Classical Conversations and the Eclectic Approach

For a detailed account of Classical Conversations and where we began with CC, follow this link to the bottom of this page.

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Terms and Booklists

CC Cycle 2, Term 1

First 9 weeks

I used these books as part of our read aloud portion of the school day my son’s Kindergarten year.

  1. Old World Echoes by Jennifer Courtney
  2. A Short History of the World (Usborne Books)
  3. The Solar System by Paul Sipiera
  4. My Little Book of River Otters by Hope Marston
  5. Earth’s Incredible Oceans by Jess French
  6. Heart of the Arctic by Deborah Howland
  7. Flowers Are Calling by Rita Gray
  8. Can It Live Here? By Gillis
  9. Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern
  10. Leonardo Da Vinci: Art for Children by Raboff
  11. Michaelangelo by Diane Stanley
  12. The Story Goes On by Aileen Fisher
  13. Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess by Richard Platt
  14. Rupert’s Parchment: the Story of the Magna Carta by Eileen Camron
  15. The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons
  16. Gawain and the Green Knight by Mark Shannon
  17. The Forever Tree by Tereasa Surratt and Donna Lukas
  18. Max and Marla Are Having a Picnic by Alexandra Boiger
  19. Chu’s First Day by Neil Gaman and Adam Rex

Fall Break 2019 (one week in October)

Our fall break 2019 was centered around the theme “fortresses”,since we had been learning about the Medieval time period in CC Cycle 2. We took two books on our family trip to Charleston, South Carolina: Rupert’s Parchment (Eileen Camron) and Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess by Richard Platt.  These books were our read-aloud staples as we walked the well-preserved ruins of Fort Moultrie and helped raise the American flag over Fort Sumter. 

Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud List for Middle Ages

CC Cycle 2, Term 2

Second 8 weeks of school

Our Medieval Feast

          We had such a fun time getting ready for our medieval feast.  King Philip of Spain (Daddy) visited us, dressed in his full monarchy attire.  My daughter was the princess of Spain, while my son and I hosted.  We found our family crest and decorated it.  My son, Sir Nathanael, came in his full knight armor and even the court jester made an appearance (baby boy).  Our menu that night consisted of blackbird pie (Moravian chicken pie), lovely cider for the adults, roasted Cornish hens, roasted root vegetables, and a lovely custard pie (cheesecake) garnished with berries and mint.  We also enjoyed the music Sir Nathanael provided (the absolute monarchs Classical Conversations history sentence).  The hosts and their royal guests dined by candle’s light.  It was truly a night to remember.

  1. Old World Echoes by Jennifer Courtney
  2. A Short History of the World (Usborne)
  3. A Medieval Feast by Aliki
  4. Usborne Big Book of Stars and Planets
  5. Iqbal and His Ingenious IDEA by Elizabeth Suneby
  6. Oil Spill! By Melvin Berger
  7. Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill  by Lynda Wurster Deniger
  8. How Children Lived by Christopher Rice and Melanie Rice

Veterans’ Day

  1. My Mommy is a Hero by Hannah Tolson

Fall Read-Alouds

  1. Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown
  2. Count Down to Fall by Fran Hawk
  3. Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
  4. The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons
  5. Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell
  6. Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington
Find the boys.

Christmas Break (2 weeks in December/January)

                        Favorite Christmas Read-Aloud: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

                   Advent Time: The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Meador Lambert

CC Cycle 2, Term 3

Third 5 weeks of school

Picnic With Aslan

          After reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, we took a walk into the wood (to put it in British terms) behind my in-laws’ house.  We looked for the White Witch and her sledge as we strolled the forested path in the bleak mid-winter.  It was exhilarating!  I think we had planned to eat outside, but it was cold and blustery. So, we ate lunch ahead of time at home.  If I remember correctly, I used slices of sandwich bread covered in peanut butter to make wardrobe doors.  Broccoli stems were the “trees”, and the dessert was Turkish delight (which I could not actually find in-store, but I substituted a lemon bars for it, haha).  Getting the whole family involved in the adventure made the time sweeter.   

