I compiled this little guide to teaching reading the Charlotte Mason way using Mason's work herself, plus suggestions I pulled from Ambleside and SCM, because I am interested in Charlotte Mason's methods and I am interested in schooling, as much as possible, AS the teacher, and not as the FACILITATOR. It also helps that this costs... nothing.
What I love about Charlotte's Methods is that she has the same goals as I do in the education of my child, and that she provides for me the methods to teach them myself. Since I've never taught anyone to read, I lack confidence in myself to do it. But since I love reading myself, and I know my child better than anyone else, I am convinced that I am my child's best teacher. What remains is for me to learn the tools necessary to teach her reading-- which, unlike an art or a science is an act as natural as learning to run or talk.
There are lots of programs out there we can buy to teach a child to read. Books abound. Series and sets. Homeschooling kits. But really, all you need is Charlotte's method, a set of index cards and markers, and later, a printout of the phonics rules which you can find online if you don't know them.
Don't waste your money.
In our family, we are doing Petty School reading from the CLAA because we want our kids to learn to read Latin alongside French and English from the start. But if that is not your goal, this method suffices to give your child the strong start in reading s/he needs in whatever language you choose. I am using this method alongside their work in the CLAA Petty School because my children aren't connecting to their CLAA lessons since they are very long and my children are very young. For CLAAers who are curious how we are doing it, I am cutting the lessons in half and then doing memory work for about 20 minutes with them. Then we have a big huge nature study or some sort of physical work that distracts them completely, and THEN we do some reading practice using CM methods. (moving the cards around on the floor, building vocabulary)
If you're wondering if it works, my five year old literally asks if she can write/read with me at every opportunity. In the mornings, she refuses to watch bible shows with the kids and instead asks for reading time with me. It's working-- and it truly is delightful.
I am quite sure that the CLAA would disapprove of my "improving" on their methods using CM. However,as a parent, I can tell you this: If I tell my three year old son to make his bed, he will do it, but he won't like it and may grumble under his breath.
If I tell my son to come to me, I put his construction uniform and hat on, give him a tool belt, and tell him: "Son, I've got some work for you. I need you to make your bed." he will not only make his bed, but execute it with glee, pay close attention to his work, and proudly come and ask me for more work when he is done.
There is great wisdom in speaking the child's language, I'm discovering. Neither method encourages SILLINESS, which I believe is an early demonstration of the foolishness inherent in human nature. Both encourage serious work. However, one gives the child the sensation of a heavy burden, the other gives him joy. To me, it trains him either way, but one respects his PERSONHOOD... his human dignity.... and his station and place in life.
I find that Charlotte's insistence on being patient and persistently whetting the child's appetite for learning but not overloading him/her is brilliant in application. So are her ideas about short lessons and attention. Most importantly, I found that her focus in the early years on habits and time spent out of doors and useful play are critical to the success of the child in his studies.
My kids LOVE school... and that's because I alternate "drill and kill" memory work with these wonderful, playful methods which feed their interest and curiosity and character. The first word my daughter SPOKE was "Bible" because it was a word she heard and used. The first word my son spoke was "danger." Again, a word he heard and used. The first word my daughter read and wrote perfectly was "OCEAN." She was interested in the ocean, seahorses in particular, and couldn't wait to read and write it. Now she finds PLEASURE in reading and writing, and not just DUTY, and that is critical to us because we want our children to be enthusiastic in their studies.
Remember that in order to teach a child to read, you must read and speak to your child in the early years as much as possible. You must also train them in good habits, which will help them with things like obedience and attention, necessary for the steps to reading.
Both the CLAA and Charlotte Mason will insist on this : slow and steady wins the race. Take your time, don't pressure the little ones, and enjoy it together. Demand MASTERY before moving on to the next step. And be diligent to practice a little bit each day.
You can download my little guide for free here and get started. At the end, I've placed the poem The Violet as a suggested poem for beginning readers at the end all ready to cut up and use. Happy teaching!