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Charlotte Mason Curriculum & Booklist, Year One

image I’m a big fan of Ambleside Online - a free, Charlotte Mason based curriculum – but not exactly an “orthodox” follower, both in terms of doing exactly what the curriculum says and in terms of not incorporating the best of other methodologies. 

Still, I dislike the term “eclectic” because it’s just too darn vague, and CM is the philosophy with which I find myself most closely aligned. 

A lot of homeschoolers forget that Ambleside is not the only valid application of Charlotte Mason’s philosophies today – as I’m reading in a fascinating book, When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today.  (because this post is a booklist, I’m highlighting all the book titles – even MY books!)

See the link list at the end of this post for other FREE Charlotte Mason curriculum sites. 

Fascinating fact pointed out by When Children Love to Learn:  Charlotte Mason’s approach failed to become well-established in the UK and not at all in North America not because it doesn’t work but because it didn’t fit into the contemporary “scientific” mold of standardized testing.  CM teachers simply can’t “teach to the test” – so all her wisdom would have vanished with the dodo bird but for the persistence of some die-hard homeschoolers…

(By the way, that book ALSO says that CM-style materials should be illustrated with more than just Victorian children like the image above – if they are to be part of a useful, meaningful, modern curriculum, they should LOOK as modern as any other so as not to turn kids and parents off – and I agree!)

Another CM parent asked me today what Ambleside books we’re using and/or substituting – because a lot of Ambleside materials are quite Christian in orientation.  But to be honest, in the booklist itself, there isn’t much at this level that I find objectionable for use with my Jewish kids.

I’ve already posted about my (Best-Laid) Curriculum Plans for this year.  But I haven’t really said how it all fits into a Charlotte Mason framework, so I thought this was an interesting question anyway.

So here’s what Ambleside Online – – says kids should be learning in Year 1 (Grade 1): 

DAILY (but we don’t do these all every day)

  • Penmanship / Copywork: Handwriting Without Tears, homemade parsha copywork
  • Phonics/Reading:  We’re mainly using McGuffey instead of the recommended Harriette Taylor Treadwell book.  I have her book but it's repetitious and the stories are too long for a single sitting.
  • Math:  Continuing JUMP Math instead of any of the recommendations.
  • Foreign Language:  Hebrew, using Kriyah v'Od & library books and Rosetta Stone.

WEEKLY (but we do some more than once a week)

  • Art:  Meet the Masters & Draw Write Now
  • History:  Story of the World, century book, maps, additional activities / readings
  • Handicrafts:  nope
  • Nature Study - oy... yes, we must, but this is my weak point
  • An artist and a composer each term:  as described on my blog

In terms of specific books, here’s what we’re using, grouped by the same headings Ambleside uses for its Year 1 booklist:

Bible (=Chumash)

  • L'shon HaTorah series
  • Bright Beginnings materials (when it gets here!)
  • Worksheets from
  • Later on this year, reading in the original  :-)

History: early history, focusing on people rather than events

Recommended books and whether we’re using them:

  • Trial and Triumph / An Island Story:  nope - using SOTW instead
  • As recommended on other CM sites, I've ordered an updated version of Hillyer's Child's History of the World
  • We ARE reading Fifty Famous Stories Retold:  slowly, slowly... and not so much as  history.  These are dry and (in my opinion) uninteresting and poorly collected - some stories are short, others long; some are interesting and others are just weird and dull.  Sometimes, we just sit and say "huh?"
  • Various American History readings:  nope!
  • image I just bought a Jewish history book, Introduction to Jewish History, to add to the mix, but I'm not sure I'll use it.
  • We also have the big Usborne Internet-linked Encyclopedia of World History, bought to go with SOTW.
  • Various living books on each time period that I've bought on sale at the library, plus library resources for free!


Recommended books and whether we’re using them:

  • Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling - yup!  We just finished it last week, and watched the movie yesterday.  I have some of the others out now, so I'll see where we go with this from here.  Incidentally, I thought this book was strange but the kids liked it immensely, and were quick to point out differences in the story between the book and the movie – so they were clearly paying attention.  I love that it’s set in the Great Lakes, like us, and it’s impressive when Gavriel Zev (age 3.5) can spot them on a globe or map and even name a few!

Natural History/Science

Recommended books and whether we’re using them:

  • The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, as scheduled in Nature Study; online.   Nope!  Hoping to use Elemental Science instead – maybe we’ll get started when our busy summer lives settle down a bit…
  • Must include more outdoor time and nature narrations… it’s been a LONG time since we did any.  Bad urban CM homeschooler, bad!  :-(
  • James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot – I do plan to include some James Herriot this year.  Why not?
  • The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess – nope.  The Burgess stories are public domain, but I found them a little weird… still, maybe I’ll get an ePub version and try reading it with the Kobo.


Recommended books and whether we’re using them:

  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Now We Are Six/When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne
  • A Child's Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa,

Have all of these already and have been reading them very intermittently already for a couple of years.  We should be done in time for the kids’ weddings.


  • The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter (got it – it even came with a CD!  plus I have it as an ePub in case we need to read it on the go)
  • Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit OR Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb (I have both, one an ePub, one a print copy from Value Village)
  • The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, selected chapters.  Library has it, and I have an ePub.
  • Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (have it as an ePub)
  • Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty – never heard of it!

Free Reading (ie what I call Chapter Books, our read-alouds)

Recommended books and whether we’re using them:

Already have or will read this year:

Not sure if we'll get to these:

Though I’m not adamantly Charlotte Mason, I think that as we get closer to Naomi’s birthday (next February), I may also begin working through CM’s “formidable list of attainments for a child of 6”:

1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns
2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm
3. to add and subtract numbers up to 10, with dominoes or counters
4. to read--what and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child
5. to copy in print-hand from a book
6. to know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows
7. to describe the boundaries of their own home
8. to describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach
9. to tell quite accurately (however shortly) 3 stories from Bible history, 3 from early English, and 3 from early Roman history
10. to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views
11. to mount in a scrap book a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.
12. to do the same with leaves and flowers of 6 forest trees
13. to know 6 birds by song, colour and shape
14. to send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed
15. to tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog or cat.
16. to name 20 common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences
17. to sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song
18. to keep a caterpillar and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.

So that’s the extent of our Charlotte Mason this year!

More on Charlotte Mason Homeschooling:

Are you eclectic?  Or do you find a program and simplify your life simple by just sticking with it???


  1. Trial and Triumph and Parables from Nature were specifically the two I was asking about. We are really looking forward to doing Paddle by the Sea for geography although I am thinking of waiting on that and doing 7 Sisters if I can find it.

  2. AztecQueen2000July 20, 2011 2:57 PM

    Ambleside suggests substituting the Among the...People series for Parables of Nature. They can be quite Christian. Since I already bought the Among the ...People books, that's what I'll probably end up doing. TThey're also in public domain if you're interested.(DD turns 6 in November of 2012--probably won't start Year One until she's in second grade).
    Also, I liked the Fifty Famous Stories Retold. It explained a lot of cultural references in Little Men.

  3. @AztecQueen2000 - "cultural references in Little Men." Interesting that you mention that! While I was reading A Little Princess a couple of months ago, there was a reference to the story of Alfred & the cakes, which the kids & I wouldn't have been exposed to if we hadn't been reading Fifty Famous Stories. However, Naomi barely remembered the story, but I was able to remind her about it. If I'd wanted to, I could have re-read it. Now that I mention that story, though, I remember seeing a better version recently - more lively and less weird.
    Guess I still don't love all these classics, but I am certainly coming to see how foundational they are.

  4. Have you used the Lashon HaTorah series yet? Which level are you using? Also what did you end up ordering from Bright Beginnings?

  5. I have been using Ambleside Online and adapting it as we go along. For Year 1 I removed Trial and Triumph, St. George and the Dragon...and I am undecided on King of the Golden River (haven't read it), and obviously we do our own Torah readings in place of the scheduled Bible readings. I also added in very very slowly reading through Josephus for Ancient Jewish history (for years 1-6), All-of-a-Kind Family for free reads, and Jewish Fairy Tales by Aunt Naomi in place of some of the Lang Fairy Tales. I am beginning to look at Year 2 and Pilgrim's Progress immediately jumps out to me as a problem! I am thinking about subbing in Tevye's is a classic, was the basis for Fiddler on the Roof, and I feel like Pilgrim's Progress represents the way Protestants view what it is to live a life of faith, Tevye's Daughters represents what it is to live a Jewish life of faith amidst suffering and a changing culture. Do you have any suggestions for Year 2? I was not raised Jewish so I've been doing a fair amount of homework myself trying to get up to speed with adding in living Jewish literature/history components! Glad to have found your blog!!


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