It is entirely possible that I am misunderstanding here. It happens quite often. I may be doing it wrong myself - entirely possible, or alternatively I might not quite be understanding the issue the way it's written, but I struggle to understand people who write that they can't fit the 'extra bits' into their child's Charlotte Mason education. By the extra bits, they mean the nice stuff - folk songs, composer study, Shakespeare, Plutarch, picture study, art, map work, handwork, a nature walk. I scratch my head a little because without these things you're left with reading, writing and arithmetic - hardly a liberal education at all, really, is it?
I feel bemused, I think, because these are the bits that fit seamlessly into our week. I am much more like to run behind on maths or the reading list than I am on these little bits. Maybe I'm odd. That is entirely possible too. Likely, in fact.
I thought today that I might explain a little how these little bits fit into our day. Who knows - it may even help somebody. Or maybe not!
First, a few things that I really should look up references for, only if I did that I would end up with writer's block again, so I'll just continue on. Anyhow, we need to remember a few things when we plan our days. I didn't invent these - Charlotte Mason did. The first is to alternate our inspirational subjects with our disciplinary ones; written ones with the reading of a book, and so on so as to keep the mind fresh and not fatigue the child. Secondly, we should keep subjects short. You can fit an awful lot of five minuteses into a day.
With that in mind, our work goes something like this:
Memory verses (disciplinary)
Read aloud (inspirational)
Written Narration (disciplinary)
Okay, I think you get the idea. In this way you absolutely have to do an inspirational, fun, nice subject before you do a disciplinary one. That's the rule! In the afternoons do the stuff that takes time - a bit of gardening, a longer nature walk, some cooking, a big art project. Do one per day.
The reason I plan out our day instead of allowing my student to do what she wants when she wants is that I keep in mind some of Miss Mason's rules - firstly that subjects are kept short. In AO6 that is a bit longer than in earlier years - say half an hour max, but in the first few years we aimed for 15-20 mins max. Secondly, I ensure that each day is not identical to the one that came before - variety is after all the spice of life - and finally I attempt to alternate the inspirational with the disciplinary, the hard with the easy, the fun with the not-so-fun. Here is a list of subjects divided into those two headings:
Singing - Psalms, folksongs, foreign language songs
Citizenship - Plutarch
Foreign languagesEvery day I allow some singing - folksong, Psalm or foreign song. It only takes five minutes - unless we get carried away and sing some more. Of course that never happens. Never. Every day we also choose one of the following: Shakespeare, Plutarch, Composer study, Picture study or Grammar. One per day. Do devotions and memory work first thing. Then if anything happens, at least the important thing is done.
Memory work, recitation
Now, saying that I plan our days does not mean that Miss 11-going-on-teenager doesn't have a say - she does, and where possible I listen to her. It just means that I have some sort of written plan of his things might go before I start. Planning my day like this means that by necessity I'm going to fit inspirational subjects into my day -just as many of them as I do disciplinary ones. And by keeping them short, I don't run my day too late.
For me the secret to getting everything done is this - don't try too hard.
What I mean by this will come clear once I describe how we approach these subjects:
Read the poem. Ensure that we know what it's about. Discuss briefly whether we liked it and why. Possibly clap out a rhythm or identify a rhyming pattern. How does it make us feel? Is it happy or sad? Does the poem work?
Look at the picture for five minutes. Cover it up and tell what you remember. Is it night or day What season is it? Can you tell when it was painted? Can you name the style of painting? Do you like it? Can you briefly show where things are on a blank piece of paper? What is the painting's name? Who is the artist? Week two - repeat. Once a term we might discuss the artist and possibly his contemporaries, only many of these artists lead tortured lives, so then we mightn't learn much about him at all. Occasionally visit an art gallery.
Listen to the music. In the car. While doing maths. Over dinner. Maybe read a bit about the composer's life - especially if there is an Opal Wheeler expurgated bio. Discuss what makes the music similar or different from other pieces by the same composer. What about other composers we've studied? If the piece were used in a movie, what would be happening? What is the name of the piece? Do you know why? Minor key/Major? Fast/slow? Happy/sad? Like/dislike? Sometimes we listen to the Classics for Kids radio shows too.
Study one of the nine parts of speech. In different ways. For a whole term. Yep - for the nine terms of AO4-AO6 learn one of the nine parts of speech per term. That easy. Construct sentences. Parse a sentence of your copywork or dictation. Identify all the 'adverbs' in this paragraph. Write a list of adverbs. Play Mad Libs.
Identify unknown vocab. Read the section. Narrate. Discuss using Anne White's study guides. If there isn't a study guide, choose another Life. Anne is my wondergirl. Talk about the character of the 'hero'. Is he similar to other Lives you've studied? Do you know people like him? Do you ever behave that way? What did he do right? Wrong? If he were a Christian would you expect him to behave that way? Is anyone ever entirely good/bad? Did he behave in character? What happened to make him behave that way? Would you like him as a friend?
Read Lamb's to get an overview. Discuss. Read some famous speeches. Begin reading the play. If possible see it performed. The end. The Bard would say it better than that, but that is because he is the Bard and I am not. He is renowned for such things.
Find a YouTube video you like. Sing the song. Preferably every day, but at least twice a week. Maybe research a bit about the song. Have fun.
Ditto. Read from the Bible one day.
Ditto again. Translate it sometime. Try singing your English version. Laugh a lot.
Whenever you read about a place look it up. Identify countries and landmarks that you know. Can you find this new place on the wall map? On the globe? What continent is it in? Is it near the equator? What would the climate be like? Have you been there? Would you like to? What is the nearest country you've visited?
Keep an eye on the weather. When it is fine grab the dog lead and the dog and go for a walk. If you miss maths it is not the end of the world. Truly. Keep your eyes open and talk about what you see. Sometimes pack a picnic and go further afield. Periodically draw something in your nature notebook. Occasionally plan an all day walk on a weekend.
Find something your child enjoys. Become obsessed. Do it all the time. Keep an eye out for on-line courses like Mama Squirrel's crochet one and learn a new handicraft. Become obsessed. Do it all the time. Crochet a bedspread. Just kidding. We actually do do handwork all the time, both during school and afterwards. The trick is the first bit - find something you enjoy.
Sometimes I might do a subject in more detail. Sometimes we might do a written narration in the style of our poet. Sometimes we might look more at a style of music, or an era. Or at composers who lived at the same time, or in the same place. Sometimes we act out Shakespeare or Plutarch. Sometimes we watch something on telly or on YouTube. Sometimes we list birds or add to our Book of Firsts. Sometimes we create a fractal pop-up. There is a lot you add to the studies we do, but the important thing is that you don't need too.
The important thing is, don't try too hard. And have fun.