Review of Simply Charlotte Mason’s Family Study Handbooks {Modern Times, Epistles & Revelation}

I’m super happy to review Modern Times, Epistles, and Revelation from Simply Charlotte Mason for you.  *smile*

If you ever use Simply Charlotte Mason’s free curriculum guide, you will be directed to choose a history time period to study together as a family.  These guides, arranged by time period, by Sonya Shafer, act as the backbone of the Simply Charlotte Mason ‘curriculum’.  They are central to carrying out the SCM program in your family.

There are six guides for six different time periods flowing from Creation to Modern History.

So, let me give you the run-down as to what these guides entail.  

Basically, if you purchase a Family Study Handbook from SCM, you are getting a comprehensive guide to homeschooling your whole family all together for one school year (or however long it takes to work through the material).  The guides are separated into 3 Terms with 12 weeks per term.

 Although this is the outline, it never works out so neat and tidy for us – but that’s the layout, anyways.

There are three main subject areas: History, Geography, and Bible.

Now, when you pay your $10.95 for the ebook or $15.95 for the hard-copy, you are getting the guide. Any other books you will need are listed for you in the Resources Needed section of the guide (this can also be seen in the free download preview of each guide).
There are many ‘Needed Resources’ listed for these programs.  As you can imagine, being a Charlotte Mason based ‘curriculum’, there is a big focus on living books and you will need to invest in the books or at least similarly themed books to successfully complete the program.  Without living books about the topics being covered, you won’t have much of a curriculum.
I guess I’m a bit of a rebel, but I seem to always find alternatives to ‘required’ resources for this type of living book curriculum.  I have done this for quite a few of the books in Modern Times, Epistles and Revelation.  I think part of the reason I choose alternative books is just the convenience of using books I already own or can easily access.  
So, our kids didn’t really love the recommended book for grades 4-6 study of Abraham Lincoln (Abe Lincoln: Log Cabin to White House).  Not a big deal.  We just stuck to a couple other Abe Lincoln living books and learned about Lincoln through those books instead.  There is a lot of freedom with living books curriculums if you can get the hang of selecting alternatives when needed.  I think this is also why SCM and programs like this (where you buy the guide for pennies and work with it as a springboard) are so much more appealing to me as a homeschool Mom.  I don’t feel completely tied down to a HUGE investment of countless books and a strict schedule that I’m not sure will work for us.  I feel like I have more flexibility.
Having said that, many of the required/recommended and even the optional titles for the SCM programs are fabulous and worth investing in.  It’s up to you to read through the resources and make your own decisions.  The books we certainly could not have done without for this guide (Modern History) and the previous guide (Early Modern History) are the Stories of America and Stories of the Nations books from SCM.  These are really, really good and much needed to work through the history component of these guides.  
Some of the books and resources recommended with this guide include:
-The Holy Bible
-Stories of America/Stories of the Nations (this is a spine and is needed – love these!)
-The Story of Thomas A. Edison by Frances M. Perry
– books by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
-Sarah, Plan and Tall by P. MacLachlan (grades 1-3 level)
-The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of American Aviation by Q. Renolds (grades 4-6)
-Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by M. Taylor
-George Mueller by Faith Coxe Bailey
-Holling C. Holling geography books (Paddle to the Sea, Minn of the Mississippi,  Tree in the Trail, etc.)
-Louis Pasteur: Founder of Modern Medicine by J. Hudson Tiner
-How Should We Then Live?  by Francis Schaeffer
and many more!
This program is VERY book heavy and based entirely on reading great books together as a family and also individually.  (That’s why I love it so much~!)

For the whole family…

Alright, one of BEST things about the Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum (for me, anyways) is the fact that they put the whole family together!  *Hooray!*  So, your preschooler, 2nd grader, 4th grader, 6th grader… they’ll all be studying the same time period and same general topics but at varying levels of depth and difficulty.
Honestly, this is the only way I can function.  I have been doing this homeschooling thing for about 8 years now and I have tried to separate my kiddos and do completely different work with each child.
Every time it was a monumental disaster – super overwhelming and impossible to keep up with.  I know it works for some people – but I think those people are super heroes.  (Seriously…)  To me, having all the kids study the same stuff as much as possible just makes sense.
So, with the Simply Charlotte Mason programs, you’ll be doing History, Geography, Bible, and read-alouds together.
There are, however, different recommended books based on age.  The guide gives titles suitable for family reading as well as gives separate book requirements for grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and then 10-12.
For example, when studying Abraham Lincoln in Term 1:
-Grades 1-3 read Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
-Grades 4-6 read Abe Lincoln: Log Cabin to White House by Sterling North
-Grades 7-9 real Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman

The Layout of the Family Study Handbook

I actually really, really like the layout of the guides.  They give you a ton of information to help get organized.  There are lists of all the required and recommended books, a full layout of what will be presented throughout the year, books required by term, grids per term showing weekly progress and what will be read when.  Then the guide breaks off into detailed lesson plans that are listed by lesson rather than day.  (So, the guide says LESSON 1, followed by LESSON 2, with no required dates specifically assigned to the lessons).

Although there is a grid for weekly progress, you can also just ignore that grid and follow day by day (even if you miss 3 days… or 10) and still keep moving forward. AMEN for this, friends.

There is a really neat rhythm to these guides as well.  They are written in somewhat of a loop schedule, really.  

For Modern History – Lesson 1 is American History, Lesson 2 is American History, Lesson 3 is Geography and Bible, Lesson 4 is World History, Lesson 5 is World History.  So for this book (Modern History) you have this laid out loop of 2 times American History, 1 time Geography/Bible, 2 times World History.  And then the loop begins again.

Not every handbook is laid out exactly like this but they all have a really nice mix of variety in the layout of the lessons.

For each Lesson, the guide lists the materials/books you will need, breaks down the reading by family and age categories, and also gives reminders for narration prompts, books that are coming up, tips for teaching, and timeline prompts for filling in your family book of centuries or timeline.  
If you are looking for a lot of hands-on activities or projects, these guides do not really offer that sort of thing.  These guides focus on reading, narration, discussion, and map skills and map drill work.

Final Thoughts

If I had to choose a favorite Charlotte Mason-inspired website, it would be Simply Charlotte Mason.  I love how the information is presented, I love how the site doesn’t completely overwhelm me but instead, helps me find direction and simple, applicable information.  I love the affordable resources and the free curriculum guide.  I love that the studies are presented in a family format and biblically based.
I highly recommend Simply Charlotte Mason to families looking for not only a Charlotte Mason based ‘curriculum’ (or plan), but also for families seeking a gentle but rich education.  The family study handbooks are a wonderful resource that have helped me visualize, implement, and enjoy learning along with my children in an easy to implement Charlotte Mason style of home education.
Blessings to you all!

Here are some more Simply Charlotte Mason reviews that are on the way:

I really enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the SCM Family Study Handbooks and hope this review is helpful for you as you make decisions for your homeschool!


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