Scope-and-Sequence for Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

I’ve heard that Charlotte Mason didn’t keep an official Scope-and-Sequence in her schools or for her home study programs.   She encouraged teachers, parents, tutors, and nannies to come up with their own schedule of study each year to keep the topic fresh for the teacher as well as the student.  You often teach best what you’re enthusiastic about because your excitement can be contagious.

But I find that many modern day Charlotte Mason homeschoolers want some guidance about what exactly to study and when.

Numerous people I’ve talked with over the years (including myself) have found the series of Core Knowledge books by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. to be an excellent and highly useful outline of what to study when.  The series covers each grade level from Kindergarten through 6th grade.  These home educators use the Core Knowledge books as their scope-and-sequence, and then flesh out the various topics with living books and use other Charlotte Mason techniques like narration, short lessons, and nature study to bring the curriculum alive.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


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Attn: Western Washington CM Homeschoolers

I’m in the process of setting up a regional Western Washington Charlotte Mason homeschooling meeting in the greater Seattle/Tacoma area.

I see this as an inclusive place where CM-inspired homeschoolers from all over the Puget Sound region can come together every-other-month (or maybe quarterly?) to connect with each other and receive instruction, inspiration, and ideas about CM homeschooling.  Eventually, I hope to see smaller local groups forming for more frequent meetings in different cities for book discussion groups, support groups, co-ops, nature study, etc.

This group should be an excellent opportunity for you to introduce your homeschooling friends to Charlotte Mason ideas, as well. Adults, older teens, and nursing babies, only, please.  All are welcome regardless of current educational philosophy, family make-up, religious affiliation, etc.

This is an idea I’ve been planning for a number of years, but needed to wait until I finished my BA at the University of Washington and had more time available.  I’ll be starting graduate school this fall.

The first meeting is set for the Bellevue Library (Meeting Room 1) on Thursday, September 18th from 6:30pm-8:30pm.

Details about the meeting to follow!  Stay tuned.


Miss Mason on Memorizing Poetry

Excerpted from Charlotte Mason’s 6-Volume Series
Home Education (Vol 1)
Part V – I. Lessons As Instruments Of Education – VII. Recitation

Memorising.––Recitation and committing to memory are not necessarily the same thing, and it is well to store a child’s memory with a good deal of poetry, learnt without labour. Some years ago I chanced to visit a house, the mistress of which had educational notions of her own, upon which she was bringing up a niece. She presented me with a large foolscap sheet written all over with the titles of poems, some of them long and difficult: Tintern Abbey, for example. She told me that her niece could repeat to me any of those poems that I liked to ask for, and that she had never learnt a single verse by heart in her life. The girl did repeat several of the poems on the list, quite beautifully and without hesitation; and then the lady unfolded her secret. She thought she had made a discovery, and I thought so too. She read a poem through to E.; then the next day, while the little girl was making a doll’s frock, perhaps, she read it again; once again the next day, while E.’s hair was being brushed. She got in about six or more readings, according to the length of the poem, at odd and unexpected times, and in the end E. could say the poem which she had not learned.

I have tried the plan often since, and found it effectual. The child must not try to recollect or to say the verse over to himself, but, as far as may be, present an open mind to receive an impression of interest. Half a dozen repetitions should give children possession of such poems as ‘Dolly and Dick,’ ‘Do you ask what the birds say?’ Little lamb, who made thee?’ and the like. The gains of such a method of learning are, that the edge of the child’s enjoyment is not taken off by weariful verse by verse repetitions, and, also, that the habit of making mental images is unconsciously formed.

I remember once discussing this subject with the late Miss Anna Swanwick in some connection with Browning of which I do not recall, but in the course of talk an extremely curious incident transpired. A lady, a niece of Miss Swanwick’s, said that after a long illness, during which she had not been allowed to do anything, she read ‘Lycidas’ through, by way of a first treat to herself as a convalescent. She was surprised to find herself then next day repeating to herself long passages. Then she tried the whole poem and found she could say it off, the result of this single reading, for she had not learned the poem before her illness, nor read it with particular attention. She was much elated by the treasure-trove she had chanced upon, and to test her powers, she read the whole of ‘Paradise Lost,’ book by book, and with the same result,––she could repeat it book by book after a single reading! She enriched herself by acquiring other treasures during her convalescence; but as health returned, and her mind became preoccupied with many interests, she found she no longer had this astonishing power. It is possible that the disengaged mind of a child is as free to take and as strong to hold beautiful images clothed in beautiful words as was that of this lady during her convalescence. But, let me again say, every effort of the kind, however unconscious, means wear and tear of brain substance. Let the child lie fallow till he is six, and then, in this matter of memorising, as in others, attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imagination. At the same time, when there is so much noble poetry within a child’s compass, the pity of it, that he should be allowed to learn twaddle!

