At the beginning of our homeschool journey, I realized that things were not going the way I wanted. I had envisioned this happy homeschool full of fun, field trips, learning, and togetherness. I had researched all the homeschooling methods, read dozens of curriculum reviews, and bookmarked page after page of homeschooler bloggers. I spent hours that summer putting all the lesson plans into a software program I had used during my teaching years. I had each day laid out with breaks smattered throughout.
I had a plan – a beautiful, detailed, typed-out plan.
It was fail-proof.
That is – until it failed.
When at First You Don’t Succeed…
I wasn’t going to let a little failure derail my happy homeschool vision. So, I threw out half the curriculum and started over. I jumped back on the horse and came up with a NEW beautiful, detailed, typed-out plan. This plan was destined to succeed. And it did – sort of.
We managed to get through the year, but some days were touch-and-go. We had fun, field trips, learning, and togetherness, but they weren’t often, and they weren’t always at the same time. I realized I had lost my joy in the idea of homeschooling, and I feared my children had, too.
So, I did what any determined homeschool mom would do. I began to research how to solve my problem. I knew I loved the idea of a Charlotte Mason homeschool, but I was getting bogged down in all the rules. I couldn’t see the beauty in it anymore. Then one day, I heard a speaker with one seemingly simple idea that would turn my thinking upside-down (or perhaps right-side up).
You don’t have to be a purist
The speaker was the fabulous Julie Bogart. I was initially interested in her talk because I have a “reluctant writer.” I say reluctant, but that sounds a bit mild. She refused to write more than one or two sentences for any assignment. I was frustrated and convinced I was failing at keeping my child from becoming an illiterate adult who would live with me into her 30’s and never be able to hold down a job.
But, I digress.
What Julie said that day was pretty simple. You don’t have to be a purist to follow Charlotte Mason. In fact, she encouraged us to take the parts we loved about the philosophy and set the rest to the side. I was relieved. Our homeschool was struggling to follow all the rules of a 19th century home educator. But, Julie asked me to invite Miss Mason into the 21st century and make homeschooling our own.
A Relaxed Charlotte Mason Lifestyle
The Charlotte Mason philosophy comprises many different parts, but they all revolve around the focus that “Children are born persons” and “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Some of the parts of a Charlotte Mason Homeschool are:
- Living Books
- Nature Study
- Art Study
- Music Study
- Poetry Study
- Shakespeare Study
These are some of the core ideas of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. For a Relaxed Charlotte Mason Homeschool, pick the ones that appeal to you. We took Miss Mason’s ideas and enhanced them. For example, instead of a strict poetry study, we have Poetry Teatime once a month. Here are some of our ways of bringing Charlotte into the 21st century.
These guidelines are not meant to be implemented all-at-once or even all-at-anytime. They are suggestions to help you add some joy to your homeschool; to help you relax and reconnect with your kids.
How can you add this philosophy to your life and bring back the joy stifled from your homeschool?
There is no right way to implement the lifestyle. Each family has to come up with a plan that works for them. Some enjoy adding movies and television. Others add games to their daily life. The truth is that you have to try each out for yourself and see what sticks. Maybe your kids simply don’t love Poetry Teatime. That’s ok. However, they may love freewriting. And while you’re finding out all these amazing things about your kids, you may discover a few new things about yourself.
My girls love Poetry Teatime. They enjoyed it when it was just us, their cocoa, and a few snacks. But when they discovered they could invite friends, Poetry Teatime jumped to a whole new level of awesome.
It all began when we decided to invite the homeschool cousins to Poetry Teatime. The problem? They lived two states away. But with modern technology, we were able to circumvent this issue and meet anyway. Thank you, FaceTime.
We met at least once a month to sip on cocoa or lemonade, eat some fun treats, and read our favorite poetry. Then one day, we went to visit the cousins in South Carolina, and a new magical world opened up to us — tea that was delicious and properly served.
Having Poetry Teatime in a Tea Room was beyond exciting for the girls (even those of us who are a tiny bit older). We learned what tea we liked, how to brew and serve tea, how to properly wear a hat, and even how to sit when addressing the Queen.
Since then, we have spiced things up and added a Poetry Teatime with our homeschool group. We meet once a month with other homeschoolers. Children are encouraged to bring poems they want to share, but they are always welcome just to sit and listen while enjoying the snacks.
Slowly, we have added in poetry discussions and freewrites. I am amazed at the change that has come over some of these children. The boys who once sat in the corner giving me a look like “Mom made me come” are now sharing poems and freewriting them during Poetry Teatime.
By adding themes to the Poetry Teatimes, we have upped the “pixie dust” level and created an atmosphere of anticipation.
- What will be next month’s Poetry Teatime?
- What will the decorations be like?
- What type of poem will we be writing?
Now, I have the kids interested in poetry all by adding a little excitement.
Living Books, Copywork, and Dictation
In our home, living books encompass not just our reading of novels, but of science, history, geography, and other subjects. Living books are those that are written in a narrative style and bring interest to the topic. Here are a few that we are reading at the moment:
Each week the children copy passages from their book into their journals, and we discuss the grammar relevant to that passage. Later that week, the girls will transcribe the selection using Dictation or French Dictation (a modified dictation with the quote already copied with keywords and punctuation left for the student to fill in). The girls then review and correct their own work.
