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CM on unit studies...your thoughts please~


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Hello. While I use a hearty dose of WTM and classical materials, I have been a (primarily) unit study user for most of our homeschool years. Recently I was sweeping the web for tidbits about the Charlotte Mason method, and ran across this post on someone's site (please forgive me but I cannot locate it again to give the author credit). Would you mind reading these words by Miss Mason, and share your thoughts? Honestly, they really made me stop and ponder my methods. :001_huh: Thanks for your insights.

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Charlotte Mason first describes an in depth unit study based on the classic novel Robinson Crusoe. It includes creative writing, hands-on projects, math, reading, geography, wildlife, and more. Then she comments,

The whole thing must be fascinating for the teacher. Ingenious plans to amplify a thing are always interesting when you’re the one putting the time and work into it. And no doubt the children were thoroughly entertained. The teacher was probably at her best developing as much as she could from a little bit by her own sheer force. She was like an actress putting on a show and the children were spectators, as they would be at a puppet show or a movie. But one thing we can be sure of. The children developed a loathing forever afterwards, not just for Robinson Crusoe, but for every other subject dragged in to illustrate his adventure.

She goes on to say,

The well-intentioned, clever, hard-working teachers who create these concentrated studies have no idea that each lesson is an offense to young minds. Children are eager and capable of a wide range of knowledge and literary expression. But these kinds of lessons reduce their learning to senseless trivia and insipid, pointless drivel. They develop apathy that stays with them, and the mere mention of learning makes them anticipate boredom. Thus their minds wilt and deteriorate long before their school career ends.

3306440928_523e6548b8_m.jpgShe begins to make her conclusions here. Don’t miss this:

I’ve spent so much time on this subject because I, too, believe that ideas are the only proper diet to grow children’s minds. . . . . Just like the physical body, the mind needs regular and adequate nourishment. This nourishment comes from ideas that are assimilated when the mental diet is enthusiastically devoured, and growth and development are the result under this kind of diet. The fact that children like lame, uninspired talk and insubstantial, insipid storybooks doesn’t prove that it’s good for them. They like lollipops, too, but they can’t live on them. Yet some schools are making a concerted effort to meet the intellectual, moral and spiritual needs of children with mental candy. >>

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:lurk5:

 

Fascinating, huh? I ponder this too, and although I do have topics, like birds, trees, weather and the human body this year, I'm trying to steer clear of making it mental candy. I don't do unit studies as I did read CM's books (which I own).

 

I notice ds is doing well with "just books". They feed his mind, he digests them, he ponders the ideas well after his lessons. With SOTW we do some projects but we don't overdo them. We pick here and there, and it depends whether I want to do them do and I'm excited about them. It's more like a discovery or to illustrate a point. Personally I never liked all the "let's count bears when we read Blueberries for Sal" or "let's find out about bears in science" etc. IMO very contrived and devoid of real learning. I do agree in that way with Miss Mason. I think she had good ideas about many things.

 

Narration is a very powerful way of digesting, and I see ds making connections already without any aids. It's this "finding connections" and "putting the pieces of the puzzle together" that are so satisfying in learning. I agree with Dr. Nebel from BFSU here too. I think CM would agree with him too.

Edited by sagira
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Great thread.. as a beginning "planner" (before we just were doing what I termed as living learning -- or unschooling) I've struggled with the desire to connect the subject dots myself while at the same time feeling like it was a very contrived effort. It wasn't until I read regurgitated Ms. Mason thoughts (I need to sit down with her actual words) that I realized she didn't advocate unit studies (and here I thought they were something newish).

 

I'm not completely avoiding them yet...I am roughly basing our reading pics over the year around some themes so that they make sense with either a) the seasons, b) a holiday, or c) an event/field trip we will take. I am also trying to give a basis in some subjects before heading into a planned theme later in the year...mind you this is mostly all in my head and not much committed to paper yet, as I want to be very loose and accommodating our first years.

I worked in the childrens' dept of our local library, so maybe that is where I get the idea that I need to follow a story up with a cutesy project. :tongue_smilie: In truth, however, I hate most of the craft stuff and would rather see my kids become comfortable with a medium or just handling the instruments (in art for example) rather than make a paper plate breastplate or such. I still take them to storytime, so I guess if they have that need, it is being fulfilled! LOL

Nonetheless, it is still a struggle when I see the lapbook projects and I like how they all came together so nice and neatly -- especially those offerings by Homeschool in the Woods! Wowzers!! We intend to make (well, I should rephrase "I have scheduled") a creation lapbook after we get done studying it in a couple of weeks, but if I don't feel my son wants to use it to show others what he has learned or otherwise doesn't show much pride in it, then I am letting it go for awhile in favor of more Mason-ish type trades like weaving, crochet, woodwork, etc. And if my kids see a silly craft in their Ranger Rick, I'll let them do it because they want to and not because it ties to my little theme of nocturnal animals. It will be tough to avoid those neat owl face sandwiches for lunch though!:lol: (I'm laughing because ds1 is a bird and, more importantly, owl nut. So there will be no missing that project! ;) )

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Just some more thoughts....

From what I have learned so far about CM this is why she feels strongly about getting students to do as much reading on their own as they can handle from Year 4 and up. This helps the student make their own connections without interference/help from mom. I still not sure how I feel about this...I see the truth in much of what she writes but sometimes I think good teacher set-up with resources can be very beneficial to helping the student make connections. I also feel strongly that sometimes the books that AO students read are, in my opinion, better if read when a little more mature. I think if you want your students to make their own connections than you should at least introduce some books when they are actually mature enough to really make them. (For example, Robinson Crusoe is read in Year 4 and Huck Finn is free reading in Year 5. I choose to wait for these and a couple of others.)

