The Truth about Teaching our Children to Read {and 5 Simple Steps for Nurturing a Love of Books...}

Monday, August 22, 2016

A couple of days ago, I shared a special moment on The Unplugged Family Facebook page.

My nine-year-old daughter had just finished reading through The Boxcar Children for the first time and was starting into the second book in the series.  It was mid-morning and our home was peacefully quiet with children all engaged in their own activities.  Audrey unfolded her legs and rose from the couch with a satisfied sigh.

"Oh, Mama... I just couldn't LIVE without reading,"  her voice was whimsical and sing-song.

I smiled and she continued,

"Reading is just delicious."

Oh, my heart.  Those four words will stay emblazoned in my soul forever.


I love her use of words - and I couldn't agree more.  Reading IS delicious and don't we DEVOUR books?  So why not delicious reading?

It took a solid 9 and a half years of nurturing a love of books for a statement like that to bubble up out of her little heart.  And it is music to my ears to hear my children tell me they LOVE to read.  It is a sweet reward after many years of investment and perseverance.  Isn't it?

And, friends, I don't believe a true pleasure in reading just 'happens'.  I mean, maybe for the occasional child, but more often than not...

a genuine love of reading is like a well cared for garden.  

It takes a ton of work.  We must create the right environment for that garden to grow, we must till the soil of the heart and mind, we must plant the right seeds, nurture the seeds - then the plants, and continue to water that garden and weed that garden and nurture that garden for as long as it takes.

And sometimes that can mean there will be many years before we see the 'fruits' of our labor.

Yep.  It takes good old fashioned TIME to grow passionate readers.

After 'teaching' three children to read (so to speak), there is one MAJOR truth that I feel every Mom, homeschooler or not, should know.  I mean, there are many (which I plan to cover in this new series on reading!) but there is one BIGGIE.

It isn't really about whether our child CAN read.  

It is much more about whether our child WANTS to read.  

Does that make sense?

In other words, the most important task you have in the journey of your child learning to read is this - teaching your kids to LOVE to read.

The less important task is the teaching of the actual act of reading words on a page.

WHEN your child learns the mechanics of reading on her own is completely irrelevant in the long-run.

Let's chat about what I mean, ok?

Our culture is loaded with kids who CAN read.  They probably even learned when they were as young as 4 or 5 at school.  But do the LOVE to read?  Now that is often a much different story.

Come on. We've all seen that Mom.  Maybe we've even BEEN that Mom (gulp). The one sitting on the library couch with their Kindergarten aged child and a beginning reader book on her lap.  The child struggles madly to read the simple words on the page while the Mom grows more and more frustrated, making the entire experience quite stressful and miserable for all involved.  The parent is visibly annoyed, the child feel defeated, and the idea of reading (in this instance) sure doesn't seem very enticing for the child, does it?

This is often what happens with the pressure of having a time-frame in which a child MUST learn to read.  Parents of children in school feel this pressure as teachers tell them their child is 'behind' or not reading on level. (I have so many friends who have gone through this!).  This creates an environment of stress where the struggling child learns that reading is hard, stressful, and unenjoyable.  They learn that reading invokes feelings of defeat, frustration, and disappointment.   This is not at ALL what we are going for, friends.

And before we go crazy pointing fingers at parents of kids in school - so many of us are guilty of the very same philosophy.  Somehow, we can't seem to shake the idea that there is this time-frame for learning to read.  If a child doesn't read by the time they are 5 or 6, well, something MUST be wrong.

This perspective is just as prevalent in the homeschooling community as it is in the school community.  We feel the heat for our kids to learn to read probably more than any other milestone. We feel it from our family, friends, other homeschoolers, even ourselves.  

But why?

Why are we so obsessed with WHEN a child learns to read?

Why aren't we more concerned about whether a child WANTS to read?

Because these are two very different goals, in all honesty.

My goal has always been to raise kids who LOVED books and desired to read.  This meant that I was very relaxed about teaching the mechanics of reading.

My first son taught himself (YES, TAUGHT HIMSELF) how to read when he was about 5 or so, or maybe he was 6? (See, I don't even remember!)

My daughter took about 2 years to really learn to read fluently. She was 8 1/2 when everything really clicked.  (All About Reading really helped her!)

My youngest son learned to read at about 7 after a really short time of very relaxed instruction with All About Reading Level 1.

See?  Even in one family, each child is so different.

But you know a common thread?

They all like to read.

Praise God, they LIKE to read.

No matter what stage in the journey our children are at, the primary goal needs to be nurturing a LOVE of reading.  

Forget about their age.  

I know, right?  But, seriously... forget about their age.

Mama, if your child is 4 or 5 and cannot read - that's OKAY.  In fact, that is completely normal.

Mama, if your child is 6 or 7 and cannot read - that's OKAY.  There are many, many children at that age who are not ready for the mechanics of reading yet.

Mama, if your child is 8 or 9 and cannot read - that's OKAY too.  Because children learn at all different ages and stages.

I have heard story after story of children who struggled with reading, learned later (as late as 10 or 11 even), and because of their parent's perseverance and patience, are now completely voracious readers.

Friends, we are not bound by a deadline.  

The world will not fall apart if Suzie doesn't read when she is 6 years old.

We are not slaves to a system.  

Have we forgotten that we broke free from these restrictions?  Why do we cling to them and judge ourselves and our children by them?  

Who in the world ever asks a teenager or adult how OLD they were when they learned to read?  No one, that's who.  And the reason why is because it is irrelevant.  When they learned doesn't matter at all - the only thing that matters is if they can read.  And they can.  So there.

But... DO they continue to read? Now that might have something to do with how they learned.

When a child learns to read is so much less important than HOW.

And by how, I mean the kind of environment in which the child learns to read.  Is it one of nurture, patience, love, respect, and understanding?  An environment filled with a love of books, lots of read-aloud stories, and peaceful and joyous experiences with books?

Or one of stress, frustration, deadlines, and rush to learn a 'skill' by a deadline?

Five Simple Steps for Really Teaching our Children to (love to) Read:

1. Start with REST.

Alright, here I go again.  Have you read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie yet?  Yes?  Then you know exactly what I mean when I say 'Start with REST'.    No, you haven't read it?!  What are you waiting for, Mama?  And... let me explain this idea of starting with rest the best I can in a couple sentences -

This philosophy of Teaching from Rest is all about teaching from the perspective of resting wholly and entirely on the Lord's leading and Christ's faithfulness.  We are not in control of how or when our children truly learn anything.  We are simply called to be faithful in the calling God has placed on our lives to raise up our children in the best way we can according to His will and word and by His leading and grace.

Teaching to read from a state of rest means letting go.  It means trusting the Lord and trusting the process.  It means bringing our best, being obedient and faithful, teaching with love, respect, joy, and peace - and then trusting the plan God has for our children and ourselves.  Teaching from Rest means we get to be at peace with the journey.  It is a truly lovely place to start any subject.

2.  Give them a reason to WANT to read.

So, now that you've entered into a state of peaceful teaching and trust in God's timing and leading, you need to work hard at laying a good literary foundation.  Your child should learn at an early age what a read-aloud culture looks like.  This means, reading is established as a part of normal life - just as common as eating or sleeping.  We read because we breathe.  

Reading is also established as something wonderful - something of great worth.  Reading is something that makes us feel cozy, joyful, full of wonder.  There is this overwhelming sense of  togetherness when a family reads a great living book aloud together.

We must fill our shelves and our children's lives with great books.  Every kind of book too - of course, the Scriptures, fables, folk tales, great picture books, classics, novels with stories of adventure, mystery, history, biography, and fantasy, things to make us laugh out loud and even shed a tear.  This is the literary glue that will stick a love of reading to your child's young soul.

This is the kind of culture that gives them a REASON to want to read.  They must first fall in love with stories and with the act of looking in a great book to gain knowledge or experience the joy of story.  Only THEN can they develop the desire to want to read for themselves.  Not because they have to, but because they WANT to.

3. Do not push your child to learn to read.  Choose to ignore cultural pressures.

While you are (hopefully) doing as much nurturing a love of reading as possible - don't rush your child.  Just because they are 5 or 6 or whatever age you think they SHOULD learn to read doesn't mean they will learn to read at that age.  (Trust me, I know this!)  And maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't even be beneficial for them to learn quite yet.  Maybe the soil of their heart just isn't quite ready.

I believe one of THE BIGGEST mistakes we can do as home schoolers is pressure our children to read.  Pushing and prodding and getting frustrated with the reading process is a huge no-no.  Not only will it prove very unenjoyable for you and your child, it could potentially completely sabotage the lovely foundation you tried so hard to lay.  You know, the one where you established a love of books in your child's heart?

