Homeschooling 2012: Part 2

The Second of Two Homeschooling Posts 

Which Include Way Too Much Information

(Consider yourselves warned)

You can read Part 1 here.

Living Books

One of my favorite things about Charlotte Mason-style homeschooling is the emphasis on living books.  “What is a living book,” you ask?  I will defer to an expert here:

From Simply Charlotte Mason:

Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.”

One of CM’s gravest concerns was dumbed-down and/or uninteresting literature.  She labels these types of books, “twaddle.”  She felt children deserved a steady diet of high quality literature (living books) to feed their imaginations and their intellects.  Interestingly enough, many standard textbooks fall under the “twaddle” category.

I would say, curriculum-wise, this is my absolute favorite thing about homeschooling using CM.  Since my kids are still young, most of their living books must be read to them.  This means I get to read and learn and enjoy all of these wonderful lessons and high quality literature along with my children.  Far from being a burden, this is a very enjoyable part of our day.

(Note: it would be just a smidge more enjoyable if these wonderfully precious sons of mine would do something other than climb all over me while I am reading to the girls.  Apparently they didn’t get the memo about living books being totally awesome.)

There are excellent living books on virtually every subject you could imagine.  Once again, Simply Charlotte Mason has a handy help: CM Bookfinder .

What we are doing this trimester:

This year, we are using the following as our guides for curriculum:

Gianna: Grade 1, Level 1A Mater Amabilis
Aliya: Kinder, Prep Level Mater Amabilis

As I mentioned in my last homeschooling post, we don’t follow each and every suggestion from MA, so be sure to head over there yourself and check it out if you are interested.  (By the way, MA is entirely run by a veteran volunteer homeschooling mom, Michele.  She deserves mad props for all the work she has put into this fabulous free resource.)


Gianna: Singapore Math’s Primary Mathematics 1A Standards Edition (1B later in the year) and Life of Fred Cats
Aliya: Singapore Math’s Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics A (B later in the year) and Life of Fred Apples

Singapore Math, while not a “living book,” works amazingly well for our family so far.  There is a lot of hands-on work, just enough workbook-y work for my girls’ tastes, and not a whole lot of prep for me.  We do this 4 days/week.

Life of Fred is a gem!  It is more in the living books category, and teaches math in a conversational/pictorial way using the life of a 5 year old math professor (!) named… you guessed it: Fred.  It is quirky and fun, and we use it once/week to keep math fresh and exciting. Another thing I love about this series is the fact that they are not consumable.  Those of us who will homeschool several children really appreciate being able to use books more than once.


Gianna: Catholic National Reader, Primer and Book 1
Aliya: McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer, also available as a free download from Gutenberg

My mom, wonderful and amazing, recently “retired” from homeschooling after 24 years.  While visiting my parents’ home this summer, I had the distinct pleasure of rifling through all of her homeschool curricula!  These small-but-mighty readers saved me from paying a pretty penny on a massively complicated reading program.  Skeptical?  I know.  The teacher in me just couldn’t believe that a few minutes a day with these basic (but lovely!) readers would yield any sort of measurable learning progress.  In the interest of finances, I decided to give them a try.

I completely lucked out with these.  Charlotte Mason emphasizes short lessons in order to keep the child’s attention strongly focused on the subject, and ending while a child’s interest is still piqued.  These are it!  Each page is one lesson and takes between 5 and 15 minutes to complete.  The girls love how short it is and I love how they don’t fight me on reading.  (Last year it was a battle. every. single. day.)  And there is no doubt that their reading abilities are progressing well.

We use these four days/week.  On Wednesdays, the girls pick any book off our home shelf and read to me for 15 minutes.  (See more about that at the end of the Literature section.)



I could just stare at that photo all day long.  Looking at this stack of literature makes me feel… I don’t know… wealthy?  Like I am so blessed to have all of this at my fingertips.  So much to read and learn and enjoy.

The Harp and the Laurel Wreath?  It’s beat up because it is another treasure I stole inherited from my mother.  Lucky me. Thanks, Mom.

