Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Charlotte Mason, Term One (Almost Done)

Six or so weeks ago, I reviewed our first month homeschooling Charlotte Mason style, and you saw how that went.

(This is how it went.)

Now we are in our twelfth week, or finishing our first term, and it gets better.

My son improving in his handwriting.
He now leaves spaces between his words.

The first week of October, my husband came home one afternoon early from work and said, "I no longer have a job. They let me go."

My husband has worked with this company for seventeen years. Six years ago they were acquired by another company, which was a scary time; he fought for his job, and it made a difference. He so impressed the new leadership that he was asked to take the general manager position. It was both a blessing and a curse.

Nature study

Fast forward to 2018, and his company was sold again; though this did not have the same ending. He was under the impression that he would have a job after the acquisition. Regardless, my husband has been meticulous about preparing us for this day, just in case all the upper management was wiped out; and since it was now a reality, his diligence paid off. It is because of his hard work that we hardly felt the lay off. We could see ourselves floating for a good six months or more, if it took that long to find a new job.

Nonetheless, the reality of being out of work was devastating for him because he takes his obligation to provide for his family severely. Two mornings after his layoff, he lie awake, distraught. I finally got the courage to tell him: you need to make a habit of praying and reading your Bible every morning, and drawing strength from Him.


Do you know, he got up, went to our school room, where his desk is, and read from 1 Peter. When I came out later to see how he was, he told me what he read and pointed out where it suggested that husbands should pray with their wives, which is what I've been praying for for a long time. I have always wanted my husband to make time for God, reading His word and praying daily, but his job as GM took up his waking hours and energy. He never had time for God, except Sundays.

So right there we prayed for the first time as husband and wife, and there were a lot of tears, too. Each morning, he wakes up at 6 am, reads his Bible, and then after I read and pray privately, I go to him and we discuss what we read; then we pray together. Each morning, we've been doing this for a month.

Art illustration

Meanwhile, every day he would take care of business, while seeking work and submitting applications and resumes, up to 15 a day, sometimes.

Finally, he found a something (a customer of his previous employer), and it was a perfect match. He knew the industry, it was in the salary range he was looking, pursuing them assertively. He immediately got an interview, and a second interview, and finally an offer. He starts next week. He is super happy.

Picture Study/Illustration
So that's our story of being unemployed for five weeks. Yes, it affected our daily homeschool. We had to sacrifice our schoolroom so my husband could use his desk all morning, which he did all the way through to the afternoon. We returned to the dining room table and did our best under the circumstances.

Also, mornings always got off to a late start because I would spend a good hour talking, praying, and discussing life with my husband until we had to get started on the day. By then it was 830, and the kids still weren't up.

But this is life. We managed.

Here are our accomplishments for Term One:

  • Read Macbeth in its original language, and watched three different film editions of the play. 
  • Studied Lewis and Clark, Napoleon's Empire, the War of 1812, and miscellaneous other events that took place between 1800 and 1830.
  • Covered maps of US western expansion, Lewis and Clark's expedition, Napoleon in Europe and Russia, Native American Tribes, and battles of the War of 1812.
  • Read numerous stories from Plutarch.
  • Read Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and a couple stories from Tanglewood Tales
  • Learned six poems from Alfred Lloyd Tennyson.
  • Listened to six compositions from Mendelssohn.
  • Studied six works by Jacques Louis David.
  • Learned numerous American folksongs and folklore, like "Cumberland Gap," "Ol Dan Tucker," and "The Birth of Davy Crockett."
  • Thoroughly enjoyed reading a little bit at a time from Ourselves, by Charlotte Mason. (Great life lessons!)
  • Covered Old and New Testament.
  • And of course, math and grammar.
  • Girls are doing French, and son is doing Spanish and Latin, like nobody's business.
  • Read nature parables to the younger students.
  • Older one studied biology, while the younger two studied meteorology.
  • Older one studied carnivorous plants and nocturnal animals, while the younger two studied wildflowers and spiders, against my youngest daughter's wishes. 
  • Furthermore, my older one read and narrated: Mere Christianity, The History of Painting, How to Read a Book, and Whatever Happened to Justice. All of these studies will take 2-3 years to finish reading.

Picture Study/Illustration

One thing I dislike is The Young Citizen Reader, which I removed a few weeks ago because it is outdated and not easily read aloud. I need something else for our citizenship study. My kids are completely disinterested in this version, and so am I. We tried.

Some things did suffer because of the changes, such as art illustration and nature study, which is usually what happens when you slip up. I tried to incorporate it here or there, and we managed to do some art in nature study and picture study, but not as often as I imagined. 

