Wednesday, June 3, 2015

One Fine Charlotte Mason Day

It is officially summer vacation. Last night our young cousin stayed with us, and today we all walked uptown for ice cream. This is the season for fully embracing a sacred leisure. Last Friday Beezy attended the field day fun at the Catholic school where she takes a la carte art and gym classes. That was the last day for them and also for our local public school kids, so we wrapped up our home education efforts as well. I do think that a clean break for the season is a good idea, for both homeschooling mothers and their children. But of course learning is always happening as a natural part of fully living life!

In summer we shift gears. The days are more relaxed. I've been gradually planting my container flowers. Sleepovers can happen any night of the week. More time is spent in nature and in walking and riding bikes and scooters; going to graduation parties; sitting on the porch visiting with friends and family; and reading books for the pure enjoyment of it. The farmers market provides fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. We have weeds to pull, both in our yards and in our souls. Occasionally we behold a perfect red rose...

Summer also provides the opportunity to reflect upon what worked well in our homeschools, and what we wish to do differently in the coming year. One thing I know for sure is that I want to incorporate more of Charlotte Mason.

I'd like to share with you one, perfect CM day in May. This was one of those occasions when everything went smoothly and was full of delight. We had our lessons on the front porch. We began, as we always do, with a prayer. This particular one was a "Prayer for Peace," so maybe that had something to do with the fine results! I introduced the concept of division in math to Beezy using small glass stones which are easily found at a dollar store. All new math concepts should be introduced with manipulatives, putting the concrete before the abstract.

I read a chapter from The Story Book of Science, a vintage reprint by Jean Henri Fabre. This is an example of a living book, in which factual information is presented as literature, in narrative form. We read about the process of ants "milking" plant lice, and Beezy voiced that she didn't really understand what was going on. I didn't either, so we consulted the always obliging online resource known as Youtube. Charlotte Mason could not have imagined such a wondrous thing in her day. There we saw the insects and their activity just as it had been described in the book, but now we knew what plant lice looked like (I had never even heard of such creatures!), and we saw how the ants were able to collect the plant milk which the lice leaked in droplets. Sometimes the ant has to caress the lice to get them to let go of this precious food, and then it is taken back to share from the ant's paunch in a "kiss" with others in the colony!

I had Beezy narrate what she had learned by drawing a picture. She depicted two ants in the kiss of milk sharing. Oral or written narrations of the material read can also be done.

Beezy read aloud a story from the "Faith and Freedom" vintage Catholic reader, This Is Our Parish, and then completed a page from her Time & Money workbook. Charlotte Mason did not advocate the use of dry textbooks or workbooks, but my daughter likes to do "work pages", and in some cases they are a convenient and effective resource. She also did a Grammar workbook page that day. Grammar was a subject that CM did not teach using living books. One simply learned the rules of grammar in a systematic way, for which CM gives directions in her Original Homeschooling Series.

Beezy's grandpa had brought her a U.S. puzzle map from a recent trip to Arizona, so we put that together. I then had the good fortune to find the "50 Nifty United States" song on Youtube. This is the tune I learned in the 5th grade for memorizing the names of the 50 states in alphabetical order. We will surely return to this in the fall in our American History studies!

We read a lesson from the Baltimore Catechism on the Holy Ghost and his descent upon the apostles, which was very timely, with Pentecost Sunday approaching. I read the questions, and Beezy reads the answers, and then we discuss the material and go over any vocabulary words.

Our lesson time was finished with a chapter from the novel, Saint Mary Margaret (Windeatt). I read this aloud, and Beezy gave an oral narration. 

I hope this has given you a lovely glimpse into how Catholic Charlotte Mason lessons can unfold. The CM method adapts easily to a modern lifestyle and allows for unplanned discoveries. My desire is for more of this joyful way of learning and living together as a family. These days with our children are precious and irreplaceable, and Charlotte Mason and our Church have left us with an unparalleled legacy to make the most of our time here on Earth.

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