These are our basic everyday lit books.  We read most of them once/week.  We are beginning some work with poetry now, so that will be daily memory work.  I’ve also slotted one day per week as a free choice day.  The kids can pick whichever book they want me to read, and most of the time they choose lovely books.  But yes, I do grit my teeth and actually read whatever it is they choose, even if it’s Barbie’s Most Annoying and Degrading Adventure.  If you want to know my secret for getting through all the twaddle, check out what the hilarious and insightful Simcha Fisher has to say on the subject.

Chapter books we have read or will read this year:
Little House in the Big Woods, L. Ingalls Wilder
The Children of Noisy Village, A. Lindgren
Heidi, J. Spyri
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, R.Godden
The Secret Garden, F.H. Burnett
Red Sails to Capri, A. Weil

Do you have any must-read chapter books for your young ones?  Last year we read about 20, so I think I may need to build this list a bit.


Gianna and Aliya: Biographical history of the famous Americans

Do you remember the book The Terrible Troll Bird?  Its cover, if not its content, sticks out in my mind as a memorable book from my childhood.  I was very surprised to learn that the same married author/illustrator duo Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire wrote many illustrated biographies of famous Americans.  I decided to do an author study and use these same biographies for our history this year.  So far, I have Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Pocahontas, Buffalo Bill, and Abraham Lincoln.  The books are rich in literary value, gorgeous illustrations, and historical content.  Score!  If you are interested, check for these at your local library.  I think they are fairly common library fare in the U.S.

We will also supplement with Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston.


Gianna: Handwriting Without Tears Printing Power, copywork
Aliya: Handwriting Without Tears Letter and Numbers for Me, copywork

In a strictly Charlotte Mason education, children learn and improve their handwriting through copywork, which is the copying of a poem or a literary or biblical passage.  I have to admit that we haven’t found it to be very enticing for our emerging writers.  It’s probably because they are just learning to read, so copying something difficult is tedious.

They do enjoy the Handwriting Without Tears method, so that is what we use most days, with 1 or 2 days of simple copywork thrown in.  They enjoy the HWT illustrations and I enjoy the method of instruction.

On a related note, I am considering switching to teaching cursive at an earlier age.  I found this program: Cursive First, and it is intriguing to me.  Do any of my homeschooling friends or visitors have input on teaching cursive at an early age?  I’d love to hear it.


Gianna and Aliya: Nature notebooks, Pagoo by H.C. Holling, books by Glen O. Blough: Bird Watchers and Bird Feeders, Wait for the Sunshine, and Insect Parade (not pictured because I haven’t bought it yet)

Science with Charlotte Mason is mostly about discovery.  Letting a child explore and wonder about God’s creation is a foundational aspect of CM.  Our studies this year include birds, weather, and insects, as well as marine life.  Twice weekly we read from our lively and interesting (out-of-print and hard to find) books by Glen O. Blough.  And once per week we spend an extended time outside learning from the (limited) nature around us.  The children collect leafs and rocks, draw in their nature journals, and just explore.  My goal for this year, now that naptimes are limited to once a day, is to choose 3 nature sites in or near Daegu to visit each season.  That will mean a nature field trip every few weeks or so.  Yee-haw!

(By the way, if you need to find an out-of-print book and it’s not on Amazon, check Bookfinder.  Awesomely helpful.)


Gianna and Aliya: Bible, Saints, Rosary, Mass
Gianna: Faith and Life, Book 1

Religion is one of those subjects where I am learning too.  (Oh wait, I think that’s all of these subjects!) While I do know quite a bit, I still consider myself a neophyte.  The saints are especially inspiring to me.  Knowing about their lives, their struggles, their humanity… it makes my burdens lighter.

So far, I feel like I underestimated Gianna’s ability by choosing Faith and Life 1.  We are in Chapter 3 and it is all review so far.  I am just going forward with it for now, though, because it is good review, and she isn’t complaining.

Not pictured: Speak Lord, I am Listening, a scriptural rosary study with inspiring watercolor illustrations.  I highly recommend this if you are wanting to begin the rosary with your children.  It is helpful to me, too!


Gianna: “Mapping” from The Earth, mapwork
Aliya: “Rivers” from The Earth, mapwork

The Earth: The Geography of Our World by Barbara Taylor is a gem.  A gem, I tell you!  It has interesting illustrations, fun and easy science projects, and isn’t too textbook-y.  Too bad it is also very hard to find.

