Archive for the ‘Home Education’ Category

In considering how to approach a series of posts to share all the amazing apps I have found to load onto the two iPads we are using for homeschooling this year, I had planned to categorize them by type or subject (Math, Language Arts, Music, Checklists, etc.). However, life here in our home has been so crazy this summer as I try to plan, clean and organize for our upcoming year while living life with five children (including a toddler) and a new puppy. Needless to say, blogging is not at the top of my list of priorities!

So I thought of a different approach, one that will also help families that are already using an iPad or iPod touch. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone will clear out all the apps they already have, and if someone were to obtain EVERY app I feature by the end of my list, you would find a 16G device full to the max (ask me how I know).

I will start out listing my very favorite educational apps…the ones that I am most excited about using this year, whether they are completely obvious, required a long and arduous search, or were something I stumbled upon quite by accident.

So here we go…

1. Paperless

Once again…I love lists! This is my very favorite app, and has little to do with education, but I wouldn’t be without it! Try out the lite version to see what you think…I opted to upgrade to the full version so I could have as many lists as I like, in a beautiful format, with or without check boxes, and full email capability (which comes in very handy when I want to send my husband the grocery list!). And since I can password protect it, I can keep this app on the children’s iPads as well as my iPhone, even though it has everything from Christmas gift ideas to what curriculum we will use this year, meal ideas and home improvement projects, and what to pack for our vacation. Now I rarely forget an item or an errand, because my phone is almost always nearby, which is more than I can say for a piece of paper and a pen!


2. Chore Pad HD

When I first received the iPads and started figuring out what apps to choose and how we were going to use them for school, I joked around with a friend that “it won’t clean the toilet for me, but there seems to be an app for just about everything else!”

I was wrong.

Use Chore Pad HD to create your own list of chores for each of your children…you can even create one for yourself! The children check off the chores as they are completed, earning stars towards a reward. You determine the payout and the required number of stars, such as 25 for a bowl of ice cream or half an hour of television. Then you sit back and watch the magic! And don’t be afraid to get really creative about what a “chore” might be! We have everything from unloading the dishwasher to “respectful attitude” and “attentive during lessons”…I LOVE THIS APP!


3. Art Database

This app resolved a huge frustration I had as a Charlotte Mason home educator who desperately wanted to do Picture Study but felt constrained by the difficulty of locating materials. Last year I used sets of picture postcards by several different artists, but even that was expensive and not all were appropriate for viewing by young children. And then there was the 4×6 size…difficult to see detail and gain a full appreciation for masterful works of art. Yet in years past I had even more trouble procuring coffee table books from the library or pulling up pictures online. This stunning app has enabled us to do Picture Study to a degree that I never before dreamed could be possible. For $9.99 you can access ALL the works by ALL the artists in the database (and it is comprehensive, I assure you!). You can pull the pictures up through a network connection or download individual images. For artists with a penchant for painting women déshabillé (ahem)…I downloaded appropriate images to a folder in Dropbox. For others, such as Monet or Turner, I leave the whole catalog up on the app so that the kids can browse through the paintings whenever they wish. With the ability to mirror the iPad’s screen onto our widescreen television, we will finally be able to experience the works of the masters in vivid color and crisp detail, and yet I even enjoy scrolling through the works of the Masters on my iPhone. I cannot recommend this app highly enough!


4. Happly

I still love this app, even though it has been temporarily removed from our devices because David figured out a way around it and out onto the internet unrestricted. Happly is supposed to be a child-safe internet app, and I so very much like the setup. Articles, YouTube videos, websites, games, and images all carefully selected for age-level appropriateness and showcased in a fun and interactive display. Parents set up a passcoded account for themselves and an account for each child. They can determine what categories are accessed and add their own content as well. However, some articles are linked to a website, and some websites link to others or to Google. Once out onto the Google site, your child can get anywhere on the internet, so be warned. The creators of Happly are aware of the issue and are working on the problem. I am going to play with deleting all of Happly’s content and adding just my own, but that is a little labor intensive and since new content is added all the time, it will continue to be an issue until safety protocols are put into place. Very cute idea, though, and my children thoroughly enjoyed it for many weeks and will hopefully have the opportunity again soon.


