A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Quarter 2

Its here! Our Quarter 2 book list!

Please remember that this is not a list of everything I will be reading to my children. This is a curated list of potential (mostly in print living) books to read. Depending on our schedule, time, health, current interests, etc. I look through this list a few weeks ahead of time and decide which books we’ll be reading. I do not read all of these books aloud! I repeat, I DO NOT read ALL of these books aloud. I have to say this because every time I post a book list I always get a handful of comments and several emails from weary, upset Mamas. I am of the opinion that the feast should be a feast and not an all you can eat buffet for us to gorge ourselves on or force feed our children from. Please don’t try to read your five year old every book on this list this quarter. 🙂


Morning Time:

You can see a list of our current morning time schedule here. We are keeping the same framework in the fall but have now added a few books and switched a few things around. We are still using our Morning Time Menus and loving them.  I keep our creed, poetry selections, memory work, Art Study, etc in there and I love having everything tidy and free of juice and jam stains.

Our Daily Collective~
Meditation (Currently its a few verses in Philippians)
Thinking Tool Box
Laying Down the Rails

New Additions to our Day to Day Selections~
Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Julius Caesar (Plutarch’s Lives)
Hinds Feet in High Places

IMG_78581 (1)

Everything else remains the same in terms of history spine, Math, nature study, Latin, Picture Book study, kindergarten work, and geography study. You can find all that information in the Cycle 1 Quarter 1 post.

Towards the end of the summer I was wrestling between science curriculums and I ended up choosing neither. I ultimately went with The First Book of Plants and its beautiful simplicity has been a breath of fresh air. We read one small section every day which the boys turn into a small written narration and then we illustrate it.

Here are some additional books, on top of those mentioned in that C1Q1 post, that we will consider including in our study:

Week 7

Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
-p.258-264 Hinduism
-p.267-272 Buddha
Buddha by Demi
Amy Charmichael by Janet Benge
Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land by Kancha Ilaiah (A children’s book about the brutal realities of the caste system)

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Spear
Beric the Briton by GA Henty
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hanula
Step Back into Ancient India by Daud Ali
For the Temple by GA Henty

From Egg to Chick by Millicent Selsam (eggs)
Where do Chicks Come From? by Amy Sklanskey (eggs)
Chickens Aren’t The Only Ones by Ruth Heller ((eggs)
Animals Born Alive and Well by Ruth Heller (live birth)
Starfish by Edith Hurd (fragmentation + budding)
Coral Reefs by Gail Gibbons (Fragmentation + Budding)

The Library of Alexandria by Kelly Trumble
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Lynn Curlee
Asterix the Gaul (Just for fun!)
The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
p.137 The Druids (Gaul + Germania)
The Young Carthaginian by GA Henty

Week 8

Gandhi: The Young Protestor Who Founded a Nation
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi (I have yet to read this one. It is written by his grandson)
Gandhi by Amy Pastan
The Story of Salt by Mark Kurlansky

A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 1– The Long Fall (Visigoths sack Rome)
Trial and Triumph
Chp 6 Monica and Augustine
Peril and Peace by Mindy Withrow
Chp 10 Early Creeds and Councils
Chp 17 Jerome

The Reason for a Flower by Ruth Heller
A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
Plants that Never Ever Bloom by Ruth Heller
Up in the Garden Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
How a Seed Grows by Helene Jordan
One Bean by Anne Rockwell (wonderful correlation with Week 1 Science Experiment!)
The Dandelion Seed by Joseph P Anthony
The Magic School Bus Plants Seeds
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss
Seeds and More Seeds by Millicent Selsam

Joseph Hooker: Botanical Trailblazer (Correlates travels to Himalayas with this week’s Science!)
The Pearl Diver by Julia Johnson

Week 9

Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
-p. 246-257 Lao-Tzu & Confucius
The Silk Route: 7,000 years of History
The Emperor’s Silent Army: Terracotta Warrior 
The Year of the Tiger by Allison Lloyd

A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 2 Justinian the Great
Chp 4 The Monastery
Chp 6 Making a Nation (Franks)
Chp 7 The Scroll and the Stone (Muhammed founds Islam)
Chp 8 Charles the Hammer (Battle of Tours)
Chp 10 The Rushing North Wind (Vikings Raid)

Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 6 Islam
Peril and Peace by Mindy Withrow
Chp 19 Benedict
The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway
Viking Tales by Jennie Hall
Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla

A Tree is a Plant by Clyde Robert Bulla
Plants Stems and Roots by David Schwartz
Roots by Kathleen Kudlinski

The Story of Ping by Marjorie Flack
Anno’s China
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

Week 10

History & Geography
Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shoguns
The Big Wave by Pearl S Buck
Shipwrecked by Rhoda Blumberg
Crow Boy by Taro Yashima

A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 3 The Earliest Explorers (Erik the Red)
Chp 9 Charlemagne
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Chp 11 Alfred the Great
Lief the Lucky by Ingrid D’Aulaire
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 5 Charlamagne Crowned by God
Chp 8 Vladimir
Chp 9 A Divided Church (East West Schism)

Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Botanicum by Katie Scott
Why do Leaves Change Color by Betsy Maestro


Week 11

History & Geography
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 2 Justinian the Great
Stories of the Nations Vol 1 Lorene Lambert
Ch 2 The Ottomans

A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 13 The Battle of Hastings (Norman Conquest)
Chp 14 Feudalism
Chp 16 The Cross Upon the Shield
Chp 17 Lionheart and Robin Hood
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Chp 15 Francis of Assisi
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 11 Crusades
Chp 13 Francis of Assisi
Chp 15 Aquinas
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster p. 239-242 (Incas)
Machu Picchu by Elizabeth Mann (Incas)
The Sad Night by Sally Matthew (Aztecs)
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali  by David Wisnieski
Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by PJ Oliver
Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisnieski 
Ancient Japan by Fiona MacDonald (Shoguns)

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Flowers by Gail Gibbons
The Flower Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta

Week 12

History & Geography
A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 7 The Scroll and the Stone (Muhammed founds Islam)
Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta
Mosque by David MacCaulay
Saladin by Flora Geyer (Muslim POV of the Crusades)
The Arabs in the Golden Age by Mokhtar Moktefi
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
-Chp 6 Islam

A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 19 The Great Charter (Magna Carta)
Chp 20 The Mongols
Chp 21 The Travels of Marco Polo
Chp 25 The Black Prince, The Black Death and the White Knight of Orleans (100 years war + Black Death)
Chp 29 Rebirth (Renaissance)
Chp 28 Conquest of Constantinople
Stories of the Nations Vol 1 Lorene Lambert
Ch 2 The Ottomans
Chp 9 Kangxi, Emporer of China (Ming and Qing Dynasties)
The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo
Khubla Khan by Kathleen Krull
Masters of the Renaissance by Jim Weiss
The Magna Carta by James Daugherty
Genghis Khan by Demi 

CM/CC Cycle 1 Week 1 Recap: A Typical Day



We are back in the swing of things with Classical Conversations, which means our schedule is now back up to full speed! I thought I’d start our recaps of this cycle by walking through the 5 phases of a typical day. For week 2 (and every week after) I’ll focus on a different area of study and what we have in place for it.

Phase 1: Early Morning (time varies)
The boys started each day with their daily Top 5. They make their beds, get dressed, brush teeth, etc. They read their bible and pray. They run laps and do some exercises and then they come in and help set the table and get breakfast together while someone empties the dishwasher from the night before. Once we sit down to eat, morning time begins. I give gentle reminders and encouragement wherever its needed.

Morning Time:
Daily Devotions
Catechism Question #19
Nicene Creed
Hymn: O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus
Memory Work
Daily Character Habit: Cleanliness  or  Thinking Toolbox
Fairy Tales

We did the above every morning, except for community day. Then depending on the day, we added the following:

Biography: William Tyndale
Paper Sloyd

Haliburton Book of Marvels
Poetry Recitation
Exploring Nature with Children (Nature Walk)

Mozart study (Beautiful Feet Books Music Study)
Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Exploring Nature with Children

Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Poetry Recitation
Exploring Nature with Children

Mathematicians are People Too!
Plutarch: Julius Caesar
Folk Song (Solfège study)
Fra Angelico
Friday Exam

Once we finish with morning time the boys clear the dishes, wipe the table and head off to play until the new hour. I typically load the dishwasher and then sit and read my bible for a few minutes and then look over the day’s schedule.


