Morning Time and Family Learning Plans for Term 1 {...and how I've changed up our Morning Time and introduced our first Loop Schedule!}

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hello, sweet friends!

I'm super excited to share our plans for Morning Time and our Family Learning (which we are calling our Family Loop this year).

It has been about 2 months now that I've been really in the reflecting, thinking, and planning process for the upcoming year.  It is a lot of fun, but, as many of you know - a lot of hard work!  I think I'm on information and decision making overload... but I'll recover.  *wink*

I'm thankful to God for His guidance and the undeserved grace He continues to pour on me as I plan. I feel I have a good vision for the upcoming year and I'm super excited about it.  I have carried over some of what really worked from last year and also implemented some new ideas into our structure and flow.

In case you haven't seen it - Here is my post about how we put together our own Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool plans.  I've used this system over and over again to plan our own stuff!

So... I am a HUGE fan of Sarah Mackenzie.   Have you heard of her?  She blogs at Amongst Lovely Things, has a fantastic podcast with The Read-Aloud Revival, and wrote one of the most insightful and inspirational books about homeschooling I've ever read, Teaching from Rest.   She's pretty awesome.

I say all this because I have to admit that I kind of steal some of her ideas.  *shrugs*  I have no shame!  I'm so grateful for Mamas like her who so graciously share their wisdom and knowledge for other Mamas like us to draw from and potentially utilize.  (Or copy, however you want to say it... hehe!)

So, if you see some things in our planning that looks similar to what she's spoken about- that's because I've likely implemented some of her amazing ideas!  I just wanted to give credit where credit is due!


Wait?  Schedule?  Who am I kidding?   Our days don't have a schedule.  We've never had a schedule.  Well, I mean, I used to TRY to implement a grid that showed what we were supposed to do in 15 minute increments all day long buuuut, for some reason the kids weren't digging it.

So, yea... no formal schedule for this little homeschool.

What we do have, however, is a rhythm.  ( Some might say a routine, but I think rhythm makes us sound so much cooler...)  Julie Bogart from Brave Writer talked about this right here, and I love it.

Here's what our Rhythm it looks like:

1. Morning Time

2. Individual Work/Morning Rotations

3. Family Loop


That's it?

Yep.  That's it.  THREE things.  That's the rhythm of our days.  Some days when we get real crazy and the boys build Lego for 4 hours straight... it doesn't start until noon and goes, Family Loop, Morning Rotation, Morning Time.  I know.

The main idea is this - every day (pretty much), we do those 3 things.

One thing that I would add to this is reading aloud.  We read aloud in nearly every part of our Rhythm BUT it doesn't include free reads and family read alouds that we do after dinner and before bed.  So, there is usually about 30 minutes or more of family reading that happens in the evenings apart from our 'daily' rhythm.

In this post, I want to talk about our plans for Morning Time and Family Loop.  

I will cover the kids' Individual Rotations in an upcoming post.  This includes their Math and Language Arts. *smile*

These plans do not span our entire year, but instead, show Term 1.  I've started being more intentional about scheduling term by term because I find it gives me more flexibility and allows me to follow our passions and God's leading more carefully as we journey through the year.

It's important for you to know that we do a huge chunk of our work together as a family.  This includes pretty much all our subjects except individual Math, Language Arts, and Notebooking.

This is also a big reason why we chose to follow along in the Simply Charlotte Mason guides - because they are family-centred.

Morning Time

Your Morning BasketOkay.  So, if you are new to this idea of Morning Time, I encourage you to either read my post about Morning Time or check out Pam Barnhill's Morning Time resources.   The Your Morning Basket resources are absolutely fantastic in helping you understand and implement a successful Morning Time in your homeschool.

 In a nutshell, Morning Time is an every day practice/habit that brings truth, goodness, and beauty into our homeschool.  This is where we cover those things that I deem to be incredibly important to our souls and minds.  Things that open our hearts to truth, inspire us, broaden our horizons and view of the world around us, and help us engage with the arts, poetry, literature.  It's pretty much the best thing we've ever implemented into our homeschool.

Now, if you do go back and read some of our Morning Time posts you will see something that I've changed for our upcoming year.  I've made our Morning Time WAY simpler.

I realized as we worked through last year's Morning Time plans that we were almost never getting through everything.  Also, I envision Morning Time as being something we can start and finish in a reasonable amount of time.  An amount of time that can be done all at once with a start and finish.

Our plans last year would drag on and move into lunch hour and other parts of the day.  It was just too complicated.

See the difference between last year's Morning Time plans and this year's plans?

Much more simplified Morning Time this year. 

How and why we changed Morning Time - 

This past year I enjoyed reading more about the heart of Morning Time, listening to great podcasts, and just experienced Morning Time in our own home for an extended period of time.

I LOVE the practice of Morning Time.  Our children love it too.  What I did discover, however, was that I was over-complicating things. (As usual...)

I was making Morning Time too long and confusing.  We had EVERYTHING in there!  At the beginning of the year, it all looked fine and dandy, but it just didn't prove to be realistic.

If you look at last year's schedule (in the above photo), you'll see that I scheduled History EVERY DAY. (Why?!)  I would also add in Nature Study AND Geography on many days and this was happening within Morning Time.  *shakes head*

Mamas - don't do this!  Don't over-complicate things.  Simplify.  (Can I just add that reading Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie was the best thing I did for my homeschooling journey all year!)

This year, I dropped History, Geography AND Nature Study from Morning Time.  