5. Felt Board

My children have spent hours creating scenes with this adorable app. There are numerous backgrounds, figures and “props” (such as animals, trees and flowers, household items, etc.) to choose from, and each can be re-sized, so you can make people at various heights, big trees and small trees (think perspective!), a flock of birds, etc. Items can “stick” in place with the glue function, or be moved around, or a combination of both. With a button for snapping a photo that stores directly to the Photos section on the device, your child’s work can be preserved and even printed, posted to a social network, or emailed to a faraway friend. I knew this app was for us when my 5 year old created a scene from Treasure Island after a morning reading session. Perfect for narration or just plain, creative fun for ages 2 to 102!


6. Art Set and Art Rage

We probably don’t need to have both of these apps, but there are features of each that we love. A full selection of realistic papers, media so rich and vibrant that at times you feel as though when you touch the screen you could pull away with your finger covered in oil paints. Pen, pencil, pastels, marker, charcoal, and many forms of paint…all with customizable line thickness, pressure, and the ability to smudge and blend. A glorious array of color, and of course the ability to save and share. My children have created some amazing works of art on these engaging applications!


7. Peterson Birds of North America

This was a “stumble upon”. While poking around the App Store on Earth Day (no, I wasn’t really aware of the day), I came across this fantastic app that was featured for 99 cents as part of a focus on nature and outdoor applications. Sorry to say, it’s a lot more than that on a day to day basis, but I would still contend that it’s worth every penny! Gorgeous pictures of hundreds if not thousands of birds, all with links to maps and information, each with a sound recording and a top-notch journaling setup to catalog your sightings. Within 48 hours of downloading this app, my children and I identified a bird that we had never even heard of before! We were uncertain at first, as we kept staring at the male through our windows and checking the app to match up markings. But then we spotted the female a few minutes later and shortly thereafter heard the birdsong that matched the sound recording. We were enthralled! I do believe that young ornithologists were birthed in that moment! A great addition to Nature Study materials.


8. Stack the States

Though this app may fall in the “obvious” category, as it’s top-rated and easy to find in the Educational category, I will still put in a plug for it and list it amongst my favorites. There was a time where guilt ran deep because my children knew little to nothing about states and capitols. We had actually done a bit of studying on the subject…they knew the names of the states and maybe a few capitols, but hand them a blank map and you could watch me burn with shame in two seconds flat. Not that filling in a map of the U.S. is the hallmark of homeschooling excellence…but nonetheless I felt like this was a gap in our learning. Now my five-year-old can fill in all the states…which also means he can read nearly all the words this app throws at him. I had no clue he could read to this extent or was capable of such amazing memory recall until I watched him interact with this application…we had just come off of “the cat sat on the mat” this past school year! This app is fun, engaging, and even covers trivia such as landmarks, state birds and flags, and other fun geography facts. A definite winner in my book! We also have the “sister” app Stack the Countries, which is of course more of  a challenge, though my older children do enjoy it.


9. Classical Music I: Masters Collection Vol. 1

We love to study classical music and composers. This app makes it so easy, featuring 120 of the best-loved classical pieces plus information about each composer. Students can mark favorites with a heart, and although the full version (which allows the entire piece to be played instead of a clip) is $4.99, once again I can say that the extra cost is worth is worth every penny. There is also a Volume 2 available with a more extensive selection, but Volume 1 is comprehensive enough to kick off your Composer Study in style!


10. Freefall Money and Freefall Spelling

I love these adorable apps, and so do my kids! The design is so attractive and cute, the layout and function of the app is excellent. Children are presented with three different tasks (add the coins and enter amount, drag and drop in the piggy bank to add up to correct amount, group the coins into correct amount) and they earn fish for their tank. Then they get to have fun feeding the fish and cleaning the tank. The spelling app works similarly with drag and drop or enter modes. You can also customize the spelling app with your own list of words, even adding your own pictures.  These are obviously geared towards lower elementary age groups, but we all unabashedly admit to having fun on these apps, myself included!

There you have it. My very favorites, which alone make the iPad an amazing home education resource. The rest are icing on the cake, and will hopefully be featured here soon. So keep checking back!


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Somewhere around mid-March this past year, I experienced it


The homeschooling mother’s annual nervous breakdown.

My house was a disaster, my nerves were frayed, my kids were climbing the walls, and I felt that we weren’t “getting anything accomplished”…that I just “couldn’t do this anymore”…

Yes, I know…this happens to every homeschooling mom, and probably around mid-March, too!

Whilst I was searching up and down the road for the Yellow Bus to throw my kids onto, or googling opportunities to move to Europe, or dreaming of thousands of dollars I don’t have to send my children to the local Classical-model Christian school that doesn’t exist, a wise friend of mine had some more realistic advice for me. And I don’t even know what it was she said, really…she just calmly chatted with me, graciously resisted pointing out the fact that I was overreacting and behaving like a moron, encouraged me and helped me to think about our schooling process from a new angle.

I came home that night a little subdued, prayerful, and with my thinking cap firmly fastened on. What would help the disorganization and lack of ZIP in our school days? What were our issues? What were some plausible answers?

Our Issues:

  • My children, though they have learned the all-important lesson of sitting (relatively) still and paying (a moderate amount of) attention while I read aloud and walk them through lessons, were not, however retaining information well or engaging with the material in the way and to the degree that I wished them to.
  • Our resources and materials were in a bit of a jumble. Okay, a huge mess. I start off the year/semester/unit with all materials printed out and arranged neatly in binders, with calendars and schedules and all. These are, however, very young children, and even college students don’t necessarily excel at keeping paper planners neat and organized. And my elementary-aged children? A matter of weeks and those papers were marked up, ripped up, and scattered to the four winds. Posted schedules ignored. Calendars a mess because of interruptions and illness, so this math lesson had moved to that day, this field trip cancelled or rescheduled…some changes were made manually with a great deal of scratch marks and arrows. To some extent, the whole plan was tossed out and we moved on to “what’s next in the book, let’s do that today”…(I know you know what I’m talking about!)
  • I was struggling to keep up with monitoring, inspecting, and correcting. We would spend a couple hours in the morning doing our memory and read-aloud work, then move on to math, and finally to subjects like writing or science. By the time lunch was over and the kids moved on to reading off by themselves for a quiet hour or two in the afternoon, I was toast. The idea of picking up their work to look it over, checking that chores were done, etc…made me want to take a nap!
  • We weren’t getting to some of the “fun stuff”…the stuff I knew was out there that makes my children’s eyes sparkle with interest and starts them off on a path of discovery, wanting to know more. I felt that we were so hindered by our messes and scheduling issues and all those books and papers and materials and we just couldn’t seem to keep everything organized.

And then, that night, I thought up this plan. I’m not even sure where the idea came from, it just seemed to pop into my head. I believe it had something to do with discussing the exorbitant cost of private school, and with five children and pricey tuition, wouldn’t there somehow be something in between that would provide a workable solution? Such as online classes or something like that? And I did look into online classes, but they don’t really exist for my children’s age levels. And somewhere in my thinking and pondering and searching, I stumbled on to the idea of…

Something that could help us with schedules and calendars and checklists. Something that wouldn’t get lost or torn or marked up. Something engaging. Something that could provide a gateway to a wealth of visually- rich educational material yet still line up with my Classical/Charlotte Mason/Literature-based schooling style.

A way to study languages, art, music, science, language arts, history, geography, mathematics…and to hold it all in your hands and touch it.