You can also browse many Charlotte Mason related books and resources at’s Charlotte Mason Bookstore.

My book, A Simple Choice, is now out-of-print … good news or bad?

A Simple ChoiceAs of yesterday, my second book, A Simple Choice: A practical guide to saving your time, money and sanity, is now officially out-of-print.

That might sound like bad news, but in this case it’s actually good news and very exciting for me.  The rights to publishing the book reverted back to me from the publisher.  Now I can update the book and revamp it to my heart’s content.  I’d been wanting to re-do the book, but it was out of my hands.  And now it’s mine to do with as I wish.  Hooray!

So stay tuned!

If you haven’t read the original version, it’s still available (new and used) via third party sellers on Amazon.  It’ll be at least six months (if not longer) before it’s re-released.   I frequently hear from readers that it’s their favorite book of mine.  :-)

First change will be the cover so it doesn’t look like a feminine hygiene product box anymore.  I never had any say over the cover with the previous publishers.  It’s not a bad cover … but not a great one, either.  I want a great cover next time.  :-)

Living Books and Reading Aloud


Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren, 1888

One of the most valuable activities in our home is reading often and at length from good books, “living” books, chosen carefully for their literary value—interesting, educational and pleasurable to read.

I remember my grandmother baby-sitting me often when I was quite young due to my mother’s on-going health problems. Each night, Grandma would read one of the Beatrix Potter books to me. Those moments curled up, warm under the covers with Grandma sitting on a chair beside the guest bed reading delightful stories about Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle are some of the warmest and fondest memories I hold dear from my childhood.  Years later when reading those books to my own children, it evoked happiness in the deepest part of my being.

I started reading aloud to my children when they were just days old. I know they couldn’t understand what I was reading yet, but I knew that the love and care communicated to them by being held in my arms as I read softly to them was a gift beyond measure. By the time my children were about three-years-old, they were all able to sit and listen to chapter books like Charlotte’s Web or A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh series.

For a list of twaddle-free literature by grade level, go to:  Debi’s Twaddle-free Reading List

I continued reading aloud to my children for as long as they were living in my home.  If my children ever have children, I hope to be able to read to my grandbabies someday, as well.

Once my kiddos were reading fluently on their own, they did their school work from their own books, but we still continued our family read aloud times just for the fun of it. I think all the reading aloud in our home did wonders for our family. It served as a treasured family activity, a foundation for a love for great literature in the children, a means for developing a stronger command of the language, and an avenue for increasing listening skills.

Reading aloud was always a cornerstone of our family time and homeschooling adventures.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


Are you homeschooling or car-schooling?

Who says homeschoolers aren’t socialized?  Sometimes I felt I needed to guard against too much socializing!

I usually would limit my kids to one activity of their own so I wasn’t driving all over town all the time.  I wanted to homeschool, not car school.  A lot of the outside things we did were things all the kids could be involved in at the same time.  For example, when my younger two were going to a local summer Camp, my oldest daughter and I volunteered as Camp Leaders.

Over the years my children have been involved in both formal and informal cooperative types of groups and classes with other homeschoolers (science, history, Moms/Kids group at church).  My kiddos were also involved with writing, editing and publishing a newsletter with a group of unschoolers from our community for several years.  We studied a number of short stories with some friends.  My kids (all three) took ballet.  There have been music lessons, a neighborhood 4-H Club, nature camps, Vacation Bible School, and the list goes on and on.

Other than an official science/history co-op we did with four other families for a year, I never really liked using the local homeschooling cooperatives that were springing up.  I found that the other parents really didn’t understand the direction I was going with my homeschooling.  They were just basically recreating a pretty traditional classroom setting for their kids which was actually what I was trying to avoid through homeschooling.

