A Curriculum Designed after Mason’s own Heart…
Okay, so maybe not quite, but it’s very close.
“To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child's intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.” ~C. Mason
Hi. I’m Acacia Buschbach. I am 13 years old. My mom is Heidi, and if you did the Alveary this year, you might know that she was the respectable author the sol-fa(solfege)/musical games lessons for programs 1,2, and 3.
My schooling with Ms. Mason has been in existence for as long I as remember, which means I must have a very bad memory since we’ve only been using Mason since I was seven. I have loved every, well…almost every minute of homeschooling.
For the past six years we had used a different curriculum, and I quite liked that. If any of you also use a different curriculum, I would pat you on the back and say, “Make sure everyone of your children, unless they really hate history, reads aloud with you every chapter of Our Island Story, and on their own(or together) all of This Country of Ours!” These were two of my favorite books from when I was younger. However, I’m not supposed to tell you about that, but the Alveary.
As it was a pilot, and mom was writing the lessons for music, there were a few bumps along the way, but still a wonderful thing that was always in progress!
The first term (or program 1) was crazy as you can imagine. Or maybe you can’t…papers flying off the printer at a million miles an hour, schedules being formatted, lessons being taught, books getting lost, piano and violin being practiced, and pretty much anything that happens anytime throughout your week all blurred together into what seems like now just a few days. It was all worth it.
I think mom said in her blog that the biggest help for her was accountability, but I think that having the lessons with page numbers, books, and other people figuring out what you have to do to be able to get finished was the most helpful for me, since I’ve never really had a set out curriculum before. The science lessons for weather were not written by an Alveary lesson writer, instead they scheduled Nicole Williams’ separate curriculum, but I think they were my favorite thing.
The thing that I didn’t really like was the Ancient History book, or the whole of the history lessons. Personally I didn’t think the Ancient history book was very good, and wasn’t able to get into it. But I think that some of my “dislike” was also coming from the fact that, because in our old curriculum, I was in a different place in our history rotation so I was ready for World War 1 and 2. I was kind of tired of learning about the pilgrims, and was ready for something new. Obviously Ancient Hist. is very different, however I was excited about doing more recent things because we haven’t done WW 1 and 2 yet. However, that part is not the Alveary’s fault, it is just another thing about switching curriculums.
Overall, I thought that the Alveary was a great success. Excellent support(from what I hear), great lessons and wonderful books. A little harder for someone who has been doing something different for a long time(like we have). But for a family new to homeschooling or new to Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy, I would highly recommend this.
You cannot fail unless you quit.
“The measure of a man's life is the well spending of it, and not the length.” ~Plutarch
alveary (plural alvearies)
This post is a part of a Blog Carnival.
If you want to read more about the Alveary,
other Blogs and Reviews can be found on the Carnival blog post!
There's a new Charlotte Mason curriculum out and available for the general public now called The Alveary and I'd like to share a bit about it. But first, let me share with you a little bit about how I got to where I am now!
I have been using Charlotte Mason's Philosophy and Methods for 8 years now. I first learned about Charlotte Mason through the book, For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay, which I purchased from the L'Abri bookstore, in Switzerland, on my last vacation with my parents and sisters before my hubby and I got married. I wanted to be an educator and so I figured a book by the Schaeffer Family on education was worth the money. Plus, it was kind of my souvenir from L'Abri along with another lovely book, A Gift of Music. (which is a great parent or even older student resource for Composer Study and Music Appreciation, by the way!) Then I took that book home from Europe and put it on my shelf, got married 6 months later, had my first child a year after that, and went on my way without ever reading the book. I am a CM geek now, but that doesn't mean I loved to read back then. Can you imagine that?
Somewhere in those early years of our marriage we had decided to homeschool. When my first daughter was finally 4, all of our church friends used Sonlight, but my husband was in law school and we had very little income so I felt that purchasing a $800-$1000 Core from Sonlight was not a very good option financially for us. I bought only their Kindergarten teacher's guide and a couple books, and thought I would piece together a Kindergarten something or other myself. How hard could it be? Sonlight recommended For the Children's Sake and I remembered! "I think I have that book from L'Abri"! I finally began reading the book I had purchased 5 years prior and Charlotte Mason's name entered the scene.
