Free downloads of Charlotte Mason Geography (Elementary Geography and Long's Home Geography)

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hello, and welcome to the first Charlotte Mason Monday of the new 'school year'!

I've been madly planning for our *new and revised* year of homeschool.  It's been hectic but I'm really excited about the direction we are going (I'll post more on that in the coming weeks)!

As for today's Charlotte Mason Monday, I wanted to share two files I created this past week.  It took quite some time but I think it was worth it.  These are PDF files of both Elementary Geography written by Charlotte Mason and Long's Home Geography for Primary Grades.  These are both wonderful, living geography books that we use in our home.  They are also recommended by Ambleside.

I am a book person (understatement of the year...).  I really love to have nice books to work with.  This is why I often print and bind my own books of curriculum and literature that is available for free online.  Both these books are in the public domain.  (Elementary Geography is here, Long's Home Geography for Primary Grades is here.)

The basic files, when printed as they are given online, printed poorly for me.  I wanted to create PDFs where the images and wording all lined up and they were easy to print off for binding or home use in a binder.  I was able to send these off to Staples to be printed (I did double sided) and bound for about $10 each.  They turned out lovely, I think!

I mean, come on - who doesn't love a nicely lined up, self-bound book of a geography program for 1906?

Yes, us Charlotte Mason-ers are nerds.

Hope these help some other Moms out there!  Blessings~!

Download the files here:

Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography

Long's Home Geography for Primary Grades

Planning Five in a Row {Some ideas, free downloads, and my first video...}

Monday, August 10, 2015

I have had so many of you ask about planning Five in a Row.  I have tried and tried to take enough photos to properly explain how I plan, but I never felt satisfied.  I finally had the idea to try to put together a little video.  This video is by no means perfect (I'm such a newbie to videos!) but I hope it will be helpful to some of you in implementing Five in a Row in your home.

I plan quite extensively for everything we do in our homeschool.  And yes, this includes our Five in a Row units.  I would say I typically spend about 2-3 hours per week planning, printing, and preparing our work.  (We have three children, aged 6 through 10).

Every homeschool Mom is different, so the way I plan may be nothing like the way someone else plans.  There is no 'right' way to plan for Five in a Row, and I know Moms who plan far less than I do and have great success with the program.  For me, it is what I need to do to feel confident and ready to implement our day-to-day learning.

I had lots of requests to show how I plan, so that's what I'm sharing!  (smile)

So, here's an imperfect glimpse into how I plan Five in a Row for our homeschool:

(You may want to consider clicking through to watch on YouTube if you would like a larger screen view!)

Links to the Free Planning Files I show in the video:

Month by Month Planner

Yearly Planner for FIAR

Planning our Row Sheet

Weekly Planner

If you are having trouble downloading from here, you can also find these in the 'files' section of the Five in a Row Facebook Group.

A couple more links:

Always check out Delightful Learning for GREAT Five in a Row resources.  Here is a link to Michelle's planning posts -

Planning BFIAR part 1
Planning BFIAR part 2

Another great link I recently found is THIS ONE from  I really like her planning tools as well!  Hooray for free downloads.

Thanks for reading and be blessed! 

Five Minute Friday - Here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

My dear Grandma is sick.

Grams (as I've affectionately called her since I was very young) has been in and out of hospitals for over a year now.  It has been incredibly hard on her body, mind, and soul.  Not to mention the strain on my Gramps (now 92 years old!), and the rest of the family.

Last night we visited Grams in yet another new hospital room.  This time, she's in a rehab program where we pray she might regain some of her strength, and her will to keep on going.

A sweet nurse bustles into the room wearing pastels and a warm smile.    She's got one of those wheel-y things with all the vital-taking machinery.  We are all awkward as we try to step out of her way.  She doesn't seem to mind us there, although we do pack the (very) small room.

"Hello, Margaret!"  she's almost too cheery - you know - for a hospital room.

"I'm your night nurse.  Welcome to your new room - I hope you will love it here."

She lingers with a pretty accent on those last few words - love it here.

