{May Gratitudes}

Gratitudes May 2020 | The Open Home
For the moments of calm that keep you going amongst the chaos.
Gratitudes May 2020 | The Open Home
For the joy of spring and the sweetness of life.
Gratitudes May 2020 | The Open Home
For seven years with this one and many more to come.
Gratitudes May 2020 | The Open Home
For homemade goodies and baking for my brood.
Gratitudes May 2020 | The Open Home
For handmade celebrations and island pride.
Gratitudes May 2020 | The Open Home
For 75 years of freedom and the memories of the past that live on.

 

These are the inserts from our gratitude journal during May, reminding us that God is good and we are blessed.

What have you been thankful for lately?

{Wild Challenge} Wild Flower Foray

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

Guernsey is covered in wild flowers during the month of May so it was the perfect opportunity for us to tick off another experience nature activity for our RSPB Wild Challenge, tying in nicely with our regular nature walks.

Firstly, we walked along the coast from Portelet to the Fairy Ring, spotting a surprising amount of wild flowers along the way, 21!

Next we did a cliff walk up at Icart and through the nature reserve where we spotted a whopping 22 different wild flowers.

Then having done a couple of walks near the coast we headed inland to the country lanes of St. Peters to see how many wild flowers we could find on a country walk. The answer? 27!

And for a final wild flower walk we also visited the Orchid Fields down a L’Eree, part of the La Societe Guernesaise nature reserves.

Then to finish things off we searched through our field guides to identify the flowers we didn’t recognise and then drew some of our favourite wild flowers in our nature journals.

Here is the photo evidence:

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

Daisies, foxgloves, poppies, primroses, sea pinks and buttercups are amongst our favourite wild flowers.

What are your favourite wild flowers?

{Home Ed} Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

So in my last post on home education I introduced you to Charlotte who developed a theory of education that continues to be used by thousands of home educators worldwide today, including myself.

I also did my best to summarise, in one short paragraph, what the Charlotte Mason philosophy means to me and today I’d like to unpack that a little further, to help you see what a Charlotte Mason education looks like in practice and how you can implement the philosophy in your own home.

Now it’s important to remember that Charlotte created an educational philosophy not a curriculum (although she did create some of these for use in the PNEU schools). You can find some modern day curriculums out there based on Charlotte Mason’s principles, but these are not needed to create a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool, you simply need to implement her methods in your home.

So what are her methods I hear you ask?

Well below is by no means an exhaustive list of Charlotte Mason’s methods, but they are perhaps the most recognisable aspects of a Charlotte Mason education and the ones that in particular drew me to her philosophy of education.

For each point I’ll try to explain how we are currently implementing each method in our home, not that this is the one and only way to do so, but just so you can glean ideas and get a better picture of what this could look like in your home.

 

10 Ways to Implement a Charlotte Mason Education:

 

1. Delayed Academics

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life…” (Vol. 1, p. 44)

Charlotte believed the early years of learning should be “a quiet growing time” for children and formal lessons, including learning to read and write should wait until the child is around 6 years old. Families providing a Charlotte Mason education are often interested in protecting childhood, using the early years to develop useful life skills and to connect with their child through play.

In our home Blossom, only started to regularly practice reading, writing and maths at age 6 once she started the equivalent of Year 2. Before this I considered her to be in the early years of education and did not require her to sit still to practice such things. She had learnt phonics at age 5 and would attempt to sounds things out and write things off her own initiative, but not at my request.

 

2. Habit Training.

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“What you would have the man become, that you must train the child to be.”  (Vol. 2, p. 15)

Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to instruct their children in the formation of good habits and positive character traits. Now it’s never too late to work on instilling good habits in our children, but the early years of education, before the introduction of formal lessons is a great time to focus on habit formation, leading to smoother and easier school days in the years that are to follow.

Now in our home a big part of habit training in the early years has focused on encouraging the girls to gain independence in activities of daily living like washing, dressing, feeding and toileting and encouraging them to take part in household chores. These life skills are important and definitely part of habit training, but they aren’t what habit training is all about.

Over the course of Charlotte’s six volumes on education she mentioned 60+ different habits, some physical habits, some mental habits, others moral and religious. There’s a lot to work on!