Phase 2: Mid Morning Session (2 hours)
On the new hour we gather in the classroom for Math, Music and Latin. I am currently teaching three levels of Right Start Math   so its the first thing we tackle every day! I know I gush about this program often but I am so thankful for it! It blends perfectly into our rhythm and has made math a fun and adventurous time of the day. I always begin by reading through the lesson with the older two. They usually explain what they have learned and then start working. While this is happening the #3 is practicing his violin while #4 is playing with math manipulatives. Once I am done with the older two, #4 gets a brief math lesson. Once #1 and #2 are done they leave to practice their violin and guitar while I teach #3 his math lesson. Once the older boys return they do their Latin drill, unless its Tuesday and then they get a full Latin lesson.  While the older boys work on Latin the younger two play until the new hour.

Next I read from our history selections to the older three. #1 and #2  work on a written narration and #3 gives an oral narration.  While the older two compose their narrations, #3 and I work on his spelling and then I listen to him read for 20 minutes. During this block of time #4 is working on his Homegrown Preschooler activities which I prepare in advance. This block of time with #4 took many years of consistent, intentional training to establish.  It didn’t happen overnight. He can work/play with a tray, clean up after himself and fetch a new one.  This is a GIFT folks. He is purposefully engaged and I am free to work with the other kids.  I’m glad I listened to the older, wiser Mama that recommended we put the work in early.

Once everyone has finished the boys run off to play once more until lunch time.


Phase 3 Lit Lunch
Lunch is always simple. We almost always have a salad + whatever the boys know how to cook. We also love to rework leftovers from the night before. We eat together for a few minutes while the boys tell me stories or share favorite things they learned that morning. Once I am done eating I begin our lunchtime read alouds. We love to linger at the table so we are never in a rush to finish.
Current lunchtime reads:
Burgess Seashore Book
Classic Myths to Read Aloud
James Herriot Treasury
Beatrix Potter (one story per day)

Once we finish our reads the boys relax until the new hour while I start a new load of laundry or make notes about what I have observed that day or I tidy up or I scream into a pillow if its been a tough morning. This brief little reset is important for me. I spend time thinking and praying and evaluating. You’ve just read through the logistics of our morning schedule without my adding much about how it all pans out when you add in 5 different personalities and a host of various learning abilities. Between math and latin you must add in the occasional squabble and at the breakfast table you must imagine a rumple haired boy fighting to get past the grumps (or surrendering to them entirely). This is real life and its messy at times. Our rhythm keeps us moving forward, keeps us dancing, keeps our purpose and reminds us to keep taking the grace God offers us.


Phase 4: Early Afternoon Session
The older boys kick off this session with their Essentials work. They begin by copying charts, working on their spelling and vocabulary lists and working on their IEW assignment for the day. #3 and I scoot off to a corner to enjoy his study this year, Around the World with Picture Books Part 1. We read beautiful picture books together and he further extends the study with art or music. He is recording what he learns in a sweet little notebook.  Once he is finished he is free to play while I have a brief K session with #4 followed by any therapy work he needs to do.
The older boys chime in here and there with questions or requests for help. Once I am finished with their younger brothers, I join them at the table and we diagram sentences together and then check completed work. We play a few rounds of Number Knockout or a Right Start Math game to close out. They then move on to their independent loop  and I wrap up final work with #3.


Phase 5: Mid Afternoon Phase
The older boys now have 45 minutes of silent reading. The eldest is currently reading Father Brown and #2 is reading Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. This gives me time to read lots and lots and lots of picture books with #4 (#3 sometimes joins in too). Sometimes we prep for dinner or bake or do some handwork during this time. If its Friday, I use this time to help the littles with their presentations for community day. Once this silent reading time draws to a close we gather around the white board and write out our favorite ideas from the day, new things we learned, questions we have, etc. We try to find  the common themes and we end with prayer or sometimes a song.


Then its time for afternoon story time, possibly the highlight of our day. The boys eat a snack and then do something with their hands while I read aloud or we listen to an audiobook together. This week #1 worked on illustrating his latest journal, #2 worked on his embroidery from Clementine Patterns, #3 worked on hanging upside down off the side of the couch and #4 snuggled the dog and played with Legos.

Our current afternoon reads:
The Secret Garden
Brighty of the Grand Canyon
The Little Prince

We do this every afternoon except Fridays which is reserved for Poetry Tea Time.


Finally we move on to Blessing Hour (never takes a whole hour these days). I have a list of chores broken up into four zones and each boy is assigned to a zone. We play music and bless the family by cleaning together. Its amazing how quickly the house is restored to rights when 5 people clean together rather than just one tired mama. Its done in no time at all! The house is cleaned and we can spend the last four or five hours of the day enjoying one another and relaxing. The boys run off to play and wait for Dad to come home and when he does they happily get lost in whatever he wants to do that evening. Music, farming projects, basketball games, etc.


Once this terrible suffocating heat subsides we will have more and more lessons outside or at the beach.  How we are looking forward to it!

GIVEAWAY! Peaceful Press- Precious People Ancient History Study


Happy Tuesday dear ones! We are settling back in after a trip up north to visit my sister and her family. CC officially starts next week and we are getting back on track and the boys are thrilled to be studying Ancient History once again. They have plans to build a working shaduf in the yard this week (PRAY for my husband!!! haha!). For those that are still searching for a great Ancient History fit for this year I have a sweet surprise for you!

Today we are partnering with The Peaceful Press to giveaway a copy of their Precious People guide along with their World History Timeline cards. Precious people is a literature and project based curriculum.  You can find out more about the program here, including subjects of study. There are also two links at the bottom of the site which allow you to see a full book list and overview of study along with a free sample of the study.

To enter the giveaway simply comment below and then share the original Facebook post! Giveaway CLOSES on Thursday August 9 at 5pm.


Morning Time Tips: Your Job is NOT to Make it Magical (or Kids Can Make Breakfast)

Our Morning Time takes place around our dining room table every morning. We have tea and breakfast together. We feed our bodies, hearts, minds and souls.  We do this every day.  Kids still squabble, there are still grumpy morning vibes (mostly from me) there are still messes and disappointments. Good or bad it all happens around our table where we gather for breakfast and morning time, every single day.

If someone had showed me a picture of our current morning time back in oh, circa 2011ish, I would have probably wept and asked, “What? How? When? HOW?!?!?!” Back then all the kids were teeny tiny and absolutely everywhere all at once. Back then I was the only person not wearing diapers. Back then I’d take 10 minutes to scramble eggs so my kids could throw it all on the floor and scream for cereal. Back then I was very much in survival mode thanks to my roaring case of PTSD. Back then the only consistent habit I had was exhaustion.

So how did we get here?

The simplest answer is probably my realization that my kids were and are capable human beings and that I did not have to do all this alone. We were homeschooling TOGETHER. I was homeschooling WITH my children. I was not in charge of whipping up magical environments for them every day. Nope. I was learning alongside them and each person had some element of beauty to add to the family experience of homeschooling. If we wanted peaceful, inspiring mornings, we would all have to get there together.


First there is the realistic part of morning time. Breakfast won’t make itself. How do we get kids to pitch in? Toddlers in their little “me do it” phase are the best place to start.

“ME DO IT!”  tiny person demands.

“Yes, you do it,” bigger person affirms.


Then you let them do it. Help them learn how to “Me do it” correctly. This will take time. Lots and lots of time. This will make a mess. Lots and lots of mess. Do it anyway.

Teach them how to make their bed and brush their teeth and have them do jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. Try not to plop them in front of the TV first thing in the morning, it will train their attention spans to become very very short and align their expectations towards entertainment instead of discovery and creation.

Ask them to carry napkins to the table. I know you can do it faster and better, ask them to do it anyway. When they’ve got that done move on to forks, then plates, then cups.

Missed the toddler phase? Its never too late. I really believe that. Have conversations, ask what your older children would like to learn about or enjoy in the mornings, or what they would like to learn to cook. Come up with a schedule together. Share the load!


Our biggest game changers? Teaching them how to unload the dishwasher from dinner the night before and teaching them how to make breakfast. Wow. Those two things changed our lives RADICALLY.  Younger kids set the table and engage in smaller prep work like chopping strawberries or pouring half and half into the creamer. Older kids commandeer the toaster or make skillet pancakes or scrambled eggs. I can have 10 minutes to myself to read my Bible and “look into the face of God before looking into the face of man.” I can walk out of my room and greet my boys who have already completed their Morning Top 5 (different for each child but its some combination of 1. Pray 2.Make Bed/Get Dressed 3. Brush Teeth/Wash Face 4. Exercise 5. Chores). Breakfast is well on its way to being finished and the table is set. We sit down and have our morning time together. The little one stays for about 20 minutes before drifting back to his room to play with his toy animals while the rest of us finish morning time (45 minutes-1 hr 15 minutes start to finish). When its done the boys carry the dishes to the sink and I load the empty dishwasher while they wipe the table and sweep under it. Then we all start music practice or math lessons and the day marches on. This whole scenario is made possible by children. It took YEARS of teeny tiny steps to get here.


