Life keeps chugging along with lots of changes, but the longer we use the Charlotte Mason method in our homeschool, the more I fall in love with it. I’m not a purist, but it is the core methodology that I use when choosing our books.
This year was the first where I actually had two kids to officially homeschool. In addition, we started going to a private school a few days a week for their Quran class, and I started teaching social studies for the young grades at the private school.
Alright, here’s a look back on what worked, what didn’t, and what we’ll keep using!
If you’ve been around here a while, you know we’ve tried lots of math curriculum from Right Start Math, CTC Math, Shiller Math, and Teaching Textbooks. For my 3rd grader, I had her using Teaching Textbooks because it felt like a lot to have both kids doing Right Start. She loved it, I loved the freedom, but she ended the year saying, “I’m not good at math.” so we’re moving back to Right Start Math. Aamina (3rd grade) is more of an art/language arts person, so I think the manipulatives with RS Math help her understand things a bit more concretely.
For next year, the plan is for all three kids we’ll be using Right Start Math. We’ll see what miracle happens to fit that in as it’s teacher intensive.
I have also added in math puzzles from Royal Fireworks Press (known for their Michael Clay Thompson language arts curriculum) because I’m a math nerd and I think the critical thinking that is used to solve the math and logic puzzles is great brain exercise.
We have been chugging along with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding and still really enjoying it. It is more work than some other programs, but the fact that each lesson builds on a previous one keeps selling me on it. Technically we are about a year behind in finishing the K-2 book, but it still feels like a really solid curriculum, even for my 3rd grader. At the time of this writing (end of 3rd grade year), we just have a couple lessons left and in sha Allah we’ll get started on Volume 2 very soon.
As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, nature study is a core piece of our science work. Actually, we break away from the CM advice by using BFSU as the CM advice is to do nature study as the main form of science through 3rd grade.
There are two main elements to nature study in a Charlotte Mason curriculum: nature lore and special studies. For nature lore we have used Christian Liberty Nature Readers for over two years. There is some mention of Jesus being God (audhubillah) in the very last part of the book, but for 95% of the books, the religious mentions are things like, “God designed them in such a way they would be protected from predators.” We have simply skipped the last couple chapters of the books we’ve used so there’s been no issue.
For special studies last year we did two: stars and constellations, and herbs. For stars and constellations we used A Handbook of Nature Study (more for me to study and get an idea of what to cover). The Stars by H.A. Rey (the author of Curious George!), and The Sky is Full of Stars by Franklyn Branley (a Let’s Read and Find Out Science book).
For herbs, we use Herb Fairies. The downloadable content when you buy the books directly from them works as a full curriculum for herbal medicine and plant identification.
Foreign Language – Arabic
I continue my studies of Arabic through Studio Arabiya, and I believe this is key. I wouldn’t be able to teach the kids Arabic in any meaningful way, no matter the curriculum, if I couldn’t have a basic understanding of it. This last year we started a membership at Arabic Seeds and we work on the units together, including talking about the weather and simple greetings and conversations.
For Aamina, now that she can read Arabic fluently, we started again on Madinah Arabic Reader in addition to Arabic Seeds. We tried a year or two ago when she could read, but not fluently, and it was a struggle. A friend suggested that we wait until she can read Arabic script with ease, and that has helped.
For Amatuallah (1st grade), she used Ad-Duha’s Arabic workbooks to practice her Arabic handwriting and to get more familiar with the letters. As far as I understand, Ad-Duha has taken these workbooks down from their site as they update them. If you’re looking for handwriting practice, Safar Publications would have your most traditional workbook, and Arabic Seeds has some printable options as well.
All the kids practice reading Quran at the private school, so we do not practice reading fluency at home.
Your standard Charlotte Mason advice is that kids will learn spelling through copywork and reading great books. I was getting quite impatient with Aamina’s progress in spelling as it was not improving with copywork, even after repeating a word multiple times, like “have”. She didn’t jive with the CM way of learning to read, so I thought spelling might be similar where we needed something step by step. Since she started spelling as a subject in 3rd grade, I didn’t want something that started with CVC words and a friend suggested Sequential Spelling. So far we’re really liking it and I plan to continue with the program next year for Aamina, but we’ll see if it’s necessary for Amatullah (1st grade) in the future or not.
Honestly, Tales is something that gets skipped a lot when we run short on time, so we are still plugging along with King Arthur. (In my defense, we’ve read maybe half a dozen really great books in our bedtime stories throughout the year.) The book that’s suggested in CM circles is problematic in some ways, but I went into some of that in an Instagram post about why we still use it. It’s a great book to stretch their English language a bit and get them able to handle older books.
