Charlotte Mason Inspired Curriculum Plans and Choices for 2017-2018

To be honest I’m not really sure why I’m writing this list of our curricula for the coming year. I guess because I know how much Charlotte Mason and classical homeschoolers love to look at other people’s book lists! Hurricane Harvey didn’t really do too much to our town, but then a couple of days after he’d left, all of the water he dumped over southeast Texas came roaring down the rivers here in town leaving about 2/3 of the homes and businesses in our small town with flood damage. For a few days there was no way in or out of our town due to all the roads being underwater. Luckily our home was spared, but now the flood waters have gone away for the most part, and our town is busy helping friends and neighbors rebuild their homes and lives. At this point our curriculum plan, at least for the foreseeable future, should be: Disaster Response 101 and Loving Your Neighbor Advanced Level. But since I’m hoping that eventually we’ll get to the plans I’ve put together for our 2017-2018 school year, I’ll share them more as a wish list for the (hopefully) near future then what we are currently studying.

Grace is entering eighth grade this year (cue fainting and panic attacks) and since high school is thundering over the horizon (cue more fainting and panic attacks), I wanted to let her last year of pre-high school work be one of freedom and control over her schooling choices before we start having to count credits next year. You’ll notice that a couple of her subjects look a bit different than the traditional course work. I’m reviewing a new Charlotte Mason curriculum this school year (thanks to the generosity of the author), so most of her content subjects come from that curriculum.

Math: Math-U-See (still working for this math hating kid of mine, so we're still using it!)
Spelling: Apples and Pears (finally finishing this spelling series this year with a one thousand percent improved speller on my hands from when we started)
Writing: Writing with Macbeth at co-op (I'm once again teaching a writing class at our local co-op. It's a high school level writing class centered around Shakespeare's play, Macbeth. The students will be learning how to write literary essays, compare/contrast essays, and a big research paper the second semester just to name a few of the assignments. Grace is a good enough writer I believe she can handle this class as an eighth grader.)
Literature: So I'm not going to lie, this is the one subject I'm most excited about this year. Why? Because Grace wanted to spend the entire year studying fairy tales, so we are. We'll be looking at three modern fairy tale retellings, three modern fairy tale novels, the original Grimm and Perrault tales, examining fairy tales at a deep spiritual, Biblical level, and hopefully having lots of big, juicy conversations about it all. The only catch? Nothing like what I wanted existed, so I had to write it myself from the ground up. Of course she'll also be reading some American historical fiction, nature lore books, and geography novels as well, but our big focus is all things fairy. I'm hoping to drop in every so often here on the blog and let you know how this one is going.
Science: Instead of focusing on one science subject this year, Grace will be doing a different focus each term along with a year long study of trees using Memoria Press' Book of Trees. The first term she'll be studying weather using the living science curriculum from Sabbath Mood Homeschool and Look at the Sky and Tell the Weather by Eric Sloane as a spine. The second term will have a geology focus using The Geology Book as a spine. The third term will be all about chemistry using another living science curriculum from Sabbath Mood Homeschool.
History: Normally, I have two concurrent streams of history going at one time: American and World, but this year Grace wanted to study mythology (one of her favorite things) in lieu of world history. I thought, "Why not?" and so away I went. Luckily I found a good general outline for our study online (and it was free which is even better!), but basically, she will be studying Greek and Roman mythology the first semester and Norse, Arthurian, and Arabian mythology the second semester. All year long she'll also be reading various books containing mythology from around the world. For American history, she'll be roughly studying the period from 1700-1800 which means French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, and the Constitution. 
Foreign Language: Right at the end of last school year Grace decided she wanted to go back and start her French book over again. She felt like she wasn't dedicating enough time to her French studies and wanted a redo with a more focused mindset. She'll be continuing on with Getting Started with French this year.
Personal Bible Study: I decided last year that Grace would no longer be using the Bible Study Guide for All Ages with her siblings, instead she would start her own personal Bible study time. In fact, I waited too long to do this with her. She'll be working through the New Testament workbooks from The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study by Starr Meade.

Sophia is a fifth grader this year, and she's always super excited about school. It's probably no coincidence that when we loaded her basket for the first term, she had more books to read and study than anyone. Sophia is my one child who is using the Charlotte Mason curriculum I'm reviewing totally as it's written. I know she's going to have a great year.

