Saturday, January 31, 2009

Word Building: Lesson 1 (Part Two)

This post is intended to give an example, step-by-step, of an actual lesson with an actual child (mine!) using the Charlotte Mason method for teaching a child to read as detailed in Home Education. I hope to post a more concise version in Word format soon for others who may wish to try these CM reading lessons with their own children.

Punkin's first reading lesson was based on the "word making" lesson example on page 202 of Home Education. The lesson went fairly well, after a little practice; although, it did take longer than I had anticipated. Because of that, we didn't actually cover all of the material that Miss Mason recommends for the first lesson. Plus, I had put the list of words in a column instead of a row (as suggested), so I wanted to redo that step. Two days after that first word building lesson, we continued from where we had left off. It went well! :) Far smoother and quicker than the first day. Here's a recap (with Miss Mason's words in italic):

"Let the syllables all be actual words which he knows. Set the words in a row, and then let him read them off. Do this with the short vowel sounds in combination with each of the consonants, and the child will learn to read off dozens of words of three letters..."

Firstly, we did a brief review of the previous lesson. I placed the "at" card in the center of the book/table and gave Punkin a chance to tell me each new word as I placed different consonants in front of the "at". She did this really well, often not even pausing to sound anything out - she just pronounced the word. Great fun :) Then, fairly quickly, I had her make a few words at my dictation - "Put a letter in front of 'at' to make the word 'pat'", and so on. After this review, I brought out the newly typed and printed page with rows (not columns) of these words for Punkin to read off to me.

With the larger print, she read the words quickly. A few times she "read" the word incorrectly, but then corrected herself. I had wondered if perhaps part of the problem with the previous day's reading at sight lesson had been related to the size of the font. Was it the little font size that was goofing her up? Just for kicks, I printed a line of 'at' words in a smaller font size further down on the page, and then a line of much smaller font toward the bottom. (Note: the graduated font sizes are not mentioned in Home Education. I added the smaller fonts because I sensed that Punkin would benefit from exposure to them).

She had more difficulty with the smaller words, but after getting used to them, she read them fairly well. I pointed to each word in several different orders - left to right across the row, right to left, at random, but I made certain that Punkin understood that actual reading was always done from left to right, and we talked about that a little. After Punkin had read the entire page with only a few mistakes, I noticed that our lesson had gone over ten minutes again. I hugged her, told her that she did a lovely job reading, and we put things away for the day.

The word building lessons are going rather well, I would say. She's certainly jumping into three letter words far more quickly than her sisters had done with Phonics Pathways. The reading at sight lessons? Well, that's a different story. Although, I did have a big epiphany at the beginning of our second sight reading lesson that I think made a big difference :) More on that in my next post!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Reading at Sight: Lesson 1 (Part One)

This post is intended to give an example, step-by-step, of an actual lesson with an actual child (mine!) using the Charlotte Mason method for teaching a child to read as detailed in Home Education. I hope to post a more concise version in Word format soon for others who may wish to try these CM reading lessons with their own children.

"Lessons in word-making help him to take intelligent interest in words; but his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the 'reading at sight' lessons... The teacher must be content to proceed very slowly, securing the ground under her feet as she goes. Say - 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are," is the first lesson; just those two lines." Home Education, page 204

In an effort to adhere as closely as possible to Miss Mason's reading methods, I chose "Twinkle, twinkle" to be our first reading lesson, just as the passage above illustrates. Punkin had had fairly good success with the first word-building lesson, but I really wasn't sure about what to expect with this first Reading at Sight lesson. I taught my older girls sight words, but not this early on in the reading process and not with this methodology. I was interested to see how the lesson would go. I had read the passage on pages 204-206 of Home Education at least a dozen times within the few days before the lesson and I reviewed the pages again before we began. My hope was to follow Mason's instructions line by line. We did this lesson on Wednesday. Here's how it went (again Miss Mason's words are in italic)...

"Read the passage for the child, very slowly, sweetly, with just expression, so that it is pleasant to him to listen. Point to each word as you read."

I had typed and printed a good, clear copy of the poem in font that I thought was pleasing and easy to read. Before I began reading, I explained to my little girl that it was important for her to pay careful attention to each word as I read, because I was going to ask her to remember what each word was later on. She nodded. Then, I pointed to each word as I read slowly (and sweetly), trying to engage Punkin in the lesson. She was smiling. So far, so good.

"Then point to 'twinkle', 'wonder', 'star', 'what', - and expect the child to pronounce each word in the verse taken promiscuously..."

By the word "promiscuously", I take Miss Mason to mean what we would say today as "randomly". In other words, expect the child to tell you any of the words as you point to them at random. So, I did just that. Immediately after I read the two lines slowly (and sweetly), I told Punkin that now I wanted her to tell me what each word was. I pointed to 'twinkle'. Blank stare. I encouraged her to try to remember and I pointed again. Blank stare. She looked up at me for a clue. "You can do it, sweetie", I said. Then she guessed - "star?".

Uh oh.

Now what? Miss Mason doesn't give us a two page explanation of what to do if your child doesn't magically memorize all ten words after a single slow and sweet reading. Should I read it again? Should I just tell her that I'm sorry she wasn't paying more attention and simply put the lesson away for the day? Honestly, that was never an actual thought of mine, but I could hear a few CM devotees suggesting that option. I thought, "Okay... context. This child is four. This is her very first reading at sight lesson. She might need to practice this a little." So, we started at the beginning and did the whole thing again. Blank stare. Oh, boy.

When I taught SweetP and Shug to read early, it was completely through sound blending exercises until we were well into short vowel words, and even then sight words were introduced maybe two or three a day. Never, ever ten in one sitting. Definitely not ten in one reading. I'd be lying to you if I said that I had very strong doubts about this particular lesson. "Maybe I should've just gone straight into the Letter Box lessons?" or "Maybe we should've done word-building for a little while before the first Reading at Sight lesson". You name it, I probably thought it in those few brief seconds as I pondered what to do now that Punkin clearly was not getting it.

I thought maybe it would help if we tried a slightly different approach. I decided to fast forward to Miss Mason's next step for this lesson:

"But we have not yet finished the reading lesson on 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star". The child should hunt through two or three pages of good, clear type for 'little', 'star', 'you', 'are', each of the words he has learned, until the word he knows looks out upon him like the face of a friend in a crowd of strangers, and he is able to pounce upon it anywhere. Lest he grow weary of the search, let the teacher guide him unawares (without him knowing it) to the line or paragraph where the word he wants occurs."

Again, I had a page typed, printed, and ready. At this point, I decided to forget the second line and just hope for some progress with the first line. I read the first line of the poem again and pointed to each word as I went. I then pointed to individual words in the line, asking Punkin to remember them. She did better than she had done when I read all ten words before asking. So, we moved on to the search for those words. I told her that we were going to search for the words that she just learned. I showed her how to point her finger and scan the page, looking for 'little'. On the first go around, one of the words she had done well at learning was 'wonder'. For some weird reason, as she scanned the page looking for 'little', she kept stopping at 'wonder'. But she would say, 'little'!! Did I say "oh, boy" once before?

Because - oh, boy.

I really wanted to end this lesson on a good note. I wanted her to be encouraged. I wanted to be encouraged! But, I had been timing it, and we were already past ten minutes. I decided to narrow the lesson even more. I pointed to several places on the page where 'little' was printed. Each time I pointed to a new 'little', I said "little". Then, I told Punkin to stop me when my finger came to 'little'. Slowly, slowly, I ran my finger under the words. I passed several 'little's before she stopped me, but she did stop me under the word 'little'.

I got really excited for her and gave her a huge hug. She's not easily fooled, though, and I knew that she knew that she hadn't learned all of the words in the lesson. I told her that learning to read can take a lot of practice, and that I was really proud of how hard she tried and how she listened so well. She didn't seem too broken up over it, so I hugged her again and told her that I was looking forward to our next "Twinkle, twinkle" lesson :)

It was a complete bust. Really. I've never had such a flop of a reading lesson. BUT, I'm not giving up, yet. This was our first go at it! I'm going to read the Home Education passage again, pray, and think about what makes my daughter's little mind tick. Something just wasn't clicking with that lesson... I just have to figure out what the problem was.

We had a little troubleshooting session before our next sight reading lesson, and made a very helpful discovery :) You can read about it here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Punkin's "Recitation"

On most weekday mornings, SweetP and Shug recite their memory work for me. I like to have them stand and speak as they would before an audience, emphasizing a clear, crisp voice and pleasant stance. Punkin apparently thinks this looks like a lot of fun.

She came to me this morning with her "poetry" book - a hardback copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne (her sisters also read from their poetry books every morning). She handed the book to me with its pages open to some point in the introduction. "This is my recitation", she announced. "Oh, okay", I smiled, and sat down on the chair in the entryway. She walked about six feet away from me, turned to face me, folded her hands, stood up straight, chin high, and began:

"Dear Symmetry by Robert Frost... What immortal hand... for the robins singing in their nests... the bears all go to sleep... hibernating... until the warm spring comes... and the wind blows... and a lying tongue is but for a moment."

The End.

Satisfied, she ran off and played for the rest of the morning :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Word Building: Lesson 1 (Part One)

This post is intended to give an example, step-by-step, of an actual lesson with an actual child (mine!) using the Charlotte Mason method for teaching a child to read as detailed in Home Education. I hope to post a more concise version in Word format soon for others who may wish to try these CM reading lessons with their own children.

After spending last week reviewing letter sounds, Punkin began today with her first lesson in "word building"! I'm going to extensively quote page 202 from Home Education as I give examples of how we applied Miss Mason's text in our lesson. I'll type Miss Mason's words in italic. Before I get started, though, I should mention that I printed typed letters onto cardstock and cut them out in preparation for today's lesson. Unfortunately, I'm not particularly thrilled with the result. I plan on redo-ing them for a more uniform shape and size after cutting. They worked for today, though. Just FYI, we did the lesson on my bed, using a sizeable hardback book as a table.

