I have heard much debate over the past few years about whether or not pre-reading our students’ books is necessary in order to be a prepared Charlotte Mason teaching mother. After teaching for several years without pre-reading and now one term with pre-reading I am convinced that pre-reading my students’ work is an essential part of my job as mother-educator, especially as my children begin to work more independently. By pre-reading their material I can enter into deeper conversations with them about their lessons and even make off hand comments related to their lessons throughout the day. By being more aware of the material that was presented in the lessons I can better encourage them to create more detailed narrations (since now I know what they had been leaving out),. I am also now able prepare additional materials (such as maps or images) prior to their lessons instead of scrambling to find those materials during lessons. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits is that I am now able to write more comprehensive and appropriate exam questions at the end of term. At the end of our term 1 exam I think I wrote an unfair question because I thought that one of the books I didn’t pre-read had covered material that it didn’t cover. Consequently, my son’s frustration by the questions was completely justified. Finally, as an added bonus, I am receiving a beautiful education that my mind and soul are benefiting from.
How do I do it? Each week I skim all the material as I make the weekly assignments. I tend do a more “thorough skim” through the material for my Form 1 students, since I will be reading aloud to them. I am skimming with the purpose of preparing any additional resources, such as maps, or images, or videos that I would like to share with them as we read together. While making the weekly assignments for my Form 2 student, I quickly skim in order to make the correct page assignments for each subject. I do this work on most Friday nights.
On Saturday nights I try to set aside the time to pre-read all of the reading assignments for my Form 2 student. For now that includes the following subjects; Geography, American History, British History, Ancient History, and Natural History (3 books). I also look through his Grammar assignments (so I am familiar with all the concepts) and complete all the Latin assignments (so I can learn alongside him). I attempt to do the lesson just as he is required to do. I read the selection and after one reading attempt to do a written narration. I have found this task to be much harder than I thought it would be, but certainly beneficial to the learning process. I also find that I am more sympathetic to his concerns regarding the difficulty of the material when I have done the same lessons. I do not pre-read Shakespeare, Spanish, Literature, or Plutarch since we work on those subjects together. I do attempt to skim through the Plutarch lesson a bit.
Do I always get my pre-reading done? No! But I am trying! When I can’t get it all done in one night, I attempt to at least pre-read the assignments for the following day. The way his schedule is organized, that is mostly manageable. Does this take commitment? Yes! But it is well worth the effort. For one thing, I want to be able to engage with my children in their education. In order to do that I must be familiar with the material. Furthermore, if I want to be able to dialogue with them when they are in the upper years, I need to start training myself by receiving the same education they are receiving. Do I have any other tips and tricks? Yes! I have significantly stepped back the number of nights that I leave the house for various Bible studies and meetings. I schedule my evenings so I know where to devote my precious child-free minutes in order to be fully prepared for this job of mother-teacher. (Ex, Mondays I work on my Commonplace Nature Journals, Wednesdays I study Charlotte Mason materials, Thursdays I practice watercolors, etc.) Finally, I cut back on my own “Mother Culture” books as I have chosen to embrace this pre-reading as my mother culture. I do still have a few books going that either coordinate with my children’s studies or are just of particular interest to me. But for the most part, I am reading my son’s books and thoroughly enjoying the process.