Enjoying {the gentleness of} a Charlotte Mason Education

I have been on a really big Charlotte Mason schooling kick lately.

enjoying the gentleness of charlotte mason education

I blame spring; it does this to me!  I My kids would rather be outside in nature, reading books and playing in the dirt than inside.  And who can blame them?!  This is what childhood is about, so here we are …

… all wrapped up in our Charlotte Mason education  *insert all the heart emoticons here*

But, because this is where our homeschool is headed for this season in life, I thought I’d better simplify things and organize my thoughts before I get overwhelmed and we end up doing none of it (or at the very least doing only some of it, and without any intention, or focus at all).

So, here is what we are doing for our Charlotte Mason Homeschool this spring and summer (we school year round):

  • History/Geography/Bible- continuing our beautiful Feet Early American History studies
  • Picture/Artist Study- Monet (who better to study about in spring and summer?!  We already have Linnea and her book from a spring basket gift 3 years ago)
  • Music Study- Scott Joplin He is from a part of history we will spend a bit of time on here soon, and his music?!  y’all- my feet won’t stop moving!
  • Hymn Study- this won’t be a specific hymn just yet, I don’t think.  We have 3-4 the kids are just learning all the words to via youtube tracks.  Because this is for everyone from 2 year old Ila to 6 year old Lexie, we are taking it slow and simple.  This is how we begin our days
  • Handicrafts and Art- we do so many as part of our family time anyway, but for spring and summer we will be focusing on: embroidery, gardening, whittling, setting the table correctly, clearing the table, and cooking (again, all things we already do but I will be more intentional about reading books and such about each)
  • Foreign Language- I think we may start playing with french and latin just for fun, through books.  Nothing formal
  • Nature Study- we do nature study all the time, but I can be pretty terrible about using our nature journals, so I hope to improve that!
  • Poetry-we will continue our poetry plans for the year.
  • Literature- we are reading rich literature in our history, as well as chosen read alouds, library books, and my 6.5 year old is reading the Narnia series … over, and over, and over to herself.
  • Personal Development/Habits- each of the kids have goals for development, school, and habits that I have written down in my planner for us to work on through the year. Some of these are the same as handi crafts.

What is best about studying these things is?

There are no “reports” or papers, no formal tests or pop quizzes.  We just read books, listen to music, learn poetry, look at art, and ENJOY the process.  We soak it up, remember it if it was memorable, and when we are ready, move on.

Most CM purist are probably cringing at my plans, and how I “plan” to implement them.  But I am okay with that.  It is why we homeschool- to do what works for us.

That is what learning to love learning looks like here.


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Our Homeschool Science for 2016/2017 {Apologia Review}

Finally!  After years of watching from the sidelines; wondering, considering, questioning, and weighing whether we should try one of Apologia Educational Ministries science programs, we got to try one!  I am so excited to tell you all about their Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition.  We received the student text, Notebooking Journal, Jr. Notebooking Journal (this is the one we used for Kindergarten) and Audio CD for review.

Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition {a review}


Y’all- I cannot tell you how much this EXCEEDED all expectations I had.  But first- about the program itself.

It just so happens that my kids are crazy interested in Astronomy right now- all things planets and stars, so this worked out perfectly with their interests.  The journal has a suggested schedule based on each lesson being broken up into 4-7 daily assignments.  If you were to do 2 daily assignments each week this program would last a year.

About the Text:

The textbook itself is just beautiful!  I am a total “literature” based, living books learner- not a huge fan of textbooks.  But this textbook isn’t dry like I remember textbooks being in school.  The pictures are vibrant and beautiful; the information is nicely organized and presents lots of opportunities for discussion and dictation from the student (-love that!).  After a few paragraphs on a topic the text will have the student tell what they know about XYZ “to a friend or family member.”

