Mom, you too can teach your child to read!

Once again I sit in the awe and wonder of teaching my child to read. You’d imagine that after a houseful of children I would be so over it, yet the wonder captures me yet again.

We’ve had our early readers and those who have struggled so much. It was those that read quickly that fascinated me with how they learned in a backward way…. starting with big complicated words and only later learning the simple phonics. However it was the strugglers that made me research, study and really want to understand the why. Probably because I had struggled to spell until I was 35yrs old! Five years ago, as I sat with my struggling 8 yr old – figuring out how to go forward, I read more and more about Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching reading. As I began to understand the method and pull the full method of training the habits of attention, observation and memory whilst including copy work, whole word and phonics together I was astounded by the results.

When I saw my next – then 5 year old – had no anchors in her drawing or couldn’t draw what she was looking at I decided to begin an intensive season of training the habit of observation, memory and attention. I realised I needed a plan in place that let me easily pull this into our daily routine which accumulated in the creation of a 360 page Pre-1 Fun Days activity book that provided the structure for me to easily pull the training of these skills into our daily life – whilst introducing the alphabet and 3 letter words to them.

Over the past 2.5 yrs we have worked on building these habit – whilst slowly bringing in Charlotte Mason’s whole word and phonic lessons linked to poetry and short stories. All this time our younger daughter was sitting in and joining in with whatever we were doing, absorbing it all.

Learning to read progressed slowly – in inches of 15 min about 3 or 4 times a week – BUT every lesson was a joy and layer by layer they were learning to read quite naturally!

Then it happened! They opened the next page in their reading book – I had created using Charlotte Mason’s method – and they could read!

Not the stilted one word, sounding out sound by sound stumble that we are so accustomed to – but whole sentences!

My heart just wanted to burst as I had always known that this method of a natural gentle approach – no flash cards, tears or stress – could work and I had heard about so many success stories. Yet never before had I been brave enough to exclusively use this method – without using, drill, flash cards, word lists, flashy apps and other creative, around the block methods.

This has proved for me yet again that when reading is presented in a way that a child can build a relationship with the words are are learning and we give them the space to make their own connections during the lesson – instead of us telling them – a child will learn to read naturally! They may take longer BUT by basing the phonetic lessons on the words in the poem they understand the way words are built, they discover their own phonetic words and so “own” them” and suddenly they wake up one morning and can read! Therefore once again I want to shout it from the mountain tops! “This method works not only with an early reader but with a struggling reader too!!!”

Learning to Let Go

At supper tonight I realised why we homeschool and that for our family this is the perfect fit! Today I couldn’t find the younger 2 (aged 5 and 7) to do reading. They had already taken their books outside so that they could watch a sunbird build its nest.

During the afternoon they also discovered blue egg shells in a garden and a peach egg in a nest. At supper they had out a bird book discussing camouflage and predictors and were lookin through the bird app with my 18 yr old naming every bird we have in the garden and excitedly talking about all their behaviours, eggs and which ones were nesting where.

My 12 and 14 yr olds were then filling us in on the difference between fantasy and fairy tales and why Narnia is not an allegory as Aslan is not representing something unreal. Amongst the discussions as to whether Lord of the Rings is in fact a fairytale – much to Kadin’s horror – and not fantasy as it is set in a magical land. One of the twins (12 yr old) – not sure which conversation they were referring to by this point … says -“That doesn’t make sense…. it’s what we did in maths – the reductio ad absurdum – I want to do a debate using that!”

Like swords out flash the arguments as to how rain means clouds in the sky but do clouds therefore equate to rain. Why a film is a movie but a movie is not a film… The next and next absurdity was thrown from across the table. Maths books were pulled out and geometry figures and theorems were discussed – using reductio ad absurdum – at length.

“Aaaah.” says Kadin (18) I wish I had done this book for maths. Next year I’ll do that with my music. Oh, I so love and miss doing maths! “

Will you do you cambridge then?” I venture.

“No – I don’t want to do anything like that. It’s just for fun.”

Which book you ask? First Steps in Euclid. Yup it was written over 100yrs ago and is based on an ancient Greek mathematician who lived in 300BC. But this book has my girls in love with their maths lessons!