They are all now part of a Family Loop Schedule which happens much later in the day.  I am SO excited about this - it is so much more realistic.  On any given day we will do History OR Geo OR Nature Study.  Never more than one per day. *breath of fresh air!*

This year's Morning Time Plan (at least for Term 1):

Morning Time:

Here's what we'll cover in Morning Time -

Every Day -
Morning Prayers
Scripture Memory Work
Bible Reading
Poetry Memory Work
One Review Item

Add to the every day work the following for each day of the week:

Monday -
Habit/Character Study
Greek and Latin Roots

Tuesday -
Music and Composer Study
Math and Logic Games/Puzzles

Wednesday -
Art and Picture Study
Fables, Parables, Folk Tales or Shakespeare

Thursday -
Grammar Games
Habit/Character Study (2nd time in the week)

Friday -
Map Drills
Poetry Tea Time

I tried to calculate the timing and I think we can get through Morning Time in about 30 minutes.  I think.  I hope.

Our Morning Time Binder -

I will be doing a complete walk-through of our Morning Time Binder in a post coming up... but for now, I'll just share that it is very detailed and gives me everything I need every day.  *wink*

There are tabs for Daily,  Monday-Friday, and then a second set of weekly tabs for every day of the month (Monday through Friday).  These are used for review.  Everything is in clear sheet protectors and the dividers are the extra wide ones so they can be seen beyond the sheet protectors (LOVE THIS!).   I totally stole most of my ideas for this binder from the Your Morning Basket resources and from Pam Barnhill's video about her binder...  I promise, there will be more details coming...

Here's a peek at some of our daily pages and a little procedure tab for Greek/Latin Roots -

A Closer Look at Our Morning Time

Bible, Prayer, Scripture Memory and Inspirational Books

Bible and Scripture Reading -

Well, it's pretty simple.  We read scripture or a really great bible story book together and we sometimes discuss what we read (sometimes not!).

We use various styles of bibles and translations.  We really like the Chronological Life Application Study Bible for bible study (it's so good!).  We also use the kids Adventure Bible in NIrV which is easy for the kids to understand.  I will often read from my NKJ version of the bible as well.  We actually do not often use King James Version in our homeschool despite what many Charlotte Mason enthusiasts seem to say.

So, right now we are reading through a pretty old-school set called The Bible Story by Arthur Maxwell.  My parents actually had this kicking around at their house from when I was a kid.  I don't remember reading them when I was young but our kids absolutely LOVE them.  They are basically living book style narratives of scripture with wonderful, engaging illustrations.

Something very unique about this series is how they combine more modern language with the King James Version of the bible.  (THIS is where we are getting our good dose of KJV!)  All the quotations and dialogues are written in the original KJV of the scriptures, so it is a neat way of having the kids exposed to it while they still can easily understand the basis of the scripture/story line.

Prayer -

This is an area I want to be much more intentional about this year.  We always try to have morning prayers, but I want to make them more than "Lord, be with us today..." type prayers.

We are using A.C.T.S to help guide our morning prayers.  Adoration - we are using a praise bucket to draw out things to praise God for (or thinking of our own!), Confession - admitting things we've struggled with and the things we need help with during our day, Thanksgiving - at least one thing each to be thankful for and the thank God for, Supplication - pray for some one near, pray for some one far.

For Supplication, we also use a Prayer Basket and our Map of the Persecuted Nations to pray for various countries and people groups.  This is where we also pray for those we know and/or support who are working overseas (like our cousins in Guatemala, our friends in central Asia, Nuture A Child Uganda, and so on...).

Scripture Memory -

This year we are starting Term 1 by working on the 23rd Psalm for memory work.  It is very simple.  Every day we read the Psalm and every day we are working on memorizing a new small part of it until we have memorized the entire Psalm.

Inspirational Book -

This term we are reading And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler.

Inside Volume 4 of The Bible Story series.  We will hopefully read through several volumes this year.  We are currently at the part in scriptures where Saul is continuously chasing David.


Hymn Study is very, very simple yet SO meaningful!  Basically, I introduce a new Hymn every month or so.  We read through the lyrics, listen to it sung in several different ways, and learn the hymn ourselves.  We also read biographies of the authors of the hymns by using books like Hymns for a Kid's Heart and various other living books I find.

Then, we sing it together several times a week, mixed in with past hymns we have learned for review.  Easy as that!

Hymns for a Kid's Heart is a mix between a living book for the biographies of men and women who wrote the hymns, a devotional (one per hymn), and a song book.  It is truly a gem.

Abide with Me is a really neat book I found at our local Christian Bookstore.  It is a 'photographic journey through great British Hymns'.  It takes you into the time and place of where these hymns were written and speaks of the men and women who wrote them.  It's a really neat book.  Not really specifically for kids but will work as an add-on.

This Term we hopefully will cover:

Doxology - I have always been so intrigued by this old call to worship.  This term we will learn it, and use it as our opening to Morning Time along with lighting the candle. (This is in Abide with Me.)

Rock of Ages (This is in Abide with Me)

A Mighty Fortress is Our God  (This is in Hymns for a Kid's Heart)

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Abide with Me)

(I'm not sure what else yet...)

Habit and Character Study

I absolutely LOVE this program.  I have never found another anything like it.  I highly recommend getting your hands on both if you can, but if not, then for sure the Habit Training Companion.   I know they are a little bit pricey, but honestly - how important is Habit Training and Character building?  Um... pretty important, right?  Trust me, it will be worth it. These will last for YEARS.  There are enough Habits in these to keep us going until I'm 78.

The Habit Training Companion (book 1 and 2 come together as one resource) walks you through the habits in an open-an-go format.  You literally open up to the habit you are working on and do the next lesson.  SO easy.

I like to add in readings from The Book of Virtues from William J. Bennett.  I love this book for insightful poetry, inspiring stories, and tales and fables that teach.

This term we are working on Truthfulness which goes very nicely with the section on Honesty in the Book of Virtues!

