Be sure to read Part 1 of this series before reading this!
Oh, so you wanted to know which curriculum we’re going with? :-p
Well, I thoroughly checked out each of the websites I mentioned in the previous article, looked at their curriculum packages, book lists, and schedules in detail
until I nearly went cross-eyed. The one that most appeals to me in terms of content, layout, information, and support is Ambleside Online. It’s wonderful!
- Booklists and weekly schedules for years 0 (Kindergarten) to 11
- Detailed resources for teaching art, nature study, and more relevant Charlotte Mason topics
- Articles to read that will help in planning and implementing CM methods
- Pretty much whatever you need you can find it on the site map – from schedule examples to reviews and helpful tips on how to use the AO curriculum.
- On top of all that, they have a very active forum full of helpful people. I have yet to introduce myself there but I plan to!
It looks like the books and topics of study assigned will be challenging but enjoyable, too. I will, I’m sure, be adding or removing books or subjects according to my children’s needs, and I like having the freedom to do that. If I had purchased a curriculum package I would have been “stuck” with whatever they had given me, so having the ability to be creative and go with whatever the kids are most interested in is great.
Charlotte Mason and Kindergarten
You may have noticed that Kindergarten is called Year 0 at Ambleside and that the “schedule” isn’t really a schedule at all. This is because Charlotte Mason believed that children before the age of 6 should not have formal schooling (i.e. be stuck inside at a desk) but should be outdoors learning about nature as much as possible and forming good habits like obedience, attention, etc. In fact, Miss Mason goes into this in great detail in the first few volumes of her works! So Year 0 is very mild and the list of suggested books are easy and not too deep yet. I actually felt like they were a bit too easy for Emma (and we had already read many of them), but discovered that many others felt that way and so created a “Year 0.5″ book list containing books with a bit more challenge. I’ve made a list of the books I would like to include in Emma’s Kindergarten, including The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh, Little House on the Prairie (and subsequent books, we’ve already read Little House in the Big Woods and are in the midst of the next one already), Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans (free on Kindle here), A Child’s Garden of Verses, and a few other cute old-fashioned stories I found at ChildrensBooksOnline.org. Did you know that you can find quite a bit of classic literature online in ebook or audiobook form for free? This is a huge plus for us – I don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of books! My favorite places to find them so far are BooksShouldBeFree.com and Project Gutenberg.
Besides reading literature together, I plan to introduce her to art appreciation, music study, and other things such as nature study and learning the everyday things children should know by that age. I’ve read through the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six and that certainly gives us a few goals for the next year!
If I had “met” Charlotte mason earlier I might have done things a little differently… but I wouldn’t have changed everything. :) Emma has been doing preschool “lessons” for awhile now, but nothing that she didn’t want to do. Honestly, I would not have been printing out worksheets, buying preschool workbooks, or giving her reading lessons if she hadn’t been begging to do it! She asked me constantly what the words said in books and wanted to know how to read herself so I finally did start giving her lessons and practicing reading with her. The girl is a sponge and eager to learn, and on top of that she already feels very proud of her school accomplishments, so I think now is a good time to start our structured school days. But they will be very short.
Kindergarten With Emma – Our Plans
I was honestly relieved when I realized there was a different way to do things for Kindergarten with Emma. The way we’ve done things so far, I have not pushed at all if she has become frustrated with a subject. When she expressed frustration at sounding out words I put the reading lessons away for a couple of months and then tried again later. Later she was ready and just started sounding them out herself without a problem – I am so glad I waited and didn’t push! I also was very aware that she was only 4 and that it was wonderful that she was interested at all. :) This taught me that pushing before a child is ready to learn something is unnecessarily painful for both teacher and child – taking breaks and waiting awhile to try again when the child’s mind is fresh (and they don’t wince at the thought of that particular subject anymore) is a good thing to do, especially at this tender age.
What I have learned from reading through the AO website and forums is that I can be flexible and creative, and I don’t have to do things the way everyone else does but can still educate Emma well and have fun doing it!
Our Kindergarten “Curriculum”
I plan to keep our lessons very short!
Geography: Practice (mild) mapwork with her to start getting her familiar with geography. Every time we come across a new place in our reading, we’ll look it up on the map!
History: We’ll be reading through the Bible of course and will be learning about history through our literature readings as well. Little House on the Prairie will be one of those. :)
Science: Begin a watercolor nature journal and start taking regular nature walks, identifying plants and trees, insects and animals, etc. I plan to cover some other topics as well as she shows interest in them. Sparking her interest is as easy as leaving her children’s encyclopedia open to a specific page – she wants to know about everything!
Math: Continue working on math… since she loves it. :) I don’t plan on buying a Kindergarten math workbook at this point, though I do have some random workbooks I can use if she’s interested such as Kumon’s My Easy Book of Telling Time. I plan to get an abacus and start using RightStart Math when she’s ready, most likely next year for 1st Grade. We’ll be doing mostly hands-on learning for math, and I did find a book with math activities for kids ages 3-7 called Count on Math that is full of things to do that I think she’ll love!
Handwriting: I plan to let her practice writing her letters with copywork as long as it stays frustration-free. We’re still at the tracing stage at the moment while she learns to keep her letters between the lines on the page, and I don’t want to push her on this until she’s ready – she’s only 5 after all.
Literature: We’ll begin reading her literature books to her (of course) and practice narration, which I have a feeling she will have NO problem with since she already enjoys narrating everything to me whether it be a story from a book, a movie we’re watching, or something that happened at some point in her life. The girl loves to talk (not sure where she learned that from)! The books on my list right now are The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh, The Adventures of Buster Bear by Thornton Burgess, On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Wilder, and The World Treasury of Children’s Literature Books 1 and 2. We’ll also exploration narration in different ways – drawing, acting out the story, and having me write down what she says. Additionally, I plan to note any vocabulary in readings that she might not already know before beginning reading, and we’ll read a poem every day from A Child’s Garden of Verses or The Real Mother Goose.
Bible: Bible readings and weekly memory verses.
Social Studies: We’ll learn some new folk songs, classical music, and famous art pieces.
The key word here is plan. I plan to do these things but we’ll see what happens… I’m still reading and researching, too. We’re just going to try to make this a really fun year with no pressure, going at a pace Emma is comfortable with, and I know we’ll learn a lot. :-) It might seem like a lot to do on that list, but many things we’ll complete once a week or month. It’s doable!
Oh, and I’m scheduling my weeks out using Homeschool Skedtrack which is completely free to use online! I spent weeks trying different things out and trying to figure out what the best option was for staying organized, and this is by far the best I’ve found! Well, that’s free anyway. My favorite thing about it is that I can print out daily and weekly lessons (with a checkmark so we can check off our progress as we go), and the reports look really professional for record-keeping.
I am so excited about getting started, and can’t express how happy I am to have found Ambleside. I have so much information at my fingertips and there are wonderful people in the forum and through blogs I know I can glean information and wisdom from. I think it’s going to be a really fun school year for us!