Younger Kids

Learn about 13 secular preschool programs that work with a Charlotte Mason homeschool.

Are you searching for a preschool program that will help you bring Charlotte Mason's ideas to your little ones?  Need a little hand-holding?  Are you tired of asking for recommendations only to find that the program that looks lovely also will "provide a firm foundation in Christ"?

I've done the research for you and found several preschool programs and resources that are both secular and easily adapted to a Charlotte Mason education lifestyle.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through my link I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Criteria

What criteria did I use to narrow down the choices?

  • First and foremost, they had to be secular.  Any religious holidays had to be cultural holidays.  For example, if a program has activities for St. Patrick's day, that wasn't disqualifying because virtually no one thinks of March 17 as a religious feast day.   However, making an Advent calendar as a countdown to Christmas, or a Garden Goddess to watch over the yard meant it got the boot.
  • Limited academics, and those done in a Charlotte Mason-appropriate manner.   That also means not an emphasis on nature books, but instead a focus on the child experiencing the natural world for himself.
  • If coming from a creator who is not well versed in Charlotte Mason, the program needed to be very easily adaptable to her methods and ideals.  If there were only small portions that I considered Charlotte Mason, it didn't make the cut.  However, there are several Waldorf-inspired resources included because Waldorf and Charlotte Mason are almost identical in the early years. 
  • And last, what is the underlying purpose of the program?  Is it to support the child's development, encourage wonder and connection, and have a healthy home life, or is to actively teach the child, with "readiness skills" and "solidifying learning"?  Are the activities natural extensions of life, or are they contrived?  (making a mud kitchen for open-ended play vs labeling leaves and beans with numbers and asking the child to match the numbers while pretending to be a caterpillar).  Is the parent viewed as a mentor to help the child make discoveries, or as a teacher who should give information to build up the child's store of facts?

    Remember that just because a curriculum has the kids learning a lot about animals doesn't make it a Charlotte Mason program.

And now for the selections, in no particular order....

A Quiet Growing Time: Charlotte Mason with Your 3 to 6 Year Old

I hesitated to put this one first, for the simple reason that I wrote it.  I don't want you to think I'm tooting my own horn and everything else is just a pale imitation.

But I truly believe that if you use my guide, especially as an adjunct to any of the other programs mentioned below, you will be able to craft a lovely Charlotte Mason preschool experience.

Charlotte Mason's method of education is about developing the whole person.  The guide is not a book list, a schedule, or a long list of activities.  I take Charlotte Mason's words and ideas and put them in plain English, as well as give you practical suggestions for how to use them in your life.

It is a guide to creating a Charlotte Mason, magical childhood.  

As with all my work, I hold your hand and give you practical encouragement and advice, all in a non-religious, non-judgmental way.  

My passion is helping moms connect the dots from Charlotte Mason's theory to how to apply it to their own families.

For a sample to see if it will work for you, check out the page here.

Recommended?  Yes

Modifications required:  None


Rooted Childhood is one of those programs that when you open it up in your email, you sigh in contentment. (Use coupon code juniperpines10 for 10% off your purchase!)

If you are looking for ways to foster connection with your children through handwork, crafts, and activities, this is for you.

It's not a checklist to do each week.  You won't be making yet another paper chain or waiting until the kids are in bed then secretly disposing of their 'creation' of glue and construction paper and macaroni noodles in the trash.

These are real projects that are appropriate for children but won't drive Mom crazy.  It is also filled with poems, songs, recipes, and ways to connect with your children and make those memories sweet.

Use this with A Quiet Growing Time, and you will have a wonderful, winning combination. 

Recommended?  Yes, enthusiastically

Modifications needed?   None

A Mind in the Light

Here is a nice classical and Charlotte Mason mix.   While there is a loose timetable and schedule, the creator also encourages you to not stop a child's play in order to follow the schedule.

The Pre-Preparatory Notes are particularly valuable.

The Preparatory level (presumably age 5) is based on the PNEU programmes from the 1950s-1970s,  a full 30 years after Charlotte Mason's death, and as such they had begun to stray from her original vision and became more academic at an earlier age. (The PNEU was Charlotte Mason's organization that sent curriculum to registered families.)


Recommended?  Yes

Modifications needed?  Yes

  • Cut way back on the books.  The pre-preparatory level has 139 books scheduled for the year.  In Home Education, Charlotte Mason says that a few books read repeatedly is much better than an endless train of them in the young years.
  • I would also skip the numeracy and literacy games in the schedule, because the instructions they are drawn from are based on a small group nursery situation.  Instead, weave numeracy (counting, one-to-one correspondence) throughout the day.  For literacy games, consider doing the games from this free resource to encourage phonemic awareness, the building block of reading.
  • Add handwork like finger knitting if your child is ready for it, lacing, making toys like sock dolls, and gardening.  Handwork was a huge part of the early years and it builds neural connections in a way that supports future academics.