All of our information organized and backed up to cloud storage. Podcasts and audio books available instantly. All of our favorite music, learning songs, and memory songs all in one place. Literally thousands of free Kindle books, including many literary classics. All of our Netflix biographies and documentaries that we have so enjoyed viewing for science and history. Library downloads all linked to our accounts and available at the tap of a finger.

When I had this brilliant idea, the iPad 2 happened to be on sale for $399. Adding in $99 for AppleCare may seem steep at first, but my children are going to be handling this product on a daily basis, and I am covered for damage for two years. Let’s see…

2 children x 2 iPads and 2 AppleCare policies + the marginal cost of various educational apps, spread over two years plus whatever life is left in them after that time (at which point they will likely be passed down to younger siblings)


the cost of private school, or fancy new curriculums that may not even work out for us, or more consumable materials and resources that are subject to loss or damage.


Wait! You still wonder what would push me over the edge to make such an investment for a 10-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy? And did she mention Charlotte Mason? But she is putting her children in front of a screen?

In my next post I will begin an overview of all the wonderful apps I have discovered for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone that have been such a blessing to my family. I will have to break it up into two or three posts, as there are nearly 50 that we use to varying degrees. But let me just leave off by making a few last key points that factored into my decision.

This is where we are headed. I feel so strongly about my children not spending all their time in front of screens that we don’t even own a video gaming system, not even any computer games, nor do we have any television service beyond our Netflix subscription. However, I feel that holding my children back completely from the course of technology and where it will take us in the future is a disservice to them and a naive mistake on my part. I don’t need to sit them in front of flashing lights and colors and sound for their entertainment, but I will certainly turn the screen brightness down on an iPad and place it in their hands for a couple hours a day, providing them with a portal to a world of poetry, music, literature, math, nature, and so very much more.

The parental controls on the iPad are a parent and/or educator’s dream. I can turn off general access to the internet as well as preventing them from installing or deleting apps. I can choose to allow them to use the camera or not, to have an email account set up or not, and all with a pass code that I know and they, of course, do not. I control all the content on the device, leaving them with the feeling of complete freedom while it is in their possession. This is not something that can be said of a desktop computer or laptop, as young children can quickly find their way online or into my files (and into trouble) fast!

Ah, Charlotte! I wish we could know for certain what her thoughts would be on the technologies at our fingertips in this present time. But I have a strong feeling that she would heartily approve of the careful and guided utilization of such amazing devices. To study a composer and hear his works with the tap of a finger. To play with oil paints but be able to erase a mistake. To identify a bird, hear it’s song, and make a note of it’s sighting. To spin the globe with the swipe of a hand and to zoom in on a country or city of interest. To watch a science experiment and then recreate it in the kitchen. To move the words of a sentence around with a fingertip, learning grammar and structure as we rearrange. To view a painting in brilliant detail then to tap and instantly read about the artist’s life. To keep a neat and tidy notebook for all subjects that doesn’t fall behind the dresser or get torn up or marked with crayon by the baby. To build a molecule for fun, keep a stack of flashcards handy at all times, create a scrapbook, read the Bible, memorize a catechism, study Chinese (or Spanish or French or Italian!), solve a puzzle, play chess, sketch, stargaze…the possibilities really are endless.

So this year, I forge ahead with my school planning with a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye. I am so excited! Don’t worry…we aren’t burning our books or throwing away our real oil paints. And I will still scribble things down on paper. My children will still pick up a pencil and cut and paste. But I will feel freed up to do those things because they ARE LEARNING! And they are excited about it!

************MORE TO COME!!!************

including a very exciting announcement about a lesson planning/assignment scheduling/record keeping app being designed (with quite a lot of input by me) by my amazingly brilliant and talented brother! (who is completely qualified because he does this every day as his job!)

so keep checking back!

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I love lists…

And you say “oh, yes, so do I!”

