My last post At What Age Should Formal Lessons Start? may have given the impression that I no longer subject to the idea of early childhood education. Which isn’t what I meant nor is it what Charlotte Mason meant. While Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers and teachers to wait for children to begin formal lessons until they were six, she also gave instructions on informal lessons for the early years.
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My youngest is nearly three and we’ve been pretty relaxed in our approach to early childhood education with him. Very often our days have looked like this: inspired-by-charlotte-mason-homeschooling-the-toddler/. Since that article we have continued to focus on nature exploration and lots of outside time, Charlotte Mason recommends 4-6 hrs per day but because of the harsh winter it has mainly been 1.5-2 hrs per day. If your like me and felt a little guilt over this-don’t, the winters in Ambleside England were mild in comparison and she even suggested to cut your hours down in the winter to one or so hours in the morning and in the afternoon. With our winters, some days we don’t even get out-not with below freezing temperatures. So we have spent the winter focusing on informal lessons.
A persons character is paramount to their success. An individual could be one of the most intelligent and educated persons but if he or she has a quick temper, easily loses self-control, or lacks perseverance-how successful will he/she be in keeping a job? What about personal relationships? If a child is let to his/her own devices and grows to lack empathy, kindness, gentleness, patience (etc.) will he/she be able to have meaningful friendships or a healthy relationship with a future spouse?
Charlotte stresses to mothers not to believe that a child will “grow out of it.” Instead, the longer a bad habit is allowed to go on the harder it is to direct our children back to good habits. Which is why we (my husband and I) focus on habit training in the early years. Right now we are intentionally focusing on the habit of obedience and using my Charlotte Mason Style Habit Training Calendar for record keeping and to stay the course.
In Home Education Charlotte discusses several times the introduction of writing through the use of sand trays. I put together this little clip to demonstrate a DIY kinetic (less mess) sand bin for Alphabet tracing.
(afterthought: a few days later the sand seemed dry, I added a TBS of water at a time and it livened right up.)
This ebook is written by Leah Martin author of My Little Robbins. She received her Masters in Education and taught in a Ambleside School prior to staying home to homeschool her children. She now writes and homeschools her children using Charlotte Mason’s Methods.
Before six, learning is done through exploration, discovery, and play. Now I will be the first to admit I cannot resist “the pleasure of teaching” the alphabet. Yet, I am careful to proceed in knowing that this is all in fun. I had a few items left from when my oldest was in this stage and I brought those out for my youngest to play with. Both of my children love this Melissa & Doug See-Inside Alphabet Peg Puzzle.
Yet, my little guy wanted his own “school work” I was perfectly ok with this since he was asking and would like to be doing something while I’m doing a little bit of formal lessons with my oldest. Which brought me back to this passage, “He has his box of ivory letters, and picks out p for pudding, b for blackbird, h for horse, big and little, and knows them both.” -Charlotte Mason Home Education Pg.201. My little guy was ecstatic when this package came in from amazon.
Since I am reading aloud to my oldest, my youngest often sits in on this time too. I have been using amblesideonline.org living book list for year 0 and their recommended toddler board books. We have already gone through most of their recommended reading and so I use the criteria from this article to decide on any further book selections what-is-a-living-book?
My oldest is a bit of a rock collector, so I collected these flat stones when she was little for her to learn her numbers. First, I wrote with a black marker, and then to add texture I outlined the numbers in glitter glue. My little guy brought these back out. He runs his fingers over the numbers and asks me what they are and then tries to count them. Right now he has taught himself to count to three.
Charlotte Mason doesn’t actually recommend to keep a nature diary until the child can keep one for himself, at about 5 yrs old. My oldest and I both keep a nature diary, so I couldn’t leave my little guy out which means he has a nature diary too. He has painted along side us and usually picks the main color of the animal we are studying and then paints all over with that color. Interestingly, this is how he taught himself his colors.
While Charlotte Mason recommends waiting to start formal lessons until age six, informal lessons can still be approached. If I had to focus on one or two areas, it would be habit training and then out side time. What about you?