My uncle and I exchange a smirk.  Grams?  Love it here?  She hates hospitals and she's seen enough of them for a lifetime in just the past few months.  We both silently chuckle and shake our heads. We know Grams all too well.  We are hopeful.  But skeptical that she will ever 'love it here'.

It isn't until much later that I think again about those words.  I adore that nurse for her kindness.  Her enthusiasm.  For the reminder she gave me in that moment.

Isn't there a call on every one of us in every one of our situations to at least try to love it here?

I mean, right where we are, our present dwelling, our individual situation - we all desperately need to find some sacred way to love it here.  Right here.

Because right here is where God has placed us and right here and right now is all we know we have.  Beyond this - there are no guarantees.  Not for Grams, sick in the hospital - and not for me - seemingly healthy in my cozy little house.

I wonder this - if I refuse to 'love it here' in the place God has me, do I refuse His providence over my life?

Because whether you're sick or well or young or old there you are.  Here you are.  Life is as simple as that - where you are, is here.  Or there.  I'm not a grammar whiz - but you know what I mean.  That's it - you get what you get.

And I know - right here for me is not in a hospital bed.  What I 'get' in life right now is certainly far better than what so many are dealing with.   I'm beyond blessed and I know it.  At least I think I know it.  But then I start to doubt myself.

I mean, when I refuse to honor Him by giving thanks for every little 'right here' in my own life, what am I truly saying?

Maybe I'm saying, 'What you give, Lord... I don't want it.  I know better and I refuse to even try to find Your glory here...'  Oh, how many times have I done this very thing?  Too many.

A few days ago, the house was stifling.  The kids had spent much of the afternoon bickering about every little thing.  I was tired, grouchy, overly sensitive to the noise.  I stepped outside, leaving my (amazing) husband playing Monopoly with three (still bickering) children.

I took a deep breath.  I grabbed my camera from my apron pocket and I forced myself to start looking.  To keep breathing.  To start whispering praise to my Creator who gives all things.  And hey, when you're grumpy and hot and sick of doing dishes - sometimes, you have to force the first few 'thank yous'.  But, you know what happens?

When you are looking - your eyes start seeing:

Yes, in that moment - in that here and now moment - when I open my eyes to see the beauty and gifts around me, my whole soul shifts.  My perspective flips.  The weight the enemy so desperately wants to force on my shoulders?  Christ Jesus - Yeshua - His tender hands grab hold of that weight and lifts it right off me.  Then He shows me clearly where I am and who I am in Him and how the endless gifts surround my very existence.

I don't ever need to wish away the 'here' because the 'here' is where He is working and where I am growing.

Yes, the kitchen is a mess, and there is laundry everywhere, and chicken poop on the deck, and compost spilling out on the grass, and heaps of stuff waiting to go to the dump... but those little things amount to nothing compared to the beauty.  You have to just open eyes to see the truth.  See it, then I choose to record it - to count gifts, and be filled right up with joy and thanksgiving.  It's life-altering.

I see the gifts - the reality - I witness the children seeking their own gifts as they watch, wide-eyed for birds in the yard.  I long for them to grow up to be seekers of beauty, because if they can master the art of seeking beauty and then praising God who brings all beautiful things into existence - oh, how that will alter their days, their years, their eternity.

To learn the discipline of surrendering in the here.  And everyone's HERE is different - but we're all called to the same thing - find joy.  Find it.  Desperately cling to it.  I pray this for Grams.  I pray this for you.  I pray this for every single one of us who struggles to live surrendered to the moments we are given - embracing the good and the messy with open hands and open hearts.  Searching, madly grasping for the joy found in the right here, right now.

Because if we can't find joy here... 

we probably won't find it there either.

*update:  Sadly, Grams passed away and left this world a month after this post was written.  Thank you for your comments and messages of love and concern.*

Simplifying our Homeschool with (more) Notebooking {Part 1 - some thoughts}

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Simplifying by adding MORE?  I think so, yes.  Let me explain...

