Learning for children, especially young children, can happen naturally. They want to explore and to exert control over their world. A Charlotte Mason education encourages that natural exploration before the age of six. Ms. Mason particularly emphasizes the necessity of outdoor play for the young child, so much so that formal education should be completely delayed. All this said – what does a Charlotte Mason education look like for a preschooler? Below I outline a typical day in our household:
8am – Make muffins with Tatty. Mixing helps Leah with her gross motor skills. Measuring presents the concept of size differentiation – “choose the second smallest teaspoon” – and will one day lead to higher math skills as well.
9am –12pm – Play outside. We are lucky enough to live right next to a wonderful playground. Leah explores at her own pace, sometimes with friends, as Mommy watches from a distance. While there is some sliding and swinging occurring, the main entertainment is imaginary play. Here Leah makes sense of her world – whether playing car wash, dinosaur, or mommy (or the plethora of other fun adventures she and her friends can only understand). She learns empathy and cooperation as well. She certainly learns to control her own body, jumping and climbing as she pleases. Also great, she wears herself out to take a much-needed naptime (or rest-time if napping is past).
12pm – Lunch.
1pm – 3pm – Naptime. While Charlotte Mason advocated for only telling oral stories to children under six, there is now a great deal of research showing reading to children is very helpful for language development. Thus, nearly all contemporary Charlotte Mason curriculums provide a list of great books for children under six. We keep “twaddle” out of our home and thus only try to read quality literature. Now what is quality literature? Essentially it’s up to you. To me, it’s anything I can read over and over again without dreading. We enjoy classic books (such as Corduroy) and many Jewish books, mainly those we get from PJ Library. Naptime, is a story of her choosing and then the nap. If no nap is possible, we’ll have Rest Time, where Leah will “read” books to herself.
3pm – 6pm – Play outside. Yes again! Playing outside is so incredibly wonderful. Both Leah and Mommy are happy to be outside as much as possible. Mom will usually chat with neighbors during this time and all the kids will happily run around for hours. Of course there are bumps and bruises and squabbles (all with the kids), but it’s a learning experience for us, as I learn how to parent through childhood fights and Leah learns how to make amends when something goes wrong. The social and motor skills she learns now are something that are so important for later education and for life.
6pm – Dinner.
7pm – 9pm – Indoor play. It’s finally dark and indoor play takes over. We have a careful selection of toys that both are non-irritating to Mommy and Tatty (please none of those noisy toys!) and that provide for imaginative play and learning. We have very few toys, actually, as we lean towards minimalism, but the types of play are endless. Favorites here include wooden blocks, Legos, Mangnatiles, and a train set. We have some ABC magnets to play with and an Aleph Bet puzzle. There’s also foam letters in the bath, which are a big hit. Leah enjoys picking up letters and saying words that start with it. We play with Leah for at least some of the evening. As the night wears on, play turns into book reading on the couch. We usually filter through 3 or 4 we read again and again that night. Commonly a favorite magazine, like Highlights High Five, will be part of the line-up.
9pm – Bedtime
As you can see, no formal learning was done during the day. There is no set schedule, no worksheets, no unit planning or any planning frankly. The day meanders organically and so much learning occurs. Learning empathy, learning running and climbing, and even the learning the ABCs and Aleph Bet. Mommy’s work gets scattered throughout – sewing during outside time or making a blog post during naptime. Each day is a joy in and of itself. All too soon, early childhood will be over and formal Charlotte Mason lessons will occur.