Monday, March 31, 2014

Preschool in Santa Monica

My husband and I are frequently asked where we send our almost-three-year-old daughter to preschool.  Where we send her, not if.

From my encounters with other mothers in the area, preschool is a norm.

So, when my husband and I respond that we don't send our daughter to preschool, that we're not going to be sending her, and that we're going to be homeschooling, it catches people a little off guard.

Both my husband and I are teachers.  When we moved to Santa Monica 10 years ago, it was because we had both been hired to teach 6th grade English and history at different schools.  During that time, we both changed subjects, schools, and grade levels, and I got a master's degree.  Then we had a baby.  Because I had an advanced degree, it made financial sense for me to work, while my husband raised our daughter.

Before my husband and I decided to homeschool, I did look at preschools.  Our daughter wasn't even walking, and I was looking at preschools.

What I found was non-refundable application fees of $125, "admissions specialists," and Nanny & Me toddler groups conducted in Spanish.  They called older siblings "alumnae," and sent out letters of acceptance.  Some offered "Transitional Kindergarten" (a term I find interesting because kindergarten itself was once "transitional" - a gentle easing from home to school). 

In addition to art and story-time, some taught woodworking and capoeira.  Wednesday was Cheese Tasting Day, and the chef prepared organic menus including poule au pot, quiche, quinoa, and fennel hearts.

Fun classes and gourmet food - I wanted to enroll!

The base rate was a quarter of my salary.

Had we wanted to send our daughter to preschool, my husband would have had to go back into the classroom, and - because we would both have had to be at work an hour and a half before the preschool day started, and both have had to be at work an hour and a half after the preschool day ended - we would have had to hire a nanny to care for and transport our daughter during the time she wasn't in school.

Preschool wasn't even a possibility...which opened the door to a better possibility.

Where does she go to preschool?  At home.

Living Math

Here is a link to Cathy Duffy's article on teaching math without a textbook in kindergarten through third grade.

If you know what concepts you need to teach and how to teach them, it is possible to teach through sixth grade without a textbook.

Charlotte Mason had a lot to say about math instruction.  Here are some of my favorite quotes (in bold) from Home Education (Volume 1) pages 253-258.

Of all his early studies, perhaps none is more important to the child as a means of education than that of arithmetic.

The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders.  

Mason believed children needed to be able to apply math skills.  She also believed in scaffolding - not a word she used, but a word that, translated from "teacherese" means giving children problems they can solve, and increasing difficulty little by little.

Care must be taken to give the child such problems as he can work, but yet which are difficult enough to cause him some little mental effort.

The young [inexperienced] governess delights to set a noble 'long division sum,'––, 953,783,465/873––which shall fill the child's slate, and keep him occupied for a good half-hour; and when it is finished, and the child is finished too, done up with the unprofitable labour, the sum is not right after all: the last two figures in the quotient are wrong, and the remainder is false.

Mason did not think children in elementary school should be made to spend long periods of time, working independently, doing math problems they could get wrong.  It seems common sense, but this is the opposite of what happens in most public school classrooms.  Textbooks are written with two main parts - guided instruction and independent practice.  Guided instruction is where the teacher explains the lesson's concept and demonstrates how to solve problems, and students complete independent practice after they've shown they can be "released."  (The phrase "gradual release" is another teacherese term.  When I hear it, I can't help but imagine a fisherman pulling a hook out of a fish's mouth and letting it back into the water, or an animal being let out of a cage into the wild.)  The teacher walks around, helping students, or sits with a small group who need more help understanding the concept.  But at the end of the day, the children go home with their homework, homework that some of them still cannot do on their own.  If this is the case, why has it been assigned?

Because school districts create pacing plans so their teachers will cover certain concepts by certain dates. 

But back to Miss Mason.

[A child] must not be discouraged by being told [his answer] is wrong; so, 'nearly right' is the verdict, a judgment inadmissible in arithmetic.

Mason did not believe children should be told things like "'re close, but..." and she didn't think telling a child his answer was incorrect would damage his self-concept.

The next point is to demonstrate everything demonstrable. 

