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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 7 (The Habit of Attention)

Yesterday we had Keystone Co-op, followed by a fire safety program. Then Beezy and I went to visit my aunt who babysits for Beezy's 2nd cousin, a boy 3 years younger than her. They play together so well! By the time I got home I had to make dinner, so it did not work out to write a post for this series yesterday. I think I will aim for 4 posts a week. This will allow me time to write on other topics, as well as have a couple of days off. After all, I am writing about relaxed homeschooling!

In my opinion, the Charlotte Mason (CM) method works remarkably well with a relaxed homeschooling style. A key component is establishing the habit of attention, which is accomplished in a couple of specific ways. The first is the idea of short lessons. The exact length will depend on the child's age, building up to longer periods spent on a particular subject. The time will also vary according to the child's interest. You may plan on a 10 to 15 minute math lesson, but your child may indeed wish to continue past that, which I think should be allowed in most cases. Keeping the lessons short (beginning with about 10 minutes in kindergarten) helps the child stay focused on the task at hand. Last year when Beezy was reading her BOB books, it could take her 20 minutes or more to read one book. I found that this was way too long. She would be yawning and getting tired, frustrated, and discouraged. The simple solution was to divide the book in half! We would do other subjects between readings.

Narration is another key tool to the CM method. This is the process by which you read something to your child, and then she tells it back in her own words. For example, today I read about two animals from a book about Mammals for our natural sciences study. There was only one page about each animal, so Beezy told back what she heard after each one. Since she knows she will be required to narrate, she pays close attention. This process allows you to find out what the child knows, which can take the place of testing. It also helps to avoid patronizing the child with boring questions which may also squash her enthusiasm. With narration, the child makes the information her own, and she will therefore more likely retain what she has learned. Beezy does not like to do narration when I am reading literature to her, as in a novel like those in the Little House on the Prairie series. It seems to interrupt the wonder and enjoyment of the story for her. And besides, if the book is richly written, paying attention to it is not likely to be an issue. When the child is older, she can read a chapter herself and then write a narration from it.

Distractions are sure to be a problem in any homeschooling situation. Today the weather was nice enough to do our school on the front porch, but we did have to contend with a lawnmower and some loud vehicles driving by. Inside, the phone rings sometimes annoyingly frequently. I try to remember to turn the volume down on the answering machine while we are doing school, and I don't answer the phone. I also have to make sure I am not getting distracted myself by emails, Facebook, housework, etc...

Today we began at 10:30 and did not finish until 2:15! I wanted to be done by 1:00, which was Charlotte Mason's tradition. This leaves the afternoon free for running errands, playing outside, visiting with friends and family, and the solitary time that all children desperately need to nurture their spirits and intellectual lives. However, I allowed Beezy to spend time with a neighbor's cat that frequently comes into our yard, and we walked our dog. We also ate lunch, which of course was necessary. I have to remind myself that just because a cat chooses to wander into our yard does not mean it is a convenient time to let it distract us from our purpose. Ultimately it is more relaxing to get school finished, without rushing, in as timely a manner as is possible so the rest of the day can be spent as one chooses, and for getting other necessary things done that may sometimes be sacrificed in the effort to "keep up" with the academics.

Today I wrote having Beezy clean her room into my lesson plans. I intend for this to be a regular part of our routine. It is also of the utmost necessity, as part of Beezy's ceiling fell to the floor as a result of a chimney leak, so her room must be dealt with in order for someone to be able to do the repairs. In Montessori terms, cleaning one's room would fall under the category of Practical Life, which shares a space in my lesson plan book with math. Well, the sunny day calls, and Beezy wants to play bat and ball. The neighborhood kids will be getting home from public school soon, so hopefully Beezy will have friends come over to play, and I can move onward in my housework project!

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