Art and Picture Study

For two terms of the year we pick a different artist to focus on.  This term is Leonardo DaVinci.  He does NOT fit into our time period of Modern History, which kind of bothers me, but I really wanted to fit him in.  We didn't get to DaVinci during last year's study of Early Modern.

So, we will read through Leonardo DaVinci by Diane Stanley (LOVE her books!) as well as Katie and the Mona Lisa.  We will also study a new print every week.  I think there are 7 to work through, which is perfect.

ARTistic Pursuits is used for visual arts and will take the slot of Art Study in Term 2.  For Term 3, we will pick an artist again.

Music and Composer Study

Over the past several months we have been loving SQUILT for Music and Composer Study.

The typical way we have done Composer Study over the past several years is to just pick a composer, read his or her biography (I try to find a great living book for this!) and listen to several pieces of his or her music together.  We try to memorize the names of the pieces as we listen and who composed them for our kids' cultural literacy, so to speak.  And mine, actually...  *wink*

That method certainly works... but this year I found SQUILT and we totally love it.  It stands for Super Quiet Uninterrupted Listening Time.  Which is slightly ironic because ours is almost never uninterrupted or quiet... ha.  

I did a full review of SQUILT right here.

Basically, we pick an era (these are pdf download unit studies) and we open and go when it is time to do Composer and Music Study. Easy, easy, easy.  And the best part?  The kids love these little lessons, the activities, the music.  There are also Notebooking Pages that go along with the program!

This Term we are finishing up Volume 2 -Classical Era and will then move on to Volume 3 - Romantic Era (which I will review in full later this year).

Greek and Latin Roots

Alright... so I admit it, I'm probably never going to teach my kids Latin in all its fullness.  I just don't have the motivation.  (We will, however, start French this year!)

I am having a ton of fun with Greek and Latin Roots though!  I think it is so incredibly interesting to study these roots with the kids and help them see the beauty of language and how so many of our words come from Greek and Latin!

This improves their vocabulary, spelling, understanding of language and so much more.  We are using an Interactive Notebook to work through these roots.  It is visual, fun, and engaging.  It literally takes us 5 minutes per week, but it is so worth it!

Grammar Games

This is new for this year's Morning Time.  We are dropping formal 'grammar' in our Individual Studies/Rotation.  I thought it would be fun to just add some engaging games and activities to hit a bit of grammar during Morning Time.

We are using good-ol' fashioned Mad Libs for practice with nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc.  They are always so funny and the kids LOVE them.

We are also incorporating some easy and interesting games for grammar practice - hitting the major grammar 'points'.  I found THESE free lessons and will be using them as a springboard for our own games, activities, etc. that I will find on Pinterest and implement as we go.  

The blogger (not sure her name!) doesn't really give activities but she does do a great job of giving the grammar points to cover.  From this I will research and come up with games to do that will fit nicely into Morning Time.  Once I've done this for the year, I will try to put all of them together and share it all with you!

Shakespeare, Parables,  Fables, and Folk Tales/Lore

For Thursday's work in this category, I have a very relaxed loop of Shakespeare and Parables from Nature for Term 1.  One week we will do Shakespeare reading, the next we will read from Parables from Nature, the next we will work from How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.  

Easy as that.

Shakespeare -

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare:

I learned about this amazing book from Sarah's podcast with author Ken Ludwig.  This book is a great go-to for people (like me) who 'learned' Shakespeare in highschool but hated it and/or didn't understand it.  People (like me) who feel ill-equipped to share the Bard with our kids but see the charm and value of exposing them to his writing.

We are working through the Shakespeare memory and comprehension work in the beginning of the book from A Midsummer Night's Dream.  It is Passage 1 and 2.  

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.
And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes
And make her full of hateful fantasies.

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare:  

-As You Like It
-A Comedy of Errors
-Twelfth Night

Parables from Nature -

I just posted a FREE download of this classic book by Margaret Gatty.  I'm not sure exactly how many parables we will get through this Term, but I am aiming for the following:

The Unknown Land
Knowledge Not the Limit of Belief
Training and Restraining
The Light of Truth

Hero Admiration/Inspirational and Faith-building Stories

This year we are reading through Heroes in Black History by Dave and Neta Jackson as well as parts of Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula.

 They are very "Morning Time-esque" but they are not read DURING Morning Time... We often read these types of stories during or right after supper time with Daddy.

I highly recommend the HERO TALES series from Dave and Neta Jackson - they are wonderful!!!  (We've read Volume 1 though 4.)

Poetry Tea Time

This year we are trying something new - Poetry Tea Time.   Oh, not to say Poetry is new to us!  Oh my goodness, no.  We have been reading poetry together almost every single day since the kids were very young.  We have a collective true love for poetry.  

We cover poetry memorization in our daily Morning Time.  We will cover our poetry READING this year in Poetry Tea Time, which I plan to have on Fridays.

As I think about it, I'm not sure this is entirely 'new' to us, since we so often pair reading great literature and poetry with drinking tea, hot chocolate, and enjoying a snack.  This year, however, we will just be a bit more intentional about it and give it a name and a deliberate purpose.  I also hope to have the children choose a poem to read aloud - to help them with their oral 'presentation' skills, so to speak.  I'd also love to invite friends a few times, if possible! 

In Term 1 we will be studying Emily Dickinson as our poet and reading through Great Poems for Grand Children among many other poetry books and compilations.  We have loads of poetry books that we revisit often!

I hope to do Poetry Tea Time on Friday mornings.  We will also do our Friday Free Write on Friday afternoons... so Friday is our BraveWriter day, for sure.   


Family Learning/ Family Loop

Alright, this is our other Family Learning section.  

