5 Ways Charlotte Mason Has Impacted My Life #themasoneffect

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We should always have something worthwhile to think about, that we may not let our minds dwell upon unworthy matters – Charlotte Mason

My interest in the life and works of Charlotte Mason stems from early on in my research before embarking on actually teaching our children at home.

I often still feel in the early stages of discovery but have now been implementing her methods in our homeschooling days for 8 years. My interest isn’t purely to aid my ‘teaching’, I am fascinated by a woman who influenced the face of education in a time where children were ‘seen and not heard’, were physically punished for poor spelling and did not have the freedom to express their informed opinions or feelings about a particular text or subject. Charlotte’s work and life was ‘for the children’s sake’; she believed and fought for the plain fact that ‘children are born persons’ and wanted to give them all an opportunity to create a life long love for learning,  enjoy good ‘living’ books and an appreciation of God’s creation.

In 2012 I took a bit of a pilgrimage up to the Lake District (Ambleside) to visit her old stomping ground (she was actually nearly fifty when she moved to Ambleside, in 1891 and formed the House of Education, a training school for governesses and others working with young children) and her gravestone; I was saddened to see the buildings unloved and more or less abandoned over the years but glad they remained standing to tell some of the tale of her life and work. Her incredible legacy has and continues to impact so many of us across the globe.

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‘Scale How’ – Charlotte Mason’s ‘House of Education’ from 1894

My learning about her life and implementing her educational methods in my home have made a huge impact on many area’s of my life; here are 5 for starters!

Reignited my love of books

Let their books be living books, the best that can be found in liberal supply and variety – Charlotte Mason

I’ve always been a reader, albeit a bit of a lazy one, but I’ve always loved and thrived on self-education (I wasn’t home educated). Over the past few years my love of reading, learning and getting lost in real, ‘living’ books has been rekindled and has enriched my life incredibly. I’m a true believer in modeling for our children what we’re labouring to implement in their lives; if you want readers, be a reader!

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The plaque on the front of Scale How

Habits are worth the work

“Let children alone… the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.”
― Charlotte M. Mason

Don’t skip this bit! I know habit-forming can be laborious, tedious and time-consuming but it is SO worth it. It’s incredible how doing the same thing every day, learning a simple skill (i.e. attention) can massively impact your family life and your personal life.

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A building known as ‘the beehive’ used for Miss Mason’s students to practice teaching in!

Every day nature study – brought it to life

Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life – Charlotte Mason

My childhood was full of nature walks and adventures in the Yorkshire countryside; my foraging mother would collect treasures, smell trees, point out flowers and admire God’s beauty like no one I’ve ever seen before. I’m so thankful for that heritage but it didn’t come to life in me until I started home educating my children and brought nature study into our regular rhythm. I have now become my mother (smile), only ten times ‘worse’ – and I love it!

I’ve learnt to trust the learning ability of a child

“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
― Charlotte M. Mason

This is a whole blog post in itself (I will do it), I never fully realised the full learning potential of a child if you just give them room to grow, discover, observe and breathe in this big beautiful world that we live in. With each child I have been ‘braver’ to not have every moment scheduled and schooled, to allow plenty of room and trust the ways of a child and Charlotte’s method. I’ve had incredible ‘results’ from my brave ways (wink) and thriving children who I thank God for everyday!

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The front door of Scale How – the beginnings of a great adventure for many young wannabe educators

Mother culture – exploring my own learning and creativity

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”
― Charlotte M. Mason

With the combination of Charlotte Mason, Brene Brown and now Elizabeth Gilbert, I’m finally loving my creative self, believing in her and leaning into her. So much of motherhood is time given over to those in our households; loving, nurturing, feeding, nursing and guiding but I’ve learnt to realise that I am at my best from a place of rest! I need to renergise, read, write, walk, gaze at beauty and fill my soul in order for me to pour into the people in my life.

So mama’s – let’s go out to play!

How have the life and works of Charlotte Mason impacted your life?

