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Based on the number of emails I’ve received asking about an updated Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year, there are a lot of you out there already starting to plan your next school year! Props to you as I haven’t even finalized my term 3 for this year and it starts in less than two weeks. 😳
I did, however, take the time to update the kindergarten curriculum for those who have asked. The biggest changes were updating the artist/composer/folksong/hymn selections to reflect the Ambleside Online schedule as well as changing a few of the handicrafts (including eliminating one of the books) and rescheduling them around holidays. I also replaced one of the books in another subject and added more readings from a few of the other books that were already scheduled.
To give you a bit of a sneak peek at the new curriculum, I’m providing a free booklist below that includes all of the selections I’ve scheduled this year. Feel free to use this in your own homeschool and schedule them as works best for you. If you do decide that you’d like a little more help with fitting it all into a nice weekly format, you can see a sample of the weekly schedules as well as pick up your own copy of the kindergarten curriculum here.
As always, I’m going to add my usual caveats….
I want to emphasize before diving into the booklist that Charlotte Mason did not recommend any type of formal education for children before the age of six.
How much time daily in the open air should the children have? And how is it possible to secure this for them? In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mothers first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone––body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus amongst happy influences which incline them to be good. (vol 1 pg 43)
My original impetus for creating this curriculum was the fact that my son’s birthday falls in August and when he turned six, I didn’t think he was quite ready for AO Year 1, so I decided to do a type of Year 0.5 with him. A great help to determine where your child might fall is the Ambleside Online Forums where there are many, many threads in which other mothers have asked if they should go ahead with Year 1, or wait. I’d recommend starting there before you decide if this particular curriculum is a year you need or even want to add to your schedule.
If you’re planning on implementing Charlotte Mason’s philosophies in your own homeschool, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to read her books and familiarize yourself with her educational tenets. I can offer this booklist, schedule, and notes, but if you aren’t familiar with her principles or the techniques she suggests for education, it can be challenging to successfully use her methods to teach your children. You can most certainly do this while you are homeschooling (as opposed to doing it all before you start) as many mothers, myself included, do. I have yet to read through all of her volumes, but I’m making my way steadily through them and other Charlotte Mason-related resources and learning as I go.
A good starting place is Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake which will give you a great overview. However, nothing can replace Ms. Mason’s own words and the AO website offers all of her original six-volume series for free (or you can buy print copies on Amazon) as well as a modern paraphrase version. These books can be challenging to read, but are so worth it. If you find it easier reading along with others, the AO forums host several book groups that are reading through a volume at any given time.
For us, an average day doing AO Year 1 takes about 2 hours. In contrast, the kindergarten curriculum, without a morning time, takes about 20 minutes per day if you’re doing 4 days per week as we did (with a nature walk day on Friday). If you choose to do five days per week, it would take even less time each day. With the morning time that we did, it was about 40 minutes in all. Some days are longer than others, but for the most part, we usually began our days at around 9:30 to 9:45 and were done by 10:15 or 10:30.
Another note I want to add is that I did not require narration, a tenet of Charlotte Mason education for children ages six and up, during the kindergarten year. I would occasionally ask my son what he thought of or if he remembered anything in particular from a reading, but if he didn’t have an answer, I didn’t force the issue. Again, this is your call, but I felt this was not something I needed to require of him at this stage.
Also, a disclaimer in that this is not an exhaustive kindergarten curriculum for states in which kindergarten is required (especially as it does not include any kind of formal reading instruction). If you happen to decide to use this curriculum, please make sure you’re meeting your state’s requirements for subjects covered, etc, if necessary.
Finally, I want to suggest that this curriculum is meant to be flexible. Feel free to change it as you see fit, insert other books, leave sections out, whatever you need to do. When I first made this, it was actually a hodge-podge of a few other curricula I found online as well as some things that I wanted to include. Make it fit your family’s needs rather than the other way around!
I would suggest pre-reading this one just to know what’s coming. While I don’t think the material is offensive, there are mentions of battles and weapons (though not really any violence that I can remember) and there were two notes that I made while reading it: in “Going to Sea,” Washington’s servant (or possibly slave) is simply referred to as a black boy. I changed this just to “servant.” (We addressed race and slavery issues in Year 1 with the book, Farmer George Plants a Nation.) Also, in “The Story of a Great Story,” there is a mention about how all boys know the story of Robinson Crusoe – I just changed this to “all children.” I know it’s a tiny thing, but I thought I’d mention it.
