The forth of July is quickly approaching and regardless if you are taking a break by the pool or knee deep in homeschooling I have a deal for you! They Signed For Us is a FREE e-book that covers the struggles the signers of the Declaration of Independence faced as well as what life was like for them after they signed the document. What is really neat is that each chapter starts with a few of the signatures from the document with the name and state of the individual next to the signature. If you think that is cool, it gets even better, at the end of the e-book they have the Declaration of Independence. So once you gobble up this e-book you can read the document that started our country. Once again this is a FREE resource, so start your printers and Enjoy!

*For more FREE resources check out Free K-12 Education.*

Copyright (c) Rayven Holmes

**Disclaimer: All information on homeschooling methods will be just a generalized and very brief *if I can help it* overview of the method. Every family who uses these methods will of course work them to fit their needs. After each overview I will discuss some of the things I do and don’t like about the method in relation to our family. **

Sorry about the delay ladies and gentlemen, things have been busy in this homeschooling family’s house. Tons of fun, but extremely busy. Here is the fifth installment of A Method to the Madness.

Waldorf is more of a philosophy and a way of addressing child development than an actual method. Waldorf breaks child development into three blocks. The first block is from birth to age 7, then the second block covers ages 7 to 14, and finally you have the high school years *14-18*.

During the first block of the Waldorf method the child doesn’t receive any formal lessons. Waldorf philosophy believes that a child in this stage needs to be able to explore and be active, while still having some sort of balance in their homes. Waldorf pulls strongly on the rhythms of the day, and on the parents setting the rhythms to give the child equal amounts of active/creative time and down time/quiet time. In place of the formal lessons children learn through imitating their parents, older siblings, or any one else who is frequently present. They also learn through imagination, which is why during this stage it is important to provide plenty of objects to be used in imaginative play during active time.

Due to the lack of formal lessons during this stage Preschool as well as Kindergarten are skipped. The first formal grade is 1st grade and it starts at age 7. Now it doesn’t have to start exactly on the child’s birthday, and it can even start a little bit before the birthday. It depends on if the child has exhibited readiness for 1st grade or not. The second stage takes advantage of the child’s feelings, since it is seen as the feeling stage where children learn through their emotions. In this stage children use artistic mediums *paints, pencils, clays, ect.*) to express the feelings that their formal reading lessons evoke. Main Lesson Books also known as “Good Books” are introduced during this time. These books are used to keep track of the work that the child has done. These books are created by the child and features their best work, hand picked by the child him/herself.

Lessons from this stage through the third stage are taught in intervals of 3-6 weeks. With the first couple of hours of the school morning begin designated strictly to in-depth learning on the topic being covered in that interval. After that the other lessons tie into the main topic. During the early morning lesson the child will usually work on their Main Lesson Book for that topic, since this is the time when the main lesson is covered thoroughly.

As you move to the third stage artistic expression is still strongly encouraged, but the child must also use their intellect and the work must be noticeably more difficult. In the third stage rhythms are still used like in the previous stages, and Main Lesson Books are still made, since the interval approach is still used.

Now you may be asking, what about religion and the Waldorf method…is it secular? The Waldorf philosophy asserts the belief that every child is a spiritual being. Waldorf pulls strongly from anthroposophy which is a religious philosophy that holds spiritual development as humankind’s utmost concern. So naturally one of the main components of Waldorf is developing the child’s spiritual being. Which is why a lot of artistic expression is used throughout the method, and science is taught more of a way to appreciate nature, by being “one with nature”, versus just formal lessons on various science topics. When approaching science in the Waldorf method it deals greatly with connecting the child to god’s creation and adding spiritually to science.

Now obviously this would pose a serious problem for us, but it’s an ignorable component, especially because we can see the beauty in a child actually connecting with nature. Not in a “spiritual” manner, but in a respectful manner. Which can naturally instill a sense of appreciation for our world, a desire learn about it, and a desire to take care of it. So this sense of oneness with the world has its’ positives to it for us.

So a quick run through: Waldorf is a philosophy that breaks development and educating into 3 stages. It relies heavy on artistic expression and a oneness with nature. It also advocates for children being spiritual beings that must have their spiritually nurtured over everything else.

