What Classical Education Has to Say

All parents homeschool.  I’ll explain that later. To jump straight to the video, scroll down to the bottom of this post, or just click this link.

It’s been a while since I’ve introduced myself on the world wide web. I’m Holly, a homeschool mom of three under the age of nine.  My husband, kids and I live in a big town/small city in eastern NC.  If you haven’t already visited my website, I’d be happy to have you at www.mylittlebrickschoolhouse.com!   My Little Brick Schoolhouse was initially a creative outlet for me.  It has evolved into (I hope) a service for you.

My mission is four-fold:

  1.  Deliver resources to allow families the chance to read living books together.
  2. Create content that fosters engaging narration and discussion about living books.
  3. Connect parents with Classical and Charlotte Mason methods
  4. Help parents strategize homeschool solutions.

I started homeschooling back in 2018.  Ask me anything, yet I am still roughly new to this.  I have so much I’m learning, and today, I’d like to share with you some things I took away from the Classical Conversations Area Practicum I attended this weekend, in addition to some of my own thoughts.

Justin Nale delivered the excellent presentation at practicum.

First of all, before I even talk about the practicum, I want to acknowledge a huge problem we have in society today.

Usborne Books and More cites that interest in reading a book outside of school drops from 100% in kindergarten to 54% in fourth grade.  What happened between K and 4th grade?  Parents. You guys need to know the reason.
Did you know that reading aloud to your children builds their “want” to read?

A more recent, 2022 survey found that more than half of 2,003 American adults surveyed had not finished a single book in the past year.

So, what happened?  Parents stopped reading to their kids.  This is a crisis.

What has replaced books in the home?  It’s the elephant in the room, guys.  Screens. Oh, don’t get me started there.  Too much time spent with screen media is associated with: childhood obesity, sleep disturbances, attention span issues… oh and I am sure there are emotional implications, too.  Adults are not immune to these effects, either!

Oh, and since we’re talking about time, where does your child spend the most time annually?  AT HOME.  You have him for 7,800 hours.  School: 900 hours.  Which teacher is more influential?

That’s why I have created some resources for you to use on my website: booklists, free resources, and unit studies.  We all should be reading with our kids.  It’s about binding hearts together in the family, not about leaving the kids. 

All Parents Homeschool

If you have breath in your lungs and also have offspring, you are a homeschool parent.  Since birth, you’ve been teaching your child.  Did you teach him to feed himself?  How about to put on his clothes?  Have you been speaking to your child since she was born?  You get the picture.  You are your child’s first teacher, and you have a tremendous impact.  Each day, we have so many things we are learning together alongside our children, if we are spending time with them.  Homeschooling is nothing new! 

Now, I’m not advocating homeschool for everyone because you have to do what God is calling you to do for your family.  Seasons of life, full-time ministry jobs, and other situations could preclude homeschool from being a good, God-glorifying option for your family.

That said, there is so much to unpack.  Where do we begin?

Classical Education is where my family’s journey began.

Well, since our family is a part of a Classical Conversations community, I’m talking from my unique perspective.  Classical education can be characterized in various ways, but I’ve heard two distinct lists. 

One list goes like this: 


1) classical education pursues virtue

2) uses tools to learn in layers (knowledge, understanding, then wisdom)

3) celebrates the integration of knowledge

Another list goes like this:

1)follows the pattern of the trivium

2) is language-focused rather than image-focused

3) is centered around the story of history

Define the terms: TRIVIUM

The trivium is a three-part pattern: the mind must first be supplied with facts and images.  This is called the grammar stage. 

Next, the mind must be given the logical tools for organizing those facts and images, called the dialectic stage or logic stage.

Finally, the mind must be equipped to express conclusions.  This is called the rhetoric stage. 
Each stage correlates with an age range. 

  • Grammar Stage: Kindergarten through fourth grade
  • Logic Stage: Fifth grade through eighth grade
  • Rhetoric Stage: Ninth grade through twelfth grade

Now that we’ve defined trivium, does it make some sense?  You probably have some questions. Do all children in any given stage fit nicely into that box and never utilize thinking skills outside of their prescribed stage?  No.  When you think about it, we adults go through the entire trivium any time we are learning something new, from start to finish.  Take baking cookies, for example.  I must learn the correct grammar (terminology) for the ingredients, tools, methods I will be using.  Next, I move on to the logic stage when I realize that one of the ingredients, say, baking soda, can be increased to make my cookies more fluffy.  I am starting to understand the way the process works.  Then, if I decide to tweak a recipe and rewrite it to reflect my preference for chocolate chip cookies, I am in the rhetoric stage. 

Okay, now that you know the trivium, those of you who are new to classical education, let me give you three things to take away. 

  • Education is not the same as training.

I was a lifeguard in high school during the summer.  We know that when you apply for a lifeguarding job, they have you watch training videos, complete worksheets, practice saving people in the pool.  I even remember swimming to the bottom of the pool to pick up bricks, delivering them safely to the surface! You are training for a job.  You are learning specific skills, for a certain future.  I was going to lifeguard that summer. I needed to learn x, y, and z. 

Now, education, that is different.  You educate for an uncertain future.  What does your future hold? If you have lived, you know that it will at some point hold suffering.  Is training about shaping the soul, and giving kids tools they’ll need across callings?  No.  It’s specific and very finite.  Education is for life.  It’s a good distinction to keep in mind. 

  • Teaching character is paramount to academics.

I have said this before.  I ask you, is the most important thing in a childhood academics? Think.  You remember what your childhood was like. 

How about this? How will you be in old age?  Grumpy and discontent, or joyful and full of life?  How are these two types of old people so distinct?  Habits.  Character.  When were their character habits developed?  Early in life.  So think about that and how you will train your children.  Character is paramount.