 

Very interesting...

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The teacher was probably at her best developing as much as she could from a little bit by her own sheer force. She was like an actress putting on a show and the children were spectators, as they would be at a puppet show or a movie. But one thing we can be sure of. The children developed a loathing forever afterwards, not just for Robinson Crusoe, but for every other subject dragged in to illustrate his adventure.

 

I disagree with Ms. Mason on this. While I use her methods to the extent it suits our family, I find many of her comments (such as this one) to be sweeping over-encompassing statements that are not helpful at all. All children are different.

 

We use unit studies extensively. My son loves them as do his hs'd friends who come over and want to work on them with us. I do know, however, many children who would rather drink Drano than do one of her famous dictation exercises.

 

My advise is for you to take whatever works for you and your child(ren). No on knows them like you do. Flush all the rest.

Edited by tdeveson
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...I see the truth in much of what she writes but sometimes I think good teacher set-up with resources can be very beneficial to helping the student make connections. I also feel strongly that sometimes the books that AO students read are, in my opinion, better if read when a little more mature.

 

 

 

:iagree:

 

 

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What about kinethestic learners? To an adult hands-on projects or unit studies may seem like busy work or fluff, but to a child that might be how their mind engages with the material.

 

I'm all for feeding the mind with ideas, but particularly in the grammar stage where concepts are understood in the concrete, it is difficult for a child to think only in the abstract realm of ideas. CM seemed to have understood that on some level or why else would she advocate nature study/journals and handiwork (a direct hands-on engagement with the world)? It seems sort of contradictory to me.

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I do know, however, many children who would rather drink Drano than do one of her famous dictation exercises.

 

 

bwahahahahaha :lol: :lol: And I might be changing my mind on CM later too if I keep getting the reaction "Oh, I wanna hear it, but do I have to tell you what happened?!?" from DS1 (who I know I am doing this a tad too early with) on his oral narration after reading The Tale of Despereux.

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Don't shoot me! I have read three CM books, the modern english version, and I love CM. I have led a CM group, so I guess I feel I know about about it. I think most of her ideas are great, but this one isn't one of them.

 

The whole thing makes me think she is mocking unit studies. I truly believe she is wrong in her assessment of them. Think about us, we are interested in homeschooling, so what do we do? We read a bunch of books on homeschooling, talk to other homeschoolers, write down our ideas of homeschooling and in general saturate ourselves with idea of homeschooling. An adult version of a unit study I would say.

 

Her idea of the mind needing ideas is right on though.

 

I have to confess that I tried straight CM in a more pure form and my children really hated it, or atleast toward the end hated it. One and half years I devoted to it. My experience tells me that even though I soooo wanted it to work it didn't for us. I say because before I used to joke with my DH that is was God, Nostradmas, and Charlotte Mason. I was adevoted follower. (yes, I am crazy :tongue_smilie:)

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Thank you for your thoughts, ladies! I've had a paradigm shift (or maybe it's hormonal imbalance:D) this year. We've been reading some TOG books and the Hillyer book for history. When I tried to tack on some crafts and activities (which I am secretly quite aggravated to do) the girls always comply but rarely act enthusiastic about them. I think I am just 'programmed' to believe that, without activities and crafts, the stories wouldn't stick in their minds. Now I'm not so sure. I conducted a short experiment a few days ago. I had my 11dd sit while I read a short paragraph from an Ambleside book online, and then a short narrative from a unit study I had on the same topic. Then I asked her opinion of the two. She responded, "I really liked the first one...it sounded like the books Dad reads at night. The second one (unit study snip) didn't give me much to think about." Wow, what a revelation! On another day, I simply read the Hillyer chapter about barbarians to my little girls. Big sis was in the room at the time, pouring over Dante's Inferno, and apparently listening in. Mid- morning I casually told the girls I had found some frozen turkey legs that I wanted to bake for lunch, as that sounded 'barbarian' to me! Before lunch, they all (yep, the 16dd was the ring leader) ran upstairs and then down 10 minutes later in full barbarian garb and face smudges...and plopped down for a turkey leg. Of course they burped and talked loudly and thoroughly enjoyed ransacking the 'Roman house' they were stealing food from. This was not my idea, but their's entirely. So basically I don't need to set out contrived crafts and activities for them at all. If the interest is there, they will come up with things on their own. I ordered Ambleside year 3 books for my youngers last night. Woo Hoo! Smooth and easy days are coming! I feel like I've lost 20 pounds!

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I think Unit studies are great for the 6 and under crowd. After that, not so much. I use Ambleside and I don't assign many projects. I do have project books around and I do have an hour of our day set aside for "projects." However, that could be working on a handicraft, a project related to history, a science experiment, a lapbook on something they found interesting, work on a scout badge, etc. The only thing I assign is a project to go with DITHOR every month. They can pick among several choices (or come with on) but they have to either do it or write a book report. I order movies related to topics but it's usually about two months after the fact when we watch it LOL as my netflix quae is loaded and it takes awhile to get through some things. I strew extra books but I don't require that they read it them. We go on field trips that relate to our studies (and some that don't).

 

Just yesterday, my kids did a puppet show of Shakespeare's Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1 and my dd videotaped it. Last week she videotaped a lesson on Latin that she made up entirely and she had DS and I reenact a scene from Plutarch. My son likes to set up battle scenes and reenact the battles we read about in history. He made his own chain mail for the renaissance faire, etc. They are both working on a space lapbook that goes "with" It Couldn't Just Happen but is really more about their respective astronomy related scout badges. Our family is watching Universe too (BTW, we haven't been in space in the book in over a month).

 

We do have lots of tie-ins but everything is not tied in superficially. Our literature is about half related to our history and half not. Copywork relates to history sometimes and Bible sometimes and literature or poetry sometimes, othertimes it ties in with trouble words for the kids. We have Ben Franklin's Experiments book and do some things from their for our science sometimes. CM did not mind tie-ins (history, literature, poetry, geography and a bio of a scientist all from or about the same time period for example) and you will have a focus area in nature studies. However, I think the gist is that CM was against twaddle crafts that don't teach anything and the teacher being an entertainer. Yes, the kids LOVE this stuff because it requires little of them.

 

One of the coolest accidental tie-ins was that we had "auroras" come up several times in one day:

Ben Franklin bio -mentioned that we was studying northern lights

Explore His World-reading was about ionsphere and auroras

Age of Fable-reading was about Aurora the godess of Breeze.

Latin- had the word aura come up in our review

 

Let me go find the explanation between Charlotte Mason and Unit studies.....

Edited by AuntPol
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From Simply Charlotte Mason

 

Herein lies the first difference between Charlotte Mason and unit studies. With a unit study approach, it is the teacher who forms the relations and makes the connections for the child and then presents her findings. “The teacher has done it; he has selected the ideas, shewn the correlation of each with the other and the work is complete†(Vol. 6, p. 114).

In Volume 6 Charlotte gave an example of a unit study with Robinson Crusoe as the focal point (p. 115). The activities included

 

  • Object Lessons on the sea, a ship from foreign parts, a life-boat, shell-fish, a cave, etc.
  • Drawing Lessons on an oar, an anchor, a ship, a boat, etc.
  • Building models of the seashore, of Robinson’s island, of Robinson’s house and pottery
  • Reading passages from The Child’s Robinson Crusoe
  • Reading passages from a general reader on the items mentioned in the object lessons
  • Composing summary sentences as a group and have students copy this composition from the blackboard
  • Arithmetic related to Robinson (no examples given)
  • Singing and Recitation, for example, “I am the monarch of all I see,†etc.

In the typical unit study, the student depends on the teacher to show him how ideas are connected and related to each other. Charlotte wanted the student to form those relations himself, which she believed is a key to “owning†the idea.

Natural Connections

 

But didn’t Charlotte’s curriculum correlate certain subjects? Yes, Charlotte did often correlate history, geography, and literature for the same time period. But herein lies the second difference: Charlotte made a distinction between what she considered natural connections and forced, arbitrary connections.

In Charlotte’s schools “the co-ordination of studies is carefully regulated without any reference to the clash of ideas on the threshold or their combination into apperception masses; but solely with reference to the natural and inevitable co-ordination of certain subjects. Thus, in readings on the period of the Armada, we should not devote the contemporary arithmetic lessons to calculations as to the amount of food necessary to sustain the Spanish fleet, because this is an arbitrary and not an inherent connection; but we should read such history, travels, and literature as would make the Spanish Armada live in the mind†(Vol. 3, p. 231).

As outlined in the Forming Relations section above, a typical unit study tries to correlate every possible school subject around the chosen theme of the study. The Charlotte Mason approach limits itself to just those natural connections that are inevitable. For example, when studying a person or event in history, it naturally follows that the child will learn about the place in which that person lived or that event happened (geography). And if the child is using a good living book, he will most likely be exposed to the literature of that time period. Those three school subjects are inherently combined.

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Personally I never liked all the "let's count bears when we read Blueberries for Sal" or "let's find out about bears in science" etc. IMO very contrived and devoid of real learning.

 

This is how I feel.

 

Narration is a very powerful way of digesting, and I see ds making connections already without any aids.

 

Agreeing with this, too. When my dc narrate, they are learning so much better than before (because they have had to focus very well throughout my or their reading so that they *can* narrate). So, they've had the benefit of focusing enough while reading to really understand and then they've had to re-tell it, which just cements it even further. This is so easy and so powerful.

 

I also feel strongly that sometimes the books that AO students read are, in my opinion, better if read when a little more mature. I think if you want your students to make their own connections than you should at least introduce some books when they are actually mature enough to really make them. (For example, Robinson Crusoe is read in Year 4 and Huck Finn is free reading in Year 5. I choose to wait for these and a couple of others.)

 

Agreeing here, too. I think that the dc that are doing AO as written on age level have to be very, very intelligent. Which is great for those that are there, but most of us have average children. Now, I know my son could read all of the material that I gave him if I put him in year 6. And, I'm sure he would understand half of it, but I want him to understand more than that and make connections with more than that.

 

I actually posted a question the other day on the SCM forums regarding choosing literature and how to know when and if it is too challenging. Sonya's response over there really helped me.

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So basically I don't need to set out contrived crafts and activities for them at all. If the interest is there, they will come up with things on their own.

 

This is soooo true! My boys have an aversion to crafts as I learned early on. If there is interest in a history topic, I try to discreetly leave things of interest around or add something in that's practical. (Like eating!) In fact, we're in the Middle Ages now so perhaps I'll hunt out some turkey legs at the grocery later.

 

Funny too, I asked ds 12 whether he'd like a Middle Ages "kit" or just a nice catapult. Hah! I knew the answer already... the catapult! He likes to build and see the results of his efforts. Hopefully he'll heed the warnings in the instructions and not launch anything at his brothers. lol.

 

The educational proverb, "It's the lighting of a fire, not the filling of a bucket!" certainly applies here. :)

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Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS, would disagree heartily.

 

Some unit studies might be dreadful; in fact, all sorts of methods would make me loathe the topic covered. Frankly, just reading the samples of "Drawn Into the Heart of Reading" stirs up instant loathing.

 

But to make such a blanket statement about this particular method...I think Miss Mason was wrong.

