my approach to homeschooling is eclectic, but i draw most of my inspiration and curriculum plans from the charlotte mason and montessori traditions. this year i am largely following the framework offered by ambleside online--a wonderful resource! there is so much helpful content on their site, and it is all free. if you want to follow their guide strictly, they even have 36 weeks of lessons planned out for grades 1st-12th. but... it really is necessary to have a fundamental understanding of charlotte mason's methods before moving forward with this plan. 

heron is currently in first grade, shepherd in kindergarten, and peregrin in preschool, so i am mostly following the 1st grade lesson plans and adapting the activities to each of my children. shepherd and per don't participate in all of heron's subjects, and there are portions of each day when i separate the kids for one-on-one time. i teach reading to shepherd while heron does art + crafts with per; i do math with heron while shepherd & per do a designated play activity together, and math with shepherd (per sits in with us) while heron prepares our morning snack. we all begin the day with a preschool time for per which is basically calendar time + tea + books of his choice, at his level (since he has to endure so many chapter books + audiobooks with us!)

heron leads craft time with per four days a week while i begin reading lessons with shepherd. heron keeps this red tote + tray of paper & magazines easily accessible for a quick daily set-up.


  • montessori math is almost entirely manipulative/tactile through age 12. (here's a good overview of montessori math at the early primary level). worksheets are limited, & the materials are beautiful.
  • i am using the scope & sequence, explanation & order of activities from NAMC (more extensive and expensive, but goes through age 12) and montessori printshop (ages 2 1/2-6, but a good introduction if you're not certain you are ready for the commitment, as the accompanying manipulatives can be quite an investment).
  • further details on our math set-up under the MONTESSORI MATH tab.


  • i am using amy tuttle's discover reading (free pdf using charlotte mason's methods) to teach reading to shepherd this year. heron and i both found 100 easy lessons & the ordinary parent's guide to teaching reading to be quite tedious, so i am trying something different, & more playful, with shepherd.


  • daily copywork : usually heron copies a favorite passage from a book she's reading onto lined story paper, & illustrates it, too. sometimes she copies a stanza from the hymn we're currently learning, or a verse from our memory work. a few fun options listed under WORD WORK
  • daily reading practice (heron) and instruction (shepherd)
  • we either read through last year, or are reading currently, ambleside's suggested free reads during bedtime read-aloud time--charlotte's web, peter pan, pinocchio, red fairy book, little house in the big woods, pocahontas. we also read all of e.b. white's classics, heidi, anne of green gables, and selected chapters from the wind and the willows. on monday afternoons, when we study poetry + literature, i am alternating between reading from andrew lang's fairytale books, beautiful stories from shakespeare by edith nesbit, shakespeare for children by charles and mary lamb, a children's garden of verses by robert louis stevenson and favorite poems, old & new, selected by helen ferris. ambleside also suggests reading through aesop's fables; we read them last year so we are skipping them this year.
  • memory work : in the future this may include poetry, but so far it has been scripture + a few vital memory items (our address, mama and papa's cell phone numbers). for scripture, we are trying to memorize whole passages or chapters, a verse from it each week, rather than isolated verses. currently we are learning psalm 91.


  • we use beautiful feet's history curriculum. their approach is very charlotte mason-friendly, as it uses literature (rather than textbooks) for the core of learning. i have their teacher guide, but i don't use the suggested study questions. the children draw or color a picture representing the day's passage while i read aloud for 20 minutes, then heron narrates a summary of what we learned. i record this in her history narration notebook, and paste her picture alongside it with rubber cement.
  • we are beginning with early american history, as i found myself agreeing with this explanation ("why does BFB start with early american history?") on why to begin here rather than with ancient history, along with jack beckman's history essay in when children love to learn, edited by elaine cooper. charlotte mason advocated that young children learn the history of their own country in the earliest years of their formal schooling. we plan to study american history for grades 1 & 2, history of the world overview + local + world geography in grade 3, antiquities in grade 4, middle ages & renaissance in grade 5, reformation & age of discovery in grade 6, age of expansion & revolution in grade 7, and modern times in grade 8.
  • here is their literature list for year 1 (1st grade--we read many of these titles last year, so we are already half-way through) :
    • Leif the Lucky by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire (we snuck Viking Tales in after this because there was so much interest, & made a model of a viking longhouse scene out of lincoln logs & playmobil viking characters!)
    • Columbus by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire
    • Pocahontas by by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire
    • Jamestown, New World Adventure by James Knight
    • Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey
    • America's Providential History (selected passages) by Steven McDowell and Mark Beliles
    • Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde R. Bulla
    • The Pilgrims of Plimouth by Marcia Sewall
    • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
    • The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds
    • Benjamin Franklin by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire
    • A More Perfect Union by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
    • Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
    • George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz
    • Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation (selected passages) by George Washington
    • George Washington by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire
    • Winter at Valley Forge by James Knight
    • The 4th of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
    • The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801 by Genevieve Foster
    • Abraham Lincoln by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire
    • Meet Abraham Lincoln by Barbara Cary
    • Buffalo Bill by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire
    • BF audiobooks "Your Story Hour"