5 Reasons (or reminders) Why We Should Read Aloud To Our Children

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“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”
― Marilyn Jager Adams

In a time where there are SO many distractions and forms of digital entertainment for our children it’s so easy to drop the beautiful habit of reading aloud. Whether you have babes in arms, preschoolers, homeschoolers or children in full-time school; reading aloud is a gift we give our children, a chance to snuggle up with them and a perfect opportunity to slow down and immerse ourselves in a child’s literary world.

Some of the happiest memories of my childhood were when my beautiful mother would gather myself and my siblings on her bed and she would either read a book or make up an adventure story! The bed would become a flying carpet or a ship at sea; we’d be lost on a desert island or taking flight over sights and scenery that she would describe and that I can still ‘picture’ today.

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“To receive many blessings, read to your children from the womb to the tomb.”
― Joyce Herzog

So here are 5 reasons (or reminders) why we should read aloud to our children:

  1.  Improves Their Long Term Reading Success

Decades of research shows that reading aloud to a child daily is one of the most important activities for their reading success. That goes for older children, too. Studies show that children who are read-to are more likely to have good vocabularies, write well, and do well overall in school . They’re also more likely to keep reading on their own

2.  Helps Expand Their Vocabulary

Your child’s auditory understanding is higher than their reading comprehension. When you pick a difficult book that your kids can’t read on their own, you are exposing them to a treasure chest of new vocabulary words. This stretches a child’s language development, particularly if you stop to talk about the meaning of these harder words.

I encourage my children to write down ‘hard words’ on a piece of paper whilst they are reading, and look them up later; a little habit I picked up from my Dad. Obviously if they can’t understand the story due to said hard word I help them out!

3. Increases Their Imagination And Creativity

When our children have travelled to the country fayre with Wilbur and Charlotte and ‘tasted’ Templeton’s treats, when they’ve ‘smelt’ the Shire and lost themselves in Middle-earth; when you’ve gasped together and cried (that would be me) whilst reading about the life of Bruno and Shmuel the books do their own work in our listeners hearts and imaginations. I finished reading ‘Charlotte’s Web’ to my youngest children over a week ago and they are still playing and crafting games around the characters they’ve fallen in love with!

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4.   It’s Time Spent Together.

Reading time is time when you’re focusing on no one else and nothing else but them. It’s impossible to read to your son or daughter and look at your smart phone or watch TV at the same time! It’s a prime opportunity to slow down, sit down, snuggle up and breath in a book with your children – now, who doesn’t want to do that?!

5.  It Builds Life Skills

It builds listening skills, increases a child’s attention span, and develops the ability to concentrate at length of which all are learned skills.

So where should I Start?

  1. Pick a perfect 15 minute slot every day and create a habit
  2. Pull yourself a book list together; there are some helpful ideas here
  3. Ask your children what they would like to read
  4. Just DO IT! It doesn’t matter if you’re not the best reader or eloquent speaker; you’re creating a bond, amazing memories and instilling life skills into your children!

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves – Neil Gaiman

Want to hear more? Tomorrow morning on my radio show ‘Live With Leah’ I’m interviewing primary school teacher and English subject leader Jenny Jenkins. We’re going to be chatting about the joy of books, reading aloud to our children and how we can encourage this in family life amidst the digital distractions we’re bombarded with!

Check out the show live at 8am (GMT), listen locally on 101.5fm or stream from Radioplus.org.uk.

Connect with us during the show via our Facebook page – tell us where you’re listening from and ask questions to add to our live conversation!

And finally, check out this book for more inspiration:

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Caught up in story by Sarah Clarkson

Nature Study – 3 Top Tips For Beginners!

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There is no season such delight can bring as summer, autumn, winter and spring – William Browne

One of the greatest delights in using the Charlotte Mason method is her emphasis on nature study; there’s nothing greater than seeing your children caught in awe and wonder by God’s beautiful creation. Not only does regular nature study lay a foundation for the study of science but it enriches a child’s life. Charlotte states that when children are outdoors interacting with nature it in fact increases their intellect and makes them a more interesting person, I agree!

“Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun — the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?”

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We can easily get overwhelmed when beginning our homeschooling journey as to where to start and what to do; take a breather mama and go for a walk. It all starts here.

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Here are three tips that might help you get on your way:

  1.  Walk the walk

Whether it’s your garden, your great aunt’s yard, the local park or the forest your house overlooks (sigh) do the same walk every week. The repetitive pattern of seeing the same trees, flowers, fields week after week may seem monotonous here in words but in reality it’s a beautiful journey that you commit to and get excited about with each season. Every time you walk those paths you see new things, identify new species, collect treasures along the way and eventually you’ll be naming trees, plants and birds as you pass them (as will your children). We have a ‘green space’ about 5 minutes walk from our house; we’ve been told that it may have been an old Victorian landscaped garden as there are such a variety of trees, but I’m yet to do my research! My husband walks our dog there every day, often with the children and we take an intentional nature walk there every week. It has taken years of observation, touch, smell and sight to learn only a handful of the trees and plants on that walk but we could walk you round and name many species along the way! Of course we walk in and visit many other places throughout the year; woods, castle gardens, lakes and seas but our neighbourhood green space is in the regular peaceful rhythm of our home educating days.

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2. Don’t sweat the sketch

There is seemingly so much emphasis on nature journals, sketching ‘what you see’ and recording your botanical findings but be kind to yourself and allow you and your young learners to grow with the process. Take photo’s and upload them when you get home to look through together and talk about what you saw, jot down basic sights and smells in a normal week to view diary, print out pictures, find species in books to copy if it makes it less stressful for your students! You will learn to find your rhythm and form of expression with your children in order to record your nature findings but there’s no rush to become the Edwardian Lady, really!

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 3. It starts with you!

I’m sorry to say, but as with most of my home educating or parenting ‘wisdom’ it really does start with us! We have to cultivate a love of being outdoors, appreciating God’s creation, reading and researching ourselves in order to inspire our children. There are so many beautiful books, illustrated poetry anthologies and prospective botanical besties out there waiting for your cry for HELP!! You know as well as I do that our children see through our ‘fake’ interest; if we love it and show passion for it, it becomes infectious. If it doesn’t come natural to you, find another family to walk and learn with; we’re all in this together!

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring – George Santayana

 

Over the next few weeks I plan to share more around our personal out working of the Charlotte Mason method with regular updates on our nature study , use of living books and daily rhythms. Please feel free to ask your questions here in the comments, over on my Facebook page or via Instagram.

If you’re using the Charlotte Mason method here in the UK, I host a Facebook group, please head over and request to join here.

 

 

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Have you read Moments on Mothering yet? Head over to Amazon and download your copy today!

The Practice Of ‘Morning Time’

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A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live

– Bertrand Russell

After 8 years of educating my children I can wholly confirm that the atmosphere and rhythms of our home are critical for the flow, discipline and peace in our day. My recent personal motto is ‘I’m at my best from a place of rest’, if this works for me, it must also work for my children and the atmosphere they are learning in.

I’m at my best from a place of rest

We all know that how we start our day is pretty influential to how it unfolds; whether you’re a ‘morning person’ or not, I’m afraid pleased to tell you that you mama are the culture creator and pace setter in your home!

Our morning routine was established early in our homeschooling life, I’ve only recently discovered that it’s a ‘thing’; not purely taken from a Charlotte Mason method or paradigm but it definitely fits with her ‘short lesson’ philosophy. I wanted to gather my children, capture their hearts at the beginning of the day, centre ourselves on Jesus and bring clear communication before the hustle and bustle of the day began. I can’t speak for a movement or whether this stems from the original PNEU timetables but I can speak for the impact of a morning gathering  upon our family and our home educating.

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“The habits of the child are, as it were, so many little hammers beating out by slow degrees the character of a man.”

