". . . the chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects." Charlotte Mason (Volume 1, Home Education, pg. 96)
Wendi's notes from Volume 1
I'm working on my notes from volume one, putting them in order, transcribing them from my scribbles to the computer.
I was rereading volume one to figure out what to do with my five y.o., and I was looking for something of a list of things to do- which is, of course, kind of the antithesis of what Miss Mason herself wanted her readers to do.
I thought I'd share one or two excerpts from my notes here:
A mother's chief responsibilities for the first six years is to secure for her children "Quiet growing time--and free growing time--the freedom of real play (not lessons that look like play) and of ordering one's own life. page 194
The games mother and baby play together naturally, without any special training or effort, are exactly what a baby needs to develop properly- at least to age 2 ...page 190.
From 2-5 avoid the over stimulation of too much time with age mates. She says that '...the mixed society of elders, jrs., and equals, which we get in a family..." gives the right mix of rest and individual development. Be careful not to supplement nature so much that we supplant her and 'deprive her of the space and time to do her own work..." page 191
Natural development as opposed to any too carefully organized system- a 'child... left to himself ...will think more and better, if less showily" page 196
Tommy should be free to do what he likes with his limbs and his mind through all the hours of the day when he is not sitting up nicely at meals. he should run and jump, leap and tumble, lie on his face watching a worm, or on his back watching the bees.... nature will look after him and give him promptings of desire to know many things, and somebody must tell as he wants to know; and to do many things, and somebody should be handy just to put him in the way; and to be many things, naughty and good, and somebody should give direction." page 192
"...Health, strength, and agility, bright eyes, and alert movements, come of a free life, out-of-doors, if it may be, and as for habits, there is no habit or power so useful to man or woman as that of personal initiative. The resourcefulness which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the lenght of a summer's day is worth more in after life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes and hexagons, and this comes, not of continual intervetnion on the mother's part, but of much masterly inactivity." page 192
The part of the mother in early years is to 'sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted... wise letting alone is the chief thing... Nature... arranges for due work and due rest of mind, muscles, and senses.' page 193
"Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things, and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sittng indoors at a little round table while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop indepndent ideas out of actual experiences." page 196
definite lessons begin around 6 or 7 (page 193), and 'A child will have taught himself to paint, paste, cut paper, knit, weave, hammer and saw, make lovely things in clay and sand, build castles with his bricks; possibly too, will have taught himself to read, write, and do sums, besides acquiring no end of knowledge and notions about the world he lives in, by the time he is six or seven. What I contend for is that he shall do these things because he chooses (provided that the standard of perfection in his small works be set before him). page 194
An excellent summary of her ideas is on page 177/8:"(a) That the knowledge most valuable to the child is that which he gets with his own eyes and ears and fingers (under direction) in the open air. (b) That the claims of the schoolroom should not be allowed to encroach on the child's right to long hours daily for exercise and investigation. (c) That the child should be taken daily, if possible, to scenes- moor or meadow, park, common or shore- where he may find new things to examine, and so add to his store of real knowledge. That the child's observation should be directed to flower or boulder, bird or tree; that, in fact, he should be employed in gathering the common information which is the basis of scientific knowledge. (d) That play, vigorous healthful play, is, in its turn, fully as important as lessons, as regards both bodily health and brain-power. (e) That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself- both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences. (f) That the happiness of the child is the condition of his progress; that his lessons should be joyous, and that occasions of friction in the schoolroom are greatly to be deprecated."
Miss Mason insists on the importance of learning principles rather than strict `what to do' lists, and she also says stresses the importance of staying current with the science of the day, with child development, and says, "As far as education is a science, the truth of even ten, much more, a hundred- years ago is not the whole truth of today.' Page 185 and that `We may not have an educational pope; ;we must think out for ouselves, as well as work out, those things that belong ot hte perfect bringing-up of our children." Page 185
One of things Miss Mason does stress for the early years is training in good habits- she has a lot to say about it, and I found nearly all of it overwhelming, until I found the following encouraging passage:
on page 192, Miss Mason says "The busy mother says she has no leisure... and the child will run wild and get into bad habits; but we must not make a fetish of habit; education is a *life* as well as a discipline. Health, strength, and agility, bright eyes, adn alert movements, come of a free life, out-of-doors, if it may be, and as for habits, there is no habit or power so useful to man or woman as that of personal initiative. The resourcefulness which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the lenght of a summer's day is worht more in after life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes adn hexagons, and this comes, not of continual intervetnion on the mother's part, but of much masterly inactivity."