Now what won’t work for us? Well the idea of putting off formal lessons until seven doesn’t sit well with us. We started actively homeschooling Child #1 because, the public school system said he was too young to attend even though, intellectually he was beyond capable of completing the work. We also feel Preschool *while not anything formal* is great for kids. The way they are introduced to concepts they will need later on, taught the importance of routine/structure in your day, and increasing given more responsibilities/chances to be independent, is great for developing future independent intellectual beings. So for our family Preschool as well as Kindergarten have a place in our home, even if on an informal level.

The method for teaching lessons once formal lessons start doesn’t work for us either. We prefer to spread the intense lessons out over the course of our day, keeping more with the rhythms technique in the first stage, rather than doing the interval plus rhythms technique advocated for the second and third stages. The rhythms technique is a part of the philosophy we really like. It is natural for us to move from periods of activity to periods of quiet relaxation. So what else works for us? The idea of making a Main Lesson Book or “Good Book” is very creative and a great way to reinforce what is being taught. So that is something we could easily work into our daily routine *we had already planned to do it for our history lessons* and benefit from it greatly.

The spiritual element doesn’t work for us as mentioned before, but we can see the beauty in nature and have a reverence for it. We will still teach formal, in-depth, sit down science lessons though, because there are elements that are needed to be taught formally. So Waldorf can be used to some degree in our secular home.

The Waldorf method like all the other methods mentioned before, isn’t a prefect fit for us, but there are bits of it that we could use and benefit from greatly.

Of course there are still three other methods to pick through, and hopefully when it is all said and done we will emerge with a greater understanding of our own personal homeschool.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

We brought in the summer with some fellow homeschoolers by having a planting party. We gathered our soil, rocks, planters, seeds, and enjoyed plenty of sunshine while we planted away. The boys and I planted carrots, bok choy, and a few other vegetables. I also got them sunflower seeds, since we discussed sunflowers about a month or so ago, I thought it would be great if they grew their own. After having our skin kissed by the sun and getting covered in dirt, we all retreated in doors for an impromptu play date.

It was a great way to kick off the summer and start our vegetable garden. Hopefully our seeds will sprout into something yummy and beautiful, until then we have a wonderfully hot summer to enjoy *thank goodness for a pool!*

So how did you and yours welcome summer?

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

Here is another AWESOME freebie site for you all to check out and enjoy. Homeschool Freebie of the Day is a website that features a daily freebie during the week for homeschoolers to enjoy and use. You only have that day to grab it up and then it will be gone!

But you can register *this is also free* and not only get a weekly email on Sunday telling you the planned freebies for the upcoming week *so you can mark your calendar and be ready to pounce on the freebies you want when they are up for grabs*, but you also get freebies they can’t have open to everyone. Since some eBooks or other resources carry various publishing requirements or price tags they are only allowed to share these things to their registered users.

Registering is super easy, all you need to do is plug in your email address and your first name, that is it. In the time it would take you to log into Facebook you can be registered for TONS of weekly freebies.

So head on over to Homeschool Freebie of the Day, get registered, and start enjoying your freebies!

*The family that runs Homeschool Freebie of the Day is taking time off for the summer, but you can still register so you start receiving emails once their school year resumes.*

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

I’ve made some revisions to our homeschooling schedule *which I figured I would probably do after I had some time to mull it and or school plans over*. The boys are usually up at 7am so I’m going to make use of that time in-between when they wake up and breakfast. Also our math work includes a morning meeting, and we also are going to start various other items that can be done during the time we do our morning meeting. So those things will take place at the dining room table after breakfast and then we will go right into outdoor time.

I figured this would allow our day to flow a little easier, since we wouldn’t have to be constantly going up and down the stairs. With this schedule we will start our days downstairs and then move upstairs to the classroom when it’s time to get into the heavy things for the day. Then we will head back downstairs to finish out our “school” day.

On Fridays our day will more than likely be spent at the dining room table, so we can get out the door right after our Japanese studies, and head to our enrichment activity for that day. I’m leaning towards our Sex Ed being very informal. More likely done while the boys eat their snack on the couch. That way they are more relaxed and we can have discussions instead of me just telling them things.

