I am such a huge fan of They Call Me Blessed, and Ana is such a dear sweet friend of mine that I could not WAIT to share with everyone how we have found our “modern secular Charlotte Mason groove” in our little homeschool. I am so excited and so honoured to be a part of this “30 Ways We Homeschool” blog party – it’s been such a joy to read everyone’s stories and journeys.
Tell us about you and your family.
I’m Nadine, and my partner Kyle and I live in Northern Ontario, along with my 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. Kyle has been a part of our lives for a little more than 4 years now – and together with the kids, we made the choice to try homeschooling. The kids’ father lives in southern Ontario, and he and his spouse are a supportive and active part of the kids’ lives and homeschooling.
How long have you been homeschooling?
We are now rounding out the last days of our third school year as homeschoolers. My oldest was just starting 2nd grade in public school, and my daughter was in Senior Kindergarten when we pulled them out of the school system. I had always wanted to home educate, but when my ex-husband and I made the decision to separate and eventually divorce, our oldest was just about to enter Junior Kindergarten. I knew that it was not the right time, so they entered public school. We didn’t have any major issues in the public school system – the kids always were blessed with truly wonderful teachers who my kids loved.
However, a time came when my full-time job became a source of immense stress and I decided to leave my job to be able to spend more time with the kids and be involved with their education. It didn’t take us long to start considering that if I was at home all the time anyway, why not try this homeschool thing and see how it went. With the support of my spouse, my ex-husband, and the children – we all got on board and said: “let’s do it!”
Tell us about your modern secular Charlotte Mason homeschooling approach.
Our current approach to homeschooling is heavily Charlotte Mason-inspired, with a couple of minor adjustments to fit our family and the needs of my kids. One of the first “homeschool philosophies” that I stumbled upon when we started this journey, was the Charlotte Mason method. I immediately loved EVERY aspect of this philosophy and knew it was not just a good fit for my kids, but also for ME as the teacher.
But one thing kept popping up and causing me to reconsider – almost every blog post, website, or article I read about this Charlotte Mason method all lead me to believe that this was only do-able if you were a religious family. I would get frustrated, or overwhelmed, or just lonely because it felt like there was no one else out there doing it this way. So I would bounce away from the Charlotte Mason method, and try out something else. But always, we would find ourselves coming back to this method.
One day I realized – I can do this my way. I became very comfortable with the principles of a Charlotte Mason approach to home education. I stopped listening to other people’s ideas about how one was “supposed” to implement it, and instead went to Charlotte’s own words. I’ve been slowly reading through her original homeschooling series of books, and interpreting her words with my own values, my own heart, and with my own kids in mind.
And the result is that we are crafting our own unique plans, and using materials and resources that suit my family’s particular values while still implementing Charlotte’s 20 Principles. And so we have our “Modern secular approach to the Charlotte Mason method”. You can read more about how we approach a secular CM homeschool method here!
Year-round homeschooling or traditional calendar homeschooling?
This is a bit of a tricky question – we homeschool year round so that we can take lengthy breaks as needed. However, in the past, usually, right around this very time of the year I start to feel tired and maybe a little burnt-out. So the past two summers we have taken pretty considerable summer breaks – but this summer feels different. I feel very comfortable in our routines now and we’ve found some resources we really enjoy using. One of the best aspects, to me, of the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, is the idea of education being a life. It’s not just something we ‘do’ from September to June and Monday to Friday. It’s a part of our lifestyle, it’s part of our life. We learn all the time, and that includes summer.
We will homeschool through the summer, minus two weeks in July that the kids will be spending with their father and one other week in August that they will be with him. Our “new school year” will start in Mid-August. We definitely take a much more relaxed approach in these warm weather months – but we aim to do lessons at least 3 days a week, with the knowledge that if the opportunity for a beach day comes up, we are dropping the day and off we go!
Tell us about your Charlotte Mason homeschooling routine.
Our homeschool routine is quite relaxed, most of the time. From the start of our homeschooling journey, through to right now, we haven’t been “plan the whole year” kind of people. We start our day with our Morning Basket, move to our seatwork lessons, and aim to be done our school work by lunchtime so that we all have the afternoons to do things that we’re interested in individually.
Our Morning Basket is pretty fluid right now also – it changes often, and we’re not super rigid about how we go about getting throught the materials. But on a typical day, our Morning Basket includes:
* History read aloud
* Family read aloud
* Artist Study
* Mindfulness practice
Beyond those subjects, we’ll rotate in other books or subjects as we are interested or come across things.
This is how the day goes RIGHT NOW, but I am hoping to be a bit more planned next year – I recently purchased from Simply Charlotte Mason “Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education”, and it’s WONDERFUL. I am definitely working on plans for next year, using this really thorough approach from SCM to getting the plan finished. With my oldest heading into 5th grade in the upcoming year, he will be doing a bit more of his work independently – meaning, I need to be able to stay on top of HIS assignments and readings, as well as our family subjects.
Complete the sentence: Our homeschooling happens mostly at…
Mostly, since the Charlotte Mason method relies a lot on reading, our lessons are done together on the sofa. Math and writing happen at the kitchen table, and art and nature study happen in the backyard as much as possible.
What have you picked for your curriculum next year?
