Behind The Butter

Our Charlotte Mason Homeschool, Fall 2020

I am happy to share our homeschool plans for this coming year!

We are not homeschooling because of COVID 19. Actually, we had made the decision to homeschool the kids last fall. Grayson was in a public school and Luke was in a preschool. I wanted them to finish their year out and then bring them home. I never in my wildest dreams could have predicted that so many people would be homeschooling (or, rather, “distance learning”) due to a worldwide pandemic. It’s totally crazy. We decided to homeschool the kids going forward, really, because I wanted to preserve their childhood. Lots of outdoor time, books and just the chance to be KIDS without being chained to a desk all day. Grayson has rather severe ADHD and did not do well in a classroom setting. I knew he would struggle immensely in a traditional school environment so I decided to take the kids education into my own hands. I threw myself into researching the system of education, all of the different styles of homeschooling and the pros and cons. I am not an expert, nor due I have an education background, but I am an expert on my own kids. So I thought we would try this and see how it works – one year at a time!

So, like I said, I researched all of the different homeschool pedagogies and once I “found” Charlotte Mason, I knew I had it. The more I read about her educational philosophy, the more it resonated with me and I just KNEW I was all in. Miss Mason was a 19th century British educator who believed children are born persons (amongst lots of other things!) and taught using “living” books, which are rich books of literary value — not textbooks. Actually, there are NO textbooks, worksheets or homework involved with this particular homeschool style. All we I do is read to Grayson and he narrates back. Lessons are SHORT (10-20 minutes, max) and varied. Everything is done first thing in the morning, thus leaving afternoons free for play and just being a kid. Lots of time is spent in nature!

I can’t go into the entire philosophy of Miss Mason on this blog post, but I urge you to do your own research if you’re interested. She wrote six volumes about her style of education and the book For the Children’s Sake is a wonderful place to start. The purpose of this blog post is to just explain what we are doing this fall. 🙂

One of the hallmarks of a Charlotte Mason education is how many subjects are taught. We are meant to give the children tastes of all these subjects because it’s impossible to know what will resonate. So here is what I will teach Grayson in the fall:

Math, Literature, American History (we will study 1000 – 1600 this year), Geography, Poetry, Drawing, Handicrafts, Bible, Singing, Recitation, Composer Study, Art Appreciation, Copywork, Reading and French.

If that seems like a ton, know that we won’t be doing all of those subjects every single day — and, like I said, each subject is only 10-20 minutes long. Our entire school day is actually only two hours! The year is broken up into three terms, each lasting 12 weeks. Our fall term will begin at the beginning of September and end at the beginning of December. I plan to take all of December off of school to focus on the fun stuff with Advent and Christmas – then we will start our second term at the beginning of January.

I decided not to use a boxed curriculum and instead put it together myself. I could never have done this without the help of A Delectable Education! I purchased their scheduling cards for only $5 and then it’s easy to piece together your daily schedule. I can’t show you our exact schedule because it would be a copyright breach since the ladies at ADE worked so hard to create the cards. But, listen to their podcast and see if its something you may be interested in!

When I first discovered the Delectable Education podcast last year I totally binged and listened to all of the episodes. That was the start of my obsession with Charlotte Mason. lol. I scheduled a consultation with them and they totally helped me put together our schedule for the coming year. They even helped me pick the books and laid it all out. After my consultation call I felt totally prepared and ready!

For math, Grayson will be starting Book 1 of Elementary Arithmetic and I’ve heard really good things. It is all oral math with LOTS of manipulatives such as play money, buttons, pipe cleaners and beads.

Grayson cannot read independently yet and we will be using this primer for our daily short reading lessons. I also bought a big box of moveable wooden letters to aid in this.

What’s in the envelopes you ask? Cut up nursery rhymes! I already did all the prep for the fall and typed out and then cut up easy nursery rhymes so he can learn to read by sight and then put the rhymes back together like a puzzle. We will see how it goes – I will report back!

Like I said earlier, the history period we will be doing in Form 1B is American History from about 1000-1600. It’s very important to me to create an all inclusive history program for my kids and we plan to focus on the first Americans (various Native American tribes) before white people came. This fall, we will be reading through a biography about the Sioux, as well as the older book America Begins (our “spine” for the year and I will supplement with biographies). We will end our year by studying various explorers and their impact on America, positively and negatively. I absolutely love history so I am most excited for this!

Charlotte Mason had young children study Geography and the first year was mainly spent making maps of their local surrounding and studying how other children in different parts of the world lived. We will be using one older book and one new book for this subject – as well as working on making a map of our backyard and then neighborhood.