After we have done  Morning Time in the morning, then moved on to our Individual Rotations, we eventually get to our Family Loop.  This is where we cover either History, Geography and Bible, or Nature Study.  Yes, just ONE of these is covered each day.

I haven't really done a full-out Loop Schedule before.  

I've learned more about it through the Plan Your Year resources and have seen the true value of this system of scheduling.  The idea is that these subjects are not assigned a specific day of the week.  Instead, they happen on a rotation based on frequency.

(Check out this video if you are interested in learning more about Looping!)

Our Loop looks like this:

History, Geography and Epistles/Revelation

This year we are continuing our journey with Simply Charlotte Mason's Family Study Handbooks.  

Last year we covered Early Modern and loved it.  This year we are using Modern Times, Epistles and Revelation.

I actually plan to stretch this era/guide into more than 1 year... possibly even two years.  It might sound crazy to do that - but there is SO MUCH to cover in the Modern Era of history and I do not like blazing through topics.   I honestly don't think we can go into things with the depth we want in only one year.  We'll see how things go though!

If you aren't familiar with the Simply Charlotte Mason programs, I'll give a brief over-view.  (I will be reviewing them in great detail next month!)

So, basically, the Family Handbooks cover -

Bible Study
Read-Alouds (rolled into the above)

The way they are laid out is pretty much in a Loop Schedule, to be honest.  The rhythm is: American History, American History, Geography/Bible,  World History, World History.

I messed with the 'schedule' because I wanted to add Nature Study to the loop.  And also, there are many days when our subject 'lessons' will not come out of the SCM Handbook, but will comprise of us reading a wonderful living book together, locating some things on a map, and having a discussion.  (This is how we make it stretch for 2 years...)

The guides for Early Modern and Modern History have many reading recommendations, some we use, and some we substitute other books.  Many of you have asked what we substitute out and what we use.  It's hard to say, as it really depends on the availability of books.  The ones I would never leave out, however, are the two History spines.  You actually couldn't leave them out - it wouldn't work. 

The two spines of the history portion of the programs are Stories of America and Stories of the Nations.  You use Volume 1 of these two books in Early Modern and then Volume 2 of these books in Modern History.

We read through all of Volume 1 of each and LOVED them.  They are so well written.  So engaging.  Our kids loved listening to the exciting narratives.  My son (who is 11) found them super interesting.  They were written in good language, challenging and insightful, but simple enough for my 7 year old to follow along.  We look forward to reading Volume 2 of these this year.

We will also put in a few chapters of A Child's History of the World.

There will also be piles and piles of living books we will add to our reading (again, which is why my guides can last me longer than a year...).  These books will fit in to the time period for the most part but some are read for sheer pleasure.  (See more about how we choose books RIGHT HERE!)

For Geography, we are actually bouncing between Visits to Europe from Simply Charlotte Mason and Mapping the World by Heart.    We are also reading selected living books from Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin.  

I am pretty terrible at following 'guides', so I actually don't follow much of what the SCM guide says for Geography... what I do instead is plug in the Geography I want to do in the given loop.  *shrugs*

Visits to Europe is a living book-style geography that focuses on simple mapping of countries in Europe with reading from Material World and Hungry Planet.  These books are very visual, offering a realistic look into the lives of families from the countries we are locating on the map.  I will be doing a full review of the Visits to... series from Simply Charlotte Mason next month.  

Mapping the World by Heart is a really neat program.  It is hands-on, engaging, and project based.

 We will be working through what's called the "Appetizers" section of the program.  This introduces the children to concepts like:  basic map understanding, latitude/longitude, contour mapping, thematic maps, local geography, and more.  Once we work through these, we will move on to Mapping Canada By Heart which teaches us how to (literally) draw and map our country completely from memory. LOVE IT.

Nature Study

For those who are curious, Nature Study is our 'Science'.  We don't do formal Science (Chemistry, Physics, more advanced Biology) until late middle school to high school in our home.

For Nature Study this Term (and this year) we are using both NaturExplorers as well as Exploring Nature with Children.  Both are fantastic Nature Study programs but quite different in their layout/presentation.  Let me tell you a little bit about each of these.


This is one of my FAVORITE resources I've found for Charlotte Mason Home Education.  Cindy (who created it) is one of the nicest people on the web and I reviewed the program in great detail RIGHT HERE.

This is a unit study based program.  You can purchase various units (for example: Flying Creatures of the Night, Delightful Deciduous Trees, Captivating Clouds, Peaceful Ponds, etc.) and each of these units functions as its own complete Nature Study unit.  You can also purchase bundles (which I highly recommend because it is such a great deal).

There is no set time frame for the activities in the unit. You move along in any which way you choose and you can schedule the units for whenever you want.  I like this kind of freedom and flexibility in a Nature Study Program!  The units are jam-packed full of literary ideas, nature exploration ideas, projects to do, hands-on science experiments, poetry, picture study, composer study, and more.

This year we actually plan to use NaturExplorers in a Block Schedule where we literally drop all other Family Loop subjects to completely DIVE into one NaturExplorers unit for 3-4 weeks.

I will be posting about how I plan to do this with some free planning tools. (This week?)

For Term 1- we will be launching into our 'year' (August bridge schedule) with Flying Creatures of the Night.  (I will post a full review of this unit in September!)

We often dive into a Nature Study unit in August... this helps us transition from a July of doing nothing but playing, swimming, and staying up late to structured 'school' time in September!  It will be our full-out unit and we will dive deep into the topics and activities.

We will do this again in Autumn with Captivating Clouds - (using it as a complete unit study).  We've studied Autumn leaves, photosynthesis, and all things Fall WAAAAAY too many times, so I think it's a good time to do clouds instead.

I hope to cover 3-5 units this way over the year.

Exploring Nature with Children:

I am working on a full review of this program, which will be up in a couple months.  I love everything I'm seeing!  Exploring Nature with Children is very Charlotte Mason-friendly and beautifully put together as an OPEN-AND-GO Nature Study program.

This curriculum is based on a full-calendar year program.  It gives you everything you need to implement very simple but meaningful Nature Study all year round.  There is a different topic for every single week of the year (including the Summer months).  You just open it up, and go.

It is SO simple.  It does not go into great depth with each topic (how can you in just one week, especially if you are only doing Nature Study 2 or 3 times per week!)  But it is a lovely option for open-and-go Nature Study that is living books based and filled with wonderful, easy to approach ideas.

It does offer a fairly 'strict' schedule (goes month by month, week by week).  So, if sticking EXACTLY to a schedule presented in a program is a big deal for you - it might be challenging to fit everything in exactly as it is presented. (I never really worry about this as much, to be honest... but I know some do!)  On the other hand, having it all typed out in black and white is actually very soothing and helpful to many - so there are pros and cons to this layout!

Just to give you a very basic idea of what this program looks like, here are some examples:

September - Week One:  the topic is Seeds.  There is a nature walk idea for collecting "approaching Autumn" seeds, extension activities for understanding dispersion of seeds, book lists and reading suggestions, a poem, and a piece of art to enjoy.

November - Week One: the topic is Lychen.  We learn to identify different types of Lychen, we go on a Nature Walk in search of these various Lychen and sketch them if desired.  There are suggested readings, a poem, a piece of art, and several extension activities to choose from.

I'm excited to implement Exploring Nature with Children in our Family Loop all year long.

Our go-to for all things Nature Study.  We LOVE this book.

(Some of the) Read-Alouds we're planning to read:

So, as you might have noticed, I don't mention reading as part of our Family Loop.  Well, that's because it is wrapped up in almost every subject as well as a natural part of our daily life.  We do reading aloud throughout the day, at meals, and at bed time for our family novels.  This works well for us right now. Here are some of the books we are hoping to read this year (so far...).

I'm always hesitant to post our book choices because they often change and expand depending on what we are interested in and what we find at the library, throughout the year, etc.  This also doesn't include the countless picture books we will read from the library, etc.

But as for family read-alouds, here's a good start...  *smile*

A (tiny) peek at some of our organization

Alright, so, my 'organization' of books is a bit challenging.  Please, tell me I'm not the only one who has no clue how to organize the sheer number of books in the house?

There is a bit of a rhyme to it though...  below is a photo of a shelf in our back 'discovery' room.  On the middle shelf is mostly the books we hope to read (as family read-alouds) this year.  I like to keep them together.  Many of them go with our time period of Modern History.

The bottom shelf is Nature Study and nature themed books on the left and readers on the right.

This middle shelf in the bottom photo is where I have put all the resources and some of the 'spine' books we will use this year.  I like to keep them all together for a couple reasons.  The first is that it gives me a common place to go to when I need to quickly grab one of these, the second is that it gives me a visual reminder of just how much we are using and covering this year!  It's like my little personal pile of 'curriculum', kind of like the pile you'd get in the mail if you ordered a boxed-living-book-curriculum.  *smile*

*sigh*  I think I covered it all.  I hope.  And I genuinely hope this post in helpful!

Links to the 'How We Homeschool' Sarah Mackenzie Videos that inspired me and I really wanted to share:

Morning Time
Morning Rotations
Spiral Bound Notebooks

Coming next -
-A look at our Individual Rotation curriculum and resource choices for each child's Math and Language Arts.  

Coming up soon -
-How we use NaturExplorers as full-out curriculum units and free planning tools.
-How we organize our day (a peek at how I plan our weeks/days - my Morning Time Binder, planner, and this year's Spiral Bound Book system for the kiddos)
-Review of Loving Living Math from Shining Dawn Books.

Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty - here is a FREE Download for you... to make printing this classic a little easier!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I love that so many classic (and old school!) books are available online for free.

These are Public Domain books that are no longer copyrighted and are accessible to anyone and everyone by download.  The problem is, so often the download versions only really work on Kindle or some screen-based reader.  Or, they just don't print well at all when you try to print them out and have them bound.

This is a problem for me because I don't love reading books on the iPad and when I print, I'm picky about how it looks.  *sigh*

This has motivated me to take the time to make certain downloads more printable.

Last year, I took the time to piece together the Charlotte Mason Geography and Long's Geography books with original images for free download.  It took quite a bit of time but I was so happy with the results and even happier that so many homeschool Moms were thrilled to use them.  (It is my most visited post on this blog, I think... )  *Hooray!*

So, I have done the same with Parables from Nature.

Here is a simple, easy to print version of the original language Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty.  It isn't fancy but it will print nicely and could easily be bound as a book using double sided printing.

We use readings from this book for Parables/Tales/Character Study in our Morning Time.



Blessings for a lovely weekend, friends. 'Back to School' Sale - ends tomorrow (Friday) at midnight!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Back-to-School Membership Sale

So, I don't usually just share 'sales' but this one is a good one - and since I've been talking about Notebooking SO much lately (and plan to talk about it quite a bit more in the coming weeks)... well, I really wanted to share this with you guys.

If you have ever considered signing up for the full Lifetime Membership, it's a good time.

Right now, you save save $25 on Lifetime Memberships!

(3-month instalment plan is available ... $10, $31, $31)
LIFETIME Members receive all current & future notebooking products for, well, a lifetime...!