Use manipulatives.  There are lots of manipulatives you can buy - like Unifix cubes and pattern blocks - but there are also lots of manipulatives you already have on hand, like macaroni noodles, beans, buttons, and pebbles.

Mason believed a child should be able to use manipulatives as needed, and that before a child learns facts, such as the multiplication table, he or she should demonstrate the concept.  For example, when exploring the concept of multiplication, a child can build arrays with counters.

A bag of beans, counters, or buttons should be used in all the early arithmetic lessons, and the child should be able to work with these freely, and even to add, subtract, multiply, and divide mentally, without the aid of buttons or beans, before he is set to 'do sums' on his slate.

This philosophy is quite different than what happens in many public school classrooms, where students who do not know multiplication facts are given a multiplication chart as a "cheat sheet."  The rationale behind this is that students can learn the process of solving problems involving multiplication (such as 43x12 or 768x56), and complete independent practice pages, even if they don't know multiplication facts.  Mason would very much disagree with this.

More math talk later.

Our 5th Grade Math Goals

By the end of 5th grade, child can:
-add mixed numbers with like denominators
-complete a word problem that has 1 unnecessary bit of information (This means that the child can identify the unnecessary information in the word problem, and knows to disregard it.)
-divide a 4-digit number by a 1-digit number
-subtract money (with regrouping)
-solve word problems involving subtracting money with regrouping
-solve a word problem with a variable (Example of an expression: x + 3 = 28, what is x?)
-understand fractions and their relationship to division (1/3 of 36 = 36 divided by 3 – wp)
-round to the nearest hundred
-add 2 numbers after rounding to the nearest 100 (Example 463 + 321 = ~500 + ~300 = ~800)
-write a number in standard form, when given word form (up to six digits)
-add money (dollars and cents, three prices)
-multiply 3 numbers
-multiply a 4 digit number by a 1 digit number
-divide a 4 digit number by a 1 digit number
-subtract up to 5 digits from 5 digits (with regrouping)
-pre-algebra: solve for a variable when given a multiplication expression (30m = 6000)
-divide a 4 digit number with zeros by a two digit number with 0 in 10s place
-apply order of operations (3 operations, use of parentheses, addition and subtraction
processes only)
-calculate equivalent fractions
-calculate half of a number up to 100 (including odd numbers) (Example: half of 49 is 24 1/2)
-know how many sides various polygons have
-count by hundreds (2700, 2800, 2900…)
-solve a multi-step word problem involving perimeter
-measure a line segment in millimeters
-solve a multi-step word problem (Example: Total – Part A = Part B, when given Total and Part B)

Nature Study in Santa Monica

Living in the city, and having a brick-paved patio, we're a little limited when it comes to Nature Study.

Here is my almost-three-year-old feeding a zebu, the world's smallest breed of cattle, at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market petting zoo.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I need not touch upon the subject of Mathematics. It is receiving ample attention, and is rapidly becoming an instrument for living teaching in our schools. - Charlotte Mason, School Education (Volume 3), page 236

This quote makes me laugh because Mason had a lot to say about EVERY topic, including math (which she discusses at length in Home Education, or Volume 1).  I imagine an interviewer asking her, "Miss Mason, and what do you think about math?" And Mason responding, "I need not touch upon the subject..."

My own ideas about math instruction are influenced by my experience teaching elementary and middle school.  At the public school where I work, I teach math using the district-adopted curriculum.  I am not able to teach math the way I believe math should be taught, or the way I will teach my daughter.

For example, last week, during our unit on measurement, I taught my fourth graders a lesson on converting standard units of measurement (12 inches equals 1 foot, 36 inches equals ___?).  The very next day, the lesson was converting metric units.  This is not the way I would teach my own child.  This is not the kind of pacing plan that gives children the experience they need to master these skills.

I've posted my math goals for preschool through fourth grade, and I intend to post about math in grades 5 through 7 (pre-algebra).

This example of converting units of measurement is a good example of how I teach vs. how I will teach my own daughter.  To be prepared for algebra as an 8th grader, a child does not need to master converting standard units of measurement and converting metric units during the same year, let alone the same week.

The Tailor of Gloucester

The Tale of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter has more than a few words that this 21st century Californian needs help pronouncing and understanding.  Here are the words I looked up:

Gloucester - pronounced GLAW-ster.

periwig - a highly-styled wig worn by men and women.  Marie Antoinette wore periwigs.

lappets - the two decorative flaps that hung from women's headcoverings.

pompadour - a type of cotton or silk fabric.  It is white with a design of small pink, blue, or gold flowers.

worsted - a type of cloth or yarn made from wool, so I assume worsted chenille means wool chenille

When I looked up "corded silk," I came across grosgrain, which was a popular fabric for garments in the 17th century.  As a little girl, my mother put grosgrain ribbons in my hair.  These are the ribbons with ribs, as opposed to ribbons with a smooth texture.

Again, wainscots is wayne's-cots, not wayne's-coats.

groat - a silver English coin (it wasn't worth much)

penn'orth - a penny's worth

thread-paper - thread was wrapped around folded paper, instead of spools

twist - thread, a strong twisted sewing silk

pipkin - an earthenware cooking pot

tippet - a long narrow piece of cloth, a scarf

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Describe a View

Number 10 on A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six is:

to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views

What did Charlotte Mason mean when she said a first grader should be able to describe a view?

On page 48 of Volume 1, Mason writes that a child should be taught to take "mental photographs" of Nature.

Get the children to look well at some patch of landscape, and then to shut their eyes and call up the picture before them, 

if any bit of it is blurred, they had better look again. 

When they have a perfect image before their eyes, let them say what they see. 

Thus: 'I see a pond; it is shallow on this side, but deep on the other; trees come to the waters edge on that side, and you can see their green leaves and branches so plainly in the water that you would think there was a wood underneath. Almost touching the trees in the water is a bit of blue sky with a soft white cloud; and when you look up you see that same little cloud, but with a great deal of sky instead of a patch, because there are no trees up there. There are lovely little water-lilies round the far edge of the pond, and two or three of the big round leaves are turned up like sails. Near where I am standing three cows have come to drink, and one has got far into the water, nearly up to her neck,' etc.

Mason wrote that this exercise should only be done now and then.  She also wrote that, when training a child to see the scene fully, the parent should prompt the child to notice the "salient points of the scene" and ask guiding questions. (I agree with doing this for picture talk as well.) 

Why spend time developing this habit?  From pages 49-50:
[The child] carries about with her just such a picture gallery; for whenever she sees anything lovely or interesting, she looks at it until she has the picture in her mind's eye; and then she carries it away with her, her own for ever, a picture on view just when she wants it.

Our 3rd and 4th Grade Math Goals

The following is a list of math goals to be mastered over two years, during 3rd and 4th grade.

By the end of 4th grade, child can:
-Add money
-do one-step word problems
-divide a 2 digit number by a 1 digit number (Example: 36 divided by 6)
-multiply a single digit by a single digit*

*In a Charlotte Mason school, the multiplication table - up to 12x12 - was mastered by the end of 3rd grade.

-do a one-step word problem involving multiplication
-understand that ½ hour equals 30 minutes
-add ½ hour to a given time (:15, :30, :45) (Example: It is 4:45. What time will it be in half an hour?)
-skip count by numbers 0-9 (list multiples - Example: 8, 16, 24, etc.)
-write a mixed number (Example: 2 3/8)
-identify sixths (fractional parts)
-shade sixths
-understand percentage-fraction equivalences (1 whole is 100%, 25% is ¼, 75% + 25%= 100%)
-apply the formula for perimeter
-apply the formula for area
-place a three-digit number on a number line
-add decimals (to hundredths place) (Example: 4.2 + 3.5 + 0.25 + 4.0)
-multiply a three digit number times a one digit (Example: 346 x 3)
-divide a 4 digit number by a 1 digit number (Example 4,325 divided by 5)
-multiply 3 numbers (0 to 10) (Example: 6 x 7 x 10)
-add money (two numbers) (Example: $2.76 + $6.98)
-pre-algebra: substitute a variable for a number in adding (2 numbers, up to 3 digits each)
-pre-algebra: substitute a variable for a number in subtracting (2 numbers, up to 3 digits each)
-write a number in standard form when given that number in word form
-identify place value to the hundredths place
-measure a line segment on a number line when the line segment does not start at 0 (Example: from 3 to 7 = 4 units)

Field Trip - Jazz For Kids

Today, the Thelonious Monk Institute and the Broad Stage presented a Jazz For Kids concert.  It was wonderful.  They played songs like "Cantaloupe Island" and "Tenor Madness," but also "Happy Birthday" (both the traditional version and jazzed up version to show the children what jazz is), and the theme song to The Muppets Show.  The stage was filled with joyful, dancing children.  After the show, the musicians let the children try out the instruments.  My toddler got to pluck the strings on the bass, open and close a button on the sax while the saxophone player played, and hit a vibraphone's bars with mallets.  She had a blast.

Early Education

In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mothers first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. - Charlotte Mason, Home Education, Volume 1, page 42

Mason believed children ages 0-5 should not receive a formal education.  To understand this more, I think it's important to look at the time in which Mason lived, and to what she was reacting.

By 1880, British law required all children between the ages of 5 and 10 to go to primary school.  This was to ensure that all children had, at minimum, a basic education.  Mason disagreed with this mandate.

If Mason were here today, sitting in my living room, what would she have to say about subjects such as preschool, transitional kindergarten, and 21st century kindergarten?  (She had a lot to say against Victorian-era kindergarten, so my guess is that she would have more than a little to say against public kindergarten of the present.)

Mason wrote that children ages 0 through 5 should spend between four and six hours outside every day, from April through October.  Her words (from Volume 3, page 44) are in bold:

Impossible! Says an overwrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children than a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighbouring London squares. Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them. A journey of twenty minutes by rail or omnibus, and a luncheon basket, will make a day in the country possible to most town dwellers; and if one day, why not many, even every suitable day?

The phrase "the neighbouring London squares" could be replaced with "her urban Santa Monica neighborhood."  Six hours a day?  Impossible!

The mothers to whom Mason was writing had servants.  They were not grocery shopping, washing dishes, or vacuuming.  They had the time to take a train to the country every suitable day.  For the stay-at-home parents of today, sitting on a picnic blanket in the shade of a large tree, all day, every day, just isn't an option.

The next best thing?  A safe space for independent play, be it inside or out.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Tales of Beatrix Potter

The Tales of Beatrix Potter are listed on Ambleside Online's Year 0 (kindergarten) booklist.

Here are the Lexile measures of just a few of Potter's books:
The Tale of Peter Rabbit - 660L
The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck - 610L
The Tale of Benjamin Bunny - 890L
The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher - 840L

Potter's books have reading levels ranging from 2nd to 5th grade, based on vocabulary and sentence structure.  But the subject matter of these books is appropriate for children as young as two years old.

Today, my almost-three-year-old daughter and I finished The Tale of Pigling Bland.  I read it to her over two days because it is one of Potter's longer tales at 81 pages.  When I read these books aloud, I want to pronounce the words correctly, and understand their meanings.  Here are some of the pronunciations and definitions I looked up.

Wainscot is pronounced wayne's-cot, not wayne's-coat.

A coppy stool is a short wooden stool used for milking a cow.

A flitch is a side of bacon.

And my favorite: antimacassar.  Antimacassars are the small cloths placed on the backs and arms of sofas and upholstered chairs to prevent the furniture from getting dirty.

Introducing Picture Talk

One of the subjects children in Charlotte Mason schools studied was art appreciation.  In Home Education (Volume 1) on pages 307-312, Mason writes about the study of pictures.  Her words are in bold.

The art training of children should proceed on two lines. The six-year-old child should begin both to express himself and to appreciate, and his appreciation should be well in advance of his power to express what he sees or imagines.

[I]f children appreciate the vulgar and sentimental in art, it is because that is the manner of art to which they become habituated. 

[T]his sort of study of pictures should not be left to chance, but they should take one artist after another, term by term, and study quietly some half-dozen reproductions of his work in the course of the term.

Children would study one artist per trimester (three artists per year), focusing on one picture every two weeks.

Mason gave examples of objectives for picture talk, as well as a how-to.  Below, I've adapted her objectives and how-to so they can apply to any artist or picture you choose to study.


1. To continue the series of the artist's pictures the child is studying.
2. To increase their interest in the artist's works.

3. To show the importance of one specific element of the artist's work. (For example, when studying Monet, it's important to highlight the way he created a sense of movement in his paintings.)
4. To help children to read a picture truly.
5. To increase their powers of attention and observation.

How to do a picture talk:

Step I.––Ask the children if they remember what their last picture-talk was about, and what they remember about the artist. Give them a little background on the artist, but focus on the specific element to which you want them to pay attention.

Step II.––Give them the picture to look at, and ask them to find out all they can about it themselves, and to think what idea the artist had in his mind, and what idea or ideas he meant his picture to convey to us.

Step III.––After three or four minutes, take the picture away and see what the children have noticed.  Ask them questions to help them go deeper.  Ask about what they think certain colors mean, or certain symbols.  Ask them to use certain clues to make larger inferences.  (What do you think was the reason for _____?  Did you notice anything in the picture that gives us clues about _____?)

Step IV.––Let them read the title, and tell any facts they know about the subject; then tell them the story behind the subject.  (For example, when looking at Leonardo da Vinci's The Annunciation, tell the story of the angel Gabriel coming to Mary.)

Step V.––Let the children draw the chief lines of the picture, in five minutes, with a pencil and paper.*

*In my fourth grade classroom, I give my students much longer than 5 minutes to do this, and I also allow them to look at the picture while they draw or paint.  I don't let them trace the picture because I want them to practice observation.

For my almost three-year-old, I've introduced picture talk with a page-a-day calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The length of our picture talk varies day to day.  Here is how it went yesterday.

Mommy: What do you see?
Toddler: I don't know.
Mommy: Is it something we could find in a kitchen?
Toddler: Yes, for pouring.
Mommy: What could we pour?
Toddler: Milk.  Or water.
Mommy: (pointing) And what's this?
Toddler: A lid.
Mommy: (pointing) And this?
Toddler: A handle.
Mommy: (pointing) And it also has a spout. 
Toddler: And a pattern.  Black, white, black, white.
Mommy: Are the lines straight or curvy?
Toddler: Straight!
Mommy: What letter do those lines make?
Toddler: W.
Mommy: And look, some of the lines are thick, and some of the lines are thin.                                                    

One day, the picture was Pierre-Auguste Cot's The Storm.                                                                 

 When I asked her if the couple was inside or outside, she said, "Outside.  They need to put on shoes, and that boy needs a shirt."                   

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Our 2nd Grade Math Goals

By the end of 2nd grade, child can:
                        write numbers 1 through 100
                        add 1 to a given number using mental computation 
                        add 10 to a given number using mental computation
                        subtract 1 from a given number using mental computation
                        subtract 10 from a given number using mental computation
                        understand a quarter is 25 cents
                        count money (determine the value of a pile of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters)
                        make any total of less than $1, using the fewest coins (examples: .17, .65)
                        read a thermometer
                        color a thermometer to show a given number of degrees
                        understand odd and even
                        count by odd numbers
                        count backwards by 5s
                        identify the missing symbol in a pattern
                        use a ruler to measure a line segment (in centimeters)
                        draw a line measuring a specific length in inches to the ½ inch (ex: 4 ½”)
                        tell time to the nearest 5 minutes (example 2:25)
                        understand the phrase “half past” a specific hour
                        draw hands on a clock to show a specific time
                        divide a shape (circle, square) into four equal parts
                        identify fourths (one-fourth, two-fourths, etc. – fractional parts of a whole)
                        color a given number of fourths (one-fourth, two-fourths, etc.) of a shape
                        (shapes divided into fractional parts are limited to circles and squares)
                        identify eighths (one-eighth, two-eighths, etc.)
                        write a fraction to show how much of a shape is shaded
                        read a line graph (How many ___ are there? Of which are there the most?)

