Sunday, August 20, 2017

Homeschool Plan: First Grade Charlotte Mason (2017-2018)

Two months ago, I had it all figured out what I was going to do for Sophie. Then I binge listened to a podcast called A Delectable Education (whose tagline is “spreading the feast of the Charlotte Mason Education”). This podcast clarified the Charlotte Mason method for me, and I have spent the last month and a half listening and researching, and concluding that I would put together my own curriculum based on all that I have learned about the method. I have used several online resources, particularly A Delectable Education and Ambleside Online, to put together my book list. 

Here are the subjects we will cover this year:
Natural History
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation

That probably looks like a lot of subjects, but we don’t do them all every day, and some are just once a week. They also are all short, with poetry being just five minutes a day, and the longest subjects being twenty minutes. The idea is that you expose your child to a wide range of interests, and they will experience a feast that prepares them for all avenues of life. 

Here is the Breakdown of our days:
Our schools days will be, at longest, two and a half hours. This means that by lunchtime, we will complete all of the above listed subjects planned for that day. We will begin every day with Bible and poetry, and from there our days will each look different depending what subjects we are covering. My plan is to start at 9 and finish by 11:30. Each subject has a time limit, and Sophie will know these ahead of time. It is much easier to bare a subject you don’t love when you know it won’t last forever. It is also easier to get through all of your subjects when you have set times rather than just set pages. Sophie will also have “afternoon occupations,” a.k.a. things we do in the afternoon even though we don’t have official classes. She will have piano lessons (and therefore piano practice). We will do a nature walk each week, and hopefully spend a lot of time outdoors every day. She will spend more time on her handicrafts in the afternoon as well.

The Schedule:
We use these $5 scheduling cards to schedule out our days: Scheduling Cards. Because they are someone else's hard work, I can't show you a layout of my exact schedule, but we have 11-12 subjects a day, with Bible and poetry always being first and handicrafts/work always being last.

The Layout and Logistics: 
We will break our year into terms, as Charlotte Mason’s schools did. We will have three terms in a year, each being 12 weeks long. Charlotte Mason used “forms” rather than “grades” to place her students. Sophie will be in first grade this year, which is considered Form 1b. She will be in Form 1 for two more years (though, second and third grade are considered Form 1A). The advantage is that I will be able to combine some of my daughters as I educate them, in certain subjects.

The Books:
love knowing what books people are using and recommend. Here is the breakdown, subject by subject, of what our year will look like (with the knowledge that not everything will go exactly according to plan, and the belief that the Holy Spirit will guide whenever something needs to be changed around). As a side note, some of the books I use are out of print. Sadly, some of the greatest books are no longer in print! We own a few but use the library to get quite a few of these out-of-print books. If you don't have a way to get these books, and you are curious about replacement books, I am familiar with books and would be glad to help you!

Bible: (15 Minutes) For Bible, we will read straight from the actual text. A lot of people who do Charlotte Mason recommend reading from the King James Version. At first I thought this was silly because it’s not as easy to understand and because I don’t personally believe it is any more “authorized” than other English versions (they all are translations). However, upon further research, I have realized that many people recommend it because it helps with readings in Old English in later years, and so for that reason, I have decided we will at least begin reading from this version. 

This year, we will read from Genesis and Matthew, alternating days. 

The other two books I have pictured are only for my use. They are commentaries that will help me as I study in order to teach the lessons. The books are The Book of Genesis by J. Paterson Smyth (this is a book Charlotte Mason actually used) and Matthew For Everyone by N.T. Wright.

The lessons will look as follow: We will read an episode, meaning approximately 10 verses. I will read them slowly, and then I will ask Sophie to “narrate,” or tell back what we read about. This doesn’t have to be word-for-word. What she says needs to be accurate, but there’s not a right or wrong answer. The purpose is simply to solidify the reading in their mind.  After the narration, I may add a few thoughts and ideas from the commentary, such as historical or geographical information. With some lessons, I will show a piece of famous art that covers the reading.

Poetry: (5 Minutes) Poetry is very simple. We simply open up a book of poetry and read J I will use different poetry books, but the main two I plan to use this year are A.A. Milne’s Complete Poems and Favorite Poems Old and New.

Copywork: For copywork, Sophie will copy something I have written, word-for-word. Sometimes, this will be done on a chalkboard, and sometimes it will be in a notebook. Charlotte Mason did not include spelling and grammar lessons until later years. Instead, she counted on good literature and copywork to train students to see proper spelling and proper grammar. These are short, 10 minute lessons.

Spanish: In Charlotte Mason schools, students began learning French in Form 1b (equivalent to our first grade).

I was really nervous about this subject at first, but I am excited about it now. We will use Cherrydale as our core curriculum. This is a book that teaches Spanish through acting. So, I say, “I open the door” in Spanish while I am actually doing it. 

We will also listen to children’s stories, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes in Spanish and learn new nouns each week.

Physical Education: We will do a variation of activities, but the main purpose of this time, for us, is to provide physical activity without competition. Charlotte Mason schools covered “Swedish drill” as part of their physical activity time. At first, this seemed like something very foreign and old-fashioned to me, and I didn’t plan to use it in our time. Then, I studied into it more, and I began to see how it fit so perfectly with the rest of the Charlotte Mason feast. It’s a bit complicated to explain in this overview blog, but I chose to include it because it provides physical movement while teaching the habit of attention and the habit of following orders. If you’re interested in reading more, here is an excellent blog post: Swedish Drill Blog

We will also use this time to just have free play on some days, and I hope to also include jump rope activities and other fun games, like Duck Duck Goose, during this time.

Art Appreciation: We will study one artist each term. This term, we will study Leonardo da Vinci. We plan to study his following works: Ginevra de’ Benci, The Virgin of the Rocks, Lady with an Ermine, The Last Supper, Mona Lisa, Self Portrait, and Cat Movements and Positions. We will learn a little about da Vinci himself. Most of our time will be devoted to his artwork though. We will look at a picture, then turn it over and see what we remember. Then we will turn it back over and look again to see what we missed. 

Music Appreciation: For music appreciation, we choose one composer to study for the term. We will study Bach this first term, and plan to study his following works: Bradenburg Concerto 3, Chaconne, Magnificat in D, Church Cantata, and Art of Fugue Contrapunctus 9. We will have one day each week where we listen to one of Bach’s works, familiarizing ourselves with his works, listening for instruments, and noticing all we can about the world of music. 

Math: This is a subject I struggled with last year. We used Math U See, and I liked it but didn’t love it. It simply didn’t seem to fit with what else I knew about Charlotte Mason. However, nothing else I found seemed any better. Then, this summer, I discovered Richele Baburina’s Mathematics book and DVD. This is not a curriculum. Rather, it walks a parent or teacher through the way Mason’s schools taught math. Richele will be coming out with a curriculum soon, but it is not yet available. However, this first year is so simple, that I can easily do it on my own.

Mason’s methods were beautiful, and I am fascinated by this approach. Much of what Sophie will do this year will be with manipulatives, and she will do mental math. She will do very little “paper” math. Mason’s approach focused on mastery and completely understanding a concept. One of the best manipulatives for learning that this method recommends is money. We will begin using money early on to understand addition, and we will use it throughout as we learn more numbers and add in more concepts (subtraction, multiplication, division). I highly recommend Richele Baburina’s book + DVD bundle. 

Natural History: Natural history is what most people would call science. We have this class three days a week. We will have one book that we read throughout the term on the first day, a second book that we read throughout the term on the second day, and on the third day we will read several books on our “special study” topic for the term.

This term we are doing the following:
Book 1 – The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess
Book 2 – Plants and Trees by Arabella Buckley
Special Study Topics: Wildflowers and Birds
Possible Books to read on these topics: A Bunch of Wildflowers for the Children by Ida Prentice Whitcomb, A First Look at Flowers by Millicent Selsam, A First Look at Birds by Millicent Selsam, Birds and their Nests by Olive Earle, Birds and their Beaks by Olive Earle, Robins in the Garden by Olive Earle.
(I struggle to narrow down books because I love them so much, so we will certainly not have time for all of these books during our school time in the morning and will definitely make some into free reads later in the day.)