This year has had many strange twists and turns… one seeing all our things left in storage for a whole year – including the twins grade 7 maths curriculum, that we’ve used for all our children. We know and trust it so…now what? I found another great Cambridge based one online that Nate – a year older – is loving and has completed almost 2 grades of it in a year. But not the twins. They hated it. They slogged, worked hours everyday, cried and yet seemed to learn nothing.

Then it happened – that voice, I know so well… “Will you just let go?”

“Oh no…. not maths!!!! I’ve done it with so much, trusted using such unorthodox methods for teaching reading, spelling – I mean who teaches spelling using drawing lessons?! I have listened and obeyed but not maths! Maths needs a curriculum!!! It needs structure, layer upon layer.” For days I struggled and fought whilst reading and researching. Challenged by my own convictions. If I truly believe in a Charlotte Mason education- and believe her methods were inspired by God why will I not let go with the maths? After days of battle I realised we could not keep on with the program we were on as my girls had lost all joy in maths. They knew the tricks and how to do them but they had no understanding and could not narrate or tell back the why. So I took the plunge and looked up what Charlotte Mason presented their age children with in maths. I then found the books she recommended in the public domain – A first step in Euclid. Euclid lived in 300BC……

What was I doing?

So with a prayer and a abandoned trust in this method of education we have embraced I ditched the standardised curriculum and left within my 12 yr old’s hands the thoughts of an ancient Greek mathematician. A term later and once again I can shout it from the mountain tops Charlotte Mason is a “Captain Idea!” It worked. My girls are often found huddling over their maths books in deep discussion – sitting beside Euclid as he shows them how he made his geometrical discoveries -I see them pointing and saying out loud – “oh wow” or “look at that” or laughing in delight at a discovery they have made. How often they bring their maths books to dinner excitedly sharing their discoveries.

Charlotte Mason says, “Mathematics depend upon the teacher rather than upon the text-book and few subjects are worse taught; chiefly because teachers have seldom time to give the inspiring ideas, what Coleridge calls, the ‘Captain’ ideas, which should quicken imagination. How living would Geometry become in the light of the discoveries of Euclid as he made them!”
I am busy with teaching 5 different grades whilst running a business and the home – I didn’t have the time – or the desire – to inspire them in maths or give them captain ideas! However Charlotte Mason does also say that through literature we are able to connect the mind of our children with those of the past.

This is a grade 9-12 maths book. Charlotte Mason recommends it for Algebra. What a find!

No I don’t know how this fits in a matric or cambridge but I do know that my 12 yr olds know about reductio ad absurdum (yup I had to google it) and have a deeper love for maths than they ever did before.

So once again I have had to learn to simply, let go and “Trust and Obey” as when we do this the Holy Spirit will take the reigns and direct your child’s education for you. Tonight at supper we had a feast of thoughts, ideas, discoveries and joy laid before us that we were only able to enjoy because we took time to stop, listen and chose what we knew in our hearts was the right path for our family – the challenge going forward is to keep on and not let fear of the unknown steal from us the joy laid before.

Corona Virus Reading Special

With so many families now stuck at home alone we are going to put as many of our reading lessons online for free.

We will try to post a reading lesson everyday. You can make your own resources to follow along or you can purchase the pack from our literacy page.

You can follow along for free all purchase the pack of 5 resources that we have created and use in this reading program will be on special as ebooks / pdfs for R150 or $9 for the next few weeks.

Look forward to you joining us.

Weekly Planner

Wondering where to start with planning a Charlotte Mason education? To help you get going I have attached our weekly schedule. We have used this plan for the last few years – tweaking it here and there depending on the child and season of life.

We only added Plutach now that me children are hitting their teens and we still finding it hard – so go gentle on yourself. Remeber Charlotte Mason said that lessons should be about 20 min for a grade 5 aged child. Upper high school maybe 45 minutes. For grade 7 and up the reading is a large amount so we have found that we read our history together – mostly – and other subjects they read on their own and we discuss them on the designated day. After the discussion they narrate it into their books. This maybe in the form of a written narration or a map or a diagram depending upon the subject. I do hope that this planner helps and that in time we can help pad it out for you.

Find attached our Charlotte Mason weekly planner that we use for our grade 4s and up in our home.