Starting formal lessons: Term 1 of Form 1b

We follow a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education which starts formal lessons at age 6 (although the younger ones like to join in when they can). I wasn’t sure how ready J would be to give up his child-led days when he tuned 6 in May, so I thought we’d take the summer term as a practice term to ease us in. Actually, he has loved having more structure and direction to his learning. We’re also done with our lessons by lunchtime so there is still a lot of freedom in his days to play, get outside, create, dream, meet friends, rest and explore the ideas we’ve learned in the mornings.

“We spread an abundant and delicate feast… and each small guest assimilates what he can”

Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6

The Year
Charlotte Mason calls this first year of formal schooling from age 6 Form 1b, which is equivalent to a UK School Year 2 (Or US 1st Grade).

We split our year into 3 terms of 12 weeks each, (or 6 half-terms). Because J’s birthday is in May, we started our first term in May and have just finished mid-August (with a break in the middle).

I planned out what we would study in advance but also understand that things change so this is a record of what we have studied in this first term, rather than what I had planned.

Subjects

The subjects we do in Form 1b are:

Bible
Maths
Writing
Reading
Recitation
Singing
Literature
Natural History
Geography
History
Drawing
French
Music Appreciation
Picture Study
Poetry
Handicraft
Physical Education

Schedule

I used the scheduling cards from A Delectable Education to determine how often each week we would do each subject and for roughly how long. Most lessons we do for just 10 minutes at a time, the longest being 20 minutes in this form. Some we do everyday, others just once a week.

Bible

“But we are considering, not the religious life of children, but their education by lessons; and their Bible lessons should help them to realise in early days that the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and, therefore, that their Bible lessons are their chief lessons.”

Home Education Vol 1, p251

This term we have started reading through Genesis and Matthew, alternating each day. We use the ICB translation and just read through the Bible text. We read more than a few verses each day, enough to capture an ‘episode’ of what is going on but not as much as a whole chapter. Then J narrates back to me orally or through drawing. Sometimes we pull out a map or other books to help visualise the scene. We have enjoyed dipping into the Ladybird book of ‘Life in New Testament Times’. I hope at some point to track down copies of Patterson Smyth’s Commentaries to use as a companion but so far this has worked well for us.

Maths

J has always had a keen interest in maths so we had done some basic maths skills and games over the years. I knew I wanted to find something open and go for maths, that has a thorough scope and sequence and would be easy to implement so I was so happy to discover the MEP Maths curriculum (especially because it’s free!). We started some of their Reception material last year, which is mainly taught orally and through pictures. But because J has been writing numbers for a while I knew he would be ready for some written work. Coming into Form 1b, we started at year 1. There is a mixture of oral work, mental problems, and one written sheet a day which works perfectly for us for 20 minutes of daily maths. We use manipulates like these link cubes, dominoes, and number cards and rods as well as number rhymes and exercises.

Writing/Copywork

We do some writing everyday but vary what we do. We use these tracing and copywork sheets from Under the Home. We also have wipe clean books to perfect our letters. One day a week J will copy from the Ladybird Keywords writing books, and then on the last day he will choose a poem or rhyme to copy from a book on handwriting paper which he then can illustrate, if he wants to.

Reading

Reading is another subject we do everyday. We spend 3 days a week reading through the Ladybird Keywords series. Then on one day we play games using some of the words we came across. I made some simple cards to play games with; jumping on, throw bean bags at etc. On the last day we do phonics. J knows all his letters and letter sounds, but this term we have been learning the digraphs /ie/, /sh/, /ch/, /oo/, /ee/ and /th/. Mainly using ideas for games from this book.

Recitation

The purpose of recitation is to speak beautiful words beautifully. Memorization is not the goal although it is often a very good by-product. We do recitation four days a week and cover something different on each day. This term we recited two poems, a psalm, two hymns and passages of Old and New Testament.
This term we did:
Poems: The End and Swing Song by A.A. Milne
Psalm: 19:7-14
Hymns: Jesus Friend of Little Children and Morning has Broken
NT verses: Matthew 7: 24-28 (The Wise Man)
OT verses: Joshua 1: 5-10

I think in future I will just stick to narrative portions of NT and OT as the Joshua passage was fairly abstract for J to get his head around and hard to understand out of context.

Singing

Each term the plan is to sing 2 hymns, 2 folk songs and 2 French songs.
We simply listen to the songs and then have a go at singing them together. Singing is scheduled 3x a week but that doesn’t stop the boys singing them more often than that!
The songs we sung this term were:
Hymns: All Things Bright and Beautiful and Morning Has Broken
French Songs: L’Alouette and Tête, Épaules, Genoux et Pieds
Folk Songs: My Grandfather’s Clock and Oh I do Like to Be Beside the Seaside

Literature

Literature in Form 1 consists mainly of reading aloud ‘tales’ or the stories that form of our cultural identity. Mason recommended 3-4 fairytales per term and 3 Aesop’s fables. We read a lot more than this as J would happily listen to story after story, but I’m trying to work on reading slower and limiting how much we read to really assimilate all that we’ve read.
This term we read:

Hans Anderson – The Little Match Girl
Hans Anderson – The Tinderbox
The Cow on the Roof (Folk Tales of the British Isles)
The Three Wise Men of Gotham (Folk Tales of the British Isles)
Tolstoy – The Fool
Grimms – The Golden Bird
The Magic Porridge Pot
Kipling Just So Stories – How the Camel got His Hump
Aesop – The Unkindest Cut of All
Aesop – The Lion and the Mouse
Aesop – The Fox and the Stork
Aesop – The Sleeping Dog and the Wolf
Aesop – The Lion’s Share

Natural History

Since J was about 3 we had dipped in and out of the fantastic Exploring Nature With Children curriculum. So nature study is already big part of our daily lives, we simply stop, notice and talk about what we see when were out and about. We also keep nature journals that we take out with us to record our observations.

