Posts Tagged ‘curriculum’

Homeschool Curricula by Approach & A Quick-Start Guide

Dear Reader,

Where I am at least, the number of people considering homeschooling in the coming year (2020-21) has skyrocketed. With them in mind, I created this list of homeschooling curricula by subject. If you need direction in what approach to choose, please see this page in which I list all my posts on the various philosophies of education including questions to ask yourself and a quiz to help identify your style. There are two versions of this list. The full one lists the curricula by approach and the quick-start guide narrows things down even more if you are still overwhelmed.

Homeschool Curricula by Approach (opens a Google doc)

Quick-Start Homeschool Curriculum Guide (opens a Google doc)

I am sure there are inaccuracies and curricula I have missed so feel free to comment and I will try to keep the documents updated.


Specialty CM Curricula: Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Secular

Dear Reader,

I have a few posts now looking at the various Charlotte Mason (here) and Charlotte Mason-inspired (here and here) curricula out there. My goal in all of this is just to provide you with resources for narrowing down your choices. Personally, I tend to put together my own thing and while I do have some opinions, I don’t have a horse in this race.

If you have found your way here, you probably already know a little bit about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education.  (If you’d like to read way more on her than you’ll ever need, check out this page which lists all my CM-related posts.) My own belief is that any philosophy of education is inherently theological — it must ask and answer questions about the nature of man and of knowing. It is not irrelevant to CM’s approach, then, that she was Anglican (see this post on Anglicanism in CM).  If you are not Anglican, or even Protestant, this does not mean that you cannot use CM’s ideas, but it does mean that you should put a little more thought into how you might want to adapt and apply them.  It may be that there are particular resources others use that you want to avoid; it may be that there are whole areas you want to change.

As the CM world expands, there are more and more resources out there that adapt CM to other religious traditions. My goal today is to give you a fly-over look at these. Many of these curricula I have looked at previously (but one is entirely new to me).

Specialty CM Curricula 

Roman Catholic

What’s out there? The Catholic CM curriculum is Mater Amabilis (find the chart I did on it preciously here).

What’s included? It is a free curriculum and covers K-8. As with a lot of the CM resources out there, it is still a work-in-progress so more material is being added. Book and material suggestions are given; lesson plans are for some subjects. Math is not included. There is a prep level for 4-6-year-olds.

How CM is it? In the spectrum of CM-ness, this one strives to be fairly purely CM though it also says it can be used in a more “CM-inspired” way.

What’s Catholic about it? There is an extensive religion section including subjects like Bible, catechism, the saints, and the liturgical year.

Latter Day Saints

What’s out there? The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) is LDS (aka Mormon)-owned though it does not bill itself as a specifically Mormon curriculum (see this earlier post).

What’s included? It seems to be a fairly comprehensive curriculum for k-8 and is designed to be “open and go.” The high school curriculum goes under the name Greenleaf High School and is still in-progress.

How CM is it? TGTB emphasizes literature, nature, and beauty as well as short lessons.  It doesn’t push curriculum in early grades. Its read-aloud books are often good, living book choices. In other areas it combines subjects and borders on Unit Studies (which CM rejected). In language arts, it uses some non-CM methods and it tends to use readers rather than whole, living books.

What’s LDS about it?  The curriculum itself does not seem to be distinctly Mormon. It emphasizes family, values, and a general Christian deism.


What’s out there? Wayfarers (from Barefoot Meandering)  and Build Your Library (BYL; see this post) and Wildwood (see this chart) bill themselves as secular CM resources.

What’s included? Wildwood is free. It seems to include form I (through age 9) and family studies for all ages; I do not see materials for ages 10+ (yet). It seems to consist mostly of booklists and often refers one to outside resources. BYL refers you to other publishers for some resources (like science) but does offer laid-out lesson plans.

How CM is it? Of the three, Wildwood is most purely CM while Wayfarers and BYL are CM-inspired. Wayfarers does emphasize literature and sticks with living books and not textbooks for high school science. It also borrows from the classical tradition, however, and adds materials for language arts and makes heavy use of notebooking. BYL also uses literature and narration but mixes things up with narration notecards. It has some eclectic elements as well and adds on unit studies.