I’m also changing our start date. I had planned to wait until September, but honestly we are all eager to get started with all the awesome supplies we have now. The Spouse has also had some work things come up, which will impact some plans we had for the fall. So we are just going to start early, and take our planned fall break when things fall into place to allow it.

July will mark the start of our new “school” year. It will be more of a run through though. I’m not expecting the first few days *or even weeks* to be smooth. So I’m not shooting to have this schedule down as part of our routine until August. By that point I want our day to run as smoothly as possible, with our schedule being a natural part of our day.

We are the type of people who need schedules and routines, so hopefully this one will make life a lot easier.

Weekly Schedule *Monday-Thursday*

7am: Get up and get dressed

730am: Eat Breakfast

8am: Morning Meeting (Math meeting book, Science notebook, Weekly poem, Weekly virtue)

830am: Outdoor time

9am: Handwriting, Language Arts, and Daily Reader

10am: Break

1130am: Lunch

12pm: Quiet Time

130pm: Art/Music and Snack

2pm: Math/Science

230pm: History & Geography/Social Studies

3pm: Done

Weekly Schedule *Friday*

7am: Get up and get dressed

730am: Eat Breakfast

8am: Morning Meeting (Math meeting book, Science notebook, Weekly poem, Weekly virtue)

830am: Language Arts

9am: Japanese Studies

930am: Enrichment/Field Trip/Free Play

12pm: Lunch

1230pm: Quiet Time

130pm: Sexual Education and Snack

2pm: Done

For those curious about the Sex Ed materials we will be using you can click HERE. I’m also hoping to have the Waldorf post up by the end of the week. It will mark the fifth post in the Method to the Madness series. Only three more post after that and then we will unveil what method to our madness we will use.

I have another awesome homeschooling find to share with you all! There is a FREE online homeschooling magazine out there, what makes this magazine special you may ask? Well this magazine is made by homeschoolers for homeschoolers. I don’t mean the parents doing the schooling I mean the ones we are teaching!

Yes ladies and gentlemen, kids make and publish this online magazine, just for their peers! *Yes parents can enjoy the issues as well, but it’s really cool what kids can do when given the freedom to be creative*.

The current issue is titled the Summer Fun Issue, and it is jammed pack with awesome ideas, helpful hints, safety tips, recipes, poems by homeschoolers, well the list goes on! So hop over and check out Homeschooling Kids Magazine for yourself, and sign your homeschooler up for this free monthly treat!

This has been an amazing week of savings and freebies on the homeschooling front. First I found out about the amazing savings going on at Hooked on Phonics thanks to my friend Melonie over at One Little Change sharing the MoneySavingMom link with me.

I have been longing to purchase the Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Kindergarten to 2nd Grade program, but the $199.95 price tag kept me from actually getting it since it didn‘t vibe with our budget. This week though I was able to take advantage of the sale Hooked on Phonics was *still is* having. The highly coveted item was knocked down from $199.95 to $59.95 and then I got to use a coupon to take another 50% off!!

Grand total *including shipping*: $36.92!! That’s right I got the item for a fraction of it’s original price.

The goodies didn’t stop there though! I also scored an awesome DVD and Educators Guide for FREE. As well as FREE classic records for kids from Kiddie Records Weekly. They offer FREE tunes from the Golden Age, so if you are wanting to share your childhood with your grandchildren, or you are doing a lesson on that time period, Kiddie Records has plenty of FREE records for you to use. I would like to send a big thanks to Freely Educate for the information on Kiddie Records.

Have you scored any awesome homeschooling deals and/or freebies? If so leave a comment so we can toast to your awesome saving skills, and if you blog link up over at MoneySavingMom so they can share in on your find as well.

*Raises hand frantically like a mad woman* I do I do!! I really, really do. As I’ve shared through the last few post, I LOVE free stuff. Free stuff makes learning at home on a budget possible.

Now I have one more awesome freebie potential to share with you as well as a fantastic savings opportunity. Egghead Academics has produced a fabulous e-book titled Liberty: The Founding of a Country and you can win a free copy! All the fabulous details can be a found over at One Little Change, so head over and get in on the giveaway.

Oh but wait…they didn’t stop at the giveaway, oh no they have something else in store for you. A DISCOUNT! *This homeschooler just fainted with excitement*. How much is this discount worth you may be asking yourself…well it’s worth 25% off when you spend $10 or more! We can all easily spend at least $10 on school supplies, especially with this being the time of year that most folks are stocking up for the fall. So what better time to take advantage of a 25% off discount!

