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Mother Culture: Language Arts

Practice makes perfect, they say, and while many of the things that we learn in life don’t need to build on previous learning there are some subjects that are more skill based and where learning builds on learning.  You couldn’t ask a child to learn to multiply fractions who didn’t already know a thing or two about adding and then multiplying and fractions and so on.  Piano students and athletes know only too well that you can’t expect to excel without a lot of consistent practice.  Language Arts also falls under this disciplined study banner.  (When labeling the subject “Language Arts” we are really encompassing several sub-categories of learning like phonics, grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary and handwriting.)

In Educating the WholeHearted Child, the Clarksons, like most, advocate a happy medium in approach between the traditional “phonics” and “whole language” approach.  They do this, as expected by encouraging lots of reading time with our children and while still using a phonics based programme to learn to read.  They do however stress that you should focus on phonics principles rather than on memorizing many phonics rules.

Don’t schedule reading success!  (While extended family, neighbours, and church acquaintances may define educational success by how well your kiddos are reading don’t fall into that trap yourself.)  What freedom this word of advice gave me when my oldest was learning to read.  She, like me, is a bit of a perfectionist and was often reluctant to read without knowing exactly what to expect, she wanted to know all of the rules before she would read just for fun.  It wasn’t until she finished grade three that that special time came along. My second daughter on the other hand wasn’t terribly concerned with rules and just started reading and writing at about age four.  She quickly beginning reading well above where we expected she would having had a reluctant first reader but was not terribly concerned with the specifics.  (She used to write long letters using an “a” everywhere that a vowel seemed appropriate before she knew all of her vowels.  Very entertaining: “I lav u mom.  U r mi bast frand.”)

In language arts, as with most learning areas, the Clarkson’s stress that you don’t need age-graded curricula.  They advocate for a simple phonics based learned to read programme and they say that most spelling, vocabulary, grammar and so on can be learned through quality literature and Bible reading.

They used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons because it was simple and straight forward but stressed that it wasn’t the only or best curriculum.

In our little gathering, other mama’s praised Teach Your Child to Read Well as being very similar.

I found the Clarkson’s ideas to closely echo those of Ruth Beechick and have used her very simple little book, The Three R’s, as the starting point for reading for all of my girlies.  After that, we really like Learning Language Arts Through Literature for a few reasons.  The first is that I don’t want to have to be a grammar and vocabulary and composition and …  expert.  LLATL ties together all of the important disciplines and helps us to make sure we are covering all the bases all while getting into some of the amazing literature that we have been raving about.  With very few exceptions, my kids love the chosen books.  It’s not hard to use great literature to learn from.  Learning Language Arts is actually based on Ruth Beechick’s principles and as such is a systematized version of what the Clarkson’s advocate.  The drawbacks: as with so many resources, it is a very American curriculum and so I always feel the need to refocus on Canadian history and geography every so often.  It is also pretty grammar heavy and I don’t think that we need to get bogged down in the fine print of grammar rules too young.  (I solve this by treating the grammar segments lightly, knowing that there is a lot of review and so we will be able to better assimilate ideas again later.)

I don’t know that anyone mentioned any other comprehensive curricula so here are a few of the other favourite resources that folks mentioned (since most of us aren’t able to throw out the idea of curricula completely as the Clarkson’s would like us to do.)

*** Please lend us your comments on the resources below or add your favourite resources to them so that we can all shop a little more wisely.***


All About Spelling

Spelling Wisdom
Spelling Workout
Spelling Power (Okay, this is the one we use.  It really isn’t Charlotte Mason style because it is just lists of “related” words but they are arranged by frequency so I’ve always figured that we have reached the same end as other curricula but in a very comprehensive and systematic way.)


Writing Jungle by Brave Writer

Write Shop
Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer
Story Starters by Karen Andreola (My oldest daughter is enjoying this one for a change here and there.  It is what it says, many story starters that the student is encouraged to finish creatively.)
The Daily Journal Series by Cyndy Regeling and CoriDean (These booklets each contain a year’s worth – or more – of journal or creative writing prompts that help to get the creative juices flowing.  Gotta love the Canadian content – yes, I’m biased.)

Handwriting and Vocabulary:

Draw, Write, Now (This is a yummy set of learn to draw books that incorporates handwriting practice, learning about various topics.  My kids have always picked them up as fun time drawing books with the added learning and handwriting just a bonus for teacher-mamma,)
There are also a lot of copywork books out there.  I like to start my girlies with My Character Printing Workbook and My Keepsake Book both by Andrea McLellan at Ontario’s Joy Center of Learning as they integrate character training with handwriting lessons.  After they complete these, I like to get my kids a nice notebook to record their best handwriting in by way of nice poems, quotes and scriptures.


English for the Thoughtful Child by Mary F. Hyde and Cyndy Shearer.  A more primary look at grammar.  Cathy Duffy calls is a good introductory course for children (in grades 1 or 2?) who can write and print but need to learn to write complete sentences.  She recommends following this with Simply Grammar.

Simply Grammar written by Charlotte Mason and rewritten and published by Karen Andreola.  This was Charlotte Mason’s own grammar curriculum which she later decided was best left to older grades (4-8) rather than younger. 


Really, we all agreed that the best vocabulary builders were lots and lots of good books!

How’s that for a starter on the Language Arts and some of the resources that we have out there for our students?  I look forward to hearing your input, comments, and other resources suggestions… 

Wishing you a wonderful day as you enjoy the world of reading and literature with your own tribe today!

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Mother Culture: Chapter 4 – Home Discipleship

{Alright, first I must apologize for not keeping up to date with my notes on the Charlotte Mason meetings that we have had.  It is so spectacular to get together for encouragement and learning with likeminded parents and so, for those of you who haven’t been able to join us, I’m sorry that I dropped the ball.  Hopefully, I will be able to catch up over the next little bit on some of the notes I’ve taken and on the ideas that we have dicussed.  This past week we got together and discussed chapter 7 (on creating a home learning environment) and part of chapter 12 (on reading and narration).  I hope you are keeping up with the readings better than I am keeping up on posting my notes.  Please join the discussion and let me know how these readings have impacted you.}

If you are just joining our little, virtual Charlotte Mason reading group then welcome to Mother Culture.  For more details about the book and the reading schedule please see this post.

Chapter 4 – Home Discipleship

At it’s core discipleship is about a relationship – with Jesus.  Our greatest goal in teaching and training our kids at home in our families is that they will know and love Jesus.

As such we approach discipleship from three ways: giving direction (so that they will know the way to go), giving correction (to bring them back if they wander off of the path) and giving protection (from temptations and unrighteous influences).

Direction – To properly “train up a child in the way he should go” we need to know the way laid out in the Bible.  Giving direction is shaped by the four qualities of leadership: sympathy, encouragement, love and instruction.

            Sympathy (vs. Strictness) is love focused on the present, is not time efficient (that is hard for me!)  Sympathy is not about permissiveness!

            Encouragement (vs. Guilt) is love focused on the future. We need to affirm our children to help them to grow in confidence.  Let them know that you see their potential.

            {What do you think of the word potential?  I know that it should mean that we see how amazing a person can grow to be but often I have seen it mean how amazing they are not now!  “Potential” has the potential to be a very negative word, doesn’t it?}

            Love (vs. Neglect).  Give them a reason to follow you!

            Instruction (vs. Information).  Giving instruction goes beyond information giving in that it leads to personal transformation.

“It has been said that the essence of teaching is causing another to know.  It may similarly be said that the essence of training is causing another to do.  Teaching gives knowledge.  Training gives skill.  Teaching fills the mind.  Training shapes the habits…  The parent who does not recognize the possibility of training his children as well as instructing them, misses one of his highest privileges as a parent, and fails of his most important work for his children.” – H. Clay Trumbull, Hints on Child Training, 1890

Correction is getting back on the path.  We need to be careful not to be harsh while still using appropriate methods for correcting.  They suggest four methods:

            First is Training with Spiritual Discipline.  This involves choosing to parent by faith.  Not by flesh, fear, feeling or formula.  We need to rely on God’s leading through his word and prayer to help us to properly parent.

            Second is Training with Verbal Discipline.  We need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say?”  He would be “gentle, but authoritative”; “loving, but truthful”; “gracious, but firm”.

            Third is Training with Behavioural Discipline.  We need to use appropriately both natural and logical consequences.  Letting our kids fail is a natural consequence that we are so apt to protect them from.  Logical consequences are ones that don’t necessarily arise directly out of their actions but which our children need to expect to bear as a result of their behaviour.  In our home, we remind the kids that they have chosen any consequences that they have since they make their own decisions about how they will behave.  Logical consequences might, for example, be doing extra chores to “practice” getting them done more efficiently when they have been goofing around during working together time.

