Category Archives: Charlotte Mason

Easing into a Charlotte Mason Education

51uk2Mqo09L__SX303_BO1,204,203,200_Many years ago, I attended a Charlotte Mason support group led by Catherine Levison, author of A Charlotte Mason Education. I already believed that Charlotte Mason’s ideas held great benefit, but there were very few resources available at the time. This was a long time ago. Almost 30 years.  Levison’s book was really the first how-to resource at the time, so it was a tremendous honor to be able to be part of her early support group while she was still formulating the content of the book.

At every meeting, I would go home with one specific technique or idea I was going to add into our home school. One month, it was taking a weekly nature walk. Another month, we added in weekly art appreciation. Over the course of a year, I had switched our family to a Charlotte Mason home school. It was easy and painless using this step-by-step approach.

If you’re interested in Charlotte Mason’s methods and ideas but feel overwhelmed with all the choices and voices out there on the topic, can I suggest you first try dipping your toe in the water rather than switching over in one huge step?

For now, keep on doing whatever you’re doing. Textbooks, unschooling, whatever. Set aside a little bit of time in the afternoon, maybe half an hour, and try these things:

(5-10 minutes) Pick a book off the shelf and read for ten minutes (or five if your children are younger). The book can be something fun and simple like a Frog and Toad book for younger children, or Aesop’s Fables for older kids. Need ideas? Check out my Twaddle-Free Book List organized by grade level. I wouldn’t be surprised if you already have some of these books on your shelf, and if not, start this whole reading process with an afternoon trip to the local library.

(5 minutes) After your short reading, ask a couple of easy open-ended questions to get the conversation started. Don’t worry (yet) about having it be official Narration. You just want to get your students used to the idea of talking about their reading afterward. What do you remember about Toad from the story? Why do you think Lucy went into the wardrobe? How and why questions are especially good preparation for narrating.

(5 minutes) Grab a print of a piece of art. You can download a favorite and print it out from the internet. Fine art calendars work especially well for art appreciation. To begin with (eventually this process will be done differently), sit together and look at the art. What do you see? Have them point out just the content of the painting, not technical aspects. Just find the main points. People, animals, buildings, furniture. Then have them look at the background and see what’s there. After you’ve spent a couple of minutes looking at it, put it away, and then see how much you each remember without looking.

(10-20 minutes) Go outside (in a yard, a park, even a city sidewalk) and look for some natural object of interest. A pinecone, a flower, a pigeon, a stick, a rock. Observe the object carefully, much like you did with the artwork. If the object is something you can bring back home (like a rock or stick, not a pigeon) 😉 grab a pencil and paper and attempt to draw it by paying attention to the details of what you see. Each person can have their own object to draw or everyone can share the same one.

If you have naptime or quiet time after lunch, play some quiet classical music in the background. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was a favorite of my children.

Find a collection of family poetry and read a poem out loud at the lunch table every day.

If you’re looking to start implementing these things beyond just a one day trial, I’d recommended adding in the reading and discussion time every day, and also the music and lunchtime poem.  The art appreciation would be only once a week, and the nature walk/drawing would be once or twice a week.

If you find you’ve successfully integrated these easy steps into your home school, find a list of Charlotte Mason’s techniques and start adding one more idea every month or two.  Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell is a good place to start.  They say it takes about six to eight weeks to develop a new habit, so if you start using a new idea every month and a half, you could easily have eight to ten new techniques added to your homeschooling with very little stress or tears.


Art Recommendation (Watercolor)

If you’re looking for art activities for you and your kiddos, can I recommend the art tutorials from Let’s Make Art? I’ve been working with their tutorials this year and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I’ve been, both with the process and with the results. I had zero painting experience when I started back in November, and now I’ve actually sold several of my paintings. No one’s more surprised than me.

Anyway, they offer their tutorials free online, you can download and print the outlines they use, and you only need to provide your own paint and watercolor paper. Or you can buy their kits which come with everything you’ll need (although you’ll want additional paper if your family is painting together).

I don’t get any sort of kickback for recommending Let’s Make Art. I’m just a very satisfied customer. I’m going to put some of my work below to give you an idea of what I’ve been doing with them.


How Church Involvement Can Help with College Prep

This isn’t an essay about how to stay Christian in college. These are just a couple of thoughts I’ve had today while looking back over our family’s history and realizing that some basic church activities can help prepare a young adult for the academic end of college. Even just learning to sit still and pay attention to a pastoral message trains a child in a great academic skill for any incoming Freshman.


Our children usually attended the main adult service every week in addition to various youth activities. During the service, everyone in our family had a small spiral notebook and we all took notes throughout the pastor’s sermon. After church, we’d sometimes review our notes to see if we got different things from the message, but mainly our notebooks were just for our own use. A record of our spiritual growth and teachings we’d received.

By getting into the habit of taking written notes when someone was imparting information, our children were in the habit and well-experienced at notetaking by the time they began their college studies. They knew what things to write down, they knew how to identify key points, and they knew to record their own thoughts and feelings while listening.

As someone who returned to college later in life, I can attest to the fact that notetaking is a lost skill for most college and university students. Even in my Master’s program, it was only about half the students in our cohort who took notes regularly. Developing the habit of taking notes from oral presentations (ie: pastor’s sermons) will prepare your child for the important skill of notetaking in the classroom.

Bible Study

Learning to read and study the Bible in depth can help to prepare young college students for reading their textbooks and other academic literature. As they reached their teens, my children attended adult Bible studies with me. If you decide to include your teen in your Bible study, be sure to ask the study leader if teens are allowed so you don’t have any rude surprises when you show up with your teen. I know this one from experience.

I found that most teen and youth Bible studies were dumbed down (twaddle) to the point where my children, who had great interest in studying the Bible, just found it boring and pointless. Our church at the time offered a co-ed Precept study group which allowed teens, so that’s the one we attended. Not only was it good experience for studying, it also provided a classroom-style instruction time which was helpful for preparing for that first quarter of college.

My children had never been in a classroom setting before starting higher education, but I believe their time in unofficial school-style settings like Bible studies and church services (lectures) helped prepare them for success in that area. There was an adjustment period, but it only lasted for a brief time.

If your family attends church and your children are college-bound, don’t miss out on these simple opportunities to further prepare your children for college.



An Ode to Miss Charlotte Mason

I found this recently while browsing through an older notebook of mine.  Thought I’d share it with you all.  Not my greatest writing, but definitely heartfelt.

charlotte masonAn Ode to Miss Charlotte M. Mason

Charlotte. may I call you Charlotte?
is it appropriate
to be so familiar
with someone so profound?

you are not my friend
you are my hero
my mentor
my inspiration

your voice continues, even now, to speak
for the children’s sake
for the future’s sake
for Heaven’s sake


Charlotte Mason-related Workshops

A Twaddle-Free EducationAnyone out there looking for a Charlotte Mason speaker for your homeschooling conference or convention? Now that I’m finished with Grad school, I have the time to be involved in speaking again.

So far this year, I’ve been a Featured Speaker at the Washington Homeschool Organization’s large convention (four featured workshops) and I also presented an introductory CM workshop at the Oregon Home Educator Network (OHEN) conference in the Portland area.

Now’s the time to begin looking ahead to the upcoming school year and to get started on next year’s convention planning.

I’m also willing to do an all-day Charlotte Mason presentation for your support group or organization. Looking forward to seeing if we can match my expertise with your group’s needs this year. 🙂

For more info, go to: