Western WA CM Homeschoolers – next meeting

Our next official meeting is scheduled!

We’ll be chatting about Twaddle-Free Holiday ideas.  Should be a fun discussion.  Hope you can make it!

  • Date:  Saturday, December 6th
  • Time:  1:30pm – 3:00pm
  • Where: Bellevue Library, Meeting Room 6

Meeting Room 6 is upstairs in the library near the reference materials.  Ask at the front desk if you don’t know where it is.

Address and website for meeting place:

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Guest Article: Home School Science – Studying Microclimates

by Sheila Carroll
Guest Contributor

Getting out into the woods, yard or even nearby vacant lot is one of the best means of gaining an understanding of natural processes–a key discipline in the sciences. Charlotte Mason, a British educational reformer saw the study of nature as the means of training the senses to absorb the all-important details and then to draw conclusions.

A fascinating aspect of nature is the study of microclimates. A microclimate is the climate of a small unit of nature (e.g. a bit of land, a plant, or a habitat) that is different from the total climate around it. For example, often the band of land on the south side of a building provides a warmer climate to grow certain kinds of plants when compared to the north.

Example of a microclimate

Insects that have a three-stage life, such as a butterfly, make their own microclimate. A good subject for study is the goldenrod gall wasp. In spring the mother wasp plants an egg in the stem of the goldenrod plant. She also injects a chemical which stimulates the growth of thousands of extra cells that surround the newly-laid insect egg–forming a gall, a large, round, hard swelling in the plant. When the insect egg hatches inside the gall, a small white grub called a larva emerges.

The gall does not harm the plant. Children can think of it as a home which provides food and shelter for the growing grub. The grub will remain in his house all summer and through the following winter. The next spring the grub will change (metamorphose) into an adult wasp. The newly-winged insect chews a small round tunnel in the side of the gall to exit and fly off to mate and start the process over again.

Five microclimates to study

Here are five microclimates to look for on your next nature walk as recommended in Ten-Minute Field Trips (National Science Teacher’s Association, 2001):

  1. Look for other types of galls on stems of other wildflowers, also oak trees, willows, roses and blackberries. Note: If you want to open a gall, use double-edged hand-pruners. These cut into galls safely without cutting the animal inside, or small fingers
  2. Find an anthill in a crack in the pavement. The hill is made of sand and soil. Why do the ants prefer the side walk? Asking why should produce a good discussion.
  3. Watch for spittle bugs which excrete a liquid and beat it into froth. The froth is found on the stems of most wildflowers (meadow spittle bugs in spring, summer and fall or on pine trees. How is the ‘spittle”creating a microclimate? What purpose does the spittle serve?
  4. A stump or dead logs are small ecosystems which create their own microclimate. Many insects feed on the decaying wood. The moist interior can be home to slugs, while the moss and lichen grow on the cooler north and west sides (usually).
  5. Microclimates occur in rocky outcroppings. Are plants growing in the crevices? If you lift a rock does the temperature change on the underside. Are there different plants and insects there?

Resources to study microclimates

Field guides are excellent to bring along for identification. For greater training of the sense use a nature journal to list or draw all the elements of the microclimate and for further study back home. To get in-depth information on individual species of the microclimate use Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, an outstanding compendium of information on all aspects of nature in North America and available from Living Books Curriculum.

If you want to learn more about homeschooling and the Charlotte Mason method, read my article “Seven Keys of Learning.” Download it free here: Charlotte Mason.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Sheila Carroll helps homeschooling parents use living books and Charlotte Mason’s methods to produce outstanding results in learning. http://www.livingbookscurriculum.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sheila_Carroll
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Guest Article: The Missing Ingredient in Reading Instruction

by Sheila Carroll
Guest Contributor

What if there was one simple thing you could do to ensure your child would read well and enjoy reading?

What if that thing didn’t cost a penny?

Would you be interested?

Continue reading

My Interview on Home School Heartbeat this week

10670066_10152697238513419_6832217406198274019_nMy interview about studying Shakespeare with children is on the Home School Heartbeat radio show this week (and also on their website if you don’t receive their radio show in your area).

