Tag Archives: Charlotte Mason

Videos to remind us what Charlotte Mason was on about.

It’s easy in the hustle and bustle of home education to loose sight of the foundational philosophy of our family and the method that I believe best helps my children learn.

These videos from  International are a wonderful reminder tool for people like me. There are 18 short videos that cover all the basics – actually I think it’s more like 21 – about how children learn and how we as parents and teachers can help them do that.

They have a school by the looks of it that breathes the atmosphere of education as Charlotte Mason would have it.

Even though we are heading more down the workbook route, I think there is a Charlotte Mason edge to the Seton material. But these videos remind me of the side of a good education that isn’t about books, or workbooks, but about learning self discipline, kindness and how to learn.

Home Education habit training – listening.

Ah it’s lovely to go back to a bit of Charlotte Mason approach. Today we had another family join us and we spent some time making lapbooks about Australian animals, particularly the platypus (proof it seems to me that God has a silly sense of humour). I have 30 days free trial for Sylvan Dell Publishing so we used the story Kersplatypus with the teachers and creative minds pdf resources to make the lapbooks. (I’ll do a proper review of Sylvan Dell soon).

We have an inflatable globe and the children found Australia and the equator and tropics. We discussed the seasons there compared to here and then we got out some of the Ozzie animals Heleyna got for Christmas which included a platypus and a wallaby but no Kangaroo. The lack thereof prompted her to ask me the other day whether kangaroos actually exist. You see she told me “I go and look for nature most days and I never see one.” I explained that they live in Australia and while there are wallabies at the local nature centre there are no kangaroos. She then asked if we could go to Australia that day to see some real kangaroos. She’s 4 – geography and scale are not yet her fortè.

The children had a great time and learned something (I hope). They all sat around while I read the story with the computer attached to the TV so they could all see the lovely illustrations and follow along as I read.

Making the lapbooks needed some instruction so the children had to listen to what they were told either by me or one of the others who had already done part of the book.

As Avila had practiced her keyboard skills with the others gathered around her “Listening” became a bit of a theme for the day.

J came up with the idea that we help teach the habit of listening in the children by having a little talent show where each child does something they are good at, such as Roni’s little magic show.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

I remember watching an episode of the Duggars (some number and counting) in which Michelle Duggar had the older children playing their instruments and she made the younger ones sit quietly and listen. This is a great habit training approach in which the younger children are taught to sit still and listen to someone else for a while and to have respect for their siblings and other people. The emphasis on read alouds in Charlotte Mason is also a great way to teach children to listen.  Apart from the books I read them there are a great number of audio stories free online.

There’s quite a lot of the “old fashioned” homeschool books out there in which teaching children manners is part of the health side of the curriculum. Miss Mason believed that training in good habits was the foundation of a good education. A child who cannot sit still, watch and listen isn’t going to learn very much.

I have spoken to more than one school teacher who tell me they do not believe in the dx of Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, or just ADD – or if they grudgingly accept it might exist, insist it is far far rarer than they are being led to believe. Children are simply never taught any manners. They are not around adults enough to learn to sit and listen. Few have a bedtime story or sit at a table with their parents for meals and most have been institutionalised from a very early age.

Human nature is of course fallen- a bit like a shopping trolley it wants to steer off in the wrong direction and needs someone to help steer it straight. The role, right and duty of parents is to steer the child straight until they can do it themselves. We mustn’t lose sight of how human nature works.

Home education as pro-creation.

As I read through Charlotte Mason’s lectures, I am a little saddened that her bright optimism over natural law and it’s effect on human nature back in 1895 is replaced by a more somber and less effusive view by the time she has finished her writings around the 1920s, as Britain never recovers from the First World War.

She speaks with admirable charity of how all families, whether Christ centred or agnostic can (and at this point in her writing she believes will) conform their consciences and habits with natural law. I wonder if, at this point, she has natural law a little confused by the laws of nature and therefore forms the opinion that it is a law of nature that human families will grow in good sense and love.

By the time she is writing Ourselves (pub 1904) she has already moved somewhat from this position. Ourselves is a book that is very obviously inspired by St Teresa of Avila’s writings on the mansions of the Interior Castle. This gives a more robust and realistic view of the hard work entailed in forming a good person.

In the lectures, Miss Mason talks of the Christocentric family in some fascinating ways, beginning with an exegesis on Christ’s words in Scripture about children and how they should be loved. She then makes a very important warning:

Now, believing parents have no right to lay up this crucial difficulty in their children. They have no right, for instance to pray that their children may be truthful, diligent, upright, and at the same time neglect to acquaint themselves with those principles of moral science, the observance of which will guide into truthfulness, diligence and uprightness of character.

In other words, God isn’t there to bring our children up for us; we are endowed with the authority to do that work WITH Him – that is we pro-create our children where pro means jointly.

I think it is fair to say (I can’t be the only one to have seen this) that while there are some parents who have no faith who believe that their children are naturally good and will simply grow up if left to their own devices; so there are Christian parents who think they need not form their children’s habits as it’s up to God to make them good. This seems to me to be why some apparently very holy people have such horribly behaved children.

I suspect things are more difficult for parents now than when Miss Mason spoke to those mothers in Bradford, for a number of reasons. From the Christology point of view, Jesus has been made into a cuddly, softie who would never dream of making a whip and throwing people out of the temple. He isn’t going to discipline or punish us – so we, copy that and refuse to discipline our children.

I am too old and too grumpy these days to care what other people think, so I am quite happy to put my children on the naughty step or make them minutely study the front door if they need to – regardless of who is around. I do remember feeling very embarassed and horrible the first couple of times I decided to go ahead with this. But what I have found is that other mothers are more willing to do the same.

As one mum said to her friend over having to put her son by my front door one day. “Oh no, I wasn’t embarrassed; it was Shell’s house.” LOL

I have become relaxed at removing privileges as well; no chocolate snacks or fun toys to play with – or whatever privilege has been removed.  I know that I am not always consistant and sometimes tend to shout rather than do but, you see, that is where God comes in. He makes up for my lack, but I don’t expect Him to do it all while I sit back and chill.

One day I am going to have to answer to Him for how I did my mothering (and wifeing), and while Dr Ray advices “Don’t take credit when they are good, then you wont take the blame when they are bad” – which has truth to it, I know that however they turn out, I have to try and form them and their consciences to give them the best chance of turning out right.

Of course this side of education has no tick box, but I have come across some American Christian curriculum that includes forming manners, kindness, honesty and diligence in the children. 

 If we love them we will form them or else those who don’t love them will do it in a far more painful way.

Charlotte Mason says…

Charlotte Mason went to Bradford to give some lectures.  I am reading those lectures. I have to say, so far, there is hardly a wasted word. She makes a statement that many HE parents have made that there can not be a one size fits all approach to education.

In hardly two households would the same plans be practicable; but every mother may stike out a course for herself, including what seems to her “the best” as her circumstances admit of: “What else am I for?” said a wise mother with reference to her duties in the education of her children.

She also has something to say about the business of handing children over to strangers for care and education. (This is something John Taylor Gatto speaks against too)

[You] must see the folly and wickedness of leaving children to the care of ignorant servants and vulgar companions at a period when impressions are most indeliable – a period when as we know, the germs of the future character are inherited.

So much of what she said and wrote (and Maria Montessori) is echoed by Gatto and others who point at the shockingly awful results of institutionalised child care and education. How slow we are to listen.

Are we drifting away from Miss Mason? That Narration Thing.

arration is at the heart of a good Charlotte Mason approach to learning.  By the time a child has reached the age of 7 and is ready for school (in the gentle world of PNEU) he should be getting fairly adept at narration having heard the poem or passage only once. You see, this skill is rooted in Miss Mason’s discipline of habits – the habit of listening.

It occurred to me today as I packed away all the worksheets and workbooks, that we are drifting away from the living books approach and heading down the “it looks more like learning” approach of, dare I say, “school at home.” I am unconvinced that piles of completed worksheets are any indicator that the children are learning.

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Charlotte Mason Carnival

 Hedgehog   The Charlotte Mason Carnival is being hosted at JIMMIE’s COLLAGE. Go take a look at the great posts he has linked.Butterfly 3Squirrel

Nature Study; Charlotte Mason style.

DSCF5715Charlotte Mason was a great believer in getting children outside and exploring their surroundings.  I have to admit Nature Study is something I find a bit challenging. I walked it down to the park with the children yesterday and they had a great time; but ye gods I am paying for it now. Taking the wheelchair is so awkward though.

