Monday, August 25, 2014

Nature Study Resources

What an amazing gift: "The Big Handbook of Nature Study" FREE! It's so big, they had to divide it into six parts. This link will take you to the page that has all six parts for a convenient download.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When Children Love to Learn - Chapter Two

Chapter 2 is entitled, "The Child Is a Person" by Jack Beckman. While it is not as well written (in my opinion) as the first chapter of the book, it is filled with quotations from Miss Mason's A Philosophy of Education and other CM scholars.

The main takeaway from this chapter is that we, as teachers, are to see students/children as people. Beckman explains,
The child is born a person—not an object to be manipulated as the behaviorist believes. Not a rudderless and morally neutral explorer as the cognitive theorist would think. Nor  an animal at the mercy of drives beyond his or her control as believed by the Freudian theorist. But rather a person made in the image of God, both active and interactive in his or her own life and learning. Fully a person, not a person "to become" (pp. 57-58).
At first glance, it seems such a simple concept, one might easily skip over this chapter thinking, "Well, duh! I knew that!" But it's not that easy. We have been conditioned by society to believe that children are either empty vessels to be filled (by us), clay to be molded (by us), or little monsters to be controlled (by us).  Charlotte Mason truly grasped the true nature of the personhood of a child, and went to great pains to explain it to the rest of us who have never contemplated the implications of this particular facet of our worldview.

The child is a PERSON. My son whom I homeschool is a person. He came into the world a person with a voracious appetite to learn, but also as one who lacked the necessary skills and street-smarts to accomplish the task without self destructing. Our role as parents and teachers is to recognize that this life which has been loaned to us truly is not ours to mold, shape, or chisel. It's a life in which we participate as a guide and life coach. We help the child discover safe boundaries in order to avoid the pitfalls of this fallen world, but we are not there to stop him from falling. We are there to encourage him to get back up again, keep trying, and remember who he is in Christ.

Homeschooling ca. 2010
Little one probably enjoying
Our goal as teachers is to train the child in the habits of attentiveness, respect, and responsibility. We want to encourage their taking responsibility for their own learning: "'It is their business to know that which has been taught' with no repetition" (p. 63). We need to keep ourselves out of the way of their learning—this applies both in the classroom and outside of it, in real life, where the rubber meets the road, and life gets hard. We cannot step in and solve conflict for them, because in doing so, it hinders their ability to grow into maturity.

In addition to staying out of the way of a child's learning so as not to hinder it, we must also daily fight the urge to control them through manipulation, strong suggestion or influence, or undue play upon a particular desire (p. 64). We cannot treat our children as animals seeking to condition their behavior as if they were one of Pavlov's dogs.

The truth is, I am VERY guilty of this type of "conditioning," and now I can see that it's very likely I have stunted growth in certain areas through this bribery. I have offered rewards for doing math facts accurately and faster, and he earned every reward! But then what happened? As soon as the reward was achieved, the behavior went right back to the way it was before the incentive. I realize hind-sight is 20/20, and it's easy to look at this now and see why it went wrong; however, I think many of us parents who are just trying our best to get along in life and raise our kids the best way we know how often resort to bribery with regards to behavior, school work, grades, and other necessary habits. Upon reflection, I was raised that way, too.

So, to step away from this model, and put the responsibility for learning and excelling onto the child—expecting him to motivate himself to do better—this is going to require a lot of work on my part. Beckman summarizes this by explaining:
It is through the process of discipleship and relationship that we must make our plea—calling the heart of the child to duty to self, authority, and dominion-seeking in right ways. It is truly showing the child his own responsibility to choose and to act as a thinking, responding, relational person (p. 65).
Isn't that what we all want? Children who accept responsibility for their thoughts, responses and relationships? Of course, it is what we have been working for since they were born. But maybe we've been taking a less-than-stellar approach to parenting and education. I don't think I'm a complete failure at parenting, none of us is; however, I am willing to admit when I discover an area in my life that needs some fine-tuning, tweaking, or a major overhaul.

