Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Guest Post: Year 3 Review

We are excited about this!! You are about to be blessed, especially if you are looking at year 3.

 We want to introduce the Nelson family today, who would like to share with you the details of how they implement AO Year 3 in their homeschool. The Nelson family has three children -- all boys -- and they've been homeschooling with AO for three years, using Years 1, 2, and 3. Diana Nelson blogs at You'll want to bookmark that and follow her blog.

 We are so thrilled to be able to share this post with you.  It is the first in a new series we hope will grow- guest posts by AO users on how AO works for them.   We are so thankful that Diana graciously shared this post with us to use on the blog, and thus with all of you.

We hope her generosity and spirit of sharing freely encourages and inspires others the same way she has blessed us.  So without anymore fanfare- here's Diana on year 3:

As my oldest is about to enter Year 4 (we'll probably start the first Monday in August), I find myself looking for advice from Year 4 veterans. And, since we are just finishing up Year 3, I thought I'd offer that type of advice to those about to begin Year 3. First, and this is in no way scientific, here is a list of Year 3 Books in order of hardest to easiest (those in bold above the line are books I might allow my son to read independently occasionally; those in bold below the line are books he actually did read independently by the end of the year):
  • The Heroes by Charles Kingsley (Literature)
  • Marco Polo’s Adventures in China by Milton Rugoff (Geography)
  • Parables of Nature (AO’s paraphrased edition) by Margaret Gatty (Literature)
  • This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall (History)
  • Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (History Tales / Biography)
  • Bible: New King James Version (Bible)
  • An / Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall (History)
  • *Shakespeare for Everyone: Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It (Literature)
  • Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat (Literature)
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Literature)
  • The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (Literature)
  • Pagoo by Holling C. Holling (Natural History/Science)
  • Secrets of the Woods by William J. Long (Natural History/Science)
  • Leonardo Da Vinci by Emily Hahn (History Tales / Biography)
  • American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg (Literature)
  • Child's History of the World by Virgil Hillyer (History)
  • Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty (History Tales / Biography)
  • **[all Year 3 poetry] William Blake, Sara Teasdale, Hilda Conkling, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Bard of Avon by Peter Vennema and Diane Stanley (History Tales / Biography)
  • Good Queen Bess by Diane Stanley (History Tales / Biography)
  • Science Lab in a Supermarket by Robert Friedhoffer (Natural History/Science)
  • A Drop of Water by Walter Wick (Natural History/Science)

*Our family does Shakespeare together in morning time. We have substituted Shakespeare for Everyone in place of Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare – a personal preference.

 **We do poetry in morning time or at "tea time," which is why he did not read independently.

  Specific Scheduled Book Advice Even though A9 can read several of the history / biography books on his own, I was hesitant to just hand it all over to him because we are still doing a mommy-and-me style timeline. A9 is probably an above average reader (he was an early reader), but he's still a reluctant one. He's the type to skim rather than read carefully, so we chose to read aloud more than was probably necessary.

An Island Story is an old friend. We've read it for the past three years, so that one is familiar and easy.

This Country of Ours starts out overlapping the timeline in An Island Story, so even though the chapters are longer, An Island Story has brought us up to this point.
Child's History of the World is another book that overlaps. It's by far the easiest reading level of the three main history books scheduled in Year 3.

 The historical biographies are all fairly easy reads. We did Leonardo Da Vinci as a read aloud just because in Term 1 our son was not quite mature enough to read independently AND give a good narration. (Plus, it's a little boring.) A lot of maturing happened this year! By the end of the year I was able to transition more and more over to A9.

 We started American Tall Tales as a read aloud, but he was able to read the second half independently with good oral narrations.

 The most challenging book in Year 3 is The Heroes by Charles Kingsley. Not only is it an elevated prose, but also my son was only slightly familiar with Greek gods and goddesses. A9 picked up Percy Jackson: The Lightening Thief at the library around the middle of Term 2 -- purely coincidentally -- and I think that helped him relate to The Heroes a little better.

Marco Polo's Adventures in China was the next most challenging. I know there are many options from which to choose for your Marco Polo book. We landed on Milton Rugoff's after I checked out a few options from our library (inter-library loan). I liked all of the photos, maps, and sidebar info in Rugoff's book. I have seen AO Advisory members comment about the many Marco Polo options, saying that all of them are great books, and the only reason there are so many options is so that there isn't a mad rush on just one version. All that to say, if you're planning Year 3, you'll be tempted to worry and fret over which Marco Polo book to choose. Relax and buy the most affordable and most available one on the AO list of options. And, remember the purpose of this text is to teach geography, so be sure to map out the Polos' travels. We also checked out a book from the library about what Mongolia is like today. I thought it a good idea that A9 understand that parts of Mongolia today are urban and industrial.

