CM 5: Shay Kemp 3 Foundations of a Charlotte Mason Education

CM 5: Shay Kemp 3 Foundations of a Charlotte Mason Education

Show Notes:

Episode 5:

Meet Shay:

Shay is a homeschooling mom of 5 who loves enjoying the learning journey with her children and encouraging others in their paths of faith, parenting and homeschooling. She believes that the best conversations happen when you are comfortable on the front porch and blogs from there at

Day 1:


Time Tables

Forms Schedules

Living Books:

A Tree For Peter

All of a Kind Family

What Katy Did

Among the Pond People

Paul Johnson’s History of the American People


Know and Tell

Narration Blog Post from A Gentle Feast

Narration video from Ambleside schools

Charlotte Mason’s Words

Show Transcript:


JULIE - Welcome to the Charlotte Mason show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason’s philosophy, principles and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool.

So, pull up a chair, we’re glad you’re here.

Today’s episode of the Charlotte Mason show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at

Hi, hello everyone, this is Julie Ross and I am here with my friend Shay Kemp and we are here to talk today about just her experience with the Charlotte Mason Method. And she is a dear friend of mine, I know you’re gonna love her. And we’re just gonna talk about some of the different kind of basic concepts in the Charlotte Mason philosophy and how they have looked in her home. And I know you’re just gonna learn so much form her. So, hi Shay

SHAY – Hi Julie, hi everybody.

JULIE – Alright so can you tell everyone who you are and kind of just how your homeschool journeys looked and how y’all got started using the Charlotte Mason philosophy

SHAY – Sure. Well, my name is Shay and I live in Bloom Springs, South Carolina. So, I’m a southern girl, born and bred. And I have five kids. My oldest two are in college and my youngest is eight years old. So, in the third grade, so I’m stretched in every area of parenting muscles right now.

And I was a public-school teacher and kindergarten teacher, so I loved homeschooling kindergarten and that’s how I got started. And that was sixteen years ago. So, we just kept on going. And I read for the children’s sake years ago and at the time, sort of tried to craft my own sort of Charlotte Mason homeschooling, I guess, education with my own, with books, on my own. And we did that for awhile and I actually sort of used some other curriculum boxed curriculum to try to use her methods and … we did that for awhile and it was doable bur frustrating. And then three years ago, thank the Lord on a Google search I found A Gentle Feast. And I’ve been using that for the past three years. And the lady that wrote it is so….

JULIE – Yeah!

SHAY – That’s one of the best things about it was that I got to meet you and just, you know, you’ve been such a dear friend and such a joy to know. So yeah, so I’ve been full Charlotte Mason most of our homeschooling journey but really been able to kind get the whole picture for the past about four years.

JULEIE – Yeah and I think one of the reasons why we clicked so well in the beginning is our stories are so similar. You know, cause I was a public school teacher as well. And I had read the gateway drug and Charlotte Mason for the children’s sake by Susan Schafer Macaulay. An amazing book and just a great introduction to her philosophy. But not super pragmatic in terms of what to do on a daily basis in your home. So, while it was very inspiring and I knew I wanted to homeschool my own kids, like once I started homeschooling them, I was like, okay, so here’s my vision. Here’s reality.

SHAY – How do I get there?

JULIE – A chasm in between. And I don’t know what to do so, yeah. You know, definitely boxed curriculums helped but it felt very comfortable as a teacher to have kind of all that stuff planned out for me as well and I kind of I think for awhile I used that as a crutch rather than trying to dig into her philosophy and find out what it really meant for myself. I don’t think there was… well there wasn’t. I mean when both of us started homeschooling back in the day… from the time of dinosaurs, you know.

SHAY – Back when people still look at you cross eyed when they found out you were homeschooling.

JULIE – Yeah. There just wasn’t enough on her philosophy. I mean there were the volumes which were very daunting and I ain’t got time for that. I got babies and all kinds of stuff. Whereas now, there’s just so much more out there and so much teaching on her, which is so great, to people.

So how have you seen your family grow since you’ve started just incorporating more and more or her philosophy?

SHAY – I think one of the major parts of growth that we’ve seen is that my children own their own education. That’s…they own it for themselves instead of this model of me standing up you know, presenting some type of information to them which is how I really was trained as a teacher, but it never felt, you know, never felt genuine. It never felt real. It felt like, okay, I’ve got my education. How do I help my kids understand that their education is theirs? And the more I read of Charlotte Mason’s volumes and kind of studies, her principals and studies her methods, the more I began to understand that was the whole point. That this education belongs to these children. And these are the methods that you can begin to use to help them own it.