(I had to send away to the U.K. for my copy, which is fine, except this edition has me converting from centimetres to inches, and from kilometres to miles.  I should be comfortable with it by now, seeing how km and cm are used here in Korea.  But I’m not comfortable.  Because I am lazy.)

Ahem. Back to geography.  Right now we use The Earth to learn about mapping and rivers (Aliya tells me she wants to be a cartographer!  Today she made about 7 maps in the dirt outside) and we use the atlas and the sticky laminated wall map to study the world.  Each week we put up sticky notes on places we read about in the past week, review locations from previous weeks, and quiz each other on locations.  It’s really fun!  And absolutely no prep for me, which is a big bonus.

Art (Appreciation):

Gianna and Aliya: Artist Study: Pierre Auguste Renoir, (Trimester 2: Edgar Degas, Trimester 3: Claude Monet)

We are studying Impressionism this year.  Renoir is the first of three artists.  The books: one is a superb biography, and the other is Renoir and the Boy with the Long Hair.  The coolest art suggestion I got from an experienced homeschooler is to buy a book of artist postcards so you can study many works from one artist without breaking the bank.  I think our postcard book, which has 30 Renoir works, cost about $6. The girls really enjoy flipping through them.

Music (Appreciation):

Gianna and Aliya: Franz Schubert (Trimester 2: Mozart, Trimester 3: Joseph Haydn)
I know next to nothing about classical music and classical composers.  Fortunately for me, there are some superb living books on the subjects of famous composers.  We read Franz Schubert and his Merry Friends once/week, listen to his music a few times/week, and listen to his life story on CD as well.  What a fascinating life!
Edited to add the following:
My friend Emily, who happens to be an awesome music teacher, turned me on to this site last year:  Classics for Kids. We learned about Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev last year, and I am listening to one of the 6 minute clips about Schubert.  (Of course, I totally forgot about it until she reminded me when I posted this link last night.  Thanks, Emily!)
Another thing that slipped my mind… every couple of days we spend time listening to the Wee Sing America CD.  We march around the living room, act dramatic, and belt out the words we know.  In case you missed this video of our Star Spangled Banner, check it out now.  It is pretty durn funny, if I do say so mah-self.


So as warned, this post has been ridiculously long.  So terribly, boringly, yawningly long that you may have started it only to finish it many days later.  (Oh, wait.  That was just me writing it.) However, it is so long that I don’t even feel like writing a conclusion.  Why are all my high school writing teachers yelling at me in my head?

Too bad.  I’m spent.

Don’t forget to link-up, yo! I would love love love to read about your curriculum choices, and so would my readers (all 4 of them!).  Please add your link below:


  1. So inspiring, Michaela! While Harper is going to traditional kindergarten, I am hoping to incorporate some of this into our home time. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Jen! And I should have mentioned that I think CM works well as a supplement to traditional school because it isn’t like your Harper will come home from school and then you give her more workbooks, you know? You are just enjoying great books together and learning effortlessly.

      Also, in your neck of the woods, many many living books can be found at the library. Can you believe our local library is purging all old books, classics included? So, yeah. We can read Spongebob Squarepants to our heart’s content, but no more Little House books. What the heck?

  2. What a wonderful break-down of your subjects! Something that I’ve done for our Artist Study this year is to find the images online that I plan to use for each artist, save them to my computer and then order prints through Sam’s or Costco. I know that once we get over there, we’ll have to factor in shipping costs as well, but the prints are pretty inexpensive. I think I paid 17 cents (possibly even less, I just can’t remember) per 4×6 print. This year is our first year using a CM curriculum, so we are still getting the hang of it. 🙂

    • Jenna, are you military or a civilian DoD employee? If so, shipping costs are the same as in the U.S., it just takes a little longer.

      And that is a GREAT idea about printing and shipping the images. I don’t know if I will be able to buy these postcard books for each artist, so I will definitely keep this in mind. Thanks!

    • We are a military family and we love that APO shipping is considered stateside, as far as the pricing goes. I think I’ve just gotten used to not having to pay for shipping when it comes to getting photos printed. We live about a mile from our local Sam’s Club, so we save shipping by picking them up when we do our normal shopping. 🙂 Just slightly spoiled, huh? Heeheehee!