Blossom and Root

Volume 1 is a lovely Charlotte Mason preschool experience, weaving arts, nature experience, and connection.  Along with the suggested activities for the week is a page where you can create your own schedule for the week of what you'd like to do on what days. 

However, they schedule one new painting every week, while Charlotte Mason's school-age programmes schedule six paintings over a 12 week period.

Their age recommendations are off,  too.  The website states that Volume 1 is for ages 2-4 and Volume 2 for ages 4-5.

Volume 2 is based on the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six and as such has specific teaching strategies for these.  It is also much more academic, with the sample showing a letter of the week and making a graph of what objects float and what objects sink.  

However, the Formidable List was not "what a child should know before he turns six" but instead was an early "term programme" of what a child of six can be learning. 

The lessons in Volume 2 are 40 min to an hour long daily, and Charlotte Mason later said that regular lessons should not begin until age 6.

As such, I would recommend Volume 1 as a wonderful curriculum for ages 3-5, and Volume 2 as a lovely introduction to Charlotte Mason for 6 year olds, or a child who will turn 6 during the school year.

Recommended:  Yes

Modifications needed?  Yes

  • Change the age recommendations to Volume 1 for 3-5 year olds and Volume 2 for 5-6 year olds
  • Decrease the number of artist prints studied.  Remember slow is good.
  • I can't tell from the sample if there is a new picture book every week in Volume 1.  If so, decrease that. I am NOT saying "don't read a book every week" but don't read a NEW book every week.  Remember that fewer books read over and over is better than a constant parade of new books.

Cantiamo Tutti

If you want to bring music to your littles but don't know quite what to do, are stuck for ideas, or just want a guide for inspiration, this is for you.

Every time I think about this offering, I smile and relax because it is just so .... perfect.

Filled with not only songs, music, music themed picture books, but gentle and encouraging ideas to hold your hand, this collection is a treasure.

And it is completely free.

Download and use this resource.  You will not regret it.

Recommended?  Yes, enthusiastically

Modifications needed?  None

Wee Folk Art

From their website:  

The Simple Seasons Preschool-Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum has been designed with three main 12 week terms for the school year, plus a bonus shorter 10 week long summer study, and an optional 4 week Advent unit. Each unit includes a weekly schedule that focuses on the rhythm of the seasons with a special emphasis on holidays and nature. Each seasonal unit can be used as a stand alone program. You can also begin your homeschool year at any time by choosing the seasonally correct unit.
Many families repeat Simple Seasons for two years in a row, delving a little bit deeper the second time through. Young children enjoy the repetition of the stories and will learn even more with the repetition."

My impression:  This simple curriculum for ages 4-6 follows the seasons and focuses on nature, being outside, and activities that are developmentally appropriate.

There are too many books (around 75 for three terms, 95 or so for the full year) so I would use only the literature books and even cut those back to about half.  Remember a few excellent books read repeatedly is better than an endless parade of new books. 

The instructions say that to be a full Kindergarten curriculum, you must add a math program.  I would instead use Games for Math by Peggy Kaye (recommended in Wee Folk Art).  I would also not do the phonics for a 4 year old, but save that for age 5 if your student is interested.  If your child is not interested, just set it aside.

There is a page for weekly narrations.  Children under 6 should not be expected to do narrations in a Charlotte Mason education, and at 6 they should not be written but oral.  Charlotte Mason narrations are also not summaries of the material, but what stood out to your child.

Recommended:  Yes, with modifications

Modifications needed?  Yes

  • Cut back on the amount of books, or spread the program over 2 or more years
  • Delete the narration requirements for ages 4-5.  If you are using this program with a 6 year old, change the narrations to Charlotte Mason-style oral narrations.
  • Save phonics and a math program for age 6.
  • Also, be aware of the activities that are scheduled from the Nature in a Nutshell book. Nature in a Nutshell  was written for 2nd-4th graders, so while observing the scales on a fish with a magnifying glass is wonderful for the preschoolers, getting into the explanation of circuli is a bit much.  Remember that our aim with a Charlotte Mason preschool is to increase nature connection and wonder, not to "enhance the educational value" of activities.


Whole Family Rhythms

Spring/Summer/Fall Family Rhythm Guides

Whole Family Rhythms

Slow down, create and connect with your children and the rhythm of your home.

A Waldorf-inspired seasonal guide with finger games, storytelling, crafts, recipes, beeswax modelling, painting and drawing, weekly hike, caregiver meditation suggestions, and handwork for the caregiver.

The Spring guide contains a story about the Easter Bunny (completely secular) and one of the crafts is coloring eggs to go with the story.

The Winter guide, however, is not secular.  December stories and activities center around Christmas, with an Advent countdown inspired by Rudolf Steiner, the man behind Waldorf.   There are several mentions of God and Jesus in December, but January and February are fine.

I love the emphasis on rhythm, but would say to try to get outside for more than the hour per day the guide recommends.