I like that important vocabulary words are in bold lettering which makes it easy for a young learner to pinpoint those topics when looking back at information.  It is definitely written in such a way that a student can read it themselves; after rest time in our home, I often find this astronomy book taken down from the shelf where my Kindergarten daughter has been reading it on her own.  For our actual lessons, I read it aloud so that I can explain things to my preschooler, who also loves to listen in and look at the pictures with us.

The binding is so sturdy and such high quality it will last through multiple children, and probably multiple families.  Inside you will find glossy and thick pages that are fun to turn (book nerd, anyone?).  The pictures are colorful and detailed and span the entire page; throughout you will find Biblical wisdom.

The author (who partnered with an engineer from NASA to write this book) does a beautiful job paralleling science and astronomy to Biblical truths.  There are sections throughout, highlighted in blue boxes, titled “think about this,” which give Biblical facts and scripture (explained beautifully) to support what we know about that particular astronomy topic.

The pictures and infographics are not just beautiful they are informational and perfect for those visual learners.  In the first lesson (pages 13-24), the infographics demonstrating how planets, satellites, and and the sun all work together and orbit in space are helpful for learners of all ages and abilities.

Activities are also abundant in the text- and the best part?  They are NOT labor intensive on parents, but they are meaningful to students!  They are simple, yet effective activities that get kids moving; whether it is blowing up balloons, “orbiting” each other like planets, or using a globe & flashlight to understand the seasons, the acitivites are fun and perfect for kinisthetic and hands on learners. The content is rich, and includes wonderful history lessons.

I am telling you, this is not your typical “text” book style learning.

The Journals

The journals are just … perfect. =)  Really, they have thought of everything.  Each journal is spiral bound on a big, thick, sturdy spiral that will stand up to even the most careless ehum, youngest, of learners.

Apologia Astronomy Jr. Notebooking Journal

We used the Jr. Notebooking Journal, because my daughter (and oldest child) just turned 6 this past week and is beginning kindergarten.  The biggest difference I found between this and the regular Notebooking Journal are the size of the writing lines; the Jr. Journal has dotted lines apropriate for younger writers, while the regular journal has notebook-paper style lines for writing.

Inside the journals you will find the suggested daily schedule and an abundance of opportunities for journaling in 328 pages.  This is my favorite part about the program- we love journaling!  It makes a perfect keepsake and is an ideal way to document your child’s learning and growth.

We are going at our own pace with a goal of 36 weeks of “scheduled” school per year (though we really school year round with breaks … oh we the baffling homeschoolers).  So I just took the total number of lessons and divided it into the number of weeks we plan to formally school, and that’s how many lessons we shoot for each week.  Sometimes we do more, other weeks less.  But regardless for the first time ever we are doing science EVERY WEEK!  We always get to our science reading and journaling; not because we have to but because we want to.

My daughter is young, so we did some parts together (like the crossword puzzles), while she did the journaling of her thoughts/what she learned and drawing pictures on her own.  We also did some dictation if we had a day that she had done a lot of writing for school overall, and I knew she needed a break.  The copywork provides an opportunity for both print and cursive writing.

In the Jr. Notebook there are coloring pages that include a Bible verse at the bottom; the coloring pages vary from illustrations from Bible stories, of nature or scripture, to outer space.  Along with pages for scrapbooking, there are minibook and matchbooks included in the journals.  These were great fun!  (Below is an example of our dictation- I simply asked her what she knew about the topic; usually she told me much more than I was able to write.)

Apologia Astronomy Matchbook


What is *really* awesome about the Apologia science series is that they take a submersion approach- you focus on the one topic, in depth, for a longer period of time.  I like this because it means that for those months we can supplement our lesson with living books we love so much by topic- NASA, the sun, each individual planet, the galaxy, etc.

Apologia encourages that you read other books about the topics, and includes pages in the Notebooking Journal to document those books and what you learned from them.

Hello mamas (and papas ..)  the work is done for us!  No finding and printing pages, no coming up with ideas of things to notebook or scouring the internet for hours looking for activity booklets, etc. on each topic.  IT IS ALL HERE!

Woo hoo!  (I told you I was excited about this, right?)