What’s secular about it? Wildwood aims to be “as nonreligious as we can make the curriculum.” Science is evolution-based. Its intent is to be religion-neutral. Wayfarers and BYL also aim to be non-religious but not anti-religious.

EDITED 1/15/2020:

I have learned that there is another secular CM-inspired curriculum out there: Ursa Minor.

What’s included? Ursa Minor starts with year 7. Unlike most CM curricula, the later years are available rather than the early ones. It seems to be mainly lists of books with notes like “keep a book of centuries” but not a lot of explanation. Those new to CM may need to read up to understand what is expected of them.

How CM is it? Ursa Minor bills itself as CM-inspired and acknowledges that it is not CM but includes aspects of classical as well as Montessori and Reggio Emilia. One added element from classical (as an example) is a logic curriculum. despite their disclaimer, much of what I see looks actually quite CM to me with nature journaling, composer study, etc.

What’s secular about it? A primary goal seems to be to provide a scientific curriculum which they define as one that “uses the scientific method to discover facts about the world.”  Books may discuss religion but they avoid books that are designed to convince or indoctrinate (their words).


What’s out there? One of my very helpful readers has recently let me know that there is a Jewish CM curriculum. It is Ani-ve-Ami (which translates to “me and my people”).

What’s included? At the moment it seems to be mainly booklists. They mention you may need to add more literature. A planning guide is in the works. Consultations are available. The curriculum guide seems to include history, literature and the arts, but not science and math. Lists of other resources are provided for those.

How CM is it? Ani-ve-Ami bills itself as a living CM curriculum. It includes mapwork, copywork, and living books and seems to merit the CM label.

What’s Jewish about it? Judaic studies are included in the curriculum. You can choose how much Hebrew you want to incorporate. Time periods are divided according to Jewish history. History and literature are both divided into Jewish and secular sections.


What’s out there? Our Muslim Homeschool (OMH) offers an Islamic CM curriculum. Middle Way Mom (MWM)also posts on her CM, Islamic curriculum choices.

What’s included? The main products sold by OMH seem to be those which focus on Muslim distinctives (see below). Life of Fred is offered for math. There are lists of what curriculum the creator has used in the blog portion but I found it hard to navigate. You can see one such post here. MWM seems to just have lists of what the author has used.

How CM is it? The creator of OMH says she is guided by CM principles. When she lists what she has used for a given year (see link above), it does seem to be pretty CM. It is not clear to me to what degree CM’s philosophy influences her original curriculum offerings (all of which seem to focus on Islamic subjects). MWM seems to make good CM choices as well.

What’s Muslim about it? Arabic, Quran, and Islamic studies are included and are the main unique offering in OMH. MWM also includes Islamic studies, Quran, and Arabic in her lists.


Those are the “specialty” Charlotte Mason curricula that have come to my attention. There are always new resources out there, so if you know of others, feel free to comment below and give me a heads-up to them.


Let’s Play “Is It CM?” (Part 2)

Dear Reader,

This is my second post giving quick surveys of Charlotte Mason-inspired curricula. You can find the first one here. I also have charts on the various “pure” Charlotte Mason curricula (see 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 necessariyl 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 curricuum 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?

Build Your Library

Build Your Library (BYL) is a secular curriculum that I’ve seen recommend more and more in the past year or so. According to the website it it “literaure based” and “Charlotte Mason inspired.”

What’s CM about it?

BYL uses real literarutre and narration. They have narration cards to mix it up a bit but seem to stick pretty well to narration as CM would have liked it. They also include a Book of Centuries. It is history-based and incorporates art study and copywork.

What isn’t CM?

They offer unit studies though these seem to be shorter supplements to the main curriculum (if you are unsure how unit studies fit with CM, see my brief rant when I discussed them in relation to The Good and The Beautiful in part 1). There are a lot of great books here but some I am less enamored with or don’t know the living-ness of. I have never been a huge fan of Joy Hakim’s books which are used for history (though others love them so that may just be me). Science tends to use more comprehensive spines from other publishers (in addition to living books). I am not familiar with all of these so I can’t evaluate them.

Quick Take Summary:

Though the creator makes clear that BYL is only CM-inspired and has some ecclectic elements, this is actually among the more CM curricula I am looking at.  There is little here that you would need to tweak. Lesson plans are laid out for you so if that it what you are looking for in a curriculum or if what you want is something secular, this could be a good choice for you.