Here's the play by play...

The first exercises in the making of words will be just as pleasant to the child. Exercises treated as a game, which yet teach the powers of the letters, will be better to begin with than actual sentences. Take up two of his letters and make the syllable 'at': tell him it is the word we use when we say 'at home,' 'at school.'

I spelled out "at" with two of my lowercase letter cards, then I told Punkin that the word was "at" as in "at home". She piped up and came up with a few other options like, "at church", "at the store", etc. When she got to "at the pillow" and "at the table", I smiled a little, but then told her we needed to get back to the lesson - no silliness.

You can see that I lined up a column of appropriate consonants on the left side of the mock table. Here's why -

Then put b to 'at'–– bat; c to 'at'––cat; fat, hat, mat, sat, rat, and so on. First, let the child say what the word becomes with each initial consonant... Let the syllables all be actual words which he knows.

At this point, I moved the consonant from the left column to the front of "at". We began with 'b'. I waited for Punkin to read it. Judging from Miss Mason's little quote above, one would expect a child to have an epiphany and realize the new word like it was a piece of cake. Now, I do not wish to shock you, but it did not just click in Punkin's little brain that the word was now "bat". Instead, after I placed the 'b' in front of 'at', she looked at me with a confused expression that seemed to say, "Why did you do that?" It was clear that I needed to fill in between Miss Mason's lines a bit. So, I pointed to the 'b' and asked her to tell me its sound. She did. Then I pointed to "at" and asked her what it said. She didn't remember. Instead, she sounded it out. Technically, Miss Mason wants the children to learn the last two letters of the words by sight as a whole, grouped together, not sounded out. Punkin has been sounding out little words here and there on her own, though, for a while, and she naturally shifted to this mode. I encouraged her to look at "at" again, and just say "at". She did. We started over. I pointed to 'b' again, she gave the sound. I pointed to "at", she said "at". I put the 'b' back in front of "at", pointed to 'b', she said it, pointed to "at", she said it. Then, (all on her own!) she said, "bat!". Hooray! :)

We continued on with the other consonants. I had to repeatedly tell Punkin that "at" said "at", and discourage her from sounding it out each time. It took some practice, but she eventually started to get it.

After we had practice with Punkin telling me what the newly built word said, we shifted gears a little.

"...then let him add the right consonant to 'at', in order to make hat, pat, cat".

So, then we lined up all of the consonants again in their column on the left side of the table with "at" in the center. This time, I told Punkin to choose the consonant (I did not say 'consonant', though, I just said 'letter'), that would make the word "bat". She moved the 'b' to the 'at', and I asked her to tell me what the word said. She told me it said, "bat". Oh, happy day :) I encouraged her with a hug and said something like, "Look, honey! You're building words!". We went through the rest of the words the same way. I said a word, Punkin chose the letter that was needed to make the word, and then she told me what the new word was.

"Set the words in a row, and let him read them off".

I goofed a little here and put the words in a column instead of a row, but Punkin read them all. The lesson was beginning to get a little long - longer than I had planned - and she was beginning to make weird mistakes. You know what Miss Mason so tactfully says... when the children begin to "get stupid", it's time to put the lesson away ;) So, we promptly stopped. Even though Punkin wanted to keep going.

We should have also had time for a little oral spelling of the words, but that will have to wait for the next word-building lesson. I did not time the lesson today, but I'll try to remember to keep better track of how long tomorrow's lesson takes. I'm aiming for no more than 10 minutes.

We're encouraged :) Thanks for reading!

Update: I made new letter cards and they are available on our Understanding Charlotte yahoo group in the files section. Joining is quick and easy :) Just click here!

And, the post about our second word-building lesson is right here :)

Why are you teaching a 4 year old to read???

In case you missed my previous posts on Charlotte Mason methods for reading instruction and my hope to teach Punkin to read using those methods, let me bring you quickly up to speed. My older two daughters learned to read fairly early (4.5 and around 5 years old) and they now read exceptionally well. So, when Punkin began asking to learn several months back, I noted her interest. However, she was not even four yet, so I also did my best to distract her and basically stall. That worked for a little while. But, the time has come :) Punkin is ready to learn and I am eager to try out Miss Mason's reading methods for the first time.

If you are familiar with Miss Mason, you might immediately question the legitimacy of beginning so early on with reading instruction. CM lessons cannot begin until the child reaches age six, right? That's right. Well, sort of ;) I'll quote the following passage from Home Education:

Time of Teaching to Read, an Open Question.––Reading presents itself first amongst the lessons to be used as instruments of education, although it is open to discussion whether the child should acquire the art unconsciously, from his infancy upwards, or whether the effort should be deferred until he is, say, six or seven, and then made with vigour.

I at least see a window here. On the same page, Mason holds up Susanna Wesley as a pattern we might consider following, and she began reading instruction on each child's fifth birthday. Just something to consider :)

If you're interested, here's a play-by-play of our first lesson.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A January Park Day!!!

