• Homeschool,  Photography,  Photography Lessons

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn~Episode 3

    Today we are going to define and discuss one part of exposure. After this lesson, you should know what shutter speed is, how it works inside your camera, and how changing your shutter speed affects your photographs.

    BUT FIRST-What is exposure?

    Inside your digital camera, there is a little sensor. The sensor is exposed to light. The goal is to expose the sensor in your camera to the correct amount of light. If the picture is overexposed, it means that the sensor was exposed to too much light making the photo too bright. If the picture is underexposed, it means that the sensor wasn’t exposed to enough light, which results in an image that is too dark. Our goal in beginning photography is to expose the sensor correctly. We want to be able to see all the detail in the photo-nothing too bright or too dark.

    To better understand the idea of exposure, you need to know more about the parts involved. There are three parts to exposure: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. For this lesson we will only be focusing on shutter speed.

    Shutter Speed

    Think of shutter speed like your eyelid. You can control how long the your eyelid stays open. The same idea happens inside your camera. The shutter-like your eyelid-“blinks.” Some blinks take longer than others. You are in charge of how long or short you’d like the “eyelid” (or shutter) to be open.

    When you think of shutter speed, think of two things: Motion and Light.

    Shutter speed determines motion.

    Shutter speed determines how much motion is captured by the sensor. Ok, so what in the world does that mean? I’ll show you. In the photo below, you notice that the cream is falling into the cup in a blur of motion. It isn’t a nice detailed line of cream; it’s more smooth, and shows the movement of how the cream fell into the cup. When the shutter inside your camera (think eyelid;-)) is open for a longer amount of time, the motion is captured in a blur. The “eyelid” is open longer so the sensor is able to capture all the movement from the creamer. The opposite is also true. The shorter amount of time the shutter is open, the less motion will be captured.

    Shutter speed determines light.

    Shutter speed also affects the light in the photograph. When the shutter is open for a long period of time, more light is allowed to reach the sensor. So the longer the shutter is open, the brighter the image; the shorter the shutter is open, the darker the image.

    This photo was taken with a long shutter speed. The “eyelid” was open for a long amount of time. The longer shutter speed captured the motion of the cream falling into the tea cup.
    This photo was taken with a short shutter speed. The shorter (less time) shutter speed captured the crisp lines and motion more clearly. It doesn’t blur the motion; it captures what motion was there in that small amount of time.

    So this is what you need to remember:

    When thinking of shutterspeed, think of 2 things: Light and Motion. Here are the relationships you need to know.

    LONG SHUTTERSPEEDS mean more light and more motion in your image(but be careful of blurring the photo.)

    SHORT SHUTTERSPEEDS mean less light and less motion in your image. (sharp lines, crisp edges in the photo.)

    Measuring Shutter Speed

    You measure shutter speed in fractions of a second. The shutter speed of 1/30 is slower and open longer than the shutter speed of 1/4000. What you want your image to look like has a big impact on what your shutter speed should be. Some questions I ask myself when setting my shutter speed: Do I want my image to be sharp or do I want to capture motion? If I want to capture motion then my shutter speed will be longer. If I want my image sharp with crisp lines then I want my shutter speed to be shorter. I recommend you memorize some common shutter speed settings. This chart on Pinterest is a great reference.

    Test Your Knowledge

    What kind of shutter speed (long or short) would you set your camera to if you want to show the motion of a runner crossing the finish line? Tell what shutter speed would you set your camera to if you wanted to capture a flat lay for your blog? What kind of shutter speed would you use if you wanted to capture the water flowing through a stream?


    For homework, look at some photos online. Pinterest is a great resource. Ask yourself what kind of shutter speed you would use in order to get the same image? Or maybe you’d want the image totally different. How would you change your shutter speed in order to get the opposite effect?

  • Homeschool,  Photography,  Photography Lessons

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn: Episode Two

    For today, we are going to explain the assignments (yes, it’s more than one). But you’ll have the next two weeks to get the assignments finished. The best way to learn photography is to work through every assignment. If you missed Episode One, be sure to head on over to that post first. It will help you better understand all the assignments for Episode Two.

    First Assignment ~ Journal Your Why

    Your first assignment is to write a little blurb in your journal about why you want to learn photography. It can be one sentence or an entire page. I want you to remind yourself now, so that when you’re tempted to quit, you’ll look back and encourage yourself.

