May 5, 2011

A Charlotte Mason Reading Lesson

Reading…ughhh. Why can I never get my head around how to teach this? Why does my son hate to learn it? Why do all the methods and books work for other people and we are still struggling to find something…anything that will work at all? I thought this would be the best part of homeschooling, why have I failed when I care so much and I have tried so hard and followed all the instructions? Lord, what do I do now?

That was me last year. That was me before I stepped back, before I had the courage to trust Charlotte Mason and her ideas about teaching reading.

My son is bright, he learned his letters and their sounds on his own, he loved it, showed confidence in his ability to learn, then I stepped in and thought I would simply add to his great start and lead him on his way to reading by spending time with him everyday going through a book that was highly recommended. He would be one of those early readers. I was certain. I was wrong. I got in his way.

Then I tried Charlotte’s idea.

1. I Chose a passage of poetry or scripture that was interesting to my son. I made sure it has lots of long and interesting words in it.

2. I varied the reading lessons so he was is not bored with only decoding.

We do three different lessons with one line of the passage.
Sight word lesson: I give my son the words from the line of the passage we are on. I chose a word in that line and write it on a white board. I tell him what the word is. He then finds the word in his pile of word tiles. Then he studies it, turns it over and writes it in his notebook without looking at it. We do this with all the words in the line or until 20 minutes is up. Each time a new word is introduced he will read all the words we have learned thus far. Once the line is done we go on to the next lesson.

Build the story Lesson: I give my son the words from the line of the passage and either dictate the line to him and he builds it or he is given a written copy of the line and he build the story by himself. Then he copies the line into his notebook.

Building words lesson: I write on the board one of the words we learned in the previous sight-word lesson. For example I might have “twinkle.” I ask my son to read the word.

1. I say the word slowly and ask, “What do we have left if we take away tw?” Then I erase the beginning letter(s) and we get “inkle.”

2. Then I ask, “What would you add to “inkle” to get “tinkle?” My son would add a “t” to create the new word with his loose letters. Use the same process to make “sprinkle” and “wrinkle” and any other “inkle” derivatives that you can think of. We don’t have to do every possible combination. We just choose words that will mean something to us, and discuss them as you go along.

3. Then I write on the white board all the words he makes, forming them into a list which he reads aloud. We review this list in various orders as we go through the lesson.

4. Then we take turns making sentences with the words and he writes down his favorite sentence. Sometimes, for variety I have him simply write down the list of words that he made in his notebook.

5. We repeat this process with all the sight my son learned last time or 20 minutes is up. Then we continue again the next day.

“A child is interested in things, not words. His mind doesn’t yet analyze, but he is a keen observer. Nothing is too small for his notice. He can spy out the eye of a fly. Nothing is too intricate for him, and he loves puzzles. But what interests him is whatever he can find out by looking.” -Charlotte Mason

One of the brilliant things about Charlotte Mason’s method is that I the teacher get out of the way. My role is simply to “to indicate, stimulate, direct, and constrain to acquirement of knowledge.” My son makes his own relationship with the letters words, rules etc. using his own mind and way of learning.
Indicate: this is the lesson for today.

Stimulate: choose passages that I know will interest my son and he is able to do.

Direct: Your assignment is… you will have 15 minutes to work on it.

Constrain: teach the habit of attention, the habit of obedience, the habit of perfect execution

This year my son is reading reading, this year I am not in the way. This year we are both loving reading lessons. Thank you Charlotte, I wish I had trusted you sooner.

As a result of our success this year I created these reading lessons:


  1. Thanks for the reminder. I taught my oldest son to read using the CM way. I have been a little skeptical about using it with my second son because of personality differences, learning styles, etc. I think I'll go ahead and try it with my second son soon.

  2. Sounds great Holly. I hope you have good success with it. Just a note t also to say I have adjusted the CM reading lesson in small ways to tweak it to fit us. Like setting aside the loose letters and letting them write out the words instead. or keeping track of words we have used for word building and not repeating them. This helped my older son who would always say, "Hey, I already know this word." and he would rattle off the many deriviatives of it. Ok so on to the next. I think it helps to keep the lessons applicable to your own kids. Have fun!

  3. :) sounds familiar, we've just been through this!

    thanks for submitting it to the CM Blog Carnival!