Anyway the park has plenty to look at; beech, copper beech, oak, sycamore, rhododendron and loads of othr stuff. There is a pond at one end of the park which needs some serious tlc but even so we saw some lavae of some sort and water boatmen.

DSCF5716Then there was time for hide and seek and a whole lot of rolling down a bank.

And to think so many people think home ed kids don’t do PE 🙂

The RSPB website is great for looking at local birds and listening to how they sound. Then the children can try and listen out for birdsong in the area even when the birds aren’t in sight.

We are using an old copy of The observer’s Book of Birds and The Mitchell Beazley pocket guide to Trees by Keith Rushford, as well as Nature Detective Handbook with Ray Meers.

Essentially what I am aiming at with these walks and play times outside is for the children to get to know the things that live and grow in the neighbourhood. We are lucky to live somewhere that despite being ‘city’ has a lot of green spaces.

Sparklebox has a good few resources for minibeast study.

Children are persons

The philosophical foundation of a Charlotte Mason education is that “children are persons”.  She seems to have understood this personhood of the child in the sense of them being one substance, fully human and neither good nor bad from the beginning. By the time Miss Mason was writing her six volumes there had already been philosophical attacks on the nature of the person from philosophers such as Descartes (d.1650) and Locke (d.1704) who defined (and thereby restricted) personhood to those behaving in a rational way and autonomously. These views along with Neitzsche who had died in 1900 left the personhood of all vulnerable people up for grabs.

Charlotte was holistic in her approach. Children are fully human, fully persons in their own right, made in the image of God with an inherent dignity. This flies in the face of the elitist moderns who were busy seperating out human from person so that Margaret Sanger and Marie Stopes could try and decide who should live and who should be sterilised and treated worse than farm animals.

But that was then and surely having seen two world wars and the utter devestation left by socialistic governments we have learned our lessons?

Apparently not.

What exactly IS the philosphical foundation of the school system we have today? It doesn’t appear to be that children are persons.  There does seem to be a view that children are blank slates ready to be filled with whatever propagan…information the Government sees fit. They are to be shaped and adjusted so that they can attain targets and be ready for the workplace.

And that seems to be it.

The word “individual” gets banded around a lot but children are individual what? Persons? Cogs for the machine?

Crosby (see end links) writes that personhood and freedom are inseparable and he recognises that those who are out to restrict freedoms tend not to refer to people as persons.

If we as parents want to hold on to our rights and freedoms and protect our children from the ever growing tentacles of Government interference in our family lives and how our children learn; then take back the language.

We are persons with freedom and dignity not individuals to be moulded and shaped to fit the economic machine. Tick box education does nothing to recognise the dignity of the person whether a child or the teacher.

I am afraid I think too many parents fall into the view that their children are only to be judged as ‘good’ if they fulfil the shaping of school. How many parents do you meet who are proud of their children for ANY OTHER REASON than what they have achieved at school?

“John is so good. He got 4 A levels you know.”

“This is Beccy she is doing 12 GCSEs this year. Isn’t she great?”

I hate this. How can children grow up recognising their own inherent dignity when they are seen only through the eyes of academic achievement? No wonder so many kids cheat! Honesty is valued in a person; not a machine cog.

I don’t value my children by what exams they might or have sat. I value them as persons.


Diane Irving on the scientific and philosphical arguments of personhood.

Human Personhood Begins At Conception. Peter Kreeft

Human Freedon. John F Crosby

Charlotte Mason and some sidebar updates

inmemoriamAntiona was asking about books to read on Charlotte Mason.

To be honest I haven’t read that many. I have bought Karen Andreola’s Charlotte Mason Companion which is a good dippy into book with lovely illustrations that although a bit twee and cutesy Edwardian I rather like.

I also invested in the six book Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason herself. These books are not easy reading but they are well worth the effort. Charlotte was Anglican but she had a great love of St Teresa of Avila and that really shines through in Vol 4 Ourselves. If you have ever read St Teresa’s The Interior Castle you’ll see the influence in Charlotte’s writing.

You can read the series free online via the AMBLESIDE website.

Ambleside Online is a huge treasure trove of Charlotte Mason goodies. There are articles from the original PNEU magazines and there is a well thought out curriculum. It is American and so follows their school years so watch out for a bit of confusion.

