How We Use Picture Books and Reading Aloud: History

What if I told you that teaching history in your homeschool could be so much fun?! Here is a quick look at how we have enjoyed Classical Conversations Cycle 2 living books + more.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a commission from the purchase of these books, at no additional cost to you.  Thank you!

Classical Conversations History Cycle 2 covers Medieval to Modern History.  Here is a quick breakdown of curated books to pair nicely with various topics of history study, by week.  Notice that not every week is covered, but these are some great books to supplement your morning time or time learning about each of these subjects. I have also included the school supplies we have found helpful in learning history together.

History “Spine” (the book telling the big story of history)

History “Spine”: Story of the World, Vol. 2: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer

Picture Books/Chapter Books (recommended ages and page count included)

Legends of Charlemagne by Thomas Bulfinch (rec. Ages 10-18 years, 284 pages) Week 1

Crusades: Kids @ the Crossroads by Laura Scandiffio (rec. Ages 9-11 years, 72 pages) Week 3

Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta by Eileen Cameron (rec. Ages 5-12, 38 pages) Week 4

Michelangelo by Diane Stanley (rec. Ages 5-12, 48 pages) Week 6

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World (rec. Ages 4-8, 42 pages) Week 7

Encounter by Jane Yolen (rec. Ages 6-12 years, 32 pages) Week 8

Peter the Great by Diane Stanley (rec. Ages 5-12, 32 pages) Week 9 and Week 10

Who Was Catherine the Great? By Pam Pollack (rec. Ages 8-12 years, 112 pages) Week 10

A Picture Story of Napoleon by J. de Marthold (rec. Ages 5-12 years, 53 pages) Weeks 11 and 12

A Boy Called Dickens by Deborah Hopkinson (rec. Ages 4-10 years, 40 pages) Week 13

Stubby the Dog Soldier: World War I Hero by Blake Hoena (rec. Ages 4-10, 32 pages) Weeks 12 and 15

Bear and Fred: A World War II Story by Iris Argaman (rec. Ages 4-8, 48 pages) Week 17

Song of the Mekong River: Vietnam by Na-mi Choi and Sinae Jo (rec. Ages 6-10, 32 pages) Week 20 

Richard Wurmbrand: Love Your Enemies by Janet Benge and George Benge  (rec. Ages 8-12, 208 pages) Weeks 21 and 22

Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (rec. Ages 6-10)  Week 24

Supplies Used in History:

A book of centuries

Maps

Globe beach ball

Story of the World Activity Book 

We try to relate our field trips to various places we’ve learned about in history, if possible. 

Some examples of thematic field trips related to the Medieval to Modern time:

-Visit a fort (local war memorials or living history exhibits work nicely for this)

-Visit a museum with an exhibit on Medieval period

-Visit an art museum that houses original art or copies of art from the Renaissance 

-Host a “Medieval Feast” as based on Aliki’s A Medieval Feast. For reference, you can look at the “feast” our little family had in 2020.  It’s nothing too fancy! We just turned out the electric lights, lit our own candles, and cooked a few themed dishes which were probably modern versions of the actual dishes.  We used soda for “ale”. So, clearly we were just trying our best.

-Read a book that is set in a kingdom far away (i.e., Kingdom Tales, The Castle Diary: Journal of Tobias Burgess, Castle, George MacDonald’s Fairy Tales, Little Pilgrim’s Progress, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Sundiata: Lion King of Mali, Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali, The Silk Route: 7,000 Miles of History, Famous Figures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a puppet book)

Ideas for Using These Books

  • Use your family “morning time” to read from either your history spine, your favorite picture books, or read from both. This will ensure you read about 20 minutes total about history each day. That’s pretty do-able. What is morning time? Go around the group of students and have each child narrate aloud from the reading.
  • Use your history reading time to connect with your book of centuries. A book of centuries is a book, divided into centuries, starting around 4,000 B.C. and proceeding to A.D. 2100. Think of it as a timeline in a book. Pictures can be drawn next to dates and event titles to represent the recorded events, as well. Maps that are made or used (as with Story of the World) can be inserted into the book of centuries, as well.
  • Use your children’s independent study time to read from history books of your choice, different ones geared toward each student. This might work better when you have a very large gap in ages in your homeschool. Have your students narrate to you, either orally or written, depending on their ability. It is recommended that narration start out as oral, and proceed to written (in tandem with oral) about age 9 or 10, when a child has more stamina to write.
  • Go on field trips! Read up on the places you will visit and pick out books from the library that will correlate with your destinations. Did you know that October is “Field Trip Month”?
  • Make handicrafts that correspond to your time period of study. Check out a book to explain handicrafts and trades of the time you are studying. Speak with someone in the modern day about the trade or craft you are hoping to make. There are still blacksmiths and woodworkers around, if you look in the right places! Example: make candles out of wax as they did in the early modern times (dipping)

History is Fun

Please do not forget to have fun in reading about history with your kids. Why history would ever be considered “dry” is beyond me, but when I give it some thought, I realize that teaching history the textbook-only way is pretty dry. Here is a related article that explains how I attempt to teach history: A Textbook-Free History Curriculum: It Is Possible!

What Classical Education Has to Say

All parents homeschool.  I’ll explain that later. To jump straight to the video, scroll down to the bottom of this post, or just click this link.

It’s been a while since I’ve introduced myself on the world wide web. I’m Holly, a homeschool mom of three under the age of nine.  My husband, kids and I live in a big town/small city in eastern NC.  If you haven’t already visited my website, I’d be happy to have you at www.mylittlebrickschoolhouse.com!   My Little Brick Schoolhouse was initially a creative outlet for me.  It has evolved into (I hope) a service for you.

My mission is four-fold:

  1.  Deliver resources to allow families the chance to read living books together.
  2. Create content that fosters engaging narration and discussion about living books.
  3. Connect parents with Classical and Charlotte Mason methods
  4. Help parents strategize homeschool solutions.

I started homeschooling back in 2018.  Ask me anything, yet I am still roughly new to this.  I have so much I’m learning, and today, I’d like to share with you some things I took away from the Classical Conversations Area Practicum I attended this weekend, in addition to some of my own thoughts.

Justin Nale delivered the excellent presentation at practicum.

First of all, before I even talk about the practicum, I want to acknowledge a huge problem we have in society today.

Usborne Books and More cites that interest in reading a book outside of school drops from 100% in kindergarten to 54% in fourth grade.  What happened between K and 4th grade?  Parents. You guys need to know the reason.
Did you know that reading aloud to your children builds their “want” to read?

A more recent, 2022 survey found that more than half of 2,003 American adults surveyed had not finished a single book in the past year.

So, what happened?  Parents stopped reading to their kids.  This is a crisis.

What has replaced books in the home?  It’s the elephant in the room, guys.  Screens. Oh, don’t get me started there.  Too much time spent with screen media is associated with: childhood obesity, sleep disturbances, attention span issues… oh and I am sure there are emotional implications, too.  Adults are not immune to these effects, either!

Oh, and since we’re talking about time, where does your child spend the most time annually?  AT HOME.  You have him for 7,800 hours.  School: 900 hours.  Which teacher is more influential?

That’s why I have created some resources for you to use on my website: booklists, free resources, and unit studies.  We all should be reading with our kids.  It’s about binding hearts together in the family, not about leaving the kids. 

