We follow a Charlotte Mason style of education. In devising a curriculum, we consider three points: (1) children require knowledge for the mind as the body needs food; (2) knowledge needs to be wide and varied to stimulate curiosity; and (3) knowledge from books need to written in a literary narrative, or living fashion.
Knowledge is different from facts. Facts are something you can memorize for a test and forget two weeks later. Facts are something you can google. Drilling a prescribed list of facts into a child's head is like trying to feed the body sawdust. It dulls the appetite for learning.
We present a banquet of knowledge from wide and varied sources: of books by different authors with distinct voices and passions and of things that we find in the real world. Eating the same food day in and day out dulls our interest. To stimulate appetite for learning, we prepare a feast for the mind that is irresistible.
Knowledge is something that a child knows by observing it in the real world with the senses. A child also knows by thinking about and experiencing through a well-written book that makes the topic come alive. A living book paints a picture so real that you think you are there. It touches your emotion, stays in your heart, and deepens your understanding. It becomes personal as you make your own connections.
Charlotte Mason broke down knowledge into three major categories: the knowledge of God, the knowledge of the universe, and the knowledge of man. Today, I will concentrate on the first and most important in my opinion, the knowledge of God. Charlotte Mason spoke to children "of God as she would of an absent father with all the evidences of his care and love about her and his children." Since Steve spends time on the road, my children relate to this concept! The source of knowledge of God is the Bible. Part of our homeschooling day includes reading the Old and New Testament tales, passage by passage, and sharing what we understood and the connections we made. Sometimes, my kids asked me tough questions, especially David. Some were so difficult I had to dig into the writing of "some thoughtful commentator who weighs difficult questions with modesty and scrupulous care." This way of educating is so liberating: teachers and parents don't have to have all the answers for they are guides to the source of knowledge.
Bible – We will read Genesis 11-36 and the early life and early ministry of Jesus (Matthew 2:15- 4: 25, 12:1-14; Mark 1:1-3:19, Luke 2:39-6:49, and John 1:1-5:47). A few years back, a friend recommended these illustrated versions of books of the Bible. We will be reading out of Genesis and The Complete New Testament. They make the Bible quite accessible to Pamela because they are written like comic books with word bubbles and animated scenes. Best of all, they are a complete translation, not a watered-down paraphrase.
Twice a week for ten minutes per sitting, we will read and narrate short passages from Genesis. Twice a week for ten minutes, we do the same with the Gospel accounts. "Tender teaching" in small bites, stores "perfect word pictures of every tender and beautiful scene." Slowly the person of Jesus Christ becomes "revealed in His words and His works becomes real and dear to them, not through emotional appeals but through the impression left by accurate and detailed knowledge concerning the Saviour of the World, Who went about doing good." To help ground her in the history and geography of the periods of ancient history covered, we will create maps of the region depicting locations (mapwork) and add people to her book of centuries (history notebook), both to be blogged later.
Catechism – Last Spring, Pamela loudly and publicly announced her desire to participate in communion, which our church shares once a quarter. We will be working through and talking about the ideas in our church catechism booklet for children. We will focus on meaning, instead of rote memorization which aphasia prevents Pamela from doing. We will record and edit our conversations so that we can present her understanding to the elders and they will know she is ready for this big step in her faith.
Poetry - We will treat Psalm 1 through 33 like poetry by reading one a week and enjoying the beauty of the language, the word pictures, and the power of their meaning. Poetry is not something we narrate other than to share anything we found interesting that touched our hearts or stretched our understanding.
Recitation – Since she is preparing for communion, Pamela will learn the slightly different version of "The Lord’s Prayer" that our new church recites as well as "The Apostle's Creed."
Hymns – We will sing two hymns per term from our church hymnal, half contemporary and half traditional since our church balances both: "Rejoice the Lord Is King" by Charles Wesley and John Darwall, "Open Our Eyes, Lord" by Robert Cull, "One Small Child" by David Meece, "Christ, the Lord Is Risen Today" by Charles Wesley, "How Firm a Foundation," and "Glorify Thy Name" by Donna Adkins. We will sing a Christmas folk song gathered from South Carolina "Mary Had a Baby."
Knowledge of God doesn't end with reading the Bible, learning doctrine, prayer, and worship hymns. Paul wrote, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20 NIV). Charlotte placed mathematics, science, geography, physical development, and handwork into a second category, the knowledge of the universe. In reality, we learn more about God as creator in studying the world around us because
A teacher "knows how to make a child's heart beat high in joy and thankfulness as she thrills him with the thought, 'my Father made them all,' while his eye delights in flowery meadow, great tree, flowing river. 'His are the mountains and the valleys his and the resplendent rivers, whose eyes they fill with tears of holy joy," and this is not beyond children" (page 159).
My next post will begin to unpack how we learn about the universe created by God.