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Our Experience: Charlotte Mason Institute 2014 Education Conference Part 2

 

 

In my last post, I talked just a little bit about some of the in-between but important bits that are called riches in Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. This part of the series will focus on the workshops/sessions that we attended. I do not feel I have the space to talk about the other workshops/sessions that were offered.

CMI graphic II

Workshops/Sessions

Technology and Charlotte Mason

The sessions we attended were all great and very informative. The first we chose was “WWCMD: with the Internet”. That stands for “What Would Charlotte Mason Do”. Technology is huge today. We just cannot escape it. Should we even try? Actually any tool that is invented and used is technology. Sometimes I forget that books are technology in our age of all-things-digital. I think many people are with me on that.

The session was led by Lisa Cadora brilliantly. Lisa is one of the coordinators for Mason in the Morning CM study group and Great River Learning CM co-op in the Cincinnati, OH, area.  She talked, very briefly, through different technologies and how they ‘changed’ society. She also mentioned those who at the time pushed back against the technologies. Individuals such as Plato, Socrates, Seneca, Benjamin Franklin and Marshall McLuhan. Even through all the pushing and shoving, technology continues on advancing. And we are left to catch up.

We discussed what are some *good* resources on the internet, as well as how we as parents manage the technologies. It was very good. A point that she made, and I’m sure can be seen by many who have children (ahem, and adults) who spend a lot of time on digital technology: When they are done with their time on the technology, they sometimes suffer depression, anxiety, let-down, and can be irritable. Digital technology affects our brains in ways that are only now beginning to be understood. She gave titles for books that she recommends:

  • Alone Together, Sherry Turkle
  • The Dumbest Generation, Mark Bauerlein
  • Wired, author?
  • The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
  • Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers

One that I highly recommend is Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.

Some technological resources that the group suggested:

Notebooks and Charlotte Mason

The individual session we attended on Friday morning, before our long drive home, was “Keeping Notebooks” by Erin Daly and Kerri Forney. For those who follow CM schooling methods, if you do not use notebooks, I highly encourage you to look into including these in your lives. Recently Laurie Bestvater published a book, The Living Page, that discusses notebooks and Charlotte Mason. I believe that notebooks are essential to a good CM education. Almost as essential as narration. That is a personal sentiment. Here are some quotes from the session:

“He gives back what he has taken in, and so makes it his own possession.” (CM, speech “P.N.E.U. As A Service to the State”)

“Therefore, teaching, talk and tale, however lucid or fascinating, effect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.” (CM, vol. 6, pg. 240)

“But the children are not to sit still and merely passively receive ideas. No lesson is valuable which does not promote self-activity by making the child think…making the idea given a well-spring of activity. We can judge then of a value of a lesson by the amount of work which it gives the children to do.” (Miss R. A. Pennethorne, “P.N.E.U Principles as Illustrated by Teaching”)

Notebooks afford attention, concentration, and thoroughness; intellectual volition, accuracy, and reflection. One thing that I personally came away with from this session is that it isn’t about how well a person can draw or how neat the handwriting. It’s about what is known, how accurate it is, and how much the child cares about what they know. For a nature journal, it is about the connection that are made through the time it takes to get to know the specific plant or animal that they have chosen.

I would like to share with you some of our nature notebook pages. Remember, it isn’t about being perfect; it is about the process. You can browse some of mine that I’ve put on my blog. The ones below are from my son’s  notebook, and daughter’s new notebook, since we’ve been back from the conference. My daughter, especially, enjoyed this session.

nature notebooks1

Jeffs Journal

lees journal

The three notebooks that are most often mentioned and used in Charlotte Mason’s schools are the Book of Centuries, the Nature Notebook, and a Commonplace Book. We started utilizing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy late, in the sense that my kids were already teens, and so we’ve never had a Book of Centuries.

Is it too late to start one even when a student is in their teens? Personally, I don’t think it’s ever too late. Education is, after all, a life. The Book of Centuries will still afford connections, even to older students.

The Commonplace Book is actually my favorite notebook. It was not the first of the three I started with but it has become my most treasured. Mason says in Volume 5 of her works (p. 260):

It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author…Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides, we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review.

The purpose of notebooks is not to show the work that has been done, although it is a way to do that. The purpose of notebooks is not to show how talented a student is with their handwriting. The purpose of a notebook is not to show how well a student can draw or paint. Tweet: Notebooks are for the process and the connections. They are for the self-education of the student.  The session ended with suggestions to create a notebook culture at home. The ones I appreciated the most are:

  • Parents start keeping notebooks, as a model; be regular and enthusiastic
  • Focus on the self-education of the child and not the notebook
  • Respect the ownership of the notebook- be ready to share in the joy of discovery; avoid critiques or praise
  • Be patient

Next, and final, post in this series I will talk about the plenaries and the big picture of the conference.

 
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North Laurel (8 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.


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Fun with Summer Writing Prompts

 

 

 

writing prompts

The summer is well underway. Many of us have been out of the school mind-set for several weeks now, and several never really stopped. Others of us (hand raised!) do something resembling the in-between.

When it comes to writing, however, many homeschoolers decide to “take the summer off.” While I can appreciate the need for breaks (we can all use them), I like to think of writing as one of those things we should all do, as much as possible, until it’s a more integral part of how we communicate and express ourselves creatively. Unlike many areas of study, writing is both an art and a science, which often makes it so confounded difficult to master. There are many conventions we are expected to adhere to, and yet, writing in its many forms can be entirely subjective.

Instead of assigning an essay to your high schooler, or asking your elementary-aged child to write a report on his summer vacation, why not try to make writing a little more fun this summer?

I’ve compiled a few (fun!) writing prompts from my weekly Facebook series Wednesday Write in addition to one from my Teen Short Story Writing Circle class.

1) Study this image and do one of three things:

writing prompts

1) Describe what you see in as much detail as possible
2) Write a poem inspired by the image
3) Begin a short story about the image

2) Go outside.

Take a blanket or chair with you and a timer (that’s it).

And then, do this:

Find a comfortable place — shady if it’s sunny.

Close your eyes for five minutes — don’t open them until the timer goes off.

Focus on three things (no more, although you can choose less):

What do you HEAR? Animals, people, machines, wind, water?
What do you FEEL? Heat, chill, rain, humidity, creepy-crawlies?
What do you SMELL? Grass, flowers, exhaust, nothing?

When the timer goes off, go back inside (no lingering right now). Set the timer for another five-minutes. Write down, using as much detail as possible, everything you heard, felt, and/or smelled. How can you convey these things so that we can “see” them–not just hear, feel, or smell them?

3) “These Three Words”

Take “These Three Words” and write a sentence, a poem, or a story. Any length is ok!

Crickets, Sandal, Music

4) “Take Three Objects”

“Take Three Objects” that you find around your house–unusual things that aren’t easily described. Set a timer for five-minutes for each object and have your writer describe these objects in as much detail as possible using sensory images (sight, touch, sound–if it makes a noise). And don’t eat it unless it’s edible.

Have your writer read the description aloud to a family member or friend. Can they guess what the object is just based on the writer’s description? You can modify this into a fun game with two or more players.

5) Invent a Character

Take someone you see on the street or in the supermarket. Imagine a life for this person, and you’ve got a fictional character. Now give your character an obstacle to overcome and you’ve got the basis for a great short story!

Don’t forget that you can write, too–right along with your children! If they see you having fun with the writing prompts, they will be much less likely to believe this is part of their summer curriculum (wink, wink!).

Be sure to follow Gathering Ink on Facebook so you won’t miss today’s Wednesday Write!

Angela (27 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .


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Sara (23 Posts)

I'm a reader, writer, dreamer, wife, and homeschooling mom of 3 girls. We take a relaxed, eclectic, Charlotte Mason-leaning, Montessori-ish, literature-rich, delight-directed, almost unschooling-at-times approach to learning. Lots of unit studies, field trips, and lapbooks, too. I like to blog about our learning adventures (plus faith and encouragement) at Embracing Destiny.


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