  • Lastly, this is my own musing.  I am noticing the shift in our culture, aren’t you?  I am specifically talking about interconnectedness, globalization and technology. Has social media and AI technology made us better as individuals? How about smarter?  First of all, the constant bombardment of images has wreaked havoc on our attention spans.  Next, do you realize how various tech companies use people like you and me to perfect their algorithms and tap into the human mind, making us no higher than dehumanized objects?  We are their product.  We help other companies sell their products because our behavior is being heavily monitored and analyzed constantly.  Okay, so what does this have to do with classical education? 

Charlotte Mason, have you ever heard of her?  She was a British education reformer from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was heavily influenced by classical thought. Many people who love her methods love classical education.  Charlotte Mason defined students as persons.  A person has a soul, a will, and possibilities for good and for evil.  A person is more than a mind. We do not fall into the ditch of intellectualism.  No, we are not just teaching a mind, disconnected from a heart.  We are teaching a whole person.  We also do not fall into the ditch of emotionalism, where everything is about the heart of a child, and we forget reason.  These are two ditches to avoid.  We are to teach the whole person.  And persons are people of words.  Our world deals in words.  Not images.  As much as Instagram would like you to think image is everything, and look how dumb we are becoming in the process, we must go back to being people of words.  We have a language to be used for God’s glory.  May we learn to communicate well with our words to bring him honor and to help others.  

Classical education points to the study of this world, and how it is all connected to God.  Just like we cannot dissect a person into mind versus heart, we cannot separate the unity of truth that is God’s truth.  All truth is connected. We are also people of words.  Technology can be used for great things for God’s glory, but let us be wary. 

May God bless you this year! If you’d like to hear more from me, sign up to join my email community.

Homeschool Expectations Vs. Reality

Back in January 2022, I asked for some feedback. I wanted to know from fellow homeschooling moms what have been some of their (possibly) unrealistic expectations as it relates to homeschooling.

When I asked about unrealistic homeschooling expectations, a couple of common responses were:


1) That we would keep a set schedule

2) That we would all be motivated to learn on any given day

In fact, I had to make a perspective change that very week, when we all came down with sickness.  I plan- thankfully, I plan in pencil.  Surprisingly, we had met a lot of our goals for the week, but getting there looked very different.  For example, we split up one day’s work over the course of two days (we had built-in flexibility), Daddy taught a lot of subjects as I recovered from illness, the kids’ activities were cancelled, giving us more unscheduled time as a family.  We had to look at this as an opportunity for family bonding and working on some of our challenges, as opposed to a great inconvenience and discouragement. It took reframing our thinking.

How about you?

As we begin a new year, I reflect back on some of the “oops” moments and their opposing “a-ha” moments in homeschooling.

Some of my realizations:

-Relationships trump academics: I had to wrap my mind around this one because I’m such a checklist-oriented person.  But, it’s true that when children feel seen and loved, they are much more ready to learn.

-Plans need to be flexible, but organized. Buffer time needs to be built in.  In April, instead of taking off 3 weeks, we have that third week as a built-in buffer.  If we use it, we have it.  If we don’t, then that’s fine.

-A sad realization: my son and daughter have to be given incentives to work hard.  This is reality.  They are not self-motivated, unless it’s something that really interests them. Karen Andreola does address this in her Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning.

I am going to try to remember this:

“The child is a person, a human being with a spiritual origin. Yet most schools govern by a system of treats: grades, prizes, and competitive placing. Even Sunday schools give out balloons, happy face stickers, candy, and plastic trinkets as rewards for children paying attention to the Word of God! Charlotte Mason believed this type of motivation to be harmful for learning and dangerous for a child’s character. “

So, how do I “grade” my students?

I am going to set out on a journey this year to emphasize admiration, hope, and love.

Admiration: “Children should be taught to recognize and admire the righteous, the pure, the heroic, the beautiful, the truthful, and the loyal in their educational life,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 338).

Hope: “So-called ‘late bloomers’ are only flowers that bloom at a different time, and we all know that the beautiful varieties of flowers in God’s world do not all bloom in the same season,” (Andreola, 1998, p. 339).

Love: “We live by love and the love we give and the love we receive, by the countless tendernesses that go out from us and the countless kindnesses that come to us…” (Andreola, 1998, p. 340).

“Charlotte taught that we live by admiration, hope, and love, and without these three we do not live.”

Karen Andreola

-We do not need to be purists.  There is no one philosophy that fits all people, for sure.  Even within a family, there is no one philosopher or educational reformer who will “meet every need”, but we certainly draw heavily from a couple philosophies (Charlotte Mason, classical, for two).  It’s more a lifestyle than it is an educational philosophy.

-We sometimes get tired of staying at home, but honestly, I expected to feel a lot more “trapped” before I decided to homeschool.  This has not been true, for us.  We have built-in socialization throughout the normal week, and school days seem to fly by. Also, do not rule out hiring help, if you think that you can do this. That has brought me some sense of togetherness, without it being just me and the kids.

-Before I homeschooled, I assumed that if you homeschool, you do not utilize other adults’ help.  Wrong, again.  Homeschooling has helped me realize my NEED for other people and their help/expertise. 

-My expectation that we would have one-source for all homeschool advice and that would fix my problems was so far from the truth.  Thanks to the internet and a book that lists hundreds of curriculum choices, I realized that the one book I thought would be my “bible” was really just another tool I can pull from. 

-I expected that we would study the same subjects all year long.  Not true!  We have picked up subjects in seasons, and have dropped some in seasons (ex.  At-home science was dropped around the holidays, and we relied solely on our co-op for science the rest of the year).

-I expected, based off what I was seeing on Pinterest and Instagram, that all my kids would work in harmony at the kitchen table.  HA!

-I expected that my son would be an early reader because my “one source” made it sound like it was expected for kids to read around age 4, since the author had begun that early.