Math: Math in Focus and Beast Academy (this combination seems to be perfect for my math loving girl!)
Spelling: Apples and Pears Spelling Book B
Grammar: I really wasn't going to have Sophia do grammar this year since we spent a year studying it last year, but I'm teaching a Grammar Fun class at our local co-op, so she'll be in there by default. I think most of it will be review, but it's always better to learn grammar if you're doing it through art and games.
Writing: She's using parts 2 and 3 of Treasured Conversations this year. After that she'll move back to Writing and Rhetoric.
Literature: Both of my girls are spending an hour of their day this year doing nothing but reading some great books. Here's Sophia's list for literature this year: Tales from the Odyssey, D'Aulaire's Greek Myths, Our Little Athenian Cousin from Long Ago, Our Little Spartan Cousin from Long Ago, Christian Liberty Nature Reader 5, Our Earth, Seabird, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, A Long Walk to Water, Caddie Woodlawn, An Ordinary Princess, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Matilda, and The Children of Green Knowe. We won't do anything super formal with these books, but we will talk about them (a la narrations). 
Science: Sophia's big science focus this year is physics and she's really excited about it. This girl really loves her math and science! Her spine will be The New Way Things Work by David MacCaulay with K'Nex kits and an experiment book thrown in as well. All year long she'll also be studying insects one day a week using Memoria Press' The Book of Insects set.
History: In case, you could't figure it out from her literature list, Sophia will be studying Ancient Greece this year. Her spine book will be The Story of the Greeks by H.A. Grueber. She will also be studying the same time period in history as her older sister, The American Revolution era (1700-1800). Again, she'll be using another Grueber book as her spine, The Story of the Thirteen Colonies.
Foreign Language: I don't know what it is about Sophia, but she loves languages and it's really amazing how well she picks them up. She's about halfway through Getting Started with Spanish, so we'll finish that up this year and we're also adding in Latin for her using Getting Started with Latin. Can you tell I like the Getting Started With series?
Personal Bible Study: I wasn't actually going to purchase anything special for this area for Sophia this year, but she saw me using one of my favorite Bible study tools, a Journible, and decided she wanted one too. I asked her which book of the Bible she'd like to study. I assumed she'd want something like one of the gospels or Genesis, but she wanted to dive headfirst into Romans. Well, alrighty then. Nothing like tackling one of the weightiest books in the entire Bible! Thanks to her constant nagging I bought her a Romans Journible which should be here as soon as mail service starts up again after Harvey.

Out of all my children, I'm most excited to teach first grade for the last time with Levi. Why? I think it's because his first grade year is shaping up to be so different from what I did with his older sisters. I'm really adhering to the less is more philosophy with him. A few well chosen books this year, only five subjects a day, and this boy is ready to go.

Math: Math in Focus (all of my kids start with this math program because it's just so good)
Phonics: Logic of English Foundations (he's finally sounding out words!!!!)
Handwriting: He's finishing Getty-Dubay Italics Book A and then copywork for the rest of the year.
Science: To be honest, this is the one subject I'm most worried about for the coming year. He loves to be read to, but he loves to do as well. I'm hoping our daily time outside will provide the ability for him to do as we read through these great living science books this year: The Wonders of the Jungle by Prince Sarath Ghosh, Wild Life in Woods and Fields by Arabella Buckley, By Pond and River by Arabella Buckley, and Seed Babies by Margaret Morely.
History: As a first grader, history is mainly just an exposure of famous people and stories from American history. We'll start out the year reading through some American tall tales using Mary Pope Osborne's book, American Tall Tales. The rest of the year we'll read selected stories from American Tales Reader by Michael G. Gaunt which tells about famous people from American history all while in a fictional story about a family. I'm pretty certain he's going to love this one!
Geography: Geography is probably my favorite subject, and I love the way this new curriculum teaches something abstract like maps in a very hands on way all while using C.C. Long's Home Geography for Primary Grades as a spine along with some great books like Jenny Goes to Sea and Children of Many Lands.
Literature: Basically this time in Levi's day is devoted to some great children's classics. He's already been poring over these books looking at the pictures and getting excited to hear me read them. This year we'll read: The Beatrix Potter Collection, Just so Stories, The Blue Fairy Book, and Aesop's Fables.

So that's it! Once we get our town back on its feet we'll be diving head first into a great year of Charlotte Mason inspired learning. 

What grade or subject are you most excited about this year?


What to Expect When Homeschooling Middle School

Nothing strikes more fear into the hearts of homeschool parents than realizing that those easy elementary years are behind them and high school looms ahead. Suddenly they find themselves teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grades and realizing that a different child has appeared in their house. How do you teach this person? How do you prepare them for high school? How do you deal with all the challenges that middle school brings for you and your child? Let’s start by looking at what to expect from your child during these years.