  Parables of Nature is another old friend. I would almost be tempted to let A9 read one of these stories independently, but frankly we just enjoy these together way too much. They are a time investment, but when we settle in to these stories we always have deep conversations.

 Even though Trial and Triumph is familiar from Years 1 and 2, I still read this one aloud just in case it raises any questions. There's a lot of death -- and church history (obviously) -- that I want to help A9 interpret. I've seen Catholic AO users say this book is very protestant, and I've seen protestant AO users say this book is very Catholic. I think the book does a fairly good job walking that line (we are protestant), and I can see why the AO Advisory has chosen it. Still, I find this book needs a chaperone.

 My kiddo is so familiar with the New King James Version of the Bible that I find that he gives excellent narrations. In fact, A9 asked to begin a written narration on New Testament reading assignments. Sometimes we also read the same selection out of The Message or the English Standard Version if the selection is particularly challenging (more typically in the Old Testament).

HenryV As already noted, we traded Lamb's Shakespeare for a line of books called Shakespeare for Everyone. I found the Georgian / Victorian language used in Lamb's only confused Shakespeare's Elizabethan era plays, so we opted for a modern retelling followed by film viewings. Because we do Shakespeare as a family, we had our own rotation going rather than juggling Year 1 and Year 3 assignments. Now I see that AO has moved to a Shakespeare rotation, we will probably try to jump on board (so long as we don't repeat what we've done recently).

 I turned over three of the literature selections (by MacDonald, Marryat, and Kipling) for Dear Husband to read to A9 in the evenings. They were all tackled at bedtime with very little involvement from me.

They read Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen Taylor last year in Year 2. DH says he thinks A9 could have read these independently, but we thought it best to have Daddy pronouncing the words properly and doing character voices.

  Pagoo and Secrets of the Woods for Natural History / Science were reserved as read alouds so we could reinforce the science involved. Rather than giving these over to A9, we checked out additional picture books from the library that involved sea life and woodland creatures to support the scheduled books.

 The other two Natural History / Science books (by Science Lab in a Supermarket and A Drop of Water) were both books I felt I could hand to A9 and he would run with it. We did the experiments together, but really he required hardly any guidance at all.

  Free Reads A9 would not read any of the free reads unless made to do so. He would be much more likely to choose a book from the library based on his own interests (and he frequently does), so we compromised. A9 has assigned free read time during which I set a timer for 20 minutes, and he reads a Year 3 free read of his choosing. So far, in Year 3 he has read:
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Through the Looking Glass
  • Swallows and Amazons
  • King of the Wind
He has also read "on his own time" countless books in the fantasy genre, to which he seems naturally drawn. We've also completed several family read alouds this school year, including The Hobbit, The Borrowers, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Love That Dog, and the Ramona series (Beverly Cleary).

Various Daily Instruction

 A9 is still loving Math U See for his main math curriculum. He finished the Delta book around Easter and has jumped right into Epsilon. I'm also trying to get him interested in Beast Academy math, which is more problem solving style questions. Math nerdiness run in our family, so A9 is a bit ahead in math. I know many kids his age in the Beta or Gamma Math U See books. I love that those books are not grade-specific so kiddos can be comfortable doing their best without undo pressure.

 In Term 3 of Year 3, A9 began learning typing / keyboarding online at, which is a free program that saves his progress. We are still plugging away at Copy Work, but this child is perpetually behind in that department. Even though his handwriting is atrocious, his spelling and grammar are naturally exceptional (I mean that in a good way). I expect dictation in Year 4 to be a breeze.

For foreign language, we went with Classical Academic Press's curriculum. A9 started out with Song School Spanish and has since moved on to Spanish for Children Book A. Next year we will add Visual Latin 1 and see how we do. I'd love for him to add in French someday, but recently he has shown interest in learning Japanese. We shall see what will be.

  Weekly Instruction Subjects We very closely follow AO's artist, composer, and folksong/hymn study rotations, utilizing morning time to do this as a family. Additionally, I have taken A9 and L6 to a couple local symphony performances for a little in-person music appreciation. A9 and L6 both take piano lessons from me at home, and A9 took a guitar class and belongs to a community boys choir, which performs many folk songs and spirituals.