Listen to the program or read the transcripts here:  http://www.hslda.org/docs/hshb/121/hshbwk1.asp

And for anyone new to this blog who came here following the interview, welcome!  I’m so glad you’re here.  You can view my blog posts about studying Shakespeare here:

NOTE: Stop by and “Like” Charlotte Mason Home Education on Facebook:-)

Other Articles of Interest:

Some of My Autumn-Themed Blog Posts

Posts from Charlotte Mason & Home Education:

An Autumn Poem
fall-leavesI used to read this poem out loud to my kids each Fall when they were little… I love how it flows when read aloud. Honestly, the kids probably don’t even remember this poem. But I do. :-)

Easy Autumn Craft Ideas
Charlotte Mason wanted academics finished before lunchtime so the afternoons could be spent pursuing hobbies, handicrafts, and personal interests.  Here are a couple of ultra-easy autumn-themed craft ideas.

Autumn Art Appreciation Ideas
Here are some possible paintings for Autumn art appreciation and picture study.

Autumn Treats and Thanksgiving Thoughts
The weather’s changing, summer’s finally over, and there’s a definite chill in the air many days.

Autumn Leaf Chapter from Bambi
A touching yet short chapter from a classic book.

Posts from my other blog, The Original Simple Mom:

Quick Apple Ideas
Nothing says autumn quite like fresh apples.

Make-Ahead Apple Pie Filling
Yum!  Apples, again.

Make-Ahead Pumpkin Puree
Gotta have pumpkin pie!

Pumpkin Recycling
A guest post from Tawra Kellum.

Bambi – Chapter 8 – “Winter”

This autumn leaf photo is one that I took on a nature walk with my kiddos several years ago.  To me, it’s always a representation of autumn that reminds me of one of our family’s favorite read-aloud books.  Believe it or not, one of the most touching and memorable chapters from any book we’ve ever read as a family was Chapter Eight in Felix Salten’s  classic tale, Bambi: A Life in the Woods.  There wasn’t a deer or thumping rabbit to be seen in this short chapter.  Just two leaves talking to each other in the autumn of their lives.  “[T]he book, however, is nothing like the Disney movie. It’s much richer, much more realistic, a parable about growing up and growing old.” (from a Bambi review).

Continue reading

Guest Article: “Just What IS a Living Book?”

Mother Reading to Sonby Suz Stewart
Guest Contributor

Charlotte Mason was a Victorian educational reformer. One of her biggest contributions to the world of education was the concept of using only “living” books in her classrooms. Many new homeschoolers, and homeschoolers new to Charlotte Mason’s methods, haven’t a clue what a living books is or how to spot one, however. This article will endeavor to rectify that situation.

A living book is defined as any book that is literary in nature. That is, it has the following attributes:

  • Engaging, interesting, lively text
  • Literary elements – plot, descriptive passages, poetic language
  • It has stood the test of time – it’s just as interesting to today’s reader as it was to its original audience
  • It has something to say, something to teach – a redeeming quality, a moral, a character builder – it asks something introspective of the reader

Continue reading

Debi’s Weekly CM Schedule

NOTE: Click here to see an actual copy of my Weekly Schedule CM

smithMany years ago, due to frequent requests from my regular web-page visitors, I wrote out a general outline and description of our family’s daily homeschooling schedule.

I had our weekly schedule printed out as a chart for each child which I hung on the refrigerator at the beginning of each week (they each had their own printed copy with their name and the date at the top).  We marked off the subjects as we finish them and added notations of any specifics we needed to remember (page numbers, art viewed, poem titles, etc.) on the lines next to the topic on the chart.  We used these charts to keep track of what we’d actually accomplished and not as a pre-planner.  It was essentially a record and not a plan.  “Planning” consisted mainly of gathering a big pile of books on a variety of topics that we kept on the bookshelf next to the couch.

Because it was difficult to tell in advance how much ground we’d cover with each subject each day, we had our weekly stack of books that we were working through next to the couch.  We would put the bookmark in at the end of each lesson time period and then start up again the next day where ever we left off.  Some books would stay in our pile to be read for several weeks, others would be there for only a day or two.

When reading through this day-by-day schedule, some people have commented this is a lot to accomplish in any given day.  But keep in mind, we were using Charlotte Mason’s idea about short lessons (only ten to twenty minutes for each topic) so our academic part of the day only came out to around 3 1/2 hours per day.  We tried to always have academics finished by lunchtime.  I’d often save our poetry reading and read it during lunch.  It was just something we enjoyed doing while we ate.  Your mileage may vary.  :)

I discovered after implementing this schedule, my children enjoyed having a set task to accomplish in a set period of time. Since I’m not a particularly rigid person (I tend to “go with the flow”), I thought this type of schedule would crimp my style — but I actually found it to be incredibly freeing. What a surprise!

