] 1 2 x

Term 1
This Country of Ours (purchase) (purchase for Kindle) [note]
Optional: Story of Mankind by Van Loon [note]
OR A Child's History of the World [note]

Term 2
This Country of Ours (purchase) (purchase for Kindle) [note] (purchase)
George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster (purchase) [note]
OR Story of Mankind by Van Loon [note]
OR A Child's History of the World [note]

Term 3
This Country of Ours (purchase) (purchase for Kindle) [note] (purchase)
George Washington's World by Genevieve Foster (purchase) [note]
OR Story of Mankind by Van Loon [note]
OR A Child's History of the World [note]
optional extra: An Island Story [note]

History Tales and/or Biography

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (purchase/purchase for Kindle) [note]
* Poor Richard by James Daugherty (purchase)
** *** Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober (purchase/purchase for Kindle) (note).


Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling (purchase) [note] MR 1 2 BF

Natural History/Science

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock (purchase), as scheduled in Nature Study; online. You may find it helpful and fun to participate in the Outdoor Hour Challenge blog.
Supplies for Nature Study:
Nature notebook and pencils or paint for each student
Begin to build a library of regional field guides
Plenty of time to allow Nature Study to be a fun learning experience for both parent and child

Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley (purchase for Kindle) (see Study Guide/links by Katie Barr; see also: resources below), first half:
* The Glen, Earthquakes;
** Volcanos, Transformations of a Grain of Soil
*** The Ice-Plough, The True Fairy-Tale, The Chalk Carts
The Storybook of Science by Jean-Henri Fabre (purchase/purchase for Kindle)
Optional: Physics Lab in the Home by Robert Friedhoffer (purchase for Kindle) (search [note]

Those preferring a textbook option may use the Exploring Creation With . . . series by Jeannie Fulbright for science in Years 3-6 (purchase): also available here. A support group is available.


A curriculum or program for handwriting is not necessary, but if you want to use one, these are some we've used and can suggest:
A Reason for Writing (Level A: purchase) (Level B: purchase)
Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting Series (purchase)


Select a program that meets your family's needs from our page of Math Options.

Foreign Language



* Alfred Lord Tennyson (purchase for Kindle)
** Emily Dickinson
*** William Wordsworth (purchase for Kindle)


The Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch preface to 14 (Minerva-Niobe) (purchase/purchase for Kindle)
* ** The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (purchase/purchase for Kindle) [note] Free audio podcast.
** *** Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (purchase/purchase for Kindle)
*** The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (purchase)
short works (purchase a collection of all of these short works for Kindle):
*** The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (purchase) (listen to it on
*** Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (purchase) (listen to it on librivox; scroll down)
*** Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving (purchase) (listen to it on; scroll down)

Additional Books for Free Reading [note]
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (purchase) (for Kindle)
Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter (purchase) (for Kindle)
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (purchase) (for Kindle)
The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit (purchase) (for Kindle)
A Book of Golden Deeds by Charlotte Yonge (purchase)
Bambi by Felix Salten (purchase)
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (purchase all in one volume) (purchase boxed set)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (purchase for Kindle)
The Magician's Nephew (purchase for Kindle)
The Horse and His Boy (purchase for Kindle)
Prince Caspian (purchase for Kindle)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (purchase for Kindle)
The Silver Chair (purchase for Kindle)
The Last Battle (purchase for Kindle)
Little Britches series by Ralph Moody (purchase) (some language; please preview)
The Borrowers by Mary Norton (purchase) (purchase complete Borrowers boxed set) (purchase for Kindle)
Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight (purchase)
Gentle Ben by Walt Morey (purchase)
Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (purchase)
Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (purchase)
Return To Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright (purchase)
By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder (purchase)
The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia Hale (purchase); 22 chapters; The Complete Peterkin Papers has a few additional chapters, but each chapter can stand alone. These were originally printed as serials in a magazine.
** Calico Captive (girl interest; purchase/purchase for Kindle) or The Sign of the Beaver (boy interest; purchase/purchase for Kindle) by Elizabeth George Speare
*** Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (purchase)
Tree of Freedom by Rebecca Caudill (purchase)
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (purchase)
*** The Reb and the Redcoats by Constance Savery (British view of revolution) (purchase)
Justin Morgan had a Horse by Marguerite Henry (purchase)
See it online at Ambleside's website.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Short Synopsis Of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy of Education

"No sooner doth the truth ... . .come into the soul's sight, but the soul knows her to be her first and old acquaintance."