Here is an excellent book list: Science Book List
Here is information on Form 1 Science: Form 1 Science Article
Here is information on Special Studies: Special Studies Article

Singing: We have singing on our schedule four days out of the five! We will sing hymns, folksongs, nursery rhymes, singing games, and two Spanish songs.

Here are songs I have planned for this first term: Nothing But the Blood by Robert Lowry, Lavendar’s Blue Dilly Dilly, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Hickory Dickory Dock, The Farmer in the Dell, Baa Baa Black Sheep, London Bridge, Estrellita

History: I am very excited about history! We will study early American history, up until Jamestown settlement. We will read the tales of the explorers.

We will be using one book as our spine for the year and a few other books as supplements. Our spine is Alice Dalgliesh’s America Begins. I love this book! It is out of print, however. Our library carries it, thankfully, but if you do not have such a resource, I recommend America First by Lawton B. Evans.

Our supplements will be D’Aulaire’s Leif the Lucky, Payne's Meet the North American Indians, and D’Aulaire’s Columbus.

What I love most is that these are all real living books! No textbooks! I learned so much of my history through textbooks, and I remember so little. These lessons will be simple. I will read from one of the books, and then in the last few minutes, Sophie will narrate.

Geography: Charlotte Mason believed in starting where the child was and moving out from there. Geography was no different. So for geography, we will learn about local geography. We will read Little Farmer of the Midwest by Madeline Brandeis, which is a story about a boy from the Midwest, where we live. We will also spend time during this class learning about the sun which will in turn help us to learn about direction which will in turn help us learn about distance which will in turn allow us to learn about maps J We will learn about compasses and do basic maps of our classroom and possibly our farm.  

(Books pictured: Little Farmer of the Midwest by Madeline Brandeis, Elementary Geography  by Charlotte Mason, North, South, East, and West by Franklyn Branley, The Moon Seems to Change by Franklyn Branley, What Makes a Shadow by Clyde Bulla, Energy from the Sun by Berger, What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn Branley, Sun Up, Sun Down by Gail Gibbons, and Follow the Sunset by Schneider. //
Note: I probably have too many books. I love books and struggle to not do them all, but a Mason method stresses that less is more… so we will probably read some of these during our free readings later in the day)

Here is an excellent article on physical geography with young ones: Geography Article

Recitation: When I first discovered Charlotte Mason, I mistook recitation as memory work. It’s actually not the same as memory work, however. The purpose of recitation was to learn a piece of work beautifully. Students were allowed to have a copy of the work they were learning, and they were to read it and study it until they could read it with beauty, passion, and care. Memorization was not a requirement, though it was often a reward of the time carefully spent on one particular piece.
We will follow the Charlotte Mason schools and recite the following each term: 2 poems, 2 hymns (to be spoken and not sung), and 3 Scripture passages of about 6 verse (one Psalm, one Old Testament, one parable)

This term we will specifically do the following:
-       2 poems from A.A. Milne
-       When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts
-       Thus Far the Lord Has Led Me on by Isaac Watts
-       Matthew 18:10-14 (Parable of the Lost Sheep)
-       Psalm 139:13-16
-       Genesis 1:26-31

Literature: This year we will study tales and fables J The three main books we will use are: The Aesop for ChildrenJust So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, and The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (the long, beautiful, original, un-watered-down version of fairy tales J). We will read many more literature books this year, but most of these will be bedtime stories. We are currently reading Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, and I also hope to read Heidi by Johanna Spyri, St George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Have I mentioned that I was an English major, and I just wish I could sit and read books with my kids all day?! ;) 

Reading: Sophie is already reading, but she lacks confidence. We will practice, practice, practice this year to build her confidence. We will use wooden letters to word-build, as a fun activity, and she will read from Free and Treadwell books, which are beautiful reading books that include classic fairy tales and poetry. She will keep a “words I know” notebook, where she will get to write down words she learns and keep track of them. She picked out a dog notebook and is very excited about it J

Drawing: I haven’t completely wrapped my head around what we will do for this subject, but I had some ideas. I have the book Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, and we will follow some of her lessons. We also will do some brush drawing painting (with watercolor paints). I’d like to have Sophie illustrate a few of her lessons and also to do some nature drawings of things we discover in nature.

