1st Grade Charlotte Mason Plans, 2020-2021

This is my second time around planning a full year of Charlotte Mason style plans for a first-grader and I think my plans only get better each time around as I learn what books I prefer and what resources work best in our homeschool. Below are the books and resources I am planning to use for almost 6-year-old Sylvia this year.

A bit about my first grader
Sylvia will turn 6 on September 1. If she were attending public school, she would have been too young to start kindergarten last year and unless I had pushed the issue (by homeschooling kindergarten and then advocating for her to enter directly into 1st grade) she would only be starting school (kindergarten) this year. Honestly, I would prefer that she would be 4-6 months older at the start of first grade, but it just isn't practical for me to adjust her school schedule like that especially considering that I will need to document 180 days of homeschool for her this year due to a change in PA law.

So while I think she is ready to begin our style of formal lessons, I recognize that she is a bit young and will be treating her very gently as she eases into our routine. It will help that she has seen her brothers following a similar routine over the last 2-3 years so she already has a good idea of what to expect.

I will be reading all of her lessons to her until she becomes fluent enough to read her own books. I have no idea how long that process will take. My biggest challenge in scheduling this year has definitely been that I will be educating two non-fluent readers.

About planning our homeschool
Each year, I consider the subjects that Charlotte Mason included for her students as well as the time spent on each subject per week and information about the number of pages read each term

I do not aspire to do everything just as Charlotte Mason did. Like my children, I am a born person with strengths and limitations so I feel like it is my duty to do only what I am capable of doing right now in a respectable, patient way with the children and resources I have available to me.

When planning out my homeschool, I first decide what subject to include. Then I decide how long and how often I will plan to schedule those subjects. I also determine whether they will be included during our formal morning lesson time or whether they will be fit into another part of our day. In prior years, I realized that I was doing full morning lessons PLUS morning time PLUS read alouds PLUS extracurriculars and so I decided to make morning lessons even shorter. I consider MANY of things we do outside of our formal morning lesson time (piano, nature journaling, free time, chores, family movies, games, time with grandparents, field trips) to be very important parts of our homeschool and our culture of lifelong learning.

Next, I decide how I will schedule our 3 terms and our break weeks to fit into our calendar. By state law, I need to document 180 days of schooling between July 1 and early June to give me enough time to get an evaluation completed and into our school district by June 30. I choose to do this by scheduling two 12-week terms and one 10-week term. The last week of each term I do not schedule readings but use it to give exams and to finish up some (if any) of the readings we didn't get to yet. Usually, I schedule our two 12-week terms first but this year we are starting our year with a 10-week term to make it easier for us to adjust to life with a new baby.

This results in planning 34-weeks of homeschooling 5-days a week for a total of 170 days. I find it very easy to document another 10 days (but always more!) of unschooling--including field trips during break weeks, special educational programs that take place on Saturdays, or just educational days around the house or while camping. Last year was my first year planning only 34 weeks of homeschooling and I loved it because I really believe in the learning that takes place in the real world and I don't want to feel like all the other good things are just EXTRA to cram around all the amazing books and subjects we cover in our normal homeschool schedule.

Once I know how many times per year each child will be studying a given subject, I find books and create plans to fill those slots. I also have to think very, very hard about the attention I will be able to devote to carrying out each subject. I can only plan what I can faithfully support the child doing. If I ask too much or give too little, I am setting up a very frustrating situation for me and the child. This is easier said than done and I tend to err on the side of expecting or planning too much. Which is why I always tweak my schedule as the year goes on. A pleasant and peaceful homeschool is more important to me than doing all the things. 

Our Timetable for Students in Form IB and Form IA
This year, I have created a timetable to schedule the work for a 1st grader and 3rd grader, both of whom will require all of their lessons read to them. Sometimes the times do not line up 100% correctly and sometimes it might not be clear how I can be in 2 places at once (hahaha!) but my husband will be helping out with the first lesson of the day. Here is my initial attempt to make this work . . . it will likely be tweaked as we put it into action. Some our of the subjects do not appear on the timetable because we do them at morning time or another time, so be sure to read below to see how we fit those into our day.

1st Grade Charlotte Mason Plans, 2020-2021
I have tried to note in [ ] whether I'm using a free book or how much I paid for each of the resources we are using. I am committed to homeschooling with free or really cheap books as part of our journey to be debt-free while living on one income.

This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure to learn more.

Bible Lessons
Morning time, oral narration after each lesson
We will read narrative portions of the bible during our morning time during breakfast using the lists available on Ambleside Online and using a New Revised Standard Translation. Using this translation worked better for us than using the King James Version, so we will continue to use this version next year. Unlike Ambleside Online's plans (which coincide with the way Charlotte Mason planned bible lessons) we choose to read only 1 book of the bible at a time instead of alternating between the old and new testaments. We will begin this year with Exodus and move on from there.

