Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Our Progress With Miss Mason

As I've mentioned in several posts, we have come far and made many changes towards being a CM inspired school, yet as I am reading Volume 6 in Miss Mason's Home Education series, I am realizing how incredibly far we still have to go. I am not completely certain we will implement every one of her ideas 100% yet the more I read the more I am inspired and drawn to her methods and beliefs.

Sometimes I start to get a little excited, even giddy, at the changes we've made and the positive way these changes have been received. "We're getting there," I start to think. Then I sit down with my highlighter and one of Miss Mason's Volumes and immediately I am humbled. Her ideas are so magnificent and her goals so deep that I realize we have far to go before I would truly consider us a CM school. Still I am enjoying this journey of discovery. I know it will take time to transition, especially as I feel I am reprogramming my brain after almost a quarter of a century in the public school system (my own schooling plus my years teaching).

Here are the changes we've successfully made:

  • Short and varied lessons - Our typical lesson (other than math and reading) lasts no longer than 20 minutes. We switch between seatwork type lessons and floor type lessons.
  • A wide and generous offering - We have moved from only doing five or six subjects in a week (math, reading, grammar, spelling and handwriting, Spanish) to doing 11 or more (math, reading, history, geography, science, art appreciation, music appreciation, art instruction, handwriting, spelling, Bible, poetry, social skills). I still have some work to do in this area as art instruction and poetry reading are not quite as regular as I want them to be. As for social skills I am so excited to have found a curriculum I will be using with Thatcher. It is geared specifically for children with Asperger's Syndrome but all of the boys will benefit as often they mimic older brother's behaviors.
  • Incorporating nature into our days - We are taking weekly nature walks at our local trails. We have purchased a bird book for our area and are having great fun learning to identify the birds we see. I am looking for ways to incorporate more nature into our daily lives right in our own backyard, too. I will be buying bird feeders and starting a compost pile in our backyard this spring. Hopefully by next year I will be ready to start our very own garden! If anyone has other ideas how you have changed your (small suburban) backyard into a nature paradise, please share!
A few of the many things we still need to change:
  • Using predominately living books full of what Miss Mason calls "literary language" to teach all subjects. These are basically books rich with beautiful vocabulary to capture childrens' imagination and subsequently their minds.
  • More and more reading - In Volume 6 it states that children should read (or be read to depending on their age) between 1000-3000 pages per term (12 weeks for her schools). Yikes! We have far to go. I am not going count pages but I know whether we followed CM or not, I need to find ways to incorporate more reading into our days - even with a crazy two year old in the house! ;)
  • Habit Training - I debated whether to put this in the first section or here but I decided the changes we've made are so minor that they belong here more than above. For our last term I picked a specific habit to work on but I need to be much more deliberate about this. Miss Mason is correct when she says that mother who works hard in this area makes for herself days that are pleasant and full of joy (my paraphrase).
  • Narrating - This is such an important component of a CM education. It is just not a habit for me to stop and ask Thatch to narrate. Another area where I need to be *much* more deliberate.
  • Masterly Inactivity- I have many ideas for how to make this happen but am struggling with the day to day reality of it all. In the perfect scenario the child takes responsibility for this but getting an ADHD'er to commit and follow through is tough. And my afternoons are full of Mommy chores so I haven't made the time to sit and train him in this area.
I am sure many more things will come to mind but this is just a quick glance. :) It is good to be back to posting. Leave me a comment if you would and let me know I haven't lost all my readers in this past month!



argsmommy said...

I'm glad you're back! I too have had a hard time keeping up with blogging the last couple of months. Thank you for the update on your CM transition -- it sounds wonderful! I am curious what social skills curriculum you're using.


Amanda said...

Your posts have been very helpful as we are trying to add more of CM's methods to our school as well.
Glad you are all feeling better,

Karen said...

We have a crazy two year old in the house too. Today she sat down with a picture book and pretended to read. Almost brought a tear to my eye. ;)

Sheryl said...

Hey Jennefer,
I truly enjoy your CM posts. We are having a garden for the first time this year. I want the kids to be really involved with it. Steven made a raised bed for us and I can't wait to start planting after the last frost of course. I saw in one of our bird books where you take an appliance box, one really large, and cut rectagular holes in it just big enough for binoculars to fit through. It makes a great bird spying fort. I want to do this and I'mn in search of the box! Glad you are doing well.

Do it yourselfer said...

I have really enjoyed reading your posts about CM. We also are leaning toward CM and maybe a little Classical. I'm still trying to figure it out. I appreciate your re-caps of her books. I'm going through CM companion right now. Thanks.

Amanda said...

I am loving your posts on CM. Maybe a container garden with some tomatoes this year. And lantana draws in butterflies. Or a banana tree! good luck.

thebookbaglady said...

The CM information you have been sharing has been wonderful. Hats off to you for pouring over the volumes. I borrowed them several years ago, and never got beyond part of a Very Abridged Version. Still, it is good stuff!

I'm not sure about the growing conditions in TX, in suburban Oregon, however, our yard/garden is ALIVE. We have, literally, flocks of robins working our compost area. They love to dig for worms. We also have many, many seed eating birds. This has been achieved by planting 'prairie' kinds of plants, like cone flowers, Black-Eyed Susans and daisies, and allowing them to dry/die back when it freezes. We don't clear or cut back the garden in the fall and the birds flock to the natural feed all winter. One draw back of any 'bird yard' is rodents. They also like the feed.


Jennifer said...

So glad your back!

I love all the changes you have made. I am thinking through so many of the same things. I just bought Laying Down the Rails (Habits Handbook) from Simply CM - I am digging in... it's a keeper.

I'd love to know what you do for geography. I'm looking for ideas...


ByHISgoodGrace said...

I love reading about all the things you are finding with CM!
We are doing My Father's World which incorporates CM --I had spent five months planning to go totally WTM, which I still love. But, I find with our boys the CM approach works great.
MFW incorporates all the various subjects, but I must say that we spend the most time on Bible--we add in Christian Liberty Press and it seems to be the only subject that my two older boys just want to do more of--I'm not complaining.
I definitely haven't been able to cover every subject all the time, but I've come to realize--that's OK!
Thanks again for being so willing to share like you do.
Glad to hear you're well again--we've all been terribly sick too and it is difficult to deal.

glenda said...

Would you share the curriculum for Social Skill and Asperger's??