Category: Faith

A New Year, Your Best Year 2019 Conference

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. While purchasing from any of these links will not increase the price you pay, I do receive a small commission.

Boy, this year is really ending in a frenzy! Between our homeschool inspection the week before Christmas and all the birthdays in our family, I am overwhelmed. There are so many wonderful things happening between now and the new year that I just can’t seem to keep up! Luckily, one of those things will help me get focused right off the bat. It’s the 2019 Conference A New Year, Your Best Year.

a new year, your best year

This conference is starting just days after the new year. From January 4th until January 10th, you will be able to attend over 175 workshops from more than 90 speakers. The categories for these workshops include:

  • Faith
  • Family Life
  • Finances
  • Goals/ Planning
  • Health/ Fitness
  • Household Organization/ Homemaking
  • Marriage
  • Meal Planning/ Prep
  • Parenting/ Motherhood
  • Planning/ Time Management
  • Self-Care; and
  • Simplification/ Minimalism

So, a little something for everyone.

Who’s speaking?

If you’ve checked out the blogs by some of the more well-known homeschool moms and Christian moms, you will recognize their names immediately. People like Arabah Joy, Tauna Meyer, Heather Bowen (who is hosting this event), Hal & Melanie Young, and many more! You can read more about each of these speakers on the event page A New Year, Your Best Year 2019 Conference for Moms Speakers.

Personally, I could use some help with my time management and homemaking. I saw multiple workshops that could help me out. My favorites include How Busy Moms Can Stay Connected to God by Kerry Beck, How to Ensure You Have the Best Financial Year Ever by Kati Kiefer, Declutter Toys Parts 1 & 2 by Tauna Meyer, and Mothering With Grace, Even Amidst the Chaos by Angela Taylor. There is even a workshop by Monique Boutsiv entitled Bullet Journaling for the Busy Mom! You can get a list of the workshops being offered with a description on the event page A New Year, Your Best Year 2019 Conference Workshop Descriptions.

With so many great topics to choose from, there is no way you could possibly get through all of them during the time of the event. And since we are all so busy, I doubt any of us could get through even a fraction. I know that there is no way I can.

How do I sign up?

The good news is that when you buy a ticket, you will get lifetime access to all these events. So you can watch those you are most interested in now. And those that aren’t relevant for the moment can be saved for a later date. Since I don’t have any teens in my house yet, I won’t be rushing to check out any of those workshops. But based on some of the titles, I’m sure I’ll be glad to have them when my kids get that age.

Early Bird tickets priced at $15 go on sale today, December 26th until January 3rd. After that, the prices will go up to $20.

Included with the lifetime access to all the workshops, you will receive a Swag Bag of freebies and discounts valued at over $800. I can’t wait to see what is included in mine.

a new year, your best year

I’ll be getting my ticket as soon as it opens up for registration. In order to better prepare for the event before it starts on the 4th, please enjoy the free worksheet I’ve created which lists all the speakers and workshops by category. There is even a space for you to mark the dates they are playing (when that information is released) and a place to check off those you’ve seen. Just to help keep you organized.

You can receive this free printable list when you sign up below. You will receive an email with the password to the Subscriber Freebies page where you will have access to all my free resources, including the master list of workshops for the conference A New Year, Your Best Year.

 

Setting Attainable Goals for 2019

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Though you will not pay any more for any product, I may receive a small commission. 

The new year is fast approaching. And I’m starting to think about setting all those goals that I want to accomplish. We used to call them resolutions. But the problem with that is the word “resolution” has taken on a connotation of something we will probably never achieve. So now we say “goals” in the hopes that we will be better able to attain them.

Some of you may have already decided what you want to accomplish. With my busy schedule and recent homeschool inspection, I haven’t really gotten around to it before now. And I have to admit that I’m a bit stuck in terms of finding just one thing to shoot for. So what do I do?

setting attainable goals

The Basic Layout

Well first, I need to narrow down which areas of my life need the most attention. The main categories that I have seen in many goal planners include Family, Finances, Work and Personal. I’ve changed this for my own use. I still use the categories Family, Work and Personal. But I’ve replaced Finances with Faith. First, because if I don’t want my relationship with God to suffer, I need to be more intentional with how I live my faith. Second, because I feel the finances can fit into all the other categories.

In each of these categories, I pick three main things I want to work on. For example, in Personal, I have the goal of completing two reading challenges, the Back to the Classics challenge and the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge. In Faith, one of my goals is to be more intentional with my prayer life. For Family, I want to be more consistent with our weekly nature walks and nightly read-alouds. And in Work, I would like to complete a bilingual Nature Journaling program to be used year-round.

When I’ve chosen three goals for each category, I then break those goals up into actionable items on a quarterly basis. Basically, what I need to have achieved by the end of each quarter in order to accomplish the goal at the end of the year. In some cases, if the goal is complex enough, I will even break those actions down to a monthly or even weekly agenda.

Using the Bullet Journal

And this is where my bullet journal really comes in handy. I’ve talked a little about how I got into bullet journaling in my post Staying Organized for the Busy Mom. Since using this system, I have been much better at completing my to-do lists and in keeping up with the countless activities of my children. But this is the first time I will be using it to create goals.

In the final pages of my 2018 journal I am envisioning what my next year will be. I’ve dedicated a page to each category where I can brainstorm goal ideas as well as what I actions I need to take to achieve those goals. This is also where I’ve noted the different resources I’m using. For example, the websites with my reading challenges or the prayer group I’ve joined, or any pdf documents I might use.

I like using these last pages as brain dumps because then I feel like I’ve released some of the clutter in my head onto a paper that I won’t misplace. I can use these brain dumps to organize better in my new journal. I’ll narrow down the goals that are more urgent while saving others I still want to achieve for later.

As the year progresses, I can update each month or each quarter with items accomplished or actions that still need to be taken. I can even change my goals mid-year. This is important, because even with the best of intentions, sometimes life happens. Sometimes we just need to change direction. That doesn’t mean I am not serious about achieving my goals. It just means that I am realistic enough to know that I am not in control. God directs my paths and I want to be able to follow where He leads.

setting attainable goals

Setting Attainable Goals

I have lofty goals running around in my head, and if I try to complete all of them, I may end up finishing none of them. I tend to narrow it down to four categories: Faith, Family, Personal, and Work. Many people make a category for Finances but I figure that this can fit in just about any of the other categories. I create 3-4 goals for each category. I break those down into shorter goals to be achieved quarterly or every twelve weeks

The important thing is that the goals are specific enough to be able to break down in manageable steps. The entire goal sheet goes in my bullet journal for easy reference. I can then check back as often as needed to make sure I am on track.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of creating a good habit. For example, I want to be more intentional about reading classics this year. My goal is to finish the Back to the Classics challenge in its entirety. Since there are twelve books on this list, I must read at least one book per month to achieve this goal. If a create a habit of reading nightly, it will set me on to the path to success without constant maintenance. If you can make goals achievable as a result of new habits, you will be setting yourself up for an easier win.

In order to help you set up your goals for this year, I’ve created a Goal Planning worksheet that fits perfectly in any average-sized bullet journal or even in a half-sized planner. Sign up as a subscriber to receive the password to the Subscriber Freebies page for this worksheet as well as any other resource that is of interest.

 

Daily Homeschool Schedule in a 4-Day Week

As anyone with children knows, trying to keep a clean house is next to impossible when they are all at home. Add homeschooling to the mix and you are guaranteed to fail.

homeschool schedule

Here are my basic rules.

Well, first of all, there are some seasons in life where you just have to accept a dirtier house, unless you have help like a maid. I’m talking about when the kids are all under 5 years of age. Sure, they can help with some of the chores. But there is no way you will have as clean a house as you did before kids or at least before they started crawling.

The older the children get, the cleaner the house will be as a result. This was a hard lesson for me to learn. And I still struggle some days when I’ve spent an hour cleaning up the schoolroom only to see it looking like a tornado went through it after the mornings work.

Secondly, make a schedule. Now, I love schedules for myself. But my kids? Not so much. And I don’t like to tie them to any particular activity. Especially when they are young. So my schedules tend to be loose. We try to find a balance between what is needed and what is wanted.