So, I would say that’s the main way that we’ve grown. And I will say this, you know, I have college kids and they had professors say to them, you know, wow, you really take ownerships in your own education. And that was a huge, you know, that kinda like, okay, maybe I didn’t screw everything up. One positive is good, you know, so I think that’s the major growth that I’ve seen, honestly. And the more I trust the methods, and the more I trust you know the Living Books and the whole thing, and really rely on the principals, the more I see that they own it for themselves. And that’s probably the main thing.

JULIE – Yeah that’s great. So that’s kind of like a long-term benefit, right? I mean, you use the short term, but you know, throughout their whole life they’re gonna have that gift that you’ve given them of being able to learn for themselves, think for themselves, find out and grow as a person and own that, and not just wait for someone to pour into them constantly. But on a daily basis, what are some of the changes that you’ve seen?

SHAW – I think one majorly is scheduling. I feel like it’s so much easier with the short lessons. And the kids knowing what to expect. That it just makes the days flow so much more simply instead of, okay, I’m waking up thinking, oh gosh, what are we gonna do today? I’m a fairly organized person but I also really like to be flexible and so, you know, I like flexibility within the structure, is sort of the way my brain works. And that is a definite.

So, the kids know what we’re gonna do but this lesson is not gonna stretch into an hour because we are, when the time’s up the time’s up. That is huge. That’s huge.

JULIE – Yeah right. And that does take a leap of faith to kind of do that and go, Oh but the lesson plan says we’re suppose to read this many chapters before the times up and, is it okay to stop and… you know, but once you get use to it and you see the benefit for your kids of, you know, having those short lessons and having them focused more and more it does build your confidence and your willingness to kind of allow that process to happen naturally and not be so tied to everything.

And I love the fact that you are, you know, flexible and that you do sometimes follow those, like, fun little rabbit trails and that’s okay. But it’s not your whole schooling isn’t that… where there is a time frame, there is a time that we do things, and that does allow you to get your school work done much faster and have those morning lessons to your afternoons, you know, can do the nature study and the handicrafts and the things that she talks about without wondering, okay, math took an hour an fifteen minutes, so…

SHAY – And when you allow… when you have the flexibility within the structure, then they actually take the masterly inactivity of the afternoon and something that’s built in. You know, it’s like, it seemed like before I was really trusting that sort of process, those things got pushed off, pushed off, pushed off, cause we’re trying to get everything checked off on the list.

So, when they know they have that time built in, it really does seem like it’s valuable and it has… it’s kind of honored, you know? It’s like that time actually has an importance to it. And I do get that question more than anything else when I talk to moms about, you know, Charlotte Mason and using the methods and they’re like, gosh, yeah but what about the short lessons. How do you ever get everything done? What do I do, you know?

There’s a lot of questions about that, but trust is exactly like what you said. When we started full CM I told my kids, we’re gonna get through like a term, and if I totally screw you up, then it’s just a term! And we’re done, you know. Just a term. But at the end of the term, and really trusting that process, we saw so much difference in the way the day flowed that it was, it was just, it was worth it.

JULIE – Yeah, yeah, that’s good. So, someone starting out, you know, where do you point them to in terms of setting their schedule based on her kind of methods and what she used?

SHAY – I think the first place to start is look at your own children. Look at, you know, what forms you have, and my idea is always combine as much as possible. That’s where I start. What can I combine? What can we loop together? Start there.

And I think you can do more together than you expect, even my form four and my form one, my form four loves some of the picture books that we read while living books. I mean he gets so much out of those that we just do them, you know, maybe in morning time. They’re obviously not a part of his curriculum or his schoolwork, but it’s something we’ve done together. So that’s where I always say to start when you’re forming your schedule.

And then after that, you know, you just wanna start with the basics. How do you get those in. And really think about the time. Think about the time, you know, that’s like the two keys for me is what can I put together and you know, okay, I’m not gonna go past this twenty minutes. I’m not gonna go past this twenty-five minutes.

JULIE – Yeah, so for someone who’s just starting out, you know, like you mentioned the forms, and I’ll try to put these kind of in the show notes, like he did have her grades somewhat grouped together. Form four in A Gentle Feast is high school, but in her curriculum that could be ninth, tenth grade. She had more forms than I use.

And then form one, you now, grades one, two, three-ish, but that does allow you, if you have children that are close in age, to naturally group them together, they will already be in the same form. Which does make it easier, but then, you know, like you said, you can still combine certain things for other students.

So, yeah, looking at them, looking at kinda where their ages fall. And ability, like it’s not just oh, they’re in first grade so they must be doing x, y, z. Or they’re eight so they must be doing this, like, you know, what ability-wise, where they’re at as well. But then I’ll also put these in the show notes, like, the timetables, that she had, and I think some people can turn those into like, legalistic written in stone, and they’re not, you know? They’re guidelines for…lessons. Here’s a guideline, but like, it’s not “thou shalt only do this for thirty minutes.”

SHAY – Well, it’s the flexibility within the structure again, you know? I mean, we set the timer and obviously if we’re deep in a narration, I’m not gonna go, okay don’t say another word. Or if we’re deep in a math problem you know, I’m sorry we’re done. Or if we’re really into, right in the middle of scene, you know in a book or something, that when we get to a good stopping place. But there’s something beautiful about having that… it reminds me of…I’m very visual, so it reminds me of like, those tinker toys. Did you play with those?

JULIE – Yes.

SHAY – I mean, I just love that because you can hand those to a kid and they can build this kind of structure, that kind of structure, and that’s the way Charlotte Mason has been for us.

JULIE – That’s a great example, yeah.

SHAY – You know, I’ve taken and sort of put it together, and then you know, honestly, then there’s days when somebody comes along and kicks it and the whole thing falls down.

JULIE – Amen to that!

SHAY – But, and that’s okay too cause those are life skills, you know? When a kid or, you know, dad’s home and you know, it’s whatever, you know? Grandma’s there or whatever. But, that flexibility within the structure is just a beautiful way to live and cut down stress.

JULIE – Yeah and when I first started out with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, I mean, it was several years in before I figured out that there were timetables that she recommended. So, I was trying to do all, like, fifteen subjects whatever she had, for one. But every day, every day was going till like three o’clock in the afternoon. What in the world am I doing wrong? I’m so exhausted, you know?

And then, like literally, I mean, it took me that long to figure it out that, oh, you’re not supposed to do all of these fifteen subjects every day. And they only are supposed to take this long and so I’m like… So, I really recommend starting with those it will make life way easier than the hard way that I tried to figure it all out. Let’s jump into some kind of just basics here. So, one of the things that is super key to Charlotte Mason philosophy is this concept of living books, so can you talk about some of, kind of, what you’ve learned and what’s impacted your children from reading these kind of books and what that means?

SHAY – Yes, well, when I first heard the term living books, it was at a convention years ago. And I kind of thought, well that sounds a little snobby. Who gets to decide whether a book is living or not, you know? But now that we’ve been using the method and really just reading a lot of living books, what I found is, those kind of books, they spark something in your child that helps them to make connections. Which is super important. So when we read a book that I can see the light go off in their eyes about, okay, that reminds me of this, or I recognize this in that character, or I see this kind of way this plot is unfolding, reminds me of this story, you know? Those different things, that’s been a huge benefit for living books. I really think that what’s been beautiful for me is re-reading some books that I had previously read, especially with the older forms. And having in my mind these ideal connection with living books. And that’s been really powerful for us. But… yeah, I had like a whole list of ones.... there are so many great ones out there.

JULIE – Oh my gosh, I know, like yeah. And Charlotte Mason even said, like, people have asked me to like, what is the top 100 books that I would recommend for kids and I’m not gonna do it. You know?

SHAY – And I will say, we’re in cycle four this year, which is modern times history, in A Gentle Feast. And, I mean, this is the third time I’ve done the four-year history cycle. So, we’ve done this, but there are so many wonderful beautiful… and even though since the last time that I did cycle four, some of these new books about this time period, world war one and world war two are what we’re doing right now… These books are just beautiful stories that really give you that essence of the time period without the dry textbook mindset. And get you into the heads of these people that lived during this time. And, gosh, yeah, I just… it’s been… that’s probably my very favorite thing about the Charlotte Mason Method above all, hands down, is these incredible stories that we can share.

JULIE – Yeah, and they do, they stick with you, and that’s like, a key, is they’re living so it’s not, like, something that’s, like you said, like a dry dead textbook. You read it and nothing happens with it because it’s dead. So, then it’s living, it’s gonna grow inside your mind and you’re gonna connect it to new ideas. You know years later you’re gonna remember something and it’s gonna… oh, that reminds me of such and such. So, that’s really cool.

And I think too, you made a really good point about some new books are coming out, so I think, a lot of people have this misconception that if you’re using the Charlotte Mason philosophy you can only read books that were written in like the 1800’s. Or they have to be like at least a hundred years old. Now, there are a lot of books being made today that aren’t that great. So I completely understand why people could get that, because a lot of the books do come from, you know, the beginning of the 1900s and that’s when like, the golden age of children’s books, and they are so rich and so well written and then you know, in the fifties, sixties, they kinda did a nose dive down to the like the Dick and Jane books that had no substance whatsoever. And, but I really feel like, even like in the past five years, there’s been such a resurgence of amazing… now don’t get me wrong… in the last four years there’s still been some really bad books that shouldn’t be on the young adult section of the library, but… right and so you can’t just have this rule that we’re only gonna read books like a hundred years old, because there are some really great authors out there that are really writing fantastic living books for children these days too so… you know, I always, I’m trying to take a balance of like, okay, the se are the classic books that have been around forever, and like, my kids and I are reading Heidi, right? Which is a staple… all children should be exposed to Heidi, right, you know? But at the same time, like, I’ll bring in a modern book like Pam moves Orion, Echo, Esperenza Rising. I love her, she’s an amazing author of just newer books that are fantastic for children, so…

SHAY – You know that same sense, you know that same sense when you read it that you can feel that there is a certain amount of reality to the story, even if it’s a totally fictional story. But there’s just this sense to it that it’s … of a connection. And there’s some older books we’ve read, okay, well we don’t really get that sense, but we read them. And then there’s some newer books we’ve read, so, I think that takes experience to… It’s a little scary in the beginning because, you know, I of course, it’s… it would be easier just to have a list, right? And say everything on this list you and your kids are gonna love. Everything on this list. But that just… that doesn’t make the education our own, which goes right back to the very beginning of the philosophy is that this is their education. You know, this is for them. And so, we read these beautiful books… we just finished A Tree for Peter. Oh my gosh.

JULIE – Oh my gosh did you cry? I cried.

SHAY – And what was so hard with that book is stopping when the timer goes off. Let’s just sit here and read this entire book in one day

JULIE – Yes, right!

SHAY – That book was amazing, but you know, the next day when it’s time to read it, there is… never a complaint… Oh we’re reading A Tree for… Oh, okay, yes. Let’s sit down, I’m listening you know. That sense, you know that it’s just… that book is alive in you, in your imagination, in just this powerful way and we definitely never got that from a textbook.

JULIE – Right right, oh I can’t wait to read this today!

SHAY – No. Oh mom’s breaking out the biology textbook! Wait! You know, no.

JULIE – Right right, yeah, you don’t go like a couple weeks later and you see something on tv and they’re like, oh mom that reminds me of that textbook reading I did on chapter 17 on Westward Expansion, like that ever happens, right?

SHAY – Never! And we’re reading, we finished this last term, all of a kind family, which I’d never read. Why have I never read that book until now? I just missed it, but the kids have referred to that book so many times. They’ll say about different things in their life, oh that reminds me of this character, or this person is that character. And that just calls it up off the page, it takes your education outside of your dining room table and really puts it into their lives and it just makes it a joy.

JULIE – Yeah, one of the books that you had told me about, that we love, that we read, gosh, I guess two years ago now was What Katie Did. And we still talk about that. Like we were at a friend’s house like a week ago and she had a tree swing and it had broken, and so we came back and we were there and we were like oh where is your tree swing and my kids were like, oh man, I hope nobody got hurt like in What Katy Did, and it was like, man, we read that book two… way over two years ago you know. But I mean… what an amazing story of perseverance for sure.

SHAY – That book I read for the first time when I think I was in the fourth or fifth grade. I literally… this is no lie... I’m 45 now… I read that book every year. Since…

JULIE – I didn’t know that. Oh wow.

SHAY – I read it every… because… I mean it’s just a short book but something about the story of going through something that’s difficult and having this attitude of, what could it be sued for, to simplify the plot, you know a lot, but yes, that is like my… one of my all time favorites. I love it.

JULIE - Today’s episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades one through twelve, that is family centered, inspired by Ms. Masons program sand philosophy and rooted in book, beauty and biblical truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at a

So, this ties into living books and then, her other philosophy, that’s super…or method that’s super important is narration. The two really do go together. Because you can’t narrate something like a boring textbook. You’re not gonna be able to retell it in your own words, which is what narration is. But if you have a book that’s living, that is full of ideas, you can take it and you can retell it. So, you know, narration, I think, was another thing that I didn’t really understand when I first started the philosophy. Like, I kinda was like, okay, we’re gonna have our study guides and we’re gonna fill in our fill in the blank worksheets and then you can tell me what it’s about. We can add on this extra thing that she talked about that I don’t really understand.

SHAY – Yes, that.

JULIE – Right! It wasn’t until I like, you know, realized that I can’t do both things that I was shooting myself in the foot there. And took the leap of faith to really do narration, which at first is scary. Cause you don’t have something that you can check off and go, okay, you got four out of ten right, you know?

SHAY – And we’re so ingrained to look for those graded things, or that piece of those pieces of information that we can say, yes, my child understood it. We’re … that’s ingrained in us.

JULIE – It feels so good.

SHAY – It does feel good!