If you are a Charlotte Mason mama you may have that quote about the mother that takes pains to endow her children with good habits ensuring smooth and easy days for herself blaring through your mind right now.

Confession? The longer I homeschool, the more I cringe when people pull that quote.

In some ways, YES, these good habits ensured a smoother start to our day, HOWEVER my kids are still human. They sometimes wake up grumpy. Hell, I wake up grumpy more often than not. My youngest child has SPD and there are some days when little man is just NOT having it. Smooth and easy days all the time? Nope. That will only happen in heaven. Good habits don’t make our days perfect, but they certainly give us a leg up on most problems and these good habits are S L O W L Y  becoming character which is the real goal, not just easier mornings. I am talking about character for myself by the way. Lets always start with ourselves.


I am not a morning person. There is no glossing over that fact.  If its 7AM and the limpkin outside my window is screaming, I’d rather shoot it than nature journal it. But that would be illegal because the little devils are protected by federal law (looked that up three days into their mating season last spring).  Morning Time is a holy mercy to our family because without all that peace and beauty, these kids have their sometimes grumpy mother to contend with. I value morning time because it fortifies, encourages, uplifts and inspires me right when I am at my worst, right when I need it most.


If I had to make breakfast by myself every day AND clean dishes AND sweep AND get beds made and kids dressed AND all the other stuff….I wouldn’t be able to do it every day because I am not that girl. I’m just not. Having my boys unload the dishwasher and make breakfast is HUGE for me. It blesses me and they know it. I remember this later in the day they are at their worst and need mercy from me. I step in their gaps the way they step in mine. Breakfast and morning dishes are my gap.  Breakfast is half the battle of morning time. The other half is getting kids to sit down for morning time, more on that next time!


We get lots of requests for breakfast recipes. I’ve resisted because I am not great about measuring when I cook. If you are great with measuring, you will probably hate the next three minutes of your life. If my Tia Racky reads this she will be cringing the whole time. This is my best guess for these recipes. If I don’t list an exact amount its because I trust you to figure it out.

Without further ado, here are our FAVORITE kid-friendly recipes for Morning Time

  1. The Skillet Pancake (cuz nobody has time to flip 20 small pancakes around here)
    10 minutes of Prep
    30 minutes Bake time
    Preheat 375 degrees

    1 Cup All Purpose Flour
    2 Tbsp Sugar
    2 Tsp Baking Powder
    1/2 Tsp salt
    3/4 C buttermilk or whole milk
    1 egg
    1 Tbsp melted butter

    Mix it, pour it into a cast iron skillet and let er’ bake till golden brown. Slice it up like a pie and serve warm

    Topping options: Chopped strawberries, blueberries, peaches, mangos, chocolate chops, maple syrup, honey, etc. Sky is the limit!

    My 9 year old LOVES making this one.

  2. The Crossainwhich
    Prep Time 15 minutes
    Bake Time 20 minutes
    Preheat 375

    **This depends on your stance on packaged food. If you know how to make your own croissant dough, hats off to you! I buy the Immaculate Bakery dough whenever its on sale.

    Croissant dough
    Favorite cheese
    Sliced Ham

    Roll em’ up, cook em’, serve em’.

    The 5 year old is ENTHUSIASTIC about rolling these puppies up.

  3. Parfait Factory
    Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

    Whole Yogurt (Try for something low on sugar and high on probiotics)
    Chopped Fruit

    We get a little assembly line going here. This is a crowd favorite the day after we go grocery shopping since the berries are still fresh. My eldest has been on a yogurt embargo since 2010 so he usually makes himself toast.

  4. Gluten Free Souffles
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: Depends on your oven!
    Preheat 375

    Muffin Tin
    Favorite Seasonings (Ours is Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning)

    Grease that tin! Drop in some chopped ham, a little bit o’ spinach and then drop in a whole egg or if your kids prefer scrambled (mine do) pour some whipped egg mixture into each hole. Sprinkle with cheese and bake! Kids love commandeering this one!

  5. German Pancakes
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes
    Preheat 350 degrees

    1 C milk
    1 C All Purpose Flour
    6 eggs beaten
    1/4 C butter
    Salt to taste
    1 tsp Vanilla
    pinch of cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top

    Pour the mixture into a dish and bake till golden and puffy and bubbly and amazing. Serve with honey or syrup or whipped cream and raspberries. Many thanks to our friends Justin and Victoria and their two sets of twin girls for introducing us to these.

  6. The Hodge Podge
    Thats what I say when its every man for himself. More often than not we boil a bunch of eggs (my FAVORITE way to get a toddler to stay engaged with morning time is to give him a hands on breakfast like a boiled egg and a clementine, he peels while I read!).  Then we toast all the toast, chop up fruit and serve up some tea. With each kid grabbing something different, it eventually rounds out well. I know this is not technically a RECIPE, so think of it as a recipe for creativity. We don’t have to plan out every last detail. Spontaneity is a great gift on the first day of your period when the kids are wired and its raining all day long and your spouse is working late. This is when I call for the Hodge Podge morning time, a strong pot of tea and a healthy dose of Bear Grylls episodes afterwards.


If you have especially great eyesight and have spotted our favorite Keesh-Ways (Abuela’s way of pronouncing Quiche) in our Instagram stories or in pictures and are wondering why I didn’t share the recipe above, well, its not my recipe! It belongs to my friend Sally Clarkson. You can find that recipe in her book: The Life Giving Home. (Read her book no matter what because its FANTASTIC, but know that her rocking’ quiche recipe is in there and my kids love making it).


Remember friend, our kids can bring something to the table. Even if their range of abilities means their contribution is a smile and song, we can all add beauty to our mornings together. Get those kiddos cooking, picking flowers, singing hymns and listening to God’s word!



You can find some helpful kitchen tools in one of our Christmas Guides for little chefs HERE  (Amzn affiliate links)



Making the Most of a School Year

I’ve received many questions lately about homeschooling year round so I thought I would take a few minutes today to answer them and provide a clearer picture of what we do. Below I answer questions sent in the past few months that I’ve kept track of.


How did you end up schooling year round?
I have four boys and live in an enclosed space with them. That is my main reason. I can not leave them untethered all day long because our house would probably go up in flames. I also found that when I had to “fit everything in” according to the traditional school year calendar they had way less free time! Schooling year round has gifted us all with way more free time. We have the time to go more in depth and to take breaks more often throughout the day. Its a gift! Lastly, summers in Florida are hellish. It is rare to find us outside between the hours of 10AM and 4PM in the months of June, July, August, September or especially cruel Octobers, unless we are fully submerged in the ocean or in a pool. Its miserable. Also, we are spoiled during the year when we have the city to ourselves. Once school lets out there are kids everywhere and lines are longer and well, we’d just as soon be inside reading and learning.
What do you consistently do year round, what never changes?
Morning time, family read alouds and math. Every week day. All year long. Math doesn’t mean we do a worksheet every day, sometimes we just play card games or logic games or strategy games.  We read aloud every day. We usually have three read aloud books going at a single time (currently enjoying The Hobbit, Little Britches and The Hatchet). By read aloud I mean books that I read aloud to my children for the pleasure of it. No tests, no comprehension questions. The boys also have their personal books that they read to themselves every afternoon. The house becomes quite for about an hour and its heavenly. HEAVENLY! Morning Time happens first thing in the morning and changes with the seasons. Once Classical Conversations begins it aligns with whatever we are studying there. When we are away from Classical Conversations it aligns to other topics. I’ll give plenty of examples below.

Why do you do math all year?
First, I do math all year so that math will be shorter every day. If its all spread out, we can take more bite-sized chunks. I teach four levels of math. I need the bite-size chunks. Second, math brings harmony and reason into our home. My kids haven’t caught on that I am terrified of it, though growing less terrified the more I reclaim my education and learn it for myself. They hear me affirm math often. They have expressed delight and satisfaction in how reliable and comforting math is and what a spectacular part of creation it is. I want to keep that momentum going, therefore we do math every school day.

When does the school year START for you?
Our new year always starts the first week of June.  Its hot and gross outside every morning and in the afternoon we are besieged by brutal lightning storms. Its the perfect weather for digging in and being cozy with one another. We found what worked for us!

