Monday, January 15, 2018

How Charlotte Mason Transformed our Homeschool

When we first decided to homeschool, I researched for a long time, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with Charlotte Mason.

This post contains affiliate links.

This week's topic for the Virtual Curriculum Fair is Our Method of Homeschooling, and I am sharing why Charlotte Mason is important to our homeschool.

What is Charlotte Mason?  
If you're not familiar with the Charlotte Mason (CM) method, Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800's, and what we call the "Charlotte Mason method" is derived from her educational philosophy and the methods she used.  She believed that children are born persons, they're not blank slates to be filled, they have an innate curiosity and thus need living ideas to feed their mind and soul.  To facilitate this, Charlotte Mason used living books instead of textbooks, narration instead of rote memory or dull worksheets, nature study to learn about the world firsthand, handicrafts to develop skills and to make useful and beautiful items, a study of fine arts to feed the soul, and so much more in order to offer students a feast for the mind.

I could go on, but I'll share some links at the end of the post, if you're interested in reading more, because I can't describe the ideas as eloquently as others.  What I really want to do today is share how returning to Charlotte Mason saved our homeschool.

How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool
Our Charlotte Mason Preschool years went really well, but I slowly strayed and dabbled in some curriculum that, while lovely and full of fascinating living books, wasn't particularly Charlotte Mason.  I don't regret the years with our other literature-based programs, they were great for us at the time, and I would still recommend them to others under the right circumstances.  I just started to feel as if something was missing in our homeschool.

In hindsight, we should have just waited a year to start the curriculum we used, but eventually, we slowly made our way back.  I haven't finished reading Mason's books, but I did start slowly adding in elements, one at a time.  I added in fine arts (picture study, hymns, folk songs, composer studies, daily poetry), I added in copywork or dictation for the boys, we started dabbling in Shakespeare.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed and frustrated with the curriculum we were trying to use, and felt like we were at a complete standstill, with no quality progress.  It wasn't producing the same joy and interest as the "extra" Charlotte Mason elements.

The living books were great, but I was trying to force a curriculum and "work" around them, and it just wasn't working.  So I stopped.  I researched for a couple of days, and decided we were going back to true Charlotte Mason.  I changed curriculum the very next week, and I can already feel the progress and intangible benefits in just one term.

That sounds so dramatic, especially because I know things aren't actually perfect around here; we are all human, and we still have bad days.  Overall though, I can feel the dynamic of our homeschool and our daily attitudes slowly changing, and I think this is due to a number of little things that add up to a more pleasant experience.

Better Attitudes
One thing I noticed within just a couple of weeks is that the amount of complaining has reduced dramatically.  That's not to say that there isn't whining or procrastinating, but it doesn't happen as often.  There isn't pure dread in their eyes when I say "It's time for . . . " and I think it because of the short and varied lessons, the living ideas, and NO BUSY WORK!  Sometimes, they even look forward to a particular book, because it's just that good!

They are already making connections on their own.  When we were doing literature-based units (not quite unit studies, but certainly not CM either), I felt like I was just fluffing out their studies and they were just going along for the ride, rushing through and unfortunately not retaining as much as I thought.  When we did a streamlined, chronological history approach, they loved the history, but everything else still felt disjointed.  Now that we're using a full Charlotte Mason curriculum (Ambleside Online - more on that next week) that is so meticulously and carefully curated, and following the CM methods, it doesn't feel forced.  I also feel like there is just enough of a peg from one subject, for it to resonate when something comes around again in another book or subject, and they get the joy of making that connection on their own.  Like when my 8 year old recognizes that the  King in today's story is related to the Duke in his history biography, and was the "winning" King in one of the first battles we read when we started this curriculum.   It might be interesting when I tell them how things are related, but it's certainly not as meaningful as when they realize it on their own - as evidenced by the way their eyes light up during the discussion.

No Planning and No "Stuff" to Do
Ambleside Online is laid out pretty clearly, and I just have to buy the books (my preference over e-books or library) and print the schedule.  I sometimes print a map, but the most effort I have to put into planning/scheduling, is creating a reading schedule for the core books.  It's really that simple.  Charlotte Mason's methods mostly rely on reading and narrations, so there are no worksheets to print, busy work assignments, or unnecessary projects.  This means I'm not scrambling at the last minute to print something or gather supplies.  When I do scramble, our days fall apart.  If I stick to the basics and avoid busy work, our days run smoother and they don't feel forced into doing meaningless activities and projects.

