Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Notes from the 2017 Newcastle Mum Heart Conference

This is a post to address some questions that came up during my Charlotte Mason Workshop and also in personal conversations over the weekend.


* Older children can start their work independently so you may spend time with the youngest ones.
The subjects that worked best for us with this were Maths, Copywork, Music Practice & regular jobs e.g. emptying the dishwasher or bringing down the washing.

* Keep lessons short but don't let them waste time.

* If I don't cover some things during a week, I schedule them first thing the next day/week. This way we get to cover everything & don't send the message that some areas are less important than others. It seems to be the more 'unpractical' things that miss out otherwise. Poetry, picture study etc are not extras that we tack on if we have enough time.

* Alternate the type of lessons so there is a natural 'rest' between lessons. 'When Children Love to Learn' edited by Elaine Cooper (see pg. 215) divides subjects into Inspirational and Disciplinary subjects. By alternating subjects between the two groups we provide this rest:

Inspirational Subjects  
Composer Study
Nature Study
Picture Study
Read Aloud

Disciplinary Subjects

Physical Education


The question came up regarding finding the time to listen to multiple narrations.
Some ideas if you have a few children & they all have to narrate:

*   Combine some books & they take turns narrating

*   If you follow Ambleside Online there can be around 4 or 5 readings per day, depending on how you schedule your week.  If they’re older one of those re-tellings could be a written narration, another a science notebook entry (write up an experiment/draw what happened etc); an entry on their history timeline; an oral narration; a picture narration; a diagram. They could also record their own narration (Voxer is something I’ve heard others talk about but have never used myself).

*  I made out a weekly schedule for everyone & allowed them to choose what they wanted to do from that & checked during the week to see that they were getting through it. My older ones would often tell me before they were going to do a reading then I knew that around 15 or 20 mins later they would be ready to narrate. If I read aloud to them I got them to narrate as soon as I’d finished.

*  I found with my older children, that their oral narrations were usually short and to the point, so it didn't require a great deal of time to listen to them. My younger ones tended to be more verbose.

*  An older child could listen to a younger one's oral narration & write it out. You check it later. Multiple children could act out a scene from a book or a Shakespeare play. We had a few historical battles acted out...

*  I had them do most of their oral narrations in the morning when I had less distractions, then after lunch we had a time all together where we did devotions, read aloud, poetry & maybe something else I chose such as picture study or composer.

*  If you have a child who is a good writer & enjoys it, you can increase their written work & not have as many oral narrations. I’d only do this if they had spent a few years honing their oral narration.

*  Late readers – oral narrations will prepare them for written work when they do learn to read; read aloud good quality literature; use audio books & have them follow along with the book.

*  If you don’t get to hear an oral narration for some reason, before you read the next chapter in the book, ask them what happened in the previous chapter. I usually do this anyhow.

* Children need a rich & varied background of reading to be able to express themselves. If they can’t narrate a book it’s often a sign that the book isn’t ‘living.’

* Children don’t have to completely understand everything for a book to have done its work. My daughter has just finished reading The Mystery of the Periodic Table (AO Year 6). A couple of times when she came to narrate what she'd read she'd say, "I didn't really understand that." So I asked her to tell me something about what she had understood. There was always something she could tell me. Charlotte Mason used the analogy of a bountiful feast, a tantalizing smorgasborg, that we spread before our children - they won't be able to eat everything on the table but they will come away satisfied.

*  Written narration with boys - teach them how to touch type & let them use the computer if they are hampered by the physical act of writing. Some of our boy's narrations improved dramatically when we did this. Typing narrations was also helpful for my youngest daughter who had poor spelling but loved writing.

As they get more confident, make the requirements a bit higher. In the earlier years they start with a straight re-telling. Progress to different forms of writing e.g.creative narrations – write a poem, illustrate part of the story, draw a picture, write a newspaper article, write a letter.
Turn a poem into prose; re-write (paraphrase) a passage from a book in your own words – good for short essays; write a summary – eg a battle or historical event.

* In Volume 6 Charlotte Mason writes:  ‘Forms V and VI. (Grades 10-12) In these Forms some definite teaching in the art of composition is advisable, but not too much, lest the young scholars be saddled with a stilted style which may encumber them for life.’

I've used Wordsmith Craftman or Jensen's Format Writing at this stage to cover essay writing.
Try googling 'Expository writing' if you want some free resources to help with this. 
Transitioning from written narrations to essays:
I posted some ideas for written narrations here.


There is a tension between requiring children to work hard versus not requiring enough of them. The temptation is to give children less work if they’re struggling, but often they don't need less but just different. They need a broad curriculum with enough of a challenge to give them a push without overwhelming them. One of my children was very advanced for her age & I was talking to an older lady I knew about how to work with this. She suggested to go broader rather than pushing her ahead. I did this and it certainly didn't hinder her in any way.

One thing is certain in homeschooling whether you have a large family family or not - the only constant is change! At least that's what I've experienced. Children grow and develop, the mix of ages and stages change. We change. Life changes.

Some things to remember:

'The Lord is my Shepherd' - Psalm 23. He doesn't drive me, He leads me.

'He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young. - Isaiah 40:11

'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.' Matthew 11:28




Ruth @ with freedom and books said...

Good advice. I never considered what changing up the work instead of pushing ahead or giving less work (depending on the child's situation). I am guilty of both. : /

Silvia said...

Lovely and always good, Carol. Thanks for writing this.

Tully Family said...

from a mama with lots of children: thank you!!!! :)

Gently Mad said...

I don't home school since my son is in college but I did for a year and a half when he was in high school. I used Janie Cheaney's Wordsmith book to be excellent. I can't recommend it enough. This workshop sounds wonderful.

Gently Mad said...

I mean I found Cheaney's book to be excellent. Maybe I need her book. Eek.

Anonymous said...

Pearls of wisdom here Carol! You always have wonderfully encouraging thoughts.


Carol said...

Haha! It's not your writing skills, it's your typing! I'm appalled at how many grammatical & spelling mistakes I make when using a keyboard. I don't often hear the Wordsmith book mentioned in home ed circles. It's older & there have been so many other books published since I first bought it but it's easy to use, inexpensive & does the job.

Carol said...

Thank you, Margaret. Very kind words :)

Carol said...

I must say I did panic with one of my boys at one stage but pushing ahead with him was what I needed to do.

Carol said...

Thank you, Silvia. I always appreciate your comments :)

Carol said...

You're very welcome :)

Amy Marie said...

Sooooo helpful! :)

n@ncy said...

Great article!
I'm reading the bio of Ulysses S. Grant by R. White(2016) I am amazed by the curriculum he followed at West Point. Drawing was considered very important (laying out future battle plans on paper) and French (studying French Military tactics). Grant was a reader of novels....Ed Bulwer (never heard of him) and James Fenimore Cooper and Sir Walter Scott.
As you said ...a mix of inspirational and disciplinary subjects is needed to develop a mind!

Carol said...

Interesting! I bet the curriculum is completely different now. I read an article by someone high up in the military earlier this year saying how important the knowledge of history is to someone in his position. I looked up Bulwer & he wrote 'The Last Days of Pompei,'amongst others.

Carol said...

Good! :)

NancyElin said...

Now the future military officers study
drones, robotics and try to win 'hearts and minds' of the locals (Middle East)