Now, “recitation” was new to me and I had to do a lot of research about what it actually meant. Charlotte Mason wanted children to be able to learn to read beautifully and with passion – memorization isn’t the goal but probably will be an outcome of reading the same piece over the course of the term. I picked one poem, one psalm and one prayer for us to work on. I printed them all out and put them in a clear menu so Grayson could have something to hold and it wouldn’t get dirty. 😉

Grayson actually picked his poem for this term, which is Happiness by A.A. Milne. We will be studying Milne all term and I let him page through the poetry book until he came upon the “special” one he wanted to work on reciting. It’s such a cute poem!

Like I said, A.A. Milne will be our poet for the fall and so we will be reading through his works every day. The boys are borderline obsessed with Winnie the Pooh so I think they will really love this. I plan to end our school day everyday with poetry.

Art Appreciation and Composer Study are subjects we only do once a week, but not to be missed! Basically, it’s just all about having your child experience beauty in the form of music and art — having them gaze upon beautiful pictures and listen to beautiful music. Literally, all we do for the 10 minutes once a week for composer study is just sit, be quiet and listen to Tchaikovsky (our composer for the term). Our artist for the term is Botticelli. I will be using Simply Charlotte Mason’s artist prints and they look lovely.

I chose French for our foreign language because that is what I know. 😉 I’m not fluent but with the help of Cherrydale Press, I think I’ll be able to do it. Really, for the first year it’s all about just HEARING the language spoken. We will listen to audio recordings and songs for this. We will see how it goes!

For Literature (or, as Miss Mason called it – “Tales”) we will be reading two fairy tales in their original form, as well as two fables. Again, I’m just reading tiny bits and Grayson is just narrating back. I believe I picked Puss in Boots and Sleeping Beauty as our fairy tales for the fall. I have a very old copy of Lang’s Blue Fairy Book that I’ll use. My boys LOVE fairy tales!

Let’s see – what else? For our handicraft we will be learning origami together, which is totally new to me but I’m excited to learn.Every day we will spend 20 minutes on it. “Drawing” is actually brushdrawing, which is actually watercolor. Haha! So twice a week, we will be doing watercoloring together.

I haven’t mentioned Bible since it’s pretty self explanatory. I will just be reading portions of the bible and Grayson will be narrating back. We will be alternating between the old and new testiments. This will likely take some getting used to because my children are used to a storybook version of the bible and not the “real thing”. The goal and scope here is that the child reads through the entirety of the bible every four years.

Oh, and copywork! Every day, we will work on writing – and to start, just having Grayson learn to write perfect formed letters on his chalkboard. Grayson has some gross and fine motor delays and instead of jumping to copy whole paragraphs, I want him to go back to the basics and just work on writing every letter perfectly. Using chalk instead of a pencil or pen helps the hand muscles “memorize” the moment of the letter. After we go through that, he will choose pieces of poems from his poetry book or bible verses to copy in his notebook for this subject.

Okay so now that I’ve broken down what we will be doing for all the subjects you probably are wondering about my other two kids, right?! In a Charlotte Mason education, school does not start until six. No formal education or teaching before then! Luke and Brooks are welcome to listen in if they want, but for right now I will only have one student and that is Grayson. I won’t be doing any preschool “curriculum” with the other two children. They are free to listen if they want or just go play. My kids really love free time outside so my guess is that they will be playing with playdoh or in the backyard for most of our school days.

So I think that covers it! Kudos to you if you’re still reading this post. I think my hand has a cramp! A LOT of prep has gone into this coming up school year for us. Like I said, I have been studying and planning for it for almost a year now. And I’m still learning every single day! It is a lot, for sure, but I believe God will help me in this daunting and weighty task of educating my children. If you have a question, shoot me an email or find me on instagram — that will be much easier than me responding to comments on this post.

And, finally, I want to say however YOU CHOOSE TO EDUCATE YOUR KIDS IS RIGHT FOR YOU. There is no one size fits all or right way for everyone. You do YOU. What is right for us, a family with three young boys – one with severe learning disabilities – may not be right for you. And that is okay. Public school is great, private school is great, distance learning is fine — we are in a weird moment in history and everyone (teachers and parents) are just trying to do our very best. So please be kind, that’s all I ask.

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  • Jenny
    July 31, 2020 at 10:14 pm

    I have been reading you since I was 19, over a decade ago. I’ve followed your food journeys, body image journeys, and wonderful adventures of the soul. You helped me feel not so alone when I made wide moves on my own. I never felt a need to comment until now. I applaud you as a Mother. You are an incredible and present woman in your children’s life. Thank you for sharing <3

  • Laura
    August 1, 2020 at 1:40 am

    Sounds wonderful!! We will be following Charlotte Mason’s method as well this year–I’m so excited ? our handicraft is loom potholders; I think we’ll do origami next term. Just ordered the version book in Arabella Buckley’s Eyes and No Eyes series and I’m excited to read it!