We finally got outside!
It took some work, but it was worth it :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only Two More Months...

...until the first day of Spring :)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gearing Up to Teach Reading... Charlotte Mason Style

This post is the first in a series detailing the Charlotte Mason method for teaching reading to children.

As I mentioned yesterday, Punkin has been asking for some time now to begin reading lessons. I almost hate to call them reading lessons - it goes against that "not before 6!" rule ;) But having been largely unsuccessful at stalling and completely unsuccessful at appeasing her with indirect, bits-and-pieces learning (she's had enough fun and games - she wants to read already), I suppose we're starting down the road of reading instruction a little earlier than originally planned. Part of my stalling strategy had been to give her a relatively far off date. I think it was last summer that I told her we would begin learning to read after Christmas. Well, you and I both know full well that it is now officially after Christmas. Guess what... Punkin knows it, too ;)

Last week, SweetP and Shug began their third term of the school year. Punkin was chompin' at the bit. One final stall - I told her that we would begin next Monday. I said that last Monday, though, so this Monday is the day.

SweetP and Shug already know how to read fluently. SweetP learned before I knew much about Charlotte Mason at all, and Shug learned with a combination of Phonics Pathways and some CM-flavored sight reading instruction. I just couldn't take the plunge and really follow the methods that Miss Mason outlines in Home Education. Not, yet. Now, having taught the two older girls and having a better (we hope) understanding of CM reading methods, I'm ready to try it out. Punkin is ready to learn to read, I am ready to learn to teach, so... purist Charlotte Mason it is!

In reading through the portion of Home Education dealing with reading instruction, though, I quickly realized that there are at least three different options for the first lesson. There is the first example, given on page 202 where Miss Mason writes:

"The first exercises in the making of words will be just as pleasant to the
child. Exercises treated as a game, which yet teach the power of the letters,
will be better to begin with than actual sentences."

She goes on to explain how to teach the child what we modern readers know as word families and also how to introduce nursery rhymes as sight word reading lessons. Then, several pages later (in Section V.) she gives us another example of a first lesson, but this one is different from the one given previously. This example is from a Parent's Review article and it recommends going "plump into words of three or four syllables" and gives an illustration of using a box of cut out words to learn the poem "History of Cock Robin". Still later (in SectionVI.), there is another example of a first lesson in which a little boy named Tommy learns to read in much the same way only using a poem about a kitty instead of Cock Robin and also utilizing slightly different methodology.

So, practically speaking, there are three different starting points. Where should we begin? Here, I think, Punkin's very young age helps me out. The latter two examples strike me as being a bit more demanding of the little people. They seem like they take more mental discipline and ability than the first. The initial example is the most game-like and, because of that quality, most likely to suit the age of my little girl :)

We have decided, then, to begin on Monday morning with some review of letter sounds and then continue on, using the outline Miss Mason provides in pages 199-207 of Home Education. (That's Section IV). We will eventually get to the next two sections and the word boxes, but for now we will start with the simplest option. My hope is to begin with Word Building lessons and then alternate with Reading at Sight lessons. Translated, that would be alternate days of phonetic word families and sight reading :)

For the sight reading lessons, Miss Mason recommends using nursery rhymes. Specifically, she illustrates the use of "Twinkle, Twinkle" for a first sight lesson. She also mentions that well-written prose is desirable for early lessons in reading by sight, and she recommends Parables From Nature by Gatty. Have you ever taken a look at Parables From Nature? It would not have jumped into my mind as a natural choice for reading lessons. It's a tricky little book for the younger crowd. I do not envision Punkin doing well with the Gatty book (perhaps with an older child it would be fine). I do want to stay quite true to Miss Mason's methods, though, and take her warnings seriously: "Even for their earliest reading lessons, it is unnecessary to put twaddle into the hands of the children".

Don't you love her?

I need, then, to find a non-twaddly book for sight reading instruction. I had thought that I was going to use the Free & Treadwell Primer available from Yesterday's Classics. It is better than the BOB books and similar resources I used with Shug and SweetP, but it is certainly a far cry from the recommended Parables From Nature. I looked for something that seemed to be a happy medium, and eventually decided on using a book we already had on the shelf - For the Children's Hour, also from Yesterday's Classics. There are several simple (but, well-written!) fairy tales and folk stories that should work well with this method. Those won't be needed, though, until Punkin first learns "Twinkle, Twinkle" and, possibly, one or two more nursery rhymes.

Honestly, even after all my stalling, I'm looking forward to this now :) It's such great fun to see the enthusiasm and joy on your child's face when those first words join together to make sense! And, I admit, I'm looking forward to testing out Miss Mason's reading methods and giving them a fair chance. All of the "sight reading" business scared me off last time, but now I'm not as wary. I could see Punkin really taking off quickly this way.

It should be fun to watch her :)

Update: You can read all about our first lesson here

Friday, January 16, 2009

CM, Preschoolers, and Toddlers

The Google search engine has spoken.