This is an area where I’m not concretely decided on anything just yet. There are some things I know we’ll be using, and some topics that we plan to cover. Those are:
- Language Arts – Brave Writer will be our main language arts program as well as adding in some projects from WriteShop Junior D. You can click here to read about my top THREE Brave Writer Products!
- Math – undecided for next year – but leaning towards Math U See.
- Science – Joy Hakim’s Story of Science, scientist biographies, and Charlotte Mason’s style nature study.
- History – Donna Ward’s Canadian Native history, early Canadian history through living books, as well as starting Gombrich’s Little History of the World. We will keep a Book of Centuries as well.
- Charlotte Mason “Feast” subjects – this is my favourite thing to teach, and my kids’ favourite thing to learn! This is where we “spread the feast” of beautiful knowledge – poetry, composers, and artist studies as well as our read-aloud books from wonderful children’s literature. A lot of the specifics haven’t been decided on in this area as of yet, but most will be included in our Morning Basket time. We plan to continue using Simply Charlotte Mason’s Art Study Portfolios, and will add in their Composer Study packets as well. For poetry, I haven’t decided if we will study one poet for each term, or if we will just read through a compilation.
- Foreign Language – as of yet undecided. I know that we will be continuing on with our Latin, but will change-up our curriculum. I also will pick a “living” language in addition to Latin. Given that we live in an area with a large French-Canadian population, we will probably choose French to start with.
List 3 books about homeschooling that really impacted you.
1. Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert. This book was one of the first I read, and it was definitely impacting in how I now look at homeschooling. While I am a true believer in the Charlotte Mason method, and that is our main guiding philosophy, I also happen to have one child who NEEDS to work with his hands and do physical projects. So PBH was a great read for me, in understanding how he can be supported in his learning.
2. A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. While I have definitely decided that it’s better for my family that I stick to Charlotte’s Original Homeschool Series when it comes to making decisions about our plans and methods, A Charlotte Mason Companion was instrumental to me in finally taking a big deep breath and saying “Yes. I CAN do this.” It’s written by subject/topic so you can just flip through to what you want to learn more about, and not feel overwhelmed by having to read it cover to cover. It really has been an important book in my homeschool and my planning and was a huge source of encouragement to me.
3. Penny Gardner’s “Secular Charlotte Mason Study Guide” has become a constant resource that is almost always sitting at my desk. I love the large selection of quotes directly from Charlotte Mason, and I adore that Penny Gardner has offered up a secular version of her Study Guide for those of us who follow a different spiritual path. This is not common, and I deeply appreciate her consideration of us “Secular Charlotte Mason” families. If you’re interested in learning more about our secular take on Charlotte Mason, CLICK HERE to learn about my favourite secular Charlotte Mason resources!
Your family is going on an unplanned trip, not much time to pack, you must homeschool the kids while traveling and you can only take 5 of your homeschooling resources/books with you. What would you take?
- Nature Journal Bag (this might be cheating because our bag is always ready to go with sketchbooks, art supplies, and field guides!)
- Our favourite poetry book – The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems
- Copywork books
- The Chronicles of Narnia (it counts! I have it all in a one-volume book!)
- Little History of the World by Gombrich
If you had the chance to start homeschooling all over again today with the knowledge and experience you have now, what would you do differently?
I would not let a bad day, week, or even month, completely debilitate me. I had no idea, NO IDEA, that some days would be tough, and some would just be terrible. Not every single day has been hard – but it took me a long time before I stopped feeling totally paralyzed by bad days, bad moods, and bad attitudes. Being with each other 24/7 is really really difficult, and I think I went into homeschooling completely unprepared for what that really meant. It’s really easy to go into new adventures with starry-eyed optimism – and we SHOULD feel optimistic and excited about homeschooling. But at the same time, no one prepared me for how exhausting and overwhelming some days can feel.
I also would trust myself more. I would trust my KIDS more.
Again, it took me a while before I felt really comfortable in my ability to homeschool, and in my ability to implement this Charlotte Mason method in ways that honoured who my children and I are and what we need. So knowing what I know now, I would have put more trust in myself and my children to know what we needed and what worked – and listened LESS to the many other voices who told us what we “should” do or “should not” do.
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Thanks for sharing Nadine!
You don’t hear very often from secular Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, so I really appreciated your perspective. I’d be interested to know how you end up covering French in your homeschool — it is the area in ours that I am the least satisfied with. This past year we have taken a weekly French class with friends, but I’m not sure it has been all that effective, and takes us away from home (and our other studies!) for a half day with my kids each getting only 30 minutes of French during that time. If the class is still an option next year, it will likely involve a 45 minute drive. I’m not sure it’s worth it 🙁
If you come across any excellent French resources, please let me know!
Thanks Alison! I’m so cautious to ‘teach’ French, because after growing up in rural Newfoundland for the first half of my life – I can barely pronounce some english words clearly! The proper pronunciation of French is really hard for me. I can read it and write it a bit, and can understand when my French-Canadian family members are speaking French, but to say the words myself? Brutal lol. I have been looking around, but haven’t decided on a curriculum yet. Although “SPeaking French with Miss Mason and Francois” looks like a gentle way to start. I think Memoria Press has a decent looking French program as well. So, basically, I’m totally undecided at this point!