If they want to explore something in greater depth, I am happy to help them, but then it is their choice, and that just means I know the method is working - living ideas are creating curiosity!

How Do I Know It's Working?
Maybe I don't.  We're only one term in.  I don't "have it all down" yet.  I certainly don't have any long-term results, only anecdotal results from other homeschoolers . . . but the attitude adjustment, the ease of the methods, the less stress I feel, and those "aha!" moments are enough for me to feel there is so much more fruit to bare!  Homeschooling, no matter what method, is trial-and-error, and ever-changing process.  We must learn to adapt and learn from our mistakes, make improvements, and grow along with our children.  That's what I'm doing.

For more reading about Charlotte Mason
Charlotte Mason's original books
An Introduction to Charlotte Mason
CM's 20 Principles
What is the Charlotte Mason Method?

What do my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about their Homeschool Method? Go visit them to find out! 

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST on Monday, Jan. 15th.

How Our Academic Co-op Completes Our Eclectic Homeschool by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
A Method to Our Madness by Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Finding Our Homeschool Method by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
How We Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Give Us.... by Annette @ A Net in Time
A day in our Home by Sarah@DeliveringGrace
Lit-Based Education: How We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter
Overhauling Our Homeschool - Adjusting our "How" to fit our "Why" by Sabrina Scheerer @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
A Day in the Life of a Homeschooler: Expectation Vs. Reality by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Captain's Log, Supplemental - Our Homeschool Days by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
How we get it done. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
How to Organize Daily Curriculum with the School Cart by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Learning For Life by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
Eclectic Homeschooling: When It All Comes Together by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
A Typical Day? by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
This is the Way We Do Our School, So Early in the Morning by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
A Little of This and a Little of That: Eclectic Homeschooling by Laura O @ Day by Day in Our World
Still Classically Educating After All These Years by True North Homeschool Academy
So what exactly is Life Led Homeschooling? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Our Homeschool Routine by Joelle @Homeschooling For His Glory
Homeschool Methods � 8 Tips for the Journey by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Week 1:  5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling (Why We Homeschool)
Week 2:  How Charlotte Mason Transformed Our Homeschool (Our Method of Homeschooling)
Week 3:
Week 4:

The Virtual Homeschool Fair is hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and we have two more subjects left to discuss, so be sure to come back next week!

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 review

Homeschool families are always looking for that elusive perfect curriculum.  It may be nearly impossible to find perfect, but what if I told you there was a website that offered you hundreds of courses for all grade levels, and one flat rate would get you access for an entire family - no matter how many children or how many courses you need? review
This post contains affiliate links. is a comprehensive homeschool curriculum website, and I'm happy to review the Yearly Membership so that you can get a glimpse of everything they have to offer!  SchoolhouseTeachers offers courses in all subjects for all grades, supplemental materials, parent resources and much more.  It can be used to enrich your homeschool, or it can effectively be an all-in-one stop for the entire family.

SchoolhouseTeachers can be used for so many different purposes and in so many ways, so there are different ways to navigate the website.  For brand new members, there is a New Members Hub that gives you information about what you will find and how to find it.  The two main ways I like to navigate are to Browse by Grade or Browse by Subject.  Browsing by Grade has the advantage of narrowing down courses that are targeted at a specific age range.  Browsing by Subject allows me to look for topical or interest based courses that supplement our homeschool. review

The vast number of courses offered is astounding.  I couldn't begin to list them all, but suffice it to say, you can find something for everyone in your family, from the preschooler to the high schooler, and everyone in between.  Plus you, the parent, will find courses and resources.

We are Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, and primarily rely on living books, and yet I can still find quite a bit of amazing materials to use in our homeschool.  In fact, there is an entire section called the Charlotte Mason Learning Center, that lists all of the courses that include a Charlotte Mason component/method.  While not every course is directly influenced by the philosophy, the ones on the list are the most compatible.  It would obviously be up to the parent to decide what works best in their homeschool, but I've found a few courses that work well for us!

Each term we do picture study by studying several works of a famous artist.  To accompany our picture study, I can easily pull from a couple of the different art courses once or twice a term, just to enhance our learning and bring it to life!  The All About Artists unit study is for 1st-3rd grade, and gives a brief biography on a few different artists, along with pictures of some of their famous works.  I think it's a great course for jumping into your first few picture studies, because the author has chosen prominent artists that are interesting to children, but it is simple and effectively executed.

Elementary Art:  Twelve Great Artists is an elementary level course, that offers a brief overview of the artist, a project inspired by the artist (Leonardo da Vinci's project focuses on inventions), and some suggested books you might consider getting from the library.  Although my children enjoy traditional picture study for what it is, they also enjoy the occasional art project, so having some simple biographies to introduce the artist at the beginning of the term, and a project to end with, are a great way to add a little something special to our days.  I appreciate having it all collected into one document and readily accessible.  {This course actually has another section as well, called Advent Art, which is 10 lessons of scripture and projects/crafts, though we didn't use it this year.}

Here's the thing, though.  In addition to all of the great courses, there are other amazing features.  Many of the courses use video content from streaming providers like, Drive Thru History, RightNow Media, and more.  Some videos require a separate login, but access is free through  The other phenomenal feature is the access to World Book.  Some courses are created around this content, while we also have access to ten different World Book Libraries!  This is an excellent resource to have available for research or general browsing, because yes, I have a kid that just likes to sit and read encyclopedia type fact books.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, as I can't possible discuss the rest of the courses we want to try, like the animal science courses that interest my 8 year old animal lover, the Guitar course for my 11 year old, or the different music courses I want to do as a family.  There is even a Charlotte Mason course for parents!  Other resources available to parents are the Schoolhouse Planners, Applecore (record keeping and transcripts), printable course certificates, and Molly Green the magazine. really does have a little bit of everything.  The website is comprehensive and offers a variety of courses and resources to meet the needs of almost everyone.  They also have a variety of subscription options to best meet your needs, but whatever you choose, it is for all students; you do not pay extra for more children!  Right now, they are also offering a special New Years sale, where you can receive a significant discount.

Schoolhouse Teachers 2018 Fresh Start New Years Speical

The Homeschool Review Crew has over 40 reviewers sharing their thoughts and experiences with this vast website, so be sure to check out the rest of the reviews!

Homeschool Curriculum for Everybody - { Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 8, 2018

5 Reasons We Love Homeschooling

Every homeschooling family has a story.  The reason why they homeschool.  Or perhaps it is not one single reason, but many small things that make a big decision easier.  I suppose we fall into the latter.

This week during the Virtual Homeschool Fair, hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds, families are sharing The Reasons We Homeschool.  Here are my top 5 reasons, in no particular order.

Homeschooling is Logistically Easier
Although the seed for homeschooling was planted when I was expecting our first child, because I knew I would never be ready to hand my children over to a system, I think the journey really started as it came time to enroll our oldest in Pre-K.  I was working full time, and the boys went to a private babysitter.  Neither my job, nor the babysitter's home, were in our local school district.  It wasn't long before we realized it wasn't going to work.  Husband had ruled out the school bus long before we ever had kids, and we live rural, so we would have been driving all over creation; plus the school hours and our work hours were in conflict.  If I was going to go part time or quit work to just shuttle the kids back and forth, why not homeschool?  It wasn't long before we realized that seed was now a firmly rooted desire to nurture and educate the children from home, and shortly after I resigned from my job to start this crazy, rewarding journey!

Our Schedule is Flexible
Homeschooling means we have the freedom to rearrange our schedule - for anything!  We can travel "out of season" when weather is milder, rates are cheaper and crowds are smaller, because it fits our family's preferences.  We did not have to change the way we did things when the kids hit school age, just to fit a public school calendar.   We can also change our schedule to accommodate my husband's job.  He sometimes works evenings or weekends when needed, and he occasionally travels for work.  I don't have to worry about the kids missing time with him, because our schedule and our routines are flexible. If we want to spend half a day playing board games, or reading about former presidents, or watching educational science videos on YouTube, it is of no real consequence to our schedule.  I can shift things around, and likely still complete a full week's worth of work on schedule.  A flexible, but fluid, schedule is not just a benefit, it's really a necessity.

Fernbank Field Trip
September 2017
No crowds, and less heat!

They ALL Receive an Individualized Education
One of the most challenging aspects of homeschooling is knowing if we are making the right choices along the way.  What history cycle should we follow?  Should we change math programs?  What homeschool method is best?  Honestly, even these answers change from time to time.  Flexibility is a necessity, after all.

I have found that in order to give my children the best education, I have to make it their education.  That means there is no "right" answer, because it is about what is best for them at that moment.  I do believe I have chosen an educational philosophy that is easy to follow and also easy to adapt (Charlotte Mason - more on that next week), because with her methods, I can help each child recognize their talents and strengths, and work on any weaknesses.  When it comes to more standard subjects like math and writing, I can still tailor their lessons to their needs.  They don't have to go as fast or slow as a class; they go at their own pace, in their own time.

I Know What They are Learning
As an extension of trying to create an individual education for each child, it means I know what they are learning.  My husband and I are the primary influence in our children's lives and education.  Despite the great teachers that do exist, they often admit their hands are tied.  As their parent and "teacher" I can guide them in a Biblical education.  I know the materials we use are clean and wholesome, and I can address religion, politics, stereotypes and world views accurately, fairly and from a Biblical standpoint.  I also know they won't be studying content that is beneath their comprehension or too mature for them, because I have researched to make sure their books are appropriate.  I get to see when that triumphant AHA moment happens!  I get to share in the stories of the books we read together, and we can discuss literary characters or people from history over lunch.  I am learning alongside them often, and they are intrigued because I am intrigued.  They enjoy learning with me, which makes the process that much more fun for me!

We are Breaking Down a Stereotype
With each new generation that homeschools, we are eroding that weird, unsocialized homeschool stereotype.  I try to attend special homeschool classes and events offered by businesses, or to use their educational discounts when offered.  I contact other businesses to discuss their homeschool policies.  I want them to know there is a homeschool presence, and there is a need for more businesses to have homeschool-friendly policies.  I contact the school board (when necessary) to let them know I am aware of my legal rights, so they know homeschoolers are informed.  I let my kids play outside during "school" hours (PE and nature study!) and we run errands during school hours, because homeschoolers before us fought for the legal protection to homeschool, and not hide in fear.  I firmly believe that we should make society aware that homeschooling isn't just legal, but it's growing, and it is a quality form of education.  Parents have the right to choose the educational path that is best for their children, and I am proud to be a part of that.  I love showing others that homeschooling isn't about the final destination; it's about a unique journey.

Now, let's see what my fellow homeschool bloggers have to say about The Reasons We Homeschool.

Note: all posts will be live after 8 am EST.
5 Reasons to Homeschool High School by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Weird Homeschoolers by Kim R. @ Good Sweet Love
How We Make Homeschooling a Lifestyle by Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Our Ever Evolving Homeschool Story by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
5 Reasons You Will Want to Homeschool by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays
How Our Homeschool Came To Be (and why we continue) by Sabrina @ Kids, Crunch, and Christ
Home Education - 10 Reasons we keep going...even when it's hard by Lizzy @ Peaches@Home
So... Tell Me Again Why You Homeschool? by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Virtual Homeschool Fair 2018 - Week 1 - Why do I Homeschool  by Joelle@Homeschooling For His Glory
Homeschool Reasons: Bullies, Faith and More by Annette @ A Net In Time
In Pursuit of Purpose by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
A Long Time Ago . . . Why We Decided To Homeschool by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
The Why Behind Hopkins Homeschool by Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Why We Homeschool - It's What We Do by Kristen H @ Sunrise to Sunset
Why we Home Educate and Extra Benefits by Sarah@Delivering Grace
Homeschooling: The Big WHY? by Lisa @ True North Homeschool Academy at Golden Grasses
Regaining Your Homeschool Focus by Jen @ A Helping Hand Homeschool
Why do we homeschool? by Dana @ Life Led Homeschool
Our "Homeschool" Why by Jacquelin @ A Stable Beginning
Because Life is Precious by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
1998 vs. 2018: Why We Homeschool by Debra @ Footprints in the Butter

Each week for the rest of the month, we'll be sharing a peek into our homeschool.

Week 1:  The Reason We Homeschool
Week 2:  Our Method of Homeschooling
Week 3:  Our Homeschool Curriculum
Week 4:  Enriching Our Learning

©2011-2018 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.