A Charlotte Mason Education - Simplified {How we create our own Whole-hearted Homeschool Plans and a bunch of free planning downloads}

Sunday, January 3, 2016




Over the weekend I posted our "Plan" for homeschooling in 2016.  Since many homeschool Moms often ask how I put together our stuff, I thought I would chat a bit about some of the things I've learned and how I piece together our Charlotte Mason plans.  In other words, grab a tea, this is going to be a long one...  *wink*

I am by no means a Charlotte Mason expert.  I think it is sort of impossible to be a purist in the sense of the word because we are all individuals and need to do the things that make homeschooling work for our individual families.

Having said that, there are a few major things that drew me to Charlotte Mason.  The first was her genuine love for the Lord and belief in His leading by the power of the Holy Spirit.   Second was her passion for children and belief that children are all created uniquely by God for a purpose - that they are born valuable people worthy of love, respect, and grace.  I also really loved her 3-fold philosophy where education encompasses so much more than just academics. 

Charlotte Mason has been a HUGE blessing to our family and her philosophies have completely revolutionized the way I look at education and the way we homeschool.  I am a big advocate for much of what Miss Mason taught and have tried hard to implement her methods into our homeschool.
Again, I'm in no way perfect and by no means do I say I've got it all figured out!  I have relied heavily of lots of prayer, research, and the loving guidance of Moms both in real-life and online who have helped me understand this wonderful philosophy.

It is my heart to simply share how we do things here in our home.  Over the past few years, I've learned that being able to piece together meaningful materials and books for for our family is a huge blessing.  This ability has saved me so much money and made our homeschool so much more flexible, living, delight-directed, and meaningful!

When it comes to implementing Charlotte's philosophy, a firm understanding of her ideas and methods is important.  I highly recommend investing in (or borrowing) some good Charlotte Mason books if you are just starting out or wanting to learn more.

Some of my favorites include: A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola (probably my top fave), A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison (super easy read that gives a great primer of the CM Philosophy), For the Children's Sake by S. Schaeffer Macaulay.  Also, you can access and read much of Charlotte's original homeschooling series right here.



Getting Started


Before you do anything, can I humbly encourage you to spend time alone with the Lord and pray about your plans?  Ask Him to guide you and show you what He has for you and your children... then, after that...


There are several wonderful Charlotte Mason-based blogs and websites available to help Moms like us get going with this philosophy.   For the purpose of understanding and implementing the Charlotte Mason way of homeschooling, my absolute favorite is Simply Charlotte Mason.


Simply Charlotte Mason walks you through the 'how' of organizing your plans but leaves plenty of room for flexibility, which is what I needed and what I found so helpful, especially when I had no idea where to start.

I love this very simple article, What Is the Charlotte Mason Method?  It is a great place to start when you are hoping to start building your own Living Books, CM-style homeschool plan or program, or if you have no idea who Charlotte Mason is!  

SCM also offers a ton of resources to help you build a family-centered learning plan.  This is the Curriculum Guide  I have used to help organize our year(s).  I love that there is flexibility and there is a huge portion of the 'curriculum' (or reading choices) that are family or group work, as I've mentioned above.  This is quite different from Ambleside which gives an individual year and era for every student by grade.  I found this VERY overwhelming and almost impossible for our family.

The SCM plans are gentle and easy to follow and you don't have to purchase their history programs or really anything from their page - you can (we did and love everything we've ever purchased) but you don't have to.

THESE overview charts are also a fantastic starting place when you begin planning your Charlotte Mason homeschool.  They give an easy to view peek at what your Family Learning might look like and what you might want to plug in.





I've learned organizing a great Charlotte Mason homeschool plan is simply a process of filling in spaces.  I look at all the 'subjects' and then I fill in the spaces with high quality living books and conversational, engaging materials and resources.



It's quite simple if you just go step-by-step.


Here are the 'spaces' I fill in-


Family-based Learning and Studies (things we do together as a family):

Bible
Scripture Memory
History 
Geography
Science/Nature Study
Poetry
Hymn Study
Literature
Habit and Character Development
Music and Composer Study
Art, Artist and Picture Study
Handicrafts
Foreign Language (sometimes, but not really... but you sort of should)


Individual Studies (each child is assigned their own work at an appropriate level):

Language Arts (copywork, grammar, dictation/spelling, literature, oral and written narration)
Reading (either learning to read or individual reading with narration)
Math
Notebooking



If the above list looks overwhelming to you, I promise - it's not that bad.

For us, almost everything in the Family-based Learning section is READING.  Just reading lots and lots of wonderful living books about each topic and encouraging family narration.

Easy, right?  *smile*  Follow me here...




Thoughts on how to fill in the spaces:

These thoughts come from the perspective of a Mama (me) with three children, age 11, 9, 7... just to give you perspective on ages and level.



MORNING BASKET is something we have been trying to implement into our homeschool and I love it.  I want to learn more and add more as we go.  Right now, our Morning Basket usually includes: Bible, Scripture Memory, Poetry, Character/Habit Study, Hymn Study, Hero Admiration, Shakespeare and Tales.  This is just how we are doing this right now - many Moms include various other things and I'm sure it will change, but I just thought I'd add this here because in the free downloads below you will see it referred to and might wonder!  This is something really worth looking into for your homeschool if you haven't already!




Most, if not all, of our daily Family Learning is done during our Morning Time

 You can read a full post about our Morning Time and Morning Basket right here.




Family Learning


History - Choosing the historical time period you will cover is a huge decision.  Most Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use a history time period as the spine of their year. (That's why it is the first question they ask when you walk through Simply Charlotte Mason's curriculum planner!)  This is because the history time period can direct much of your reading choices (history and geography read-alouds, novels, what biographies you cover for Science, Artist and Picture Study, Composer Study, Hymns, Literature/Read-alouds, etc.)

Once you have decided on a time period, you can either purchase a package from Simply Charlotte Mason (or another similar idea) or you can do your own thing and piece together your own history read-alouds based on that era.  You can find and use TONS of historical living books lists online, which are usually classified by time period.  I compiled a list RIGHT HERE as well.

Basically, in History you are going to read, read, read, and read some more.  Living Books all about historical events, biographies, historical fiction, wonderful, engaging non-fiction titles, whatever makes the time period come alive!



Bible - I often get asked how we 'do' Bible.  Well, we just read God's Word!  We don't use elaborate bible curriculum at all.  We read scriptures together, we use living Children's Bibles and have used Storybook Bibles when the kids were little.

We also use Bible Road Trip which is free and focuses on simply reading God's word (chronologically) and Notebooking about what you are learning.



Scripture Memory - This does not have to be complicated AT ALL.  We're using the Hide 'Em In your Heart CDs this year, but you can simply find verses that have special meaning to you or are age-appropriate for your children and plug them in as you go.  Also, check out the Scripture Memory Box idea as well as Scripture Memory page on SCM, we've used both and love them.



Science/Nature Study - Focus on Nature Study in earlier years.  This should be so natural and easy!  Children have a natural awe of nature.  Read as many wonderful living books as you can that focus on the natural world.   Get outside and fall in love with God's creation.  Observe, touch, ask questions.  Get excited about learning new plants, animals, trees, birds... you name it!  There are some good Nature Study resources listed here, and of course, I love NaturExplorers!

But, honestly?  You can totally do Nature Study for nearly free.  Grab piles of great living books from the library, go on a few meaningful Nature Walks every week, and have your children keep a simple Nature Journal.  (Check out some of the stuff we do for Nature Studies right here.)



Poetry -  So, for poetry, we just read poetry.  I know, I know... sounds complicated.  Honestly, I've invested in about 15 really good poetry books (most are just children's collections) and we read through them together.  Maybe a poem per day or some weeks we will read maybe 3 poems in that week.  I can be very simple.  You can do poet studies if you like, but it isn't really necessary in my opinion, especially in the younger years.  Reading and enjoying great age-appropriate poems is the idea here!  Find a great poem book and jump in!  There and TONS available for free at the library as well.

We have also found doing some poetry memorization to be so fun and very beneficial.  There are loads of short, fun poems that work great for this. This year we are memorizing many of Christina Rossetti's poems.



Hymn Study - It's a good idea to just start with the hymns you know or are familiar with.  I started this way and just did little google searches to find a very brief history of the hymn, shared that with the kids, and we tried to sing the hymn together.  Very simple.  This year we purchased Hymns for a Kid's Heart, which has been a nice resource.  There are also some suggestions for hymns to learn right here.

Another option is just singing fun songs together.  For some people, hymns are really not their 'thing'.  So, there are loads of fun scripture based or 'sunday school' style songs that kids love!  We sing lots of the tunes from Hide 'Em in your Heart!



Literature - Oh, this is the fun part where you just get to go crazy and pick all kinds of awesome living books (picture books, novels, short stories, etc.) to read with the kids!  There are countless living book lists out there that you can use, including the one from SCM.  You can choose to have your titles flow into other aspects of your study (ie: historical fiction that goes with your time period), or just read books for the fun of reading them!