*In Charlotte Mason schools, children in Class 1b (a combination of second and third grade) mastered the multiplication table through 12x12.  Memorization of multiplication facts should begin.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scripture Memorization

In Home Education, Charlotte Mason writes about scripture memorization (page 253 of Volume 1).  Her words are in bold:

Bible Recitations.––The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit; but the learning of the parable of the Prodigal son, for example, should not be laid on the children as a burden. The whole parable should be read to them in a way to bring out its beauty and tenderness; and then, day by day, the teacher should recite a short passage, perhaps two or three verses, saying it over some three or four times until the children think they know it. Then, but not before, let them recite the passage. Next day the children will recite what they have already learned, and so on, until they are able to say the whole parable.

Three months ago, after realizing my toddler had memorized more than a few Veggie Tales silly songs, I decided to try scripture memorization.

The first verse I chose was Psalm 100:3: Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us and we are His.  We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.  It answers the question "Who made you?" - one of the truths a toddler is ready to learn.  (For more on truths children are ready to learn, check out The Spiritual Growth of Children.  This book was a gift from my aunt and uncle, and it's a wonderful resource.)

All I did was write the verse in marker on a piece of paper and tape it to the wall.  Every day, I read the verse to her one time.  After two weeks, she had it memorized, stopping me to recite it herself.  "No no no, Mommy.  I'll do it."

For February, I repeated the same process with Psalm 23:1: The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.  Again, she quickly learned it.

During February, if a block tower fell down, or Mommy or Daddy told her no, my daughter would cross her arms and say, "I can't do anything."  I knew what verse she needed to memorize in March: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Phillipians 4:13.  Now, I know this verse does not mean that all of the block towers we build will stay standing, or that Mommy and Daddy will let us do everything we want to do.  But it has stopped her from saying "I can't do anything."  It has also hidden in her heart the truth about contentmentAnd though we can't tell when or how this truth will bear fruit, we know it will.

Why isn't that ram sitting out in the sun?

Today, during our reading lesson (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons), I read number 4 to my almost-three-year-old daughter: "I wonder why that ram isn't sitting out in the sun."

She responded, "Oh, well, because that ram forgot her sunglasses at home."

Our First Grade Math Goals

By the end of first grade, child can:
                        identify the month on a calendar
                        identify the year on a calendar
                        identify today’s date on a calendar
                        identify today’s day of the week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc.)
                        identify tomorrow’s date & day of the week
                        count by 1s from to 140
                        count by 2s to 20 (skip-count)
                        count by 5s to 50 (skip-count)
                        count by 10s to 100 (skip-count)
                        understand a penny is 1 cent
                        determine the value of a pile of pennies (ex.: 9 pennies = 9 cents)
                        understand a nickel is 5 cents
                        determine the value of a pile of nickels (ex.: 8 nickels = 40 cents)
                        understand a dime is 10 cents
                        determine the value of a pile of dimes
                        determine the value of a mixed pile of pennies, nickels, and dimes
                        identify the missing shapes in a pattern (regular polygons: square, triangle)
                        count backwards from 10 to 1
                        count from a number less than 100 by 10s (example 6, 16, 26…)
                        identify inches on a ruler (a ruler with both centimeters and inches)
                        use a ruler to accurately measure a line (in whole inches, no fractions yet)
                        draw a line measuring a specific length in inches (example: 3 inches)
                        tell time to the half hour (examples: 10:00, 8:30)
                        divide shapes (circle, square) in half
                        shade half of a shape (circle, square)
                        identify fractional parts of a whole (half, one-fourth)

First Grade

In School Education, Charlotte Mason writes about 1st grade (page 272 of Volume 3).  Her words are in bold:

Class Ia.––The child of six goes into Class Ia.; he works for 2 1/2 hours a day, but half an hour of this time is spent in drill and games. 

This means that a six year old child at a CM school spent 2 hours on academics.  Contrast this with today - a first grader at the public school where I teach spends 5 1/2 hours each day in the classroom.

Including drill, he has thirteen 'subjects' of study, for which about sixteen books are used.

Students did not study all thirteen subjects every day. Some subjects, such as math, were studied daily, while other subjects, such as brush-drawing, were studied once a week.

