DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. If I suggest something, it is because I use it and love it. Consider this a little coffee chat and me just telling you about something cool I found that works for me. If you choose to purchase through the links, I get a little bit back in my piggie bank that goes to “keep the lights on” here at Wild Unruly and Loved.
Charlotte Mason Newbie Guide
Resources and Book Recommendations
When I was a little girl, my mother used to set the table for tea. She is a Scot who lives in the States, so to keep a tradition she enjoyed, tea was always set at 4:30 pm. It was a pleasant way to come in from school, throw our book bags around and kick off our shoes and head in for tea. My mom worked but tea time was a time we girls, my sister, mother, and myself, came together. We would put the kettle on and have a moment to talk about the day. Of course, we did this around the dinner table with my father, but like most kids, my sister and I were hungry after school. So a little snack of tea and cookies and fruit after school was a treat we looked forward to enjoying.
Over the last few years, while trying out different curriculum and stumbling around in my homeschool quest, tea time was still a tradition we kept. Each afternoon, I make treats (you know….. open a box and set them out on pretty plates) and set a tea table as my mother and grandmother did. It was something that naturally occurred, and I have passed on this tradition with my kids. It doesn’t always happen at 4:30 pm as our schedule isn’t so rigid but it it does have pretty plates and cups, tea, cookies, fruit and I read, or we listen to a book on Audible. We sometimes play board games, other times talk or make silly faces and laugh.
Okay Mack, what on earth does tea time have to do with homeschool? This blog post is supposed to be a post about curriculum and how to’s and why and charts about how well your kids are doing.
What gives? (do people say what gives? Am I that old?)
This post will be about curriculum, and I’ll have a nice grouping of links you can check out for your research, but I wanted to set the tone for why this schooling works for us. Many who come to Charlotte Mason get caught in the net of nature study and tea times and excellent books that are old or hard to find. They then shy away from a methodology that, I believe, is how we idyllically see school. At least it is how I see a one-room schoolhouse long ago; teaching in the midst lots of organized chaos and geometry.
At the core, Charlotte Mason is a feast of information for little minds. It is exploration and robust exercise. It is knowing the difference between a lark and a raven and a magpie but also, it is learning math and English in ways that are applicable to today.
Legalities of Charlotte Mason
What I find are too many times folks get caught in what I call legalities of Charlotte Mason and forget the actual purpose. Most of the time, I find, it is because Pinterest and Instagram paint unrealistic expectations. Don’t get me started on nature journaling groups. You have moms coming from traditional homeschooling or public school who have found Charlotte Mason and then quickly become intimidated as groups lead to talks on different ways to discuss Shakspeare and how many Robert Burns poems they have learned this quarter.
Mama, just starting Charlotte Mason, let me encourage you. You do not have to be perfect right out of the gate. You do not have to have a 1st edition Burgess Bird book bound in leather with original tipped drawings to teach using the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. You do not need to draw like an award-winning artist to have your children appreciate the finer details of a dragonfly wing. And, Mama, please let go that every afternoon tea is lovely with little boys and girls sitting down with clean, shiny faces and bright smile, all ready to drink tea and eat cakes.
That isn’t real life, that’s just a fantasy. (If you just hummed Bohemian Rhapsody in your head, message me because we should be friends like tomorrow)
Real homeschool life is messy and crazy and gloriously chaotic. It is kids whining that they don’t want to do math or grammar or letters. It is days spend outside in the creek beds in the springs catching dragonfly larvae and tadpoles instead of reading Shakespeare. It is a mom who has to take a sick day because her kids are ALWAY HOME — ALWAYS. Ever wonder what it is like to homeschool? Take summer vacation, add geometry and grammar and do it year round, 365, no escape, that is what it’s like to homeschool. Trust me; my kids squeal just as loud about how bored they are just like any other kid. They have favorite subjects, certain friends, and unplanned moments that turn into memories. They play video games (Original Nintendo NES anyone?) and have a DS and go on adventures with neighborhood kids on their bikes.
Charlotte Mason does not mean we are these chilled out, peaceful parents with kids who always listen. I worry if they are getting enough education and worry when they take tests if they are going to pass. I worry when they skipped grammar for history or worry when they spend two weeks on one subject and neglect all others. I drive them to scouts and swim practice and church events.
Homeschooling is typical schooling, it just looks different than public schoolers.
So what do you use? – Resources and Books for Charlotte Mason
Below I will go through some of the books that we use. DISCLAIMER: If you click on the links, it will take you to websites I work with and recommend. If you chose to purchase through those sites, I get a small something back in my piggie bank which mainly goes to “keeping the lights on” here at Wild Unruly and Loved.
First and foremost, I chose to use Ambleside Online over some of the other websites that have Charlotte Mason as their curriculum. Ambleside is FREE to use and extremely helpful. I like the way they break out the weeks, and I appreciate the book lists. Most books can be found in bookshops, Amazon, and even in a free public domain online. I valued that when we first started out as I couldn’t invest in a ton of books if it weren’t going to work with our family. Once we found a groove that worked for us, I bought the books for the next year.