Recommended?  Spring, Summer, and Fall guides -- Yes.  

NOTE:  Winter is not secular due to December's Christmas theme.

Modifications needed?  Minimal

Spend more than an hour outside!   And if you decide to get the Winter edition, be aware that December is religious.

Entangled Harmony

With Entangled Harmony you'll get stories and activities delivered monthly.  The activities in the sample look lovely, and the author is a former non-academic preschool director, so the activities have been tested on lots of kids.

The stories are cute but certainly not high-quality literature.  Each month you'll get 3 stories about Sophie and Max, plus stories with animals, so both boys and girls will be able to identify with the characters.

You can download a sample to see if it 's right for you.

Recommended?  Yes

Modifications needed?  None.

Twelve Little Tales

Storytelling.

Twelve Little Tales is a story-starter and 12 prompt cards that will gently guide you on your storytelling journey each month.  Including enchanting stories and delightfully creative prompts adorned with original watercolor illustrations created just for the tales.

Recommended:  Yes

Modifications needed:  No. 


Hearth & Gnome

Hearth & Gnome Song and Storytime Circles are inexpensive instructional guides to bring music to your preschoolers.

They come from a Waldorf methodology and as such are compatible with a Charlotte Mason lifestyle in the early years (Waldorf and Charlotte Mason are very similar before the school years).

The Song and Storytime Circles are secular, but Music Unfolds (for school aged children) and a few of the stand-alone products (Music for Michaelmas, Music for Advent) aren't. 

The biggest problems  I see with the Song and Storytime Circles is that they are written in a "lesson plan" format with Objectives ("The children will") which can be off-putting to home educators.  Also, the samples appear to be written for small group situations, so if you have an only child you will need to make some modifications.

Recommended:  Yes

Modifications needed:  Maybe.

The guides appear to be written for small groups, so a few of the games might require modification if you have an only child.

The Little Oak Learning

A twelve week curriculum to gently carry you and your family through the seasons, with a rhythm and flow that leaves you feeling calm, happy and connected.

Each twelve week seasonal curriculum has six two week units, and each unit has a theme.  Unlike a unit study though, the theme isn't "let's learn all about this topic and make sure every activity is related to it in some way".  It is merely a unifying thread.

Each unit has weekly and daily plans, a story, songs, rhymes, finger plays, reflection activities, nature walks, recipes, purposeful work ideas, and art and craft ideas.

I love the look of this program, though be aware that the craft ideas might be contrived and busy work.  Instead of coloring a pre-drawn picture and cutting it out, or making a cat-ear headband out of paper, I would instead substitute those activities with open-ended projects and letting your child decide if and how he wants to make cat ears.

Recommended:   Yes, with minimal modifications

Modifications needed?  Minimal.  

Be aware of busy work and contrived paper crafts.  Instead skip these, substitute real projects,  or substitute open-ended projects where your child is the one who decides how to make the objects.

Wildwood Curriculum is a free, secular, inclusive Charlotte Mason curriculum.   Since Charlotte Mason did not advocate formal lessons before age 6, we have included a page with suggestions for what to do with your children before this age. 

I am one of the creators of Wildwood Curriculum and helped write this page.  It is a framework for you to use, but is does not go in depth into any one area.

Recommended:  Yes

Modifications needed:  None

Build Your Library is a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum, and Level 0 is their "Kindergarten" year.

It is a trip around the world to visit children, see some animals in other parts of the world, and listen to folk tales from all over the globe.  There is no letter of the week, nor is it a "First Grade Readiness" program.

Because there seems to be a focus on books rather than experiences, I would definitely save this for ages 5 or 6.

It does need some modification for CM families.  In the intro to Year 0, Emily Cook (the creator) writes, "I have created this curriculum based on the idea that children learn best through reading and hearing great literature."   Charlotte Mason writes, however, that children in this age group learn best through direct interaction with things, rather than the symbols of things (words).

Thankfully Year 0 is not so filled with books that it crowds out other activities.

Emily comes from a Charlotte Mason background.  Even though the Build Your Library isn't strict Charlotte Mason,  because Charlotte Mason ideals and methods are ingrained in Emily, the "sense" of Charlotte Mason underlies her curriculum. 

The emphasis in Year 0 is on learning about children in other parts of the world, and exploring their cultures by hearing folk tales, making art, and eating the foods they eat.

Recommended?  Yes, with modifications

Modifications needed?  Yes

  • Don't do the activity sheets.  Just forget they're there
  • Use the literature and tales as nighttime reading so you can spend a lot of time outdoors during the day
  • I would recommend you pair this with my guide, A Quiet Growing Time: Charlotte Mason with Your 3 to 6 Year Old.  If you use BYL as written, it can easily become a list of books and activities to check off without Charlotte Mason's philosophy underpinning it


These programs would all fit nicely in a Charlotte Mason home, and even if you choose to go with a free rather than paid option, they should give you plenty of ideas if you're in need of inspiration.