Also - all that pressure might not prove fruitful anyway.  Children will always (always!) learn best when they are ready.  I have found this to be so true with our children.  I waited until I saw a readiness in my daughter and second son before introducing reading instruction to them.  And for my daughter, I did try to go through 'lessons' for phonics with her and it just wasn't clicking.  The minute I saw her getting frustrated and discouraged, I let it go.  We went back to just enjoying great books together.  I didn't want to push her and lose this beautiful love of literature she had.

Guess what?  About a year later, she was ready and picked up reading quite easily and very enjoyably.  (This is when we used All About Reading with great success!).

4.  When your child IS ready to learn, nurture a love of reading with an atmosphere of warmth, love, peace, patience, kindness, and lots of tea and brownies and more books.

I knew when our children were ready to learn to read because I could see their desire to learn the mechanics of reading greatly increase.  They were now understanding and responding well to short, simple lessons.  There was no stress in the process because they were fully on board and had a personal desire to learn.

Maybe you've heard it said before - WHAT we teach isn't nearly as important as HOW we teach it.  I love this sentiment because it is so, so true with homeschooling.  It also completely mimics Charlotte Mason's philosophy on the Atmosphere of the Home being of utmost importance in teaching our children.  Well, the atmosphere of how we teach reading has the same affect.

If we want to establish and preserve a love of reading in our child's heart and mind, we NEED to teach them to read in a room filled with warmth, love, peace, patience, and kindness.  They need to know we are SO on their team and are willing to do whatever it takes and work for however long is needed to help them achieve the ability to read for themselves.

In our home, we snuggle up, have snacks and special treats, giggle and just enjoy that special time of learning to read together.  Which leads to the last point...

5.  Enjoy the journey.

We will only have these precious children with us for such a short time.  Really, in the course of a life-time - we have our babies for a blip, it seems.

I can't believe my eldest will turn 12 this year.   I honestly BLINKED and he went from 2 to 12.  Let's just commit to surrendering our fear, anxiety, stress, and feeling of overwhelm and ENJOY the journey with our children. Because, honestly, this journey will not last forever.

It is a miraculous thing, how a child learns.  It truly is a holy experience.  And we get to be part of it as homeschoolers!  Every step of the journey, we are privileged to share with our children, walking hand in hand.  And learning to read is one of the most wonderful and powerful things they will learn.

It is HUGELY rewarding to play a leading role in teaching a child to read.  I have always been overcome with emotion when each child starts really 'getting' it for themselves.  But that doesn't mean rushing the 'getting it' part of the journey.  It will come in the right timing.  I promise.  Enjoy this blessed and special journey with your child- breathe in the reality that you will teach her to read but once.

It is a precious time and should be treated as such.

Above all, trust. Trust in the Lord's divine leading and will for your child.  And trust in your child.

The rewards will come, and they are breathtaking.

This is a worth-while link to check out - videos from Sarah's official  Teaching from Rest book club.


Other 'Learning to Read' Posts coming soon:

-Nurturing the developing/emerging Reader (ideas, tips, things that have worked for us)
-The Powerful Role Family Read-Alouds play in Nurturing Passionate Readers

-Wow! My child can read!  Now what?
-How to Make your Kids Hate Reading (mistakes I've made, mistakes I've seen)
-Do I really need a fancy Reading Curriculum? (Thoughts and experiences)
-Continuing to Nurture a Love of Reading AFTER they know 'how' to Read

The difference between a Schedule and a Rhythm (and how Rhythm brought Rest to our Homeschool)

Monday, August 15, 2016


A. a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.  

B. to arrange or plan events to take place at a particular time.


A. a strong, regular pattern of movement or sound.  

B. a repeated pattern of events marked by natural flow and regular reoccurrence of certain activities.

When I first started my Homeschooling journey,  I tried desperately to create (and re-create) very specific Homeschool Schedules I wanted us to follow.  These comprised of many boxes and many little increments of time, all filled in with exactly what we would do every second of the day.

When the children were preschoolers and toddlers, I tried something like this:

8 am - Break-fast
8:15 am - Wash hands and faces, stack dishes in sink
8:17 am - Leave Kitchen and enter the Learning Room
8:20 am - Morning Time prayer and songs
8:25 am - Morning Time calendar 
8:30 am - Poetry Reading
8:35 am - Letter Review with songs

Um... who wants to guess if THAT worked with a 4, 2, and 1 year old?  *cough*

When they were in early elementary and preschool, I tried something like this:

9 am - Morning Calendar
9:15 am - Printing
9:25 am - Math
9:45 am - Drawing
9:55 am - Snack
10:10 am - Story time

Nope, that one didn't work either.

These rigid schedules never (ever, ever, EVER!) worked for our family.

By the time our kids were 7, 6, and 4,  I was so done with the fight and I remember literally writing out a "Schedule" that poked fun at the whole thing.  It looked like this - 

Monday through Friday: do homeschool stuff.


This is also about the time I 'met' Charlotte Mason and my philosophies on life, education, and scheduling really started to change. 

And I've got to be completely honest - for a long time (before my little personal Charlotte Mason/gentle education revolution), I thought there was seriously something wrong with us.  Wrong with me.  I mean, why couldn't I get my kids to just do what I wanted WHEN I wanted?  Why wouldn't they just follow the schedule?  Why couldn't they do Math when I said so and keep Drawing to the allotted time frame and move flawlessly through the tasks on my little checkmark system schedule?!

Instead of offering the structure, flow, and productivity I was hoping for, our rigid schedules brought frustration, burnout, and full-on meltdowns.  

The kids were miserable, I was exasperated, and nothing was happening as I thought it should.  In fact, not only were things not happening the way I wanted - they weren't really happening at all.  It was a disaster.

If I let that Schedule rule my day, my emotions, and my reactions it wasn't good.

I saw that it wasn't working but I couldn't understand why.  It seemed like so many other Homeschoolers were using these types of time-slotted schedules and their kids were following along.  I mean, seriously, just google "Homeschool Schedule" and you will find countless schedules that aren't that different from the ones above.  And THOSE Moms even have stars and velcro charts and all sorts of fancy things to go along with the time slots. 

I wondered why I felt compelled to march to the beat of the rigid-schedule drum.  And, thank goodness, it didn't take me too long to see that I was only marching to 'that' drum because I was copying what I saw other homeschoolers doing.  

Not because I fully believed in it or even had research or philosophical reasoning to back up my plans - just because other people did it too (yep...).

Well, I've come to realize, after 7 years of homeschooling, that it is TOTALLY OKAY to not have a Schedule in my Homeschool.

Just like with any other decision you make for your homeschool and family, you need to know your "why".

If you are going to plan and implement a strict Schedule - why?

If you are not going to plan and implement a strict Schedule - why not?

Simple as that.

You must (MUST) know why you are choosing one or the other.

Schedule VS. Rhythm

So, to me, a Schedule means just what it's definition says - a plan and list of events (or lessons/activities) to take place at a specifically given time. When you have a Homeschool Schedule, you want to see Math happen every day at 10am.

A Rhythm, on the other hand, is quite different.  A Homeschool Rhythm is a regular, established pattern of work/activities based on a natural flow.

See the difference?  The Rhythm works wonders for us, so I want to encourage you that it might really work for your family too.  Especially if you've been trying more strict schedules and been really struggling.

These days, we have an extremely simple Homeschool Rhythm. I spoke about it in my Morning Time and Family Loop Plans post and it is up on the kitchen wall, but more for decoration than anything.  

Our Rhythm goes like this:

Morning Time (all together)
Morning Rotations (Individual Work)
Family Loop

There is no real time frame in terms of an hourly, time-slot type schedule.

There are several subjects and tasks that we want to accomplish every day and we work towards accomplishing them.  Period.

Every day, we wake up, we spend time together, we do Morning Time, the kids know what Individual Work they have to do, and will rotate through spending time with me to accomplish their Morning Rotation.  Then, at some point, we will fit in our Family Loop subject (either History, Geo/Bible, Nature Study, or Hands-on Science).  We have a daily pattern that is predictable and reliable.

The kids know what we are doing even though it is not rigid or tied to the clock or a checklist.  They know what is expected and move freely within those expectations.  We are pretty relaxed but have enough of a pattern that everyone still feel secure and productive in that daily 'beat'.

We DO try to do Morning Time in the morning because, well.... you know.  

Honestly though, beyond that - it's just got to be done by the time the sun sets.  Or sometimes, not even.  Sometimes (gasp!) we carry over work that we didn't do on Monday to Tuesday or even Wednesday.  (I know, I know... unheard of, right?)

