What do a receipt, a friendship bracelet, a prayer card, and a scrap of paper all have in common? They’re all saving me from “lesson planning induced anxiety,” that’s what!
Allow me to back up a little.
Last year, while homeschooling my daughter for first grade, we moved from our home in Florida to a rental home in Tennessee. Then we bought a house and moved AGAIN just a few months later. My husband started a new job. I kept my job but moved to working remotely without the help of childcare. We joined a new co-op. We all got the flu at the same time. All of this while juggling a first grader, a preschooler, and a toddler.
Oh yeah, and right smack in the middle of all of that we had a baby and I was hit with a terrifying bout of postpartum depression.
To say it was stressful would be a supreme understatement. Not much went according to plan and the lesson plans were boxed up and never unpacked. But the beauty of homeschooling is that it can take place wherever “home” happens to be for the moment. While I’m looking forward to educating my second grader and kindergartner in the same house for the entire school year, I still need to keep it s i m p l e. When I sat down to plan our upcoming year, I went straight to the Ambelside Online Emergency Learning Plan which was designed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina for families who needed to continue their children’s education during times of crisis. And with all due respect to actual hurricane victims, my family and I are still operating in survival mode for the time being. Their bare bones plan allowed me to hone in on the absolute best and most important aspects of the classical education we are striving to provide for our family.
Instead of spending my limited time and energy on planning out lessons, making checklists, and penciling in page numbers in my calendar (all things homeschool moms have a reputation for enjoying and/or overdoing), I spent my time and energy finding the best materials I could get my hands on. All of that effort that could go to planning out lessons, instead went to choosing books. And instead of following a list or a calendar that dictates what lesson we are “supposed” to be on, I just stick a bookmark in it.
That’s right. Just stick a bookmark in it! The answer to your lesson planning woes can be found in between your couch cushions and at the bottom of your purse!
No need to plan everything out. When is the last time anything you did went according to plan anyway? What works for our family is to simply have the books I’ve chosen easily available, pick them up, read them aloud as often as possible, and then stick a bookmark in them to return to next time.
Because we follow the principals and methods of Charlotte Mason, our daily lessons don’t require much preparation or planning. Things such as:
- Narration as our main form of assimilating the ideas that have been read. (Because as Charlotte says, “If we can’t tell, we don’t know.”)
- Short, varied lessons to train the habit of focused attention.
- “Living” books that are rich in ideas (rather than dry facts) and are well written by authors who have a passion for the subject.
- Copying beautifully written passages as our main form of handwriting and spelling.
- Nature study and nature journaling as our primary form of science exploration.
With those principals in mind, I set to work selecting the best materials the world has to offer. This will look different in every family, even those families who provide their children with a classical education in the tradition of Charlotte Mason. But for the sake of any curious minds out there, here is what I’ve selected for our family for the 2018-2019 school year.
History (K and 2nd)
A Child’s First Book of American History, Earl Schenck Miers
I read a chapter at a time and both of my school aged children narrate. For this subject only, I record their narrations and then transcribe them in a notebook for them to then illustrate.
The collection of historical fiction books on various Native American tribes by Sonia Bleeker.
Read aloud and narrate.
Geography (K and 2nd)
Home Geography for Primary Grade, C.C. Long
Read aloud and narrate.
Paddle to the Sea, Holling C. Holling
Read aloud, narrate, do mapwork together. My husband will be leading this one while I’m away for work in the evening.
Handwriting (K and 2nd)
Beautiful Handwriting, Penny Gardner
Level 1 for Kindergarten and Level 2 for 2nd grade. But we leave out most of the games to keep the lessons short.
I loved going through the Kindergarten books with my daughter and am enjoying them again now with my son. I’ve taken a break from the next level with my 2nd grader to master her math facts first. We use XtraMathfor this.
We have a pretty extensive poetry collection that we pull from at any given time. Our favorite way to enjoy poetry is afternoon “poetry tea/snack time.” At this stage, we just delight in poetry together. No formal lesson for us yet.
The Burgess Bird Book for Children, Thorton Burgess
Read aloud while coloring the bird for that chapter and narrate.
The Child’s Story Bible, Catherine Vos
Read aloud and narrate. No need to plan out the books and chapters, just stick a bookmark in it! I really love the way this is written and it makes for excellent narrations.
We listen to the audio in the car and it always sparks some great conversations.
Faith and Life, Ignatius Press
Read aloud and narrate. (are you seeing a trend?) This is also what our Sunday school uses.
Our kindergartener also receives Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at our church on Sundays.
We regularly read about the lives of the saints through picture and chapter books. We also enjoy listening to Glory Stories by Holy Heroes in the car almost every time we drive for more than five minutes.
We begin our homeschool day gathered around our prayer table singing a hymn. We use a list of hymns I’ve collected that are frequently sung at our church.
We also listen to and sing lots of folk songs on Spotify.
Picture Study Portfolios, Simply Charlotte Mason
We did Monet last year but I haven’t decided which one to do this year. Help me choose!
Last, but most definitely not least. Quality literature is the hallmark of our family’s education and our absolute favorite way to learn together. We will certainly not get to all of these books this year, but here is the wonderful list we have to choose from:
- Aesop’s Fables
- Lang’s Blue Fairy Book
- Shakespeare (for children) (Lamb, Nesbit, or Garfield)
- Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
- Robin Hood
- Understood Betsy
- Beatrix Potter
- Tanglewood Tales, Nathaniel Hawthorne
- Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
- Five Children and It
- Doctor Doolittle
- The Door in the Wall
- Caddie Woodlawn
- Water Babies
- King of the Wind
- The Wheel on the School
It may seem like a lot, but keep in mind that most of those subjects are only tackled weekly and we keep lessons very short. We also do almost every subject “morning basket style” so the baby and the preschooler are also soaking up these riches and the second grader and kindergartener are combined for most lessons.
If you managed to get through all of that you’re either a literature loving homeschooling mama or you’re my kids’ grandmother. And if you skipped down to the end, just remember to spend your energy putting your children in contact with the greatest minds our world has to offer through quality books, skip the stress and hassle of “lesson plans,” and put a bookmark in it!