This method has worked so much better for us than the traditional spelling list and weekly test. The girls understand the words and grammar in context. It makes sense to them, so they retain what they’ve learned.
Writing Projects, Journaling, and Freewriting
When we aren’t working on a project, we work on our journals. Journaling is a great way to get the writing juices flowing without worrying about grammar or composition.
Remember that I mentioned I have a reluctant writer? Well, according to her, she still “HATES WRITING!!”. However, she writes in her journal each week and doesn’t even realize she is completing a writing project.
Some examples include a writing project in our Enola Holmes book club using ciphers and another with homonyms.
Freewriting has been a blessing in our homeschool. Giving my budding writers free rein over their writing has given them the freedom to express themselves and write for much longer than the mandated “5 minutes.”
The rules are pretty simple. Pencils move for the entire 5 minutes (even if you are writing, “I hate this. I hate this. I hate this.”). You can stop at the end of the 5 minutes or keep going. You are welcome to share your freewrite, but you also may choose not to share. Both are acceptable. Moms are encouraged to freewrite along with their children. Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are ignored for this exercise. It’s all about the storytelling.
I’m not a writing expert, but something about a timer and the freedom to write her name 100 times has given my daughter a new lease on writing. She frequently writes for much longer than 5 minutes. She has written lengthy stories with colorful descriptions, and all while convinced that she hates writing.
In good weather, we will do Nature Study around once a week. I’ll admit we don’t do a lot of writing in our journals. We’re more of amateur artists and occasional documenters of pretty leaves and the odd shell.
We’ve learned to enjoy nature study more when we engage with our friends. So, I started Nature Book Clubs with our local homeschoolers and have added a fun picture book and activities. The kids have a blast and learn about the great outdoors all at the same time.
Art & Music Appreciation and Shakespeare Study
There are several ways to incorporate art appreciation into your homeschool. Artbooks and art cards are “strewn” throughout the house on coffee tables and in our morning basket. Several of these we use for Picture Study during our Morning Meetup. My girls love to go to museums and study pieces of art. I strongly encourage “fieldschooling” to a local museum or art gallery to expose your children to beautiful and interesting art.
Listening to different music genres while we work and learning about composers are some of the ways we add music appreciation to our homeschool. Studying opera and then attending a performance of La Boheme is something we all enjoyed (well, maybe not Dad as much. He hadn’t studied it with us and had to read all the subtitles). We also enjoy adding online music courses to our music study.
Each spring, we begin our Shakespeare study by picking one or two plays. When my daughters were young, we concentrated on light-hearted fare like A Midsummer Night’s Eve. They have also enjoyed Romeo and Juliet and were morbidly fascinated by Macbeth.
Because the language is sometimes a bit difficult, we read excerpts from the original plays and then read abridged versions like Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Readers. Then we attend a live production of the play, if possible, or watch a movie version.
Games have been the saving grace of the mundane winter months. The period between Christmas and the first days of Spring can drag any homeschool down. At this point, I’m ready to throw out everything and purchase a bunch of workbooks to make my life simple. Adding games to our curriculum gives us all a bit of a mental break and helps us get through the miserable winter months.
Party School and Book Clubs
But, my favorite parts of a Relaxed Charlotte Mason Lifestyle are “Party School” and Book Clubs, which aren’t one of the guiding principles of Charlotte Mason but are definitely recommended. It is my firm belief that any time you can add food, decorations, and the occasional costume, anyone will suddenly enjoy whatever you are teaching.
At the end of our history studies, we add party school to celebrate the time period we just studied. We’ve added party school by simply adding a day to celebrate a holiday.
And we’ve added party school to celebrate the birthday of a beloved author.
We also have “Party School” after each book we finish. This is in the form of our Book Clubs. One of the most asked questions I get is, “How do you plan book clubs?” It’s really not that hard, but it does take a lot of extra planning and time. But, the kids will agree that it is completely worth it.
There is no right or wrong way to host a book club. The goal is for the kids to have fun and become excited about the next book on their reading journey.
Inviting a Relaxing Atmosphere into your home.
This is how we implement a Relaxed Charlotte Mason Lifestyle in our home. In your home, it may not look like this. The most important part of this lifestyle is connecting with your kids and creating a relaxed, inviting atmosphere in your home. When you connect with your kids, the important conversations come easier and more frequently. The language of your family becomes richer.
Have questions about implementing a Relaxed Charlotte Mason Lifestyle in your home? Comment below, and I will be happy to answer.
Hi, I’m Dachelle. I’m a homeschooling mom of 3 in the South. I love chocolate and have been known to hide it from my children. I can often be found reading a good book (or even sometimes just an okay book) and enjoying a jar of Nutella — don’t judge. I blog, here, at HideTheChocolate.com when I’m not creating book clubs and making lists…lots and lots of lists (it’s an addiction). Learn more…