"The consequence of truth is great; therefore the judgment of it must not be negligent." (Whichcote).

1. Children are born persons.

2. They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil.

3. The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental; but––

4. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.

5. Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments––the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. The P.N.E.U. Motto is: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life."

6. When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's' level.

7. By "education is a discipline," we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.

8. In saying that "education is a life," the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.

vol 6 pg xxx

9. We hold that the child's mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.

10. Such a doctrine as e.g. the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education (the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels duly ordered) upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher's axiom is,' what a child learns matters less than how he learns it."

11. But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. Out of this conception comes our principle that,––

12. "Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––

"Those first-born affinities
"That fit our new existence to existing things."

13. In devising a SYLLABUS for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered:

(a) He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.

(b) The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite (i.e., curiosity)

(c) Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form.

14. As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should 'tell back' after a single reading or hearing: or should write on some part of what they have read.

15. A single reading is insisted on, because children have naturally great power of attention; but this force is dissipated by the re-reading of passages, and also, by questioning, summarising. and the like. Acting upon these and some other points in the behaviour of mind, we find that the educability of children is enormously greater than has hitherto been supposed, and is but little dependent on such circumstances as heredity and environment. Nor is the accuracy of this statement limited to clever children or to children of the educated classes: thousands of children in Elementary Schools respond freely to this method, which is based on the behaviour of mind.

16. There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, which we may call 'the way of the will' and 'the way of the reason.'

17. The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between 'I want' and 'I will.' (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. (c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour. (This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may 'will' again with added power. The use of suggestion as an aid to the will is to be deprecated, as tending to stultify and stereotype character, It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.)

18. The way of reason: We teach children, too, not to 'lean (too confidently) to their own understanding'; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.

19. Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need.

20. We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Why aren't children in the early years doing an abundance of writing?"

Back in the 90’s when I was a teacher in the public school system I was trained in the New Jersey Writing Project. We learned to teach children the writing process through something called Writer’s Workshop. We taught children to brainstorm, write, edit, and to publish their work in a finished product. When they were finished they had a story. The process was cumbersome and the stories the children produced were well, childish, bland, flat, and predictable. Being hindered by their lack of knowledge, the grammar and vocabulary was simple. But the product did not matter so much because what really mattered was the process, right? Charlotte Mason had a very different perspective. She called the practice of teaching young children composition an educational futility. 

“I think this great moral teacher here throws down the gauntlet in challenge of an educational fallacy which is accepted, even in the twentieth century. That futility is the extraction of original composition from schoolboys and schoolgirls. The proper function of the mind of the young scholar is to collect material for the generalizations of after-life. If a child is asked to generalise, that is, to write an essay upon some abstract theme, a double wrong is done him. He is brought up before a stone wall by being asked to do what is impossible to him, and that is discouraging. But a worse moral injury happens to him in that, having no thought of his own to offer on the subject, he puts together such tags of commonplace thought as have come in his way and offers the whole as his 'composition,' an effort which puts a strain upon his conscience while it piques his vanity. In these days masters do not consciously put their hand to the work of their pupils as did that 'prodigiously well-read and delightful' master who had the educating of George Osborne. But, perhaps, without knowing it, they give the ideas which the cunning schoolboy seizes to 'stick' into the 'essay' he hates. Sometimes they do more. They deliberately teach children how to 'build a sentence' and how to 'bind sentences' together.” vol 1 pg 244-245

She explains that to expect original thought from a child is to do him great injury and frustrate him because you are asking the impossible.  She goes on to explain that composition comes naturally and therefore does not need to be taught formally.    

