Before we went to a textbook style homeschool (by my teens’ choice, not mine), I called our homeschool style “classically eclectic with a Charlotte Mason twist.” While we weren’t strongly Charlotte Mason, we had enough elements that I’ve been asked how to transition to a Charlotte Mason homeschool style.
Many would-be CM families are understandably uncomfortable with the idea of tossing all their current curriculum to jump headfirst into a Charlotte Mason style. I get that. Instead, try these suggestions for a relatively painless transition.
1. Use your current curriculum as a foundation.
Use your current curriculum as a foundation to start adding more CM philosophies. From there, you can continue to build as you grow more confident and begin to refine your family’s homeschooling style.
Consider starting by adding in living books based on what your kids are learning in history. Biographies are an excellent place to start, as is great literature or historical fiction set in the historical period that you’re studying. If you were studying the early exploration and settlement of the Western United States, you might enjoy reading a biography of Sacajawea or a Little House on the Prairie book.
If you’re looking for a great biography series for young kids, don’t miss the David Adler Picture Book of books. We love the Heroes of History series for older kids. These were always among our family’s favorite biography series.
You can apply the same concept to science. If you’re learning about birds, check out a book on birds from the library, rather than just reading the textbook excerpts. Check out the resources on Ambleside Online for books that you might want to enjoy with you kids.
You can even study biology in a CM style using traditional textbooks as a starting point. Check out these tips for incorporating living books with Apologia biology.
One word of caution about using living books: Don’t think you have to read entire chapters in one sitting. I used to be terrible about that and my poor kids’ eyes would glaze over long before I was finished. Go by your kids’ attention span and their interest levels. If that’s only 5 or 6 pages a day, that’s fine. It may take you awhile to get through the books, but that’s okay. The important thing is retention and engagement.
2. Try copywork or dictation and narration.
Copywork and dictation were Charlotte Mason’s primary methods of teaching spelling and grammar, and narration is the precursor to composition. The choice between copywork and dictation will depend upon your child’s ability level. For young children, begin by having them copy a line or two from something you’re reading – an interesting quote from a textbook or a sentence or two from the literature or historical fiction you’re reading – paying attention to spelling, capitalization, and punctuation.
Students can begin copying longer passages as their skill level allows. Finally, they can move to dictation in which they transcribe a passage read aloud to them, taking care to use the appropriate spelling, capitalization and punctuation.
Narration is essentially oral composition. It is retelling, in their own words, what they’ve just read, heard, or learned. Start simple with narration and do lots of modeling. You may have to ask a lot of questions, then, rephrase your children’s answers in complete sentences. Susan Wise Bauer, author of the Story of the World series, suggests having students repeat your rephrased sentences until they get the hang of answering in complete sentences.
After kids learn to narrate, it is much easier for them to then transition to putting those words on paper. You can download this simple notebooking page or visit The Notebooking Fairy for tons of more elaborate free notebooking pages. I used to have my kids narrate a story to me and I’d write it on the notebooking page and let them draw a picture to go with it.
While they may seem simplistic, copywork, dictation, and narration have been proven to be effective techniques for teaching grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation and narration provides a simple way to practice composition long before a child is ready to put original ideas on paper. These methods can even be used successfully all the way through high school, as the article, How I Raised a Professional Writer Without a Composition Program demonstrates.
3. Incorporate nature study and/or artist and composer study.
Nature study seems to me to be one of the quintessential Charlotte Mason studies – plus it gives many parents a sense of “permission” to get outside for fresh air and sunshine. My go-to blog for nature study is Handbook of Nature Study. Barb makes it super-easy to jump right in with Nature Study 101 and getting started sections, along with regular Outdoor Hour challenges.
You may be like me and think you can’t do nature study because you live in the city or a subdivision. Most families can successfully include more nature study than they may initially anticipate. Try these 4 Easy Steps to Homeschool Nature Study.
Barb also happens to be my go-to person for composer and artist study on her other blog, Harmony Fine Arts. This Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom offers some excellent ebooks for composer and artist study. That make it easy to do just a brief study or go in-depth as a full elective course.
Fantastic Charlotte Mason Resources
These are my simple tips for transitioning to a more Charlotte Mason style homeschool. If you’re still unsure, consider the fact that these ideas aren’t even have to be something that you’d have to do every day. You might want to stick to your core curriculum on a 4 day week and leave one day a week for a more CM-style day.
For much more information on a Charlotte Mason style homeschool, check out some of my favorite resources.
Blogs and websites:
- Jimmie’s Collage has an entire Charlotte Mason section that is a wealth of information.
- Simply Charlotte Mason – We love their scripture memory system!
- Ambleside Online features free Charlotte Mason style homeschool curriculum.
- Living Math demonstrates that even math can be learned in a CM style.
- Our Journey Westward – Cindy is one of my favorite CM bloggers.
- A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levinson
- More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levinson
- A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola
If you have transitioned from a more traditional homeschool style to Charlotte Mason, what tips would you add?
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.
images courtesy of depositphotos