JULIE – I think a lot of people jump into the Charlotte Mason philosophy and they try narration and they’re not getting the results that they want at first. And they give up on the whole philosophy and say, well my child is not learning enough. Or their narration isn’t meeting my expectations, I hear that one a lot too. And I was like, well you might need to adjust your expectations. And that doesn’t mean your kid’s not gonna grow into it, but at first, it’s gonna be a struggle, because it’s using a whole different side of your brain. It takes a lot more work to take what you’ve read or listened to and think about it and process it and then tell it back to someone else. It’s much higher-level thinking skills than answering, what color was Jimmy’s sweater, right? You know that’s very low-level thinking and when you think of the different cognitive skills, narration is super complex. So, especially if you’re starting with, you know, a six or seven-year-old. Your narrations are gonna be very simple because they’re learning that skill and their brains haven’t truly developed all that higher thinking. But the more they practice it and the more they get it, it really does become easier. So, can you kind of talk about what you’ve learned seeing that practice in your homeschool.

SHAY – I do think narration is scary in the beginning. I think it’s like you know, reading three books about riding a bike, an then you get on it and you’re like, OH! You know? That’s… cause I did… you know I read No and Tell, I’ve read all the Charlotte Mason stuff about narrations and all these thoughts and stuff before we jumped in full term, but I think the…what I’ve learned most about narration is just to take a deep breath and trust the process. You know, when we first started, I did get frustrated with narrations because I had this idea in my mind that you know, they were gonna be able to tell the whole story back. But a couple of things that we have done that have seemed to help us to grow, and I do think you can do things to help your kids understand the process better. And one thing is to break things down more. I was definitely reading too much

JULIE – Yeah right, that’s a big thing people do at first too, I think.

SHAY – Yes. Break it down. Read… I remember when we first started, we were doing, I think it was Among the Pond People, was the first book that... one of the first ones. And you know, I’m reading this whole story and I’m expecting my child to narrate back, and she’s completely overwhelmed. So, I would just read literally a couple of paragraphs and then have her narrate back, and then we would read a couple more, and a couple more. And that really began to grow. And I could see such a huge improvement in all… actually, all of them. Cause even my older forms I would say, okay, here’s a sticky note, read to here.

And the other thing is, is modeling. And I know you do have to be careful about this cause you don’t wanna have them read everything and say, okay, you know, now I’m gonna show you how to narrate. But that break from schoolwork, like I would say to my kids, can I model a narration what I would do for this thing? Not their schoolwork, but maybe if we just… or if we watched a movie or something. And I would just give my own narration. And they would see that it was personal and it kinda gives them some… something to think okay, I’ve seen sort of what’s she’s talking about here, and then they can do it on their own. So that helped us.

JULIE – Yeah. And it does show them that like, this is a natural thing that people do. And Charlotte Mason does say that, she’s like, human beings naturally want to tell things to other people so why have we not capitalized this in education? You know, so your kids go see a movie, they come home, and they just start talking to you about it. Like, that’s what you naturally do. Like I’m not… this is… normal and it feels weird with school, right/ But then the more you do it, I mean, if I don’t ask my kids to narrate now they look at me like I have four heads. They’re like, wait we just read something… don’t you wanna know what I have to say about it.

SHAY – Yeah, and their hands’ll go up like, I wanna narrate, I wanna narrate! Cause they don’t want somebody to… they wanna give… they wanna get this process out and what’s funny is we have been in conversations before, just, especially when you’re riding in the car, you’re talking to your husband, you know you’re just chatting or whatever and the kids’ll be like, I wanna narrate! That’s not exactly narration! But they… you know, I mean, they wanna add. They wanna … the more they understand that it’s natural, I think the more they own their own education. They really just… this is my interpretation of this book, or you know, or this story, or if you’re watching Shakespeare’s play or whatever you’re doing. And I think it is so beautiful to watch them be proud of what they got from themselves. And that is something I’ve never ever seen with filling out a worksheet. It might be… you know?

JULIE – Exactly. Yes, right, unless they got like a smiley face or something like, it’s the reward that they feel proud about it’s not like... Yes.

SHAY – Yes, but this is like they’re not proud that I’m saying, hey good job. They’re proud that they were able to extract something from this story that even connected. Or they notice they thought nobody else did. Maybe it’s a detail or something like that.

JULIE – Yeah that’s great. Yeah, I think it really does improve their confidence and that’s one of the things that even Charlotte Mason talks about, is this will eventually help with their writing, but also help with their speaking, right? In the world that we live in today, that is a huge marketable skill. To be able to take information and really narration once they get older, it’s like teaching. They’re owning and they’re putting it into their own words, and they’re explain it to someone else. You could do that, I mean, in today’s world through video, but like, pretty much every profession needs people that have that skill. Isn’t that… if you wanna be like a farmer or a doctor, like, you need to be able to talk to people about what it is that you’re doing. And take information that you’re leaning and communicate that. So, it’s a great skill.