 We also learn about nature topics in morning time, according to my own reading of the Handbook of Nature Study by by Anna Botsford Comstock, various picture books, and field guides. A9 and L6 both sketch in nature journals, and we belong to a weekly hiking group for kids (taking its cue from the Wild and Free movement). Oh, and all three boys are involved in Cub Scouts. We also attend a local school co op one day a week, which gives the boys 4 hours of classroom experience each week. In order to fit this in, we stretch the 12 week AO terms into 15 week intervals.

  Sports and Recreation
 The boys all take a swim class designed for homeschoolers at a local indoor pool. During the winter, A9 played Upward Basketball and participated in an archery for kids program. All three boys are now playing Little League Baseball, and I think A9 and L6 might be interested in track next spring (2018). Probably our best source of recreation, though, is living in a cul de sac where the boys ride their bikes and scooters up and down the street.
  Whew! Man, that sounds like a lot, but remember we're not doing all of it every day. Also, A9 is an extreme extrovert. L6 is much more introverted, so I'm hoping he's going to take it easy on me. J4 seems to be somewhere in the middle. I hope this record of how our Year 3 played out helps someone out there.

 Until next week (or so).

 I'm reading:
Moderately challenging books:
Stiff books:
Diana Save Save

You might be using living books if....

Over in our forum we have an ongoing thread called 'You might be using AmblesideOnline if...' and then parents share their stories.  It's a lot of fun.  One of my favourite such stories from our own family is from many years ago, when my own mother took my second daughter to the pet store for phone, and then teasingly suggested they should buy a pet snake.  "Oh, let's do that!" said my girl, then 8 years old, "Mother will be aghast!"

Sometimes people post on our facebook group, too, and I got permission to share this one because it tickled me so much.

Back-story- Mom instructed daughter to finish her Chaucer Storybook reading before bed.  Daughter could not find it so could not complete her assignment.  She delivered this note to her mother:

Isn't that delightful?  

Feel free to share your own examples of how living books have changed your own family's vocabulary and brought some humour and light into your lives.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Folksong, 2017/18, Term 1: An Acre of Land (Sing ovey and ivy)

Acre Of Land

The word 'ivery' in this song is a dialect pronunciation of the word 'ivy'.
My father left me an acre of land
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I ploughed it with my ram’s horn,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I sowed it with my pepper box,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I harrowed it with my bramble bush,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I reaped it with my little penknife,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I sent it home in a walnut shell,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I threshed it with my needle and thread,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I winnowed it with my handkerchief,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

I sent it to mill with a team of great rats,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

The carter brought a curly whip,
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

The whip went pop and the waggon it stopped.
There goes this ivery,
My father left me an acre of land,
And a bunch of green holly and ivery.

Here is another version with the same tune, slightly different lyrics (remember, folk songs are like that, and that's okay. You don't need One True Right Version- just pick.  Or mix.  It's okay, relax and have fun with them!)

My father he left me an acre of land,Sing ovey, sing ivy.My father he left me an acre of land,Sing holly, go whistle and ivy.

I ploughed it one morning with a ram's horn,Sing ovey, sing ivy.I sowed it all over with two pepper corns,Sing holly, go whistle and ivy.

I harrowed it next with a bramble bush...

And reaped it all with my little penknife...

The little mice carried it into the barn...

I threshed it there with a fine goose quill...

The cat she carried it into the mill...

The miller he said that he'd work with a will...

My father he left me an acre of land,Sing ovey, sing ivy.My father he left me an acre of land,Sing holly, go whistle and ivy.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Folksongs 2017-18, Term 1: A Nice Field of Turnips

We thought it would be fun to have something connected to harvest for this term.
We found this gem:

 That's a Nice Field of Turnips

That's a nice little farm over there
a lovely little farm over there
That's a nice little farm
a lovely little farm
that's a nice little farm over there!

2 That's a nice field o'turnips over there
3 Little pony
4 Good crop of corn
5 Fine bunch o'pigs
6 Lovely flock of sheep
& so on

Click on the speaker for a recording here:

This may seem a bit silly at first, but it's a good work and play song. Try it out and see how you'll find it creeping into daily life. A child may sing "There's a yummy plate of pancakes over here," and you may respond, "That's a fine display of manners over there." Or perhaps you'll find yourself singing,   "That's a lovely crop of children on my stairs."

