There and back again, our journey with Charlotte Mason inspired learning

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I have known for some time that I would homeschool my children “from the beginning”.  I had majored in Education during my college years, but I knew I wanted to keep them home.  At the time, I was not married, children weren’t on the horizon, I just knew.  Praise the Lord!  A few years later, I was married and had children.  My husband had the same feeling about homeschooling.  There was no need to discuss it or worry if he would agree.  He had already been led there by the Lord.  He had been preparing as well.  He had a small collection of readers and other interesting older books.  The Lord is so good!

As our eldest daughter approached “school age” (she was 5 with siblings 3, 1 and #4 due that December), I felt the need for formal curriculum.  We had been taking a very natural approach to learning.  I wanted to continue with something relaxed and fun, but be more intentional with what was being learned through our activities.  I knew the fun things we did, crafts we made, etc. were educational, I just wasn’t sure what “counted” as what.  I did not spend a lot of time online (now researching/reading about homeschool curricula and projects is where a good part of my computer time goes — I just love it!!) but somewhere came across Five in a Row.  From the description online, it sounded like a good fit.  Many of the books on the list were ones I had enjoyed as a child, there was a Biblical Character supplement, a suggested schedule to add the structure I wanted – perfect, right?

Those days were delightful!  It was easy to sit together on the couch all cozy and read (while nursing a newborn even!).  We could work on hands on things and one-on-one things while the littler ones napped.  I even managed to keep up with the laundry and make supper every night!  Life was great!

We worked our way through Five in a Row for nearly 2 years.  During this time I found Homeschool Share and added more “go-alongs” to our ‘Rows.  I was becoming more confident in my leading of our little learners.  They were learning!  Except, my eldest daughter and reading.  Those were the times I could send her off to school.  I felt horrible that I felt this way, but couldn’t figure out how to help her.  I was spending more time on-line and learning more about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy and schools.  Karen Andreola’s books were easiest for me to read at this busy time (five children 7 and younger) –

The things most inspiring (and encouraging) to me was how much I could keep going with some of the things that were working–reading aloud great stories (have always love “living books”, but never knew they had a name!), keeping “lesson” times short, allowing more time for exploration outdoors (nature walks and studies were some of our favorite times – actually, they still are).  I was figuring out that perhaps delaying some of the more formal language arts would allow our eldest to “catch up”.  My favorite site for inspiration, book lists and how-to make this gradual move and keep all of my children together in most lessons is Simply Charlotte Mason.

We added in copywork and stopped fretting so much about spelling, grammar, literature, etc. as separate subjects.  They were getting so much from copywork and the great books (living books) we were reading.  I was reading aloud or finding audios (mostly through Librivox) so that my eldest’s delays in reading were not holding her back from learning.  Finally in 4th grade something clicked for here and she could read.  We are still working on fluency, but her confidence and desire to read have taken off.  For some children it really does pay to wait with no pressure.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t working much with her younger sisters on their reading instruction.  They would sit with me while we read some picture books, occasionally reading some bits themselves.  Daughter number 3 has shown time and time again that she catches on quickly and doesn’t require much in the way of instruction.  Daughter number 2 needs a bit more one-on-one time, but she has caught on to reading easily as well.  Praise the Lord!  He knew just what we needed for our family.  If the easier-to-learn-to-read children had been first, our “school” may have looked much different.

Over time, we added more text-type books to our curricula.  I needed some sort of guide for our history studies.  I chose Mystery of History for the short lessons, chronological order and Biblical base.  I was in love!  I hated history when I was in school, now I was loving it.  I learned as much as the children.  I appreciate most the incorporation of world history with the Biblical account – the Bible seen as an equal source to other documentation.  This year, I will be doing American History alongside our Mystery of History studies.  The curriculum I have chosen for this is more in keeping with a CM philosophy – many more living-books.

We are also more consistent with the “extras” that I love with Charlotte Mason.  We have been working on art studies – both artist history/appreciation as well as hands-on art making.  We are also learning about a different composer every six weeks or so.  These things don’t take much time, it is just the remembering.  We have gone to a schedule of 6 weeks on, 1 week off for planning.  That gives me the whole 6 weeks to work in the artist and composer for that term.  I am usually good to introduce them in the first week, it is the follow-up with more that has been lacking.  Knowing that a new one will be coming along, I have some incentive to bring them up more, play more music during other activities.

Our school/family philosophy might not be considered Charlotte Mason enough for some, but it is just what our family needs.  Homeschooling is so freeing to take what you like or need and make it your own.  We have also done some notebooking, lapbooking and unschooling as they have fit our needs.  As our children are getting older, I am borrowing ideas from the Thomas Jefferson Education and Classical Education models as well.

There are so many options out there.  Most of all, we want our children to love the Lord and know Him.  Loving learning, knowing how to think for themselves, etc. are our academic goals.  Making all of this part of our day, our lifestyle is how we go about it.  How do you do it in your homeschool?  What has influenced you?  Have you started with one method and moved to another?

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