Embodied Education: Appealing to the Senses and the Soul in Your Homeschool

This year Everyday Scholé is taking an in-depth, practical look at the eight essential principles of classical education. This month we are looking at embodied education. You can check out the previous posts in this series as well: Charlotte Mason and Classical Combined, Slow and Steady in Your Homeschool, Multum non Multa Exhibited in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool, and Practical Ways to Use Repetitionto Memorize.

I’ve got some great news for those of you following this series. If you are not even remotely a classical educator, then this principle of classical education is the one for you. It’s actually addressed quite a bit in other educational philosophies as well. Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, and Montessori all address the learning space and what it should be like. I’m referring to embodied education or making sure all of your senses are engaged in the learning environment.

Embodied education is probably already something you are achieving in your home just by virtue of being a homeschooler, as you will see in the examples below. However, I wanted to give some examples of exactly what embodied education looks like in our home and I really want you to share how your homeschool exhibits embodied education as well in the comments. Hopefully this will become an interactive post where we are all sharing ideas.

The principle behind embodied education is a simple one. Children learn better when they are comfortable, surrounded by beauty, and have rituals or routines that focus on virtue and character formation. And I can guarantee that you are already providing an embodied education to your children, so that’s encouraging! But what are some more ways we can practice embodied education?

Make your school area as comfortable and home-like as possible. Nothing wrong with desks and tables, but make sure you include comfy cushions and couches, pillows, and rugs. One way I’ve helped my children with their desire to sprawl and school, as I call it, is to create little nooks in the living room for each of them with pillows and blankets so they can retreat there to work on their independent work. I also give them a clipboard to use because none of them like to write without a hard surface.

Make your school area beautiful. In our official school area (at the end of our dining room), I keep prints of famous artwork on the wall intermingled with their own art creations. I purposefully chose a soft yellow to put on the walls in that room knowing it would be our school area as well. I buy fresh flowers (usually the discounted ones from the grocery store) and place in a vase on the dining room table for the week or if the children pick flowers, we put those in there.

Make your school time a sensory experience. I actually started doing this at the end of last year. During school time I burn scented wax in a wax warmer to provide a pleasant smell during the day. I also play classical music at a low volume all day long while we’re doing school for some background noise. When everyone gets quiet reading or doing work, it’s really nice to hear it fill the room. Adding in field trips about the places, events, and concepts the children are studying in history and science is a great way to bring those things to life through the senses. It’s one thing to read about Egypt; it’s quite another to go to the natural history museum in Houston and see actual Egyptian artifacts.

Create rituals that serve a purpose. I’m not talking about schedules or routines, but practices that you insert in your day to reach your children at the soul level as you form their virtue. While all of that sounds kind of out there, let me give you some examples. The easiest one is starting our day with Power Hour (aka Morning Meeting). During Power Hour I try to focus on good discussion and learning things that are good, true, and beautiful. Within Power Hour, we have our own routine of always opening by singing a hymn and then having prayer. That is how we always start out school day, even if we can’t get to Power Hour that day, and the kids will call me on it if we don’t.

Over the summer as part of my teacher in-service (books I assign myself to read to be a better mother and teacher), I read Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. It made me realize how I need to be better about cultivating an attitude of gratitude in our family as a whole. So starting this school year, of which we’ve completed a week at this point, I began a new ritual where at the end of our school day, we light a candle in the middle of the table, stand around it while holding hands, and say the following together, “Jesus, you are the light of the world. Help us to be lights as well through having a grateful attitude, a humble spirit, and a love for all.” At that point, we go around the circle and we each share three things they are grateful for that day. I close out our school day by reading Philippians 1:3-11 as a blessing for my children and we sing The Doxology together. 

I had honestly never considered how important a pleasing environment and rituals are in a child’s education, but as I learned more about embodied education, I was not surprised to see that I’d already incorporated a lot of embodied education into our day because it makes it more enjoyable for all of us.

I’m looking forward to reading what my fellow Everyday Scholé bloggers have to say about the subject so click on the links below to read more about embodied education.


I also want to see what ways you incorporate embodied education in your homeschool so please leave a comment below.

Tell me how your homeschool environment is pleasing to the senses and any rituals you have in your homeschool day.

