Charlotte Mason skills learned in high school give students strong study skills in college!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason skills learned in high school give students strong study skills in college!

I was looking back at past posts on our Heart of Dakota (HOD) Message Board. In the HOD Weekly Check-In posts, I found a random past post I’d done about my oldest son’s week in USI. Reading this post, I realized how all of those Charlotte Mason skills my son learned in HOD still help him so much in college! I just was struck by how well Charlotte Mason skills prepared him to study and succeed in college. Below, I’ll share my 2016 post about USI, and then at the end I’ll share how I’ve seen these skills help my son study well in college.

The Study Skill of Giving a Topic Oral Narration Using Notes

This week Wyatt has been learning about The Second Continental Congress and the Declaration of Independence in history. He prepared to give a topic oral narration by listing topics as starting points for a new part of the narration in his US1 HOD History Notebook. Phrases of names, dates, places, etc. that were important were jotted down to help jog his memory. He then referred to these notes as he narrated orally. This activity has so many important skills in it! They are skills I used in college often, and I am glad he is leaning to utilize them already now. He now takes notes and refers to them as he speaks very naturally. It just flows, and he is at ease as he speaks.

The Study Skill of Responding to Critical Thinking Questions

Another great activity is his responding in writing to critical thinking questions from Great Documents in U.S. History. So much more depth is brought out from the readings by the pondering of these critical thinking questions. Then, reading actual Great Letters in American History alongside these assignments – well, what could be better than the actual letters, word for word, written by these amazing people from history themselves! It is like being transported back in time and really being able to ‘know’ that person through his/her very thoughts and words put to paper.

The Study Skill of Researching A Topic and Supporting Your Opinion

A Noble Experiment has Wyatt researching various court cases and their findings, and he finds it incredibly interesting. It appeals to his sense of right and wrong, and he is beginning to see the importance of being able to ‘support’ your opinion by citing the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, etc.

The Study Skills of Watching Presentations, Taking Notes, and Sharing What You’ve Learned

The USI History Notebook is not just a place for Wyatt to record his thoughts and written answers. It is also a beautiful visual reminder of that which he is studying, and every picture, portrait, document, historic memorabilia, etc. has its purpose and is used in some way, shape, or form for assessing what he has learned. This week, after Wyatt watched his American Testimony DVD, he referred to the beautiful pictures in his USI History Notebook as he orally narrated about each portion of the DVD he’d watched. Being comfortable speaking while referring to diagrams, photos, documents – this is a key skill he’ll need for whatever future job he will probably have. He is already becoming quite comfortable with it, and I can envision him giving a power point presentation with notes quite adeptly someday.

The Study Skill of Conveying Your Thoughts and Opinions in Writing

Being an accomplished writer that can convey thoughts and opinions clearly in an accurate interesting way – this is becoming a lost skill for many teenagers. NOT SO, with HOD! The steady diet of completing Charlotte Mason style written narrations inspired by reading timeless living books has made responding in writing to a topic quite easy for Wyatt. Now, this was not always so. I only have to pull out his beginning fledgling written narrations from CTC to be reminded of how far he has come. But, oh, it is so exciting to me to see the progress!

The Study Skill of Internalizing What’s Been Learned

Where many high school students stare at the blank page with no confidence of how to begin, he can begin writing immediately. Why? Because having completed countless oral and written narrations in the past, he knows from experience one must THINK about what one is reading while one is reading it to be able to respond to it afterward. Pretty important stuff if you ask me. So, oral narrations with index card planning, critical thinking questions, and written narration assessments all work together to help our dc learn to internalize and respond to what they have read in an active thoughtful way. So much better than completing a multiple choice quiz every time.

How These Study Skills Help My Son in College

My son just finished his sophomore year of college. He has taken 18 credits each semester. Some of these credits were earned by taking courses. The other credits were earned by taking CLEP or DSST tests. Either way, he uses the study skills he learned in HOD for both. As he reads his college material, he takes notes. He takes notes as he listens to his professors or watches DVD presentations (just like he did for USI’s American Testimony DVD assignments). From these notes, he writes essays (just like he did for his topic narrations in USI). He has to give an overview (i.e. written narration) and share his opinion citing research or court cases to support it (i.e. opinion narration). Throughout all of this, he is taking quizzes and tests. The scores he receives show he has internalized what he has learned!

