Monday, 27 April 2015

Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason

We love the Charlotte Mason methods. Each school day is like a feast, lavishly spread on a long table, with an abundance of ideas and variety, and each small guest assimilates what he can. I use the weekly schedule provided by Ambleside Online, it's very flexible and I do not prepare my lessons. We're so grateful to all the wonderful moms from Ambleside Online, for making this journey possible.

We found a caterpillar when we read the Parable of how the caterpillar who did not believe it'd one day be a butterfly. We kept the caterpillar, and soon it turned to a cocoon. After some time, the cocoon dried up and disintegrated into pieces. We, too, thought that something went wrong and there's no more life. Lo and behold, one day, a moth emerged! It was so encouraging to us - to have faith in what we're doing, even when we don't feel it.
We read stories from the living books, very very slowly, sometimes we finish a short story in a week or more. The idea is to savour the story and be totally immersed in the characters, so no speed reading. A lot of patience and faith are required in this slow reading, cos the child is expected to make connections of the things he had learnt. There's no formula, sometimes it will come out from the child when we least expect it.

A key part of CM method is narration (after each single reading). The child is supposed to narrate in his own words, so he must pay attention in the first place. These stories, are mostly classics, written by time-tested authors, and sometimes the language is not so easy for a young child. It's very hard when we first started cos he's so easily distracted. In this era of iPad and smartphones, it's very hard to train focus. We enjoy the stories a lot, eg. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit, Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty, Paddle to the Sea by Holling, etc.

We used to spend a lot of time shopping for books. Now these living books are part of our daily diet, and most of them available online for free. We learn to differentiate what's twaddle books and avoid them as much as possible. It's not about filling minds with facts. Living books are different from dry facts or information like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks. Equally important is the free time every day, so that the child can reflect on and make his own connections without our interference. The most tempting part, as a teacher, is not to teach him all about anything.

Homeschooling is a bittersweet journey. Once, at the beginning of this journey, we felt like banging our heads against a brick wall at every direction. The rain had just stopped, and we decided to hang out at our backyard. I looked up and saw a soaking wet beeeater sunning itself. It was beautiful, and it's there for some time. And a Red Helen butterfly lookalike flew by. The beauty of nature really caught my heart, and it's time like this the Lord encouraged me.

Another wonderful part about CM methods is 'nature study'. Most of the bookwork is done in the morning, and we've the rest of the day free. We spend most of it in our backyard, not necessary we've to go out for nature study. Key is to do it often and observe nature, maybe the birds or a plant or the sun, over a period of time, so the child develops a relationship with it. It'll increase their skills of observation, investigation and make science or geography interesting as well as cultivate a love for God, our creator.

Picture study with CM: Monet's haystack series.

CM methods emphasise on developing relationships with a variety of subjects and letting the child make his connections between subjects for himself - like an artist going back to the same scene and painting it at different times and seasons, yet the results can still be refreshing - this, I think, is CM methods in a capsule.

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