Recap and Review of 4th Grade Charlotte Mason Homeschool Plans, 2019-2020

Here is where I will recap and review our homeschool year. This was our third year of doing a full Charlotte Mason style curriculum with short, morning lessons on a wide variety of subjects according to a strict timetable designed to fit our family. I love to consult Ambleside Online, a Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, as well as Wildwood Curriculum for ideas, but I put it together in my own way. You can see my original plans here.

Overall, this year went really well. I've become a better planner--meaning I'm more realistic about what I will be able to oversee with consistency. But as always, some of my plans didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Some things I changed midstream and others, maybe I should have changed. On to the review . . . 
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Bible Lessons
This year we read narrative portions of the bible during our morning time during breakfast using the lists available on Ambleside Online and using a New Revised Standard Translation. Using this translation worked better for us than using the King James Version, so we will continue to use this version next year. Unlike Ambleside Online's plans (which coincide with the way Charlotte Mason planned bible lessons) we choose to read only 1 book of the bible at a time instead of alternating between the old and new testaments.

Language Arts: Reading/Literature, Spelling, Copywork/Handwriting, Recitation, Grammar, Modern Language

Reading/Literature (30 minutes/week of a book chosen by me, plus evening readings of Shakespearean plays as a family)

I choose the following books for Peter to read during his literature time, and he was able to read all of them, although Robinson Crusoe was not a favorite:

Tales of the Greek Heroes by Robert Lancelyn Green [$.50 book sale find!]
Number Stories of Long Ago by David Eugene Smith [free Google ebook]
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe [Nice illustrated hardcover for $5 from a local used bookstore (also free ebook)]

He also had time to read:

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Robert Lancelyn Green [$1 book sale find!]

We planned to spend about 30 minutes twice a week in the evening reading a Shakespearean play aloud and we basically kept to that schedule, but we were flexible about dropping a reading if evening activities (for me, my son, or my husband) conflicted. After we finished the play, we would spend our Shakespeare time watching a film adaptation. We read/watched:

Term 1 - Julius Ceasar - The whole family attended a local abridged free Shakespeare in the Woods performance before starting the play. Then we watched this version on Amazon Prime taking place in post-independence Africa which was absolutely riveting for me and the boys!

Term 2 - Romeo and Juliet - Then the whole family watched the Baz Luhrman 1996 version. It helped that my 5-year-old kindergartner and 8-year-old 2nd grader are big fans of two graphic novel versions of this play.

Term 3 - The Taming of the Shrew - We tried to watch the BBC Television version, but it didn't hold our interest like the play itself, so we just left it at that.

I also read The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan during our morning time, with Peter and his brother sharing narration duties.

Spelling (3x10min/week)

All About Spelling Level 3 and All About Spelling Level 4 [bought both teachers manuals from eBay for about $15 each]

We had a few lessons left in level 3 and we were able to finish it as well as level 4 this year. This spelling program works really well for us and everything went as planned.

Grammar (2x15min/week)

Grammar did not go as planned! First of all, I did not anticipate how unintuitive this subject would be for my rule-loving son. Seriously, he loves rules so much that he has read game rules for fun and stands and reads the park regulations when we are visiting a state park. I think another problem was that I expected him to teach himself from a manual while I was busy doing another lesson with his brother and that didn't work using the materials I had chosen.

I started him off with the middle school level of KISS Grammar which I had printed at the local university print shop for $11. He struggled so much that I printed off the primary level to give him more practice at the beginning, which definitely helped. 

Truthfully, grammar isn't a super important subject for me because in my experience you pick up most of it through reading quality books and through learning to write yourself, so I didn't want grammar to be some painful slog that wasn't worth it. To keep things moving forward in a positive way, Peter spent most of the year working through the entire program of grammar on Khan Academy. He actually enjoyed it and gained more exposure to practical grammar and punctuation rules. He did occasionally work out of the KISS Grammar book throughout the year and after he finished Khan Academy's program.

We will be using different materials next year, but I haven't tossed out KISS Grammar yet. I still think it might be a good fit in the future.

Copywork/Handwriting (4x10min/week)

This subject went as planned. Peter choose his own sentences for copy work, which was my way to ease into the requirement to keep a commonplace journal . . . a transition we will continue in the next school year. I had planned that he would select his sentences in his afternoon occupation time and mark them with book darts but there actually was a little time in our morning schedule when I was busy with his brother so we moved that task to the morning.

This year also marked the transition to a wide-ruled notebook. I only had him do cursive copy work in his wide-ruled notebook this year and he continued to use his leftover primary notebook for spelling words and his first efforts at written narrations.

I'm glad that I was prepared for how difficult the change to written narrations might be. He grumbled and complained and didn't do a wonderful job. But over the course of the year, he did work up to 2 written narrations a week which will continue into the next school year.

Recitation (3x10min/week)

Each 6-week half-term he prepared to recite beautifully (often memorizing) 2 poems and 1 passage which he performs at our family poetry tea scheduled during each break week. I continue to choose two of the pieces and he choose one of them. He memorizes easily but likes to race through the delivery. I'm sure that will improve with time.

Poetry (Listen to the same poem read aloud every day for a week at morning time)

As planned, we focused on a different poet each term, and although I do not follow Ambleside Online's poetry schedule, I do choose the majority of our poems from their collection. This year we focused on:
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • John Keats
  • Eugene Field
We loved our Longfellow study and also enjoyed Eugene Field, but Keats was not a favorite--except for mom and dad! We loved reading Keats every day as a family, especially because we were both in the midst of reading or rereading the Hyperion Cantos which includes LOTs of references to Keats, including a main character programmed to be John Keats himself. I don't think it is a bad thing that the kids didn't enjoy our Keats study, but I always wonder if it would have been better if we had waited a few more years. Luckily we can return to Keats again one day as a family and maybe cultivate a few more Keats fans.

Modern Language: German (4x15min/week)

We continued learning German through [generously funded by a grandfather]. We also really enjoyed adding German songs to our weekly rotation of German lessons.

Social Studies: History, Geography, Citizenship

History (2x30min/week, 1x20min/week, oral narration after each reading, plus occasional written narrations)

We used the following  books for American history of the 1800s this year:
And these books for British history of the 1800s:
Albert Marrin's books continue to be a big stretch intellectually for my son. He is able to read at a higher grade level than his age, but the complexity of Marrin's biographies challenge him quite a bit, so I wouldn't suggest his books for many 4th graders. However, I know he got a much more nuanced portrayal of Lincoln than in the usual home school options for his age. 

My other choices were easier (except the Charles Darwin chapter) and I was happy with how our plans worked out. 

This year, Peter began keeping a Book of Centuries (in this beautiful heirloom-quality book) and he did not love it! My plan was to have him make one written and one drawn entry in the book each week, during his afternoon occupations time. As this was a somewhat dreaded part of the week, it was better to move it into our morning schedule so I could be more available (with more energy) to support him by finding artifacts to draw and to provide encouragement. About once a month, time would be short so I would allow him to only make a written entry that week. This worked great for him because it is the drawing part he doesn't like ;-)

I also read the following titles at morning time to supplement our study of the 1800s. They were not narrated and all of them had been picked up at book sales over the years for about $1 each:

Geography (2x20min/week, oral or written narration after each reading, plus related mapwork that I keyed to the readings)
From last year, I had reduced the number of pages assigned for each lesson to leave more time for using maps without rushing. Each lesson began in front of an appropriate atlas page where I asked my son questions about geography to answer using the map. I also scheduled map drills where he would complete a blank map with the atlas in front of him, then would complete a blank map from memory.

This subject worked well this year and I will use what I learned to plan for his younger siblings. 

Citizenship aka Plutarch (1x30min/week, oral narration after each reading)

Another new subject for Peter was Citizenship/Plutarch. Our plans, that we faithfully followed were:

Term 1: Stories from the History of Rome by Mrs. Emily Beesly [free Google ebook).
Term 2: Anne White's study guide of Julius Caesar
Term 3: Anne White's study guide of Demosthenes

(5x30min/week, dictated narration after each lesson which I record in our math notebook (we use one of these)

Beast Academy, 5B-5D [already owned gift from grandparent]

Peter did not complete 5D yet, but he continues to work on it 15 minutes a day about 4 days a week in the summer. I love Beast Academy and think it is the best program I've ever seen to both nurture love for math and equip kids with a rigorous mathematical understanding. 

Peter continues to have a passion for math which he cultivates through books, websites, and apps in his free time, especially AOPS's Alcumus (free) and (free version, but he recently received a paid account for his birthday). He also prepared for and took the AMC exam in November at a local university and participated on a MOEMs team with 2 homeschooled brothers, which I led. 

Science: Experimental Science, Nature Lore, Special Studies, Nature Notebook

Experimental Science (1x30min/week science reading, oral or written narration after each reading, 1x30min/week activity or experiment)

Another new subject this year for Peter was experimental science. We used the following books:

Term 1: Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey [previously owned $1 book sale find!] and Astronomy for All Ages by Phillip Harrington [already owned]

Term 2: Matter Molecules and Atoms by Bertha Morris Parker [$14.79 new on Amazon]

Term 3: Magnets by Rocco V. Ferovolo [$12.61 new on Amazon] + magnet kit for experiments [$12.60 new on Amazon]

I chose (or had Peter choose) simple, doable experiments or activities to complement each week's reading and because I did the work to assemble any hard to find supplies ahead of time almost all of them got done! We even managed to finish up one we missed during our winter term while we had so much time at home this spring.

I think the books and plans for term 1 were the best and Peter was most unhappy with our chemistry study in term 2. He had specifically asked to study chemistry and I failed to appreciate how much he already knew about the subject. That term, I added a second reading slot for him to read through this textbook [$9.54 used on Amazon] and it gave him a lot more of the information and challenge he was looking for.

Nature Lore (1x20min/week, oral or written narration after each reading)

Peter read 1 chapter a week of The Story-book of Science by Jean-Henri Fabre [free Google ebook] and it worked well.

