Category Archives: Charlotte Mason

CHARLOTTE MASON AND PERFECTIONISM

I’m a perfectionist to the point of being paralyzed. It’s only during my middle thirty’s that I began to realize that perfection isn’t necessary in every situation and that it’s okay to do just good enough. It’s okay to fail.

Knowing this about myself makes life a lot easier. I can attack my housework knowing it’s okay to just do rather than having to do it perfectly. In fact, I coined the phrase “people perfect” with my own children.

When my kids were little, I stressed that we do things “people perfect” because only God is truly perfect.

When I read curriculum that stresses doing things perfectly the way Charlotte Mason does, my heart races, my jaw clinches, and my stomach knots up. It really stresses me.

I cannot fully embrace Charlotte Mason’s methods because of this.

And while I dont like the “doing what a child can do perfectly” I really love narration because the child doesn’t have to be perfect.

Charlotte Mason’s methods are complicated. I’ve learned to take what I like and leave the rest.

Actually, I wish I could embrace the idea of perfection because it is what I aspire to be, but it is that same idea that prevents me from being my best. I cannot see burdening a child with the burden of having to be perfect.

The dark side of my avoidance of perfection is that I risk teaching my students to not try their best.

That is why co-op has been so good for me. I typically have high expectations but I have to put aside my own fears and still require the attempt at perfection from my students (co-op and home).

It’s such a fine line to balance between doing your best and trying to obtain the unattainable. Because of my tendencies, I have to err on the side of good enough rather than perfect.

For a perfectionist though, good enough is often not good enough.

By the way, I don’t think Ms. Mason was trying to burden everyone with perfectionism. I just think that for those who suffer with this tendency, the wording used by Ms. Mason and by those that interpret her work must be taken with a grain of salt or a handful. I have to know who I am as a teacher and, just as importantly, who my students are as people. No program is perfect for everyone and should be adjusted for each student according to his or her needs. By and large, Charlotte Mason’s methods are beneficial to students everywhere. The student just must be the focus of the teaching and not the method–whether it’s Charlotte Mason’s methods or classical or any other method.

TEACHING AT CO-OP VS. TEACHING AT HOME

Not the same. It is so much harder to teach a classroom of children than it is to teach my own.

But teaching at co-op has been so good for me. I’ve learned to look further down the road to graduation. I’ve learned to be a stricter teacher and disciplinarian. And I’ve learned more about children and education in general.

It’s so easy to think that my kids are like kids everywhere or that kids everywhere are pretty much the same. Not true. Not true at all.

At co-op I have to try and meet children where they are. And they come from homes where the rules are different and the expectations are different.

What I take for granted in my kids, I realize now, is the result of the work that my husband and I have put into raising them. And my children’s weaknesses are also a result of that same training.

Because of co-op, I can see a little more clearly what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.

What we’re doing right?

My kids know how to think. We don’t spend as much time as I’d like discussing deep concepts, but we do talk a lot–everybody at my house is always talking–and we’re all so loud. My husband and I love debating and arguing and having deep meaningful conversations, and my kids are beginning to get involved in some of those conversations. Our current favorite topic is the economy and the demise of America as we know it. :-)

After spending a couple of years at co-op, I see that many, many homeschooled students are excellent thinkers. Most of the highschool students that I teach are amazing in their ability to research, filter through information, and write up their opinion(s) about the topic. But not all of them are capable of doing this on the same level. There are a few whom I have encountered over the years that have unclear, muddled thinking. They don’t know how to narrow down ideas to the crux of the matter. (This is why I like The Lost Tools of Writing so much. It’s not muddled.)

What we’re doing wrong?

~sigh~ There’s so much I don’t know where to begin. I’m working on discipline, scheduling, habit training, and the list goes on. My kids are good kids, but I didn’t learn about Charlotte Mason’s methods until I was an adult, and I am the one that needs habit training. I am working on all of those above issues for me, and as I get better in these areas, my children improve in these same areas as well. They catch my habits.

So more than anything, co-op is helping me to be more organized and together by requiring me to be more organized and together. The end result is that my kids are becoming more organized and together.

The biggest drawback to attending co-op is the fear it causes in me. I fear that my kids will not get as good an education because the teachers are not teaching my children the way I would. (This is huge!)

In some instances, I know it’s right. But in others, I know that I have seen the co-op teachers doing a better job in some subjects than what I would have done. And my children are benefiting.

Our co-op is worth the risk. The ladies who run it are amazing and are gifted at what they’re doing. I’m really looking forward to what is happening at our co-op.

HOW I DECIDE WHEN MY CHILDREN CAN WRITE THEIR NARRATIONS

Honestly, for my daughter, I can’t remember. But for my son, I’ve learned a few things.

A couple of years ago, his sentences were structured all crazy. He also narrated in such a way that he’d miss out on some important details. Sometimes he narrated in everyday common, informal words. I knew he wasn’t ready.

Now, he narrates in a such a way that the structure of his sentences sound just right. In fact they sound very, very good. He has varied sentence beginnings and he uses words properly and formally.

Now, he has to learn to condense the story down more. I’m trying to have him summarize the beginning, the middle, and the end. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And every child can tell you what those are. And my 9 year old can tell me what those are too, but to identify what those are and to word those three parts with transitions so that they flow together, even though the details aren’t there, does take another level of skill. That’s what I’m working on with him.

My daughter is already there.

She has moved on to creating an outline from her summation. I’ll probably talk about that tomorrow.