  1. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  2. A Short History of the World (Usborne)

Poetry Read-Alouds

1.The Random House Book of Poetry by Jack Prelutsky and Arnold Lobel

2. Winter Poems by Barbara Rogasky

3. The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog by Paul B. Janeczko and Richard Jones

4. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Math Read-Alouds

  1. Snowman-Cold=Puddle: Spring Equations by Laura Purdie Salas
  2. Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories from the Lives of Great Mathematicians by Virginia Pilegard
  3. Bedtime Math by Laura Overdeck
  4. The Lions’s Share: A Tale of Halving Cake and Eating It, Too by Matthew McEligott
  5. The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
  6. My Even Day by Doris Fisher
  7. My Odd Day by Doris Fisher

Winter Break 2020 (one week in mid-February)

CC Cycle 2, Term 4

Fourth 6 weeks of school

            Mother/Son Read Alouds

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

Ribsy by Beverly Cleary

END OF CC CYCLE 2 FOR THE YEAR

Easter Break 2020 (one week in mid-April)

Term 5

Fifth 6 weeks of school

Henry Huggins Projects

Favorite Mother/Daughter Living Books (my 3-year-old daughter was with us during her preschool shutdown)

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully

Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

Term 6

Last 4 weeks of school

Favorite Nature Themed Read Aloud: The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies

End of Year Bash: Camp out in the yard with Daddy!

Tinkergarten week-by-week activities, i.e., making a mud kitchen

Little Brick Schoolhouse, Year 2

Terms and Booklists

CC Cycle 3, Term 1

CC Cycle 3 Book List

Term 1 (first 12 weeks)

See various library titles (below)

Encounter by Yolen

A Lion to Guard Us by Bulla

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Hest

Little House in the Big Woods  by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Skippack School by de Angeli

Floss by Lewis

American Pioneers and Patriots by Emerson

Stories of the Pilgrims by Pumphrey

Boys and Girls of Colonial Days by Bailey

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, Or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch

On the Mayflower: Voyage of the Ship’s Apprentice and a Passenger Girl

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims

Bella’s Fall Coat

I Know It’s Autumn

Wow! Said the Owl

Owl Moon

The Squiggle

What Do You Do With An Idea?

The Dangerous Book for Boys

Make Way for Ducklings

Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President

Blueberries for Sal

America Bedelia by Peggy Parish

DK Eyewitness: American Revolution

Charlotte by Janet Lunn

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell

What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin by Jean Fritz

Benjamin Franklin by Ingri D’Aulaire

George Washington by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire

The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons

Open Wide: Tooth School Inside by Laurie Keller

What was the First Thanksgiving? by Joan Holub

What was the Boston Tea Party? by Kathleen Krull

Who Was Ben Franklin? by Dennis Brindell Fradin

Who Was Harriet Tubman? By Yona Zeldis McDonough

What Was the Alamo? by Pam Pollack

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

Justin Morgan Had A Horse by Marguerite Henry

Ten Boys Who Changed the World

If You Lived in the Time of the American Revolution

Some of our favorite reads that align with CC Cycle 3

In November

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The Pottery Place by Gail Gibbons

Fall Break (3 weeks in November)

Our fall break trip 2020 took us to the mountains of North Carolina (Rosman/Brevard area).  The fact that we had been working hard over the past 12 weeks made the focus of this trip relaxation, outdoor adventure and beautiful mountain views. We brought Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder) to read-aloud in our little cabin in the woods.  With the logs crackling in the fireplace, it was not hard to imagine being on the frontier with Laura, Mary, Ma, Pa and Baby Carrie.  We did not take our modern conveniences for granted, as we learned all about the tough survival during the winter and constant workload a typical family had to take on in the Wisconsin backwoods. We returned from our trip fully rested and were ready for another few days of break before the next term would begin.

Term 2 (3 weeks, between fall break and Christmas break)

Our poetry study included Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Christmas Bells.  We studied his life, his personal tragedies, and enjoyed the song , “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”.  I practiced playing the song on the piano, since I had it in my Christmas piano music book from the fourth grade.

Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant and Diane Goode


Carl’s Christmas by Alexandra Day

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

The Hat by Jan Brett

The Mitten by Jan Brett

The Nutcracker by Jan Brett

An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

We Were There by Eve Bunting

Both my mom and dad love playing the piano. Pictured: my dad playing on his childhood piano, which now has its place in our living room!

The Best Book of Volcanoes by Simon Adams

Elephant and Piggie Collection by Mo Willems

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle by Beatrix Potter

Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina B.

The Crayon Man by Natascha Biebow

The Donkey Who Carried A King by R.C. Sproul

Bedtime Favorites for All Three Children (ages 6, 4, 2)

Goodnight, Daniel Tiger by Angelo C. Santomero

Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus by John Hendrix

I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer

Just Me and My Mom by Mercer Mayer

Just Me and My Dad by Mercer Mayer

Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Term 3 (13 weeks)

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato by Tomie dePaola

Jamie O’Rourke and the Pooka

St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons

The Honey Makers by Gail Gibbons

Ranger in Time Series by Kate Messner

Leave It To Abigail! by Barb Rosenstock

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Spring Break (2 weeks in April)

We took this time to just relax at the white sand beach in Navarre Beach, Florida, along the Gulf Coast.  It was quite relaxing, despite the fact that we traveled over 12 hours with children.  We finished up Mr. Popper’s Penguins on the ride there.  During our visit, we especially enjoyed collecting shells, categorizing them, and taking walks on the beach to bury treasure!  So many days are scheduled for us here in NC, so we took this time to detox from a schedule.  We also had a lot of thoughtful conversation surrounding our church’s Revelation study, and followed the daily Bible reading plan together.  My husband led our devotions.  We visited the Gulfarium and learned about some of our favorite marine animals.  The sea turtles were particularly intriguing, with some of them living up to 80 years! After a week, we said goodbye to Navarre, and carried a lot of memories and shells back with us to NC. Many audio books and a few pit stops later, we arrived back home. 

Term 4 (8 weeks)

I’m A Manatee by John Lithgow

Cycle 3, Week 21 History: Tell me about U.S. astronauts. In 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon.

So, we wrote to Buzz Aldrin. We read his autobiography. Even though we are still waiting for a response, I think my son enjoyed the process and looks forward to writing some of the others he has been inspired to write: Ruby Bridges and the Kratt Brothers.

Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin

The sweetness of poetry

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

other term 4 reads (post-CC)

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Burgess Book of Animals for Children by Thornton Burgess

The Year of Miss Agnes by

Minn of the Mississippi by Holling Clancy Holling

Pagoo by Holling Clancy Holling

The Tree in the Trail by Holling Clancy Holling

Seabird by Holling Clancy Holling

Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Holling

Laugh Attack Highlights

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

additional practice to sharpen skills (we finished Saxon 1 back in March)

Addition Facts That Stick by Kate Snow

Subtraction Facts That Stick by Kate Snow

Summer Break (9 weeks, between mid-June and mid-August)

Camp Invention

Family Trips

CC Cycle 3 Friday Family Movie Nights

https://www.frugallancaster.com/2020/10/02/family-movie-nights-for-classical-conversations-cycle-3-american-history/

Emergent Readers:

Bob Books Set 5 (Long Vowels)

First Steps Grade 1 PrePrimer, Pathway

The Beginner’s Bible (Weeks 1-9); Week 10: Owl at Home, Week 11: Frog and Toad All Year, Week 12: Frog and Toad are Friends, as recommended by Heart of Dakota’s Beyond Little Hearts

All About Reading Level 1 Readers (3 in this set)