My goal is to see my child as a person. Not a "mini me" or a "mini hubby" or a "mini combo." He is his own person, given to us to raise in order that he might have a fighting chance in this life. A fighting chance to be fulfilled and to make a difference in this crazy world. It's not my job to mold him into the person I want him to be. It's my job to help him figure that out for himself. Yay!

Burden = Lifted = Relief.

Ahhhh. :)

Thank you, Charlotte Mason!

"Common Sense" with Living Books and DVDs

I just got a "sign" that we're still on the right track.

My son was wanting to stay up so he could read. This is pretty normal, only usually it's a Star Wars novel. But he's reading on his kindle, which is RARE...and he didn't want to tell us what he was reading.
After about an hour, he came out to the living room, grabbed a handful of pennies, and said, "Mom, if you had any common (jingle jingle), you'd know what I'm reading."


My son—on his own, during summer break—was in my office reading "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine!!! Not only that, he then came over to me, and had me look up a quote he had memorized, because he wanted that Thomas Paine book, too!!! WHAT???

When I pulled up the page, in addition to the different volumes of Paine's works, there was one called "The Ultimate Collection: All Works Plus Letters and Rarities Plus Biography"—over 1000 pages long. "THAT'S the one I want you to order, Mom!" Seriously? Yes, he was serious. And he'll read it. He might not read the entire book, but I don't really care if he reads every page. (It was only $0.99 for the Kindle.) I'm just glad he WANTS to read it!

How did he discover Thomas Paine, and why in the world is he so interested in reading his works? Well, it started with a video series I purchased last Spring on American History, "Liberty's Kids." Lately, he's been watching it whenever he can—especially in the van when we're driving around town. This is quite the switch from playing Terraria and Minecraft all the time. So, his interest in American History has been piqued, and his comment last night was, "Well, they keep talking about what he wrote, and I just figured I'd read his books. He might not sound that smart, but he sure can write!"

I'm just beside myself. It's finally some tangible confirmation that we are doing the right thing homeschooling him and an affirmation of the Charlotte Mason method all rolled into one.

So, I'm going to highly recommend Liberty's Kids DVDs. The 4-DVD set (with over 20 episodes) is on sale now only $5.00. It's an animated series with very famous actors doing the voices taking you through the American Revolution from the establishment of the colonies through George Washington as President.

There's also a website for more fun:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Children Love to Learn - Chapter 1

So, I'm reading through the book When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today edited by Elaine Cooper. In order for me to get the most out of this book, I've decided that I should take a few minutes to summarize and reflect on each chapter as I complete it. Maybe this blog will be of some benefit to someone out there who's trying to get his or her head wrapped around Charlotte Mason without having to purchase DVDs or spend hours reading books and browsing bottomless websites.

The book is divided into two main parts: theory and practicum. Part One makes up the bulk of the book spanning pages 19-205, and it is divided up into five major areas:
  1. The Value of Charlotte Mason's Work for Today- Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  2. The Child Is a Person - Jack Beckman
  3. Four Pillars of Education - Various contributors
  4. Distinctives of a Charlotte Mason Education (16 distinctives) - Various Contributors
  5. Broader Application of Charlotte Mason's Teaching Principles - Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
Part Two is entitled "An Applied Philosophy" and rounds out the theory by providing scope, sequence, sample timetables for a day in the life of a homeschooler, reading suggestions, etc.  This section is filled with charts and practical recommendations and fills less than 30 pages.

The preface and first chapter basically served as a history and overview of the Charlotte Mason Method along with painting a clear picture of what a peaceful, enjoyable homeschool education could be even today in the 21st century. As I was reading it, I felt as if I were sitting outside in a peaceful, quiet place—under a tree with just enough sunshine to keep me warm and just enough breeze to keep me from being hot. It was a serene time of taking in truth, and this made me want to sit down and reflect before diving into chapter two.

