Thursday, August 15

Blending Charlotte Mason & Unit Studies -- The Good & the Beautiful

Join us for 5 Days of Upper Grades Homeschooling!
  • 8/12    Curriculum Reveal
  • 8/13    Middle & High School Electives
  • 8/14    Printing & Prepping
  • 8/15    Blending Learning Styles
  • 8/16    Student-Led Learning
We love to read together, but we also love immersive learning, so blending these two styles together was the perfect fit for our family.  Finding the right curriculum that blended them....not so easy until two years ago...

What are these styles?
Charlotte Mason - This approach involves 'living learning.' It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, and living books are all a part of this approach.

Unit Studies - This approach takes all of the subjects and smashes them together in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).

How we Blend
The first time I saw The Good & the Beautiful, I really didn’t think it would be enough for a school year.  My fear was that it would require a lot of supplementation, but it doesn’t.  In fact, in only six months of using this curriculum, my struggling middle school learner jumped FOUR AND A HALF grade levels in reading!

The price is very affordable for families, there are morals included in every lesson, and it’s designed for the busy mom with its open-and-go format.  While it is Christian-based, it offers up a neutral world-view, allowing parents to tailor it toward their family’s beliefs.  The print quality is amazing, and the vintage reading material is a delightful change from what our children were gravitating toward before we switched to this curriculum.  See some of our favorite vintage books!

Language Art & Handwriting
The language arts covers reading, spelling, writing, dictation, literature, grammar, vocabulary, geography, and art.  By including geography and art, it takes a unit study approach.  For example, in High School-1, unit five covers the Arctic areas.  They read a book about the Arctic, and the geography, art, vocabulary, and writing assignments tie in with that region.  You can cover quite a bit with just the one class!

At the middle grade levels, my students are working more independently, but still need instruction, particularly on the grammar concepts and sentence diagramming.  We also do spelling and dictation aloud together.  This is a time when they are learning to work alone.  Within the language arts years, there are mini-units.  For example, while reading 'The Big Wave,' they complete a unit study on Japan.

It is at this level that we also use the handwriting – particularly levels 5 and 6, which focus on cursive.  The handwriting curriculum not only teaches letter formation, but grammar, states and capitals, and presidents.  There is also quite a bit of student drawing involved, which my kids love!

At the high school level, the curriculum is set up to reinforce time management skills and responsibility.   Each year is divided into ten separate units, and the student is able to take a unit and work on it for two to three weeks before turning it in for grading.  If more instruction is needed, he can come and ask (and I do check in occasionally), but it’s his responsibility to progress at a pace that finishes the unit on time.   There is also more emphasis on critical thinking and writing essays.

One of the things I like about TGTB history is that it takes the classical education approach – of four different eras of history – but teaches from all four of those each school year.  Rather than doing an entire year of ancient history, we’re doing one quarter on ancient history each school year (with each year focusing on a different region, such as Egypt or Greece).  

It’s easy to get burnt out on a particular era when you’re knee-deep in it for an entire year, so we like that things get mixed up!  This also gives it a unit study feel, as we're immersed in the topic for a full quarter before switching to a new topic.  The Charlotte Mason aspect comes in through the read-alouds.  We read together as a family, and the kids also read independently...all about the topic at hand.
History includes reading, audio recordings, and accompanying worksheets.  At the middle school level, these worksheets include timelines, coloring, extra readings, and short research assignments.  With the traditional "family-style" history, at the high school level, all of these are included as well as projects.  Each quarter, the high school student has a short list of projects to complete before moving on to the next era.

The company is going to be releasing a new high school-specific history course that will remove some of the elementary aspects and focus solely on upper level assignments.  For the family with only older kids, this is a great option!  Since we already own the history courses, and enjoy doing them family style, so we'll continue with the regular high school level of that version.

What’s Not Included
When looking at this curriculum for upper grades, bear in mind that you’ll need to go outside it to choose a math program, as they are still writing the early elementary levels.  Personally, we use Saxon and have been very happy with it.   

You can use their science program for early middle grades, if it helps you to teach younger kids at the same time, but it’s not really rigorous enough for a standard middle school curriculum, and definitely not enough for high school.  Peek inside the science courses.

They are releasing the first year of high school science - Earth Science - later this summer, and the samples look excellent.  However, we are still going to be sticking with our Apologia science for high school as we already own it and are happy with it.

Looking Ahead
With the announcement of Greenleaf Academy, the projected high school program, the company is taking a serious stance toward focusing on the upper grades.  Unfortunately for our family, it will be too late for us to use (they do not plan to roll it out until around 2022), but it will be an amazing opportunity for those entering the elementary years now!

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