Heart of Dakota

Heart of Dakota (HoD) has been around a while. It’s main claim is to be Christ-centered and to address the child’s heart. Under philosophy, the creators do say that they are heavily influenced by CM but they stop short of claiming to be a CM curriculum.

What’s CM about it?

HoD emphasizes the habit of attention and short lessons. It also makes use of copywork, dictation, and narration and uses living books.

What isn’t CM?

Though HoD uses copywork, it also adds spelling lists and grammar instruction. Especially in the early years, science is coordinated with history in a way that smacks of unit studies. It includes hands-on activities in the early years. Though narration is used so are notebooking and questions. There is no mention of nature study.

Quick Take Summary:

HoD has a solid basis in living books with narration. I find that there is a bit much added for my tastes including lots of fiddly projects, overly much guidance for narrations, and spelling and grammar lessons. There is some tendency toward unit studies, and though it does seem to use some good books, I am not sure it uses enough good, living books. I also have some concerns about the emphasis on appealing to the heart. There seems to be an overemphasis on limiting exposure to “bad” things and on discussing and drawing moral conclusions for and with kids though I am not sure how this plays out on a  day-to-day basis.

Winter Promise

Winter Promise claims to be CM-inspired but also includes “classical principles,” “themed resources” (read: unit studies), and real-life experiences.

What’s CM about it?

Winter Promise uses “good books” and emphasizes nature study. History and science books are touted as the backbone of the curriculum.

What isn’t CM?

Winter Promise uses a unit studies approach. It also uses worksheets. Though narration is mentioned, notebooking is the main way to process information in Winter Promise and is cited as a narration method. It deliberately adds “the experience approach” to CM which practically speaking means a lot of added hands-on activities.

Quick Take Summary:

Again, as I have said for many of these curricula, there may be good books used but not a lot of them. Winter Promise uses Mystery of History (among other resources) which may be fine (I have never looked at it extensively) but I would rather see a curriculum that uses a wider variety of living books. Though it touts narration, I didn’t see anything that explains what CM style narration is. Notebooking seems to substitute for narration almost entirely.

Train Up a Child

Train Up a Child claims to be CM-inspired and to use living books.

What’s CM about it?

Train Up a Child uses living books and narration. Its book choices seem good and it also incorporates nature study.

What isn’t CM?

Spelling and grammar instruction are added in though I am unable to see what these look like to know if they use worksheets or how they are done. Copywork is used but it seems to be copying of sentences about what one is learning not sentences taken from good literature.

Quick Take Summary:

Train Up a Child goes thorugh all of history every year. I am not sure if this is technically un-CM but it seems rushed to me and to not fit the spirit of CM. I like the books they use and the narration. I wouldn’t call it CM but I think it would be one of the more easily adaptable curricula. There seem to be two options, the unit programs or the daily lesson plans. The latter seems to lay things out more and the former to be more flexible. The unit programs would be easier to adapt.

Wayfarers (from Barefoot Meandering)

Their self-description is “Homeschool curricula with a classical education, Charlotte Mason, twaddle-free flair.” Like Build Your Library, this is a secular (non-religious, but not areligious) curriculum. It touts living books, copywork, and narrations and rejects textbooks and busywork. .

What’s CM about it?

Wayfarers emphasizes literature as the most important element. In older years it uses a commonplace book. It also uses daily oral and written narration. I particularly like that they stick with living books and not textbooks for high school science. The arts are included.

What isn’t CM?

Wayfarers uses notebooking pages which as I have said before are not strictly CM. It also adds language arts curricula and the creator makes clear that she views it as ideal to teach grammar concepts in the earlier years when children memorize easily (a classical concept). Hands-on activites are optional extras. From the classical tradition, Wayfarers takes the division into logic, dialectic, and rhetoric stages and a 4-year history cycle. It also uses the progymnasmata approach to writing.

Quick Take Summary:

There is a lot here that is CM and I like that the added bits are largely included as optional extras. Its book choices seem solid and it relies heavily on narration (though it is unclear to me if every book id narrated). I also like that the creator is clear on her theory and seems to know which bits she gets from CM and which from classical.

