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If you’re living in a Charlotte Mason world and hit your lessons hard in the morning, chances are your afternoons are free. This is both amazing and challenging. We’ve got time to run errands, complete chores, free read, and play – but sometimes my kids need a little kickstart for their imaginations to flourish. This blog post is part of a series called Afternoons, where I hope to answer some frequent questions I receive such as … “If you are finished by lunchtime – what do you do all afternoon?”
Even if you only have a little outdoor space, a mud kitchen could be the perfect place for your kids to spend their afternoons. Your kitchen can be super simple or extra fancy depending on your family, budget + the ages of your children. However you choose to design it, make it work for your family.
For our family, we’ve chosen to go the super simple route. We only have a few buckets, measuring cups + spoons in a designated area of the yard. And to be perfectly honest, our mud kitchen isn’t even that muddy! Our supplies are housed under big pine trees so the “ingredients” usually consist of pine needles, twigs, leaves and dried grasses. The kids use big boulders in that area as tabletops or stove tops so we haven’t built or bought anything structured.
A few posts ago I answered a FAQ I get about keeping track of toddlers while educating the big kids. I gave a few tips that have worked for us but can I be real a second, for just a millisecond? (Hamilton, anyone?) I forgot about the snack cup. It’s been keeping my littlest occupied for most of our Morning Gathering time – GAME CHANGER – for this week, anyway.
This planner is part of my heart written out and placed onto pages. That may seem a bit dramatic as it’s not a novel or some great piece of literature but, it’s a deep part of our day. It houses the plans for our upcoming year and the excitement that awaits in those lessons. It sits on our kitchen counter, gets thrown in the drawer, is written in, erased, and scribbled on by the baby. The plans may not get executed exactly how or on the schedule that we had hoped – but they are there. Waiting. Reminding our family that adventure, new discoveries and growth are in the days ahead.
I created this planner out of my own desire to have a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum + habit organizer with just the essentials. I wanted something that let me have the freedom to adapt our ever changing schedule without making me feel guilty for not checking all the boxes. I felt overwhelmed by all the habit trackers, cleaning schedules, daily checklists, weekly planning sheets, and long term goal pages I was finding in other Charlotte Mason based planners. I wanted something simple. Something without boxes to check or lots of daily writing. A planner should not own you. Life is full of twists, turns and crazy seasons. The plan may change. The season may be longer than expected. That new curriculum may not be as great as we had hoped. I want to be open to the unexpected but find comfort in returning to the rhythms our family has established – and I needed somewhere to write that all down.
I love planning, organizing and all things color coded. My spices are alphabetized and in matching jars. I feel the need to tidy-up the shelves at the library and have an impressive stock of sticky notes. My best friend throws all her spices into one big bin in her pantry. They mingle together in one … giant … bin. In their house notes are taken on bits of ripped composition paper and she uses a (clean) tissue for a bookmark. Would you believe that we both use this planner? We do! I’ve been making this planner for myself, my anti-type-A best friend, and lots of other friends over the last few years. This year, I decided to make it a little more durable and see if it could be a blessing to your family, too. These pages were left purposefully minimal yet packed with intentional spaces. When we flip our mindset from having a schedule to pursuing a rhythm everyone from the over-planner to the free spirit can benefit.
Planning Time. There is an entire page dedicated to helping you plan out your week, term + month filled with planning prompts + helpful hints.
Loop Schedules. Have you discovered the Loop Schedule? It’s a life-saver, a grace-giver, and an all around family favorite around here. When we’re not sure what to do about chores – loop them. How am I going to fit in all this amazing stuff we want to learn? Oh, I’m going to loop those books, too. I love the loop schedule so much I wrote a blog post about it and knew I wanted to integrate it into the Charlotte Mason inspired planner. You’ll find 4 master loop pages (one for each term plus a bonus if your family does a summer term) and one independent loop schedule. The Independent Loop can be typed once at the beginning of your term and printed each week (using the editable PDF you’ll receive upon purchase), laminated and filled in with a wet/dry erase marker, or photocopied and written in by hand.
Calendar. The planner has 12 months of blank calendar pages so you can begin your school year whenever it works best for your family. These pages are also host space for weekly errands, goals and an open box for your choice of weekly tracking. There is also space to write the habit you’ll be working on that month and a weekly cleaning rhythm. These pages are simple, yet intentional. I felt overwhelmed by all the habit trackers, cleaning schedules and long term goal pages I was finding in other Charlotte Mason based planners. None of those things are bad, but I wanted something simple, all on one page, with a clean, minimalist look.
