Today is a special post for those who are diving into homeschooling this year, maybe for the first time, and are looking for some simple ways to incorporate more than just the basic academics. I want to share with you three simple ways to enrich your homeschool experience.
These are three short, enjoyable methods that Charlotte Mason used with her students to bring music, art, and poetry into their education.
Just five minutes, three times a week, is all it takes. But those small, constant touches will add up to a wonderfully enriching school year. So let’s walk through how to do those three enrichment subjects.
First, art. Don’t worry, you do not have to be an art aficionado to enjoy this simple technique. Here’s what you do. Choose an artist and show one picture by that artist to your students. Encourage them to look closely until they can close their eyes and envision the picture in detail in their imaginations. If one part of the image is fuzzy, they can open their eyes and look at that part again. But encourage them to look at it until they’ve got that picture hanging in the art gallery of their minds. Then turn the picture over and see if your students can describe it. Once they’ve told you all that they can remember, look at the picture again to clarify or confirm what they described. Then put that picture on display for the rest of the week.
That’s it. Look, hide and describe, look again, discuss if you want to, and put it on display. Takes about five minutes. But if you linger with one artist and do that little exercise with several of his or her works, your students will get a really good feel for that artist’s style.
You can find artists’ works on the Internet or get a wall calendar that has nice big pictures, or we have some portfolios with beautiful pictures that you could use. The main thing is don’t be intimidated. You can learn to enjoy art right along with your students. You don’t have to be the expert to look, hide and describe, look again, and put the picture on display. Do that just one day a week and your whole family will start to form some artist friendships that will enrich their education. And of course, they can always read about those new friends too.
So that’s how to add art: five minutes once a week.
Now let’s talk about music. Here’s a simple, and similar, way to add music to your home school. Choose a composer and linger with him or her for several weeks. Play that composer’s music often. You might play it as background music during lunch or as a playlist in the mornings to let all the kids know that they need to be finishing up what they’re doing and gathering for school work. You could play it in the car as you run errands. You get the idea, just play that composer’s music often—not incessantly, but often—and mention the composer’s name as you do, so your students begin to relate that name with the music they are hearing.
Then once a week, sit down and do a focused listening time with one of that composer’s pieces. Tell your students the piece’s name, then listen closely and respond. They might make up a story to go with the music. They might draw a picture to go with the music or make up a play that goes with it or move to the music or listen for loud parts and soft parts. You get the idea. Just offer them an opportunity to respond.
And just like art, stick with that one composer for several weeks. Each week have a focused listening time that features a different piece by that composer. After several weeks, your students (and you) will have a good feel for that composer’s style. If you want to include a biography on that composer sometime during those weeks, feel free to do that too.
You can find albums of specific composers’ music online. We also have some music portfolios that feature a couple of albums and biographies that you can use. That link will be in the notes too.
So that’s art and music. Spread them out over the week to add variety and keep things manageable. So maybe you’ll do your picture study—look and describe and look again—on Mondays. And maybe you’ll do your focused listening time on Wednesdays. Remember, you can play that composer’s music all during the week, but do that focused listening just once a week.
And then you can add poetry on Fridays, if you want to. This one is probably the easiest of the three, so don’t be intimidated. Here’s what you do: read a poem out loud and enjoy how the author used words. That’s it. No analyzing, no dissecting. Just enjoy it together.
If you want to focus on one poet for several weeks, you can do that. Or you can just grab a book of poems and choose one to share each week—maybe a seasonal poem or a nature poem or a funny poem or a poem that tells a story. See what you’re feeling like on that particular day, and read a poem that fits. It’s up to you.
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a great collection that I’ve used for years: Favorite Poems Old and New, edited by Helen Ferris. There are hundreds of poems in here to choose from and enjoy. Or you don’t have to get a book; use one of the many poetry websites online.
If you want to focus on one particular poet, we have some easy-to-use collections that also give a short, interesting biography about that poet; so that’s another resource that’s available.
Now, reading a poem aloud is probably not going to take five minutes. So if you want to, you could also invite your students to draw a picture of the poem (if it lends itself well to that) or to act out the poem (if it’s a story poem). You could even memorize a poem together. It’s up to you how far you want to take this, but it starts by simply reading a poem aloud once a week. You can do that. And your students’ minds will be enriched by hearing that powerful and lovely use of words.
So there you have it: simple ways to enrich your homeschool experience. Do a picture study on Mondays, a focused music listening time on Wednesdays, and read a poem aloud on Fridays. Or use whatever days of the week fit your family best. And the best part is that you can do this with all of your students together, no matter their ages or grade levels.
It takes only five minutes, three times a week, and I think you’ll be surprised at how much you all enjoy those simple, enriching touches.