It’s super easy to use this discount too, you just click over to the Egghead Academics website, fill your cart up with fabulous goodies, and then type in coupon code HAPPYFOURTH. Simple right?! So head on over and enjoy the savings *because they will only last until the 5th of July*, and don’t forget to head over to One Little Change for all the details on the Egghead Academics giveaway!

I found out about Freely Educate through the same source I found the Free DVD and Educators Guide deal. Freely Educate exist solely for the purpose of helping homeschoolers and educators find freebies. Their archives date back as far as May of 2008, and they post nearly everyday so there are plenty of FREEBIES to be had. Yes freebies, it includes my favorite word FREE!! They even do giveaways, so frequent them often, I sure plan too!

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

This FREE DVD was brought to my attention through the UU Homeschoolers Yahoo Group.

This is taken directly from the Journey To The Stars website:

Educators and parents: Are you ready to take your students on a Journey to the Stars? The American Museum of Natural History and NASA have joined forces to produce a planetarium show about the amazing variety of stars that dot our cosmos--exploding stars, giant stars, dwarf stars, neutron stars, even our own star! But you don't have to go to a planetarium to experience this mind-blowing journey. NASA will send you a DVD and Educator's Guide, for free!

Yes ladies and gentlemen that is right a DVD and Educator’s Guide for FREE! For those military families living overseas you too can enjoy this offer as well! That’s right they ship to APOs/FPOs! So go on and order yourself one *or get multiple copies for your homeschool group or co-op, yes they even allow you to ask for more than one copy!*. It’s like Christmas in June!

I am extremely excited about this, being that I am:
1) A science geek and
2) A lover of the word FREE in relation to items I need/want.

I can’t wait for our copy to get here and I’m sure you will get just as much use out of it as I know we will.

So order away and enjoy your journey to the stars with your homeschooler!

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

**Disclaimer: All information on homeschooling methods will be just a generalized and very brief *if I can help it* overview of the method. Every family who uses these methods will of course work them to fit their needs. After each overview I will discuss some of the things I do and don’t like about the method in relation to our family. **

Structured or Traditional Homeschooling pretty much explains itself. This is a method that closely mimics the classroom setting but in the home, which is why it is often called the “school at home” method. Those who follow this method often *not always though* purchase a box curriculum that comes with everything they could possibly need to teach for a whole school year, some even goes as far as to include pencils and paper.

Boxed curriculums aren’t the only ways a family implements this method, they can also rely on textbooks/workbooks, and comprise their own curriculum and schedule. This method relies heavily on schedules, lesson plans, and documentation, like a traditional school. Some families who use this method even have a school room, where the bulk of their learning takes place and they have a wide variety of supplies just like a traditional school room would.

This method helps ensure that the child learns nearly the same material their peers are learning at school everyday *this depends greatly on the curriculum/textbooks that the parent uses*, and eases fears over gaps in a child’s education.

So to recap: This method is basically “school at home” using either a box curriculum or a combination of textbooks and workbooks. There are grades, test, and in some cases quarterly progress reports and end of the year report cards just like in traditional schools.

Now for us there are some amazing positives with this method, for starters the structured aspect of it. We thrive on structure, routine, schedules, and plans. When there isn’t something planned or a schedule in place we get very little done. That has pretty much encompassed our first full year of homeschooling. While we have accomplished a lot, the level of structure wasn’t were it needed to be.

We also ran into the problem of having to plan out the lessons and basically make our own curriculum with very little to go on aside from books we picked up at the library or found at the store. While the books would have been a great supplement, having a guideline *like a traditional textbook* would have made things a lot easier. I am actually finding as I plan our upcoming school year that having these books really makes planning go a lot smoother and a heck of a lot quicker as well.

We also worry greatly about ensuring our boys hit all the academic concepts that are required in the traditional school setting. This will allow them to transition into a high school setting if they make the choice to attend high school. On the other hand, if they opt out of high school they will be able to enter into a college right out of our home with little to no trouble. With the traditional method this adherence to meeting grade requirements is a great positive for us. It eliminates the fear of missing something, while allowing us to pick and choose the materials*textbooks/workbooks* we feel best ensure that the boys have a solid education.