Around the same time, I joined MACHE, which is our Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators. I got my first magazine publication from them and in a little side bar in the middle of the magazine was an advertisement for something called the LER - Living Education Retreat and it was in Minnesota!! Apparently it was all about this Charlotte Mason lady I was reading about. I had to go! This educational philosophy was resonating with me through the pages of Susan's book and I needed to learn more. The summer retreat finally arrived and I got to meet Nancy Kelly for the first time. Little did I know then that I would spend the next 9 years attending the LER and that Nancy Kelly would become one of my greatest homeschooling, Charlotte Mason mentors! But she has, and the retreat has been such a blessing to me and our family.
So here we are now. My eldest daughter just entered her teens (Form 3 - 7th grade), and then I have another 9 year old daughter (Form 1a - 3rd grade), 7 year old son (Form 1b - 1st grade), and 4 year old daughter, who loves to derail our school days through endeavors where her imagination gets the best of her. Thankfully, in her case I won't have to work too hard to develop the habit of imagining. We've got that one covered, Miss Mason!
For the past 8 years of homeschooling, I have utilized the fabulous resources of AmblesideOnline, Simply Charlotte Mason, Living Books Curriculum, and Higher Up and Further In. I used the book lists and structure of AO, incorporated SCM's idea about combining subjects and bought some of their copywork and Math materials, I took LBC's online courses on how to write my own CM curriculum and plan for High School, and studied her guides carefully, and scoured the website of HUFI to get a handle on what Mason said about each subject area.
BUT something was missing. Actually a few things were missing.
The main thing that was missing for me was ACCOUNTABILITY! All of the programs mentioned above are fabulous, as I said, and they even have online support, that is also fabulous! For some reason, that wasn't helping ME to be accountable to implement Mason in the fullest way I knew how. I am not a very organized person... I am a visionary. I dream big things, but follow through is extremely difficult for me. Maintaining structure, accomplishing my goals...not happening.
But let me share a few other things that were missing from my CM homeschool life because accountability and follow through were lacking. These things weren't necessarily missing from our home school life because the above curriculums/programs have some fault in them. I don't want to be negative in any way about all the amazing work these curriculum planners have done over the years, because without them, I would never have gotten where I am today! It is very important to me to continue to support the broader CM community and encourage moms to use all these resources as much as they need! They really are all a blessing.
For me, at this season, I have learned that when I don't have accountability, I don't do my best!
So again, here are some of the things that have been missing in our homeschool life due to lack of accountability or help:
These things WERE missing. This year I am pleased to say that basically all of these holes have been filled in with wonderful experiences and living education, thanks to Mason's Alveary by CMI. Do I implement it all perfectly? Nah. No way! But I am pressing on towards the goal, for my children's sake!
The Alveary has structured the curriculum and membership in such a way, that the hard work of lesson planning is done for me. For $199 per year, I get Lesson plans for all my children for every subject that Mason did in the PNEU. Daily lesson plans are provided with details about scaffolding a lesson, how long and often to do each lesson, exact pages to read, links to maps and pictures and more! Audio and video lessons for harder subjects like foreign language and Music (Sol-fa) are a huge help as well! Drill and Dancing books and videos that they include are so life giving and joy-filled and now my kids are teaching the grandparents how to square dance! Yeehaw! So the Lesson plans really helped me follow through on all the subject areas in my list above that I was stressing over!
These very specific lesson plans for all forms, also have guidance on how to combine forms (where applicable) so my lesson times aren't 7 hours long. This frees me up to study more and learn about Mason's methods and philosophy as a teacher. The Alveary not only frees up my time, they also help me to study as a mother by providing two webinars per month about subjects ranging from Shakespeare, to teaching with large families, to Sol-fa, Math, History charts, etc. The webinars are live and done by experts in the field with lots of experience or research behind them, so I can get my questions asked and answered in a live setting. If I miss a webinar, they are all recorded and archived in this HUGE Knowledge Base that allows me to browse by subject and watch at a later time. The cool thing is that all these are saved so that new families who join in the future will also get to go and watch old webinars. And new ones will be done next year for all of us as well! So if you can't afford or get to a CMI Conference or the Living Education Retreat, then through the live webinars, it's like the conference comes to you in your own home!! You get to be mentored by people like Nancy Kelly or Emily Kiser of the Delectable Education Podcast! It's pretty neat! So the Live webinars and Knowledge Base help cover a lot of teacher training for me!
The lesson plans saved me time and helped me follow through.
The webinars trained me.
What about this big issue with ACCOUNTABILITY??
Well would you guess that EXAMS could do that for someone? They did it for me!! That, and the fact that I was paying money for my membership to the program!