The younger kids are not beholden to any schedule other than when to eat and when to sleep. The rest of the day is free for them to do as they please.

This works because my house is mostly kid-friendly. So just about anywhere they want to be, it is safe for them to be there. But here is where my tolerance has to be high. I have to expect that whichever room the toddler has chosen to be in will be slightly less put together than when she arrived. (Please note: This does not mean my child has run amok. I do know where she is at all times. And any place that is unsafe for her is also impossible for her to access i.e. locked.)

In the event of a meltdown or during a rough day, I have been known to put on a video. But I try to make this an exception and not the rule.

Thirdly, allow the child as much independence as possible. This sort of ties in with the last section where I give my littles so much freedom. By trusting them with the majority of their day, they learn how to be bored but also how to work alone. They are not dependent on constant guidance throughout the day.

This helps when they get older to regulate their own school day based on the day’s lessons.

And last, be willing to change what works every year, every month or sometimes even every day. This is essential. Life is constantly changing. Your schedule should, too.

How does this work for us?

When I first started homeschooling in 2016, I had one child “doing school,” one preschooler, one toddler, and a newborn. Plus, it was my first year dealing with the French inspections.

I had lofty goals.

Which were quickly dashed by life. You know what I’m talking about. Kids don’t care about your theories or methods or plans. Especially newborns. So within weeks, I had to trash my carefully planned year for something more fluid.

Our basic outline was this: morning work in French, afternoon work in English. We worked for about 2 hours in the morning and another 2 hours in the afternoon. Though we changed subjects often, I still found it to be a bit much for her attention span. So we varied the time spent depending on how well she paid attention. Or whether I needed a nap with the baby. Or if the others needed some attention. And so on and so forth.

It needed to be hands on as much as possible. Not only was V learning how to read and write in English but she had to read and write in French as well. To be clear, she didn’t learn to read in both languages at the same time. We started in English (her first language) and when she could read a short “I Can Read” Level 1 book with ease we started French lessons.

We continued this basic schedule, French in the morning and English in the afternoon, in her second year. I also started backing off a bit with helping her for every step. That’s not to say I wasn’t available. On the contrary, she could always come to me for help or clarification. And I guided her when to start the next subject. But V was doing much of the work on her own. At 7 years old. I know, right?

However, when I added my second daughter, I knew that things had to change. I couldn’t do her first year exactly the same way as V. For one, I now had a very lively toddler who always wanted my attention. But I also had V, a 3rd year student who still needed guidance, if not actual help. In addition to the very real feelings of “why is mommy spending all her school time with L and not me anymore?” Her mind may have understood why not, but her heart, not so much.

So I changed again.

morning time schedule homeschoolOur current schedule

With the addition of another child (and with it the number of activities “after school”), I have had to change the French/ English split. I wanted to include V as much as possible while still giving her time to do independent work. Moreover, there were some subjects they could do together.

So, as of this moment, we now have Morning Time where both girls work on subjects that can be done together. In the afternoon, V does her independent work while I work with L. French and English are now combined in morning and afternoon work.

This may seem counter intuitive. After all, when they were younger we made a clear division of languages. Mommy spoke English; Daddy spoke French. I continued this division with V during her first two years of schooling. But this was no longer possible with multiple kids at multiple levels.

But actually, by having them switch from English to French, subject after subject, all day long, we were just replicating our real life. I speak English with my kids but when we are out, will switch to French to talk to someone else. Their father does the same. He will speak English with me then switch to French to speak with them. This is our reality.

A good education prepares a child to function in society. Thus switching between English and French helps my children to function better. Plus, we get lots of giggles when I am helping L with an English lesson but V comes to me for help in French and I respond in English but then go back to L’s English speaking French. It can get confusing. But it’s so much fun. And a great way to connect.

Activities

So, I know I’ve been talking a lot about the homeschooling aspect of our day. Let’s get into how we fit activities into this.

First of all, a short explanation of the French school system. In the grade school years, school is only four days a week. There are many reasons for this but one of the main ones is because of outside activities. In the US, sports teams, music clubs, art lessons and other activities are connected to the school. So if you want to play soccer, you just stay after school and play on the school’s soccer team. Or if you want to play an instrument, you join the school band. Of course, you can join clubs outside the school, but since most schools are finished for the day around 3pm, it is not a problem to join a club and practice after school.

This is not how it works in France, however. School is for school. All other activities must be practiced in an outside establishment. To make this possible, most activities are scheduled on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Regular school hours are on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. The day is a bit longer, ending around 4:30 (depending on the school). So evening activities tend to start after 5pm. But Wednesdays and Saturdays are wide open.

My girls are involved in ballet, music, and art classes. My son takes a combined music and art class. That means that we are busy four days of the week. Monday is ballet for V from 5:15-6:15. Tuesday is viola for V from 4:00-4:30 and ballet for L from 5:15-6:15. Wednesday is for music classes at the Conservatory for L from 10:30-12:00 and V from 3:30-5:00. Thursdays are art classes for V and E from 5:15-6:15 and L from 6:15-7:15.

So we “school” only on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Obviously, Wednesdays are busy in the morning and afternoon making lessons difficult.

daily homeschool chores scheduleChores

We’ve now covered lessons and activities. What about housework and chores?

I don’t expect any formal chores before six years old when they start formal “schooling.” I still expect the littles to help with clearing the table, picking up toys, putting laundry away and taking out the trash. But it is not enforced.

But at six years old, I include life skills in our lesson plan. It becomes part of the school day. They become active participants in the upkeep of the house.

So here is how our schedule plays out with approximate hours. (Again, I have a loose schedule so we may change hours based on activities or appointments or just “hard days.”)

The kids will wake anytime before 8:00.  I do not set alarms. I feel it is important for kids to feel their natural urges. We’ve lost that ability as adults forced to conform to society rules of schedules. But if kids learn in childhood how their body feels after a good night’s sleep as opposed to a short night, they will naturally know how to regulate as adults. They also need to learn how to be flexible.

Whatever time they wake up, chores begin around 8:00. They are responsible for dishes, putting laundry away, and the cleaning of one section of the house. Evening chores consist of cleaning off the table and a 15 minute tidy in their bedroom before bed.

School schedule

Between 9:30 and 10:00 we begin Morning Time. This includes our devotional, Bible reading, read-aloud (currently Pilgrim’s Progress), Artist Study, Composer Study, Handicraft, Drawing, Composer Study, Folk Music, Hymn Study, Poetry, Recitation, Copywork, Book of Centuries and in French, Handwriting, Science, Géographie, Règles de vie, and Histoire. The only morning time subjects we do everyday are the devotional, Bible ready, read-aloud, Poetry, Recitation, Copywork, Book of Centuries, and Handwriting. Everything else is spread out over the week.

Lunch is around noon. “School” begins again at 2:00 and finishes around 4:00. This is where we do History, Biography, English, Français, Geography, Literature, Math, Nature Study, Reading lessons, and music practice. Again we don’t maintain this everyday. English, Français, Math, Reading lessons, and music practice are the only daily lessons. The rest are spread out over the week.

As mentioned before, most of the activities start around 5:00 pushing dinner to at least 6:30, if not 7:30. Bedtime routine will begin after this with the actual bedtime fluctuating between 8:30 and 9:00 depending on the day.

Do I expect this to be my magic schedule?

No! Of course not. It works for this year because that is where we are at. I expect this to change yearly as I add children to the school mix and as the activity schedule changes.

And if we ever return to the United States, the schedule will probably return to a 5-day one.

But if I’ve learned anything about homeschooling, or just being a mother, go with the flow. Expect the unexpected. And, most importantly, keep God at the center of everything.

With this you can’t go wrong.

To help you plan your child’s day AND learn a little French, here is a Student Planner/ Cahier de texte in English and French for a 5-day week. Use the pages you need. (Psst. I don’t use Wednesday.)

Freebie cahier de texte

2018 Homeschool Thursday Bundle – Limited Time Freebies

Christmas is coming early to all homeschooling moms!

On the heels of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Homeschool Thursday. But instead of deals that save you money, instead is offered over 70 homeschool resources for FREE!

Free Homeschooling Resources

Heather Bowen at Life of a Homeschool Mom and the Homeschool Bloggers Network has gotten together to offer over $1200 worth of homeschool resources from now, November 29, 2018 until Monday, December 3, 2018.

Included in this bundle are eCourses, eBooks, curriculum, worksheet packs, planners, unit studies, copywork, Bible studies, chore systems and more! My bilingual Christmas bookmarks are included if you haven’t already signed up to get yours.

And as much as I love and use my own product, there are some gems here.

My favorites are:

  • The Letter Writing Pack from Blessed Grove Publishing valued at $6
  • Character Flashcards from The Modest Mom & Character Badges valued at $3.99
  • World Geography Coloring Pages & Subscription Bundle from Our Family Passport valued at $25
  • The Art Kit Super Bundle from The Art Kit valued at $21.90
  • Morning Work Mazes from The Crafty Classroom valued at $5
  • Biblical Art History Course from With the Huddlestons valued at $17
  • Parts of Speech Color by Number Pack from Wonder-filled Days valued at $5
  • U.S. History & Geography Study Pack Bundle from Life of a Homeschool Mom valued at $19.99
  • More Than Words for Teens devotional from Multi Taskin’ Mom valued at $9.99
  • Easy Peasy Chore System from Happy Unconventional Life valued at $17.99
  • Beyond Blessed Homeschool Bundle from They Call Me Blessed valued at $62.92
  • Homeschool and Housework, Get It All Done eCourse from Jeniffer Do Nascimento valued at $20
  • Getting Started With Charlotte Mason from How to Homeschool My Child valued at $15
  • Charlotte Mason Wall Art Quotes from Everyday Graces valued at $18.99
  • Seasonal Copywork Bundle from In All You Do valued at $31.96
  • Winter Nature Study Unit from Holistic Homeschooler valued at $5.99
  • Christmas Fun Packet from Geez, Gwen! valued at $12.99
  • and so much more!

I was really pleased to see Preparing My Heart for Christmas 30-Day Challenge and Journal for Moms from Life of a Homeschool Mom valued at $19.99. I completed this challenge last year and really found it to keep me focused on Christ during the busy season. So often, we get caught up in all the fun activities, pretty decorations, and look of wonder in our children’s eyes that we can sometimes forget the real reason for the season. This 30-day challenge helped me keep the Birth of Jesus at the forefront, where it belongs.

But I really look forward to digging into all the other wonderful resources, too.

Hurry to get your copy. It ends Monday, December 3, 2018! You can either sign up for just the resources that interest you or the entire bundle. Click HERE or the image above to receive your copy as a gift from all of us at the Homeschool Bloggers Network and especially Heather Bowen at Life of a Homeschool Mom who put it all together.

Blessings in Christ!

Best Christmas Holiday Tradition

As everyone knows, the holidays can be extremely draining on the budget. This is one of the main causes of stress during this season.

But those of us with kids also know that Christmas is a test on our children’s character development. With all the ads directed right at them, it is nearly impossible for children, especially young children, to fight their desire for more “stuff.” They get greedy for the new toys they see everywhere that they just have to add to their list. Which is already 10 pages long. They can’t stop the feeling of wanting from creeping into every outing. And they can get angry when you try to let them know, gently, that it would not be possible to get it all.

When You Can’t Take It Anymore

And this is where I found myself last year.

My husband and I have always had to live on a pretty strict budget. Ever since we decided that I would stay home with the kids, we have had to watch every penny. It is not easy for a family of 6 to live on one salary. Especially when it is a teacher’s salary. But it was doable. Except around Christmas. We had to get creative.

What we usually ended up doing was buying bunches of little, cheap gifts. This gave the illusion that they were being as spoiled as every other kid.  We are pretty isolated with most of the family living in other countries and only one set of grandparents able to visit. And with the yearly move to another town for nearly 5 years, we didn’t have a lot of friends around either. So what they got from us was it.

Let’s face it. We all want to spoil our kids. We love the smiles and squeals of excitement. But it comes at a cost. And not just financially.

When starting the new year in debt became the norm with kids that were still just as cranky, we knew there needed to be a change. Not to mention, the piles of toys that were just gathering dust because they were lost amongst the rest. Or the toys that lasted only a month because they broke so easily. Our home was getting cluttered and dirty and we were all unhappy by the end of the season. It just didn’t seem worth it anymore.

