Using the Charlotte Mason Method in the elementary years is perhaps the most natural and gentle option for students. While Charlotte Mason, in the early years, didn’t advocate formal education before age six, she did encourage filling the young child’s life with enriching activities, plenty of playtime, and strong character training. This approach allowed the elementary-aged child to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in formal education.
Charlotte Mason in the Elementary Years
Following are several important educational principles encouraged by Charlotte Mason in the elementary years.
Keep lessons short. Stop while your child is still interested. This ensures four things:
- First, your child will remain attentive throughout the lesson.
- Second, the child will ruminate on that manageable amount of material.
- Third, short lessons mean more time in the day to explore more subjects—Charlotte Mason believed in exposing children to many topics.
- Fourth, it frees up the afternoon for play and exploration.
For some elementary-aged children, short means 15 minutes, while others begin to drift after only five.
Read quality living books aloud. Fill the home with living books so the child has the best literary food to feed on. This includes fiction, history, poetry, the Bible, art books, and anything else of quality. Read short selections from a variety of books that will fill your children with inspiring ideas to act upon in their free time.
Vary subject matter. Include in your week brief peeks at music, art, foreign language, American history, Bible study, nature study, poetry, literature, and whatever else peaks your interest. Introduce the children to the wide world around them and see what sparks an interest.
Begin copywork. Have the youngest children copy letters, then words, then phrases and longer selections. If their fine motor skills are not yet advanced enough to pursue copywork, postpone it for a few weeks and try again.
Require oral narration. It is natural for young children to relay stories about the smallest bug or grandest adventure. Tap into this by asking for narrations. Because this age group is still learning to narrate, begin gently. Ask them to draw a picture from the day’s reading or to share something interesting they learned with Teddy or baby brother. Listen attentively as they tell about a dream or playdate. This, too, is narration.
Studied Dictation. Studied dictation is a powerful tool that helps elementary children learn to put words on paper without referencing a model. They have to learn to hold their ideas in their minds, and write it on their own. The same skill is required when children are required to write down their own thoughts.
Study nature. Grab pencils, a sketchbook for each child (and parent!), and a magnifying glass. Head outside on a half-hour nature walk or sit in your back yard and let the children explore. Observe something as closely as possible and sketch it, however clumsily at first. Optionally, press a plant or flower or affix a feather to a page. When you return home, briefly research what you found using the internet or a field guide (affiliate link to various types of guides) and have the children write the name of the object in the nature journals.
Memorize. Assign your children short poems or nursery rhymes, Bible verses or psalms, hymns, or phrases from your foreign language of choice to learn by heart. Not only is memorization a superb exercise for the brain, but it gives the child something positive to dwell on when their minds are resting.
Focus on hands-on. Elementary-aged children often learn best when their hands are busy. Teach a simple handicraft they can do while listening to a reading or waiting for their turn to narrate. At the very least, provide crayons and paper and math manipulatives to enhance learning and decrease wiggles.
Habit training. According to Charlotte Mason in the elementary years, children need habit training. Habits are the foundation upon which a child’s work ethic will develop. Also, a well-trained child is a delight. An obstinate, self-centered child strips the peace from your days. Continue the character training begun in your child’s younger years. Some days this might mean that all academic pursuits come to a screeching halt to focus on a character flaw or obedience issue. So be it! In the end, you will have served your child well to ensure the future adult is well-endowed with self-control, kindness, attentiveness, and a willing spirit.
A Charlotte Mason education is a gentle approach to learning that keeps the flame for investigation and exploration alive in the young mind and heart. You will enter the middle school years with a student who remains passionate about learning. What a blessing!
A Writing Program That Uses the Charlotte Mason Method:
Writing through History Series
Save 50% – Use the Writing Through Early Modern History Level 1 Cursive Models ebook from Brookdale House for narration, copywork, and studied dictation to teach elementary writing Perfect for students in grades 1 to 3.
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