I certainly feel better about all the hours and hours my children have been running wild outside while I reread volume 1 and typed up my notes!=)
If you want to know more about what CM did for younger children, I would suggest reading volume one of her six volume series.
While there is no year 0 as of yet, I have been reading volume one again this year, taking notes with my two youngest children in mind. I have transcribed a few of those notes onto the computer today and just posted them on a website.
Hope this helps, Wendi
Re: Booklist for Preschoolers: Charlotte Mason thought that young children should be outside experiencing nature more than reading books, so she didn't really recommend many books. Preschool is a great time to start a garden and work on habits that will make the next years smoother. It's never too early to help a child develop a taste for music and art with casual exposure by playing classical music during the day and putting art on the walls.
If I were making a booklist, I'd keep it sparse- the classic Winnie the Pooh series, Beatrix Potter, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, The Little House, Ping, The Little Engine that Could, Blueberries for Sal, Millions of Cats, Ferdinand, Madeline, Andy and the Lion, and classic children's poetry like Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti and Edward Lear.
Leslie Noelani Laurio
A reprint of a curriculum outline from a CM school in the 1890's. from Summer 93 Parents Review pub by Karen Andreola
1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns
2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm
3. to add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters
4. to read--what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child
5. to copy in print-hand from a book
6. to know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows
7. to describe the boundries of their own home
8. to describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach
9. to tell quite accurately (however shortly) 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English, and 3 from early Roman history (my note here, we may want to substitute early American for early English!)
10. to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views
11. to mount in a scrap book a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.
12. to do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees
13. to know 6 birds by song, colour and shape
14. to send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed
15. to tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog or cat.
16. to name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences
17. to sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song
18. to keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.
As I re-read this, I'm struck with how organized and `together' it all
seems. In reality, it is anything but
We don't even schedule school time for him. In the mornings if the baby is happy and the older girls are occupied, we will work on the more formal subjects like phonics or penmanship, but the rest is just a part of our day.
What I did was take Miss Mason's list and plug in some of the things we do where they seem to `fit'. If I had to make up a portfolio for him, or keep track of his learning, it wouldn't be too difficult to show where all of the `school subjects' are being covered. We are lucky enough to live in Ontario where we can make our own curriculum, and don't have to submit progress reports. I do keep track of books used, and keep our weekly assignment sheets for the older girls (where we check off readings, etc. that we have completed) just in case anyone ever questions our schooling.
As a bit of background for comparison, my son is 5yo. He was a preemie,
so is small for his age and asthmatic, but developmentally, he's right on
track. He does not yet have the fine-motor skills necessary for `bookwork',
and his attention span is a work in progress. He will sit still to be read
to, but that's about it- he more than makes up for being the only boy!
A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six a reprint of a curriculum outline from a CM school in the 1890's, reprinted Summer 93 Parents Review published by Karen Andreola
1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns
2. To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm
For this we use nursery rhymes and simple poems.
3. To add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters
We have many math games and manipulatives that we use (both purchased and home-made). I can describe them if anyone is interested. We don't use a `pencil and paper' math curriculum for the early years.
4. To read--what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child
We are using `At Last! A Reading Method for Every Child', but we aren't at the reading stage yet. I'm still not sure what readers we will be using.
5. To copy in print-hand from a book
Italic Book A for learning the formation of the letters, then we'll be moving on to copywork, no more than a few words a day.
6. To know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows
We don't do this formally, but always refer to the direction we are
looking or going (the river flows East, we have to walk West to get to the
library, the moss is on the North side of the tree). This is a challenge for
me since I'm dyslexic, but it's easier than trying to figure out `left or
7. To describe the boundaries of their own home
Again, easily done in an informal manner, just by pointing out how the fence is across the South side of the yard, the river runs across the East end, etc.
8. To describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach
Our backyard ends at a river, so this is very easy for us. We also take nature walks to other parts of the river, and there are many ponds across the road at the Forestry Centre. We have chosen one to visit monthly to observe changes in the pond, the trees, and the wildlife that live there.
9. To tell quite accurately (however shortly) 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English, and 3 from early Roman history.
We have chosen some of Baldwin's tales to read, as well as a simple book on Canadian history (each episode is only 2-3 paragraphs) and snippets from the `Just a Minute' series.
I don't ask for formal narrations after reading them, but will have him tell Daddy about the story we read, or ask him some days/weeks later if he remembers the story about.
He loves to set up battles with his Playmobile castle and soldiers (often from his sister's Year 1 history readings which he likes to listen in on). He also has a set of WWII soldiers with a Guns of Navaronne mountain fort that belonged to my husband. Since both of DH's grandfathers were in the War, we also tell the kids stories of their service (one was a fighter pilot, one lost his leg to a land mine- very exciting to a 5yo boy!). We tell stories of our ancestors' migration to Canada, and any other interesting family stories. I think family history is as important as world history. He loves relating the story of how he is named after one of my ancestors (one of Charlemagne's knights).
We also celebrate Remembrance Day and Canada Day, and talk about their significance.
10. To be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views.
Again, we use our nature walks to encourage this type of observation. Also, one of the views he studies most often is the one from our back porch ;-) Easier for us than for most people, I think.
11. To mount in a scrapbook a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.
12. To do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees.
We take a large ziplock bag with us on our nature walks, to collect specimens. We also have done bark rubbings, taken pictures of the same tree/view at different seasons, collected Fall leaves, pine and fir cones, acorns, etc. We also collect seeds to plant the next Spring.
13. To know 6 birds by song, colour and shape.
We have a bird feeder, and participate in the backyard bird count. Part of our backyard is also a protected wetland, since it is a nesting ground for Red-Winged Blackbirds. We watch for their coming in the spring, observe their mating, feeding, and nesting rituals, and try to guess when they will leave in the Fall (they actually 'meet' and 'discuss' this for days!- the birds, not the kids). We also participate in a study of these birds and their disappearing habitat. One thing my kids really enjoyed last year was making a `blind' to hide in and watch the birds at the feeder up close.
14. To send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed.
I'm not sure what work Charlotte would have assigned, but we will be working on lacing, paper weaving, card making, rubber stamping, scrapbooking, simple carpentry, sketching, painting, etc. He also shows an interest in learning to knit, so we will start that as soon as he shows enough fine-motor control. I have a big box full of activities for him to help with this.
15. To tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog or cat.
We have a cat and some fish, so I often send him to just `watch' them, then come to me and tell me what he observed. Since we also have many different types of wildlife visiting our backyard and the river, I will also ask him to tell me stories about the (blue heron, snapping turtle, mallards, fox, etc.) that we saw (yesterday, last week).
16. To name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences.
We use the `Teach Me French' series for the 5yo and 7yo. The 13yo and I are bilingual, so we will often make a point of speaking only in French for an hour or so. They begin to learn French and English at the same time, often with quite funny results ;-) My son once told his grandmother she was `Very gross', he meant `gros'- big, tall.
17. To sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song.
Very easily done, as we sing almost all day! We have lots of tapes that the kids listen to, so they memorize many songs by the time they are 6.
18. To keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.
We have done this, as well as raised tadpoles, kept worms and ladybugs. We have a pet snail and we keep crickets in the summer, letting them go in the Fall.
Some other things we also have done/will be doing are herb gardens, sunflower houses, wildflower gardens, indoor gardens, visiting the Biodiversity Museum at the end of our street, Mudpuppy Nights, reading Beatrix Potter, Thornton Burgess Animal Stories, and lots of poetry. We also read a lot of good quality literature/picture books. He also joins the girls for Composer and Artist studies.
One very significant part of his day is helping his 2yo sister with her
vision therapy. It's amazing what he notices and points out to her, things I
wouldn't have thought of. Just yesterday he told her to smell the phone
receiver, and asked, "Doesn't it smell like Mommy's hands?" I use vanilla
hand lotion, so I guess that's what he was talking about
With so much to do and see, it will be no problem keeping him busy for the next year and a half, until he will be ready for more formal learning.
What about A Child's Garden of Verses illustrated by Thomas Kinkade?
There are some wonderfully illustrated versions of children's poems out there to choose from. Children enjoy seeing pictures of children like themselves. While Thomas Kinkade's paintings enjoy popularity with many people, they aren't really geared for children; they're charming, idyllic scenes that appeal more to adults who may be drawn to peaceful scenes of country tranquility. Since there are so many alternatives that would be better suited to children, the concern was that Kinkade's current fame might cause a parent to choose the version with his pictures based on the fame of a name alone rather than with a child's eye.
My favorite versions of A Child's Garden of Verses are illustrated by Eulalie and Jessie Wilcox Smith. Children dressed as real children were in Robert Louis Stevenson's day helps to set the poems in their correct time context and may help a child form a perspective that children who lived a long ago were a lot like they are today, which I believe gives a better idea of our place in the world; ie, people who lived before were just as real as people who live today. It would be a shame for children to miss seeing pictures of children alongside these poems about children.
One that I especially recommend:
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