It’s the time of year for organizing, planning, and preparing. Homeschool families are starting back up again, and this time of year is always exciting! But Charlotte Mason families who are still in the early years don’t have as much to prepare for. We’re holding off on formal lessons, so this time of year is relatively stree-free for me. But I’m using this time to prepare myself and my children for the future. When we have the blessing of a quiet growing time with our little ones, we can prepare them, and ourselves, for home education down the road. When they eventually hit the age to apply for a University, they may be more inclined to opt for an online course, which are gaining huge popularity perhaps from somewhere like USC or another University that offers online courses also.
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Learn About the Philosophy
I truly believe that moms who learn about Charlotte Mason during the early years are very blessed! We have a few extra years to read about the philosophy and start practicing it. When formal lessons do start, good habits are in place, and Mom is confident in her ability to use the philosophy.
Reading through Home Education is a wonderful place to start learning! Charlotte Mason’s first volume describes best practices for children from 0-9 years old. There is so much goodness for the early years here! Recently, Home Education was re-released by Simply Charlotte Mason and Living Book Press. These are wonderful in-print options, but you can also read Charlotte Mason’s volumes at Ambleside Online.
Another great book to read when preparing to start home education is The Early Years: A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook. This book compiles Charlotte Mason’s passages about the early years. It’s so helpful in preparing our children for their future education. One great benefit of this book is that it organizes her words so that you don’t have to filter through what she intended to be practiced now and later.
Start Training in Habits
The longer we wait to begin habit training, the harder it is to break the bad habits that have been practiced for years! It’s important to not assume that our children are too young to learn positive habits. If you are hoping to learn more about habits, Simply Charlotte Mason has a free eBook that is so helpful: Smooth and Easy Days.
If you’d like to know exactly where you can get started with habit training during the early years, Habits for the Early Years: A Mother’s Journal is a good option! It addresses which habits to work on during the early years, and also gives practical tips for getting started with them.
Prepare Your Child for Future Academics
Don’t worry, this step doesn’t involve any worksheets or tests! It simply involves giving your child a rich environment full of beautiful ideas, music, art, and nature (although not in that order!) We can prepare our children for their education by fully teaching them to observe the world with all of their senses.
Charlotte Mason also said that children learn through play during the early years. Their playful exploring allows for constant learning! Encouraging open-ended, imaginative play during the early years will help your child develop social-emotional skills, vocabulary, and problem solving skills.
In Home Education, Charlotte Mason also described more academic things that we can teach our children through play. The alphabet can be taught in a playful way when a child is ready and interested (read Home Education, pages 201-207.) I used Charlotte Mason’s approach and modern research to create the Mindful Alphabet, a play-based lesson guide that engages a child’s mind and senses while learning the alphabet. If my daughter wants to, we will continue using some of these activities this year to learn about letter sounds, upper and lower case letters, and to begin blending sounds together.
Make a Plan
Even when we aren’t planning formal lessons and a million activities into our days, having a plan during these early years is so helpful! I find amazing book lists online and keep Amazon Prime busy delivering books to my door, but if I don’t actually read them to my children, they don’t have much benefit. Mentally thinking about habit training is a good first step, but actually seeing the habit to work on written down on a planner really makes me follow through. This year, I am intentionally planning our days, or at least the big things that I want to do with my children, using a planner.
There are lots of great planners out there, but some of my favorites are:
- Blue Sky Weekly/Monthly Planner
- Day Designer for Blue Sky This is the one I’m using this year!
- Orange Circle Studio 2018 Do It All Planner I used this one last year, and I loved it, but decided I wanted the monthly calendar to be right next to the weekly calendar.
During these early years, it’s so important to pray over our plans to homeschool, and our children’s growth and development. We can prepare all we want, but seeking God’s wisdom and guidance as we start off on this journey is the most important step.
Find A Community
Even if you don’t know many other Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in your area, the chances are good that they’re hiding nearby! You can look for a local CM community through the website Charlotte Mason in Community.
Maybe meeting up isn’t practical for you in this season of life. There are plenty of like-minded moms who participate in online communities. I host a Facebook group called Charlotte Mason Early Learning, where we have book clubs and discussions centering around the philosophy. There is also the Charlotte Mason- The Early Years Facebook group. Getting to learn from other moms (and dads!) is such a blessing!