One of the joys of a Charlotte Mason approach is that no curriculum is rigid. I look at the Ambulside one for ideas but we don’t follow it completely. It’s a dip and take what is best for your child thing.

Simply Charlotte Mason is another good site for resources especially for those just staring out.

Charlotte may seem an odd sort of person to have as a model for home education. She was single, had no children of her own and was a teacher. But she truly loved children and understood families very well; it shines through in her writing.

There is  Charlotte Mason Education: a how to manual by Catherine Levison which I have to admit I have never read.

The foundation of Charlotte’s philosophy of education is that CHILDREN ARE PERSONs. This is something sadly lacking in todays educational philosophies.

Parents begin not with the three Rs or anything that looks educational but rather with habits; the discipline of habits. A child isn’t going to learn much if he doesn’t know how to learn; how to listen, how to see and he needs the freedom to explore his world.

She firmly believed that children should be with their parents-mothers in particular until they were at least 7. She was horrified by the growing trend to put children into schools at an earlier and earlier age. She pointed out that even that Lu..what’s-his-name of the Spartans didn’t take children until they were 7.

It might be worth noting here that the Spartan system of taking children at the age of 7 and forcing them into education and training aimed at making them fit for purpose for the nation failed. Spartans may be remembered but they no longer exist.

 Flowers & Butterfly 

Some sidebar additions have been made:

Engineering Interact. It says it is aimed at KS2 9-11yr olds but Ronan and Avila like it and have not found it too difficult.

Signed Stories     I think I might have mentioned this site before. Do have a look at it. There are stories for children to listen to and read and learn a little BSL as they go.

Northumberland Resources is a great place to find things.

The Artists Toolkit looks good but we haven’t had a good look at it yet.

The Virtual Orchestra is marvellous. The children have had a good look at each instrument and get to listen to what it sounds like.

Tales of Europe looks good as does Myths and Legends which I found via Carlotta’s Dare to Know blog.


Charlotte Mason; The Tyranny of Exams

I’m nearly at the end of “Parents and Children” Volume 2 of the Charlotte Mason homeschooling series.

As I was reading her views on the “tyranny of competitive examination supported by parents.” ~I also happened to be listening to Dr Ray talking about a controversial (and to my mind daft) scheme to pay students for grades. Following that my friend, a teacher in a secondary school came over for dinner and talked about the huge problems the exam system is causing to her students.

Charlotte saw quite clearly that exams did not help, but rather hindered learning. Students would simply be taught to pass the exams. What I call ‘jumping through hoops’. That is they perform and are given a grade on that narrow performance-but it matters not at all whether the student has learned anything.

Parents tend to support the system because they get something for their own egos from it. Tommy gets an ‘A’ and daddy can show off. Charlotte is unimpressed with this.

Meanwhile on Dr Ray’s programme teachers and a librarian phoned in to explain how the system encourages cheating. Students who work very hard and overcome great obstacles to get their ‘D’ are passed over in favour of students who cheat and have their parents do half the work for them so they get their ‘A’.

The librarian who called Dr Ray pointed out that the kids were not even there while their parents were doing the coursework FOR THEM.

Charlotte wrote:

We absolutely must get rid of the competitive examination system if we would not be reduced to the appalling mediocrity which we see, in China, for example, to have befallen an examination-ridden empire.

Meanwhile my teacher friend explained how the head of her school simply wants the children to be taught how to pass the exams-even if this means utterly limiting what they get to learn. League tables and status are at stake. Get rid of literature because it takes time away from jumping through hoops.

Surely it’s time to let children LEARN. Charlotte realised that discipline and habits helped to form a person so that they wanted to learn and could learn. She realised that learning was about becoming the best person one could be-nothing whatsoever to do with passing exams or getting some kind of status.

Method rather than system

I’ve tried to fit personal reading time into the day so that I don’t lose sight of what I am doing. I’ve gone back to the Charlotte Mason books and I’m reading ‘Parent’s and Children’ which is Vol 2 of her Original Homeschooling Series. 

You can read the entire series online HERE at AMBULSIDE ONLINE.