In our home I am using the Laying Down the Rails resources from Simply Charlotte Mason to guide me through habit training as well as Habits for the Early Years from My Little Robins.

 

3. Living Books

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“Children must have books, living books, the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough.” (Vol. 2, p. 279)

Charlotte believed in reading children rich literature as opposed to dry textbooks and the dumbed down “twaddle” that so many of the modern day children’s books have become.  Books should spark the imagination and connect with the soul, not merely entertain. As C.S. Lewis said “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” I think Charlotte would have agreed.

In our home this involves reading a lot of classic children’s literature like Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Milly-Molly-Mandy and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse and avoiding the gaudily illustrated stories about underpants and bogeys that seem to be the focus of much of children’s literature these days. As with all things though the 80/20 Principle does apply. I do let my girls bring home books from the library at times that aren’t particularly to my taste, but I do not keep such stories on our bookshelves at home.

 

4. Nature Study

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects.” (Vol. 1, p. 71)

Charlotte advocated for ample amounts of time outdoors, particularly in the early years of education before formal lessons start. Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education often spend hours outdoors everyday, go on regular nature walks, keep nature journals and become familiar with the natural flora and fauna of their local landscape.

In our home this looks like attending a weekly nature explorers group with other home ed families, taking a weekly nature walk through the same public garden so that we can familiarise ourselves with this specific nature spot, completing a phenology wheel and calendar of firsts in our nature journals and dedicating time during our Monday morning book basket to learn more about natural history.

 

5. Art Enrichment

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“The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore a child should have a generous curriculum.” (Vol. 6, p. 111)

Charlotte believed in spreading a liberal feast of ideas before the child. She wasn’t just concerned with educating the mind, but educating the whole child. Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education fill their hearts and minds with the beauty and wisdom of hymns and folksongs, they memorise poetry and scripture and also study the works of great artists and composers.

In our home we implement this by having a poet, artist and composer whose work we study for the term as well as familiarising ourselves with a new hymn every month or so. Practically we do this by including an art enrichment slot in our morning book basket everyday. On Monday we do hymn study, on Tuesday picture study, on Wednesday composer study and then on Thursday we review one of our old hymns. As for poems we read a few every day during our morning basket and try to memorise a couple of our favourites over the term.

 

6. Short Lessons.

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

“… the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight.” (Vol. 1, p. 142)

Once a child is ready for formal lessons these lessons are kept short so as to engage the child and keep them fully attentive. A child may have lessons in reading, writing, maths, literature, history, picture study and poetry all in one day, but no lesson is more than 20 minutes long for a new student and some last only 5 minutes or so.

In our home our Table Time work, which includes copy work (writing practice) and maths for my 7 year old only takes about 30 minutes for the two subjects. Our morning book basket, which consists of our daily devotions (bible reading, prayers and gratitude journal), art enrichment as mentioned above and then our main lesson (either history, geography, natural history or PSHE) is all done within an hour. The short lessons means all our formal school work is currently done within an hour and a half every morning a little longer if we add in craft projects to accompany our main lesson.

 

7. Narration

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

“Narrating is not the work of a parrot, but of absorbing into oneself the beautiful thought from the book, making it one’s own and then giving it forth again with just that little touch that come’s from one’s own mind.” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 125)

Charlotte recognised that children naturally narrate or “tell back” stories from their day so she used this as a key tool in their education. Once a child is receiving formal lessons from around age 6 they can then be asked to narrate orally (and creatively) and then around age 10 they can begin to write their narrations. Narration has the double benefit of enabling the child to express and process what they’ve learnt from a lesson without the need of having to fill in a dry comprehensive worksheet.

In our home we are just starting out with oral narrations for my 7 year old and I have chosen to start with our art enrichment subjects of picture study and composer study. After studying a picture or listening to a piece of music I simply ask a question about what we’ve studied, questions like; How did that piece of music make you feel? What instruments could you hear? What do you think the people in this picture were feeling? What do you particularly like about this picture?

In time, we will start adding in narrations for our history, geography and nature read alouds too, making it 1-2 oral narrations per day. I have personally chosen not to do narrations for our literature read alouds as I want these books to simply be savoured and enjoyed as a family.

