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Finally, a secular, updated version of Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography! Living Geography for the Primary Grades

Reading Elementary Geography to my seven-year-old, I grimaced, face scrunched as I rushed to cover the blunder, “Whoops! We CAN go to the moon now. When this was written we couldn’t.”

Later, reading about hot and cold countries, my stomach lurched. My shoulders tightened as I thought, “Do we really need a throwaway line that people with dark skins live there? Because everyone who reads this must be light-skinned, right?” 

Wish you could read aloud from the book without pre-reading, without editing-on-the-fly, without your stomach doing gymnastics, and knowing you have everything you need for today’s lesson?

Me, too.

While I love Charlotte Mason’s geography book, some bits have always been sticking points. 

The religious imagery in poems, the outdated information, the colonialism.

Oh, the colonialism.

If I could write the perfect book, they would be gone.

I dreamed also of an updated version with a variety of poetry styles written by diverse authors, supply lists so I’d be able to easily do the demonstrations when we read about them, notes that would explain sticky portions.

After years of waiting, I finally realized no one was going to do it for me. Faced with yet another year of using Elementary Geography, I grabbed a notebook and pen and sketched out what my ideal version would look like.

Charlotte Mason’s voice, but better.

Be the change you want to see in the world, right?

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Living Geography for the Primary Grades

Announcing: a completely secular and updated version of Charlotte Mason’s first geography book, with the new title Living Geography for the Primary Grades: Secular Charlotte Mason for the 21st Century.

Let’s go through the changes.

READ: WHAT ARE LIVING BOOKS?

Secular Geography

I’ve altered all in-text references to “God” by either changing to “nature” or “the universe”, removing throwaway lines, or rewording the sentence.

The poems, though? Charlotte Mason loved poetry, that’s no secret. She felt we should read it every day. But many of the poems had Christian references in them, which right off the bat is a no-go for non-Christians.

I searched high and low for wonderful poems to replace her choices. Not only do the new poems reflect a variety of styles, but I deliberately searched for diverse poets.

READ: IS CHARLOTTE MASON ONLY FOR CHRISTIANS?

Diversity in Poets

This might be the improvement I’m most proud of. After I found replacements for all the religious poems, I sat back and looked at the poets.

My satisfaction turned to unease as I realized there was little diversity. Most poets were English.

As I searched for more diverse authors, I ran into a problem — there isn’t much in the public domain written by poets of color. There are many reasons behind this, but mostly it was difficult to get published as a non-white author before the early 1920s, which is what is in the public domain in the United States.

Though I had a limited pool to draw from, I was excited to find several amazing poems that slid right in to the themes in Living Geography. So many, in fact, I added even more poetry than Charlotte Mason had.

Here’s the breakdown of poets:

Deaf or Blind:

  • Fanny Crosby
  • Joseph Schuyler (2 poems)

Poets of Color:

  • Angela Weld Grimke 
  • James E. McGirt
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar (3 poems)
  • King Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti
  • Langston Hughes
  • Sarojini Naidu

(8 of the 17 poems)

Male Poets:

  • James Schuyler (2 poems)
  • James E. McGirt
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar (3 poems)
  • Coleridge
  • King Akhenaten
  • Langston Hughes

(9 of the 17 poems)

Female Poets:

  • Jane Taylor
  • Eliza Cook
  • Fanny Crosby
  • Mary Howitt
  • Valerie Dohren
  • Queen Nefertiti
  • Sarojini Naidu
  • Angela Weld Grimke
  • Lydia Maria Child

(9 of the 17 poems — one is attributed to both King Ahkenaten and Queen Nefertiti)

Now, many of these poets do have a Christian background, but each poem is secular. No worries about being blindsided by a reference to heaven.

Living Geography: Updated Facts

Surprisingly, very little required updating here. Galileo lived about 400 years ago, not 300. Men have been to the moon and gotten off the planet. 

I’ve kept the bulk of the map-making lesson but reworded it to reflect that even though we now have satellites and computer technology, before those came into use people mapped the land by hand.

No More Colonialism and Gender Bias

The original Elementary Geography contained some cringeworthy colonialist phrasing, especially towards the end. Much of it couldn’t be salvaged.

Delete.

Women are and have been astronomers and mapmakers and serve in the army and navy, and our children need to see that.

I rewrote phrasing to “men and women”, “people”, or in one case, “humans”.

But you know what would make it even better? If you could have notes about facts and terms you’re not familiar with.

READ: ULTIMATE LIST OF LISTS TO DIVERSE BOOKS

Notes on Teaching

Many lessons now include a short “Notes on Teaching” at the beginning. These notes range from what “to speak a ship” means, to definitions of “star” and which one Charlotte Mason was referring to, to when and why the word “Negro” fell out of favor regarding Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. 

And that’s all good, but as you’re reading through the lesson in Elementary Geography, it says, “take an orange and run a knitting needle through it”.

You cast your mind to the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter and suck in a breath as you remember… all you have are bananas. 

Welp, you won’t be doing this demonstration today.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you knew ahead of time what supplies you needed for the lesson?

Supply lists, check

This new version includes not one, not two, but three supply lists.

  • A master list of all supplies you’ll need
  • a supply list sorted by lesson so you can look ahead at what you need this term
  • supply lists at the start of each lesson so you know what you need today

Yep, let’s make it easy.

Digitally enhanced images

All the original images are here, but they’ve been enhanced or recreated for crispness.

Teddy bears should be fuzzy, not illustrations.

Original Image:

fuzzy image of solar system

New Image:

crisp new image of solar system

The result of this massive reworking? 

An amazing living geography book, easy for busy homeschooling parents to use…written in Charlotte Mason’s voice but safe for all families.

No matter what ethnicity your family is, what spiritual beliefs you have or don’t have, or what gender your kids are, you can read through this book OUT LOUD without your stomach doing backflips.

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Do We Have to Start Lessons at 6?

What Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers Ought to Learn from Waldorf

How Fast Do We Read Books in a CM Education?

How to Make the Best Loop Schedule to Banish Overwhelm

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

pinterest pin girl in red shirt and braid lower rigth corner pointing to the sky, boy in blue striped shirt with aviator hat, binoculars, and scarf behind her, chimney behind them. text reads Living Geography for the Primary Grades checkmark secular checkmark supply lists check mark up to date checkmark diverse poets

blowing bubbles secular preschool programs
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

Learn how to introduce music and an instrument to your early elementary child even if you have absolutely no idea how to do it.

Living Music from the Heart

(Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. This means if you buy after clicking through a link, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

You’ve thought about a piano or keyboard like Charlotte Mason recommended, but that’s just too expensive right now. Besides, you have a small house with nowhere to put one.

You need a simple way to introduce an instrument to your young student that’s easy for you to fit into your life. Oh, and it has to be engaging for your wiggly child. AND it can’t break the bank.

If this sounds like you, then consider Volume 1: The Magic Flute by Jodie Messler 

I bought this program for my own 6-year-old and we’ve been working through it joyfully this year. (edit – we are now at 8 years old and going through it again)

Living Music from the Heart comes from a Waldorf background, but as with other Waldorf-inspired curricula I’ve reviewed and loved, it isn’t specific to a Waldorf style.  By that I mean, there’s nothing in it that you’d have to throw out to use with our Charlotte Mason education.

In Waldorf circles, students don’t start academics until the year they will be 7 for most of it.  In other words, if your child turns 7 in spring, they will generally wait until the following autumn to begin studies.

I recommend the same thing for most kids in a Charlotte Mason education, because most children at a young 6 just aren’t ready for “school.”

Living Music from the Heart is a lovely transitional program for your Kindergarten-at-6 year, and is also suitable up to age 9 for a child with no musical training.

Let’s get down to what the program actually consists of.

Features of Living Music from the Heart Magic Flute

Living Music introduces music theory to your child by teaching her to play the penny whistle by ear.  You can also use it to teach yourself the recorder or pentatonic flute, but you’ll need to YouTube the different fingering for those.