And OH, the peace this structure brings to our home, friends!  I can't speak highly enough of this kind of relaxed, yet purposeful plan.  We are not lazy.  We are free.  And within that freedom we are actually more productive because we have nurtured the atmosphere that lends itself to peaceful, restful learning.

Let me express to you some solid reasons why I strongly advocate for adopting a Homeschool Rhythm instead of a timed Schedule-

Rhythm leaves more room for God's leading and life's 'divine interruptions'.  

C.S. Lewis talked about this when he said: 

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.”
Now, I don't think all the interruptions to our days are unpleasant.  In fact, many of these little interruptions are sweet and beautiful!  But nonetheless, these unscheduled events and needs can often be seen as annoying interruptions if we are set on a specific schedule that runs in a minute-by-minute time frame.

Honestly, I desperately want to live with eyes wide open to where God is leading and what ways I can reach out to our children, love on them, love on others - family, friends, the children in our lives.  If we are faced with the question of choosing between 'doing homeschool' or encouraging and helping a friend in need - I want to be the ones who choose people over tasks every time.

And the strict schedule makes choosing the unexpected very difficult - especially when you feel tied to the schedule, 'or else'.

Rhythm allows for more play and more creativity.  

I'll admit it - there are mornings when we are barely starting Morning Time before 11am.  It's not because we've slept in for hours or watched videos or are just lounging around eating chocolate in our PJs.  (I wish!)

If we're getting a 'late start' to the day, it's almost always because the kids have been completely engaged in something else that I deemed worthwhile to let them continue.  Whether it is building with Legos, painting a picture, creating a play together, building a fort for reading, making something with the sewing machine, spending time with the chickens, nurturing relationships, etc.

When the children are happily engaged in productive projects, activities, and play, I usually leave them be.  This is part of that space Charlotte Mason called 'masterly inactivity'.  Where the parent chooses to 'let the child alone'.  So she can create, imagine, dream, play, and grow in her own giftings, skills, and focus.  This IS 'school', friends.  It is the most profound type of education because it is that self-education we so desire for our children to grow into.

The minute-by-minute schedule would never allow for me to do this 'letting alone' as much as I do.  I would constantly feel behind because we would NEVER be starting (or finishing) on time.  I prefer to breathe deep and enjoy this time for them to just be children.  We get to the 'work' eventually.  Some days, it just takes longer to get to my plan because they are first doing some 'work' of their very own.  *wink*

Rhythm allows for more Delight-Directed Learning.  

Apart from having more time to play and be creative, having a Rhythm allows for more time to take educational detours.  I love to watch for the sparks in our children and work hard not to ignore them, but to instead, nurture them.

So, if we are reading about some aspect of Early Modern History and all of a sudden our kids are completely captivated by Queen Elizabeth - we are likely to camp there for a while to nurture that interest and soak up all the delight-directed learning we can do.  We just have more freedom.  If 'History' takes 2 hours, that's okay.  There's nothing telling us we have to rush to the next time slot.

Rhythm removes the pressure to blaze through things.  

When you're supposed to be done Math at 10:15 so you can start Spelling at 10:16, and done Spelling at 10:30 so you can start Copywork at exactly 10:31 - um, it's a bit stressful.  The temptation is the get through the first thing so that we can flawlessly move on to the next thing, so that we can again move on (quickly!) to the NEXT thing on the schedule.  If we lag behind, the whole day is just messed up.  And if you are an A-type Mama, that will drive you NUTS.  So, guess what?  You'll rush through things to stay on schedule.  It just might become about that darn schedule instead of about the little person in front of you and the learning that is or is not taking place.

Rhythm gives children more say in how they manage their own time and tasks.  

It's okay to let our kids decide when they want to accomplish their work.  I've actually realized that my children work far better under these less restrictive perimeters.  My eldest really enjoys reading his personal reads in the evening, so that's when he reads and often narrates to me.  My daughter loves to get her work done early in the morning because she feels a weight off her back by getting it done!  My youngest likes to wait until I am fully available so he can sit on my lap, play with my hair and just completely enjoy his time with "Mama".

There are days when another project (say Lego or an Art project) overpowers my child's desire to do Math work.  And that's okay.  The Math can wait if a child prefers to do it a little later in the day.  The child still knows they need to do it and they are still learning through the activity they are currently engaged in.  In fact, they are probably learning MORE than they will during that Math lesson.

This method helps children learn about when and how they work best and how to manage their own time and tasks on a daily and weekly basis.  It is worth noting here that this structure also really helps with atmosphere - it keeps the kids MUCH happier because it respects them as people.

In fact, I feel so strongly about this, I'll make it another point...

Rhythm helps maintain a peaceful and productive home atmosphere (at least in our home it does!).  

Guess what?  I'm going to let you in on a little secret -  kids often have their own little agendas.  They don't always WANT to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it.  I know, right?  Wait... you already knew that?

So, if I'm aiming for peace in the home and homeschool, I'm going to try my best to understand how I can structure our days for the most peace and productivity.

I work with how I function best and also consider how each of the individual little people in my home functions best.  What makes them most capable of learning and absorbing these great ideas I want them to contemplate?  What helps them thrive?  What really frustrates them and hinders them from learning?  What times of day or types of situations push their buttons?  And what kind of atmosphere renders them incapable of learning (literally)?

Identify these things and don't be afraid to work with exactly where your children are at.  It's OK.  You are not being a push-over or overly accommodating to acknowledge their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique learning styles.  This is part of the whole reason so many of us chose to homeschool - to have the freedom to educate our children in an individual manner that helped them learn in the most optimal way.

I'll tell you something - I write this blog usually between 10:30pm and 1am.  Partly because that is the only time I have to myself (chuckle) but mostly because it is the time of day when I think, organize ideas, and write most coherently and effectively.  It might sound absolutely insane to some people, but it is the way I've been since I was very young.  I don't think it could have been trained out of me - this is just the way I tick.  (PS.  It is 11:15pm as I type this...)

Kids are no different than us.  They have personalities and their own needs and likes/dislikes surrounding their work and their play.

This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way through many, many months (years?) of tears, arguments, melt-downs, and complete frustration in our homeschool.  I thought things should be done the way I wanted every single time, no compromises - and it caused so much upset and much of it was avoidable.  It was simply a matter of taking into account my children's' personalities, abilities, and personal limitations.

Rhythm supports Charlotte Mason's philosophies concerning education and children. 

 If you look at how most typical true-to-Charlotte Mason 'schedules' are structured, you'll notice a common thread.  They are almost never charted with specific times for specific activities.

There is, however, usually a grid with the kinds of subjects your family will cover each day, and sometimes these 'schedules' will show how MUCH time you may want to spend on each subject, but rarely are they super structured with regards to exactly when and where to complete each subject.

Why?  Because Charlotte Mason spoke of giving children freedom in their own homeschool scheduling and spoke of how this freedom would serve them well.   In other words, I believe she would have advocated a Rhythm.   She did, however, strongly enforce good attention skills, no dawdling, and a strong adherence to lengths of lessons.  She spoke of keeping lessons short for younger students and even moving on to something entirely different when the child becomes exasperated with one topic or task.

Some quotes from Charlotte Mason:

"We should have a Method of Education not a System of Education.  A method is flexible, free, yielding, adaptive, natural.  A system is endless rules and very rigid.  The system would teach the child how to play but then he has no initiative. A wise passiveness - let the children take the initiative; follow the lead of Nature."

"That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself - both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences."

"We are very tenacious of the dignity and individuality of our children... Do not take too much upon ourselves, but leave time and scope for the workings of Nature and of (God)..."

Want more inspiration?  Check out Julie Bogart (from Brave Writer) in this video about Schedule VS. Routine.

I will end this post by saying - obviously, I am very pro-Rhythm.  But that doesn't make me entirely anti-Formal-Schedule.  I'm anti-Schedule in my own home because it doesn't work at all for us.  And, honestly, because of what I know about children - I think a formal and rigid schedule will be hard on most every child.

I do, however, I have friends who say they could not function any other way than on a strict schedule.  

So, to each her own.  If you are a strict Schedule Mama, power to you if it works!  *smile*  I am simply sharing my thoughts and my heart on why tossing the strict schedule and adopting more of a relaxed Rhythm has worked for our family.  

The hope is to encourage other Moms, like me, who feel pressured to adhere to a Homeschool Schedule when it isn't working for their home and to express how Rhythm can bring rest and peace to the atmosphere of home.


Our Choices for Individual Studies / Morning Rotation - 2016, Term 1 and beyond. {Language Arts, Math, Reading, and Notebooking...}

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

So, last week I posted about our Morning Time and Family Loop plans for this year, Term 1.

