In my last post, I listed the reasons why our family is spending time on ‘preschool’ this year. Despite Charlotte Mason’s belief that children shouldn’t have formal lessons before the age of six, I think that our approach to preschool is in line with her philosophy.
Preschool is short. Really short.
We are looking at ten to twenty minutes a day of formal, parent-led activity. This hardly encroaches on the time my kids have to play and follow their own interests. A full schedule, even when it’s made up of thoughtful education-based activities, probably means that a child isn’t developing a relationship with the natural world through his senses.
Charlotte Mason felt strongly that every day living, in the home, along with an abundance of time outdoors gave children “real knowledge” (Home Education, The Kindgergarten as a Place of Education). This knowledge is the foundation of a child’s education. By keeping preschool very short, our kids have plenty of time to learn what is most important, in the best way possible.
Narrations are not required.
We begin our time together by reading a story from the children’s bible or a portion of the same story from the NIV. Once N begins formal lessons in two years, I’ll be asking him to tell back to me what I’ve read aloud to him. This act of narration is crucial to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. It develops a child’s habit of attention. It requires the child to think through and make a relationship with what he’s read. A homeschool without narration would have a hard time qualifying as a Charlotte Mason homeschool.
However, Miss Mason was clear that narrations are not required before children reach the age for normal lessons. So the stories are read and enjoyed, and then left. We are keeping it casual!
We spend time on foreign language.
The only lesson Charlotte Mason recommends for very young children is the French lesson. I believe you can replace French with any foreign language and still be faithful to the philosopjy. As it happens, we are teaching the boys French. My husband is fluent in French and his parents live in France, so it makes sense.
Everything else is a game.
There is a joy in teaching your child something that is hard to resist. I’m sure this is why many people home school! Especially with reading, and also mathematics, it is fun to impart knowledge to your child.
Although there isn’t a specific need to overtly teach your young child counting and reading, we are having a lot of fun playing games with their roots in literacy and numeracy concepts. These games are again quick and fun. There are no winners and losers. And they gently encourage the boys to progress in these areas.
Charlotte Mason saw no real harm in teaching your child the alphabet. Likewise, there is no real issue in teaching a child to count. We are simply doing so that is casual, unintimidating, at the child’s pace and with absolutely no pressure to learn, progress, or perform.
Preschool is simply morning time.
All in all, our preschool at home is really just a morning time or a morning basket. A time to gather, enjoy time together, to do a bit of learning, to play. As the kids get older so will our time together. For now, we will keep things brief and fun, leaving plenty of time for the outdoors, child-led play, and real life activities.
So what exactly is in my preschool ‘morning basket? I’ll review the five books that we are using for a Charlotte Mason friendly preschool in my next post.
This post is part of my Charlotte Mason and the Early Years series.