My blog gets hits everyday for searches related to "Charlotte Mason preschool" and "Charlotte Mason toddler". As I browse through my past posts and look at the promise of "CM for children 6 and younger" in my header, though, I feel a little sheepish for how little I've actually posted about what to do with the youngest guys.

Punkin just turned four this past October. Literally everday she asks me when she's going to learn how to read. With two older sisters doing lessons, she also frequently asks me to "do preschool" with her. I've tried to bide my time, pointing out when real life could technically count as preschool. She made biscuits with me last night, for instance, and as we counted out the cups of flour and teaspoons of baking powder, I smiled a wide smile and encouraged her with, "See? We're counting! This is preschool, honey!"

She looked at me as if to say, "Yeah, right, Mom. Nice try."

If I were really going 100% whole hog CM with Punkin, we wouldn't plan anything out for her to learn before age 6. She would still be learning, mind you, but it wouldn't be planned out or scheduled at all. That's my first choice. But, everyday... "Mama, when will I start learning how to read?" and "Mama, can I write my letters on the dry erase board?". I know, every mother should have such horrible problems, right? ;) I mean, gracious! How dare she actually ask to read and write! :)

And then there's Little Man. He'll be 2 years old in the middle of February and he's great fun. Just from reading a few books a day he's beginning to pick up on colors and his vocabulary is sky rocketing. His main curriculum right now, though, is in the school of Obey Mama. Habits, habits, habits. With this recent move, he's been getting away with a whole lot. It's been Baby Boot Camp for him all week.

These are things I could definitely blog more about. Little Man learning obedience and colors, Punkin learning to read (maybe), books we're enjoying with both of them. In short, what we do with our littlest children when we're not outside. So, hopefully, you can look for more of that sort of thing around here. And the Google searchers will all be happier, too :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bible Reading Plans For Children

(based on the passages in Catherine Vos' Bible storybook)
***printable Word document format available in our Understanding Charlotte Yahoo group***
Or, if you are not interested in accessing the other Charlotte Mason resources available through our group, you can go directly to each of the following Reading Plan sheets through Google Docs by clicking on the "printer friendly version" link.

Old Testament Reading Plans:

Creation (printer friendly version)

Wandering (printer friendly version)

Laws (printer friendly version)

Settlement (printer friendly version)

Prophets: Part One (printer friendly version)

Prophets: Part Two (printer friendly version)

Kings (printer friendly version)

Exile (printer friendly version)

New Testament Reading Plans:

The Savior: Part One (printer friendly version)

The Savior: Part Two (printer friendly version)

The Early Church (printer friendly version)

The original blog post accompanying these lists can be found here if you'd like additional information pertaining to the reading plans.

Also, if you have a Yahoo account and would like to have access to printer-friendly versions of these plans, you may wish to join the Understanding Charlotte Yahoo group. The printouts are available in Word format under the "files" section.

May the Lord bless you and your little ones.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tiger, Tiger...

We're beginning a new term today, and Shug is expectantly awaiting the arrival of a certain package from Amazon. (In other words, I didn't order some of our books soon enough - we don't have them, yet.) It's okay, though, because we have the ones we really need for this week and, although her poetry book for the term is in the upcoming shipment, we have plenty of others on the shelf that she can thumb through for the next few days :)

SweetP is also patiently waiting. Same shipment - different book ;)

In the meantime, they can both get started on their poem for this term's memory work. Usually, they each have their own individual little poem. This term, though, they both wanted the same one... (I think they like that it's just slightly scary)...

The Tiger
by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water`d heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Does that seem like a long poem for Year One? I would have thought so, too, when SweetP began last year. The girls have continually surprised me with their memory work, though, and I've come to realize that they really can memorize longer Bible passages and poems. The keys to memory work are frequency and consistency. On average, we get memory work in about four days a week. The girls are really looking forward to this term's selection :) Honestly, so am I. I may have to join them and memorize it, too.

I have included Word documents of the poems we have used for Year One memory work in my yahoo group files. Click here if you are interested in printing them for your own use :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Choosing Our Literature Selections For Year One

This post pertains to the third term of Shug's Year One

I'm settling in to plan out the last twelve weeks of our school year (we began in June 2008). We've been on an unforeseen "break" since just after Thanksgiving, owing to our rather sudden (but exciting!) move, and it's really time to get back in gear. The move is not completely finished, though. There are still plenty of things to unpack and organize and clean. So, we're starting this term just like I've started pretty much every other school term up to this point: gradually.

Some of you have expressed interest in how I go about planning out our work for the term. Now seems like the perfect time to answer that question, since I'm actually doing it. So, I'm going to have two little windows open on my computer this afternoon - one to plan and one to post about planning :) Won't this be fun?

Now, this little series of posts is just for our booklists. Math, copywork, composer study, and similar subjects will have to wait :) This particular post is just about our literature choices. Also, please, PLEASE remember that you do not have to make up your own booklists to teach your children using CM methods!!! Ambleside Online is there for a very good reason! :) I'm just a big nutcase who insists on nurturing this love/hate relationship with planning my own curriculum.

First things first - I need to remind myself of what an average term looked like in Miss Mason's PNEU schools for this age group (Form I - ages 6 to about 8). So, I visit the PNEU programmes pages at Ambleside Online and find a representative schedule, like Programme 43 for Form I. For clarity's sake, I should point out that Form IB is for the youngest students (6 years old, like Shug) and Form IA is for the older children in the same group (7 & 8 year olds, like SweetP). This link is for a programme for 6 year olds.

Okay, Programme 43, what do you have to offer? Let's see...

The programme refers to literature as "tales", and it includes only two books. Just two! Pilgrim's Progress and Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. We've been reading Pilgrim's Progress since June, using AO's Year 2 schedule for it, so we will just continue on with that. Tanglewood Tales will be a new book for us this term. Interestingly, though, there are only 39 pages of Tanglewood Tales scheduled in Programme 43. Just 39 pages for an entire term! This, I think, is very important. If I may pick on my dear Ambleside Online just a little bit, I'd do so only to say that they tend to schedule too many pages in Years 1-3. In Miss Mason's schools, two books totaling about 75 pages were all that was needed for literature in a single term of Year One.

To personalize this for our family: we are currently combining SweetP and Shug for literature (and a few other subjects). We will continue reading Pilgrim's Progress according to the AO Year 2 schedule, and we will begin reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales as our other literature selection. Here's where it gets difficult, though - only 39 pages of Hawthorne? The book is 147 pages long. What do I do? Well, I have to choose what we will read for lessons and what we will leave out. How nice for me that Tanglewood Tales is a compilation of six separate stories! "The Golden Fleece" is 26 pages long and fits in with our history readings (more on that later), so I'll definitely choose that. "The Minotaur" is 22 pages, so I'll take that, too, for a total of 48 pages. Close enough. Of course the other chapters are excellent :) I could choose any and they would do just as nicely. But, I can't pick all of the chapters if I'm trying to stick closely to Miss Mason's programmes. Too many pages. We may read the others as free reading, without narrations. One nice thing about developing the habit of liking quality books is that the girls will think it's a real treat to finish Hawthorne during break! :)

So, now I have my total page numbers for Hawthorne decided and I have my chapters picked out to match up (roughly) with the PNEU recommendations. Now, all that's left to do is divide the chapters up among the 12 weeks in the term. I like to have the 6th week light (Lindafay calls her mid-term "Grace Week") and I also like to leave the 12th week light in case we need to do some make-up readings for general life busyness. So, I divided "The Golden Fleece" up among 5 weeks and I divided "The Minotaur" up among 5 weeks. During Weeks 1-5 of the term, we will read The Golden Fleece, Week 6 we will have a little break, Weeks 7-11 of the term we will read The Minotaur and Week 12 will be free for a make-up week. This way we have about 4-5 pages of Hawthorne to read each week.

Lovely :)

If the girls narrate well from Tanglewood Tales without much trouble, I'll do all of the week's pages in one sitting (with several narrations). If the book is difficult for them, we may do 2-2.5 pages in one sitting and read the book twice a week. We always do our Pilgrim's Progress readings in one day, so this term we will be reading from our literature books 2-3 days per week, and each reading will take about 20 minutes.

One more thing :) You may have noticed that I included The Red Fairy Book in my sidebar for Shug's Year One. We've tossed in a RFB story here and there throughout the year as we have had time. SweetP and I read The Blue Fairy Book stories for her Year One last year, and I just didn't want Shug to miss out on early exposure to Lang. Some of the stories are a bit intense, though, so I didn't want to give them to her as independent free reading. Since SweetP will likely be listening in when I read the fairy stories to Shug, we're going with Red instead of Blue. The Red Fairy Book stories are new to both girls :)We may or may not narrate these Lang readings. It depends :) Pilgrim's Progress and Tanglewood Tales are our "official" literature books, though, and will always require narrations.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Pilgrim's Regress and Sophomore Philosophy

I'm half way through The Pilgrim's Regress and, at the very least, I'm wishing I had kept my notes from my college Philosophy course. Wikipedia will have to help me out, I suppose ;) I did, however, find this very helpful link. It's helpful because my copy of The Pilgrim's Regress has no footnotes and I don't happen to speak Latin, Greek, or French. Apparently, Lewis knew all three.

I may have to break all kinds of CM rules and read this thing twice.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mama, It Melts Right Away!

The first snow of the winter...

and everyone was beyond excited!

Well, almost everyone :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Short-Lived Victory

Don't say I didn't warn you. I gave this qualifier when I pledged to walk every day this week. The temp may have been up to 30 degrees again today, but it rained all day long. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure I have this equation right:


We did handicrafts, instead :)

But, tomorrow is another day!!!

Nice, Strong Tea with C.S. Lewis

When I was a college girl, I had tea nearly every day with Elisabeth Elliot. That's funny, really, because I've never actually met her. But, in a kind of reverse adoption, I took Mrs. Gren (her real name) as my personal mentor in Christ. I read her books, her essays, her autobiographies for years. I came to feel that I knew her, and (I hope), my heart and life were influenced by her gracious example.