Does everything start afresh?
Nope. Sometimes it takes us a full year and a half to work through a foreign language book or an art history book. I’m ok with things extending past the calendar year. I’m also not a huge fan of grade levels so I tend to ignore that and go with what my kids need or what excites them.

Do you get any breaks throughout the year?
We school six week on and one week off, all year round.

What happens once CC starts?
Classical Conversations lasts 24 weeks with a 6 week break right between the 2nd and 3rd quarters.  These 24 weeks include extensive Grammar and Writing for my eldest children. All children participate in a weekly science project or experiment and they each do a presentation in front of their peers. They have 6 weeks of Fine Arts Drawing, 6 weeks of Orchestra & Composer Study, 6 weeks of Artist study and 6 weeks of Music Theory.   From August through Thanksgiving and from the week after New Years until the beginning of April, we have a bustling schedule!

Winter break stretches from the week of Thanksgiving through the first week of the New Year. We focus on Advent during that time. We visit friends and make gifts and go caroling.  We also spend those weeks more immersed in cultural field trips (Handel’s Messiah, The Nutcracker etc). We also spend a great deal of time refining our handcraft techniques.

Once CC resumes in January we go back to our regular schedule.

Do your kids play any sports?
We’ve been on and off with sports for a few years. Most recently my kids spent a great deal of time in MMA and BJJ training about four to six hours a week in the late afternoons. This winter we will be playing basketball, though not all four boys would be involved. Year round sports are more than likely not in our future.

What about music?
Now this is one area we definitely keep up with. All four boys are in Suzuki violin, the older two are also learning Suzuki guitar. We have lessons one morning each week and all four boys practice during our math hour. I am a classically trained singer and my husband plays the drums and the piano so all four boys have interest in these areas to varying degrees.  Music is a year round, lifestyle deal for us.

So WHAT do you do all year?
I’m sure you gathered from the above questions that we have SEASONS in our homeschool year.  Below you will find each of our FIVE seasons detailed with what we study during those seasons. I have used the current 2018 calendar year as our example. Remember that we school 6 weeks on, 1 week off during all FIVE seasons. The table below shows a typical Morning Time schedule during the CC year for us. We do not do every single topic every day, it is more spread out. Remember that the topics are brief. 5 minutes for Geography, 2 minutes for Hymn study, 7 minutes for poetry, etc.

Spring Morning Time Schedule:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Devo/Bible x x x x x
Catechism x x x x x
Hymn x x x
Geography (5 minutes) x x x x x
Poetry x x
Art Study x
Composer x
Shakespeare x
Fairy Tales x x x x
Biography x x
Nature Study x x x
Architecture x
Memory Work x x x x x

1) Spring sessions (Jan-early April)
Morning Time: Devotional, Catechism, Geography, Bible, Composer, Art Study, Nature Study, Architecture, Poetry, Fairy Tales, Biography, Hymn Study, Shakespeare, Memory Work 
Music/Math/Foreign Language: Practice Violin/Guitar. Right Start Mathematics (older 3), Essentials math games, math numeracy drills, Latin (Memoria Press)
History: American History
Lit Lunch: Burgess Bird Book / Picture book
Language Arts: Handwriting (all four kids), Spelling (3 eldest), Chart work & IEW papers (eldest), IEW Intensive A (2nd born) Phonics/Read aloud 20 minutes (3rd born) 
Reading: 45 minutes of reading quietly for older two, 20 minutes of quiet reading for 3rd born, I read aloud to the youngest for 15 and then he listen to an audiobook while I read.
Science: work on Spring Science Fair projects 
Blessing hour: Clean home

2) Early Summer session (early April- end of May)
Morning Time: Catechism, Devotional, Hymn, Poetry, Folk Songs, Science biographies 
Outdoor Time: Plenty of beach days and hikes
Museum visits: Art museums, Japanese garden, Science museum etc
Nature Study: average is 1 hour on days we don’t have field trips
Afternoon Tea: 1 hour of tea and reading aloud
Math: Right Start Mathematics
Science: Biology
Blessing hour: Clean the house
3) SUMMER session (June-early August)
Morning Time: Devotional, Catechism, Geography, Bible, Composer, Art Study, Nature Study, Architecture, Poetry, Fairy Tales, Biography, Hymn Study, Plutarch, Shakespeare 
Music/Math/Foreign Language: Practice Violin/Guitar. Right Start Mathematics (all 4), Essentials math games (2 eldest), math numeracy drills (all 4), Latin (2 eldest)
History: Ancient History
Lit Lunch: Burgess Seashore Book / Picture book
Language Arts: Handwriting (all four kids), Spelling (3 eldest),  Read aloud 20 minutes (3rd born) Phonics (4th born) Written Narrative Work (2 eldest)
Reading: 45 minutes of reading quietly for older two, 20 minutes of quiet reading for 3rd born, I read aloud to the youngest for 15 and then he listen to an audiobook while I read.  
Blessing hour: clean the house
(Fridays: Friday Exam, Poetry Tea Time and Symposium)

4) Fall Session (August-November)
Morning Time: Devotional, Catechism, Geography, Bible, Composer, Art Study, Nature Study, Architecture, Poetry, Fairy Tales, Biography, Hymn Study, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Memory Work 
Music/Math/Foreign Language: Practice Violin/Guitar. Right Start Mathematics (all 4), Essentials math games, math numeracy drills, Latin (2 eldest)
History: Ancient History
Lit Lunch: Burgess Seashore Book / Picture book
Language Arts: Handwriting (all four kids), Spelling (3 eldest), Chart work & IEW papers (2 eldest), Read aloud 20 minutes (3rd born) Phonics (4th born)
Reading: 45 minutes of reading quietly for older two, 20 minutes of quiet reading for 3rd born, I read aloud to the youngest for 15 and then he listen to an audiobook while I read.  
Blessing hour: Clean the house
(Fridays: Friday Exam, Poetry Tea Time and Symposium)

5) Winter Break (Thanksgiving- early January)
Morning Time: Catechism, Advent, Hymn, Christmas Art study, Christmas Read Aloud 
Outdoor Time: Plenty of beach days, hikes, caroling
Nature Study: average is 1 hour on days we don’t have field trips
Afternoon Tea: 1 hour of tea and reading aloud
Math: Right Start Mathematics
Independent Study: Each boy choses a topic to investigate and we load up on library books for them. 
Handcrafts: Knitting, sewing, crochet, candle making, soap making, etc. 1 hour per day
Blessing hour: Clean the house

** I have to note hear that I have several schedules posted under our rhythm section if all the above confuses you. This was just meant to be an overview of topics we study during the year. For more detailed scheduled please look under the Rhythm or Classical Conversations tabs of this blog.

** PLAY TIME is also a crucial part of our schooling ALL YEAR ROUND. 

How do you plan a full year?
I start by looking at what our topics for CC will be that year and then I write down all that they will be tackling so I can see it laid out. I typically make a chart divided by months and I fill each month with what we will be studying. Those CC months are academically heavy! I don’t bother filling in with things like art projects and science projects during those 24 weeks b/c the kids are getting that on community day. For our months without CC I plan to dive deeper into areas we don’t have time to tackle during the CC Year. We go more in depth with science, art, handcrafts, etc. Its really all about balancing! We have our seasons of more intense learning but my goal is to make sure that even the intense seasons are still restful for all of us. This is an important topic to understand! If you have yet to read Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching From Rest, please do so!

Do you recommend year round homeschooling for all families?
Here is my favorite thing about homeschooling– you can do what works for your family. That is the whole point! You’ve thrown off the shackles of government education and depending on your state requirements, you get to decide what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Figure out the rhythms of where you live, of your specific family and their needs, of your spouse’s work schedule, of your local co-op schedule etc. Find a way to make it harmonize with the education and life you want for your family. I won’t say whether or not children should be schooled year round, I only know that it works for us.

HOWEVER, I will say that I highly encourage mothers to homeschool themselves year round. Keep learning, Mama. This all starts with you.  Read good books, go back and learn whatever math you didn’t learn at school, memorize poetry, take an art class, pick one small thing and do it each and every day for a few minutes. If you have 8 children 3 and under ( or it feels like you do) spend 10 minutes a day listening to a piece of beautiful music or taking in a beautiful piece of art and let that be your daily deposit for yourself. Art Middlekauf says “that which emanates from the parent” is the atmosphere of education.  I have this quote written on the first page of my commonplace journal to remind me every day that I am setting the atmosphere here.