If you haven't read that post and are genuinely interested in how our year (or a creatively put-together, Charlotte Mason-inspired year) looks like, I'd definitely start there.  A huge part of our learning is covered in our Morning Time and Family Loop.

Once we finish up Morning Time, the kids move into their Morning Rotations (Individual Work).  This is where they are covering their Language Arts, Math, Notebooking, and Reading.  

This year Simon is our 6th grader (oh, my goodness!),  Audrey is in 4th grade, and Alex is in 3rd.   I can't believe how fast these kiddos are growing up...  I don't really like the whole 'grade-level' thing but I add this to give perspective for our planning.  Simon is 11, Audrey 9, and Alex just turns 8 at the beginning of September.

Plan Your Year

I can't write this post without acknowledging how much Plan Your Year helped me plan this year.  I had never really looked at each of our children individually, evaluated their strengths and weaknesses and set actual, straight-forward goals for their upcoming year.  This is a new practice for me and it was SO helpful.  I also used a ton of the planning tools and print-outs to help organize our kids' individual work and curriculum choices.  I honestly love all Pam's resources.

Plan Your Year Ad

The Plan Your Year resources come with several printables as well as an ebook that walks you through the entire planning process.  It is an amazing resource.

One of the Goals Worksheets that helped me pick and choose our focus and the right resources for each child.

Morning Rotation

The reason I call this part of the day Morning Rotation is because, well... I basically stole the term from Sarah Mackenzie.  *wink*  But really, it's a great name for this part of our day because we do the same thing she does - the kids rotate through having individual time with me.  Sometimes they can do a bunch of this work on their own, but often they need me to help walk through it with them.  They take turns with Mama, rotating through... so... yea, "Morning Rotation" works.  We also often call this their 'Individual Work/Studies" and they know what that means.

How we Roll...

I also feel like I need to add - I'm not super normal in the way I use resources. (Or the way I do anything, for that matter... ) 

Many Moms pick one resource and work through the whole thing from Lesson 1 to the last Lesson and that's that.  We usually (wait, sometimes...) get through entire programs, we just do a bit of bouncing around while we work through it. 

So, you might see that one of my children has 3 writing programs listed in the plans.  Well, that's because we will literally move from one to another and back again as we feel led or as I see fit.

There are a lot of great resources out there and we use bits and pieces of many different 'programs'.  I may LOVE one aspect of one but not implement other aspects.   So, please don't think I'm a crazy person, making our kids do unimaginable amounts of work (hardly...)!  We just use resources in a creative and flexible way which allows us to tap into more than one curriculum, especially with Language Arts.

Choosing a Focus

In the spirit of Charlotte Mason, our kids have quite the 'feast' set before them every year with regard to reading, learning, curriculum, and ideas presented within the home.  In the midst of this we will be choosing a focus.  This is one area that needs work that will get some extra attention through the school year.  

This year, our focus is Language Arts - 

specifically Reading, Discussion Studies, Writing and Spelling.


Notebooking is a huge part of our homeschool.  I haven't added it into the individual spaces below because I wanted to talk about it here.

The children all use Notebooking for their Individual Work/Rotation as well as some of our Family Loop work.  This includes adding copywork, poetry, scripture, quotes, as well as pages in nearly every 'subject' area - Art and Picture Study, Composer Study, History, Geography, Nature Study... you name it.  If we are studying it, we are probably Notebooking about it too.

I have shared extensively about our Notebooking experiences and just how much we rely on Notebooking to carry us and enforce the wonderful things we are reading and learning about.  I couldn't imagine homeschooling without Notebooking!

I couldn't imagine doing all the Notebooking we do without our membership either - so I always recommend this site to homeschoolers looking to get into a lot of Notebooking.  *smile*

Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership

Thoughts about Brave Writer...

Ummm.... ?!  

How have I not heard of Brave Writer before this year?   

I feel like I must have been living under some kind of writing curriculum rock to have not heard of this amazing program before now!!!  Especially as a Charlotte Mason-inspired Mama...!  So, in case you're out of the loop like me - it is imperative that I share this discovery with you!

The wonderful people at Brave Writer were generous to offer me the opportunity to review The Writer's Jungle  (that full review is coming this month!).  I feel like this chance to review The Writer's Jungle will be a revolutionary moment in our homeschool writing journey. Until now I have struggled SO HARD with finding writing resources that fit our philosophy of education.  So many are boring, too formulaic, full of busy work, and drive me and my kids to run from writing instead of nurturing a love for writing.

I'm extremely excited to implement several aspects of Brave Writer this year.  We will be using the philosophies and ideas/assignments in The Writer's Jungle all together, each child is doing their own titles/level of their Language Arts program (A Quiver Full of Arrows for our youngest and The Arrow for the other two), and we will be adding Poetry Tea Time as well as the Friday Free Write to our weeks.  (Yeah, I went a little Brave Writer crazy, but I'm in LOVE!)

I purchased A Quiver of Arrows for our 8 year old and The Arrow issues for our 9 and 11 year old through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  I actually got a really great deal price-wise, but the even better deal was for The Arrow!  I was able to purchase back issues/units in the titles I wanted!  Rather than subscribing to the 2016-2017 year, I actually got to choose which books we would use this year.
This allowed me to purchase 10 issues and I added the free unit they have on their website, so 11 issues of The Arrow in total.  Simon will use 6 of those, Audrey will use 5.

Although they are using the same level of The Arrow, it is imperative (IMPERATIVE!) that they do their own individual studies for Language Arts.

I used 1 1/2 inch binders and printed out all the units and placed them in the binders with dividers for each book.  It works!

The Writer's Jungle was sent to me as a PDF from Brave Writer.  I had it printed at Staples and Bound for about $30 (SO expensive to bind/print ... but worth every penny!).

The titles for A Quiver Full of Arrows - these titles do not change, there are 10 titles for this level and they come in a package.  I got a great deal (40% off) on the pdf download at Homeschool Buyers Co-op.

Titles I chose from past issues of The Arrow.  Not photographed - James and the Giant Peach.

Can't wait to share more in my full review of this amazing 'life-style', as Brave Writer calls it!

So, now... on to sharing some of our resources for Language Arts and Math:

I may just be over-thinking this, but I honestly struggle so much with sharing our resources.  

I struggle because I know SO WELL that what works for our kids may not work (at all) for yours.  And what worked for one child last year, may not work this year.  And what I think is going to work - may completely bomb.  OR what I think will bomb will completely work.  Yeah, there are a lot of variables.

So, I share here to simply give ideas, to share resources you may not have heard of or considered - not because these are the only ones that work or the "BEST" even.  Just because they are what has worked for us or what we are trying out on the recommendation of others or based on my own research for my kids' needs.  These resources help us but they do not rule us... we use them as we can and as they fit into our learning philosophy.

  Plans for Simon - age 11

Here are some of the resources we will be using for 6th grade Individual Studies/ Morning Rotation:

This is Simon's 4th year with Teaching Textbooks.  I can't express enough how much I love this Math Curriculum.  There is a computer based component where the concepts are taught in a fun, interactive, professional way and then a book based component.  The concepts are taught thoroughly and clearly.  There is minimal busy-work and no 'drill and kill' style worksheets.  It's awesome! He is thriving with it, so I plan to stick with TT all the way through.

I did share above about my Brave Writer discovery, so I won't babble on and on.  The plan for Simon is to work through the activities in Writer's Jungle as well as The Arrow Language Arts.  We will also be trying our hand at the Friday Free Write, which I'm slightly nervous about but also excited to see if we can make the kind of progress that so many other families seem to make with this simple method.

Books Simon will be studying for The Arrow -

I actually have full reviews of both of these resources coming very soon.  I love everything Simply Charlotte Mason puts out.  Their stuff is just so gentle, so engaging, so easy to use, and so effective.  Spelling Wisdom is a dictation program and Simon will be using Book 1.  Using Language Well goes along with Spelling Wisdom (you can't do Using Language Well without it).  Simon will be working through the dictation and language arts throughout the year.

This is a completely free Dictation program from the early 1900s.  Last year I downloaded PDFs of year 2 through 6 and had them printed together in a bound book.  Both our older kids actually really like this program.  It is super easy to follow and gives Dictation exercises for every day of the week - TONS.  They progress slower than many of the Dictation programs I've seen, which works well for daily use.

Simon is currently at the very end of the 2nd year.

  • For Reading 
Simon is a voracious reader.  I can't keep books in this boy's hands long enough!  It is actually hard to keep up with his book 'appetite' sometimes.  Especially since it matters very much to me that he is reading quality literature.  I don't need to time him or ask him to read - he does this freely and in huge blocks of time.  Especially between 9 and 11pm!

