Incorporate CM Once A Week

Posted On August 6, 2009

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Transition to CM, Stage 2: Once a Week

Transition to CM Stage 2Once you feel comfortable with The Basics described in last week’s post, you can easily add one more CM method per week. Each of the methods listed below can be done once a week–Fine Arts (Picture Study, Music Study, Poetry), Nature Study, Book of Centuries, Dictation.

Simply choose one of them to add to your schedule during the week, and continue incorporating that method once a week for a few weeks until you’re comfortable. Then select another one to add to your schedule during the week, and continue doing it once a week until you’re ready to add another one.

Here is a quick description of how to do each of the various methods in this stage.

Picture Study

Choose an artist and select one of his pictures from a library book or an Internet art site. Tell the name of the artist and of the picture. Have everyone look at the picture until they can close their eyes and see it clearly and in detail in their minds. When everyone is ready, cover the picture and have everyone narrate, or describe, it. Encourage them to give as many details as they can. After everyone has had an opportunity to add to the description, display the picture again. Next week, select a different picture by the same artist and repeat the process. Stay on the same artist for about six weeks. At the end of the six weeks you should all have a pretty good feel for that artist’s style. Then choose a different artist for the next six weeks. Here are some of the artists we’ve enjoyed over the years.

Music Study

Music Study is very similar to Picture Study. Choose one composer and listen to his works for about six weeks. You can play his music in the background at lunch, in the van while running errands, at night when the children are going to bed, or whenever it fits best in your schedule. Simply say something like, “Let’s listen to Bach” and start the CD. Here are some suggestions for composers. If you can find a good living biography of the composer (or artist, for Picture Study), read it together, and have the children narrate it, during the six weeks you are focused on him. You can find some suggestions for living biographies in our CM Bookfinder.


As with Picture Study and Music Study, Charlotte Mason’s focus for Poetry was not on criticism but on appreciation. The easiest way to add poetry into your CM Education is to read aloud a poem each week. Don’t worry about analyzing it, critiquing it, or looking for that elusive symbolism. Just enjoy the words and ideas together. If you would like, you can focus on one poet for six weeks and read only his or her works. Here are some of our favorite poets. Or just get an anthology and have fun hearing the variety of styles. As you get comfortable, you can read poetry more days each week. Charlotte’s schools read poetry every day. But start with once a week to get the habit started.

Nature Study and Notebook

One half-day each week go outside and enjoy nature. Give each person a blank sketchbook in which to record observations or drawings of their outdoor discoveries. Nature Study lays the foundation for future science learning, plus it provides a refreshing break mentally and physically. For all the details about Nature Study, take a look at Hours in the Out-of-Doors.

Book of Centuries

A Book of Centuries is a timeline in a book. It’s great for making mental connections between people and events that occurred during the same time period. The easy part is that you can enter whatever you want into your Book of Centuries. The hard part is remembering to make those entries. So set aside one day a week in your schedule to get caught up on your Book of Centuries if you need to. Fridays work well for this little review. You can download a free Book of Centuries on our Web site.

Dictation for Spelling

Instead of teaching spelling in lists of words, Charlotte used interesting passages from living books. And she didn’t start these spelling lessons until the child was 9 or 10 years old. Here’s how it works. Give the child the passage and help him identify any words that he is not certain he knows how to spell. Those are the words to be studied. When he has studied and learned them, and has looked at the capitalization and punctuation of the passage, dictate the passage to him a short phrase at a time while he writes it. You can do this prepared dictation with passages from any good living book. If you would like to have the selections already chosen and compiled for you, check out the Spelling Wisdom series.

Remember, in Stage 2 select one activity to incorporate first and schedule it for once a week. We like to spread these once-a-week activities throughout the week. For example, you could do Picture Study on Mondays, Music Study on Tuesdays, Poetry on Wednesdays, Nature Study on Thursdays, Book of Centuries on Fridays. Dictation can be done once or twice a week, so you might want to add it to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Of course, you know your schedule better than we do, so tuck Dictation in where it works best for you.