– Charlotte Mason

What we do

Monday to Friday everyone must be up, dressed and beds made by 8.30am (often slips to 9am by Friday #keepitreal ); we immediately gather around the table after making smoothies/juices, eggs or toast and of course a pot of tea (and a complete mess of the kitchen!).

So here’s my morning tick list (it’s in my head, and also a habit):

  • Read the bible – we’re working through the Old Testament so after years of purely reading from an NIV or NLT I decided to try the Catherine F Vos’s ‘The Child’s Story Bible’, it came highly recommended by other CM educators and we’re loving it!
  • Scripture memorisation – we learn one a week and kind of use a similar system to the Simply Charlotte Mason ‘scripture memory system‘, I pick out a bunch of verses that I’d like us to learn and then we copy/type, print and stick them to an index card. I write one a week on the blackboard in our dining room and we recite it every morning until we all know it without looking.
  • Catechism – I’ve downloaded the app for the ‘New City Catechism‘ onto my phone and we’re going through the version for children. We just do one a week, recite the relevant one each day and recap on a Monday morning.
  • Briefing – for some of my children it’s really important that they know the details of what’s going on at each moment of the day, even down to mine and my husband’s plans for the evening, so I brief them every day on the next 24 hours. The clearer our expectations and communication is with our children the less their need for insecurity in the home and frustration is (for the most part!). We go through their work for the day (practical and academic) as well as details of any outings, meetings or additional work I need to do.
  • News/appreciation/thanks – especially on a Friday I like to encourage them on great things I’ve observed in their work and character throughout the week, I love seeing their huge smiles and it’s a great way to teach gratitude and to show them how important encouragement is.
  • Pray – everyone prays, we do it in age order and I use this time to teach my children how to pray, connect with God and each other, how to stay focussed and grow in their worship and expression. We always start with thanksgiving and I bring instruction/ideas of things we can be praying for as well as giving them an opportunity to share what’s on their heart.

The ‘items’ listed above always happen, the following list are things that happen occasionally, once or twice a week maybe depending on how close to 8.30am we started (smile!)

  • Worship –  YouTube is great for this; I just play a familiar worship song or teach them a new one over a few days. We sing along!
  • Poetry – I mostly read our poetry over lunch time and the children use poetry for their copy work every day but if we’ve hit a new season/month or we’ve observed something amazing in nature before breakfast (sunrise, Coal tit in the yard, spider on the window etc.) I’ll find a relevant poem to read and inspire.
  • Bible facts – I try to regularly teach my children basic information (often through song) about the bible; i.e. books of the bible, 10 commandments, names of disciples etc.

We generally don’t take any longer than an hour over our morning gathering and our time is followed by chores before everyone gets their heads down to study, but that’s all for another blog post!

So I’d love to hear from you – how does your morning gathering look? How has it impacted your learning atmosphere?

 

Why Home Educating Is Actually All About Me – Part 1

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It’s that familiar time of year again; the hedgerow berries are turning from red to black, the swallows are silent as they retreat back to Africa and my body and soul are eager to find that familiar, comforting rhythm of routine. I can smell Autumn in the air through the last attempts of a British summer and I’m starting to put my youngest two children to bed in the calming dusk light again. As much as I’m clinging onto the summer nights and late mornings I’m also ready to begin our happy habits of pencils and poetry around pots of tea.

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I’m not much of a curriculum hunter; in fact I’ve never bought curriculum per se in our 8 years of home educating but I do plan; I shop for second-hand living books and draw up a schedule of learning for each child (whether we stick to it or not is another thing!). I feel accomplished and satisfied with my perpetual planning and look ahead to that all important first September morning when breakfast is served with a smile, classic FM is gently playing in the living room and the books for the day are piled high on the table.

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But as we all know from the trenches of this parenting journey the ‘perfectly’ planned day can turn with an unexpected fever, a broken night’s sleep, a pre-teen clash of agenda’s or you catch the curve of a hormonal roller coaster; yep – we’ve all been there and I’m sure we’ll be there again!

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The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom – Henry Ward Beecher

As Mr. Beecher puts it so beautifully; actually, when it comes down it to it, it’s not the seamlessly sharpened pencils or the record-breaking research into the most up to date learning tools that win our children’s  attention – it’s our hearts, our attitudes and our very present lives that hold theirs.

You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:5, The Bible

It’s that unshakeable rock that we build our lives and convictions upon that enables us to press that all important ‘reset’ button and see greatness in every broken and imperfect day. His story becomes our story and our story becomes theirs – if we chose to embrace Jesus, then we’re hemmed in on every side.

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life – Charlotte Mason

In our hurry to fill our Ikea cupboards with art supplies and realms of paper, in our eagerness to line our shelves with books and pinterest printables, have we forgotten to prepare our hearts? Charlotte Mason challenges us as parents to evaluate the ideas that rule our lives and whether we like it or not, those ideas play a big role in what our children learn from us

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For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light – Matthew 11:30, The Bible

The atmosphere we create in our homes and learning environments, the discipline and daily rhythm of our lives and the constant devotional beat beneath our feet is the foundation of why and how our children learn at home. If my children delve into the depths of my heart to learn, love and live then that is what I must cultivate first.

What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45, The Bible

In part 2 I’ll be sharing my 3 top tips for cultivating the heart so watch this space homeschooling mama…

7 Ways To Survive Summer!

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I know, I know, you’re thinking survive summer, I’m gagging for it, bring it on! Just hear me out mama; a few years ago, about 2 days into the summer break I overheard the desperate cry of a mother of 4 school aged children say “they’re driving me crazy already, I can’t believe I have 6 weeks of this”. I’m sure you’ve never felt exasperated 2 days into the summer break (ahem) but this romantically desired long break from ‘business as usual’, whether it’s the school run, homework and parent’s evenings or homeschool planning, curriculum choices and homeschool co-op taxiing around it can be tough on Mum when the honeymoon period (2 weeks days in…smile) is over.

Here in the UK we’re just winding down for our 6 week break; I know you US mama’s are well into your summer break, but here’s how this schedule loving homeschool Mum keeps sane.

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1. Make a wish list 

I’m pretty opposed to using the term ‘bucket’ list as I don’t intend to ‘kick it’ before the end of the summer but I get why people use it! We always make a summer wish list, it often has similar things on it year after year:

1. Go fruit picking

2. Visit Bourton-on-the-Water

3. Sit around the fire pit and roast marshmallows

4. Go visit the ________ family

Etc.

You get the idea; we make the list and we slot them on the schedule (see no.2) to make sure we do them!

2. Make a plan – print it out for all to see

Yep, I’m that Mum, but it works! I make a table on Word covering the 6 (or 7) weeks we’re taking off and fill in every day as much as I can. I then print it out and stick it in various places around the house. So next time they ask ‘are we going out today’ you can just point them to the summer schedule – simple (unless they can’t read of course…wink)

3. Talk about expectations

I’m all about the family meetings and ‘briefings’ – we can’t expect our children to behave a certain way or respond in a particular way if we haven’t first laid out our expectations right? So this is where you show them the schedule, talk them through it, explain that they’ll still be doing chores (see below), remind them that the word ‘bored’ is banned in the house (highly recommend that one!) and definitely have some clear boundaries around technology, but most of all lay down an expectation of fun. Summer needs to be memory making and journal worthy, for all of you!

4. Keep to some routine/rhythm

The first few summers after we started homeschooling I didn’t really do this and I found myself working harder than ever! Because our chores and household responsibilities are so much a part of our homeschool day I totally let them slip but of course who picks up the slack? Mama here! If nothing else I make sure we still ‘gather’ at some point in the morning to talk about the day, pray/read etc. and then we do our regular chores. We all need some kind of rhythm remaining in our summer, a familiar beat that helps us stay centred.