I have been thinking quite a bit about the coming year of homeschool, as I'm sure many of us do throughout the Summer.  Even though we are year-round homeschoolers, there is still this undeniable feeling of 'beginning' in September.  A feeling I actually really love!

So, with this approaching 'beginning' of sorts, I've been in planning mode.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever NOT in planning mode...?  But, I have been thinking and researching quite a bit about notebooking these past few days, so I thought I'd share an informal post with you on this subject.

What you read here is literally coming straight from my heart and (somewhat whirling) mind... no real editing of fancy wording, let's just chat homeschooling for a few minutes.

To be honest, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what is worthwhile and meaningful in our homeschool.  I've been reading lots about that dreaded 'busywork' and feeling a bit sheepish, to be honest.  I mean, I'm deeply contemplating - what is actually classified as busy work and what isn't!?  
What kind of work is fruitful, beneficial and necessary and what is just me wanting to have some random hard-copy proof that we've done something.  Even if it was ME who cut and pasted that flap down... AND copied the sentence under there (ehem!).

I don't want to do meaningless things, so why should I expect my children to want to do meaningless things?

How do we invest in meaningful work in our homeschool?  Not time-fillers, not busy-work, not just-fill-in-the-blanks-so-we-can-put-a-check-mark-on-the-schedule-work.

I want more for our children.  I want them to be excited about learning.  I want them to want to record their findings and inspirations.  I desperately want to avoid the, "ARE WE DONE YET?!" question that is asked almost daily.  (Is this possible?!)

I had to chat to you all because - I'm loving what I'm learning about the power of NOTEBOOKING.  I've been reading about simply combining lots of wonderful living books, oral narration, and Notebooking to create a winning combination for real learning in the home.  

That's it.

1. Read.
2. Tell me what you know.
3. Show me what you know in your notebook.

But, it sounds too simple, doesn't it?

Do any of you lovely Moms do this already?  We do this to an extent.  We have been using lapbooks and notebooks for years but I'm looking into how we can simplify even more and really go back to these age-old disciplines of narration (we do this but struggle to be really intentional), and written narration in the form of Notebooking.  And not doing it as an add-on but doing it as our bulk.

I stumbled upon a little bit ago and I LOVE their stuff.  We've used so many pages in the few short weeks we've been subscribed.

Last night, I was reading through and watching the videos in the Tutorials section and found the information really inspiring/thought provoking.  I thought it was important to share because I can feel my wheels turning with regards to how we can really improve our day-to-day progress in our homeschool.  Here is a link to the Tutorials I'm referring to. 

Here is my Notebooking and Lapbooking board on Pinterest, if you'd like to follow:

Follow Cassandra Dorman's board Notebooking and Lapbooking on Pinterest.

So, what is Notebooking ? 

In a nutshell (this truly is a super fast, simplified answer) - Notebooking is a way for children to creatively express (on paper) what they have learned.   I'm not talking about worksheets, fill in the blanks, or busy work.  Notebooking is unique in that it gives creative licence for children to use their own gifts and talents to express what was important or interesting to them about a certain subject.  


Notebooking is …Creating and compiling a personalized notebook of learning experiences, new knowledge, insights, sketches, illustrations, creative writing, reflections, and more! This is not a diary, but more like a scrapbook of things learned.  The notebook takes on the personality of its author (your child) as he decides what content to include, how to present it, how to organize it, … how to shape what he’s learned.  The notebook captures the journey of your child’s learning. His notebooks not only record new knowledge, but also reflect his deepening understanding of the world, his developing writing voice and creative talents.

What's on my mind...

So, what I've been really considering lately is how to implement more Notebooking (and better Notebooking) into our homeschool and how to do it more intentionally and effectively.  

After listening to Debra Reed's introduction video on, I was left considering how we can truly move towards more freedom in our homeschool.   (I highly recommend watching the video, it is really helpful/inspiring!)

I often overload myself with expectations - checklists and often unattainable ideals and goals.  I also find that that busy work does creep into our homeschool, even despite my greatest efforts to avoid it.  I also find that I struggle to manage time and often, even though I spend hours creating (what I think are) fun and engaging studies, our children STILL constantly ask when they will be 'done' their work.  This isn't what I want for them!

