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.


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

See Jamie Blog March 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Great advice, especially to work on adding in those things one at a time. It can get overwhelming trying to do it all at once!

I think curriculum like Sonlight and Winter Promise are wonderful, especially for newer homeschoolers (we used WP but never Sonlight, though I seriously considered it), but I also think they work great in figuring out what really does/doesn’t work for each family or each child.


Jennifer March 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm

We just started to add in artists this year and love it. We were all ready doing some poetry. We do Nature loosely. The next step will be composers. I need to get the artists routine down first. I would be too overwhelmed trying to do it all at once. So good advice at beginning one at a time.
I will say we use Heart of Dakota publishing as our curriculum and it is very Charlotte Mason friendly. Their name is not as well-known as some of the other curricula but they are getting there. It is great curriculum.


Belinda March 17, 2012 at 7:15 am

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Jimmie! Your suggestions are complimentary to what I was thinking. Now, I can pull it all together to work for my kiddos. Funny you mentioned Learning Language Arts Through Literature because I happened to pick up the orange book for my son’s fourth grade year. Also, I do want to incorporate a Charlotte Mason approach. Your advice to add one area at a time will help keep me from being overwhelmed. My local library is small; however, there are some nice books for this purpose. As I prepare for next year, I appreciate the use of your blog to help me. I’m sure I’ll be clicking all over it. 🙂 Thank you again! I truly found this helpful.


Kimberly March 17, 2012 at 7:39 am

Your review of the horse study was very helpful. Thank you!


Nadene March 17, 2012 at 8:12 am

What great advice! We seem to have walked a similar homeschool route in many areas.
I believe that if you can choose any literature-based curriculum for elementary years, and you’ll have the richest and most intimate learning. If you train your children to narrate, orally at first, then dictated, they will master a CM essential skill.

Gently add other CM studies, one at a time, as the other moms advise. I suggest you choose one day each week for fine arts and nature study. This is still my children’s favorite day! We focus on an artist or a composer for the month. We read and chat about a poem. Then we spend some time outside on a nature walk. Over the years we have developed a fuller CM-inspired schooling this way.


Ticia March 17, 2012 at 8:37 am

Artists and foreign language are the two I’m thinking of adding in next year. Now how to do artists best…….


Kelly @ The Homeschool Co-op March 17, 2012 at 11:20 pm

I love this, Jimmie. Especially your reminder about artist, composer, poetry, Shakespeare, and, of course, nature study. All of these areas are so very dear to me (although, truthfully, I could brush up on Shakespeare). I love the CM approach, especially for including these “essentials.”


Dana Wilson March 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I agree with the advice to use a literature-based curricula in the elementary years; it is especially helpful to use one where you can combine history and other subjects for both of your children. This often works with everything but the skill-based areas such as math and language arts. I agree with everyone’s comments to add in the ‘extra’ things slowly, one at a time.

I also have many resources on my blog and you are welcome to visit. 🙂

God bless!


MJCarley March 19, 2012 at 9:11 pm

I love looking at your blog. It’s very encouraging and helpful. I’ve been poking around trying to find what you used for Science for 5th grade and beyond. Would you share with me what you used? My daughter is in 5th and we are currently doing no Science though she loves experiments.


Jimmie March 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Hi! You can read about our curriculum choices at Jimmie’s Curriculum. For 6th & 7th grade science, we’ve been doing a study of the history of medicine and human anatomy.


Michelle November 23, 2013 at 8:44 am

I recently found your website and love it. I have learned a lot about the CM philosophy. I want to use a literature rich curriculum and was thinking about sonlight or winter promise? I am currently using 1st grade curriculum. Can you offer any tips or suggests as someone who has used both?

Thank you


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: