The 2017-2018 school year is in full swing and we are loving our homeschool curriculum choices so far. Over the summer, I stumbled across a blog post about the five flavors of homeschooling. Now granted, it’s from the Simply Charlotte Mason website so it might be somewhat skewed, but after taking several other “homeschool style” quizzes, I decided that a Charlotte Mason style of curriculum was what I was looking for.
I began scouring the internet, asking friends, reading blogs and reviews, and reading everything I could get my hands on. I found so many amazing options, and had a hard time making decisions, but you can find below what I finally settled on for our year.
This amazing curriculum was put together by some Charlotte Mason homeschooling moms and covers Social Studies, Science, Language Arts, and Religion. I am doing year one with both Hannah (2nd grade) and Miriam (kindergarten) who think their Ambleside lessons are about the best thing ever. I would say that the best thing about it is that it’s free, but honestly, there are so many good things, I’m not sure that’s the best! But it is amazing and it would definitely be worth paying for! I’ll divide what books we are doing in year one by subject below.
Bible Stories: We use the Bible to teach Bible. No extras at this point. It is wonderful to read the Bible to the children and have them retell the stories back to us.
An Island Story: A History of England for Boys and Girls: This book tells the stories of the people of England. It starts with myths and legends and moves into the known history and how they grew into Great Britain.
Fifty famous stories retold: My children love these stories and are totally eating them up. These legends and stories introduce children (and adults!) to literary masterpieces of the past.
Viking Tales: We haven’t begun this yet, but are excited to delve into these stories from Norway.
In addition to these stories and legends from ancient history, Year One students are also introduced to several biographies from early American history. We won’t start these for another few weeks, but I’m really looking forward to introducing my kids to American History in story form. I remember learning about these people from dry history books. I want better for my kids and can’t wait to give it to them! These are the three biographies we’ll be studying this year.
Paddle to the Sea: This book is amazing. I never thought geography could be taught using a story book, but I had also never seen a fully Charlotte Mason curriculum. Paddle to the Sea follows a small toy boat carved by a young boy, on its journey from Canada, just north of the Canadian/American border, down a river, through the Great Lakes, and on to the ocean. When Paddle to the Sea is scheduled, the girls are always so excited. We end up getting out maps, looking on Google Earth, and finding exactly where the boat is in that chapter. This often leads to other conversations regarding geography and exploring other places and maps.
The Handbook of Nature Study: This reference book was written in 1911 (revised in 1939) mainly for teachers who were unfamiliar with plants, animals, and the world around them as a way to teach their students. This makes it great for parents leading their children through nature study. It can be used as lessons or as a reference book where you look up things in the index as they come up.
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: This book of stories is based off the author’s real life experiences in the field of veterinary medicine. They are sweet and extremely well written. The children are learning about animals while reading true stories they will love and remember. The illustrations are beautiful as well.
The Burgess Bird Book for Children: This sweet book of stories follows Peter Rabbit as he travels through the orchard meeting the birds coming back after winter (or leaving to head further north). These fun stories describe the birds in great detail including their colors, their songs, their personalities (the house sparrow actually steals another bird’s nest), and their nests…all without being boring or monotonous. We always pull up a photo of the bird on our Chromecast and print out a coloring page so the children can color while I read the chapter. There is a great resource on this blog with six birds per page in the order they come in the Burgess Bird Book.
Other Supplies: You will also need a nature journal and colored pencils or watercolors for each child. I chose these watercolor notebooks and have just used Crayola watercolors so far. Each day, your child will go outside and find something to observe in nature. These observations are key to the Charlotte Mason method. You can use The Handbook of Nature Study as well as encyclopedias, reference books, or the internet (our most-used resource) to study your finds.
Penmanship and Grammar: To teach handwriting skills and grammar (punctuation, capitalization, etc.), we adhere to Charlotte Mason’s method of copywork. Each day, we choose a section from something we’ve read (usually poetry) and the girls copy it into their notebook. I copy it down first (in cursive for Hannah) and then they write it as neatly as possible. Through this, they are learning reading skills, handwriting skills, and grammar skills.
Phonics/Reading: Charlotte Mason recommends a gentle approach to teaching reading with no formal instruction beginning until age 6. Ambleside Online doesn’t have a set reading curriculum, so we have chosen to use Explode the Code with Miriam (6). She’s in book 3 and it’s going really well. She’s taking off and quickly gaining confidence in her reading. For Hannah, we’ve chosen to just read progressively more difficult books. Today she finished reading the first Boxcar Children book and loved it!
Poetry: Each day, we read a different poem. Ambleside Online recommends these books. We are about halfway through A Child’s Garden of Verses and the poems are sweet, simple, and perfect for children my kids’ age.
Literature: Reading is key to the Charlotte Mason method and along with reading comes narration. Narration shows reading comprehension, ability to predict, ability to summarize, ability to read into character’s feelings…all the skills that a student needs to get the most out of what they read. As students narrate daily, they gain confidence and their comprehension abilities improve. Best of all, this is done without writing book reports, filling in diagrams, making graphic organizers…it’s simply done through parents listing to their children retell what has been read.
The Aesop for Children: This book of fables is so much fun to read! Each fable takes around five minutes to read, but the discussions that follow are so valuable. They teach lessons through stories that children will remember for years to come.
Tales from Shakespeare: I have to admit, I had serious doubts about reading Shakespeare stories to a six and seven year old, but after reading our first (Midsummer Night’s Dream) and seeing how much fun they had with it, my mind has been changed. These stories are well written abridgments of Shakespeare’s plays that give children a taste of Shakespeare before they’re ready to read or watch the plays. It is high quality literature and I love exposing my children to that.
The Blue Fairy Book: Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? I know our family does! These aren’t your typical Disney fairy tales. They’re much closer to the originals and while some are more dark, others are much less so. Our first story was Beauty and the Beast. My girls would be terrified–TERRIFIED by Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, but the Blue Fairy version, they loved. It was sweet and there was far less “evil” than in Disney’s version.
Just So Stories: These fantasy stories are fun for adults and children alike. Titles like, “How the Elephant Got His Trunk”, “How the Cheetah Got His Spots”, and “How the First Letter was Written” will be remembered for years to come.
Parables from Nature: We haven’t begun reading this, but we are looking forward to it. The stories are parables for children inspired by nature.
Math Mammoth: In elementary school, math was not my thing. Or middle school…or high school. I struggled all the way through and managed to pull out B’s. In college, I had classes that taught me how to teach math and all of a sudden, numbers made sense to me! I excelled! I was able to learn how numbers worked and developed mental math strategies that made me more confident than ever. I wanted the same for my children, only I didn’t want it to take them until College. When I found Math Mammoth, I was so thrilled. Math Mammoth focuses on mental math, teaching how numbers work together, and math strategies. It’s not an easy curriculum, but it is thorough and I’m seeing Hannah begin to excel and really understand how numbers work.
Ambleside Online has several recommendations for teaching foreign languages, but in Year One, we’re just introducing students to words and phrases and I found a great resource shared in a Facebook group that my children are loving! It’s called Salsa Spanish and is produced by PBS. The videos are fun and simple enough for children (and adults) to learn Spanish words and phrases while watching. (The easiest way to find videos is to search “Salsa 101”, “Salsa 102”, etc.)
Why We Love Our Homeschool Curriculum Choice
The learning taking place in our home is unlike anything you see in the public schools, private schools, or any other home schools. It’s amazing to see learning through these exciting stories that draw us all in. I’ve seen so much growth in my children in just the past few months that I can’t wait to see what they can do over the course of a year.