PLUS  2 bonuses:
Bonus 1: 12 months free subscription to The Notebooking Publisher web-app
Bonus 2: $100+ Homeschool e-book package

We have absolutely LOVED our membership to  I don't know how I would do Notebooking without it.  It makes things sooo much easier, more efficient.  They have pages on everything you could imagine - Nature Study, Composers, Poets, Science, History...

Click here to see the many ways we've used in our homeschool Notebooks this year!  :)

Sale ends July 29, 2016  (TOMORROW!) 

Back-to-School Membership Sale

This post contains affiliate links...  :)

Choosing Great Books for your Living Literature List - Help for creating an awesome read-aloud list and a FREE download.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hello, dear friends!!!

So, I have the privilege of talking to countless homeschool Moms.  Especially Mamas who are all nervous and stressed out and just beginning their homeschool journey. Yep, just like I was 6 years ago... 

They talk about when to teach reading, how soon kids should write, how to do math, and if they are covering enough at age 4 (snicker).  And I listen, smile, and try my hardest to be an encourager.

I'm afraid though that I sound pretty much a broken record.

Every single time I encourage a new homeschool Mama (or one  who is overwhelmed!), I say, "take a deep breath and just READ MORE GREAT BOOKS".  (I should get a tattoo, seriously...)

It's not that we don't do any formal instruction.  It's not like we chill out in our PJs, eat chocolate chip muffins and read on the couch all day - well, sometimes the PJ part is true...

But the truth is - if you are reading lots of fantastic living books with your kids, you are already leaps and bounds ahead of most.  Reading living books together is the KEY to opening your child's heart and mind to a rich, full, self-education.

But so often after I suggest implementing more "GREAT BOOKS" into the homeschool, many Moms ask me how on earth do you choose which books to read each year?

Ah, that's a bit more difficult.

But not impossible.

There are SO many resources available for wonderful living books.

If you are choosing your own read-alouds (instead of using a program what picks them for you), it is a good idea to have a handle on what you hope to read for the year at the beginning of the year.  Or at least at the beginning of the term.  This gives you a direction and also something to aim for in terms of goals.

As a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschooler, I tend to fall into a trap of reading almost ALL Historical Fiction.  There is nothing wrong with Historical Fiction but there are many other types of books that are wonderfully enriching and 'living' for children.

I created the Living Literature List to help me plan the books we hope to read for the upcoming term and year.  (Click to download.)

There are two pages with categories to fill in with various book choices.  You could plan by year, if you choose - but we will plan by term, because all our book titles for the year would never fit in that grid...  *wink*

Basically, how this works is that you look at the different categories and fill in quality Living Book titles for each category.  It's very simple.

This form is helpful (I hope) because it at least gives you a starting place.

There are spaces to fill in.  I LOVE spaces to fill in.  I talk about this often.  I talked about it in my last post about my Planning Binder, and also in my post about how I put together our own Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans...

The reason I love spaces to fill in SO MUCH is because it just makes it easier on my brain.  (Honestly...!)  To sit down late at night or in the wee hours of the morning and just randomly think of all the titles you could or should read in a term or school year is SO overwhelming!

Of course, this Living Literature List is not by any means perfect or all encompassing.  It certainly is not exhaustive.  It is a starting place and a very solid structure for choosing what I think would be a rich 'buffet' of literature for your family.

The Living Book List Categories Include:

Genres to Consider - 

  • Classic
  • Humor
  • Mystery
  • Biography
  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tale
The first time I was introduced to the idea of considering scheduling various 'genres' was when I reviewed Heart of Dakota.

I actually loved the way they categorized their family read-aloud suggestions by genre.  I had never really thought to choose a humorous book or specifically a mystery.  It works.  It makes you think out of the box and kids love variety and you may be inspired to add books to your list that you otherwise wouldn't ever think to plug in there.

Examples of Titles:

Classics - A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, Oliver Twist, The Hobbit, Little Women, The Wind in the Willows, etc.
Humor - The House at Pooh Corner, Mr. Popper's Penguins, The House at Pooh Corner
Mystery - The Doll People, Mystery of Pelican Cove, Encyclopedia Brown Cracks the Case
Biography - Louis Braille, Helen Keller, Pocahontas, Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin, Ben and Me, etc.
Adventure - Wolves of Willoughby Chase, By the Great Horn Spoon, The Sword in the Tree, A Lion to Guard Us
Fantasy - The Littles, Catwings, Charlotte's Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, Pilgrim's Progress
Folk Tale - Aesop's Fables, The Apple and the Arrow, Stories from Grandma's Attic, Starry River of the Sky  (I have a bunch of Folk Tale suggestions on my Pinterest Board here.)

Inspirational/Hero Tales -

This is an absolute must in our family.  WE LOVE reading Inspiration and Hero-style books.  We have adored Dave and Neta Jackson's Hero Tales (all 4 volumes) and have read many biographies of Christian heroes.  This is a great addition to your reading, friends - I suggest at least 1-2 titles in this category per term!

Historical Fiction -

Books that are written with a fictional tone but have strong historical roots and/or tell of a historical figure, event, or time period tale are considered Historical Fiction.  These are ideal for Living Books because we are connecting with the people and experiences of a certain time in history.  These are by far our family's favorite kind of read-alouds.

Examples: The Little House series, In Search of Honor, Elijah of Buxton, Sarah Witcher's Story, Number the Stars, The Cabin Faced West, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Justin Morgan Had a Horse, and COUNTLESS others.

Books we've always wanted to Read -

Pretty self explanatory.  Think of books you have always wanted to read but never have.  This past year, a couple that I picked were, A Little Princes and The Secret Garden.  For the upcoming year I have considered Peter Pan and also Heidi... but there are TONS of books I always want to read, I just have to narrow it down to a few for THIS term!

