Charlotte Mason for Elementary Years

by Jimmie Lanley on March 16, 2012

Belinda sent me an email, asking for some advice. I asked her permission to answer her in a blog post so that others could benefit as well. I think that many moms are planning for next year because I’ve gotten quite a few emails recently with these kinds of planning questions.

Hi Jimmie!

I’m been reading your blog for a few months now. I really enjoy reading it; I especially liked the 10 Days of Language Arts.
On to my questions… I have looked through your archives on your blog for this information, but really didn’t find the answer. What did you use for the elementary years with your daughter? Did you use any specific curriculum? When did you introduce artists? The reason I’m asking this is because I really like the approach you have to homeschooling. I guess I was just wondering if you would be willing to share what you did for the elementary years since your blog is focused on the middle school years.
To give you some background information, I have two children, 9 (3rd grade) and 6 (kindergarten). With my 9-year-old, I’m using The Writer’s Jungle and the ideas you shared from 10 Days of Language Arts, Life of Fred, Handwriting Without Tears, and Apologia science. I’ve been using Five in a Row with both children. My 6-year-old is working on reading and using Miquon Math Lab. Both children have silent reading time and I also read aloud every day. I’ve tried really hard to stay away from workbooks and doing a lot of worksheets, especially if it is just busy work. What else would you suggest I add? I’m starting to think about planning next year, so I would appreciate any insight you might have. I would like to stay away from buying a curriculum. I also have a tight budget.
Thank you again,

Belinda, thank you so much for your question. It is a very humbling thing to be asked for homeschool advice. And I do hope that you keep in mind these ideas are advice.  I’ll share what I did and what I recommend, but you ultimately have to make the decisions based on your convictions and your knowledge of your children.

I’m so glad you liked the 10 Days of Language Arts series. I have another 10 day series coming up in April. Stay tuned for the topic.

When Sprite was in elementary school, we used prepackaged curriculum kits from homeschool companies. I also supplemented those collections with additional books I chose based on my research. At that time we were living abroad without access to bookstores or libraries. So I really needed the convenience of buying all I needed in one fell swoop. If I had it to do over again, while living in America, I probably wouldn’t choose to spend so much money. But it was the best choice for us at the time.

Kindergarten, First and Second Grades

K-2 were our Sonlightyears.

For our science, language arts, history, art, and Bible, I used Sonlight as prescribed with the addition of  hands-on extras and lapbooks.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grades

Third – fifth grades were our Winter Promise years. We spent three years on American Story 1 & 2.

Renoir sketch

Like K-2, 3rd-4th grades were still based on living books with lots of lapbooks and hands-on paper crafts.

The first artist we studied was Renoir; that was in the third grade. (Before that we had used the art books included in the Sonlight curriculum. I do think that was sufficient for the grade level.)

I really didn’t know about the Charlotte Mason style of education until I began researching it in-depth when Sprite was in second grade. By third grade, I was beginning to make small changes to add in CM methods. Art was the first thing we added. And then I implemented nature study, composer study, poetry study, and Shakespeare over the course of third and fourth grades and continued with them during fifth grade.

Besides WP for history, we used the following curriculum in third and fourth grades.

A big shift occurred in fourth grade when I made a shift to living math. You can read all about that at Transitioning to Living Math. In a very small nutshell, we used Singapore Math only as a reference to guide the selection of hands-on activities. Plus I added in math history lessons from In fifth grade I introduced Teaching Textbooks math curriculum to our schedule. (We still use TT math and love it.)

In fifth grade, we took a short break from American History to use Beautiful Feet’s History of the Horse unit study. My daughter still fondly remembers this curriculum. It is full of living books and notebooking, all about horses — perfect for any girl.

Homeschool Advice for Belinda

As far as what  you should add, I would first ask if you are wanting to take a Charlotte Mason approach? You have a great line up of resources and seem to be covering all the basics. Our lives have been enriched by adding in the CM distinctives of nature, artist, composer, poetry, and Shakespeare. And personally I think every child should have an appreciation for those five areas.

So, yes, I recommend adding in one of those five areas at a time. Chose the one you feel most comfortable with. I have lots of resources on this blog. Just look in the drop down menus at the top. Under Charlotte Mason, there are individual pages on several of these areas.

They can all be done very inexpensively with library books, public domain eBooks, and online resources.


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