No, really, I love them. Making them, putting them up, checking them off, staring at them, reading them, looking at other people’s lists…ad nauseum.

I have ordered a new homeschooling curriculum and have been spending some time online trying to wrap my mind around how to jump in and start using it. As I have done this, I have encountered many helpful websites. And on many of those helpful websites, I have found…yes! Lists!

Which got me to thinking about some of my own lists of “favorites” or “hints and tips”…and, since every blogger needs a muse, I figured it made for a good idea for a new series. A series of lists.

Here’s my first:

Our Top Favorite Lunches

(keeping in mind that we adhere fairly closely to the Feingold Diet!)


1. Bean Burritos

We make these in the George Foreman grill with removable plates, in the omelette plates. You could also use a panini press, a toaster oven, or a skillet. We keep it simple, filling flour tortillas with rinsed black beans and a couple tablespoons of shredded cheese. I use a small dab of butter in the plates for the first batch. You could add to this, sky’s the limit: chopped onions, herbs and spices, salsa, veggies, etc. Serve plain or garnish with sour cream.

2. Bagels and Cream Cheese

Always a favorite. We use sprouted wheat bagels…take your pick of a plethora of flavors and styles, both of bagels and cream cheeses! My children occasionally like to have butter or peanut butter on theirs instead.

3. Crackers, Cheese, and Fruit

Endless possibilities here. We have one brand of crackers that we use regularly because of dietary restrictions, but the availability of so many textures and flavors, and different varieties of cheeses, makes this a go-to lunch that they may never tire of.

4. Boxed Macaroni and Cheese

We use Annie’s…the purple box. My children prefer my baked version, but I’m so thankful to have at least one “prepackaged” lunch option to use with a special diet! Other “pasta” related lunch ideas that have graced our table are: buttered egg noodles, pasta and spaghetti sauce, and chicken alfredo.

5. Sandwiches

Another category with limitless combinations…breads, fillings, condiments. It’s fun to get creative here! My children recently had a sandwich made out of leftover waffles and cream cheese…they loved it! Anything goes here, from the old standby of PBJ to a special treat of tea-time finger sandwiches or a burger off the grill.

6. Baked Potatoes

A comforting hot lunch for a chilly day. We have done potato skins with bacon and cheese, broccoli and cheese potatoes, and I hear a popular favorite out there is to top ’em with chicken curry! My mother-in-law will make a meal of potatoes for my kids and put out whatever she can dig up in the fridge…they have topped their potatoes with shredded carrots, chopped green onion, even celery! My tip: spread the potato with a little butter and some salt, regardless of topping, with the possible exception of chili and cheese.

7. Soup

From a can or grandmother’s recipe, another steamy meal to take away the chill. Leftover soup from last night’s dinner can make a hot lunch a quick and easy possibility! Our favorites include my recipe for Loaded Potato Soup, my mother’s Vegetable Beef Soup that she learned to make from her mother, White Chicken Chili, and Middle Eastern Lentil Soup. Add a piece of crusty bread to make it just perfect!

8. Eggs “and”…

Toast. Bacon. Fruit. Muffins. Top ’em with cheese and chopped tomato, or go all out and make a full omelette. I tend to whip up a large skillet of scrambled eggs and serve them with buttered toast and a piece of fruit. A good lunch for little Hobbits.

9. Pancakes or Waffles

Another breakfast option that finds it’s way to our luncheon table. I will sometimes make these if we have a group of kids over for lunch…always a crowd-pleaser. Plain or dressed up with fruit, nuts, and/or chocolate chips, topped with syrup, whipped cream, fruit compote or preserves…another basic idea that can be tweaked to offer a new and fun meal experience. My favorite? Pancakes with pecans, chocolate chips, and dried cherries, topped with fresh whipped cream. Mmmm…

10. “Snack Lunch”

This is one of my kids’ favorites and makes a frequent appearance in various forms at our table. Popcorn, buttered rolls, graham crackers, veggie sticks, rolls of lunchmeat, string cheese, cheese slices…you name it. And always a piece of fruit. It takes me all of three minutes to line up paper plates and toss on two graham crackers, a string cheese, and an apple or a clementine, but you would have thought I’d offered Happy Meals all around, they get so excited! Individual yogurts would be good here, too.

