What if I told you that teaching history in your homeschool could be so much fun?! Here is a quick look at how we have enjoyed Classical Conversations Cycle 2 living books + more.
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Classical Conversations History Cycle 2 covers Medieval to Modern History. Here is a quick breakdown of curated books to pair nicely with various topics of history study, by week. Notice that not every week is covered, but these are some great books to supplement your morning time or time learning about each of these subjects. I have also included the school supplies we have found helpful in learning history together.
History “Spine” (the book telling the big story of history)
We try to relate our field trips to various places we’ve learned about in history, if possible.
Some examples of thematic field trips related to the Medieval to Modern time:
-Visit a fort (local war memorials or living history exhibits work nicely for this)
-Visit a museum with an exhibit on Medieval period
-Visit an art museum that houses original art or copies of art from the Renaissance
-Host a “Medieval Feast” as based on Aliki’s A Medieval Feast. For reference, you can look at the “feast” our little family had in 2020. It’s nothing too fancy! We just turned out the electric lights, lit our own candles, and cooked a few themed dishes which were probably modern versions of the actual dishes. We used soda for “ale”. So, clearly we were just trying our best.
Use your family “morning time” to read from either your history spine, your favorite picture books, or read from both. This will ensure you read about 20 minutes total about history each day. That’s pretty do-able. What is morning time? Go around the group of students and have each child narrate aloud from the reading.
Use your history reading time to connect with your book of centuries. A book of centuries is a book, divided into centuries, starting around 4,000 B.C. and proceeding to A.D. 2100. Think of it as a timeline in a book. Pictures can be drawn next to dates and event titles to represent the recorded events, as well. Maps that are made or used (as with Story of the World) can be inserted into the book of centuries, as well.
Use your children’s independent study time to read from history books of your choice, different ones geared toward each student. This might work better when you have a very large gap in ages in your homeschool. Have your students narrate to you, either orally or written, depending on their ability. It is recommended that narration start out as oral, and proceed to written (in tandem with oral) about age 9 or 10, when a child has more stamina to write.
Go on field trips! Read up on the places you will visit and pick out books from the library that will correlate with your destinations. Did you know that October is “Field Trip Month”?
Make handicrafts that correspond to your time period of study. Check out a book to explain handicrafts and trades of the time you are studying. Speak with someone in the modern day about the trade or craft you are hoping to make. There are still blacksmiths and woodworkers around, if you look in the right places! Example: make candles out of wax as they did in the early modern times (dipping)
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.
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?
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.
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.
“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).
-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)
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.
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.
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.
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’sA 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!
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).”
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 Cultureis 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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:
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?
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.”
“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.”
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!“
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
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.”
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.“
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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
-habit tracker on calendar
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.
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:
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.
I’ll admit, I have always loved learning about history. The in-depth study of a person’s life or a place or an event in the form of narrative has been captivating to me.
Wait! My history classes never looked like an in-depth study of any one person, place, or event. My history class consisted of lectures, scrawling down copious dates, and textbooks. My history class consisted of test-induced panic attacks and memories that still haunt me to this day. One question on a test might look like:
Which of the following best describes the key factors at play in the Third Punic War?
a. and b.
a.,b., and c.
b. and c.
Looking for a Different Way?
I will not dismiss the potency of a test that assesses one’s prowess in timeline chronology, “true or false” reasoning, essay writing, and knowledge. There is a lot of power there. I will even argue that there is a time and a place for these kinds of tests, especially the essay portions. However, the training I received in my high school history courses prepared me more for taking tests and studying well. I cannot say I was able to marinate in a time period or biographical account. I was introduced to those things, and maybe this sparked an interest or curiosity that I could have taken into my own personal study. Nonetheless, I was not given the time to just bask in the glory of the Renaissance Period, for example. Maybe I was allowed to take a little time, and I do have fond memories of making projects and preparing for oral reports. I do not want to discount the fact that my tenth grade world history teacher was probably one of the best in the state. She was certainly passionate about making sure we knew the facts! However, I needed more than an intense, flyover course riddled with color-coded notecards and late night study sessions.
