In our home, our Charlotte Mason education seems to kick it up a notch in middle school. At this stage, habits are mostly formed in how the child learns best, but the way they process the information changes some, as they begin to question things more and come into the stage of debate.
During the two years of middle school, grades seventh and eight grade, we continue in using the same methods that Charlotte Mason employed in the early years of their education and into the elementary years. Yet, at the same time, focusing on preparing the child for high school and further education, rather from college or from becoming a life learner.
Here is How to Teach Middle School the Charlotte Mason Way
Here is a section of Charlotte Mason's series, I love how she explains the importance of books and how they become the venue of how independent learning happens – which should be a key focus during middle school, if you haven't already developed an independent learner by this point:
“Children must be Educated on Books.––A corollary of the principle that education is the science of relations, is, that no education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge. We reject epitomes, compilations, and their like, and put into children's hands books which, long or short, are living. Thus it becomes a large part of the teacher's work to help children to deal with their books; so that the oral lesson and lecture are but small matters in education, and are used chiefly to summarise or to expand or illustrate.
Too much faith is commonly placed in oral lessons and lectures; “to be poured into like a bucket,” as says Carlyle, “is not exhilarating to any soul”; neither is it exhilarating to have every difficulty explained to weariness, or to have the explanation teased out of one by questions. “I will not be put to the question. Don't you consider, sir, that these are not the manners of a gentleman? I will not be baited with what and why; what is this? what is that? why is a cow's tail long? why is a fox's tail bushy?” said Dr Johnson. This is what children think, though they say nothing. Oral lessons have their occasional use, and when they are fitly given it is the children who ask the questions. Perhaps it is not wholesome or quite honest for a teacher to pose as a source of all knowledge and to give ‘lovely' lessons. Such lessons are titillating for the moment, but they give children the minimum of mental labour, and the result is much the same as that left on older persons by the reading of a magazine. We find, on the other hand, that in working through a considerable book, which may take two or three years to master, the interest of boys and girls is well sustained to the end; they develop an intelligent curiosity as to causes and consequences, and are in fact educating themselves.“
With this being said, living books continue to be the curriculum of middle school children when using the Charlotte Mason way of educating. In our homeschooling, we keep reading biographies, work through the history timeline, do written narrations and create binder books together, so that by high school, they are almost completely independent in their education.
Personally, for our home, we have a few ‘must study' in middle school.
The first one is Creation Vs Evolution…
During these two years, we provide excellent resources through living books, new living books (DVDs) and online resources to give a Biblical creation account of creation, while teaching them what evolutionist say about these account.
We have found with our older two children that by doing this two year focus, they learned far more than we have (they were learning independently in many things) and because of the exciting finds, they narrated to us with vigor and excitement.
By high school, our children were solid in their Christian faith and creation taught in Genesis, but also being able to give good debates when asked. This really made high school science easy for them, because they already had the foundation necessary to understand what science has found and how it lines up with the Bible's account.
In July, I will be launching my Creation Vs. Evolution Two Year Curriculum, perfect for middle school children or for a one year curriculum for high school children.
The second one is our Christian faith…
Up to this time in their Bible, they have learned about the people of the Bible, the events and focused mainly on Proverbs and discipling their hearts.
In middle school, we switch our focus on more doctrine, why we believe the way we believe from scriptures. We begin using ‘word searches' and the fundamentals of searching the scriptures for answers to our daily lives.
The third one is learning skills…
I use this time in middle school to really help my children use their free time to find things that interest them and often times through elective studies for high school, like: Typing, music, wood working, sports, cooking, quilting, calligraphy, cake decorating, bead making, etc.
The fourth one is a gentle change from nature to science…
By 7th and 8th grade, they have a mind overflowing with information and journaling about their nature finds. So I switch gears in how we do nature studies during these years…
My children choose a collection(s) for each year – ideas can be flowers, rocks, shells, feathers, etc. In collecting these, they are also needing to identify them, label them and come up with their own way of displaying them. This is gently introducing them to the scientific names and classifications of the nature that they have been learning about for years.
They also get a jump on high school photography, by taking photos of things they find in nature. My daughter loved doing this so much, she created keepsakes with her photos.
At the end of a school year, we get together with a few family friends and have a ‘show and tell' – as part of their evaluation, they show and tell (narrate) about their collection(s).
I also require them to pick a subject to work on and create their own book on that subject. Some has been snakes, bears, wolves, big cats and more. They read about their chosen subject and then write about the habitat, prey and predators, habits, tracks, etc. They even make up their own fictional story about the animal. They sketch pictures for these as well.
They LOVE doing this!
I hope some of these ideas will help you find the confidence to implement the Charlotte Mason way into your middle school and give your children the things they need to be a strong independent learner.