We don’t need a curriculum for this. Amatullah practiced one letter at a time at the beginning of the year and then worked up to words, and now phrases. Aamina copies passages from her school books in her best handwriting.
We have also started cursive handwriting. I chose the Spencerian script at the suggestion of a friend since cursive is not terribly useful anymore expect for reading older hand-written documents, and as an art form. The Spencerian script will work nice as an art form, so I actually picked up two copies and I’m working through the workbooks myself as well.
Art in a Charlotte Mason homeschool is drawing a scene from your tales, and drawing things from nature. Honestly, we’ve been pretty lame about getting that done. With having to leave the house at 12:30 each day, and have lunch before that, drawing gets skipped.
We also break away from the CM advice and I have the kids do a formal art program, Artistic Pursuits. Again, we haven’t done that much this last year, but we still love it and we’ll be continuing with it.
For artist study, we studied Vermeer, Turner, and Gainsborough, using the Picture Study Portfolios by Simply Charlotte Mason.
Charlotte Mason advice is to simply read from scripture and have some reflection time. I wanted something a bit more defined and structured learning, so we use a couple different curriculums, each one day a week to build a well-rounded curriculum.
We’ve used Ad-Duha for about 10 years now! We are almost done with their names of Allah series, and since Aamina is nearing 10 years old, we added in one day of their salah series. In addition, we do one day a week of Ghazali Children’s books. We love all of these and I am very much looking forward to continuing all of them. Salihah (preK) has not gone through the names of Allah with us, except in just coloring while we’re reading, so I’ll be cycling back around and doing the first book for the third time! It’s been a great reminder for me as well, mashaAllah
This is one area where I don’t feel as confident in my planning and execution of a learning plan. I purchased A Child’s Geography of the World by Virgil Hillyer, and I don’t know yet if I recommend it. It’s fun to read, but I don’t know how much the kids are retaining from it, and it’s severely outdated in some areas. It’s weird because we really look forward to reading it, but I just am not convinced of the value of it.
In the private school I taught geography at first to grades K-2. During that time I used Around the World with Picture Books by Beautiful Feet Books. I love it and it’s a really solid curriculum for young kids. As their classes grew from new enrollment, we split the classes and K-1 continued with that and I started doing CC Long’s Home Geography for Primary Grades with them. I used this book in Aamina’s 2nd grade year and it’s a great introduction to geographic land forms and directions.
Most of our map work is done within our history lesson, so that’s where we really review the land forms, directions, and the like.
US History 1700-1800
US History is a beast of a topic. For the last few years, it’s been on the top of many people’s minds about how we approach history, and what worldview we’re presenting. There’s a lot of us (myself included) that have a hard time joining either camp of European settlers are basically the crux of all evil in the world, and European settlers are the heroes of the world. Unfortunately, in my opinion, curriculum tends to fall kind of neatly into one of those two camps.
So, I use a variety of resources pulled together and talk about the differences. In grades K-2, I don’t know how much of a nuanced conversation can really be expected, so the goal is mainly to introduce them to big ideas and common names in history. I think around 2nd grade, kids are starting to be able to handle a bit more of a nuanced approached, and in 4th grade we can really start to dig a bit deeper.
With that said, you may not like some of the books we used. That’s fine. I’d love to hear any suggestions people have for fair and high quality books.
Below is a list of what we used this past year. I will note only if I found something remarkable about them. This list is in no particular order.
- America First by Lawton Evans, updated by Rachel Legowitz – this is our spine, or main book we used. Some areas are violent or still have some outdated presentations of ideas or people, so you need to pre-read.
- Benjamin Franklin by d’Aulaire
- George Washington by James Cross Giblin – this was just okay. I’d probably use d’Aulaire’s book next time as they both have faults, but the pictures and writing in d’Aulaire makes it a more enjoyable book
- Tick Tock Bannekar’s Clock by Shana Keller – loved this book about a famous African American inventor
- The Red Sash by Jean Pendziwol – loved this to get a small look of what was going on within the continent, not just on the east coast
- The Arrow Over the Door by Joseph Bruchac
- The New Americans: Colonial Times by Betsy Maestro – This and the next book are written probably more for a 3rd or 4th grade level and above.
- Struggle for a Continent: The French and Indian Wars by Betsy Maestro
- A More Perfect Union by Betsy Maestro
Since I was teaching a class of kids, we were not able to get through books as fast as I can when I’m just homeschooling my own kids, but we covered the main points of the century, alhamdulilah.
And that’s it! I’d love to hear any feedback you have about any of these resources, or favorite resources you’ve used!