Monday, May 30, 2016

Fall 2016 CM Loop Schedule Prep

Today I worked out a loop schedule for the first term of our Catholic Charlotte Mason homeschooling curriculum for the fall. This might seem like jumping the gun, because May isn't even over yet. But after I wrote up my curriculum plans for submission to our local superintendent, and then added a few more things to it, there did seem to be quite a formidable list of books, despite my efforts to streamline. Then it occurred to me that this curriculum list could be used for the entirety of Level 3 in a CM education, which is grades 6 & 7, roughly ages 11 to 13. (See Mater Amabilis for guides to the levels.)

In other words, I can be thinking in terms of the next two school years overall. And when I decided to determine which books I would use to begin the first upcoming term, things suddenly seemed more manageable. I update my loop schedule whenever there is a change in books or materials being used, printing it out and checking off the items as we go along. The Writing Loop is part of the Daily Core, rotating through the five types of writing each week. The Extended Loops may take up to two weeks to complete.

For the coming school year I added a "morning basket" to the Daily Core, in order to be sure to work in poetry, art, and music appreciation, and some informal dancing. It still all fits on one printed page! And who knows, maybe we will accomplish everything on the curriculum list in one year after all. At any rate, the important thing is that I have a solid plan and a way to implement it, and I won't be worrying all summer about the logistics. So I hope this is helpful to those who are trying to work out a similar type of CM schedule, to see how all subjects can be fitted in. I look forward to feedback and questions in the comments section! 

Catholic Charlotte Mason Loop Schedule, 2016-2017 Term 1 

Daily Core: (open with prayer & devotions)

- Literature: King David and His Songs (Windeatt); Anne of Green Gables series (bedtime)  
- Morning Basket: poetry, music, & art appreciation; dance
- Book of Gratitude reader (Seton vintage reprint)
- Hamilton’s Arithmetic
- Piano practice
- Spanish

Writing Loop (using poems, hymns, prayers, Bible verses, and passages from reading books for copy work and dictation):
- copy work
- dictation
- grammar workbook
- written narration or letter writing
- cursive writing (Seton Handwriting 3)

Extended Loops:
Religion loop:
- The Baltimore Catechism
- The Rosary in Art (Seton): picture studies; Rosary prayers and mysteries from New Testament
- The Loyola Treasury of Saints or Journeys with Mary (De Santis)
- Bible History for Young Catholics (Old Testament, Seton)

Humanities Loop:
- Natural science: nature walks & nature notebook; animal classification cards; The Story Book of Science (Fabre)
- A Child’s Geography of the World (Hillyer) and map work/visual enrichment
- The Care & Keeping of You or The Feelings Book (American Girl, health)
- Fifty Stories from Ohio History (Martzolff)
- Memory Work

Gym & art classes at Catholic school; piano lessons; religious ed. class

Thursday, May 19, 2016

2016-2017 Catholic Charlotte Mason Curriculum

It's that time of year again! We are wrapping up our school year soon, and I am getting together the necessary paperwork for next year for homeschooling in Ohio. One of the requirements is a brief curriculum outline. I like to have everything done and ready to hand in to the superintendent's office in early June. The only thing I have left is the portfolio assessment of Beezy's work by a certified teacher. I encourage you not to wait to prepare such documents, as you don't want to have this hanging over your head all summer.

I'm more excited about this curriculum than any I have designed in the past, because I think I have finally incorporated all of the elements of a Charlotte Mason education. Except for Religion, the subjects listed are those required to cover by the state. You will notice that many subjects overlap, and a number of these books could have been put into multiple categories. I divided them up as it made most sense to me and according to how I have them organized on our homeschooling bookcase. Except for the books we will borrow from the library, which are happily a great many, I have acquired everything on the lists! Many books can be used for multiple years. I think I spent a total of about $75.00.

In other years I have loaded each subject with a ton of potential books and resources. This time I worked very hard to streamline the curriculum and include only those items that we will realistically use in one school year. We may not get to all of them, and we may include items not listed here. Home education is always a work in progress and a journey of learning for both parents and children, and flexibility is key.

This curriculum is designed for the 6th grade, for my only child. However, many of these choices could be used with multiple age levels, and with either younger or older children. I hope something in this will be of use to readers, and I welcome questions and observations in the comments section at the end! Also, feel free to "borrow" anything here for your own reporting needs.