What to Expect When Homeschooling Middle School
1. Hormones
So this might be obvious, but do not underestimate the power of these body chemicals to affect your homeschool day. Of course every teen is different, so for some this will have more of an impact than others. I know that in our home it’s been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Days, hours, minutes of relative calm followed by a sudden 180 degree turn of tears, frustration, anger, or sullenness.  Needless to say, it makes homeschooling interesting.

2. Social Needs
The summer before Grace started sixth grade she came to me asking for more social interaction with her peers, specifically in a learning environment. I scrambled around and found a co-op that fit our family and our budget. From talking to other homeschool parents, her request coinciding with entering middle school is not unusual. Playdates at the park with friends, one extracurricular activity, and being home with siblings and parents was no longer enough. As a caveat, my daughter is naturally an extrovert, but this need is commonly felt among most kids this age. An introvert might express this differently, but this natural gravitation toward peers is totally normal.

3. Physical Growth
Considering that my thirteen year old daughter is only an inch shorter than my height of 5’10”, I can attest that these years are a time of great physical growth. A teen’s body changes more than any other time in life other than infancy. All that growing means teens and tweens need more food and sleep than usual. Those homeschool days of up and at ’em with the dawn will probably come to a screeching halt as your middle school student needs more rest. Snack time will definitely become an important part of the day as well. The increased sleeping and revolving door of your kitchen inevitably causes changes in how your homeschool functions.

4. Need to Feel Connected
Children who enter middle school not only need social interaction, but they need to feel connected to the world around them. They want to be needed. They want to find their niche. What do I enjoy? What am I good at? What role do I play in my family? Where do I fit in my circle of friends? How do I contribute to my faith and place of worship in a meaningful way? Navigating these questions is a rite of passage for middle schoolers whether they realize it or not. It allows them to define themselves and create a network for future independence.

5. Mental Growth
Not only do our children grow physically,  but their mental processes take a leap as well. They begin to think deeply about events and decisions. As neo-classical homeschoolers label it, they have entered the dialectic stage, where children move from fact acquisition to exploring the deeper nuances of historical events, scientific discoveries, literary characters and plots, and the moral implications of all of the above. They start to question everything! I even find my thirteen year old critiquing my parenting decisions, “When I’m a mom, I won’t do XYZ.” By the way, I’m writing these down and can’t wait to bring them up again. Bwahaha.

6. Straddling Between Childhood and Adulthood
When I tell people that I used to teach eighth grade, they usually look at me in sympathy. Once I explain that I loved teaching that age, then they look at me in shock. I explain that I love middle school kids because they have enough adult in them to be independent, but enough child in them that they like to play games and be goofy. Having one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood is a good way to describe this age. It’s this transitioning between two worlds that gives middle school children the reputation of having smart mouths and being sassy to parents and adults. The are trying to navigate this new maturity in mind and body, but they still have childish tendencies at times.

So what do these six things mean for your homeschool? That’s the question I will address in the next post about how to specifically deal with these issues in your homeschool. A quick answer, though, is that your involvement as the parent and teacher is paramount at this age. They need you more than ever and you will need patience, understanding, and a lot of chocolate.

What has been your experience when homeschooling a middle schooler?


Little Known Charlotte Mason Resources You Need to Know

Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy is all about those books, so it’s no surprise that one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, “Where do you find the books you want your kids to read, especially living books for various subjects?” Now if you have been around Charlotte Mason homeschooling circles for any amount of time, then you’ve heard of the major players in the Charlotte Mason game, Ambleside Online and Simply Charlotte Mason being the two big ones. I want to share my personal favorite Charlotte Mason Resources that I use for various reasons, but there’s one thing I can promise you. These are not major players on the Charlotte Mason stage yet, but they are ones I turn to when planning out all those delicious books we’ll read and how to fit them all into a week and a year.

           Little Known Charlotte Mason Resources
In no particular order…

1) Wildwood Curriculum: This curriculum is very new and being compiled by homeschool moms who are studying Charlotte Mason’s turn of the century schools for inspiration in book choice and scheduling, but also trying to keep the book choices secular, as modern as possible, and inoffensive to minorities, indigenous people, and women as possible. Usually older books that are commonly used in Charlotte Mason programs definitely need to be edited on the fly when reading to remove disparaging descriptions and word choice about these groups.  Right now (as of this blog post in May 2017) only forms 1B and 1A (ages 6-9) are completed with book choices and curriculum suggestions for each subject.

What I’m Loving about Wildwood Curriculum: Their attempt to bring Charlotte into the 21st Century.

What I’m Using from Wildwood Curriculum: Their list of Tales, History, Geography readers for Levi. This upcoming school year he’ll be in first grade so their book lists are perfect for him. Plus all the readings are already broken down so all I have to do is plug it into my weekly schedule!

2) A Mind in the Light: I first “met” the author of this Charlotte Mason curriculum on the Well-Trained Mind forums. She began putting the curriculum together while giving her own daughters a CM education. Her curriculum is based upon using more modern book choices as well, but with classics thrown in here and there. She’s publishing guides and curriculum schedules to give the world another completely open and go choice for busy CM moms.

What I’m Loving about A Mind in the Light: Her book guides are a HUGE help to the CM homeschool community. As much as I try to pre-read everything for my children, it can be difficult to come up with narration questions, review people and places, and even project ideas based upon the books they are reading. Lisa has done all of that for you!

What I’m Using from A Mind in the Light: This school year I’m using her guide to The Book of the Ancient Greeks with Grace for 7th grade. It’s a fantastic help and includes various questions and assignments, including term exam questions, based upon form/grade level of who is using the book. I’m also using her science book lists for both Sophia (4th grade) and Grace. While these aren’t scheduled out, I take her lists and come up with our own schedule. We’ve all enjoyed her book choices. They are the best!

3) A Gentle Feast: Julie has created a Charlotte Mason curriculum that you can use to teach all the members of the family at the same time, similar to Simply Charlotte Mason, but with a four-year history rotation. There are notes for the parent contained in the parent guide and then each form/grade has their own guide as well, plus a totally planned out Morning Time that corresponds with your school year.

What I’m loving about A Gentle Feast: The focus on family but without dragging out ancient history and a coordinated Morning Time. You know I love me a Morning Time that goes with your year’s studies!

What I’m Using from A Gentle Feast: Probably the biggest inspiration I found was actually in the free scheduling menu found on the main page. I didn’t follow her titles exactly, but seeing how she grouped similar items into blocks of learning really revamped our school year. I created my own learning blocks that we rotate through in our day. It made our time go much more smoothly without feeling tied down. I fully intend to make use of her Morning Time plans for next year even if I use nothing else. It would be so helpful to have someone else do all the work!

4) Wildflowers and Marbles: I hesitated to even include Jennifer’s blog on this list because it is a source of inspiration to many Charlotte Mason homeschool moms. She has been homeschooling for many years including high school so I love to pick her “brain.” I added it to my list because most people I hear talk about her blog talk about her amazing Morning Basket plans and blog posts, however, I find the most benefit elsewhere on her blog.

What I’m loving about Wildflowers and Marbles: Book lists galore, elementary, middle school, and high school! Divided by grade level and some divided by topic, Jennifer always knows what the best books are. In fact, Sophia’s geography reader, Little Stories of a Big Country, was a selection based solely on the fact that Jennifer had it listed in her third grade book list.

What I’m using from Wildflowers and Marbles: Click on any of the term bullet points under the grade level book lists and you’ll find the inspiration for my kids’ weekly assignment sheets. Mine are not as fancy as Jennifer’s with a lot less information, but I did keep the color and the basic concept of printing a reoccurring assignment sheet that they fill in with what was completed. We started using this system last year and it’s perfect. Seriously, perfect.

5) A Delectable Education Podcasts and Sabbath Mood Homeschool blog: So this Charlotte Mason resource is quickly growing a sizeable fan base and for good reason: these podcasts are life-giving to a CM homeschooler. Three homeschool moms, one a veteran, discuss how to implement Charlotte Mason in your home using Charlotte Mason’s own words, her 6 volume original set, as reference. I included Sabbath Mood Homeschool in this entry because one of the Delectable Education ladies, Nicole, writes the blog as well. Her blog focuses on planning out your homeschool day, week, and year using Charlotte Mason’s own school as a model and tons of CM science books.

What I’m loving about A Delectable Education and Sabbath Mood Homeschool: The commitment to only teaching subjects and organizing their weeks in the same fashion as Charlotte Mason. If you are wanting pure, unadulterated CM, these two websites are your new best friends.

What I’m using from A Delectable Education and Sabbath Mood Homeschool: The chronology of history podcast totally changed the way I approached history this year in our homeschool. I was worried it would make things difficult by having various history streams going at once, but they really liked it and we got to make use of our big wall timeline to keep things straight. I made use of Nicole’s Charlotte Mason Scheduling series at Sabbath Mood Homeschool to determine exactly what subjects should be covered for each grade level and for what length of time. Of course I dropped some subjects and changed some things around to fit our family, but it gave me a great place to start as I prepared for this school year. Nicole also has some wonderful science guides that use living books to teach science for grades 4-12. I haven’t used one yet, but it’s on my list to use for high school with Grace.