As a pilot team, we committed to completing and turning in exams for all of our children so that CMI could accurately assess their book choices in the same way that Mason did with the PNEU book choices. If children can't answer exam questions, then maybe a selected book isn't a living book and changes need to be made.
Knowing that exams can and should be done and turned in to the Alveary has been such an accountability for me this year, that I have completed more than I ever thought I could as a mother. The pressure has been for the good. And it's not a pressure to pass exams, for Mason deplored that sort of thing. Instead it's a chance for my kids and us as parents to really see what they have assimilated over the term. They have learned a lot and retained a lot! Hallelujah! It's working!
Apparently in coming years, exams will be optional for Alveary members, but may I encourage you to commit to this process!? I think you will find it to be worthy of your time and effort. It's 12:30 am as I write this because I just was compiling our Term 2 exams to e-mail in to the Alveary this night! They were due today. I am pooped, but so very thankful. As I compiled and assessed my children's exams, I saw my failings... now I know how to improve next term. I saw my kids strengths and weaknesses. I saw the fruit of careful and consistent reading, painting, Bible study. Truly thankful.
As I end this post, I want to address community, since this site is for the Twin Cities Charlotte Mason Community. In my opinion, I believe that real life community is essential for flourishing. It's important not to hide in a room with your facebook and think you are connected. You are not.
That being said, there is something special about having friends that are like minded in your parenting and educational pursuits. Support as a mother in the methods you have felt led to used for your children is also valuable. I think that most CM curriculums offer some form of this kind of support for their users. I am so glad they do. But they are large - Very, very large and I haven't felt connected in those places myself.
This year was a pilot year, so the Alveary was smaller than most other older, CM curriculums. I am sure that next year it will be bigger and maybe the facebook group and forum won't feel as homey, but the people who piloted the curriculum this year are all very committed to using CM in their homes and so questions were answered well, quickly and lovingly and it was so beautiful to connect with one another (almost like a little family.) The forum is newer and growing. The CMI "staff" are also very helpful and relational. They offer support and also grace. Which is Key!
It's been a hard year adjusting to a new curriculum. It's sometimes been extremely crazy figuring out how to pilot a program, but we were piloting it for all the other families for years to come. It hasn't been perfect. But it's been better. Probably better, more successful and more peace-filled than any other of my 8 homeschooling years. Maybe it's just because I don't have a nursing baby any more. LOL! But maybe, just maybe the Alveary has been a blessing for my family as well. Why don't you try it out and join us??
If you would like to ask more questions about my family's experience with The Alveary (or other CM curriculum as well) or even just need a listening ear, feel free to Contact Me. This contact form will be sent to my personal e-mail and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience. Thank you!
Music Lessons with Mason: What is Sol-Fa?
I was a workshop speaker in Iowa in October for a CM retreat. I did an immersion on Sol-fa, or what we now call Solfege. I also presented an overview of the research I have been doing with the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection about how Mason taught music in the P.N.E.U Schools.
I wanted to share the information from my handout in case others might benefit! This is kind of dry reading, but if you have been curious about how all the musical pieces fit together like I was, this will interest you! ( I apologize for the formatting issues. I copied my content from a Word Doc and things won't line up nicely. But I am a mama, not a blogger, so I am not worrying too much about it!!)
Brief Overview of the Music Lessons of Parent’s National Education Union (P.N.E.U.) Programmes:
Form 1 (1st-3rd)
Form 1b (1st Grade) Singing Games (used English Folksongs): 15 min. 2x/week (intro. to Sol-fa)
Form 1a (2nd/3rd) Sol-Fa: 15 minutes 2x/week (ear training with pitch, intervals and rhythm)
Form 1b - 2 Foreign Language folksongs per term: 15 min. 1x/week
Form 1a- 2 French and 2 English songs: 15 min. 1x/week
1-2 per term (included Christmas Carols) 10 min. 1x/week
Form 2 (4th-6th)
Living Books: Lives of the Great Musicians by P. Scholes (biography and musical concepts/form)
Folksong - 2-3 Foreign Language Folksongs and 2-3 English songs per term: 20 min. 2x/wee
Hymn - Learn songs by composers studied (included Christmas Carols) 10 min. 1x/week (Not on timetable)
Form 3 (7th-8th)
Music Appreciation, History, and Theory/Form Books: The Listener’s Guide to Music by P. Scholes and Musical Groundwork by F.H. Shera, or The First/Second Book of Great Musicians by P. Scholes
Folksongs - 3 French and 3 German Folksongs and 3 English songs per term: 20 min. 2x/week
Hymn/Choral Singing - Learn songs by composers studied (included Christmas Carols) 10 min. 1x/week, Hymn not on Timetable example that we have, but singing is.
