Book of Centuries ~ CM Carnival

One of the most intriguing components of Charlotte Mason’s approach to learning is the Book of Centuries. Essentially it is a timeline kept in a notebook, a growing resource that a child adds to continually. The original description was literally one page of writing selected events and one sketching page per century. It may include essays, booklists and sketches, as well as dates, names, and events.

When we started homeschooling in August, this was one of the first things I set up and started using. Though I don’t know how long I’ll continue to homeschool (my hope is at least through 8th grade), the Book of Centuries is one component that I know we will continue to use through adulthood. It is just such a great idea! I wish I had had one when I was growing up.
The first thing we did (once the notebook/binder was put together) was to add photos of ourselves, as DH and I were both born in the 1970s and the kiddos were born in 2002 and 2005. We also put a photo of DH and I at our wedding (1995) and one of the kids and I dressed in our period costumes (1880).

Whenever we read or watch something that applies ~ Art Study (Renoir, Degas, etc.); Emperor Qin (the first emperor of China); Marco Polo & Genghis Khan; Helen Keller (we attended the play, “The Miracle Worker”); Serum Run and the 1st Iditarod ~ we add the date, a brief description and a photo (sometimes from the internet, sometimes copied from a book, other times hand-drawn).

It is such a great learning tool because it provides a visual of what was happening in the past and connects subjects that are typically taught independent of one another. For example, on the page 1800 – 1899, we’ve already included Renoir (fine arts/France), Helen Keller (Eastern USA) and ourselves as living history volunteers (Western USA). It makes the past come to life – puts it all into perspective in regards to what was happening throughout the world at any given time.

We are, of course, just beginning, so there are many, many blank pages, but as we progress, I know it will become more and more useful. It will be fun to compare the writing she has done this year in comparison to what she will be doing 10 years from now.

Though there are many different styles and pre-made timeline books one can purchase, I chose to create a simple one in a 3-ring binder with tabs for easier navigation. We can expand it if the need arises later. If you would like a simple one of your own, follow this link to download a free Book of Centuries document that labels each two-page spread with a date (in hundred-year increments) from 4000 B.C. to A.D. 2099, and follow the easy steps below to create your own.

Our Iditarod Unit Study

With great anticipation, our Iditarod Unit Study has begun.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be following along with the mushers as we also learn about the history of the race, the ecology of Alaska, and integrating numerous other activities across the curriculum.

We made our course map or outline of the route with checkpoints marked.  I think it may be too small (we’ll use it but if we do it again next year, we’ll likely create a bigger map). Sweetie loves geography and shortly after we created the Iditarod map, she made a map of Oregon on her own. 🙂

We also selected our mushers. As we live in Central Oregon, we didn’t put too much thought into our selection, we knew we wanted to go with Rachel Scdoris. In fact, we hope we will get a chance to meet her soon. We also selected 2 other Oregon mushers, Cliff Roberson of Corvallis and Liz Parrish of Klamath Falls. As we have strong familial ties to Norway, I also selected a Norwegian musher, Sigrid Ekran. Next year, if we choose to do it again, we’ll likely be more statistical in our selection.

We have read a few books, most notably Woodsong by Gary Paulsen. I was a little sad to learn he has pulled out of the race this year. We read Whale in the Sky by Anne Siberell and Sweetie asked if we could make a totem pole. I’ll post more about this little project later, but until then, here is a sneak peak.iditarod unit studyAnother book we recently read is The Bravest Dog Ever, The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford. When we finished reading, Sweetie said, “I want to draw Balto. He is the best dog ever.” Here is her drawing;
Iditarod Unit StudyAs she worked, she narrated a summary of the book, “Some kids were sick and Balto was the leader of the dog race. He pulled the sled with the medicine for the sick kids. When he was pulling the sled, Balto stopped and the guy said, “Go!” but he didn’t go because the ice on the river was cracking. The man was happy. They got the medicine to the kids in 5 1/2 days. Gunnar and Balto were heroes.” A few inaccuracies but overall she nailed the basic idea.

Narration is one of the key characteristics of a Charlotte Mason education. Telling later without prompting is very characteristic. Your child should be able to tell Daddy what they read when he comes home or Grandma over the phone this weekend without referring to the book. You want to know what ideas caught her mind, not get a formal book report. This is a skill we’ve been working on more and more. Right now she verbalizes her narration but as her writing skills develop, I’ll ask that she also write her narrations.

We also try to incorporate daily copywork. I love the Draw Write Now! series of books and we are currently using the Polar Regions edition. Here is a sampling of her work;

To read of our later endeavors and activities in this unit study, see my later post Our Iditarod Unit Study: A Summary of Our Activities.

How Will We Begin?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my goals and expectations for homeschooling. I actually spent some time coming up with a schedule that alloted a specific amount of time for math, reading and writing each day as well as an hour for theme studies (social studies 2x a week and science 2x a week), nature walks, and picture studies (Charlotte Mason approach to fine arts). Looking back on it, I realized it was too constrictive and would take away from what was most desirable about homeschooling, flexibility.

Through my research, I have discovered that there are probably as many different approaches and styles to homeschooling, as there are those that choose to undertake the responsibility themselves. In other words, I know that I can do whatever works for us and that what we do will most assuredly evolve and change over time. As a teacher, it will be difficult to change my approach… difficult to not schedule specific time for each subject.

However, I know that we all learn best when we are hungry for knowledge… when something has excited us and we want to know more. I’ve therefore decided to let my children lead the way… while I sprinkle the 3Rs daily.

I am very intrigued by the Charlotte Mason philosophy. While some of her ideas don’t necessarily fit with our lifestyle, we already incorporate others. Some of her ideas that I will be integrating into our studies include:

NARRATION
Narration is the process of telling back what has been learned or read. Narrations are usually done orally, but as the child grows older (around age 12) and his writing skills increase, the narrations can be written as well. Narration can also be accomplished creatively: painting, drawing, sculpting, play-acting, etc. I definately want to do more of this… so frequently when I finish a story or book, I close it and set it aside. I am now going to make a more conscious effort to ask the kiddos to give me a narration of what they have heard.

NATURE WALKS & NOTEBOOKS
In spite of often rainy, inclement weather, we will go out once-a-week for an official Nature Walk, allowing the children to experience and observe the natural environment firsthand. We will each have a notebook or artist sketchbook in which we may draw plants, wildlife or any other natural object found in its natural setting. These nature journals can also include nature-related poetry, prose, detailed descriptions, weather notes, Latin names, etc.

DAILY WALKS
In addition to the weekly Nature Walks, we will continue to take our daily walk in the evening with Daddy for fun and fresh air, no matter what the weather.

ART APPRECIATION/PICTURE STUDY
Bring the child into direct contact with the best art. Choose one artist at a time; six paintings per artist; study one painting per week. Allow the child to look at the work of art intently for a period of time (maybe five minutes). Have her take in every detail. Then take the picture away and have her narrate (tell back) what she’s seen in the picture. I love this! I never had the opportunity to study art (with the exception of one art class I took in high school).

JOURNALING
There’s great value in keeping a personal journal, encouraging reflection and descriptive writing. Record activities, thoughts and feelings, favorite sayings, personal mottoes, favorite poems, etc.Couldn’t agree more… why else would I be blogging? 🙂

COPYWORK & DICTATION
Daily copywork provides on-going practice for handwriting, spelling, grammar, etc. Keep a notebook specifically for copying noteworthy poems, prose, quotes, etc. Especially for the younger kids, it is a great way to practice writing without having to do tedious pages of a single letter. A great resource I was introduced to by a homeschooling friend is Draw Write Now. DD has already done 2 pages! After reading the book Stellaluna, I asked if she would like to do the page about bats and she jumped up with enthusiasm! The next day, she asked if she could do one at bedtime rather than color in her color books (as she usually does at bedtime).

BOOK OF THE CENTURIES
A Book of the Centuries is a glorified homemade timeline; usually a notebook containing one or two pages per century. As children learn historical facts, they make notes in their book on the appropriate century’s page about famous people, important events, inventions, wars, battles, etc. I love this idea, too! Even if I choose to later enroll my children in public school, I know this is something we will continue to do as it will enable them to see the big picture and see how events impact one another.

FREE-TIME HANDICRAFTS
My hope is to finish daily academics in the morning, allowing the afternoon hours for free time to pursue crafts and other leisure activities or areas of personal interest. Of course, some academics will also take place in the evening as we enjoy reading aloud to the children or sharing stories of our childhood with them before they go to sleep. This is important for DDs favorite activity is doing craft projects and if you recall, “Scrapbooking, Knitting, Stitching and Painting” are the things she wants to learn most.