He recites hymns, poems, and Bible verses; works from Messrs Sonnenschein and Nesbitt's ABC Arithmetic; sings French and English songs; begins Mrs Curwen's Child Pianist, learns to write and to print, learns to read, learns French orally, does brush-drawing and various handicrafts.

All these things are done with joy, but cannot be illustrated here. Bible lessons, read from the Bible; tales, natural history, and geography are taught from appointed books, helped by the child's own observation.

The curriculum outline for Programme 44 1a lists 15 subjects:

2.Writing (Mason called the subject of learning to write by copying the writing of others "transcription," however many in the homeschool community use the word "copywork."
3.Natural History (Science)
5.French (Students in Charlotte Mason schools studied 4 foreign languages, including Latin. We are teaching our almost-three-year-old Spanish because it was my husband's first language. In the early years, foreign language should be taught orally.)
6.Number (Math)
7.Picture Talk (Art Appreciation)
8.Drawing (Art)
9.Tales (Literature & History)
10.Recitations (of poetry and Bible passages)
11.Reading (Phonics)
12.Music (Piano)
14.Drill (Physical Education.  We are doing dance.  Our almost-three has been taking a combination ballet and tap class for seven months.  The class is a "Mommy & Me" class - or, in our case, "Daddy & Me.")
15.Work (Handiwork) (Programme 44 lists needlework and carton-work, which, from what I can ascertain, is similar to origami.)

Our plan in each of these subjects is to read him the passage for the lesson (a good long passage), talk about it a little, avoiding much explanation, and then let him narrate what has been read. This he does very well and with pleasure, and is often happy in catching the style as well as the words of the author.

First graders should be read to, as opposed to reading (or struggling to read) the text for themselves.  Reading to learn comes after one has learned to read. 

A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of 6

"A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of 6" is cited by Ambleside Online (AO) as being a curriculum outline from a Charlotte Mason school of the 19th century. 

These were the goals a child of six years old - a first grader:

1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns
2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm
3. to add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters
4. to read--what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child
5. to copy in print-hand from a book
6. to know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows
7. to describe the boundaries of their own home
8. to describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach
9. to tell quite accurately (however shortly) 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English, and 3 from early Roman history
10. to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views
11. to mount in a scrap book a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.
12. to do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees
13. to know 6 birds by song, colour and shape
14. to send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed
15. to tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog or cat.
16. to name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences
17. to sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song
18. to keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons"

We (my almost-three-year-old daughter and I) started Siegfried Engelmann's Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons in mid-January.  Two months later, we are on Lesson 18 - excellent progress, considering an almost-three-year-old has a very short attention span.

But my almost-three also has a love of letters and phonemes, and this is why we do what we do.

So here is how we do it...

1)I want her to love the experience of reading, so we only read when my daughter is rested and happy.

2)We keep the lessons short, stopping when she becomes disinterested.  Each of the 100 lessons is divided into minilessons.  Engelmann calls these tasks.  Some lessons have nine tasks, some have 14.  Some tasks are as simple as "Sound Introduction," in which one new sound is - you got it - introduced.  Other tasks are more lengthy, such as sounding out the words in a short sentence.  Depending on the complexity of the tasks, we do anywhere from one to five tasks per sitting.

3)We omit "Sound Writing."  The instructions say not to skip these tasks; they are not lessons in how to write the letters, but lessons in sound-letter correspondence.  That said, we don't do them.  When we started our reading lessons, my daughter's fine motor skills were not developed enough, nor are they now.  There are alternative ways for very young children to practice sound-letter correspondence, such as tracing tactile sandpaper letters while saying each letter's sound.

4)We mix it up.  Sometimes I sit her on my lap and have her read out of the book, but sometimes I write individual words on 3x5 cards or in the bathtub with bath crayons.  Sometimes, she teaches a toy how to read, or wears a finger puppet on her "reading finger."

5)I reward her with stickers on a chart.  For every task she completes, she earns a sticker - however, there are times when she tells me she doesn't want to earn a sticker, but still wants to read.  When she fills a sticker chart, she can use it to "buy" something she wants.  So far, she has chosen a pair of wings, a small Lego set, and a Belle dress.

