Meet Julie. A lover of books and also a follower of Classical Conversations. After following the Charlotte Mason philosophy for 3 years, going to a Classical model of education has had its ups and downs for me. Let me explain…
I started homeschooling when my oldest son started first grade. He attended a small private school for kindergarten, but we didn’t like how our family dynamics changed with him being gone ALL day.
We brought our third child into the world that summer and embarked on our homeschool adventure two months later in August. Since the school he attended used the Abeka curriculum and Caleb thrived under it, I decided to continue using it. It seemed all spelled out and user friendly plus proved challenging enough.
I don’t remember much about that year except for being incredibly tired, nursing a newborn, schooling a first grader and keeping a 4 year old occupied in the middle of it all!
By our second year Abeka wasn’t working anymore. Caleb was throwing fits at the language and our school time was not enjoyable. I tried working out the kinks and persevering, but eventually I decided we needed to try something different.
A met a lady through a cub scouts mother-son campout that told me about the Charlotte Mason method. When I returned home, I read her site from beginning to end and by the end of the week had all the books on order.
I’ve told her before that her methods saved my homeschool!
I was excited for my daughter to come up after my son and read the same books! I wouldn’t have to buy new curriculum every year!
The funny thing about homeschool is things change from year to year. Something happened the year my middle child, Mackenzie began school. She entered kindergarten when Caleb was in 2nd grade and did not pick up reading as easily as Caleb did. I persevered through that year and looked forward to her reading going smoother the next school year. It was hard to read all of her books and all of Caleb’s book, plus the baby loved me to read as well! I couldn’t do ALL of it!
It turns out Mackenzie is a picture thinker and so phonics are dreadful for her (and me!)! It took us to her 3rd grade year to get help. If you have a slow reader that seems to stumble on small words, I highly recommend this program! It changed Mackenzie’s confidence within a week!
Using a high literature based curriculum for a struggling reader was hard for me and almost burned me out. Caleb was thriving as he shares his mama’s love for books, but I was wearing thin. As I prayed about how to do this homeschooling thing, the Lord laid Classical Conversations in my lap.
I was actually looking at another co-op near by, but couldn’t match my schedule with the leader of the group and on a whim called my friend who led the local CC group and was able to meet with her that day.
I loved the unity CC brought to our family. Using the CM schedule, eventually I would have all 3 of my kids on different schedules and history events, and I didn’t see that working. With CC, we all study the same history cycle, sing the same timeline song and then the kids do their our own math, writing and English language.
It worked beautifully for years until life changed again…you can read all about that HERE.
So, now we’re back. I’m so thankful to be at CC and feel a little bit normal again. But there are some challenges for me. It mostly has to do with all these books I want to read…
I’ve learned the one thing that challenges me to incorporate CC into our everyday homeschool is that the curriculum isn’t literature based. With my love of books that leaves me feeling blah at times at all the skills and memory work.
I love putting pegs into the minds of my children through the memory work, but I also believe in rich literature to accompany those facts. So I’ve been on a quest for many years to compile a book list that allows me to homeschool creatively while still using the CC model, because I do see the value in it.
I believe I’ve found it! I’ve incorporated my favorite books from the CM site, plus some books I found at our local Christian book store, plus a book list from Heart of Dakota. It’s not a perfect list, and it does not exactly follow a particular CC cycle, but this is what we’re doing this year and it’s working fabulously!
My goal this year was to read our way through U.S. history. So we started reading This Country of Ours (thanks to the CM website) which begins with the story with the Vikings. We paused This Country of Ours and picked up Leif the Lucky by D’Aulaire.
Then we picked This Country of Ours back up and progressed our way to the English and French fighting for the first US colony. Then we marched to the establishment of Jamestown and the arguments, betrayals, delays, and starvation that took place in those early days.
We experienced things first hand when we read A Lion to Guard Us, the story of 3 young children whose father left to go to Virginia. About a year later their mother died and they were in the care of a mean cook.
In a quest to find her father, the oldest girl led her siblings across the Atlantic to find him. It is truly a book that touches all ages. My middle daughter remembered reading it a few years ago, but several times through this reading she said, “Oh my goodness, I don’t remember that! Oh please don’t stop there!”