WANT TO REMEMBER THIS?  SAVE 13 SECULAR PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS FOR CHARLOTTE MASON HOMES TO YOUR FAVORITE PRESCHOOL PINTEREST BOARD!

best secular preschool programs pin
secular charlotte mason homeschool preschool

are lessons required at 6

Your six year old isn’t ready for lessons – is she doomed to a life of failure?

Your little one just turned 6 years old and you can finally start homeschooling! You’ve been waiting for this for months, dutifully following Charlotte Mason’s suggestion to delay academics until 6, and now you’re raring to go.

At first everything was fine. You were excited, little Junior was excited … but soon (was it days? weeks?) your once eager student started hiding.

Throwing himself backwards on the couch and screaming when you brought out the math book.

Putting his fingers in his ears and singing “La La La La Laaaaaaa” at the top of his lungs.

What is wrong? Are you just not cut out to homeschool?

Nah… what’s really happening is that your eager child is just not ready for formal lessons.

If you’ve read up on Charlotte Mason and have a young child, you know that she opposed formal lessons for children younger than six years old.

I know it’s tough to wait when you’re chomping at the bit to offer the richness of a CM education to your child. Some moms start sit-down lessons the month – or even week – their child turns that magical age.

But is this really the right choice?

Many children simply aren’t ready for academic sit-down lessons when they are newly six years old. Six and a half or even fully seven is often a much better choice for most. I’m not a neuro-anything-expert, but it has to do with brain development. If your child isn’t ready, it doesn’t mean that he or she will never be ready.

(Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)

How to know if your child isn’t ready for lessons

The first question you’re probably asking right now is, “But how do I know if my child isn’t ready?”

There are no hard and fast rules here. In general though if you see any of the following signs:

  • resistance to lessons
  • tears (theirs or yours)
  • throwing himself backwards on the couch and screaming
  • spinning in circles laughing and not paying attention
  • running out of the room and giggling

or any variation thereof… wait for a few more months.

… Even if your child has already been to public or private school and could sit through the entire day there.

… Even if your child has made it through a few weeks or even a few months compliantly and with flying colors.

Even if you are sure that your child is different and is perfectly capable at the ripe old age of six of doing this thing and is simply choosing not to ….

Wait.

But won’t I be sentencing my child to a life of “Behind” if we wait?

In a word, no.

Children catch up quickly when they are ready.

Not only that, but you can always skip ahead if you feel your child is ready for higher level work at a later time. Don’t worry about missing things – there is no way that you can possibly learn All the Things in even an entire lifetime.

Remember that “can start at six” or “children begin at six” doesn’t equal “must start at six” or “all children regardless of circumstances or readiness must begin at six or they will be lifelong failures and eating Cheetohs in their parents’ basement when they’re 42.

Would you ever tell a mother with a 10 year old child who wants to bring Charlotte Mason into their homeschool, “Nope, sorry. If you didn’t start when your kid was 6, there’s no way it will work now. You’ll have to find a different educational philosophy.”

It sounds absurd when we frame it that way, doesn’t it?

Then why do we think that our own children must definitely start at six years old?

What would Charlotte do?

Not all students entered the PNEU schools at 6 years old. Some started at 10 or 12 or even later. (The PNEU was the correspondence-type school that Charlotte Mason administered)

We know that in general, children were put in the form appropriate to their age range. However, sometimes a student would be started in a lower form. This student, she says, always interacted with the material in a manner appropriate to his age, regardless of the difficulty of the material.

What does this mean to us? It means that if you wait a year until your child is 7, you will probably want to start your child in Form IB.

But if you wait until your child is 8 or 9, you wouldn’t start at the very beginning of a curriculum in IB (1st year) but instead in IA (2nd or 3rd year) or perhaps even IIB (4th year), depending on where you think your 9 year old child would fit the best.

But remember this: year or form levels in a Charlotte Mason education are not grade levels.

What should I do if not lessons, then?

I don’t recommend that you do absolutely nothing.

Though this can be a viable option.

Instead, give your child that fertile ground in which to grow.

  • Develop a healthy home rhythm with regularity and simplicity if you don’t already have one. (Not sure how? Find out in How to Create a Healthy Home Rhythm)
  • Spend as much time in nature as you can. If you don’t already own the book Coyote’s Guide to Nature Connection by Jon Young, I highly recommend that you get it. If you’re not in the US and shipping is too expensive, you can get it in .pdf form from 8Shields.org
  • Play with letters. Letter blocks, letter tiles, point out letters, make them with pasta shells or draw them in the sand. Just play.
  • Count everything. Sparrows, eggs, ants, acorns. Make up simple math problems using these, but do it in a natural way. “If Henrietta hadn’t laid an egg today, how many eggs would we have?”
  • Use Math Games by Peggy Kaye
  • Tell stories. Then tell them again.
  • Play in sand and mud and water. Go to swimming lessons.
  • Work through the free Phonemic Awareness curriculum at Sight Words
  • Sing. Always. Sing while folding laundry, while kneading bread, and while finger knitting. Sing when you’re getting dressed. Just sing.

If you’re looking for more handholding, A Quiet Growing Time: Charlotte Mason with Your 3 to 6 Year Old is full of practical ideas to use with your children who aren’t yet doing academic lessons.

catching snake in a jar nature study

Go see children’s theater. Go to museums. Go to homeschool park days. Visit local fields to learn field crops in all stages of growth. Draw lizards in a notebook and let your child dictate to you what to write in it. Talk about the natural objects your child finds.

Don’t Force Your Flowers Before They’re Ready

Not being ready for lessons at six doesn’t mean your child is a failure, or has a lower-than-average-IQ. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure at being a homeschool mom, or that CM won’t work for you.

It just means that your child needs a bit more time.

Remember that children are like flowers and they will bloom when they are ready. We simply provide fertile ground and nourishment.

Want to remember this? Pin it to your favorite homeschooling Pinterest board!

Yesterday I saw the announcement that Whole Family Rhythms is closing on June 15, 2019, and they don’t know what they will look like when (if) they re-open in the Fall.

The good news is that all their products are 50% or more off; the bad news is that this might be the last time you can buy their guides.

I only learned about them a few weeks ago, but I loved their samples so much I became an affiliate for them.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

So what makes them so special? They encourage building family connection and a slow childhood. They encourage handwork for the littles and for the caregiver. They encourage caregivers to take some time every day for reflection and/or meditation. They encourage rhythm.

They are visually stunning, and most of them are secular. Winter Family Rhythm and Christmas Festival guides are not secular as they refer to the Christian aspects of Christmas. The creator comes from a Waldorf background so they are also developmentally appropriate for childhood and they contain no academics.

But the best part? It doesn’t matter your religious beliefs or cultural background; Whole Family Rhythms helps you craft traditions and routines that will fit your own family and values.

I included Whole Family Rhythms in my 13 Secular Preschool Programs for Charlotte Mason Homes blog post, but while the Whole Family Rhythm guides are created for parents of children ages 2-6, I thought they might still be appropriate for families with older children.

So I bought them all just so I could tell you about each one.

Yes.

Every. Single. One.

Not for myself, mind you. It was purely for research purposes. (ahem)

That’s what I’m telling my budget, at least.

The Seasonal Guides

Ages 2-7 as your primary guide, ages 7-9 as a supplement to your routine.

Let’s start first with the seasonal guides.

There are four seasonal guides, and when you purchase you are asked if you are Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

Each seasonal guide is three months, and each month has a sample daily rhythm, a caregiver’s meditation, and caregiver’s handwork project, in addition to weekly fingerplays, stories, simple recipes, crafts, beeswax modeling, weekly hiking ideas, and painting.

chestnuts for autumn

The recipes range in difficulty from baking bread (harder) to cutting watermelon slices with fish-shaped cookie cutters (super easy).

The hiking ideas are nature oriented but are not about learning or transmitting information. They are more about experiencing. For example, one Weekly Hike is “Perhaps you can find a muddy trail this week and let the kids sink their toes into the dirt” while another is “Take your little kite out for a walk in the park this week. You won’t need strong winds as it can sail along behind you” while still a third is “see if you can find a bee and observe it with your child in silence as it gathers pollen and flies from flower to flower.”

This will be a wonderful addition to our days with my almost-8 year old, but if you only have older children, the seasonal guides will not be useful to you.

Spring, Fall, and Autumn guides are secular, but Winter is not.

Winter has Christmas for December, including an Advent section, and several mentions of God and Jesus. However, the months of January and February included in the Winter Guide don’t have any religious references.

What’s the difference between the seasonal Family Rhythm Guides and the 3 in 1 seasonal Bundles? The Bundles contain the Family Rhythm Guide for either Spring or Autumn, the celebration guide for the season (Easter or Harvest), and the Return to Rhythm Mini Course.

If you are going to buy the seasonal guides, I highly recommend spending the little bit extra to get the 3 in 1 bundle.

Or you can get the All Seasonal Family Rhythm Guides (bundle).

Celebrations

All ages if you are crafting your own traditions, for ages 2-10 if using as-is.

Under the Celebrate tab are Whole Family Christmas eGuide, Easter, Harvest, and Birthdays.

If you have older kids and want to be more intentional about your seasonal celebrations, these are the guides you’re looking for.

The Harvest eGuide will walk you through incorporating your family values into your celebrations with questions like “Write down as many values as you can think of associated with Harvest Time and which you would like to model to your children.”