Practical Ways to Use Repetition to Memorize in a CM Homeschool

This year Everyday Scholé is taking an in-depth, practical look at the eight essential principles of classical education. This month we are focusing on repetitio mater memoriae or repetition is the mother of memory. You can also check out previous posts in this series: Charlotte Mason and Classical Combined, Slow and Steady in Your Homeschool, Multum Non Multa Exhibited in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool.
Memorization has become a bad word in most education circles today and even among most adults. Why memorize anything when you have your very own portable computer in your pocket or purse that can find out anything you need to know with a quick question? Probably the reason for the backlash is that memorization is usually not fun and it’s difficult (more so for some of us than for others!), but if our goal as homeschoolers is for our children to really remember what they are being taught, then we must employ some strategies that will lead to memorization. This month, we’re focusing on one of those strategies, repetition. Next month, we’ll look at songs, chants, and jingles.

While I don’t consider this list to be the be all and end all of ideas of using repetition in your homeschool to reinforce learning, I did want to give some practical ways that I use repetition with my kids to keep information from being forgotten almost as quickly as it was learned. Charlotte Mason had children memorizing loads of information in her schools even for children that were her youngest students. While most of the ideas I’m sharing today are easy to use with any homeschool method, some are very much a CM way to store things of most importance in your long term memory.

Why Does Repetition Work and Why Will It Fail?
Before we get started with practical let’s dip our toes quickly in some theory. We need to know why we are using repetition to lead to memorization in the first place. The more things are repeated the easier it is to remember. At some point I can repeat a set of numbers to you, like the first 10 digits of pi, enough times that you can eventually recite them along with me. At its most basic form, that is why repetition leads to memorization. Most people understand this, but the problem lies in two arenas: rote memorization and too much to memorize.

Rote memorization is what most of us think about where an elementary aged child can stand up in front of the class and recite the presidents or the times tables from memory. It’s impressive for sure, but drilling your children until they can accomplish this feat is probably not going to be enjoyable for either one of you. However, there are ways to repeat what you’ve learned without drill, so don’t let the idea of repetition or memorization scare you off just yet.

The other sure fire way to make sure repetition will fail to lead to memorization is if you have too much curriculum that is spread too broadly. I discussed this in my last post about multum non multa. When we are teaching our children a vast amount of information, instead of fewer subjects more deeply, it becomes very difficult, very quickly to keep up with the amount of information you want your children to memorize. Whenever I’m planning our studies for the year, especially history and science, I choose the facts, ideas, and concepts I want my children to remember from our studies. Those are the things I will repeat and focus on with our notebooking and activities. The amount I expect from each child varies depending upon age, but having a plan helps keep me on track and it helps me feel that we haven’t wasted a year of study when I can ask them what they learned in science that year and they can tell me. Don’t spread your too studies too thin or too much ground will be covered to make repetition and memorization nearly impossible.

Practical, Fun Ways to Use Repetition  

1. Create associations between different disciplines. Like we talked about last time, all knowledge is one big interconnected web so use that to your advantage when you want your children to memorize. Instead of repeating facts about Paul Revere, show them the portrait of Revere painted by John Singleton Copley. Explain that having his portrait painted meant Revere was an important man in Boston and holding a silver teapot with tools lying in front of him reminds us of his profession as a silversmith. Also it’s a good way to have children remember Revere’s participation in the Boston Tea Party. You just succeeding in repeating information that you wish your children to know about Revere without drilling it, but associating his life through art.

2. Use visual and artistic methods. We studied Latin together this year for the first time and one of the things I had my girls do was create Latin vocabulary notebooks. Instead of merely copying the words and their definition, I had each girl illustrate the word’s definition in their notebook. For poēta, Sophia drew a picture of William Blake sitting at a desk with a feather quill thinking, “Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,” which was a poem we were memorizing at the time. She brought in her own associations across disciplines in that assignment!
When we were memorizing a passage from A Midsummer Night’s Dream some of the lines referenced different flowers growing on a river bank. I found pictures of the different flowers online and printed them out so when the girls were trying to memorize the passage, they could touch the picture of the flower they were talking about.

3. Play games. There are lots of educational games on the market and we own quite a few. They are wonderful to use as a fun way to review. One of our favorites is Timeline which all my kids like to play. It really helps with learning the order of events in world history and it’s a quick game. There are lots of online games the kids enjoy to help review information: Prodigy for math concepts, Reflex Math for math fact review, and Sheppard Software to review almost everything, but especially geography. However, we also make a lot of games. Grace made a version of Clue that was all about mythology. The rooms were various places mentioned in Greek mythology, the characters were different Greek gods and heroes, and the weapons were taken from Greek myths as well like a lightning bolt and Medusa’s head. We also made a board game to review Spanish vocabulary a couple of years ago out of a cereal box. Depending on the space you landed on, you would translate a word or sentence from English to Spanish or from Spanish into English. It was super fun and the kids never realized it was repetition leading to memory.

