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Daily Mind Food—How to Switch to Charlotte Mason Homeschooling, Stage 3
We’ve been discussing how to make the transition to the Charlotte Mason method in five stages. We’ve already talked about Stage 1: The Basics and Stage 2: things you will do just Once a Week. Today, let’s look at Stage 3, which is two things that I want you to start doing every day.
The first is literature, a family read-aloud book. Choose one of the great classic children’s literature books, such as Black Beauty or The Wind in the Willows or Heidi or the Little House books or the Little Britches books, etc.
Reading together as a family connects your hearts. And that reading doesn’t have to be done during school time. We used to read our family read-aloud at snack time, three o’clock every afternoon. Other families do their read-aloud at bedtime. Make it fit your schedule and family culture, but make a commitment to choose one of those great classic literature books and read a chapter aloud each day, sharing it together as a family.
Our kids can learn a lot of life lessons from those great literature books. Take Winnie-the-Pooh, for example. We learn that it’s good to have a “thoughtful spot”; we learn that some people are “Eeyores,” but we love them anyway; and if you go all the way to the end of that book, you learn that nothing lasts forever on this earth, things change. From Charlotte’s Web we learn about the sacrifice that one friend makes for another; we also learn how to work with cynical people, like Templeton the rat. You can learn so much from classic children’s literature books!
I didn’t usually require my children to narrate these read-alouds. We just enjoyed them together. If you don’t know what books to start with, you might choose from this list of some of our favorite titles for literature read-alouds.
The second thing I want you to do every day is Scripture Memory. Here’s what you do: Choose a verse or a passage or a whole chapter that you want to memorize. Write it on a 3” x 5” card. You could alternately download verse cards from our website; we have hundreds of pre-printed verse cards that you can download for free and use.
Simply read the reference and have everybody say the reference after you. Then read the passage through once; everyone should listen closely. At the end, everyone should say the reference again.
- I read the reference.
- Everyone says the reference.
- I read/recite the passage. As the others hear the passage every day, they’ll start to recognize portions of it, and they can join in on the parts that they know.
- Everyone says the reference again.
As you do this process every day, the others will start joining in more and more, because they will know more of that passage or verse.
It just takes five minutes or less. We used to do it at breakfast all the time. Now I do it during our school time with my youngest. Choose a time of day that works best for you. It doesn’t take long, but those small, constant touches every day, reviewing the verses, is going to give you some great results.
Once everyone has memorized that verse, put it in a system to help you review it often and start a new verse daily that you want to memorize. If you don’t have a system already, take a look at this wonderful Scripture Memory System. It helps you review every verse you’ve ever learned, every month, plus you’re constantly learning new verses. Yet it takes only five minutes a day. It all fits in a little 3” x 5” index-card box, or you can get a beautiful handmade wooden, heirloom-quality box to keep it in. Either way, just make sure you do Scripture Memory each day.
So there you go: Reading aloud your family read-aloud literature book and memorizing Scripture, every day. That’s Stage 2.
Forming Good Habits
I want you to do them every day, because I want you to make those two practices a habit. Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of good habits. We talked in Stage 1 about keeping lessons short. The reason we do that is because we are trying to establish the habits of paying full attention and giving their best effort. Short lessons help our children attain those habits. And there are many other habits that Charlotte talked about.
You see, education, in a Charlotte Mason approach, is more than just a set of books; it’s a lifestyle. And much of that lifestyle involves instilling good habits in our children. In fact, Charlotte said that one third of our children’s education is the habits that we instill in their lives. We need to be constantly instilling good habits and keeping watch over the ones that have already been formed.
So let me encourage you not to neglect habits in favor of checking off a lesson plan. Pay attention to the habits that your children are developing. Those habits are what will give you smooth and easy days, and they will lay down rails on which your children can run smoothly into their adult lives. We have some resources to help you with habit training if you would like to learn more about that important aspect of educating your children.
So now you know Stage 3: read aloud a chapter from your selected literature book and memorize Scripture every day. Once you get that stage up and running, you’re more than halfway there! I hope that you and your children are enjoying this new way of learning. Next, we’ll do Stage 4.
Ready-to-Go Lesson Plans
Our Enrichment Studies lesson plans already have great books pre-selected and walk you through the subjects in Stages 2 and 3. The Enrichment Studies provide complete book lists and daily plans, so you can spend your time enjoying the learning and not worry about all the planning.
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When you mention keeping lessons short… I could not agree more that my children learn better that way, but how do you keep up with the lesson schedule of curriculums in doing so? They always have more than a short portion each day. For example- apologia science…
how do I handle this?
If you are referring to the upper-grade Apologia science courses, lessons in those grades (7–12) can increase to 30 or 45 minutes. If the student is not yet able to pay full attention for that length of time, you could split the day’s work over two shorter time periods. So you could have a 20-minute science time, then do other schoolwork that uses a different part of the brain (not reading and narrating). Then later in the day, come back and do another 20-minute science time to finish the day’s work.
You could also take a close look at what is being done in that time frame. Is there any busywork that could be eliminated? Would it be more efficient (and helpful) to have the student narrate what he read, rather than answer lots of questions? In other words, make the curriculum your servant, not your master. Use the curriculum as it fits your student and your situation best.
And keep in mind that you don’t have to be handcuffed to a curriculum’s outlined schedule. It’s more important that your student learns the material and fosters the habit of full attention than that he completes a certain number of pages by a certain date.
I’m really enjoying this series! I have three daughters that I’ve homeschooled from the beginning, and although we started out using Charlotte Mason’s methods, we drifted from them over the years due to my own fears about their simplicity. Now that I’ve had some experience with other methods, I realize the value of what we left behind and am switching back.
The one problem I’m having trouble solving is how to do read alouds. In the past, my youngest child was too young to pay much attention to read alouds, so I’d read picture books with her and then do a read aloud with the older two. But now that she’s 7 and has a longer attention span, I’d like to include her, but my oldest is 13, which is a big age difference. Should I choose a book at the 13yo’s level and let the others glean what they can, or at the 7yo’s level so as not to lose her, or try to choose books somewhere in between? My hesitation about trying to find books easy enough for everyone to understand is that I’ll never get to dig into some of the good books for older students. How do CM families handle this?
With that age spread, Marie, I would recommend that you choose a read-aloud to do with your 7yo on her level. Invite your 13yo to listen also, if desired. (Or invite your 13yo to do the reading aloud sometimes, so that skill can be practiced.) Then have a separate literature book going with your 13yo. You could either read that aloud with your older student at a different time of the day or have a little private book club for the two of you, with a certain number of chapters assigned each week for independent reading and then a get-together one day per week to discuss what’s happening in the book.
You might also do a combination approach, choosing books to read all together sometimes and sometimes having separate books going with the two age levels. My main concern, at this point, in combining the age levels is not that the 7yo wouldn’t follow along; I’m sure she could get a lot out of it. My main concern would be content. Some of the books for older students contain ideas and situations that might be unsettling or confusing to a 7yo. So for the books that have family-friendly content, go ahead and read them all together. For the books that are more geared to older, more-experienced emotions, separate into two tracks for a few weeks.
Thank you, Sonya, those are great ideas! I wasn’t even considering doing separate read alouds but that would certainly simplify choosing appropriate books. And although it would use up more of my own time, it IS a delightful way to spend time!
Thank you for this series! Reading through it, I see that I’m incorporating a Charlotte Mason approach with my school year without even realizing it. This has been great to see how I can add in more things without feeling overloaded. My oldest is turning 8 and my next 2 will be kindergarten and preschool age so I’ve been mulling over ideas for us as a family to do together. This approach really seems great for us.
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