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!
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.
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)
Art Study: Giotto (Giotto is studied later on in this cycle, but we want more than 1 week with him!)
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.
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
Geography- Draw the World, Draw Africa
Typing Program– The Good and the Beautiful
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.
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.
AND NOW FOR THE CHORUS!!!!!
BOOK LIST FOR CYCLE 1 Weeks 1-6
**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!
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
The Creation Story for Children by Helen Haidle
The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley
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
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
The Red Sea Sharks (Adventures of Tin Tin) by Herge
The Ancient Persians by Virgina Schomp
The Golden Bull by Marjorie Crowley
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
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
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!)
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
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
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
Plant Cells by Mason Anders
Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock
Alexander the Great by Demi
The Secret of Alexander’s Horse by Tony Palazzo
The Children’s Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks by Plutarch
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
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
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)