Our 1st grade curriculum choices (and... who is Charlotte Mason?).

Monday, July 22, 2019


When I first considered homeschooling our kids, I had no clue how many methodologies and curricula there were to choose from. So the summer before starting kindergarten with Liam, I did a little research but mostly relied on the recommendations of several moms I trusted and went with Sonlight. I loved that it all came in one box: instructor's guide plus all the books and materials you'd need for the entire year.

You can read more about our experience with Sonlight here.

For new homeschool families, I still highly recommend the "open and go" approach. It certainly helped me get my feet on the ground, and as a new mom to 3 kids, it's what I needed. I didn't have the time, energy, or knowledge to spend hours planning.

Fast forward several months. As we wrapped up our first official homeschool year, I have realized that my personal bent is definitely toward the Charlotte Mason philosophy. If you're wondering who Charlotte Mason is, here's a very basic overview:

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s who was well ahead of her time. She encouraged lots of outdoor time, immersing children in nature and handling and observing natural objects. Instead of formal science lessons in these younger years, she used nature observation as the primary means of early science teaching. She espoused the use of manipulatives and real-life application to understand math rather than rote memorization. She believed that children are "born persons" and therefore worthy of respect, rather than "blank slates." She taught that it's better to feed a child's growing mind with living literature than with dry facts from a textbook that have been pre-digested by the teacher. She wanted even young children to be exposed to great and noble ideas that arouse their curiosity through reflecting on great art, music, and poetry. Her idea is that schooling should be teacher-directed, not child-led, but school time should have short enough lessons that students have the free time to play and pursue their own interests. She was also a Christian and her ideas are Biblically rooted.

After learning more about Charlotte Mason, I felt so drawn to her methodology. Still, I felt torn because I really do love Sonlight - especially their emphasis on missions and how easy it was to just "open and go." I already had the books and Instructor's Guides for the next 2 years of Sonlight, so I decided to try to adapt what I had to fit a Charlotte Mason style. I could add on a Morning Time routine with hymn study, composer study, and picture study in a loop. I could have Liam narrate books back to me. We could add in dictation, nature study, and tea time. But the thought of that overwhelmed me. I've only been formally homeschooling for one year and didn't feel I had the expertise to write my own lesson plans from scratch, especially using a philosophy about which I have so much more to learn.

Enter A Gentle Feast. It's a new curriculum deeply rooted in the tried and true principles of Charlotte Mason. It's structured, but still allows flexibility if you want to switch out books here and there. It's affordable, even giving tips on where to find some of the books for free online. Amazingly, I had several of the books already and was able to find others at thrift stores for $1 or less.

The name "A Gentle Feast" alludes to the feast of ideas that we are to spread before our children. Morning time, the "appetizer," begins each day. Language Arts is the Soup and Salad. The Academic Block (which includes natural history, geography, history, math, foreign language, and singing) is the main course. And dessert includes handicrafts, poetry tea time, drawing, read aloud, and nature study.

A Gentle Feast is about as "open and go" as it gets with Charlotte Mason. Julie Ross, the creator of this curriculum, has chosen rich, living books and created a complete curriculum, minus math. We'll be doing Right Start Math level B this year with Liam. I've felt so excited as I've flipped through the curriculum and started planning. We'll begin each day with Scripture as a family. We'll study hymns. We'll study composers (right up Liam's alley!) and great artists. We'll recite poetry, learn about the natural world around us, and read picture books to understand American history.

One thing I did when I was first researching A Gentle Feast was download their booklist. It's $5 and it gave me a glimpse at what types of books would be assigned in the curriculum. As soon as I did, I was sold. There are lots of classics and some I'd never heard of, but it feels cohesive and beautifully curated.

The bottom line is this: I'm more excited than ever to teach this year because of this curriculum. It seems to fit our family's desires and natural bent, and it's much more gentle for this season of our lives. We'll be doing Cycle 1, Form 1. 

I am proud to be an Influencer with A Gentle Feast, which means if you choose to click through this link and purchase the curriculum for yourself, I'll receive a small percentage of that purchase. But mostly, I'm interested that you choose a curriculum that fits your family and your spiritual convictions. This is just one curriculum option of so many you have to choose from, and if you've already found one that you love, go for it!! 

For the next year, I'll pop in from time to time to update on how it's going, highlight favorite books and activities, and give my honest review. In the next few weeks, I'll show how we're organizing our days. Thanks for reading!

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