A Gentle Feast Curriculum Review

Disclaimer: I received a copy of A Gentle Feast White Year Curriculum in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed below are my own and may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my legal disclaimer page.

As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and a type A one as well, I’ve always prided myself on being able to create booklists, courses of study, and a Morning Time (called Power Hour around here) coordinated with our school year. It was enjoyable for me to do this, but it was time intensive, involving weeks of planning, tons of reading and research, and then scheduling it all.

I’ve continued this process over the years because I had problems with pretty much all of the Charlotte Mason curriculums on the market. For some the history rotation did not match what Charlotte Mason actually did, for others they added in other educational philosophies that made the curriculum Charlotte Mason inspired or a Charlotte Mason blend, for some it required all of my children to do their own thing for each subject studied, and for some the book choices were all older, and usually expensive, making the curriculum difficult to use and editing on the fly a necessity due to racist and misogynistic undertones.

Within the last few years, though, the homeschool market has been flooded with quite a few new Charlotte Mason curriculums. After writing about some of my favorites, I was contacted by the author of A Gentle Feast with the offer of writing a review of the full curriculum. I readily agreed (because who doesn’t love free curriculum!), but fully expected to only use it for a few months to honor my commitment of writing a review and then drop it. However, it didn’t turn out that way.

A Gentle Feast Review

A Gentle Feast is the creation of fellow Charlotte Mason homeschool mom, Julie Ross, and she’s done a fabulous job of integrating various resources, books, and parental helps to create a unique offering for the Charlotte Mason homeschooling community. This past year we’ve been using what Julie has labelled the White Year, which has us studying the years from 1650-1800 in both American history and British history along with Greek history. She also divides her curriculum into four forms, a Charlotte Mason term that means levels. Form 1 generally covers grades 1-3, Form 2 covers grades 4-6, Form 3 covers grades 7-9, and Form 4 covers grades 10-12. Since Sophia and Grace were in Form 2 and Form 3 this past year, they both did all three history streams included in the White Year, but Levi, whose only in Form 1, only studied the American history portion. While this all sounds complicated, Julie has done the heavy lifting for you.

Parent Helps

First, A Gentle Feast includes tons of parental helps for both families new to a Charlotte Mason education and to those who have been using Charlotte Mason principles in their homeschools for years. A ninety page ebook of foundational methods and principles is included in a full year curriculum purchase which includes general guidelines for scheduling the curriculum, including options and suggestions for combining forms, tips on narration, a general scope and sequence, and lots more. You also have access to a five day email introduction video course, where Julie walks you through using A Gentle Feast and basic Charlotte Mason ideas, and a private Facebook community and a private online community at the Gentle Feast website where Julie will personally answer your questions and provides extra support material for your year. It truly is a great way to make you feel confident in your purchase and getting the most out of the curriculum.

Lesson Plans and Book Lists

In addition to the general information provided in the parental resources, you receive information specific to each form, and not only the forms you are teaching, but all four forms. By having access to what all four forms are reading and studying, you can truly customize your child’s education to their ability, if needed, by choosing books in a form above or below your child’s actual placement. It also lets you only need to purchase the four years, Green, White, Red, and Blue, and you’ll have a complete curriculum to use throughout your homeschool journey. You also can easily combine forms together by choosing books from the various forms that work for all of your children.

Each form also has their own specific narration tips, which lets you know what to expect at each level, their own book lists, both for the curriculum itself and for free reads on their own time, and a schedule for the entire year for each form. It really is as easy as copy and paste to create your own customized school year using A Gentle Feast as your foundation.

Morning Time Plans

One of my favorite parts of A Gentle Feast are the Morning Time plans (pictured on the right above). Everything is truly included! Bible readings are planned out for you each day along with read alouds, picture study (with the pictures you are studying already included!), composer study (with links to the musical compositions), poetry study, hymns, recitations, and more.

Of course, because I can’t leave anything alone, even a great curriculum like A Gentle Feast, I had to add in some things to our version of Morning Time (aka Power Hour, which is pictured on the left above), such as Liberty’s Kids episodes, a living book study of government, and vocabulary just to name a few. I also added some things from the curriculum into our family learning time that weren’t actually intended for family learning like our British history readings and Form 2’s geography reading.

Morning Time Binder

Because Julie has included everything you need for a successful Morning Time experience, I created a special binder for all of those printouts and resources, so that it’s all contained in one place, which makes our Power Hour totally open and go all year long.