A Mind in the Light

A Mind in the Light is a CM-inspired curriculum with elements from classical.

What’s CM about it?

A Mind in the Light uses living books, narration, art and music studies, and nature study as well as copywork and dictation.

What isn’t CM?

Grammar is added though how it is done is not clear to me.

Quick Take Summary:

The website seems to be under construction as I write this and I can’t see many particulars as to how subjects are done. From what I can see this is a quite CM curriculum. Its book choices seem very good.

Wrapping Up

Having looked now at 11 different CM-inspired or CM-adaptable curricula, I feel I can make some general conclusions:

  • Trying to devise an all-in-one sort of curriculum for parents seems to come with a trade-off in the quality of the living books. Because it is presumably hard for parents or curriculum developers to gather a large number of living books, there is a temptation to create readers which either aggregate selections from materials already existing or to use other publisher’s pre-existing curricula.  The result is something that is a little less living. These books may be relatively engaging and be written in a narrative style but they have some drawbacks. Selections are taken out of their literary context. Books and series that are used as a “spine,” possibly even over multiple years, give one point of view and one literary voice to the exclusion of others. These books all tend to be newer meaning older, quality books are missed. Though Sonlight (which does tend to use good books) may require too may books in a year thus rushing the reading, many of the these other curricula require too few. They don’t give a good variety and breadth of reading.
  • The science books offered tend to be of even poorer quality than history books. Nature study is often neglected.
  • It is really, really hard to get away from the worksheet mindset (see this post on worksheets, their history and why they are bad). The core thought may be “CM isn’t enough” or it may be “just in case, let’s add …” but either way one ends up with a lot of fiddly extra work which serves to detract from what a CM education should be. There is probably a tipping point here– one worksheet a week will likely not derail a CM education but twenty might undercut what one is trying to do.
  • Narration is often either absent or rare. Where it is touted, it is often misunderstood. It may be replaced by notebooking and the like or it may become something that is guided or which looks for particular outcomes.
  • Unit studies are quite popular. Unfortunately, they are not CM and Charlotte herself specifically argues against them in her rejection of Herbart (whose philosophy was something more comprhensive than unit studies but amounted to largely the same thing). The central problem with unit studies is that they aggregate material for students and end up spoon-feeding them. They do not allow the student to form his own relationship with the material or to see the connections between the subjects for himself.

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 to to comment below.


Let’s Play “Is It CM?” (Part 1)

Dear Reader,

I have in the past shared some charts which compare the various Charlotte Mason curriucla out there (see this post). I chose to limit what I included to those that fit the bill “strictly Charlotte Mason” but the truth is there is a lot more out there can either claims to use the Charlotte Mason approach or to be CM-inspired. [1] In the various online forums I belong to (and some I help moderate) many of these “inspired” materials get discussed and so I thought it would be useful to try to give a quick summary of each with a particular eye to saying how faithful it is to Charlotte Mason’s own ideas and approach.

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 curricuum 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.

Because there is so much out there, I am going to begin with six of the biggest names. I will likely get to others in a “part 2” so if you have particular resources you’d like me to review, feel free to comment below.

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


Sonlight is a long-term resident in the homeschooling world. I don’t see as many people these days asking if it is CM but I do see a fair number who say, “I have been using Sonlight but now want to move to a more CM approach. Can I adapt what I already have?” The short answer to this is yes, you can adapt it. The question is what needs adapting so let’s look at what in Sonlight fits the CM approach well and what might need changed.

What’s CM about it?

Sonlight starts with history as the core of the curriculum and rejects textbooks in favor of living books. It also rejects worksheets (though uses “activity pages”) and uses some copywork and dictation.

What isn’t CM?

Sonlight encourages parent-teachers to make connections for students. Though it uses many good, living books, it uses a lot of them in one year whereas CM favored a slow approach that allows children to better digest what they read. It uses reading comprehension questions instead of narration.  Though it says it doesn’t use worksheets, it does use “activity sheets” for language arts and science. I like the idea that one learns to write well from good writing, but in practice it seems quite worksheet-heavy.  Sonlight’s science is fairly traditional, involving books on various science-y subjects and hands-on activities.  It does not seem to include nature study. Its Timeline is similar to but not the same as CM’s Book of Centuries. Sonlight uses notebooking (I believe) which, while perhaps CM-adaptable, is not an inherently CM concept.