Singing songs together is the point of folk songs, after all, and once you do that, they become part of the soundtrack of your lives. Your children will look back and remember singing together as one of their favourite things to do as a family.  Make singing together part of your family culture.

I just know there is a darling crop of AO singers out there.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Folksongs 2017-18: The Outlandish Knight

by Dulac, Golden Age of Poetry artist
I first knew this song as a long poem.  When I was 10 I spent my Christmas week in the hospital laid up with a bad case of a pneumonia (my temperature reached 106).  I had to receive pencillin via injections around the clock, every four hours, which I loathed but was too sick to fight about it.  One of my Christmas presents was the Golden Treasury of Poetry, edited by Louis Untermyer and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund.  (this was my copy, but it's also been republished with this cover.) It was from my aunt, who always gives the best gifts.

I read it from cover to cover, I think, spending that week in the hospital with nothing to do. I loved poetry before that week, I loved it even more afterwards.

The Outlandish Knight was one of my favourites.  The spunky, clever would-be victim turning the tables on the villain and tossing him into the brink gave me much satisfaction.  
I was delighted to learn that it was also a folk song which I could sing with my own children.

An outlandish knight came from the north lands
He courted a lady fair
He said he would take her to those northern lands
And there he would marry her

Go fetch some of your fathers gold
And some of your mothers fee
And two of the horses from out of the stables
Where there stands thirty and three

She’s mounted on the lilly white steed
And he the dapple gray
They’ve rode til they come unto the sea side
Three hours before it was day

Lights off Lights off, your lily white steed
Deliver it unto me
Six pretty maidens have I drowned here
And the seventh will surely be thee
Take off take off
Your silken gowns
Deliver them unto me
For I do feel that they are too fine
To rot in the sun salt sea.

If I take off my silken gowns
And turn your back on me
For it is not fitting that such a cruel world
A naked woman should see

And cut away the brambles so sharp
The brambles from of the brim
For I do feel that they’ll tangle my hair
And scratch my tender skin

So he’s turned his back all on the fair maid
And leant down over the brim
She’s taken him by his slander waist
and tumbled him into the stream

Lie there, lie there, you false-hearted man,
Lie there instead of me,
For six pretty maidens have you drowned here
The seventh hath drown-ed thee

You can also find this at They share this information about the background of the song:

"This ballad is known throughout Great Britian and Ireland, as well as northern and southern Europe. It appears in several collections as May Colvin, the earliest of which is Herd's Ancient and Modern Scottish Songs (1776).This ballad is Child Ballad #4 (Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight)."

Outlandish probably just refers to the knight living in the border country that was not quite England and not quite Scotland- a place short on law and long on outlaws. 

In some versions of the song he's an elfen knight. 

You can read more about several variations and recordings here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Language Arts on the Fly

Language arts are probably the easiest part of educating with Charlotte Mason's methods. It's so deceptively simple that I've graduated three students who are proficient in language skills without ever purchasing a Language Arts program or cracking open a spelling book. In fact, one of my graduates went on to major in English at college and was the subject of a doctoral thesis on CM's language arts acquisition.

What's the secret? It's this: you learn to read by reading, and you learn to write by writing. Or, to amplify it a bit, you learn to read and comprehend and know what words look like by reading, and you learn to write and spell and punctuate by using those things as you write, and sometimes by noticing your own mistakes and mentally correcting them.

But what does that look like?

 It might look like you're not doing much in the way of language arts. :-) But there's more learning going on with CM's methods than meets the eye. The details will probably look a little different from one home to the next, but here's how we did it.

In the early preschool years, I read picture books to my kids. We did lots and lots of reading.

When they "started school" at age six or seven, they started daily copywork. I would write a word or two on a sheet of elementary-lined paper, and the child would copy it underneath. In some cases, the child would trace it first and then try to write it. Tracing was always more fun with a colored pencil or highlighter! Choosing a word to write was pretty straightforward: "You liked the Peter Rabbit story we read today where he sees the white cat twitching its tail; would you like to write 'Peter' today?" My son might say, "Can I write 'white cat' instead?" So I would write "white cat" lightly in pencil on a sheet of lined paper and he would trace it, and then copy it. Sometimes the child had definite ideas of his own about what to write. One child wanted to write "Happy Birthday" every day for the two weeks before his birthday. Another child wrote her own name a lot. One child went through a cowboy phase and wanted to write "horse" every day, so I let him. Usually there would be little doodles of horses or something, and those are articles of "schoolwork" that I still cherish (along with one son's written narrations which were always bordered with stick figures dueling with lightsabers . . )

Later, when copying a single word became too easy, we moved on to short sentences, which I would write on lined paper for the child to copy underneath. It was always easy to come up with something, either from something going on in real life, or from something we had been reading: "Balto is a good dog," or "I am seven years old." "Polly is my pet horse." I usually just came up with something relevant off the top of my head, or sometimes the child already knew what he wanted to write: "I want to write, '"Molly is our new cat!'"