    Second Assignment ~ Draw and Label Your Camera

    Your second assignment is to label some parts on your camera. You can draw a picture of your camera (or use the print out below) in your journal and label the following things:

    1. How to put your camera into Manual Mode

    2. How to change the shutter speed

    3. How to change the aperture

    4. How to change the ISO

    5. How to change the white balance

    There are many more buttons on your camera, but for this course, these are going to be our main focus. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with where these buttons/dials are on your camera so that when I mention them later, you’ll know exactly where they are. For more information and hints for where to find these items on your camera, watch the video down below.

    It’s important that you have your manual for this assignment. Manuals usually have a diagram of the camera with all the buttons and dials labeled. This should help you find the buttons and dials I mentioned.

    NOTE: To print the outlines, first save the photo as a PDF. Then print.

    Also, keep in mind, this isn’t an art class. You don’t have to draw a perfect camera diagram to scale. Just make it so you know what it means. Be creative-think outside what’s normal…be different. The important thing is that you learn your camera! 😉

    Third Assignment

    This is my favorite one! Take four photos and get them developed. I know I haven’t taught you anything about the camera yet, but that’s the point. I want you to see your growth from how you took photos before the course to how you will take photos after the course. For the photos you take, I recommend you do it in a variety of places-inside and outside. Have fun with it. Then get those four photos developed and put them into your journal. To see my recommendations for where to print photos, go check out the first photography lesson. Also, remember there is no editing for this photography course.

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn- Episode Two
    The capital M on the dial means that the camera is in manual mode.
    The fraction shows the shutter speed. The decimal shows the aperture. Can you find what else is on the list?


    That concludes the second episode for this photography course. I would love to see your assignments! Feel free to message me your assignments over on Instagram @byracheldawn, or use the hashtag #photographylessonsbyracheldawn. I won’t grade them. =-) But I would love to see them.

  • Homeschool,  Photography,  Photography Lessons

    Photography Lessons By Rachel Dawn: Episode One

    For the first photography lesson, we’re going to be covering all the tools you’ll need for the entire course, and why you need them.


    For this course, you need a DSLR camera. In simple terms, it means that you need a camera that has a removable lens. I work with a Canon camera and lens, but the brand doesn’t matter. To find out what camera I recommend, go and check out my blog post Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?. But keep in mind, I know great photographers who work with Nikon, Sony, and Sigma. I’ve also asked a few other photographers to share their recommendations as well. It’s good to get other’s perspectives.

    Kathleen over at The New Girl in Nashville says,

    A great camera to start with as a fashion photographer is any full-frame camera. A full-frame camera gives you more control over the images you shoot; the ability to crop images to fit any type of editorial is much easier. I recommend an 85mm lens for fashion portraits and a high-speed zoom lens (70-200mm) for runway shows or any shoot where the models are using movement. I recommend spending money on a high quality lens and looking more for the camera body that fits within your budget. Camera bodies are always changing, but lenses will last a lifetime!

    Camera Nikon D850 here

    85mm lens here (another option a lot cheaper here)

    70-200mm lens here

    Kathleen Clipper Photography
    Maria over at Maria Ann Photography says,

    Hi, My name is Maria and I’m the photographer behind the lens at Maria Ann Photography. My photography journey started after the birth of my first daughter, ya know, a momtographer. 🙂 In 2010, after my last baby turned one, I realized that my babies were growing up way too fast, and it was at that moment, that I decided I wanted to take my photography to the next level. I also wanted to capture amazing memories for other families too. The very first camera I purchased was the Canon Rebel T3 which has been discontinued. The T3i is comparable to it, but one step above mine.  I currently shoot with the Canon Mark III (which I absolutely LOVE) and my back up is the Canon 6D.”

    Maria Ann Photography
    Jennie at Jennie Tewell Photography says,

    “My camera recommendation is going to be for the aspiring professional photographer. There are a lot of great cameras out there that are a little less expensive, but if you are wanting to go the professional route, I would definitely recommend a Canon 6D. I’m a Canon girl, but I’m sure there are other brands with a similar camera. It is an amazing camera, and will be fully capable to use professionally. It is a full frame, which I feel is a must, but also has a quick auto focus and works good in low light. You can find them super affordable if you look for a used one too! “

    Jennie Tewell Photography
    Brittanie over at A Quiet Soul says,

    “Even entry level cameras are 100x’s better than what we had 15 years ago! I love Canon & recommend you buy a DSLR camera body – the best you can reasonably afford. Skip the kit lens and get a prime lens according to your taste. I recommend one of these three: 50mm 1.8 (the most versatile), 35mm (great for wider angle shots) or 85mm (best for close portraits). A creative eye works much better than all the expensive gear.”  