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Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS, would disagree heartily.

 

Some unit studies might be dreadful; in fact, all sorts of methods would make me loathe the topic covered. Frankly, just reading the samples of "Drawn Into the Heart of Reading" stirs up instant loathing.

 

But to make such a blanket statement about this particular method...I think Miss Mason was wrong.

 

Yep, Ellie...this is exactly why I wrestled so much with it. We started with Konos, used it for many years, and now still entice some friends with younger kids to use it! Since I began our homeschool days that way...bear rug, Indian stories, jerky and dried berries, living room tent... I am still looking for opportunities to add a little spice, but I am too old and cranky to depend on library books and activities for everything. :tongue_smilie: I was honestly surprised at Miss Mason's tone, so maybe she was secretly a real spitfire! :D

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Well, my thoughts are that if you notice what type of unit study she is talking about you might agree with her! She was obviously describing a popular unit study back then, involving one book for the entire year. Maybe it was a real drag, we can’t see it to know what she is talking about. Can we? I do know think her description of the apple unit study sounds right on, she mentions various begrudging things to do with apples, and the fact that the unit study spoken of never thought to have the kids actually eat the apple! Maybe if Miss Mason had the opportunity to review some of our unit studies today, she would have quite a different tone.

In the end, like many others, we just simply take what we like from CM and leave the rest. We all need to make proper application and bring CM’s methods up to the twenty first century.

:tongue_smilie:

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The more I think about Ms. Mason's unit studies comments, the more I think we're not talking about the same thing.

 

What resources did moms have last century to create colorful, engaging unit studies? None. Did they have nice color printers? Internet access brimming with information and color images? No. They had nothing but books and black and white hand-written content. Of course they sucked.

 

What we do for unit studies these days is far more encompassing, and engaging, than anything she ever dreamed.

 

I'm sticking to them. My son loves them and he is encouraged to dig deeper on his own. I can't really say that about handing him a pencil and telling him to copy a page out of a dried up old book.

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I like what the person ahead of me said.

 

Remember back then they weren't bombard with graphic media as we are now days. People didn't move around a lot. If you or I want to see the ocean we can pick a book on the ocean with nice glossy pictures, or use the internet, or get Blue Planet DVD's. They just had black and white drawings or maybe an expensive book with colors pictures if they were lucky. Books were an almost exclusive means of "seeing" other places and people. Kids today have a lot more available today. We have to remember the culture back then and why so many of the books have such long descriptions in them. That always used to bog me down in the reading.

 

Anyway, even though I don't agree with Miss Mason on the subject of unit studies, I do try to understand the culture she was in and wrote for.

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There is an interesting lecture entitled:Integrating the Curriculum with History as the pivot and Living Books as the Medium at Child Light USA. She discusses CM's opinion of unit studies briefly a little less than half-way through the lecture (it is long...) but then continues by sharing ways that connections can be made by providing poetry, art, etc which ties in with history being studied. I just thought this was timely and interesting and would share.

 

 

 

http://www.childlightusa.org

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I think you all should read CM's own words -some above but continues on.

http://www.amblesideonline.org/CM/M6_07.html

 

it's not that kids "don't like" unit studies. She agrees they thoroughly enjoy them.

 

And what about the children? They are entertained and enjoy the amusement. They like their teacher because she puts so much effort into attracting their attention. While all of this is happening, it looks wonderful, who could fault it? But later, thoughtful people become dismayed and anxious about this kind of education.

 

 

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What resources did moms have last century to create colorful, engaging unit studies? None. Did they have nice color printers? Internet access brimming with information and color images? No. They had nothing but books and black and white hand-written content. Of course they sucked.
I don't think CM's problem with unit studies, either now or in her time, had anything to do with how colorful and engaging they were, or how many bells and whistles could be attached.

 

CM's criticism is that with unit studies, connections are presented to children. Children don't get the opportunity to create them for themselves.

 

The bucket analogy is apt (filling a bucket vs. igniting a fire). The parent/teacher gets to decide which connections are most worthy of attention. Those ideas may click with a child...or they may drift right on by. In any case, the child loses the opportunity to experience some of the Wonderful Ideas s/he could have had. (I'm referring to this excellent book by Eleanor Duckworth, who encourages "an approach to education that allows occasions for learners...to construct their own knowledge.") CM herself also argues that if allowed to engage with the material directly, children will create understanding that will stick, because it is really and truly their own.

 

This is one of the foundational ideas of the CM philosophy. Give the kids the good stuff ~ living books, the opportunity to engage with nature, art, music, carefully chosen multimedia! ~ and then stay out of their way as they absorb and construct their own understanding.

 

I won't say that this is THE way to educate a child, any more than I'd say unschooling or WTM or any other philosophy is THE way. But the ideas behind the criticism of unit studies are very much essential to an understanding of CM philosophy.

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I would still love to hear CM's opinion on programs like FIAR for the littles, and Trisms for HS. :D

 

I think she just might sing a different tune. ;) Who knows?

 

Well we know she advocated a single reading of a book/lesson, so FIAR would probably not make the cut.

 

People are welcome to love unit studies, FIAR, MFW, etc. as much as they like. But calling such pre-packaged programs CM when she clearly says she dislikes such things is not respecting her authorial intent. IMHO.

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I don't think CM's problem with unit studies, either now or in her time, had anything to do with how colorful and engaging they were, or how many bells and whistles could be attached.

 

CM's criticism is that with unit studies, connections are presented to children. Children don't get the opportunity to create them for themselves.