'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.'

Oral narration is the first step to becoming a good writer.  A child of six that is asked to write a composition of any kind is hindered by his lack of writing skills.  He does not know how to spell nor understand punctuation and grammar.   The forming of his letters can become a hindrance as well.  As a result the child must limit his composition to fit his limited skills.  Let him compose orally and you have just removed all of the obstacles to successfully communicate his ideas.   When a child narrates he is telling back what he knows from an experience he has had, a reading selection, nature observation, or picture observation.  When he tells back what he knows from a chapter in history or literature he will incorporate the grammar and vocabulary from the selection read.  As he gets older he will learn to add connections he has made or his thoughts and opinions into his narrations.  If you are presenting the child with living books written by authors using rich language and complex sentence structure your child’s narrations will eventually reflect that which has been model.   It follows that if you are presenting the child with dry, uninspired text books, his oral narrations will reflect the writing modeled in those books.  At the age of 10 or 11 the child will begin composing written narrations.  By this age the child will have spent extensive time reading and listening to models of good writing and are far better equipped to write than a child of younger years. 

There is wisdom in Charlotte Mason’s writings on this topic.  I can see there is also truth in it.  Let your child compose, orally, everyday with all of his books.  Just be sure those books are of a high quality with vital ideas and a rich vocabulary written by one author who is passionate about his subject.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

How do you do picture study?

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child's sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.” Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p.309

God is the author of beauty and beauty is a reflection of God's character.  As the crowning glory of God's creation, made in the image of God, mankind has been given the ability to recognize it.  But what happens when children are confined to the four walls of a classroom and then spend hours in front of an electronic screen when at home?  Do you think this could stifle their ability to recognize it?  I think if you look at the direction the contemporary art world has gone the answer would be  yes.  Paint splash on a canvas or a urinal on display in an art museum is far from beautiful and some would say true art.  In contrast, take a walk through a meadow in the spring with its abundance of wildflowers bursting through the soil and growing under the warm rays of sunshine and you will see God's standard of beauty.  Charlotte Mason tells us that education is the "Science of Relations."  Picture study allows the child to form a personal relationship with the artist of the picture they are studying as they connect with his or her work.  If they have been given ample outdoor time studying God's creation they will be able to also make connections with our creator as well.  Mason's method of picture study is very simple.  Study the best artists throughout history and it will provide wonderful ideas in which the mind can grow and thrive on.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Good Samaritan

If you wanted to come to the seminar to learn how to implement a Charlotte Mason education using the free Curriculum Ambleside Online, but funds are very tight, a good Samaritan has paid for your attendance.  There is only one so it is for the first person to email me at

Rebecca Miller

Getting Started Implementing Ambleside Online Curriculum
Rebecca Miller, Homewood Member
15 years teaching in public, private and homeschool
Founded and runs Mason Approach to Children’s Education Co-op
Member of North Houston Charlotte Mason Group

Room 109
South County Community Center
2235 Lake Robbins Dr, The Woodlands, TX, 77380

June 28

What Time:

Cost (Materials Included):
Early bird mail in discount: $10 per person
At the door if space is available:  $15 per person
Space is limited.  First come, first serve.  Reserve you’re seat by mailing a check to Rebecca Miller by June 15th.  Please include the names of those attending and an email address.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Charlotte Mason Education Successfully Prepares Students For College

"Rebecca, your blog site is lovely and reflects the beauty of a CM education. Our family educated our three oldest daughters using the CM method and not only created wonderful memories but they were all well-prepared for college. I wish you and your services had been around when our girls were young; I read and outlined all of CM's books and figured it all out on my own- an arduous task. I hope that many parents will benefit from your services and come to know how delightful and successful the CM method of education can be."- sheila Herreid, 20+ yr homeschool vet

It is reassuring to hear from those that have gone before us. I hear again and again from homeschool moms with college age or adult children who have grow up with a Charlotte Mason based education who when they enter college are head and shoulders above their peers. Another friend's daughter told her mother that college was much easier than her Charlotte Mason homeschool.