Form 4 (9th-10th)
Music Appreciation, History, and Theory/Form Books: (Optional in 10th Grade)The Listener’s Guide to Music by P. Scholes, or Musical Groundwork by F.H. Shera, and/or The Second Book of Great Musicians by P. Scholes
Folksongs: 3 French, 3 German?, and 3 English songs per term
Singing/Hymn - Learn songs by composers studied (Carols, Aria, Classical, folk)
Living Books - Music History and Ear Training
Form 5 (11th) and Form 6 (12th)
Living Books - Some Choices: The Enjoyment of Music by A.W. Pollitt, Lives of the Great Composers, ed. by A.L. Bacharach, The Musical Companion, ed. by A.L. Bacharach
Choral Singing - Learn songs by composers studied (Carols, Aria, Classical, folk)
Sight Singing - Practical sight-singer by A. Carse: 170 Sight Reading exercises
Living Books about Music Theory, History, etc.: The Growth of Music by H.C. Colles, Foundations of Practical Harmony and Counterpoint by R.O. Morris -12 chapters; see preface, Practical Harmony by Stewart Macpherson, Elements of Music by F. Davenport
Welcome to the Twin Cities Charlotte Mason Community Blog where Mason Enthusiasts can come together and share ideas to encourage families in the Twin Cities, MN! This is our very first post! I hope to have many Guest posters soon!
I'll just put it out there right now, I'm not a blogger. I am a mom to 4 kids and a homeschool teacher. I'm a wife to a Classical Guitarist - Patent Attorney who runs Spartan Races for fun! He's pretty handsome AND smart! I'm a musician. I cook 10 times a day and bandage boo-boos endlessly through the summer. I get really grumpy with my kids sometimes, well, a lot of times, and for some reason I'm not patient enough to homeschool my kids, but I do it anyway. I don't really like to write and I used to even hate reading (GASP!). But now I teach my kids using Living Books like Mason says you should. And it's hard! But it's also easy.
All of the identities mentioned previously are secondary to the one true identity that shapes who I am: I am a follower of Christ. And so I started this website 6 years ago to help organize a little Charlotte Mason co-op. And now our website reaches a little farther and so I welcome you! But how does being a follower of Christ have anything to do with starting a little Charlotte Mason co-op? Let me try to to explain! ( My post is kind of long, so if you don't have time to read it, but you'd really like to know about Mason's Great Recognition, then you can click here to read about it or scroll to the bottom for a little more! )
Jesus walked with 12 disciples. He didn't walk this closely with everyone. For some reason, he didn't heal every sickness, he didn't fix every brokenness around him while he was on the earth. He chose these twelve men and then sometimes a few others. He was their friend. He loved them. He served them. He traveled with them and rebuked them. He ate with them and then he died for them. This is the ultimate sacrifice: To die an undeserved death for a friend. Or as Paul David Tripp puts it, "Willing Self Sacrifice for the good of another..." Wow! But then after rising from the dead and going to be with his Father in Heaven, he sent his Spirit to indwell all those who would follow him.
And as a little girl that Spirit called to me, I followed, and he made me his. His Follower. Following him means something. And for years I have struggled to know what this should look like. Even this very minute I struggle to know what this should look like. But this is what I am learning: Following him doesn't mean I have to react in a guilty way towards all the suffering and tragic news I read online or hear on TV. (A good book to help think this is Amusing Ourselves to Death.) He didn't heal everyone when he was alive on earth, so I don't have to either. My following can be kind of small.
That's point number 1! I don't have to fix everything wrong with the world. Whew!
But I kind of want to. So I keep searching. Maybe if I look at how he served I can find an answer. I see in the New Testament that He spent most of his time with these 12 that he was training and then as he went along and people came to him or he encountered people with faith and eyes to see and hearts to believe, he healed them and made them well and saved their souls too. He didn't even go to Rome or Egypt. He just stayed in his little region and loved people really, really well!
Point number 2: I don't have to go all the way across the world to help people who have needs! I can stay home, or maybe even have people into my home!
But I kind of want to travel and help, so I keep searching. When Jesus prayed in the Garden before his Crucifixion, and when he prayed for his people in John 17 there's a lot about him being one with the Father and us being one with him and one with each other. Unity! There's a lot of Humility (not thinking of one's self) going on and a lot of submission (willingly putting one's self aside and letting another lead) going on. Unity, Humility, Submission.
