Recap and Review 1st Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2020-2021

My plans did not work as well for Sylvia this year. I pride myself on being a good planner so that is hard for me.  Amidst a lot of good, we had some parts that did not function well and I need to learn from it so next year can be better for all involved.

A bit about my first grader
Sylvia turned 6 on September 1. If she were attending public school, she would have been too young by one day to start kindergarten last year and would have actually been in kindergarten this year. A new law went to effect this year making it so I had to document 180 days of schooling for children 6 and up so I figured I would just put her in 1st grade and do a very gentle 1st-grade year.

Over the course of the year, doing the lessons I had planned for her became a source of stress and opposition that I have never experienced before. I had to adjust plans and try to figure out how to homeschool her effectively and keep our relationship intact. Honestly, it is still a work in progress. We are going to have to work this summer on building good habits and trust so that next year is easier for all involved. 

Our Timetable for Students in Form IB and Form IA
I made a timetable (below) and to say that it failed is a generous way to put it. It lasted 3 days before I realized neither Sylvia nor John could really work like this so I changed it.

And that new schedule mainly worked. But I feel like as the winter wore on and, honestly, the stress in the house built up among all of us, doing lessons became a power struggle. Besides being a great planner, I also pride myself on helping my kids meet my reasonable expectations while avoiding power struggles. Consider me humbled! Onto the recap . . . 

1st Grade Charlotte Mason Plans, 2020-2021
I have tried to note in [ ] whether I'm using a free book or how much I paid for each of the resources we are using. I am committed to homeschooling with free or really cheap books as part of our journey to be debt-free while living on one income.

This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure to learn more.

Bible Lessons
Morning time, oral narration after each lesson
We accomplished our plans to read narrative portions of the bible during our morning time during breakfast using the lists available on Ambleside Online and using a New Revised Standard Translation. Unlike Ambleside Online's plans (which coincide with the way Charlotte Mason planned bible lessons) we choose to read only 1 book of the bible at a time instead of alternating between the old and new testaments. We read Exodus, Mark, Joshua, and Judges. 

Language Arts: Reading/Literature, Copywork/Handwriting, Recitation
Reading/Literature (5x10min/week one-on-one lesson, 4x10 Reading Eggs)
My initial plans were to use 10 minutes each day for a Charlotte Mason style reading lesson (as described by Leah from My Little Robins in her helpful reading series) and also use Reading Eggs 4 times a week [Christmas gift from Grandpa, then we renewed a family membership for $70]. 

Our lessons went so well in the beginning, but then she hit a wall and really didn't want to do them. She did continue to use reading eggs regularly and did very well with it. She can read many words but hasn't gotten to a real "aha" moment with reading. I definitely noticed that she would do better if reading lessons were a very private one-on-one lesson with me and so we are going to figure out how to make that happen throughout the summer and into the next school year. 

Copywork/Handwriting (5x10min/week)
Sylvia finished Highlights Handwriting Word Practice book and started a Kumon book of writing. 

Poetry (Listen to the same poem read aloud every day for a week at morning time) While I do not follow Ambleside Online's poetry rotation, I do choose the majority of our poets and poems from their collection. We focused on a different poet each term:
  • Term 1: Christina Rossetti
  • Term 2: Carl Sandburg
  • Term 3: Paul Laurence Dunbar

Recitation (3x10min/week)
Each 6-week half-term Sylvia worked on reciting beautifully (to the extent that she had memorized or could read) 2 poems and 1 passage or another poem. I picked 2 selections and she picked the other poem with my approval. This year, I am hoping that her Dad will be able to read her pieces to her while I do other work with her brother. I read her pieces to her daily before she would begin individual work.

This year, I have selected the following pieces for Sylvia:
Sylvia also chose 4 other poems to recite this year. One half-term she didn't want to do it and I let it go to focus on more important things but as I predicted she felt sad not to have prepared anything to recite at our poetry tea. She was more motivated to do this painless and low-stakes lesson after that experience.

Other Read Alouds
We are a real aloud family and Sylvia loves to be read to. This year we read the following books aloud at lunch:
  • The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley
  • The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • The Little Duke by Charlotte Yonge
  • The Other Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith
  • Frightful's Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff
  • King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
  • Alice's Farm by Maryrose Wood
  • The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
  • Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken
  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
And these books at morning time:
  • A Time for Trolls: Fairy Tales from Norway Told by Asbjornsen and Moe
  • Tales of Troy and Greece by Andrew Lang
  • The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca
  • Immigrant Architect: Rafael Guastavino and the American Dream by Berta de Miguel, Kent Diebolt and Virginia Lorente
  • The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin: The Story of Young Itzhak Perlman by Tracy Newman
  • The Best of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night by E. Nesbit
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Conan Doyle
  • Buddha at Bedtime by Dharmachari Nagaraja
  • Twelfth Night: Manga Shakespeare by Richard Appignanesi
  • The Royal Book of Ballet by Shirley Goulden
  • Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne
  • The Canterbury Tales Retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
Sylvia and her dad are also reading through Harry Potter together this year.