 

The bucket analogy is apt (filling a bucket vs. igniting a fire). The parent/teacher gets to decide which connections are most worthy of attention. Those ideas may click with a child...or they may drift right on by. In any case, the child loses the opportunity to experience some of the Wonderful Ideas s/he could have had. (I'm referring to this excellent book by Eleanor Duckworth, who encourages "an approach to education that allows occasions for learners...to construct their own knowledge.") CM herself also argues that if allowed to engage with the material directly, children will create understanding that will stick, because it is really and truly their own.

 

This is one of the foundational ideas of the CM philosophy. Give the kids the good stuff ~ living books, the opportunity to engage with nature, art, music, carefully chosen multimedia! ~ and then stay out of their way as they absorb and construct their own understanding.

 

I won't say that this is THE way to educate a child, any more than I'd say unschooling or WTM or any other philosophy is THE way. But the ideas behind the criticism of unit studies are very much essential to an understanding of CM philosophy.

 

:iagree: Very well said.

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That was her opinion. She didn't homeschool, she taught kids in a group situation private school. To say nothing of over a century ago. I would think a lot of her philosophy is not as relevant to modern homeschoolers as it was a century ago. Pick and choose what works for you.

 

If unit studies have been working for you and your family, who cares whether CM liked them or not?

Michelle T

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I know I need to read and reread all of this thread. I am currently in the process of trying to figure out why and what's not working in our basically CM homeschool. It would probably be just fine for older ds. Younger ds (almost 7) seems to be having some problems with it. However, whenever I do a hands on project with him (actually not always, but pretty close to it) he is very happy. Every time we sit down together on the couch to read something, there seems to be an issue. Still can't quite figure out what all the problems are here. Just thinking maybe I need to be more hands onish for him. Less directly CMish. Just pondering....

 

Thanks for all your insight, hivers. I am going back to peruse this thread again.

 

woolybear

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"On another day, I simply read the Hillyer chapter about barbarians to my little girls. Big sis was in the room at the time, pouring over Dante's Inferno, and apparently listening in. Mid- morning I casually told the girls I had found some frozen turkey legs that I wanted to bake for lunch, as that sounded 'barbarian' to me! Before lunch, they all (yep, the 16dd was the ring leader) ran upstairs and then down 10 minutes later in full barbarian garb and face smudges...and plopped down for a turkey leg. Of course they burped and talked loudly and thoroughly enjoyed ransacking the 'Roman house' they were stealing food from. This was not my idea, but their's entirely. So basically I don't need to set out contrived crafts and activities for them at all. If the interest is there, they will come up with things on their own."

 

:lol: This is what happens at my house too!

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This is how I feel.

Agreeing here, too. I think that the dc that are doing AO as written on age level have to be very, very intelligent. Which is great for those that are there, but most of us have average children. Now, I know my son could read all of the material that I gave him if I put him in year 6. And, I'm sure he would understand half of it, but I want him to understand more than that and make connections with more than that.

 

I actually posted a question the other day on the SCM forums regarding choosing literature and how to know when and if it is too challenging. Sonya's response over there really helped me.

 

I agree! I am doing Ambleside Year 4 with a highly gifted 4th grader and a moderately gifted 5th grader. It's extremely challenging for them and we do some of the stuff as read alouds. While I love it, I just can't see how any one can do it on grade level with an average child. I think many of CM"s methods are perfect for my kids but I am not sure how they are for all. She did seem to teach among the more privilaged.

 

 

I don't think CM's problem with unit studies, either now or in her time, had anything to do with how colorful and engaging they were, or how many bells and whistles could be attached.

 

CM's criticism is that with unit studies, connections are presented to children. Children don't get the opportunity to create them for themselves.

 

The bucket analogy is apt (filling a bucket vs. igniting a fire). The parent/teacher gets to decide which connections are most worthy of attention. Those ideas may click with a child...or they may drift right on by. In any case, the child loses the opportunity to experience some of the Wonderful Ideas s/he could have had. (I'm referring to this excellent book by Eleanor Duckworth, who encourages "an approach to education that allows occasions for learners...to construct their own knowledge.") CM herself also argues that if allowed to engage with the material directly, children will create understanding that will stick, because it is really and truly their own.

 

This is one of the foundational ideas of the CM philosophy. Give the kids the good stuff ~ living books, the opportunity to engage with nature, art, music, carefully chosen multimedia! ~ and then stay out of their way as they absorb and construct their own understanding.

 

I won't say that this is THE way to educate a child, any more than I'd say unschooling or WTM or any other philosophy is THE way. But the ideas behind the criticism of unit studies are very much essential to an understanding of CM philosophy.

 

Great Post!

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We do have lots of tie-ins but everything is not tied in superficially. Our literature is about half related to our history and half not. Copywork relates to history sometimes and Bible sometimes and literature or poetry sometimes, othertimes it ties in with trouble words for the kids. We have Ben Franklin's Experiments book and do some things from their for our science sometimes. CM did not mind tie-ins (history, literature, poetry, geography and a bio of a scientist all from or about the same time period for example) and you will have a focus area in nature studies. However, I think the gist is that CM was against twaddle crafts that don't teach anything and the teacher being an entertainer. Yes, the kids LOVE this stuff because it requires little of them.

 

 

:iagree: and I agree about Ambleside being too hard for most of us. Also very serious. I think CM embraced new things, and picking modern classics and contemporary living books is not a sin.

 

I think the development of imagination is vital and having children visualize from passages in a book rather than colorful imagery and pictures has its place as children mature. I'm gradually weaning my ds (6) from pictures to solely ideas and thus training him to form mental pictures.

 

We do some of the SOTW projects that appeal to us, and as extras, not the meat so to speak. Meaningful and useful handicrafts are learned with our Nature Smart book too. Sewing will be next year, as can be woodworking.