Now we’ve moved on to one of my very favorites. I read it every year at this time of year in honor of Thanksgiving and it never gets old. I still find new facts I forgot over the past 12 months. It’s called The Story of the Pilgrims and starts the story at Scrooby Inn in England where a handful of Christians didn’t want to attend King James’ church. They meet in the Pastor’s house for their own services, but that enrages the King and he sends his guards to find the rebels and force them to attend the Church of England or go to jail. These same families end up sailing to Holland in search of freedom to worship God the way they believe the Bible instructs.
My favorite thing about reading books to my kids is they don’t think it’s school. We can read on vacation, before bed or on the weekends without a struggle. And the conversations good books initiate is sweet to my soul!
So, that’s where we are now…I highly recommend the books on this list and will update or review them as we continue to progress.
Here’s the whole list of books for American History, Vikings to Civil War(in order):
This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall
A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Bulla
The Story of the Pilgrims by Pumphrey
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Bulla
We Were There at the Boston Tea Party by Dover
Paul Revere by Stevenson
George Washington by D’Aulaire
Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit
The Matchlock Gun by Edmonds
We Were There at the Battle of Gettysburg by Dover
Benjamin Franklin by D’Aulaire
Poor Richard by Daugherty
Buffalo Bill by D’Aulaire
The Story of Napoleon by H.E. Marshall
The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Neuberger
Only the Names Remain by Alex Bealer
Abraham Lincoln by D’Aulaire
Wanted Dead or Alive: The True Story of Harriet Tubman by Ann McGovern
Lee and Grant at Appomattox by Mackinlay Kantor
Robert E. Lee by Graves
Who Was George Washington Carver? by Jim Gigliotti
Florence Nightingale: God’s Servant at the Battlefield (The Sowers) by Collins
The Signers: 56 Stories behind the Declaration of Independence by Fradin and McCurdy
Give me Liberty by L.M. Elliot
Marie’s Home: Or a Glimpse of the Past by Caroline Austin
John Paul Jones: The Pirate Patriot by Armstrong Sperry
Enjoy! Let me know what you think!
So here’s how it looks in my home to combine reading literature and memorizing CC:
I’ve played around with our schedule a lot this year trying to find fit in all the books I want to read, plus accommodate every one’s unique individuality, and after much trial and error, I want to share with you what has worked.
First, we start with our family read time. I have 2 not in the Challenge program, so the three of us gather in the living room. I let them color or crochet or play with legos, whatever they want as long as it’s not noisy and distracting.
Begin with Devotion – We are reading through A Child’s Story Bible by Vos, stopping as needed to ask questions and reinforce key principles. When I finish reading I have the kids orally narrate what we read to see what they picked up on.
Poem – We are reading Something Big Has Been There by Jack Prelutsky. These are so fun that we read 2 each morning. We read from one author for 12 weeks and then switch to another poet.
Verse memorization – I like my kids memorizing a passage of scripture (about 10-12 verses) at a time rather than a bunch of single verses. We’ll work on a few verses each week, recapping as we go. If they have the portion for that week memorized by Friday and can recite it to me, they get a piece of chocolate from Mom’s stash! Such a fun prize!
History Read – We read one of the books I listed above during this time and I will ask the kids to orally narrate at the end.
Break Time! (15 minutes)
Now is when my kids break off and do their own thing.
Math, English, Phonics, Writing – First, I get my middle child started in her math program. While she’s working on her problems, I work with my youngest on math, phonics and copywork. To finish off the day, he does CC review on the computer. Now he’s finished and can play alone while I finish with my middle daughter.
By now, she is finished with her math, so we check it together and she moves on to working on her Essentials paper and English grammar.
Science – Exploring Creation with Astronomy. My 10 (almost 11!) year old reads about a planet each week and orally narrates what she read. She gauges how much she reads as long as the chapter is finished by Friday.
She also finishes the day off with CC review on the computer.
So there’s a sample of what reading great books and memorizing CC looks like for us. And we repeat it all the next day!