Geography-based Living Books -

These are books with a cultural bend set in various places all over the globe.  They act as Living Books to expand our understanding of the world, cultures, and geography.  There are tons to choose from and many wonderful titles have been included in a brand new book (which I highly recommend!), called, Give Your Child the World.  This book is basically a big printed Living Book List for all the continents on this globe.  It is WONDERFUL.

Also - my Geography with Living Books Pinterest Board.  *smile*

Nature Study/Natural History Books -

These are books that cover topics of nature, biographies of Naturalists, or are engaging books that teach about the natural world in an interesting way.

Examples:  The Burgess Bird Book, The 'Adventures of' series by Burgess, Girls Who Look Under Rocks, John Audubon biography, Plant Life in Field and Garden, etc.

There are honestly thousands and listing any at all is hard because there are just too many great Living Books for Nature Study.

 Check out the Pinterest Board for Nature Study books HERE.

Titles from various Booklists -

It's totally okay to just use some GREAT booklists and pick and choose the titles that appeal to you!

Have you seen my GREAT BIG LIST OF LIVING BOOK LINKS?  It is one of the most visited posts on this blog!  

I also use lists from Ambleside, Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, Simply Charlotte Mason, to name a few...

Non-Fiction -

In Charlotte Mason-inspired homes I feel non-fiction often gets overlooked.  But there are SO MANY amazing non-fiction books to be read.  Also, many children engage with and learn from non-fiction better than fiction.  Leaving out this side of the reading world would be a shame for many children.  My son is one of those kids.  He loves fiction but he will often curl up with an Usborne Encyclopedia or a non-fiction title we've borrowed from the library.

Often I will choose non-fiction titles that go along with what we are studying in History, Geography, or Natural Science/Nature Study.

What's on our list this term (Term 1)?

(This is not an exhaustive list, just a taste!)

From the Genres section:  Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Ginger Pye by E. Estes, Louis Braille biography by M. Davidson, The Borrowers, Starry River of the Sky and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, 

Historical Fiction: Caddie Woodlawn, A Pioneer Story by B Greenwood, Amos Fortune, Free Man

Inspirational/Hero Tales: And the Word Came with Power by J. Shetler, Heroes in Black History by Dave and Neta Jackson

Books we've always wanted to read: Heidi by J. Spyri

Geography and Culture: The Kite Fighters by L. Park

Nature Study/Natural History Books:  Among the Farmyard People by C. Pierson, Girls Who Looked Under Rocks by J. Atkins

Books from Various Booklists:  King of the Golden River

I truly hope this post and the Living Literature List file is helpful to some of you.  Also, I have the Individual Reading List file if you would like to create a similar list of 'hope to read's for your individual children.


Homeschool Planning - What's in my Planning and Records Binder? (And a whole bunch of FREE downloads for planning!)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Only awesomely geeky homeschool Moms will ever read this post with interest, so let's just all geek-out together and I'll get all excited to share my organizational binder with you and you can at least pretend to be all excited along with me.  *chuckle*

No, honestly though, there are actually quite a few of you lovely Mamas who ask me about organizing our year and how I do it.  Well, some of my organization changes over time but one thing remains - I ALWAYS have a Planning and Records Binder.  In fact, I've saved mine from every year of our homeschool journey and they are such cool reminders of all the wonderful times together learning and growing!

The yearly binder is like my go-to resource for what we're doing and where we're going.  Also, what we're accomplishing!

This year, I am trying desperately to simplify my planning.  This means trying to reduce the amount of time spent planning weekly by being efficient at the beginning of the year and also careful with my time management throughout the year.  Right now I'm in the heat of the 'being efficient at the beginning of the year' part of this equation.

First of all, I have to say that PLAN YOUR YEAR has been a huge help to me this year.  I feel like my planning is more precise, makes more sense, and has gone deeper than in many past years.  I love all the resources that go along with PLAN YOUR YEAR and all the printables!  We are using tons.

We are also using all the Morning Time resources to plan.  I LOVE Morning Time... it is a huge part of our homeschool and takes up a good chunk of my planning time...  read my post about Morning Time here.

PS. I will be doing a whole post about this year's Morning Time plans coming up next week.  *smile*

SO... this year for planning, I will have my Morning Time Binder (I'll explain more in the next Morning Time post), my Homeschool Planning and Records Binder (what this post is about), and also just a basic At-A-Glance daily day-timer.

PS.  For those who are wondering - this is not my yearly plans post.  I have one of those coming where I will cover everything we are planning to do for Term 1.  I hope to have that up sometime next week.  *smile*  This post is more about what it is in our binder.

The best way for me to start planning is to print out all the planning sheets I hope to fill in.

I have a huge post about how we plan our own Charlotte Mason-inspired plans that you can read RIGHT HERE.  

In that post, I talk about how planning your own curriculum is just really a process of filling in a lot of 'blanks'.  Well, the forms you use will give you the blanks that need to be filled in.  That's why I feel it is important to consider having a planning binder and using forms and sheets that will help you figure out what you're doing and where you're going in the upcoming year.

Having said that...

I am so tired of over-complicated planning every Sunday evening before the next week of school. 

 This year, I'm doing most of my planning now so that I already know what books we are reading and resources we are using.  This is not set in stone and this is not that type of planning that says what we will do every day of the year (think curriculums like Sonlight...).  No, this is more of a bird's eye view that is planned out enough to not require much weekly fussing.

Morning Time is easy, we just follow our binder that I've pre-prepared and follow along in the open and go resources we are using.  (I'll talk more about this in the Morning Time post next week!)  

Our Family Loop (more about the Loop below) is also fairly easy to just pencil in what we'll do that day.  So, no more printing out complicated and time-consuming weekly schedules.  I am only using a simple daytimer to do my daily planning!  (I bought it at Staples for $20.)

