Tuesday, May 8, 2007

My Homeschool Journey & My Favorite Charlotte Mason Resources

Someone asked me recently what my original homeschooling inspiration was -- what basic style or method first appealed to me?

When I first began looking into homeschooling, I asked a lady at a Stay-at-Home-Moms website what curriculum she used.  I also asked the only homeschooler at our church what curriculum she used.  Both ladies pointed me to  Five In A Row.   I looked at the website and knew this was the method I wanted to use.  I love books!  I love to read!  I want my children to love to read.  When I read about teaching our children using literature instead of textbooks, I wished *I* had been taught in that way.  I think we originally chose Five In A Row instead of some other similar methods because of its lower cost.  I never regretted that decision.

Before we even bought any Five In A Row curriculum, I began to spend time at the FIAR Discussion Forums .  I had so many questions, and the ladies there encouraged me, patiently answered my questions, and recommended several books for me to read.  These are the books which they recommended, and which further shaped my homeschooling philosophy: 

  • <a href="http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&amp;item_code=WW&amp;item_no=20902&amp;netp_id=114474&amp;p=1133325">  _fcksavedurl=""http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&amp;item_code=WW&amp;item_no=20902&amp;netp_id=114474&amp;p=1133325"> " "A Charlotte Mason Companion" by Karen Andreola</a>

  • <a href="http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&amp;item_code=WW&amp;item_no=5290X&amp;netp_id=150700&amp;p=1133325">"For the Children's Sake"</a> by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

  • <a href="http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&amp;item_code=WW&amp;item_no=00237&amp;netp_id=102451&amp;p=1133325">"Beyond Survival" by Diana Waring</a>

  • <a href="http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&amp;item_code=WW&amp;item_no=02424&amp;netp_id=142615&amp;p=1133325">"Things We Wish We'd Known" by Diana Waring</a>

  • <a href="http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&amp;item_code=WW&amp;item_no=209031&amp;netp_id=279669&amp;p=1133325">"A Pocketful of Pinecones" by Karen Andreola</a>

At times, I have thought about setting aside any curriculum, and just making a plan for our own family, Charlotte Mason style.  But Steve preferred that I stick to a purchased curriculum, and it was nice to be able to tell any curious people that I use a certain curriculum. I think it sets skeptic minds at rest to know I am following a plan that others have also followed.   So, we compromise by choosing curricula that work well with our desire to use Charlotte Mason's methods.

More recently, a different friend recommended this book by Clay and Sally Clarkson to me:    Educating the Whole-Hearted Child.  I had already read several of Sally Clarkson's mothering books, and I enjoyed reading the book she and her husband Clay Clarkson wrote about homeschooling.  I think it fits very well with the Charlotte Mason method of education, and it talks about extending that style into the high school years, also. 

Around the same time that I first began reading about Charlotte Mason's methods, I found this website: Home Made Living.  It is a wealth of wonderful and encouraging information about how to use Charlotte Mason methods in your homeschool, and there are articles explaining how it looks in some families.  There is also  a message board that I used to read there, and the ladies were very encouraging.  I still point new homeschool Moms to this website.  I especially love her article on Kindergarten CM Style.

Here are two websites with lists of twaddle-free living books, and two websites with history books, that I refer to when I need some ideas for additional resources:
Charlotte Mason (Twaddle-Free Books)
Classical Christian Education Support Loop: 1000 Good Books List
Reading Your Way Through History
Books to Supplement History

While we were still using Five In A Row, I began to read what the Quine's had to say at their website: Cornerstone Curriculum.   I first was pointed to them by Diana Waring in her books I was reading.  I especially was drawn to the Quine's Thoughts on World Views  and the  Quine's Mission.  I intended to use their curriculum once our children reached Jr. High and Sr. High age.  I wanted my children to have an education founded in a Biblical World View, and an understanding of other world views that would enable them to defend their faith.  I wanted to be proactively teaching from a Biblical world view instead of defensively having to counteract the non-Biblical world view they would be learning in a public school setting.  It was one of the key reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place.

But then, I began to hear about Tapestry Of Grace.  I liked that it still used living books, although it included more non-fiction books, and not just literature.  I liked that it was history-based, because I have always loved history.  I liked that it was Christian and also contains a Biblical World View and a comparison with other world views.  But what mostly "sold" me on it was that I could teach all of our children with it, with everyone studying the same thing.  I had been struggling already to teach two different unit studies to two different levels of students.  And I knew I was soon going to need to add in a third level, and a third curriculum.  It was overwhelming to think about, and Tapestry Of Grace  was my answer to that.

(I will admit that I had a very difficult time choosing between Tapestry of Grace or TruthQuest History.  I still sometimes wonder if I made the right choice.  But TruthQuest History wasn't designed for the whole family to use, at the same time.  That was the reason I chose not to use it.)

I am not a classical educator, and Tapestry Of Grace is a classical curriculum.  So, I do not use the curriculum in the same way a classical educator would.  I tweak it to fit more into our Charlotte Mason style.  I use it in a relaxed way, and I like that I can make it suit each of my children.  One child who is an advanced reader can read all the reading selections, while the one who struggles with reading can just read the most important selections.  I can chose to read a selection aloud rather than assign it.  Or on weeks that there is less of me to go around, I can only read to the youngest students and the olders can handle all their assignments on their own.  That was a relief. 

I loved unit studies, but I didn't like that it all hinged on me sitting down with each age group to read to them and discuss with them.  If I had a colicky baby, it was difficult to read over the crying.  If I had a puking toddler, I might not have time on one day to sit and discuss the chapter we'd just read.  This was fine when the children were younger, but as A & R grew older, I really felt the need to have a more consistent plan for them.  I needed them to begin to take over more of their own lessons and education, but I did not want to resort to text books.  Besides the fact that I didn't want to leave literature and living books behind, I also knew that I'd have to grade the work of each student, and that wouldn't really help the situation.

So, to make a long story short -- my homeschooling roots are in Charlotte Mason's style.  My desire is to teach from a Biblical World View.  Our homeschooling journey has led us through several different curricula, but we are still a Charlotte Mason family.



  1. It sounds like we have had similar experiences. I started out with FIAR and began reading about CM. I used Ambleside for a few years. I am now using TOG, but I have adapted it to more of a CM style. I keep adapting it as needed. I am also trying to educate my children using a Biblical worldview.

    This was a great post. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Oooh! Thanks for all the info and links! :)))


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