-I tended to want to make everything like a unit study – you know, connect the science content to the history to the math to the reading, etc.  It does not have to be so!  In fact, it is cool how the connections my kids make are oftentimes unforeseen.  Just reading good books helps facilitate their ability to connect.  (ex. Seeing a word that we studied in context, then connecting the word to the ideas found in that context) You can study Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages at the same time. You will not mess the kids or you up.

-Lastly, I FEARED I would regret homeschooling because we would be “messing our kids up” (not true, but society plays on that fear)

-I feared I would be alone, (also false) but I have found community in expected and unexpected places in our community! Find something that fits in with your normal lifestyle.

One More Thought

Think on God’s joy in seeing you and your children! He made each of you on purpose, for a purpose. I wonder what he’ll do in your homeschool this year? The children he gave you are yours for a while, and your job is to enjoy them and rely on God’s ability to help you do the toughest job on Earth. I wonder what they will become and what all they will be able to do for Him? Such a thought makes my feel hopeful. I hope it helps you feel that way, too.

Other Helpful Resources

I would be remiss if I did not share a few of these podcast episodes with you. Listen to them while you walk, run, fold laundry, wash dishes, cook, or whenever you make the time.

Mothering by the Book (Interview with Jennifer Pepito)

NEW from Jennifer Pepito: Mothering by the Book

Reading, Relationships, and Restfully Homeschooling (Interview with Sarah Mackenzie)

Three Reasons Why Your Child Will Be Ready for the Real World (Pam Barnhill)

Books to Encourage You

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie

Start with the Heart by Kathy Koch, PhD

Risen Motherhood: Gospel Hope for Everyday Moments by Emily Jensen and Laura Wifler

Mother Culture: For a Happy Homeschool by Karen Andreola

Related:

On Work and Purpose

Focusing on the Heart

Creativity (and Fun!) For You

Homeschooling Encouragement with Karen Andreola

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these materials, at no additional cost to you. Thanks so much for your support.

Encouragement

There is nothing quite like that feeling when you get some unexpected encouragement from a trusted source.

It was December 2020. I had just gotten off the phone with a far-from-trusted-source: a vanity publisher. Mr. Salesman was trying his very hardest to pull out all the stops and sell me a book deal that I would have to pay for up-front! Thankfully, my husband and I talked about it and decided this kind of thing would be more of a sham or scam (you decide) than anything else.

But I was longing so badly to get my book published. I had a manuscript that I could not wait to share with someone with trained eyes and a vision like mine.

Karen Andreola, Charlottemason.com

Enter Karen Andreola. I had managed to contact her about book publishing to get some tips and put my feelers out there in case she had any leads. She is well-acquainted with the publishing world. After all, she and her husband republished Charlotte Mason’s writings in America, which is probably one of the reasons you know of Miss Mason’s name today. So, I was hopeful.

Not only did Karen Andreola take the time to listen to me and see that I had a vision to deliver a living story to the people who would embrace it; she also took the time for a phone call. She listened to what I had to say about the book. After hearing me out, she gave me her own wise take on the modern publishing industry. She reflected on my work, and gave me great words of encouragement. I left that conversation feeling refreshed and understood. I will never forget her generosity. Fun fact: Karen Andreola’s son Nigel is an illustrator and has his own business.

Karen Andreola has not only encouraged me in conversation, but also in her written words.

Book Club

Our book club is comprised of about four to five mothers of elementary aged children. We are all fairly familiar with Charlotte Mason homeschooling, but this was not the case two years ago.

In July 2020, I attended a Charlotte Mason conference in Georgia where I met a friend who would become a founding member of our book club here in North Carolina. Kate was passionate about growing and learning more about Charlotte Mason’s methods, even though her wisdom far surpassed my own. She and I met at a Panera Bread that same year, in August, to discuss what we wanted to read. We both knew that Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning was to be our first book club pick for its format (short, easy-to-read narratives), its candid and lovely tone, and its practical application of Mason’s philosophy.

So, we began our monthly meetings in October 2020 on my friend Joy’s screened-in porch, adjacent to her lovely backyard garden.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our readings and discussion. We have not rushed our book study, as we are just now about to wrap up A Charlotte Mason Companion two years (24 meetings) later!

Wisdom

I have grown and gathered wisdom from reading this gem. One of the first aphorisms I jotted down to remember in my homeschool was:

Be sure that your children each day have:

  • Something or someone to love
  • Something (worthwhile) to do
  • Something to think about

Andreola’s book encourages self-reflection and group discussion by asking questions at the end of many chapters. As I look back on my written reflections about the nature of education in response to her questions at the end of chapter three, What Is Education?, I see these notes:

“When I hear the word ‘education’ my first impression is that education used to mean more of a system-based idea. I always believed in educating the whole person, but the methods in place were insufficient, leaving me baffled.”

What is meant by we are “educated by our intimacies”?

“The things we love and hold dear to our minds will make us who we are.”

What opportunities for loving can your home provide?

“We can practice the habit of encouragement.”

Name some worthwhile things to do at home or for others outside the home.

“Visiting lonely neighbors, building LEGO creations and imagining, writing thank you notes and encouraging notes to family.”

Have you heard it wisely put, “You are what you eat?” In what way do we become what we read (with discernment and discretion)?

“The ideas of our culture’s best thinkers will shape our own ideas.”

What are three simple things to remember about educating – whatever curriculum you choose?

“Give the children something or someone to love, something to think about, and something worthwhile to do (daily).”

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Now, What?

My dear Charlotte Mason Companion will become one of my staple reference books on my bookshelf. I plan to pull it down and find that chapter on narration or vocabulary or nature study to refresh my approach and keep the methods consistent with a living education.

I will seek fresh ideas on how to enliven our afternoons through outdoor group games by turning to her chapter Ready, Set, Go! Believe it or not, I have made a more intentional habit of taking the kids out to the front yard lately to play some of the favorites: Mr. Fox, What Time is It?; Red Light, Green Light; Duck, Duck, Goose, and more.