    It’ll be a great year! So excited for you and Grayson.

    • Laura
      August 1, 2020 at 1:42 am

      Wow, so many typos. Unsurprising, as it’s 3 am and I’m nursing a baby

      *! Instead of ? ?
      * First volume in the Buckley series

      • T.Keenan
        August 1, 2020 at 1:44 pm

        I teach five to seven year olds and have found teaching them cursive handwriting instead of printing to be very beneficial, especially if the child has fine motor struggles.

  • Emily
    August 1, 2020 at 1:46 am

    I love this! I’m getting into homeschooling too as I really want my kids to be kids as long as they can. I’m still doing the research and I’m worried about navigating the dynamic between my oldest and I as “teacher/student” but I really am more excited than anything else. I wish you lots of luck and success! Be kind to yourself through this process – it’s going to have a learning curve for all involved I’m sure 🙂

  • Shelly
    August 1, 2020 at 4:56 am

    Hi Jenna,
    I’m making a recommendation only because I think it’s worth it: purchase a small laminator if you don’t already have one. Once you print anything, you can laminate and save. The Dollar Tree, Target, and Amazon all have great page protectors too like your menu. I’m a speech pathologist so a laminator is important to me when I create something specific for my kids. Have a great first part of the school year!

    • Danielle
      August 1, 2020 at 9:06 am

      I second this! I bought a small Scotch one from Target years ago, and it’s still going strong! I believe it’s about $20-ish dollars, and the sheets are cheap on Amazon. I am a teacher and I wanted my own portable one for my classroom 🙂

  • Angie
    August 1, 2020 at 6:21 am

    It’s nice you had time to prepare and not scramble at the last minute like many of us are. Our district is offering virtual through an academy and that’s what we are choosing to do. I taught for 10 years before staying home so I feel prepared in that sense. Luckily this virtual option lets you create your curriculum with teachers that support you and make sure your following standards. My kids are will be in second and pre k. We too get our work done in the morning and then playtime when done. Lots of hiking, biking, hopefully skiing in winter and resorts don’t shut down again. This is a strange time and I hate that my kids won’t be in the classroom, they thrive there, but they are young and we will adjust. I also don’t want the teachers to be exposed to more kids and when they shut down again I want my kids to have some stability. Best of luck!

  • Amb
    August 1, 2020 at 8:04 am

    Thanks for sharing your journey and thought process. I homeschooled my son from fourth grade through 8th. It was what was best for us at the time. Determining what is best for one’s child is individual and subject to many changes given to he context. Hope the school year goes well!

  • Danielle
    August 1, 2020 at 9:09 am

    Can I be in your class?! Hah! In all seriousness, I am so very impressed with your plans for the upcoming school year…it’s sure to be an amazing year with such a wonderful curriculum! I am a teacher and as much as I love what I do, I always wish I could personalize my curriculum more and focus on some different things from the norm (just like you’re doing). Bravo!

  • Cindy
    August 1, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Jenna, I have missed you and your beautiful insights , the love for your family. One size does not fit all…. and what you choose for your family is your choice and should be respected and I admire you and all the hard effort and research you poured into your search.
    Sounds like a remarkable program. I hope you bring updates when you can. As well would love to see any recipes…. love your talents in the kitchen too!
    Have a wonderful year!

    • Katie
      August 1, 2020 at 11:13 pm

      This is wonderful! And it was really thought-provoking for me to read.
      I especially love how you will start American history much earlier than the traditional time frame in which it’s taught when they focus only on the arrival of white Europeans.
      I feel so blessed to have school choice, I know you do too. I won’t homeschool but my sister will. I live in Hong Kong (though I’m American, born and raised in Colorado) so my son will go to private schools here because he doesn’t speak Cantonese and because it’s my privilege and preference, and there are so many philosophies to choose from. Right now he goes to a Reggio-Emilia kindergarten but I have to decide for next year. I like the Reggio-Emilia philosophy a lot. I will look into Charlotte Mason too to supplement at home. Most kids go to all day school here starting at age 2! So I’m already in the minority just sending him half days. Any school I chose will follow curriculums from a different country, there are IB schools too, so much to think about

  • Michelle
    August 1, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you for writing this post and sharing your journey! My little guy is just 3.5 so I’m still in the research phase, but I get so excited learning about all the different resources out there! I, too, am drawn to Charlotte Mason and your plans for the fall sound wonderful! I look forward to hearing more later this year.