Edited by sagira
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I love this thread...and I agree that you need to use what works with your homeschool and your child and be willing to adapt when needed.

In my limited experience I have found that when dc make the connections between something we read and then maybe observed weeks later, there is concrete learning going on. If I read something the night before and we go do a project, etc. the next day it is almost as if the material has not had the proper time to digest. I am always the most thrilled and surprised at the amazing mind God puts in those little bodies (ahem, reminder to self, this is another hallmark of CM Children are individuals with thinking minds and not blank slates) when they bring up something I didn't hand-feed them with all my planning.

Does this mean I am ready to give it up? Nah, not yet as my kiddos are fairly young and the Type A personality in me (or the mush brained mama of 3) needs to stay focused on one subject a little longer than the whims of my kids desire. However, here I am this morning looking for a creation lapbook to work on this rainy day and all I find is a bunch of color, cut, and paste work! I'm not sure what I was looking for, but something that allowed the child to share what they learned perhaps? Not something that is printed with all the words on it. We will probably just use the fold templates so they can practice doing that with their hands and make up our own titles, etc. I guess this is my problem with crafts...they all seem so like flavorless baby food where you spoon feed each little part to be put in its exact spot. And I'm not sure how much pride can be had in a project where there is no individuality. The art major in me rebels! :lol:

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I don't think CM's problem with unit studies, either now or in her time, had anything to do with how colorful and engaging they were, or how many bells and whistles could be attached.

 

CM's criticism is that with unit studies, connections are presented to children. Children don't get the opportunity to create them for themselves.

 

The bucket analogy is apt (filling a bucket vs. igniting a fire). The parent/teacher gets to decide which connections are most worthy of attention. Those ideas may click with a child...or they may drift right on by. In any case, the child loses the opportunity to experience some of the Wonderful Ideas s/he could have had. (I'm referring to this excellent book by Eleanor Duckworth, who encourages "an approach to education that allows occasions for learners...to construct their own knowledge.") CM herself also argues that if allowed to engage with the material directly, children will create understanding that will stick, because it is really and truly their own.

 

This is one of the foundational ideas of the CM philosophy. Give the kids the good stuff ~ living books, the opportunity to engage with nature, art, music, carefully chosen multimedia! ~ and then stay out of their way as they absorb and construct their own understanding.

 

.

 

I think CM embraced new things, and picking modern classics and contemporary living books is not a sin.

 

I think the development of imagination is vital and having children visualize from passages in a book rather than colorful imagery and pictures has its place as children mature. I'm gradually weaning my ds (6) from pictures to solely ideas and thus training him to form mental pictures.

 

 

 

ITA here, but I still think that using programs like FIAR, (as a supplement), Sonlight, and Trisms, are very adaptable to the CM style of teaching. I would still love to hear CM’s view of programs like these; I think that they are quite different from the unit studies of yesterday.

Most unit studies make too many connections for us, I can only use a little of the organized study itself: leaving out the unnecessary components in any given study works very well.

I agree that young children should be taught utilizing both vivid images in colorful and engaging books, while also being given the chance to use their imagination in classics without pictures. Even for visual learners, the ability to use the mind in creating their own mental images is an important skill that should be worked on.

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However, here I am this morning looking for a creation lapbook to work on this rainy day and all I find is a bunch of color, cut, and paste work! I'm not sure what I was looking for, but something that allowed the child to share what they learned perhaps? Not something that is printed with all the words on it. We will probably just use the fold templates so they can practice doing that with their hands and make up our own titles, etc. I guess this is my problem with crafts...they all seem so like flavorless baby food where you spoon feed each little part to be put in its exact spot. And I'm not sure how much pride can be had in a project where there is no individuality. The art major in me rebels! :lol:

 

This is why I love notebooking. You have a tangible "work" representing what they've read/done/learned, with parameters for the initial setup, and yet it can be so individualized by the child! Whether your child is the creative type and likes embellishment, or a "just the facts, ma'am" person, that notebook is a representation of his or her own special uniqueness. Crafts and various artwork may come and go as goes the person, but notebooks show the "real" you. :)

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Don't shoot me! I have read three CM books, the modern english version, and I love CM. I have led a CM group, so I guess I feel I know about about it. I think most of her ideas are great, but this one isn't one of them.

 

The whole thing makes me think she is mocking unit studies. I truly believe she is wrong in her assessment of them. Think about us, we are interested in homeschooling, so what do we do? We read a bunch of books on homeschooling, talk to other homeschoolers, write down our ideas of homeschooling and in general saturate ourselves with idea of homeschooling. An adult version of a unit study I would say.

 

Her idea of the mind needing ideas is right on though.

 

I have to confess that I tried straight CM in a more pure form and my children really hated it, or atleast toward the end hated it. One and half years I devoted to it. My experience tells me that even though I soooo wanted it to work it didn't for us. I say because before I used to joke with my DH that is was God, Nostradmas, and Charlotte Mason. I was adevoted follower. (yes, I am crazy :tongue_smilie:)

 

Would you mind elaborating a bit more your experience with it. How did it not work well your kids? I've been researching CM online for awhile now and finally got the CM Companion from the library (it had been on waitlist for a couple of months since they recently purchased it). So far I like it and I guess I already do some of the things in it without realizing. But would love some honest opinions on practical application, good and bad.

 

I don't want to hijack the thread, so please feel free to pm me. Thanks!