So, I'm really looking into what truly embracing Notebooking looks like on a day to day basis.

Will a child truly develop a deep love of learning and grow in their knowledge and ability with the simple recipe of living books, narration, and notebooking?

I'm determined to find out for myself.  I believe the answer is yes, children can achieve a very high level of success with this recipe - but I haven't truly tried it.  Not full-out.

So, that's where I'm wading this week.  Mulling it over and praying, and considering what truly is our busy work, how we can simplify, and how I can really inspire our children to not only love learning, but to engage in their OWN learning experiences, becoming successful, self-motivated, life-long learners.  (Help me, Lord!)

Thanks for sharing in my rambles.  I pray they have touched you and maybe even inspired you to consider these ideas in your homeschool as well.  We're all in this together... I'd love to hear your thoughts!

{Please, join me for Part 2 of this post on Notebooking in a few days!}

A Whole Bunch of Helpful Links I've found for Notebooking Ideas, Printables, and Freebies: (one of the best sites  I've found for notebooking!)
Mamas Learning Corner (Great Notebooking Freebies!)
Layers of Learning Printables
Notebooking with a Structured Writing Plan
I am constantly linked tons of free Notebooking Printables to Pinterest
Donna Young's Notebooking Pages
Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood Notebooking
Notebooking on a Shoestring
Inside a Writer's Notebook
FIAR Notebook Builder
The Notebooking Fairy
Homeschool Helper Online
Tina's Dynamic Homeschool

I loved this video from a homeschool Mom - great examples of how Notebooking can go right (and wrong!)

The Tutorials from are here.

I wanted to share that Notebooking Pages is having a sale right now until August 7th, if you are interested in checking it out, here is a link:

Back-to-School Membership Sale

Some snapshots of a few of the Notebooking pages we've created in our homeschool:

Notebooking Pages LIFETIME Membership

Five in a Row Volume 4 - The Raft

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rowing The Raft.. 

The Raft is up there with some of my favourite Five in a Row studies.  It is an absolutely beautiful book with a heart-warming story that we all loved.  The themes for this row fit perfectly for Summer nature study and tied in beautifully with our deep appreciation for the river near our home.  I was in awe of the captivating art done by author, Jim LaMarche.   Absolutely breath-taking!

This was a 2-week row (unit study).

Photographs from The Raft by Jim LaMarche

Some of the topics we covered for our row of The Raft, included:

  • Social Studies - geography and history of the Wisconsin woods and the state of Wisconsin, the Great Lakes region of Southern Ontario and the Northern States
  • Language Arts - Looking at opening sentences: what makes a good opening sentence?, Where do stories come from? discussion, Creative Imagining and Writing, Vocabulary.
  • Art - Learning to draw (we used Draw Write Now and other online step-by-step ideas), Seeing in Art (sketching in nature journals), Palette and Medium (a look at warm/cool colours), Contrasting Views to Illustrate Text (plus a project to illustrate this), and Building a Raft.
  • Science - Zoology: Badgers and Muskrats, Fishing, seeing underwater, Botany (Conifers and Deciduous Trees), North Woods and Lake Wildlife, Rivers and Creeks,  the water cycle, Classification of Animals.

Resources for our row of The Raft

We really love adding tons of books to our rows.  The kids particularly loved The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat.

Opening Sentences

I loved this activity because it really inspired critical thinking.  We also got to revisit many of our favourite Five in a Row titles (aren't all the titles my, 'favourite'?).  For this activity we were discussing the opening sentence of The Raft.  I thought it would be neat to get out our FIAR titles and compare opening sentences.  We read together the first line of all the books photographed below and the children put them in three categories (least favourite, indifferent, most favourite).

Top left: Henry the Castaway, top right: The Finest Horse in Town, bottom left: Miss Rumphius, bottom right: The Duchess Bakes a Cake

Top left: The Bee Tree, top right: Daniel's Duck, bottom left: Any and the Lion, bottom right: Lentil.

