I have always been of the mindset that it was better to wait on “school things” for my son, following a better-late-than-early approach. I hadn’t pushed him to start reading at an early age or tried to force any kind of structured preschool program on him and was quite happy with those decisions. When he turned six in August of 2016, I wanted to do something more “official” with him that fall, but I didn’t think he was quite ready for Ambleside Online (AO) Year 1. So, I started to look around for some kind of alternative.
If anyone else reading this has tried searching for a good Year 0.5 curriculum, you’ll know that it can be pretty frustrating. I’d find a post that someone had put up with a beautiful book list, but no idea how to implement it on a weekly basis. I found posts with very intense curricula that looked like they’d take longer than even a typical AO Year 1 week would. And I found others that claimed to be Charlotte Mason but had pretty questionable book selections.
For this reason, I decided to make my own Charlotte Mason Year 0.5 Curriculum! And because it was so difficult for me to find one that I liked, I’ve decided to share mine with others who might be in the same spot. If you fall into this weird Year 1? Year 0? limbo, I sincerely hope it is a help to you!
I want to emphasize 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. Make it fit your family’s needs rather than the other way around!