THE PROBLEM WITH ADHERING TO SET SCOPES AND SEQUENCES

Okay, I realize it’s not entirely problematic to adhere to a set lay out in any subject area. It’s absolutely beneficial to do it in math, for instance. But, from my personal experience, more often than not, a curriculum that is so laid out where it is planned to T in a skill subject can be detrimental and not beneficial to some children. The reason? Well, not all children are learning at the same rate as the schedule.

There is no strict rule that says that all first graders have to be able to read x number of words or at x level by the end of the school year. Those reading levels and such are just guides, and not everybody follows them.

After having 4 kids, I’ve finally come to understand this. My kids are so different. Why would I judge my 9 yo son’s reading ability compared to where his sister was when she was 9? He is a different person, he has different interest, and he has different eyes. He even has an eye tracking problem with one eye that can give him headaches and make reading in the car almost impossible.

And my daughter? She reads a book a day. She loves to read. But should every child read as much as she does? Absolutely not. She is not a super active child and has some problems with her feet. That slowed her down with walking and all other physical milestones. By being behind in some areas, she has gravitated toward what she loves.

When I use a curriculum, I try to tailor it to meet my child’s needs. For instance, if the math lessons are too redundant, we speed it up and skip some problems. If the math is too hard, I pull out a workbook that has more practice problems in the trouble area, and we park there for a while. I let each of my children dictate their pace of learning.

The only areas where I see there may not be a need to do this are in content areas. There is a lot of history and science information that can be learned. And I’ve learned to adjust what we’re doing for my daughter by giving her 5 books to read to my son’s 2 books to read. (My daughter is almost 11, son 9 1/2)

I like curricula that I call open-ended. Those that present my children with as much information as possible, and then allows them to spew out what they can. That is why I like narrations so much, no child fails at narrations.

For us this is really working. My daughter told me this weekend that the Trojans eventually got their revenge. When Aeneas escaped, his grand children eventually founded Rome. And Rome eventually defeated the Greeks.

She also came next to me yesterday, sat by me, and said, “You know, Hitler and Haman were a lot alike. They both wanted to destroy the Jews.” She had just finished reading about Persia in Ancient History and last year we studied modern history. Evidently, it’s all starting to come together for her.

Now if she were a few years older, I’d have her write a comparison contrast paper on Haman and Hitler. Shucks, I’d do it today if she knew how to outline well enough, do the research, and then write it. Problem is, she can probably write it, but she is still learning to outline, and she hasn’t done much research other just reading.

(Sorry for the grammar, the country in me started coming out)

PLAYING THE PIANO

All 4 of my kids are now taking piano lessons, and I’m so thrilled about it.

Children are so different. They have different skills, different talents, and different interests. My daughter, almost 11, dislikes the piano the most. But I am so very, very glad that we persevered and made her continue taking lessons.

In some movies there’s always one kid with glasses that reads a lot but cant make their bodies respond to physical stimuli, like catching a ball or riding a bike. In some cases, it’s a boy that tutors everyone else but has an F in wood shop. Well, that’s kind of my daughter.

Even though she dislikes the piano the most, she needs it the most. When I see her playing, using both hands, and pumping with her foot at the same time, while reading the notes, I know its helping her mind, her concentration, her hand-eye coordination, and her musical awareness.

She needs to play the piano. I’d go so far as to say that she has hated it for the first 3 years of practice. But it has been physical therapy to my daughter and a blessing to her. And, best of all, she actually enjoys playing, now. She doesn’t like to practice, but she does like playing.

My 3 sons, on the other hand are more naturals and they just plow their way through the piano. My oldest son tries to play his music backwards. They asked to start playing. My 3 year old begged me, “Pease, pease, can I pay the piano.”

I couldn’t say no.

KISS GRAMMAR–FREE AND FANTASTIC!

KISS Grammar It recommends teaching grammar as I suggested in Write from History. This actually comes as a surprise to me because I just found this website. The exercises are from real sentences and they are cumulative. I love this!

But he goes much further than I did or even most curricula does on the subject. He teaches children real grammar. He’s a college professor and loves the subject. This is a fantastic–FREE!–curriculum. Check it out.

OLD COPYBOOKS VS. WRITE FROM HISTORY

The old books–Classical Reading and Writing Copybooks–are still for sale, most of them, but I hate to link to them because they haven’t been upgraded like the new books–Write from History.

Here are the differences–

1. Write from History has a page for written summations, the copybooks don’t.
2. Write from History has 3 areas for writing the models per story, the copybooks have 4
3. Write from History has two separate models per reading selection rather than only 1. (This is because Charlotte Mason used different models for copywork and dictation. So I’m providing extra models in the appendix for those moms that follow Ms. Mason to a “T”.
4. Eventually, I will have student pages available for Write from History with different font options. (The ancients books actually are available in different fonts, right now.)
5. Write from History is cheaper because I always lower the prices during this time of year, and because it has fewer pages. The print cost at LULU increased about $4.00 per book last month.
6. The old copybooks for the beginning grammar students are still available for year 3 and year 4 in the old format. I am reworking the ancients book for the beginning grammar students right now. I’m removing the primary source documents and replacing that chapter with Aesop’s fables. More appropriate for grades 1 and 2.

The old copybooks for the upper grades are still available for year 3 in all of the fonts at the first link below. Year 4 and Year 1 for the upper grammar stage are now retitled Write from History, Level 2. The stories are all the same, but the organization, the instruction, and the grammar guide in the back are different. And those differences really make a difference. The books are more flexible and cheaper.

If anyone can’t wait for the updates and is willing to pay the 3 or 4 extra dollars for the old books, here is the link to all of my books at LULU–about 3 pages. And here is the link to the old Classical Reading and Writing site that, I believe, will still get you where you want to go.