So, basically, all I have to pencil in is 1 Morning Time subject specific to that day (ie: Music and Composer Study or Art and Picture Study), and 1 Family Look subject specific to that day (ie: which reading we are doing for history).

*Cue the chorus!*

The only thing added to this is, of course, is the kids' Individual Studies which I write out in their Spiral Bound Notebooks.  I will have to pencil in their daily tasks into those books - but that only takes 5 minutes per night.  

A peek at the sub-headings for my Planning Binder.

So, here's what's in my Planning Binder:

Planning Pages from Plan Your Year include: 

Visions and Inspiration page
Goals Worksheet (one per child)
Course of Study (one per child)
Curriculum Resources (for all of our family studies and then one sheet per child)
Block Schedule Planner (this is still in theory... but it is in there to motivate me to try Block Scheduling and I think this would work well for plugging in a Nature Study unit or a Five in a Row book in the middle of the Term)

You can see my review of Plan Your Year right here.  It is honestly a great resource - one of the best I've seen for planning homeschool.

Plan Your Year Homeschool Planner

It took me a LONG time to narrow this down and I'm still changing it as we go... but oh, friends - know your vision!  It changes everything...

After many years of homeschooling - I'd never really done anything like this before.  It is powerful to actually write out your child's strengths, things to improve, and yearly goals you have for them (or they have for themselves).  This helped me TONS in narrowing what to work on with each child in their individual work rotations.

You use this sheet to map out the specific resources we will use. There is also a Course of Study page which helps you figure out which 'subjects' the child needs to do and at what frequency.  From there, you plug in the resources on this page shown above.  (Yep, Pam Barnhill is an organizational genius...)

Our Loop Schedule for Family Learning this year.  We call it our Family Loop time.  Each day we cover just ONE of the Loop subjects and we cycle through.  This flows with the Loop that is already presented in the Simply Charlotte Mason guide for Modern History, Epistles and Revelation.  I just wanted to add in Nature Study, so I created my own look to make that happen.

I'll probably use this for Blocking in some Five in a Row and some NaturExplorers.  

Planning and Info Pages from Simply Charlotte Mason include:

I keep a copy of these Over-view Charts for reference.

The Plans for My Year print-out found on this page.

The yearly plans for whatever era we are covering.  This year, we have the plans for Modern History, Epistles and Revelation.  (A full review is coming soon!)

My Homemade Documents:

For Family Loop/Family Learning-

Plans for Family Learning/Reading (one per term, so 3 copies)

Our Living Book List by Month (one for every month, so... lots!)

Reading Log for recording the books we've read (I have done these and they are so awesome to look back on... however, if you are doing the monthly Our Living Book List, then it is a bit repetitive to do the reading log as well.)

Living Literature  List - for penciling in all the books you hope to read this year.

Monthly Nature Study Planning Page

Handicrafts and Home Skills Planning Page - I use this simple chart to pencil in the handicrafts and home skills I would like to focus on each month.  This is not part of our Loop or 'curriculum', so to speak.  These are activities and learning that is going on all the time but that I am quite intentional about.

Individual Child's Planning:

Individual Suggested Reading List - Okay, so, this page is meant to be a place where you can write down a bunch of the titles you hope to see your individual child read this term or year (or both).  I have one prolific reader who is CONSTANTLY asking me, "Mom?  What can I read now?!" and I am scrambling to find a great book for him.  This list helps me pencil all the titles in ahead of time.  It is not REQUIRED (we actually have no required reading in our home for many reasons... a post on that coming later this month...).  This is a suggestion list.

It's amazing though, the power of suggestion!

This simple document can be used to sketch in what you hope to cover in Nature Study throughout your year. This year I am using a combination of NaturExplorers and Exploring Nature with Children (review coming) to pencil in our topics.  I made Nature Study part of our Family Loop instead of Morning Time this year to help encourage us to really embrace more Nature Study and learning about God's amazing world.   A link for download is at the bottom of the post. 

A couple more files for you....  *smile*

Forgive the photo - it is just a capture from my computer screen... but this is a great little file to use for planning some Handicrafts and Home Skills stuff.  These are areas I often forget about.  Hence why my kids are approaching 10 and 12 and can't fold a towel. *cough*  This is not part of our 'curriculum' in the Loop, Morning Time, etc. but it is something we do throughout the year for fun and for basic family learning.

Alright.... So, I'm literally going to write an entire post about this document.  So many Moms struggle with where to ever START when it comes to choosing books for their family.  This document can help you plan.  There are suggested areas of reading (genres, historical fiction section, hero stories, books we've always wanted to read, interest-led titles, etc.  This is meant as a plan/goal list... not necessarily a record.  You can put checkmarks beside the ones you do read if you choose.  

Other Random Stuff:

Booklists by year for easy access to quality living book suggestions (Like THIS one from SCM, the yearly free-read suggestions from Ambleside, and THIS one from
Narration Helps/Suggestions
Grammar and Language Arts Helps and Print-outs for reference
This Shakespeare planning outline from SCM

This year we are also planning to row 2-3 books from Five in a Row that we haven't rowed yet.  (Yep, still rowing!).  For our planning, we will use the files I've created - they are all available for FREE right here.

FREE Planning Downloads:

Plans for Family Learning 

Our Living Book Lists (Monthly)

Living Literature List (for help planning which books you would like to read)

Reading Log 

Nature Study Planning Page 

Handicrafts and Home Skills Page

Individual Suggested Reading Page

Don't forget to check out Pam's AMAZING planning tools too... honestly, they are awesome.

Plan Your Year Ad

Love to you all, hope these files are helpful as you plan a wonderful year of RESTful education in your home!!!

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