The tin whistle/pennywhistle is an inexpensive instrument that is easy for both a child and an adult to learn, so it is perfect for this age.   Waldorf methodology calls for a “blowing instrument” at these early years, but I like it for Charlotte Mason also because a piano is simply out of reach for many of us.

The program itself is a course on the thinkific platform and includes not only pdfs but videos as well, of every lesson. 

And… there are 9 teacher lessons, to teach YOU  how to play the instrument.

Not only that, but there is a video of Jodie teaching her own son a lesson. You can see just what can be expected of a young student!  It was so reassuring to see that even Jodie had to call him back a few times to keep him on track.

When my own daughter started giggling and ran out of the room during a lesson, I knew it wasn’t a problem with her. It was just the age — because I’d seen Jodie’s son do the same thing!

The entire course consists of 20 lessons, divided into four blocks over the entire calendar year.  Each lesson is marked with what time frame it works best for, like “May be used for weeks 1 & 2 of September”.

If you fall off schedule, it’s not a big deal.

It’s seasonal in that, for example, October music has a Jack O Lantern song. But as a bonus in the program are songs for autumn, Christmas, winter, spring, and summer songs. It’s so easy to just substitute an appropriate song. Those are also songs that the parent plays, so you don’t have to worry that your child doesn’t yet know those notes.

In addition, your child will knit a case for his tin whistle over the course of the year.  If you struggle to get any sort of handwork into your life, this is a simple, no-fuss way to do it!

Breakdown of lessons

Let me break the program down to an easy-to-digest format:

7 Teacher Lessons

20 lessons for your child

The 20 lessons are divided into 4 blocks (Wind, Fire, Earth, Water)

The first 16 lessons are to be done at a pace of 2 weeks per lesson (totally flexible though — let’s be honest here, sometimes that pace just doesn’t work for our family life!)

The last 4 lessons are to be done at 1 lesson per month.  These are scheduled over May, June, July, and August.  They are a really nice way to keep up over the summer, without feeling like your child is still keeping to a school schedule.

Each lesson consists of reviewing notes learned, rhythm practice via hand clap games, a song to learn (either singing or on the tin whistle), and often a separate game to play.

For each lesson, there is a pdf of what you will be teaching, plus a short video of Jodie demonstrating the songs and hand claps.

Children are encouraged to pick up the flute throughout the week and play it. Not play with it (we don’t want them turning into pretend-swords!) but actually play the pennywhistle throughout the week.

What Your Child will Learn

Your child won’t learn to play the pennywhistle like a virtuoso in Level 1 — you will only teach a few notes to your child at this level.  What your child will learn is

  • to play the notes B, A, and G properly, and by ear
  • how to finger them on a starter flute
  • rhythm
  • fast and slow
  • hand clap games
  • that playing music is fun and not stressful

I feel like that list doesn’t get across the way the curriculum feels though. It is written directly to the homeschooling mom and is full of gentleness and beauty. While each activity is short because a 6-year-old’s attention span is, it doesn’t feel like you are rushing from one thing to the next.

This course is for you if you want a different way of teaching music than the academic way you were taught.

Who This is not for

As much as I love the program, it’s not the right fit for everyone. So who shouldn’t buy it?

  • If you want an academic approach with reading music
  • If you want a particular style of teaching, like Suzuki
  • If your child is 7-9 years old and you know how to play the pennywhistle or pentatonic flute, start with Volume 2 rather than Volume 1

What are the cons?

Cost — Isn’t that always a concern? The current price is $125, and sometimes that can feel out of reach. I can help with that, though, because …

I have a coupon code for you! Purchase through this link and use coupon code green for $25 off

Production quality – the videos were filmed several years ago in Jodie’s house, and the production quality of them isn’t professional. It’s not a turn off to me (I’m teaching it in my own house, after all), but it’s something to be aware of upfront.

The good of this program far outweighs the cons, and overall it’s an excellent program for early elementary homeschools.