4. Look for built in review in your curriculum. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that almost all of the curriculum we use has review built into it. The spelling curriculum I use for my oldest, Apples and Pears, is constantly going back and reviewing words and spelling patterns. I use a studied dictation approach for Sophia like Charlotte Mason espoused using the vintage spelling book, Modern Speller. The book is set up to constantly review words that have previously been studied as well. Even our mastery based math books have review built into them as well because previous skills are touched on again and again in subsequent chapters. The phonics program I used with Sophia, Logic of English, is awesome at built in review using games and speed drills to remember phonograms so that learning them is pretty much painless. Let curriculum work for you in this area!

5. Point out practical applications. Grace is finishing up Math U See Epsilon this summer and as we’ve worked through the book, which is all about fractions, I’ve explained to her how useful it is to know how to manipulate fractions when it comes to cooking (something she loves to do), so for part of her “school” time, I would bring her a recipe and ask her to double it, halve it, third it, etc. By having her do this, I’m not only answering her question of “why do I have to learn this?” but I’m using repetition to make sure she remembers the steps to multiply, divide, add, and subtract fractions.

6. Let them be the teacher. One of the best ways to learn something is to have to teach it. Every evening, I try to let the kids tell their father one thing they learned about during school that day or demonstrate something they’ve mastered. Sometimes I give them a heads up ahead of time so they can really give a thorough presentation. For example, Grace recently learned about photosynthesis so I told her that I’d like for her to use her diagram she drew of the process and explain it at dinner that night. Come to find out, she didn’t understand it as well as she thought since she had to reference some books to make sure she said things correctly. She had to use repetition of what we’d already learned to memorize the process of photosynthesis.

7. Implement a Charlotte Mason style assessment week. In most CM schools at the end of the quarter or semester, there would be one week set aside for assessments of what the children had learned. I’m not talking about standardized tests or tests at all, but a time to present the body of knowledge they had learned. I’ve never actually scheduled these assessment weeks into our school year, although I might give it a whirl this year, but I think using some out of the box assessments that week would be a really fun way to see how much we’ve all learned. One spontaneous assessment that happened this year is I asked Grace to tell me all she knew about Hammurabi who we’d been studying for history. She decided this was the perfect time to throw a costume together, give me a list of questions to be the reporter, and have an interview with the ancient Babylonian king himself. I still think back on that and what a fun way to do a “test” for history. Assessing how much your children have learned doesn’t necessarily mean filling in bubbles or a pop quiz, it could be a great way to add in some repetition of what they’ve been learning.

Interested to see what the other Everyday Scholé ladies think about using repetition in your homeschool? Click on the pictures below to find out. I promise you that it will be good stuff!


What practical, fun ways do you use repetition in your homeschool?

Multum Non Multa Exhibited in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool

This year Everyday Scholé is taking an in-depth, practical look at the eight principles of classical education. This month we are looking specifically at multum non multa or much not many. You can also check out the previous posts in this series:  Charlotte Mason and Classical Combined and Slow and Steady in Your Homeschool.

Less is more. Quality over quantity. Depth not breadth. Jack of all trades, but a master of none. All of these quips are English equivalents to the second principle of Classical education: multum non multa or much not many. This concept is readily seen in our everyday lives. All of us have discovered that threshold of how much we can handle before we are doing too many things that we can’t do any of them well. The irony of the situation is that in the realm of education, the opposite seems to be true. Everyone crams more and more subjects into the school day because there is just so much children need to learn.  However, logically and scientifically, we know that this is a faulty approach. As Dr. Perrin says in his video, “What exactly do you remember about your public school education? Do you feel you mastered any subject or just skimmed a variety of topics?” So what did educators of days gone by, specifically Charlotte Mason, know that we have forgotten today?

When you look at the schedules of classes from Charlotte Mason’s schools, the amount of subjects covered seems to be the total opposite of multum non multa. It’s true that when you write out the subjects covered in a traditional Charlotte Mason education you discover a lot of boxes to check off, grammar, writing, foreign language, nature study, history, music, math, copy work, Plutarch, etc. How am I supposed to create an educational experience for my children which is deep and rich into a handful of subjects at a time when there are so many items that must be covered in a Charlotte Mason education? Here are four core Charlotte Mason tenets that actually promote multum non multa.