I DO walk around with the book lists for all the books up through Year 12 in my purse. This way, if I come across it while at the Goodwill or a used bookshop, I can check it off. I DO sometimes look for older versions, but I give my kids the reprints because sometimes kids are rough with books and this bibliophile cannot take a book accidentally hurt by an overzealous page turner. I also am a part of a significant Facebook group called AmbelsideOnline. You can join and ask questions, get information and see if this way of homeschooling is right for you.
Below are some of my favorite books we use in school aside from the assigned texts. I will go over where we print stuff (Like art postcards and copy-work) in the next installment (hop over here). You can also see what drew me to the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling here and why it is the best for our family.
Nature journaling can seem daunting at best. Honestly, I avoided it for the first year because I didn’t see the value in it. Once I took the time to understand the way I needed to learn the how. I am not an artist. I like to say that there are lots of things I do well, like browsing the Target Dollar Spot, but drawing is down on the list. I needed to find books that explained drawing in terms a 6-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 35+ year-old could understand. Below are books I feel teach the hows and whys of nature journaling the best in the simplest ways. Building a nature journal allows us to take the time and slow down, to not just notice the trees, but the type, the leaf shapes, or the insects that call certain trees home. It allows the kids to become knowledgeable about the world around them and in turn, that knowledge gives them an understanding and appreciation for nature.
Keeping a Nature Journal
by Charles E Roth and Clare Leslie
This book helps to explain the reasoning behind a nature journal and how to start one. It has helped us be a bit more organized when sketching what we see. Before, not that it was wrong, the children would draw what they saw. Now they observe first, noticing things like texture and color, as well as structure before they sketch. It gives us a layer of art that is hard to tech without just merely doing it.
The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling
by John Muir Laws
This book helps the children draw. It is detailed enough that it supports the 11-year-old with shading while simple enough that the 6-year-old can practice and get down strokes. It seems so understated to say it helps with drawing. John Muir Laws is a famous natural artist. He put this books together to teach others how to draw and also cultivate a love of nature in others. There is also a John Muir Laws drawing program that children and adults can enroll.
I use Spotify FREE for music and composure study. It does have adds, but that doesn’t bother me. I also follow a few Charlotte Mason and Ambleside users who list playlists in year order. It makes it easy when looking at the music lists, to find and tag them in a playlist. This way, we can play it in the background of morning work, art, or journaling and the kids hear the music before we study it thoroughly. It sets the tone for our day and our school as well. You can follow me on Spotify at Cuttingz or contact me, and I can share my playlists with you effortlessly.
Books For Mom
While I do stick to the list from Ambleside Online, I also recommend some books for mom. I believe wholeheartedly in self-care for homeschool moms. While public and private schoolers get out of the house daily, homeschooled children are always there. Sure there may be coop or playdates or science lab, but far and away, homeschool moms are spending more time with their children than most. We aren’t complaining, we chose to walk this road, but that means that activities like “coffee dates” can be tricky….. unless they take place at Chick-Fil-A. A homeschool mom can become quite lonely. The following are books that can help with the feelings of isolation.
I also run a book club that focuses on fun and exciting books, as well as books that make you think, better your parenting, and help your walk with God. If you would like to join us over at WOW Literary Club on Facebook. It’s free to join and fun to do, without a ton of homework.
Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions
by Lysa Terkeurst
This book is one I have read several times. I am an introvert and with that comes some weaknesses, such as my lack of small talk and my avoidance of large groups where I know no one. I tend to stuff my feelings away until I finally explode over something trivial. Reading through this book has been eye opening to me and addressed skills I have yet to master. (From Amazon) Filled with gut-honest personal examples and biblical teaching, Unglued will equip you to: Know with confidence how to resolve conflict in your important relationships. Find peace in your most difficult relationships as you learn to be honest but kind when offended. Identify what type of reactor you are and how to significantly improve your communication. Respond with no regrets by managing your tendencies to stuff, explode, or react somewhere in between. Gain a deep sense of calm by responding to situations out of your control without acting out of control. I recommend this book to moms everywhere.
For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School
by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
When I first started looking at Charlotte Mason, this book kept coming up in my searches. While many who use Charlotte Mason as their core recommend this book, I believe the principles within can be applied to all children regardless of methodology in their homeschooling journey. I have read it through several times and each time I walk away with a deeper understanding of how children learn in school environments. Applying to my kids was easy. I encourage all those thinking of homeschooling or currently homeschooling to read this book.
The Homeschool Experiment by Charity Hawkins
The tag-line of my blog is “A messy life is one worth celebrating,” and that rings true in the pages of this book. Charity Hawkins brings to life the touches of humor life of a homeschooling mom set against a backdrop of failed attempts at perfect outings and field trips. While she no longers blogs, I still admire her for her honest portrayal of the life of a homeschooler. It is always messy here folks, and that is okay. We do our best, we clean and organize, but at the end of the day, we live, work, and school all in this one home. It can get chaotic and crazy. Read this if you are searching for some normalcy amongst the Pinterest perfect world.
There are many books I could link to; many items could tell suggest to you. I guess when you honestly look at homeschooling, it is as unique as the families that choose to educate their families at home.
In the next post, I will add a few more books and handicraft suggestions for easy (and cost-effective) ideas you can use even if you aren’t choosing Charlotte Mason as your core.
Check out Week 1 of the blog series HERE
Check out Week 3 of the blog series (Coming Soon)
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