Log Pages. The log pages you’ll find within the planner include a Curricula Overview, Attendance Log, Book Log, and Experience Log. These pages are especially useful if you live in a state that requires tracking in these areas. There are enough pages that each student will get 1 curricula overview (for the year), 1 attendance log (the whole year on one page, yay!) 12 book logs (one for each month), and 12 experience logs.
Passwords. Use one password page per student to keep online course work easliy accessible. Remembering all their social security numbers is difficult enough, so there’s one for you in there, too.
Term Review. Other than the loop schedule, this is my favorite section. There are 4 Term Reviews (one for each CM term plus a bonus if you do a summer term) included in each planner. Here you’ll have space to write down and reflect on the things that worked for you as a family, triumphs, areas to grow in, individual achievements, and more. I usually take time to write down my own thoughts at the end of each term. After that, we sit down as a family and go over the Term Review together. I love hearing what my children say was their favorite book, or what they’d like to learn more about next term. It gives them an opportunity to hold their education as their own and me a place to write it all down.
For the last several years, I’ve been putting together book lists, planners + loop schedules for friends and new homeschool mamas who are interested in learning more about the Charlotte Mason Method. After much prompting from those friends, I decided to put all that info into a study guide + planner.
Typically, when a mama comes to me asking for advice about what to do with their Kindergarten aged, little learner, I tell them to go play. Read books. Snuggle. Explore. Oftentimes this is met with a strange look + the words, “but no really, what should I be teaching them?” I stand by the notion that playing, reading, snuggling, and exploring are the best ways you can teach a young child, but understand a mama’s yearning to do more. I was there, too. All my friends were sending their children off to preschool + kindergarten and there I was, unsure of how to homeschool, wanting to preserve her childhood, but feeling the pressure to do more. Charlotte Mason was a huge advocate of not beginning any formal lessons until the age of six. That’s right, six. I stand by that philosophy and still urge you, reader, to know that playing is learning and time spent in nature exploring creation teaches more than you can imagine.
By now, you may be asking yourself, “so why are you selling this guide to Kindergarten, then?” Great question. I made it because I know you’ll get something anyway! I understand wanting to get started with a plan and I also realize that in some states, Kindergarten is required. My Charlotte Mason Inspired Kindergarten Guide + Planner is different than a typical Kindergarten curriculum for a few reasons.
One, It focuses heavily on habits. If you’re unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason or home education, starting out can be overwhelming. For 36 weeks, this guide gently leads you + your child through the habit of being out-of-doors everyday, reading quietly together, looking at art, listening to music + playing to learn – all things important to a Charlotte Mason based home education.
Two, you will have your own assignments. Take this Kindergarten year to learn as much about your child, home education + Charlotte Mason as you can. This is not just an educational guide for your child, it is meant to be a gentle introduction to Charlotte Mason’s philosophies for the parent as well. Home education with Miss Mason’s ideals is a family affair, everyone in the household continues to learn, read, + grow. Each week, there will be book selections outlined for the parent-teacher to read. These books will give you a better understanding of home education and Charlotte Mason. While nothing can replace Charlotte’s original texts, and it is highly recommended to read through her Home Education series, for the purposes of this study shorter overviews have been recommended.
Third, the planner. I’ve integrated this Kindergarten Guide with my Home Education Planner. The result: a complete year of plans, planning pages + logs in one wire bound book. This approach will again be a gentle guide + starting point to plan out a Charlotte Mason based home education. As you dive deep into establishing habits + family rhythms this year, the planner portion of the Kindergarten guide will give you a place to write it all down. You can read more about my Home Education Planner in a previous blog post or check out pictures on my Instagram.
Numbers. This course guide will focus on the joy of learning basic math + logic concepts. You and your child will play games while exploring the language of numbers. If your child is ready, you may begin the Singapore Essential Kindergarten Math Book A. You know your child best + have the freedom to choose if + when to begin a more formal approach to learning numbers.
History. Several legendary historical figures will be studied over the course of your year with 30 More Famous Stories Retold and various titles from the Little People Big Dreams series. Reading about the lives of others gives children the opportunity to relate to history in a more tangible way, develop empathy and learn valuable life lessons.
