“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Friday, July 31, 2009

BFTP: Charlotte Mason-Style Exams

Some have asked about what I mean by the term Charlotte Mason Style Exams. Here is an old post on the subject. You can find more info on the Ambleside Exam page and Charlotte Mason's School Education.

Reprinted without hyper-links:

Year ago I tried having a Charlotte Mason-style exam week. It took a lot of time and energy and I never tried to work it out again.

This week is week 13 for my two Ambleside/HEO Year 7 students. I decided to do an exam week with them and I am happy with the results. I did not do a full-fledged CM exam week like Willa does here (make sure you scroll down to see all of her posts and gain valuable info on exams), but I do think the exam week will have long term effects on their reading comprehension. They will pay more attention next time around.

I chose 3 exam questions per day this week.

1.What are the 5 points of Calvinism in depth? From Grace Unknown. We did have some pretty funny moments over one student's non-controversial U= Universal Love. It actually stands for unconditional election :)

2.What were the positive and negative effects of Roman rule in Britain? The Birth of Britain

3. In your own words tell about William of Malmsbury's Battle of Hastings account? This was pretty neat as the last Foyle's War we watched made a great deal of the coast at Hastings.


1. Describe the process used to make the boat? The Brendan Voyage

2. Plutarch: Contrast Demetrius's good and bad qualities. Predictably one child concentrated on the good (his love for his father, mostly) and one child found him to be a rather worthless fellow.

3. Make up your own story in the style Mansoul. My daughter took off with this one and came up with an absolutely lovely story of Peaceful. My son did a great essay but it was more a list of virtues than a story. I thought it was interesting to see the difference in their approach to this book which happens to be Ourselves by Charlotte Mason.


1. Write an essay about 1 character from Bulfinch's Age of Chivalry. My daughter chose Guinevere and my son did Tristram.

2. Describe the role of fear in the rabbits' lives. Watership Down

3. In your own words tell me the story from one of Shakespeare's plays. They both choose Measure for Measure and they understood the plot far better than I was expecting as I left out quite a bit when reading it out loud.


1. Draw one bird. Papa will tell you which one. Emily got the chickadee and Benjamin got the tufted titmouse.

2. Write from memory one poem. Emily chose Where the Boats Go by RLS and Benjamin choose November by Elizabeth Coatsworth.

3. Describe the attitude towards Jews in England during the times of Ivanhoe.

4. Describe something in our yard the way The Lay of the Land author, Dallas Lore Sharp, would. They got pretty silly on this one. But it added levity to the full week of writing.

Friday: (Which is actually going to be next Monday and Tuesday)

1. Sing one folk song. Benjamin has asked if Georgia on my Mind qualifies and surprisingly the Georgia boy I married said, "No!" I thought he would pick the song Go Get an Ax since it says that a boy's best friend is his mother.

2. Run or walk one mile. This is a little silly since Benjamin runs about 6 miles a day. But I said, to make it a challenge, he had to run in under 4 minutes ;)

3. How do diseases in our physical bodies help us understand the body of Christ? Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

4. Finally, in about 300 words describe what you have learned this term.

After the first essay, I saw that they needed a time limit, so I gave them 45 minutes per essay. This may have been a little short and kept them from correcting mistakes but it also kept them from dawdling.

I am especially excited about next term's exam week as they will be more prepared. If I get time and I probably won't I would like to post one essay from each child. Having their essays published would also be a way to motivate them next term.

Charlotte's own exams were much more intense than this but we all have to start somewhere. I decided to share my small efforts to encourage those of you who wanted to do exams but were too intimidated to try.


  1. I feel like I should know what BFTP means, but I can't come up with anything...

    In more important news: Am I to assume that the test was primarily verbal unless you noted something like "write an essay?"

  2. Excellent! I want to go to your school! :-)

  3. Brandy, Blast From the Past.
    Mostly written unless indicated.

  4. Very helpful! Thank you for answering this question. I'm going to think about this and hopefully give it a whirl next year.


  5. Thank you for finding and posting that! I am eager to learn more about this - I think such exam weeks would be a wonderful tool to use here. I'm really looking forward to getting School Education from the library soon!


  6. Thank you so much for sharing this. It makes me excited to start Year 7 this year.

  7. Thanks, Cindy. One more question: at what age do you think this sort of exam should begin? My oldest is Year Two, age seven, in Ambleside years. I could see him being capable of some sort of mostly-verbal exam at this point. But should I wait? I don't consider him to be completely grammar-stage yet. I like the idea of doing this, but I don't want to do it too early...

  8. Cindy,

    Thanks for this. I keep wanting to try this but have been too overwhelmed to try. I've printed it out and am planning on looking over the AO stuff again as well as this to see if I can attempt it this year. :)

    Joy (VA)