    A Quiet Soul

    Camera Manual

    When I first taught myself photography, I learned from two resources. The most important resource was the camera manual. (The second was blogs!) Yup. I know. Who really reads the manual, right? Well, you will. LOL. Every camera comes with a manual-a book of directions telling you all about your camera. This is important because while camera brand doesn’t necessarily matter for this course, the manual does matter because it tells you exactly where everything is on your camera. When I mention specific buttons, you’ll get out the manual for your camera. You’ll look it up, and find out exactly where that button is on your camera. The important thing to remember is that I can’t tell you where every button is on your camera, but your manual does.

    Camera Strap

    This is basic, I know. And honestly, if you wanted to go without the strap, I get it. But I wanted to mention it because using the camera strap incorrectly for so many years has caused permanent damage to my neck and upper back. I go into more detail about how to use a camera strap in the video below. But I encourage you not to use your camera strap to hold the weight of the camera. The best way to hold your camera is in your hands. Use the strap only when absolutely needed. I promise, it will save you from a lot of pain down the road.

    Notebook & Pen

    The notebook and pen is to keep track of your progress. You can print out your photos and use washi tape to post them in your notebook. For printing your photos I recommend online printing labs. Mpix and Artifact Uprising are great places to get your photos printed. The best part is you don’t have to leave your house to do it. You can also write down any important things your want to remember about your camera. I will also be making some printables along the way that you’ll want to put into your notebook for reference. Over time you’ll love looking back to see how you’ve grown in your skills.

    Computer & Printer

    You’ll need a computer for downloading your images. You also need a computer to send them to print through an online printing lab. But keep in mind that there will be no editing in this photography course. You don’t need photoshop or lightroom. The first step to becoming a great photographer is to learn your camera. Then down the road, an editing class would be great to help you add a little more pop to your photos. The printer will be used for any charts or printables I make for you to print off and put into your notebook.


    Rome wasn’t built in a day. So it makes sense to say you won’t become an incredible photographer in a day. It takes practice. Work. Lots of work. When you’re tempted to give up-because you will be-I encourage you to remember why you wanted to learn photography in the first place. I wanted to learn photography because I wanted to share our heritage with my great grandchildren. I imagine myself sitting with them and looking at photo albums. Telling them stories of life and God’s goodness. That’s what pictures remind me of. I see God’s story wrapping it’s way around my own- and I want to share that with my great grand children.


    That concludes the first episode of the photography lessons here on the blog. I’m so excited to share the next episode with you. I can’t wait to see you grow and improve in your photography skills. And before you go, tell me why you want to learn photography! When you know your why it helps you stay motivated to learn!

  • Homeschool

    Homework Debate: To Assign or Not To Assign

    The Homework Debate Photography

    The Dreaded Debate:  To Assign Homework or Not to Assign Homework.

    If you’re like me, then you are familiar with spending hours doing homework after school while you grew up.  It was considered normal.  But I don’t think there is anything normal about it.  Many people say homework teaches responsibility and it reinforces class content.  While that may be true to an extent,I don’t think teachers need to assign homework to guarantee the success of the student.

    Why cut out homework?

    Homework is frustrating.  It’s not only frustrating for the student, it can also be frustrating for the parent.  I can’t count how many times I became a slave to a homeschool curriculum.  My mind was set- the homework would get done no matter the cost.  Even if it took my child an hour to do one assignment, I would make my daughter sit at the table until the work was finished. At the time, I believed I was being a good parent. But now, as I remember those battles, I cringe. I remember her tears of frustration. I cried lots of tears myself.  All of this taught me that learning should not be a drudgery; if it is, then why would my child want to learn at all?  Why give homework if it discourages them from learning?

    Homework also limits playtime for the child.  Children learn from the world around them.  While they climb trees, have picnics, dig in the mud, or search for roly polys, they are learning.  They are soaking in an education with their imagination.  Grown-ups are so stuck up when it comes to imagination.  Don’t you remember how you learned when you played?  You thought about the bark on the tree, right-it’s color and texture?  And while you had that picnic, you watched the clouds and noticed all the different kinds that God painted in the sky.  When you played in the mud you noticed that some of the bugs drowned while others didn’t.  The roly polys!  How incredible they are to protect themselves by rolling into tiny balls. Why can’t we grown ups see that children learn while they play?

    The Homework Debat Photograph

    But what should the teacher do if she doesn’t assign homework?

    Replace homework with narration.  Narration is the child saying out loud what he knows.  It’s a re-telling (it can also be written) of the reading from a living book. But it doesn’t have to be from a book.  Narration can be applied to everything a student learns. For example, your student can teach you step by step how to solve a math problem.  After reading a book, your student can tell the story from beginning to end.  After learning the anatomy of a cell, they can draw a picture and describe to you how the cell works. Not only does narration give them an opportunity to share what they have learned, it also gives them a chance to share what they think about it.  (Shocked!?) Why not let them share what they love or dislike about what they have learned!? Set them on fire with a hunger to learn by giving them the freedom to express their opinions (respectfully;-))!  And as they learn, point them to the wonder of their Savior. Narration gives them the chance to tell about what they have learned and what they loved about it.

    The benefits of narration are numerous. Narration teaches responsibility.  The student listens with urgency so they are able to tell back the lesson to the teacher. Narration also encourages the student to communicate his thoughts in an effective manner.  As the student recalls the lesson back to the teacher, the content becomes cemented in his mind.

    A few thoughts before you go…

    The child’s heart is the most important priority.  We can teach our children facts and give them knowledge, but teaching them how to follow after the heart of Christ is the ultimate goal.  A child following after God’s heart will grow in his desire to please Christ in the mundane tasks-even if those tasks happen to be homework.  So whether you agree or disagree with a no homework policy, don’t forget that our eyes ought always to be set on Jesus Christ. How does he want us to teach our children?  Are we chasing after the heart of Christ?  If we, as parents and educators, are not chasing his heart, why would our children want to?


  • Homeschool

    Geography: Paddle to the Sea

    Geography in Elementary Years

    This is a our first year including Geography in our homeschool.  I had never enjoyed geography in school and thought of it as “extra”. In fact, I didn’t learn geography until the 9th grade. My teacher was Mr. Arnold. I vaguely remember reading the news for class. Overall, Geography was boring.  But when  I read what Charlotte Mason thought about Geography, I tried to keep an open mind.  She wrote, “But the mother, who knows better, will find a hundred opportunities to teach geography by the way…”

    Charlotte Mason loved geography. “To teach by the way” means that the mom teaches her children in everyday conversation. Walks around the neighborhood become opportunities to teach how to tell the time of day by noticing where the sun is in the sky. Drives through the town become teaching tools to learn which way is north and which direction you take to get home.

    Geography Map Paddle to the Sea

    Geography Should be Exciting

    Geography should captivate the child’s interest. Charlotte Mason wrote, “But let him be at home in any single region; let him see, with the mind’s eye, the people at their work and at their play, the flowers and fruits in their seasons, the beasts, each in its habitat; and let him see all sympathetically, that is let him follow the adventures of a traveler; and he knows more, is better furnished with ideas, than if he had learnt all the names on all the maps.  The ‘way’ of this kind of teaching is very simple and obvious; read to him, or read for him, that is read bit by bit, and tell as you read,…Here, as elsewhere, the question is, not how many things does he know, but how much does he know about each thing(Home Education, 275).”

    With Charlotte Mason’s words, I found myself pulled into the wonder of learning. I set out to make geography an adventure.  I wanted stories filled with “ideas”- ideas that spark a hunger to learn in my children.  While searching, I found the book, Paddle-to-the-Sea.  Paddle to the Sea is a story about a little Indian named Paddle.  A little boy carved Paddle, who sits in a canoe, from wood. The boy leaves Paddle on frozen Lake Nipigon just before Spring. When the ice begins cracking, he sets out on a journey to the sea (the Atlantic Ocean).  The story takes us along with Paddle through all five Great Lakes, the Niagara Falls, the St. Lawrence River and finally out to Atlantic.

    Traveling with Paddle, I saw the animals at Lake Nipigon.  I noticed all the steal mills in Michigan.  Then I learned that there’s a lake that is a continual whirlpool near Detroit.  Everywhere I went, I saw.  I couldn’t wait to see Paddle’s next adventure.  Then I noticed my children couldn’t wait either. My kids were eager to learn where Paddle would travel next.  With sweet interest, they would find the place on the map and imagine all that Paddle had seen.   Funny how it tugged at my heart strings.

    Paddle-to-the-Sea Reviews

    After reading Paddle-to-the-Sea, I asked my kids why they enjoyed it so much.  Here are their replies,

    “It was adventurous.”

    “Because of the maps.”

    “Because of the waterfall and the whirlpool.”