Here are the Five in a Row books that had the winning 'first sentences', according to our children:

Rivers, Creeks, and Lakes

Can you identify and explain the various parts of a river system?  We discussed river vocabulary and how watersheds work.

Creek Walk - What Makes a Healthy Creek? 

We enjoyed several creek walks/river walks throughout our row.  We are incredibly blessed to live within a five minute walk from the river you see in this post (and so many of my photographs).  We cherish this wildlife area and spend a great deal of time walking and exploring in the watershed areas around out home.

What makes a healthy creek?  Making observations and filling in the checklist from Incredible Creeks (NaturExplorer series - LOVE this series.  Click here to view more details.)

The checklists helped us identify if our creek was a healthy one.  This went along quite nicely with the nature study component of The Raft (rivers and creeks!)

Healthy creeks have a fresh smell, no garbage, and plenty of plant life - CHECK!

Healthy creeks have clear water, and lots of rocks and pebbles - CHECK!

Healthy creeks have an abundance of water critters (such as frogs, water bugs and crayfish) - CHECK!

River Scavenger Hunt: 

We also borrowed another print-out from Incredible Creeks for our River Scavenger Hunt!  (Have I mentioned how much I love the NaturExplorers stuff?!)

A sign of a human.

Deciduous and Coniferous Trees

Something floating, a fallen tree, a rock, a bend in the waterflow...

An insect!

Something decomposing, an animal out of the water, an animal on the water, a sign of an animal (tracks!)

A mushroom, a deciduous tree, a nut, wild flowers...

A bird (Canadian Geese, which are in the story!)

Seeing Underwater and Underwater Viewfinders

We didn't get fancy with our Underwater Viewfinders.  We just used a hard plastic canister I had and was no longer using.  It worked quite well to look underwater, actually!

Making and Floating Rafts

We decided to make our rafts using simple materials - Popsicle sticks, hot glue, and some crafting twine.  Audrey chose to add designs and pictures to her like the raft in the book.

Each child designed their own raft how they thought best.

Audrey decided to decorate with markets (Sharpies) and a little fabric flag.  (Cute!)

Simon aimed more for durability than fashion, as usual...  and it paid off.  His was the only one that actually stayed in tact after our river sailing!  I love his design!

My simple design.

Once the rafts were made and the glue had died, we hopped on our bikes and headed to the river to test them out!

A Fishing Trip!

For The Raft, 'the art of fishing' is discussed.  Well, we're vegetarian animal lovers and the thought of catching real fish upset us all (hehe).  So, we "fished" with unbated lines in a pond that had almost no fish (even though it is called a 'fishing pond'.  It was a blast though, the kids loved it.  We also brought a little snack with us and made it a 'picnic'.

Guess what we found?  Some Muskrat tracks!  And, lots of frogs!

What's a fishing trip without Mom falling COMPLETELY in the pond water?  *sigh*  Some great little memories though...

One of our favourite Summer snacks/treats - frozen juice box slushies!

Creating 'Cave Art'

We used ARTistic Pursuits (Book 1 for Elementary K-3).  We read about cave art and did a simple project using brown packing paper and pastels.  This is to mimic the style of art found on the raft in The Raft.  The kids loved this project!

For Art, we also compared Jim LaMarche's art in both Five in a Row Volume 4 titles - The Raft and Albert-

A Recipe for The Raft - Cornbread!

We love Cornbread, so as soon as I heard the Grandma in the story refer to Cornbread, I knew we had to make some.  We love this Vegan recipe right here.

Notebooking for The Raft:

We use Draw Write Now in combination with Five in a Row all the time.

Notebooking with oral and written Narration - 

For our written/oral narrations, we learned about the Water Cycle.  The children read from a couple great Science and living books, then they reproduced what they had learned using this print out from

The idea is to learn the concept then explain it on their own, in their own words. 

Audrey's written narration

Simon's written narration (he preferred to do point form)

Alex did his narration orally, I copied it down for him.


How to draw an American Badger
How to draw a Badger (another option)
Badger Printables
Draw a Muskrat
The NaturExplorers Series

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground