Making the Charlotte Mason Method Easy

Review of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling from a large family mom who doesn't have the time for a lot of extra stuff | RaisingArrows.net

 {There are affiliate links in this post because Cindy West’s books
are fantastic and I am honored to be affiliated with her products.}

Very few homeschoolers start their journey with the Charlotte Mason method.  Often, as they become more comfortable with their homeschooling abilities, they find themselves leaning toward a more organic approach to homeschooling, and the CM method fits this bill.

Micah observing a butterfly

In my book Large Family Homeschooling, I talk about the Charlotte Mason method as being one that must be tweaked to be successfully implemented by the large family.  It is very difficult for the large family to handle a full-blown, traditional Charlotte Mason homeschool with all its different elements among all the varying ages.  Yet, CM is a great way to homeschool your large family, if you take it slow and learn what needs to be tweaked as you go.

This is exactly why I love Cindy West’s ebook, Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 EASY Step-by-Step Lessons.  While this ebook is not written specifically for the large family, it is very large family friendly in its approach.  (I would also highly recommend this ebook for the smaller family as well – read on, and you’ll see why!)

tree

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 EASY Step-by-Step Lessons breaks down each aspect of the Charlotte Mason method into easy-to-implement steps.  Cindy suggests you only work on one per week, adding the next one in the following week.  This gives you plenty of time to tweak and adjust as you go.  (Confession Time:  I was so excited about this book, I didn’t wait the full week with the beginning chapters.  I slowed down later on. ;)  )  

Trying to implement all of Charlotte Mason from the get-go can quickly overwhelm any homeschooler, especially the large family because you are trying to do everything with everyone.  But where do you start if you aren’t going to dive in head first?

I knew from reading Karen Andreola’s books A Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn, that I really wanted to add in Charlotte Mason elements to our homeschool life, but every time I tried to do it, I would quickly give up because it was just too much too fast and I was too overwhelmed.  (and it looked nothing like Karen’s books!)

However, Cindy’s ebook handed me Charlotte Mason in bite-sized pieces!  Rather than being overwhelmed, I was excited!  (And I was super excited to be able to tell all of you about this wonderful find!)

Review of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling from a large family mom who doesn't have the time for a lot of extra stuff | RaisingArrows.net

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Let me give you an example of how we used this book to tweak our large family homeschool and bring in more Charlotte Mason elements.

Lesson 2 in the book is:

Living Literature as Education

Now, this is something we already did, so not much tweaking was needed.  However, at the end of each chapter, Cindy has “homework” to help you implement each one.  Doing this homework helped me see where I might be able to add in more living literature.  I also realized many of the books we were already reading had aspects of several school subjects, and if I would simply take the time to point them out, I was killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.

The next week we moved on to Lesson 3:

The Short Lesson Model

While I thought I was executing this one well, I realized while doing Cindy’s “time card” exercise that I was actually expecting way too much of our History time.  I had the living literature thing down when it came to History, but I was trying to cram too much of it in there!  That was an “Aha” moment, and I was able to actually carve out more time in our day by shortening the History reading.

Celebrating Pregnancy Month by Month - Month 4: Enjoy Nature (post includes tons of ideas + FREE printable) | RaisingArrows.net

You will also find that Cindy never implies there is only one right way to do things.  She gives gentle suggestions and a place to start.  This is especially evident in Lesson 9:  Nature Study.  She doesn’t tell you that you must take a nature walk every day or always journal what you see in order to do Charlotte Mason the “right way”.  This is especially beneficial for the mother who has several little ones in tow!

Quick Glance Review:

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 EASY Step-by-Step Lessons

Review of Charlotte Mason Homeschooling from a large family mom who doesn't have the time for a lot of extra stuff | RaisingArrows.net

82 pages
$8.95

*lots of ideas, resources, and links
*makes Charlotte Mason method feel doable and less overwhelming
*homework offers easy ways to implement each lesson

Highly recommended for anyone wanting to implement Charlotte Mason methods,
but has found themselves overwhelmed by all the information out there
as well as all the different aspects and elements of the method.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Table Chores

Table Chores {our newest version since the move and new baby} | RaisingArrows.net

A couple of days ago, Ty’s mom was down for a visit, so Ty and I took the opportunity to go out for dinner with Miss Aspen.  When we arrived home, things were in utter chaos because the kids had left my mother-in-law to do all the meal clean up alone.