I’ll be honest, we *love, love, love* science; and my kids consider everything from playing on the farm and nature walks around the pond, to staring at dirt science.  And they’re right, those things are science.  And they’re fun and interesting and *so* important.  But I think it is also important to learn to do more formal science- to learn about the scientific method, how to read a text book and look for information, to get the nitty gritty details on things, and document it.

And without a little guidance chances are I may not actually get to those nitty gritty details, or that documentation.  We may not get to go as deep as we’d like because we can’t find all the QUALITY resources to help us.  But here it is- the quality resource (text) with the documentation (journal), that we can supplement with library books on the topics as we please.  It is a win-win no matter how you look at it.

The Audio MP3 CD

We also received the audiobook MP3 CD, read by Jeannie Fulbright herself.  The audiobook is the perfect supplement to the text book- it is read mostly word for word, and is done beautifully.  There is expression in the reading and Jeannie’s voice is so pleasant to listen to.

The CD is divided into titled sections, just like the text, so you can follow along seamlessly while looking at the book.

I haven’t let the kids listen to it on their own yet, because my daughter will devour it and have the entire book memorized in days; so we have listened to the audiobook a few times after I have read it and discussed it with them.  Honestly, if you choose to go with the Apologia science program, you really need to get the audiobook to go along with it; it is too great to pass over.

In summary- we are enjoying Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy immensely!  We will continue with it and probably use their other science programs in the future.

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Homeschool Science with Rainforest Journey {a review} by EdTechLens

Rainforest Journey {a review by QuietInTheChaos.com}

For our science the past few months we have chosen to read lots of books about whatever the kids are interested in, listen to science podcasts, and do nature studies and nature walks.  To supplement those things, we have also been using a one year subscription to Rainforest Journey by EdTechLens; we have used the Kindergarten level for one student.

This came along at just the right time, because Lexie has been obsessed with learning about volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.  So of course it was easy to blend the topic of rainforest right into that.

About Rainforest Journey

In this Journey, you will have 34 lessons covering life sciences for grades K-5.  Each lesson has an End of Lesson Review which is printable.  We did a few printed reviews, and a few we just did orally.  For young children like mine, it is easy to do these orally.  There are also hands-on activities that can be done in home, or outside.  One thing that I think sets this program apart, are the included videos, interviews, and beautiful interactive images used in the lessons.  There are even enrichment activities, of which we did a few, that includes incredible educational illustrations of how things work (think graphic organizers on steroids).

Water Cycle Screen Shot {rainforest journey}


How We Used Rainforest Journey & What We Think

We used Rainforest Journey as a supplement to what we have been reading about and studying in science.  After visiting Hawaii last year, both my 5 year old and 3 year old have been obsessed with volcanoes, rocks, earthquakes, and all things science.  We easily added in the topic of rainforests to include a more life science study, if that makes sense.  We have done a lot of earth science, but now we have learned how that earth science pretty much has its own life.  The study of the different kinds of rainforests, the animals you find in each layer, emphasizing how life requires light and water, especially in the rainforest, etc. has enriched our homeschool science so much!

Because it is computer based, I allowed Lexie to interact on the computer for the first time.  You can also very easily use it on an ipad, which we just haven’t done but probably will for future lessons.  She wanted to “learn to click on the computer” so I let her mess with it a little, but mostly I helped navigate the lessons.  She did enjoy clicking on the button that reads the text to you.  Many of the enrichment features included a question that was perfect for opening a deeper discussion, or prompting the creation of a story.

The assessments at the end of each unit can be either printed and completed independently, or completed online with immediate results.  I found these to be very simple, straight forward quizzes/assessments that were perfect for a kindergarten student.

As we continue through Rainforest Journey I plan to print the visual aids, along with the review sheets we complete (whether she dictates and I write, or she writes on them), and make a rainforest notebook for both her and little brother to look at when we are done.  It will be a great item to add to their portfolio for the year as well.

This is a beautiful, well organized and easy to navigate online program to supplement homeschool science!