11. Pizza

I make my own. My children like Veggie Pizza with Garlic Oil, Carmelized Onion with Goat Cheese, and Loaded Baked Potato Pizza. However, at lunch time when every minute is at a premium, it’s a safe bet that our favorite cheese pizza with tomato sauce will be dished up, piping hot! Grab some store bought dough or make your own, top with pizza sauce or marinara sauce, add a layer of grated cheeses (I mix parmesan, cheddar and mozzerella), and sprinkle with a dash of salt on top. Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes for a traditional or thin crust, lower the temp and bake an extra couple minutes for a deep dish pizza pie!

12. Leftovers

Whatever we had for dinner the night before. Bean and Rice Casserole, Chicken Pot Pie, a pasta dish, etc. Especially after holidays or a party, we tend to pull out what’s in the fridge, heat it on up, and enjoy it a second time.


What are some of your favorite lunches??



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A poignant end…

From the pages of the Student Journal from Easter Term 1923:

January 12th:     Today brought us back to Scale How. We were very pleased to be back, but felt rather overwhelmed by the thirty juniors. The Dragon is complete and very splendid; what a dance floor! The Millet Room has become a dormitory and six juniors are to sleep there. The usual number of juniors are at Fairfield, and the seven X’s are at Dr. Allue’s. We just fit in. We were disappointed that Miss Mason was not able to see us. She had been ill during the holidays and was not able to greet us as usual.

January 14th:     We are all very anxious about Miss Mason. Whe is unconscious now, and is hardly expected to last the night.

January 15th:     We are all much more hopeful. Miss Parish told us that Miss Mason had a good night.

Tonight we were less hopeful again. Miss Mason has never regained consciousness, and we were afraid that she could not last long. She has had two nurses. Mrs. Franklin and Miss Williams arrived tonight.

January 16th:     This morning at about mid-day, while we were doing exams, Miss Williams, Miss Parish and Miss Kitching came into the classroom and told us that Miss Mason had passed away peacefully in her sleep. We stood for five minutes for prayer.

Dr. Hugh came this evening to talk to us about Miss Mason. The school children came up to hear him. We sang two of Miss Mason’s favourite hymns and Dr. Hugh read some prayers.

January 17th:     Those who wished were allowed to go into the drawing room and see Miss Mason. She looked perfectly beautiful and much younger. Her face was so restful, and the lines had gone.

Mrs. Franklin talked to us about Miss Mason this afternoon.

January 19th:     Miss Mason’s funeral was at 2:15 pm. There were lovely flowers and beautiful wreaths, several students carried some.

I sat at the long table in that tiny library sifting and sorting through yellowed documents and photos and old journals and record books with worn and crumbling covers…these words from a journal kept by the students at the Teacher’s College were found amongst such a pile. How touching to read them in a hand written by a young woman who had been molded and shaped by Miss Mason’s teaching and instruction. Yet how odd it felt to sit there and read it…I almost felt like I was intruding on something sacred. I wonder if that young lady had any idea that one day a mother, whose own teaching has been molded and shaped by Miss Mason, would sit and read the account of those January days and feel herself carried back in time to the moments and events so briefly and succinctly described on the page. For a moment I shared in her sorrow, I felt myself moved and touched, as if I stood amongst those teachers during their five minutes of silent prayer, reviewing in my mind all the ways I have been blessed by the life of Charlotte Mason.

The journal entry was one of the last of the archives that I reviewed and recorded for my personal use, and appropriately so. We spent our last moments in the library chatting with Margaret and taking a quick look at the collection of Beatrix Potter’s watercolour paintings on display at the museum. Then we stepped out into the drizzle to snap some pictures of the buildings on campus and wander around Ambleside, exploring it’s shop-lined streets and odd corners and alleys.