It was time for a new Table Chores list!

For the past several weeks, we’d been winging it.  Mommy or Daddy would throw out random chores to random children until everything got finished.  It was nowhere near the autopilot we were used to, but it was what we could manage.

When I asked the kids why they didn’t help Grammy with the after meal chores, they all exclaimed they had no idea who was supposed to do which chores.  (Well, all but my 16 year old son who has gotten to the point where he automatically does whatever chores he sees needing to be done.  He had helped Grammy to an extent, but had gotten sidetracked by the time I walked in the door.)

A new house always means a new list because every house has a unique dynamic and a unique set of chores that needs to be accomplished.  With the new baby and the holidays, I hadn’t gotten around to putting together a new list.  Seeing the chaos that night prompted me to immediately sit down at the computer and revamp the old list.  (It took me about 10 minutes, including multiple interruptions.)

Before I share our new list, I want to mention that there are other things that change Table Chores besides moving.  You might have a baby graduate to eating at the table or a toddler graduate out of the high chair.  Perhaps you have a child who is now old enough to help out and you need to add them to the rotation.  Or maybe you’ve had a child grow out of Table Chores.  There are a number of changes in a household that will subsequently change the Table Chores (and most everything else as well!).

For us, there was a toddler moving out of the high chair and a newly turned 6 year old being added in that needed to be taken into account.  I also decided it was time to switch out a few of the harder chores, giving them to a different child for a while.

Obviously, Table Chores are going to be unique to your family.  You will need to consider ages and abilities as well as priorities.  You can see from my 2010 Table Chores post that back then I didn’t have many children with abilities, and my priorities and standards were much lower than they are now that I have 5 children working at a time.

I’d encourage you to start by writing down everything you think needs to be done after a meal.  Assign those chores by ability (with mom and dad taking any chores that are too “big” for your children).

Next, look through the list and order it.  For instance, don’t have one child’s first chore as “Sweep floors” when you have his siblings still bussing the table and before anyone has wiped down the table.  That’s asking for a traffic jam and a floor that doesn’t look like it’s been swept.

I always work through the list in my mind child by child and then put it through a trial run before setting the Table Chores in stone.  There is almost always something that I missed or a chore or two that don’t fit correctly in the mix.  These things can be tweaked and the list printed and posted.

And now for our 2015 Table Chores:

16 (almost 17) year old son:
Unload dishwasher
Sweep floors
Mop floors (may just require spot mop)
Take out trash (as needed)
Wash stove, microwave, refrigerator

14 year old daughter:
Rinse dishes
Load dishwasher
Wash extras
Clean out sink
Wipe down sink area & dry

10 year old daughter:
Bus table
Put away food
Tidy counters
Wash island, bar, counters

9 year old son:
Bus table
Wipe down table & chairs
Help put away food

6 year old son:
Bus table

Yay!  No more after meal chaos!

If you’d like more tips on keeping your kitchen neat and tidy, check out this post – How to Keep The Kitchen Clean.

When Baby Isn’t the Gender You Had Hoped For

What do you do when baby doesn't turn out to be the gender you had hoped for?  A candid discussion with Amy @ RaisingArrows.netPerhaps you’ve had your hopes and dreams set on having a little girl, but God hasn’t given you one.  Or maybe He’s given you girls, followed by a string of boys.  Or maybe it’s the other way around and you’ve only had girls and really would like the joy of raising a little rough and tumble boy to carry on the family name.

And you feel guilty.

You know you should feel blessed by the gender God has given you, but you can’t help but feel disappointed when it doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped.  Sure you love those babies with all your heart, but deep in your heart you wonder if you’ll ever get your wish.

I know this because I’ve lived it.

My story probably isn’t the same as yours, but I know what it feels like to wish baby was the opposite gender.  I know what the longing feels like.  I know what the guilty disappointment feels like.

When Emily passed away in 2008, I desperately wanted another girl.  Not that I wanted to replace her, but because I wanted to regain a little of what I had lost.  Instead, I had a blond haired boy on New Year’s Day of 2009 whom we named Micah.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.net

I remember my OB saying she felt it was probably best I did have a boy following Emily’s death, and I quickly came to the place where I agreed with her.  He was a delight, and I was not sorry he was a boy for long.

When Micah turned 1, I found out I was pregnant again.  This became a pivotal point for me.  In my mind, I had “done my time.”  I had birthed a boy child following my daughter’s death, and I “deserved” a girl.  I became very wrapped up in wanting a girl.  In fact, going into the sonogram, I was nearly sick to my stomach with anxiety.  Because we never let the sonographer tell us what we are having, but we always look for ourselves, it leaves a shadow of a doubt we carry with us into the delivery room.  However, looking at the sonogram that day, I was pretty sure I saw a boy.

And I cried.

All the way home.

And many days after that.

I compared sonogram photos of my other babies, hoping to be wrong.  Hoping the little one I was carrying was not another boy.

But, he was…

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.net

Little Garin had colic and I had postpartum depression – both of these were firsts for our family.  However, as Garin grew, and both the colic and PPD subsided, I began to see what an amazing gift the Lord had given me in this child.  Garin was and is an absolute joy to raise.  I realized I had squandered a lot of time wishing for him to be something other than what he was.  I had not been enjoying my little boys because I was too busy wishing for another little girl.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.nerWhen I became pregnant with our next child, I vowed NOT to waste time wishing for a girl.  I threw myself into preparing for a new baby no matter the gender.  We came up with a boy name we loved.  I decorated in blues and yellows.  And I began to ENJOY the boys God had given me.

Including the little boy named Creed born January 2013.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.netHe was my third boy in a row, and I was thrilled!

I now have 5 boys.  They are rowdy and rambunctious, but wholeheartedly devoted to their mama.  In fact, I’ve come to a place where I’ve wondered if this baby is a girl, do I even remember how to be a baby girl mama again?  It’s been 7 years since I had a little girl, and with Emily gone, my next girl in age is 10.  My girls are at a very different stage in life than my little boys.  My house is no longer filled with girly toys, but rather Legos and cars.  Wrestling is a daily occurrence, and the words, “Don’t hurt your brother,” are said multiple times a day.  This zoo of boys is my norm.  In fact, the 4 youngest boys have taken on the collective term “little boys.”  As in, “My little boys are all wearing red,” or, “Little boys, come here!”

Do I still wish for a girl?  I don’t know if WISH is the right word.  I would love to have the chance to raise another girl.  Yet, I know in my heart it would be scary because of my circumstances – having had my last little girl pass away at the age of 7 months.

Do I feel I NEED another little girl.  No, not anymore.  I have learned to celebrate each precious life – boy or girl.

But, it wasn’t easy.  It was a God thing.

When Baby isn't the Gender You Had Hoped For | RaisingArrows.net

I would like to offer you some suggestions on how to learn to celebrate each baby no matter the gender because I’m a practical person who likes to have tangible ways to help me work through difficult circumstances.  These are not meant to be “band-aid” solutions or ways to just “get by.”  These are ways to start training your brain to see your babies as blessings and gifts from God in exactly the gender package God intended.

*Enjoy the children you have.  One thing I wasn’t truly doing was enjoying my little guys.  I was looking toward the next pregnancy as the one that would bring me another chance at a girl.  This is not how God intends for you to parent.  Enjoy the babies you have!  Find good things about having a string of boys (or girls)!  Revel in the fact that these little ones were given to you and learn to cherish that!

*If you find out gender ahead of time, take that knowledge and make it special.  Buy or make something special just for that baby.  Celebrate – and I don’t necessarily mean a “Reveal Party” because that could backfire on you if well-meaning friends and family are disappointed and say so.  Take time to enjoy your pregnancy and prepare for the new baby in a special way.  Come up with a name you love.  Take time to ponder who the new baby will look like.  Thank the Lord for this new life and the privilege to carry this child.

*Don’t let others feel sorry for you.  Even if you are feeling sorry for you, don’t allow others to do the same as that will only perpetuate your feelings of disappointment.  You can be honest with those you love, but if you are going to learn to be content, you have to learn to be outwardly blessed by the gender of children the Lord has given you.  You don’t have to quote Scripture to exude thankfulness.  You need only to offer a smile and an appreciation for the children you have.

*Make having a lot of one gender special.  This is where it gets fun!  Dress them alike.  Plan parties and outings and homeschool projects that cater to their gender.  Be a boy or girl mom full force!

*Be joyful and count your blessings – but give yourself grace.  Once upon a time, I had more girls than boys.  In the blink of an eye, that changed.  Of all people, I should have been thankful.  I should have counted my blessings.  But, in my humanness, I wanted what I did not have.  Learning to see my boys as something other than stepping stones on my way to the girl I felt I deserved took time, humility, and an entire change of heart.  I needed grace to get past the guilt and disappointment.


Do you have a story to share about your own disappointment?  Perhaps you have an encouraging word for mamas traveling this same road.  Please, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below so that others may be encouraged and blessed!

Large Family Bedrooms – Ideas to make the best use of the space you have

Arranging Large Family Bedrooms | RaisingArrows.netSince having children, we have lived in 9 different houses.  Each time we move, we have to consider which children will go in which bedrooms and how those bedrooms will be configured to best accommodate everyone in there.

Today, I want to share with you some of the ways we have configured bedrooms, as well as ways other people have done it.  I’d also love to have you chime in with your ideas and suggestions to help out other readers!

(this post contains affiliate links)

When we had our first child, we lived in a 2 bedroom apartment.  He had his own room.  We had our next child in a 3 bedroom house.  They each had their own bedroom.  We moved again and had another child.  This time it was a 2 bedroom, causing us to actually have to think about where children would sleep.

The master bedroom in that house was very small, so there could be no baby in the room with us.  In the 2nd bedroom, we had a bunk bed for the two older children (boy and girl) and a crib for the new baby (girl).  I had originally used a partition like the one below to separate the two “sides” of the room…a rather fruitless attempt at trying to have a “nursery” atmosphere.

The reason I say “fruitless” is because the partition just took up room…precious room.


The next move was to another 3 bedroom.  We had 2 more children while living there.  During the nearly 3 years we lived there, we had many different configurations:

Configuration #1:
Bedroom A – bunks for boy and girl
Bedroom B – baby in crib

Configuration #2:
Bedroom A – bunks for 2 girls
Bedroom B – twin for boy, crib for baby

Configuration #3:
Bedroom A – bunks for 2 girls
Bedroom B – bunks for boys
Master Bedroom – crib or bassinet for baby

The first set of bunks we owned were shorter than normal and wooden.  The second set was metal.  I’m not fond of metal bunks, so when we moved from there, we gave them away.


The next house had 4 bedrooms, but we only used the 3 upstairs.  While living there, we lost our daughter, Emily, and had 2 more little boys.

We started with a boy room and a girl room.  When Emily got sick, we moved her into our room in a “moses basket” on the floor next to my side of the bed.

After Emily passed away and our next little one was born, I kept him in our bedroom until he was about 4 months.  He then moved into the boy room that had a twin bed, a mattress under the bed that we pulled out for the 3 year old, and a crib.  The girls’ room continued to be the wooden bunks.

For a short time after our 7th child was born (and before we moved again), we put the toddler in a toddler bed in the girls’ room and bought another toddler bed for the 4 year old, making the configuration in the boys’ room – toddler bed, twin bed, crib.  Looking back, it would have made better sense to continue with the mattress under the twin.  It would have saved a lot of space.  We eventually got rid of that second toddler bed.


The next house was also a 4 bedroom that we only used 3 of.  We only lived there a year and did not have any new babies while there.

Configuration:
Bedroom A – girls in bunks
Bedroom B – Twin and 2 toddler beds
Master – crib for baby

When the baby got to the place where he was waking up every time Ty or I rolled over in bed, we moved him to the walk-in closet in a playpen.


The next house we again only used 3 bedrooms and had another baby while there.  We had two different configurations while living there:

Configuration #1:
Bedroom A – girls in bunks
Bedroom B – queen bed for my oldest, bunks for the next 2 boys, and a toddler bed
Master – baby in playpen

Configuration #2:
Bedroom A – girls in bunks, baby in playpen at the foot of bunks
Bedroom B – same set up as #1


In our current house, we use 4 of the 6 bedrooms.  They are configured this way:

Bedroom A – girls in bunks
Bedroom B – King bed for my oldest (this room also doubles as a guest room) and twin for the next boy down
Bedroom C – bunk for 5 and 4 year old boys and toddler bed for 1 year old


The next house will be a 3 bedroom.  I am planning to configure it this way:

Bedroom A – girls in bunks, toddler bed for 1 year old
Bedroom B – XL twin for my oldest, bunk for 8 and 5 year olds, mattress underneath that can be pulled out for the 4 year old
Master – baby in playpen


Some other options I have seen…

Triple bunks

Mattresses lined up side by side to create more bed space for several kiddos

Pillow chaise beds – these are especially compact and work great for lots of littles!