Quick Take Summary:

I wouldn’t buy Sonlight if you are looking for a CM curriculum (and it doesn’t claim to be one). It can be a good resource if you are looking for books on a particiular time period. Many of its history books are good, living ones (I am less impressed by the science choices). If you already own Sonlight and are looking to get more CM, you can certainly use what you have. My suggestion would be to begin by reading the books (though perhaps more slowly) while introducing narration which will help your children digest what they read for themselves and will also begin to build language arts and writing skills.

The Good and the Beautiful

The Good and the Beautiful (TGTB) tends to cause a lot of controversy because it is a Mormon-owned curriculum. Whether that is a good thing or not is beyond the scope of this post. I will say that though I believe Charlotte Mason herself was a solid Christian (though I have some theological differences with her; see for instance, this post), her philosophy of education is somewhat deist in that it assumes a God but does not assume a lot of specifics about Him. I think it is quite possible to use her practices to good effect whether you are Protestant or Catholic or Muslim or Mormon or a-religious.

What’s CM about it?

TGTB emphasizes literature, nature, and beauty as well as short lessons.  It doesn’t push curriculum in early grades. Its read-aloud books are often good, living book choices.

What isn’t CM?

TGTB combines subjects like language arts and art. I find that this is always a bit of a fine line. There is a point at which simply selecting things from the same time period devolves into unit studies. Though CM does not speak about unit studies by name, she rejects Herbartianism, a philosophy of her day which was very similar. The main problen with such things is that they make connections for kids, often artificial connections.  Though TGTB uses dictation-like exercises for spelling, overall the langauge arts approach does not rely on copywork, narration, and dictation but on worksheets and little exercises. Most reading seems to be in the form of readers which take selections out of their living book context. It also uses a unit study approach to science and doesn’t seem to include time for nature study.

Quick Take Summary:

TGTB claims to use many philosophies but to “pull mainly” from CM. Some of the read alouds it uses are good, living books but beyond that I see little that I would call CM.

Easy Peasy

The appeal of Easy Peasy seems to be that it is a) free online and b) all laid out for you. I don’t believe it claims to be CM but it is often cited as being CM-adapatable.

What’s CM about it?

Easy Peasy says it takes a lot of its books from Ambleside Online, an old standby in the CM world (as well as from the Robinson curriculum; I never reviewed this approach but have some bullet points on it here). It also keeps lessons short and allows for free time in the day. After doing readings, children are asked to repsond in some way. Occasionally this takes the form of “tell someone about what you read” which is essentially narration though it is not done always or even often.

What isn’t CM?

Language arts is pretty much worksheet-based and science seems to include a lot as well. It also makes use of online components which seems to be a grey area. Of course CM could not possibly have addressed this issue but my inclination is that she would have limited such things.

Quick Take Summary:

Easy Peasy makes no claims to be CM. There are some good books in use here and some exercises are narration-like but there is little that is truly CM about this curriculum.


Like Easy Peasy, MasterBooks seems to be used by those new to CM or hovering on its edges. It is another easy, relatively cheap resource. It is a distinctly Christian site but uses resources from different authors or sources (i.e. math from one supplier and history from another) so its CM-ness varies. Many of its components claim a “CM flavor.”

What’s CM about it?

MasterBooks uses Math Lessons for a Living Education at the elementary level. There are not a lot of CM math resources out there and were even fewer when my kids were little so I feel less equipped to judge their CM-ness. It also uses morning baskets which, while not purely CM, are popular in CM circles. It’s history component claims to be CM and the book it uses does seem to be written in an engaging, living style and asks for periodic narrations.

What isn’t CM?

Though the history has some CM elements, it also includes activity sheets and gives expectations for what kids will narrate which tends to udercut what narration should be (i.e. it should be about what they get out of it, not whether they get what we thnk is important). Though the history books are decent, they use their own books and don’tt make use of  the many other wonderful living books out there. For science I found the text very busy, with lots of boxes with different blurbs of material. Again, worksheets are used for review. Langauge arts uses various resoucres. For example, at the junior high level it uses Writing Strands which, though I have heard it mentioned in CM circles, does not seem particularly CM. At the elementary level, Language Lessons for  Living Education is used (among other resources). This again is touted as a CM resource and it does urge oral narrations but also uses worksheets and the like.