I have used the Charlotte Mason method since 2000 and I still LOVE it. I shared how to teach Preschool through 2nd grade and know that many of my readers and looking forward to more tips in teaching their older children. So let's look at how to teach 34d through 6th grade the Charlotte Mason way.
How to Teach 3rd Through 6th Grade the Charlotte Mason Way
Living books are the key to a Charlotte Mason education. Below, I share just a few of my favorite living books for each subject, to inspire you to find good living books for your unique children, instilling inspirational ideas into their minds.
At this age, your children should be reading at least 30-90 minutes a day, some say even longer, but Charlotte Mason always taught short lessons that got longer as the child grew in age. Splitting this time of reading up into different subjects is a great way to have your child learn from living books, while narrating what they have read. With Charlotte Mason, written narration started around the age of 10 years old.
Living Books for Literature
Living Books for Nature and Science
Most children are naturally draw to nature and science. Allowing their free afternoons to be filled with opportunities to explore and discover is a great way to instill nature studies with your children, even if you aren't outside with them.
Journaling was a big part of Charlotte Mason's assignment for children. They were to capture what they were observing in nature and add it to their journal. For Charlotte Mason, this wasn't an assigned entry of what she wanted, but inspired only by the child. She desired them to identify what they entered and even a little bit about where they found it. What a precious keepsake and habit to train this age group in their homeschooling.
Living Books for History
Our family LOVES history! So many people and events have captured our minds since we started this amazing homeschool journey that I wouldn't be able to share it all within this post. What I can share are highlights of American history that are worth learning about, but I would encourage you to enjoy the People to Study series that I have done, to get further ideas for your history studies.
What I have found to be true in our home for these grades is that my children love to study the American Revolution, Frontiersmen like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, pioneers like Laura Ingalls Wilder, expansion through trials, like the Oregon trail and so many other parts of history that have adventure, risk and survival.
Check out my Ultimate List of American History Learning Resource.
Living Books for Geography
You can easily teach geography with any living book, by just looking up any location that is mentioned in the book and finding it on a map. You can mark each location with the title of the book that introduced you to the place or you can create a map for each book.
Geography is literally everywhere!
There are some books that I just love using during these grades, so I would want to share them with you, if you want to have more of a geography focus on your studies.
You may also like 18 Things Charlotte Mason Expected 6 Year Olds to Know (with a printable)…
You would come to expect that as a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, nature studies are part of our routine. I love having free afternoon time for our children to explore and discover, but any time that nature finds it way into our home, I'm willing! I would love to share with you how to study turtles, so you can make your children as happy as my sons are in this photo of them getting up close and personal with a turtle from our property.
How to Study Turtles
Learn about Turtle Habitats
If you don't know where to look for turtles, you may not be rewarded with your exploring in looking for them. Once you learn where they like to live, it will be easier for you to identify where potential turtles are living and discover them on your nature walks or exploring in free afternoons.
Learn to Identify the Different Kinds of Turtles
Most turtles are harmless and a great joy for children to pick up, study and observe. I have so many fond memories of my children finding turtles and building habitats in containers that I would allow them to use outside and take care of them for a few days before letting them go back into their natural habitat.
When my older children were younger and we lived in a different house, we were often visited by snapping turtles, one turtle to be aware of and learn to identify, because one wrong move with one of those and you can lose a finger. We have found large snapping turtles next to our front steps, stuck under my husband's motorcycle, gingerly walking through our back yard and sliding around in our back creek. Every spring, my children would gather several baby snapping turtles and would watch them for a few days and enjoy seeing them at such a cute stage.
Learn What They Eat
In order to care for a wild turtle for a few days, you will need to know what kinds of food they eat and be sure that you can provide for them. Some turtles like different things, so being able to identify them first is important and then gather the right nutrition for them is the next step. All wild creatures belong in the wild, so before your children start getting the idea of raising a new pet, be sure to set guidelines and limits to ‘observing' a turtle and hold them accountable to enforcing what was agreed upon.
Journal the Turtle
Once a turtle was found, even if they provide a homemade habitat to observe it, we would take a photo of it, so they could journal about it later and write the name of the kind of turtle in their journal to help them remember it. They would often times add their foods they ate and the habitat they found the turtle in while exploring.
As a Charlotte Mason educator, studying flowers is a requirement for my children. I absolutely love having them study flowers with journaling and with photography. Having nature study time around flowers is not only pleasant but a perfect way to welcome spring after a long winter.
Here is how to study flowers:
Flowers have so many things to teach about and getting close is the first step. Having a magnifying glass is a fun way for preschoolers to get involved with a learning and beginning to learn the vocabulary of a flower.
Bring a Field Guide
Learning what a flower's name is important. We use a field guide to learn their names and anything particular about the flowers that we come across.