5 Essentials for Essentials: Our First Year

We finished our first year in Essentials at the start of April. I’ve been processing it ever since.

We prepared as best we could before the year started. My son had reached a point with his dyslexia where we were pretty much done with remedial programs and we began looking at ways to alleviate secondary “symptoms” with vision therapy, diet changes and essentials oils. I had worked and reworked his schedule to try and find the optimum time of day for him to do his Essentials work.  We gathered our supplies, I researched blogs and spoke to other moms of kids with dyslexia and came up with strategies.  I was his Essentials teacher at home and happened to be his tutor in Essentials class and I was an Essentials student myself. I knew that I needed to go in with the right perspective and expectation, otherwise I could unknowingly do a lot of damage.  I made sure to communicate our expectation for the first tour, not by setting the bar low, but by being realistic about what a huge amount of work lay before us. We prepared as best we could and dove in.

This year did not go the way I thought it would. I was wrong about so many things its almost laughable.


I thought it would be a year fraught with frustration and tears, instead we found a year of battling for the worthy and coming out the other side bruised but victorious and closer than ever.


He soared.

Newly minted Memory Master giving his Faces of History Paper as Ethan Allen

I am still in awe of how well he did. This year was, without a doubt, a success. Not because he completed every single paper (He didn’t) or because he is now a national number knockout wiz (He isn’t), not because he achieved memory master for the first time (He did!) or because he gave a beautiful faces of history speech as Ethan Allen (He did!). This year was a success because of how he grew in character, determination, self awareness, and responsibility. He is 10 years old and has a deeper understanding of the word humility than most adults I know and this is something to be deeply grateful for.


Essentials encompasses what should be his worst areas of study, yet he was able to hold his own in there. I witnessed how well the classical method works, not only in in learning about grammar and writing but in instilling virtue and wisdom. I didn’t expect to see the fruit so early on, but we have.

Many of you were asking for a recap of our year and some insight into things that worked well for us. I decided to share about the benefits of memory work, practical tools we used, recognizing limitations and setting healthy expectations, humility and respect and finally, how prayer played a big part in our year.

    He may have been a “late” reader, but his excellent auditory and memory skills, which we lovingly refer to as his “dyslexia superpowers,” helped him ANNIHILATE those charts. During our time in Foundations we have paid attention to the English section of our memory work each week. We found songs on CC Connected and we would listen to them in the car. The three year old memorized the entire prepositions list on a road trip one year. I cannot begin to tell you how helpful that was when we sat down to do the nitty gritty work of Essentials Grammar this year. We copied each chart at least once a week by hand. The rest of the time we sang the charts or recited them. He would close his eyes and run down them in seconds. I would take the master card stock copies of my charts with the corresponding pieces all cut out and he would place them in the right spaces like puzzle work. My friend Liz copied hers in different colors and I’ll be doing the same this year when I make fresh copies. We would race each other. We would rattle off lists in funny accents. Charting was fun. I did not see that coming! Since we weren’t stuck memorizing things, we moved on to seeing how things worked. Instead of spending 20 minutes writing one chart, we’d take one minute to recite it all and then I’d ask questions about it. He ended up using the vast majority of his time to  explain how things worked. He was teaching.By week 6 I found myself staring at him while he parsed a sentence on the board in class and explained why it was correct, Wait….is he AWESOME at grammar? Yes, yes. He is awesome at grammar. How did that happen? He has dyslexia! He isn’t supposed to be good at this and yet he is rocking this! HOW??? He memorized the charts. He was told repeatedly to use his superpowers. He had moments early on where he met with success and that gave him CONFIDENCE which then blossomed into MOTIVATION.  He had already done the hard work of memorizing it all when he was 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and all he had to do now was PLAY with it. Wow. All the praise hands for the classical method.
  2. TOOLS
    Visiting a behavioral ophthalmologist was life changing for us. We knew about his dyslexia, but we didn’t realize how many other secondary issues were going on that we could FIX thereby decluttering the rocky path for him. We discovered his over convergence and ordered special glasses. We began eye exercises to help strengthen his eye muscles so he could sustain focus for longer periods of time without growing tired or developing headaches.
    Here are a few other tools we picked up that helped tremendously.61V9epg4jML._SL1500_.jpgA Visual Edge Board that achieves The Harmon Distance, which is the optimum degree for reading comprehension, writing, processing etc.  We love the portable one shown above. It is a functioning magnetic white board, has a book catch and clipboards at the top. This has been a multi-purpose work horse for us. I was a bit incredulous when it was first recommended to us but after seeing the benefits I am now saving up to purchase these for the rest of my kids.71FnYYevz6L._SL1280_.jpg

    Colored Reading Strips continue to save our bacon. He used much bulkier ones when he was younger, but these thin ones are just the ticket! He prefers certain colors and he can use them discreetly in class and they double as bookmarks.

    I know many people hi light their charts to death but my guy couldn’t stomach the smell of hi lighters so we use hi light TAPE instead.

    Yes! Even my neurotypical children use these noise reducing ear muffs! We have a pair of these and they have been so helpful on days when we are working on a new skill that requires high levels of focus and concentration. When his sensory needs brother is singing at the top of his lungs in the corner, he can pop these on and sail through his work undisturbed. He wears these often while we work on sentences for our IEW papers.


    We used brightly colored index cards for vocabulary, spelling, and IN PLACE OF OUR QUID ET QUO!!! We wrote one word on each card and tacked it onto the whiteboard or spread it out on the floor and then I would ask the questions aloud so we could further define each word within the Quid Et Quo. I’m so glad we didn’t skip out on Quid Et Quo and using these bright little cards and making adjustments as needed for him, allowed us to make the most of QEQ!

    I knew that part of our success with Essentials would fall on MY consistency with it. After all, I was an Essentials student too and the LEAD LEARNER in my home. I needed to sit down and take out my composition notebook and copy my charts and write my papers and make my corrections. I needed to model consistency. I needed to set healthy limits for myself and model that as well. I needed to find a balance between modeling consistency and staying on top of everything else I had to do. We were told over and over at practicum and in our Essentials Guide intro that First Tour students only catch so much. I was a first tour student too and I needed to set my limits for each day. How much more did my 10 year old need limits? Two weeks in and I learned quickly what his limits were and that helped us form a right expectation for our weekly work.Here is the thing that probably helped us the most this year…I NEVER LET DEMANDS DRIVE HIM TO THE POINT OF ANGER OR FRUSTRATION. 

    He has many tell tale signs that he displays when he is getting frustrated (insert hair tugging, weeping and growling frustration emojis here). I learned to pay attention to those a long time ago. There are times for pushing towards excellence and there are times for recognizing that shattering self esteem is not worth a completed assignment.  When he started displaying those signs of frustration I stepped in to assess. Did he need more explanation? Did we need to think outside the box and lay things out a different way? Was he hungry? Tired? Was there something else weighing on him? How could we best equip him to meet the challenge? Did we need a brownie Stat? Did we need to take a break? Sometimes there were no other issues, it was just a difficult concept that exceeded our current limitations. When that happened we caught whatever we could before moving on. On those days, I documented our experience in my guide and wrote the date down. I’m hoping that with the benefit of one more spin around the sun, he’ll reach greater understanding next year and I can encourage him by saying, “Hey! Look how much farther you came this year!”


    4. HUMILITY & RESPECT: Asking and Giving Help

    Grammar was a breeze for him, writing was another story. We had to adjust and readjust constantly those first few weeks. I quickly saw that he needed to break up his writing differently than what the IEW schedule put forth. As his Essentials teacher, I made the call to do things differently than what I, his Essentials tutor, told everyone to do in class.

     I have sat through several lectures and listened to many, many podcasts by Andrew Pudewa. I have heard him reassure parents over and over and over again to HELP OUR KIDS AS MUCH AS THEY NEED. Well, if he was going to bother saying that publicly a hundred times I figured I needed to bother putting it into practice.


    Here is thing about helping our kids as much as they need— helping as much as they need is a HUGE inconvenience to us. It eats away at the little time we have. It calls us to die to ourselves a little more than we already have. It creates more possibility for us to lose our cool when explaining something for the 900th time that day. Helping more is tough! I tried to look at it as a chance to grow in forbearance and patience and gentleness and self-control, but there were more days than I’d care to admit when I just about lost my mind. I wish I could make it sound like it was all rainbows and butterflies but it wasn’t. It very much mirrored what I was asking my own son to do, work diligently at something worthy really hard, over and over again, as long as needed. Strangely enough, by the 20th week I realized that being consistent in this difficult area brought so much depth to our relationship as mother and son, teacher and student, student and fellow student. It became a gift.