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I knew from the beginning that unit studies would not be a regular part of our homeschool. I was homeschooled, and our family used a program in my highschool years that was basically a unit study, using a Bible verse as the center and basing all the other topics: history, science, character, even some math on that verse. While I understand wanting the Bible to be the center of your learning, I think the result, for me at least, was a very scattered, inchoherent view of history and science. We did supplement with another math program, and we all read lots (my sisters more that me, I think, and thus have probably a more well-rounded education.:)). There were'nt little crafts and such, but we did make some lapbook-type of things for our charater quality studies and science. I knew I wanted something more coherent and chronological for my kids, which is what drew me to WTM and Sonlight (which I do not believe is a unit study program in the way Charlotte Mason describes). My kids have wonderful imaginations and often make up their own activities and crafts of their own accord, and we have used some activities from Hands and Hearts and the SOTW Activity Guide. But I really agree with kids making their own connections and not having it all done for them.

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This is why I love notebooking. You have a tangible "work" representing what they've read/done/learned, with parameters for the initial setup, and yet it can be so individualized by the child! Whether your child is the creative type and likes embellishment, or a "just the facts, ma'am" person, that notebook is a representation of his or her own special uniqueness. Crafts and various artwork may come and go as goes the person, but notebooks show the "real" you. :)

 

 

:iagree:

 

We love our notebooks!

 

 

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What resources did moms have last century to create colorful, engaging unit studies? None. Did they have nice color printers? Internet access brimming with information and color images? No. They had nothing but books and black and white hand-written content. Of course they sucked.

 

Ha!

 

With the warning that I am not really a unit study person myself...

 

From the Ambleside encounters I had, I got the distinct impression that that interpretation of CM is very much opposed to using much color or multimedia resources. When I mentioned that I actually like many modern books, I received a rather shocked response -- and I like them for a variety of reasons, including nice illustrations and racially and geographically diverse characters. We are not all little blond children in the Victorian era, after all.

 

So I don't really think the paucity of vibrant resources in the past bothers some CM followers; I think some pride themselves on the imagination required to mentally bring to life text, coupled with feats of physical endurance without complaining ("education is... a discipline"). I've noticed a lot of bragging about children who jump up and down in the cold to stay warm, spanking children to keep them going on a family walk of one mile for every year of their life (For the Family's Sake), and curtailing "disobedience" within the family, where crying oneself quietly to sleep is the ideal. There's a desire for some to be sort of staunch and spartan, and flashy resources don't fit that model.

 

The view expressed in some circles is to avoid anything published in the last 50 years as it's all "twaddle." (Which does tend to lead one to rely on books such as the very charming "Discovering Nature with Your Child" which includes in passing speculation about how some people think that one day we might travel to outer space.) Even when I read about old encyclopedias, I read a few articles trumpeting how great the old Childcraft sets are and how they don't "speak down" to the reader, implying that the reader would be children. I bought an old volume on Nature Excursions, and it is abundantly clear that the book is directed to the parents and NOT the child, unlike the more modern volumes. (There are many references to what "the child" might like and so forth, rather than what "you" could do.) So I am not sure one can conclude much about the academic level, and I do NOT believe older eras catered much to young readers. In fact, I read an interview with Robert McCloskey, author of Blueberries for Sal (he was born in 1914), who reflected on how many of his books were the sort he would have liked to have read as a child, and how there was ONE small shelf of children's books at his library as a child.

 

Furthermore, I had a rather fascinating discussion with someone who claimed the CM view is that that the written word is the preferable source for knowledge or something. In my opinion and my experience, the written word is a substitute for direct instruction, in person. She adamantly disagreed. Well, I would NOT miss the opportunity to attend a lecture given by, say, Albert Einstein about nuclear physics, so that I could stay home and read his book. Yes, literary works are likely more carefully constructed than what comes out of most people's mouths on the fly, but in my experience, professors and other experts at the top of their field don't just babble nonsense -- they have carefully honed expertise to share, and I for one value personal instruction.

 

Further, with regard to my children's education, that's why I teach my kids in person, instead of having them do correspondence coursework! I believe in the value of direct instruction with experts.

Edited by stripe
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Guest Alte Veste Academy
From the Ambleside encounters I had, I got the distinct impression that that interpretation of CM is very much opposed to using much color or multimedia resources. When I mentioned that I actually like many modern books, I received a rather shocked response -- and I like them for a variety of reasons, including nice illustrations and racially and geographically diverse characters. We are not all little blond children in the Victorian era, after all.

 

The view expressed in some circles is to avoid anything published in the last 50 years as it's all "twaddle."

 

:iagree:

 

Yes, this is absolutely my trouble with modern day CM. I do agree that books have been dumbed down in recent years (just a look at a children's book bio from today compared to one from the 50s would reveal that), but there is still a lot of great modern stuff out there! Plus, as there are so many books for kids now compared to her time, maybe the ratio of twaddle to quality is still the same? Then again, that might be optimistic...

 

This issue is the primary reason that When Children Love to Learn is my favorite CM book. I wrote the long review for that on Amazon because it finally made me feel like a modern version of a CM education was within my ability to construct for my kids.

 

Furthermore, I had a rather fascinating discussion with someone who claimed the CM view is that that the written word is the preferable source for knowledge or something. In my opinion and my experience, the written word is a substitute for direct instruction, in person. She adamantly disagreed.

 

:lol: That was on a Yahoo group, wasn't it!?! I remember that discussion very, very well...

 

:lol:

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Guest Alte Veste Academy
;) I am sure that wasn't me...

 

Oh, well you should have seen it. ;) It was a doozy. I mostly remember because the person arguing the other side of the issue was the person who has since caused me to scroll past all messages she ever contributes. :D

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Ha!

 

With the warning that I am not really a unit study person myself...

 

From the Ambleside encounters I had, I got the distinct impression that that interpretation of CM is very much opposed to using much color or multimedia resources. When I mentioned that I actually like many modern books, I received a rather shocked response -- and I like them for a variety of reasons, including nice illustrations and racially and geographically diverse characters. We are not all little blond children in the Victorian era, after all.