I will go back to the first few chapters of the book: A Living God for a Living Education, What is Education, and Education is a Science of Relations when I need to get back to the basic fundamentals of why I home educate the way I do.

Andreola’s book is marked up with my notes and underlined passages. There is so much to tuck away into my memory. Are you yearning for a group with whom to discuss Charlotte Mason’s principles? Are you looking for practical ideas of ways to enjoy homeschooling with your children? I bet you could garner a lot of interest in this book should you choose to begin a book club.

Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion and Mother Culture, makes Charlotte Mason’s ideas attainable, more amplified. Miss Mason’s original volumes are referenced throughout her works. If you find that reading the original volumes seems daunting, then try Andreola’s companion first. Her encouragement will go with you throughout your reading journey.

Karen Andreola Biography:

Karen Andreola is best known for her groundbreaking book, A Charlotte Mason Companion. She home educated her children K-12. Way back in 1989, Karen and her husband Dean fueled the revival of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education in the homeschool when they republished Miss Mason’s writings in America. Mother Culture is her newest book helping mothers prevent burn-out. Unique to the homeschool world, Karen also writes fiction to offer mothers a peek at a gentle and happy home life.  

Find Karen Andreola online at: Charlottemason.com

(source: Karen Andreola)

Moms Are Persons, Too: Why I Attend This Retreat

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask? A retreat. Read more to find out why.

The homeschool life is a glorious life, but sometimes it can get overwhelming, like anything else.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much.

I know you are enjoying the togetherness, as am I. However, by Week #6 or 7 of summer break, our family is ready to recharge and reset. What about you?

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask?

Why, to the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat, of course! Held in the wooded lakeside Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, the retreat is aimed at refreshing moms who are homeschooling or teaching other people’s children under a Charlotte Mason philosophy.

The retreat usually runs Friday to Saturday, with a pre-retreat on Thursday. Historically, I have attended all of these days. Held the second-to last weekend in July, the timing of the retreat is perfect – right before school starts back for many, but also a time when many families like to vacation together. I have friends whose husbands and kids will do something touristy during the day, while they attend the retreat.

I thought I would gain new ideas and inspiration when I first signed up in 2020 to attend my first retreat. I gained so much more – I gained friends. I gained a renewed love for my family. I even regained a joy in worship! The worship time on Saturday morning is priceless.

I am still here at the retreat as I type this.

My highlights have been:

  1. Meeting Karen Glass, author of In Vital Harmony, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, and Know and Tell: The Art of Narration.

I came up all giddy-like. I was just tickled to meet the author of some of my favorite education books, to-date! Karen and I chatted about the classical thinkers and their influence on two of Charlotte Mason’s principles (“Education is the science of relations” and “Children are born persons”). A great chat, from which I left feeling quite inspired to continue teaching the Charlotte Mason way.

2. Amber O’Neal Johnston, also known as “Heritage Mom” on her blog and social media, has been teaching me about using living books as “windows” into the lives of others. Using books as windows is a wonderful thing, but how about using books as “mirrors”? Knowing one’s own heritage and identity helps him or her appreciate the culture of another. That is Amber’s premise and mission: to curate an inclusive culturally rich home education.

Well, I got to meet Amber last year, and I reconnected with her today. Between yesterday and today, I have really been enjoying these extraordinary homeschool moms who are as dedicated to the nurturing and teaching of their children as I know you are.

Not to mention, Amber is about the most down-to-earth homeschool mom I’ve met. She is a lovely soul!

Her session today was entitled “Belonging Together: Managing the Seasons of Community and Fellowship”. I learned so much about the workings of a co-op from listening. Amber took us through the steps of a co-op, from exploring the idea to initiating the concept, to living it out, to excelling and growing, to moving on.

Her new book is finally here! A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond has been added to my list of books to read in the coming year.

3. I was able to go line dance last night in the conference ballroom. Sonya Shafer and her daughter were also in line. We all had a wonderful time!

4. The sessions on portraits of a homeschool parent were so encouraging and convicting, if I’m being honest. Sonya Shafer delivered the session, which was full of truth and grace. We do not do this alone, and there is so much to learn from Charlotte Mason on parenting, believe it or not.

When I spoke with Sonya later, I asked her where to start in Charlotte’s volumes, if I am looking for a good parenting read. She recommended starting with Volume 2: Parents and Children.

5. I attended a session on using technology well with Doug Smith. He drove home the point about technology as a tool to be mastered. Charlotte Mason wrote about the elaborate models of “appliances”, or what we could call “tech” in today’s vernacular. These tech models are not to be the basis of our learning, and are to be introduced progressively.

Would you give a five-year-old child a calculator before teaching him the principles of math? The same concept applies here with technology.

Technology can be a wonderful gift when used appropriately.

Doug talked about all kinds of technology, like LEGO bricks and snap circuits. How he described himself as a child made me think of my own son, who loves tinkering, taking apart and putting together, and building with all kinds of things, including LEGO bricks and wood. I gained some inspiration and thanked him for including LEGO in a Charlotte Mason education, as I wrote an article on this back in January!

6. Lastly, and possibly my favorite part of this retreat has been making new friends and reconnecting with the old friends of retreats past. I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart to know there are kindred spirits miles away who are in my corner, as I am in theirs!

So, do I attend this retreat for rest and renewal of mission? YES.

Do I attend to grow and connect with others? YES.

Do I come back a better mom? YES.

Would you consider going with me next year?

Books I Have Loved This Summer, Books I Look Forward To Reading

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I have a new book list I am dying to share with you.

I am so thankful for the Internet, aren’t you?! It allows us to find books within seconds and either check them out at our local libraries, or use our devices to get them delivered brand new to our doorsteps! Oh, technology surely has its pitfalls, but I do love that we can do some things so much easier in this day and age.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I can recommend these books to you, and might receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Our homeschool has seen the accumulation of these beloved books over time. I cannot say that I’m ashamed to admit that I still have to read a handful of the more “adult” books I ordered for myself, because… you know what? The picture books get my attention first.

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Do you agree?

I sure do! That’s why I picked out the books on this list to reflect my hunger for living books. These books give us the noble ideas, the virtues and the facts about a person, place, time or process in the world. Some of these stories are fiction; many are nonfiction.

Please take some time to study this list. They span subjects of history, literature, science, math and I threw in some fun book basket ideas and summer read alouds, for good measure. I cannot wait to share these titles with you! You might get some ideas for future reading in your upcoming school year, or you might find something to enjoy before the school year begins. We have either read, or will read, every one of these books listed in our own homeschool.

We will be studying middle ages history this upcoming year, and I could not be more excited! The cross-section castle book looks amazing. I also cannot wait to read authors with whom I have not become familiar. They will become dear friends, I am sure, just like A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis were for us this past school year.

As this new school year begins, I thank you so much for supporting me and my mission to recommend quality, living books to families who love to read with their children.

In addition to these wonderful books, when you get the chance to sit down and think about what poetry you might read next year, you might consider Robert Louis Stevenson. I have a freebie I will send you that includes: 3 summer poems, copy work, an interactive 4-square template, and project ideas to introduce you to his work before you dive in and get his poetry collection. If you love his poetry already and are searching for a sweet, illustrated collection of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, I am happy to share my recommendation with you here:

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (Illus. Tasha Tudor)

Would you like the Poetry Mini-Unit (Freebie)?

One of my favorite homeschool memories of all time was when we read Aliki’s A Medieval Feast and later held our own very special medieval feast, complete with cornish hens and “blackbird pie”, medieval tarts, and of course, “ale”. Where would we have gotten that inspiration if it had not been for that picture book?

Growing Together: Get to Know These Charlotte Mason Practitioners

Grow with us as we learn about Charlotte Mason and learn from each other!

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of some of these great resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you, friends!

Where are you on your homeschooling journey?  If you are just starting out, perhaps researching different philosophies of education and methods is where you are camping out this summer.  Maybe you have already found a couple ideologies that work well for your family and you want to explore one further.  When I first set out researching this homeschool thing about five years ago, I was barely thirty years old, with just two little ones.  Now, I am officially in my mid-to-late thirties…and am very tired… with three young children.  I don’t know about you, but I do not often find the time to extensively research something. Then, there is something called “decision fatigue”.  To reduce decision fatigue, I gladly took a well-crafted quiz to determine where I lean on the educational ideological spectrum back in 2017.  If you already own Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (2014), go ahead and open it and take the quiz where you find out which educational approach resonates most with you.  She gives you a comprehensive explanation about different educational methods. I can say that taking the quiz confirmed some paths for me.  

If you do have an idea about Charlotte Mason and her methods, then you might appreciate going deeper by reading about these women below.  I will call them my “team of pundits”- those to whom I look for good discussion, implementation and modeling of the lifestyle I want to incorporate into our family culture. Each one has either directly or indirectly impacted me.  Each woman comes from a different background, but all have chosen a similar way for their families, in terms of motherhood and education.  

If you have a chance to read over their bios and click on their resources, you will most likely find some kindred spirits and learn more along the way. 

Let’s get to know some of these authors, speakers, bloggers, and dedicated homeschool moms:

1. Karen Glass

“Karen Glass is the mother of four children, all graduated, and a veteran Charlotte Mason homeschooler who lived in Krakow, Poland for 25 years before recently relocating to the United States. She has immersed herself in the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and is passionate about bringing her life-giving ideas to contemporary educators. She is one of the creators of the AmblesideOnline curriculum, and has been writing and speaking for many years. She is the author of several books based on those educational ideas, including Consider This, Know and Tell, and In Vital Harmony.”

(Source: https://simplycharlottemason.com/charlotte-mason-together-retreat/)

Books I have enjoyed:

Consider This

Know and Tell

In Vital Harmony

2. Sonya Shafer

“Sonya Shafer is a popular homeschool speaker and writer, specializing in the Charlotte Mason Method. She has been on an adventure for more than 20 years studying, researching, practicing, and teaching Charlotte’s gentle and effective methods of education. Her passion for homeschooling her own four daughters grew into helping others and then into Simply Charlotte Mason, which publishes her many books and provides a place of practical encouragement to homeschoolers at simplycharlottemason.com.”

(Source: https://simplycharlottemason.com/events-speaking/workshops/sonya-shafer-biography/)

Resources I’ve used:
A Child’s Copybook Reader

Delightful Handwriting

Your Questions Answered: Narration

Picture Study Portfolios

Composer Study

Singing the Great Hymns

Pond and Stream Companion

In recent years, I have been blessed to attend the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia!  It has been an honor to see Sonya in her element and to just “hang” with other Charlotte Mason moms. 

3. Amy Bodkin

“Amy Bodkin is an Autistc Adult, School Psychologist, and Homeschool Mom to her two Autistic kids. She consults primarily with homeschool families as the Special Needs Consultant at A Charlotte Mason Plenary. She works with families who have experienced chronic health conditions, disabilities, trauma, asynchronous development, etc. Her practice is guided by Charlotte Mason’s idea that “Children are born persons” and she makes it her goal to see each child as an individual, not a diagnosis.

Amy has recently started a new venture at amybodkin.com to provide a home to her advocacy work and her new podcast Special Needs Kids are People Too!

(Source: Amy Bodkin, EdS, also see https://charlottemasoninspired.com/amy-bodkin/)

Check out Amy’s podcast: Special Needs Kids are People, Too!