Next week is Exam Week. Being my first time, I want to keep it fun and interesting. Praying for good attitudes. After that, we take a week off for Thanksgiving, which will be a great time to redo our schedule, prepare for the next term, and organize the school room, now that Dad returns to work and we will have it to ourselves again.

Mom's contribution to art study

We survived a term of interruptions and life changes. We adapted. We still learned. 
Now on to Term Two. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

One Month of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Week one of our new school year using the Charlotte Mason method was wonderful. 


But of course, already I had to deal with personal issues, and while we still managed to keep to most of our schedule, there were some days it did not go smoothly. 


This is what I call crazy week because my girls have rehearsals all week for their upcoming recital on that following weekend. Every night we spend several hours at our local community college, and usually come home late. It is tiring. Both were in opening number and had four and five numbers each. We were a little distracted during the day and tired from the night before. Nonetheless, we kept to our schedule, though took a break on Friday to rest for the weekend. 

The following pictures are my girls in a few of their costumes from picture day at their studio.

Instead, on that Friday, my girls went to book club and my son had his piano lesson. Then we called it a day.

Saturday and Sunday were four recitals. They were long, and we were exhausted, but it was all worth it.


Monday, I let everyone sleep until 10am. And I cancelled school. Later I found out several other homeschool moms at the dance studio also took the day off and let their kids sleep.

Then on Tuesday we went on our hike to Pine Knot Trail in Big Bear; and I am sad to say, I am regretfully hanging up my hiking boots. I am the only one in my family who loves to hike and be around nature. My kids complain, always: one hyperventilates, another has chest pain and heart palpitations or head aches. I do not make a major issue of the drama, but often wonder if maybe it is true. The hikes are not easy, and even I struggle, though I keep it to myself and push my way to the end. But this hike we were left behind, alone in the woods, because my youngest one was in tears. I do not like being left behind because...bears. It was really scary. So I am not doing this anymore. I am done being left behind and forcing my kids to hike when they hate it.

Starting out on the trail

Our group

My two hypochondriac children at the crest of the trail.
 On Wednesday and Thursday I crammed our two lost days into these days, and we skipped literature (because we already finished The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) and our daily copy work and memorization, and instead we all recited Revelation 20, which we have been memorizing for church all summer.

Now, on Friday, only my son and I were up early enough to go to the park to rollerblade. While we were there, my son spotted this strange bird that we had never seen in the area, in all our years of living here. He was so excited, he ran onto the grass field in his rollerblades to get a closer look at it. I had my camera with me, and I was able to zoom in and get a picture of it.

When we arrived home, my son searched and searched our bird books, but he found nothing. So I finally resorted to Google, and found that what we saw was a white-faced ibis, probably a juvenile, migrating south. Of course, I pulled out my nature journal to record our observations and suggest my son do the same, which he did reluctantly because, as I have said before, he does not like to draw.

Mom's nature journal, dry brush and ink

son's reluctant scribble, pencil and ink


We still are loving Charlotte Mason. We love the short lessons and the variety. And I have every confidence that they are going to improve in their narration. One of their weaknesses is comprehension, and I believe constant narration is going to strengthen their comprehension skills, as they learn to have better attention.

My son was so inspired by our study of Lewis and Clark that he made us a meal, using recipes from The Lewis & Clark Cookbook, by Leslie Mansfield, making macaroni and cheese and mocha cream pie (minus the mocha), all from scratch. So yummy!

My son also said he likes how they are "forced" (in the afternoon) to do what they think is fun. He's been cutting out and making these Minecraft cubes and said it is like computer coding, because he engineers his own game.  He also spends extra time learning Latin, reading about Ancient Rome, and solving his Rubik's Cube over and over again.

Minecraft cubes and characters

My daughters have been working on their own cardboard dollhouses. They are also making the furniture. Both are totally under construction, as you can see by the mess, and my school room is always in chaos! Scissors, glue guns, paper, cardboard, paint and yarn everywhere!

Now that all has returned to "normal," and we have two weeks off from dance, I am hoping that we get back to our usual schedule. Life can be such a distraction and obstacle to homeschooling.

Looking forward to week five.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Using Charlotte Mason Week One

This is homeschool year seventeen for me. Two of my students are attending college, and three remain at home. Of the three, one is near 14-years old, another is 11, and the last is one month shy of 10.

Homeschooling since 2001

My first born, having been homeschooled until age 16 (when he entered college full time), suggested ways I could have homeschool better - that is, I should have quit implementing new ideas. I changed too much. But the more I researched, the more it opened my mind to new ideas, and I wanted to try them.

Originally, I just did what I knew, which was how I was schooled. Then I read The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, and I changed gears and did classical education for five years; then we learned about Epic Adventures, and did that for four or five years; one year I did a Little House year; and recently we've been just doing a mix of what I think works best for our family.