2016—2017 Homeschool Curriculum Outline

I. Vintage Catholic Home Education: We will be using a self-designed curriculum incorporating the philosophy and method of Charlotte Mason, drawing from the books and resources listed below. "Living books" will be the predominant choices for lessons, which are those written by an author who takes special interest in his subject and in which facts are presented in story form. Classical learning tools such as oral and written narration (composition), copy work, dictation, memory work, and recitation will be utilized, with a core of Religion and the traditional liberal arts.
II. Curriculum Books and Resources:

- The Charlotte Mason Original Homeschooling Series (six volume set)
- Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss
- Mater Amabilis: a Charlotte Mason Style Curriculum for Catholics (
- Ambleside Online (
- The Year and Our Children: Catholic Celebrations for Every Season by Mary Reed Newland
- Seton Home Study School (
- The Holy Bible, 1953 Catholic Confraternity Edition       
- Catholic Heritage Curricula

III. Subjects and Books/Materials:

Language Arts – "Faith and Freedom" Ginn Readers; The Winston Readers; classic literature (Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women, Little Men); Poetry for Children and Other People; Ingri and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths; Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb; Bard of Avon and Good Queen Bess (Stanley/Vannema); public library visits and programs; Kids Stuff Spanish (Pirz); Everything Kids’ Learning Spanish Book (Sojo); Spanish flash cards (eeBoo); Language of God (Grammar & Composition, CHC); Handwriting 3 for Young Catholics (Seton); correspondence (letter writing)

Religion – Prayers for Young Catholics (Daughters of St. Paul); Religious Education class at Sacred Heart Church; The Baltimore Catechism, No. 1; The Loyola Treasury of Saints; Journeys with Mary (De Santis); The Guiding Light: The Bible in Pictures; Bible History for Young Catholics (Seton, Old and New Testament volumes); King David and His Songs (Windeatt); Augustine Came to Kent (Willard); St. Thomas Aquinas: The Story of the Dumb Ox (Windeatt)

Geography and HistoryFifty Stories from Ohio (Martzolff); America's Founders and Leaders  (William H.J. Kennedy & Sister Mary Joseph); A Child's Geography of the World (Hillyer); Our Catholic Legacy Vol. 1 (world history, Seton); Columbus and the New World (Derluth); Pocahontas (Bruchac); Madeleine Takes Command (Brill); keeping a book of centuries; Native Americans; cultural, seasonal and holiday traditions; visits to Sauder Village living history museum; The National Parks (Tilden); world globe; The Usborne Essential Atlas of the World; States & Capitals flash cards

Mathematics –  Hamilton’s Essentials of Arithmetic (First and Second Books); measurement; fractions; time and money; place values; addition and subtraction with regrouping; multiplication; division; decimals and percentages; related manipulatives; flash cards; calendar; mathematician biographies; board games

Natural ScienceHandbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock; The Story Book of Science by Jean-Henri Fabre; nature walks and nature notebook; Time-Life animal classification cards; study of trees and leaf collection; study of flowers and flower pressing; study of insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and dinosaurs; the seasons; climate; sustainable living and organic gardening; science museum visits; ecosystems/animal habitats; chemistry kit experiments; dog training classes; volunteer work at the Humane Society

Health Education – Study of bacteria, mold and viruses; nutrition; food preparation and baking; herbology; vegetarianism; The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls by Valorie Schaefer and The Feelings Book: The Care and Keeping of Your Emotions by Dr. Lynda Madison (American Girl); practical life skills

Physical Education – Gym class at St. Patrick Catholic School and participation in sports programs; dance; daily outdoor play; hiking; sledding; trampoline; running; swimming; scooter; pogo stick; horseback riding; bicycling; dog walks

Fine Arts – Art class at St. Patrick School; The Rosary in Art (Seton); The Story of Painting (Janson); Claude Monet (Nunhead); Linnea in Monet's Garden; Anholt’s Artist Books for Children series; Beethoven Lives Upstairs (DVD & CD); The Composer’s Special Series (Bach’s Fight for Freedom, etc…, DVDs & CDs); poetry, art, and music (classical composer studies, folk songs, hymns) appreciation; painting; drawing; pottery; art museum visits; attendance at plays and concerts; dramatic play; Parks and Recreation/library arts and crafts programs; Fayette Opera House concert series; piano lessons and recitals; movies and documentaries; needlepoint; crochet; creative writing