Social Studies: History and Geography
History (2x20min/week, oral narration after each reading)
I created my own booklist and schedule of readings to give Sylvia an introduction to America's pre-colonial history. 
I'm honestly surprised when I look that this list and see that we did everything except for one short picture book. Sylvia narrated many of her readings, but not all of them. It was more important for me to give her these good stories in a way that built connection than to make her process them "my" way. 

Geography (2x15min/week, oral narration after each reading, plus related mapwork that I keyed to the readings)
We'll be reading Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography throughout the entire year, alternating with the other assigned books. We will use maps included in the books as well as our 2010 atlas [already owned - $25.20 used on Amazon]

Sylvia found Elementary Geography to be so confusing and I could tell that she was getting next to nothing from it, so we dropped it. But she really enjoyed Paddle to the Sea and narrated all of it. We are about halfway through Jenny Goes to the Sea and I hope to finish it this week.

Math (5x20min/week)
I planned to use the following resources this year:
  • Life of Fred: Elementary Series by Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt [already well-used by my older sons]
  • Math task cards (which basically break down the first part of Gattegno's Mathematics Textbook 1) using Cuisenaire rods as a way to work on "math facts" and a basic understanding of numeracy. [already owned-purchased for $20 in 2017] 
  • Mammoth Math Light Blue Series worksheets to practice basic skills [I won this entire 1st-7th grade series as a digital download in 2018 and I have used it from time to time as a supplement to our other math work]
And we did use all of them during the first half of the year. But Sylvia was starting out a different place than my sons did at this age due to being a more imaginative child instead of being an avid gamer. I felt like she needed a more systematic exposure to numeracy so I purchased Kindergarten Math with Confidence which helped her get a more basic understanding of numbers, counting, and adding. I liked the activities in the book but the pace was too slow for her at 6 so I would pick a few activities to do and then let her do about 2 lessons at a time. At this pace, she has completed about half the book and we will finish it this summer. I intend to buy the next book in the series for next year.

Science: Natural History, Special Studies, Nature Notebooking
Natural History (2x10min/week, oral narration after each reading)
Eyes and No Eyes,  by Arabella Buckley (1 chapter/week) [free ebook] throughout the year alternating with other titles, including some or all of the following:
We have not finished Seed Babies yet but we did get to almost all of the nature titles I had planned, although we did not read as much of Eyes and No Eyes as I thought we would. Sylvia is my first child to grow up entirely after I discovered Charlotte Mason's writings. It is really a joy to see her interest in nature and her observational skills that she has developed with lots of time in nature plus exposure to great nature lore books. 

Special Studies (Morning time and object lessons)
I chose the following topics for the year:
  • Term 1: Wildflowers & Fruits / Birds & Mammals
  • Term 2: Fruit Trees / Birds & Animals (Migration and Hibernation)
  • Term 3: Wildflowers & Trees / Amphibians
I used the rotation found on Sabbath Mood Homeschool to come up with this list. I selected books on these topics and additional living science and natural history books as part of our morning time, but didn't focus on these topics as much as I have in other years. We read the following:
  • Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman [a birthday gift for Sylvia]
  • Honey Bee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann [owned $1 book sale find]
  • Plant Blossoms by David M. Schwartz [library]
  • Beluga Passage by Linda Lingemann [owned $1 booksale find]
  • From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons [library]
  • Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating [library]
  • Icebergs and Glaciers by Patricia Lauber [library]
  • Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, The First Paleontologist by Linda Skeer [library]
  • The Magic Anatomy Book by Carol Donner [owned $1 book sale find]
  • The Blue Lobster: a life cycle by Carol and Donald Carrick [owned $1 book sale find]
  • Electricity and Magnetism by Gregory Vogt [owned $1 book sale find]
  • Marie's Ocean by Josie James [library]
  • The Tree Book For Kids and Their Grown-ups by Gina Ingoglia
  • A Drop of Water by Walter Wick [owned $1 book sale find]
  • The Smallest Life Around: Exploring the Invisible World of Microbes with Eight Easy At-Home Experiments by Lucia Anderson 

Nature Notebooking (daily entries, weekly nature watercolor drawings)
Sylvia began dictating daily observations to be recorded in her notebook. She also enjoyed painting many things in her notebook this year. As she will do this if it is suggested, I did not need to require it.  [Sylvia needed a notebook, watercolor brushes, and paints info on our supplies and costs here]

Wild + Free Nature Group (3-4+ hours every Friday) [$50/year for our family]
We participated in our weekly year-round nature group at a rural property from August-November and from March onward with a break during the worst of the surge of covid cases. The kids worked together to build large fires, improvised shelters, and even an outdoor urinal. Baby raccoons, deer bones, turtles, salamanders, newts, fish, skinks, and snakes have been some of our favorite nature finds this year.

