Sunday, August 28, 2016

Our Charlotte Mason Kindergarten Book Choices

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Because we are right around the corner from the beginning of the school year, and some are already in full swing!, I wanted to share most of the books we'll be using this year as Isaac enters Kindergarten, which for us, because we are using Ambleside Online (which is guided by the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education), is considered Year 0. (If you are interested in why we chose to home educate, I explain it in part in this post).

What on earth does Year 0 mean, you ask? Ambleside Online explains that it "refers to all the years before formal academics begin in Year 1 (typically on or after age 6). During these early years, we focus on helping the child discover his own world through his own explorations, with lots of outdoor time and real tasks around the house. We might introduce gentle academics through play, such as playing with objects (to introduce math concepts) or playing with letters (to introduce beginning reading)."

Charlotte Mason said it this way:
"my object is to show that the chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power, because the first stages of mental effort are marked by the extreme activity of this power; and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being."
Basically what it comes down to is that we will not begin formal education until our children are in 1st grade, which is age 6 and 7. Up until that point, we'll simply read aloud together, spend a lot of time in nature, memorize scripture and read our bible together, review letters and their sounds, do some handwriting practice (but only at the child's pace, not forced) and do some basic math work (mostly because my kids beg me to work on math).

My guide for this year is this list from Charlotte Mason with 18 things a child should have attained by the age of 6.

And that leads me to what we will actually be reading, how we will study nature, what scripture we'll memorize and what math curriculum we use. (This is not an exclusive list as we'll add to our book stacks as the year unfolds but it's a good foundation and start).

Literature and Read Alouds

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We'll begin the year with Mr. Popper's Penguins. Our last 2 read alouds have been Big House in the Woods and Little House on the Prairie. In fact, we just finished Little House this week. And we'll get to Farmer Boy this year too, but I'd like to take a break from Laura Ingalls Wilder and read something else. (Side note about her books: At first I wondered if my boys would have any interest in the story considering it's about 3 little girls and their family, but they absolutely love it and beg me to read "pa and ma" all the time!)

You can never go wrong with EB White. Our very first read aloud was Charlotte's Web. I'm looking forward to The Trumpet of the Swan.

Frog and Toad (we love treasuries and buy most of them at Sam's Club) is great for kiddos learning to read or brand new readers. And absolutely love Winnie the Pooh (the original. NO Disney here!)

Poetry and the like

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We have quite the collection of children's poetry books around here. But these are the ones we'll use most. My boys can't get enough of Where the Sidewalk Ends and all of Shel's silliness. One of the things Isaac will do this year is memorize a few poems and he's already done that with one about a potty plunger. Oh boys. The Children's Book of Virtues is fantastic. The stories and poems are lovely, the illustrations are excellent and the lessons learned lead to some really great discussions with my children.

Nature Study

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We won't be doing anything formal yet with nature study. Isaac will have a small journal but obviously his sketching skills are still developing so it's more so for practice at this point. The handbooks in the upper right hand corner are specific for our area of the country, which is important when looking up what things are in your area. We also enjoy reading about the garden and the farm because we can relate it to our own backyard. The kids also help with gardening- pruning, picking and planting. They collect chicken eggs and feed and water the chickens as well.

As far as bird study goes, we have this simple book just to introduce some birds. We'll definitely take a field trip to the bird preserve this year as well. I'm also planning one nature study field trip a month to places around Las Vegas. Sometimes I get a bit discouraged about what the desert has to offer, but I'm learning to be creative (like visiting the college campus which has huge old trees that you won't find in very many other places in the valley) and to also teach my children to enjoy what the desert does have to offer. And there's nothing wrong with taking a family day trip to the surrounding areas like Mt. Charleston, Red Rock, Valley of Fire or even to Utah to visit Zion, Cedar City or Duck Creek.

Misc: Hymns, Prayers, Scripture and Math

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I don't find it imperative to have selected a formal math curriculum in Year 0, but Isaac is incredibly interested in math so we went ahead and purchased Math U See, which we both love. We'll be walking through it slowly, at his pace, not rushed. Honestly at this age, math can be learned simply through daily activities like counting items, discussing money when purchasing items, categorizing items in the home, looking for patterns around you, adding goldfish and practicing written numbers.

There are a thousand wonderful things in the New England Primer and by next year I will definitely be incorporating more of it into our lessons (we'll also be adding a catechism). But for now, we use it for our morning prayer and prayers before meals and bedtime. It's an opportunity to teach my children to memorize good, solid theology in a simple prayer. (The New England Primer was used to educated children in early America. It's pretty incredible what such tiny children were expected to know and understand!)

Hymn study, like everything else, will not yet be formal. We'll select a new hymn probably for each month (or not, because we are flexible!). I will *attempt to* learn it on the piano and Ben on the banjo and we'll learn the words together as a family. We'll look up the history of the hymn, any scripture related to it and anything else related to it.

Scripture memorization and bible lessons will come from Awana (Isaac's Cubbies book is pictured above. This year he will be in Sparks and Eli will be a Cubbie). You can read here about how I incorporate Awana lessons into our morning time, which will remain the same for this year.

Beautiful Stories for Children (and History Stories for Children- not pictured) contain really great short stories that lead to narration with my children. We use them here and there, usually during morning time, but not on any kind of schedule.

Character Formation and Habits

My plan is to read Laying Down the Rails and then incorporate obedience, attention, kindness, courtesy as well as others, into our daily lives. Simply Charlotte Mason also has some wonderful resources, including a series on Habit Training on their blog that I'll refer to. Charlotte Mason taught, and I agree whole-heartedly, that character formation is the essential foundation for any child's education and ultimately their life. Therefore, the younger years should be spent developing character. So, if you were to ask what our primary focus will be for Year 0, the one thing that I'll place above anything else that we do, I would have to answer that character formation will be front and center.

Now, after reading all of this, if you are curious and want to learn more about Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, I find this to be a pretty good explanation. From there I highly recommend reading For the Children's Sake (seriously though, even if you aren't homeschooling or using CM, read it anyways!). And consider Charlotte Mason's own words:
"Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking - the strain would be too great - but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest."

What books are on your schedule for the upcoming year??