We made our way home along the shore of Lake Windermere…I tried to call my mother, as it was her birthday and such a fun idea to call her from Ambleside! She was out, so we instead called the children and chatted with them on our rainy drive back to the cottage. I threw together a quick dinner of salmon and some fine beans (early, thin green beans). A steaming pot of tea and a warm bowl of sticky toffee pudding topped off the night.

Wednesday was a funny day…we knew we were to expect heavy rain. We slept in late and regaled ourselves with our “usual” large English breakfast. I braved the rain to duck in and out of village shops, collecting delightful treasures for loved ones. We wandered over to the Priory in the afternoon for an interesting tour led by one of the village “locals”, a member of the parish. A quick “tea” to hold us over, and an hour or two of lounging and reading. Then we decided to leave early to head off to our dinner reservations, so we could walk around and explore before going in for dinner. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend The Punch Bowl!

Lovely dining room. Delicious gastropub dinner. Incredible dessert. I literally wanted to ask if they had an opening for the following night…even after paying the bill!

We made our way back “home” and prepared for the next day, our last full day in the Lake District.

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Criticism Lessons


House of Education


Practising School Report

Criticism Lessons

Juniors 1945

Sampling of notes:

“Has quietly effective manner.”

“Bright & keen, not always wise, untidy mind, acquiring dignity.”

“Quick to see her mistakes, worked hard with dulle children.”

‘Gives impression of detachment & uncertainty…must learn to get interest rather than nag and say “don’t.” ‘

“Must guard against sentiment.”

“Promising. Thinks of children not herself. Serious minded but lacks ideas.”

“Anxious to learn. Ideas good but not well sorted. Criticism welcomed.”

“Plucky, conscientous, but makes mistakes thro’ ignorance & lack of intellectual grasp.”

“Improving but stilted and too dependent on book.”

“Creates a calm & quiet atmosphere. Has authority. Teaching lacking interest due to ignorance.”

“Good common sense. Has ideas which sometimes arrive too late.”

‘Good when sure of her ground (this rarely!). Not always the “seeing eye.” ‘

“Tried, but is still not in touch with the children.”

“Imaginative & thoughtful. Begins to understand how to introduce a lesson.”

“Courageous. Tried hard. Showed initiative, but class laughed at her.”

“A bright manner.”

“Excellent. Trained in good habits.”

“Gives full thought. Knows what aiming at. Detail excellent.”

“Vague atmosphere- must be more constructive. Did not hold class.”

“Needs more orderly approach mentally & practically.”

“Did not give whole mind to work.”

“Rarely exerts herself. Not enough preparation. Improved after scolding.”


Reading through the criticism lessons was one of my favorite aspects of my morning in the archives. As I scanned over these old books, jotting down phrases that spoke to me the most, I felt at times like I was in the classroom observing these fledgling teachers, seeing the students as they responded to the lessons. Alternatively, I would envision myself back at home amidst my own “pupils”…and I was at times pained to compare my own teaching methods with the suggestions I found in the pages before me.

I developed in a very short time an overall sense of what was expected of a teacher being trained at the House of Education. She must be thoroughly prepared for a lesson, having a full and detailed grasp of the material, yet she must present the lesson in a gentle yet firm way that sparks the children’s interest without giving them the upper hand. She had to engage them, help them, encourage them, and direct them, without being overbearing and without giving them too much to do. She was expected to be tidy, disciplined, organized, and serious without being rigid or dull. Personal intellectual growth and attention to good habits was to characterize her outside the classroom. Talking too much and silliness were frowned upon.

Thinking about how I approach lessons with my own children, I drew some encouragement but I also felt deeply reproached, thinking of how my own evaluation might read. My tendency towards laziness and lack of preparation would certainly be noticed. Disorganization, failure to be imaginative and engaging, and inability to discipline my “class” would also be among the comments, I’m sure.

However, not only did I leave that day with my mind full of new ideas on how to approach teaching within my home, I was also mildly encouraged as I thought of the few areas in which we already excel. The atmosphere of our home, most of the time anyway, is pleasant and fosters learning and discovery. We curl up together on our big couch and read interesting books, and all the children, though still quite young, have had their favorites and have gotten caught up in a story and have begged for more. They love to run to the globe and find the places that we’ve talked about. They will sometimes draw pictures or act out a story with dress-up clothes and toys for props. They run for their nature note books when they see a bird or an insect or a plant that interests them.

Now several weeks removed from that day spent in that dusty library, I am even more thankful for the time granted me to peruse the boxes of books and photos and letters and notes. I uncovered many a treasure amongst them, and though my hand cramped up from all the writing down of all the little jewels I wished to take away with me, I can look over them now and remember and enjoy the bits and pieces that I recorded of a lifestyle of learning, a most remarkable set of people engaged in a unique venture, preparing educators for something new and different, something that continues to have an impact on teachers and home educators throughout the world.

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CM book collection

This picture is similar to one I took in the library, but it turned out better than mine…click on the picture and follow the link for a more scholarly post on a trip to the Armitt Museum!

As promised, my next few posts will be excerpts that I copied out from various sources that I stumbled across in the Charlotte Mason Archives.

Don’t know if anyone will catch the literary reference in the title (loved that book as a child!) but it is quite appropriate. Had I not made prior contact, I never would have seen the archives because the Armitt Museum is closed in order that the Charlotte Mason Archives, as well as some other archival materials, could be sorted and organized (or “organised”, which looks so much prettier in print, don’t you think?). I overheard snippets of conversations betwixt two of the staff while I sat at a table and busily scribbled out all the “nuggets of treasure” I could manage to write in three hours’ time, and it seems that things are in quite a mess of confusion.

However, there was a skeletal kind of index that gave us an idea of which numbered boxes held which materials.

It was Dr. Coombs who pulled out this letter and showed it to me:

CM letter Page 1

CM letter Page 2

(This letter was copied by hand and then re-typed. There may be typographical or copy errors. Shared with permission from the Armitt Museum, Ambleside, Cumbria, UK)

This letter was sent to Miss Mason’s good friend, Mrs. Franklin, and concerned her daughter Madge, who was around 9 years old at the time.

I almost cried after reading this…some of it reminded me so much of my own struggles with a “difficult” child…I nearly laughed out loud in the quiet, still library when I read “Handwork, so far, we have not managed”…!! I was struck by Miss Mason’s gentle confidence…I could almost visualize her smiling and softly laughing as she thought and wrote about this unique and apparently vibrant young girl.

Other observations, random in nature:

Did they eat ALL the time? Maybe “second breakfast” isn’t unique to Hobbits after all!

Many things can be accomplished in small pockets of time…quarters of an hour to learn an instrument or a language, and to think of starting at 8 am and still managing such a full yet delightful schedule, including a rest, and wrapping up by 7 or 8 in the evening. So often I feel so pressed for time, as if the clock is my enemy, and as though time for “school” has been squeezed out of my day by the tyranny of the urgent. Granted, Charlotte Mason lived at a school where there was a staff for such things as cleaning and cooking. But I have some “servants” as well, in the form of a dishwasher, microwave, and my fabulous washer and dryer. Have I ever mentioned my washer and dryer??? Oh…I digress…

Some children thrive on activity and adventure. I was not surprised to read that Madge was “radiant with happiness” after a long drive and a 6 mile walk. My own “active one” would be just as radiant were he to have such a holiday outing. That being said, not all of my other children would react similarly. There are times when we “divide and conquer” and one or some have an “adventure” with Dad or Grandma and Grandpa, and others remain at home.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this personal letter as much as I did!

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