All Parents Homeschool

If you have breath in your lungs and also have offspring, you are a homeschool parent.  Since birth, you’ve been teaching your child.  Did you teach him to feed himself?  How about to put on his clothes?  Have you been speaking to your child since she was born?  You get the picture.  You are your child’s first teacher, and you have a tremendous impact.  Each day, we have so many things we are learning together alongside our children, if we are spending time with them.  Homeschooling is nothing new! 

Now, I’m not advocating homeschool for everyone because you have to do what God is calling you to do for your family.  Seasons of life, full-time ministry jobs, and other situations could preclude homeschool from being a good, God-glorifying option for your family.

That said, there is so much to unpack.  Where do we begin?

Classical Education is where my family’s journey began.

Well, since our family is a part of a Classical Conversations community, I’m talking from my unique perspective.  Classical education can be characterized in various ways, but I’ve heard two distinct lists. 

One list goes like this: 


1) classical education pursues virtue

2) uses tools to learn in layers (knowledge, understanding, then wisdom)

3) celebrates the integration of knowledge

Another list goes like this:

1)follows the pattern of the trivium

2) is language-focused rather than image-focused

3) is centered around the story of history

Define the terms: TRIVIUM

The trivium is a three-part pattern: the mind must first be supplied with facts and images.  This is called the grammar stage. 

Next, the mind must be given the logical tools for organizing those facts and images, called the dialectic stage or logic stage.

Finally, the mind must be equipped to express conclusions.  This is called the rhetoric stage. 
Each stage correlates with an age range. 

  • Grammar Stage: Kindergarten through fourth grade
  • Logic Stage: Fifth grade through eighth grade
  • Rhetoric Stage: Ninth grade through twelfth grade

Now that we’ve defined trivium, does it make some sense?  You probably have some questions. Do all children in any given stage fit nicely into that box and never utilize thinking skills outside of their prescribed stage?  No.  When you think about it, we adults go through the entire trivium any time we are learning something new, from start to finish.  Take baking cookies, for example.  I must learn the correct grammar (terminology) for the ingredients, tools, methods I will be using.  Next, I move on to the logic stage when I realize that one of the ingredients, say, baking soda, can be increased to make my cookies more fluffy.  I am starting to understand the way the process works.  Then, if I decide to tweak a recipe and rewrite it to reflect my preference for chocolate chip cookies, I am in the rhetoric stage. 

Okay, now that you know the trivium, those of you who are new to classical education, let me give you three things to take away. 

  • Education is not the same as training.

I was a lifeguard in high school during the summer.  We know that when you apply for a lifeguarding job, they have you watch training videos, complete worksheets, practice saving people in the pool.  I even remember swimming to the bottom of the pool to pick up bricks, delivering them safely to the surface! You are training for a job.  You are learning specific skills, for a certain future.  I was going to lifeguard that summer. I needed to learn x, y, and z. 

Now, education, that is different.  You educate for an uncertain future.  What does your future hold? If you have lived, you know that it will at some point hold suffering.  Is training about shaping the soul, and giving kids tools they’ll need across callings?  No.  It’s specific and very finite.  Education is for life.  It’s a good distinction to keep in mind. 

  • Teaching character is paramount to academics.

I have said this before.  I ask you, is the most important thing in a childhood academics? Think.  You remember what your childhood was like. 

How about this? How will you be in old age?  Grumpy and discontent, or joyful and full of life?  How are these two types of old people so distinct?  Habits.  Character.  When were their character habits developed?  Early in life.  So think about that and how you will train your children.  Character is paramount.

  • Lastly, this is my own musing.  I am noticing the shift in our culture, aren’t you?  I am specifically talking about interconnectedness, globalization and technology. Has social media and AI technology made us better as individuals? How about smarter?  First of all, the constant bombardment of images has wreaked havoc on our attention spans.  Next, do you realize how various tech companies use people like you and me to perfect their algorithms and tap into the human mind, making us no higher than dehumanized objects?  We are their product.  We help other companies sell their products because our behavior is being heavily monitored and analyzed constantly.  Okay, so what does this have to do with classical education? 

Charlotte Mason, have you ever heard of her?  She was a British education reformer from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was heavily influenced by classical thought. Many people who love her methods love classical education.  Charlotte Mason defined students as persons.  A person has a soul, a will, and possibilities for good and for evil.  A person is more than a mind. We do not fall into the ditch of intellectualism.  No, we are not just teaching a mind, disconnected from a heart.  We are teaching a whole person.  We also do not fall into the ditch of emotionalism, where everything is about the heart of a child, and we forget reason.  These are two ditches to avoid.  We are to teach the whole person.  And persons are people of words.  Our world deals in words.  Not images.  As much as Instagram would like you to think image is everything, and look how dumb we are becoming in the process, we must go back to being people of words.  We have a language to be used for God’s glory.  May we learn to communicate well with our words to bring him honor and to help others.  

Classical education points to the study of this world, and how it is all connected to God.  Just like we cannot dissect a person into mind versus heart, we cannot separate the unity of truth that is God’s truth.  All truth is connected. We are also people of words.  Technology can be used for great things for God’s glory, but let us be wary. 

May God bless you this year! If you’d like to hear more from me, sign up to join my email community.

Moms Are Persons, Too: Why I Attend This Retreat

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask? A retreat. Read more to find out why.

The homeschool life is a glorious life, but sometimes it can get overwhelming, like anything else.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much.

I know you are enjoying the togetherness, as am I. However, by Week #6 or 7 of summer break, our family is ready to recharge and reset. What about you?

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask?

Why, to the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat, of course! Held in the wooded lakeside Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, the retreat is aimed at refreshing moms who are homeschooling or teaching other people’s children under a Charlotte Mason philosophy.

The retreat usually runs Friday to Saturday, with a pre-retreat on Thursday. Historically, I have attended all of these days. Held the second-to last weekend in July, the timing of the retreat is perfect – right before school starts back for many, but also a time when many families like to vacation together. I have friends whose husbands and kids will do something touristy during the day, while they attend the retreat.

I thought I would gain new ideas and inspiration when I first signed up in 2020 to attend my first retreat. I gained so much more – I gained friends. I gained a renewed love for my family. I even regained a joy in worship! The worship time on Saturday morning is priceless.

I am still here at the retreat as I type this.

My highlights have been:

  1. Meeting Karen Glass, author of In Vital Harmony, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, and Know and Tell: The Art of Narration.

I came up all giddy-like. I was just tickled to meet the author of some of my favorite education books, to-date! Karen and I chatted about the classical thinkers and their influence on two of Charlotte Mason’s principles (“Education is the science of relations” and “Children are born persons”). A great chat, from which I left feeling quite inspired to continue teaching the Charlotte Mason way.

2. Amber O’Neal Johnston, also known as “Heritage Mom” on her blog and social media, has been teaching me about using living books as “windows” into the lives of others. Using books as windows is a wonderful thing, but how about using books as “mirrors”? Knowing one’s own heritage and identity helps him or her appreciate the culture of another. That is Amber’s premise and mission: to curate an inclusive culturally rich home education.

Well, I got to meet Amber last year, and I reconnected with her today. Between yesterday and today, I have really been enjoying these extraordinary homeschool moms who are as dedicated to the nurturing and teaching of their children as I know you are.