My brother-in-law, Brian, has had a similar experience with C.S. Lewis. He adores Lewis and can quote many of his books just from the sheer love of reading him over and over again. Lewis has, for him, done what Elisabeth Elliot has done for me - he has helped Brian see Christ more clearly and encouraged him to love Christ more. Isn't that why believers write books for other believers, anyway? They are using their gifts for the glory of God and for the good of His church - really one in the same thing.

I haven't adopted an author-mentor in quite a while. I think it's time :) Having been so intrigued by Brian's love for Lewis, and having just begun to read through the Chronicles of Narnia (for the first time!!) with my children, I've decided C.S. Lewis is the natural choice. I have no idea how many of his books I'll be able to read in 2009, but I've posted a chronological reference list below to keep me moving along. I hope to start with Pilgrim's Regress soon (I borrowed it from Brian today).

If you've never adopted an author-mentor, maybe this year would be a good time to begin. Who can tell how the Lord may use that one man or that one woman to deeply impact your life and spur you on in your love for the Lord and His people this year?

May you be blessed as you draw nearer to our Lord God.

C.S. Lewis Chronological Reference List (compiled from Wikipedia)

The Pilgrim's Regress (1933)

The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition (1936)

Out of the Silent Planet (1938)

Rehabilitations and other essays (1939) — with two essays not included in Essay Collection (2000)

Collected Letters, Vol. I: Family Letters 1905 – 1931 (2000)

The Personal Heresy: A Controversy (with E. M. W. Tillyard, 1939)

The Problem of Pain (1940)

A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942)

The Screwtape Letters (1942)

The Abolition of Man (1943)

Perelandra (aka Voyage to Venus) (1943)

Beyond Personality (1944)

The Great Divorce (1945)

That Hideous Strength (1946)

Collected Letters, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts and War 1931 – 1949 (2004)

Miracles: A Preliminary Study (1947, revised 1960)

George MacDonald: An Anthology (editor, 1947)

Essays Presented to Charles Williams (editor, 1947)

Arthurian Torso (1948; on Charles Williams's poetry)

Collected Letters, Vol. III: Narnia, Cambridge and Joy 1950 – 1963 (2007)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)

Prince Caspian (1951)

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

Mere Christianity (1952; based on radio talks of 1941 – 1944)

The Silver Chair (1953)

The Horse and His Boy (1954)

English Literature in the Sixteenth Century Excluding Drama (1954); 1975 reprint ISBN 0198812981;

Major British Writers, Vol I (1954), Contribution on Edmund Spenser

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (1955; autobiography)

The Magician's Nephew (1955)

The Last Battle (1956)

Till We Have Faces (1956)

Reflections on the Psalms (1958)

The Four Loves (1960)

Studies in Words (1960)

An Experiment in Criticism (1961)

Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1961) (an addition to The Screwtape Letters)

A Grief Observed (1961; first published under the pseudonym «N. W. Clerk»)

They Asked for a Paper: Papers and Addresses(1962)

Selections from Layamon's Brut (ed. G L Brook, 1963 Oxford University Press) introduction

Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (1964)

The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1964)
Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (1966) — not included in Essay Collection (2000)

Spenser's Images of Life (ed. Alastair Fowler, 1967)

Letters to an American Lady (1967)

Christian Reflections (1967; essays and papers)

Selected Literary Essays (1969) — not included in Essay Collection (2000)

God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (1970), = Undeceptions (1971) — all included in Essay Collection (2000)

The Dark Tower (1977)

Of Other Worlds (1982; essays) — with one essay not included in Essay Collection
Present Concerns (1986; essays)

All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis 1922 – 27 (1993)

Additional References:

Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories (2000)

Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church (2000)

The Business Of Heaven:Daily Readings From C. S. Lewis ed. Walter Hooper, 1984, Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc.

Boxen: The Imaginary World of the Young C. S. Lewis (ed. Walter Hooper, 1985)

Spirits in Bondage (1919; published under pseudonym Clive Hamilton)

Dymer (1926; published under pseudonym Clive Hamilton)

Narrative Poems (ed. Walter Hooper, 1969; includes Dymer)

The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis (ed. Walter Hooper, 1994; includes Spirits in Bondage)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Well, What Do Ya Know?

Some of you may be checking in to see if we got out of these four walls for our pledged 45 minutes today. I am happy to say that, indeed, we did! Actually, we took a walk for over an hour with my sister and her baby! Woo hoo :) (Nothing like a little internet accountability to get your buns moving, eh?). That's what I always say.