Student Workbooks

While the Morning Time plans are great, the student notebooks that are included with A Gentle Feast are in first place for my favorite part of this curriculum. Every form has one of these notebooks where all copywork and dictation passages, recitations, hymns, poetry, and free writes are kept in one nice neat place. For Form 4, there is even a student planner, customized for the curriculum, included as well. In the new A Gentle Feast 2.0 version (yes, Julie is already making improvements!) of these notebooks, some of the forms in some of the years even have built in grammar or phonics lessons using the copywork, which makes this already user friendly resource even better. It’s so nice to have everything in one location, and I imagine it would be very useful for those of you who homeschool in states where you need a portfolio.

So now let’s talk about some common questions that are usually asked about Charlotte Mason curriculums and see how A Gentle Feast stacks up.

Form I Books

Can I combine kids, so we are all doing the same thing?

Yes, to a point. If you have children in Forms 1 and 2, 2 and 3, or 1 through 3, I think Julie has made it very easy to combine. Since each form has its own spine book for history and science, you could easily choose a spine from one of the forms and use the supplemental reading at each child’s own level. I left Form 4 out of this combining equation because the plans for Form 4 are really expected to be completed independently for the most part. However, the Morning Time plans and afternoon learning are both designed to be done with the entire family through all the forms, so everyone will meet together at least twice a day for sure.

Form II Books

Are the book choices all older books where minorities and women are treated harshly?

I think Julie has done a really great job of balancing older, more established Charlotte Mason books common in CM circles with more current books as well. In the newly updated A Gentle Feast 2.0, she made it a point to go back and include books specifically about minorities and women that show their contributions to American and world history.

Form III Books

What if I don’t have a specific book the curriculum uses, but I have one similar in our home library or there’s one in the public library? Will everything be ruined if I swap out books?

The short answer is no, it won’t. All of my children had book substitutions at various times over the school year and it was not a problem at all. In the case of my oldest in Form 3, we substituted out an entire subject and changed it to fit what she needed for eighth grade. I found the entire curriculum very easy to substitute books or subjects or add in books or subjects without derailing the entire system. Julie even lets you know in the plans if books can be found in the public domain or if they are used for such a short time that you shouldn’t bother buying them, but get them from the library. The only time that substituting a book could prove irritating is when there is a copy work passage in the student workbook that comes from a book you aren’t reading. I used a passage from the book we were using instead, so it wasn’t a problem, but it did take a little work on my part.

I am so absolutely in love with this curriculum that we are definitely continuing to use it. However, there are a few cons I need to mention as well (but knowing Julie she’s already hard at work on some of these).

1) Not super STEM heavy. In true Charlotte Mason fashion, the science plans for upper grades is pretty weak compared to what most college bound kids homeschoolers do for middle grade and high school science. The science is solid, but not super rigorous since in true Charlotte Mason fashion it relies on living books. I think it would be difficult to write a CM curriculum with super rigorous science unless you had a science background yourself which most CM homeschool moms usually do not (oftentimes it’s more literature and history). If you have a kid who eat, breathes, and lives science or wants to pursue a science degree, you might need to be prepared to give them more or substitute that subject out.

2) Lack of formal literature studies. I know, I know, Charlotte Mason didn’t believe in dissecting books and studying them. I don’t either, really, but if you have a child who is planning on continuing their education after graduation, they will need to be familiar with basic literary terms, what they mean, and how to interpret them. While A Gentle Feast does include classic literary works at the high school level, there is no formal study of these books other than just to read them. You will probably want to add in some literature study guides for a couple of these books to make sure your child is familiar with the dissection of literature that occurs in college. On a positive note, Julie does include formal writing lessons (and rubrics to grade them!) in the high school plans which is a breath of fresh air in a Charlotte Mason curriculum.

3) Added in creative writing prompts. Okay, so technically this might be a positive for you and is totally subjective. In the student packets, creative writing prompts are included that are pulled from various subjects being studied. It's a very Brave Writer-ish approach (Free Write Fridays) meshed with CM. We skip over it and use actual writing curriculum in that slot. Mainly because I hated creative writing prompts in school, and my kids don't seem to like them either. However, I do like that she has the kids do more than just narrate or write narrations with what they are learning.

Now for the exciting stuff….

Julie has so graciously offered the readers of The Planted Trees a coupon code for 10% off any purchase at A Gentle Feast that’s good through 6/8/2018. Just enter the code, plantedtrees, at checkout.

Also, make sure to watch my Facebook Live interview with Julie about our year using A Gentle Feast, leave a comment under the video, and be entered to win a free copy of my homeschool devotional book, Revitalize: Breathing Life and Encouragement into Your Homeschool.

And one final offer, leave a comment on this post or on this review post that I shared on The Planted Tree’s Facebook page telling me what you like the most about A Gentle Feast and you’ll be entered to win a $30 gift certificate from Julie toward A Gentle Feast purchase!

Here’s to a gentle 2018-2019 school year!!!