Not to mention, Amber is about the most down-to-earth homeschool mom I’ve met. She is a lovely soul!

Her session today was entitled “Belonging Together: Managing the Seasons of Community and Fellowship”. I learned so much about the workings of a co-op from listening. Amber took us through the steps of a co-op, from exploring the idea to initiating the concept, to living it out, to excelling and growing, to moving on.

Her new book is finally here! A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond has been added to my list of books to read in the coming year.

3. I was able to go line dance last night in the conference ballroom. Sonya Shafer and her daughter were also in line. We all had a wonderful time!

4. The sessions on portraits of a homeschool parent were so encouraging and convicting, if I’m being honest. Sonya Shafer delivered the session, which was full of truth and grace. We do not do this alone, and there is so much to learn from Charlotte Mason on parenting, believe it or not.

When I spoke with Sonya later, I asked her where to start in Charlotte’s volumes, if I am looking for a good parenting read. She recommended starting with Volume 2: Parents and Children.

5. I attended a session on using technology well with Doug Smith. He drove home the point about technology as a tool to be mastered. Charlotte Mason wrote about the elaborate models of “appliances”, or what we could call “tech” in today’s vernacular. These tech models are not to be the basis of our learning, and are to be introduced progressively.

Would you give a five-year-old child a calculator before teaching him the principles of math? The same concept applies here with technology.

Technology can be a wonderful gift when used appropriately.

Doug talked about all kinds of technology, like LEGO bricks and snap circuits. How he described himself as a child made me think of my own son, who loves tinkering, taking apart and putting together, and building with all kinds of things, including LEGO bricks and wood. I gained some inspiration and thanked him for including LEGO in a Charlotte Mason education, as I wrote an article on this back in January!

6. Lastly, and possibly my favorite part of this retreat has been making new friends and reconnecting with the old friends of retreats past. I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart to know there are kindred spirits miles away who are in my corner, as I am in theirs!

So, do I attend this retreat for rest and renewal of mission? YES.

Do I attend to grow and connect with others? YES.

Do I come back a better mom? YES.

Would you consider going with me next year?

Books I Have Loved This Summer, Books I Look Forward To Reading

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I have a new book list I am dying to share with you.

I am so thankful for the Internet, aren’t you?! It allows us to find books within seconds and either check them out at our local libraries, or use our devices to get them delivered brand new to our doorsteps! Oh, technology surely has its pitfalls, but I do love that we can do some things so much easier in this day and age.

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I can recommend these books to you, and might receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Our homeschool has seen the accumulation of these beloved books over time. I cannot say that I’m ashamed to admit that I still have to read a handful of the more “adult” books I ordered for myself, because… you know what? The picture books get my attention first.

C.S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

Do you agree?

I sure do! That’s why I picked out the books on this list to reflect my hunger for living books. These books give us the noble ideas, the virtues and the facts about a person, place, time or process in the world. Some of these stories are fiction; many are nonfiction.

Please take some time to study this list. They span subjects of history, literature, science, math and I threw in some fun book basket ideas and summer read alouds, for good measure. I cannot wait to share these titles with you! You might get some ideas for future reading in your upcoming school year, or you might find something to enjoy before the school year begins. We have either read, or will read, every one of these books listed in our own homeschool.

We will be studying middle ages history this upcoming year, and I could not be more excited! The cross-section castle book looks amazing. I also cannot wait to read authors with whom I have not become familiar. They will become dear friends, I am sure, just like A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis were for us this past school year.

As this new school year begins, I thank you so much for supporting me and my mission to recommend quality, living books to families who love to read with their children.

In addition to these wonderful books, when you get the chance to sit down and think about what poetry you might read next year, you might consider Robert Louis Stevenson. I have a freebie I will send you that includes: 3 summer poems, copy work, an interactive 4-square template, and project ideas to introduce you to his work before you dive in and get his poetry collection. If you love his poetry already and are searching for a sweet, illustrated collection of “A Child’s Garden of Verses”, I am happy to share my recommendation with you here:

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (Illus. Tasha Tudor)

Would you like the Poetry Mini-Unit (Freebie)?

One of my favorite homeschool memories of all time was when we read Aliki’s A Medieval Feast and later held our own very special medieval feast, complete with cornish hens and “blackbird pie”, medieval tarts, and of course, “ale”. Where would we have gotten that inspiration if it had not been for that picture book?

Growing Together: Get to Know These Charlotte Mason Practitioners

Grow with us as we learn about Charlotte Mason and learn from each other!

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of some of these great resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you, friends!

Where are you on your homeschooling journey?  If you are just starting out, perhaps researching different philosophies of education and methods is where you are camping out this summer.  Maybe you have already found a couple ideologies that work well for your family and you want to explore one further.  When I first set out researching this homeschool thing about five years ago, I was barely thirty years old, with just two little ones.  Now, I am officially in my mid-to-late thirties…and am very tired… with three young children.  I don’t know about you, but I do not often find the time to extensively research something. Then, there is something called “decision fatigue”.  To reduce decision fatigue, I gladly took a well-crafted quiz to determine where I lean on the educational ideological spectrum back in 2017.  If you already own Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum (2014), go ahead and open it and take the quiz where you find out which educational approach resonates most with you.  She gives you a comprehensive explanation about different educational methods. I can say that taking the quiz confirmed some paths for me.  

If you do have an idea about Charlotte Mason and her methods, then you might appreciate going deeper by reading about these women below.  I will call them my “team of pundits”- those to whom I look for good discussion, implementation and modeling of the lifestyle I want to incorporate into our family culture. Each one has either directly or indirectly impacted me.  Each woman comes from a different background, but all have chosen a similar way for their families, in terms of motherhood and education.  

If you have a chance to read over their bios and click on their resources, you will most likely find some kindred spirits and learn more along the way. 

Let’s get to know some of these authors, speakers, bloggers, and dedicated homeschool moms:

1. Karen Glass

“Karen Glass is the mother of four children, all graduated, and a veteran Charlotte Mason homeschooler who lived in Krakow, Poland for 25 years before recently relocating to the United States. She has immersed herself in the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and is passionate about bringing her life-giving ideas to contemporary educators. She is one of the creators of the AmblesideOnline curriculum, and has been writing and speaking for many years. She is the author of several books based on those educational ideas, including Consider This, Know and Tell, and In Vital Harmony.”

(Source: https://simplycharlottemason.com/charlotte-mason-together-retreat/)

Books I have enjoyed:

Consider This

Know and Tell

In Vital Harmony

2. Sonya Shafer

“Sonya Shafer is a popular homeschool speaker and writer, specializing in the Charlotte Mason Method. She has been on an adventure for more than 20 years studying, researching, practicing, and teaching Charlotte’s gentle and effective methods of education. Her passion for homeschooling her own four daughters grew into helping others and then into Simply Charlotte Mason, which publishes her many books and provides a place of practical encouragement to homeschoolers at simplycharlottemason.com.”

(Source: https://simplycharlottemason.com/events-speaking/workshops/sonya-shafer-biography/)

Resources I’ve used:
A Child’s Copybook Reader

Delightful Handwriting

Your Questions Answered: Narration

Picture Study Portfolios

Composer Study

Singing the Great Hymns

Pond and Stream Companion

In recent years, I have been blessed to attend the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia!  It has been an honor to see Sonya in her element and to just “hang” with other Charlotte Mason moms. 

