Let’s Play “Is It CM?” (Part 3)

Dear Reader,

It has been some time since I did my “Is It CM?” posts parts 1 and2 but it seems like there are more and more CM-ish curricula out there so I thought it was about time for another. The quickest way to find all the info I have on CM and CM-inspired curricula is to go to this post.

There is a lot out there that claims to be CM or that is used and discussed by folks who are CM. My goal with these posts is to give you a quick snapshot so you can make informed decisions. The next couple of “how to” paragraphs are taken right from part 1 so if you’ve already been there you can skip right to the reviews —

A few caveats before we begin: This is going to come off as inherently negative because a lot of what I need to say is how each curriculum falls short of the CM ideal. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad curriculum or that you can’t use it and still be CM.  At a homeschool conference I once attended, the keynote speaker said “I never give curriculum recommendations. I could tell you what my family uses but I would also have to tell you how we use it.” Which is to say, it’s not just what you use but how you use it. There may be good reasons to choose any of the resources below. You may use a little from here and a little from there. You may buy a curriculum but adapt it and use it in your own way.  I am supplying this information because I think it is useful to know where a given resource lines up with CM’s thought and where it doesn’t. I also think it is fine to deliberately choose to diverge from CM’s thought and methods (I actually consider myself post-CM and have my own philosophy of education though I really like her epistemology).

Finally, a note on methodology: My goal here is not to analyze the philosophy behind each resource but simply to look at its methods (though the two are always going to be related). The sorts of things I am looking for are pretty basic: Does it use living books? Does it use narration and if so, is it CM-style narration? Does it make use of non-CM methods like worksheets? How does it approach language arts? Does it use copywork and dictation or other methods like spelling tests? Because there have not been a lot of CM math resources out there till recently, I am not going to spend much time analyzing the math component of these resources. Many refer you to other companies’ math curricula any way.

So, without further ado, let’s play once again: Is it CM?

Under the Home

K-4 only. Secular. Claims to be CM-inspired and child-friendly. Free. Uses digital resources so there are no books to purchase. Uses many older books (think McGuffey’s readers)

What’s CM about it?

Includes fine arts and geography. Plans to include Shakespeare as they add more grade levels. Uses copywork and dictation. Nature lore and nature study for science.

What isn’t CM?

Uses notebooking and review questions (both of which are not CM).  It’s not clear to me if they use or encourage narration.

Quick Take Summary:

The materials seem good. The methods seem a little less CM but if narration is used in place of notebooking and review questions it could easily be adapted.


Secular. Literature-based and family-oriented. Claims to be eclectic and to make use of games, hands-on activities and car-schooling. Currently K-3.

What’s CM about it?

Torchlight does not claim to be CM but is literature-based so it may be used by those who think it is in the CM spectrum. Includes literature, art and poetry.

What isn’t CM?

The books for science and history do not look particularly living to me. The methods are not CM (and don’t claim to be).

Quick Take Summary:

I’m including their curriculum here because many people come to the CM world using things like this and think that they are CM. Some of the books and resources in Torchlight are good (but not all) and the methods are not CM.

Queens Homeschool

Queens has been around selling resources for a long time. They claim many of their resources are CM. They now offer “Charlotte Mason in a Box Kits” which combine these resources into one package by grade level.

What’s CM about it?

Includes picture study and dictation. Books are in a narrative style.

What isn’t CM?

The methods do not seem to be particularly CM, eg. grammar exercises and vocab lessons. They use their own books which are written in a narrative way but this is not the same as using real, living books IMO. Seems to use more of a question and answer format with no mention of narration.

Quick Take Summary:

The materials are not awful but they are not real living books and there is no mention of narration that I can see. I am judging this one not very CM.

Beautiful Feet Books

Beautiful Feet has also been around a while and offers study guides correlated with living books. This is not a complete curriculum.

What’s CM about it?

Subjects like geography and science are taught through living books and the book choices are good.

What isn’t CM?

I think some of the methods used are not CM (i.e. things like short answers instead of narrations) but it is hard to tell online.

Quick Take Summary:

Though it is not a complete curriculum, BF uses good living books and its packets could certainly be a good supplement to a CM curriculum.

Book Shark

Secular. Literature-based curriculum with a hands-on element. Based on a 4-day school week. Children within three years of each other can be combined.

What’s CM about it?

Most of the books are good, living ones. For language arts, there is an emphasis on reading good writing and some copywork and dictation (though also other less CM practices).

What isn’t CM?

Uses reading comprehension questions and worksheets instead of narration. Optional hands-on elements like lapbooks. Especially for science some of the books are less living. No fine arts as far as I can see.

Quick Take Summary:

Many decent books. One could do narration in place of the reading comprehension questions and many of the hands-on activities are optional.

Blossom and Root

 Currently just PreK-2. Secular. Nature-based. “Living books inspired language arts.” Hands-on and play-based.

What’s CM about it?

Includes nature study and copywork. Narration is given as one option on how to implement the curriculum. Many of the recommended books seem to be good living ones. Includes picture study.

What isn’t CM?

Many of the activities are not CM and are more worksheet-like.

Quick Take Summary:

Overall this is not a CM curriculum but it offers a lot of options and could be adapted fairly easily.

Gather Round

Christian. Family-oriented. All children work on same unit at same time at different levels. Math is not included. 

What’s CM about it?

Lessons are kept short.

What isn’t CM?

Unit studies, which are inherently not CM, are the major part of this curriculum. It is not clear to me that it uses living books and it looks to be worksheet-oriented.

Quick Take Summary:

Many families seem to like the family-oriented approach but as unit studies curriculum this is inherently not CM.

A Humble Place

Offers resources and a CM-inspired kindergarten curriculum.

What’s CM about it?

Includes copywork, art, music and nature study. Lessons are short 20 minutes per day, 4 days a week plus morning times. Many of the books are good and it uses MEP math.

What isn’t CM?

CM herself did not advocate formal education at this age (which the site acknowledges). A few of the books, particularly in geography, I am less enamored of.

Quick Take Summary:

Though a kindergarten curriculum is in itself not CM, this seems to be a very good option if you need one (possibly to satisfy legal requirements).


I am not at this point planning another of these posts but if there are other resources you’d like me to look at, feel free to contact me or to comment below.


One response to this post.

  1. […] Play is it CM, part 3  (covers Under the Home, Torchlight, Queens, Beautiful Feet, Book Shark, Blossom and Root, Gather […]


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