A homeschool mom mentioned recently that she has a hard time imagining what the Charlotte Mason philosophy would actually look like in their home. This comment made me realize that while there is so much great information out there about the philosophy, there isn't much that describes what a lesson entails.
Some of us have a hard time with abstractions- ideas, masterly inactivity...oh my! What does the method actually look like in action, and what does lesson planning require of us? In this post, I'm sharing a super-simple Charlotte Mason planning method that originally came from the amazing Bill St. Cyr of Ambleside Schools.
I wrote a detailed post on Charlotte Mason's Method of A Lesson here. If you aren't sure how to teach a Charlotte Mason lesson, you might want to read that post first. There is also a great Thinking Love podcast episode on this topic!
Planning A Charlotte Mason Lesson
1. Choose Living Books
When you sit down to plan a Charlotte Mason lesson, you've probably already chosen a book for it. Maybe this book was a recommendation from a beloved curriculum, or maybe it was a personal favorite from your childhood. It's your choice! In order to use this planning approach, though, the lesson will need to be based on a living book. This excludes areas like math, recitation, etc.
2. Read the book ahead of time.
Pre-reading is kind of a controversial subject these days. Many people just don't want to pre-read! I'll admit that sometimes I don't, depending on the book, how the week has been, etc. But I do know that our lessons go better when I pre-read. This is because my mind is better-engaged if I already know what the pages hold. Instead of processing the book when I'm reading it with my child, my mind has worked it out ahead of time, and I can focus on how my child is processing it.
3. Take Notes
As you pre-read, keep a thing of sticky notes by you. Write down vocabulary words that your child might get stuck on, ideas that are interesting, or background information that your child might need to know before reading. These things help make even difficult books manageable to children. I make a sticky-note for every page that I read, or for every set of pages that I hope to read in a lesson (see the next point!)
4. Decide how many pages to read in a lesson
After you've read a bit of the book, decide how many pages would make an appropriate length for a lesson. With my young child, I've learned that about 3 pages is enough. Sometimes we read more. It's possible that you might pre-read a whole chapter in a sitting, so you could very well plan four or five lessons while reading, depending on the length of the chapter and the number of pages you'll read with your child.
5. Write it down...or don't!
Once you have your sticky notes filled with great talking points, leave them in your books! I love this because I sometimes forget that I had planned out a book with sticky notes, until I open it to find I was more prepared than I thought! Maybe you'd like to transfer your notes into a planner. You are a very organized person. But, if you're like me, you probably will want to write down the page numbers that you'll read for each lesson, and trust that the sticky notes will be there when you need them. No shame!
I have dabbled with planning sheets made just for sticky notes, but I don't love them. Transferring the notes seems to make them less likely to stay there.
In my public school days, I developed an obsession with Post-its, and this planning method fulfills my need for having those bright, colorful squares everywhere! I prefer the larger, lined 4 X 4 squares, but have used lined rectangles that are even bigger, as well as the little unlined rectangular notes. It's it weird that I have such strong opinions about Post-its?