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Weekly Wrap Up: October 29

Weekly Wrap-Up (10/29/15)

writing amounts using the cents sign, reading “I Can Read It: Book2”, Mister coloring blueberries on the letter B

I am so behind on weekly wrap ups, baby updates, etc.  I am so sorry y’all!  I know many of my readers really look forward to those posts, and I have been seriously slacking since the move…. and the move was over in August, so no excuses.

This is more like a monthly wrap up.

The past month the 5 year old has been working on:

  • finishing AAR Level 1-learning new sounds for letters, open/closed syllables/
  • working through Saxon K (which she LOVES, so glad I chose not to skip it!)- telling time to the hour, and writing money using the cents sign, ordering items according to price
  • Sonlight language arts for supplementing- copywork, select grammar, I Can Read It book
  • HWOT Kindergarten book-she loves this and asks to do it all the time
  • Elemental Science (I will be honest, we haven’t been hitting this every week.. but the kids *love* science!)- we recently had a lot of fun learning about diluting using mud!
  • art lessons from Artistic Pursuits- again, a favorite!
  • Sonlight Core A- history, Bible, Read alouds, and geography- right now studying medieval times, working through Moses stories, and SL missionary stories.  Our read aloud is Here’s a Penny and IT IS SO FUN!  We love it so far; we recently finished up My Father’s Dragon which was also a favorite.
  • supplementing with Grapevine Bible lessons (review coming soon!)- Lexie *loves* history, it is her other favorite part about school
  • Lots of books- she reads to me a little, and the rest of the time I am just reading to all of the kids.

My 3 year old is working through:

  • Tagging along with big sister’s books
  • AAR Pre Reading level (just recognizing letters and their sounds, which he mostly already knows because of our ABC song)
  • ThisReadingMama’s letter of the week activities-when he feels like it
  • Before Five in a Row books- the last two weeks we have focused on the letter B and have been rowing Ask Mr. Bear.  Mister has had so much fun with this book, and has especially enjoyed the rowing activities.  He is at the age where he can listen to books and focus a bit longer on activities (especially if he gets to cut or glue!), and it is truly so much fun for us as a family!
  • identifying numbers through 10- the boy is obsessed with counting, and subtracting then recounting.  I made a number line for the back of our backdoor (where all our learning charts are) and I bet he points to the numbers and counts at least 10 times a day!
  • Supplementing with Fun Time Phonics- review coming soon
  • just having fun and learning through play- lots and lots of play for everyone!

We discuss each morning: our manners, character traits, Bible, talking about being a good friend, helping others … The most important of all this, for us, is building faith, relationships, and character.  Those are our main goals.

It looks like a lot- and it would be- but we don’t do this every day.  We don’t even hit on all of this every week!  The kids are young, I am following their lead because we can.  They LOVE our Sonlight reading and on days that we don’t have it scheduled they are pretty bummed out about it.  Mister some days doesn’t want to do school with us, and I am 100% fine with that- he is learning all day long while he plays, and while we read books.

I don’t want our days to be so consumed by “we have to get this done,” that we forget why we are homeschooling, why we are trying to live simply, why we are trying to not be consumed, or super-consumers.  So the list above is like a buffet, we take from it what we need, going slowly and having fun!

Of course Ila is only 13 months old and is just tagging along, while going through her own developments.  Those will get their own post in her 1 year update (coming soon, I hope!)

We have acted out parts of stories, built castles with “dungeons,” used compasses, played with play doh, baked, spent tons of time outdoors, gone on nature walks, and read books galore.

I hope November is as much fun and full of learning for all of us as October has been!

Elemental Science Diluting


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How We Nature Study {Pre-K}

Nature Study using Elemental Science Curriculum

Part of our science curriculum this year includes nature studies.