A Unit Study Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 3

I started becoming interested in the Heart of Dakota Unit Study, Beyond Little Hearts For His Glory, when I knew I wanted to prepare more of a feast for my rising first grader.  The table was set for me, with BLH!  The grab-and-go plans made it so appealing.  Not only did I appreciate how the material was centered on Christian principles and scripture, I also loved how the themes transcended any time period in history.  What really made me think I had hit the jackpot with this unit study was that the modern history (colonization and settling of the New World) was in alignment with our Classical Conversations Cycle 3 material, generally speaking.  Although I admit that CC clipped through the years a lot more quickly over 24 weeks (covering Columbus in 1492 to September 11, 2001), it was so nice to not have to jump from modern history back to ancient or medieval. In fact, many weeks, the Heart of Dakota unit would enrich our CC studies. The pilgrims were covered heavily in Beyond Little Hearts, while CC devoted one week of study to these people.  Just think of how deeply personal the pilgrims came to be for us!  We learned about their initial persecution in England, then their migration to Holland, the Mayflower and the new settlement in Plymouth Colony and finally, the hardships and friendships encountered upon arrival in the New World.   We learned through living books.  These stories helped us experience the people we learned about, as if they were old friends.  I did not have to curate any of these books for our history study – the unit had planned it out for me!  I will speak on just a few of the things we did this year, as it relates to Beyond Little Hearts. 

In Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory, one unit is equal to a week.  The unit spans 5 days.  Each day’s plans are displayed on two pages, left and right sides of the open book.  The left side includes our “Morning Time Boxes”:  Bible Study, Corresponding Music, and Poetry/Rhymes. To make the subjects come alive for our family and to be able to fit them all into our feast, I made a point to incorporate the subjects found on the left page of each day into the morning time we have.  For my son, it worked best to start the day with Morning Time.  We would move to Math (I used Saxon for K and 1).  Then, to alternate more rigorous content with less rigorous content and change which parts of the brain were being used, I would read aloud to him from the Beyond Little Hearts history Reading About History box on the left page.  Next, we would have our phonics lesson (All About Reading 1).  After that, we completed our Language Arts box from BLH on the right page.  Then, we would have time later in the day, say after lunch, to complete one of the art, geography, history, or science boxes from the left side of the left page. We only completed a maximum of three of these boxes (art, geo, history, or science) per week.  Last, I would read aloud as many days as I could from the genre BLH had us reading.  I liked the prompts the Storytime box gave us, but did not always use them. 

Our Daily Schedule:

** denotes Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory used

Morning Time

            –Catechism for Young Children (with cartoons)

            –Bible Study**

            –Corresponding Music**

            –Poetry and Rhymes**

            -CC Memory Work Loop

-Beauty Loop:  Presentation practice, picture study, object study, nature study     

Math

Reading About History**

Reading (Phonics)

Language Arts**

Art, Geography, History, or Science Activity**

Read Aloud (rotating genres)**

As we enter into our third year of homeschooling, I see that we will be phasing into a more Classical Conversations heavy year, studying ancient history.  A lot of the resources I have picked out are from the Well Trained Mind and are heavily classical in nature.  If Heart of Dakota had more in the ancient history realm for young people, I would probably try to utilize it in the same way we incorporated BLH this past year!  Nonetheless, I am looking forward to a new adventure, familiarizing myself with the resources we will use soon. 

I have always had the belief that we are to make a curriculum work for us, and not the other way around.  Notice how we are the curators.  We decide how much of a curriculum we really want to use, and we trim the fat where it is not going to be the best for our family.  Keeping that in mind, we also want to buy a curriculum and not just use 10% of it.  This was not the case with Heart of Dakota.  I can say that I truly got my money’s worth.  If I had to show how much of the curriculum we found helpful and lovely this year, it would be close to 95%.  We cut a lot of the extra language arts Day 5 lessons, and I tried to just point the basics out to my son as we read real, living books.  For example, why teach a subject-verb agreement lesson in isolation when you can make note of the concept in planning for the week, and make a point to find examples in your read aloud each day?  Plus, it saves time!

Here are some photos from our Heart of Dakota year.  (CC Cycle 3)

I plan to use BLH again when this cycle comes back around. 

We fell in love with Benjamin Franklin!

Little Brick Schoolhouse, Year 3

CC Cycle 1 (Four Quarters)

If you are looking for an organized, comprehensive list of resources, visit:

Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations, CYCLE 1, Quarter 1 (Weeks 1-6)

Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations, CYCLE 1, Quarter 2 (Weeks 7-12)

Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations, CYCLE 1, Quarter 3 (Weeks 13-18)

Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations, CYCLE 1, Quarter 4 (Weeks 19-24)

CC Foundations Program

The year was 1997.  Leigh Bortins, an aerospace engineer-turned-homeschool mom was getting discouraged as she kept seeing her son’s friends drop like flies from homeschooling and enter private or public schools.  While the homeschool community seemed robust in the early years, parents admitted that they did not feel equipped to teach the upper grades.  Enter Classical Conversations, the amazing classical model program that Leigh Bortins founded, at the encouragement of her husband.  She was living in Winston-Salem, NC at the time.  With just 11 students in the fall of 1997, the Classical Conversations Challenge I program was born.

Fast-forward.  Did Leigh Bortins set out with the slightest inkling that her program would burgeon into what it is today: the goal for 2021 was for 1 percent of all students to be enrolled in the CC program – 580,000!

The CC Foundations program has supported our homeschool learning over the past two years.  I agree wholeheartedly with the mission of CC:  to help families pursue classical, Christian education, by learning to know God and make Him known.  The Foundations program was developed for 4 to 12-year-olds.  It was created to give young minds solid grounding in the Grammar level of classical education.  The five core habits that arise from this Grammar stage are:  naming, attending, memorizing, expressing and storytelling.  A benefit to this Foundations program is the help involved in memorizing facts (the “grammar”) and definitions and learning to place events in order as they occurred in history.  I find that it has been a helpful tool for us in laying the framework in our understanding of world history.  We have reference points now that I certainly did not have in first grade.  Nonetheless, to rely on the grammar alone would be falling short of a full, living education!  As many classical educators would assert, it is important to give children a feast of living ideas to chew on.  To learn history through the stories of people who might have lived, to experience and vicariously taste what they tasted… this is the point of teaching history, to not only understand the story, but to also APPRECIATE and LEARN FROM it.  What living ideas arise from reading this book about the Taino Natives upon their encounter with Christopher Columbus in Janet Yolen’s Encounter?  What lessons can we take away from the starvation many settlers in Jamestown Colony experienced, as we read Clyde Bulla’s A Lion to Guard Us?  You get the point, living books are great meat to lay on the skeleton of CC grammar. 

CC Foundations Program is such a wonderful way for our family to see friends and enjoy learning together.  Our morning starts with a community assembly, where we tune in to a devotional (usually given by the Foundations Director), worship time, family presentations, and introducing new fine arts topics (i.e., a CC mom trying out a killer Russian accent as she impersonated composer Stravinsky).  Next, we move on to our smaller community groups, where we see our tutor and other friends.  The tutor facilitates, but we are all co-learners.  New grammar is introduced from each subject area.  Then, we have presentation/snack time.  Each child stands up in front of peers and talks about anything he or she deems worth sharing.  They grow in public speaking and confidence, and this starts as early as age 4.  The next segment is devoted to a short science experiment or two, and fine arts.  The last 20 minutes or so are devoted to reviewing past weeks’ grammar. 

In total, we spend about three hours on community day learning together.  Could I possibly teach from a classical model without CC? Of course.  Nonetheless, it is the relational and communal aspect of learning together that has made it worth it, for us. We love our community.  I pray it continues to grow and thrive.

*If you are looking for a CC community near you, look here*

Presenting at CC

The Eclectic Kindergarten

                        Where I was Then, and Where I Am After Year 1

For anyone who has tried something new for the first time, a lot of it is going to be trial and error, and that’s okay.  It is good to have a plan.  It is good to have goals.  I know I did when I set out on an August day in 2019.  I looked back to the previous year, 2018.

My son had been with me before in the homeschool setting, when I was pregnant with my third child in 2018.  Nonetheless, I realized as my due date was approaching at a frenzied pace (and I usually have my babies a few days early), that I was going to have to change the plan to homeschool my four-year-old.  Preschool to the rescue!  I had two leadership positions at the time, one in Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and the other in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).  I knew that something had to give.  I needed time to call my girls in my group, study the word (for my own spiritual vitality and growth), make time to exercise and shop for essentials as baby’s date was coming!  I also knew it was best for my son.  He needed time in play with others, and the solution was preschool, four days a week.  So, we did it.  We put him in the preschool and he did just fine, if he did not flourish, even.  Baby brother was born in January 2019, so it was perfect timing to enroll our four-year-old in the class starting in January.  My family helped, my friends helped, and preschool helped. 

Fast-forward a year.  2020.  Pre-pandemic.  I had just finished a semester of homeschooling my kindergartener! He was learning so much, but I struggled with the questions, “Is it enough?”, “Am I able to do more for him?” “Am I pushing him too hard?”, and so on.  Our baby had just turned one, and my husband and I were off to an island adventure to take a mid-winter break.  As I had time to reflect, I looked back on the past four to five months.  Despite having a nursing baby and taking my middle child to preschool, we had found time for a solid two hours of school each day.  Was each day the same?  No, but each week had a common rhythm.  My son was learning his numbers, his basic addition and subtraction facts, had delved into the realm of telling time and counting money, even had some fractions and measurement experience.  Math took us the longest.  The Saxon Math curriculum was good, but lengthy!  I knew I could skip some of the lessons, as he had already mastered those concepts.  I learned to supplement our math lessons with algebraic thinking games (thank you Marcy Cook).  There was a lot of reading instruction and copy work that first year, too.  If I had to do it differently, I might have had him doing more playing whilst learning, but I was in my infancy in the Charlotte Mason methods.  I had him learning his basics.  Having been a teacher myself, I knew it was important for him to find real-life purpose in his work, and I know Charlotte would agree.  So we wrote a lot of letters.  Pen pal letters, Compassion International child  letters, neighbor letters, relative letters.  Then there were the summaries.  He would retell a favorite book or show and I would have him copy my work from the board.  I would be there every step to help him with letter formation.  Once he started writing a letter incorrectly, I would nip that in the bud.  I still had him reading from The Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading.  It was soul-sucking, for us.  We read a lot of Bob books together.  He would read a page, then I would read a page.  All of this, coupled with our morning time and Classical Conversations community day, and BSF children’s program made for a full week.  I know I could have done some things differently, like starting reading instruction with the Orton Gillingham approach, but this is hindsight.  God gave me what I needed, just what I needed, for each day.  I made some mistakes.  I had him sitting for lengthy periods doing copy work some days.  This child was a young kindergartener, having turned five in July.  So, as you can see, I yearned for something better.  I have always been a lover of living books, but I didn’t have a litmus test for them yet, or even a term for them.  Phonics seemed to progress, then halt, progress, then halt.  I needed something better.  That something better came with All About Reading (the OG approach), a multisensory phonics curriculum, but I did not even know to use this in kindergarten.  We found it mid-year in first grade.  There it was, and I could have tapped into it sooner, had I known.  That’s why I am telling you about it.  So, I now have a better phonics program, my son is growing in his reading by leaps and bounds, and he is more mature, which may be the reason he is doing better, anyway!  Everything comes in its own time, as long as we are faithful to finding the best thing for our children. 

I was lacking in mindset.  There was a lot of trial and error, which is honestly a part of life, but I still felt like something was missing.  I needed a new mindset.  I needed inspiration, not just a quick fix.  What changed?  The turning point happened when I took in more methodology via podcasts (Simply Charlotte Mason) and conferences (Charlotte Mason Together) and started faithfully listening to Read Aloud Revival podcast episodes.  Next, I started immersing myself in writings (CM, Classical, living books that I truly love).  I started a book club at the beginning of my son’s first grade year.  I am following numerous people in this realm.  I love creating and implementing booklists.  I love planning.  My life and zest for teaching has changed.  I am reminded of the classical roots of a CM education.  I also do not hold to one, pure methodology.  However, I draw heavily from certain mindsets. 

