Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Illustrating Your Timeline

The timeline can be illustrated using several resources. Pick and choose according to your child’s ability and your finances. The children should be doing the research and the choosing of illustrations, not you.

-- Draw by hand.

-- Trace from history textbook and then color.

-- Photocopy from old textbooks.

-- Cutout from magazines and old encyclopedias picked up at garage sales or thrift stores.

-- Search the Internet for free clipart. Begin with Alta Vista’s or Google's image search pages, University of Texas , and Online Saints .

-- More historical clipart sites: Historical Clipart and Pictures - Classroom Clipart, Historical People Clipart, and Portraits /Shaping of the Modern World/Brooklyn College.

-- Photocopy from Marcia Neill’s Catholic World History Timeline and Guide, available at RCHistory. Though the price is almost $90, it is a good investment if you will be doing this activity for several years with several children. Contains thousands of illustrations, including many hard-to-find Catholic pictures. Can be filled in with color pencils.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


If you prefer, you can put your historical timeline up on the wall instead of in a book. I have a long narrow hallway in my house and for years it graced a massive timeline. Then one day a friend's little child decided to tear it completely down while her mom and I chatted away sipping tea in the dining room.

I never did put the timeline back up. Instead, we went with the Book of Centuries. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I like the visibility of the wall timeline. There was all of history, from Creation to today, right there before our eyes. Plus, it reminded us, every time we walked down the hallway to the bedrooms, to keep it up-to-date. And it's more of a family affair. If you do a wall timeline, just make sure to put it up high, out of reach of little hands.

The Book of Centuries can be tailored to a specific child or unit of study. It can be held in your hand and savored. It can be saved for future posterity, moved from house to house, taken to co-op class, and doesn't require wall space in your house.

If you'd like to try a wall timeline, I have free templates to make your own at my website. Just click on Downloads and then scroll down.

Tomorrow, I'll post some ideas on what to put on your wall timeline or in your Book of Centuries.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Book of Centuries

Charlotte Mason had her students keep a Book of Centuries. This is basically an historical timeline kept in a notebook or three-ring binder. The child writes about an historical event on each page. You could also include titles of books read, pictures, names, dates, and so on.

I like to use a three-ring binder so pages can be easily moved or inserted. This keeps the pages in our Book of Centuries in chronological order. Another idea is to put your Book of Centuries’ pages into three-hole punched, plastic sheet protectors.

I have free downloadable timeline sheets and instructions to help you put together your homemade Book of Centuries at my website. Just click on the button that says Downloads and then scroll down to Timeline Book Template and Instructions.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Charlotte Mason would give her students, aged ten and up, free time each week to write whatever pleased them in their journals. While dictation and copywork are corrected by the teacher, journals are meant to be free expression. In my homeschool, I combine journaling with nature studies. The children journal about discoveries found in our woods – animals, plants, tracks, and so on. I've found nice journals cheap at the dollar store. You could also pick up extra spiral notebooks super cheap at back-to-school sales.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nature Studies

Though Charlotte Mason loved order, she gave her students plenty of time for free play. She put a lot of importance on getting children into the out-of-doors. She wrote:
He must live hours daily in the open air . . . must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why – Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his question for him; let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him.

When the weather is pleasant, you’ll likely find one or more of my children reading books in the backyard. When they’re not reading, you’ll find them playing or exploring, even when the weather is quite unpleasant. This is important to a child’s complete education, perhaps as much as their book work.

To explore is to learn to observe and make hypotheses about the world God created for them. It helps create a sense of wonder, a sense of awe. Free play, not organized play but spontaneous play, promotes creativity, discovery, and inter-personal relationships.

Hey, you can't get more thrifty than, "Kids! Go outside and play!" And make sure you're out there with them! Emotions are contagious. If you love exploring and discovering, then they will too. If you stay inside, that's where the kids will want to be too.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Copywork is similar to dictation. However, instead of the text being verbally dictated it is silently read by the student. Give a child a paragraph from a favorite book and have them copy it directly from the book. Then check their work for penmanship, punctuation, capitalization, etc. This helps develop an eye for good writing. It also helps develop the habit of being detail-oriented. The child will learn to pay close attention to the minute details.

I find the DK Eyewitness books are great for copywork. Okay, they're not great literature but, hey, they do the job I need. They provide fun, yet factual snippets, which my younger children love. I let them choose a favorite topic and then we pick out an interesting paragraph.

To keep on your budget, the Eyewitness books are easily found at the library.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


In dictation, a short written piece is read out loud to the child, who then writes it word for word on his paper. He should attempt to use proper spelling and punctuation.

I simply choose a sentence or more (depending on the child’s development), read it aloud slowly, and wait for the child to write it in their notebook. We then go over the written work together, with me gently making corrections. It’s a very short, yet easy, exercise to implement. It teaches the habit of paying attention, as well as sentence structure, punctuation, spelling, and so on.

You could use pieces of great literature or nonfiction books on favorite topics. All found at the library or simply pulled off your own bookshelf.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The first year I homeschooled, I followed Laura Berquist’s advice in Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum and used narration in teaching my young children Bible history. I would read a Bible story aloud and the children would retell the story in their own words. They would then draw a corresponding picture in their art sketchbooks. I continued to use this method in the proceeding years. The idea was to make sure my children understood the pivotal points of the story. Also, by verbalizing what they hear, children are using multiple senses to retain lessons learned through the story.

When one of my children required speech therapy, she was extensively tested to make sure there weren’t other developmental issues. She scored off the charts for reading comprehension. The teacher who administered the test was amazed this child could not only retell a story, but could recall the smallest detail. When I told the teacher of our narration lessons, she said it was the reason for my child’s extraordinary performance. Narration was something I did just three days a week for a short period of time, yet it produced outstanding results. And it's very low cost.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Living Books

Charlotte Mason (CM) enthusiasts often speak of twaddle. “Twaddle” is practically a derogatory word in CM circles. Twaddle is the opposite of a living book. It means to be dumbed-down, or a waste of time. Some might describe twaddle as “brain candy.” It’s a fleeting pleasure, but with little to no lasting, meaningful themes.

Generally speaking, textbooks and fill-in-the-blanks workbooks (there are always exceptions of course) are categorized as twaddle because they’re usually formulaic rather than thought provoking. They take the life out of the story and bring it down to the bare bones, the bare facts.

Living books on the other hand are just that – living. They awaken a child's imagination through their God-given curiosity, and sense of wonder, in a manner that is savored and enjoyed. Living books are not condescending in their tone and take education out of the classroom, making it a part of everyday life.

How is teaching through living books thrifty? You can use your library! Workbooks need to be purchased as they are consumables. Textbooks are sometimes available through public libraries, but rarely and they can't be checked out for an entire school year.

I've written on using your library on this blog before and will continue to do so in the future. If you're not using your public library to its fullest potential, start HERE.

(For more on this topic also see my book, For the Love of Literature: Teaching Core Subjects with Literature.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Thriftiness of Charlotte Mason

A Charlotte Mason education is indeed very thrifty. Nature studies, copywork, dictation, training of habits, etc., can all be done for little to no money. Over the next week, I'll post on all these great CM ideas and how you can implement them in your home while saving on the budget.