 

So I don't really think the paucity of vibrant resources in the past bothers some CM followers; I think some pride themselves on the imagination required to mentally bring to life text, coupled with feats of physical endurance without complaining ("education is... a discipline"). I've noticed a lot of bragging about children who jump up and down in the cold to stay warm, spanking children to keep them going on a family walk of one mile for every year of their life (For the Family's Sake), and curtailing "disobedience" within the family, where crying oneself quietly to sleep is the ideal. There's a desire for some to be sort of staunch and spartan, and flashy resources don't fit that model.

 

The view expressed in some circles is to avoid anything published in the last 50 years as it's all "twaddle." (Which does tend to lead one to rely on books such as the very charming "Discovering Nature with Your Child" which includes in passing speculation about how some people think that one day we might travel to outer space.) Even when I read about old encyclopedias, I read a few articles trumpeting how great the old Childcraft sets are and how they don't "speak down" to the reader, implying that the reader would be children. I bought an old volume on Nature Excursions, and it is abundantly clear that the book is directed to the parents and NOT the child, unlike the more modern volumes. (There are many references to what "the child" might like and so forth, rather than what "you" could do.) So I am not sure one can conclude much about the academic level, and I do NOT believe older eras catered much to young readers. In fact, I read an interview with Robert McCloskey, author of Blueberries for Sal (he was born in 1914), who reflected on how many of his books were the sort he would have liked to have read as a child, and how there was ONE small shelf of children's books at his library as a child.

 

Furthermore, I had a rather fascinating discussion with someone who claimed the CM view is that that the written word is the preferable source for knowledge or something. In my opinion and my experience, the written word is a substitute for direct instruction, in person. She adamantly disagreed. Well, I would NOT miss the opportunity to attend a lecture given by, say, Albert Einstein about nuclear physics, so that I could stay home and read his book. Yes, literary works are likely more carefully constructed than what comes out of most people's mouths on the fly, but in my experience, professors and other experts at the top of their field don't just babble nonsense -- they have carefully honed expertise to share, and I for one value personal instruction.

 

Further, with regard to my children's education, that's why I teach my kids in person, instead of having them do correspondence coursework! I believe in the value of direct instruction with experts.

 

I agree that children's literature has gotten some great additions in the last 50 years. I think CM would agree.

 

I want to clearify that CM did not say we must have children cry themsleves to sleep or forgo direct instruction, like skipping a lecture from Einstein in order to read his book. CM didn't advise spanking children into walking a number miles to math their age, nor freezing them to develop their character. What in the world?! It sounds like you've run into some nuts on CM message boards.

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CM used modern books (for her time lol) as well as classics. Goodness, if all it took for a book to be good was to be written before 1959, then Charlotte Mason would not have complained about Twaddle. Books that we deem classics now were considered twaddle in the past -the Wizard of Oz and Huckleberry Finn, for example.

 

There are a lot of great books that have been made since WWII. Here is a list that Hopewell Academy made. I also think that documentaries, movies, etc can be very living.

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I agree with another poster... if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Unit studies work well for your family, keep using them. Who cares what CM said about it? Things are so vastly different today.

 

Unit studies were the most painful thing we ever tried with our eldest. He LOATHED it. Absolutely and utterly. And we tried three of them before it occured to dense mom that it was unit studies he couldn't tolerate, in general, and not the particular program!

 

I can totally see them working for my younger son, however, as he learns completely differently and *needs* connections made for him. I won't do a formal program with him but do keep his learning style in mind.

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Ha!

 

We are not all little blond children in the Victorian era, after all.

 

So I don't really think the paucity of vibrant resources in the past bothers some CM followers; I think some pride themselves on the imagination required to mentally bring to life text, coupled with feats of physical endurance without complaining ("education is... a discipline"). I've noticed a lot of bragging about children who jump up and down in the cold to stay warm, spanking children to keep them going on a family walk of one mile for every year of their life (For the Family's Sake), and curtailing "disobedience" within the family, where crying oneself quietly to sleep is the ideal. There's a desire for some to be sort of staunch and spartan, and flashy resources don't fit that model.

 

 

Furthermore, I had a rather fascinating discussion with someone who claimed the CM view is that that the written word is the preferable source for knowledge or something. In my opinion and my experience, the written word is a substitute for direct instruction, in person. She adamantly disagreed. Well, I would NOT miss the opportunity to attend a lecture given by, say, Albert Einstein about nuclear physics, so that I could stay home and read his book. Yes, literary works are likely more carefully constructed than what comes out of most people's mouths on the fly, but in my experience, professors and other experts at the top of their field don't just babble nonsense -- they have carefully honed expertise to share, and I for one value personal instruction.

 

Further, with regard to my children's education, that's why I teach my kids in person, instead of having them do correspondence coursework! I believe in the value of direct instruction with experts.

 

I too believe in direct instruction...Oh yes, it's a good thing we instruct our own children because we are all such experts. :lol: Actually, we do become experts eventually, don't we? ;)

 

I agree that children's literature has gotten some great additions in the last 50 years. I think CM would agree.

 

I want to clearify that CM did not say we must have children cry themsleves to sleep or forgo direct instruction, like skipping a lecture from Einstein in order to read his book. CM didn't advise spanking children into walking a number miles to math their age, nor freezing them to develop their character. What in the world?! It sounds like you've run into some nuts on CM message boards.

 

Again, :lol: No, I have never heard of such nonsense, it's a good thing I do not read very much at the CM forums. :001_huh:

 

This is a fun thread. :tongue_smilie:

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