    Charlotte Mason was right.  Together we followed the adventures of Paddle-to-the-Sea; “and we know more” and are “better furnished with ideas”.  Instead of memorizing a list of facts, we’ve experienced a journey that we’ll stay with us forever. Now I’m thoroughly convinced Geography is exciting- not because Charlotte Mason said it was, but because I experienced the adventure for myself.


  • Homeschool

    Charlotte Mason Exams

    This is my first year using the Charlotte Mason Method in our quarterly exams.  This method has relieved all the pressure I felt when we had the true/ false questions with the occasional fill in the blank sections.  Many standardized tests prioritize memorizing facts, but often lacked the child communicating ideas.  They memorize information, but learn very little. I find the opposite is true when using the Charlotte Mason Method in exams.  My child’s heart and his ideas are center stage.  He narrates all he knows-what he loves, what disgusts him and why (they are opinionated!), and what inspires him.  A Charlotte Mason Exam gives my child the opportunity to communicate how the facts apply to real life. The best part is that learning doesn’t stop when the exam is over.  It continues because like Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.”

    Tools you need to give Charlotte Mason exams

    Mead Notebook. You will need one for each child you teach.  Divide the notebook into four even sections for each quarter of exams throughout the year. I break each quarterly section down evenly based on how many subjects the child is studying.  For example, if your child is studying 6 subjects then the quarterly section should be broken down into 6 sections for each subject.

    Pencil or Pen. As your child narrates, you will write down their response to the exam question.

    Recording Devise. This is optional. I choose to record the exams.  It’s a great way to see your child’s growth over time. I use my iPhone and then transfer the files to my computer.

    List of open-ended questions. For each subject, I ask two questions.  I write each question down in the Mead Notebook, and below the question, I write down my child’s narration.

    What a Charlotte Mason exam looks like

    First, I make sure my child’s Mead notebook is divided into four equal parts.  I write down the subject and the two questions I’m going to ask them for the exam.  It’s important that during exams, you try your best to keep the house quiet.  If you have littles, do the best you can.  But life happens.  Don’t freak out if during an exam, your little one yells, “I’m done!!” at the top of his lungs because he needs you to wipe his butt. Like I said, life happens.  Do the best you can with the season of life you are in.

    I set my phone to record. I say my child’s name, the quarter (first, second, third, fourth). This makes it easier when I’m putting the files on my computer. After I ask the exam question, my child has center stage.  He tells me everything he knows about the question.   During his narration,  I’m writing everything he’s telling me.  This is not a time to point out what he doesn’t know. Never tell your child during an exam something he said wrong. Your job is to write-that’s it.

    At the end, there are usually no comments or discussions about their narration. After they leave, I write down some notes I want to remember.  I may even record my thoughts as well. Notes have more to do with me as a teacher than with my child because my child’s narrations directly reflect how I teach throughout the year.  I ask myself these questions: What habits need to be a priority in myself and my child to encourage them to do better in their narrations?  What are their strengths? Weaknesses? After I answer these questions, I can see what areas I need to focus on for the rest of year.






  • Homeschool,  My Book,  Personal

    My Random Life Update

    Hey guys!

    So here is what’s going on lately. I’m doing this in list form, because like the title says-it’s random.

    My husband passed his dissertation defense.

    When Josh told me the good news, I got a bit emotional.  There may have been tears in my eyes. It came out of no where.  My throat got tight and there was a catch in my voice.  I could hardly speak.  It’s hard to believe that we began this journey four and half years ago.  This May Josh graduates with a Doctorate in Healthcare Administration.  I’m so proud of him. But mostly thankful that God was with us every step of the way.  Now we wait and see where God leads.

    The paintings for my book are almost finished.

    Sara Jo from Bryarton Farm has been painting the illustrations for a year now. I couldn’t have done this without her.  (Sara, you are amazingly talented, beautiful and real!  Thanks for pouring yourself into this project with me!) After I receive all the illustrations, I’ll move on to finding an agent who will get the book to a publisher.  The process is complicated and the odds are not in my favor. But God is bigger than the odds.  Right?  He’s the One who moved me to write this book. I will trust Him in the outcome.

    Homeschooling is kicking my butt.

    We’re in the middle of second quarter exams.  Did I mention homeschooling is kicking my butt? I consistently have to remind myself that what I feel doesn’t define who I am.  Feelings can be liars.  So often, I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like everything I’ve taught them has gone in one ear and out the other.  But it isn’t true.  And a little encouragement to you homeschool mamas out there- your children hear you.  I’ve learned more about Jesus when I feel weak and worn than when I feel like I have everything together.  Lean into your Savior.  He is enough.

    Juicing will be an adventure.

    I say adventure, but I’m not sure what kind of adventure it will be.  On March 1st, I’ll be starting a seven day juice fast.  People give me weird looks when I mention juicing-as if I’m an alien or something.  I encourage you to do the research-if you juice correctly, it can be extremely healthy for you!   In my own personal experience, I know that the food I eat directly affects my health.  After I juice for week, I’ll be eating whole 30.

    Amazon shopping is one of my favorite things!

    The dress and scarf are from Amazon. Together, they make one of my favorite outfits. (The boots were from amazon, too.  But they must have stopped selling them because I can’t find the link.) The purse is a great color with the blue dress!  It’s small and compact. I only carry my wallet and keys, and maybe a book to read-no extras.  My favorite thing about Amazon is that I can shop from the comfort of my home.  There is no waiting in lines wondering how long my four children will last before they go insane.

    Outfit-Maxi Dress

    So, there it is.  A random life update.

  • Homeschool

    Home Education by Charlotte Mason: Book Review

    Book reviews sound boring.  Am I right?  Yes, I know. I actually wondered if I should post a book review about Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education. The nonfiction book’s primary theme is education, after all.  We all have our views on education, don’t we?  Ahem. We want our children to learn with the best methods possible, but often prefer that those methods be the same methods we were educated with ourselves.  But Charlotte Mason’s approach goes against most philosophies in education today. Gasp! Controversial, you might say?  Yes, absolutely.  But nonetheless, her ideas deserve attention and close observation. Her book, Home Education, discusses her educational ideas, especially concerning the application of good habits.

    There are six parts in Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education.  I will write briefly (wink wink) about each part and try my best to give you the ideas Charlotte Mason was so passionate in communicating. I would recommend you read the quotes I’ve included with a British accent.  Go on, don’t be shy.  Charlotte Mason was British.  I often found myself reading the book aloud in my best British accent.  I know, call me weird.  But it’s fun.

    Charlotte Mason Home Education

    The Child

    Part I deals with the child. Many times we, as parents hinder our children.  But they are not meant to be stifled; they are people, after all.  Children deserve respect.  They must be properly cared for mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. And what better atmosphere for a child to grow than that of the family? Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of family when she wrote, “No pains should be spared to make the hours of meeting round the family table the brightest hours of the day” (page 27). The family ought to be the safe place for the child.

    While surrounded by the safety of family, Charlotte Mason also believed that the child ought to live each day doing something with intentional effort. She wrote in Home Education, “Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts… and let them do right at the sacrifice of ease and pleasure…” (page 22). There is an obvious balance that Charlotte Mason encouraged between respecting a child for who they are and requiring of them effort outside their comfort zone.

    Time Outdoors

    In Part II of Home Education, Charlotte Mason discusses the importance of children spending  time outdoors.  She believed that children could learn simply by watching and observing the world around them. On sending children outside to play, Charlotte Mason wrote that one, “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without” (page 42). She also mentions that, if possible, we as parents or guardians ought to take every opportunity to go outdoors with our children.

    Good Habits

    Part III suggests the importance of habits. Charlotte Mason believed  that without good habits, one would never achieve a good education. Habits go deeper than the mere act and involve the whole entity of a person.  She asserted that once you formed a good habit, it was no more a grueling task: but something that made the doer of the habit happy.

    Habits In Education

    Part IV discuses the relationship between habits and education.  All of the child’s attention must be given to the task at hand. Charlotte Mason believed that we ought to “…never let the child dawdle over copybook or sum, sit dreaming with his book before him.  When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away.  Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task” (page 141). She believed short lessons worked best for children 8 years and younger and recommended the time allotted be no more than twenty minutes.  Charlotte Mason also discusses other habits like imagining, remembering, and many more.

    Lessons in Education

    In Part V Charlotte Mason tells us how to use lessons in education.  She stresses that education is not the memorization of facts but the understanding of ideas and the ability to communicate those ideas to others. When discussing the value of ideas, Charlotte Mason wrote, “In this way: give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information…” (page 174). She also discusses how to approach teaching each subject in detail.

    The Will

    And finally, in part VI, she wrote concerning the will.  She wanted the child to know that he had a will and the power to control his every action. He only has to set his mind on doing the right thing.  The teacher plays an important role here, as well, because it is she who invites the child to make the right choice.  How often do we as parents/ teachers/ guardians go about forcing instead of first inviting? We must appeal to the heart of the child and in our appeal reveal the heart of the Savior.

