I am planning to begin our homeschooling year tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21! My husband will start his first day of teaching college for the semester, so it will be nice and quiet in our home. My intentions are very focused this year on using the Charlotte Mason method, in a relaxed homeschooling environment, so I will post regularly on what books and materials we are using. Hopefully this will provide others who are inclined toward Charlotte Mason with some ideas, and I hope readers will comment with ideas of their own! For this method can seem intimidating, because it does not rely on a set curriculum purchased from a company.
The Charlotte Mason method, to me, is about natural family living. Its tenets are living books and narration, nature studies, the formation of habits that lead to self-discipline, auto-education (basically, self teaching), and the use of a broad and generous curriculum. There is structure in this method, and it does not fall under the category of unschooling. Formal studies are traditionally finished by 1:00 p.m., with the afternoons free for doing hand crafts, spending time outdoors, being together as a family, and exploring personal interests. The spiritual growth of the child is on an equal par with academic development.
We will be focusing especially upon reading, so this will be the top priority. While other subjects will not be neglected, I will be more relaxed in what we cover. We use a multi-subject BrainQuest workbook curriculum (available at Target for $10); otherwise, our resources come from "living books", which include classic and high quality literature as well as books written by a person who is passionate about his subject and provides the pertinent information in story form. In other words, dry textbooks are very much not Charlotte Mason! Much of what we use comes from the library. I have purchased some materials from Ebay and from a local education store.
Since Beezy, age 8, loved the Dick and Jane readers, we will progress using the similar Ginn readers, beginning with Under the Apple Tree. We will also continue using Beatrix Potter's books, implementing sight reading primarily. The Ginn books will be a combination of sounding out words and the sight reading that naturally occurs by the pattern of repetition used in these readers. The BrainQuest pages will provide practice in phonics and spelling. Charlotte Mason advocated beginning sight reading as soon as the basics of phonics have been learned, because this is where the art of reading truly happens.
She did not believe in ever using "twaddle" written for children which consists of only 3 and 4 letter words and the forced creation of sentences with obvious word families (ie. cat, sat, and bat all in one sentence)--sorry, Dr. Seuss! I can attest to Charlotte's wisdom in this, because the BOB readers by Scholastic that we started with were just such books, and they were laborious to read and a big flop with Beezy! Long words are delicious to children, and the number of letters in a word should be of no consequence. In fact, longer words typically have more easily distinguished patterns than words that are short and very similar to one another (ie. what and went). And the recognition of sight words is encouraging to children, rather than having to sound out each and every word. Decoding is a building block, but it is not, in itself, actually reading.
Following Beezy's interests, she will begin to learn cursive writing this year! Since her printing is very neat, I believe she has the fine motor skills for cursive. But we will still continue to practice printing skills, especially since she needs a little more experience with some of the capital letters.
For literature we will continue with the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis that we began over the summer. We are almost finished with Prince Caspian. I read these books to her, and beginning with the next one in the series, she will narrate back to me every few pages or after each chapter. This takes the place of tiresome questions, allowing the child to make the story her own, and giving the teacher a true idea of the child's comprehension.
For history I will be reading The Earthshapers by Karen Speerstra to her, which is a story about a Native American girl of the Mound Builders, which include the Hopewell, who lived, among other places, in our state of Ohio. For natural sciences we are studying the ecosystem of the rainforest, and our first book is actually a video of The Shaman's Apprentice by Lynn Cherry. Both of these subjects will also be narrated.
For math we will continue learning to tell time, using a clock with moveable hands as well as BrainQuest pages. And every day we will use a Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar and the song, "Days of the Week." After some review with addition and subtraction, we will begin multiplication. We will also continue our study of fractions begun last year. I use an abacus and Montessori bead materials for math, as well as fractions manipulatives. It is very important that the foundations of math be very concrete, rather than based merely upon the abstraction of symbols. One should be able to touch math!
Soccer practice begins tomorrow, so that covers gym, and if we have time, we will begin a needlecraft project for children that I found at JoAnn Fabric. I also got one for myself so that we can learn together! And right there is the beauty of homeschooling--learning together and creating a unique family lifestyle that nurtures the spirits of all those living under our roof!