In our home, our Charlotte Mason education seems to kick it up a notch in middle school. At this stage, habits are mostly formed in how the child learns best, but the way they process the information changes some, as they begin to question things more and come into the stage of debate.
During the two years of middle school, grades seventh and eight grade, we continue in using the same methods that Charlotte Mason employed in the early years of their education and into the elementary years. Yet, at the same time, focusing on preparing the child for high school and further education, rather from college or from becoming a life learner.
Here is How to Teach Middle School the Charlotte Mason Way
Here is a section of Charlotte Mason's series, I love how she explains the importance of books and how they become the venue of how independent learning happens – which should be a key focus during middle school, if you haven't already developed an independent learner by this point:
“Children must be Educated on Books.––A corollary of the principle that education is the science of relations, is, that no education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge. We reject epitomes, compilations, and their like, and put into children's hands books which, long or short, are living. Thus it becomes a large part of the teacher's work to help children to deal with their books; so that the oral lesson and lecture are but small matters in education, and are used chiefly to summarise or to expand or illustrate.
Too much faith is commonly placed in oral lessons and lectures; “to be poured into like a bucket,” as says Carlyle, “is not exhilarating to any soul”; neither is it exhilarating to have every difficulty explained to weariness, or to have the explanation teased out of one by questions. “I will not be put to the question. Don't you consider, sir, that these are not the manners of a gentleman? I will not be baited with what and why; what is this? what is that? why is a cow's tail long? why is a fox's tail bushy?” said Dr Johnson. This is what children think, though they say nothing. Oral lessons have their occasional use, and when they are fitly given it is the children who ask the questions. Perhaps it is not wholesome or quite honest for a teacher to pose as a source of all knowledge and to give ‘lovely' lessons. Such lessons are titillating for the moment, but they give children the minimum of mental labour, and the result is much the same as that left on older persons by the reading of a magazine. We find, on the other hand, that in working through a considerable book, which may take two or three years to master, the interest of boys and girls is well sustained to the end; they develop an intelligent curiosity as to causes and consequences, and are in fact educating themselves.“
With this being said, living books continue to be the curriculum of middle school children when using the Charlotte Mason way of educating. In our homeschooling, we keep reading biographies, work through the history timeline, do written narrations and create binder books together, so that by high school, they are almost completely independent in their education.
Personally, for our home, we have a few ‘must study' in middle school.
The first one is Creation Vs Evolution…
During these two years, we provide excellent resources through living books, new living books (DVDs) and online resources to give a Biblical creation account of creation, while teaching them what evolutionist say about these account.
We have found with our older two children that by doing this two year focus, they learned far more than we have (they were learning independently in many things) and because of the exciting finds, they narrated to us with vigor and excitement.
By high school, our children were solid in their Christian faith and creation taught in Genesis, but also being able to give good debates when asked. This really made high school science easy for them, because they already had the foundation necessary to understand what science has found and how it lines up with the Bible's account.
In July, I will be launching my Creation Vs. Evolution Two Year Curriculum, perfect for middle school children or for a one year curriculum for high school children.
The second one is our Christian faith…
In middle school, we switch our focus on more doctrine, why we believe the way we believe from scriptures. We begin using ‘word searches' and the fundamentals of searching the scriptures for answers to our daily lives.
The third one is learning skills…
I use this time in middle school to really help my children use their free time to find things that interest them and often times through elective studies for high school, like: Typing, music, wood working, sports, cooking, quilting, calligraphy, cake decorating, bead making, etc.
The fourth one is a gentle change from nature to science…
By 7th and 8th grade, they have a mind overflowing with information and journaling about their nature finds. So I switch gears in how we do nature studies during these years…
My children choose a collection(s) for each year – ideas can be flowers, rocks, shells, feathers, etc. In collecting these, they are also needing to identify them, label them and come up with their own way of displaying them. This is gently introducing them to the scientific names and classifications of the nature that they have been learning about for years.
They also get a jump on high school photography, by taking photos of things they find in nature. My daughter loved doing this so much, she created keepsakes with her photos.
At the end of a school year, we get together with a few family friends and have a ‘show and tell' – as part of their evaluation, they show and tell (narrate) about their collection(s).
I also require them to pick a subject to work on and create their own book on that subject. Some has been snakes, bears, wolves, big cats and more. They read about their chosen subject and then write about the habitat, prey and predators, habits, tracks, etc. They even make up their own fictional story about the animal. They sketch pictures for these as well.
They LOVE doing this!
I hope some of these ideas will help you find the confidence to implement the Charlotte Mason way into your middle school and give your children the things they need to be a strong independent learner.