A Special Webinar with Jeff Myers

These study skills all came together during an Educational Leadership webinar with Jeff Myers and fellow students. Each student had to write one question for Jeff Myers, based on the materials they’d read. During the live webinar, Jeff chose some of the students’ questions to answer. Jeff chose Wyatt’s question! Wyatt was so excited! Jeff spent nearly 30 minutes answering it and interacting with Wyatt and the other students as he did. It was just such a neat moment! After this, Wyatt wrote an essay on what he’d learned, citing his notes and supporting his opinions with references to the reading material and webinar. So, rest assured, HOD’s Charlotte Mason-inspired skills do much to help your future college students! Even on quizzes and tests – because they truly have the skills to internalize what they have read and what they have heard.  What a blessing!

In Christ,

Julie

Stop a wandering mind by teaching the habit of attention!

More than a Charlotte Mason Moment 

Stop a wandering mind by teaching the habit of attention!

Charlotte Mason spent much time focusing on the habit of attention. She explained that children should endeavor to stay focused on a subject, rather than allow their minds to wander to and fro, seizing upon any thought that pops into their heads. While children may have fascinating thoughts and ideas, they must be taught to keep focused on the subject at hand, rather than on giving into a wandering mind. The good news is a child’s wandering mind can be stopped. But how? Well, by teaching the habit of attention!

Children must be trained to have the habit of attention.

Teaching our children the habit of attention can be a difficult task. Children must be trained to stay focused. It is important they realize that allowing their mind to wander is a choice. Likewise, keeping their mind on the task at hand is a choice. Children need to be taught that they control their thoughts. Thoughts can flitter, wandering to and fro, going nowhere and accomplishing nothing. Or, thoughts can stay attentive, be on task, and accomplish great things! Children – as well as adults – will find that whatever they pursue in life comes much easier with the habit of attention firmly intact and the wandering mind held at bay. So, the first step to teaching the habit of attention is to simply help children understand they control their thoughts. A wandering mind is a bad habit to be fixed, and the habit of attention can fix it!

Tip #1: Keep lessons short and gradually increase the amount of time spent on them each year.

Lessons should be kept short and in keeping with age and maturity. Preschool children’s lessons should be kept to about 5 minutes each, just as they are in each box of plans in Heart of Dakota‘s Little Hands to Heaven. Children’s lessons in kindergarten and first grade can be increased to about 10-15 minutes each, just as they are in each box of plans in HOD‘s Little Hearts and Beyond Little Hearts guides. As children mature, lessons can be gradually lengthened each year. By the time students reach high school, lessons can be lengthened to an hour at a time. Little by little, by increasing the length of lessons each year, Heart of Dakota helps children find success with the habit of attention. This is one reason it is important to do HOD’s guides in order of difficulty; it naturally supports the habit of attention!

Tip #2: Set a timer so children know about how long they should be expected to maintain attention and complete a task.

Children with wandering minds are often unaware of the passage of time. They begin a lesson that should take 20 minutes only to find an hour later they are nowhere near done. Why? They have not learned the habit of attention. Their minds have wandered away from the task at hand. Setting a timer lets children know how long they must maintain attention to complete their task. It gives them a goal they can achieve.

Tip #3: Alternate the kinds of lessons by carefully planning their order.

Children’s minds are prone to wander when doing a lot of seat work all in a row. Movement is important! Blessedly, HOD’s plans incorporate purposeful movement in projects, activities, experiments, etc. It just makes good sense to follow reading on the couch with a hands-on project, or seat work at the table with an experiment. Likewise, it is important to alternate disciplinary and inspirational subjects. We should not expect our children to display the habit of attention seated at the same table for hours and hours. By carefully planning the order of their ‘boxes’ of plans in HOD, rather than randomly moving through them in no particular order, we can better train our children to have the habit of attention. Likewise, by moving from place to place in our homes, we can signal the start and finish of lessons, and the expected amount of time to maintain attention for each.

Tip #4: Don’t stop and explain, and try not to repeat yourself.

Charlotte Mason stressed the importance of not stopping to explain. For example, when reading aloud, she did not stop to explain unknown words or seemingly difficult concepts. Why? The natural flow of the story is lost. Furthermore, the attention of the child is diverted. Have you ever been listening to someone tell a story, only to have them stop and start repeatedly? By the end, you’ve lost focus. They’ve lost focus. You might even both be weary of the whole thing. The same is true when giving directions. Read them once as fluidly as possible, having the child follow along in the HOD guide (if he/she is of reading age). Then, give the HOD guide to the child, so he/she can reference the written directions. This prevents the child from having to ask you to repeat directions, as he/she can plainly see them in the guide.

Remember, before you expect great changes…

Before you expect great changes in your children, make sure you do what you can to set them up for success! Let them know they control their thoughts, and a wandering mind is a bad habit that can be replaced with the habit of attention. Make sure they are placed in the right guide for their age, so their lessons are kept to a realistic amount of time. Set a timer, so they can see how long they should strive to pay attention to complete a task. Make a schedule that rotates seat work with movement, and disciplinary subjects with inspirational subjects. Finally, try not to stop to explain or repeat directions. Instead, keep things fluid and leave the guide’s written directions for help. Before you expect great changes, be sure you are doing what you can to help them form the habit of attention.

Charlotte Mason Quotes About the Habit of Attention

“Much must go before and along with a vigorous will if it is to be a power in the ruling of conduct. For instance, the man must have acquired the habit of attention, the great importance of which we have already considered. There are bird-witted people, who have no power of thinking connectedly for five minutes under any pressure, from within or from without. If they have never been trained to apply the whole of their mental faculties to a given subject, why, no energy of will, supposing they had it, which is impossible, could make them think steadily thoughts of their own choosing or of anyone else’s.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, p. 326).

Attention is no more than this—the power of giving your mind to what you are about.  (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 5, p. 29)

In the first place, never let the child dawdle over copybook or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him. When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 141)

For whatever the natural gifts of the child, it is only so far as the habit of attention is cultivated in him that he is able to make use of them. (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 146)

In Christ,

Julie

Learning comes alive with living books!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Learning comes alive with living books!

Charlotte Mason had a passion for living books being at the heart and center of a child’s education! Why? Well, simply put, “living” books make learning ‘come alive.’ They pull you into a subject and make you want to read more. Think about some of the books that have impacted you the most. These books spoke to you for one reason or another, and they stayed with you long after the last page was read. Living books do that. Dry textbooks with encyclopedia-like writing do the opposite. In fact, instead of making learning ‘come alive,’ they seem to put us to sleep. Very few textbooks, if any, make their way onto our favorite books’ list. An education with living books is a lasting education, because what is read is remembered.

“Children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times – a delightful double existence; and this joy they will find, for the most part, in their story books. Their lessons, too, history and geography, should cultivate their conceptive powers. If the children do not live in the times of his history lesson, be not at home in the climate his geography book describes, why, these lessons will fail of their purpose.” – Charlotte Mason

Authors love what they write about in their living books!

Living books are often written by authors that are passionate about one thing, and that one thing is the topic of their beloved book(s). For example, John Hudson Tiner is passionate about science. This love comes through in the living books he’s authored, like Exploring Planet Earth. Ann Voskamp is passionate about geography, and so she wrote  A Child’s Geography I and II. Edward Eggleston was passionate about American history, and so was William J. Bennett, which is why they wrote the amazing living books they did! Starr Meade loves the Bible, and so she authored Grandpa’s Box and The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study!  Bob Schultz had a heart for helping boys become Christian men, while Joni Eareckson Tada and Bobbi Wolgemuth are passionate about hymns. The author passionate about what he/she writes produces a far different book than a group of people mass writing a textbook together.

“One more thing is of vital importance; children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough; and if it is needful to exercise economy, let go everything that belongs to soft and luxurious living before letting go the duty of supplying the books, and the frequent changes of books, which are necessary for the constant stimulation of the child’s intellectual life.” ― Charlotte Mason

Children come alive by reading living books!