Then there is a deeper look at harvest figures and symbols, and then a short look at harvest festivals from around the world:

  • Michaelmas
  • Thanksgiving (Canada and United States)
  • Sukkot (Jewish)
  • Moon Festival (Chinese and Vietnamese)

You will create a Harvest Season vision board, brainstorm how you want to model the spirit of the season and how to prepare for the festivals so that you remain calm and present, and more.

harvesting a carrot

On top of that, there are stories and finger games.

Handwork is appropriate for a wide range of ages, from a toadstool felt covered matchbox for younger kids to waxing fall leaves and making a garland. While the felt covered matchbox probably wouldn’t appeal to teens, my teen would have enjoyed making the fall decorations like the waxed leaf garlands.

Caregiver’s handwork includes a crocheted field mouse and a wool felt pouch. The pouch would be a good thing for teens to do, and while the instructions are for a mushroom applique, you could very easily make any design you wanted.

There are also caregiver meditations/reflections.

Easter and Christmas are similar, but adjusted for those holidays.

Easter eGuide

The Easter eGuide does not focus on the Christian aspects (the resurrection), but instead on spring and rebirth and so can easily be used by non-Christian families.

Easter crafts are

  • Lambs for little hands
  • sewn felt egg
  • wetfelt eggs
  • herb and vegetable dyed hardboiled eggs
  • felt Easter basket
  • knitted bunny
  • eggshell candle holder
easter rabbit with eggs

Christmas eGuide

Out of the three Festival guides (Christmas, Easter, Harvest), Christmas is going to be the least useful to non-Christians from an open-and-go perspective. Our family does cultural/secular Christmas, so about 75% of the content is still useful — the planning pages, how I’m going to bring the values I want to my family, that sort of thing — but we won’t use the stories.

While there is mention of Yule as a solstice festival, the focus is on Christmas, with Advent as a countdown to Christmas. The Advent story is of Joseph and Mary, and while the guide says it doesn’t focus on the religious aspects and instead calls Jesus the Child of Light, there is still that underlying monotheistic vibe.

Crafts are:

  • Hanging gnome
  • Advent wreath (a clay ring with 4 candles; you could just make it without tying it to Advent)
  • Beeswax candle decorating
  • Hanging wreath (fingerknitted)
  • Jingle bell garland
  • Winter gnomes
  • Needle felted ball (tree ornament)
  • Wooden star

Whole Family Birthdays guide

Ages 2-7

The Whole Family Birthdays eGuide contains ideas for simple and nourishing traditions for your little one. This is appropriate for ages 1-6, and could be stretched to a wee bit older. My daughter turns 8 in May and while I can use a few of the ideas, most of it is things we already do for a simple birthday celebration. This is not a guide of party ideas, but more reassurances that simple is good.

Return to Rhythm Mini Course

All ages

Return to Rhythm Mini Course is wonderful! If you are struggling with a daily rhythm, this is for you.

Each section — mealtimes, playtimes, bedtims — has both a few pages of suggestions and also worksheets where you’ll think through what’s working, what you want to change, and then how to make the changes.

It’s a simple formula but so powerful, and for the high return on investment, completely worth the price.

More than any other single thing, having a strong family rhythm will help you create the life you want.

I’m going to dive right in this week on it. While you can use it as-is for your younger kids, it is still very usable with modifications for your olders. For the olders, you’ll want to work through the pages with them.

I plan to work through it as a family, with my husband, 22 year old daughter, and 7 year old.

Whole Family Herbs eGuide

Whole Family Herbs is the only guide that I would honestly tell you to pass on. There are several herbs included, with a recipe for using each one, but the growing information is minimal, and there are no explanations in the Wisdom section for how to actually use the plants.

For example, for Chamomile we have “Chamomile has many medicinal qualities but is best known as classic nervine. It nourishes our nervous system. It is great for insomnia, anxiety, depression, stomach upset due to nerves and headache. For children it is an excellent teething medicine and helps to calm children after lots of excitement or upset.”

The growing information is the same or less than you will find on the back of your seed packet.

And following there is a recipe for Sweet Chamomile Popsicles.

After reading this, I wonder what a nervine is or does, what does “nourishes our nervous system” mean, and how I’m actually supposed to use chamomile for insomnia, stomach upset, etc.

Do I give my child a popsicle before bed? Do I let her chew on a chamomile flower if she’s teething? Do I make it into a tea and rub it on her gums, or put it in a cup for her to drink? Should I make a chamomile salve and rub it on her tummy?

My point is that for this guide to be useful, you would need to have a good background already in how to use herbs… and if you do, then this guide isn’t very useful because you’d already know the information.

It assumes too much prior knowledge for a beginner, and is too basic for an intermediate user. The best skill level for this is an advanced beginner who is looking for some gentle ideas to incorporate some herbs into their children’s lives.

If you’re just looking for a single recipe using an herb, then this guide is ok. Rosemary is stew, chamomile is popsicles, calendula is an easy salve, violets is violet jelly.