Forest School Program (1 morning/week for 12 weeks, February-May)
A new program to provide forest school experience to education majors at a local university started in our area and Sylvia was able to take part. It was a great experience for her to build some independence and enjoy a positive experience in nature with other children ages 4-7.
Sledding at forest school.

We also really put a lot of effort into taking family nature hikes on the weekends and have logged many miles and made lots of memories on the trail this year.

Art & Music
Watercolor drawing (2x20min/week)
This became optional and she did it often.

Handicrafts (2x20min/week)
Twice a week, I scheduled handicrafts during our morning lesson time, but after term 1, I let handicrafts happen more organically. Syliva made many, many crafts this year. Some of her favorite handicrafts were luceting, finger knitting, soap carving, whittling, and sewing. She also loved to craft things out of cardboard and paper and tape. 

She sewed a hat for George of her own design.

Some books we used were: 

Singing (2x10min/week)
I choose folk songs each year mainly by browsing Ambleside Online and the book Gonna Sing My Head Off!: American Folk Songs for Children by Kathleen Krull. This year I choose 14 songs, and we got to 10 of them. This is not my favorite subject and when my steam was running out, I put it into a more informal singing in the car category ;-) But we really did learn some new favorites this year.

Artist Study (1xweek at morning time)
This year studied 6 works by the following artists:

Term 1Term 3: Henry Ossawa Tanner [Free PDF artist study from A Humble Place]
Term 2: Peter Paul Rubens [Free PDF artist study from A Humble Place]
Term 3 Term 1: Winslow Homer [Free PDF artist study from A Humble Place]

We had to use digital images to study Tanner because the local print shop didn't return my emails at the beginning of the year (due to the pandemic?). However, I was able to get term 2 and 3s prints done for  $.50 each. 

Composer Study (1x10min week)
This year I planned for us to study one composer per term by listening to their music for 10 minutes a week using the following playlists (pieces selected from ones included on Ambleside Online). But I wasn't getting to it!

Thankfully, Peter really got into Camille Saint Saens Carnival of the Animals and he got his siblings, including Sylvia, into it too, so that was great! I subscribed to 6 months of SQUILT Live over the winter and although it did not focus on one composer per term, it did expose the kids to some great pieces and ideas. The live lessons are probably 30 minutes too long for her, but I think they were still good for her. 

Piano (not yet, but soon? afternoon occupation, 6-7x15min/week)
Hoffman Acadamy [Not an affiliate link! We just love Hoffman Academy.]

We have not started piano yet. I thought we might have started it this summer, but I still think it is best to wait. We'll reevaluate in 6 months. 

Physical Education
I had originally hoped for more normal activities to resume in 2021, but either that hasn't happened or it hasn't seemed like a good idea so instead of a running club or ice skating lessons, Sylvia has gotten her exercise through
  • Ice Skating Lessons (Winter 2021)
  • Hikes, bike rides, and walks around often, including weekly family hikes
  • Wild + Free nature group which gets us active and outside as a family for about 4 hours each week
  • 12-week Thursday morning Forest School program
  • Swimming Lessons (Summer 2021)? 
  • We also bought kayaks this year and are excited about using them a lot this summer . . . once we figure out how to get them on top of our van! We have 3 camping trips planned plus the big kids will plan some overnight backwoods hiking and camping with Dad. 
  • And Sylvia and I joined the girl scouts! I'm so excited to explore the opportunities offered through this organization with Sylvia after enjoying my time as a girl scout when I was her age.

Final Thoughts
This year, I didn't do as great of a job adapting midstream. The baby was changing so fast and I was more overwhelmed during winter because of household stress and covid restricting outside activities. After coming out the other side, I can see that I needed to tweak our schedule to better deal with toddler and baby interuptions. 

We explored beautiful and interesting ideas and built important skills, but my relationship with Sylvia was not where I wanted it to be. I had to let go of the way I thought homeschooling should work to do it the way it could work for us this year. That is why I backed off of many "requirements" and let the winter-spring be more child led for my very young 1st-grader. 

My husband and I have been focusing on one on one time with the kids, peaceful parenting, and also (very importantly) self care. We have a fun, low-stress summer planned and I look forward to building stronger relationships and better habits before we start homeschooling again in August.

Check out my Planning page for even more plans, lists, and logistics.