My post on Scholé Sisters groups provoked some questions about curriculum — basically, what to study together. Now, most of you know that my study guide Start Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles was the result of leading a couple groups though (surprise!) a study of Charlotte Mason’s twenty principles. I refined it quite a bit until it got to the place where it was fifteen months of curriculum, if a group met monthly and didn’t take any breaks.
My group did not go through it in fifteen months. It took us about two years, and that is because we have always done something different for the summers, in addition to taking breaks for winter holidays.
The main reason we started make a change for summer is because the twenty principles study was our Big Thing, but summer had hit-and-miss attendance. We had a few ladies who only joined us for the summer, due to schedule conflicts. Those gals would feel like they were joining mid-conversation. And some of our regulars would miss meetings due to travel.
What we decided on was to do something different. What we found was that mixing it up had its own benefits. We often meet outside in a backyard, serve iced coffee, and generally enjoy ourselves.
After doing this for a number of years, I now suggest that groups choose summer activities that are different from their school-year activities. I think it works really well.
Here are my suggestions.
1. Do a Topical Study
My study guide CM 101: Nature Study and Science, Habit Formation, and Mathematics actually originated as a summer study for my group. Many of you already own this (and, if you don’t, it’s only three bucks!) because for a long time I gave this away as a freebie. This summer is your chance to use it!
We have also done a language arts study. Someday, I intend to turn this into a CM 102 study.
Topical studies are a great chance for some show and tell action. For example, if you’re reading about math, why not have some moms who really love their math programs bring their supplies and let others look at them, or even give an example lesson?
Or, if you’re talking about nature study, why not attempt your own watercolor paintings of some samples brought by the group leaders? We call this sort of thing an immersion, and it work really well, especially for something like nature study.
2. Use a Video Curriculum
This summer, my group is using Eve Anderson’s Teacher Training Tools, a set of three DVDs owned by a member of our leadership team. Eve Anderson was a trained PNEU teacher, and the DVDs cover nature study, picture study, and narration. They contain real examples of teaching the Charlotte Mason way, and I’m totally excited for us to watch and discuss them!
To be honest, I am also excited to have a break. I have been planning curriculum for our group for years and years and this is my first prolonged break ever. I don’t mind doing it, of course — in fact, I rather enjoy it. But I plan to enjoy my Sabbath.
Some summer in the future, I would like to be more ambitious and invite a group to go with me through The Epics, which is the first in the Old Western Culture series. I already own (and love!) this, so it’d be easy to do.
3. Discuss Podcasts or Other Audio
I don’t know about your groups, but mine is overwhelmingly reading-based. And, honestly, I think that is a good thing. But also, it is nice to have a change. One thing I think would be enriching is to assign podcasts or other audio material to discuss. Here are some suggestions:
- The Long Haul by Cindy Rollins. This is about Morning Time (which I call Circle Time), and group members that already have a morning time could also bring some of their favorite resources they’ve used to show and tell.
- Almost any talk out of the CiRCE Store will do. I’m a big Cindy Rollins fan, and most of you already knew that.
- A number of episodes from The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast would work for conversation. Probably just choose one that touches on topics you think are most relevant to your group.
I will say one thing about audio material: it can be difficult to discuss because there isn’t any material in front of you. If my group were to do this, I’d have us all listen beforehand and discuss at the meeting. This is an instance where group members would have to buy in, listen (possibly more than once!), take notes, and come ready to discuss the parts that interested them, otherwise it wouldn’t work.
Enjoy Your Summer
Summer can be a wonderful bonding time for your group, so don’t neglect it. If you feel like it’s getting stale, mixing it up might be the answer you’re looking for.
Eating lots of chocolate is also an option.
I’m just saying.
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