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    31 Days of Charlotte Mason: Resistant Learners — Will CM Still Work for Them? by Laurke

    October 30, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    Thanks to Laura for writing her second post in this series, which happens to also be our last guest post. Didn’t I have a great team this month?

    Laurke is freedom-loving Kentuckyian, wife to a financial planner and entrepreneur, and homeschooling mom to an eight-year-old energetic boy. In her past, she was a foster parent, and worked in retail and on horse farms. Currently, she volunteers with a food pantry and is active in a local church. She is learning more about the educational methods of Charlotte Mason and practicing them on her son. Laurke is also a moderator for the AmblesideOnline Forum in the areas of Homemaking and Health, Only Children, Blogging, and Foster/Adoptive Parents. She loves to travel; read; watch Doctor Who; spend time with family, friends, pets and farm; and well as play on Pinterest and blog at Windy Hill Homeschool.

    Psalm 126:5 could be our homeschool verse for bad days — a solid truth to hold onto. Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. Yes, some days may include tears, but don’t grow weary doing good.

    Possible reasons for resistance include:

    • starting formal education at too young an age
    • learning difficulties or disabilities
    • poor attention spans
    • poor curriculum choice/not respecting learning styles*
    • bad habits, such as disrespect or laziness
    • minds that aren’t ready to advance
    • bodies too immature to cooperate with what’s expected

    *Thankfully, a CM education, especially with AmblesideOnline, does fit with all learning styles, and can help your child grow at his/her own pace while lengthening attention spans and working on other habits. Sound too good to be true? Read on….

    Many of these reasons can overlap and feed off each other. I think I have experienced all of the above in my one child, and I’m going to tell our story and how CM’s educational method has helped. (For more ideas and to bounce your ideas off of other CM moms, visit the AO Forum! That’s where I’ve learned a lot of practical and philosophical tips.)

    First, Mason insists that children should not begin formal schooling until age 6. All learning before 6 should be incidental as the result of the child’s curiosity and questions. The exception would be habit training, which should be purposeful. Those first six years are vital to nurturing the child, training in the areas of obedience and attention (along with many others!). With these habits in place, and the physical development that comes from much time spent in nature, most children will be ready to begin sitting still for short lessons a few days a week.

    The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.

    Vol. 1, p. 137

    Sounds great, right? But what if, like me, you worked outside the home until your child had been through 2.5 years of preschool and part of kindergarten … then you spent the rest of kindergarten considering options? Or maybe, like many others, you kept them in public school until third or fourth grade? There is hope!

    Before preschool, my son was in daycare or at work with me, being cared for but not “trained”. I feel like I lost so many opportunities, but what’s done is done. My son was able to make it through kindergarten, but he didn’t love it and was thrilled when I said I would home school him. After the June and July off, we began in August and I quickly saw where the basics had been overlooked.

    The biggest trouble area was copywork. He had started practicing letters before he was physically ready (right after he turned 3, I would guess), which resulted in incorrect pencil grip and an “allergy” to writing. I still have to watch his hand and ask him to correct the grip at times. Unlearning something takes much more time and patience than waiting for the child to be ready! I wish I had understood how handwriting depends on core, shoulder and arm strength — he would have benefited from more climbing and hanging on the playground than more writing until age 6 … but now YOU know.

    Danger lurks in the Kindergarten, just in proportion to the completeness and beauty of its organisation. It is possible to supplement Nature so skilfully that we run some risk of supplanting her, depriving her of space and time to do her own work in her own way.

    Vol. 1, p. 192

    Luckily, CM had these issues under control, perhaps without even realizing it! In her recommendations for short lessons, and only doing as much as the child could do well, we were able to progress at his pace, without worrying about getting behind in a curriculum. At first, he only did a few letters, as I watched and corrected the way they were formed (backwards letters, anyone? starting in the wrong place?). Then I printed out “real” copy work (lovely poems) and he would write 2 words, then 3 … now 2 years later he writes a full two lines … in cursive! This method works, even with a poor or a late start. I’ll go out on a limb and say it works especially well with learning difficulties.

    The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription, slow and beautiful work.