Natural History lessons are scheduled 3x a week, each day covering a different area: Habitat, Animals and Special Studies.

For Habitat we’re reading the first book in Arabella Buckley’s Eyes and No Eyes series; Wild Life of Woods and Fields. This follows the adventures of three children Peter, Peggy and a Paul and their encounters with nature.

For Animals; we’re reading Burgess Book of Animals. This is fairly dense so we only manage about a page at a time, but we have all learned so much from this book about different families of animals.

Then we covered two special studies, for the first half term we looked at caterpillars and butterflies. We read:
Terry and the Caterpillars
From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Monarch Butterfly
What to Look for in Spring page on butterflies
We also reared butterflies at home from caterpillars which J painted in his nature journal.

Our second special studies topic was pond life. We read:
Over and Under the Pond
Pond Year
The Otter
Mallard Duck
What to Look for in Summer page on summer hunting.

History

“The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn ‘outlines,’ or a baby edition of the whole history of England, or of Rome, just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

Home Education Vol 1 p.280

Charlotte Mason always started history with her youngest students to be the history of the people of ones own country. Mason often assigned Our Island Story by H. E Marshall as the main history text in form 1. This term we read one chapter a week starting with the stories of Albion and Brutus through to the coming of the Saxons, we will continue through this book chronologically for all 3 years of Form 1. In addition to this we read stories from:

Britannia: 100 Great Stories from British History
50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
Boudicca’s Army by Hilary McKay

We also visited a Roman Town House and went to see an open air performance of King Arthur.

The Roman Town House in Dorchester

Geography

Geography is one subject it’s taken me a while to get my head around. It’s a subject I didn’t really enjoy much at school but one I have grown to love since. I also think it’s one that needs the most updating from Charlotte Mason’s day and some of the oft recommended books I felt uneasy about using. I want to give my children an understanding of world cultures, without them being ‘other’ or ‘strange’.

In form 1 Charlotte Mason separated Geography into ‘Physical Geography’ and ‘Children of Other Lands’ as well as taking time outdoors to learn some basic geography skills (using a compass etc).
For Physical Geography we have been using Charlotte Mason’s own Elementary Geography book. I feel this really touches more on the science end of geography and hasn’t needed much if any updating (shape of the Earth, how it spins on its axis etc).

On the second day we study a child from another land. It was important to me to choose books that would be an accurate, modern day representation of children in other countries. Because of this, I haven’t used a spine but a mixture of chapter and picture books. We read:
Anna Hibiscus
I See The Sun in Russia (I See the Sun Series)
We also listened to Peach Boy on Audible (a Japanese Folktale)

We also used this book to look at different climates around the world. And then we drew some of our favourite features of that climate.

Drawing

Charlotte mason intended drawing lessons to be brushdrawing but we do a mixture of watercolours and pencil drawings, 2 or 3 times a week. Usually as a narration from something we have read in our History, Geography, National History, Bible or Literature lessons. But sometimes J will draw something from his imagination, or I encourage him to draw something from memory. We also have our nature journals that we often take out with a tin of paints which they are free to paint in from their observations. The hope is to do weekly nature walks but we haven’t got that consistent with it yet.

French

Languages is not an area I am confident in, so when I heard such good recommendations for Paul Noble’s audio lessons for kids I thought that we’d give that a try. We just listen to one chapter a day, 4x a week and I’m learning a lot alongside them. We also used this classic book and sang two French songs.

Next term I would like to add in some French stories.

Music Appreciation

Our Composer for the term was Antonio Vivaldi. We simply listened to 6 of his pieces or occasionally we watched a recording of a live performance. J already recognised some of The Four Seasons from this book.

We listened to:

Gloria in D Major
The Four Seasons
Trio Sonata in A Major
Concerto for 2 Flutes in C Major
Concerto for Lute, 2 Violins and Continuo in D Major
Violin Concerto in A Minor

We also listened to this story based a true event in Vivaldi’s life, and read the biography I, Vivaldi by Janice and Tom Shefelman.

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.”

Home Education Vol. 1, p. 309

Picture Study

Our Artist for the Term was Sandro Botticelli. We simply looked at six of his paintings and talked about them. The paintings were:
Madonna and Child (c.1465)
Primavera (c.1482)
Maddonna or the Magnificat (c.1480-1481)
The Birth of Venus (c.1484-1485)
Pallas the Centour (c.1482-1485)
Lament for Christ Dead (c.1495)

Poetry

We don’t have scheduled time for reading poetry, but encounter it in recitation and copywork lessons and poetry teatimes. I chose A.A Milne for our poet for the term, but also read seasonal poetry and other anthologies that J chooses.

Handicraft

I used this planner from Charlotte Mason Beehive to schedule our handicrafts. We did paper sloyd, sewing, knots and gardening. In reality I think I scheduled way too much. This may be because of the time of year and being outside more in the afternoons but I think next term we will reduce handcraft to one main focus each term, in addition to improving sewing skills and helping in the home and garden.

Physical Education

I outsource this subject to my husband, and to groups!
J does weekly Gymnastics and Football classes as well as the many physical skills learned from running, climbing trees, riding his bike etc.

I have recently discovered Miss Mason Music’s resources for drill and dancing which I’d like to dig into more next term.

I’m sure there are many ways we will change and expand our learning (especially as I add in more students) but for now this works for us. My 4yo (A), likes to join in when we do maths and listens to all our reading, but he’s not required to narrate as J is.

Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below, and thanks for reading 🙂

“The question is not, – how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

Charlotte Maon

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