Charlotte Mason & Me! Seriously, Suzanne

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I did not know about Charlotte Mason when I started teaching public school, which is kind of interesting because I have an education degree from a prestigious university for secondary schooling. We learned methods from all kinds of classes including Montessori, Socratic, Open Rooms, Classical, and all kinds of things that you learned, when you're getting a Bachelor of Science education degree. But Charlotte Mason either wasn't ever mentioned or, maybe I missed that class perhaps.

However it happened, I had never heard of Charlotte Mason before I graduated, nor during my early homeschooling years after we had our first few children. Whenever I started teaching Spanish on my own is when I had the freedom to recognize that the series method that Charlotte Mason also employs is very effective. I would use it all the time where we're changing colors or we're changing a noun, or we're changing a verb, but we're repeating the same basic idea to make the new vocabulary meaningful and memorable. That was the first basic point of Miss Mason's that I employed on my own - using series in language.

So I used that method. LOTS! The second method I used was the personal learning dictionary, where I would have the children jot down or draw any Spanish word that they looked up. I made my own for my classes, actually. I would just go to Walmart and buy the 25¢ notebooks, get them cut in half, and then the other side I would re-bind.

We would make two notebooks out of one notebook, and I would provide those for my students in public school as well as in private classes, because they could write small little jots. This size was PERFECT. They would write the Spanish on one side and the English on the other. Then they can quiz each other by flipping it back and forth.

There's something about the size of things being small, right? When items are small, they just feel EASY. Everything that's small is also comfortable. This also propelled the students to make GREAT use of their personal learning dictionaries. 

The third part of Charlotte Mason that I accidentally matched before I "met her" was that I teach in small, chunky bits. Everything I do has always been in activities of 20 minutes or less. 

We must always strive to give "small information" and be sure the atmosphere is good as well. Okay, so I guess that's four things. The atmosphere must be  comfortable. You don't need to be stressed out. You should already have a habit of responding well to your teacher because there's a mutual respect. Your teacher or your parent, whoever it is, should embody a comfortable relationship. If those things aren't in place, then absorption doesn't happen.

Honestly, we sometimes just feel beaten against a wall as homeschooling mothers, trying to fit in Spanish. And yeah, you're doing it and you're checking it off, but nobody actually can ever speak, which is why so many of us took Spanish classes in high school and still can't speak.


So! How did I learn about Charlotte Mason?

This was way past when I started teaching public school, way past when I did private classes, and then all the way into where I'm creating my own curriculum and making it for other parents because they couldn't come to my classes. So I'm providing the See it and Say it manual and the audio and all those things,  and I'm at a homeschool convention. I can't remember which one.

At that point we are pretty far along our journey into not only homeschooling my own five children, but also, promoting Flip Flop Spanish. It was still just my fun side business that helped with vacation funds and piano lessons and such. did not exist yet, but just Flip Flop Spanish workbooks all the was to See it and Say it. At this convention, here comes a lady, Catherine Levison. And so she wrote, you know, the handbook on Charlotte Mason, the first full guide on how to use the Charlotte Mason method effectively.

If you can't read the volumes yourself, the six volumes. Then you really should read Catherine Levison's book. At that point, I didn't know Charlotte Mason, nor Mrs. Levison.

I'm at a convention in my booth and here comes Katherine running down, maybe not running, jogging and trotting down the aisle with my Flip Flop Spanish flashcards in her hand, and she's like, calling out,  "You're here! 
You're here! This is the most Charlotte Mason Spanish system. This is the most Charlotte Mason Spanish system I've ever seen.:

My response was a big smile, "Oh, hi. I'm, I'm not Charlotte. I'm, my name's Suzanne. Nice to meet you."

Catherine, is excited and helps me, "No, no. I give talks across the nation on Charlotte Mason, and this is the most Charlotte Mason method I've ever seen for foreign language."

She continues, and I start falling in love, "You're, you're amazing and this is wonderful."

You can imagine that at this point I really like this lady. She's telling me I'm amazing. She told me that she always tells people to use these flashcards. Of course I thank her as she continues, with "Charlotte Mason, this and Charlotte Mason that."

She's finished with a happy sigh, "You, you do everything like her."

So, I thought, (I can't remember if I actually said this aloud) "Well, gosh, I need to call her. Let's look her up. Where do we find her, is she here?"

You can imagine, I did not know of a Charlotte Mason method or that she had passed away or anything about her. So that's the cool thing. It turned out that my method of teaching not only was working in practice, but was validated by decades and generations of use. Validated by an entire methodology that I did not set out to follow! I used and still use the Charlotte Mason Method.

It turned out that my method was already that way. And, and great minds think alike. It's correct and it, it works. The personal learning dictionary, the small short amount of lesson time, and then all the hands on things are all Charlotte Mason backed.

You're moving the words and pictures around on the table, so you're, you're seeing it and doing it. You're seeing it and saying it. So it's called See it and Say it. But turns out everything else I do in my own homeschool is also. Backed by Charlotte Mason. The only thing I didn't realize is the narration. You know, we talked it through, I call it a so Socratic method, but it's the same idea.

The Socratic method is included in the Charlotte Mason Method. In short, that's how I was introduced to Charlotte Mason, through Catherine Levison. If you don't have her book, I highly recommend it. Grab it here. It's very easy to get through and super helpful.

 It's a lot more modern day and it's not British. So it's easier for us Americans to understand. And Catherine does such a great job of telling you the high points, the most important points, and it gives you the ability to immediately add those things into your daily homeschool.

So that's Charlotte Mason and me. After I learned how my method matched hers, then of course I went back and read all the volumes. Now I'm just smitten with especially the nature studies and all the parts, from laying down the rails and having the habits already formed before you have to even worry about schooling. The children are doing the things that are expected to be done and it just naturally flows into schooling as an extension of parenting.

Mother culture of course was also a great addition to my thought process and my life, knowing that there are other parts that really enrich your life and. So, when people ask me, "What kind of homeschool do you have?" I call it Charlotte Mason with a Twist.

As a homesteading, homeschooling family, we're not staunch, we're not strict. We do some things that are not a hundred percent what Miss Mason would say, but I think modern day Miss Mason would agree with what we're doing. So I hope that helps you and gives you a little bit of feedback on how I became a Charlotte Mason Homeschooler.

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