            Fourth is Training with Physical Discipline.  While there is a lot of debate about whether spanking is ever appropriate there is no doubt that any physical discipline must be used as a last resort and only be done when we are certain that we are acting in love and guided by God’s grace.

Protection is about helping our children to stay safe on the path of life.

We need to protect our children’s appetites for our desires lead our hearts.  We need to help to protect them against unwise relationships and against ungodly media as well.

{What do you think about your children’s ability to choose friends?  Should they stay away from all “unsavoury” characters?  Or should they, in as far as we know that they are safe, be able to befriend peers with lesser morals or behaviours?  How can we hope that our children will influence others for eternity if we engineer all of their interactions to avoid people who might lead them astray?  Would it not be better to, instead, train them to be strong leaders and not followers?  I am, of course, being something of a devil’s advocate but I do want to know how you strike a balance between being over protective and leaving your kids unprotected at all.}

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the reading and on discipling your children, Friends. 



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Mother Culture: Nurture

Can it really be only a few days until our next Charlotte Mason gathering in Bradford?  I am very much looking forward to it but sad that I can’t squish everyone in my little living room anymore…  Sigh!  Regardless, I love getting together with all of you in person or in spirit through our virtual wanderings.  If you are reading this to brush up on what we chatted about at our last meeting then forgive me for missing so much.  I was too distracted and self-absorbed that night (and have been quite a bit since then, too.)  If you missed the meeting or are just too far away to join us then I beg your patience since I must skip over so much good stuff that we chatted about in order to actually get this little note out to you.

Thank you all for your grace in my silence when I promised to share some notes from our gatherings.  Here’s my little bit…

We discussed chapters 3 and 4 from Educating the WholeHearted Child: “Home Nurture: Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God” and “Home Discipleship: Shaping Your Child’s Heart to Love for God”.  Practically, we also looked at the first part of chapter 11 on Language Arts which I will try to summarize that in a later posting.

Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up [nurture them] in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Nurture is more than just checking off your spiritual teaching from a daily checklist of “educational things to do”, more than filling your day with praiseworthy things and activities.  When we make the decision to homeschool, I think that we all struggle with wanting to help our kids to have a proper Christian education and yet we don’t want to minimize faith to a subject in school.  What are some ways that you, Friends, help to take spiritual development beyond being a simple subject to learn?

We talked about making sure that Bible reading time wasn’t just done during school hours, that we needed to model for our kids both our devotional time and that we serve others as a manifestation of our faith.  But biblical nurturing is more than that.  Biblical nurturance of our children must be a constant and ongoing investment in the growth of and caring for the faith of the children that we have been entrusted to raise!

The Clarksons write (on page 47), “If the purpose of biblical nurture is to feed your children with God’s life, then it must involve more than just doing Christian things at home.  Biblical nurture opens windows for God’s life-giving grace to enter your children’s hearts.  God does this by way of His Word (“Scripture is grace in print”), prayer (“Prayer is grace in words”), and Fellowship (“Fellowship is grace in person”).

Then they went on to give a model of home nurture.  (Good, I needed some concrete instruction!)  Their model follows the acronym GIFTS and show five key areas that we should work to develop as we nurture our children in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Note that the different areas span the spectrum of desire at one end to ability at the other.  In other words, to nurture desire for God we focus on heart issues through Grace and Inspiration, whereas we use our abilities in Training and Service to develop the hands that do.  All of this is anchored together in the centre at the heart with faith:

Grace: “The gift of grace is the desire and ability to relate personally and purposefully to God and people.  The gift of grace prepares your children to become channels of God’s grace and love to other people.”

Inspiration; “The gift of inspiration is the desire and ability to view all of life in the light of God’s sovereignty and purpose.”  Inspiration helps your children to live with hope in a fallen world.

Faith; “The gift of faith is the desire and ability to study God’s word and apply its truths to every area of life.”  Faith is the heart of these gifts.

Training; “The gift of training is the desire and ability to grow in Christian maturity in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  This is more than just training in right conduct or knowledge but also in choosing what is right to do and doing it.

Service; “The gift of service is the desire and ability to minister God’s grace and truth to the needs of others.”

Some action points (A muddle of ideas that we chatted about and suggestions from the reading):
*Visit elderly neighbours, family members or church family to help and encourage them.
*Practice hospitality.
*Make meals for families with new babies or who are struggling with illness.
*Shovel the neighbours driveway or plant some flowers in their garden.
*Have a weekly family games night in which you practice good sportsmanship.
*Have regular personal and family devotions.
*Read the biographies of Christian heroes.
*Share answers to prayer with one another.
*Discuss questions of faith and belief.
*Learn together about biblical truths, history and wisdom.
*Allow kids to hear the scriptures and to understand them themselves without having to “dumb down” the language or to be given the moral of the story.
*Practice godly disciplines like tithing, good stewardship, submission to authority.
*Develop your own list of family values.
*Get involved in service projects.
*Keep a garden of blessings (the produce of which goes to a food bank or other food distribution agency).

Please, Friends, share some of the ways that you keep the faith alive in your home…

Talk soon,


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Mother Culture 2011-2012 “Up-dates”

Dear Friends,

I need to take a brief break from our virtual meeting to come back to the reality of the live meetings that we are having here north of Toronto.  I needed to update things here for you since we have had a couple of changes in our physical group. 

First of all, I am pleased to share with you that our little group will now be meeting in two locations: Bradford and Woodbridge!  Corinna Duguay has expressed an interest in welcoming folks into her home and I am so excited that someone with her experience and enthusiasm is willing to house some of our crowd. 

Secondly, I have had to make a small change to the schedule: our next meeting was to be held at my home in Bradford on October 27th but will now be help in Woodbridge on that night and in Bradford the following week, November 3rd.  Thanks for your patience with me and my mistakes in scheduling.

So, the meetings will continue to be on Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.  We will continue with the same reading list that we began with.  (I am really enjoying the snippets of reading I am getting of the next few chapters!)  The meeting continues to be a parents’ only meeting though nursing babes are always a treat and welcome to come and be involved.

The Woodbridge meetings will be held at the home of Kevin and Corinna Duguay.

They are at:

7551 Huntington Road
Woodbridge, Ontario
(Near Highways 427 and 7).

Please contact Corinna at 1-416-613-8110 or for more information about their meetings or to RSVP.

Meetings in Bradford will continue to run at my home.  HOWEVER, we have the option of meeting at a local church (thank you Becky!).  While September’s meeting was overflowing with all of us enthusiastic homeschoolers the feed back that I have had since has been mostly that we would like to continue to meet in a homey setting but if size necessitates then we will move to the church…. 

SO! I am asking that you please RSVP to me and let me know if you will be coming.  If it seems that we will have 20 or more in attendance again then I will move the meeting to the church.  I would like to make this decision a week or so ahead of time if I can so the sooner that you can tell me if you are coming the better.  Thank you all for being flexible on this and please be sure to check your emails before you come to confirm where the meeting will be.

Please contact me, Cori Dean at 905-778-9412 or for more information about the next meeting or to RSVP.

Meeting Dates:

1.         September 22

2.         October 27th in Woodbridge ****PLEASE NOTE: I have had to change the date/ location for this meeting as I scheduled a conflict.***
            November 3rd in Bradford .  ***Originally had planned the meeting to be on October 27th in Bradford .  Please change this in your calendars.  Sorry!***

3.         December 1st in Bradford
            December 8th in Woodbridge

4.         January 12th in Bradford
            January 19th in Woodbridge

5.         February 16th in Bradford
            February 23rd in Woodbridge

6.            March 22 in Bradford ONLY (as the following week is the OCHEC conference!)

7.                  May 3rd in Bradford
            May 10th in Woodbridge

8.                  June 7th in Bradford
            June 14th in Woodbridge

The reading list can be found here 

Looking forward to seeing many of you again in November!



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Mother Culture: Bringing Faith to Bible Learning

Now that we have given the academic study of the Bible a thorough glossing over it is imperative that we don’t forget to address the heart as well.  In reading Chapter 10, “Discipleship Studies Methods: The Study of the Bible” from Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Whole Hearted Child, we talked not only about teaching our kids the basics of Bible doctrine and stories but also about finding that balance between the rules and the stories.  It does our children no good if they think that Christianity is merely a set of rules to live by nor can we successfully teach them by only highlighting feel good stories and neglecting to give them guidelines to live by.
So how do we help Bible learning time to go beyond an academic subject and become a matter of the heart that relies on real faith and a relationship with Jesus?  Here are the few suggestions that we gleaned at our little gathering.  (Please share your ideas with the group here too!)

  • Do devotions as a family at meal time or bedtime.  We can devote ourselves to reading and studying God’s word and praying both during our structured school day and at other times too.
  • Live your life expecting your children to learn from your own excitement and passion about your faith.  Share faith stories, let your kids see you having your private Bible reading times.  Model your faith day by day and side by side.
  • Remember that Christian books and activities don’t make a home “Christian”.
  • Serve together.  Serve intentionally.  Some ways that you can serve is to write letters to family, friends or missionaries, shovel snow, bring food to a neighbour, sort at a clothing exchange or food bank, collect food or money for the same, create a garden of blessing, the produce of which is given to members of the community that need it.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions! 