Geography. During this gentle introduction to geography, you and your child will learn about real children from around the world while studying a world map and/or globe. You may find it helpful to preview each reading in Children Just Like Me as some cultural traditions, customs or family structures may initiate discussions that are new for your family. This study guide includes all the families of Children Just Like Me but if you feel your child is not ready to discuss certain topics, simply omit the lesson that day.
Literature. The goal of this study guide is to give your child a gentle introduction to chapter books that will “make that sudden, delightful impact upon their minds, [and] cause that intellectual stir” as Miss Mason would say. Through these stories, you and your child will have the opportunity to discuss new vocabulary, good moral conduct, and character development. Together you will read My Father’s Dragon, Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, and A Hive of Busy Bees.
Poetry. The poetry in this study is meant to be enjoyed and to expose your child to a style of writing they may not have yet encountered. Simply read the scheduled poem from Favorite Poems Old & New aloud to your child. Look for helpful hints at the bottom of the page as you progress through the study.
Natural History + Outdoor Exploration. Charlotte Mason advised that young children should be out-of-doors and in direct contact with nature every day. If this sounds daunting or unattainable, have no fear. The simple yet important tips in this guide will instill the joy that comes from being outdoors + weave this habit into the fabric of your Charlotte Mason based family rhythms. Several chapters of i love dirt have been chosen for you as well. This book is a gentle introduction for both parent and child to natural history, exploration + observation.
Reading. When following Charlotte Mason’s philosophies, formal lessons do not begin until the age of 6. The reading portion of this guide is strictly optional and should not be started until your child is ready. A plan for utilizing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is outlined in the guide if your child shows signs of being ready for formal reading lessons.
Handwriting.Copywork: An Introduction to Handwriting is a gentle, Charlotte Mason inspired booklet that provides two years of instruction in one. Follow option one for pre-writers then progress to option two when children are ready to hold + write with a pencil. You can purchase this Kindergarten Guide with or without the Copywork booklet.
Health + Safety. During the course of the year, you and your child will explore various elements of personal health + body safety. Some of the topics covered in the suggested reading may lead to new discussions for your family. Although these discussions can often feel uncomfortable at first for the parent, children usually feel at ease + have genuine interest in talking to their parents about these important topics. If you feel your child is not ready to discuss certain topics, simply omit the lesson that day. Additionally, fire and outdoor safety are also covered. Books utilized include The Story of Me, I Can Be Safe, Fire! Fire!, Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Jr., God Made All of Me, and I said No!
Art. Instead of focusing on one specific artists for several weeks, as Charlotte Mason suggests, many artists will be enjoyed. For the purpose of this guide, you will explore several artists to expose your child to the wonder + creativity of the world of art. Each new piece of artwork will spark different emotions, thoughts, or questions from your child. Simply allow the space for as little or as much conversation as your child desires before reading through the discussion questions that the Come Look With Me series suggests.
Music. During the Music portion of your days, you and your child will sing hymns + folk songs together. The goal is not to make professional singers out of either of you, but rather to learn the beautiful lyrics + melodies of these important pieces of music. Although studying specific composers is part of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, this coarse is designed to gently introduce you and your student to her techniques. Therefore, you will sing together several days a week and begin to appreciate the suggested classical pieces by listening to them naturally throughout your day. All hymn printables + videos are provided by April Brover of happyhymnody.wordpress.com
Memory Work. Charlotte Mason believed that the habits of thought will govern the man, even his character . Through the passages in this study, your child will store up God’s word, honorable quotes from history, + lovely excerpts from literature in his heart.
As you learn more about the Miss Mason’s philosophies, you may notice that narration, nature journaling + a book of centuries are not included in this guide. This was an intentional choice, as formal lessons do not typically begin until the age of six. The goal of this year is not to begin all formal lessons, but rather to establish some core rhythms for your family, and learn the heart behind home education + the Charlotte Mason Philosophy. Get to know what makes your child’s eyes light up + the rhythms that work for your family. Read, play + grow together this year.
Books are not included in the purchase of A Charlotte Mason Inspired Kindergarten Guide + Planner. Books can be obtained through the affiliate links on my website, other stores or borrowed from your local library.