Have you used this program or any others from Living Music from the Heart? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

Related posts:

Legends of the Staff of Musique: An Honest Review 
13 Secular Preschool Programs for Charlotte Mason homes
Do We Have to Start Lessons at 6?

Want to remember this review of Living Music from the Heart — Magic Flute: Volume 1? Pin it to your favorite homeschool pinterest board!

essential resources paint palette

Discover the six essential resources that will help you create the Charlotte Mason homeschool you’ve dreamed about.

Are you tired of asking for resource ideas, only to get overwhelmed by long lists of books, overly religious content, or the same books recommended over and over?

Just tell me what I really need, you think. I don’t want a a list of thousands of books, I just want to know what are the best resources to support my CM journey.

Who has time to read the 1,347,567 “most essential” books? Not me!

Instead, I’ve narrowed down my favorites list to just six resources that I consider necessary (and they aren’t all books, either — because a Charlotte Mason education is about so much more than books).

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Essential Resource #1: Charlotte Mason Digital Collection

The Charlotte Mason Digital Collection is a treasure trove of primary source material.

From the original volumes to Parents’ Reviews and personal correspondence, the CMDC is an online repository for all things Charlotte Mason. You can do hundreds of hours of research here.

Most of the digitized items are also available at the Internet Archive.

My favorites outside her original volumes are the Parents’ Review, the PNEU programmes, and A Liberal Education for All.

Essential Resource #2: Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young

If I could only have one resource outside of Charlotte Mason’s own writings, it would be Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young.

One of Charlotte Mason’s top goals was to raise naturalists, and no other book or guide provides the sort of instruction that this one does.

It is full of not only inspiration but also hand-holding and thoroughly tested activities that engage children in nature connection, and so sneakily that they often don’t even realize it’s happening.

I have two copies: one for own home and one for our cabin. That’s how essential I consider this book.

If you are outside the U.S. and shipping is prohibitive, 8Shields.org sells it as a digital download, too.

Unsure if you’ll like Jon Young’s style? Watch some of his videos that are on YouTube to check him out first.

Essential Resource #3: Good Watercolor Paints and Decent Brushes

Painting (or “brush drawing”) is an integral part of a Charlotte Mason education.

Crayola-type watercolor pans will last a whole entire weekend at my house, and I just can’t afford to keep my daughter supplied. (Let’s not even mention the crappy brush that comes with in those pans!)

Instead, I made a small investment in tube watercolor paints, decent paint brushes, and a palette that closes securely.

Now, these are not professional tools or even super-high-quality, but they do the job well. I bought them all four years ago and they are still going strong.

You could easily get away with fewer paints (my set has 30 and many of them I haven’t even touched). This one is only 12 tubes and cheaper.

The tube colors are so much richer than the Crayola pans.

Here’s how to use them for CM-style dry-brush drawing:

  • Put a dollop of watercolor paint into a section of your palette and let it dry. This will take from 12 hours to a few days, depending on your air temperature and humidity.
  • Once they are dry, wet your brush and use it to drip a teeny amount of water on the top of one of the palette squares of paint. You just want to rehydrate the top layer, not make a big sloppy puddle.
  • When the paints have been slightly rehydrated, they are ready for use. You want that layer on top thicker than water, thinner than glue. Probably a milk or even light cream consistency will be close.
  • Dip the tip of a damp brush into the rehydrated watercolor, and paint away.

Essential Resource #4: Golden Guides

The Golden Guides from St. Martin’s Press are our go-to field guides. They’re the first ones we grab because they contain the most common specimens we’re likely to see and they are accessible for both kids and adults.

Enough information to give you a good overview of what you’re looking for without going into so much detail that it’s overwhelming.

We will often first identify a specimen in our Golden Guides, then if we want to dig deeper we’ll go to a thicker, more comprehensive field guide. Often, the bigger field guide doesn’t really have more information than the Golden Guide.

There are over 30 Golden Guides in the series, but our favorites are Birds, Insects, and Reptiles and Amphibians.