I try to practice “scholé”, “mother culture”, life-giving time for myself.  I started writing a book in June of 2020 and I finished it in July 2020.  I have submitted the manuscript to multiple publishers and have heard a lot of “no’s”.  My picture book biography is a thing for me, but it is also a thing for our future generation.  So, I press on.  I have found a new passion, a new purpose that is an extension of my purpose as a mother, teacher, friend.  More on this later.  If you have something you love that can be fit into your week, make time for it.  If it is lifegiving to yourself, to others, make time for it.  It will be a pursuit in finding the beauty that the Creator Himself has placed inside each one of us, and sharing that beauty with others… to reflect HIM!

So, we come full-circle.  Why am I choosing to homeschool my children, given that I could eventually have my mornings free, with all three in public or private school?  My reason is simple.  I want to be with my children.  I want my mornings to be filled with them and I want to be learning together, alongside them.  My best time of day is the morning, and so is theirs.  I want my best to be able to spend time and enjoy their best.  I am so happy I get to do this, and so thankful!  After two years of experience, I know that homeschooling is not easy.  I also know that it is not the only way to school children, not even the best way to school each and every child!  You need to be intentional as a parent, no matter what your schooling decision may be.  I just know it is what I am called to do, at least right now.  And we will continue to take it year by year.  

I used to play school with my dolls when I was about six or seven years old.  Teaching was in my blood.  I had to, I was compelled to teach others.  Even as a high schooler, I was dedicated to investing in younger children, through tutoring opportunities and babysitting.  I went on to earn an undergraduate degree in elementary education.  I willingly and resolutely applied to teach in our state’s worst-performing school district at the time.  My passion was to change lives.  I know it sounds so very idealistic and cliché.  I know it can be overused and misused.  However, I am still very aware of this spark within myself, this spark and compulsion to teach others.  I might have used that spark to teach children in public school before having kids of my own, but now, I know it is there for my children.  It is also there for people in my church and other people’s children in our day-to-day, but primarily, it is for my children.  Maybe I am teaching now with this spark in this way, and maybe later in life, I will teach in a different way.  Nonetheless, I am growing as a teacher.  I am certainly not where I want to be, but I can sense incremental growth each year, each season.  If we as a family go through crisis in the future and I have to stop homeschooling, it will be hard, but I will also trust that God has my children and He knows what is best.  That is why I cannot grasp homeschooling as this prerogative that I am owed.  It is not my birthright.  Nonetheless, it is my joy and delight right now.  I also believe it is part of my life’s purpose.  Furthermore, God gave me these kids.  Nobody knows them like I do (besides Him).  Who else could possibly do a better job teaching them?  I mean, maybe someone else could, but it would honestly take a crisis or family upheaval for me to accept that fact, as long as I am able and willing to teach them.  God is allowing me to for now, so I am going to. 

Little Brick Schoolhouse Year 1

Little Brick Schoolhouse.  Why this name?  In an effort to avoid sounding too cliché, as in “honest homeschooling”, “happy homeschooling”, etc., I observed our school.  We live in a brick home.  It’s that simple.  The name cannot be extrapolated any further.  Haha, well, maybe the LEGO metaphor could be extrapolated. Brick by brick, my son builds these amazing LEGO creations. Brick by brick, God is building our homeschool. Below I have made a sketch of what resources I curated and used in our school house.  The eclectic approach is a process.  In fact, our school looks less eclectic now than it did that first year because I do have more direction and have found two or three basic methodologies that I draw heavily from.  Behind these methodologies are principles of thinking.  Behind the principles of thinking are habits.  Behind habits are people, or should I say, “persons”?  We live life together, and like Charlotte Mason said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life”.  I think she drew that quote from another reformer she admired.  Nonetheless, it is a process we go through all the time, to find the right atmosphere, habits and life-giving ideas that our children can hold onto and make their own.

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