6)Lastly, we don't do Teach Your Child everyday.  Some days we are too busy doing other things, like putting together puzzles or strumming the ukulele. 

Preschool through 3rd Grade Language Arts Goals

In preschool through 3rd grade, child:
-is instructed in phonics (and other "learning to read" skills such as Greek and Latin roots, etc.)
-talks about text
-develops fine motor skills
-learns to write in cursive (in kindergarten, the focus is one letter per week)
-listens to high quality literature
-copies short passages of high quality literature (daily)

Some things we do to work on these goals (preschool):
-We watch DVDs: LeapFrog Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory.
-We do lessons in Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.
-At bedtime, we read high quality literature.  (We’ve read J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy, and E.B. White’s Stuart Little.  We are currently reading through Beatrix Potter’s The World of Peter Rabbit.)
- To prepare for learning to write, we do activities that strengthen fine motor skills.

These are goals I devised for teaching my daughter based on Charlotte Mason's scope and sequence for reading & writing, as well as my experience teaching public school (through 8th grade).

Mason did not believe in "preschool" or "kindergarten," so someone strictly following Mason (the "Orthodox Masonite," if you will) would not begin instruction before first grade.

In my credential program, there were 2 how-to-teach-reading classes. The class on teaching 4th through 8th grade emphasized teaching students how to read to learn, while the class on teaching kindergarten through 3rd grade focused on teaching students how to read. This is how I can best define this period of preschool to 3rd grade: it is simply about teaching how to read. 

This is one thing (of many things) I really like about Mason.  First through third grades are not cluttered with making students write original compositions, which is quite different from what happens in public school.  

In the district where I teach, kindergarteners were assessed in December (halfway through the year!) as to whether they could write original sentences about which they liked better - dogs or cats - and why.  While they are physically learning to write, they are also being made to express themselves.  Mason understood these were separate skills that needed to be learned separately.

For writing, I will be teaching cursive when we begin formal instruction in "kindergarten."  My almost-three-year-old is teaching herself to print - little ones teach themselves so much!  Last night, she was coloring with her markers and she showed me that she had written the letters O, D, L, E, and F!  For cursive, I like the Spencerian Penmanship books republished by Mott Media, but I'm still thinking about how best to use them with a little one.  (I've used Spencerian with my fourth grade class.)

More on Language Arts later.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Our Preschool and Kindergarten Math Goals

 By the end of kindergarten, child can:
-identify shapes (triangle, circle, rectangle)
-count to 100
-count objects, matching sets of objects with 1-to-1 correspondence
-order the numbers 1 through 10
-match sets of objects with numbers
-identify coins (penny, nickel, dime)
-understand the word “sort”
-sort like objects, such as coins
-identify most and fewest/least
-identify the longest object in a set
-measure an object accurately using nonstandard units (such as pennies,                                                  paperclips, Unifix cubes, etc.)

Some things we do to work on these goals:
-We make pictures with pattern blocks.
-We count using a hundred board and Unifix cubes.
-We do dot-to dot pages. (Kumon's My Book of Number Games 1-70 is wonderful for learning to        
            identify numbers, count, and practice fine motor skills.)
-We put coins in a bank.
-We sort things (manipulatives by color or shape, refrigerator magnets by color, coins, etc.). 

Mason believed a child should master working with the numbers 1-10 before moving on to larger numbers.  At present in my school district, kindergarteners must be able to write numbers 1 to 100, in order, from memory, before they have mastered working with the numbers 1-10.  Being able to count and being able to identify numbers is very different than understanding one-to-one correspondence.  It's like being able to sing the ABC song without understanding which letters make which sounds (or even that letters make sounds).  Children should not be made to memorize a list of numbers, nor should they be made to write these numbers when they are only just learning how to write.

A child does not need to be able to do this whole list before moving on to the skills on the first grade list.  For example, many children can identify a circle, triangle, and rectangle, before entering kindergarten, so a child who can identify a circle can then learn to identify half a circle.

Once a child can count objects up to 30, you can use a hundred board to help the child see a pattern: 10, 20, 30, 40...100.