I needed more time and a relationship with the content.
Does this resonate with anyone else?
Thankfully, I have two parents who loved to travel. They loved to take me and my little brother to historic battlegrounds on Sunday afternoons after church. They prioritized taking us to as many national parks (which are filled to the brim with history) as possible in our eighteen years at home. They were certainly into delivering experiences. I cannot thank them enough! In fact, my mom was known for reading every single word in every single exhibit whenever we visited a natural or historic landmark. She was very “completion-oriented”, much to the chagrin and groaning of the rest of us. Needless to say, my classroom went beyond the four walls at Providence High. If you can relate, thank a parent.
When I sat down to take Amy Sloan’s Textbook-Free History Masterclass, I suspected she would be of the ilk of homeschool parent who teaches history from a place of freedom and joy. I wasn’t very surprised when Amy, a second-generation homeschooler, shared her childhood memories of driving from historic marker to historic marker with her enthusiastic parents over the course of an afternoon. One summer, Amy’s parents took her family on vacation, exploring old battlefields for two weeks. She struck a chord of amusement and endearment with me when she shared about the time her family ran up to one of the museums at closing time (unbeknownst to her mom), hoping to spend some time there. Her mom knocked on the door and was able to convince the museum caretaker to take her family on a private, after-hours tour!
“When it came to those big billboards advertising used and old books, I was definitely going to be the one to yell out from the back seat. And sure enough, my dad would pull over at the exit, and we would spend hours browsing the bookshelves. We were always late to our destinations, but we generally had lots of old books in the trunk and stories to tell about the unique historic sites when we arrived, so we didn’t mind too much.”
As she writes at Humility and Doxology and hosts her own podcast interviews about homeschooling, one theme Amy reiterates to her readers and listeners is that history can be taught in a way that deviates from the norm you and I probably had in our public (or private) schools. History can be taught in a delightful and rich way, without detracting from history’s essence. History is a narrative, or story. Chronology is a list of dates.
I invite you to take the Textbook-Free History Masterclass! You will be equipped to plan for a school year of read alouds and field trips. Amy clearly explains how to go about choosing a topic for the year, along with a good “history spine” as the core history reading. She describes how she uses memory work, art and drama and themed parties to make the story come to life. With five children ranging from ages six to sixteen, Amy has used various methods over time. She shares her tried-and-true tips with us.
How I Teach History
In list form, I’d like to share some of the components I currently use to teach history. I have taught history now for three years, and hope to share some of my ideas for next year, as well. These are just quick notes. I will place an asterisk (*) next to the ideas I have not yet implemented, but hope to do so next year.
Note: Many of my titles are non-fiction, but some are historical fiction. I have found the Ranger in Time series to be a great elementary historical fiction option.
Plan Memory Work*
Choose famous speeches, poems, plays, etc. from the time period you are studying. Print out one work per term. Read it together each day. Teach memorization by reading each chunk three times aloud and having your student(s) repeat the chunk in-full. Do this each day until the work is memorized.
I was in Classical Conversations for my first three years of homeschooling. I printed out flipbooks and focused on two to three subjects per day of the week to drill. For example, Monday would be Science and Latin. We’d drill the week’s Science and Latin memory work on Monday for about 15 minutes. I dropped the ball my last year of CC, but I was relieved to know that this wasn’t the only way to do memory work. 😉 There are other ways, as Amy explains in her masterclass.
My plan for next year’s memory work (by term):
1 longer scripture passage (i.e., Psalm 23)
1 ancient times work (i.e., a few lines from the Iliad)
Times tables 1-12
1 song in a foreign language
Art and Music
Through our “Morning Time”, we incorporate the study of art and music, as well as poetry. These are components of a generous history feast.
Our “beauty loop” currently consists of:
Day 1: Poetry study
Day 2: Composer study
Day 3: Joke Book (NOT art, but isn’t humor an artform?!)
Day 4: Picture Study
Next year, I plan to keep poetry, composer, and picture study in the rotation. The joke book will probably still be a hit during their free time, but I do plan to include memory work in its place.*
Visual arts: I am not a crafty person. I hate crafts, unless someone else is leading them. I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. My idea of crafts is drawing freehand or going outside in nature and drawing something beautiful. I do not do the glue and paint and scissors. That’s why I keep these materials within reach of my seven and five-year-old children. I am happy to have them readily available when they need them, which is usually very first thing in the morning while I am making breakfast or later in the afternoon when we have free time. I trust them. They clean up their own mess (sometimes), and all is well.
The Story of the World has craft projects for each week of study. I have not used this portion of the activity book (read: I hate doing crafts), but it looks like a great addition to a unit study.
Musical theater: I am not plugged into our local drama community, but I know some homeschool moms who have taken children to productions of Shakespeare plays and auditioned children for musicals at the local arts council. This would be good for my family when the children get a little bit older.*
Plan Field Trips
I am a part of a Charlotte Mason co-op that includes monthly field trips. Sometimes, our history study and the field trips overlap. Oftentimes, they do not. Nonetheless, children are very capable of making connections organically. Not every field trip’s theme has to be matched perfectly to the theme of the history content.
Two years ago, my kindergarten student and I were studying medieval history. On my family’s fall break, we took a trip to the Charleston area. I made a point to incorporate “fortresses” into some of the hot spots to visit since we were reading about castles, fortresses and the like. In fact, our read aloud around that time was The Castle Diariy: The Journal of Tobias Burgess. It was such a fun trip! I am linking my page where I write about it here.
Last year, I attempted to work in some history to our family trips again, but it was a flop. We never really got to study modern times in field-trip form as I had hoped, but our curriculum we used was a unit study. It was so comprehensive, I did not feel a need to be so tied to aligning field trips with the history because the children made connections organically. We did manage to travel to Williamsburg and Gloucester, Virginia to see the colonial way of life. That was memorable, as we were studying early modern history. So, maybe it wasn’t a complete flop.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the field trips our co-op took that were living history in nature. From carding wool by hand , to spinning wool to make yarn, our students got a lot out of their trip to the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace and living history museum. We also visited many farms that year, snuggled lambs with fleece as white as snow, picked strawberries, gleaned sweet potatoes, and found Native arrows and spearheads. So, don’t tell me learning and making connections cannot be done if everything isn’t planned to a “T” to match the history curriculum!
Next year, I will call history field trips a “success” if I can work in these components, many of them with our co-op:
This is one great way to make history come alive at home. The only thing is, I have never implemented a skit or reenactment of a historic event at home, yet. The key word is: yet. If anyone has suggestions, I am all ears!*
YouTube has some great options for quick (like 10 minutes) videos about an historic event or person. Just be sure to view in advance before showing it to the kids! Some things are marketed as being geared towards children, but include some violence or themes that might be too heavy for your family.
RedeemTV has a good series called Torchlighters. These are biographical accounts of various Christian martyrs and missionaries over the course of Christian history.
While I haven’t really hosted a themed party for those outside my little clan, I do have a few ideas up my sleeve.
These ideas usually pair well with books we have read.
Celebrate Holy Week by hosting a “Seder meal”, as the Israelites remembered the passover, when the angel of death passed over God’s people in Egypt who had the blood of a spotless lamb painted on their door frames.
I have more ideas, but I will write on these later.
How Will I Assess Learning?
As a former teacher, I am well-versed in “formative” versus “summative” assessments. The formative assessment is what we are constantly doing in our homeschool. For example, if the student is practicing 2-digit addition with regrouping, I will formatively assess his understanding by giving him a problem to work out and look over his shoulder as he works it out. I give feedback. Or, I might ask a question about what he has learned from something we just read, and give him some feedback if he is deviating from the main points.
Summative assessment takes the form of written tests, usually.
How would I assess my history student? Narration and record-keeping through notebooking is a great tool for assessing what students know and understand. Read my blog post on narration for a more comprehensive explanation of how I understand narration. There are many more narration tools I include on my website (for free) and in my Etsy shop, Brick Schoolhouse.