Thursday, July 18, 2019

Homeschool: How I Write my own Curriculum

I don't really like to be told what to do. I love seeking out lots of ideas and wisdom, but then I like to take that gathered information and do with it what I want. This is true for me in a lot of areas of life, including homeschooling.

So it's no surprise, I suppose, that I don't use one of the hundreds of ready-made homeschool curriculums available but instead write my own. Writing your own curriculum isn't for everyone, but I absolutely love it and find joy in it, and I want to share how I do so for those who might be interested. 

I am currently planning my third official year of homeschooling, as my daughter heads into third grade. We did a few fun and light years of homeschooling in pre-school and kindergarten, but we officially begin schooling at age 6, so that's when I begin to plan a full curriculum. We use the Charlotte Mason method, so everything I plan for our curriculum is based off of her methods.

STEP ONE: And I'll pause here to say that's truly your first step- deciding on the method of education you want to follow and/or your reasons for homeschooling. Otherwise you'll end up with a hodge podge mix of loose curriculum with no sequence, and you'll probably end up switching every year as well. Following Charlotte Mason's method gives me a foundation for everything I do in homeschooling and truly gives me the backbone I need as I plan my year.

STEP TWO: I begin by purchasing the scheduling cards through A Delectable Education. With these, I am able to work out my weekly schedule, to make sure I don't miss a subject, and to make sure I know how many times we will cover a subject in a week.

Once I lay out all the scheduling cards, I have a schedule that amounts to classes for 2 1/2 hours every day from Monday-Friday. I can't share an exact schedule as the cards are the private ownership of A Delectable Education, but seriously- they're only $5! Best $5 I ever spent! This will be the third year I re-use them too! (Next year I will have to buy another $5 set as we add in some new subjects for 4th-6th grade.)

STEP THREE: Then I look at each of my subjects, and I start filling in what I need for each. Literally, it's about as easy as that! But I will walk you through each subject and let you know where I go to find what I need. Scroll down to after Step 5, and I'll walk you through each subject. The subjects we cover in form 1 (1-3 grade), are listed below. If you're unsure of what types of subjects to cover in each grade, go back to step two and purchase those scheduling cards! You can also check out A Delectable Education's Subjects by Form page.

Natural History
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation

STEP FOUR: As I'm filling in different slots, I make a list of books I need. Some of these I will purchase and some I will get from the library. It helps to write out each list, and it's especially nice to have your library list all ready to go when it's time to get the books at the beginning of the school year. 

STEP FIVE: Make a folder on your computer of all the things you need to print before the school year. For us, this includes songs, recitations, geography maps, pictures for Spanish class, sometimes a map or artwork for Bible, and solfa and piano printables. You could certainly print them as you come to each subject and work on it, but for me it is easiest to keep it all in a folder and print it all at once.

STEP SIX: I don't worry about having every day planned out at the beginning of the year. I don't always know how many pages we'll get through in a book in a day, and sometimes life happens and we might not even get to a book (public school teachers have told me the same happens to them ;)). Therefore, I just have my general outline for the year ready (and I actually mostly worry just about one term at a time... I plan some things for the whole year, but I focus especially on the term in front of me)... all the books planned, artist prints ready, a youtube playlist with songs ready, maps, songs, recitations, and pictures needed printed off, and then I do a little planning (keyword- very little!) at the beginning of each week, simply to make sure I have all these things in order. Then I do what I affectionately call "reverse planning." I have a planner, and every day when we finish our school day, I write down what we did that day. That helps me keep track of page numbers we finished on or artist prints we studied. Then the next time we circle back to that book or subject, we pick up where we left off. 


Charlotte Mason had a program for Bible. It's actually really simple- you just read the actual Bible text. So that is what we do. This spreadsheet created by Emily of A Delectable Education is what I more specifically follow to decide on what Old and New Testament passages to study each year.

This video is from a talk that Art Middlekauff did that I was able to hear last year. It's excellent if you're interested in understanding the depth and breadth of how CM schools did Bible lessons.

I choose a poet each term for us to study. Most often, I choose poets that we have connected with through our poetry anthologies. I often like to buy a book of that poet's poems- there are a lot of illustrated ones made for children.

Charlotte Mason actually had a very specific program for math, and it's really wonderful!

I own this book, which explains the entire scope and sequence of Mason's math lessons from first lessons through graduation. 

Richele Baburina has been writing a math curriculum to accommodate these ideas for teaching math in a living way. The first two books are out with more on the way! I have been using them with my daughters and think they are gold to truly understanding mathematical concepts. I can't recommend them enough!

With Sophie, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. With Brielle, I began by using more a gentler and fun approach, using Charlotte Mason's ideas from her volumes as well as ideas that Amy Tuttle gives in Discover Reading. She was reading some words in this way. This summer, however, she found our 100 Easy Lessons book and asked if we could do it, so we have been going through some of it. If you use this book, I recommend using it as a tool and not a faultless guide. Once we get to lesson 60ish, my kids do better to move away from it and on to actual readers.

At that point, I like to use this source from Charlotte Mason Soiree as my guide, along with the Treadwell readers.I also love Arnold Lobel readers

I also hear wonderful things about Simply Charlotte Mason's Delightful Reading program, but we have not personally used it.

For my beginner writers, I bought this type of paper. I then give them a line or two of poetry to copy. I encourage my children to picture the whole word before writing it so that they are also learning spelling. I choose poems and verses for them to copy each day and don't put a ton of time or thought into it. This year, I will start teaching my third grader cursive.

I love planning history! Charlotte Mason used a four year rotation for this subject, teaching a child's own history for the first four years, then adding in world history and ancient history. Here is a resource with more information on how we approach this subject. 

Once I know the years we are studying (1700-1800 for instance), then I start researching and finding books to use for the year. I look for a spine as well as a few biographies.
Resources I enjoy using to get book ideas:

The last two years, we have used Alice Dalgliesh's America Begins and America Builds Homes as our spines. These are very expensive as they are out of print, so I get them from the library. This year I think we will use Betsy Maestro's The American Story series for our spine. If you need a free option, Lawton's America First is a good choice (this is also available to purchase as a book on Amazon).

Geography has always been a passion of mine, so it is a subject I have put probably the most time into researching.To be honest, I think our modern public education curriculums and our homeschool curriculums do a poor job at this subject. I also think finding a living book is incredibly hard. You can find a lot of good books about people who live in other countries and cultures, but finding ones that actually talk about the land and resources is difficult. And this is a hard subject to use old books in because geography changes! If you would like to try to understand Mason's actual method for teaching geography, then I recommend listening to this podcast by A Delectable Education. 

We personally are using an old textbook and a few old books this year for geography. They were written in 1960, which is still a long time ago for geography, but being written after World War 2 is key as things have changed less dramatically since then. And as a side note, it's kind of amazing how different textbooks used to be! Like, way more detail than ones being put out today, and written much differently as well.

We also will finish using Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography this year, which we've used for the last two years and it's essentially an intro to geography (discusses direction, distance, maps, compasses, and more).

Natural History:
You'll be happy to know that natural history is pretty easy planning for me- it's a one stop subject. I go to Sabbath Mood Homeschool to get all my ideas for books. Right now we just use her nature lore book list, but starting next year we'll also use her science guides. 

If you look at A Delectable Education's Subject by Form guide, you can see what is recommended for each grade. For instance, this year for 3rd grade, my daughter will read mythology and Pilgrim's Progress, listed under "Tales" on this guide. My 1st grade daughter will have fairy tales and fables for her literature this year. They list literature as tales, reading, and literature on this guide.

Physical Education:
We do several main things for this time slot...

* Free play
* Jump rope
* Singing games 
     - For singing games, I use songs and dances from The Joyous Book of Singing Games. For young beginners, you can do common ones like London Bridges and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Music Appreciation:
This is where we do our composer study. We study 3 a term. I don't do anything special for this, but I do look at Ambleside Online's composer list to decide on composers and compositions to use. We also Opal Wheeler's composer books. I also recently found Thomas Tapper's The Great Musicians books which would be good books to introduce children to composers.

Art Appreciation:
We study 3 artists a year, and I buy the artist packets from Simply Charlotte Mason.

This subject has been a bit harder for me to wrap my mind around. I know some Spanish, but I'm nowhere close to being fluent. We use the Speaking Spanish books from Cherrydale Press (we'll be using book 1 for the third year this year). Along with this, we always learn a Spanish song each term, and I just use youtube usually to help me with that (Jose Luis Orozco is good if you're studying Spanish). Then I buy Spanish picture books... think of ones that you love in English and buy them in Spanish. I just bought the Jesus Storybook Bible, The Hungry Caterpillar, and Are you my Mother... all in Spanish. The idea is to teach children a foreign language in the way they learn their native language. I'd love to find a way to interact with a native speaker but haven't found an opportunity yet. 

Miss Mason's Languages is also a wonderful foreign language resource.

We have several categories of songs I choose from:

* Folksong/Patriotic Song
* Hymn
* Spanish Song
* Solfa

For patriotic songs, I just use google. For folksongs, you can get some great kid ideas (like I've been Working on the Railroad) by a simple google, or you can get some wordier folksongs from Ambleside Online's list. For hymns, I just look in our hymnal book that we own, but you could easily look these up online, or Ambleside Online also has a list for these. For Spanish songs, I use Youtube. For solfa, I have preciously used Miss Mason's Music. There's a $15/year membership, but it's definitely worth it as she has a lot of information and videos on her website. I've been using it for a year and a half and still haven't gotten through all of it. This year, though, for solfa we will be using Solfa Sofa. I'm excited to use this one!

There are three different categories that we use for recitation pieces:

* Hymns (we actually speak them instead of sing)
* Bible verses
* Poems

For hymns, I go through my hymnal and try to find two by the same writer. I often try to find ones that I don't love to sing because the ones that I love to sing I always want to use during singing time. For Bible verses, I choose 2 or 3 passages that are around 6 verses in length. I choose from either the Old Testament book we are studying, the New Testament book we are studying, or the Psalms. For poems, I choose two from the poet we are studying for the term. With younger children, I try to choose shorter poems.

Charlotte Mason definitely had a purpose and plan for her drawing course, which I don't have time to go into, but I will say that there are three things we focus on drawing throughout a term:

* Drawings from nature (memory)
* Drawing from objects in front of us
* Drawing scenes we read about in our stories (imagination)

We also do nature journaling, but this is during our afternoon time. I will also mention that when Charlotte Mason said drawing, she was referring to brush drawing.- with paints and paintbrush. She believed it was the best medium for training in art.

I choose one handcraft to focus on each term. We have learned sewing, hand sewing, knitting, embroidery, cooking, gardening, and loom work. We will do clay next term. If you have boys, I think all of these things are valuable for boys to learn (and I know many who love learning how to sew on buttons and finger knit!), but there are plenty of woodworking and whittling handcrafts as well! And incase you're curious, every one of the things that I taught my daughters, besides cooking and gardening, are things I just learned to do myself in the last five years! Learn with your kids- it's a lot of fun!

If you need video guides, Youtube has a lot, and Simply Charlotte Mason has video series.

Afternoon Occupations:
I also wanted to give a little acknowledgement to things we do during our afternoon time.

* Nature walks (and nature journaling)
* Piano (we will be doing online lessons with Curwen Music this year)
* Dance (my two eldest take dance classes)
* Free reads (we always have books we read for fun, and a read aloud that we read at night)
* Free time (so important for this time to think about what they've read and learned in a day and to play at them)


  1. Christine AanderudJuly 19, 2019 at 2:33 PM

    So wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing. I've created our "curriculum" in a similar way, with some of the same but also many different resources. So interesting and helpful to see how you've done it. (I've taken a number of screen shots for reference �� as I start thinking and planning for this next year.) Blessings to you and your girls! Xx

    1. So glad you've found it helpful! Happy planning to you!

  2. I love this so much! Thank you for taking the time to share all of this--it will help me so much in my planning :)

    1. You're welcome, Elizabeth! Thank you for reading!

  3. I was just bemoaning the planning process yesterday (I'm just getting started with the CM method) and my friend sent me a link to this post! Impeccable timing, as per the Holy Spirit of course!

    1. Oh Claire, I'm so glad the timing was perfect for you! I hope you will enjoy the planning process. The CM method is definitely something you find more confidence in as you do it for longer!