Heart of Dakota uses living books for as many school subjects as possible. All of the authors I mentioned earlier are people your children will get to ‘meet’ via their living books using Heart of Dakota! The other day, we had our eye doctor appointments. Each of my sons brought a book to read, and the receptionist asked me what I did to get them to read books. I told her these books were simply amazing! The kind you just can’t put down! She told me sadly how rare it is to see children reading anymore – they always seemed to be playing games on their phones. “Whatever those books are, I need to get some!” she said. “I want my little one to love reading like your sons do!” Two words dear… ‘living books.’ That’s all I can say! They just make learning come alive!!!

“The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading.”Charlotte Mason

In Christ,

Julie

Charlotte Mason Recitation… So Much More Than Rote Memorization

More than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason Recitation… So Much More Than Rote Memorization

Charlotte Mason encouraged recitation of beautiful poems, scripture, and hymns throughout a child’s learning. For twenty minutes each day, Charlotte’s schools planned for ‘Repetition.’ During ‘Repetition’ time, children would alternate between poetry, Bible, and hymns. Younger children recited a poem of their choice, a hymn, a Psalm, and several passages each six verses in length per term. Older children recited several longer Bible passages each about 20 verses in length, as well as three poems each term. Children also practiced hymns. As children matured, they memorized lengthier Bible passages and poems, and they added more hymns to their repertoire.

Charlotte Mason-style recitation differs from rote memorization.

Just as Charlotte Mason’s living books differ from dry textbooks, Charlotte Mason’s recitation differs from rote memorization of dry facts. Just as Charlotte Mason lovingly and carefully selected living books, she also lovingly and carefully selected recitation sources. Poetry, scripture, hymns – one can see the line of thinking Charlotte had about what was worthy of recitation. Recitation is often thought to be synonymous with memorization, but Charlotte differentiated between the two.

Charlotte Mason’s quotes regarding recitation of poetry, scripture, and hymns.

“Recitation and committing to memory are not necessarily the same thing, and it is well to store a child’s memory with a good deal of poetry, learnt without labour…. attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imaginations” (Volume I, p. 224-226).

“The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit…” (Volume I, p. 253).

“Praise and thanksgiving come freely from the young heart; gladness is natural and holy, and music is a delight. The singing of hymns at home and of the hymns and canticles in church should be a special delight; and the habit of soft and reverent singing, of offering our very best in praise, should be carefully formed” (Volume III, p. 143).

Making Charlotte Mason’s Recitation Happen in Your Home

Many young mothers read Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on recitation and long for this kind of more meaningful memorization. In Charlotte’s type of recitation, we can all see context is king. Memorizing poetry, scripture, and hymns within the context of studying a certain poet, a particular book of the Bible, or a hymn study just gives depth to what is memorized. It gives what is being memorized meaning. However, successfully integrating meaningful recitation in the day-to-day of homeschooling on the fly isn’t so easy. Blessedly, Heart of Dakota already includes Charlotte Mason-style recitation in its guides in a balanced, meaningful way!

Recitation – already a beautiful, meaningful part of Heart of Dakota’s guides!

We include recitation of Bible verses within each of our guides, and we begin recitation of poetry each term in Preparing Hearts. Likewise, we include corresponding music in our guides. We keep things fresh by rotating the focus of our music. Sometimes we choose music based on scripture, and sometimes we choose it based on hymns. But either way, we always include recitation with it (often in the form of singing).

Furthermore, Heart of Dakota provides rich context for recitation. Children complete recitation of poems within the context of poetry study. So, children truly get to know the poet and the inspiration behind the writing of the poems. Children complete recitation of scripture within the context of a formal Bible study. So, children truly are immersed in a book (or books) of the Bible and its deeper meaning. Children complete memorization of hymns within the context of a hymn study. So, children truly get to know the hymn writer and the inspiration behind the writing of the hymns.

Recitation Recorded in a Charlotte Mason Common Place Book

Approaching recitation in a more meaningful way is taken even one step further by the keeping of a Common Place Book. Charlotte Mason refers to Arthur Burrell’s In Recitation: The Children’s Art, in which he recommends filling a copybook with beautiful passages and poems. Charlotte Mason encouraged children to keep their own Common Place Book for this very purpose. In Heart of Dakota, poems children memorize, Bible passages children memorize, and stanzas of hymns children sing are lovingly recorded, so students create a special keepsake of their recitation. As they look back at their Common Place Book, they remember – not just the recitation, but the poet, the author, the writer and their inspiration. Recitation done this way is more than words; it is someone’s life story. And because of that, those words are remembered, right along with the people who wrote them.