Quick Take Summary:

MasterBooks uses resources from many different educators/writers. Many of its components claim a “CM flavor” and I would say that is about what they have, a vague flavor. More than the other resources we have looked at above, there is an empahsis on narration but there are also a lot of worksheets and not a lot of living books.

Five in a Row

Five in a Row (FIAR) and its early education version, Before Five in a Row (BFIAR), maintain some populatrity, especially among those who are looking for more structure for themsleves (not necessarily for their children) in the early years. Charlotte Mason doesn’t advoacte formal learning before age 7 or so, but often this is just not enough. It may be your mother-in-law is nagging you or that our state requires something more but for whatever reason, BFIAR is a place people turn for a gentle, CM-friendly resource for the early years. FIAR is not a full curriculum but suggests you supplement with math and phonics and later spelling and grammar.

What’s CM about it?

FIAR and BFIAR use good, living books

What isn’t CM?

The gimmick behind FIAR is that one reads the same story five days in a row (hence its name) each time doing various activities which highlight different elements from the story.  For example when you read The Story of Ping you learn about ducks and about China. This violates CM’s principle of one good reading and building the habit of attention. It is also essentially a unit studies approach which she also rejects (see my comments on TGTB above).

Quick Take Summary:

The books used are good, but the approach is really not CM.

My Father’s World

Like FIAR, My Father’s World (MFW) is also popular with those seeking some structure in the early years though it also includes higher grades. It claims to combine “the best of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, classical education, and unit studies.”

What’s CM about it?

From the CM world, MFW takes living books and nature walks. It rejects twaddle and worksheets and favors narration. Many of the books it uses do indeed seem to be good, quality living books. Its language arts curriculum has some good elements including picture study and poetry and some narration.

What isn’t CM?

As MFW acknowledges, aspects of CM are combined with unit studies and classical. The part of classical present here seems to be the division into three priods of learning as the child ages (though I am not sure how this playes out in what they do). The writing curriculum seems very twaddly and scripted.

Quick Take Summary:

A number of the books used, especially history books, are good ones. The worksheets seem to be fairly benign as such things go, less twaddly than most. I am not clear from looking at the samples how much narration is done. One is meant to add on language artas and math so though they are ercommended they are not part of the core curriculum.

Wrapping Up

If I had to sum up all of the above curricula, I would say that many use good or at least decent books for history. It is harder to find one with quality books for science. Most use worksheets and if they use narration at all, it tends to be sporadic.

Again, there are many more CM-ish curriculum choices out there. If there are particular ones you’d like to see included pelase do let me know.


[1] I am indebted in all this to Ambling Along Together’s Resource List which divides what is out there into groups based on their level of CM-ness.

CM Curriculum: Mater Amabilis

Dear Reader,

I have added one more installment to my charts of Charlotte Mason curricula overviews. This time we are looking at a distinctly Roman Catholic curriculum, Mater Amabilis:

CM curricula fourth

You can find all the charts comparing CM curricula here. Thus far I have restricted myself to fully CM curricula and not CM inspired ones. If you know of any I am missing, pelase let me know!



Comparison of CM Curricula — updated!

Dear Reader,

I just updated my charts comparing Charlotte Mason curricula. Find them all here.


All the CM Curricula Compared

Dear Reader,

I have done a series of posts comparing various Charlotte Mason curricula. As the number of them has expanded, I realize this has become a bit cumbersome for you, the reader. So this is my attempt to put it all in one place (plus one additional curriculum is included!).


A little background — my goal has been to present what each curriculum has to say about itself rather than to give my opinions. I tried to choose the questions I would have when comparing curricula. Topics range from What does it cost? to How does it deal with high school science? to How Christian is it?

There is a lot out there for homeschoolers these days and the list seems to be ever-expanding. The curricula I have chosen to compare are all from Ambling along Together’s list of CM curricula.  Each purports to be a Charlotte Mason style curricula (as compared to merely “CM influenced” or adaptable). Though I have made use of many of these websites and have taken bits and pieces from various sources, I do not use any of these curricula exclusively. I do have some opinions, but I don’t have one favorite curriculum.