This concept of taking in truth is something extrapolated upon in the first chapter. Macaulay quotes Elsie Kitching (private secretary to Miss Mason and critical to building up the PNEU schools which used the Charlotte Mason Method):
When we meet the truth, we notice I think, three things. First, that like a jigsaw, the pieces fit into place unexpectedly. Lesser truths dawn, and are seen to be connected; it all ties up. Then, we shrink in size as we see ourselves and our problems from a different and strange angle and like those algebraical numbers with recurring indices, more and more dawns on us. This might be a depressing process but it is not so because truth is always bigger than man and independent of self. Yet—and this is what strikes me most—although alien in this sense, strange and surprising, truth is always a friend; the stranger is recognized, the surprise is joyful. An old acquaintance! (p. 21)
Learning about the Charlotte Mason Method (CMM) had exactly this effect on me: It was like meeting an old friend.

The truths contained in this chapter resonated with my soul, and I'm actually looking forward to homeschool this year.

I needed the reminder that "all children enter into relationships with people" and that children are sensitive to our attitudes as their parents/teachers. Macaulay says, "Children recoil from cold, judgmental legalism that is only interested in crushing out their vitality with rules and regulations. Pride and arrogance will send them running out of the room or retreating into an inner remoteness, as does sarcasm that humiliates or ridicules them. These attitudes are terribly wrong and do much harm to children" (p. 31). I needed this reminder, because I was raised in an extremely sarcastic environment, and when left unchecked, I often revert into teasing and jibing and forgetting that my son has not been raised this way. When I make sarcastic comments, they actually hurt his feelings—which is a sign for me that (1) I've done an okay job parenting, because he's not used to the sarcasm; and (2) I need to check what's making me revert into pain-causing behavior. 90% of the time, my sarcastic attitude is coming from a place inside of myself that feels ill-equipped, insecure, and ashamed—and, more than likely, sleep-deprived. NOT the place from which I should be correcting my child.

One of the keys to understanding the CMM is to understand that "together the teacher and child are under a higher authority. The child should not be asked to be good to please a parent or teacher. Children and the adults both must choose to obey God. Both are learning how to be better people, and both children and adults are interested and learning from books, nature, art, music" (p. 34). The CMM is founded on the principle that children are people, and while they are not our equals, they are under the same authority we are; they are created in the image of God, same as us. Success in the CMM can only be found through healthy relationships.
Charlotte Mason's educational ideal was not to remove us from the ordinary, but to enrich us, each one, with the best possible relationships—relationships with God, with people in our family and community, with others through their books, art, or music, and with God's creation. (p. 35)
We recognize that each child is different, and every child is different from us. Each child has his/her own interests, learning styles, senses of humor, needs. The CMM allows us to tailor our educational program to the child, focusing on what they're interested in learning through living books, narrations, outdoor experiences with nature, and creating products through handicrafts. And while we're walking with them through this process, we are also learning; and in joint learning, our vital relationships with our own children are deepened exponentially. 

Teaching children to remember things has more to do with their experience with the subject than it does words spoken by me, the teacher. In fact, the more I talk, the less they remember. (Okay, that was not in the book, but I'm pretty sure it should have been.) Macaulay observed, "If you read this interesting story and leave it as finished, the child continues thinking about it. We all do children a massive disservice when we 'chew' over the material and 'spit the pulp' out for them...Charlotte Mason discovered, let the children remember because they took it in themselves. Let them think their own thoughts about it. Let them respond (in narration, with questions, ideas)" (p. 41). I'm guilty of over-analyzing text with my son, and that stops today. I will let him chew on it himself. I will let him think about it and come up with his own ideas and questions about it. I'm still here if he needs me, but I'm done trying to help train him to think through it.

