K-12 Plan For A Christ Centered Education

Here at Schamelot we take a living books approach to education, allowing for lots of free time to explore, create, experiment, imagine, and cultivate the virtues, particularly piety, obedience and diligence. What is called "The Charlotte Mason Method" permeates our homeschool philosophy, and Kolbe Academy and Mother of Divine Grace are the spring boards for our curriculum, which I put together for each child each year. I hope you will find something I have shared helpful to your homeschooling adventure! (scroll down after clicking a link)

Catechism and Character Formation

Science and Natural History


Language Arts and Literature

History and Geography

Music and Art


Monday, August 27, 2007


Coming Soon...


Music is one of my favorite subjects, because other than sitting back and listening, there's almost nothing I have to do. The kids all take music lessons, either piano or violin. In addition to that, we really just listen to wonderful classical music regularly. I always try to remember to tell them the composer's name and the title of the work. We also love the wonderful 3 disc set "Beethoven's Wig," which takes very familiar classics (Beethoven's 5th Symphony for example) and puts words to the music. The words usually have something to do with the composer or period in which the work was written. They're usually somewhat comical and really catchy. Some may not like having words associated with the music, especially words that often get a giggle or two. But we have enjoyed them tremendously. The little ones especially love them.
There are also the Music Masters CDs which are more serious and feature many different works by a composer intertwined with a story of his life. There are about 20 CDs in all.
We also have different books about some of the different composers, and have enjoyed the videos about them as well. Beethoven Lives Upstairs, for example, is a lovely story about the composer and the little boy who lives in the house in which Beethoven rents the top floor apartment.
I also have a book of the stories of the great operas, which I will sometimes read to the kids and then we may borrow a video of the opera from the library. You have to be careful with some of them, though. Many of the operas are very mature themes, and the opera Aida, for example, is set in Egypt, and some of the women are actually topless in the opera. Preview them before you watch them with your kids.
We don't do any real formal study of music, unless, of course, someone specifically wants to, but all my children have a love and appreciation for classical music, and opera. As they have gotten older some of them have wanted to listen to the pop music, and my husband has always listened to country. I prefer to put the songs on the iPod and let them listen to them that way rather than on the radio. I have more control over it that way. I also limit their listening and make sure that they are listening more to classical than to current.
My oldest son has recently started composing his own pieces. Whatever we're doing seems to be working out o.k. so far!
Happy Listening!

History--His Story!

History is our favorite subject! There's so much we have learned in this area it will take me months to share it all with you. I could have a whole blog devoted to this subject alone! Let's just start with my favorite history reading list, Reading Your Way Through History, from Love2Learn, a wonderful Catholic Homeschooling site, and the coolest timeline and timeline figures in the world! The timeline figures come on a CD and can be printed in a whole lot of different formats--from coloring book size pages, to tiny stickers I copy and paste onto mailing labels to stick them into our timelines. And just to make sure we're not getting too sidetracked I keep all the History Links close by for reference, writing and project ideas.

We study history with the Incarnation as the focal point, so that everything that happened before the Birth of Christ was a preparation of the whole world for this singular moment, and everything that's happened since has been a response to it. The only history is Catholic History. And what a glorious history it is! In addition to all the living history books we read, in High School we study from Dr. Anne Carroll's books, Christ the King, Lord of History, and Christ and the Americas, and Dr. Warren Carroll's Christendom Series and particular histories.

I also have to mention the wonderful selection of living history books and biographies from the Baldwin Project. I do not believe all these books are Catholic, per se, but I have found their treatment of delicate matters, like the conflict between Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, for example, to be satisfactorily unbiased. This site is a treasure trove of good children's literature in a wide range of subjects--a must see for all homeschoolers!

Please keep checking back for elaborations on our history curriculum. I simply cannot put it all into one post! Reading Your Way Through History, the timeline and timeline figures, and the books at the Baldwin Project should keep you plenty busy in the meantime. I hope you'll find them as wonderful as we do!

In Sanguine Christi,

Multi-dimensional Learning Activity

No! These are not dinosaur bones!

Today my husband's sister brought over another archeological find--a mid-nineteenth century bed pan, broken into about 15 pieces, which was found at a Union Civil War camp. Although one cannot say for sure it was probably requisitioned from a local home since it's pretty unlikely that a Yankee soldier would have carried it down here with him.

First we had to try to piece together the puzzel. We used the variations in the color, the irregularities in the glaze (those round splotches) as clues to where each piece went.

It took a little inspecting of each of the pieces but once we got going it was pretty easy.

We used glue very much like Elmer's School glue (this is so that mistakes can be easily undone with a gentle bath of water) to affix the pieces to one another. Then we set them in a bucket of sand to hold them up as they dried.

The tapered front piece proved a bit of a challenge and had to be held together by hand while it dried.

D.P at White Oak Museum photocopied this page from a book that shows several different kinds of bedpans in use during the mid-nineteenth century. The one on the right at the top of the left-hand column is the one we were working on.

We used a soft paint brush to dust the sand off the dried pieces.

This is the finished product. As you can see not all the pieces were there, but how very cool to put back together something that's been buried for more than a century. We did history, archeology and arts and crafts all in one sitting! Amateur archeologists really "dig" homeschooling!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A Dead Things Flows With The Current--Only A Living Thing Can Swim Against It

Part of the mystique of homeschooling is how very different it is from the mainstream. For most homeschoolers it is not only a different way of educating our young, but a different way of life entirely. This difference is a definite turn-off to some folks, but a strong lure for others. For Catholics it is a necessity. I'm still reading Kay Toy Fenner's book, American Catholic Etiquette, and she summed up very nicely what I want to say on this matter:

"Many influences in modern living unite to induce the general public to accept a universal standard of morals, behavior, opinion, manners and dress. To some extent this has always been so; our ideas in these areas have ever been heavily influenced by those of our fellows. Universal literacy, the availability of inexpensive books and magazines, and our public school system have encouraged the spread of common standards. To these we add today television, radio, and moving pictures, and, most important of all, the development of certain psychological theories as to how man can best function in a modern world.

"...The educators engaged in teaching children how to 'function in the group,' to accept the 'will of the majority' as the standard of what constitutes right behavior, are, from their own point of view, merely assisting children to live happily with their fellows. All of this would be intensely valuable, if the ideas and standards upheld were the noblest possible. Unfortunately, setting such a universal uniform standard always means levelling down. One can never level 'up.' The standards acceptable to humanity at large will always be inferior to those possible to the brightest and the best. If these inferior standards are held up to the superior members of a society as ideal, such members are robbed of all incentive to struggle to the heights which may be possible to them.

"This results in an incalculable loss to mankind. Our great philosophers, saints, radicals, inventors--those whom A.W.E. O'Shaughnessy called 'the movers and shakers of the world'--have always been 'different' from the common run of man, and have been rightfully proud of their differences. Such people are the yeast which leavens the loaf of mankind; if they fail to rise, the loaf will become a pancake.

"For society at large, the acceptance of a low dead level of conformity, the spread of a common fear to differ from one's fellows, is a tragedy. For Catholics, it is impossible. We are, and will continue to be (for how long only God knows, but He knoweth) a minority group. Socially and governmentally, this is unimportant. In the realm of ideas and moral standards, it is important, and it is just in these realms that we are far more of a minority than we were a hundred years ago...

"This means that present-day Catholics must learn and must teach their children to differ from the majority of their fellows in many basic moral principles, to love and cherish those with whom they differ, while refusing to accept, as their moral guides, standards with which they do not agree. To do this, neither doubting one's own position nor rejecting all who differ from it, one must constantly bear in mind that the number of persons who hold any set of opinions has nothing to do with the rightness of one's position; to differ, and to be in the minority while differing, has no bearing on whether one is right or wrong.

"Granting that it is valuable to dare to be different, how does one go about teaching one's children independence of thought and action? One first examines one's own attitudes and opinions to see whether they are based on independent conclusions, or unconscious acceptance of what one sees and hears..."

In my mind there is a very simple answer to her question that goes beyond examining one's own opinions. I believe that the answer is to look to Tradition, and traditions--of morals, behavior, opinion, manners and dress. And not just the traditions of the first 69 years of the 20th century, but the Tradition of 2,000 years of Catholic saints and scholars, and ordinary folks like us, who, by Christ's example have been held to the highest standards. I've always hated the terms "liberal" and "conservative" because they are comparative terms that use eachother to guage themselves, rather than a transcendent reality. And one can be as liberal as liberals were 50 years ago, but still be considered conservative only because the liberals are more liberal than they were 50 years ago. The only comparison for a Catholic is Christ, and His Blessed Mother. "What would Jesus do?" as cliche as it is, is the only question we need ask ourselves. "Would Mary wear these tight jeans?" or ..."use this kind of language, or watch this movie or read this book?" Catholics, because we follow He Who set the highest standard, are bound to aspire to the highest standard. We must strive to practice the "best" manners, the "best" behavior, hold the "most" virtuous opinions, dress the "most" modestly, and hold ourselves to the "highest" moral code. We cannot allow ourselves or our children to "level down" to what is most prevalent, mediocre, or common. We are followers of Him who was unlike anyone who ever walked the face of the Earth. We must emulate His example, and in so doing will be more like Him, and less like those, interiorly as well as exteriorly, who are not His followers. We may find others who are like us, but let it be because they too strive for the highest standards, and not because we have become lukewarm and settled for mediocrity.

Mrs. Fenner continues:

"Those who have had the advantage of being gently reared or have had more educational opportunities will have higher standards than those who have not. Children who are taught from infancy about morals and ethics will try harder to be good than those who never hear the subject mentioned. Explain that you are trying to teach them what you consider to be the very best behavior: the most honorable, the most courteous, the kindest. Admit that there may be people with higher standards than yours, and many with standards that are lower. But your standards are the ones that you are convinced are best for you and your family. You therefore expect your children to learn to live up to them, even though in so doing their lives will often differ in many ways from those of their friends. They should consider themselves fortunate that they have parents so devoted and so idealistic, and they will so consider themselves when they are older and know enough to evaluate such matters. They should never be afraid to differ from their comrades in doing that which they know, from their home training, is right.

"Caution your children, also, not to criticize the behavior of others. Explain that those fortunate enough to be taught at home to strive for the highest standards have an obligation to be kind and forebearing to those who have not had such advantages. If you are convinced of the truth of all this, your children will sense the weight of your conviction and will abide by your opinions."

She concludes by reminding parents that it is alright for children to be like others on morally neutral matters, but on matters of morals, modesty, and manners, they cannot strive for any less than the highest standards.

I found these insights, written in the 60's, to be very helpful and just as relevant today as they were 45 years ago, if not more so. I hope you find them as helpful as I did!

In Sanguine Christi,

Friday, August 17, 2007



Literature is a new favorite subject here at Schamelot Academy. Ever since I read How To Read English Literature Like A Professor (not recommended for children) I have enjoyed reading and teaching literature ever so much more! This summer I "discovered" English Literature For Boys and Girls, by H.E. Marshall. Published in 1900 and recently reprinted, it is a wonderful overview and exposition of the history and development of English literature from the earliest manuscripts. It can also be read online at the Baldwin Project.

Aside from reading literature, we have also developed a passion for recorded books. This summer my oldest daughter has been listening to so many of Shakespear's plays on CD. Our library had the whole collection of his plays. We also have the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, Oliver Twist, Mary Poppins, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, James Herriots Animal Stories, etc. Nothing can replace the benefits of reading great literature, but who can read all of it when dishes and laundry still need to be done?! Listening to a recorded book builds listening skills and is not so different from Mother or Dad reading aloud. Not to mention the great use of travel time a recorded book affords the busy, on the go mother. I have often thought that a wonderful Christmas gift for an older child to give a younger one would be to read some of his favorite books on tape or video to be enjoyed time and time again. What a wonderful gift to Mother, too!

Language Arts

Language Arts:

Children are read too everyday from classic children's literature. Narration, or the verbal retelling of a story is a common pasttime at the dinner table. I love Five In A Row and all the recommended books that go with it. Developing Linguistic Patterns Through Poetry Memorization is a wonderful audio program from the Institute For Excellence In Writing. Their Phonetic Zoo, and Teaching The Classics are also favorites of mine.

We do not push any of the children to learn to read by a certain age. The girls have all "taught themselves" to read around age 5, while the boys have taken a few years longer to become proficient readers with help from Mom. Hooked on Phonics, Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons, and Sound Beginnings all grace our bookshelf, and are used according to which one seems to be working best for each child. I recommend you start with Teach Your Child To Read, because it's the least expensive.

The Classical Writing series is a treasure, although a little overwhelming at times. I definitely need to read through the lessons ahead of time and "teach" the concepts. They are wonderful books written by homeschooling English Majors/Masters, and are a complete English program, including good literature as models for writing. Additionally we use Teaching Writing Structure and Style from the Institute for Excellence--a wonderful video program which sees results fast!

Wordly Wise, Winston Grammar, and Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting Series are used at various levels, as needed.
As far as writing projects go, we write about what we read, or what we've been arguing about (not amongst ourselves, usually, but with acquaintances with whom we don't exactly see eye to eye!). A few of our writing projects can be viewed at Schamelot, our other blog.



We begin using Math U See as soon as they start asking to "do school." The manipulative approach to math is irreplaceable, in my opinion, and I have found that Math U See has even given me a clearer understanding of what one is actually doing when borrowing, carrying, multiplying fractions, and working out algebraic equations, etc. Our mathematical goals are to complete Algebra II and Geometry. I do not feel the need to make sure that all or any of our children comlete higher mathematics like Trigonometry and Calculus before graduating high school. They can study these subjects through our local community college (which recognizes dual enrollment) if they are so inclined to do so during their high school years, or wait until they go to college.

Natural History

Natural History:

Reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids of every variety are frequent guests in our home. We have a whole shelf of field guides (a collection I was inspired to acquire by my dear friend, Angela, who has since left this world, God rest her soul), and Holling Clancy Holling's books are among our favorites. Of course we have Anna Botsford Comstock's Nature Study Handbook, and a slew of natural history books from Yesterday's Classics. These include delightful stories about the creatures of the pond, forest, night, and meadow, as well as explanations of scientific principles and phenomena on a child's level from The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre. All the books from Yesterday's Classics are available to read online at The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project.

Catechism and Character Formation

Catechism and Character Formation:

Little ones begin to cultivate a strong work ethic as soon as they are able. It seems that the lower in the birth order they are the sooner they are asking for chores to do. They see the older kids working, and must be able to recognize the good in it, even when the older kids have momentarily forgotten its benefits.

They learn to pray starting at the meal table, thanking God for the food, praying for the poor souls in purgatory, and Our Lady's Rosary after dinner. They are required to eat whatever has been prepared for them, which provides frequent opportunities to mortify their appetites, and fortify the virtue of obedience. Lucky for them mommy's cooking's not too bad.

Through weekly participation at the Traditional Latin Mass, as well as being shielded from any sight of irreverence towards God's house and the Blessed Sacrament, they learn piety, and fear of the Lord--fear of offending such a loving and generous creator. Attendance at the Traditional Latin Mass has also prepared them for the study of Latin in the upper grades. They are taught the prayers of the Rosary, Grace Before Meals, and liturgical hymns in Latin, too.

Their catechism comes primarily from Socratic discussions at the dinner table. But much, too, is learned from The Catholic Child's Treasure Box, Mary Fabean Windeatt's Lives of The Saints Series, The Vision Book Series, Know Your Mass, Leading the Little Ones to Mary, and the Catechism for Children. I've hung an over-the-door apparatus in their bathrooms in which I tuck old issues of Catholic Hearth, and books such as the Catechism in Examples, which is currently out of print. Perhaps Anecdotes and Examples for the Catechism is a good alternative.

In the older years they read all of the Fr. Laux 6 Book Course in Religion, and the books that accompany their history studies round out their overall catechesis.
In highschool they study Following Christ in the World, from Seton, and Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

K-12 Plan for a Christ Centered Education

Here at Schamelot we take an living books approach to education, allowing for lots of free time to explore, create, experiment, imagine, and cultivate the virtues, particularly piety, obedience and diligence. What is called "The Charlotte Mason Method" permeates our homeschool philosophy, and Mother of Divine Grace is the spring board for our curriculum, which I put together for each child each year. I hope you will find something I have shared helpful to your homeschooling adventure!

Catechism and Character Formation
Natural History
Language Arts