    Vol. 1, p. 238

    Copywork (transcription) was a roadblock for us, but it bled into other areas. Math, where writing answers was expected at least some of the time; Bible, where I would want to do a search-a-word puzzle; Reading, where I might ask him to hold the book …

    Throughout first grade, he was able to verbalize the issue — he hated the feel of paper. I had never heard of such a thing! I discounted it as being lazy or disobedient until second grade. (Cue guilt, as an entire year had gone by with such “torture”.) So copy work pages went into page protectors and he started writing with dry erase markers. Math became more verbal or was done on a dry erase board and I gave up on the fun extras like puzzles, which I obviously wanted to do more than he did. What’s the point of a fun extra if its not fun?!

    Then the research began — why did paper bother him? Through AO’s old Yahoo groups, I heard of Sensory Processing Disorder and it set off alarms in my head. I dove into the world of SPD and started some at-home therapy and looked for other solutions. That fall he attended Minds in Motion, which really helped me understand why mixed dominance was an issue and what the therapies looked like in practice. I continued to search for an OT (pediatric occupational therapist) and God practically threw one at me, and she was great. We both learned a lot! Then she shared that he also appeared to have dysgraphia (difficulty putting his own words to paper). Ugh.

    The book should always be deeply interesting, and when the narration is over, there should be a little talk in which moral points are brought out, pictures shown to illustrate the lesson, or diagrams drawn on the blackboard. As soon as children are able to read with ease and fluency, they read their own lesson, either aloud or silently, with a view to narration.

    Vol. 1, p. 233

    Luckily, the same therapies will work for dysgraphia as for SPD and I can continue them at home … because, you know, insurance will only cover so many visits and the deductible starts over next year! I went to the Learning Disabilities portion of the AO Forum and lamented over the new diagnosis, and was reassured … again … that the CM method will work with this issue as well. Once I got over myself (my feelings about the diagnosis, how I would be inconvenienced), I realized they were correct. CM’s method of copy work until the child is ready for dictation, and then dictation itself, should overcome the issue and allow him to compensate his own way! Narration will build up his communication skills without the writing interfering with the process. Copywork and dictation will let him see good sentences and vocabulary, with correct punctuation and spelling before trying to write his own thoughts. I have renewed faith in the process and its freeing! (Regarding the following quote, 8 or 9 may still be too young. Its a guideline. I think I probably will start my son sometime in his ninth year, if he keeps progressing at this pace.)

    Dictation lessons, conducted in some such way as the following, usually result in good spelling. A child of eight or nine prepares a paragraph, older children a page, or two or three pages.

    Vol. 1, p. 241

    I know every child and situation is different, but I hope you can take some encouragement away today. Charlotte Mason’s method can work with any child, as long as you, as parent and teacher, remain flexible and follow the child’s readiness cues. Please don’t assume the issue in your house is laziness, disobedience, or disrespect (although you shouldn’t take that possibility off the table, either). Put your relationship first, and try to get him/her to talk to you about what s/he is feeling. If the issues keep popping up …
    … at the same time of day, tweak the schedule.
    … at the same subject, slow it down or try a new technique, or tone of voice (sometimes its me that’s the problem!).
    … all day, every day, then its time to research the issue and make larger changes!

    Click here to go to the 31 Days of Charlotte Mason series directory.

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  • Reply Karla A November 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    I was talking to my husband about how good a CM education is, in that it works great for our ASD son and for our neurotypical all girl as well. We need to tweak things but just a little, patience has to be abundant but the essence of the method stays the same. I had my doubts for a while (“how crazy can I be to choose a method that requires narration when my son can speak at a 4/5 year old level when he is 8?”) but all of those died when his therapist said to me: ” try to ask him to tell you back what you just told him or what you read to him” 🙂 I smiled and replied: ” that’s what we do for school, I read and he narrates”.

  • Reply Laurke October 30, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Glad to be of help! With CM’s ways, its pretty easy to do little tweaks to make things work for all sorts of different issues 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous October 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    We don’t have any of these issues, but your explanations of dealing with they were great, Laura. I’m glad to have learned a little more and be able to use it to help others.


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