Language Arts: Reading/Literature, Copywork/Handwriting, Recitation
Reading/Literature (5x10min/week one-on-one lesson, 4x10 Reading Eggs)
So far, I have one child who became a fluent reader at age 4 with less than 2 hours of total reading instruction. And I have another child who also grew up in that same language-rich environment without lots of screen time and who has had 100+ hours of reading instruction and cannot read fluently at the start of third grade.

Hopefully, my experience with my two older children will help me best plan and carry out Sylvia's reading lessons. My initial plans are to use 10 minutes each day for a Charlotte Mason style reading lesson (as described by Leah from My Little Robins in her helpful reading series)

I have also scheduled time for her to drill on phonics and get a little more reading practice 4 days a week using Reading Eggs [Christmas gift from Grandpa]. I don't think Reading Eggs is ideal, but given that I will have 2 students this year that will require me to read all of their lessons plus a two-year-old and a newborn, I think that Reading Eggs will be an effective way to both tutor Sylvia on reading and drill her on phonics. Another selfish/practical reason I have scheduled Reading Eggs is that my 2-year-old is fascinated by watching her do it and I think it will distract him toward the end of lessons when he is often clamoring for my attention at the expense of getting our other lessons accomplished.

Sylvia will also listen to family read alouds at morning time, at lunchtime, and at bedtime.

Copywork/Handwriting (5x10min/week)
Sylvia will spend about 10 minutes on copywork that I've prepared for her using this website or taken from this Highlights Handwriting Word Practice book. Unlike her brothers, she has spent lots of free time in her early years drawing and writing letters and her name so I do not anticipate this will be a difficult subject for her.

Poetry (Listen to the same poem read aloud every day for a week at morning time) While I do not follow Ambleside Online's poetry rotation, I do choose the majority of our poets and poems from their collection. We will focus on a different poet each term:
  • Term 1: Christina Rossetti
  • Term 2: Carl Sandburg
  • Term 3: Paul Laurence Dunbar
Recitation (3x10min/week)
Each 6-week half-term Sylvia will work on reciting beautifully (often memorizing) 2 poems and 1 passage or another poem. I pick 2 selections and she picks the other poem with my approval. As you can see, I choose many poems from our current poet for the term. This year, I am hoping that her Dad will be able to read her pieces to her while I do other work with her brother.

This year, I have selected the following pieces for Sylvia:

I am not including a conversational foreign language in our homeschool this year for Sylvia. We have used Talkbox.mom for the last few years, but I find it challenging to use with children who are learning to read.

Social Studies: History and Geography
History (2x20min/week, oral narration after each reading)
I created my own booklist and schedule of readings to give Sylvia an introduction to America's pre-colonial history. All of these titles were lifted from her next older brother's 1st-grade booklist,  but as I now only plan for history two times a week and I only plan for 34 weeks of homeschooling instead of 36, there are many books from his list I have omitted for her. Most notably, I am no longer doing This Country of Ours because I do not like it or think it offers a balanced or appropriate picture of pre-colonial U.S. history.
Geography (2x15min/week, oral narration after each reading, plus related mapwork that I keyed to the readings)
We'll be reading Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography throughout the entire year, alternating with the other assigned books. We will use maps included in the books as well as our 2010 atlas [already owned - $25.20 used on Amazon]

Math (5x20min/week)
I prefer to gently introduce math to my first graders using a variety of resources, manipulatives, and hands-on lessons. Of all my children, Sylvia has shown the least interest in numbers and math so the last thing I want to do is to jump in with ANY set curriculum that may turn her off. I plan to use the following resources this year:
  • Life of Fred: Elementary Series by Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt [already well-used by my older sons]
  • Math task cards (which basically break down the first part of Gattegno's Mathematics Textbook 1) using Cuisenaire rods as a way to work on "math facts" and a basic understanding of numeracy. [already owned-purchased for $20 in 2017] 
  • Mammoth Math Light Blue Series worksheets to practice basic skills [I won this entire 1st-7th grade series as a digital download in 2018 and I have used it from time to time as a supplement to our other math work]
My plans do not look like Mason's methods for math instruction, but both my husband and I have very solid math backgrounds and enjoy playing with and talking about math. So far, I have two kids who enjoy math and do well at it and I feel confident in following a similar course for Sylvia.

Science: Natural History, Special Studies, Nature Notebooking
Natural History (2x10min/week, oral narration after each reading)
Eyes and No Eyes,  by Arabella Buckley (1 chapter/week) [free ebook] throughout the year alternating with other titles, including some or all of the following:
Many are in the public domain or available online to checkout so we will read them using my small android tablet. See my full list of Free Nature Lore Books here.

Special Studies (Morning time and object lessons)
I chose the following topics for the year:
  • Term 1: Wildflowers & Fruits / Birds & Mammals
  • Term 2: Fruit Trees / Birds & Animals (Migration and Hibernation)
  • Term 3: Wildflowers & Trees / Amphibians
I used the rotation found on Sabbath Mood Homeschool to come up with this list.

Because this is a family subject, I will read books on the topic at morning time and I will also try to plan brief object lessons on these topics as possible. I also tend to seek out special nature experiences on our topics (likes one's hosted by a state park or naturalist) as possible.