The Curricula

I have gone back and forth on even putting this section in. I don’t want to bias you with my own opinions but I do realize it is helpful just to have some sort of list of everything with brief introductions. Let me say from the start that I am overwhelmed by the work and generosity of all the people behind these curricula. Most are homeschool moms who have taken the time to put together quite extensive resources that they either give away or sell quite affordably (I can’t imagine anyone is getting rich off of any of these). Most are also works-in-progress; even old stand-bys like Ambleside Online are still improving and changing.

Here then are the curricula I will look at, in no particular order:

Ambleside Online (AO) — If you have been at this for a while, Ambleside may have been your first introduction to CM; it seems like it has been around forever. As with all these curricula, you buy the books, but otherwise AO is free online. While they are still updating and perfecting AO, it is a relatively complete curriculum with a reputation for being rigorous.

Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM) — Simply Charlotte Mason is another one that has been around for a while. There is much here that can be used for free but the biggest expansion on the SCM site seems to be in the store where more and more ready-made materials are available. A modular approach, it has a reputation for being a little less intimidating and easier to adapt for families with multiple ages.

The Alveary — A newer curriculum with a lot of buzz (pun intended). It’s big selling point is that it is a CM curriculum for the 21st century. Though the curriculum is newer, the folks at CMI who are behind it have been around for a while.

A Delectable Education (ADE) — The biggest part of ADE is the podcast, but one can also get a consultation for personalizes curriculum help and suggestions. This personalization is one of the big selling points. The other is a commitment being “purely CM”; the ladies at ADE will admit that this too is a work in progress but their goal is to ask how CM herself would have done things and to, in some sense, return to those roots.

A Modern Charlotte Mason (MCM) — As the name suggests, MCM also aims to combine more modern works with the classics in a CM education. Flexibility in terms of use with families or individual students is another big selling point.

Living Books Curriculum (LBC) — A CM approach, living books based curriculum with a vision for and ministry to those in less developed countries as well (especially in Africa).

Higher Up and Further In (HUFI) — Book lists and schedules for CM learning.

Gentle Feast — A newer contribution to the world of CM with a gentle, family-centered approach with personal consultations available.

Wildwood — Still fairly new with a lot still to be done, this is the only inherently secular CM curriculum I know of.

Ambleside Schools International — Despite the name, this curriculum is not affiliated with Ambleside Online. Like Charlotte’s PNEU, it trains teachers and provides curricula for schools as well as homeschoolers. Heavy on training and support with weekly mentoring. Though less well-known, they have been around quite a while.

Mater Amabilis — A distinctly Roman Catholic curriculum.

Edited 4/8/2020 to add: I also now have two posts which look at CM-inspired curricula. They are here (Sonlight, The Good and the Beautiful, Easy Peasy, Masterbooks, Five in a Row, My Father’s World) and here (Heart of Dakota, Build Your Library, Winter Promise, Train Up a Child, Wayfarers, Mind in the Light). And one that looks at Speciality CM curricula (Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, LDS, Secular). That post is here.

The Charts

Though the goal of this post is to put everything on one place, I still can’t figure out a good way to put it all in one document. Here then, in three documents, are all the CM curricula compared:

AO SCM Alvery ADE 8-13-18

MCM LBC HUFI 8-13-18

Gentle Feast Wildwood Ambleside Schools 8-13-18

CM curricula fourth

As always, let me know of updates and revisions. Consider this page a work in progress; I will try to update as there are new curricula available or changes in current ones.


Two More CM Curricula Compared

Dear Reader,

See my most updated post on CM curricula here.

In previous posts I have looked at some of the major Charlotte Mason curricula out there. Well, it turns out there is always something new. This time, I am looking at A Gentle Feast and Wildwood. The latter is the first secular CM curriculum I have seen. It is also, thus far, in the beginning stages it appears so there was not a lot I could say about a number of subjects. I think you can get a fairly good idea of it and, if your theology/life philosophy does not fit with the standard CM outlook it is probably a good place to start. In general, my object in these posts is to let the curricula speak for themselves and not to give you my own opinions of them or to sat which is most “CM.”

The previous posts are here:

Four CM Curricula Compared

Three More CM Curricula Compared

And here is today’s contribution:

CM curricula third 8-5-17

As always, please let me know of any changes you see. I am by no means an expert in all of these.