    Charlotte Mason Home Education


    My Opinion

    Some parts were a bit dry.  I’m not going to pretend there weren’t times I wondered when I would get to the “good stuff”. For example,  she wrote about the brain and how it functions. While I understand her reason for including it in her book, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

    Also, I admit that the way she wrote was difficult for me to understand at first. A few times, I found myself going over a paragraph more than once so I could follow her train of thought.  This may be because the language between 1842 and 1923 was very different than ours is now.  But overall, I understood it after reading it again.

    But even with the dry bits and the re-reading, I’d still recommend this book for anyone interested in children’s education at school or at home. Charlotte Mason gave clear instructions in how to teach children. After reading her book, I am no longer bound to a curriculum or held captive by an endless educational to-do list. I am free to enjoy learning right along side my children. We find ourselves enjoying our homeschool now more than ever. Charlotte Mason’s book opened my eyes to the delight that a good education holds. Education isn’t something we have to do; it is something we get to do.

    I recently heard my children say, “Shakespeare is my favorite.” My children are 10, 8, 7, and 4.  Never did I even consider teaching Shakespeare to my kids until I read Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education. Our homeschool has changed because of Charlotte Mason.

    Her book reminded me of the privilege it is to be a mother. She wrote, “The wonder that Almighty God can endure so far to leave the very making of an immortal being in the hands of human parents is only matched by the wonder that human parents can accept this divine trust with hardly a thought of its significance.”

    I never want to forget the significance of parenthood.  It is a privilege, after all.





  • Homeschool

    Narration in a Charlotte Mason Education

    I’ve had lots of homeschool moms ask me what curriculum I use.  When I answer with, “I use the Charlotte Mason method. It’s all about living books and narration,” I usually get this blank stare that says, “What in the world are you talking about?”  I understand the stare because I used to be there! Not very many people are familiar with Charlotte Mason and how she approached education. Most of the information I’ve gathered about the Charlotte Mason method, I’ve gleaned from the books that Charlotte Mason wrote, and also from the Charlotte Mason podcast A Delectable Education.  Today, I’m going share with you one of the most important parts of a Charlotte Mason education. It’s called narration.

    Narration Charlotte Mason

    Narration is the framework or foundation upon which a child’s education is built. Simply put, narration is the child saying out loud what he knows. It’s a re-telling of the reading from a living book.

    As a child narrates, he starts at the beginning of what was read and goes in sequence to the end. The child tells not only what he knows, but also what he feels about the reading. Charlotte Mason believed that when a person is able to explain an idea to someone else, it proves that they know it.  When your child is narrating to you, they are telling you what they know.

    Let’s look at what part narration plays in a lesson. The first step is to review the previous lesson. This is called scaffolding in the Charlotte Mason method of Education.  Don’t let that fancy word scare you, though. Scaffolding is simply reviewing the last lesson and connecting it to the new lesson. Reviewing the previous lesson should last about a minute.

    The second step is to preview what is to be read. But be careful not to over-explain the next reading.  Also, this would be a good time to define words that your child may not know.

    The third step is to read two or three pages. Charlotte Mason encouraged the teacher to read an episode from a living book. Read it only once. Reading the episode twice is a stumbling block to the student. It teaches him that he doesn’t have to listen the first time.  Find a natural ending where you can stop the reading.

    Finally, the fourth step is to allow the child to narrate the reading. It’s important to refrain from correcting the child in the middle of their narration so that it doesn’t distract them from what they’re saying. Also be careful not to coax answers from your child- let the narration be fully his own. Sometimes, after the child is finished narrating, it’s good to ask open-ended questions about the reading. By open-ended, I mean that there is no right or wrong answer.
    Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
    What was your favorite part of the reading?
    Who is your favorite character and why?
    What would you have done differently if you were in this character’s shoes?
    Why do you think the author wrote this?
    What would it have been like to live at this time in history?
    Tell me something you’d never heard before.

    For one student, the lesson from the beginning of the reading to the end of the narration should last about 15.  For larger families, the time would be longer to allow all the students to narrate.

    Narration is important because it gives the child an opportunity to express his thoughts, to decide his opinions on the reading and as he does this, his knowledge grows. Personality shines through each narration and reveals what the child enjoys, and what the child dislikes. Narrations tell us what is important to the child.

    Since narration shows us what is important to the child, it’s especially critical that as teachers we respect them during their narrating.  Pay attention to your child as they narrate. Respect them. Mothers especially are known for being amazing multi-taskers, but when your child is narrating is not that time. Look at them as they talk to you. Show them that what they are saying matters. A child never ought to walk away from narrating discouraged. Correct your children with kindness. Do it subtly, and be careful not to talk down to them. We as parents often teach our children to respect others. But sometimes, we forget that they deserve respect as well. They are real people, after all. Remember kindness. If you as their teacher give your best effort to listen to them, it will encourage them as a student to give their best effort in narrating to you.

  • Homeschool

    Homeschool Scheduling Tips: What to do when you feel like it’s too much

    I’ve been there.  That place where you find it hard to juggle all the “homeschool scheduling stuff”.  I mean, seriously, how do you fit it all in?  Why is it so hard?  What can you do to make it all fit!?

    Right now, I have a fourth grader, second grader, first grader, and also a preschooler.  As I’m writing this down, I’m sitting here thinking, “Whoa, I’m crazy. For real, I must be insane, right!?” Well, I’m not going to make this sound prettier than it is. As much as I love to teach my kids, sometimes they drive me nuts, and sometimes I feel like I’m on the edge about to fall into the abyss of insanity.

    Homeschool Scheduling Tips

    When I’m at the edge, it’s then I review our homeschool schedule.  As I go through the schedule, I remind myself of what I’ve learned in the past.  These tips help me gather myself again.  It forces me to chill out and not freak out.

    Tip #1 is to be flexible.

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve changed our homeschool schedule-it’s too many to count.  Why? Because our lives are constantly changing.  We went through the newborn phase, the potty training phase, and also the wretched terrible threes (they say it’s the terrible twos-they’re wrong!).  In those times of life, it’s good to be flexible.  Babies need diapers changed.  Potty training doesn’t happen magically, unfortunately. Those moments when your three year old chooses to go crazy with a temper tantrum-well, those are opportunities to train them in character. (Also, remember education without character is worthless.)  Be flexible when the obstacles come.  Be willing to veer off course in order to catch your breath.  Ask yourself these questions: What are our homeschool priorities? What is overwhelming me about homeschool?  Do I need to be more flexible in this area?

    Tip #2 is to train yourself to be a morning/ night person (whatever floats your boat).

    I hate mornings, but God gave me four little monsters that rise at the crack of dawn.  I had to train myself to become a morning person.  It was that or become insane – just kidding (well, half kidding).  Get a friend to keep you accountable.  I asked a friend if we could text each other every morning for a certain amount of time.  The accountability helped me train myself to be a morning person (Beth! You are awesome!!).     I also recommend getting a Bible Study.  I love waking up knowing that I get to dig into God’s Word. It gives me something to look forward to. Another suggestion is to make a routine checklist. I’ve mentioned it before, but I LOVE LISTS!  Write it down and stick to it! Ask yourself these questions: Do I need to train myself to be a morning or a night person?  What do I want to get done at this time?  How much time do I need to get it done?

    Tip #3 is to set a timer as you teach each subject.

    In others words, budget your time. This tip changed my life.  I tend to talk, talk, and talk some more.  It drives me crazy, so I know it has to drive my kids crazy.  I used to think that I couldn’t stop the math lesson until my kids understood the lesson for that day.  But kids learn differently.  The time it takes one child to learn a concept may be different for another child. Not every child learns the same way or at the same speed. A timer helps me to focus more on the quality of what I teach.  Ask yourself these questions:  Do I tend to over-teach a certain subject?  Would setting a timer help?  If yes, how much time do I need for this subject?


    Tip #4 is to focus on quality over quantity.

    The goal is to have my children understand the material so well that they are able to teach it to me. Don’t misunderstand me – quantity matters, but not at the cost of quality.  Ask yourself these questions: Am I rushing to get through the book? In what ways can I balance the quality and quantity of the material? ( For us, this meant going to a year-round homeschool schedule.  But every family is different.  Find what helps you balance quality and quantity.)

    Tip #5 is to spend time with Jesus.

    If we want to be great teachers, then it makes sense to follow the greatest teacher of all.  Without Jesus, my days explode.  Teaching becomes empty and worthless.  My homeschool fails when I fail to live in His grace and power. The days I spend in God’s Word are full of Him and His hope. His Word keeps me grounded, His Word is my hope in homeschooling. His word is your hope, too.   Fill yourself with Jesus.  The more we learn from Christ, the more we will teach like Him.