In this book Charlotte talks about how she sees education as a ‘method’ rather than a ‘system’ and she shows how they are quite different and how important that difference is to how children learn. She wrote:

We have a methodof education, it is true but method is no more than a way to an end, and is free, yielding, adaptive as nature herself. Method has a few comprehensive laws according to which details shape themselves, as one naturally shapes one’s behaviour to the acknowledged law that fire burns. System, on the contrary, has an infinity of rules and instructions as to what you are to do and how you are to do it. Method in education follows Nature humbly; stands aside and gives her fair play.

She writes this under her chapter on ‘Discipline’ because her method is an holistic one. The children grow within what Charlotte refers to as an “Atmosphere” where they are loved, and trained in good habits in a way that, as G.K Chesterton observed “Grace builds on nature”.

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Narration and a rabbit trial: Iona

n238380.jpgNarration is at the core of Charlotte Mason’s approach to education. The child reads and is able to talk about what he has read. When working with a child who is as dyslexic as my daughter narration shows they have read and understood what is said. Sometimes, this can prove difficult.

However this morning Iona, having spent some time reading on her own came to tell me all about the book she is reading. For her birthday I bought her ‘Airman’ by Eion Colfer-at her request. She has decided to put Poldark aside to read this and then go back to the Poldark books to which I have added ‘Bella’ the last of the series which Graham wrote not long before he died.

Iona explained the story and how she saw similarities between it and the ‘Count of Monte Christo’. She talked about the history in the book and the boy Conor’s understanding of flight. She explained about his friendship with princess Isabella and how there is a plot against her father. Although she could see the historical research that had gone into the book it was difficult to place it properly-so Iona went off to the computer and began to look things up! Now that is a homeschool moment!

She discovered that the Saltees had been a place for pirates at one time-something she has studied in depth and that they did indeed have a ‘prince’. A man called Michael O’Neil had bought the big island in 1943 and had himself crowned ‘prince of the Saltees’. Don’t think it went down too well with the locals.

Colfer mentions that the Saltees had been handed over the ‘royal family’ by Henry II of England and it is indeed true that Henry handed the county of Wexford to Strongbow in 1147.

You can read a review of the book HERE which also picks up on the Monte Christo aspects-but I think this is Colfer playing on the history of Wexford and the Saltees and the name of Hervey de Montemorency.

I feel this was a Charlotte moment as Iona went off on a little rabbit trail looking for the background to her book.

Ronan’s first skills

Ronan is 4yrs old; he’ll be 5 in Feb. Charlotte Mason would not have considered him ready for formal education until he is at least 6 or 7. Her view is that of most European countries and in the USA where children are not legally obliged to attend school until aged 6. Interestingly while here in the UK we send our children to school aged 4 literacy levels are dropping. A recent report says the UK has slid down the global literacy list. SEE HERE for BBC report.

I am taking Miss Mason’s advice and taking care of the foundational skills he needs for learning before embarking on a formal timetable.  He is learning a lot about self care, and can dress himself, use a knife and fork, clean his teeth, get his own breakfast with supervision and is learning to tidy up after himself. This might not seem like ‘education’ or ‘school’ but these skills are needed if he is going to lead an independent life.

So many children do not have these skills-and I have seen this first hand when I worked in a primary school- that the schools are having to implement lessons in how to sit at a table and use a knife and fork. We spent a lot of time before and after PE having to help children as old as 5 dress themselves.

Next on my list of foundational skills is the all important habit of attention or listening. We are building this habit through story time and instructions for cooking. It is part of his learning road safety and lessons in groups.

I am also working on the all important narrationwhich I think is a corner stone of the CM approach. Ronan can tell some basic stories in his own words such as the Gingerbread Man. But just as importantly he is beginning to be able to tell his day to his dad as we sit for our evening meal.  The family meal was another of the important things in a child’s life that Charlotte Mason wrote about.

Children are persons – not hot-house plants.

Charlotte warned that children should not be treated as hot-house plants forced to grow in an unnatural environment “The world suffered that morning when the happy name of ‘kindergarten’ suggested itself to the greatest among educational ‘Fathers'” she wrote (Home Education p189). She has not been the only warning voice against the early forced education of little ones. Over the years more and more experienced educators have spoken out against this including Holt and Gatto of course.

The UK Govt however lacking any form of common sense and being swamped in their own twaddle have decided that the way to tackle the appallingly low standard of literacy in this country is to ignore the research and force 3 and 4 year olds to learn to read.