This method is also *almost* completely secular unless the family buys a box curriculum or textbooks that are geared to their specific religious views. The problem with the box curriculums comes in when you hunt for them. Most sellers of these curriculums are religious and it can be difficult to find secular box curriculums, but it is possible. Even box curriculums sold through some religious companies can be secularized and as secular homeschoolers grow so too does the product market.

There are other negatives *aside from the box curriculum problem* to this method. First off, it can be overwhelming having all the materials in front of you to weed through before the start of your school year. For some families it can produce the same problems found in a traditional school, with the underlining feeling that everything must be covered. For us this isn’t a huge negative since we don’t plan to schedule a traditional school year. Instead our scheduling would mimic more of a year-round school schedule (with periodic breaks throughout the year instead of a large break during the summer).

The difference then in what we do and what a traditional year-round school would do, would be that our schooling during the summer months wouldn’t be as intense. So the pressure would be on hitting the “needed” topics during our intense school months, which would allow us to relax a bit during the summer months. This doesn’t seem difficult since we would have from the first week of September to first week of June to meet our educational goals for that given school year. From there we would carry the topics not covered into the summer months. Which would then naturally lead us into the following school year since those topics we covered lightly would be the ones that got intense *more in-depth* coverage over the next year.

Overall though this method seems to be something that would work very well with our family. The structure and scheduling are highly needed in our home. We homeschool for academic reasons first and foremost. So this method completely works with that, by allowing us to pick and choose the materials that we feel will meet those academic standards we have, while still working in the aspects of traditional school that we like.

For instance we already have a classroom in place, it gives us a place to go to actually focus on formal lessons. Our classroom eliminates the distractions that come from having the dishwasher, washing machine, and/or dryer going, or any other item that can pull us away from what we are suppose to be doing.

We don’t personally like box curriculums not really because they tend to be sold by religious companies, but because we have an idea of how we want certain subjects to flow and box curriculums don’t give that flow we are looking for. This means relying heavily on traditional textbooks, which can get very pricy.

So in order to maintain some part of this method over the long haul a lot of saving over the course of every year will need to take place. This is possible, especially if we time our book buying to coincide with sales that publishers have, but we are still going to have to be vigilant with adhering to our budget. Price is an issue with this method period, since some box curriculums start at over 1,000$ and then go up from there the cost adds up quickly, especially if you are homeschooling more than one child.

So are there things useful to us in this method, yes. Does it have its drawbacks, yes, but they can be overcome.
We are half way through our methods coverage and so far no method seems to be a perfect fit for our family.

We still have four more methods to cover though, next up: The Waldorf Homeschooling Method.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

I was laying in bed last night quickly sub-coming to the comforts of my pillows when I had the most interesting thought: In order to take good care of my children I must take good care of myself. I’m sure I must have heard that somewhere before, possibly a doctor or nurse during my early days of parenthood.

This message isn’t just for mothers or homeschoolers, but for everyone who takes care of children. It is hard work, and in order to do it effectively we must ensure we are meeting our own needs as well. This has been a topic The Spouse and I have been discussing over the last few weeks, maybe that is why I finally had the epiphany. The Spouse constantly tells me to take my vitamins, sneak a nap during the day, or just get adequate food and water, but that doesn’t always work in with the plans of the day.

So what is a parent to do? Well here are some realizations I have made and that I plan to implement.

Realization #1: Sleep is not overrated! I have the following quote by Wolf Blitzer on my FB page “Sleep really is overrated”, and while it is nice to think that, reality says otherwise. Our bodies need sleep and according to WebMD lack of a good night’s rest can have some pretty horrible effects on our health. The average amount of sleep an adult needs is roughly seven to nine hours, The Spouse and I don’t achieve this. In fact most adults don’t, so what can we do to change this? Start a bedtime! Yes I know that may sound silly, just think about how often as kids we fought against bedtime, but there is a sound reason behind the bedtime practice. Other than the fact that mommy and daddy need peace and quiet. By setting a bedtime for ourselves like we do the boys, The Spouse and I will ensure we get the recommended amount of sleep. As well as pay a little on our “sleep debt” so we can eventually wake up feeling happy, refreshed, and energetic just like Child #1 and Child #2 do every single morning.

