Friday, May 23, 2014

Using Your Community as Your 1st Planning Resource

The most popular CM curriculum - Ambleside Online - is free. Some people choose Simply Charlotte Mason. Some (for the elementary years) use HUFI. Catholic parents can choose Mater Amabilis.

There are things about all of these that I like, but I also like the idea of using where we live as my first planning resource.

Living in Southern California, we have the L.A. Philharmonic, the Getty Villa*, the Getty, LACMA, the Norton Simon Museum*, the Huntington*, the Natural History Museum**, the California Science Center, the Broad Stage*...on and on and on.

Three years from now, I believe I will be planning my daughter's Year 1 around Southern California's offerings.

If three years were today, I would be choosing Mozart (LA Phil this month) for Composer Study, a French or German expressionist (special exhibit for summer at LACMA) for Artist Study, butterflies (summer at the NHM) as our Nature Study focus, and - for world history - the Byzantine Empire (special exhibit at the Getty Villa) followed by a term on Ancient Rome (because Pompeii is at California Science Center until January).

Teaching public school, I've learned that field trips are most effective 1)when students are prepared for what they are going to see, and 2)after the trip, when they have the opportunity to extend their learning by exploring what piqued their curiosity.

I know this may seem an unconventional way to teach history (especially history), but Charlotte Mason wrote that education is the science of relationships. She opposed unit studies, instead favoring "much knowledge" and variety ("for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite"), and argued that children naturally make connections...

[A] human being comes into the world with capacity for many relations; and that we, for our part, have two chief concerns––first, to put him in the way of forming these relations by presenting the right idea at the right time, and by forming the right habit upon the right idea; and, secondly, by not getting in the way and so preventing the establishment of the very relations we seek to form[.]
-Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3 pg. 66

*places we've taken our 3 year-old
**We're members.


  1. Mariel, really interesting and fresh perspective. I am excited to hear more in the future. Tara.

  2. Thank you, Tara. :) I've used this approach in my public school classroom. My team teacher (when I taught middle school) and I took our students to the opera each year (La Boheme, The Barber of Seville, and Carmen). She would teach lessons on opera and opera etiquette, and I would teach lessons on the plot - having students read the libretto in English. We also took our students to the Getty Villa, which is modeled after a Roman villa. In math, I had students build and decorate a model of a villa to scale for Barbie dolls. The students worked in teams, and each team produced a room for the villa, such as a peristyle garden. The thing was HUGE when we put it all together! :)

  3. Have you seen the Opera Cards post with the accompanying Opera study? I pinned it the other day and am so excited about it. You would love it!

    I build our education around the sequential study of history and then we bring in literature to support the era we are studying, but we don't do Unit Studies as CM speaks of them. We bring in a feast of variety and yet we learn about history in sequence. One of my friends just said she had heard something recently that said that CM did teach history sequentially as well. I am trying to get the supporting writings about that. I love your posts and your creative ideas!!

  4. I'll check them out! :)

    These comments inspired a new post - Lots of Thoughts on History.