Also, I did skip some of the readings just to fit them into 36 weeks. Feel free to look through the unread ones to see if you’d like to add those in somewhere.
In case you’ve already read Fifty Famous People or just don’t care for it, you can definitely substitute something else. Yesterday’s Classics offers quite a few history books (in particular, I was interested in America First and American History Stories). A reader also mentioned Beautiful Feet Books as a good source as well and I was particularly interested in their Child’s First Book of American History. You could also just leave it out completely if you’d rather. I don’t think history is necessary for Kindergarten, but if your child likes being read to, it’s a nice little addition.
- Children Just Like Me (DK Books)
- The Irish Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins (free on Kindle and Gutenberg)
- wall maps (optional)
- globe (optional)
Children Just Like Me introduces you and your kids to different children from around the world and provides a little information about what their lives are like, including their family, what they like to eat, religions, and what they do in school. These are scheduled in such a way that you read about a continent or region as well as a one-page write-up about a child living in that region one day, and then that’s followed by one or two more two-page readings from two more children in that region. The book does include maps, but on the days that you read the continent/region overview, I’d highly recommend pulling out a globe and a world map so you can show your student the particular area you’re reading about that day. I tried to be diverse and asked for my son’s favorites when choosing these, but feel free to substitute as you see fit!
I chose The Irish Twins because my side of the family is Irish, so I wanted to expose our kids to some of our heritage. However, Lucy Fitch Perkins wrote quite a few of these books covering other countries and nationalities as well (free on Kindle and also a few on gutenberg.org – check to make sure they’re age appropriate), so you can easily switch out however you see fit. This is another book that you may want to read in advance. In particular, chapter three (The Tale of the Leprechaun), the poor Leprechaun has his life threatened, and chapter seven (The Bog), in which they tell the story of Deirdre and the sons of Usnach, has a little (very non-descriptive) violence.
- Among the Night People by Clara Dillingham Pierson (free on Kindle and Gutenberg)
- Seed Babies by Margaret Warner Morley (free on Google Books)
The original curriculum had Old Mother West Wind which was replaced by Among the Night People simply because I think the Pierson books give a better look at actual nature, while the Burgess books (which are used heavily in the AO curriculum and are mostly free on Kindle) are more about the stories. My son loves both series, though, so either one will do and you could easily add any one of the Burgess books (or more of the Pierson books – also free on Kindle) outside of the curriculum if you’re wanting to read more.
Seed Babies is just a fun book all around. My only suggestion is to grow your own beans at home as you work your way through the chapters so your student can see what’s discussed in the book firsthand.
- One Small Square Backyard by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne
- Science in Seconds by Jean Potter
- One Small Square Pond by Donald Silver and Patricia Wynne
The One Small Square books are nice because you can use them either in the “real world,” meaning you can actually do the one small square in your backyard or a pond, or you can just play along in the book if you don’t have a yard or access to a pond. For each of these, I read the main text and then went around and read all of the little captions, pointing to the object that it was referring to. There are a few side projects that you can do that may require additional supplies, but they’re completely optional.
For Science in Seconds, I’d highly recommend reading each unit at the beginning of the week so you know what you’ll need for science time in advance (I’ve also included Supply Lists in the curriculum). Your household items may be different than mine, so you may want to look over the other activities to see if there is one that you’d rather do. Otherwise, I tried to choose those that didn’t require a lot of supplies and were pretty simple to do.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
- The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
- Beatrix Potter – The Complete Tales
- The Children’s Treasury of Virtues by William J. Bennett
These three are fairly straightforward. The Beatrix Potter Complete Tales linked above contains all of the curriculum readings and is a beautiful addition to your book collection. The Children’s Treasury of Virtues is no longer in print, but I was able to find it reasonably priced and in very good condition on bookfinder.com (which I’d highly recommend for all of the books you need to buy). You could also buy each of the three books it contains separately as they are still in print: The Children’s Book of Virtues, The Children’s Book of Heroes, and The Children’s Book of America (all by William J. Bennett).
If you are outside of the United States, feel free to omit or substitute for any or all of The Children’s Treasury of Virtues as some of the stories (particularly in the third term) are specific to US history.
- Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls by Helen Ferris
This is an excellent collection of poetry! The original schedule was from another blog that offered a literature-based kindergarten curriculum, but I did make some modifications after we did our first year. Feel free to substitute poems and poets however suits your family!