Handicrafts/Work: This is kind of like a home economics class. We will focus on learning three different things during this time: crafts (such as handsewing and the loom), work (such as cooking and cleaning), and paper folding (like origami).

Of course, this was seen as an important class in order to teach the children how to do things, like sewing and cooking. But it was also important because it allowed students to care for others, which was one of the central focuses within Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. Sophie would like to make something for an orphan (an idea she got from Understood Betsy, a wonderful book we recently finished), so we are going to make a doll this first term (My Studio Girl’s My Best Friend) that Sophie can put in an Operation Christmas Child package.

Phew, that was a long post! I know people appreciate specifics, though, so I wanted to include as many details as possible :) We are excited for this school year and are so thankful for the Lord's guidance of every step of the way.


  1. What a grand plan!!! I hope you have much joy learning this year!

  2. I noticed "technology" is never mentioned. From studying Charlotte Mason in college, I understand the reasoning and purposes behind why she doesn't introduce that aspect and it seems more because it didn't exist. Given the era we reside, I'm curious of your insight.

  3. Kayla, That's amazing that you studied Charlotte Mason in college! Most people, even educators, aren't familiar with her. As far as technology goes, we won't do anything formal his year. There is a lot of research out there that says early and frequent technology is not good (i just read an article today about how it delays speech!). Of course, I don't think technology is completely evil (since I love blogging :) ). I do think many of the things we do will benefit a child should they later choose a path in technology... such as art study and nature study teaching them to look at detail, and copywork and drawing helping fine motor skills. Plus, Sophie will take piano lessons :) I also think kids pick up technology skills super fast... I can't believe how quickly my kids figure out how to use my phone and computer! I actually learned how to type before I ever took a keyboarding class (because I used instant messenger haha!)... Im guessing my kids will do the same!

  4. such an interesting read
    the methods you have mentioned seem like they would really work in a real world situation and I will definitely be reading up more on the Charlotte Mason method for interest!
    maybe the education system should look more like this!

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  6. This was super helpful to me as I'm 'mapping out' the first year currently and needing more examples of the kinds of songs to teach, books to read, etc. Thank you!

  7. What did you do for kindergarten? And what age did you start first grade curriculum? Thanks :)

    1. Hi! We start formal lessons at age 6- so essentially, we start first grade at 6. My first daughter just did a year of it, but because of where my second daughter's birthday falls (january), we are doing a year and a half of first grade work for her. Because you can do what you want when you homeschool ;)
      Before we start formal lessons (so kindergarten and earlier), we read LOTS of good books. I talk a little about that in this old post..
      We spend a lot of time outside!
      We do a lot of free play (it's SO good for their growing brains!)
      We count things.
      We talk about letters, and they learn how to spell their name.
      We draw and color.
      My second daughter asked to do math and reading before she turned 6 (when she was 5), so I did sit down with her, when she asked, and we did small addition problems and learned sounds and some words. I don't force it at all though before they're 6- only if they're interested.

      For us, this has worked well. With my oldest, I felt pressure to start early. But I have learned to trust the method our family uses and to trust that play and being outside IS really so important, and once these years are gone, they never get them back! So we enjoy these young year for all they're worth!

  8. I am so thrilled about this response! In my digging and hunting I have yet to find such a likeminded momma! I’m in awe bc you’re where I want to be! My oldest will be 5 this August and I’ve felt so much the same things you have and have battled which route to go in our homeschool journey with so much out there. CM has pulled on my heart strings but I have yet to find someone who truly follows her footsteps. I know one way isn’t the be all but thank you, for your encouragement! This comment truly has helped answer a lot I haven’t been questioning!!!