Liam's first grade year & A Gentle Feast review.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

This past year of homeschool has been *quite* the adventure! Moving across the country (and spending over a month in the process) threw us a curveball, but I'm more grateful than ever to be homeschooling. Instead of it feeling like a major disruption, we were able to plod along and keep making progress as we homeschooled on the road and in our new Texas home. What a gift! 

I wanted to write an update to review our curriculum choices from last year before posting about what we'll be doing for next year. 

You can find all our 1st grade curriculum choices here.

We have truly enjoyed A Gentle Feast. Julie Ross has done a phenomenal job boiling down the best parts of Charlotte Mason's philosophy into a curriculum and presenting it in an easy-to-digest format. We have especially loved the history book choices, the hymns, and the read-alouds. If you're brand new to Charlotte Mason-style learning, this is a perfect first step. A Gentle Feast guides you along with clarity and intention.

If there have been any cons for us, it's been a few of the book choices. Some are simply so "classic" (literally reprints from the 1800s) that they've been hard for us to connect with. For example, The Burgess Animal Book and The Little Flower Book - used for natural history - have been two of them. I definitely see the reason for her choices as they are consistent with Charlotte Mason ideals. But when I gave Liam the option of putting them down and using something else for natural history, he was more than eager to put them aside. If you've followed Ambleside Online, I'm sure you have encountered this style of book as the lists are very similar. I'm just finding that while we can stretch our tastes in some areas to include classic selections, Liam and Lanie do prefer a few things to be more up to date, colorful, and engaging than these classic texts.

One thing I really loved by A Gentle Feast was this book: Cycle 1 Language Arts. It includes copywork, dictation, grammar, spelling, free drawing - basically all aspects of what you would consider language arts - and was the perfect level for our first grader. I recommend it, even if you aren't using the entire curriculum.

If you're on the fence about using A Gentle Feast, my best recommendation is to choose which cycle you're interested in and download the booklist. It's $5 well spent to get a feel for which books you'll be using and if you think they'll be a good fit for your family.

Perhaps you're similar, but the longer we homeschool, the more I find it's hard to put Liam firmly in "a grade" that makes sense for him. He is right at grade level in some areas and above grade level in others, so I want to custom fit his education for how he will learn best. Overall, I think I'm needing a little more leeway to make my own choices for next year instead of an "open and go" curriculum, even though I did love many aspects of A Gentle Feast.

Next year (which will begin as soon as June if we're still in quarantine!), Liam will be in 2nd grade and Lanie will be in Kindergarten. Charlotte Mason does not encourage formal schooling for Kindergarten age, but Lanie is chomping at the bit to get started and is so eager to read, so we will do a little with her. I'm also blending some Classical education elements as I'm finding that's another philosophy I lean toward. More on that later. :)

Reading aloud has quickly become our favorite part of homeschool - and our favorite part of most days. Here are a few favorite books we've read aloud this year (among dozens!):
Poppy by Avi
The Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo (loved by the whole family!)
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Currently, Liam's favorite series to read on his own are:
Imagination Station by Adventures in Odyssey
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M. J. Thomas
Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne (which he is now reading to Lanie during rest time each day)

I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have specific questions in the comments section, or by emailing me at whitney@elmstreetlife. I'm more than happy to help if I can! I'll be sharing our curriculum choices for next year in the coming days.


  1. I'm getting ready to start first grade and already have a learning to read/language arts program that I love and wish to continue. If I were to leave out the language arts pack, would I be missing out on a lot of content?

    1. You wouldn't be missing out on anything! You could totally add your own language arts and it work very smoothly!


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