Point number 3: I think that I'm not supposed to fix everyone because I WANT to (PRIDE), or travel to the other side of the world because I LIKE to (SELFISHNESS). I think I am supposed to pray a lot and be still a lot and consider with humility how I can abide in Jesus as he abides in the Father. And then, maybe then, the Holy Spirit will teach me what I am to do and use me in little (or maybe big) and unexpected ways.
So I have been working on this and praying for a humble heart and a submissive heart and a heart of unity towards God and others. And I through all this, am discovering that Charlotte Mason had a lot to say about these things because she followed Jesus too! And so interestingly enough, the more I read about Charlotte Mason, the more I am learning about following Jesus. It's really great!
After 3 years of learning about Miss Mason, in 2011, I tried to start a little, humble, local CM group to encourage moms like myself in following Jesus and using Mason's principles for school. Also I wanted us to help one another lead our kids to Jesus in the most effective way possible, so that we, together, could serve our community. I always wanted to be a mom, but I am a dreamer, so I also really wanted to be a missionary and maybe be a midwife overseas, but I was here with little ones for now and I knew I still needed to follow Jesus. And that's maybe going to feel little and small, but there can be a unity and peace in knowing I am following the Lord here and now and not wishing away my life.
So now we've been going for 5 years and things have grown and changed and I keep trying to follow the quiet voice of the Spirit and now we're trying to reach out to the Twin Cities with Mason's Biblical Worldviews, especially on educating children!
This is where the Great Recognition comes jumping in. I have been mulling over these things for many years and asking for humility and asking God to help me to be a wise mother and a kind friend. To take away pride. I have always known and believed that a person's salvation was the work of the Holy Spirit and that he would do the work and use me to share about spiritual matters with people. But I think I have been quite prideful about all other areas of life. I CAN teach my kids all there is to know about life. I CAN convince my husband about this or that new idea or decision. I know a ton about Mason, so I CAN teach all my co-op friends what they need to teach their own kids and to teach at our co-op. Etc. etc. etc. Sounds pretty prideful, huh? Not submissive, no unity, no humility. God can do the spiritual work and I'll do the rest.
About 4 months ago, the lovely Nancy Kelly mentioned the Great Recognition that Mason refers to, in passing in an e-mail and I had to ask what it was. Then I read a little about it. I found out more about it from Art Middlekauff while in England at the CMI conference. Then again more reading, and more lessons at the Living Education Retreat this month. And Wow! It seems to be that Mason believed AND that scripture teaches AND that the historical church acknowledged/confirmed that not only was the Holy Spirit man's spiritual teacher, but also his teacher for ALL of life.
Whack! That's a humility whack. Then I did an online summer course with Nancy and learned even more about what Mason thought of humility and Whack! And then I found out that I have often led my little co-op with pride and wounded friends' hearts and Whack. And then we see that the Holy Spirit is the teacher in both spiritual and also educational things. In all areas of life he will guide us into truth.
I am chewing on it and trying here to narrate it back to you all. I am learning as I write and share about it myself.
This is the new LIVING idea I send with you! Go and research! What did Mason teach about Humility? What did she teach about the Great Recognition?
Here are some tools to get you going on your way! Please leave comments and let me know what you learn!
THE GREAT RECOGNITION by Charlotte Mason (Parent's Review Article)
Most of the orange links in the article will connect you with other people's writings on the Great Recognition!
Here are some pictures of the Fresco that Mason talks about in here article above!
HUMILITY This is a poem Nancy Kelly shared with us in a summer class a few weeks ago! She had a do it as a Copywork assignment. I would encourage you to do the same. It will help you slow down and linger on the meaning quite a bit more!
by Charlotte Mason
How deep a mystery, my Lord, Thou shew’st!
Though I do beat my breast and humble me
And of most servile tasks do make my boast,
Yet have I not attained humility!
Then, more I shame me, think upon my sins,
Cry, “Lord, I am not fit to touch Thy feet!”--
My self-abasing no advancement wins,
The more I loathe me, more am I unmeet!
“Perceiv’st thou not, my child, what thing I ask--
the lowly, simple grace that children own;
Thy Pride imposeth every heavy task;--
Humility is one as Christ is One:
Fret not thyself, but set thine heart on Me,--
And thou goest garbed in My Humility.”
-from Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason (2014)