    How did I help my particular student as much as he needed? I scribed for him. I transferred his Key Word Outlines onto notecards. I copied out a zillion adjectives for his story sequence that I privately named “Adjective Purgatory.” I wrote other words on notecards and helped arrange and rearrange them a half dozen times. I sat patiently while he learned to use the synonym finder and sat patiently again while explaining why that particular word wouldn’t work for that particular sentence and then I sat (a little less) patiently while he expressed his displeasure that his word wouldn’t work and then we worked to find one that would work. I wrote notecards with words for potential sentence openers and let him choose his favorites for his own paper. I listened while he came up with alliterations for his dragon book and even allowed him to write a paper on dragons instead of the Statue of Liberty as a way to motivate him through a rough patch with IEW. I did whatever I needed to do to help him learn well. Sometimes I had a cheerful heart about it and sometimes I did it, but the bottom line is that help was given where it was needed.

    An unexpected side benefit in all the above was that we learned how to ask respectfully for guidance and help instead of just shouting in frustration. We learned to humble ourselves and reach out to someone when we needed it. We learned to humble ourselves and help when someone reached out. Its amazing how Essentials is about so much more than just grammar, writing and math.


    5. PRAYER
    We started with prayer. Before we opened a notebook or wrote down a single word, we prayed. We praised Him for being the Word and for the abundant beauty He created within the word and within the world spoken into being. We thanked Him for the opportunity to learn together at home. We asked God to go before us and help us. We asked Him to clear our heads and help us see more of Him through each exercise. We asked that He would bless our time together and give us grace for one another.

    This put us in a position of humility before we even began. We knew we needed help. We put our desire to learn into words. We were united from the get go. We were on the same team. We tried to start this way every single time we sat down to do Essentials. There was a marked difference on the days we did, not because God rewarded us with an awesome day, but because we approached it with the right attitude.  I’m not peddling the deathly stench of prosperity gospel here, we were NOT “blessed with success” because of our prayers. We were aligning our hearts and attitudes with God’s will and any merciful insights given to us along the way were counted all grace.

    August 2017

How much has changed since last year? Well, he still has dyslexia. We still talk about super powers. We are working harder than ever to accomplish things that are easy for most others.  We have known the joy of working hard for something worthy and we are determined to press on. We are learning how to keep humbling ourselves so we can respectfully ask for help. My son has known victory and his confidence has grown. We are more flexible and more eager to think outside the box than ever. No conveyor built, factory style learning for us! He is writing more and more on his own. He’s keeping journals and diaries of animal behavior and plant life and dragons and little by little his spelling is improving.  We are learning to guard our limitations while still urging one another to soar. I’m realizing more than ever that all these homeschool/life goals, all the life-giving learning and character shaping and habit training and wisdom seeking, all of it starts with me.


I loved tutoring Essentials so much that I opted to step down from Directing so I could continue tutoring Essentials before directing Challenge A.  This means that I’ll tutor both my boys in Essentials next year along with being their Essentials teacher at home and an Essentials student myself. I’ll have the added twist of setting new expectations and limitations for a 2nd tour student and new expectations and limitation for a 1st tour student that is entirely different from his older brother. There is so much more to learn! I should probably feel overwhelmed but I don’t. I feel comforted knowing that we will be doing this together. In the end, our relationships are what grew the most this year and as result many other things were able to blossom. We press on!


A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversation Cycle 1 Quarter 1

We love studying Ancient History and it’s been a joy blending together our Charlotte Mason and Classical Conversations approach for the coming year. Though it is quite the struggle to find Ancient History living books for very young children, CC has such substance in their spine that we can add more than enough to have a very meaty study next year.


Below you will find our plan for the first quarter with details about each portion of our schedule, including our Morning Time selections and explanations for each part of our routine. I share this not because I think an exact copy of our schedule would work for everyone, but to help give you ideas to add to your own tapestry. Ultimately, you must find what serves your particular family’s needs best and since you are the world’s leading expert on your children, you are the master weaver, not I!

The book lists for all subjects (weeks 1-6) and extra resource list will follow at the end. Please note that my family will not be reading all those books each week, they are just possibilities we choose from. If you don’t want the nitty gritty details about our schedule, then feel free to skip to the chorus folks!

**Planning Notes:
I start my planning with prayer and I ask the Lord to really show me where I can nurture my children in their strengths and help support them through their struggles. I created a small spreadsheet highlighting each individual child’s Character Goals and Academic Goals for this year. The first thing I schedule is the most important subject of  all—“NOTHING.” As in Christopher Robin’s favorite subject, that oh so crucial protected play time for the kids. I have seen that the benefits of unstructured, unorganized, unmeddled-by-adults PLAY far outweigh any organized activity I do with my kids so I am ferocious when protecting it for my children. Once I have secured sufficient blocks of time for play and rest, the other blocks in our schedule follow. This includes things like vision therapy, speech therapy, Suzuki music lessons and nature walks. Next I evaluate how much time I have in the week for lessons and only use about 80% of that time. I leave margin for myself and the kids JUST IN CASE we need it. Most weeks, we do.  


Sample Schedule
Here is a look at our Fall Schedule ’19 if that is helpful to those that need the visual layout. There are a few notes on the bottom to decode the colors and abbreviations. We still stick to our block schedule, starting new lessons on the hour and letting the boys play once lessons are complete until the new hour/lesson begins. You can find more information about that under the Rhythm tab at the top of the blog. Keep in mind that CC is only 24 weeks each year so our academic year is a seasonal one. When CC is over we spend a great deal of time doing extra science and art and special studies at home, but when CC is in session we work hard and narrow our focus.

Morning Time for Cycle 1
We’ll be using this layout for the year because it worked so well for us last year. This is our time for gathering together to soak up truth, goodness and beauty. The books we open are to be savored and what we receive from them cannot be measured. (Check out Episode 33 of the Wild + Free podcast to hear about our “Mornings Without Measure)  Its the most important part of our day together! I plan on sharing how we narrate sometime this fall.

Here is what we are using around our table this year:

Creed/Psalm (2 minutes)
Hymn: How Firm a Foundation (2 minutes)
Catechism: Training Hearts and Teaching Minds (3 minutes)
Devotional: Indescribable: 100 Devotions about God and Science (3 minutes)
Scripture Meditation (same 3-4 verses read daily until everyone knows it, 2 minutes)
Memory Work Review (5 minutes)
Map Work (3 minutes) 
Exploring Nature With Children (10 minutes)
Biography:  Herodotus by Jeanne Bendick (5 minutes)

Middle Rotation~ (just a few pages of one or two of these each day, 20 minutes)
Aesop’s Fables
Poetry: Longfellow
Art Study: Giotto (Giotto is studied later on in this cycle, but we want more than 1 week with him!)

Upper Rotation (Just for the older two boys, 15 minutes)
D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths
Plutarch’s Lives
Mathematicians are People Too!   

This is the first year when we will have an Upper Rotation for the older boys. I’m not kicking anyone out of the room, but I am not expecting my seven year old to sit through Plutarch either. The younger ones are welcome to go play quietly or read a book in the library or hang out and color nearby till we are finished. This is a bit like adding in a new ball to a juggling act so I know it will take time to iron out. We are keeping this BRIEF at the start and will add minutes over time.


Music/Math (average 30 minutes)
We make like the Greeks and pair these two together. While I teach the older boys their math lessons from Right Start Math, the third born runs through his exercises and songs from his Suzuki book. Once the older boys move on to the game portion of their Right Start lesson, my third born is done and he gets his Right Start Math lesson. Then the older children will practice their violin lessons while I teach my youngest’s Right Start lesson. I’ll check the third born son’s work and then the older boys return and play a Right Start game with him, while I take the little one over for his violin practice since he still needs a lot of hands on help.

The main reason this works so well for us is because of Right Start Math’s short, focused lessons. Multiple kids, dyslexia, sensory needs, etc.— we can rock it because of this layout, which is a tremendous relief after our years in early Saxon purgatory! I never realized how bad math was for us until we switched to Right Start. We have a blast with it now. Most weeks we are even able to do lessons outside with lots of movement and we can incorporate nature walks and use sidewalk chalk for geometry and laugh while we play games. Math is adventurous now. It feels like family time instead of a miserable chore and best of all, they are learning well!


Latin  (average 20 minutes)
We are still chugging along with Latin Cristiana 1 from Memoria Press. It took us a year to finish half of that book and we’ll be finishing the last half this year. We work at a nice slow pace and take our time reviewing vocabulary and learning songs. We are lingering at this particular feast and I think its made all the difference! I was cool with not starting Latin until they were in 6th grade but they truly enjoy it so we are pressing on with it.


History (average 20 minutes)
Classical Conversations provides the skeleton for our History study and we flesh it out with living books. Many of you have asked if there are any box curriculums that feature living books that can be used for this Cycle. Here is a short list of ones we have personally used before or looked through that we know to be well done.

Beautiful Feet Books Ancient History Study (4th grade+)
Tapestry of Grace Year 1
My Father’s World Creation to the Greeks 

We most recently used Beautiful Feet Book’s Ancient History Study and the boys adored it!  (You can see our book list for history reads at the end of this post) We’ll be working hard on our written narration skills this year, which we keep in a simple composition notebook.

We love reading books that correlate to something in our TIMELINE for that week. We narrate a page and put it in our Book of Timeline Narrations and then we enter the date in our Book of Centuries.  Our booklist at the end of this post includes selections for Timeline.

I really love Olive Beaupre Miller’s A Picturesque Tale of Progress as an Ancient History spine. Its a bit tricky to find the complete 8 volume set, but if you have a chance to rescue one, its a treasure! There is a reprint available on Amazon but I have never seen it so I don’t know what the quality is like.

Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert also serves as a FANTASTIC small spine for Ancient History. We highly recommend it!

Lit Lunch/Reading Hour (30 minutes)
We light a candle, we eat lunch, we enjoy literature. The boys are in charge of selecting the stories this year from a list I made. In the past few months we’ve read Ember Rising, Swallows and Amazons, Robin Hood, Winnie the Pooh, The Wizard of Oz, The Penderwicks, The Good Master, The Singing Tree and others. We love reading aloud together. Even just 10 minutes at lunch time can go a long way as the days go by. I recently posted a list of my boy’s favorite picture books and chapter books if you’d like a few ideas!
After our read aloud time the boys go and play until the start of the new hour, which brings us to Reading Hour. The older boys grab their current independent reads (right now its Andrew Peterson and Roald Dahl) and head to the library. Depending on age and ability they read anywhere from 15-45 minutes on their own. I sit and listen to my newest reader while the older boys are off in their own worlds. My little guy gets an audiobook in his room with his heavy blanket and his stuffed toys. I get to read during this time too and its lovely to sit and relax for a bit right in the middle of the day. We’ve been known to drift off to sleep once in awhile during this time too! Though no one under the age of 10 will admit to it and everyone over the age of 30 gleefully boasts about it.


Essentials/Language Arts (average 45 minutes)
Once August hits I will have TWO students in Essentials and life will change in this area. This little block of time is the dark horse in my schedule. Anything can happen. This is uncharted territory! Right now the plan is to proceed as we did last year– times two. We open up by parsing our daily sentence with all children observing, one room schoolhouse style. The little ones hear the grammar involved and can answer simple aspects like checking the mechanics for capital letters and some punctuation. They inevitably drift off but writing out that sentence and spelling the words and putting up on the board all together is what kicks off the hour. The 7 year old grabs his copy work and settles down to write and practice his handwriting. I’ll settle down with the older two and we’ll work on key word outlines, spelling, drafts, whatever is on base for that particular day. I scribed for my eldest son last year because of his dyslexia. My second born is already writing on his own so I know he’ll be fine without me. I’ll probably scribe portions of my eldest’s papers this year since Mr Pudewa keeps reminding me to help my boy as much as he needs!  We end by coping charts or reciting/singing them to each other. I’ll go and work with the 7 year old on his language arts books and we’ll close out the hour with a bike ride or a jump on the trampoline or chocolate.


Independent Loop/ Kindergarten (30 minutes)
You will notice that in our Fall Schedule my youngest will be doing his Kindergarten work in the mid-afternoon. Not ideal for me but this is his best hour of the day! His tummy is full from lunch, he has played most of the morning, relaxed with an audio book during reading hour and he is now eager to sit by my side and spend time with me. We call Kindergarten his “Just Me and Mom Time” and he loves it! Even though we aren’t really starting his curriculum until June, its been such fun slowly building up those minutes with other things over the past year so that he could get into the habit before we even introduce anything formal. We started just playing with play doh or dolls or wooden animals or activities from our beloved Homegrown Preschooler and have now sustained focus all the way to 14 minutes! I’m so proud of him! Full disclosure: We’ll be using My Father’s World Kindergarten because all the other boys used it and we LOVE it, but he already told me he wants to keep doing his “Favorite work” which is A Year of Playing Skillfully from The Homegrown Preschooler. So it looks like I’ll be getting a mighty big bang for the bucks I spent on that curriculum when we use activities from it for the FOURTH TIME this fall. Woo-hoo!

While we are working on his Letters and Numbers the older three will commence with their independent work. This is work that can truly be done independently with no instruction or help from me at all. They rotate through this list. Some days they only do one thing, some days they do two or three. Once they reach the bottom they start all over again. A wonderful resource for Independent Loop information is the excellent book, “Teaching From Rest” by Sarah Mackenzie. I LOOOOOVE me some loop learning.

Here is my 9 year old’s Independent Loop:

IEW Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program (Auditory)
Handwriting- Classical Conversations Prescripts
Draw the World, Draw Africa
Typing Program– The Good and the Beautiful
Crochet work
Pin It Maps


Closing board/ Poetry Tea Time/ Symposium (30 minutes)
This block of time on our schedule is pretty fluid. We close out our day by gathering around the white board and calling out different things we have learned that day or favorite memories or funny moments. We try to find common themes or lessons then we sing a song and close out formal lessons for that day.  If we start with intention, we should end with intention. This also minimizes the chances of ending the day with a frustrated huff of anger or bitterness because the day didn’t turn out the way we thought it would. Spoiler: My kids never do this, I do this. This is the kind of thing homeschool moms do when we make detailed plans and then our flesh and blood children show up and “ruin it.” Closing board is selfish on my part. I do it to keep myself in check. I do it to remember all the important things my kids are soaking in. I do it to remember that on certain days, the worthy choice is to let things go.

Once a week we have a special afternoon tea with our favorite blend of tea from Mountain Rose Herbs (Fairy Tale tea) and we decorate the table and put out special treats and we read poetry. We love it. The boys are asking to have themed teas this year after I told them that my friend Julie Bogart’s kids had an outer space themed tea party once.  Julie, I’ll be sending photos this year!

On Fridays we have what we call “Symposium” which is essentially a big conversation. We sit in the library and I practice my lead learner/ Master Question Asker role. I see so much Dialectic stage thinking blossom during this time together. This summer we even had a few theological debates crop up between some of the children which was heartening. Its a wonderful time for us to discuss heart issues or every day life things that come up. A few weeks ago we ended up charting a mini 5 common topics on the importance of good manners and we all learned so much just by talking things out. Parents often make so many assumptions about what we think our kids know and understand, sometimes we don’t realize their true perception until they start explaining it back to us! Symposium is a gold mine for me in this regard. Its serves as course correction, inspiration, insight, evaluation and rubric.


FREE TIME (Between 3-5 hours combined from the time they rise till the time they go to bed)
Classical Conversations has been so life giving for us in this regard because it gives us so much TIME for free play. On our schedule this is labeled as Free Time (FT). What do I mean by free time? Free Time, in short, is time not controlled by me. Boys can run and play outside, climb trees, sit in the grass and watch the clouds, build forts, make mud pies, brush the goats, roam around the house making laser gun and fart noises. Whatever they want to do, as long as it doesn’t start a fire or hurt or maim another brother. We don’t do TV or iPads or personal screens. This has multiplied our time! We have ONE family computer that the kids use for coding, typing, Essentials papers and minimal research. We use it to watch a family movie once in a while. Other than that, the boys play on their own. No one provides entertainment because this ain’t a cruise ship. Climb a tree. Read a book. Scrape your knee. Walk the plank.

Once in blue moon the boys  will ask me to help them do or make something. Now, here is a fun fact about Elsie Iudicello. I loathe packaged crafts. I LOATHE them. To the frustration of every teacher, assistant and room mother that ever volunteered at school when I was a child, I hated when someone showed me a product and took out a kit and told me to make it look like whatever precious thing they were holding up in their hands. Yuck. (Sorry to all those who adore crafts, my own mother included). I always wanted to march to the beat of my own drum and then take my drum stick and beat crafts with it. Take your Adorable Reindeer Christmas Ornament Craft Kit back to the lobby of hobbies, dearest 2nd grade Room Mother, Elsie will not do them. This massive tirade is all to say that I never buy those kits for my kids. They can whittle wood or crochet a potholder or knit me my 74,567th scarf or roll beeswax candles or make bars of soap, but NO CRAFT KITS. The only exception here is Tinker Crate. We have boxes delivered monthly and my kids are obsessed with them. Probably because there are no adorable reindeer ornaments inside. They get to build hydraulic robot arms and spy kits and paint slatter spinners and solar system mobiles.  This is honestly a LIFE SAVER when Florida hosts a tiny monsoon every afternoon at 3pm for a 6 month stretch of time. If anyone wants to try a kit from Tinker Crate for free you can visit HERE.