Now one of the things I think is super cool kind of about your story that I think a lot of people will find interesting, cause a lot of people think, oh, well, this sounds really interesting and really great, but you know, my kid is like, in ninth grade and so, they’re too old to switch over. So, we’re just gonna stick to these things that we’re doing, and I might start this philosophy with my younger children, so that by the time they get to high school, they’ve been narrating for like five years. And then, you know, but… you can’t do it.

SHAY – No, you can’t… my son was in the ninth grade when we started full Charlotte Mason with no textbooks. And I did give him some more scaffolding, probably, that the younger ones as far as explaining the methods themselves to him. I did sit down with him and explain what the methods were. I really sort of talked to him more… a little more peer to peer than… I said this is why we’re doing this. This is you know, some things that the results we’re looking for. This is why. We had a lot more conversations about it. And when he began… we really… I mean I think he really thought I was probably expecting not enough for his age, because I would only have him read like a page to narrate. That’s just where we started. Because I wanted him to really get the skill. And that high bit of attention. I mean it does take a high bit of attention to read the Paul Johnson, you know, history, that you’re just not gonna get from like a general textbook.

JULIE – There’s many adults that can’t read Paul Johnson’s history.

SHAY – Right! Right! And I’m like, you can do this. You can do this. We’re gonna break it down into bite sized pieces. I think he might have been tenth grade when we read that one. But when we started that one. But you know I think that’s the biggest thing is that this is not something that you need to just… if you don’t get it at five, six, seven, eight, twelve, then you don’t do it. It is such an incredible brain training. You know?

JULIE – For sure.

SHAY – Whatever age you are. And you know what’s interesting is, even my husband, I mean I do most of the homeschooling but of course he’s around and sees and sits in and stuff, and he has said before, to me, you know, I can ‘t tell you how many times I’ve stopped and thought, okay, I need to narrate this particular…to myself… this particular thing that I’m learning about before I move on. So, high bit of attention, breaking it down into small bits, narrating back to yourself. You know these are really life skills we’re teaching them. So, it doesn’t matter if they’re six, ten, fifteen, you know, it’s valuable enough to take the time to try to incorporate.

JULIE – Right. Yeah and I think that’s the key. Well, there are several keys you said, with the older kids, explaining what you’re doing so they don’t think, like, you just fell off the crazy wagon like… they need to have a buy in and realize, okay, like mom is actually the reason.. this will help me in life.

SHAY – Yes, there’s a reason, yes.

JULIE – Then, you know, to break it down into smaller pieces first. And they… and I think that scares a lot of people. They’re like, well we gotta get these credits and we gotta read through this whole book. But they will, the older kids, I have found, catch non much faster.

SHAY – They do.

JULIE – So it’s not like a seven year old, where it might take their whole entire first year to get to the point where they’re starting to give a really good solid narration. You know, an older kid might take a month or two and they’ve got it like that and they’re ready to start doing their written narrations. And it was funny, my sixteen-year-old had her final, she’s taking some kind of dual enrollment classes this year. But it was an essay. And she came up and she’s like, aw, man, I did so good on that. She’s like, I love writing essays! And it just made me laugh because it’s like, when you have that, where you’ve talked about what you’ve learned for so many years, like, that’s the easiest thing ever. Like, right? You mean all I have to do is tell you what I’ve learned on a piece of paper?

SHAY – And I think it’s those words… you just, you know, we say narration. Oh, scary word. Or you say… another scary word. But if you say, tell me back what you learned. I mean you can say that to anybody. Or explain the experience of this book to you. Or explain the experience of, you know, those sort of things. And it’s when you put that word in there, people tend to get frightened by it, you know?

JULIE – Right. And your kids will pick up on that right? So, if you’re tense and you’re like, expecting this eloquence from your seven-year-old and you’re disappointed, like, they’re gonna pick up on that, you know? And to have those expectations of, okay, this is a growing process here. And I think too, one of the things I’ve told people multiple times is to not be afraid to have some playfulness to it, especially with the younger children, that you know, take some of that pressure off of them. Especially if you have a kid who maybe a slower processor.

And so, you finish reading, you’re like, okay, tell me about what you read, and their brain just totally freezes. It doesn’t mean they didn’t pick up on anything. It’s just they needed some more time to process. So, maybe they’re gonna draw a picture or maybe they’re gonna act it out with Legos. They’re gonna wear costumes and act it out with their siblings. You can make it… kind of adds more imagination and fun and Charlotte Mason does talk about this. So, it’s not like, oh, you have to sit there in this formal thing and sit up in your chair and tell me exactly what you heard.