Essential Resource #5 Simplicity Parenting by Dr. Kim John Payne

Not a specifically Charlotte Mason resource, but the best guide on parenting that I’ve ever read.

I re-read it yearly (it applies to young children all the way through teenagers) and also give it as part of my standard baby shower package.

I can’t even remember how many copies I’ve bought to give away.

Read.

This.

Book.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

Essential Resource #6: Sturdy Unlined Notebooks

For Nature Note Books, for drawing the lizard the kids just caught, for making notes about the tracks in the puddle in the muddy spot in the backyard.

My favorite are the heavy coil-bound sketch books you can get from JoAnn’s, Michael’s, and even Walmart.

Stay with 50lb paper or heavier. I’ve used Strathmore, Canson, and Art 1st and have been very happy with all of them.

We even have a tablet from Melissa and Doug, but at 8.5″ x 11″, it’s a bit big.

For easy portability, 5.5″ x 8.5″ or 6″ x 9″ work well.

JoAnn and Michaels often have their sketchbooks on sale, and I wouldn’t pay full price for them. They also often have 40% off coupons if you don’t want to wait for a sale.

And, both Michaels and JoAnn give their Teacher Discount to homeschoolers, which gives an additional 15% off.

These are my favorite resources for a Charlotte Mason lifestyle

Quick recap (because who wants to scroll all the way back through the post?)

Do you have others that you love? Let me know in the comments!

Want to save this for later? Pin it to your favorite homeschool Pinterest board!

charlotte mason essential resources

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

Legends of the Staff of Musique review pinterest with bouncing gold musical note

Do you struggle with how to teach music to your early elementary student? Have you tried music books written for teachers, but been frustrated? They either assume you have a background in music, or at the very least that you are substituting in a music class with 15 children!

Almost every lesson needs to be reformatted to work with your one, or two, or three children.

Do you want a music curriculum that brings in beauty?

That respects the homeschooling family?

That works with a Charlotte Mason philosophy without modification?

That knows you might have only one student, or two?

That teaches without a text?

I searched for years for one myself, and finally Crystal Hosea has released just what we are looking for!

 

Foundations of Music, Legends of the Staff of Musique

Foundations of Music is based on Kodály (pronounced ko-DIE, rhymes with eye) music philosophy. Zoltán Kodály believed that every child has music inside of them, and it is our duty as educators to bring that out through the folk songs of our culture.

When I first read about Kodály, I thought it sounded exactly like what Charlotte would do!

Foundations of Music is based on 7 lessons, each with a 4 day schedule. Crystal recommends a once per week rhythm, with each lesson lasting no more than 20-30 minutes. With this schedule, there is plenty of time in the school year for breaks, for being sick, for repeating days that were especially fun.

I would even venture to say that if it seems like a lesson will take you 30 minutes, perhaps consider splitting it up into 2 days, especially if your kids are starting to get wiggly.

Crystal is a homeschooling mother herself and knows our struggles. Her music program is written for us, which is so refreshing! Using other music programs written for teachers, I’ve felt like I was an interloper, like I was an imposter using material that wasn’t meant for me.

She doesn’t assume that you know anything about music yourself.

TOPICS COVERED

The topics covered are similar to those in Jolly Music Beginners, which I also own. The difference is that Jolly Music is written for a teacher with 15 or more students in a class and all the activities reflect that assumption.

Foundations of Music explores high/low, soft/loud, fast/slow, smooth/jerky, short/long, and beat.

AGE RANGE

Foundations of Music is good for ages 6-9, but was written specifically for the 7 year old student using Waldorf methods.

However, there is nothing specifically Waldorf in the lessons. By that I mean, there is nothing that won’t work well with a Charlotte Mason education, and there is no talk of anthroposophy. In the introduction, Crystal touches on who Rudolph Steiner was and his philosophy of education, while the lessons have your child make a Main Lesson Book.

If you don’t want to make a Main Lesson Book, just use loose sheets of paper to do those activities.

It is wonderful for Form 1 students using Charlotte Mason’s methods.