#ourfamilyrhythm Printables Bundle

If you are a printables fan and want some for your daily, weekly, and seasonal rhythm, #ourfamilyrhythm Printables Bundle is a good choice. They are beautiful with watercolored pictures.

I am not a printables person. I am more likely to just grab a blank piece of printer paper to draw out my ideas and brainstorm on. I also don’t have a color printer, so to get the beauty of this pack I will need to send in a print order to Staples or Office Max.

Are they nice to have? Sure.

Necessary? Nope.

tl;dr

If you’re looking for guides that will hold your hand as you bring more rhythm and connection to your family, these are for you.

  • Return to Rhythm — all ages. Work through it together with your older kids and partner to craft your family rhythm.
  • Harvest, Easter, Christmas eGuides — all ages if using as a guide to craft your own meaningful celebrations, elementary and younger as-is
  • Seasonal Guides — (winter, spring, summer, fall) — ages 2-7 as your primary guide, ages 7-9 as a supplement to your days and to add connection
  • Birthday — ages 2-7
  • Herbs — probably skip this one
  • Printables — pretty but unnecessary

I purchased the All Guides Bundle and added on the Printables pack and Unplug Childhood Training. Since Unplug Childhood Training starts on Sundays, I haven’t yet received the first email to begin and give you a review.

Whole Family Rhythms is a wonderful group of guides to to bring peace, joy, and connection to your home. Visually stunning, and nurturing of both mama and child, I’m sure you will love them as much as I do.

blowing bubbles with child whole family rhythms review

I know you’ve seen it around. The Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six.

Maybe you’ve wondered what exactly it’s supposed to be. Maybe you’ve looked at it and your own child’s skills, and felt lacking. Like there’s no way your child is there, so obviously it’s a ridiculous and outdated set of standards and you’ll just skip it.

Or maybe you’ve looked at it and thought, yep, my 6 year old can do all that. We’re good. Now I can move on to my other curriculum knowing that I’ve got those boxes checked.

But what exactly was the purpose of the List of Attainments for a Child of Six?

I dug deeper to find out, and what I found was that there are a lot of misinterpretations floating around the interwebs.

THE MOST COMMON PERCEPTIONS:

The first is that it is a list of what your child should know before he or she starts a Charlotte Mason education. A list of First Grade Readiness Skills, as it were.

These parents want to use the list as a preschool curriculum, to make sure their child is ready to begin Charlotte Mason homeschooling at 6.

The second most common perception is that it’s a list of six year old developmental milestones, circa 1890. You know the type: “By the age of 4, most children can kick a ball, stand on one foot for four or five seconds, and use scissors with supervision”.

This creates quite a bit of panic among new homeschoolers, who look at the list and think, “my child can’t recognize 3 birds! Oh no!”

Most places online attributed the List to Ambleside Online, but there was no attribution there either, other than “a curriculum outline from the 1890s”. No specification to what year.

But it does say “a curriculum outline” … which means that it’s the outline of a curriculum, not pre-requisite skills.

I found one post that said it was from a Parents’ Review article published in the ’90s by Karen Andreola, so I searched every Parents’ Review article digitized at the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection before I realized that, ahem, the blog author meant the 1990s, not the 1890s.

Ha!

Karen Andreola published a new version of the Parents’ Review in the 1990s. I’ve immersed myself so much in Charlotte Mason primary sources that it didn’t even occur to me I was looking in the wrong century!

I contacted Karen, and she has been very gracious answering my questions. While she couldn’t remember the exact year that she got the curriculum outline from, nor if she’d renamed it herself to A Formidable List of Attainments (and who could blame her? This was 20-some-odd-years ago!) she was kind enough to snap a picture of her original republishing and send it to me.

Here is a transcription of it:

A FORMIDABLE LIST OF ATTAINMENT FOR A CHILD OF SIX

To recite, beautifully, six easy poems and hymns.

To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm.

To add and subtract numbers up to ten, with dominoes or counters.

To read — what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child; children vary much in their power of reading.

To copy in print- hand from a book.

To know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows.

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

To describe any lake, river, pond, island, &c, within easy reach.

To tell quite accurately (however shortly) three stories from Bible history, three from early English, and three from early Roman history.

To be able to describe three walks and three views.

To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

To do the same with the leaves and flowers of six forest trees.

To know six birds, by song, colour, and shape.

To send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed.

To tell three stories about their own “pets” — rabbit, dog, or cat.

To name twenty common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences.

To sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song.

To keep a caterpillar, and tell the life story of a butterfly from his own observations.

A formidable list of attainments for a child of five or six, but it is nearly all play-work, and to be done out-of-doors. The “sit-still” work should not occupy more than an hour and a half daily, and the time-table will show how all can be done, little by little, by day-by-day efforts. Our aim is to gather up the fragments of the child’s desultory knowledge, so that nothing be lost. There is no waste more sad than the waste of those early years when the child’s curiosity is keen and his memory retentive, and when he might lay up a great store of knowledge of the world he lives in with pure delight to himself; but this fine curiosity is allowed to spend itself on trivial things, and the retentive memory — does it not sometimes store the idle gossip of the maids?