3. Amy Bodkin

“Amy Bodkin is an Autistc Adult, School Psychologist, and Homeschool Mom to her two Autistic kids. She consults primarily with homeschool families as the Special Needs Consultant at A Charlotte Mason Plenary. She works with families who have experienced chronic health conditions, disabilities, trauma, asynchronous development, etc. Her practice is guided by Charlotte Mason’s idea that “Children are born persons” and she makes it her goal to see each child as an individual, not a diagnosis.

Amy has recently started a new venture at amybodkin.com to provide a home to her advocacy work and her new podcast Special Needs Kids are People Too!

(Source: Amy Bodkin, EdS, also see https://charlottemasoninspired.com/amy-bodkin/)

Check out Amy’s podcast: Special Needs Kids are People, Too!

Amber O’Neal Johnston (Heritage Mom Blog) gave me the great idea to feature Amy on this list.  Her experience is multifaceted and she offers great insight.  

4. Cindy Rollins

“Cindy Rollins homeschooled her nine children for over 30 years using Charlotte Mason’s timeless ideas. She is the author of Mere Motherhood: Morning Time, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Toward Sanctification, The Mere Motherhood Newsletters, Hallelujah, Cultivating Advent Traditions with Handel’s Messiah and the Morning Time: A Liturgy of Love. She co-hosts The Literary Life Podcast with Angelina Stanford and Thomas Banks and The New Mason Jar Podcast. She is also the owner of the Mere Motherhood Facebook group and runs an active moms’ discipleship group on patreon.com/cindyrollins. Her heart’s desire is to encourage moms and go to baseball games.  She lives in her sometimes empty nest in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband Tim and dog Max.”

You can find Cindy at:

morningtimeformoms.com  where she publishes her newsletter Over the Back Fence

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cindyrollins.net/

Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/cindyordoamoris/

Mere Motherhood https://www.facebook.com/groups/meremotherhood/

Patreon Discipleship at Patreon.com/cindyrollins

(Source: https://morningtimeformoms.com/about)

I’ve enjoyed Cindy’s Podcast: The New Mason Jar

I have also really enjoyed using Cindy’s Commonplace Book this year to improve my personal reading life.

5. Amber O’Neal Johnston

“Amber O’Neal Johnston is an author, speaker, and worldschooling mama who blends life-giving books and a culturally rich environment for her four children and others seeking to do the same. She recommends we offer children opportunities to see themselves and others reflected in their lessons, especially throughout their books, and she’s known for sharing literary “mirrors and windows” on HeritageMom.com. She is the author of A Place to Belong, a guide for families of all backgrounds to celebrate cultural heritage, diversity, and kinship while embracing inclusivity in the home and beyond.”

(Source: https://heritagemom.com/)

Amber’s new book: A Place to Belong


I had the chance to meet Amber at the 2021 Charlotte Mason Together Retreat! She is a wonderful resource on worldschooling, among her resources on teaching children to be secure in their personhood and culture.

6. Min Jung Hwang

“Min awakes with joyful anticipation of what God will do as she cooperates with Him in home-educating her 4 creative children, as well as her friend’s precious two children. She delights in sharing the Gospel-grounded Charlotte Mason philosophy and methods with every family and church.

Over a decade ago, having become convinced of the life-giving paradigm the Charlotte Mason philosophy brings, she has embraced Miss Mason’s principles, allowing them to inform her ministry with moms, college students, and children.

If you were having tea with her, she would tell you God doesn’t waste anything; she can testify to how her varied background in Nursing, law, and nonprofit work establishing safehomes for sexually exploited, pregnant mothers, has helped equip her for her current vocation.

Min is a wife of more than 20 years to her best friend, Young. They have the blessing of pastoring a beautiful, ethnically diverse church in New Jersey. In addition to serving as Pastor’s Wife, the Children’s Ministry Director, an artist, and home-educator, you’ll find her loving on mothers at Life-givingMotherhood.com – a worldwide community of mothers desiring to grow in their spiritual disciplines and life-giving habits – and podcasting at Charlotte Mason For All and Charlotte Mason’s Volumes.

(Source: https://charlottemasoninspired.com/min-jung-hwang/)

I have never met Min, but have heard her interviewed on my friend Amy’s podcast, Homeschool Conversations with Humility and Doxology

7. Erika Alicea

“Erika Alicea is a former public school teacher turned homeschooling mama to one amazing young lady. Born and raised in NYC, Erika helps her husband, Efrain, pastor their church in the Bronx.

When Erika was first introduced to Miss Mason’s educational philosophy through God-sent friends, who are now her co-hosts on the Charlotte Mason for All Podcast, it was an answer to many of her prayers. As she began to learn about all the beauty a Charlotte Mason education offers, Erika had to be creative in implementing Miss Mason’s methods in the context of city life and as a family of color.

As a firm believer in a multicultural education for all children through the use of diverse, living books, Erika uses her website Charlotte Mason City Living as a resource to help educators diversify their instruction. It’s her prayer that it serves as an encouragement to all families, especially those who feel Miss Mason’s philosophy may not be inclusive enough or even possible for multicultural or urban families.

On any given day, you can catch Erika taking pictures of nature treasures in the city that often go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of urban life. You can also find Erika at The Art of Color as co-creator of these carefully crafted and curated CM-inspired Art Appreciation resources showcasing artists of color.”

(Source: Erika Alicea, also see https://charlottemasonforall.com/our-story/)
Now that I know Erika better, I cannot wait to see her beautiful-looking multicultural artist studies at her The Art of Color Study.  She is also a part of CM City Living (multicultural living books, anyone!?) and on the Charlotte Mason For All podcast.

8. Mariana Mastracchio

“Originally from Southern Brazil, Mariana is a mom of two boys, who has been home educating them since the beginning of their schooling in 2016.  

She lives in Westchester, NY, and can be found daily with a delicious cup of black coffee paired with a good book. She enjoys serving her Catholic Church alongside her family, taking family hikes and soaking in the beauty of God’s creation at the seashore.

On her home educating journey, Mariana found a great friend in Miss Mason. This friendship has yielded precious fruit not only in her homeschool, but in the atmosphere of her home and her life.

She’s active in the CM Brazilian community co-hosting a podcast and online community in Portuguese: Descobrindo Charlotte Mason and founding a publishing company, Editora Ideias Vivas, that publishes living books for all ages. In addition, Mariana co-hosts the podcast Charlotte Mason for All, alongside Erika Alicea and Min Hwang. She also serves as a COO at the Life-Giving Motherhood Membership.”

(Source: Mariana Mastracchio, also see  https://charlottemasonforall.com/our-story/)

Mariana is very active in the Brazilian Charlotte Mason community.  I love to see Charlotte Mason spread globally. How amazing is it that Mariana is the founder of a publishing company that publishes living books in Portuguese? Find her as a co-host of Charlotte Mason For All podcast.

9. Leah Boden

“Leah Boden is wife to Dave, mother to four children, a long-time home educator, and student of Charlotte Mason.

With over two decades of experience in church leadership, Leah’s working background also features many years in youth, children’s, and family work within the church and for the local education authority. Leah speaks, writes, hosts podcasts and coaching sessions, and runs workshops sharing the beauty of a Charlotte Mason approach to childhood, motherhood, and education. 

Leah is the author of the upcoming book Modern Miss Mason (Tyndale Publishing, Jan 23)

She and her family live in the West Midlands, England.”

(Source: Leah Boden, also see https://www.leahboden.com/hello)

Follow Leah to get updates about the release of her new book, Modern Miss Mason!

I personally cannot wait to read this book.  Leah resides in a beautiful area of England, not too far from Ambleside, Charlotte Mason’s home after she taught for 30 years.

I have thoroughly enjoyed interviews with Leah, conducted by Humility and Doxology and The New Mason Jar.

10. A Great Book Study Resource

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

I personally have had the joy of speaking with Karen Andreola and have truly enjoyed the time I have had to dive deeply into the application of Charlotte Mason methods through study of her book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.  My book club and I have been reading and discussing it since October 2020!  We are still going strong, as we meet monthly and discuss about three chapters at a time! 

Shopping for Homeschool

My friend from Humility and Doxology, Amy Sloan, writes about homeschooling from the perspective of a second generation homeschooler. Interviewer, podcaster, blogger, content creator, teacher, wife and mother, she has a lot of great experience with classical Christian homeschooling and parenthood. Her Amazon store is pretty awesome.  

My Little Brick Schoolhouse living books collection is another one of my favorites, for obvious reasons.  We love living books around here.  Historically, I have enjoyed pairing living books with the content we are studying.  The picture book biographies are truly my favorites.

Living books are one of the hallmarks of a Charlotte Mason education.  

Another defining characteristic is nature study.  Check out my YEAR of Nature Study, a unit designed for each of the seasons.

Other Charlotte Mason-inspired resources in Brick Schoolhouse Etsy Shop:

The Big Maine Basket – This is a Charlotte Mason and classical education-inspired narration tool. In this Maine-themed “basket”, you will find two book recommendations, narration instructions, a narration template for use over the course of two days, coloring pages, and EXTENSION ACTIVITIES! Spend time in good, living books. Read to your children, and have them narrate part way through the reading using this template. This narration tool is designed for multiple developmental levels, is good for keeping record of narrations, and utilizes Charlotte Mason and classical methodologies. It would also pair well with any MORNING TIME, CHARLOTTE MASON, or CLASSICAL CURRICULUM.

Dear Homeschooling Mama: Refresh Your Home’s Atmosphere + Habits – This is a planner and goal-setting resource, as well as habit tracker.

I was tired of not having a plan, but every time I tried to set out to make goals for our upcoming year, I would get stuck! I started curating some wisdom from various women who have walked the walk. Lara Casey, Charlotte Mason (Sonya Shafer at Simply Charlotte Mason), and my own experience have helped me develop this tool you might find as a breath of fresh air to help you organize your thoughts about uncovering what matters, as well as implement habits to change the atmosphere of your home! This is my process. I hope it blesses you in some way.

This resource includes:

-workbook-style planning pages

-notetaking templates

-habit tracker on calendar

-checklist templates

What Works for Your Family Is Truly Best

I remember how overwhelming it can be to research all the methods and practices.  Keep in mind your own home atmosphere and what you envision for your own family.  I hope you have found this brief directory of sorts helpful in seizing your [own] self-education in the methods of Charlotte Mason.  I cannot claim to be a “purist” in the sense that we follow Charlotte Mason “by the book”.  I doubt many of us are.  However, I do believe that exposure to people in your “camp” can be edifying and inspiring.  

Morning Time In Practice + FREE Poetry Mini-Unit

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these excellent morning time resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

I hope I am not sounding like a broken record.

By now, you probably know that I am pretty passionate about the practice called “morning time” in the homeschool day. To read up on how we have enjoyed this thirty to forty-five minute period, try these blog posts:

Make Morning Time More Beautiful

History Lessons, Book Lists and Morning Time

December 2021 Morning Time

Morning Time

While I love singing hymns and reading about history, I cannot contain my excitement surrounding our “beauty loop” for the upcoming school year (for a rising third grader and kindergartener).

The beauty loop has its benefits. First of all, you are able to rotate subject areas on a three to four day “loop”, allowing everyone to get acquainted with composers through composer study, artists through picture study, and poets through their poetry and accompanying biographies. If you missed the free planning template for the beauty loop, feel free to grab it below.

Secondly, I love how deep we can dive with our subjects. We have studied A.A. Milne for a solid semester this year. We studied Bach for at least six months of the school year, and we have been able to get acquainted with Michelangelo for the past three months. I have found that this deeper “friendship” lasts throughout a lifetime, as I myself am forever changed and tethered to the minds behind the great works.

Morning Time Beauty Loop Plan

Right now, I’d like to share the nitty gritty of our upcoming year’s beauty loop by inserting our plans. These are not set in stone, but I have already gathered my books and have linked the resources we’ll use during the loop below for you. I am making units to go along with each poetry study (designated by term). I hope this helps you in some way to at least visualize what it can look like.

If you’d like to snag a FREE mini-unit for our Robert Louis Stevenson poetry study, I invite you to subscribe to My Little Brick Schoolhouse community. You can do that below.

If you want to purchase A Child’s Garden of Verses to go along with the unit (not necessary, but recommended), Amazon is offering a great price right now.

Beauty Loop is a  3-day rotation, change topic each term:

TERM 1
9 weeks
TERM 2
4 weeks
TERM 3
4 weeks
TERM 4
7 weeks
TERM 5
6 weeks
TERM 6
7 weeks
POETRY (day 1)Robert Louis Stevenson
6 poems 
Term project: dramatization of 1 poem
A.A. Milne3 poems
Term project: cereal box biography
Christina Rossetti
Term project: lap book biography
Favorite Poems Old & New – seasonal themes
6 poems *include poetry of Wilhelm Muller, a contemporary of Schubert
Term project: compose an original seasonal poem
Eugene Field (Field Poetry)
5 poems
Term Project: create a comic strip to summarize one of Field’s poems
Jack Prelutsky 
6 poems from  Ride A Purple Pelican
Term project: plan a poetry tea and invite someone special to hear recitations and view accompanying artwork (gallery walk)
COMPOSER STUDY – Classical period
(day 2)
Schubert (first 2-3 weeks focus on biography)SchubertSchubertBeethoven(first 2-3 weeks focus on biography)BeethovenBeethoven
PICTURE STUDY
(day 3)

Renaissance period
The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient RomeThe Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient RomeGiotto (Simply Charlotte Mason)Raphael (Simply Charlotte Mason)free choice (tracing favorite works with pencil and tracing paper with narration)
Morning Time Beauty Loop by Term and Subject

Resources Used in Morning Time

Doxology (reference: YouTube “Doxology: Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”)

Singing the Great Hymns (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Poetry-

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne

Who Was A.A. Milne? by Sarah Fabiny

AmblesideOnline Poetry Anthology Volume 2: Walter de la Mare, Eugene Field, James Whitcomb Riley and Christina Rossetti

Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris

Schubert’s Winterreise: A Winter Journey in Poetry, Image and Song by Franz Schubert, Wilhelm Muller and Katrin Talbot

Ride A Purple Pelican by Jack Prelutskty

Composer Study-

Music Study With the Masters: Schubert (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Music Study With the Masters: Beethoven (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study-

The Stuff They Left Behind: from the Days of Ancient Rome (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study Portfolios: Giotto (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Picture Study Portfolios: Raphael (Simply Charlotte Mason)

Does this help you in some way? Please feel free to comment below, and ask any questions by emailing me: mylittlebrickschoolhouse@gmail.com

This Is What Every Homeschool Bookshelf Needs: A Living Picture Book Biography Collection 

I am thoroughly enjoying this season of life, as it relates to read-alouds. Plopping myself down with a good picture book, I announce that it is time to read. Within a second, I have the bees buzzing up to the hive and all is well.