Spreading the Feast
Of all the educational ideas CM espoused this one seems to fly directly in the face of multum non multa. It’s hard to focus on a few subjects at a time (depth) if you’re trying to spread the feast of knowledge for your students (breadth). Unfortunately I believe this phrase is woefully misunderstood. Imagine for a moment you are an ant on the trunk of an aspen tree. You climb down, down, down the trunk until you are underground. Once you reach the tree’s root system you discover that multiple root systems are intertwined below. You follow along some of the roots before deciding to head above ground again. When you emerge, you find yourself on an aspen tree a few yards from the first tree. At that moment, you realize that all of the aspen trees in this grove have an interconnected root system. On the surface they look like individual trees, but below ground they are actually all entwined.

Spreading the feast is just like a grove of aspen trees. On the surface it looks like separate items or subjects of a feast of knowledge, but as you study and learn, the more related and connected the subjects become. Charlotte Mason actually incorporated time for this to occur in the school day. She knew that the goal of education was not to have a wide knowledge about a variety of subjects, but to take your knowledge and make connections across subjects and ideas that can only be found when a student can really spend time in their studies.

Cross Discipline Usefulness  
Charlotte Mason was a firm believer in using one educational practice to cover as many educational components as possible. This belief is most seen in language arts. In a CM school, students would use their copy work or dictation for the day to cover grammar, writing, and spelling. And where did teachers get the sentences or paragraphs for the students? Right out of the awesome living books the children were reading about various subjects. Today in most CM homeschools we treat these disciplines as separate subjects, but they were not. They were completely intertwined. The problem is that usually we, as parents, do not feel competent enough in our own grammar and writing knowledge to use copy work or dictation as a jumping off point to teach. I’m actually attempting this approach with Sophia right now and so far so good. It takes a little more preparation on my part, but it’s really given richness to our language arts study that was missing before.

Nature study was another area that did double duty in Charlotte Mason schools. Usually we tack nature study on our week as something fun to do if we can make it work, but if we get too busy it’s one of the first things tossed aside. Spending time outdoors in nature was an enormous part of CM teaching philosophy. Throughout all grades, students spent the bulk, if not all, of their afternoons outdoors. Of course, they weren’t formally doing nature study that entire time, but they were to be constantly observing. Why? Because this was science. Observation, learning about the world around you, and knowledge of wildlife and plants are how science was learned throughout elementary grades. Every one of the science disciplines (biology, physics, chemistry, etc.) are found in nature. In many homeschools today, though, studying science via the natural world is pushed aside so that science can be studied in separate disciplines each year. 

The hallmark of a CM education is narration. Unfortunately it is usually misunderstood and misused. Narration once you pass the early elementary grades is more than just a retelling of what they read or what you read. Narration in the older grades is the time when the connections of learning, the diving deep, are made. As children narrate they are to use past knowledge and learning and incorporate it into their current studies. The observations made are children showing they are diving deep, they are truly understanding, they are climbing around the root system and crawling up another tree.

As a CM homeschooler it helps me to know this is the goal of narration. I can help my oldest child draw out those connections by listening to her narration and asking questions (socratic method in classical education vernacular) to help her think about what she’s read in a deeper way, leading her to some of those connections by discussion and a mutual sharing of ideas and experiences. She almost always comes back to me after these talks and adds more to the conversation because she’s been ruminating on her own.

Living Books
The quote from which multum non multa originates is specifically in reference to books. It’s better to read great books than many books. I’m sure Charlotte Mason would have given a hearty, “Amen!” in response.  She knew that children love to listen and read well-crafted narratives on a variety of subjects. She also knew that these books needed to be savored and experienced slowly. While CM was a lover of great books, she also didn’t over schedule them. One of the first things I noticed when I began really exploring CM’s original school schedules is how long the students would read a book. Some were read over the course of two or more years. Most were read slowly over a semester. The amount of living books that were read, though, were relatively miniscule compared to the lists of books read by CM homeschoolers today.

I struggle so much with this so I made it a point this year to 1) schedule required reading and 2) not over-schedule required reading. Such a struggle when you love books as much as I do and want your children to read them all! However, I can honestly say that the slower pace has benefited us all. The kids are really able to learn from the books and by the time we finish, they feel like old friends because we’ve spent so much time with them. The most unexpected benefit was that I found my children chasing rabbit trails on their own time because of something they read in a living book. This exploration and self-directed learning is what multum non multa is all about.

For further reading on multum non multa and how it works, check out the posts by my fellow Everday Scholé bloggers, Tonia and Sarah.


How do you practice multum non multa in your homeschool?