Universities are spending more each year to remediate high school graduates because they do not possess the knowledge and skills to successfully complete a degree program.  It is not needed in the case of Charlotte Mason educated students.

I think the reason why students educated with a Mason approach are so successful in college is summarized quite well in this quote from Charlotte Mason.

"Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas.  To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of knowledge fitted to them.  These principles should save children from some of the loosing thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need." vol. 6

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Shouldn’t a child’s education include lots of science experiments?

“No-eyes come home bored; he has seen nothing, been interested in nothing: while Eyes is all agog to discuss a hundred things that have interested him. As I have already tried to point out, to get this sort of instruction for himself is simply the nature of a child: the business of the parent is to afford him abundant and varied opportunities, and to direct his observations, so that, knowing little of the principles of scientific classification, he is, unconsciously, furnishing himself with the materials for such classification. It is needless to repeat what has already been said on this subject; but, indeed, the future of the man or woman depends very largely on the store of real knowledge gathered, and the habits of intelligent observation acquired, by the child. ” Charlotte Mason vol 1 pg 265

I loved my high school chemistry class with all of its experiments and chemical formulas.  I knew this was the career path I wanted to take.  I entered my university with the intention of getting a degree in Chemistry.  What I found out midway through was that I loved teaching more.  I graduated with a Bachelors of Science and a teaching degree with a science major and math minor.  I did lots of experiments with my students…or so I thought.

All of us were taught the scientific method whether we remember it or not.

Scientific Method

Did you notice where the scientific method begins?  It starts with observation and research of the natural world, nature study!  It is the foundation.  This is the missing link in traditional education.  The rest of the method flows from that.  You cannot have a scientific method if you do not have its starting point.  In my previous post “Is nature study enough in the younger years?” I explained that nature study is the starting point of all real science.  If you haven’t read it, please do.

You probably have at least one experiment book on your shelf.  You can thumb through it to pick out an experiment for your study of sound or motion.  The experiment would then provide the hypothesis, the steps for the experiment and then it will draw the conclusion for you or tell the student why it works.  This is somebody else using the scientific method to create an experiment.  Somebody else has already drawn the conclusions for the child. The student is just copying somebody else’s preprocessed information, very much like following a recipe.  This is not a science experiment.  What your child has learned to do is follow directions but there is very little real science in this, it is instead another form of dispensing knowledge.

Wouldn’t it be better for the child to actually do the scientific investigation himself?  How does this look?  Let’s look at example of a child directed experiment that took place in my home.

Observation and Research
Caleb noticed a potato in the pantry had sprouted eyes and he wanted to know what they were and why they were there.  I explained what the eyes of the potato were and that if you cut them off with some of the potato they would grow.

“I am going to plant it in the pot,” he said.
“If you plant one in the garden as well, which one do you think would grow better?” I asked.

“I think the one in the garden will because it has more space for the roots and better soil to grow in,” he predicted.  

He planted potato eyes in both places.  He kept his potatoes well watered and watched them grow.

He found that the potted potato, although it grew faster, did not get very big. The potatoes from this plant were small.  His garden plant took longer to grow and yielded a much bigger plant with bigger potatoes.

Nothing was written down and no display board was made.  It was very natural and informal, but each step in the method was there.  Not all of his investigations include every step in the scientific method and that is acceptable.  We have also done experiments out of one of our experiment books in the past.  Do you think he remembers them?  No, because there was nothing for him to connect to the information.  A fun experiment copied from a book is not enough for a child to connect to the ideas and concepts.  In contrast, he will always remember his potato experiment.  Later, when he learns about plant adaptations, he will have an experiential understanding to the concept.

God has created a beautiful world for us to live in.  He has also created us in His image, special in His creation.  He has given us a desire to know Him.  The study and investigation of His creation gives us a peak into the nature and character of our Creator.  A child’s education should include scientific investigation but not in the way we have been conditioned to think of science experiments.  Let his investigations be an expression of the child’s own observations of nature and his natural curiosity.  Then he will be furnished with a storehouse of real knowledge gathered, and the habits of intelligent observation acquired.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Charlotte Mason Education Is Possible In Your Homeschool

Tired of being chained to expensive traditional boxed curriculum sets?  Have your children been rebelling against the monotony of workbooks and texts books that bore them to tears? Are you looking for a superior education that would stimulate your children to higher more critical thinking with subjects like Bible, world history, math, science, nature study, Shakespeare, composer and artist study, poetry, foreign language, art, handicrafts, music and literature? There is a better way. 

You may have read about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education and been drawn to short lessons reading books that inspire children to think and to develop the whole character;  the use of narration which replaces hours of endless paper pencil workbook pages.  Lots of outdoor time is spent in studying God’s creation to sharpen the child’s observation skills and to build a science foundation.  Children are not buckets or blank slates in which you must fill with dry facts and knowledge to memorize and reproduce on a test.  Children require vital ideas in which they may interact with to feed their growing minds.  

I would like to help you implement a Charlotte Mason education in your homeschool using Ambleside Online, a free curriculum.  The curriculum uses many free online sources as well.  I will show you how to use the curriculum and the free resources to plan your weeks, how to write lesson plans, where to find the materials that you would need, and how to get connected into the support community to help you along.  So toss out the expensive curriculums that leave you chained to traditional methods that do not work and find educational joy and freedom for you and your family!

Getting Started Implementing Ambleside Online Curriculum Seminar
Rebecca Miller, Homewood Christian Association Member
15 years teaching in public, private and homeschool
Founded and runs Mason Approach to Children’s Education Co-op
Member of North Houston Charlotte Mason Group

Room 109
South County Community Center
2235 Lake Robbins Dr, The Woodlands, TX, 77380

June 28

What Time:

Cost (Materials Included):
Early bird mail in discount: $10 per person
At the door if space is available:  $15 per person
Space is limited.  First come, first serve.  Reserve you’re seat by mailing a check to Rebecca Miller by June 15th.  Please include the names of those attending and an email address.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nature Study Comes Knocking on the Window

Nature study can happen in the most unexpected ways.  A snail oozing across the window sparked questions and investigation.  We pull out our jewelers loupes to look at it under 5x magnification.  Did you know the eyes are on their retractable antennae?  "Are snails born with shells?" he asks.  A quick internet search turns up the surprising answer, "Yes," and gives us more fascinating information.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Is nature study enough science in the younger years?

"Of the teaching of Natural Philosophy, I will only remind the reader of what was said in an earlier chapter––that there is no part of a child's education more important than that he should lay, by his own observation, a wide basis of facts towards scientific knowledge in the future. He must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible, in the country; must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why––Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his questions for him; let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him. Above all, when you come to the rescue, let it not be in the 'cut and dried' formula of some miserable little text-book; let him have all the insight available and you will find that on many scientific questions the child may be brought at once to the level of modern thought." Charlotte Mason-vol 1 pg 265

Do you remember when you were in 4th grade?  Do you remember your fourth grade science textbook with fond memories because you gleaned so much knowledge from it?  Most likely you do not remember any of your textbooks fondly because they dryly dispensed facts the curriculum writers thought you should know at each grade level.  So when we ask, “Is nature study enough?’  what we are really asking is, “Is the real study of the biological world in its actual context enough science?”  We have been so conditioned to think that learning is what is done in a classroom at a desk with text books, that when we are faced with the simplicity of really doing science, it does not seem adequate or real.

Charlotte Mason encourages a paradigm shift from using the abstract dry form of dispensing filtered knowledge in a textbook and children dutifully memorizing this information to experiencing the real thing through the actual study of nature where children learn from their own observations.   Nature study IS the foundation of science.  It is what drives the child toward a curious investigation of the world God created and it gives children a passion for science in the later years.  A child that has never observed a frog first hand or studied fungus in its natural environment will never wonder why frogs are found in or near ponds or why fungus grows in our yards?  There will be no further passion to experiment to find out how things work or why they do.  They won’t be driven by their curiosity to seek out those answers.

Living books that bring the natural world alive by writers that are passionate about their subject, undergird the study of nature.  James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot, The Burgess Bird Book for Children or The Burgess Animal Book by Thornton Burgess, Secrets of the Woods by William J. Long, Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley are read in the younger years.   These writers draw their readers into the natural world in such a way that the reader connects with it on a personal level.  Later, the children read biographies of the people who have made a significant impact in the field of science such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Alexander Graham Bell, and George Washington, Carver.

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock is a necessity for the teacher.  This resource will help you in girding up your knowledge and it gives great nature study ideas.  Include some field guides to help identify what you find on your nature walks.

Nature Notebooks allow the child to hone his observation skills as he attempts to reproduce a subject from nature that has been studied, through drawing or painting.  As the child gets older he will include narrations of the study as well.  The nature notebook is not a field guide with dry facts about the subject.  It is a living expression of the nature study itself in which the child recounts what happened or what was seen on the nature walk.

To answer the question, “Is nature study enough in the younger years,” I would say no.  Round out your study with living books about nature, field guides, The Hand book of nature for the teacher, and sufficient time working in a nature notebook every week.  Get them outdoors often, every day if possible.  This is the solid foundation to build a science education on which will give your child the passion and tools for a lifelong love of science and learning!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ambleside Online is Not Structured Enough?

When I tell people that I am using the Charlotte Mason curriculum Ambleside Online for my homeschool the response is often, “I have looked into it once but was overwhelmed.  I need something that is much more structured.”  I understand why one would feel that way.  When you go the Ambleside Online website, you can easily become overwhelmed when looking at the long list of weekly readings.  It is hard for many to imagine how that list can become what you traditionally thought of as school.  What many people do not know is that there are organized schedules that you can download for free.

The school year is 36 weeks which is divided into three 12 week terms.  The term schedules break down the books into weekly readings by chapter.  The schedule below is the one we are currently working from.  This is one of six pages.  Once you have downloaded it, the schedule is fully editable.  You simply fill it in with your math curriculum and so forth.  This is the schedule from Judy Elliot, which I use to make my weekly lesson plans from.  So don’t get stymied by the website.  There is an easier more structured format!  You can find the files on the AO HEO Schedules Yahoo Group.  Simply join the group to gain access to the schedules you will need to implement the curriculum.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What is The Benefit of Training in Habits?

"Sow an act, reap a habit.   
Sow a habit, reap a character.  
Sow a character, reap a destiny."
Charlotte Mason
Do you have a morning routine?  You know, one you do every day without thinking about it.  That is a habit.  Habits are the oil in the machinery of your day.  Your habits will either help or hinder as you navigate through life.  Good habits allow you to manage your time and tasks with little internal or outward disruption.  Bad habits hinder your efficiency, cause conflicts, and disorder. 

The prevailing thought today is that we should give our children choices so that they can make their own decisions.  It is thought that this empowers them with a sense of independence.  Charlotte Mason would disagree and so would I.  When you make a decision about anything you must stop and consider possibilities, pros, and cons.  Then you must make the decision, all requiring mental effort.  Imagine now that you had to make a decision about every single action or thought.  When should I get out of bed?  Should I put slippers on my feet or not to walk to the bathroom?  Should I shower first or brush my teeth?  What kind of toothpaste should I use? Very quickly I would be paralyzed by the process.  By the end of the day I would be exhausted by the constant mental effort.  Do we really want to do this to our children?  No!  Good habits will empower your children much more than giving them choices.