Amber O’Neal Johnston (Heritage Mom Blog) gave me the great idea to feature Amy on this list.  Her experience is multifaceted and she offers great insight.  

4. Cindy Rollins

“Cindy Rollins homeschooled her nine children for over 30 years using Charlotte Mason’s timeless ideas. She is the author of Mere Motherhood: Morning Time, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Toward Sanctification, The Mere Motherhood Newsletters, Hallelujah, Cultivating Advent Traditions with Handel’s Messiah and the Morning Time: A Liturgy of Love. She co-hosts The Literary Life Podcast with Angelina Stanford and Thomas Banks and The New Mason Jar Podcast. She is also the owner of the Mere Motherhood Facebook group and runs an active moms’ discipleship group on patreon.com/cindyrollins. Her heart’s desire is to encourage moms and go to baseball games.  She lives in her sometimes empty nest in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband Tim and dog Max.”

You can find Cindy at:

morningtimeformoms.com  where she publishes her newsletter Over the Back Fence

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cindyrollins.net/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/cindyordoamoris/

Mere Motherhood https://www.facebook.com/groups/meremotherhood/

Patreon Discipleship at Patreon.com/cindyrollins

(Source: https://morningtimeformoms.com/about)

I’ve enjoyed Cindy’s Podcast: The New Mason Jar

I have also really enjoyed using Cindy’s Commonplace Book this year to improve my personal reading life.

5. Amber O’Neal Johnston

“Amber O’Neal Johnston is an author, speaker, and worldschooling mama who blends life-giving books and a culturally rich environment for her four children and others seeking to do the same. She recommends we offer children opportunities to see themselves and others reflected in their lessons, especially throughout their books, and she’s known for sharing literary “mirrors and windows” on HeritageMom.com. She is the author of A Place to Belong, a guide for families of all backgrounds to celebrate cultural heritage, diversity, and kinship while embracing inclusivity in the home and beyond.”

(Source: https://heritagemom.com/)

Amber’s new book: A Place to Belong


I had the chance to meet Amber at the 2021 Charlotte Mason Together Retreat! She is a wonderful resource on worldschooling, among her resources on teaching children to be secure in their personhood and culture.

6. Min Jung Hwang

“Min awakes with joyful anticipation of what God will do as she cooperates with Him in home-educating her 4 creative children, as well as her friend’s precious two children. She delights in sharing the Gospel-grounded Charlotte Mason philosophy and methods with every family and church.

Over a decade ago, having become convinced of the life-giving paradigm the Charlotte Mason philosophy brings, she has embraced Miss Mason’s principles, allowing them to inform her ministry with moms, college students, and children.

If you were having tea with her, she would tell you God doesn’t waste anything; she can testify to how her varied background in Nursing, law, and nonprofit work establishing safehomes for sexually exploited, pregnant mothers, has helped equip her for her current vocation.

Min is a wife of more than 20 years to her best friend, Young. They have the blessing of pastoring a beautiful, ethnically diverse church in New Jersey. In addition to serving as Pastor’s Wife, the Children’s Ministry Director, an artist, and home-educator, you’ll find her loving on mothers at Life-givingMotherhood.com – a worldwide community of mothers desiring to grow in their spiritual disciplines and life-giving habits – and podcasting at Charlotte Mason For All and Charlotte Mason’s Volumes.

(Source: https://charlottemasoninspired.com/min-jung-hwang/)

I have never met Min, but have heard her interviewed on my friend Amy’s podcast, Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology

7. Erika Alicea

“Erika Alicea is a former public school teacher turned homeschooling mama to one amazing young lady. Born and raised in NYC, Erika helps her husband, Efrain, pastor their church in the Bronx.

When Erika was first introduced to Miss Mason’s educational philosophy through God-sent friends, who are now her co-hosts on the Charlotte Mason for All Podcast, it was an answer to many of her prayers. As she began to learn about all the beauty a Charlotte Mason education offers, Erika had to be creative in implementing Miss Mason’s methods in the context of city life and as a family of color.

As a firm believer in a multicultural education for all children through the use of diverse, living books, Erika uses her website Charlotte Mason City Living as a resource to help educators diversify their instruction. It’s her prayer that it serves as an encouragement to all families, especially those who feel Miss Mason’s philosophy may not be inclusive enough or even possible for multicultural or urban families.

On any given day, you can catch Erika taking pictures of nature treasures in the city that often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of urban life. You can also find Erika at The Art of Color as co-creator of these carefully crafted and curated CM-inspired Art Appreciation resources showcasing artists of color.”

(Source: Erika Alicea, also see https://charlottemasonforall.com/our-story/)
Now that I know Erika better, I cannot wait to see her beautiful-looking multicultural artist studies at her The Art of Color Study.  She is also a part of CM City Living (multicultural living books, anyone!?) and on the Charlotte Mason For All podcast.

8. Mariana Mastracchio

“Originally from Southern Brazil, Mariana is a mom of two boys, who has been home educating them since the beginning of their schooling in 2016.  

She lives in Westchester, NY, and can be found daily with a delicious cup of black coffee paired with a good book. She enjoys serving her Catholic Church alongside her family, taking family hikes and soaking in the beauty of God’s creation at the seashore.

On her home educating journey, Mariana found a great friend in Miss Mason. This friendship has yielded precious fruit not only in her homeschool, but in the atmosphere of her home and her life.

She’s active in the CM Brazilian community co-hosting a podcast and online community in Portuguese: Descobrindo Charlotte Mason and founding a publishing company, Editora Ideias Vivas, that publishes living books for all ages. In addition, Mariana co-hosts the podcast Charlotte Mason for All, alongside Erika Alicea and Min Hwang. She also serves as a COO at the Life-Giving Motherhood Membership.”

(Source: Mariana Mastracchio, also see  https://charlottemasonforall.com/our-story/)

Mariana is very active in the Brazilian Charlotte Mason community.  I love to see Charlotte Mason spread globally. How amazing is it that Mariana is the founder of a publishing company that publishes living books in Portuguese? Find her as a co-host of Charlotte Mason For All podcast.

9. Leah Boden

“Leah Boden is wife to Dave, mother to four children, a long-time home educator, and student of Charlotte Mason.

With over two decades of experience in church leadership, Leah’s working background also features many years in youth, children’s, and family work within the church and for the local education authority. Leah speaks, writes, hosts podcasts and coaching sessions, and runs workshops sharing the beauty of a Charlotte Mason approach to childhood, motherhood, and education. 

Leah is the author of the upcoming book Modern Miss Mason (Tyndale Publishing, Jan 23)

She and her family live in the West Midlands, England.”

(Source: Leah Boden, also see https://www.leahboden.com/hello)

Follow Leah to get updates about the release of her new book, Modern Miss Mason!

I personally cannot wait to read this book.  Leah resides in a beautiful area of England, not too far from Ambleside, Charlotte Mason’s home after she taught for 30 years.

I have thoroughly enjoyed interviews with Leah, conducted by Humility and Doxology and The New Mason Jar.

10. A Great Book Study Resource

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

I personally have had the joy of speaking with Karen Andreola and have truly enjoyed the time I have had to dive deeply into the application of Charlotte Mason methods through study of her book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.  My book club and I have been reading and discussing it since October 2020!  We are still going strong, as we meet monthly and discuss about three chapters at a time! 

Shopping for Homeschool

My friend from Humility and Doxology, Amy Sloan, writes about homeschooling from the perspective of a second generation homeschooler. Interviewer, podcaster, blogger, content creator, teacher, wife and mother, she has a lot of great experience with classical Christian homeschooling and parenthood. Her Amazon store is pretty awesome.  

My Little Brick Schoolhouse living books collection is another one of my favorites, for obvious reasons.  We love living books around here.  Historically, I have enjoyed pairing living books with the content we are studying.  The picture book biographies are truly my favorites.

Living books are one of the hallmarks of a Charlotte Mason education.  

Another defining characteristic is nature study.  Check out my YEAR of Nature Study, a unit designed for each of the seasons.

Other Charlotte Mason-inspired resources in Brick Schoolhouse Etsy Shop:

The Big Maine Basket – This is a Charlotte Mason and classical education-inspired narration tool. In this Maine-themed “basket”, you will find two book recommendations, narration instructions, a narration template for use over the course of two days, coloring pages, and EXTENSION ACTIVITIES! Spend time in good, living books. Read to your children, and have them narrate part way through the reading using this template. This narration tool is designed for multiple developmental levels, is good for keeping record of narrations, and utilizes Charlotte Mason and classical methodologies. It would also pair well with any MORNING TIME, CHARLOTTE MASON, or CLASSICAL CURRICULUM.

Dear Homeschooling Mama: Refresh Your Home’s Atmosphere + Habits – This is a planner and goal-setting resource, as well as habit tracker.

I was tired of not having a plan, but every time I tried to set out to make goals for our upcoming year, I would get stuck! I started curating some wisdom from various women who have walked the walk. Lara Casey, Charlotte Mason (Sonya Shafer at Simply Charlotte Mason), and my own experience have helped me develop this tool you might find as a breath of fresh air to help you organize your thoughts about uncovering what matters, as well as implement habits to change the atmosphere of your home! This is my process. I hope it blesses you in some way.

This resource includes:

-workbook-style planning pages

-notetaking templates

-habit tracker on calendar

-checklist templates

What Works for Your Family Is Truly Best

I remember how overwhelming it can be to research all the methods and practices.  Keep in mind your own home atmosphere and what you envision for your own family.  I hope you have found this brief directory of sorts helpful in seizing your [own] self-education in the methods of Charlotte Mason.  I cannot claim to be a “purist” in the sense that we follow Charlotte Mason “by the book”.  I doubt many of us are.  However, I do believe that exposure to people in your “camp” can be edifying and inspiring.  

Morning Time In Practice + FREE Poetry Mini-Unit

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these excellent morning time resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

I hope I am not sounding like a broken record.

By now, you probably know that I am pretty passionate about the practice called “morning time” in the homeschool day. To read up on how we have enjoyed this thirty to forty-five minute period, try these blog posts:

Make Morning Time More Beautiful

History Lessons, Book Lists and Morning Time

December 2021 Morning Time

Morning Time

While I love singing hymns and reading about history, I cannot contain my excitement surrounding our “beauty loop” for the upcoming school year (for a rising third grader and kindergartener).

The beauty loop has its benefits. First of all, you are able to rotate subject areas on a three to four day “loop”, allowing everyone to get acquainted with composers through composer study, artists through picture study, and poets through their poetry and accompanying biographies. If you missed the free planning template for the beauty loop, feel free to grab it below.

Secondly, I love how deep we can dive with our subjects. We have studied A.A. Milne for a solid semester this year. We studied Bach for at least six months of the school year, and we have been able to get acquainted with Michelangelo for the past three months. I have found that this deeper “friendship” lasts throughout a lifetime, as I myself am forever changed and tethered to the minds behind the great works.

Morning Time Beauty Loop Plan

Right now, I’d like to share the nitty gritty of our upcoming year’s beauty loop by inserting our plans. These are not set in stone, but I have already gathered my books and have linked the resources we’ll use during the loop below for you. I am making units to go along with each poetry study (designated by term). I hope this helps you in some way to at least visualize what it can look like.

If you’d like to snag a FREE mini-unit for our Robert Louis Stevenson poetry study, I invite you to subscribe to My Little Brick Schoolhouse community. You can do that below.

If you want to purchase A Child’s Garden of Verses to go along with the unit (not necessary, but recommended), Amazon is offering a great price right now.