And what do you know, we had a great time! It was 30 degrees with a little wind, making it feel more like the mid-20s, but we were bundled up and walking at a decent pace much of the time, so we kept fairly toasty. My kiddos ran hard and got all kinds of energy out. Yay for that! As a bonus, we were able to collect a small assortment of evergreen cones along the way and score some quality nature study time. Big yay for that! It all started with one very large cone that I think is a fir cone of some sort. A little collection followed and we started to pay attention to the needles on the same trees, hoping to get an I.D. on a few. We had a hard time remembering once we got back home to the field guides, though. SweetP had an excellent plan of going back out tomorrow with the sole intent of I.D.-ing the trees we collected the cones from today. Splendid idea, SweetP! I think we will :)

During Little Dude's nap the girls started drawing some of the cones. Then we got out a little paint and tried rolling the cones in it to see how they'd print on paper. Not very well. But, they make great alternative brushes and we had some nice scratch effects going on by scraping the paint with the cones in a sort of combing fashion. Plus it's just always great fun to get paint all over you when you're a kid :)

So, we logged an hour and fifteen minutes on our winter nature walk. Considering the mid-20s temp and the fact that we are smack in the middle of moving, I feel pretty good about that. I'm still keeping 45 minutes as my official pledge, but we'll try for more if we can.

I'll let you know how our pine/spruce/fir cone identifications progress :) For now, here are some pics from the day... Thanks for checking up on us!!!

CM Reading and the Non-Visual Child

With all of this talk about taking mental pictures of words and visualizing words in order to learn spelling, I realize some readers may be wondering what to do if they have an auditory child? A kinesthetic child? Basically, a not visual child? ;)

If you truly think that your child may perhaps have visual processing delays or a learning issue of some sort, please understand that these reading examples on Understanding Charlotte do not pertain to such a child. It is not that CM reading lessons cannot benefit a child with processing challenges, but only that these examples with Punkin would be like night and day compared to a child with a learning disability or notable difficulty with visual learning. Phonics Pathways has an appendix that offers some wonderful ideas for tracking and visual processing exercises. Also, the cmason yahoo group or the Ambleramble yahoo group both have lovely, lovely mothers who have dealt with these issues with their own children, and can offer advice where I cannot. If CM reading lessons seem overwhelming to you, I can whole-heartedly recommend Phonics Pathways as a fantastic non-CM option (I used it with my older two girls).

backdated: posted originally on 2/5/09

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Winter Nature Walks (a.k.a. a mother self-talks through the PNEU motto to combat her SAD and get her grumpy self outside)

It seems like such a long time ago that I first read Charlotte Mason's recommendation to spend hour upon hour outdoors with my children. It seemed like complete hogwash at the time. Eventually, though, I was won over to the idea and long park days became normal for us. Those "four to six hours" didn't seem nearly as crazed as before.

Now, the bone-chilling days of an Ohio January have arrived and (if I'm very, very honest) I'm reading a few of Miss Mason's passages with that same old incredulity that met with her out-of-doors-life-type advise years ago. That's right.

It is winter. And I don't want to go outside for long hours in winter.


Don't wanna.

We're in the middle of a move, by the way. We've been moving for over a month and all semblance of school lessons or schedules of any sort have just gone ker-phlooey. Usually, I try to make the most of a warmish day here and there in December, but this year we've been packing, and unpacking, and painting, and trying to find someplace for everything. I'm tired and... well, a little grumpy. I can tell that my children are getting stir crazy; their little bodies want to run and jump and climb. These boxes and piles are closing in on them... and me. They don't care that the windchill is below 20 degrees. They don't mind that the sun has been blanketed by endless clouds for days. (No, weeks). They want to be outside.

I know that winter walks can be very pretty. Really, I do. I know that everything stands out more against the winter landscape. The sky is more intense. The shapes of the trees are more noticeable. A little squirrel alone can be a fascinating study. I know it would be good for all of us to get out every day. I just need to do it.


So, I took a look at this week's forecast. Guess what...I'm still feeling incredulous. It's going to be cold. Shock. The little "10 day at a glance thingy" looked like this: "Monday - cold, Tuesday - cold, Wednesday - still cold, Thursday - hello, this is Ohio, Friday - in January, Saturday - still cold, etc." I might as well accept it. It's going to be cold from now through the end of March - at least. I need to buck it up. I need to find a will. Find a way. Find my big wool scarf. What as that helpful motto again?

I am... a child of God. I am also a mama who needs sunshine and needs to get her kiddos outdoors.

I can... obey Him with the power of His Spirit. And I can open the door and go out for a walk because, good grief, how hard is it really?

I ought... because most of my objections are nothing but unreasonable melodrama and because I apparently have a teensy bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder already. We'd all benefit from a decent walk each day, even though (as I've already mentioned) it's cold.

I will... by God's grace ;)

Now comes my big declaration. This week we are going to make an experiment. For this week only (baby steps, right?) we - as in my little self and my four young children - are going to try to take a walk outdoors for 45 minutes every day, Monday through Friday. Since today is Saturday, that's a nice and tidy resolution. Boxes or no boxes, painting or no painting, impending deadline to put our house on the market or no - we're walking!

Okay, unless it's cold and raining - then, maybe not.

Check in on me! All of you dear readers coming through the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, check and see if I posted on Monday at all. Did we do it? Did we go for our winter walk? Did we go for at least 45 minutes? Did I post pictures of lovely winter things? Did my serotonin levels improve from the time in the sun? Will my next post be far more positive and uplifting?

Let's hope so ;)