Over the weekend I posted our “Plan” for homeschooling in 2016. Since many homeschool Moms often ask how I put together our stuff, I thought I would chat a bit about some of the things I’ve learned and how I piece together our Charlotte Mason-inspired plans. In other words, grab a tea, this is going to be a long one… *wink*
Again, I’m in no way perfect and by no means do I say I’ve got it all figured out! I have relied heavily of lots of prayer, research, and the loving guidance of Moms both in real-life and online who have helped me understand more about this wonderful philosophy.
It is my heart to simply share how we do things here in our home. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that being able to piece together meaningful materials and books for for our family is a huge blessing. This ability has saved me so much money and made our homeschool so much more flexible, living, delight-directed, and meaningful!
Before you do anything, can I humbly encourage you to spend time alone with the Lord and pray about your plans? Ask Him to guide you and show you what He has for you and your children… then, after that…
There are several wonderful Charlotte Mason-based blogs and websites available to help Moms like us get going with this philosophy. For the purpose of understanding and implementing the Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling, my absolute favorite is Simply Charlotte Mason.
I’ve learned organizing a great Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool plan is simply a process of filling in spaces. I look at all the ‘subjects’ and then I fill in the spaces with high quality living books and conversational, engaging materials and resources.
It’s quite simple if you just go step-by-step.
Here are the ‘spaces’ I fill in-
Foreign Language (sometimes, but not really… but you sort of should)
For us, almost everything in the Family-based Learning section is READING. Just reading lots and lots of wonderful living books about each topic and encouraging family narration.
Thoughts on how to fill in the spaces:
Most, if not all, of our daily Family Learning is done during our Morning Time.
History – Choosing the historical time period you will cover is a huge decision. Most Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use a history time period as the spine of their year. (That’s why it is the first question they ask when you walk through Simply Charlotte Mason’s curriculum planner!) This is because the history time period can direct much of your reading choices (history and geography read-alouds, novels, what biographies you cover for Science, Artist and Picture Study, Composer Study, Hymns, Literature/Read-alouds, etc.)
Basically, in History you are going to read, read, read, and read some more. Living Books all about historical events, biographies, historical fiction, wonderful, engaging non-fiction titles, whatever makes the time period come alive!
We also use Bible Road Trip which is free and focuses on simply reading God’s word (chronologically) and Notebooking about what you are learning.
But, honestly? You can totally do Nature Study for nearly free. Grab piles of great living books from the library, go on a few meaningful Nature Walks every week, and have your children keep a simple Nature Journal. (Check out some of the stuff we do for Nature Studies right here.)
Poetry – So, for poetry, we just read poetry. I know, I know… sounds complicated. Honestly, I’ve invested in about 15 really good poetry books (most are just children’s collections) and we read through them together. Maybe a poem per day or some weeks we will read maybe 3 poems in that week. I can be very simple. You can do poet studies if you like, but it isn’t really necessary in my opinion, especially in the younger years. Reading and enjoying great age-appropriate poems is the idea here! Find a great poem book and jump in! There and TONS available for free at the library as well.
We have also found doing some poetry memorization to be so fun and very beneficial. There are loads of short, fun poems that work great for this. This year we are memorizing many of Christina Rossetti’s poems.
Hymn Study – It’s a good idea to just start with the hymns you know or are familiar with. I started this way and just did little google searches to find a very brief history of the hymn, shared that with the kids, and we tried to sing the hymn together. Very simple. This year we purchased Hymns for a Kid’s Heart, which has been a nice resource. There are also some suggestions for hymns to learn right here.
Another option is just singing fun songs together. For some people, hymns are really not their ‘thing’. So, there are loads of fun scripture based or ‘sunday school’ style songs that kids love! We sing lots of the tunes from Hide ‘Em in your Heart!
Literature – Oh, this is the fun part where you just get to go crazy and pick all kinds of awesome living books (picture books, novels, short stories, etc.) to read with the kids! There are countless living book lists out there that you can use, including the one from SCM. You can choose to have your titles flow into other aspects of your study (ie: historical fiction that goes with your time period), or just read books for the fun of reading them!
The focus here is good quality, living books. We have used a TON of audio books from the library and listened to them in the car. There are hundreds of wonderful classics available on audio book!
Habits and Character Development – You can do several things here. Some people use God’s word and work through various aspects of Godly behavior and right living (ie: the Fruits of the Spirit) with their children. Others use books like Laying Down the Rails or The Book of Virtues. We use combination. I like some of the suggestions here as well.
Music and Composer Study – Our family loves music so there is almost always music playing (usually worship). We are also all learning instruments at home, which lends itself to a lot of discovery (and noise!). At this stage, we do not do lessons outside the home. We are using a program call Yousician for Piano, Ukulele, and Guitar.
For Composer Study, we simply choose one or two composers per year. We read their biographies (there are many living book biographies about the well known composers), and we listen to their music. We keep it pretty simple.
Art, Artist, and Picture Study – Art is something that can’t always be categorized. Many kids are always doing artsy things! I would say having an art program is pretty helpful to ensure an official ‘art lesson’ happens once every week. This is why we have used ARTistic Pursuits for years now. We also LOVE Art for Kids Hub. Their are tons of great art programs out there, but you can also just use Pinterest to find some projects if you have to watch your spending.
For Artist and Picture Study, we simply choose 2-3 artists per year, learn a little about the artist, and enjoy and discuss their art. It’s nice to choose Artists from the time period you are covering, but not necessary. I can usually find living books and biographies about the artist quite easily and either invest in a great book of their art or check one out from the library. We’ve also printed color prints to pin on our kitchen cork board wall. Again, this does not have to be complicated at all and should be fun. I love this list.
Handicrafts – Oh! This is where you get to Crochet and make Friendship Bracelets all afternoon and it actually counts as ‘school’! We don’t do handicrafts as consistently as I’d like but in 2016, I want to really try to do an intentional time of ‘handicrafting’ every week. In the past, we have done all kinds of things for handicrafts… Rainbow Loom, Jewelry, Paper Mache, Weaving, Carving, Knitting, Sewing, etc. Lots of great ideas right here.
Individual Learning is where each child has their own ‘plan’.
This is a bit trickier to walk through as I can only speak for what we’re doing for our kids at their specific ages. Simply Charlotte Mason does have some ideas on their site about what you might consider doing when (and how much of it!).
If you are new to the Charlotte Mason way of doing Language Arts, I would recommend checking out some articles about reading, narration, copywork, and dictation to help get you started on plugging in appropriate tasks and materials for your children.
Putting it all Together:
Once you’ve chosen your books and resources, you can plug them into a sort of yearly list that can be easily put into Terms and then a weekly schedule.
There are many different types of schedules Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use. I have made my own sort of plan based on what works for us. Here are several ideas for possible weekly schedules. Once you have a schedule that works for you, it will be fairly simple to start plugging in your book and resources choices.
Here is a basic scheduler I use to pencil in our term for Family Learning and Individual Studies for each child. This is a very quick overview of what our weeks will look like. I altered it a bit (I changed the grades to a space for additional reading and then each child’s name). You can access the download for this schedule at the bottom of THIS PAGE.
After I can see what our term looks like, I can start looking at monthly goals for reading and then weekly plans. One of the reasons I choose to purchase the SCM history outlines is because it saves me LOADS of time in scheduling all the history readings. The timeline is there for me, so I can much more easily plug in our year around that timeline.
For Individual Studies, I use the Spiral Bound Notebook method (sounds fancy, eh?) to schedule our kids’ daily tasks. I made a post about it, right here.
Free Downloads for Planning and Organizing
Family Learning Plan Chart for Term (click to download)
1-Page Daily Schedule for Family Learning (click to download)
2-Page Daily Schedule for Family Learning (click to download)
Our Living Books Lists Print-outs (click to download)
I’m also sharing a bunch of options (in one file) for recording and planning monthly Living Book Read-alouds. This is a great way to visualize and plan what your family will be learning and reading every month. There are separate boxes for History/Geography, Nature Study, Poetry/Art/Composer/Hymn, Bible/Habits, etc. I find this SO helpful, especially considering the backbone of the Charlotte Mason education is, well, reading books.
Basic Reading Log (click to download)
A Monthly Nature Study Planning Page (click to download)
I truly hope this post is helpful to you as you plan your homeschool!
Blessings and much love and encouragement as you journey to learn alongside your child(ren)!
More hands-on Planning Help…