When we look at that last paragraph, it says “A formidable list of attainments for a child of five or six, but it is nearly all play-work, and to be done out-of-doors.”

This is where I believe Ms. Andreola took the title from.

THE FORMIDABLE LIST VS. 1891 CURRICULUM PROGRAMME

After reading quite a bit of primary source material, I came across a curriculum programme from 1891, and it is a pretty darn close match to the Formidable List of Attainments.

This led me to believe that the List is neither a list of readiness skills nor a list of milestones, but rather a curriculum outline to be used and taught.

Let’s compare (I’ve re-ordered the 1891 programme to make this easier):

Formidable List1891 Programme
Recitations:
To recite, beautifully, six easy poems and hymns.

To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm.

To recite, beautifully and perfectly, three poems, three hymns, a parable, and a psalm.
Math:
To add and subtract numbers up to ten, with dominoes or counters.

To add and subtract numbers up to 20, with counters, dominoes, etc.

To make figures up to 10 — a fortnight to be given to the mastery of each figure.

To add little sums, where the answer comes to less than 10, thus 2+3+4.

To subtract units from units, thus 8-3

To work out and learn the multiplication table up to 3×12=36
Reading:
To read — what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child; children vary much in their power of reading.

To read 500 words (see lessons in P.R. for August, 1891)
Writing:
To copy in print- hand from a book.


To be able to copy from a book in simplest print characters, thus, A B C D E F G, etc.

To make good firm strokes and pothooks
Geography:
To know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows.

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

To describe any lake, river, pond, island, &c, within easy reach.

To be able to describe three walks and three views.
(No geography - but:)

To do six Calisthenic or Swedish exercises.
Stories:
To tell quite accurately (however shortly) three stories from Bible history, three from early English, and three from early Roman history.

To know six stories from the Life of Abraham (Gen xii to xx)

To know six stories from the first six chapters of St. Mark.

*To be able to tell six stories of Saxon times

*To be able to tell six Greek stories.
Natural History:
To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

To do the same with the leaves and flowers of six forest trees.

To know six birds, by song, colour, and shape.

To tell three stories about their own “pets” — rabbit, dog, or cat.

To keep a caterpillar, and tell the life story of a butterfly from his own observations.

To be able to tell all about ten living creatures.

*To mount in scrap-book six wild flowers, with leaves; to know their names, and whether they grow in field or hedge or marsh.
Work:
To send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed.

*Three little pieces of work, knitting, cross-stitch and (boys and girls) sewing. Wild flowers, work, kndergarten work, etc, to be sent in for inspection at the end of the term.
French:
To name twenty common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences.


To know forty French names of things; twenty little French phrases.
Singing:
To sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song.

To sing one French song; and to do Tonic Sol-fa Lessons in P.R.

Do you see how very similar these two are, when put side by side? The 1891 programme is a tad bit more difficult, including multiplication tables up to 3×12 for example, but it was also for all of “1st Class”, which is what we would now call Form 1.

In other words, this 1891 programme covered instruction for students ages 6-9.

THE FORMIDABLE LIST WAS A PROGRAMME OF STUDY

Now notice that the List has a line that says “send in work”, which implies that what the child is doing is being sent to a central authority of some kind, rather than simply the detritus of childhood.

When we look at the bits in it, we see that it says “to send in certain Kindergarten or other handwork, as directed” and “the time-table will show how all can be done, little by little, by day-by-day efforts.”

Work was sent in. A time-table was provided.

Those are parts of a directed program, not of a random slew of developmental milestones. And as a directed program, it is not a pre-requisite to that same program.

Another point — the Formidable List has “To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.”

A dozen — one every week.

Twelve weeks. This was to be done over a twelve week period. We know that a ‘term’ was 12 weeks ….

We can see that not only are the two very similar, but as the 1891 programme shows, it is for one term of work.

Let me say that again: A programme of study for a single term.

That means it was directed, with deliberate guidance from the parent.

The student wasn’t left to ‘pick up the information’ on her own. Mother guided the child to these.

If you look at the later programmes for Form IB, you see that, while it has been expanded and made more specific, it is also very similar to both of these.

The Formidable List of Attainments was not a list of “what your six year old should know”, nor was it a list of skills and knowledge a child should have acquired in her preschool years.

It is simply a guide for a term of study, that a child of approximately six years old could do.

If you are delaying starting Form IB until your child is 7, using this as a guide for that “Kindergarten” year of 6 years old is a lovely idea. You still might need to leave off reading and writing, but this is actually quite similar to what I’m doing did with my own six year old.

As the ending paragraph says, “it is nearly all play-work, to be done out doors”.

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