Realization #2: Animal crackers are not a food group! We have all done it at some point in time…running this way and that…we stop to feed the kids not acknowledging that the rumble, that could be mistaken for a car on its last leg, is coming from our stomachs. By the time everyone has enjoyed their meal it hits you…that sound is coming from ME and I should probably eat. So you dig in your bag, pocket, ect., and find it, that slightly stale day old animal cracker. It sure does taste good going down, you pause…maybe you should actually eat something…then the phone rings, someone screams, and as you spin in a million directions you notice your sink full of dirty dishes. Just like that lunch has taken a backseat to life, no big deal, there is always dinner.

According to the USDA this unhealthy eating, just like lack of sleep, isn’t good for us either. Eating three well proportioned meals, and two healthy snacks is the goal. I know, I know you are asking yourselves the same thing I’m thinking “What parent has time for that?”. But if I’m already planning and making meals for the boys then adding another plate or two *if The Spouse is home* shouldn’t be that difficult. Just taking the time to plan and prep my own meals would ensure I also sat down and ate them. In the end that is the goal, to actually eat something other than the animal cracker at the bottom of my purse.

And Realization #3: There is power in Yes and No. Just because something needs to be done, that doesn’t mean it has to come before your health and wellbeing, it’s ok to say no even to yourself! For instance tonight if it gets to the time that I have set as my bedtime and I still haven’t finished cleaning x, y, or z, it is perfectly ok to walk away. Will the world end if I don’t put that last load in the dishwasher? No. Will my house be overtaken by the roaches from Joe’s Apartment? No. Will I get the sleep I need in order to function the following day? Yes!, and is that more important than a spotless house, or any other chore I may need to take care of, YES! That is the power of realizing that there is power in yes and no. In just five minutes I can determine how my whole next day will play out, by taking the time to use those two little words. It doesn’t just stop there, it extends to saying yes to a 30 minute kid’s show so I can work in a healthy snack or a chore that would cut into my evening downtime *which is important when trying to obtain a good night’s rest*.

These are just a few of my realizations, there are others, but for now I’m going to focus on these three. I’ll fill you all in on how things are going a month from now, and if they are going well I’ll share some other realizations I’ve had.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

So we have come to the end of our first full “official” year of homeschooling. Since our last post on our weekly plans we have finished up the Saxon Math 1 materials, which marked the end of our formal “regular school” lessons. We are still doing school, just not as intensely.

We’ve gone over some of the lessons in First Language Lessons, we are currently memorizing the first poem, and Child #1 has almost completely learned it.

We took a few days off from schooling just to enjoy a break and have some none school fun.

We picked back up today with six spelling test! Child #1 did amazingly well with them just by sounding out the words. The test were taken from the first grade spelling list on THIS website, which I found thanks to my friend Wendy over at Athena Academy. The list are easy to use and allow us to pick and choose which ones to use based on where we are phonically.

Speaking of phonics, we also started our one phonics lesson a day right before our short little break. We are using Saxon Phonics 1, and we had already been using it at the start of our term back in September. We stopped using it because Child #1 had already learned a lot of the material previously and I thought it would be best if we just focused on applying those concepts to actually reading. This way we were doing more than just a dry and sometimes boring formal lesson.

That made our work load a lot easier and Child #1 has done very well with his reading. Now we are using these lessons to teach phonics concepts that may be a little more difficult *mostly for the ease of spelling in the following year since he can, almost/always, figure out the words while reading on his own*. Saxon Phonics deals with actually learning spelling rules, so my hope is that spelling complex words will be a breeze once the boys have mastered the “rules” of the game so to speak.

For the rest of the week we are going to continue chugging along through First Language Lessons, Saxon Phonics 1, and hopefully *weather pending* we will enjoy a field trip as well.

We will work in some Math and Science starting next week, once I figure out exactly what those lessons will encompass and how we are going to work them in. I’m not shooting for anything formal outside of our phonics work, but I want to keep the material fresh so when we move back into the intense phase of schooling things flow smoothly.

