Some of the Best Charlotte Mason-friendly Resources from our Year...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015





I am often asked about my favourite "Charlotte Mason" resources.

I'll start by quickly mentioning that this post doesn't include the best *reading books* from our year.  Living books are such a huge part of a Charlotte Mason education and listing all our favourite living and whole books from this year would be a 'whole' other post, or two, or three!  

This post is more about resources.  To me, a resource is something like curriculum or a very specific type of book (like the Burgess books for Nature Study).  So, hopefully that helps clarify that yes, we do indeed use hundreds of read-alouds in our home... but here I wanted to really only talk about curriculums-type stuff that we've found and loved over the past year.

Hope this is helpful... here we go...


Language Arts:

I've come to the realization recently that I have a love affair with Language Arts programs.  I have more Language Arts programs and curriculum than I will probably ever use!  

I'm only mentioning a few for this post because I think I could and should make an entire other post comparing various Charlotte Mason style language arts stuff... but here are a few we tried this year and really enjoyed.

Spelling:

We took a good look at and tried out both the Learning to Spell through Copywork program from Queen Homeschool, as well as Spelling Wisdom Book 1 from Simply Charlotte Mason.   I liked both and will keep both for different reasons.

Spelling Wisdom follows very closely the kind of spelling lessons Charlotte Mason herself would have done.  These are studied dictations.  Children learn about 6,000 of the more frequently used words in the English language through the words/writings of great men and women of history.  Book One starts off very simply with the spelling exercise being "I am; I can; I ought; I will." (Charlotte Mason's Motto for Students).  

The book, however, progresses very quickly.  For about 30 exercises, students are doing 1 sentence, but they get harder and harder.  Exercise 34 is Proverbs 11:22: As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.  By exercise 61, students are doing full stanzas of poems.  They do not need to memorize them but they need to write them perfectly when the parent dictates to them.  (This is a combined spelling and dictation, really).  There are 140 exercises and the last one is the full poem, What the Winds Bring by Lillian Cox.  So, very challenging.  This book would likely last through 3-4 grades, if not more, for our family.


Learning to Spell through Copywork is exactly what the title suggests.  There are word lists - and there is corresponding copywork.  I really liked these because they are linear and incredibly easy to follow.  They are written as a consumable, but we use the books as 'texts' and the children can write in their own notebooks, thus making them non-consumable.  I also liked that these books went step by step and logically explained the concept being worked on for each week.  For example, as you can see in the photo below, for week 2 of book A, we are working on silent E at the end of a word.

You could accomplish quite a bit working through these books from Queen Homeschool.  No real frills or bells and whistles but a decent, simplistic, list-based spelling program with copywork corresponding.  Very Charlotte Mason friendly and affordable.


Spelling Wisdom from Simply Charlotte Mason


Learning to Spell through Copywork from Queen Homeschool, book A, week 2.


Learning to Spell through Copywork, end of Book C.




Grammar and Language Arts-

I picked up Simply Grammar at a used curriculum sale 2 years ago for $5.  It was one of the best purchases I ever made.  This book is a revised and expanded edition of Charlotte Mason's own First Grammar Lessons.  It is jam packed full of wonderful Language Arts lessons for children.  Charlotte Mason suggested using grammar lessons like the ones in this book at about age 9.  We have used it with our 8 and 10 year olds.  They really do enjoy it.

Simply Grammar combines pure grammar with writing skill, creative writing, picture study, and some narration.  It is a great go-to for easy, open-and-go grammar and language arts lessons and ideas.  It is non-consumable if you don't allow the children to write in it.  We use notebooks.  There are so many suggestions for written work that it can take us a week to work through one part of a lesson, so this book can last quite a while in the homeschool.

I'll likely hold on to this book forever, it's such a classic and deserves its reputation!










Character and Habit Studies


Buying these books was no small investment, but I'm glad I bought them.  They are FULL (and I mean FULL!) of wonderful ideas and inspiration for 'laying down' those positive rails in the hearts of our children but also in our homes and lifestyle.  Habit formation was HUGE for Charlotte Mason and with good reason - her foundation for this is biblical and logical!

I really like the Handbook, as it talks specifically about how and why to cultivate good habits in our children, then highlights each habit specifically.  The Habits are put into their categories of Decency and Propriety, Mental, Moral, Physical, and Religious.  There is also a section on "repairing the rails" for dealing with challenges.  If you truly want to encourage and establish good habits and don't know where to start, this book is worth every penny.

Now, the Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook can be a stand-alone book and will work fine that way.

BUT - if you are looking for something more, something more detailed, more 'curriculum'-like then the Habit Training Companion Books (sold together as book 1 and 2) might be for you.  I bought this file (book 1 and 2 together) as an ebook - it is HUGE.  Hundreds and hundreds of pages long, so, if you plan on printing it out, be warned!  I still haven't printed it all because I am afraid to use up all the ink... in hindsight, I should have just bought their hard copy and paid to have it shipped.  I've heard other Moms say the same.