5. Plan a day in/day out routine or two days in one day out

When I’m scheduling our activities I try to make sure we’re not in the house for more than two days in a row. I have a lot of projects and personal work that I like to achieve over the summer and I love being at home, but half of my children are pretty extreme extroverts and have a need to be all go go go, so I try to keep a balance for all of us. Being out of the house doesn’t have to have a cost involved – it could be as simple as visiting a friend or taking lunch to the park; be creative!

6. Make a list of household projects all the family can get involved with

Summer is a great time to sort out the school room, the plastics cupboard or even paint that old chair you’ve been desperate to up-cycle. Make a list, make it realistic (says she, the absolute overachiever) and slot them into the schedule. Get the whole family involved and make it fun – it feels great ticking off that list!

7. Do your ‘back to school’ prep earlier rather than later

As a child I used to hate seeing the ‘back to school’ supplies in the supermarkets just as classes were finishing for the summer, but now it makes sense to me. Give yourself a break mama, lose the stress and prep early. Instead of running around Asda the night before the first day back, grabbing at the pencils and uniform, do it now! Do any shopping, planning, book buying, bag packing, organising of the school room etc as early in the summer as possible, pop it on the schedule and don’t procrastinate!

Believe me, you’ll relax so much more knowing it’s done.

So what do you do to make sure your summer break is memory making and stress free?

Picture Books for Learners

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Last night, as I was driving to collect my daughter from youth my mind wandered onto the well-thumbed book sat on my coffee table that I’d almost finished. I recalled the events that I’d been immersed in over the past week and how when I googled the author and discovered she had died a few years ago that I genuinely felt sad; we were kind of friends! There’s something so amazingly connected about reading; and a good writer can draw you in from a significant sentence or a profound paragraph; we not only learn but we are moved.

Using Charlotte Mason’s wisdom as we home educate our children requires us to bring before them offerings of vibrant, beautiful living books that take our children on a journey, a ‘science of relations’ that triggers a life long relationship with the past, present and future. These books bring to life ideas and creativity that cause collaboration with their own imaginations. What a gift!

And it starts early; I have a great love for quality picture books and have a growing collection on my shelves for my future grandchildren (smile) when my own little learners have moved from Doyle to Dickens (as some already have).

So I thought I’d share four of my favourite living picture books with you; I read these to Micah and Sienna who are 6 and 4 years old.

‘The Eagle and the Wren’ by Jane Goodall, illustrated by Alexander Reichstein

IMG_20150227_092836This brilliantly written and illustrated book is a retelling of an old fable and childhood favourite of Jane Goodall’s; not only does it have a beautiful moral for life entwined in the tale but the story gives us a little living glimpse into the life of the Skylark, the Dove, the Vulture, the Eagle and the Ostrich – a wonderful accompaniment to any bird study.

20150227_093315We’ve used Tennyson’s ‘The Eagle’ poem alongside this fable and as I type Micah is crafting his very own Eagle out of an old bottle and various bits of paper and material. A beautiful book that I’m sure we’ll come back to time and time again.

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‘The Cow’ and ‘The Horse’ by Malachy Doyle, illustrated by Angelo Rinaldi

These two picture books are a feast for the eyes and the ears. Angelo Rinaldi’s incredible illustrations pull you into the picture and take you on a journey with these two gracious animals. They are a perfect example of a living picture book which no Charlotte Mason home school room should be without!

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‘The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook’ by Shirley Hughes

I’m a big Shirley Hughes fan and this compilation is no exception; she’s brought together a beautiful blend of shorts stories, poems and delightful illustrations which bring the outside to life in your living room. I love this early introduction to great writing and poetry (but not necessarily rhyming poetry) with some fun and familiar family humour. But be warned, Hughes is a bit of shocker (smile), in the story ‘Bonting’ there’s a naked bottom (which my youngest two like to flick to with giggling enthusiasm); don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I particularly like the poem ‘Moon’; a great accompaniment to this is Christina Rossetti’s ‘Is The Moon Tired?’ – and of course standing outside wrapped in blankets looking up at the magnificent mystery in the sky fits well after a happy reading!

So there’s a small collection of our favourites at the moment – what stories are bringing your learning to life this week?