Charlotte Mason With A Splash Of Ruth Beechick A Dash Of Unit Studies And A Twist Of Unschooling

Did that title catch your eye? lol  The first topic of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop, is homeschooling methods!  This is a huge topic that comes up over and over again on homeschool forums.  Perhaps almost equal with the topics of curriculum.  But then the two really go hand in hand don’t they?

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I’ve been homeschooling for 6 years, that is if I start counting from my oldest daughters Kindergarten year.  But really I believe it starts from birth!  All parents teach their children now to love, talk, and help them explore the world around them.

But as my oldest started approaching school age, I started to research curriculum and methods.  I always knew that I would homeschool our children so that was a given.  But how would I do that?

I started by talking to other homeschooling friends about what they used.  I was first attracted to the Classical approach and unit studies as well.

One of the first books I read was Teaching the Trivium (TTT) by the Bluedorn’s. There book was wonderful and had a deep insight on how and why to teach. But I found it still left me with many questions a new homeschooler would have.

What curriculum should I use and when should I start using them?  There are soooo many different books available in every subject a new homeschooler can get lost.

At that point a friend suggested The Well Trained Mind (TWTM) by Susan Wise-Bower. This was sort of what I was looking for. It also was a classical method teaching method.

But in many ways it was a complete contrast to the Bluedorn’s book.  TWTM pushed starting a rigorous education program in grade 1, where as the TTT suggested delaying formal math until age 10.

But TWTM did lay out a suggested curriculum plan, at the time that was what I needed.  Around the same time I also fell in love with another program.

Five in a Row (FIAR) by Jane Lambert.  How very opposite TWTM this program is!  It’s a gentle unit study approach, biased on the delight of learning and breaks down the topics into manageable parts.

Our first few years were spent trying to use parts of both programs and in the end the TWTM burned us out.  For our family and our learning styles it’s just too much, to quick.  But FIAR was a winner for us!  We found that unit studies really worked well.

Along the way I was introduced to Charlotte Mason.  I was quite interested because it seemed like a lot of the other FIAR users just loved her methods.  Charlotte Mason was an educator who lived in the late 1800’s in England.  She started her own schools and taught parents how to teach their children at home.   Charlotte wrote a series of books “The Original Homeschooling Series” it can be read online free at Ambleside.

What I love about Charlotte Mason’s methods is it’s like setting a quality banquet in front of your child, without overwhelming them.  Young children age 6 and under are not required to do formal school work.  Now this doesn’t mean that they don’t do anything.

No, you read wonderful living books to fill their heads with ideas.  You get them outside as much as possible to enjoy nature.  Little ones can learn so much from exploring the flowers growing in your yard to ants, frogs and birds.

Everything is new and exciting to them and it leads to many “Mommy what does the frog eat?”, “Mommy where does the frog sleep?”.  There is so much learning that happens without touching a textbook.

As the child starts their formal learning, lessons are kept short no more than 20 minutes per subject.  Charlotte also suggest switching back and forth between types of activates so not to wear out the child.  So we do a reading, then narrate orally, then do copy work, then another reading.

I’ve found that short lessons and switching things up really helps to keep the child's attention!  Their days are filled with Bible study, art appreciation, composer study, world history, history of your country, other languages (Charlotte taught 4!), and yes the 3 R’s to!

Many subjects are covered but since they are in short lessons this leaves plenty of time in the day to get outside in the afternoon!  Nature study remains a large part of an older child’s lessons.

During this time they learn about nature, do nature drawings for their notebooks and fall in love with God’s creation.  Oh yes, and scare their sisters by chasing them around with a spider or snake. ;)  It might sound perfect, but really this is real life!  Bumps happen, kids get grumpy but the CM methods have truly helped guide our paths.

So where does Ruth Beechick fit in?  I’ve heard many refer to her methods as Charlotte Mason for modern times.  One thing that Ruth Beechick stresses is not letting the curriculum dictate to you.  YOU choose how to use the curriculum.

The Beechick methods are very similar to Charlotte Mason, but they do have some differences.  Both use copywork and dictation to teach writing, spelling.  With Charlotte Mason, she used copywork for handwriting practice that was done daily.

Then she used a separate selection for dictation/spelling.  The child would study that dictation passage before trying it, but they wouldn’t use it for copy work.  Ruth Beechick has the child use one selection for their daily copywork and uses the same passage for dictation and grammar lesson.  Where as Charlotte Mason, actually used a grammar text.

I started out following Charlotte Mason for copy work but now we are switching to more of a Ruth Beechick style for our copywork and dictation.  As we’ve grown in our experience and learned more about each of our learning styles we find better fits.

For example many of our children are right brain learners as I am.  We learn how to read, write and spell in a very different way from a left brain learner.  The Beechick method of using the same passage of copy work all week for practice really helps in grain the lesson in a visual way for us.

Another difference between the two is their stance on unit studies.  Ruth Beechick is for units and has written a number of Bible unit studies.

Charlotte Mason on the other hand was completely against unit studies.  She thought it best to allow the student to make the connections and not the teacher.

While I do agree with this for the most part, I think the type of unit study Charlotte Mason referred to was very different from the types we use.  An example with Five in a Row, you read a book with your children each day for 5 days.

Then each day is broken down into a subject for a focused study.  The lessons suggested for each subject, I find come naturally from the story they are not “forced”.  An example of looking China up on the map after reading the Story about Ping to me is a natural idea.

Compared to the idea of taking all of your subjects and trying to force topics INTO a book where they don’t fit.  Or dragging a unit study on so long that your children lose interest in the subject.

And the last bit to our schooling methods?  Unschooling!  Yes I said unschooling.  I know to many this is the very opposite of classical and Charlotte Mason teaching, but some days it’s a life saver.

I personally would not want to unschool full time, I find we work better with some structure in our days.  But when Mom is sick, or just had a new baby or you’ve been flooded with bushels of produce from the garden this method works well for us.

I’ve found that because we had such a varied area of study our children have so many interests.  I’m constantly looking at book sales and yard sales for good books, videos or games on the subjects they are interested in.

It is very common to find them curled up reading about some history or science topic or watching a documentary on the Bismarck.  Yes funny shows like Ice Age have their place to, but it’s all about balance.

So in the end of it, we don’t fully go with any ONE education method.  I pick and choose what I like best from each of them.  In a similar way that Charlotte Mason laid out a banquet of subjects before her students, I spread out teaching and learning methods before us and then select the best looking morsels for our lifestyle at that time.

What is your learning/teaching style?  What methods do you use?

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