It is hard to say exactly what titles he will have read and narrated from by the end of the year, but here are just some of the titles on his reading list:

Plans for Audrey - age 9

Here are some of the resources we will be using for 4th grade Individual Studies/ Morning Rotation:

As I said above,  I love this Math Curriculum.  Audrey is able to use all the computer-based CD-Roms that I purchase for Simon.  All I needed to do was purchase her a new workbook ($40).  If you are using Teaching Textbooks with multiple children, that is a major bonus! 

Math is definitely not her favorite, but she loves this curriculum because it is easy to understand, there is minimal busy-work and no 'drill and kill' style worksheets.  It's awesome! 

 The plan for Audrey is to work through the activities in Writer's Jungle as well as The Arrow Language Arts program.  

We will also be doing the Friday Free Write, which I'm sure Audrey will absolutely love.  Writing comes naturally to her, and she loves to use her creative mind to put ideas to life on paper.  I'm excited to see how using these Brave Writer resources will help her improve her writing skills and ability to discuss and understand more complex pieces of literature.

Books Audrey will be studying for The Arrow -

Audrey will also be working through (throughout the year) Write Shop Junior, Book D.  I will be reviewing Write Shop in full in the coming weeks and months.  It is a wonderfully hands-on, engaging writing program that will appeal to my tactile, language-driven, eager-to-learn daughter. 

 (Yes, my 4th grader will be using TWO Writing programs this year - but we will move through them at a relaxed pace.  Besides, she's my girl who so longs to write and is always asking me for 'more work'!) 

From what I've seen so far, I would describe Write Shop to be like the All About Reading / All About Spelling of the Writing Curriculum World.  Very hands-on, very organized, bright, colorful and high quality, and very much open and go.  The program even includes Notebooking pages.  *smile*

There are even packs you can purchase to make things easier for you (pre-prepped games, cut outs, etc.).  Click here to see what we got for this year.  There is a nice combination of language games, encouraging reading aloud (and tracking your reading), a bit of fun grammar, and writing projects/assignments that are clever, direct, and seem fun to work through.

The games will also be shared with her brothers during family learning times because they will be so much fun to do together.

I will give much more detail in my review, once I've had a chance to work through a few lessons with Audrey and a few games with all the kiddos!

WriteShop: Teaching writing has never been easier!

  • Dictation Day by Day
This is a completely free Dictation program from the early 1900s.  Last year I downloaded PDFs of year 2 through 6 and had them printed together in a bound book.  Both our older kids actually really like this program.  It is super easy to follow and gives Dictation exercises for every day of the week - TONS.  They progress slower than many of the Dictation programs I've seen, which works well for daily use. 

Audrey is mid-way through Year 2.

  • For Reading - Nature Liberty Readers + various titles
Audrey started reading later than many children.  She wasn't REALLY reading until about age 8.  We used All About Reading with her and (just like her brother) she grew in leaps and bounds in a very short period of time.  I honestly LOVE All About Reading and can't say enough wonderful things about the program.

Now?  She's a great reader and enjoying early to mid-range chapter books and wonderful stories. She really enjoys the Christian Liberty Nature Readers and will be working through Book 2 and 3 this year along with Narrating from them.  She also has a whole bunch of other titles on her reading list.

The goal is 15-20 minutes (at least) of independent reading time or reading to Mom. 

Some of the titles on Audrey's reading list this year:

Plans for Alex - Age 8

I can't believe my little baby turns 8 years old at the beginning of September.  Where on earth is the time going?  I honestly BLINKED.

He has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year.  I really think age 7 is a magic number for boys when it comes to academics.  Trying to do much before then for me is almost pointless (this is my experience anyways).  He learned how to read (oh, how we LOVE All About Reading!), improved greatly in his printing skills, and starting doing wonderful narrations from Aesop's Fables.  

He also participated in Morning Time and all our Family Rotation work. 

This year's plan?  Focus on Language Arts.  

Here are some of the resources we will be using for 3rd grade Individual Studies/ Morning Rotation:

Alex is super excited to start the awesome Math he has seen his siblings doing for the past few years!  TT starts with Math 3 - so this is the starting point for Alex this year.  He is also able to use all the computer-based CD-Roms that I previously purchase for Simon.  All I needed to do is purchase him a new workbook ($40).  If you are using Teaching Textbooks with multiple children, that is a major bonus! There is minimal busy-work and no 'drill and kill' style worksheets.  It's awesome! 

I chose A Quiver of Arrows for Alex because I think this Language Arts program will fit him perfectly.  We own and have read nearly every book in the program already but will read the ones we haven't read and re-visit the ones we have as we move through them this year.  

I will do a full review of A Quiver of Arrows in the next month or so.  It honestly looks like such an amazing Language Arts program and I'm really excited to see how Alex grows and develops with this added challenge!

Some of the titles from A Quiver of Arrows -

  • Narration from Aesop's and 50 Famous Stories Retold
Last year we took the advice of many experienced Charlotte Mason educators and introduced Oral Narration to Alex with Aesop's Fables.  I purchased the Milo Winter version of the book and we just read through them.  I read aloud, he narrated.  It worked fabulously and his skills in narration are quite good.  This year we will continue through Aesop's and also introduce some of the stories from 50 Famous Stories and have him do Oral Narration from those as well.

  • For Reading - reading aloud with Mom from various readers and early chapter books.
We are total believers in readers.  (Oh, that rhymes!)  I kind of subscribe to the same philosophy that THIS post by Sarah Mackenzie communicates.  We are in the 'giving our kids easy to read/series books' stage for Alex.  He used All About Reading over the past year and absolutely loved it as well as FLOURISHED in his reading skills.  

Now, he's ready for lots of books that are simple enough to read but nurture his love of reading.  

Reading happens every day for Alex - the goal this year is 10 minutes a day of individual reading and reading aloud to Mom.  Hopefully, by the end of the year he will be curling up on his own to devour great books.

Here are just a few of the titles he will read this year:

A Few More Thoughts:

We will be using Write Shop Junior, Book D this year in our Morning Time.  This writing program offers a ton of hands on activities that work well in a group setting.  It will be a challenge for our youngest but a good fit for the other two children.  I'm looking forward to seeing how adding 'grammar games' to our Morning Time works out.

Although both older children are using The Arrow from Brave Writer this year, they are studying different books.  Sometimes it is just necessary to give kids (even kids who are working at the same level in a subject) their own work.  I realized this a couple years ago when our homeschool days were constantly upset by competition between our two eldest kids.  They just needed their space.  So, they will each have their own Arrow work to do.

I was able to purchase past issues of The Arrow at a great price through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  This was AWESOME and I highly recommend checking out this option if you are interested in using the Language Arts programs from Brave Writer!  I was able to pick and choose the titles I wanted to study with the kids (I picked ones we wanted to read and titles I already had on hand to keep things a little less costly).  The transaction was flawless and the price was awesome.  I'll be honest, the site looks a bit sketchy (not sure why...?) but it is legit!  It totally worked like a charm and I'm really excited about my savings and my titles.

Family Read-Alouds

I included several of our Read-Aloud options in my last post about our Morning Time and Family Loop, but I wanted to post our Family Read-Alouds here too.  

This is such a HUGE part of our homeschool, friends.  Reading aloud is what keeps us passionate, excited about learning - peaceful, connected to literature.  Reading is just a family culture we've established, so reading through large quantities of books has just become the complete norm for us.  We are blessed.

These are our novel read-alouds.  This does not include read-alouds for History, Geography, Nature Study, Morning Time, etc.  These are simply books that we read together for enjoyment as well as to further our learning in certain topics/time periods, etc.

This reading is usually done in the evenings or during quite times in the afternoon or while the kids eat lunch.

Some of the titles on our read-aloud list this year:

A little freebie -
Printable Writing Prompt Collection free for subscribers (limited time)

I hope and pray this post is encouraging or inspiring to you in some small way.

Blessings as we prepare for another brand new 'year' of homeschool.

*This post contains Affiliate Links*

Morning Time and Family Learning Plans for Term 1 {...and how I've changed up our Morning Time and introduced our first Loop Schedule!}

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hello, sweet friends!

I'm super excited to share our plans for Morning Time and our Family Learning (which we are calling our Family Loop this year).

It has been about 2 months now that I've been really in the reflecting, thinking, and planning process for the upcoming year.  It is a lot of fun, but, as many of you know - a lot of hard work!  I think I'm on information and decision making overload... but I'll recover.  *wink*

I'm thankful to God for His guidance and the undeserved grace He continues to pour on me as I plan. I feel I have a good vision for the upcoming year and I'm super excited about it.  I have carried over some of what really worked from last year and also implemented some new ideas into our structure and flow.