Four Charlotte Mason Curricula Compared

Dear Reader,

See my most updated post on CM curricula here.

I feel like I don’t have a great grasp of the finer differences between the different Charlotte Mason curricula out there so I set myself to try to learn more about each. Personally, I tend to read and pull from different sources but mostly to “free-form” what I do — i.e. to find my own resources and piece things together. I don’t have a strong tie to any one of these so I hope I am not too biased.

I began by looking at 4 CM curricula: Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM), Ambleside Online (AO), A Delectable Education (ADE), and the Alveary from the Charlotte Mason Institute (CMI). In another post, I plan to look at A Modern Charlotte Mason, Living Books Curriculum, and Charlotte Mason Help. The topics I have chosen speak to general concerns (“how much will this cost me?”) as well as specific concerns I have (“how is high school science approached?”). I haven’t touched on every possible subject. There are a lot of areas in which they all say pretty much the same thing — e.g. “spelling is learned through copywork and dictation.”

I have tried as much as possible to let the curricula speak for themselves — to use quotes from their own materials. For some, this was easier than others. AO gives a lot of detail about their curriculum. ADE, which is primarily podcasts, is harder logistically to get direct quotes from. The Alveary, which is very new and works on a subscription basis, is hard to find specifics on though I have managed to glean some things from the sample lists I could find.

With all of these, we should acknowledge that people will alter and combine what they find. I am trying to give you what each curriculum is — what it offers and claims to be. But you may, as I have always done, adjust and tweak at will.

I am not making judgments about which curriculum is best — or most purely CM– here. I may be tempted to give some of my own opinions in another post.

Without further ado, then, here is Four Charlotte Mason Curricula Compared:

cm curricula compared 5-8-17

I realize there are gaps here and there may be things I have misrepresented (I have tried my best but no doubt misunderstood some things; there is a lot to take in). Please feel free to comment with edits and emendations. I would ask, however, that you make sure any additions are representing the intents of the curriculum itself rather than its interpretations by users.



A Living Book on Writing

Dear Reader,

Writing seems to be one of the subjects which sends homeschoolers of all stripes into fits.  I’m not sure if it actually is tough to teach, but we all seem to think it is.  When I read through Charlotte Mason message boards, it seems like one area in which we are all tempted to abandon Charlotte’s principles and use some sort of prepackaged curriculum. So what if there were a living book that taught writing? How great would that be? I think I have found just such a book.

I obtained On the Writing of English by George Townsend Warner when it was the free book of the day on Forgotten Books. Though it may not be free today, you can still get the book on their website in various digital formats (I get nothing for promoting them, I promise; I’ve just fallen in love with the site).

Warner’s book was written in the early 1900s and is addressed to the student who is called upon to write essays. I found this book highly readable. It’s language is simple and conversational, its tips relevant, and its tone often humorous.   The goal of this book, as Warner states it, is to teach the student “to think, and to write down his thoughts in good English; that is all” (pp. 1-2). Along the way he covers “the way to gather and sort material . . .[and] the commonest pitfalls which lie in wait for the beginner” (p. 2).

This approach taken by Warner is not that of a highly structured 5-paragraph essay. That is a good thing in my opinion. He discusses sentences and paragraphs and always having a topic sentence, but he also encourages variety in the structure and wording of one’s essay. Frankly, I find it a refreshing alternative to a lot of the rigid curricula which are out there. He says, for example:

“Variety in the shape of sentence is needful; so is variety in words when you can get it. But never shrink from using the same word over and over again when it is the right word.” (p. 55)

And regarding adjectives, he says:

“Some beginners usher in every noun with an adjective clinging to it, like the men and women going down arm-in-arm to dinner.” (p. 72)

Warner instead urges caution with adjectives which I find a refreshing change from some of the curricula out there which require certain numbers of adjectives and the like.

On the Writing of English may not be for everyone. It is not a curriculum as such but a handbook on writing. I happen to think that a child who has been reared on living books could go through this volume a time or two and end up quite a good writer. I plan to test this theory on my own kids so I can let you know how it goes. Though so far I have only read it myself and not handed it over to them, this is definitely on my “highly recommended” list.



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