Beauty Loop is a  3-day rotation, change topic each term:

TERM 1
9 weeks
TERM 2
4 weeks
TERM 3
4 weeks
TERM 4
7 weeks
TERM 5
6 weeks
TERM 6
7 weeks
POETRY (day 1)Robert Louis Stevenson
6 poems 
Term project: dramatization of 1 poem
A.A. Milne3 poems
Term project: cereal box biography
Christina Rossetti
Term project: lap book biography
Favorite Poems Old & New – seasonal themes
6 poems *include poetry of Wilhelm Muller, a contemporary of Schubert
Term project: compose an original seasonal poem
Eugene Field (Field Poetry)
5 poems
Term Project: create a comic strip to summarize one of Field’s poems
Jack Prelutsky 
6 poems from  Ride A Purple Pelican
Term project: plan a poetry tea and invite someone special to hear recitations and view accompanying artwork (gallery walk)
COMPOSER STUDY – Classical period
(day 2)
Schubert (first 2-3 weeks focus on biography)SchubertSchubertBeethoven(first 2-3 weeks focus on biography)BeethovenBeethoven
PICTURE STUDY
(day 3)

Renaissance period
The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient RomeThe Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient RomeGiotto (Simply Charlotte Mason)Raphael (Simply Charlotte Mason)free choice (tracing favorite works with pencil and tracing paper with narration)
Morning Time Beauty Loop by Term and Subject

Resources Used in Morning Time

Doxology (reference: YouTube “Doxology: Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”)

Singing the Great Hymns (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Poetry-

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

Who Was A.A. Milne? by Sarah Fabiny

AmblesideOnline Poetry Anthology Volume 2: Walter de la Mare, Eugene Field, James Whitcomb Riley and Christina Rossetti

Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris

Schubert’s Winterreise: A Winter Journey in Poetry, Image and Song by Franz Schubert, Wilhelm Muller and Katrin Talbot

Ride A Purple Pelican by Jack Prelutskty

Composer Study-

Music Study With the Masters: Schubert (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Music Study With the Masters: Beethoven (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study-

The Stuff They Left Behind: from the Days of Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study Portfolios: Giotto (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study Portfolios: Raphael (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Does this help you in some way? Please feel free to comment below, and ask any questions by emailing me: mylittlebrickschoolhouse@gmail.com

Make Morning Time More Beautiful

What is the beauty loop? It sounds kind of like a skincare regimen if I really think about it. While I do not take credit for the term, I know I have used the term now for about two years.

For those of you familiar with Charlotte Mason’s idea of education, you might recall this quotation from Towards A Philosophy of Education: “We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can” (Vol. 6, p. 183).

The feast is dispersed throughout the school day, even the school week. For a detailed blog post describing scheduling, you might want to read over “A Weekly Homeschool Schedule: Simple as 1-2-3” .

I think that spreading the feast out is a great way to alternate between various subjects of different sorts, as well as expose children to the “abundant and delicate feast” Charlotte Mason describes.

For my family this year, we have found that spreading out the feast occurs best at the beginning of the school day, during what we call our “morning time”.

Morning time usually begins right at the breakfast table, once dishes have been brought over. We sing and pray. For a few morning time blog posts, peruse these.

A beauty loop is the component of morning time that occurs right after our doxology, hymn and prayer, after the kitchen is fully cleaned. The beauty loop is a rotation of four days of subjects, each occurring on a different day of the week. I label them Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4, so they do not have to be relegated to a specific day of the week (too much pressure!).

Follow this link for more:

  1. information on the beauty loop
  2. a FREE resource that I made to show you how you can plan your beauty loop
  3. PLUS an editable template

Without morning time, our days would lack a little luster. Let me know if you have any morning time stories, and I’d love to incorporate them in some way over here!

New Additions to Downloads, Shop, Books

I am writing to let you in on the newest resources you can get from My Little Brick Schoolhouse.

New Downloads for Spring

  1. Big Maine Basket Freemium Unit (17 pages)
  2. Nature Study Spring Mini-Unit
  3. Travel Four Square Resource

Check these out under the “Downloads” tab. (The above items are all free)

I would be remiss to not mention that Brick Schoolhouse Etsy Shop is offering 40% off all units for the month of April!

Look for more content in May and in the months to come. We are busily preparing for spring break. How are you spending your April?

Booklists for Classical Conversations Cycle 1

I also am excited to share that we are one week away from completing the entire Cycle 1 in Classical Conversations! I have made a book list to pair living books with each week of this cycle, which is heavy on ancient history and empires. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have. The subjects represented are: science, fine arts, history, geography and math.

One Month of Narration Ideas, Three Years’ Worth of Books!

Narration Ideas for Days… Book Ideas for YEARS!

Narration

I designed a narration resource back in June and wanted to give it a little facelift for you. I am linking it below. Narration is the “art of knowing” and retelling what you have learned after reading something. You can retell a reading in spoken words, in written words, or in another creative way. My aim in designing this matrix is to give you ideas in the case of brain cramp. We all get those at the most convenient moments, don’t we?

Booklists

I want to bless you with three years’ worth of book recommendations. Each selection is carefully chosen based on the criteria for a living book.

A living book:

  • is written in narrative form by someone who is passionate about his or her subject
  • fires the emotions
  • ignites the imagination
  • is well-written
  • is written more like a chat with an expert in her field of expertise!

*90% of the books on my lists are living books. I denote the books that do not meet living book status, because there are some. I think you’ll love all of them, though. You can use them in any way you’d like. The content areas for the three Classical Conversations Cycles are present here in every book list. Enjoy, friends!

Year 1 Booklist

Year 2 Booklist

Year 3 Booklist

Make sure you don’t miss out on MORE resources and booklists! Sign up to be a part of our email community. It’s one way I encourage and show support to my most engaged audience.

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