The main goal of a Charlotte Mason education is to instill within the child a love for learning, a freedom to express oneself, and an understanding of who he/she is as a child of God.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How We Got Started in Homeschooling

Way back in 2009 when I first began homeschooling,  I had no idea what I was doing. Due to a variety of circumstances, we pulled our son out of the small, private school in which he had been enrolled for kindergarten and first grade, and began the journey of homeschooling. At that time, I honestly thought I'd only be homeschooling for—at most—a year.
2nd grade "classroom area" at home
Like I said, when I first started homeschooling, I had no idea what to do. We were coming out of a Classical Christian school which stressed rigor, discipline, chanting, Latin, etc. I tried re-creating the classroom at home, and we did well for the first year. We did all the schoolwork at a desk, covered all subjects every day, and it was fun for a while. But eventually, the "need" to do school just like they did at the other school started to fade into the background, and we started to spread our wings. Once I realized the benefits of a flexible schedule, and moving around the house, I started loosening up a bit.

In the midst of this, a new friend introduced me to Charlotte Mason by giving me a large book to read and a massive "Rainbow Resources" catalog. She probably had 30+ tabs in that catalog, and I was completely overwhelmed. I think I read or skimmed the book, ordered my own catalog, and returned everything to her. I continued doing what I had already started, tracking with the classical school in the off chance that we re-enrolled him the next year. But then we moved across the country and decided we'd better continue for one more year. And then that year turned into two which turned into three, and so on.

6th grade Titanic exhibit a the local library
As time marched on and we became more comfortable in our homeschooling journey, I investigated other methods and found that I had a bent towards "unschooling," although I was pretty uncomfortable trying to explain that to friends who were paying thousands of dollars a year to have their children in private school.

Last Spring, I was kinda at the end of my rope. I was desperate for some support (everyone I know who homeschools is doing a program called "Classical Conversations" which puts every child on the same track). I searched and found a wonderful support group called the "Charlotte Mason Club" led by an amazing homeschooling mom, Alba Rice. I'm so grateful for her support and willingness to facilitate an online forum once a month. Finding that group has been exactly what I needed to revitalize my struggling homeschool program and get my focus back where it needs to be: the relationship with my son.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Videos about the Respiratory System

Here are a few videos with simple introductions to the Respiratory System for children. My favorite is from the Magic Box Animation Studio. The narrator is an Indian lady with perfect enunciation and a friendly and attention-grabbing disposition--every engaging for the kiddos:

Another video with easy-to-understand animation (including subtitles) is: The narrator has a British accent, so he pronounces some of the words differently than we do here in America. However, since it has subtitles, it's easy to figure out what he's referring to (e.g: "capillaries").

By far, the best video and most-informative, creation-based presentation is called The Miracle of Respiration. According to the person who uploaded it, The Miracle of Respiration " a seven part series about the repertory system. Each part focuses on one particular section of the flawless system and explains why a creator designed the system."

The videos are wonderfully informative with absolutely amazing graphics and animation and a SOLID theistic creation worldview. The narration is easy to understand, and it promotes a Christian/Jewish/Islamic worldview and "the incomparable art of God's creation" and the "perfection of God's creation." Throughout the entire series, there are many references to God as Creator as well as proof  against Darwinism and evolution.  

Every once in a while, during the video, there is an ad that pops up referring to "Harun Yahya" (which is the pen name of a man Adnan Oktar). He is an influential Muslim teacher and author who is a staunch believer in God as our Creator. There are only a few places in the seven YouTube videos where there is anything at all that would identify them as having been produced by a Muslim, and they can easily be skipped as they are located at the end of various sections. (See my notes about "How to skip to the end" of YouTube videos.)

I see nothing wrong with watching these videos and bypassing the parts where they quote the Qu'ran. I would hate to miss out on the opportunity to show these amazing videos just because I don't read or teach the Qu'ran. The videos are amazing!!! But remember to pay attention, watch the videos with your child(ren), and be ready to "skip to the end" on parts 2, 4, 5, 6, and end early on 7.  