Blessing Hour
Another non negotiable in our home. Pick up the common spaces and tidy everything up while mom makes dinner. Bless the house in order to bless our family so we can all have time together after dinner. Pick up shoes. Wipe the sink. Put away legos. Save your mother’s sanity.

Those are the nitty gritty details of our “school” day, though I hate to call it that since we learn all day long and some of their best learning happens when the hot principle shows up at around 5:30.  They learn a lot form their Dad and there is still one more reading session to go before bedtime. But if nitty gritty of “school hours” ends with the blessing hour.


**We tried to include as many IN PRINT living books as possible. Its quite difficult to find true living books for ancient history. Some of these books are not what I would consider LIVING, but they have redeeming qualities such as exquisite art or interesting rhymes or a fascinating topic told in a palpable way. I will be sharing many other out of print living books throughout the year as I log in each week, mostly in the hopes that if you ever spy one in the throw out bin at the library or on the shelf at goodwill or at your Granny’s house, that you recognize the living book, step in and save it!


Week 1

Exodus 20: 1-21

The History of Counting by Denise Bessaret (Prime example a book that is not LIVING, but still fascinating)
Counting on the Woods by George Ella Lyon
Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong (Chinese Folk Tale)
The Number Garden by Sarah Pinto
Anno’s Counting Book 
Anno’s Magic Seeds

Karl, Get Out of the Garden! by Anita Sanchez
Benny’s Animals and How He Put Them in Order by Millicent Selsam

Behind the Mask: A Book about Prepositions by Ruth Heller
Over, Under, Through by Tana Hoben

Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad by James Rumford (Baghdad is on the Tigris River)

The Creation Story for Children by Helen Haidle
The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley
Genesis 1-8
Indus Valley City (Building History)by Gillian Clements
Voices of Ancient Egypt by Kay Winters
Pharaoh’s Boat by David L Weitzman
Pyramid by David Macaulay
The Egyptians Knew by Tillie Pine
Hieroglyphs by Joyce Milton
Seeker of Knowledge by James Rumford
The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
—Chp 2 The Sumerians
—Chp 3 The Indus Valley
—Chp 9 The Minoans

Ish by Peter Reynolds
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Lines that Wiggle by Candace Whitman

Week 2

Exodus 20:1-21

Barn Cat by Carol P Saul
One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J Pinches
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All! by Marilyn Burns
The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins
Each Orange Had Eight Slices by Paul Giganti
Anno’s Multiplying Jar

Under Over By the Clover by Brian Clary

The Hungry Coat by Demi
The Pearl Diver by Julia Johnson
Exodus 14
The Red Sea Sharks (Adventures of Tin Tin) by Herge
The Ancient Persians by Virgina Schomp
The Golden Bull by Marjorie Crowley

The Microscope by Maxine Kumin
Greg’s Microscope by Millicent Selsam
What is the Animal Kingdom? by Bobbie Kalman

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Lynn Curlee
The Bible (Patriarchs)
God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah by Joanna Livingstone (Kush)
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
—Chp 7 Babylon
—Chp 8 China (Shang Dynasty)
—Chp 16 The Hittites
—Chp 17 Kush
—Chp 18 Assyria
The Ancient Chinese by Virginia Schomp

Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer
Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer
Art by Patrick McDonnell
Sky Color by Peter Reynolds

Week 3

Greek Myths by The D’Aulaires
Greek Gods and Heroes by Alice Low
Gods and Goddesses of Olympus by Aliki
Classic Greek and Roman Myths to Read Aloud by William Russell
Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet by Don Robb
Ancient Egypt and Her Neighbors by Lorene Lambert
—-Chp 19 Cyrus the Great- The Persian Empire
Exodus 3-15
Numbers, Judges, 1 Samuel 1-7
1 Samuel 8-31, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-11
The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna by Demi
They Put Out to Sea by Roger Duvosin (sadly out of print and $$$$. Its a wonderful book and I hope it comes back in print some day!)

Can You Count in Greek? Ancient Number systems by Judy Leimbach (Older students, this one is fascinating!)
Math For All Seasons by Greg Tang
Grapes of Math by Greg Tang

Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse by Rick Walton
Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins (Silent Picture Book for kids to practice their prepositions. ie. “Fox is amid the bushes” etc)

Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah De Costa

What’s Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew? by Robert Wells
Animal Cells by Mason Anders (Dry, but excellent visuals inside!)


Week 4

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Lynn Curlee
The Great Pyramid by Elizabeth Mann
Wonders of the World by Dover
The 5,000 Year Old Puzzle by Claudia Logan

Romulus and Remus by Anne Rockwell
The Twins by Plutarch
1 & 2 Kings
1 & 2 Chronicles
Depending on skill level:
The Children’s Homer by Padraic Collum
The Odyssey by Geralidne MacCraeghen
The Iliad
The Odyssey
Works and Days by Hesiod
Theogony by Hesiod
Buddha by Demi
The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi
Confucius: The Golden Rule by Russell Freedman

Saluki: Hound of Bedouin by Julia Johnson (SO hard to find, but worth it! Check your library!)
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
The Arabian Nights by Andrew Lang

Before After by Matthias Aregui (Another wordless gem!)
Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler

Plant Cells by Mason Anders

Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens by Cindy Neuschwander
Blockhead! The life of Fibonacci by Joseph De Angelese

Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock

Week 5

Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster
City by David MacCaulay
The Roman Army by Pete Connelly
Greece and Rome at War by Pete Connelly

Daniel 3
Alexander the Great by Demi
The Secret of Alexander’s Horse by Tony Palazzo
The Children’s Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks by Plutarch
Daniel 5
2 Chronicles 36
Herodotus and the Road to History by Jeanne Bendick
Archimedes and the Door to Science by Jeanne Bendick
Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick
What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras? by Julie Ellis
Rome Antics by David MacCaulay
Famous Men Of Rome: History for the Thoughtful Child by John Haaren

Cleopatra by Diane Stanley
We’re Sailing Down the Nile by Laurie Krebs
Boy of the Pyramids
Golden Goblet by Eloise Macgraw
Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne
Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green

An Earthworm’s Life by John Himmelman
Pagoo by Holling C Holling
The Life of a Spider by Jean Henri Fabre
Small Wonders: Jean Henri Fabre and World of Insects

Roman Numerals by David Adler
Roman Numerals: I to MM by Arthur Geisart
A Place for Zero by Angeline Lo Presti
Week 6

What’s Your Angle Pythagoras? By Julie Ellis
Pythagoras and the Ratios by Julie Ellis
Wise Guy by MD Usher
Archimedes and the Door to Science by Jeanne Bendick

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
The Life of Julius Caesar by Plutarch
If You Were Me and Lived in….the Mayan Empire
Secrets in Stone : All About Maya Hieroglyphics
Rome by Andrew Saloway
[(The Children’s Plutarch : Tales of the Romans)
Matthew 3, John 3, Matthew 14

The Librarian who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky
Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osbourne

From Tadpole to Frog
About Fish by Catherine Sill
About Mammals by Catherine Sill
About Birds by Catherine Sill
About Amphibians by Catherine Sill
About Reptiles by Catherine Sill

Up in the Garden, Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins
Bill and Peet Go Down the Nile by Tomie de Paola
Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman

Anna’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar
The King’s Chessboard by David Birch
Can You Count to a Googol? by Robert Wells


Audiobook Resources
Story of the World Volume 1
Pharaoh’s and Queens of Ancient Egypt by Jim Weiss
Cat of Bubastes by GA Henty. Excellent version also available by Heirloom Audio Productions
Julius Caesar by Jim Weiss
Courage and a Clear Mind: true Adventures of the Ancient Greeks by Jim Weiss
Egyptian Treasures: Mummies and Myths by Jim Weiss
Arabian Nights by Jim Weiss


We’ll be adding book lists for each quarter as I finish them!

Stay tuned for:

Our First Year in Essentials RECAP!

Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Supply List (The odds and ends we’ll be using at home)