I required my high school children to take a set number of photos for flowers. They needed to include some of the aspect of what we being learned in their photography lessons. We created a photography keep sake for their high school records.
From the photography that my older children took or from field guides, nature journal assignments were given to the younger children through middle school. They were to label and identify which flower it was and often times, label where we found it.
Living Books about Flowers
Learning about the parts of a flower, pollination and the unique kinds of flowers, we would use living books to learn as much as we could about the flowers in our area or in other area (throwing in geography).
I absolutely love using DVDs in my Charlotte Mason homeschooling, as long as they demonstrate the same qualities of a living book.
I call them ‘ the new living books' because if you get the right kind of DVDs, you can accomplish the same things as a living book would do for your children. These are resources that I use to fill in our nature and science studies.
Here is how to use Moody Bible Institute DVDs the Charlotte Mason Way:
Watch the DVD
Although the Moody Bible Institute DVDs are older versions, they have great content that will capture, engage and provide ideas for your children to be inspired to learn more about the world around them. Just with living books, you just listen to what is being shared, without interruption or more teaching. You simply just watch!
At the end of the DVD, have your children narrate what they learned. For older children in high school, you may assign a more in-depth narration off a topic of interest that was covered in the DVD.
Ask questions about things that were not narrated about in order to get them retelling parts they may have forgotten.
Have your children journal a part of the DVD to the best of their knowledge's memory or gather more books on the subject for examples to journal.
If an experiment was done that can be done at your home, have your older children see if they can reduplicate the effects that the experience produced.
For a little extra motivated science lover, have them find and demonstrate an experiment that explains something that was taught on the DVD, but done in a different way.
As a Charlotte Mason educator, I love so many things about her method and how it really is beneficial to all kinds of learners. I love how simple and gentle this approach is for both the teacher and the student, but most importantly how it really is can be summed up by Charlotte Mason's quote:
“Education is a discipline, an atmosphere, a life.”
Another one of her quotes, simplifies it even more and points out what is to be included in a Charlotte Mason curriculum.
Here are 3 Things a Charlotte Mason Curriculum Should Have:
Something to Think About
Charlotte Mason was a strong believer of ‘ideas'. Her sole purpose in having children hear and read living books were to introduce them to ideas for them to think about on their own.
Ideas are the mother of inspirations.
When a child is inspired by ideas from what they are learning about in their hearing and reading, their imagination and creativity comes to life. Without these ideas, a child struggles to be inspired and will quickly become bored with the world around them.
When a child has been inspired by stories of people in history, events of history, explorers, musicians, artists or adventure stories of children their own age, they have ideas on which to think about. They will be ignited to play out the things that have been a part of their homeschool lessons and a self-learner is being born through these ideas.
Something to Do
Charlotte Mason believed in free afternoons filled with handicrafts and learning of skills. Nature studies through observation, learning to stitch, crocket, knit or cook, learning a sport, exploring to see what could be discovered, being creative with Legos or building with wood to construct a fort or going fishing, hunting or grocery shopping.
Her philosophy sounds so easy to implement, but in our crazy culture, it takes determination to keep the afternoons free for the child to just be and do.
My older children developed interest that have lead them to their future goals in their afternoon and my 6th grader is starting to do the same.
My daughter, being the oldest, spent her free afternoons writing. She would research the Oregon trial and anything for ‘heading west' because she was so inspired by the ideas from her lessons. She learned about natural remedies that were found on the trial, about Indians and tribes, about wolves and even tried a few business attempts for making jewelry. Today is a blogger, sharing with others about the books and interest that inspired her and helping homeschool mothers find living books to inspire their children with ideas and implement the doing of their free afternoon.
She also taught herself how to play the recorder, the piano and the violin in her free afternoons.
My older son loved sports and running. Staying true to the free afternoons, we didn't enroll him in any sports but gave him the opportunity to learn about all that interested him. We would get family friends together and play the sports that were interesting to him. During these free afternoons, my son got past the football lure and found his love…golf! Today he is determined to play in the PGA and preparing his journey to his goal.
In addition to that, he loved nature and was always learning about all things great and small in nature. Today he still loves snakes!
Free afternoons are so important to implementing the ‘do' part of the Charlotte Mason curriculum.
Something to Love
Within a homeschool family, there are so many opportunities to adding this part of the curriculum… something to love. There are always family members and pets to love. Charlotte was inspiring for more than what is natural found in our lives to love.
Finding ways to express love in our community is a great way to build compassion in our children. Volunteering for a service position, taking full care of a pet, helping in a position within the church, neighborhood or family.
I hope that these 3 things that a Charlotte Mason curriculum should have inspires your family and homeschool, especially if you are starting this journey with your preschooler.