In fact, I cannot tell you how much I relish this time. Two or three kids surround me; their sweet heads rest inside the crooks of my elbows.

What’s on the menu today? I pull out a hardcover book with whimsical and detailed illustrations on its cover. In an instant, my daughter recognizes the work of the illustrator.
“This is a John Hendrix book!”

It sure is.

(Even if you only have one or two good picture books in your stash, that’s a win.)

Disclosure:  As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of some of these living biography picture books, at no additional cost to you.  I thank you for your support!

I am thoroughly enjoying this season of life, as it relates to read-alouds.  Plopping myself down with a good picture book, I announce that it is time to read.  Within a second, I have the bees buzzing up to the hive and all is well.  

In fact, I cannot tell you how much I relish this time.  Two or three kids surround me; their sweet heads rest inside the crooks of my elbows.  

What’s on the menu today?  I pull out a hardcover book with whimsical and detailed illustrations on its cover.  In an instant, my daughter recognizes the work of the illustrator. 

 “This is a John Hendrix book!”

It sure is.  

I mention the title: A Boy Called Dickens (by Deborah Hopkinson).  I crack it open and we are immediately taken on a flyover chase around London’s (almost) Victorian-era streets. The year is, well, long ago.  We can see that.  It would be helpful if the author gave an exact year, but in reading the author’s note, we can find out that British novelist Charles Dickens lived from 1812 to 1870.  This dreamlike picture book brings the reader in touch with the life of London’s poor youth.  

The chase-like scene sucks the reader in.  Where did Dickens go? Oh, there he is!


As the family gathers round for this reading, we learn that Charles Dickens had a dream to write stories, and was quite adept at telling them.  However, he had to overcome a major obstacle to realize his dream of becoming a true writer. 

I will not spoil it for you, but will point out that this book is one of a few that I would deem “living”.  

One hallmark of a Charlotte Mason education is the reading of good, living books.

“Our business is to give him mind-stuff, and both quality and quantity are essential. Naturally, each of us possesses this mind-stuff only in limited measure, but we know where to procure it; for the best thought the world possesses is stored in books; we must open books to children, the best books; our own concern is abundant provision and orderly serving.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

What, you might ask, is a living picture book?

Living books, generally speaking, have a few common elements (paraphrased from Simply Charlotte Mason website):

  1.  They are written in narrative form, by an author who is passionate about the subject on which he/she is writing.
  2. They are well-written and include a lot of description. 
  3. They feed the imagination and ignite the emotions.
  4. They contain living ideas, which spur the reader on to beauty, truth, awe, joy, confidence, compassion, etc. “Ideas are sparks of truth passed on from a greater thinker to another mind” (https://www.amblesideonline.org/art-definition)
We read these 3 while on our trip to the mountains Memorial Day Weekend.

How does one detect a good, living book?  

Usually, it only takes me a minute or two.  I read the book’s first page.  I skim the middle of the book.  I flip through the artwork on each page.  Oftentimes, a good illustrator will accompany a well-written book ( but not always).  I take into account how the author presents the material, and how engaging the story is for children and adults alike. Sometimes, I read the author’s note at the end of the book. I skim to ensure there are not any hidden agendas or glaringly inappropriate themes. These actions are what make up my quick “test”.

Let’s take a look at an example of a living picture book “opener”.  The first page of A Boy Called Dickens beckons me to plunge into its setting.  (As a side note, I would say this book is written for anyone about seven years old and up.) 

“This is old London, on a winter morning long ago.  Come along, now. We are here to search for a boy called Dickens.  He won’t be easy to find.  The fog has crept in, silent as a ghost, to fold the city in cold, gray arms.

Maybe the boy is down by the river – the thick, black Thames.  There are ragged children here, to be sure, scrambling for bits of copper and wood to sell.”

What did you learn from reading the first page?

I learned that the setting is London, a long time ago.  Foggy London is by the River Thames, and at that time there are many children on the streets who are trying to sell what they can find to make a little money.  I am still left wondering what year we are in, but that is not a deal-breaker, I suppose.

The first page is an excellent way to draw the reader in.  Throughout the book, Deborah Hopkinson uses vivid description, quotations, and clear transitions between time periods.  She weaves living ideas of perseverance and motivation into the story, as well as includes important facts.  Exposing children to biographical history in this way is more enjoyable than reading an encyclopedia article on the life of Charles Dickens, in my opinion.  

I stand up and grab another living biography off the bookshelf (or out of the book basket, in our case).

Maybe the kids will find this one endearing, I think to myself.

The title is Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President’s House.  Written by Beth Anderson, it paints the picture of a loving and patient Lincoln with his impulsive, yet loveable son, Tad.  You might know the Lincolns’ story.  After losing a child, they have Tad: a vivacious, benevolent child, who is hard to understand when he opens his mouth, but has a heart to serve others.  This book is also pretty captivating, at first glance.  While it does show the everyday concerns of the president amid war, it does more than that. It highlights the uncertainty and trials of war, while also emphasizing the importance of charity and familial understanding.  Beth Anderson paints a picture of a winsome and sincere boy: Tad Lincoln. The opening page is quite simple, but accomplishes its purpose:

“Thomas Lincoln wriggled from the moment he was born.  Like a tadpole, thought Abraham, and he called his son ‘Tad’.  The name stuck.  So did the wriggle.”

I believe the reader could learn something about the demands of daily presidential life after reading this book, but even more, the reader is acquainted with the humanity of a presidential family.  A very nice author’s note is included in the back, with photographs of the Lincolns.

Now, for the book that surely engages children’s minds in more ways than just the historical: the engineering and innovative nature of Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford will hook young engineers’ brains.  Themes of dreaming big and tenacity to persevere in the midst of criticism are central here.  Mr. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  was the mastermind behind the unlikely monument that would become a landmark and mainstay of modernity: the ferris wheel. Learn about the process, from design to implementation.  Read about the ferris wheel’s debut at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.  

The first page test results in an easy decision to take the book home:

“It was only ten months until the next World’s Fair.  But everyone was still talking about the star attraction of the last World’s Fair.  At eighty-one stories, France’s Eiffel Tower was the world’s tallest building.  Its pointy iron and air tower soared so high that visitors to the top could see Paris in one breathtaking sweep.”

How does this page make you feel?  What does the page paint in your mind? 

I think you will find that the pages in Mr. Ferris and His Wheel are packed with facts, ideas, and artistic depictions of an era in time that showed our world was surely changing, with innovation and new technology at the forefront of science.

What should the result be, for our children, after reading living books? Delight and wonder are two things that should arise.  “This delight will arise from the experience of receiving those sparks of truth from the author” (https://www.amblesideonline.org/art-definition).

How about you, Mom or Dad? Shouldn’t you also experience delight in reading living books, too? I think so.