I do want to mention a few other things before turning this post over to my readers to give their ideas…

#1:  Walk in closets as “bedrooms”

Most closets do NOT have vents in them, so you do not want to close off the closet.

You will need to be certain EVERYTHING is out of baby’s reach.  You don’t want clothing or racks falling down on baby!

#2:  Not using a crib for baby

This is a bit of a paradigm shift for many parents.  Our culture has gotten so used to huge cribs with fancy bedding that it is hard to give up that “nursery dream.”  However, when you don’t have the room for such sizable pieces of furniture, you look for other ways to give your baby a proper bed.

Our favorite newborn sleeping accommodation is the Snugabunny from Fisher-Price:

It folds up for traveling, it keeps baby snuggled, and I can put it anywhere in any room easily.  From there, we use a playpen.  Don’t overdo the bedding and blankets.  We prefer Carter’s quilted playpen sheets because the quilting makes them very comfy for baby without being bulky.  You can get them in velour for the winter and cotton for the summer.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is where to keep clothes in large family bedrooms, but I’ll address that in another post so this post doesn’t get any longer than it already is!

Now, it’s your turn!  What are some creative ways you’ve configured bedrooms to make them work for your family?  Looking for more Large Family Living ideas and tips?  Check out my Large Family Pinterest board and the Large Family Living page here on Raising Arrows!

Get Your DrinkBands in Time for the Holidays! {GIVEAWAY}

If you read Raising Arrows regularly, you know how important DrinkBands are in our house.  In fact, just the other day, I mentioned them in my post on having a Minimalist Kitchen.

DrinkBands Giveaway!

DrinkBands make having a minimalist kitchen with a large family possible because it saves me on washing glasses constantly.  Everyone leaves their glasses on the counter for the day, and we wash them at night.  Everyone has a color, so they aren’t dragging 50 glasses out of the cupboard over the course of the day and I know exactly who has misplaced theirs.

When company comes, we add an extra set of DrinkBands (often the Camo Pack or Party Pack).  Our family’s set of DrinkBands are now personalized too!  It makes me smile to have mine say “Mama” and Ty’s say “Daddy”. :)

Do you have guests coming for Thanksgiving?  What about Christmas?  Well, now is the perfect time to snag a great deal on DrinkBands and be prepared for the holidays!

CLICK HERE TO ORDER!

And guess what?!  Two Raising Arrows readers are going to win DrinkBands!  I’m giving away a set of 9 Regular Personalized DrinkBands and a set of Camo DrinkBands!

All you have to do is enter the giveaway below.  (email readers click through to the post to find the giveaway!)  Winners will be announced on Saturday, so hurry!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Leaving the Big House on the Prairie

Last week, I mentioned there were some major changes going on around here.  Not sure if any of you guessed what those might be, but now that we have told all the people who needed to be told first, I can tell all of you…

We are moving.

Leaving the Big House on the Prairie | RaisingArrows.net

We are leaving that big house on the prairie because Ty took a promotion that has us moving VERY soon.  It will be a professional move, so I won’t have as much work to do as some of our other moves.  (See my series on Large Family Moving for some of my favorite tips and tricks for moving!)  We are hoping to be somewhat settled before Thanksgiving so that we can truly enjoy the holidays.

We’ve made a lot of friends here, so telling people was very difficult, especially considering the very small window of time in which we were leaving.  We have been in the area nearly 4 years (even though we have moved several times within the area), making this one of the most emotionally difficult moves we have had to make.

There are some really great things about the area we are moving to.  The homeschool laws are fantastic.  Our house is surrounded by beautiful big trees.  The neighborhood is hilly and serene.  The home is owned by a homeschool family (and was owned by another homeschool family before that).  We have friends nearby, and much of our family will still be close enough to visit.

My friend, Candi, said, “You move more than you have babies!”  She’s right.  This is move #13 in 18 years.  Some were due to college and some were due to rentals being sold.  Some were job changes and some were job promotions.  We never take moving lightly.  It’s not something we just up and do one day on a whim.  From the outside looking in, I’m sure it seems a little crazy, but we have seen so many things line up that we are confident this is where God wants us right now…just as the big house on the prairie and the 11 houses before it were where God wanted us then.