Nature studies are simple, relaxed studies of things in nature (a quick google search will give you all the info you need about them).  The best part is you can go as deep as you want

For our nature studies, I decided to begin with a few supplies:

I could have bought cheaper supplies and the kids would have been just as thrilled, but I think Lexie is ready to learn how to be more responsible with nice art supplies so I went ahead and got the good stuff.  To begin our nature study we just pick a topic; as of right now we are using the topic that goes along with our lesson from Elemental Science.

First, we read a bit about the topic we will be studying.  Then we take our totes full of our supplies and head out for the study.  We do a nature walk until we find just what we are looking for, once we find it we begin observing and writing in our nature journals.

In the journal you can write questions you have, things you see, what you like, what is around you, etc.  The possibilities are really endless.

You can collect things from your study to add into your journal (leaves, pins from pine trees, flowers to press, petals, pictures, etc).  We have only done one real nature study and since it was our first we just drew a picture of what we saw into the mixed media book using the watercolor pencils and the ebony pencil.  You can use anything you would like; I am not sure if we will keep our pages in the mixed media book or if we will pull them out and place in a binder so we can add extra pages and more bulky things to the journal as we go.

After exploring outside, we came back in and studied more about the particular tree we had been observing; we would do the same with any bug, flower, etc.  I plan to gather info on our nature studies before hand so I can print lapbooks and journal pages that go with the theme; it will take a bit more planning on my end but will be well worth it!

And that was it!  As we go more in depth and really get the hang of the nature study I will share more pictures and details.

Elemental Science: Our 2015 Homeschool Science Curriculum

Science 2015: Elemental Science Intro to Science Curriculum {my review}I have had so many friends and readers asking about our science curriculum.  Well, we finally started it!

This week was our first one back at school full time after our move to the farm.  It has been great and everyone fell right into routine.

Part of our new routine includes our first real science curriculum: Elemental Science Intro to Science (which is on a Kindergarten level).

So far this curriculum is right up our family’s alley!  It is based on the Classical and Charlotte Mason models of education; as you may know I LOVE teaching using those models and so far they fit my children’s learning styles well.  It requires 2 books, 1)The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of Science and 2)More Mudpies to Magnets: Science for Young Children.  The third book that is recommended, and I LOVE IT, is Handbook of Nature Study.

The Lessons:

Each week you have options for 2 or 5 day lessons; we do a combo depending on how much time we have (it worked out to 3 days this week).  You will have your lesson intro, experiment, student notebooking sheets that go with that experiment, and a nature study! (see a sample HERE).  There are also short reading assignments for most lesson from the required supplement books above.

The lessons each have an experiment, which for me is awesome because A) it is all set up for me and I have the books I need for it and B) I am not good with hands on … so it is good that it tells me I need to do it! (plus my kids love hands on stuff).  I did buy the experiment kit because of the move and everything, I just didn’t want one more thing to do.  But everything in it is pretty easy to come by so you could easily set up your own kit to pull from throughout the year.  It was about $42, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Elemental Science Curriculum {my review}

This week we studied how matter can states; from a solid state to liquid and back again using old crayons for our experiment (via the curriculum).  We also did a little experiment that was in the science encyclopedia creating gas!

Then we took our science outside to do our very first nature study which was about pine trees.  I did not do a lapbook for this nature study since it was our first week- we just drew/wrote in our nature study book.  (look for another post about our nature study notebook soon!)

Nature Study using Elemental Science Curriculum

We are starting all of this very slowly and I don’t want to overwhelm Lexie with too much at once as she is still young, but she is soaking up every single thing we do.  I will plan more in depth nature studies when appropriate. 🙂  Mister loves tagging along and wants to do all the same things we are doing, so of course he joins us.

Another thing that turned me on to ES is that in the later years they have tests included as part of the curriculum, along with everything else.  Now, I do NOT believe in testing everything all the time.  I do however think science is a great area to use test for assessment (and as a tool for learning to take tests when older).  So there’s that …

Elemental Science so far has been a delight, and something both the kids (5 and 3yo) look forward to!  I would definitely recommend it if you are interested in a Charlotte Mason, gently hands-on, Classical science curriculum.

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