Sunday, February 19, 2006

Charlotte Mason for Children with Special Needs

I have had to quit using many of the recommended books for the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. I know Charlotte Mason diehards say that even children with special learning needs can read the recommended books or have them read to them but I am here to say that it's not so in every case.

My daughter is nine and would be in the 4th grade at the public school. She has a sensory integration disorder that prevents her from processing information like other children her age. I started her in Level 3 at Ambleside, an online resource for homeschoolers wanting suggestions for scheduling a CM year. After two weeks of Level 3 I now have to drop her to Level 1 on some things and on other things we are switching books altogether.

Here is why:

My daughter cannot comprehend stories with more than two or three characters. Imagine now the trouble she has when all the characters have funny names and the sentence structure is so different she cant recognize the story at all. This means she cannot narrate or understand a word that is being read. I knew I had to come up with something different when we began reading Heroes by Kingsly. You have to read this sentence outloud to hear how it might sound to a child with an auditory processing disorder. Here's a line from that book; "Their names were Acrisius and Proetus and they lived in the pleasant vale of Argos, far away in Hellas." Do you hear all the strange s's? And there's still another problem. By the time Tink gets to to the word Hellas she has no idea of its a person, place or a thing because in that one sentence there are too many proper nouns.

Now look at this line from Secrets of The Woods. "Several times, however, when casting from the shore at the inlet for small fish, I had seen swirls in a great eddy near the farthest shore, which told me plainly of big fish beneath; and one day when a huge trout rolled half his length out of water behind my fly, small fry lost all their interest and I promised myself the joy of feeling my rod bend and tingle beneath the rush of that big trout if it took all summer." Yes that's all one sentence and by the time I was done Tink had no idea what the sentence was all about.

And here's a sentence from The Discovery of New Worlds by M.B. Synge. "And the crews worked with fresh vigor when they saw such pluck and perseverance, until after some days they again made land, the seas grew calmer, the winds hushed ,and they all knew that the Cape had been doubled at last". This book is used in Level 2 with Charlotte Mason and Tink is in 4th grade but that sentence made no sense to her at all.

Intervention was in order and it had to be made quickly before Tink rebelled at any reading. She crys at the sight of books anyway. So in keeping with Charlotte Masons theme I supplemented her books for easier ones. Here is what I am now doing for Tink. Bear in mind we are still using CM we just switched to books written in modern day English and books that were all around easier to understand.

I write this in hopes that anybody who has a child with a learning difference will find this helpful. Hopefully I will have saved you hours of research on your own.

Science: Instead of Story of Inventions, which I cant find a picture of, I have supplemented:

Natural History

Instead of the recommendations for Level 3, Secrets of the Woods, I use Level 1, The Burgess Animal Book:

World History:

Instead of:

I use these two books:

Instead of the History Tales and Legends in this book:
I use this:

Instead of this recommended book:

I have now switched to this: For Literature we are still reading The Princess and the Goblin and the kids love it. It's a Charlotte Mason recommendation that we're keeping. We're also still doing dictation and copywork.

For Math we use Making Math Meaningful.

For Grammar I use worksheets.

Phonics is this book:

For Reading I use Bob Jones University Level 2b.

For Supplemental Reading we are reading Hiedi.
Our artist we are studying is Mary Cassett. We study her paintings for 6 weeks and read an autobiography of her life.

We are not studying a composer this term.

Poetry is by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Pilgrims Progress is read in the morning
along with Precious Moments Bedtime Stories.

And of course we are making our Science and Nature notebooks as well.

I know this looks like a lot of books but remember not every subject is done every day.

Disclaimer: These books have not been endorsed by Charlotte Mason. They are only my substitions.


  1. I realize you wrote this several years ago, but I think God put this entry in my hands in this moment, for this purpose: to help my child with special needs succeed in the areas he feels he will never understand. Thank you for posting these great substitutions. They will be most helpful to our household!

  2. Thank you. I am glad you find it helpful.


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