 

8. Copy work

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“A certain sense of possession and delight may be added… if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem or another.” (Vol. 1, p. 238)

Copy work is another of Charlotte’s methods introduced once formal lessons have begun around age 6, although Charlotte called it transcription. Copy work initially begins as a way of practicing letter formation and hand writing but in time, if done well, it is also a fabulous way of getting a child to slow down to take notice of spelling and grammar and also enables them to internalise words of great beauty.

For my 7 year old, who started copy work at the start of this academic year when 6 years old, I simply write out scripture verses, poems, or hymns that she’s enjoyed into a little handwriting exercise book and encourage her to copy it using her best handwriting. She started by writing just a short list of words back in the autumn term and now as we come to the end of the school year she will write out several lines and has also moved on to joined up (cursive) handwriting.

Now some people choose to buy handwriting curriculum to use for copy work, but I have to say I have found this simple approach to be highly sufficient not to mention cost effective. The improvement in my 7 year olds handwriting over this academic year with just a few minutes of writing practice every school day has been incredible.

 

9. Handicrafts

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“The human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause for joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success.” (Vol. 6, p. 328) 

Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education are encouraged to learn meaningful arts and crafts and produce useful pieces of work, as opposed to throw away crafts that often come in a pack. Think knitting, sewing, pottery, woodwork, sculpting, baking and calligraphy, all things that make for great life long skills.

In our home this currently looks like embroidery and weaving which we aim to work on once a week, but it’s often more like once or twice a month. With their embroidery the girls will eventually be making some personalised bags as gifts and with their weaving they are due to start making a wall hanging to display in their newly decorated bedroom.

 

10. Free Afternoons

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There is “… satisfaction to do the day’s work in the day, and be free to enjoy the day’s leisure.” (Vol. 4, p. 173)

Charlotte advocated that children should have afternoons free from formal lessons, made possible by the short lessons mentioned above that ensured that school work was out of the way by lunch time. The afternoons aren’t a time to simply be idle but a time to be productive and learn in more hands on and practical ways.

Things like going on nature walks, music practice and lessons, working on handcrafts, serving in the community, pursuing hobbies and following their own interests.

In our home this looks like poetry tea time on a Monday, handcrafts or baking on a Tuesday, a play date on a Wednesday, nature walk on a Thursday and Girl Guiding on a Friday, all with lots of free play throw in.

———-

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

So there you have it. Ten ways that you can implement a Charlotte Mason education in your own home.

Which of Charlotte’s methods appeal to you most?

{Daughter Diaries} #67

Daughter Diaries 67 | The Open Home

Dear Blossom, the truth is this, I don’t home educate you because I want to do school with you, I home educate you because I want to do life with you! I’ve had seven splendid years with you now and you know what? I still don’t wanna miss a thing! The days can be long (especially during lockdown!) but the years are so very, very short and I feel that now, seven years in to this motherhood gig, I’m now beginning to really understand that. Dear Bubbles, your enthusiasm for phonics is to be applauded and your sponge like brain is truly impressive. You do realise though that despite being homeschoolers we don’t actually have to do school work every day of the week!? Mama does likes to have a break some times, you know, especially when she is 36 weeks pregnant and supposedly on maternity leave! Dearest Daughters, I will be forever grateful for the extra time I have gained with you by being the Mummy Teacher, how blessed I am to live the life I lead.

What blessings are you discovering during lockdown?

 

Blossom Turns Seven!

Blossom Turns Seven! | The Open Home

I love writing and drawing, telling stories, reading books, baking cakes and eating cakes, poetry, singing and classical music, history, nature, baby goats, walking through Candie Gardens, eating chips on the beach, swimming and rock pooling, going to Rainbows, cuddles, cuddles and more cuddles, Granny’s stories and daughter dates.

My favourite toys are my bunny Boo, my matchbox mouse Fred and toy animals.

My favourite books are Milly-Molly-Mandy, The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse, The Enormous Crocodile and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

My favourite movies are Ice Age, FrozenArthur Christmas and the TinkerBell movies.

My favourite foods are raspberries, strawberries, macaroni cheese, ice-cream, chocolate, cake, chocolate cake, chips and Granny’s yorkshire puddings!

When I grow up I want to own a sweet shop!

——

For more birthday posts about our sweet Blossom, click {HERE}.

Happy Birthday Sweetheart! Mama loves you.

{April Gratitudes}

Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For fresh air and freedom and bumping into old friends.
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For dirty hands and marvellous worms.
Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For the sweet whimsy of learning from home.
Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For simple celebrations and successful Easter treats.
Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For the simple pleasure of a dandy puff.
Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For urban surprises and nature that finds a way.
Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For the sound of the postman’s knock and the joy of a simple letter.
Gratitudes April 2020 | The Open Home
For beauty in the small things and the splendour of spring.

 

These are the inserts from our gratitude journal during April, reminding us that God is good and we are blessed.

What have you been thankful for lately?

{Home Ed} Introducing Charlotte

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Since we started home educating Blossom two and a half years ago, six families have been in contact with me directly to discuss the possibility of home educating their little one(s) at home on this island, not to mention the countless others I have spoken with online via a Facebook group for home educators in Guernsey.

They usually start by asking me what do we do and are then very eager to know what we use to do it.

This line of thought often has people bogged down in the “how to” of home educating, most often before they have even given much thought as to the “why” of home educating.

I personally feel it’s important to understand why you want to home educate your kids before you start planning how to home educate them and unfortunately, I’m often not much help when it comes to the “how to” of home educating, especially not when someone is after a curriculum suggestion, as we do not follow the national curriculum nor a box set of curriculum.

What I do follow however, is an educational philosophy.

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Now if a curriculum is the “how to” of an education then an educational philosophy is the “why”. It’s the guiding principle that keeps the big picture in mind and the reference point for all learning.

This is why when prospective home educators are seeking advice on how to home educate their kids I like to encourage them to first take some time to think about why they want to home educate their kids. I find researching the various educational philosophies can really help with this, enabling you to identify the educational values and methods that aren’t always used in schools, but are important to you.

Now there are many educational philosophies out there and not everyone that home educates chooses to follow one and many even glean ideas from a few. Waldorf Steiner, Montessori, Classical, Charlotte Mason and Un-schooling seem to be the most popular ones, but there are others and I’m not going to go into the details of all of these here as I do not follow them all.

Instead today I would just like to introduce you to Charlotte Mason, the creator of the one educational philosophy that I do follow.

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

Now Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As a child she was mostly educated at home by her parents and then as an adult went on to become a teacher, lecturer and educator who authored many books on the topic of educational theory. She also co-founded an organisation, the Parents Educational Union later renamed the Parents National Education Union, or the PNEU for short which offered support and resources to parents who were educating their children at home.

As her theory of education became popular the first school based on her principles was opened in 1890 and there are still a few PNEU private schools operating in the UK today, not to mention thousands of home educators worldwide choosing to educate their children the Charlotte Mason way.

Now I won’t go into all the principles of a Charlotte Mason education here nor will I share in detail about all of her wonderful methods, which appeal to so many. I will save that for a later post as this one is already getting rather long. Today I just wanted to briefly introduce you to Charlotte, to put her on your radar and then in my later home ed posts I can unpack the philosophy a little more.

Personally I have found following an educational philosophy, particularly the Charlotte Mason philosophy to be very grounding and affirming in my journey as a home educator. It’s enabled me to better understand my educational values, to keep focused on what I’m trying to achieve in our homeschool and it gives me greater freedom when making decisions as I have some guiding principles to come back to.

So in conclusion today I would just like to briefly sum up, in my own words what the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education looks like. I’m sure that other home educators would explain it very differently, as different aspects of the philosophy may appeal to them more, but for those who are unsure of some of the traits of a Charlotte Mason education then these are the elements that drew me to the philosophy.

Here we go:

“The Charlotte Mason philosophy of education is also known as the gentle art of learning. It provides an education rich in the liberal arts offering a wide variety of subjects that educate the whole child, not just his mind. There is a focus on forming good habits, gaining life skills, spending time outdoors and using quality children’s literature, with short formal lessons being delayed until a child is around 6 years old.”

Introducing Charlotte | The Open Home

So in my next Charlotte Mason post I’ll share more about how we implement the Charlotte Mason philosophy in our homeschool, mentioning some of the main methods she used that have now become some of the key characteristics of a Charlotte Mason homeschool education.

So tell me, what are your questions about a Charlotte Mason education?