Why Charlotte Mason Was Right: Teaching Your Children to Be Students

This year Everyday Scholé is taking an in-depth look at the eight essential principles of classical education. This month we are focusing on educational virtues. 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, Practical Ways to Use Repetition to Memorize, and Why the Rabbit Trail is the Right Trail.

Probably the most revolutionary aspect of Charlotte Mason’s teaching philosophy was her understanding of children and how they learned. At a time when Great Britain and most of the world believed teaching children should be methodical and stale, she recognized the natural wonder and curiosity in children and their love of a well told story. Her famous quote that ‘children are born persons’ showed her understanding of the uniqueness and natural abilities each child possess from birth. Ms. Mason was definitely on to something and to create true students in our homeschool, we need to heed her words about habit training. The following practices that are usually found in a Charlotte Mason homeschool lead to many of the educational virtues (or habits) talked about in Dr. Perrin’s video.

If you’ve ever tried to teach a classroom of students who aren’t used to classroom procedures and behavior, it is a challenging task. Once upon a time this was the purpose of kindergarten, to train children how to behave in a formal learning environment and get along with others in the same environment. Charlotte Mason also believed in this training aspect for young children, and it was a major focus with elementary students in her schools. While I don’t think homeschool parents need to force their children to sit at a desk for hours or practice raising their hand to speak, there are some Charlotte Mason practices that will create true students of educational virtue.

Practice: Short Lessons
Habit: Focus and Quality

One of the hallmarks of a CM educational style is having short lessons with time slowly being added over the years and maxing out at 45 minutes to an hour for core subjects in high school. While there are a couple of benefits to scheduling your day this way, especially with lower elementary children, the habits of focus and understanding are what Charlotte Mason really wanted to teach children. Focus completely on your work for a short amount of time and the quality of output from your children will be greater. Instead of rushing through a page of handwriting just to complete it, have your children focus on writing quality letters for ten minutes. It might mean that they only finish one or two lines, but they are learning an important skill of taking pride in a job well done. As they move up through the grades and time increases for each class, they will naturally become faster at their work while retaining quality because you taught them to focus at a young age.

Practice: Living Books, Narrations, Art and Composer Study, Religious Education, and Memory Work
Habit: Recognizing Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

One of my funniest memories from a trip I took in college to visit the Netherlands was when I decided to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich one afternoon for a snack. The family I was staying with watched with equal parts fascination and horror as I assembled my sandwich and took a bite. They couldn’t believe I would eat something so disgusting as jelly and peanut butter together while I couldn’t believe they’d eat salted herring. What was the difference? Our palates had been trained to like the foods of our country of origin from a young age. Certain flavor combinations tasted good to me that seemed disgusting to them and vice versa.

Likewise, we must train our children to recognize truth, beauty, and goodness in literature, the arts, and our faith while committing some of them to memory and making connections between them all. It’s a challenge in this day and age for sure to mold their palate into something that yearns for truth, beauty, and goodness instead of salacious celebrity gossip, instant social media access, and funny cat video clips. Charlotte Mason knew that teaching children using quality, well-written narrative books, taking time to focus on beautiful artwork and musical compositions, and learning how to narrate and examine ideas and information so that it’s useful in their life will train our children’s eyes for life.

Practice: Free Time in the Afternoons
Habit: Leisure and Contemplation

One thing that almost all the grade levels in a Charlotte Mason school had in common was free time in the afternoons. Some of the higher grades did have one or two subjects to complete after lunch, but for most students the afternoons were for their delight. Unfortunately most homeschools aren’t much better about providing this down time than public schools are. However I am slowly realizing how necessary this time is for children and parents alike to restore our spirit with some time to pursue our hobbies and ponder deep questions. Many times (myself included!) when we find ourselves with moments to spare or time to fill, we grab for a remote, a tablet, a laptop, or our phones to lose ourselves in the world of screens. It is becoming clearer and clearer that immersing ourselves in this technological world is causing detriment to our ability to think deeply and to create. The bad habit of constantly reaching for a screen needs to be replaced in our children with the enjoyment found in leisure and contemplation of free time every day to just be.

Practice: Nature Study
Habit: Observation and Attention to Detail

The minute you hear the phrase ‘nature study’ you know there is a CM homeschooler around! We do love our nature study, but I’ll be honest. I haven’t been the best at doing nature study around here. I always felt like there had to be this big focus or list of supplies we needed to do it correctly. Until I started to consider what my children are to learn from nature study. Of course, you want your children to learn about the science to be found in nature, the animals, plants, weather, habitats, geology, astronomy, etc., but there is even more that I believe Charlotte Mason wanted children to develop: the habit of observation and attention to detail. Now when we go outside, I like to have the children find something interesting and then spend some time talking with me about it, really examine it, possibly sketch it if they wish. The amazing side benefit of this time outside observing our world is that my children are now more honed at finding details and observations in other areas of our school. Artwork that we look at is searched for hidden surprises, math problems are read more carefully, and the microscope is pulled out more to find the details to small to be detected with the human eye.

So what do these habits have to do with creating a true student? A child who has learned to focus when needed, produce quality work, find truth, beauty, and goodness in their studies, take time for leisure and contemplation, and pay attention to the details is someone who will have nothing to hinder them as they pursue whatever life holds for them. Charlotte Mason knew this and designed her schools with practices that created true students for life.

Don’t forget to visit my fellow Everyday Scholé bloggers and get their take on the educational virtues. Just click the pictures below.


What habits or virtues do you believe makes a true student?
Let me know in the comments below.


Why the Rabbit Trail is the Right Trail: Wonder and Curiosity 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 focusing on wonder and curiosity. You can check out the previous posts in this series as well: Charlotte Mason and Classical Combined, Slow and Steady inYour Homeschool, Multum non Multa Exhibited in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool, and Practical Ways to Use Repetition to Memorize.

Very often I hear other homeschool moms make a comment similar to this, “Well, we got off on a rabbit trail today and didn’t finish our actual work. Now we’re behind and I feel like we wasted a day.” Even if I don’t make a comment like this, I definitely think it! Anytime we stop to pursue something that sparks our interest or imagination, my default train of thought is failure. I’ve failed at accomplishment that day. I’ve dropped the ball on learning. I’ve let the children get away with something I shouldn’t have. After listening to Dr. Perrin’s talk about wonder and curiosity earlier this month, I realized that sometimes what we call the rabbit trail is actually the trail on which we’re meant to be.

Children are naturally born with an inquisitive spirit and a sense of awe about the world. Unfortunately most of that is drained or forced out of them in the typical school setting where time, curriculum, and testing limitations rule the classroom. Too many times homeschoolers follow this same trajectory of killing wonder and curiosity in our children, not purposefully, but because we feel the pressure to keep up and achieve.

However, as Dr. Perrin points out, the current school system is not creating students in the true meaning of the word. The original word is studium and means zeal, diligent, striving, and eager. Those words are not ones I would use to describe most children in school today. They do not seem zealous or eager to learn in the least! Unfortunately many times our homeschools become more like the traditional school system and wonder and curiosity are squeezed out of the way.

When a rabbit trail comes along suddenly in our school day, it usually is because something has captured a child’s wonder or their curiosity has been aroused about a particular bit of information. The learning that follows as you wind among the trees of ideas, over the brook of discovery, and step carefully along the path that other true students have trod leads to a day where you have focused solely on reveling in true education. Don’t do the disservice of dismissing these days as a waste or a loss. These are the days that you have taught your children the value of a true education: that following a path of wonder and curiosity is what true scholars, inventors, authors, artists, and world shapers have done since the beginning of time.

 So how do we become better about incorporating wonder and curiosity into our school days?

Plan for it. One of the best things I implemented this school year is having free afternoons (on the days when we’re home in the afternoons that is!). Once our official school time is over, around lunch or a little after, the kids have a couple of hours to do nothing but pursue their own interests and studies. Sometimes they continue with work we started before lunch, or they get lost in library books we checked out that week or they simply play. I have been guilty every year of over-scheduling our days, weeks, and academics, and I wanted to purposefully create a time in our day for exploration, wonder, and curiosity.

Strew books, games, and movies. Every week when we go to the library, I grab some books (usually non-fiction) and movies (usually documentaries) that look interesting or are about something we’ve recently experienced or seen. I keep all of these resources in an easily accessible cabinet in the living room for the kids to enjoy during our afternoon time or any other time they wish. For example, we recently went on a tour through a cave. The kids were fascinated so even though we aren’t technically studying caves right now, I checked out lots of books about caves, animals that live in caves, a documentary about caves, and a travel video about Carlsbad Caverns.

Nature study. So many times, nature study is dismissed even by people who love it as an extra or something to get to if we find the time. However, nature study is the original God-given source for wonder and curiosity in not only children, but adults throughout time as well. Teaching your children to be observers of nature and ask questions about nature is the easiest and most hands-on way to feed their natural inquisitiveness. For the past six months or so, I’ve made nature study an important part of our week and a subject that each of my girls studies on their own a couple of times a week. I’ve been amazed at how much science we’re actually learning through nothing more than awakening wonder and curiosity about the natural world.

Of course, the best way to inspire your children is to be someone who is curious and finds wonder in things as well. Once they realize that learning is not a onetime endeavor, but a lifelong pursuit, they will be more apt to hold onto what they already possess: a desire to know more about everything.

Be sure and check out what Tonia and Sara have to say about wonder and curiosity in education as well by clicking on the pictures below:


How do you inspire wonder and curiosity in your homeschool?
Let me know in the comments.


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?

Slow and Steady in Your 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 festina lente or make haste slowly. You can find my introductory post about combining classical principles and Charlotte Mason here.

One of the biggest worries and concerns I see voiced in the homeschool community is some aspect of “is my child behind.” Usually the parent begins their question by citing something a child of similar age or grade level is doing in the public schools or in another homeschool family. If you have had this worry, then this principle of classical education is for you.

Festina lente is a Latin phrase that is translated “make haste slowly.” The classic example of this principle is Aesop’s tale of The Tortoise and the Hare in which the natural winner of the race should be the hare but due to his over confidence and start and stop approach comes in last because the tortoise keeps plodding along, however slowly, but at a steady pace. A child who is mastering the material, however slowly, will have an advantage over a child who is pushed to run ahead based on the faulty idea that they are “behind.”

Two Ways to Turn Your Child into the Hare

1) Running ahead when the foundation has not been properly laid. When we are so worried about keeping on pace to meet some arbitrary standard {that’s an entire other soapbox I could wax poetically about!}, it is very easy to push our children on in their work when they don’t have the basics they need to move ahead. For example, Grace has a difficult time memorizing items in general. I never made a huge issue out of this even when it came to math facts. I listened to other homeschoolers that encouraged me she would eventually learn them without too much work on either of us. Nope, didn’t happen. It came back to slow her down when it was time for long division because you really need to have those multiplication facts down to work a division problem. Long division is difficult enough for most children without having to throw in the added impediment of trying to remember your multiplication facts. Needless to say, we had to put math on hold for a bit and concentrate on fact practice. If I hadn’t let her run ahead and made sure she had a solid foundation, we would not have needed to stop and back track.

2) Jumping over skills. This idea is similar to the first, but in this case you’ve given the foundation material and now you try to jump ahead in skill since you know the foundation is there. Recently Sophia finished her cursive workbook so, of course, I was certain she was ready to begin writing in cursive. The very next time she had a sentence of copywork to do, I told her to use her newly learned skill and do it in cursive. She made it through one word before she tossed her pencil on the table with tears in her eyes and informed me that she couldn’t do it. At which point, I was mentally kicking myself because it became obvious to me that I was turning her into a hare! Even though she knew the individual letter formation (foundational), she had not practiced enough at joining the letters to be successful at what I was asking her to do. I was jumping straight to mastery, which is the goal of festina lente, without taking the steps needed to insure an easy transition.

Applying Festina Lente to Two Common Homeschool Philosophies

When I started this series last month, I wanted to show how these seven classical education philosophies dovetail nicely with Charlotte Mason and other common homeschool approaches with which I’m familiar. We’ve all seen the fallout of the inability to apply festina lente in public schools due to the model on which public schools work. Teachers, despite how much they wish to, cannot put instruction on pause until Johnny and Susie have mastered the basics. They are teaching a class and must move on as needed to get the kids ready for the test {another soapbox which I could rant for days about!}. I bring up public schools because festina lente is definitely a classical education philosophy that is just a good education practice in general, so let’s see how you can use it in a non-classical homeschool.

Festina Lente and Charlotte Mason
One of the things I find most inspiring about Charlotte Mason’s schools is the students were grouped into levels, not grades, that were ability based instead of birthday based, like the public school system with which we are familiar. Usually within one level (or forms as CM referred to them), you would have multiple ages, and you entered that level based upon what you had mastered previously. In other words, you didn’t just jump into a level you were not adequately prepared for. I so wish that the American system would take this approach, and I wish more homeschoolers would view their child’s education this way as well. I’m not saying you should never talk about what grade your child would be in if they were in the public school, sometimes our children need to know those things for outside activities. Instead be aware that educationally if the cover of the math textbook says 5 on it, but your child is struggling with most of the lessons or some of the basic concepts presented in the book, you should NOT press on just because their birth date would place them in the grade 5 math book. Take a page from Charlotte Mason and put in place the principle of festina lente, work toward mastery not toward a grade level.

Festina Lente and a Traditional Homeschool
While I’m not a traditional homeschooler, I was a teacher in my former life so I know the system of using textbooks and workbooks as your main method of instruction for all subjects. The number one area in which I know textbooks and workbooks give a false sense of security is that if my child finishes the textbook/workbook for the year, then they have mastered the material contained within. Um….no. It means they have finished a textbook/workbook over the course of your homeschool year. To attain mastery of the subject, you might have more work to do. Think back to your school days. Usually you came relatively close to finishing a textbook over a year. How much of your high school Spanish do you feel that you mastered? Do you still know a few phrases here and there or could you say that you mastered the language? Did completing two or three years of work on a foreign language bring you to mastery? For everyone I’ve ever met that answer is no. Don’t fall into the trap of believing completion of curriculum equals proficiency. There is nothing wrong on stopping or backing up if you child needs more help, but there is a problem if you push ahead because it’s time for the next textbook. Also, there is nothing wrong with skipping entire chapters or half the exercises in the book if your child has already shown they have mastered the material. Focus on your child really learning the material, mastering it, instead of finishing it and calling that mastery.

My Disclaimer

Children and their abilities are different from one child to next. The amount of time it takes one child to master something will be very different with how long it takes another child to master the same skill. There is nothing wrong with your child, or you, if it does take longer than what it takes other children of the same age. Turning them into a hare because you are worried about the grade level on a book or curriculum is not the correct approach. Make haste slowly. Teach them at their pace making sure they master each step, and they will, in the long run, be better off and feel more successful.
On the other hand if you have a child who is gifted that doesn’t mean they will immediately master everything they come across. Be sure to watch for pockets of learning where they have not mastered the material or skills they have jumped over. Sometimes gifted children need the festina lente principle applied the most because they do seem to be a rabbit and speed through things, but the ability to learn quickly does not always equal mastery.

Check out what Tonia and Sara had to say about festina lente and how they implement this classical principle in their homeschool.


Do you struggle with festina lente in your homeschool as opposed to running ahead?

Charlotte Mason and Classical: A Delicious Mix of Homeschool Philosophies

Everyday Scholé is back!!! We’ve taken quite a few months off as all of us were wrapping up blogging projects or writing projects, but this month we are beginning a yearlong series that is sure to inspire you and your homeschool. We are taking an in-depth, practical look at the eight essential principles of classical pedagogy (make haste slowly, much not many, repetition is the mother of memory, embodied learning, songs, chants, and jingles, wonder and curiosity, educational virtues, and scholé, contemplation, and leisure). Each month we will focus on a different principle and how to practically implement that principle in your homeschool.

Can you tell I’m excited?!? I think what I’m most excited about is that I’m not a true classical homeschooler. I’m a Charlotte Mason homeschooler. It’s true that Ms. Mason had much in common with classical homeschoolers {some even consider her a classical homeschooler in her own right}, but on the surface a few of the eight essential principles seem to fly in the face of what Charlotte Mason homeschoolers promote as a “true” Charlotte Mason education.  So for the each of these eight principles I’m going to be focusing on how to use classical pedagogy as outlined by Dr. Perrin in the link above, but in a Charlotte Mason way.

Before we start this journey through classical and Charlotte Mason, I wanted to mention something that Dr. Perrin states at the beginning of his video. He says, “Principles should support our practices.” Basically the thrust of that statement is that the things you do in your homeschool should have a principle that supports them. For example, if you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler why do you engage in nature study? Because you are supposed to do so if you ascribe to Ms. Mason’s philosophy? Because the curriculum you bought says to do it? Do you really even know why Charlotte Mason was such a huge proponent of nature study for all students throughout their school years? These are important questions to ask about any homeschooling philosophy whether it’s classical, unschooling, traditional, etc. If you don’t know what various educational practices are trying to accomplish in your homeschool, it is pointless to do them.

While I’m focusing on these eight principles in a Charlotte Mason homeschool, I hope that you will look at them through whatever philosophy influences your homeschool because I truly believe these eight essential principles of classical pedagogy are fundamentally just really great educational practices in general that can be applied to whatever method you use. I can see how all methods of education can be tweaked and manipulated in such a way to benefit from the use of all eight principles. The hardest part, as Dr. Perrin states toward the end, is that changing our mindset about education to one that encompasses these ideals is work for us. It is not natural for those of us who are graduates of the public school system here in the United States. The most difficult challenge you will have is not the vision, but the implementation.

You might have noticed that scholé is the last principle listed. I firmly believe this is because as you focus on the other seven, teaching from rest will become a natural byproduct of your endeavors. It doesn’t mean that it comes naturally, as I mentioned above, but it will be apparent that schooling your child with these principals in the forefront of your mind will reap a calmer, restful, leisurely approach to education in your home. I’ve seen this lived out in our homeschool and I’m excited to share some practical ways I’ve achieved this in the coming year.

Be sure and check out my fellow Everyday Scholé bloggers and their thoughts about the principles of classical education.


What educational philosophies influence your homeschool the most? 
Let me know in the comments.