Obviously there are other Charlotte Mason websites and curriculums out there, but these are the ones I’ve personally used and love. I also never hear them talked about much in most Charlotte Mason circles, so I felt the need to bring their awesomeness to the attention of you guys. Be sure and check them out, and find some great CM nuggets for yourself.

What Charlotte Mason resources have been most helpful to you?



Teaching Grammar and Writing Through Discussion

A Review of Treasured Conversations

Once again I’m taking part in the Virtual Curriculum Fair by bringing you all of my favorite homeschool curriculum resources and ideas. This week I’m excited to share one of my recent favorites as we dive into language arts week. Every once in a while you stumble upon a homeschool curriculum that not only teaches your child, but teaches you how to be a better teacher. Treasured Conversations is such a curriculum.

The Basics

First things first, let me give you the basic facts about this curriculum before I move into my analysis of it. Treasured Conversations was written by a homeschool mom who has been homeschooling for over two decades. She couldn’t find a grammar/writing program that taught those subjects the way she wished {we’ve all been there, right?}, so like any good homeschool mom she did things her own way, and it proved to be successful. Treasured Conversations is the result of the way she taught her own children through talking about words, sentences, paragraphs, and reports. It is designed to be used with children in the third through fifth grade.

Treasured Conversations is divided into three sections. In the first section the focus is grammar and sentences. The second section teaches paragraph construction and outlining. The third section builds on the previous two sections by having children learn to read for information and use that information to write a multiple paragraph report. Currently, the curriculum is only available as a pdf download.

Sample page from the grammar section of the student book.
Why I Love It

It appeals to my Charlotte Mason homeschool self. With the curriculum geared toward 3rd through 5th graders who have little or no previous grammar or writing exposure, it falls right in line with delaying formal grammar study until those ages like Ms. Mason espoused. Each lesson is short and simple using grammar in the context of a story instead of constructed sentences that usually follow a pattern, which causes children to really learn the grammar. Also, the curriculum includes copy work in the first section while studying grammar and sentence structure and you know how much us CM homeschoolers love our copy work!

Sample page from the paragraph writing section of the student book.
 Notice how grammar is continuing to be reviewed!
It appeals to my writer self. I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember and it’s always been a natural strength for me so grammar came pretty easily to me as well, but I struggled with teaching my children grammar because I honestly don’t find it very useful. Treasured Conversations helped me realize how to talk about grammar in the context of being a good writer, choosing strong verbs, specific nouns, and descriptive adjectives and adverbs. It’s difficult to have those conversations with a budding writer if they have no clue what a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc. even is. Plus it helps children understand why they are learning these things as well. The curriculum is constantly referring to knowing grammar so you can put them in your “writer’s toolbox,” which is what learning grammar is all about becoming a better writer. I also love the focus on outlining, note taking, and paragraph construction in the later sections. These are skills that are vital to good writing and that are sometimes difficult to teach.

Sample page from the report writing section in the student book.
It appeals to my teacher self. One of my holdovers from my former life as a public school teacher is that I constantly want to learn how to be a better teacher. Probably my favorite part of Treasured Conversations is how it has helped me able to talk about grammar with my kids. I’m technically using the curriculum with Sophia, but I’ve found myself using the techniques learned there with Grace to talk about her writing and to help teach her more grammar as well by using her own sentences and paragraphs to break down and analyze. We all have a better context for grammar study which has made me more enthusiastic about teaching it just by having a great conversation.

Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong with giving this program a try for your upper elementary kids.

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

Delight Directed High School English by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Act Your Part Well- 2017 VCF by Lisa @ Golden Grasses
The Search For Language by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
Our Top Picks for Language Arts by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Multiple Approaches to Language Arts in 2017 by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
How We Cover the Language Arts in Our Homeschool by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Use Your Words by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
The Art of Perfecting Macarons by Jennifer @ A Glimpse of Our Life
Loving Languages Every Day by Jen K @ A Peace of Mind
Speech Therapy & Elementary Latin by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
The Readin' and Writin' Part of Homeschool by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Children Who Love Books by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Customizing High School Language Credits by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
A Poetry Feast by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Teaching Language Arts without Curriculum by Brittney @ Mom's Heart
I know your pain and it is worth it! by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Language Arts: Our Style by Annette @ A Net in Time
Words! Words! Words! by Lisa M @McClanahan 7
10 Wonderful Word Games (+1) by Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Finding the Right Words by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
What About Reading Comprehension? by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

What language arts curriculum do you love?