Homeschooling poses its challenges we have learned that over the year, but the challenges bring with them a lot of enlightenment as well.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes

**Disclaimer: All information on homeschooling methods will be just a generalized and very brief *if I can help it* overview of the method. Every family who uses these methods will of course work them to fit their needs. After each overview I will discuss some of the things I do and don’t like about the method in relation to our family. **

The Charlotte Mason method is more of a philosophy then an actual set of guidelines. It is literature based and blends various elements. These elements are, along with literature, narration, copy work, nature notebooks, fine arts, and languages. Charlotte Mason promotes reading “living books” over traditional textbooks. Basically a living book is a book of high quality that is intriguing and offers excellent literary content. Living books should cover the subjects being taught as closely as possible so textbooks won’t be necessary. A big component along with living books is copy work. Copy work is used in every course of study, starting at about age six and continuing through to the upper grades (including high school level). Copy work starts with penmanship, by learning letters and numbers, then it grows to tie in narration, dictation, journaling, spelling which ideally comes from a daily reading.

With the upper grade levels this copy work becomes composition and creative writing. As far as subjects English is incorporated into every subject instead of being its own separate subject, and History along with Literature are to go hand in hand, with the child learning history topics through the books about history that they are reading *or having read to them*. Geography is taught the same way, interwoven with the other subjects using maps/map work to highlight the area/ time period being covered in the history lessons.

The Charlotte Mason Method also values lessons that are short in order to maintain the focus of the child and not be too overwhelming for them. Through shorter lessons Mason felt that a child would learn more because you would have their full attention. Aside from “school” subjects Charlotte Mason also advocated teaching at least 20 desirable habits to your child one by one starting at birth. As well as respecting the child as a fellow person/human being on this Earth with us. She felt children should be valued for what they can do, not by the value that society places on them. Charlotte Mason also believed religion should be taught by the family and that it is what holds/bonds a family together, faith is a central point of the family, and passing it on to the children in the family was just as important as learning to read and write.

So for a brief recap: Charlotte Mason focuses on “living books”, books with literary content, that aren’t pointless or “twaddle”. These living books are used to spark ideas in children and also to teach various subjects, mainly history. It is heavily literature focused, the reading of “living books” are used to teach every possible subject, and for subjects such as Science nature walks/nature study are used along side the living books, Art, Music, and Math are done through doing the subjects *experiencing art/appreciating it, listening/studying music, learning an instrument*, and Math is taught through manipulatives and with a focus on understanding the “why” of various concepts not necessary through using formal lessons to achieve understanding. Copy work is also heavily used to teach things like handwriting and even spelling.

So will Charlotte Mason work for us? Possibly. There are parts of it I really like, like the emphasis on reading quality books, and nature walks/nature study adds another dimension to our science lessons. Are there things that don’t work for the aim of our schooling, yes. We personally feel that textbooks can serve a purpose and shouldn’t be completely discarded, they shouldn’t be the only source of information either, but they can be a valuable guide. So we would need to use a combination of living books and textbooks to meet our educational goals. The short lessons are already something we do. We have blocks of time set out for each subject based on the days we do those subjects. The actual formal lessons don’t require the full amount of time blocked out for them, but the blocks of time do leave us room to go deeper if need be or to allow for some independent learning.

I really like the teaching of 20 desirable habits, that seems like something we could really work into what we are already striving for *with our weekly virtues and chore charts*. The overall view of respecting the child as an individual is also very appealing as well. We greatly want our children to be independent beings, with their own thoughts, emotions, and opinions. This personal desire of ours seems to fit well into the Mason mantra of respecting the child.

While I do cringe at the thought of religion being the bond that holds our family together, I can see the importance of being the one who teaches your children about your beliefs. Neither my husband nor I want our children to learn what an Atheist is from just anyone, since many people do bring with them their own previously held opinions of what an Atheist is or isn't with them. While our beliefs aren’t the central point of our family, we can still use many of the components in the Charlotte Mason Method and just adapt it to our own unique family. So that element of it isn’t a complete negative for us.

Overall the philosophy that Charlotte Mason pioneered can very well be adapted in our home, to what extent, well you will just have to wait until we have gone through the rest of the methods to find that out.

Next on the giant drawing board: Structured/Traditional Textbook Homeschooling Method.

Copyright (c) 2010 Rayven Holmes