In case you haven't seen it - Here is my post about how we put together our own Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool plans.  I've used this system over and over again to plan our own stuff!

So... I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Mackenzie.   Have you heard of her?  She blogs at Amongst Lovely Things, has a fantastic podcast with The Read-Aloud Revival, and wrote one of the most insightful and inspirational books about homeschooling I've ever read, Teaching from Rest.   She's pretty awesome.

I say all this because I have to admit that I kind of steal some of her ideas.  *shrugs*  I have no shame!  I'm so grateful for Mamas like her who so graciously share their wisdom and knowledge for other Mamas like us to draw from and potentially utilize.  (Or copy, however you want to say it... hehe!)

So, if you see some things in our planning that looks similar to what she's spoken about- that's because I've likely implemented some of her amazing ideas!  I just wanted to give credit where credit is due!


Wait?  Schedule?  Who am I kidding?   Our days don't have a schedule.  We've never had a schedule.  Well, I mean, I used to TRY to implement a grid that showed what we were supposed to do in 15 minute increments all day long buuuut, for some reason the kids weren't digging it.

So, yea... no formal schedule for this little homeschool.

What we do have, however, is a rhythm.  ( Some might say a routine, but I think rhythm makes us sound so much cooler...)  Julie Bogart from Brave Writer talked about this right here, and I love it.

Here's what our Rhythm it looks like:

1. Morning Time

2. Individual Work/Morning Rotations

3. Family Loop


That's it?

Yep.  That's it.  THREE things.  That's the rhythm of our days.  Some days when we get real crazy and the boys build Lego for 4 hours straight... it doesn't start until noon and goes, Family Loop, Morning Rotation, Morning Time.  I know.

The main idea is this - every day (pretty much), we do those 3 things.

One thing that I would add to this is reading aloud.  We read aloud in nearly every part of our Rhythm BUT it doesn't include free reads and family read alouds that we do after dinner and before bed.  So, there is usually about 30 minutes or more of family reading that happens in the evenings apart from our 'daily' rhythm.

In this post, I want to talk about our plans for Morning Time and Family Loop.  

I will cover the kids' Individual Rotations in an upcoming post.  This includes their Math and Language Arts. *smile*

These plans do not span our entire year, but instead, show Term 1.  I've started being more intentional about scheduling term by term because I find it gives me more flexibility and allows me to follow our passions and God's leading more carefully as we journey through the year.

It's important for you to know that we do a huge chunk of our work together as a family.  This includes pretty much all our subjects except individual Math, Language Arts, and Notebooking.

This is also a big reason why we chose to follow along in the Simply Charlotte Mason guides - because they are family-centred.

Morning Time

Your Morning BasketOkay.  So, if you are new to this idea of Morning Time, I encourage you to either read my post about Morning Time or check out Pam Barnhill's Morning Time resources.   The Your Morning Basket resources are absolutely fantastic in helping you understand and implement a successful Morning Time in your homeschool.

 In a nutshell, Morning Time is an every day practice/habit that brings truth, goodness, and beauty into our homeschool.  This is where we cover those things that I deem to be incredibly important to our souls and minds.  Things that open our hearts to truth, inspire us, broaden our horizons and view of the world around us, and help us engage with the arts, poetry, literature.  It's pretty much the best thing we've ever implemented into our homeschool.

Now, if you do go back and read some of our Morning Time posts you will see something that I've changed for our upcoming year.  I've made our Morning Time WAY simpler.

I realized as we worked through last year's Morning Time plans that we were almost never getting through everything.  Also, I envision Morning Time as being something we can start and finish in a reasonable amount of time.  An amount of time that can be done all at once with a start and finish.

Our plans last year would drag on and move into lunch hour and other parts of the day.  It was just too complicated.

See the difference between last year's Morning Time plans and this year's plans?

Much more simplified Morning Time this year. 

How and why we changed Morning Time - 

This past year I enjoyed reading more about the heart of Morning Time, listening to great podcasts, and just experienced Morning Time in our own home for an extended period of time.

I LOVE the practice of Morning Time.  Our children love it too.  What I did discover, however, was that I was over-complicating things. (As usual...)

I was making Morning Time too long and confusing.  We had EVERYTHING in there!  At the beginning of the year, it all looked fine and dandy, but it just didn't prove to be realistic.

If you look at last year's schedule (in the above photo), you'll see that I scheduled History EVERY DAY. (Why?!)  I would also add in Nature Study AND Geography on many days and this was happening within Morning Time.  *shakes head*

Mamas - don't do this!  Don't over-complicate things.  Simplify.  (Can I just add that reading Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie was the best thing I did for my homeschooling journey all year!)

This year, I dropped History, Geography AND Nature Study from Morning Time.  

They are all now part of a Family Loop Schedule which happens much later in the day.  I am SO excited about this - it is so much more realistic.  On any given day we will do History OR Geo OR Nature Study.  Never more than one per day. *breath of fresh air!*

This year's Morning Time Plan (at least for Term 1):

Morning Time:

Here's what we'll cover in Morning Time -

Every Day -
Morning Prayers
Scripture Memory Work
Bible Reading
Poetry Memory Work
One Review Item

Add to the every day work the following for each day of the week:

Monday -
Habit/Character Study
Greek and Latin Roots

Tuesday -
Music and Composer Study
Math and Logic Games/Puzzles

Wednesday -
Art and Picture Study
Fables, Parables, Folk Tales or Shakespeare

Thursday -
Grammar Games
Habit/Character Study (2nd time in the week)

Friday -
Map Drills
Poetry Tea Time

I tried to calculate the timing and I think we can get through Morning Time in about 30 minutes.  I think.  I hope.

Our Morning Time Binder -

I will be doing a complete walk-through of our Morning Time Binder in a post coming up... but for now, I'll just share that it is very detailed and gives me everything I need every day.  *wink*

There are tabs for Daily,  Monday-Friday, and then a second set of weekly tabs for every day of the month (Monday through Friday).  These are used for review.  Everything is in clear sheet protectors and the dividers are the extra wide ones so they can be seen beyond the sheet protectors (LOVE THIS!).   I totally stole most of my ideas for this binder from the Your Morning Basket resources and from Pam Barnhill's video about her binder...  I promise, there will be more details coming...

Here's a peek at some of our daily pages and a little procedure tab for Greek/Latin Roots -

A Closer Look at Our Morning Time

Bible, Prayer, Scripture Memory and Inspirational Books

Bible and Scripture Reading -

Well, it's pretty simple.  We read scripture or a really great bible story book together and we sometimes discuss what we read (sometimes not!).

We use various styles of bibles and translations.  We really like the Chronological Life Application Study Bible for bible study (it's so good!).  We also use the kids Adventure Bible in NIrV which is easy for the kids to understand.  I will often read from my NKJ version of the bible as well.  We actually do not often use King James Version in our homeschool despite what many Charlotte Mason enthusiasts seem to say.

So, right now we are reading through a pretty old-school set called The Bible Story by Arthur Maxwell.  My parents actually had this kicking around at their house from when I was a kid.  I don't remember reading them when I was young but our kids absolutely LOVE them.  They are basically living book style narratives of scripture with wonderful, engaging illustrations.

Something very unique about this series is how they combine more modern language with the King James Version of the bible.  (THIS is where we are getting our good dose of KJV!)  All the quotations and dialogues are written in the original KJV of the scriptures, so it is a neat way of having the kids exposed to it while they still can easily understand the basis of the scripture/story line.

Prayer -

This is an area I want to be much more intentional about this year.  We always try to have morning prayers, but I want to make them more than "Lord, be with us today..." type prayers.

We are using A.C.T.S to help guide our morning prayers.  Adoration - we are using a praise bucket to draw out things to praise God for (or thinking of our own!), Confession - admitting things we've struggled with and the things we need help with during our day, Thanksgiving - at least one thing each to be thankful for and the thank God for, Supplication - pray for some one near, pray for some one far.

For Supplication, we also use a Prayer Basket and our Map of the Persecuted Nations to pray for various countries and people groups.  This is where we also pray for those we know and/or support who are working overseas (like our cousins in Guatemala, our friends in central Asia, Nuture A Child Uganda, and so on...).

Scripture Memory -

This year we are starting Term 1 by working on the 23rd Psalm for memory work.  It is very simple.  Every day we read the Psalm and every day we are working on memorizing a new small part of it until we have memorized the entire Psalm.

Inspirational Book -

This term we are reading And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler.

