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Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival – How To Use School Books

Welcome to the latest edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival!

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Homeschooling today may look different on the outside than it did back when Charlotte Mason was alive on the earth. But, when you get to the heart of homeschooling, the nitty gritty of teaching children, it comes down to just a couple of things that have remained the same. Choosing good books to expose your children to during their growing years and then offering those books in a way that make them reach their hearts.

Charlotte Mason shared her thoughts on this topic in Volume 3 of her writings. I invite you to take a few minutes and read through the information, gleaning some new points to apply in your teaching. Volume Three Chapter 16: How to Use School Books You can see the previous Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival on this same theme from earlier this month here: I Will Lift Up My Eyes Unto The Hills

Narration question cards

Here is an entry from my archives: Forming a Good Question: A Different Kind of Narration. In this post I share how I applied one of the thoughts in the How To Use School Books section of Volume 3.

“My son would read one of his books, mark down some notes as he read in the margins of the book, and then instead of completing his usual oral or written narration or summary of the information covered, he would make up two to three questions about what he had just read. This gave him a new way to internalize the new information and facts he had covered for the day.”

Charlotte Mason to the rescue

I would also invite you to read this important post from my archives: Is It Me Or Is It Them? Charlotte Mason’s Ideas to the Rescue. I hope you find my revelation helpful in your family.

“We have worked on habits and made a good base for our current studies. They know how to read and write with confidence. All along the way we have encouraged them to think and ask questions. Now as teenagers, they are going to be expected to work a little harder, to “make judgments and discriminate”.



Mama Squirrel from Dewey’s Treehouse shares the first installment based on the carnival’s topic: Using School Books With Charlotte Mason. In this entry she gets right to the heart of the matter, sharing a few points that shed some light on the application of the information in Volume 6.  I invite to read a thought from her article below and then continue to read for gems to apply in your family.

“We are looking for subjects and studies that encourage the development of intellectual habit and “muscle,” but (she says about three times here), it’s not about “faculties,” it’s about “persons” and relationships.  Making connections.  Discovering “other minds.”


French Notebook Journey and Destination

Next there is a post from Carol from Journey and Destination: French Lessons, Vocabulary and Folk Songs. In this post, you will find some practical tips and resources to use with your family, including her French Notebook.

“This year I’ve started keeping a French notebook. Better late than never and I must say that it has been very helpful. I was inspired by the words above to make our French language learning more in keeping with the ideas Charlotte Mason had on foreign language acquisition.”

Archipelago grab button 3

Now for Anne White’s entry from the Archipelago blog: Making Sense of Everybody’s Learning. She shares some thoughtful reflections on the book, Making Sense of Adult Learning.

“In other words, it’s not about the teacher, and it’s not even (primarily) about the content: it’s about the meaning and connections that the student makes with that content.  The science of relations, self-education.”

Chickory from Joyous Lessons

Celeste from Joyous Lessons is hoping you enjoy her entry: Nature Study Outing-Tiny Finds at the Park. They found some new things to learn about on their refreshing nature outing.

“I promised them a half hour swinging and sliding if we spent a few minutes hunting down wildflowers first.  It was a fruitful little outing; we found a new flower for our life list…”


Our family enjoyed has enjoyed keeping track of our summer birds. I invite you to pop over and read all about it on the Handbook of Nature Study: Summer Bird List 2014.

“The bird story of the summer is the story of the house finch. We have discovered that in the evening, just at dusk, we have a flock of house finches flying from all directions to roost for the night in our Sweet Gum tree on the side of the house.”

Classical Mamas Read - Home Education

My friend Amy Maze over at Living and Learning is hosting a Charlotte Mason themed link-up. Participants are reading through the Home Education book by Charlotte Mason. I invite you to pop over and take a look at each of the chapter’s discussions.

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

You can contribute to the next Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival by sending in your CM related entries to this email address: [email protected]

The next edition will be at Simply Charlotte Mason!

“An Appreciative Look or Comment”

How to Use the Right Books (according to Charlotte Mason)

“So much for how to tell which are the right books. The right way to use them is another matter. The children need to enjoy the book. Each of the ideas in the book needs to make a sudden delightful impact on the child’s mind, causing an intellectual awakening that signifies that an idea has been born. The teacher’s role in this is to see and feel for himself, and then to prompt his students with an appreciative look or comment. But he needs to be careful that he doesn’t deaden the impression of the idea with too much talking. Intellectual sympathy is stimulating, but we’ve all been like the little girl who said, ‘Mom, I think I’d be able to understand it if you’d stop explaining so much.’ One teacher said this about a student–‘I find it so hard to tell whether she’s really grasped the concept, or whether she just knows the mechanics of getting the right answer.’ Children are like little monkeys. All they usually get from a flood of explanations is the trick of coming up with the right answer.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, pg 179

Sometimes when you are reading from Charlotte Mason’s books you have moments where it becomes clear that you are in need of some changes in your own attitude. We can agonize over what books to offer our children and then mess it up by explaining them too much or by trying to quiz them to see if they know all the “right answers”. We can train them to be like little monkeys….or so Charlotte Mason says.

We are currently reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I actually am reading this book for the very first time and trying to experience what my boys go through as they read a well written novel with wonderful characters and a plot that keeps you wondering what will happen next. I am making notes in the margins and marking sections to share at our meetings, not answering a list of predetermined questions with each week’s reading but rather just savoring the tale and talking it over on Fridays.

Here are some of the things we discussed last week.
1. Why is the book called Les Miserables?
2. Why does Jean Valjean reveal his identity to save another man only to be arrested? What would we have done?
3. What is Javert’s problem?
4. We talked about why Fantine gave up her hair and teeth to send money to Cosette and how a mother’s love is so strong that it compels them to do things that seem so heroic.
5. Jean Valjean makes some huge changes in this section of the book and we discussed how and what makes people change for the better.

These were topics that came from our hearts as we read through this section of the book. Without the need for questions and answers from TOG, we managed to have a really good discussion with things that had been on our minds as we read. As usual, I gained some insight into the character that is developing in my children. Homeschooling allows us more of an opportunity to see into their hearts and great books help us to see life’s struggles through another person’s experiences. We can intertwine our spiritual beliefs into our discussions this way too and to relate our life’s problems to perhaps a situation in the book.

This is a far better way to read and share a book with our children.

I am trying hard to develop the “appreciative look” and to make “appropriate comments”. Getting out of the way and letting the real learning happen is something that I will continue to work on as long as I have children that are at home.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

We are really enjoying this edition of the book with its notes for words that are either in French or are more difficult vocabulary.

High School Science and Charlotte Mason

“His parents know that the first step in intimacy is recognition; and they will measure his education, not solely by his progress in the ‘three R’s,’ but by the number of living and growing things he knows by look, name, and habitat. A child of six will note with eager interest the order of time in which the trees put on their leaves; will tell you whether to look in hedge, or meadow, or copse, for eyebright, wood-sorrel, ground-ivy; will not think that flowers were made to be plucked, for––
‘Tis (his) faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes”––

but will take his friends to see where the milk-wort grows, or the bog-bean, or the sweet-gale. The birds of the air are no longer casual; he soon knows when and where to expect the redstart and the meadow pipit. The water-skater and the dragon-fly are interesting and admired acquaintances. His eyes have sparkled at the beauty of crystals, and, though he may not have been able to find them in situ, he knows the look of the crystals of lime and quartz, and the lovely pink of felspar, and many more.” Charlotte Mason, volume 3, chapter 7, page 76 (original text)

This was our first year of high school using the Charlotte Mason method with my 14 year old son. I followed the Ambleside Online’s recommendation and used Apologia Biology along with the companion CD and the dissection lab kit. At the beginning of the year I was nervous that the textbook approach to biology would dampen our living books and nature study style of learning. It has proven not to be so.

I wrote a post back in November 2007 about our plans but now that the year is over, or very close to it, I thought I would update my thoughts so when I use this course again with my younger son, I would have it all in one place and it will perhaps help another mom who is trying to transition to a more textbook approach to high school using the Charlotte Mason style.

If you are interested in seeing the table of contents for Apologia’s Biology course, here is the link.
Apologia Biology Table of Contents

We did not do all of the items listed but we did do quite a few of them. If you have already completed a nature study focus listed in a module, you could just review your nature journals and your field guide cards to refresh your memories. We actually completed a focused study of insects, birds, and small mammals this year. We are currently working on a focused study of garden plants using the Handbook of Nature Study.

Here are the ideas we have for adding in nature study and living books to Apologia Biology.

Module 1:
Read biography of Carl Linnaeus
Read Microbe Hunters, chapter 1 Leeuwenhoek

Module 2:
Read Microbe Hunters, chapter 2 Spallanzani and chapter 3 Pasteur
Start a pond study to complement the study of microscopic organisms-protozoa
Use A Golden Guide to Pond Life
Read biography of Louis Pasteur

Module 3:
Continue pond study-algae
Handbook of Nature Study section on insects of the brook and pond

Module 4:
Nature study focus on mushrooms and other fungi
Work with yeast
Work with molds

Modules 5-7:
The Biology Coloring Book by Robert Griffin-color appropriate pages to help visualize the abstract concepts in these modules

Module 8:
Growing pea plants to support Mendelian genetic study (just for fun)
Read a biography of Gregor Mendel
Grow radishes as part of experiment 8.4

Module 9:
Read a biography of Charles Darwin
Handbook of Nature Study section on rocks and minerals

Module 11:
Dissection of an earthworm
Nature study focus on Invertebrates-garden snails, earthworms
Handbook of Nature Study section on invertebrate animals other than insects

Module 12:
Nature study focus on arachnida (spiders) and/or insects and/or lepidoptera
Dissection of a crayfish
Handbook of Nature Study section on insects

Module 13:
Dissection of a perch and a frog
Nature study focus on amphibians
Handbook of Nature Study section on fishes
Handbook of Nature Study section on amphibians

Module 14:
Collect leaf samples
Nature study focus on flowerless plants
Handbook of Nature Study section on flowerless plants

Module 15:
Insectivorous plants-observe a Venus Flytrap or Sundew
Nature study focus on garden flowers-parts of a flower
Collect and press flowers
Germinate seeds
Handbook of Nature Study section on plants/garden flowers

Module 16:
Nature study focus on birds, reptiles, or mammals
Handbook of Nature Study section on birds
Handbook of Nature Study section on reptiles
Handbook of Nature Study section on mammals

In addition to this, he read the following books and kept a commonplace book:
The Yosemite by John Muir
The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim

We kept a nature journal and we used the following field guides:
Peterson Field Guides: Western Birds
Peterson Field Guides: Western Trees
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers
Mammals of California by E.W. Jameson, Jr., and Hans J. Peeters

If you would like to have links to the books we used this year, you can visit my page that outlines our whole ninth grade curriculum. You will need to scroll down to the science section but there are links to for each book listed above except for the field guides.
Well-Trained Mind: Grade Nine (with a Charlotte Mason Twist)

So there you have it. This year has opened up my eyes to how easy it was to keep with our Charlotte Mason ideas for learning if you are alert to opportunities that come up. Next year we are continuing with our study of biology and focus on marine life with Apologia’s Marine Biology textbook. When I get my thoughts and ideas together for that book, I will share those too.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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