Note: it is important to be knowledgeable of your state’s homeschool laws when deciding to use any curriculum, as this guide may not be comprehensive for your state guidelines.
 A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison, pg 72
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This 36 week, Charlotte Mason Inspired Kindergarten Guide + Planner will gently lead both child + parent through the Kindergarten year while introducing them to the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
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Have you discovered the Loop Schedule? It’s a life-saver, a grace-giver, and an all around family favorite around here. When we’re not sure what to do about chores – loop them. How am I going to fit in all this amazing stuff we want to learn? Oh, I’m going to loop those books, too. Am I stressing about fitting in the dentist + grocery shopping + foster care caseworker visits without missing a ton of lesson work? Well yes, actually, now that we’re talking about it but that’s not because of our scheduling style. That is a totally different article.
In a traditional weekday schedule, you’ll miss an entire day of lessons just because everyone needs a haircut, or there’s a great class at the local environmental center but now you’re always missing your Wednesday lessons. The schedule gets “off” – the days aren’t lining up with the weeks anymore – you’re left feeling … behind. Oh, the horror! Shake it off, mama. Ditch the weekday titles + opt for an A-D rhythm. Now if Tuesday was a “B” day, Wednesday was a field trip, you can pick right up on Thursday with day “C.” For us, an A, B, C, D, Flex loop has been working really well, where our flex day is a little lighter for when the sun is shining and fishing, hiking + nature journaling come calling.
Confession: I’ve got several different loop rhythms for our family. Shocked? Didn’t think so. Here’s the run down:
Every week, I place a new Independent Loop out for each of my students. This has helped them shift from a total reliance on me to taking responsibility for their own work as they are ready to handle it. They can clearly see what lessons we hope to accomplish that day and start on their independent work as soon as they get to the table.
I also utilize a “Master Loop” that gives me a complete picture of what all of my students are working on + includes our morning gathering studies (the lessons we do altogether).
We also have a family cleaning rhythm and I have to confess – it’s built on your regular ol’ days of the week. This is just what works best for our family right now but by all means, loop those chores, mama.
As for meal planning (because I get this question frequently) I use a rotation schedule. It’s basically just a list of 25 meals that I rotate through from top to bottom. Think of it as a mega-loop. I am currently testing out a few new planning sheets for an upcoming family planner so maybe you’ll see that in there!
You can see lots of examples of the loop schedules I utilize on my Instagram account or under the hashtag #CMminimalistplanner. Happy planning, friends!
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Our family laughed our way through this book. This is a great option to add in to break from normal studies or take along on a summer trip. Best suited for early elementary – but the older ones couldn’t help from laughing a bit, too.
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This blog post is part of a series called Afternoons, where I hope to answer some frequent questions I receive such as … “If you are finished by lunchtime – what do you do all afternoon?”
I mentioned we had a workshop for the kids on the gram the other day – and wow. I never expected so many people to be interested in seeing our dirty garage. If you’re expecting a fancy, super tidy, Pinterest worthy area – you will be disappointed and underwhelmed. Most days the kid’s workbench looks like it should have a caution tape perimeter and I’m almost afraid to look at their nature finds shelf for fear of something slithering out at me. I like things clean. I like things tidy. But, I do love the workbench. It stretches me, but I love it. Because we have short lessons (shout out to my girl, Charlotte Mason) the kids are able to craft, build, explore, imagine, and create during our afternoons.
Many people asked if I’m worried about the kids using tools. No. A little. Yes. Sometimes. They have limited access to the tools and have been taught to properly use the things that are available to them. So, I suppose my answer lands on no, I am not overly worried about them using the tools at their workbench. By default, they need to ask to use the things they haven’t be trained on because they are out of reach.
Another question I received was: What do you do with all those projects? The kids are allowed to keep their creations for about a week, then they either take it apart to re-use the lumber or throw it in with the firewood. Every Saturday morning they clean and tidy their workshop, recycle cardboard scraps and get ready for another week of creative building. The kids pretty much have free reign to create whatever they want, but we do like the book Wood Shop: Handy Skills and Creative Building Projects for Kids by Margaret Larson for inspiration and to learn new skills.
If you were apprehensive about giving your kids a creative space to build, I hope this has helped. I’d love to see what you come up with – tag me on Instagram @kyriezimmerman to share your workshop space and check out my Instagram Stories for a tour of our dirty garage corner.
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