The Companion is more of a step by step curriculum for Habit Training.  This gives lessons and readings and very straight forward direction.  We've been working on 'Cleanliness' in our home.  Lesson 1 we read the definition of Cleanliness (careful to keep clean!) and read a bible passage.  Lesson 2 we talked about our ideas of a 'clean room' and read the story Dust Under the Rug, which is a lesson-based story about the importance of thorough cleanliness.  For Lesson 3 we discussed the important of airing clothing out and read a corresponding poem... you get the idea.

I really like the Companion and I am glad I purchased it.  It makes the Laying Down the Rails ideas accessible and doable.  I will actually implement the lessons BECAUSE they are laid out for me in a step by step, lesson by lesson format!

I plan to work through some of these through the Summer months too - these lessons make great morning 'devotions' too, in my opinion.



Poetry


Three of our favourite Poetry books this year for read alouds, memorization, and copywork.  Cyndy Szekeres' Book of Poems, The Ramdom House Book of Poetry for Children, and All Day Long from Christian Light Publications.



Visual Arts:

We truly love ARTistic Pursuits.  The way they combine Picture Study, Artist Study, Art History, and Visual Art make them wonderful and very Charlotte Mason-friendly.

You can see a review of Elementary 4-5 Book One here.  A review for Elementary K-3 Book Two is coming this week.



Geography:

We loved this FREE resource written by Charlotte Mason herself.  This one goes way back into the Ambleside archives.  I printed it off for free and we used it for most of the year and the kids really enjoyed it!  Highly recommend working through it, even casually!  It is a great base for Elementary Geography.   I added notebooking pages and journaling ideas.




Nature Study and Picture Study:

The Handbook of Nature Study is a book that needs to be read to be appreciated.   I mean, really read.  I have owned it and sold it, I think 2 times.  But, I will never let go of my copy now that I have a real appreciation for what an amazing resource this is!  This is the go-to Charlotte Mason style Nature Study book and for good reason.  Written in the early 1900s by a well-known Naturalist, it combines engaging narratives, poetry, lessons, ideas for study, and tons of information on just about every type of plant and animal you can think of.  LOVE this book.  I would say it is best suited for older elementary students to adults.





I can't say enough about the NaturExplorers Units.  These are my BEST find for Nature Study this year.  I talk extensively about them right here.





The Burgess Books - I just love these books.  They are engaging, funny, informative, and wonderful examples of Living Science Books.  Perfect for combining read-alouds with Nature Study!



Picture Study - this year we dove right in to The World of Robert Bateman for most of our Picture Study.  Bateman is a very well known and highly respected artist from Canada who paints beautiful realist paintings of nature.  He is incredible!  This is my favourite kind of Picture Study because it is so pure and lovely and so easily linked to God's divinity, nature, and beauty.  I highly recommend looking for books like these in your local thrift store!  We got ours for $4 and that bought us a full year of enriching Picture Study and Nature Study combined!


Other Charlotte Mason-Friendly Favourites:



Love, love, love Draw Write Now.  Read my full review to see why...


We also continued with a bunch of Five in a Row, a mainstay in our home.  I also reviewed FIAR here, but I also think I'm due to post a new review...


We reviewed Heart of Dakota, it is really loved all-around!  Wonderful literature based, Charlotte Mason-friendly curriculum.  Read more about it right here.







Thanks for reading - I hope this might give you some ideas or starting points on your search for great learning materials for your family!

Blessings!

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for taking the time to explain everything and go into detail. I just came across your blog a few months ago and have absolutely loved your blog posts. I find them incredibly helpful, inspiring, and encouraging as we are starting our Charlotte Mason adventure of homeschooling (my first kiddo will be in "1st grade" ;) in the fall). When did you start using Spelling Wisdom and Learning to Spell through Copywork?

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    1. Thank you... so glad the posts have been helpful! :) What a fun season of life, to have a child starting first grade... cherish it. Spelling Wisdom - we started when our kids were at least 8-9 years old. It progresses fast so there is no rush is starting. Charlotte didn't recommend starting dictation until children were quite a bit older - about 9 or 10. :) For Learning to Spell through Copywork - well... we use it as a dictation program. So, we learn the words and I use the 'copywork' sentences as dictation (I read them aloud, my daughter prints them)... we are doing this now and she is 9. Hope this helps. :)

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  2. Thanks for all your amazing resources! I have all littles - my oldest is three, and I am very interested in getting the Laying Down the Rails set, but I'd like to know what age they are for. Would three be too young?

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  3. Thank you for all the amazing resources you mention on your site! I have all littles - my oldest is three. I want to get the Laying Down the Rails set, but I'm wondering about the age it's geared towards - would it too advanced for a three year old?

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    1. Hi! It's my pleasure, I love sharing great resources! :) As for the Laying Down the Rails - I would say it is geared to children older than 3. My youngest is almost 8 and some of the readings are long for him... It is a great resource to have on hand, but the actual 'curriculum' (the companion one) is really a better fit for school age kids through middle school... Hope that helps. :)

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  4. Great post! I have a lot of these resources on our shelves. I love the Handbook of Nature Study too! I totally agree it has to be (really) read to be appreciated :) I once read the portion on ants and how the queen sheds her wings "like a bride" takes off her veil. Beautiful :) Only someone who truly appreciates nature writes like that.

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