Since we are starting Wildwood Form IB next year when my daughter is 7, I haven’t started using it yet. But the activities look fun, and they are in the spirit of Wildwood Curriculum Form 1. They are beautiful, joyful, and gentle.

In the PNEU programmes, solfa (sight singing with hand signs) wasn’t begun until Form IA, and then it was still very gentle. Foundations of Music also doesn’t teach solfa; that will come in Level 1 which is currently being developed.

Again, perfect for a Charlotte Mason education!

I love this program so much! My only wish is that it had been released just a few months earlier, before I’d spent the money on Jolly Music. Since I did buy Jolly Music, I’m working through that program slowly and modifying every lesson.

But my plan is to work through Foundations of Music next year when my daughter will be in IB and 7 years old.

The material is presented so differently from Jolly Music that  I know my daughter will love it, even though the information is the same.

What’s included in Foundations of Music?

  • detailed lesson plans
  • captivating companion stories
  • engaging projects and games
  • sheet music for songs referenced in the curriculum
  • samples of student work

Also included is access to the member site where there are

  • quality recordings of listening examples
  • “compose yourself” videos
  • recordings of songs referenced in the curriculum

The singer (I assume it’s Crystal) has a clear and pleasant voice that is easily understandable.

Earlier levels

Legends of the Staff of Musique also has a program called Early Childhood – Cantiamo Tutti. We are currently using it and love it! Again, it falls so completely in with a Charlotte Mason lifestyle that you wouldn’t even know it was Waldorf-inspired if Crystal didn’t tell you.

Still not convinced? There are samples of both Early Childhood and Foundations at the Staff of Musique website.

These are not affiliate links; I am simply in love with this music curriculum and want to share it with the world.

If you buy, send Crystal an email or PM and tell her I sent you.

I cannot recommend this program highly enough.

THE TAKEAWAY

… if you’re looking for a gentle foundational music curriculum for the voice, that is perfectly suited to your Form I student (ages 6-9) and written for a homeschooling parent without a music background…

… if you want the beauty that Waldorf brings to this age group

… then get Foundations of Music from Legends of the Staff Musique

adore this music curriculum.

Want to save the Legends of the Staff of Musique review for later? Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board!

Legends of the Staff of Musique review pinterest with bouncing gold musical note

You’ve wanted to discuss Charlotte Mason’s works in an inclusive, accepting group. One where you felt comfortable sharing your own interpretations of Charlotte Mason’s words based on your own spiritual values. One where you didn’t have to wonder if you’d be asked to leave or simply blocked because you don’t share others’ religious beliefs.

That place now exists.

Disclaimer: This post probably contains affiliate links. That means that if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I use and love myself.

At A Charlotte Mason Plenary, owner Rachel Lebowitz is committed to providing everyone a safe place to discuss Charlotte Mason’s works.

Her first session, a study of Volume I: Home Education, started in early January but I’ve waited to write a review.

I wanted to see how the concept would play out.

How it works

They have several Plenary sessions scheduled for this year, and though I can’t speak to future ones, I can tell you how the book discussion is working.

First, you get a download of the volume that they’ve edited and formatted for easy reading and note-taking. Not only that, but it is annotated with definitions of obscure words, fun facts, and explained references.

Then there is a members-only Facebook group in which Rachel leads a discussion of the material. The discussion has been lively, with viewpoints all over the spectrum. Members vary widely in their religious beliefs, and the conversation is kept respectful and inclusive. We are encouraged to discuss how we can reconcile Charlotte’s words to our own beliefs.

Sometimes this is easy.

Other times we wrestle with it.

Rachel is an admin at Charlotte Mason Secular Homeschoolers (disclaimer: I am a moderator there) and has led inclusive Charlotte Mason groups in her hometown.

The Takeaway

Though I haven’t participated as much as I’d like to, I’ve found the conversation at the Charlotte Mason Plenary welcoming and respectful.

I highly recommend The Plenary if you are looking for resources to help you apply Charlotte Mason’s method to your life without the dogma.