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There isn’t a lot of information floating around about planning a Charlotte Mason preschool at home. This is mainly because Mason said that children should learn through play until they’re six, when formal lessons begin. Since children today often start preschool very early, many parents don’t want to wait until the age of six. Creating a curriculum based on play and living texts is a good alternative to rigorous preschool. You could buy an expensive preschool curriculum and hope it lines up with the CM philosophy. But you really don’t need to!
Curriculum planning is something I studied in grad school, and I had so much fun putting one together for Miss H (nerd alert!) In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to plan your preschool year. While I speak specifically about preschool, you can also use these tips to create an elementary curriculum.
1. Decide What to Teach
The great thing about a curriculum based on living texts is that your child can learn anything. I chose topics that I know interest Miss H, but also things she has never heard about before. Learning about a variety of topics will help increase your child’s vocabulary, and also give them background information that will grow seeds knowledge later on.
Some possible subjects to teach are Bible, art appreciation, music appreciation, math, literature, literacy, poetry, crafts, nature study, science, and foreign language.
Math and Literacy
Parents often feel stressed about what to teach in these areas. For math, I chose to focus on number sense, geometry, and money. For reading, I’ll focus on teaching the alphabet thoroughly, and phonemic awareness (paying attention to the sounds in words). Here are some helpful links that explain what’s developmentally appropriate for young children to learn.
Get Ready to Read- Literacy
Get Ready to Read- Math
Go Beyond Your Own Interests
It’s easy to teach our children what interest us. But in order to have a rich education, we have to step out of our comfort zones. Art is not my favorite topic, but I want to introduce Miss H to it, so I added it to our curriculum.
2. Get a Feel For Your Schedule
Understanding how much time you’ll devote to your homeschool will help you determine how much to plan. This year we’ll have two “school” days, for just two hours in the morning. We’ll also continue to learn on the non-school days, of course!
Plan Short and Varied Lessons
You know those 90 minute reading blocks that schools sometimes have? That’s the very opposite of what Charlotte Mason suggested. She said that for young children (8 and under), lessons should be no longer than 20 minutes. She also said that by varying types of lessons, the child’s brain is less taxed. For example, instead of doing science and nature study back to back, a reading lesson after the science lesson gives the brain a change. This will help keep the content fresh and help them pay attention.
Allow Time for Play!
When planning for math and early literacy, I thought about play opportunities that we can do together. My goal is to present the alphabet and math skills through interesting, playful ways. (See my post about teaching the alphabet through play here.) Our schedule is minimal so that Miss H can have plenty of time to get outside, visit educational places, and play.
3. Identify Your Materials
You don’t need all of your materials immediately. If you know you won’t use something until the end of the year, hold off on purchasing it in case your plans change.
For the schedule that I set, we’ll need about eight texts a month. We”ll read more than that, but these are eight books that have been chosen very intentionally.
The Charlotte Mason bookfinder is a great tool for finding living texts. I searched for books surrounding the topics I had decided on. So I don’t spend lots of money on our curriculum, I found books in the bookfinder, then made sure I could locate them at our library. This also let me check to see how living I thought the text was! It might be tempting to only choose non-fiction texts in order to get as much information as possible, but children can learn so many things from well-written fictional books, as well!
Don’t Go Overboard
There are so many math manipulatives (hands-on math tools) out there that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I knew I didn’t want to stock up on lots of different manipulatives, so I chose just a few that can be flexible.
Money (real money!)
Other Possible Math Manipulatives
- counters (chips, cubes, teddy bears, etc.)
- Cuisinaire Rods (similar to Inchimals, but with fewer frills)
For learning the alphabet, we’ll use foam letters leftover from my teaching days. (I’m in search for pretty wooden letters for Miss H, but I can’t find what I’m looking for.)
With elementary aged children, I recommend purchasing a math curriculum. Teaching math can be challenging for parents, so having the guidance of a math curriculum is a necessity. Personally, I think that a curriculum that teaches to mastery rather than uses spiral review is better for children. But every child is different!
Make it Easier On Yourself
I love seeing all of the cute, thematic ideas on Pinterest. But I’m not sure that the effort I’d put into them would equal the learning that Miss H would get from them. Charlotte Mason said that unit studies were “arbitrary and not inherent connections.” (School Education, pg 231.) Letting the child build connections between topics naturally is more beneficial. That’s a bummer for cute Pinterest crafts, but isn’t that great for planning? No cutting, pasting, or buying materials: just present rich opportunities and let your child make the connections.
I chose books that are based around the seasons or events in the season. In the fall, we’ll read about pumpkins. When we go to the pumpkin patch, she can connect the book we read with her experience. In the spring, we’ll read about butterflies. She can observe the butterflies flying in the backyard, and I can already see the spark in her eye when she thinks about what she’s already learned.
4. Plan it Out
You can simply list all of the books and topics you’d like to include in your preschool lessons, or you can set it up like a pacing chart. A pacing chart is more detailed because it gives you a general time frame of when you will read each book and teach each topic. Since I chose books that correspond with the season, I organized my pacing chart month by month.
Organizing your curriculum in a pacing chart makes planning easier. I can sit down and plan a month’s worth of lessons at once. Lesson planning won’t be very intense with what I want preschool to look like this year, but I want to write down the book we’ll read, idea to discuss, and what we’ll do for math.
Think About Habits
Think about habits, but don’t plan for them ahead of time. It’s hard to know how long it will take to help your child develop positive habits. Some habits will form in days, while some might take much longer! It’s better to identify habits to work on throughout the course of the year. That way, you can decide which habits are the most pressing.
I’m working on what a preschool lesson planning sheet should look like, and I’ll share it with you when it’s ready. If you’ve made a Charlotte Mason curriculum on your own, I’d love to hear about it!
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