ART (history / picture study) :

  • we are starting out this year using child-size masterpieces, primarily. it is our first year with this method, so i will update this when we have more experience with it. i may ultimately pair this with ambleside online's artist schedule in order to go more in-depth with each artist. it is so easy to find picture books with reproductions at used book stores, or simply charlotte mason offers picture packets for many of the individual artists listed on the ambleside schedule.

ART (lessons) :


  • much of science in the early years (within the charlotte mason context) is simply nature observation, identification, learning to observe & truly see via daily time in nature, so we are attempting daily nature walks regardless of weather.
  • we spend our saturdays as a family out on nature adventures. there is nothing formal about this, although sometimes i will pack field guides, paints, & nature notebooks (bound watercolor paper), along with discovery supplies. mostly we are just playing, observing, collecting. anything we learn or collect, we come home and identify & paint later in the week (sometimes sunday, the day after our excursion, but usually during the following school week).
  • we're also reading through paddle to the sea and the burgess bird book for children (accompanied by learning about birds by sonya shafer, from the simply charlotte mason site).


  • teaching (short, infrequent, basic lessons) from long's home geography and charlotte mason's elementary geography : our world. sometimes we use beginning geography, grades k-2 for their worksheets. many foundational geography concepts at this age can be taught on daily walks & through everyday conversation (left and right, using a compass, reading a map, mapping out their neighborhood), though we do have a weekly time set aside for geography.
  • we are just beginning Simply Charlotte Mason's Visits to North America by Sonya Shafer, which is supplemented by Hungry Planet : What the World Eats and Material World : A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel.
  • MAPS by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinska is a beautiful resource. the Mizielinskas have also written an accompanying MAPS Activity Book filled with their same endearing illustration style.


  • composer study using ambleside's list, studying one composer per six-week term. we will listen through their most notable works, and read about the composers, alternating between a child's book of famous composers by gladys burch and john wolcott, little journeys to the homes of great musicians by elbert hubbard, and the world's great men of music by harriette browser to learn about their lives. i also have some coloring books of famous classical composers, found on amazon.
  • npr has a great little podcast with 5-minute episodes on the classical composers called "classics for kids"
  • we have several of the classical kids CDs, which surround historical fiction of the composer's life with many of their most notable musical works. our favorites have been vivaldi's ring of mystery and daydreams & lullabies.


  • we are learning a new hymn every six weeks (or so). once we've learned one, we move on to another. i have this book, which we have essentially been using the order of, but there is no reason why you can't just pick your favorites from a hymnal. over christmas time we learn a traditional christmas song, and at easter time we learn a traditional contemplative or resurrection song. 
  • we put our hymns in half-size binders with sheet protectors. you will gradually be building your own family songbook. so fun! i have six of these binders, and we bring them out around the Shabbat table (friday night) with family or guests, and sing together as part of our service. hymn-singing is a beautiful addition to our weekly tradition, and the children knowing so many of these songs by heart is just precious!


  • we focus on one per week, and go over it during our morning family breakfast / devotions time. we use the curriculum from we choose virtues. we regularly use the parenting cards (in the mornings, when we are going over the week's virtue), and have the kids virtue poster on our fridge. these have been really helpful tools for us, and the kids love them! having a named character, picture, and phrase to accompany each virtue really helps them bring it all to memory.


  • if i were to feel "qualified" to teach any subject to my children, it would be this one. but really, i'm not qualified, just crafty! i love handicrafts, and always have. and i love that within our homeschool philosophy, largely based on charlotte mason's approach + list of subjects she taught, there is space for this within our weekly schedule. i am beginning by teaching the kids (an emphasis on heron right now, depending on the craft) the things that i already know--crochet, embroidery, cross stitch, sewing (machine), woodworking, printmaking, watercolor, needle-felting. i am also beginning to teach them to use some power tools. because... everyone needs to learn how to hang a shelf, at least!
  • handicrafts, vs. arts & crafts, really emphasizes making something functional (handy!) & beautiful. i had always felt an internal revulsion to endless disposable glitter crafts, & i love teaching my children truly useful skills which they'll be able to use throughout their lives to add beauty to the world around them. 
  • favorite resources listed under RESOURCES / INSPIRATION.

top photo : needle-felting; left : some favorite handicraft books (more info under the RESOURCES / INSPIRATION tab); center : collaborative project with heron--she drew a picture of the bunny and we made it into a softie (with a cozy bed); right : heron's sketches turned into embroidery