Inside Volume 4 of The Bible Story series.  We will hopefully read through several volumes this year.  We are currently at the part in scriptures where Saul is continuously chasing David.


Hymn Study is very, very simple yet SO meaningful!  Basically, I introduce a new Hymn every month or so.  We read through the lyrics, listen to it sung in several different ways, and learn the hymn ourselves.  We also read biographies of the authors of the hymns by using books like Hymns for a Kid's Heart and various other living books I find.

Then, we sing it together several times a week, mixed in with past hymns we have learned for review.  Easy as that!

Hymns for a Kid's Heart is a mix between a living book for the biographies of men and women who wrote the hymns, a devotional (one per hymn), and a song book.  It is truly a gem.

Abide with Me is a really neat book I found at our local Christian Bookstore.  It is a 'photographic journey through great British Hymns'.  It takes you into the time and place of where these hymns were written and speaks of the men and women who wrote them.  It's a really neat book.  Not really specifically for kids but will work as an add-on.

This Term we hopefully will cover:

Doxology - I have always been so intrigued by this old call to worship.  This term we will learn it, and use it as our opening to Morning Time along with lighting the candle. (This is in Abide with Me.)

Rock of Ages (This is in Abide with Me)

A Mighty Fortress is Our God  (This is in Hymns for a Kid's Heart)

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Abide with Me)

(I'm not sure what else yet...)

Habit and Character Study

I absolutely LOVE this program.  I have never found another anything like it.  I highly recommend getting your hands on both if you can, but if not, then for sure the Habit Training Companion.   I know they are a little bit pricey, but honestly - how important is Habit Training and Character building?  Um... pretty important, right?  Trust me, it will be worth it. These will last for YEARS.  There are enough Habits in these to keep us going until I'm 78.

The Habit Training Companion (book 1 and 2 come together as one resource) walks you through the habits in an open-an-go format.  You literally open up to the habit you are working on and do the next lesson.  SO easy.

I like to add in readings from The Book of Virtues from William J. Bennett.  I love this book for insightful poetry, inspiring stories, and tales and fables that teach.

This term we are working on Truthfulness which goes very nicely with the section on Honesty in the Book of Virtues!

Art and Picture Study

For two terms of the year we pick a different artist to focus on.  This term is Leonardo DaVinci.  He does NOT fit into our time period of Modern History, which kind of bothers me, but I really wanted to fit him in.  We didn't get to DaVinci during last year's study of Early Modern.

So, we will read through Leonardo DaVinci by Diane Stanley (LOVE her books!) as well as Katie and the Mona Lisa.  We will also study a new print every week.  I think there are 7 to work through, which is perfect.

ARTistic Pursuits is used for visual arts and will take the slot of Art Study in Term 2.  For Term 3, we will pick an artist again.

Music and Composer Study

Over the past several months we have been loving SQUILT for Music and Composer Study.

The typical way we have done Composer Study over the past several years is to just pick a composer, read his or her biography (I try to find a great living book for this!) and listen to several pieces of his or her music together.  We try to memorize the names of the pieces as we listen and who composed them for our kids' cultural literacy, so to speak.  And mine, actually...  *wink*

That method certainly works... but this year I found SQUILT and we totally love it.  It stands for Super Quiet Uninterrupted Listening Time.  Which is slightly ironic because ours is almost never uninterrupted or quiet... ha.  

I did a full review of SQUILT right here.

Basically, we pick an era (these are pdf download unit studies) and we open and go when it is time to do Composer and Music Study. Easy, easy, easy.  And the best part?  The kids love these little lessons, the activities, the music.  There are also Notebooking Pages that go along with the program!

This Term we are finishing up Volume 2 -Classical Era and will then move on to Volume 3 - Romantic Era (which I will review in full later this year).

Greek and Latin Roots

Alright... so I admit it, I'm probably never going to teach my kids Latin in all its fullness.  I just don't have the motivation.  (We will, however, start French this year!)

I am having a ton of fun with Greek and Latin Roots though!  I think it is so incredibly interesting to study these roots with the kids and help them see the beauty of language and how so many of our words come from Greek and Latin!

This improves their vocabulary, spelling, understanding of language and so much more.  We are using an Interactive Notebook to work through these roots.  It is visual, fun, and engaging.  It literally takes us 5 minutes per week, but it is so worth it!

Grammar Games

This is new for this year's Morning Time.  We are dropping formal 'grammar' in our Individual Studies/Rotation.  I thought it would be fun to just add some engaging games and activities to hit a bit of grammar during Morning Time.

We are using good-ol' fashioned Mad Libs for practice with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.  They are always so funny and the kids LOVE them.

We are also incorporating some easy and interesting games for grammar practice - hitting the major grammar 'points'.  I found THESE free lessons and will be using them as a springboard for our own games, activities, etc. that I will find on Pinterest and implement as we go.  

The blogger (not sure her name!) doesn't really give activities but she does do a great job of giving the grammar points to cover.  From this I will research and come up with games to do that will fit nicely into Morning Time.  Once I've done this for the year, I will try to put all of them together and share it all with you!

Shakespeare, Parables,  Fables, and Folk Tales/Lore

For Thursday's work in this category, I have a very relaxed loop of Shakespeare and Parables from Nature for Term 1.  One week we will do Shakespeare reading, the next we will read from Parables from Nature, the next we will work from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.  

Easy as that.

Shakespeare -

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare:

I learned about this amazing book from Sarah's podcast with author Ken Ludwig.  This book is a great go-to for people (like me) who 'learned' Shakespeare in highschool but hated it and/or didn't understand it.  People (like me) who feel ill-equipped to share the Bard with our kids but see the charm and value of exposing them to his writing.

We are working through the Shakespeare memory and comprehension work in the beginning of the book from A Midsummer Night's Dream.  It is Passage 1 and 2.  

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.
And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes
And make her full of hateful fantasies.

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare:  

-As You Like It
-A Comedy of Errors
-Twelfth Night

Parables from Nature -

I just posted a FREE download of this classic book by Margaret Gatty.  I'm not sure exactly how many parables we will get through this Term, but I am aiming for the following:

The Unknown Land
Knowledge Not the Limit of Belief
Training and Restraining
The Light of Truth

Hero Admiration/Inspirational and Faith-building Stories

This year we are reading through Heroes in Black History by Dave and Neta Jackson as well as parts of Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula.

 They are very "Morning Time-esque" but they are not read DURING Morning Time... We often read these types of stories during or right after supper time with Daddy.

I highly recommend the HERO TALES series from Dave and Neta Jackson - they are wonderful!!!  (We've read Volume 1 though 4.)

Poetry Tea Time

This year we are trying something new - Poetry Tea Time.   Oh, not to say Poetry is new to us!  Oh my goodness, no.  We have been reading poetry together almost every single day since the kids were very young.  We have a collective true love for poetry.  

We cover poetry memorization in our daily Morning Time.  We will cover our poetry READING this year in Poetry Tea Time, which I plan to have on Fridays.

As I think about it, I'm not sure this is entirely 'new' to us, since we so often pair reading great literature and poetry with drinking tea, hot chocolate, and enjoying a snack.  This year, however, we will just be a bit more intentional about it and give it a name and a deliberate purpose.  I also hope to have the children choose a poem to read aloud - to help them with their oral 'presentation' skills, so to speak.  I'd also love to invite friends a few times, if possible! 

In Term 1 we will be studying Emily Dickinson as our poet and reading through Great Poems for Grand Children among many other poetry books and compilations.  We have loads of poetry books that we revisit often!

I hope to do Poetry Tea Time on Friday mornings.  We will also do our Friday Free Write on Friday afternoons... so Friday is our BraveWriter day, for sure.   


Family Learning/ Family Loop

Alright, this is our other Family Learning section.  

After we have done  Morning Time in the morning, then moved on to our Individual Rotations, we eventually get to our Family Loop.  This is where we cover either History, Geography and Bible, or Nature Study.  Yes, just ONE of these is covered each day.

I haven't really done a full-out Loop Schedule before.  

I've learned more about it through the Plan Your Year resources and have seen the true value of this system of scheduling.  The idea is that these subjects are not assigned a specific day of the week.  Instead, they happen on a rotation based on frequency.

(Check out this video if you are interested in learning more about Looping!)

Our Loop looks like this:

History, Geography and Epistles/Revelation

This year we are continuing our journey with Simply Charlotte Mason's Family Study Handbooks.  

Last year we covered Early Modern and loved it.  This year we are using Modern Times, Epistles and Revelation.

I actually plan to stretch this era/guide into more than 1 year... possibly even two years.  It might sound crazy to do that - but there is SO MUCH to cover in the Modern Era of history and I do not like blazing through topics.   I honestly don't think we can go into things with the depth we want in only one year.  We'll see how things go though!

If you aren't familiar with the Simply Charlotte Mason programs, I'll give a brief over-view.  (I will be reviewing them in great detail next month!)

So, basically, the Family Handbooks cover -

Bible Study
Read-Alouds (rolled into the above)

The way they are laid out is pretty much in a Loop Schedule, to be honest.  The rhythm is: American History, American History, Geography/Bible,  World History, World History.

I messed with the 'schedule' because I wanted to add Nature Study to the loop.  And also, there are many days when our subject 'lessons' will not come out of the SCM Handbook, but will comprise of us reading a wonderful living book together, locating some things on a map, and having a discussion.  (This is how we make it stretch for 2 years...)

The guides for Early Modern and Modern History have many reading recommendations, some we use, and some we substitute other books.  Many of you have asked what we substitute out and what we use.  It's hard to say, as it really depends on the availability of books.  The ones I would never leave out, however, are the two History spines.  You actually couldn't leave them out - it wouldn't work. 

The two spines of the history portion of the programs are Stories of America and Stories of the Nations.  You use Volume 1 of these two books in Early Modern and then Volume 2 of these books in Modern History.

We read through all of Volume 1 of each and LOVED them.  They are so well written.  So engaging.  Our kids loved listening to the exciting narratives.  My son (who is 11) found them super interesting.  They were written in good language, challenging and insightful, but simple enough for my 7 year old to follow along.  We look forward to reading Volume 2 of these this year.

We will also put in a few chapters of A Child's History of the World.

There will also be piles and piles of living books we will add to our reading (again, which is why my guides can last me longer than a year...).  These books will fit in to the time period for the most part but some are read for sheer pleasure.  (See more about how we choose books RIGHT HERE!)

For Geography, we are actually bouncing between Visits to Europe from Simply Charlotte Mason and Mapping the World by Heart.    We are also reading selected living books from Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin.  

I am pretty terrible at following 'guides', so I actually don't follow much of what the SCM guide says for Geography... what I do instead is plug in the Geography I want to do in the given loop.  *shrugs*

Visits to Europe is a living book-style geography that focuses on simple mapping of countries in Europe with reading from Material World and Hungry Planet.  These books are very visual, offering a realistic look into the lives of families from the countries we are locating on the map.  I will be doing a full review of the Visits to... series from Simply Charlotte Mason next month.  

Mapping the World by Heart is a really neat program.  It is hands-on, engaging, and project based.

 We will be working through what's called the "Appetizers" section of the program.  This introduces the children to concepts like:  basic map understanding, latitude/longitude, contour mapping, thematic maps, local geography, and more.  Once we work through these, we will move on to Mapping Canada By Heart which teaches us how to (literally) draw and map our country completely from memory. LOVE IT.

Nature Study

For those who are curious, Nature Study is our 'Science'.  We don't do formal Science (Chemistry, Physics, more advanced Biology) until late middle school to high school in our home.

For Nature Study this Term (and this year) we are using both NaturExplorers as well as Exploring Nature with Children.  Both are fantastic Nature Study programs but quite different in their layout/presentation.  Let me tell you a little bit about each of these.


This is one of my FAVORITE resources I've found for Charlotte Mason Home Education.  Cindy (who created it) is one of the nicest people on the web and I reviewed the program in great detail RIGHT HERE.

This is a unit study based program.  You can purchase various units (for example: Flying Creatures of the Night, Delightful Deciduous Trees, Captivating Clouds, Peaceful Ponds, etc.) and each of these units functions as its own complete Nature Study unit.  You can also purchase bundles (which I highly recommend because it is such a great deal).

There is no set time frame for the activities in the unit. You move along in any which way you choose and you can schedule the units for whenever you want.  I like this kind of freedom and flexibility in a Nature Study Program!  The units are jam-packed full of literary ideas, nature exploration ideas, projects to do, hands-on science experiments, poetry, picture study, composer study, and more.

This year we actually plan to use NaturExplorers in a Block Schedule where we literally drop all other Family Loop subjects to completely DIVE into one NaturExplorers unit for 3-4 weeks.

I will be posting about how I plan to do this with some free planning tools. (This week?)

For Term 1- we will be launching into our 'year' (August bridge schedule) with Flying Creatures of the Night.  (I will post a full review of this unit in September!)

We often dive into a Nature Study unit in August... this helps us transition from a July of doing nothing but playing, swimming, and staying up late to structured 'school' time in September!  It will be our full-out unit and we will dive deep into the topics and activities.

We will do this again in Autumn with Captivating Clouds - (using it as a complete unit study).  We've studied Autumn leaves, photosynthesis, and all things Fall WAAAAAY too many times, so I think it's a good time to do clouds instead.

I hope to cover 3-5 units this way over the year.

Exploring Nature with Children:

I am working on a full review of this program, which will be up in a couple months.  I love everything I'm seeing!  Exploring Nature with Children is very Charlotte Mason-friendly and beautifully put together as an OPEN-AND-GO Nature Study program.

This curriculum is based on a full-calendar year program.  It gives you everything you need to implement very simple but meaningful Nature Study all year round.  There is a different topic for every single week of the year (including the Summer months).  You just open it up, and go.

It is SO simple.  It does not go into great depth with each topic (how can you in just one week, especially if you are only doing Nature Study 2 or 3 times per week!)  But it is a lovely option for open-and-go Nature Study that is living books based and filled with wonderful, easy to approach ideas.

It does offer a fairly 'strict' schedule (goes month by month, week by week).  So, if sticking EXACTLY to a schedule presented in a program is a big deal for you - it might be challenging to fit everything in exactly as it is presented. (I never really worry about this as much, to be honest... but I know some do!)  On the other hand, having it all typed out in black and white is actually very soothing and helpful to many - so there are pros and cons to this layout!

Just to give you a very basic idea of what this program looks like, here are some examples:

September - Week One:  the topic is Seeds.  There is a nature walk idea for collecting "approaching Autumn" seeds, extension activities for understanding dispersion of seeds, book lists and reading suggestions, a poem, and a piece of art to enjoy.

November - Week One: the topic is Lychen.  We learn to identify different types of Lychen, we go on a Nature Walk in search of these various Lychen and sketch them if desired.  There are suggested readings, a poem, a piece of art, and several extension activities to choose from.

I'm excited to implement Exploring Nature with Children in our Family Loop all year long.

Our go-to for all things Nature Study.  We LOVE this book.

(Some of the) Read-Alouds we're planning to read:

So, as you might have noticed, I don't mention reading as part of our Family Loop.  Well, that's because it is wrapped up in almost every subject as well as a natural part of our daily life.  We do reading aloud throughout the day, at meals, and at bed time for our family novels.  This works well for us right now. Here are some of the books we are hoping to read this year (so far...).

I'm always hesitant to post our book choices because they often change and expand depending on what we are interested in and what we find at the library, throughout the year, etc.  This also doesn't include the countless picture books we will read from the library, etc.

But as for family read-alouds, here's a good start...  *smile*

A (tiny) peek at some of our organization

Alright, so, my 'organization' of books is a bit challenging.  Please, tell me I'm not the only one who has no clue how to organize the sheer number of books in the house?

There is a bit of a rhyme to it though...  below is a photo of a shelf in our back 'discovery' room.  On the middle shelf is mostly the books we hope to read (as family read-alouds) this year.  I like to keep them together.  Many of them go with our time period of Modern History.

The bottom shelf is Nature Study and nature themed books on the left and readers on the right.

This middle shelf in the bottom photo is where I have put all the resources and some of the 'spine' books we will use this year.  I like to keep them all together for a couple reasons.  The first is that it gives me a common place to go to when I need to quickly grab one of these, the second is that it gives me a visual reminder of just how much we are using and covering this year!  It's like my little personal pile of 'curriculum', kind of like the pile you'd get in the mail if you ordered a boxed-living-book-curriculum.  *smile*

*sigh*  I think I covered it all.  I hope.  And I genuinely hope this post in helpful!

Links to the 'How We Homeschool' Sarah Mackenzie Videos that inspired me and I really wanted to share:

Morning Time
Morning Rotations
Spiral Bound Notebooks

Coming next -
-A look at our Individual Rotation curriculum and resource choices for each child's Math and Language Arts.  

Coming up soon -
-How we use NaturExplorers as full-out curriculum units and free planning tools.
-How we organize our day (a peek at how I plan our weeks/days - my Morning Time Binder, planner, and this year's Spiral Bound Book system for the kiddos)
-Review of Loving Living Math from Shining Dawn Books.

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