As part of my son's education, I spend time every week working toward the formation of good habits because these take work.  Anyone can form a bad habit as this is what our natures tend toward.  A bad habit formed makes forming the opposite good habit even harder.  So here is a list of some of the habits we have worked on the past and continue to perfect.

The Habit Of:
  • Attention
  • Thinking
  • Obedience
  • Courage
  • Perseverance
  • Telling the truth
  • Putting away your toys
  • Organization
  • Making your bed
  • Brushing your teeth

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Build It and They Will Come

After an early morning visit from a Blue Jay, this little guy wanted some of that yummy seed hanging from the top of this window. We are shocked at how brave he was. He came back several times during the day. One time he made an attempt at climbing up the window with his claws, to no avail. For his efforts we left him a little seed on the window sill. Nature study just got a little easier!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Heeeeere Birdie, Birdie, Birdie

With his Cub Scout pocket knife, a water jug, scissors, and a piece of string my MacGyver made this little enticement to our feathered friends. The window hook was purchased at Walmart for a few dollars. Nature study can be brought right up to your window. Now, if only the birds would come! Heeeere Birdie, Birdie, Birdie!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why British History First?

A Storehouse of Ideas
Much that has been said about the teaching of geography applies equally to that of history. Here, too, is a subject which should be to the child an inexhaustible storehouse of ideas, should enrich the chambers of his House Beautiful with a thousand tableaux, pathetic and heroic, and should form in him, insensibly, principles whereby he will hereafter judge of the behaviour of nations, and will rule his own conduct as one of a nation.  Charlotte Mason

When I had made the decision to use the Ambleside Online Curriculum, in our homeschool I was a little baffled by the choice of this particular British history book by H.E. Marshall starting in Year 1.  In all of my education experience we had only studied American history in elementary school.  It made sense to me that we would first study the country we live in.  Fortunately, my good friend June explained the importance of studying British history.  Our country started out as colonies of England.  I don't know why I never thought about this.  Of course I knew the first pilgrim colony consisted of English men, women and Children.  The events in England effected events in our country and profoundly effected the founding fathers.  If you know British history you better understand why a small group of people came to start our country, leaving everything familiar willing to brave untold hardships.  Understanding British history provides the context for our country's history.  Marshall's book is captivating and brings the past to life.  History becomes the context for artists, musicians, poets, and writers of literature who lived during this time as well.  What was happening in the church and government and the ideas of the time where communicated by the artists, musicians, and writers.  Therefore, students who study the art, music, poetry and literature during that time are able to naturally make connections.

The mistake we make is to suppose that imagination is fed by nature, or that it works on the insipid diet of children's storybooks.  Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings, and in the literature which naturally gathers round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours; the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he only gets the merest hint.  Charlotte Mason  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An Exciting Disruption

With squeals of delight the children could hardly contain themselves as they had to patiently wait their turn to hold the anole lizard that had gotten into the house.
With squeals of delight the children could hardly contain themselves as they had to patiently wait their turn to hold the anole lizard that had gotten into the house.

"...a love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour." Charlotte Mason Vol. 1 pg. 72

When children are regularly exposed to the study of nature from and early age an amazing thing happens. They cannot help but be curious about the plants and creatures in it. Every bug is a new discovery to be examined. A bird song is heard and the child quickly scans the trees to find the bird who is singing. Flowers and mushrooms find their way into the house for display. Each discovery is a treasure!

"...a love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour." Charlotte Mason Vol. 1 pg. 72

When children are regularly exposed to the study of nature from and early age an amazing thing happens. They cannot help but be curious about the plants and creatures in it. Every bug is a new discovery to be examined. A bird song is heard and the child quickly scans the trees to find the bird who is singing. Flowers and mushrooms find their way into the house for display. Each discovery is a treasure!
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