My fellow homeschooler and friend Amanda has sent me this link to a BBC report that repeats, through the research Dr Lilian Katz what most of us who homeschool have been saying for some time. It is a mistake to try and force little children to read. Dr Katz points out that Scandinavian children do not attend school until the ages of 6 or 7 and they have no literacy problems like we do here in the UK.

Years and years of research backs up the view that children need time to grow and speak and form their habits (as Charlotte would say) before formal classroom education is required. It is important for a child to want to read-putting them off is hardly a good idea.

Unfortunately in the UK twaddle reigns supreme.

Another good reason to homeschool.

homeschool group

Having spent the last two days making bean-tin cakes and icing them we were ready for homeschool group today.

When I offered this session I thought I would be driving-but no, that’s too easy. So, after much thought in my tired brain we organised a taxi. I told the children to stay in the living room with Heleyna while Iona and I carried out the box of cakes, the playbag, activity bag, flask and crutches. Ronan was in charge of my handbag and Avila had her own handbag full of tissues (her special job). I went back for them and they got into the car and off we went.

We unloaded in much the same way-Ronan and Avila had a bag each, I had Heleyna and crutches and the taxi driver kindly helped Iona with the rest- just as Nicki arrived with the keys to the hall.

I do believe this was what I will call a Charlotte Moment – when everything came together well.

The cake session went very well. I explained that each gift cake was a gift and the children could decorate them for another person. I had expected it to be about one cake between two so each family would get two or so cakes to take home and hand out. As it happened only 16 children were there today and we had made 16 cakes! Iona had also made gingerbread men, and Shariska had made fairy cakes. I demonstrated the easy way to make a rose out of icing and then we left the children to it.

I had to laugh when one of the boys was desperately trying to find a way to keep his cake. His first cunning plan was to decorate his gingerbread man and give that away-keeping the cake. But he correctly sussed that his mum would not approve. So quickly he came up with another plan. He came over to his mum and suggested that he could give his (by now beautifully decorated) cake to another person at homeschool group who would kindly give it back!

Mum said he could give it to someone NOT at homeschool group today (his sister perhaps) and maybe she would share it with him. He went away thoughtful, and I wonder if there was another plan brewing for that cake.

We cleared up and Shazia gave a session on how to make a sandwich. This is a very useful skill for the children to learn. Ronan can almost do it now, but Avila still needs help. Nicki told me of a mum she knows with 5 or 6 children who all down to the little ones make their own sandwich and pack a little lunchbox each to go out with. They are very efficient. I think that’s a lovely idea and I might let my little ones do something like that for winter picnics under the table. If it works well I think I would have another Charlotte Moment to claim Smile 

With Iona’s help the children played a Geography version of hot potato. They had an inflatable globe and when it was stopped the child in possession had to find a country. Great fun. Earth 

More Sign Songs this afternoon. I think we should do a concert at Christmas…

Scouts tonight and a quiet 10mins as Heleyna is (shh) … asleep ZZZZ


dot.jpg We went to visit Dot this afternoon. She has been a great friend to us for 20yrs or so now, and is greatly loved. The children told her what they had been doing and Avila sang her a song. She ran a shop for many years, and was very pleased to know that Alex had the job he very much wanted at the Deli in our road. He will learn a lot there about running a small business.

Today she seemed quite frail. It is really the first time I have seen her not so well. Of course this in no way changed the way she was. Dot lives to the utmost. She can not leave the house very much these days-but she has the ability to be loving and living in all her circumstances.

The morning was filled with the usual homeschool activity. Avila went to nursery and Josh collected her at the end of the session. Alex left the house just after 10am to catch his train to Bristol for the second paper of the IGCSE English. He is back now and says he was pleased with the way it went. He actually got the W H Auden question we hoped might come up!

Iona has been doing Maths, story writing and some history this morning.

Ronan has done some more letter work or ‘penmenship’ as Miss Mason calls it. She says that a child should be taught the habit of perfect execution and not be allowed to produce shoddy work. She speaks of French and German schools in which children handed in perfectly executed slates of work.

In fact her mention of slates has given me an idea. I will buy Roni and Avila a small whiteboard and pens each for practice work. This will save paper and space!