10 Feb 2014

Not just reading

Read, narrate.
Read, narrate.
Read, narrate.
Read, narrate.
Read, narrate.

Is this all there is to a Charlotte Mason day really?  Do kids really just read books and then tell them back all day long?  Of course not, although you could be mistaken for thinking so sometimes.  As Jemimah was working today, it struck me just how many other things she did in the course of her school day, although she did read a lot of books, and she did tell them back.

Here are some of the other things.  Today, Jemimah...

  • Read from the Bible and recorded her thoughts in her Scripture Notebook
  • Listened to me read aloud 300 lines of Beowulf and looked for examples of alliteration, which she studied in grammar last week
  • Sang a folksong.  And then another. Then a Psalm.  We like singing, okay?
  • Read aloud some poetry
  • Studied her memory passages - Scripture in French and English and a poem
  • Read a passage of French and then narrated it in French
  • Practised writing perfectly some Japanese hiragana
  • Read The Birth of Britain, narrated the passage, and then used a map to show where the action occurred and where the kings lived
  • Wrote out a passage of copy work
  • Did map drill of Anglo-Saxon Britain and added the seven kingdoms of the heptarchy to her map
  • Observed the maturation of carrot seeds according to the position of the umbels on the plant, and the location on the head, and made accurate labelled drawings in her Science Notebook
  • Fashioned a wise man out of Sculpey for her miniature nativity set (polymer clay modelling has taken over handwork in our home, for better or worse.)
  • Read and narrated orally Watership Down and our Australian natural history book, Bush Days. then looked up Christmas Bells (Blandfordia nobilis) online and made a quick sketch in her Nature Notebook
  • Read a chapter of The Brendan Voyage, narrated, and made a drawing of St Brendan's boat in her Book of Centuries
  • Completed a revision lesson on fractions for maths
  • Read a chapter of Mere Christianity on Psychoanalysis and Morality and discussed it with mummy
  • Kept fit doing a ballet class followed by jazz and tap and then a class of musical theatre. (Yes, she makes me tired.)
  • Read a couple of chapters of her free reading book.

So yes, there is a lot of reading there.  This year Jemimah reads from about five books each day, since she prefers to divide the longer books into shorter, more manageable chunks over the week.  Every reading needs narrating - sometimes written, today only orally.  There was maths there as well.  But this is only the beginning of a full and rich liberal education.  Every day there is some science and a notebook entry.  There are maps and copywork and poetry and music and art and the dreaded Sculpey.  There are in-depth grand conversations with mum.  There is drawing, memorisation, language study.  There is exercise - dance, swimming, basketball.  Every day there are books, but every day brings something different as well.

Miss Mason frequently describes this liberal education as a feast or banquet, or a broad room filled with delicious ideas.  It is generous, rich, never boring.  There are books, yes, but there is so much more.  I can't believe how much Jemimah is learning, and many days it doesn't feel like school at all.  Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life, after all.  A life filled with inspiring, uplifting ideas.

Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?

Charlotte Mason School Education pp 170-171


  1. what an awesome day! Poetry memorisation is big here atm, Mariah (12) memorised My Country last week, The Man from Ironbark this week and once a week at night we are having a recitation night with Dad:)

  2. I'm exhausted just reading all that! Feeling slack in comparison...But (most!) of it sounds delicious!!

  3. Love this quote from CM and one that I recently read and highlighted! Love the outline and glimpse into your AO7 day, it's encouraging, inspiring and uplifting. There is no turning back to the school of Egypt where we eat only garlic and onions, but we move forward to the promise land of a CM education filled with rich produce! Thanks Jeanne! :)

  4. Lovely post, Jeanne. The wise man looks great!

  5. This is awesome and inspiring. Would love you to write this out for a whole week for us, to give a broader feel of what to do. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I always love reading these posts about what you are doing with Jemima. They help me keep that vision of where we are going when I feel like I am just kind of slogging through with beginning narrators and preschooler interrupting. :)

  7. great job! both of you! ;)
    i want to know what maps you use for anglo-saxon england... i think i made my own, but in another post i liked the looks of yours. where'd you get 'em?

  8. Yes, where did you get the map? :)

  9. She's ready for graduate school compared to the last thing my high school junior brought home--and that WAS from a college prep course. Here's the comparison: Spend this year reading the Hunger Games books in English. Make and record a rap, a skit or a discussion (no one chose that) about something in a book. Or, write a report. No, I'm not kidding!


  10. We were discussing this at Harvest because we are making plans for an open house. We want to make a list like you have done and share what non-reading things we do.

  11. We're just starting on this CM journey, trying to make a start on all the things that are 'allowed' before y1 (ie all the bits that aren't read and narrate) - reading this, knowing that's what I'm signing up for, is a bit daunting... but inspiring, too. Wonder if our days will look anything like that in 7 years?

  12. The amazing thing, Claire, is that we learn along with our kids. That is such a relief. In seven years you'll be doing all this and more.
    Let me know if I can help you as you start your journey.

  13. The other day, our school started building a garden with old pallets. The elementary students had to pull out a couple of boards which turned into a physics lesson. They figured out that the reason why the nails were warm after all that pounding was friction. They also learned about levers when then used the nail pulling end of the hammer to pry loose boards. The primary students applied reason to the compost bin and figured out that black stuff was worm poop. CM is more than an endless do-loop of (read, narrate).

  14. Thank you for the interesting peek into your and Jemimah's day. Truly, I was surprised when you said that, "Every reading needs narrating..." A narration isn't required of my boys for every reading - though the ability to narrate if asked is definitely an expectation of which they are aware. Would be fun to get to discuss these points in person again. x


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