Charlotte Mason, 1902

But then I found Charlotte Mason. I knew about CM years ago and recently bought and read her books. Plus, there are the abundant support groups all over the internet! The more I read and researched, the more I knew we should be doing this now!

While it would have been well to have used CM's method of education long ago with my first student, it cannot be helped now; all that matters is that I have since learned the method and we are using it now. And that is how life is. We do what is best for our family, with the resources we have at the moment. We go forward.

This was our first week using CM's method. How did it go?


The first amazing thing about the method was breaking up subjects in short increments. We started at 8:30am and finished by exactly 12:00pm. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday were the same. Tuesday was the only day we went slightly over, which was by design because we have no afternoon activities, and we are home the entire day. Hence, on that afternoon, we added art/illustration and composer study.

The second amazing thing was the variety of subjects/ideas. At first, my kids could not believe how much we were going to cover in 3 1/2 hours, but keeping strictly to the time schedule permitted us to cover a wide range of feast, and it truly did make the morning interesting and exciting.


Here is what our schedule looks like (for now):

Foreign Language
Nature Lore
Afternoon Occupations

Poet Study
Art Illustration
Composer Study
Afternoon Occupations

Foreign Language
Afternoon Occupations

Artist Study
Afternoon Occupations

Natural History
Nature Study 
Afternoon Occupations

My almost 14-year old has independent work also, including current events each morning and slowing reading through The History of Painting (Janson), Mere Christianity (Lewis), Whatever Happened to Justice? (Maybury), and How to Read a Book (Adler). She is also reading Our Young Folks' Plutarch (Kaufman) on her own. All of these include written narrations.


We're reading the original "Fear" language side

Reading Shakespeare was a challenge because I am still not clear if I should read the original language or a child's version. Any research I had done ahead of time suggested both. So we went ahead with the original language; and therefore, it is a little challenging. Nonetheless, they are enjoying reading their parts aloud, even if they don't understand the plot clearly. We'll get it somehow.

We also had a little conflict with math: my kids are used to doing complete lessons, even if it takes over an hour. They struggled to accept that they need only work for 20-30 minutes and then stop. They wanted to continue until they were done with a whole lesson, and it stressed them out. It took several days (by the fourth day) for them to accept that they could stop. Let it go. It's just math.

We also had another problem with doing unlimited amounts of time on the same handicraft during afternoon occupations. It will take them some time to learn to limit themselves and to choose variety for their afternoon. It is part of practicing self-control, I think.


Some ideas I gave them are for afternoon occupations include reading, research, nature study, art, paper crafts, games, crocheting, needlework, outdoor play, science projects, additional foreign language, additional music/dance practice, book making, chores, cooking, memorization work, and more.

My son has such a fascination with Latin, that one day he copied three pages of Latin words and translations as his afternoon occupation. He said he is "committing them to memory."

Speaking of my 11-year old, he has been the most vocal about our new school direction. He told me he appreciates the new schedule and the variety of different subjects. He said he loves how he has all afternoon to do anything he wants. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Age of Revolution: A New Republic

This is the school year wrap up, which happened at the end of May. 

This last month was broken up with extra-curricula events, complicated life issues, and unforeseen necessary happenings, such as a quick run to Sacramento to implement "We the People."  

Nonetheless, we managed to get through these important issues.

April - May

Age of Revolution
Europe and America

"Fare thee well"


The United States Constitution

Of course, we had to read the quick story of how the U.S. Constitution came to be, how it outlines the structure of our government, and how super short this document truly is. Imagine: legislation and our tax code are longer than the document that holds our nation together. Amazing.

The Bill of Rights
We covered the extremely important first ten amendments to our Constitution, which protect the rights of the individual and the states from an overreaching federal government.

The French Revolution

And we did a quick overview of the reasons for and the beginnings of the French Revolution. I promised to speak to this. I found a lot of interesting similarities to those pre-revolutionary ideas and to our society and culture today. Maybe it is simply because civilizations repeat themselves throughout history. Frankly, there is nothing new under the sun. 

Here is a summary:

The people had lost hope in the King and the Church, as both had shown themselves to be untrustworthy, corruptible tyrants. They watched the revolution in America, and they wanted their rights and liberties, too. 

Remember the Enlightenment? This philosophy, thanks to Voltaire, Rousseau, and others, came in handy. The people began to reject the laws of God and instead embraced the ideas of man. In other words, they could no longer look to their king or the church to teach them what was right; hence, they were left to their own devices.

The Enlightenment encouraged the people to be ashamed of their country, its history, and its institutions. They rejected their own French Forefathers! They even questioned and attacked God as the established authority. They envisioned a utopia where there would be no prejudice, sin, or error.