- MEP Reception (free)
I highly recommend MEP Reception if you want or need to do some kind of math curriculum but don’t want to spend a lot of (or any other than printing costs) money. My son absolutely loved the games and really enjoyed the crafts too. The activities are cute and engaging and mostly short, with no structured math. There are estimated times to the left of each activity, but in our experience, the activities never took as long as listed and I’m guessing this is because we didn’t do it in a normal classroom setting with many children.
MEP is a spiral approach, so not strictly Charlotte Mason, but many Charlotte Mason educators do use it successfully with their students (you can read a review by Brandy Vencel here) and it is listed as one of the preferred options on Ambleside Online.
When it comes to things like this, I’m a paper kind of girl, so I did print out both the lesson plans and the copymasters, but you could probably get away with only printing the copymasters if you want to read the lesson plans on a screen and save some ink and paper. I’ve also tried to include a supply list of the things we used in the Supply Lists section. For the most part, these are probably things that you have around the house. There was one activity (37.2) that required plasticene to form animals, but you could easily use modeling clay or salt-dough as well (we actually just skipped this one). Also, because we didn’t have enough people in our family to fill all the roles of the “family,” I just printed them out on cardstock and made little stands for them. It worked well throughout the year.
If you’re wanting to start using a math curriculum that will carry you through 8th grade and are willing to spend some money, we began using RightStart Math in Year 1 and I can’t recommend it enough, though it is pricey.
- Bob Books Pre-Reader Collection (includes My First Bob Books: Alphabet and My First Bob Books: Pre-Reading Skills)
These books start in term 2 and continue on through term 3. This is not really any type of strict reading instruction but instead is really just you reviewing alphabet sounds, patterns, and sequencing by reading the short stories and doing the activities at the end of the books with them.
My son wasn’t quite ready to learn to read when we started our kindergarten year and I didn’t want to put pressure on him to do so, so we took it very slow. If your child is showing interest in learning to read and has these basic skills down, we used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons during Year 1 with success.
The selections in this category were taken from the Ambleside Online Composer Study Schedule. For any of these pieces, I suggest checking to see if your library is part of the Freegal Music Service as you may be able to get all of these tracks for free. You can also visit the Ambleside Composer Schedule to find links to free resources for some of the music.
At the beginning of each term, I download the music to an ancient iPod we have that my son gets to use, then play the music while he is doing his copywork or when we’re in the car. I also use the Plex app to make a playlist on my computer that can play on the TV while the kids are in the family room playing Lego or doing some other hands-on activities around the house. There is definitely more you can do in this area, including reading well-written biographies of the composer or searching for live performances of the pieces in your area, but I think this is a good start for kindergarten and at least gets them exposed to excellent music.
Hymns and folksongs are also based on the Ambleside Schedule. These are done during morning time, though they can also be added to the playlist I mentioned above, and rotated out each month. I have substituted in these categories as well based on how I feel about the song choice or if we happen to already own an album that has good options for these categories. Again, make it your own if you’re not happy with the selections offered!
- The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children by Suzanne Gross and Sally Fallon Morell
- The Artful Year by Jean Van’t Hul
These probably don’t fit the strict definition of “handicrafts,” but I tried to choose activities that create things that are useful, beautiful, and/or incorporate nature. I think how we as parents respond to the things our children make also defines how they’re “used.” If we show (real) pride in their work and display it in our homes, it shows them that what they make has value.
There are also quite a few recipes as I do believe cooking is a handicraft, and I used The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children as Nourishing Traditions is suggested in AO Year 12.
For this, I just used whatever poem we were memorizing during morning time and made copy pages from worksheetworks.com with it using these settings:
This allows for usually only about four to eight words per page, which was just right for my son. If you find that you’ve used up all of your sheets for the month, you can make more sheets with any Bible verses, hymns, or folksongs you’re memorizing or listening to as well.
There are good arguments for actually starting your kids with cursive before print, however, that’s outside the scope of this curriculum. If that’s something you might be interested in (I’ve done it with my son in Year 1), there are some great articles that can be found on Google about this topic.
The curriculum book also contains a section on Morning Time and what we included (prayer, Bible reading, folksong, hymn, poetry, picture study, etc.).
You can also view a sample of the book here.
I hope this list is helpful to anyone out there looking for a sort of in-between year before they dive headlong into Year 1! If you’re interested in term overviews with all the subjects as well as weekly schedules with all the readings to get through it in 36 weeks, you can check out the curriculum at the link below.