Nature Notebooking (daily entries, weekly nature watercolor drawings)
My daughter will soon be joining her brothers in this practice of noticing something in nature and dictating it to her father to write in her nature journal every day. We still miss a few days a month and that is perfectly fine for us. We do this all year round, 7 days a week. Once a week there will also be 20 minutes in her schedule to make a watercolor drawing of her choice in her nature journal. [Sylvia needed a notebook, watercolor brushes, and paints info on our supplies and costs here]

Morning Time (at breakfast)
I select additional living science and natural history books as part of our morning time. These titles are not narrated.

Wild + Free Nature Group (3-4+ hours every Friday) [$50/year for our family]
We will participate in our weekly year-round nature group at a rural property. With a dedicated group of other homeschooled kids and preschoolers, Sylvia will climb trees, play in the creek, cook food over a fire, play with sticks, hike, and observe plants, animals, weather, and more. This group is an important part of our homeschool week and it helps me actually achieve giving my kids a good half-day in nature each week. 

We will certainly plan for frequent nature walks in our neighborhood and observations in our own yard in addition to weekend and break weak nature experiences as a family, but this group definitely keeps me accountable to get the kids out for hours at a time even in bad weather.

Art & Music: Watercolor, Drawing, Handicrafts, Singing, Artist Study, Composer Study, Piano
Watercolor drawing (2x20min/week)
Once a week we use watercolors to draw something from nature or draw a picture based on some of our history or reading books or maybe draw along with a how-to-draw book.  Once a week we illustrate something in our nature notebooks.

Handicrafts (2x20min/week)
Twice a week, I have scheduled handicrafts during our morning lesson time. I try to have a primary handicraft to work on each term, but sometimes we dabble in several different crafts.

This year I'm planning to focus on:
Soap carving will be a new endeavor for us, but the other books and handicrafts have worked well for us in past years.

Singing (2x10min/week)
I choose folk songs each year mainly by browsing Ambleside Online and the book Gonna Sing My Head Off!: American Folk Songs for Children by Kathleen Krull. This year I choose 14 songs:
Why I choose what I did:
  • Last year I chose several songs to complement the historical time period we were studying and I thought it worked well so I'm doing that again this time. However, the songs will coordinate with the 1900s and not Sylvia's pre-colonial history as she will not join our family history rotation until 2nd grade. 
  • I also choose several songs geared toward young children this year because I think they will strongly appeal to 1st-grader Sylvia and 2-year-old Harry and I know that my days where they will appeal to my oldest son are numbered!
  • Finally, several of these songs are ones that my mother taught me . . . I needed an easy year ;-) I enjoy singing, but have trouble carrying a tune so each familiar song or easy melody will make getting this done easier.
Artist Study (1xweek at morning time)
Each term we read about the life of the artist and study 6 works by the artist. My school-aged children are expected to look at the picture, narrate about it from memory, then participate in a picture talk about it. For the rest of the term, I display the print in our family room. This year we are studying:

Term 1: Winslow Homer [Free PDF artist study from A Humble Place]
Term 2: Peter Paul Rubens [Free PDF artist study from A Humble Place]
Term 3: Henry Ossawa Tanner [Free PDF artist study from A Humble Place]

I printed the study guide from my home printer and intended to have the prints made at our local university print shop for about $.50 each. I have yet to hear back from them (possibly due to issues surrounding covid-19) so I will begin the year using a tablet and book stand to view the images and go from there. I had already ordered 4x6 prints from Shutterfly to put in our family art album so I will at least be able to display those during the term.

Composer Study (1x10min week)
This year we will study one composer per term by listening to their music for 10 minutes a week using the following playlists (pieces selected from ones included on Ambleside Online):

Piano (not yet, but soon? afternoon occupation, 6-7x15min/week)
Hoffman Acadamy [Not an affiliate link! We just love Hoffman Academy.]

I am a big proponent of not starting too early with the piano. Practicing is hard work, especially as the student advances beyond the early levels. And there is no easy way to take a break if you start too soon because a lot of work will be lost with an extended break. Peter didn't start Hoffman Academy until he was almost 8, but John started at 6 because he was begging for it and I thought it would be easier to start before our new baby was born shortly thereafter. I think it was better starting at 7+! 

To that end, I have no concrete plans of when to start Sylvia with Hoffman Academy. It will depend a lot on her reading ability and on her interest. It is likely that she won't start until we break for the summer next year in late May. Summer is a great time to work on new habits without the other pressures of the school day.

Physical Education
Our tentative plans include:
  • AYSO Soccer (Fall and Spring) - Not sure if the fall season will happen yet . . . 
  • Ice Skating Lessons (Winter 2021)
  • Swimming Lessons (Summer 2021)
  • Hikes, bike rides, and walks around often, especially in spring, summer, and fall
  • Wild + Free nature group which gets us active and outside as a family for about 4 hours each week
Check out my Planning page for even more plans, lists, and logistics.
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