Well, I thought I could summarize our last meeting in just one or two postings.  I guess that we really did cover a lot.  And now I am racing to get through the reading for the next meeting.  Read ahead with me: the next meeting of our little groups will focus on chapters 3 and 4: “Home Nurture” and “Home Discipleship” as well as the first part of chapter 11 on “Language Arts”.  What I’ve read so far has already given me a lot to think on. 

Also, look for a new meeting and reading schedule to be posted soon as we are fortunate to add another group to the mix.  Corinna Duguay has been kind enough to offer her home as another meeting place on alternate Thursdays to house those who couldn’t make it to Bradford or who find Woodbridge closer or more convenient to drive to. 

Are you interested in taking this virtual group and bringing it alive in your home with some like minded homeschoolers and a good book?  I’d be happy to help you to set up your own meetings starting with the same reading list and a similar schedule to our own.  Please let me know if I can be of some help.  Support is so essential in this line of work whether it be virtual gatherings like this or real life meet ups for some “professional development”.

Talk soon!



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Mother Culture: Resources for Teaching About the Bible

While reading the Bible should be the primary learning tool for “teaching Bible” in our homes there are a lot of age appropriate suggestions and resources that can be used.  Today we will look at some of these resources as we continue our discussion on Chapter 10 of Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Whole Hearted Child, the chapter on teaching the Bible.

The first resources that we have always used in addition to our regular Bible reading are the materials supplied by our local Awana program to learn to memorize Bible verses as well as to pursue spiritual disciplines like serving, tithing, praying, and more.  It is a fun and systematic programme for all ages that is very rigorous.  (Cubbies books are for children in JK and the year before JK.  Sparks have three books: HangGlider, WingRunner and SkyStormer for kids in SK to grade 2.  T&T has four books for grades 3-6 starting with Ultimate Adventure 1 and 2 and finishing with Ultimate Challenge 1 and 2.  Trek materials are for junior high students and Journey takes students through high school studies.  You can order these materials at 

As well, for all ages, we have used the FREE Bible League Day Planners which include a variety of Bible reading plans which we encourage the older kids to choose from to study.  I usually carry these in August and September but now you can get them at 

For younger children, a good Children’s Bible is a great supplement.  The Clarkson’s mentioned a few but one in particular that some mom’s in our little gathering had experience with and which they felt was quite good was, The Jesus Story Bible, as they said that it relates every story to Jesus Christ.  (I am interested in getting my hands on it so I think I will order some in to Maple Tree.  It is quite economical at $18.99 and you can get a deluxe edition for $27.99 which includes the complete audio recordings.  Anyone interested in ordering one with me?)

For older children, we are encouraged to start to teach them to not just read but to study the word on their own so it is wise to start to teach them to use resources like concordances, commentaries and Bible dictionaries.  In our home, we have started with a concordance.  There are online concordances but they just aren’t any substitute for the information that you can get from the real thing.  I do use “You Version’s” IPhone app which has many different versions of the Bible and some limited search abilities.  In our house, while we do use several different versions of the Bible we have two chosen concordances, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (KJV). 

Paired with this is a good Bible dictionary.  Unlike a regular dictionary a Bible dictionary is defines words as they have been translated from the Hebrew and Greek and so gives more background, and can define words within their context in the Bible by comparing different passages with the same word and giving lists of where the word appears in the scripture.  Bible dictionaries are a great help in understanding biblical ideas.  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has been an essential tool in our home since my university studying days.  Another good dictionary is The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. 

I have been searching around for good resources that will complement our Charlotte Mason education and am excited about this resource as it includes both Strong’s concordance and Vine’s dictionary: The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  I think I might add this one too to Maple Tree’s shelves.  (Let me know if you’d like to order a copy.  They are, of course, cheaper for one book than my original concordance was on its own let alone buying the dictionary too.  Book prices are so great lately!)

As well, study bibles and commentaries are useful.  In our house, my hubby and I use Life Application Study Bibles and we have the classic Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible to refer to on our shelves. 

When students have learned to use these tools they can then move on to learning with them to do first topical studies and then inductive studies.  More on these another time.

Further to this we also looked at ways to make studying the Bible more than just an academic subject.  More on this in the next Mother Culture posting…