Special Studies (afternoon occupation)

I chose the following topics for the year using the rotation found on Sabbath Mood Homeschool :

Term 1: Butterflies and Wildflowers
Term 2: Evergreens Trees and Birds in Winter
Term 3: Insects and Non-flowering plants

Peter read from various books on the topic of his special study about once per week as planned. I should have kept a list of the many titles he read, but I didn't . . . oops! We did many of our object lessons at our local Wild + Free nature group. I led some and other mothers did too, which was great for me!

Nature Notebook (daily entries, nature watercolor drawings, nature walk as an afternoon occupation)

Peter continued to make near-daily entries in his nature notebook by dictating them to his dad. Until winter, I was really great about getting Peter out to take a 15-minute walk in the neighborhood every afternoon we were home. Then winter, pregnancy, and a global pandemic got us out of the habit. I will be working on keeping this habit going in the new school year.

Morning Time

We read living science and natural history books as part of our morning time, including:

Wild + Free Nature Group

We participated in our weekly year-round nature meetup at a rural property through the summer, fall, winter, and into the spring, rarely missing a week until our state shut down due to the novel coronavirus. Fortunately, we were still able to get out to local nature spots regularly through the shutdown.

Art and Music: Watercolor, Drawing, Handicrafts, Singing, Artist Study, Composer Study, Music

Drawing (afternoon occupation)

I wanted him to make a watercolor drawing in his nature notebook each week and do a drawing using Art for Kids Hub YouTube videos each week and most weeks he did just that. He really enjoyed drawing along to the Art Hub videos and I think it helped him in his drawing overall.

Handicrafts (afternoon occupation)

This year, I expected Peter to work on handicrafts 3-4 times per week for 20-30 minutes. This was a tall order, but he really was able to create more complex projects given the time. At first, he did some sloyd projects but spent most of the year working on sewing, using both Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make and Sewing School 2: Lessons in Machine Sewing. And I have basically no pictures of his many beautiful and useful projects. I am going to require him to snap some photos of each completed project next year because I clearly failed in this department.

He also took a 4-week pottery class at a local art studio and he was very proud of his animal sculpture/bank.

Singing (2x10min/week)

We had planned to learn the following songs over the course of the year and we did. Peter continues to be the one who memorizes ALL the lyrics to ALL the songs. Eventually, the rest of us just move on when we know them pretty well. 

I also planned to work through the solfa lessons from Children of the Open Air but they weren't working so well for us and the boys already do solfege singing as part of their Hoffman Academy piano lessons, so I let this one go after term 1. 

Artist Study (1xweek at morning time)

This year we followed our plan to study 6 works from a different artist each term:

Term 1: Monet [Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason, $18.95+shipping]
Term 2: Van Gogh [Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason, $18.95+shipping]
Term 3: Durer [Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason, $18.95+shipping]

Composer Study (1x10min/week)

This year we studied the following composers using YouTube performances of their work and Classics for Kids episodes. I chose compositions to listen to from Ambleside Online's lists, but I did not follow their rotation.
  • Term 1: Robert Schumann
  • Term 2: Franz Liszt
  • Term 3: Richard Wagner
This may be our weakest subject that we actually do and I'm not sure how effective it is for the kids. I know that I certainly don't learn or retain very much from it. But we do it and I will just be satisfied with the small exposure to composers which is more than I had . . . . until and unless I figure out a better way to do this subject.

Music (7x20min/week)

As planned, Peter continued his piano education with Hoffman Academy [Not an affiliate link! We just love Hoffman Academy.] 

He began the school year in Unit 10, which he completed along with units 11 and 12. Now he is pacing himself to keep working along with the not-yet-completed unit 13,  by only doing 1 new lesson a week and supplementing with some of my old piano books. We will need to find him an IRL piano teacher soon, but given the current situation with COVID 19 and the extra work of welcoming a new baby to the family in the next few weeks, we will hold off likely until the new year.

Physical Education

This year, Peter could not participate in summer 2020 swim lessons, but he did enjoy an active lifestyle before and after our state's stay-at-home order with hikes, bike rides, roller skating, and walks around town. He was able to complete 8-weeks worth of ice skating lessons, he went on an overnight hiking trip with his dad and brother, and we enjoyed lots of swimming and hiking on our yearly family cabin camping vacation. 

Last Thoughts

We officially finished our normally required 180 days of school at the end of April (very early for us!) even though we didn't have to because of the coronavirus. After taking 2 weeks completely off in early May, we switched to a low key summer schedule where Peter completes the following most mornings unless we have something special planned: chores, outside time/garden work, 20-minutes of piano practice, 20-minutes of Beast Academy, and reading 2 chapters of a book selected by me. We will enjoy another total break from lessons from the day our new baby arrives until we start term1 on August 10. 

I have already gotten absolutely everything ready for Term 1 to start in early August . . . when I will be schooling a 5th grader, 3rd grader, and a1st grader with a toddler and newborn in the mix. And if the baby is overdue (or at least not early), I might get to posting all my exciting plans ;-) 

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