The focus here is good quality, living books.  We have used a TON of audio books from the library and listened to them in the car.  There are hundreds of wonderful classics available on audio book!



Habits and Character Development - You can do several things here.  Some people use God's word and work through various aspects of Godly behavior and right living (ie: the Fruits of the Spirit) with their children.  Others use books like Laying Down the Rails or The Book of Virtues.  We use combination.  I like some of the suggestions here as well.



Music and Composer Study - Our family loves music so there is almost always music playing (usually worship).  We are also all learning instruments at home, which lends itself to a lot of discovery (and noise!).   At this stage, we do not do lessons outside the home.  We are using a program call Yousician for Piano, Ukulele, and Guitar.

For Composer Study, we simply choose one or two composers per year.  We read their biographies (there are many living book biographies about the well known composers), and we listen to their music.  We keep it pretty simple.



Art, Artist, and Picture Study - Art is something that can't always be categorized.  Many kids are always doing artsy things!  I would say having an art program is pretty helpful to ensure an official 'art lesson' happens once every week.  This is why we have used ARTistic Pursuits for years now.   We also LOVE Art for Kids Hub.  Their are tons of great art programs out there, but you can also just use Pinterest to find some projects if you have to watch your spending.

For Artist and Picture Study, we simply choose 2-3 artists per year, learn a little about the artist, and enjoy and discuss their art.  It's nice to choose Artists from the time period you are covering, but not necessary.  I can usually find living books and biographies about the artist quite easily and either invest in a great book of their art or check one out from the library.  We've also printed color prints to pin on our kitchen cork board wall.  Again, this does not have to be complicated at all and should be fun.  I love this list.



Handicrafts -  Oh!  This is where you get to Crochet and make Friendship Bracelets all afternoon and it actually counts as 'school'!  We don't do handicrafts as consistently as I'd like but in 2016, I want to really try to do an intentional time of 'handicrafting' every week.  In the past, we have done all kinds of things for handicrafts... Rainbow Loom, Jewelry, Paper Mache, Weaving, Carving, Knitting, Sewing, etc.  Lots of great ideas right here.





Individual Learning

Individual Learning is where each child has their own 'plan'.

This is a bit trickier to walk through as I can only speak for what we're doing for our kids at their specific ages.  Simply Charlotte Mason does have some ideas on their site about what you might consider doing when (and how much of it!).

If you are new to the Charlotte Mason way of doing Language Arts, I would recommend checking out some articles about readingnarration, copywork, and dictation to help get you started on plugging in appropriate tasks and materials for your children.

To see our individual choices for Math, Language Arts, Reading, and Notebooking, check out this post.



Putting it all Together:

Once you've chosen your books and resources, you can plug them into a sort of yearly list that can be easily put into Terms and then a weekly schedule.

There are many different types of schedules Charlotte Mason homeschoolers use.  I have made my own sort of plan based on what works for us.  Here are several ideas for possible weekly schedules.  Once you have a schedule that works for you, it will be fairly simple to start plugging in your book and resources choices.

Here is a basic scheduler I use to pencil in our term for Family Learning and Individual Studies for each child.  This is a very quick overview of what our weeks will look like.  I altered it a bit (I changed the grades to a space for additional reading and then each child's name).  You can access the download for this schedule at the bottom of THIS PAGE.



After I can see what our term looks like, I can start looking at monthly goals for reading and then weekly plans.  One of the reasons I choose to purchase the SCM history outlines is because it saves me LOADS of time in scheduling all the history readings.  The timeline is there for me, so I can much more easily plug in our year around that timeline.

These yearly, by term, and then monthly schedules/lists really give me huge direction when I'm penciling in our weekly stuff as I go.

So, yes, there is a 'plan' but it remains flexible because we are choosing week-by-week exactly what to piece together and how much time to spend on certain topics, in certain books, etc.  If something really becomes interesting, we can camp there for a while.  If something doesn't captivate us at all, we move on.


For Individual Studies, I use the Spiral Bound Notebook method (sounds fancy, eh?) to schedule our kids' daily tasks. I made a post about it, right here.

It looks kind of like this...







Does any of this make sense?   I truly hope so!

Maybe these freebies will help in your journey...?



Free Downloads for Planning and Organizing  

Oh goody, here's where I get to gift you with some (hopefully) helpful downloads that I have created for our family.  They aren't perfect and they may not work for every family, but, since they have been working for us - I thought, why not share?!  (hug)


Family Learning Plan Chart for Term (click to download)

Here is an easy to use Family Learning Plan I created to help plan each term (3 per year, usually).  This is meant to be a basic overview and helps with doing the 'piecing together' I've talked about in this post.





So, once I've penciled in our year, I move to the tasks of weekly scheduling (I'm never more than a week ahead).  So here are two options of the same schedule.  The 1-Page is more condensed into 1 page (you could probably figure that out on your own, but hey...), and the 2-Page... well, it's two pages, you know, for people who like to write bigger and give more details...  *smile*

1-Page Daily Schedule for Family Learning (click to download)




2-Page Daily Schedule for Family Learning (click to download)




Our Living Books Lists Print-outs (click to download)

I'm also sharing a bunch of options (in one file) for recording and planning monthly Living Book Read-alouds. This is a great way to visualize and plan what your family will be learning and reading every month.  There are separate boxes for History/Geography, Nature Study, Poetry/Art/Composer/Hymn, Bible/Habits, etc.  I find this SO helpful, especially considering the backbone of the Charlotte Mason education is, well, reading books.




Basic Reading Log (click to download)

This is another way we have kept track of what books you are reading and have read.  It is a very basic file, but very helpful when you would like a comprehensive list of your reading (either family or individual children) that doesn't have to be organized by topic or subject.  For us, it ends up being just chronological list of what we've read throughout the year.  Often we read much more than what is planned or in our 'homeschool' reading (if you know what I mean).  It's amazing to look back and see just HOW MUCH books we are reading!




And just for fun...


A Monthly Nature Study Planning Page (click to download)






I truly hope this post is helpful to you as you plan your homeschool!

Blessings and much love and encouragement as you journey to learn alongside your child(ren)!




More hands-on Planning Help...

Plan Your Year Ad 











10 comments:

  1. Thank you for this detailed post. For Bible Time, I also just read the Bible to my kids! We read through a book in the Bible {we just finished Esther and Ruth, and now are on Galatians}, and I explain the verses as we read. It leads to a lot of great discussion and deep questions from the kids. I also use a notebook for writing my oldest daughters lesson plans. So simple and effective.

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  2. Love your blog and thanks for sharing your printable!

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  3. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!!!! Thank you for making this available to your readers.

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    1. Thank you!!! :) I hope it is helpful to you.

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  4. Do you still use FIAR? If so how do you implement it?

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    1. We do. But not too often. How we implement FIAR now is very relaxed. The studies have become our Summer and Nature Studies. We sill LOVE FIAR and actually plan to row 'the Tree Lady" really soon. :)

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  5. Hello!! I am at a crossroads in my homeschool journey. I have been leaning classical - doing Story of the World and God's Design for Life, thinking I would trek through the history and science repeat every 4 years method. My kids are ages 8,7,6,5,3 and 1. I am overwhelmed. A friend of mine introduced me to Charlotte Mason philosophy. And then I read your post about FIAR. Would you recommend implementing FIAR and continuing Ancient History with living books with my oldest? I already printed off the whole student pages packet of SOTW but would like to add more living books. I just don't know how to do it all :( I am nervous about just stopping the progression of history so abruptly with my oldest. (The older two are new to our family and this is their first year homeschooling.) It gets tricky too bc I so desperately want to have more read aloud time but between phonics (we love all about reading too!), math and home management I find little time for anything else. I wish I could sit with you and have a cup of coffee and hear your response!! I've been praying and asking for wisdom but remain confused on how to implement after school has already begun. Thank you in advance.

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    1. Hi Jenny! :) I wish I could sit with you and have a coffee too! :) So... my first thought with children your ages is to take a deep breath and stop worrying so much. You have your hands crazy full and 4 out of the 6 children aren't even at 'school' age yet. And the two who are at that age are BARELY at that age... so, it's okay to just relax. I would say, drop the formal history and go to lots of read aloud living books. Sure, do FIAR! But don't try to combine it with loads of things, just do FIAR. You will entertain and engage all the kids and they will get their geography, history, science, language arts, art, etc. rolled in to the books. Our kids are going to be 12, 10 and 8 and are not doing super formal history... we have been working on modern history (think pioneers, settlement, Westward expansion) for like 1 and a half years... ;) The most peaceful and productive thing I think you could do at this stage of your life is to let go and give yourself grace. Maybe implement a simple Morning Time, read lots of great books aloud, and enjoy a program like FIAR if you want to... Do Math and Phonics 2-3 times a week and make lots of time for reading together. That's my encouragement... ;) Enjoy this time and make space for peace and truly enjoying your children... eliminate unneeded stress, like trying to do too much 'school' with kids who are so young. The most valuable thing you can do is establish a loving, peaceful environment and atmosphere full of books and fun and memorable experiences together. :) Before you know it, they will be 'big kids'. xo Hope this helps.

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