  • Tina
    August 4, 2020 at 6:40 am

    I loved this post and reading the comments too! I would like to applaud you too for doing the research, finding what you think will work, and making the best choice for your family. I wish my daughters were younger. As teens, I am not sure homeschooling is the best choice at this point. However, with remote learning this fall and working from home, I am definitely going to be more involved. I think I will look into some of this for possibly some supplemental learning. Thank you!

  • Kristin
    August 4, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    Very inspiring, as always, Jenna! <3 Thank you for adding a note about what your youngest two will be doing while you're teaching Grayson, and that a Charlotte Mason education advises no formal learning before the age of six. Reading that little line has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders in regards to my youngest two and this upcoming school year. Thanks for including!

  • Lish
    August 4, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    Have you done any research into outdoor education? I’m a preschool educator myself and run a forest school program. There are a number guiding principles, such as: takes place in a variety of spaces, is a long-term process of regular and repeated sessions to the same natural space, aims to promote holistic development, views children and youth as competent and capable learners, requires that the educator plays the role of facilitator rather than expert, and the process is as valued as the outcome, just to name a few. As a preschool teacher myself, I do my best to steer away from boxed curriculum as well, because the children are the curriculum, which sounds like the approach you are totally taking, but also, I specifically focus on “readiness” skills – practical life skills and social-emotional learning. Knowing how to dress for the weather, how to support one another, how to be entertained with less, letting kids be bored, identifying bugs, plants, and animals, how to share the forest with others, how to fuel ourselves with healthy foods and water, how to use tools safely, etc. (I could go on). Not to mention all the amazing gross motor (and fine motor opportunities). When I first started out as a preschool teacher, I was shocked at how uncoordinated 3-5 year olds were. How they couldn’t navigate their bodies in a classroom, stand in a line, sit still, walk/run without falling. The uneven terrain of the outdoors and the ample opportunities to assess risk, was the best thing I could do for my students.

    Anywho, I’m starting to rant, haha, I just love the outdoors so much and the benefits it has for children and their early education. I guess I’m saying all of this because you mentioned that your primary student for this year is your oldest, however, there are definitely numerous opportunities for your two littles to join in as well, though you sound like you’re on it, I just wanted to add a few more thoughts and suggestions as you continue to dive into your research.

    I’m excited for you and look forward to how your “school” year will go. I’m currently 32 weeks pregnant and will be on maternity leave this upcoming school year, so I guess I’m nerding out through you 🙂

    Enjoy and have fun.

  • Katie
    August 11, 2020 at 7:05 am

    So grateful for your post. We are in limbo in our school district on the East Coast with virtual only as an option – which I just can’t get my head around for a 5 year old. I also work full time so 100% homeschooling by me is not a viable option either but I’m doing what I can to incorporate what I can. I’ve always taken all of your book suggestions from insta for the kiddos and have loved all of them. I am going to do my best to incorporate some of the CM method in what we do at home and look forward to any updates you may share throughout the year. I think my biggest struggle is incorporating nature study as I feel I don’t have any knowledge myself! I have a lot of reading to do on my own to make nature study really valuable for my son (and me!) Thanks again. Love reading your posts.

  • Liza Peeples
    August 18, 2020 at 2:19 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. I have followed you since you were pregnant with Luke and I too have a Brooks (oldest, 7) and three boys -3, 5 and 7. I have always said that I would never homeschool. I read your post as soon as you published it but come back today having just received the last of our Charlotte Mason books. We are doing a mix of the printed curriculum and our own. The last book to arrive was Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois and it was everything that my Spanish education was not – simply and easy and in conversation vs. vocabulary. I am so very excited to start SCM this fall and pray that your year is blessed beyond measure. We’ve already started family study for an hour around breakfast time to ease into the schedule (more for me!) and our whole family has loved it. We are studying Robert Frost, Bach and Monet and chose the Outdoor Secrets. I could not be more thrilled and confident to start this school year and thank you for being so open in sharing your approach. Who knows?! This could be a start for us I never imagined. Again, prayers and blessings on your year. Sincerely, Liza

    August 21, 2020 at 8:16 am

    ___123___Our Charlotte Mason Homeschool, Fall 2020 – Eat, Live, Run___123___

  • AV
    September 13, 2020 at 3:48 am

    I just want to say that I think you are doing an amazing job as a mom! Bringing up one kid let alone 3 is hard, and you are taking on homeschooling. kudos to you.

  • Anna
    September 21, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Loved reading this. Thanks for sharing.