In Christ,
Julie

A Literature-Rich Education Motto: Fewer Books Done Better

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

A Literature-Rich Education Motto: Fewer Books Done Better

Charlotte Mason’s slower, more thoughtful reading process encourages deeper thinking about what is read. Fewer books done better was her motto, and it has become my motto as well. A literature-rich education stretches students in many positive ways. It makes them readily able to read, appreciate, and take away something from almost any kind of reading material. This is because they have learned to appreciate a wide variety of authors with a wide variety of styles. Consequently, they often find delight in a wide variety of reading materials.

Would you like to lovingly reread your middle school textbooks?  Your answer shows why a literature-rich education is different!

My older boys choose to read everything from classic literature to magazine articles, to theology books to light reading – just for fun. When my younger sons move on to a new year of Heart of Dakota, my older boys jump right in with a desire to reread their favorite books from long ago just one more time. While my four sons are all very different from one another and all have very different strengths and weaknesses, the more years we travel down this literature-rich path the more convinced I become of its merit. If you ask yourself whether you would ever lovingly choose to reread your middle school textbooks, you will know why a literature-rich education is different.

In a literature-rich education, students learn to respond to their reading in a wide variety of formats.

A literature-rich education also makes students readily able to respond in a wide variety of formats to what they’ve read. This is because they have been exposed to so many good writers over time that good writing eventually pours out of their own pens. To begin with, the students mimic other writers. However, eventually, they develop their own style. Students might be moving through this process for years. However, it is a process you will see as being worthy when it comes to fruition!

My Oldest Son’s Experience with a Literature-Rich Education

My oldest son as a preschooler used to cry if he had to write more than one ‘A.’ In middle school, he always wanted to orally tell me answers rather than write them down. Only in his last years of high school did he actually turn into a writer. In college, this same son is majoring in history with emphasis in literature and leadership. He actually loves courses now that require a lot of written output. His Heart of Dakota literature-rich education has had such a good impact on him!

My Other Sons’ Experiences with a Literature-Rich Education

My next son who graduated is majoring in graphic design/digital media/web design. He has always loved to write. In fact, he used to copy a poem a day for fun when he was only 5. When my third son was 14, he was truly allergic to all things related to a pencil. Yet, now as a 17 year-old, he is growing and gaining so very much too, as he journeys through the guides. My fourth son loves all things logical, especially math and science. As he is nearing high school, I am taking deep breaths and trusting the process because I have already seen him make great gains in writing too. I can see a literature-rich education is having a good impact on all of my sons.

We especially saw the seeds sown in our sons’ literature-rich education come to fruition in their senior year of high school.

By the time a student graduates high school, the seeds that have been sown through years of an HOD literature-rich education come to fruition. For me, with each of my older two sons, the senior year of high school was a time of pure joy in this capacity. Meeting with the boys during their senior year, as they shared their thoughts, reflections, and narrations was just plain fun! During the senior year of each of our oldest boys, my husband and I got an opportunity to see how much each son had grown. As they animatedly shared with us, we got a chance to see the books that spoke to their hearts the most.

Students in their last year of high school often complete their work quickly and concisely, being able to do anything their HOD guide asks of them.

Honestly, by their final year of high school our boys were able to move through their work much more quickly and concisely and had become able to do almost anything that the guide asked of them. This made their senior year an easy one compared to previous years! Lest you think that it is only my own “brilliant” students of whom this is true, I will share that it is also true of so many of the families that we have talked to who are graduating their students through HOD this year. Their students have grown and changed so much! It is simply a product of years of a literature-rich education.

In Closing

So, in closing, I would encourage you to persevere with a literature-rich education. While students will have special strengths of their own (and areas of weakness too), their experience will be richer for the books they have read and the ways they have been asked to respond. Their education will also be deeper for the variety of authors they have pondered. When in doubt, compare your education with the one that your students are receiving, and you will often see a marked difference. While not easy, a literature-rich education is worth pursuing. I hope this encourages you as you journey. We only get this one chance to educate our kiddos!

Blessings,

Carrie