SHAY – Well, it goes back to exactly what we said before, it’s the flexibility within the structure. I mean, it’s just the structure of narration, yes, you’re telling me what you learned. But there’s so much incredible flexibility there. I mean, you know, especially when you get to older grades, it seems like things start to be so much less flexible. So, it’s… to have that narration where you do have flexibility. I mean, I’ve had my son, when he’s got to go to work, and he doesn’t have a lot of time and he’s like, can I just orally narrate this to you because I really don’t have time to do this written. Those have been some of the best conversation that we have ever had. Where we have this, he gives me this oral narration and we really start to talk about it, and even though it was not a scheduled literature discussion. But it just turns into this conversation, and that’s the flexibility in it.

You know, and you can’t do that every time. It needs to be different with written narrations too. So, there’s a lot of flexibility whether it’s an eight-year-old making a Lego setup of a scene from the Tempest, you know, whatever. To him doing a history narration. So, yeah, all of that has just been… cause it’s like I can take a deep breath. Because before I would try to come up with something creative and fun. You know? And…

JULIE – Oh yeah, we gotta make this paper Mache diorama of the Nile River, you know…

SHAY – Or another mobile to hang in the closet somewhere that you’re gonna throw away at the end of the year. And now it’s like… But, you know, it seems like they have the creativity once they sort of get the hang of it. Well, I could do this with my action figures. Well go for it! You know, show me what you’ve got. Or I would rather draw this one. In my head, I wanna draw it. Go for it. And once again, they’re on it instead of Mom came up with some tacky crap, which, is probably no other mom’s like that out there except me. But, let’s just do this tacky crap to stick onto this book that we just read.

JULIE – Right, so I can take a picture and put on Instagram.

SHAY – Yeah, and then, say that we touched all the learning styles. What? I mean, it really makes no sense, but it probably looks like, wow, they did a great job. There’s no higher-level thinking in that. There’s no owning of the education in that, so…

JULIE – Right, right and I think that’s the key. It doesn’t mean you can never make a diorama of the Nile River, right? But it’s your kid’s way of expressing what they’re learning and having that creativity and, you know, yeah, if you wanna add that on to some other time that’s not the lesson time, that’s fine, right? But creativity comes out of them because they are making it their own. And my kids will do that all the time.

We’re reading, like Ben Franklin’s biography and they’re like, well can we try to do… I remember… oh it was like… oh no, it DaVinci, like water shoes, where you could like walk on top of the water, like he wanted to invest those. It didn’t work, cause I don’t think that actually can be… I want those, but … but it was still fun and they got the process of it, but it was, you know, but it wasn’t like, okay, so you wanna do that so we’re just gonna scrap everything else for today and go do that. But no, because we have these short lessons, you do have your afternoons. That would be a great thing to do this afternoon when we’ve finished our regular lessons. And then, you know, I’ve seen this and I know you have to… that your kids start playing what they’ve been learning and their narrations sometimes are them with their friends acting out the war, or the Battle of Trenton. But like, when I ask them about it earlier in the day when I read the book, it was kind of like, oh well…

SHAY – Yeah, they don’t remember any of the names or anything. And I’m thinking, God, I’m a failure. And then they go and they play this game with their batman figures and it’s like, you just got every single… why couldn’t you do that… but that is their narration, cause they have to process, like you said, you know? And it comes out in a different way. And it just goes back to some of those things I’d tried before, like you said, I’ve always used these methods in some shape or form. But when I was doing workbooks along with it, I was tacking them on to the end. There was no opportunity for them cause I was filling it full of these fill in sheets for them to have the processing time.

JULIE – Yeah, yes, yes, that is so key. And I think, I mean when you look at like… well you know, from being a public-school teacher… I just felt their days are so packed, and it is so crammed… they’re cramming so much in. And there’s no time for them to think and process about what they’ve learned. And even … we can do that even in our homes. We can be running from one activity to another, we gotta put this lesson in, we gotta make this craft, you know, that they don’t have this time.

And that is so key, and Charlotte Mason does talk about the importance for having… children to have this time where they can think about what they’ve learned. And we don’t put value on that because it’s not something, again, that we can measure and we can test and we can check off and say we did it, you know? And that does come from trusting the process. And then seeing the fruit, which, you know, you and I because we’ve been doing this for a while, we’ve seen that, you know?

But at first you just kinda have to trust that that fruit will come from doing it these kind of things. But yeah, it does take a lot of trust at first. So, well, we are about out of time. You know, I just love you so we could just talk forever and ever. But I think, these are two really… well actually I think three. Three really important things that we talked about. You know, the schedule. Kind of getting your mind around how Charlotte Mason scheduled out her day is key to giving you that flexibility, that time to allow for that. But also, kind of just making sure that you’re getting through the things that she talked about. The different subjects. And then having living books because without those, you can’t have the ideas growing that she talked about. And then her primary method of talking about those books being narrations. And kind of wrapping your mind around those three things is huge.

SHAY – it is huge. And it does take, I think, I do wanna say this, is I think you have to be willing to learn with your children, with methods, instead of like, okay, mom’s gonna tell you about the Charlotte Mason methods and I really understand it and I’m gonna, you know… That just… you’re never gonna get to that point ever, because I’m still learning so much. And every time I read her volumes, these light bulbs keep going off. I’m like, wow, I need to incorporate that, I need to think about that, or I need to you know, switch this or change this or whatever.

So, think when you just say we are going to use these methods, we are going… you know, like it’s a joint… alongside… I mean she says several things, you know, about learning alongside your children. And that really makes it more of a corporate education. Instead of like, it’s trickle down model from mom to kid. So, we’re gonna learn about narrations. And then three weeks from now, you know, okay we can say, all right, you know, I’ve seen this in our narrations. Let’s try this. And really learning together, don’t wait to incorporate this stuff until you think you’ve got a handle on it. Because… there’s… for years and years and years and still learning. You know, we’re still talking about it.

JULIE – Well, I’m still learning. I mean, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m still constantly learning more and more about what she meant by that or how to try this different. And every kid is different too, you know, so. And I mean my older two are kind of off mostly to college now, and then I have the younger ones, but you know, one of them has a lot of special needs. And so, I’m kind of having to take her philosophy and look, ok, well how would I apply this…

SHAY – Yes, that’s a great idea.

Julie – And it’s a whole different, I mean a whole different learning curve.

SHAY – Right. And it is so different with every child. That is a great point. And you know, every… because this is their education. So, when you’re willing to be flexible with it, then you know, you can say, okay, this sort of narration, maybe they need me to to… they need to dictate to me and I’ll type it for them. Or you know, just adding the flexibility to learn with the. And not think, okay, now I fully understand this thing, now we can do it. Because you’ll never do it.

JULIE – Right yeah, you’d be paralyzed, I mean… Yeah, there’s just so much that you know, it’s like, okay, I’m gonna understand these few things, I’m gonna start practicing them. And then I’m gonna keep adding on until I thin the three things that we talked about today, the scheduling and the living books for narrations are just such a good foundation to kind of jump in. Yeah, great, great, place to start. And great place to just kind of grow and you know, work through them.

And I love what you said about learning beside your children. I think it just shows how beautiful her philosophy is and that her educational philosophy was built on this idea of teaching governesses to go teach in the homes. And then eventually used by homeschool moms across the British Empire. So, it really is the only unique philosophy of education that’s actually geared towards educating children in the home. And so, this concept, we don’t have to be this authority on every subject, and we’re gonna teach you and pour into these empty vessels of our children. We can come alongside them cause we’re in the home and we’re with them and we are learning. And we’re modeling that lifelong learning to them so it creates, I just think it’s such a perfect picture of what home education can be.

SHAY – Yes. And it’s just so beautiful to watch your kids love watching you learn something. You know, I mean. Oh, it’s just… that in itself is beautiful. I mean that they’re like, oh mom you’re reading this book, what did you learn? You know, what are you… and I’m like wow, okay, now I need to give a good narration, you know?

JULIE – The pressure! Yeah, my kids will do that to me all the time too. They’ll come in they’re like, what ya reading?

SHAY – Yes, yes! Exactly! Or just even, you know, we’ve been working on art stuff, or you know, those kinds of things. And they’re like, oh look, I see you’re practicing. You know? And they’re encouraging me to learn. And that’s a lot… that’s just, I mean, really, there’s not enough words of what a huge blessing it is. I mean it just takes so much pressure off and I think people get overwhelmed by the idea of homeschooling because they think they have to be an expert. But the whole point here is, no, you don’t. You don’t need to be.

JULIE – Right, yeah. I love that so much. So, thank you so much for taking the time to chat. And I’m definitely gonna have you come chat more, cause you and I could just talk about this stuff till… What’s the southern phrase for that? Till the cows come home?

SHAY – Yes girl! We could chat till the cows come home.

JULIE – Alright, thanks Shay.

SHAY – Okay, love you girl, thanks. Bye bye.

JULIE – Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I’m your host Julie Ross and I would love to meet you in 2020. I will be at all seven Great Homeschool Conventions, speaking as part of their Charlotte Mason Track. Go to to find one near you.

If you want more information on what was shared in today’s podcast, go to for the show notes. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or Google Play so you never miss an episode.

Until next time.

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