After evaluating my selection of books today, I must ask myself, “Why do I love the mid-to-late 1800s so much?”  

Maybe you’ll find a time period that draws you in.  Or perhaps you will be drawn to a particular group of people – inventors, artists, politicians, writers, explorers – and will want your children to take hold of the living ideas written about the lives of such notable women and men.  Flawed humans, yes, but significant to history. 

Think about what you want to read with your children this summer, “Mom” or “Dad”.


I hope your summer is filled with picture books that tell stories about people who accomplished great feats, lived lives that are different from your own, and most assuredly, were real humans who have a lot in common with you, too.  

Some of you might be familiar with the Charlotte Mason method of narration.  I am linking my narration matrix to this post for families who want to take reading aloud a step further

Recapping the Books:

A Boy Called Dickens

Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

References:

Anderson, B. (2021).  Tad Lincoln’s restless wriggle: Pandemonium and patience in the president’s house (S.D. Schindler, Illus.). Calkins Creek.

Davis, K. (2014). Mr. Ferris and his wheel (G. Ford, Illus.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

Hopkinson, D. (2012). A boy called Dickens (J. Hendrix, Illus.). Schwartz & Wade Books.

Ten Questions for Mothers

Some journal questions for you on this Mother’s Day…

Some journal questions for you on this Mother’s Day:

  1. Who is your closest friend? 
  2. How do you feel supported as a mom?
  3. How do you parent differently from your own mom?
  4. How is your parenting similar to the way you were parented?
  5. What is your most treasured memory as a mom? If you cannot pick one, can you describe one precious memory?
  6. What is a Scripture verse you hold dear as a mom?
  7. How does Jesus infiltrate your parenting?
  8. How have you changed as a person since becoming a mom?
  9. What feels hard right now?
  10.  How does God show you that you are not alone?

Here are some favorite books to hold dear, on Mother’s Day and always:

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission for the purchase of any of these Mother’s Day books, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

I Love You Mommy This Much by Wonderbly (Personalized books for Mommy)

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

I Love You to the Moon and Back by Amelia Hepworth

The Unhurried Homeschooler: A Simple, Mercifully Short Book on Homeschooling by Durenda Wilson 

Just Me and My Mom by Mercer Mayer 

May God bless you as a mother.  


Isaiah 66:13 “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.”

A Textbook-Free History Curriculum: It Is Possible!

Does This Look Familiar? 

I’ll admit, I have always loved learning about history.  The in-depth study of a person’s life or a place or an event in the form of narrative has been captivating to me. 

Wait! My history classes never looked like an in-depth study of any one person, place, or event. My history class consisted of lectures, scrawling down copious dates, and textbooks.  My history class consisted of test-induced panic attacks and memories that still haunt me to this day.  One question on a test might look like:

Which of the following best describes the key factors at play in the Third Punic War?

a. and b.

a.,b., and c. 

a. only 

b. and c.

Looking for a Different Way?

I will not dismiss the potency of a test that assesses one’s prowess in timeline chronology, “true or false” reasoning, essay writing, and knowledge.  There is a lot of power there. I will even argue that there is a time and a place for these kinds of tests, especially the essay portions.  However, the training I received in my high school history courses prepared me more for taking tests and studying well.  I cannot say I was able to marinate in a time period or biographical account.  I was introduced to those things, and maybe this sparked an interest or curiosity that I could have taken into my own personal study.  Nonetheless, I was not given the time to just bask in the glory of the Renaissance Period, for example.  Maybe I was allowed to take a little time, and I do have fond memories of making projects and preparing for oral reports.  I do not want to discount the fact that my tenth grade world history teacher was probably one of the best in the state.  She was certainly passionate about making sure we knew the facts!  However, I needed more than an intense, flyover course riddled with color-coded notecards and late night study sessions.  

I needed more time and a relationship with the content.

Does this resonate with anyone else?

Thankfully, I have two parents who loved to travel.  They loved to take me and my little brother to historic battlegrounds on Sunday afternoons after church.  They prioritized taking us to as many national parks (which are filled to the brim with history) as possible in our eighteen years at home. They were certainly into delivering experiences.  I cannot thank them enough!  In fact, my mom was known for reading every single word in every single exhibit whenever we visited a natural or historic landmark.  She was very “completion-oriented”, much to the chagrin and groaning of the rest of us.  Needless to say, my classroom went beyond the four walls at Providence High.  If you can relate, thank a parent.

When I sat down to take Amy Sloan’s Textbook-Free History Masterclass, I suspected she would be of the ilk of homeschool parent who teaches history from a place of freedom and joy.  I wasn’t very surprised when Amy, a second-generation homeschooler, shared her childhood memories of driving from historic marker to historic marker with her enthusiastic parents over the course of an afternoon.  One summer, Amy’s parents took her family on vacation, exploring old battlefields for two weeks. She struck a chord of amusement and endearment with me when she shared about the time her family ran up to one of the museums at closing time (unbeknownst to her mom), hoping to spend some time there.  Her mom knocked on the door and was able to convince the museum caretaker to take her family on a private, after-hours tour! 

Amy shares:

“When it came to those big billboards advertising used and old books, I was definitely going to be the one to yell out from the back seat.  And sure enough, my dad would pull over at the exit, and we would spend hours browsing the bookshelves. We were always late to our destinations, but we generally had lots of old books in the trunk and stories to tell about the unique historic sites when we arrived, so we didn’t mind too much.” 

As she writes at Humility and Doxology and hosts her own podcast interviews about homeschooling, one theme Amy reiterates to her readers and listeners is that history can be taught in a way that deviates from the norm you and I probably had in our public (or private) schools.  History can be taught in a delightful and rich way, without detracting from history’s essence. History is a narrative, or story.  Chronology is a list of dates.  

I invite you to take the Textbook-Free History Masterclass!  You will be equipped to plan for a school year of read alouds and field trips.  Amy clearly explains how to go about choosing a topic for the year, along with a good “history spine” as the core history reading.  She describes how she uses memory work, art and drama and themed parties to make the story come to life.  With five children ranging from ages six to sixteen, Amy has used various methods over time.  She shares her tried-and-true tips with us.

How I Teach History

In list form, I’d like to share some of the components I currently use to teach history.  I have taught history now for three years, and hope to share some of my ideas for next year, as well.  These are just quick notes.  I will place an asterisk (*) next to the ideas I have not yet implemented, but hope to do so next year.

History Spine

The Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times, From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor

(3 to 4x per week) 

Read aloud two times per week.  Ask students (ages 7 and 5) for an oral narration.  Complete map work on day three.  Complete coloring page on either day three or day four.

Amy lists some other great history spines in her masterclass.

Select Read Alouds/Independent Reading

(supplemental reading, either during quiet time in the afternoon, or independent reading during the school day)

Choose historical fiction AND non-fiction picture books (for elementary-aged students)

Refer to my booklists for help finding good titles.  

Note: Many of my titles are non-fiction, but some are historical fiction. I have found the Ranger in Time series to be a great elementary historical fiction option.  

Plan Memory Work*

Choose famous speeches, poems, plays, etc. from the time period you are studying.  Print out one work per term.  Read it together each day.  Teach memorization by reading each chunk three times aloud and having your student(s) repeat the chunk in-full.  Do this each day until the work is memorized.  

Humility and Doxology has a great memory work plan for the year.

I was in Classical Conversations for my first three years of homeschooling.  I printed out flipbooks and focused on two to three subjects per day of the week to drill. For example, Monday would be Science and Latin.  We’d drill the week’s Science and Latin memory work on Monday for about 15 minutes.  I dropped the ball my last year of CC, but I was relieved to know that this wasn’t the only way to do memory work. 😉 There are other ways, as Amy explains in her masterclass.

My plan for next year’s memory work (by term):

  1. 1 longer scripture passage (i.e., Psalm 23)
  2. 1 ancient times work (i.e., a few lines from the Iliad)
  3. Times tables 1-12
  4. 1 speech
  5. 1 poem
  6. 1 song in a foreign language

Art and Music

Through our “Morning Time”, we incorporate the study of art and music, as well as poetry.  These are components of a generous history feast.

Our “beauty loop” currently consists of:

Day 1: Poetry study

Day 2: Composer study

Day 3: Joke Book (NOT art, but isn’t humor an artform?!)

Day 4: Picture Study

Next year, I plan to keep poetry, composer, and picture study in the rotation. The joke book will probably still be a hit during their free time, but I do plan to include memory work in its place.*

Visual arts: I am not a crafty person.  I hate crafts, unless someone else is leading them.  I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. My idea of crafts is drawing freehand or going outside in nature and drawing something beautiful.  I do not do the glue and paint and scissors.  That’s why I keep these materials within reach of my seven and five-year-old children.  I am happy to have them readily available when they need them, which is usually very first thing in the morning while I am making breakfast or later in the afternoon when we have free time.  I trust them. They clean up their own mess (sometimes), and all is well.  

The Story of the World has craft projects for each week of study. I have not used this portion of the activity book (read: I hate doing crafts), but it looks like a great addition to a unit study.

Musical theater: I am not plugged into our local drama community, but I know some homeschool moms who have taken children to productions of Shakespeare plays and auditioned children for musicals at the local arts council.  This would be good for my family when the children get a little bit older.*

Plan Field Trips

I am a part of a Charlotte Mason co-op that includes monthly field trips.  Sometimes, our history study and the field trips overlap.  Oftentimes, they do not. Nonetheless, children are very capable of making connections organically.  Not every field trip’s theme has to be matched perfectly to the theme of the history content.

Two years ago, my kindergarten student and I were studying medieval history.  On my family’s fall break, we took a trip to the Charleston area.  I made a point to incorporate “fortresses” into some of the hot spots to visit since we were reading about castles, fortresses and the like.  In fact, our read aloud around that time was The Castle Diariy: The Journal of Tobias Burgess. It was such a fun trip!  I am linking my page where I write about it here.

Last year, I attempted to work in some history to our family trips again, but it was a flop.  We never really got to study modern times in field-trip form as I had hoped, but our curriculum we used was a unit study.  It was so comprehensive, I did not feel a need to be so tied to aligning field trips with the history because the children made connections organically.  We did manage to travel to Williamsburg and Gloucester, Virginia to see the colonial way of life. That was memorable, as we were studying early modern history. So, maybe it wasn’t a complete flop.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the field trips our co-op took that were living history in nature.  From carding wool by hand , to spinning wool to make yarn, our students got a lot out of their trip to the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace and living history museum.  We also visited many farms that year, snuggled lambs with fleece as white as snow, picked strawberries, gleaned sweet potatoes, and found Native arrows and spearheads.  So, don’t tell me learning and making connections cannot be done if everything isn’t planned to a “T” to match the history curriculum!

Next year, I will call history field trips a “success” if I can work in  these components, many of them with our co-op:

  1. 1 symphony performance
  2. 1 historic battleground
  3. 1 living history museum
  4. 1 nature hike
  5. 1 farm/production facility
  6. 1 local business

Book of Centuries

We have been keeping a book of centuries for about two years now (since first grade). I would love to share my thoughts about it with you, as I write in my recent history post on the blog.

Drama and Skits at Home

This is one great way to make history come alive at home.  The only thing is, I have never implemented a skit or reenactment of a historic event at home, yet.  The key word is: yet.  If anyone has suggestions, I am all ears!*

Videos

YouTube has some great options for quick (like 10 minutes) videos about an historic event or person.  Just be sure to view in advance before showing it to the kids!  Some things are marketed as being geared towards children, but include some violence or themes that might be too heavy for your family.

RedeemTV has a good series called Torchlighters.  These are biographical accounts of various Christian martyrs and missionaries over the course of Christian history.

Themed Parties

While I haven’t really hosted a themed party for those outside my little clan, I do have a few ideas up my sleeve.

Our Medieval Feast

These ideas usually pair well with books we have read.

  1. Host A Medieval Feast to go along with Aliki’s book by the same name!  We did this two years ago, when my son was in kindergarten.  For pictures, check out this page.
  2. Go on a picnic with Aslan from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  The history connection would be the World War II setting in Britain.
  3. Celebrate Holy Week by hosting a “Seder meal”, as the Israelites remembered the passover, when the angel of death passed over God’s people in Egypt who had the blood of a spotless lamb painted on their door frames.

I have more ideas, but I will write on these later.

How Will I Assess Learning?

As a former teacher, I am well-versed in “formative” versus “summative” assessments.  The formative assessment is what we are constantly doing in our homeschool.  For example, if the student is practicing 2-digit addition with regrouping, I will formatively assess his understanding by giving him a problem to work out and look over his shoulder as he works it out.  I give feedback. Or, I might ask a question about what he has learned from something we just read, and give him some feedback if he is deviating from the main points.  

Summative assessment takes the form of written tests, usually.

How would I assess my history student?  Narration and record-keeping through notebooking is a great tool for assessing what students know and understand. Read my blog post on narration for a more comprehensive explanation of how I understand narration.  There are many more narration tools I include on my website (for free) and in my Etsy shop, Brick Schoolhouse.  

Amy’s Masterclass also includes some helpful tips on assessment and notebooking.

Have I whetted your appetite for a history experience that is textbook-free? If you are looking to find more content related to teaching history, I cannot vouch enough for Humility and Doxology .  I also want to point you to Pam Barnhill and her “Your Morning Basket” podcast Episode #111, “Teaching History Without A Curriculum: A Conversation With Amy Sloan”.

In short, I hope your year is full of connection and joyful learning.  History can be fun, so I hope this post gives you some fodder for a good start to your school year.

Our Gloucester, Virginia trip last May

New Additions to Downloads, Shop, Books

I am writing to let you in on the newest resources you can get from My Little Brick Schoolhouse.

New Downloads for Spring

  1. Big Maine Basket Freemium Unit (17 pages)
  2. Nature Study Spring Mini-Unit
  3. Travel Four Square Resource

Check these out under the “Downloads” tab. (The above items are all free)

I would be remiss to not mention that Brick Schoolhouse Etsy Shop is offering 40% off all units for the month of April!

Look for more content in May and in the months to come. We are busily preparing for spring break. How are you spending your April?

Booklists for Classical Conversations Cycle 1

I also am excited to share that we are one week away from completing the entire Cycle 1 in Classical Conversations! I have made a book list to pair living books with each week of this cycle, which is heavy on ancient history and empires. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have. The subjects represented are: science, fine arts, history, geography and math.

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