Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Curriculum Review: Laying Down the Rails

One of the curriculum websites that I browse regularly is Simply Charlotte Mason. While we pull ideas from many different homeschooling methods, Charlotte Mason style homeschooling is one that I draw heavily from, and Simply Charlotte Mason is a wonderful resource! In addition to selling many products that are on my wish list, there is a wealth of information in their articles and free downloads as well.

This spring, I attended a homeschool convention, and one of my favorite seminars was one entitled Laying Down the Rails by Sonya Shafer from Simply Charlotte Mason.  After listening to this inspiring seminar, I desperately wanted to get her books Laying down the Rails and Laying Down the Rails for Children. The physical books were on sale at the convention, and I looked at them, but because these are books that I know I'll use over several YEARS and reference often, I decided that, the ebooks would be a better choice for me. That way I can have them with me, on my laptop, when I travel. So I contacted Simply Charlotte Mason and asked for the opportunity to review these ebooks!

I received the books the day of my husband's surgery, and had plenty of time, while sitting around the hospital that first week, to look them over, however, it wasn't until a couple weeks later, once we were all back home, that I could introduce the ideas to my children.

If you haven't heard of Charlotte Mason, I'd recommend reading about who Charlotte Mason is and what the Charlotte Mason Method of homeschooling entails.

One thing that Charlotte Mason advocated was instilling good habits in children (and ourselves), to help make our days go more smoothly. Laying Down the Rails explains what Charlotte Mason recommended about how to build good habits. It gives practical ideas, with quotes from Charlotte Mason and additional explanations as needed, for step-by-step implementation of new habits in your home. Laying Down the Rails proceeds to list over 50 specific habits that Charlotte Mason recommended, with quotes from her about why each habit is important, and tips for implementing it.

While Laying Down the Rails alone is an awesome resource, to make this practical, at least for me, it is essential to pair it with the 2 book set Laying Down the Rails for Children. These books take those same habits listed in Laying Down the Rails, and provide the parent with a "worksheet" to brainstorm ideas for teaching that habit, followed by several specific, short "lessons" to help you in teaching these habits to your children. There are suggested activities, as well as short stories and poems, all organized to reinforce and further teach about the habit while it is your focus.

One thing that Sonya emphasized in her seminar, and also in her books, is the importance of choosing ONE behavior that you want to see changed, and focus on building a good habit around that ONE behavior until it has become automatic. Since Orderliness is something that is a challenge, not only for my children, but for myself as well, I thought that would be a good one to focus on this summer when we'd all be home most of the time.

So I sat down with my 3 girls and we talked about WHY orderliness is important and some specific changes that we needed to make with regard to keeping their room clean. The first step was to get their room straightened up and organized. Part of that was deciding which toys and projects are things they are currently using, and find places for those things. Things that aren't currently being used, can be stored in the attic. I was pleasantly surprised at how willing Little Bit, age 5, was to pack away many of her toys. Instead of keeping out ALL her dolls and doll clothes, she chose a couple favorite dolls and, with Ashlyn's help, chose out the doll clothes and accessories that will work best with those dolls. The rest we packed away, with the assurance that, in a couple months, if she wants, she can trade the dolls out and have some others out instead.

Meanwhile, Lexie got busy organizing things in their sewing corner, that has been a disaster ever since I "stole" their table to use when we had lots of company for their birthdays, somehow with the table gone, things just got dumped in that corner and it was a MESS. But I was proud of how diligently Lexie worked to get things cleaned up and sorted out. And she's excited to get the table set back up so that they can start sewing again.

Once we had things semi-under control (it took more than a day to get to be such a mess and it took us several sessions to get it back under control, we started working on KEEPING it that way.

As a part of our morning Bible time, I read the related poems and stories and we talked about the further suggestions. It helped the girls to realize there IS a reason to keep their room orderly, besides the fact that it makes Mommy grumpy when they don't. And slowly but surely we are getting things under control.

The sewing corner!
I have to admit, I haven't been as consistent about this as I would have liked, but we're still making progress. More important than the cleaner bedroom, and picking up their random clutter downstairs each evening, I LOVE that this book will continue to help us (all of us, not just the kids) build LOTS of good habits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives! Some of the habits that are on my list to work on over the next several months include:
Respect for Others
Personal Initiative
Sweet Even Temper

On the other hand, I had to giggle at the idea of teaching my kids the habit of "Imagining", I *might* need to teach them to STOP imagining sometimes . . . I think the dishes would get done alot faster if all 3 girls weren't busy spinning some elaborate story while they "work", but . . . they're having fun, so perhaps we'll just work on working WHILE imagining, hee hee .  . .

I think all parents struggle to know how to instill good habits in their children, and these books are an amazing resource to help with that! I encourage you to check them out!

In closing, I had to share this.  As a part of cleaning and organizing the girls' room, I had Little Bit help me go through a big basket of mismatched socks and help me match them up. Then I left her to put hers in her drawer while I moved on to other things. Awhile later, she came to find me, all proud that not only had she put her socks away, but she had, with some help from Lexie, organized her socks/underwear/pajama drawer. When she saw me taking a picture of the sewing corner, she begged me to take a picture of her drawer too, so . . .

Laying Down the Rails is available for $24.95 for a physical book or $16.95 for an ebook.
Laying Down the Rails for Children is available for $45.95 for a physical book or $39.95 for an ebook. They are also available bundled, for additional savings.

Both products have samples available on their product pages, check them out!

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