Best Christmas Holiday TraditionChrist Shows Us the Way

But what really got me rethinking this consumerist tradition, was when I got back into the Word of God. It just didn’t seem right that we spent so much time and attention on something that had absolutely nothing to do with the real reason for Christmas. We let our children’s hearts be molded by a society that was blatantly unChristian. And we even helped it along!

So I started looking at beginning a new tradition. One that pointed to Christ and not to “stuff.”

And I came across a blog post that changed everything for me. It was from a blog called Blessed Beyond a Doubt. In this post, the author, Annette Breedlove, discussed her own struggles with the issue of greed. She offered a solution that just spoke to me.

Not only would it help us stay on budget financially but it would guide our children back to the true meaning of Christmas at the same time. She called it the $5 Christmas. Each member of the family would pick the name, anonymously, of another member and pick out a $5 gift for them. Then they would attach a personal letter letting them know how they felt about them.

This idea attracted me so much, I immediately called my husband at work to discuss doing the same thing.

He agreed. But we changed it to fit our family’s needs. Since our children only really received gifts from us each year, we decided to up the limit to $15 (or euros, in our case). This would be the sole gift for everyone. But the true brilliance was the letter. All the joy of the season and love for family could truly shine when everyone was sharing their letters with each other.

We had so much fun picking out the perfect gift for our “person.” Since all our kids were under the age of 7, we decided that we would pick names anonymously but we would be able to share who we got with each other. The gift-buying was done privately so that it could stay a surprise. And all except the oldest needed our help to write their letters. But the time we spent together was more than we had spent previous years when I would have to sneak out of the house alone to try to get all the shopping done in one go.

And let me tell you, the shrieks were just as loud when they opened their one gift as when they opened their multitude. Plus we added in more laughter and hugs. And everyone felt happy when their letter was read and they got to hear how special they were to someone else in the family.

I look forward to doing it again this year.

Free Bookmark printableFree Printable

And in true giving spirit, I am giving away a set of bookmarks to celebrate this Christmas season. Each one has a Bible verse about the birth of Jesus printed on it. There are ten verses in English and the same ten in French.

Each page has five bookmarks that can printed on cardstock or regular paper and then laminated (my favorite method).

To receive your copy, please enter your email below. Your download will begin immediately upon confirmation.

God’s blessings during this Christmas season!

Top 10 Reasons to Homeschool – Holiday Edition

While cleaning up the schoolroom for the 100th time since yesterday, I kept asking myself, “Why did I decide to homeschool, anyway? Wouldn’t it be great to just drop the kids off at the school down the street?” I even have the choice of two schools within walking distance, one private and one public.

This being the holiday season, these are the reasons I came up with:

10. Every day can be a snow day – even in Arizona.

I mean, who said there needed to be snow to have a snow day? Doesn’t feeling too cold to get out of bed count?

9. Daily Christmas movies can be part of the curriculum.

And there are so many good ones that we could even watch two a day. If we add a narration afterwards, it could still be considered Charlotte Mason, right?

8. Christmas music! Every day!

Not only could this be part of Hymn Study and Folk Music Study and Composer Study and Foreign Language Study, but we could listen to it while doing our Artist Study and Copywork and Handicrafts and so forth and so on.

7. You can start and end the vacation any time.

Yep. My Christmas vacation starts in September. It ends in May. Just in time for summer vacation.

6. Cruising the neighborhood looking at all the Christmas light displays can be a field trip.

And what a great field trip, too! So what if it provokes feelings of envy. The twinkling lights are so pretty.

5. Children fighting to the sound of Christmas music doesn’t sound nearly so serious.

The toddler’s screams almost match pitch with “Ave Maria.” What could be more lovely than that?

4. You can have a Christmas party every day … for a month.

Weren’t those days the best? Not only could you eat cookies and other Christmas goodies but there was usually a movie and gift exchange. Good things are always better the more you do them. Eating junk food full of processed sugar while getting more stuff can definitely be done more than once a week, right?

3. Pinterest!

I mean, honestly. Have you seen the number of fun activities that you can do during the Christmas season? You could do a new one every day for 50 years and still not even scratch the surface!

2. Decorating the house can be counted as an Art Credit.

Why stress about coming up with lesson plans for drawing or painting. Just have the kids decorate the house with the 100s of boxes of Christmas decorations you’ve accumulated over the years. If they can do it in a tasteful manner, they’ve succeeded at something even design majors can struggle with … using every decoration ever made by your kids so that no one ever feels left out. Wins all around!

1. Did I say Christmas music?

You can never have enough of Christmas music! During morning basket, quiet time, while doing chores. The possibilities are endless!

Bonus: Keep Christ in Christmas

But seriously, the best reason to homeschool, especially during the holidays, is this:

We can keep the focus of the Christmas season where it belongs … on the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 9:6 King James Version (KJV)

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 

Reasons to Homeschool - Holiday

God bless! Let’s keep Christ in Christmas!

Bilingual Charlotte Mason Method

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. While purchasing from any of these links will not increase the price you pay, I do receive a small commission.

First of all, what is the Charlotte Mason method?

To best answer that, we should also know a little bit about who Charlotte Mason was. In purely personal terms, Mason was an educator of the classical style in England at the turn of the 20th century. Starting as a simple teacher, she eventually became a lecturer. Later she started an organization (known as PNEU, Parents’ National Education Union) that provided resources for parents teaching their children and eventually created her own school (House of Education) training governesses and others teaching children.

But she was so much more than these bare facts. Her philosophy shaped a whole new way of looking at education. Not as well-known as other educators of her time that have been co-opted by the mainstream, she is nonetheless continually gaining a larger following around the world.

Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner (Waldorf) are two such contemporaries. For a quick comparison of Montessori and Mason, go here. For Steiner and Mason, click here. While I don’t entirely agree with the assessments, they are fairly just in showing the differences. Of course, they were written by supporters of the other methods so…

Charlotte Mason Philosophy

So now that we know a little about her, what about her method?

This is a complicated answer. And would take longer than one post to cover. Mason, herself, wrote six volumes explaining it. So I’ll just try to narrow it down as much as possible for you.

Followers of Charlotte Mason would agree that essentially the belief is that children are people with individual personalities and interests from birth. The goal then is to educate not just their minds as a blank slate (the famous tabula rasa we’ve all heard about) but to fill it with living books that will then shape what is already there.

But education is more than just what can be found in books. It is also a training of the character or habits. Life skills are taught alongside history, grammar and math because their importance is just as great. And don’t forget nature study and the arts.

There is a pretty good breakdown of Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell found here. Another great resource if you are interested and want a quick overview can be found in the book A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. This was the first book I read after deciding that the CM method was how I wanted to educate my children. It is compact and gives great simple explanations for the different aspects of the method. And here is another quick explanation of the Charlotte Mason method on another well-known website Simply Charlotte Mason.

But there is no substitute for reading all six volumes written by Mason herself. They are not the easiest of reads because they are so full of good information. And because they are written in the style of late 19th century writers. However, you do not need to read them all in order to start. I, personally, have only finished the first.

Deciding on a Method

If you are unsure if this style is a good fit for you, here is a great Homeschool Style Quiz that might help you find where you are more likely to fit. I got 26% Charlotte Mason Homeschooler with Unschooler being a close second at 24%.

Here’s another Homeschool Philosophy Quiz. For this one I scored a 25 for Charlotte Mason with Classical Education close behind at 24. My third match was a tie between Montessori and Unschooling.

Clearly, this shows Charlotte Mason is my best fit. In my opinion, she is a great combination of both the Classical Education style and Unschooling taking the best of both and adding her own stuff into the mix.

Ambleside Online

After deciding to use this method, I had two decisions to make. What curriculum would I use? And how would I make it bilingual?

The first question was easier to answer than the second. Since my budget was pretty limited, I needed to find something that would be as close to free as possible. Using living books that are often classics was a great starting point. Many such books can be found for free at Project Gutenberg.

Ambleside Online fit my requirements to a tee. Not only are they a great resource for lists of living books recommended by Charlotte Mason but they have so generously partitioned them to the different grades or age groups. And they offer all this for free. All that I needed to do was buy the suggested books from each schedule. And as I had mentioned earlier, many of them could be found at Gutenberg free of charge. If I was in the US, I could even find many of them at the local library.

However, being in France, I needed an option that would allow me access to great books in English without paying an arm and a leg. By purchasing a basic Kindle, I was able to then stock my “schoolroom” with great books without taking too much space or paying too much money.

Of course, some books need to be purchased in hard copy and shipped to me. But being a lover of books, this is not a hardship. It only adds to the charm when we get to snuggle together in front of a “real” book.

I also love the fact that once my children can read, we get them their own Kindle. By doing this, I can read aloud while they follow along. In my opinion, this only enhances their reading abilities. I’m not a big fan of screens for kids but some of the problems involving “blue light” is avoided because we only use the Kindle Paperwhite and not Kindle Fire.

Making it Bilingual

bilingual charlotte mason method

But here’s where the second question made things difficult. I wanted to offer the same advantages of the Charlotte Mason method in both languages that my children speak. The English part was easily achieved. The French part would be more difficult.

Not only am I fairly restricted by the legal aspects of homeschooling in France, but it was hard to find much about this method within the French homeschooling associations or even at the local library. It is fairly unknown. I have found a few blogs by French homeschoolers interested in this method. But many of them have created lists with those already used by English or American groups. I didn’t want my kids reading James Herriot or Rudyard Kipling or Shakespeare in French. I wanted them to read the living books in their original language where possible. What I really needed was a list of living books written by French authors.

And this is where my own education really began.

Not being a native to France, I did not grow up with any classic childhood books, authors, poets or even folk songs. I know the big ones: Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant. But I didn’t know the French equivalent of Laura Ingalls Wilder or Thornton Burgess or H.E. Marshall.

I started by having my children read the books from the Ambleside lists not written originally in English as their French books. Books like Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio and Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking (known as Fifi Brindacier in French). And I’ve scoured used book sales and the local library for inspiration for others. Sometimes I’ve made wonderful discoveries like the series of books by Cathy Bernheim, Isabelle, petite comtesse and Agnes. Others have been a huge flop.

But beyond using living books in French. I’ve simply applied the concepts of the Charlotte Mason education such as narration and copywork to our work in French.

In order to put it all together, I decided it would be better for us to split our work on a daily basis to French and English work. I know that many bilingual schools like to have days with classes only in English and other days only in French. But I felt it would help my children be better able to cope with the constant switching of languages they already do by having their learning in both languages daily.

How Bilingual Kids Really Live

Simply put, kids in bilingual families can be constantly surrounded by their two languages. But one language is always stronger, usually that of the mother. So though my children were born and raised here in France, they are more comfortable with the English language. This is a result of making the conscious decision to have me speak only in English to them and my husband only in French. Because I am the primary caregiver and spend more time with them as a stay-at-home mom, the kids naturally picked up English first.

Though they understand perfectly well everything their father says to them from a very early age, none of them could answer with more than a monosyllable in French until around 5 years old when there was a click. Because of this, we have had to make a conscious effort in their French schooling. Having the yearly inspections forces us to pay closer attention to their learning in the French area.

I don’t compromise though. When learning to read, I wait until the kids are comfortably reading in English before starting French reading lessons. New concepts in math or science are approached first in English then reintroduced in French. And though I may read them books at or above their reading and comprehension levels in English, I will often read at or just under in French. At least, until their vocabularies start to equalize. This can happen anytime during the elementary school years.

The beauty of the Charlotte Mason educational method is that it is perfectly adaptable to bilingual education. She even made it a requirement for her students to start learning a second language immediately upon entering school at the age of 6 or 7. And that language was French.

Basics of Language Learning

We know that to learn any language there are 4 elements involved:

  1. Hearing the language,
  2. Reading the language,
  3. Speaking the language, and
  4. Writing the language.

With much of the method revolved around books, learning a new language (or improving on a second one) becomes much easier and more natural.

Since this method is so involved, I will explain in another post some of the actual resources I have found to implement the Charlotte Mason method in French and how I’ve had to tweak it to pass the yearly inspections with minimal fuss.