With many school subjects, I found I could teach all of my children at the same time by reading aloud to them together.  The older kiddos were doing a great deal of independent work, so they often did additional reading on the various topics we covered together as a group. Any independent reading time was followed by oral narrations for each subject (and occasionally written narrations after they’d been doing oral narrations successfully for several years).  Most narrations were always oral, by the way.  The written ones really were just an occasional thing.


I was inspired to put together my own daily schedule after reading the books, A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. The author had printed out samples of her own weekly schedules and also included examples of the actual schedules used in Charlotte Mason’s schools back in the early 1900’s (the schedules appeared in a December 1908 article in the Parent’s Review).

While my schedule was inspired by Levison and Charlotte Mason, it by no means is representative of their actual schedules. This is simply how our family adapted the idea to our own situation at the time.  If this all seems too overwhelming or you’re just starting out, be sure to read Where to Begin?  It’s okay to take baby steps when just starting out.

For an easy-to-print pdf of our schedule, click here: Weekly Schedule CM


  • Literature
  • Geography
  • History
  • Math
  • Copywork/Dictation
  • Nature Study
  • Daily Walk
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music
  • Poetry
  • Handicrafts
  • Life Skills
  • Misc.


  • Daily Walk
  • Literature
  • Activities
  • Groups
  • Field Trips
  • Misc.

And then every night at bedtime, I would read to my children from their “just for fun” books — no official narration with these books except for a question when we first sat down such as, “So, what was happening in Old Yeller last night?”

There was space on the schedule for any educational weekend activities we did as a family, and space for random notes about the week.  If I discovered that one of the kids needed extra work on a particular subject, I’d make a note of it.  At the end of the week, each child’s schedule chart would be put into their yearly binder.  It was not only an excellent way to stay on task each day, it also gave us something to look back on at the end of the year to see how much ground we’d covered.  It was also handy to show to the teacher who did our annual homeschool evaluations.

I hope this brief overview of how we scheduled our homeschooling day when our kids were younger proves helpful to someone.


NOTE:  Don’t forget you can see an actual pdf copy of the schedule at the following link.  Feel free to download and print your own copy if you’d like to try using it in your own homeschool:

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Other Articles of Interest:

Where to Begin?

To-begin-begin-WordsworthIf you’ve only just recently been introduced to Charlotte Mason’s ideas but have already purchased this year’s books or curriculum, don’t worry.  You really don’t have to throw out your curriculum or textbooks (at least not yet). ;)

Just try adding one or two new ideas or methods at a time.  Work on building these ideas into your home school as new habits.


  • Be sure to do only oral narrations to begin with (written narrations come much later)
  • No corrections / no questions.  Just let them tell you what they know or remember.

Book Choice

  • Living books
  • Twaddle-free
  • Read aloud
  • Whole books (the entirety of what the author wrote)

Nature Study (it’s autumn now – the perfect time to start!)

  • Nature walks (not nature talks)
  • Nature notebooks
  • Leaf collections
  • Bird watching
    • Bird feeder
    • Bird book

Short Lessons

  • Ten minutes to fifteen minutes per subject
  • Alternate subject matter – heavy vs. light topics / mental vs. physical effort

Free-time in the afternoons

  • Finish academics before lunch
  • Work on arts and crafts
  • Go outside for a walk, or as Charlotte Mason might say, “have a scamper on the lawn”

Parent Assignment:

Read one of the following books:

As you read, write out a one or two paragraph narration after each chapter.  Don’t look at your notes or flip back through the book while writing. Just tell what you remember.  Or narrate orally what you’ve been reading to your spouse, to a friend, or to an older child/student.

NOTE:  If you’d like to print-out copies of this list for personal use or to share with your local homeschool group, there’s now a PDF available for easy printing/downloading.

Where to Begin (PDF file download)

Stop by and “Like” Charlotte Mason Home Education on Facebook:-)

Other Articles of Interest:

Homeschool Heart Beat radio interview coming up

Homeschool Heart Beat

I just heard from the producer of the radio program, Homeschool Heart Beat (from HSLDA).  Later this month they’re going to re-air an interview I did with Michael Farris about studying Shakespeare with children.  How exciting!

The airdates will be September 29–October 3, 2014.