First Aid, Safety, and Fire Protection – Continued reinforcement of these subjects through library materials, field trips, and home safety plans

Friday, May 13, 2016

May Meanderings

I was up at 6:30 this morning, unusually early, probably in anticipation of attending my first homeschooling conference later today! I will be driving an hour to a city where such things occur. It isn't a Charlotte Mason conference; there hasn't been one of those close to my home. But I'm excited because it is being held by a Catholic company, Seton Home Study. As Charlotte Mason herself was not Catholic, it can be especially difficult for Catholic CM home educators to find good materials to suit our needs. In some ways I think we really are pioneers.

For all CM homeschoolers, the challenge exists to find living books for the self-design of a curriculum. There are full curriculum guides online, but not all are Catholic, and for various reasons it may not work to follow a single one completely. Cost of books can certainly be an issue. In the spirit of thriftiness I enjoy finding vintage treasures at flea markets, garage sales, antiques shops, and library book sales. And of course a great deal can be found through the library system itself.

I like Seton because they provide resources such as reprints of vintage Catholic readers and the Baltimore Catechism, and they incorporate historical fiction novels. When I wasn't getting very far teaching Beezy cursive writing, I ordered one of their handwriting workbooks, and it has been very effective. Today I'm going to take a look at their Bible history offerings for 6th and 7th grade. Though their curriculum is heavy on traditional text/workbooks, these often use a story format rather than the typical dry facts variety. It will also simply be nice to have a mom's day out, to listen to the speakers at the conference and experience being a part of a larger homeschooling community. Where I live there are very few Catholic homeschooling families.

It is wonderful to be able to sit out on my front porch this morning, enjoying the sunshine and birdsong. One of my favorite delights every year is getting the porch all cleaned up and reorganized. We can eat, visit with friends and family, and do our school lessons out here. I've been watching children trickle to the bus stop, and that brings me to another topic.

Last week Beezy had the opportunity to attend full days at the Catholic school where she takes a la carte art and gym classes. She was supposed to go full-time all week, but by Wednesday night she had a sore throat, so she only went for three days. That was enough of the experiment to gauge what it would really be like.

As I suspected, if we sent Beezy there full time, our family life would revolve almost entirely around school. Beezy did enjoy it. She didn't seem to mind getting up early, and she wasn't bored being there all day. What she did not enjoy was the homework, especially for math. From what I saw with all of the homework, she is working at grade level, so I don't think a transition to school life would be a problem in that respect. But a good portion of the evenings were spent with her dad and I helping with homework. One evening she visited with a neighbor friend for an hour. On another we took a family dog walk, and on the third she played outside for awhile. But allowing her to have a life in the evening meant not finishing the homework.

In addition, parents of Catholic school children are expected to do a lot of volunteer work. I put  the issue of the cost of tuition out of my mind in order to evaluate other kinds of costs. The biggest cost is time. I would spend a minimum of five hours every week driving to and from the school. In that amount of  time I can cover two days worth of homeschooling! Beezy didn't have time for the book she is reading for pleasure, or to watch our favorite shows on Netflix. I was not able to do our usual bedtime read alouds. If we were to add her weekly piano lesson, religious education class, and participation in a sport to the mix, I don't see how we would have any free time left. As children get older, even weekends are consumed with homework and extracurricular school activities.

The experience gave me a new appreciation for the ability to homeschool. My husband was dead set against losing this freedom and being chained to the school schedule and requirements. We only have one car, so on a day like today I would not be able to go a conference in a city an hour away. And in our current situation, other homeschooling friends who also have greater freedom with time can get together for play dates and sleepovers any day of the week. With not having to pay tuition, we can spend that money on lessons, classes, field trips, sports, and other enrichment activities that would have to otherwise go by the wayside. And we don't have to become exhausted and disconnected from one another in the process. I was amazed that after having my child at school for the entire day, I still had to "homeschool" in the evenings! I cannot see the benefit.

The Catholic school is great. It's a good place for those families who cannot homeschool. Beezy's class is a wonderful group of kids, and the Catholic environment is extremely important. I wouldn't consider public school unless it was the only option. But I can best live my vocation as a Catholic mother by homeschooling. Even at the Catholic school, the education is infiltrated with Common Core, and the only class in which Catholic school books are used is the religion class. The children pray there three times daily, and they attend Mass once a week. Most of the teachers are Catholic. At home I can provide an education in which the Catholic Faith permeates the entire curriculum, which fulfills the teaching of the Church in a way that the school does not. The sacrifice of time and money would not be worth it to me or my husband. I feel blessed that we can have the best of both worlds, that we can homeschool and also provide a part-time experience of enrichment classes at the school for our child.

We all want what is best for our children. I believe in a Charlotte Mason education. That is simply not something my daughter would be privileged to have at any of our area schools. The freedom of educational choice is one that we must not take for granted. We exercise our rights, or risk losing them. I choose to seize the day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Is Charlotte Mason Classical?

Is Charlotte Mason classical? Type this question into a search engine, and you will have lots and lots and lots of choices of articles and blog posts to read. You will find in depth analysis and a million opinions. You will encounter academic sounding terms like "trivium" and "synthetic thinking", and all kinds of people trying to sound very smart. Is that a catty statement to make? Maybe.

But here's the thing: I don't care whether she is or she isn't. This question has created a huge debate and a perceived "division" among Charlotte Mason home educators, a gap which many are trying to close in order to maintain CM unity (or for entertainment purposes). Basically I think it's all an enormous waste of time.

Some of you may remember my meandering journey around the idea of unschooling. I'm seeing a replica of the exact same kind of confusion and argument over terms and "philosophy" again, only now it is classical education at the heart of the cyclone. Eventually I said to myself, "Self, who cares?" And I walked away from unschooling. I said my peace and acknowledged that I can't control anyone else's choices. In a strange way it felt like breaking an addiction, as if there were a supernatural pull trying to lure me back to the dark side.

People get so wrapped up in identifying themselves according to homeschooling methods, to the point that it can become an idol. Recently I've seen the trap set again, but you can't fool me twice. Just like with unschooling, "classical" means different things to different people. The definition becomes a matter of personal interpretation to the extent of nearly losing any meaning entirely, and all kinds of "experts" come out of the woodwork. When I encountered Charlotte Mason, it was through an actual book that a fellow homeschooling mother that I physically knew placed in my real life hand. I also heard about unschooling from a flesh-and-blood source. But these avalanches of debates and direly passionate opinions only seem to happen in one place. And it's right here, on the internet.

I ask you, as you move and breathe in your own home with your own husband, children, dogs and goldfish, does any of this stuff really matter to you, personally, in your day-to-day life? Or is it in reality a monumental distraction away from your everyday joys and responsibilities?

I recently read Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass. She is one of these "authorities". Then I came across the article, "Reconsidering Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition" by Art Middlekauff, another expert, refuting Glass' thesis. I lean toward Middlekauff's evaluation of things, but that's beside the point. (You can view the article at Naturally Middlekauff's daring to defy Glass (nearly sainted in some circles) stirred a hubbub on Facebook, the ultimate bastion of time wasting, tomfoolery, and breathless emulsion of feelings...nothing more than feelings... (cue music).

But such writings and discussions are "important", right?! Both Glass' and Middlekauff's treatises are interesting, well-written, thoroughly researched, thought-provoking--and completely at odds. And oh the reactionary places we'll go! This classical dead horse is being beaten to death.

Here is what I think. We have the teachings of the Catholic Church on education; we have 6 long volumes written by Charlotte Mason herself (and other writings available from her and the PNEU); and we have Sacred Scripture. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us in all things true, good, and beautiful. Do we really need to force Charlotte Mason into the classical tradition, whatever that may mean? Do we, conversely, have to insist adamantly that she doesn't belong there at all? Can't we just let her be?

Evidently this stuff is important to some people. But I'm going to argue here and now that whether she is or isn't classical won't effect my homeschool or yours one iota. And if it doesn't, what's the point of engaging in the argument at all? It's like asking Dorothy if she's a good witch or a bad witch. Either way (and as she told us herself, she is neither), the Witch of the East has been crushed by her house, the ruby slippers are on her feet, and she's following the yellow brick road.

If you think CM is the best way to go for your family, within the brick-and-mortar walls of your domestic Church, then just get on with it. I give you permission to go directly to Charlotte yourself, where enough abundance exists for a lifetime, and shove the experts aside. Skip that whole field of poppies. The Emerald City awaits!