Sound familiar, yet?

The Enlightenment blamed Christianity and the aristocrats for every societal problem (which is understandable because the Catholic Church was filthy rich, the King and Queen were living high on the hog, and both were untouchable). The people began to reject privilege and excellence and desired equality of the classes, and sanctity of the poor, and to be free from civilized restraints. They rebelled against traditions and sinned openly, without shame or restraint.

Sadly, the more they demanded liberty to do as they pleased, the more it brought on chaos, disunity, fear, and tyranny. In the end, though we stopped at 1800, they brought on another kind of dictator anyway. But we'll cover that next year when we return.

The New Republic

Finally, we covered two more short topics: one on the New Republic and some of its obstacles, such as little uprisings of left-over rebelliousness, meant to check the new government. 

Northwest Ordinance

One of the new republic's ideas was to encourage settlers to move west into the Northwest Territory, just south of the Great Lakes. The Northwest Ordinance explained how a territory could become a new state and join the union.

Of course, the Native American peoples living in these areas did not much appreciate this, and there were a deadly few skirmishes with settlers. Hence, the government sent Mad Anthony Wayne to put a stop to the Indian attacks, and supposedly it worked, but not without a terrible loss of life.

And this concluded our history up to the 1800s.


For literature, we took two months to read The Scarlet Pimpernel, which is more of a love story than it is about the French Revolution, but the kids loved it because it is a definite hero/heroine story with a good guy/gal and a villain. 

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Orczy


I did not like my poet choice this month, so we only read one poem from Lord Byron. 

Lord Byron


Music of the French Revolution

We listened to French music of the Revolution for music, including "La Marseillaise," which is the national anthem, and was written in 1792. 


Jacques Louis David

And finally, we studied French artist Jacques Louis David. We have been able to see some of his works at the Getty in Los Angeles. 

The End.

See you all next fall.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Age of Revolution: The War for Independence

January - February - March

Age of Revolution
Europe and America

"Raining cats and dogs"


The War for Independence
This is a big chunk of history, and it took two months to cover. It began with 1775 and Paul Revere's famous Ride, leading to the "shot heard round the world." Then we went year by year and followed General George Washington.

Paul Revere

One of the most amazing stories we read about was Henry Knox and his crazy idea to drag a load of cannons and other artillery from upstate New York (Ticonderoga) to Boston . . . in SNOW and across frozen lakes. Because where else was the Continental Army supposed to get weapons to fight the British?

Artillery Train

Of course, in 1776, there was that scathing letter to King George, in which men pledged their precious lives and sacred honor to tear away from their royal government and begin a completely new government based on liberty and self-government. They surely understood the dangers of a government that believed it was the source of its citizen's rights; anyone who believes our rights come from government doesn't understand that they are granting that same government the right to revoke those liberties when given the opportunity. Our Founders acknowledged that our rights come from God. (Yes, a higher source than man.)

1777-1778: We read about Valley Forge during winter and how miserable the Continental Army was. But thank God for Prussian Baron Von Steuben, who joined Washington at Valley Forge and helped transform the Army, raising morale.

Von Steuben at Valley Forge
1779-1883: We finished up with a somewhat discouraging, though perseverant campaign in the South; but the French arrived just in time came, the British made some mistakes, and Washington won a decisive battle at Yorktown, Virginia, against Cornwallis, to end the Revolutionary War.

Important Figures in History
Next, we spent a separate month to focus on biographies of important figures in early American history.

George Washington

John and Abigail Adams

Benjamin Franklin

John Hancock

Thomas Jefferson

Marquis de Lafayette

We took a couple of months to get through Johnny Tremain. The kids loved this story. 

Johnny Tremain - Esther Forbes

American Folklore and Folksongs
We also spent a month reading early American folklore and songs, which the kids also loved. I often caughy them reading ahead, which I wish they would wait because then we may learn new ones together, at the same time. 

And here are the poets, composers, and artists we studied during this period:


Phillip Freneau
William Wordsworth
Jane Austen


Music of the American Revolutionary Period
Domenico Scarlatti
Niccol├│ Paganini


Gilbert Stuart
(Sidebar: during our visit to the California State Capitol building, inside the Assembly chamber, there is a painting of Washington, which is a copy of Gilbert Stuart's Washington portrait, redone by his daughter, Jane Stuart. The kids recognized it right away.)
Jon Trumbull
Charles Wilson Peale
Peale Self-Portrait, 1791

We are almost done with this school year. Just a few more topics to cover. See you then.

Coming Up Next . . . 

The United States Constitution
The Bill of Rights
The French Revolution