If you feel like you’re doing car-school rather than homeschool, you might want to examine the amount of outside commitments you’ve allowed to creep into your schedule.  Some seasons of life are just busy, but sometimes we allow ourselves to say yes to everything that’s good and then spread ourselves (and our kiddos) too thin.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


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Curriculum Temptations

The only time I ever succumbed to the temptation to buy a complete boxed curriculum was back when my oldest daughter was ready to start Kindergarten.

I guess I was feeling insecure about teaching my own kids, so I purchased the complete Kindergarten package from Calvert School.  I felt it was the program that best fit with Charlotte Mason ideals at the time.  There weren’t a lot of curriculum options back then — we’re talking nearly 25 years ago.

Much to my surprise, my daughter had already learned EVERYTHING in the entire Kindergarten curriculum already just through us living our lives naturally and educating organically.

Rather than feeling I’d wasted my money on that year’s curriculum, I always felt it was the best money I ever spent on homeschooling because it bought me confidence in my abilities to teach my own.  Never bought another box of curriculum again.

Confidence in your homeschooling abilities?  Priceless.


The Play’s the Thing: Introducing Shakespeare to Children

Studying/enjoying Shakespeare has always been a mainstay in our family’s educational efforts ever since our children were fairly small.  About age six or seven is when we’d start introducing comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dreamor something exciting and full of adventure like The Tempest.

First, we tried to always read through Charles and Mary Lamb’s version of various plays in Tales from Shakespeare  or Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit, just to enjoy the plot and make sure we understood the basic story line before attempting to wade through or listen to the Elizabethan English of the play, itself.

The Bard’s plays were intended to be seen performed on the stage with live actors — not read from a book with all the stage directions, etc.  I think teachers get it backwards when they try to introduce anyone to Shakespeare by having someone sit down and read the play from a book.  Personally, I think there’s nothing quite like seeing a live production of a Shakespearean play.  He wrote them as plays, not as novels.

If you don’t have a professional Shakespearean company close by, don’t despair. Check for local high school and college productions of Shakespeare’s plays (these are often very good productions and not nearly as expensive as seeing a professional Shakespearean company).  In the Seattle area, Greenstage puts on live Shakespeare-in-the-Park events throughout the summer which are free (donations welcomed).

If you’re children enjoy Manga comic books, you could even introduce the kiddos to the basic plot of Shakespeare’s plays through the new Manga Shakespeare editions.  I especially like the Manga Midsummer Night’s Dream version.  One of my college professors actually had the Manga edition of The Tempest as part of our required book list (as well as the full-text version, of course).

I also like the No Fear Shakespeare series which include two versions of each play side-by-side on the page … the original language and a modern English version.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


Stay focused on the goal of reaching the educated state

Excerpt from my article, “Are All Homeschooling Methods Created Equal?

According to [John Taylor] Gatto (2001), the process of “education describes efforts largely self-initiated for the purpose of taking charge of your life wisely and living in a world you understand. The educated state is a complex tapestry woven out of broad experience, grueling commitments, and substantial risk” (p. 49). This highly subjective description of what it means to be an educated person is explained in further detail throughout Gatto’s writings, especially as outlined in the pages of his book, A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling, and his Harper’s essay, “Against School” (Gatto, 2003).

His combined “curriculum” as stated in the preceding sources, can be condensed into the following general description of methods Gatto recommends to achieve a well-rounded education:

  • Teach serious material
    • History
    • Literature (real books)
    • Philosophy
    • Music
    • Art
    • Economics
    • Theology
    • Be flexible about time, textbooks, materials, and tests
  • Encourage maturity
    • Think critically and independently
    • Self-control
    • Financial responsibility
    • Self-entertainment
    • Capacity for insight
    • Examine political and commercial statements
    • Develop deep friendships/relationships
  • Train to be leaders and adventurers
    • Encourage curiosity and questions
    • Give autonomy to take risks now and then
    • Adventure
    • Resilience
    • Introduce kids to competent adults

To read the complete article, go HERE.



Tip-a-Day oops

Life sometimes gets crazy … and this has been one of those weeks.  More than crazy … horrendous, maybe?  Anyway, sorry the Homeschooling Tip-a-Day didn’t happen everyday.  Should be back at it again soon.  :)