  1. Pause the video at the appropriate time marker (shown as the first number next to the volume control in the YouTube player).
  2. Drag the round place holder--which should be showing you where in the timeline the video was paused--to the end of the video timeline. (To do this, you will need to hover over the place marker, click and drag to the end, then release or "unclick" the mouse.)
  3. Press PLAY. This will play the last second of that video segment and bring up a video montage where you can click to view the next "part" in the series. The next part usually shows up automatically in the top left-hand corner of the montage. If you hover, the title will appear. Simply click it to get on with the show.

IMPORTANT: Before you show this video series to your child(ren), please be sure to read my notes on parts 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Part 1: Breathing

Part 2: The Nose
There is a quote from the Qu'ran at 9:21 in Part 2. You can easily skip that when you get to 9:19 (right after the narrator says, "God created you."). Skip to the end and head on to the next video; you won't miss anything except the quote from the Qu'ran.

Part 3: The Windpipe

Part 4: The Lungs 
There is a quote from the Qu'ran at 7:40 in Part 4. You can easily skip that when you get to 7:38 (right after the narrator says,"God's part of creation is flawless and incomparable.") Skip to the end and head on to the next video; you won't miss anything except the quote from the Qu'ran.

Part 5: Hemoglobin
There is a quote from the Qu'ran at 6:13 in Part 5. You can easily skip that when you get to 6:09 (right after the narrator says,"Even a hemoglobin molecule on its own is evidence of the invalidity of the theory of evolution and proof of the perfection of God's creation.") Skip to the end and head on to the next video; you won't miss anything except the quote from the Qu'ran.

Part 6: The Brain
There is a quote from the Qu'ran at 4:46 in Part 6. You can easily skip that when you get to 4:43 (right after the narrator says,"The flawless and interconnected systems work and serve beyond the individual's control, will, and knowledge.") Skip to the end and head on to the next video; you won't miss anything except the quote from the Qu'ran.

Part 7: Conclusion
There are three different stopping points with the conclusion:
  • Option 1: End at 1:30The first logical end could be at 1:30, right after the narrator says, "A person's taking just one single breath is a great miracle requiring gratitude to God."
  • Option 2: End at 1:54You could continue watching and end the video at 1:54, right after the narrator says, "Until God claims your soul back in the same way that He gave it to you." Personally, I find this scene a little disturbing, because it looks like someone is dying, taking his last breath. But, it's powerful, too...use your own judgment on ending here.
  • Option 3: End at 2:26
    Final stopping point for non-Muslims would be at 2:26, right after the narrator says, "When that day comes, when you take your last breath, you will have to give account for everything you did and every blessing given to you throughout your life." The screen fades to black at 2:27, and it's a logical stopping point. Otherwise, you'll be getting into Islamic theology and quotes from the Qu'ran will be hard to skip, because there's not much time to pause the video.
In my own "conclusion," I would like to highly recommend this video for homeschooling parents who want their child(ren) to understand the respiratory system. Just pay attention to the stopping points, and don't be afraid to skip to the end. If you've never done it before, practice with Part 2. This way, you can practice skipping to the end and going to the next video. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Videos/Animations about the Heart & Lungs

Videos & Animated resources for demonstrating how the heart works. Ventricles, valves, blood flow, and lungs are the stars of these presentations. These would be appropriate for upper elementary students. (Technical, but very good cross-cut animation. The first part is great. The end is too technical getting into how pacemakers work.) (Decent animation with a guy in a doctor’s uniform explaining the animation.) (Shows the “route” of a single red blood cell demonstrating how it goes from the left to the right through the body & back again.)

I just discovered "Magic Box Abirami" on YouTube
Sooo cute! GREAT animations & narrations for young children about every part of the body.

HEART (adorable heart animation with Indian narrator – explains why hearts beat faster sometimes, and shows the importance of exercise, eating healthy foods, etc.)