When we moved up to slightly longer sentences, I started taking things from real print. This was never difficult, since we're homeschooling with real books and always surrounded with text. I would pick up a book, usually one we were using for school that day, open to what we had just read, and scan the text for a suitable sentence -- something in the general vicinity of the length I wanted without any complicated spellings (no foreign names, or regional dialect) or complicated punctuation. If the book would lay flat, the child could copy straight from the book. If not, I would still write it out by hand for him to copy. But since copywork at this point was still straightforward sentences, it was quick and easy for me to write it out -- it took all of maybe 90 seconds.

Sometimes I put more thought and organization into it. One year I collected Bible verses from the Children's Bible we were using and we used those, starting from the shortest verse and working our way to the longest. I picked out specific verses I wanted my children to internalize, about God's love and mercy, and verses about kindness, that sort of thing -- never verses chosen to chastise the child for some besetting sin. (Years later, I came across that list of verses, and they are currently posted on on the AO forum.)

Later, some of my children chose their own copywork. One transcribed entire chapters from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Two of my sons transcribed George Washington's Rules of Civility -- we used a modernized copy because I wanted them copying correct spelling, not quaint antiquated English (but my daughter, who is currently doing that, insisted on using the original). I remind the child to try to copy word by word, not letter by letter, since seeing the word as a whole is what teaches spelling. I have a collection of quotable quotes about books and reading that I collected from the internet and saved in a document, and if any of my sons didn't have anything specific to write, they could use one of those.

As each child got older, his (or her) copywork increased in length, but never took longer than ten minutes unless the child just liked writing.

Around the time copywork started getting to a point where I thought the child could write a sentence or two on his own, we started written narrations. My first child did one written narration a week (because he loved to write, took a lot of time and care on his one narration, and was doing a lot of writing on his own outside of school). With the others, I think we started with a couple a week, then once a day, and settled at two half page narrations a day around seventh grade. Whatever wasn't written was narrated orally. In high school (around 10th grade), I started assigning written essays -- I collected SAT-type essay questions from the internet, printed them and cut them out, and the child would draw one from the collection, and that would be his writing assignment that day.

Around the time written narrations started, we also added studied dictation. My general method: open a book, pick a sentence. Hand child the book to study, when he's ready, I read the sentence out loud and he writes it. Boom, we're done.

We started dictations slow and easy: "Learn this sentence so you can write it without looking." It might be only four words long. After that seemed too easy, I made it tricky: "Learn this short paragraph with three sentences; you'll need to be able to write one of them without looking." My youngest is in the middle of this process now, and as I scan our school reading for an appropriate dictation passage, I'm starting to look for passages with quotation marks and semi-colons. Today's dictation was taken from Northanger Abbey, the chapter we read this morning. I never choose something she can't do, and she almost never makes a mistake. If she was making mistakes, I would back off and choose sentences with fewer complicated spellings, less punctuation, shorter length -- the point is for her to succeed, not to catch her in a mistake. The whole process takes maybe 10 minutes, and she much prefers this to copywork (we don't do copywork on the days we do dictation, it's either one or the other). She's always happy when it's a Dictation day and not a Copywork day.

Does that sound too easy? It actually is that easy -- in fact, it seems so self-evident that I feel redundant even writing it out. I find language arts to be the quickest, simplest, most painless part of a CM education. There's nothing to buy, no complicated curriculum to follow, no lists of vocabulary or spelling words to memorize, no contrived creative writing assignments -- the whole thing takes 5 or 10 minutes a day, and writing has never become a dreaded, tedious chore. In fact, most of my children's writing happens outside of school. With the skills they practice painlessly during school, they take off in their own time and write their own stories or plays or songs. I believe in making as little work and fuss as possible, and language arts is an area where simpler is truly better.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why Choose Charlotte Mason?

As a homeschool mom, do you find yourself dreaming of meandering in the great outdoors exploring nature with your children and snuggling with them on the couch for a good book, but also torn because you desire your children to have the advantages of the excellence that a classical education has to offer with its high standards and discipline? Are you torn between relaxed days where you can simply enjoy life with your children, and a rigorously structured plan that will enable your children to attain to any career goal they set for themselves?

Why choose one or the other? Did you know you can have both?

A Charlotte Mason education offers structure, ease and enjoyment because of its well-rounded, expansive cohesion. It recognizes that the child is a complete, whole person -- not a trainable, formable being who has the potential to be a person "someday," but a full-fledged person right now -- an individual created in the image of God, with a right to know and experience all that's worthwhile in the wide world. It recognizes that education is supposed to do more than prepare a child for a job: education should expose a child to the diversity and vastness of the universe and give him the tools to appreciate all the variety of beauty and delight that the world has to offer. It should prepare him to live a life graced with zest, and full of connections with all kinds of interests, and a wide range of relationships with people -- not just the people around him, but also those in faraway places, and even distant times. His education should encourage him to find joy in being a useful part of his community. It should teach him to know God. Preparation for a career is important, but it's only one part of a full, rich life.

How can an education fill such a tall order? By carefully arranging an unusually wide variety of subjects in brief time slots at regular intervals that make for shorter school days with less tedious drudgery, and yet still cover a wider range of topics every week than a typical school schedule can offer. A shorter school day allows down time for reflection and dreaming. It allows free time for pursuing interests that have been awakened from the vast array of school subjects.

How does a Charlotte Mason education do this? If you imagine school like a huge church pot-luck laid out fresh every day, the curriculum offers carefully planned and arranged dishes such as lush paintings, constellations and planetary orbits, inspiring symphonies, the seed cycle of flowers, a selection of classic literature rotated for freshness, multiplication and division, Scripture, historical heroes, language arts, principles of the laws of nature, hymns that have built the faith of generations, peeks at what life was like in past ages, the beauty of words arranged in poetry, right triangles, a view of how people live on the other side of the world. All of this delicious fare is served in manageable-sized portions that won't cause indigestion, and without rushing or harassment so that the meal can digest and settle comfortably. The parent/teacher isn't there to force feed anybody, but to serve up portions with a smile, to sit down and even enjoy the meal with the child.

Each child's approach to the table is as individual as his personality. Some children take a heaping pile of art and just a little bit of math. Other children return for second helpings of history, or go back to nibble at science later. The only rule is that every child has to at least try a bite of everything every day. These dishes aren't just facts and data to be choked down like a vitamin-enhanced diet shake. They're ideas that spark curiosity, inspire wonder, and perhaps even lead to life-long passions.

Does the number of subjects sound like the makings of a long school day? It doesn't have to be! A Charlotte Mason school day is typically only two to four hours, depending on the child's age/grade. How can that be? Encouraging focused attention makes these lessons effective, even though they're short. Interesting, narrative books take the place of boring textbooks and maximize time by doing triple duty as they teach, inspire, and offer role models. To make the biggest impact in a student's limited school time, only a few of the best books are preferred over a lot of mediocre ones. Children assimilate not only the best ideas from these books, but the language and vocabulary of excellent writers, too -- and without weekly vocabulary lists!

Does it take a lot of memorization for a child to remember what they learn? No! The key to Charlotte Mason isn't memorization, but narration. A child tells back or writes down what was heard or read in his own words, and the process of mentally going over the material as he clarifies, sequences, and re-creates it in verbal form is what transforms reading into real learning. Narration itself is where the learning takes place! Learning isn't a passive activity, it's something the child does himself by wrestling with fresh material. The parent/teacher's task is to set the meal table at regular times; the child's job is to attend, be engaged, and narrate for the short time school is in session. By recognizing that learning is the child's work, and that it's rewarding work (after all, who doesn't enjoy knowing and understanding things?), pressure is taken off the parent/teacher to make the child learn, and school can become a pleasure. A Charlotte Mason education is enjoyable and life-enriching for both the parent/teacher and the student, yet it provides the kind of knowledge that any classical scholar would envy.

Are you wondering whether you could ever afford this kind of education for your child? Yes, you can! AmblesideOnline offers all of this for free. All you need is access to a computer, some books, and an investment of time to grasp this approach to learning.

-- Leslie Noelani Laurio

To read more about a Charlotte Mason education, see

To learn more about AmblesideOnline, or to view our booklists, links to free texts, schedules, and additional resources, see