Monday, 3 June 2013

Curriculum Planning Made Easy Part 3

In part 1 I talked about why it was so great to write your own curriculum and in part 2 I went into the nuts and bolts of how to go about putting one together. In this third post on curriculum planning, I'm going to show you what I have gathered for my own children for the coming year, with a few explanations of my choices along the way.

A big passion of Eve's is sewing and I wanted to expand on this for her. I decided to look for some books about UK cotton mills and a story about sewing also with a view to building up some knowledge of different stitches. As we will be reading these going into the Winter, handcrafts are always a useful addition! I have:
  • Mill Girl - A Victorian Girl's Diary 1842-1843 by Sue Reid - We haven't read a diary format before.
  • Look Inside A Victorian Mill by Brian Moses - This has photographs, drawings and short sections of text that can expand on concepts that come up in the Mill Girl Diary
  • Victorian Fashions - A Dover Colouring book by Tom Tierney covering the period 1837-1877. I often include some high quality colouring pages as the girls enjoy colouring whilst they listen to me reading, it also shows what the fabrics being produced by the mills were used to make.
  • The Mary Frances Sewing Book by Jane Eayre Fryer - This is a reprint of an early 1900's book, so towards the end of the Victorian era. I think Eve will love it, it is charmingly written with tools from the sewing basket telling the story through text and poetry, with sewing tuition in each chapter from basic stitches up to hand sewing doll clothing. Eve has a beloved rag doll named Jemima that was mine as a child (although I didn't love her as Eve does!) and she will love making her some clothes.
Another strong interest of Eve's is designing and making things. She is quite the little engineer without really knowing it. Faith too has begun to come up with ingenious solutions to building problems. To further this interest I have:
  • Amazing Leonardo da Vinci Inventions You can Build Yourself by Maxine Anderson. It is available for free download from here although I had to be patient to get it through my oversensitive firewall and then persuade my printer to print it!! It's a delightful book, part biography, part 'how-to' instructions based on the detailed notebooks that Da Vinci kept throughout his life. It is split into five main sections  each representing a collection of ideas and inventions that Leonardo was fascinated by.
  • Bridges! Amazing Structures to Design, Build and Test by Carol Johmann and Elizabeth Rieth - This is a great book covering science, technology, important figures and construction challenges. 
  • 13 Buildings Children Should Know by Anette Roeder.
  • From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers, Architecture for Children by Christine Paxmann.
  • The Story of Architecture, 3000BC -Gothic Period by Hillyer and Huey - This is a golden oldie (and smells it too!), it ties the architecture studies really nicely to the history programme that we are using.
  • I'd like to add something in here on a British architect/engineer or a female one also.
Faith has asked some searching questions over the last year and I have some books telling the story of evolution:
  • Born With a Bang by Jennifer Morgan
  • From Lava to Life by Jennifer Morgan
  • Mammals who morph by Jennifer Morgan
  • The Tree That Time Built, a celebration of nature, science and imagination selected by mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston - this is a book of poetry covering nature, science and evolution with Darwin's diaries made into poetry form.  
  • Who Was Charles Darwin? by Deborah Hopkinson
  • What Mr. Darwin saw by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom
  • Island, A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin - A truly stunning book putting evolution into a living context so simply and beautifully with illustrations and text. My parents have spent time sailing around The Galapagos and have photos and first hand accounts to complement this book - exciting!
Building on the evolution idea and feeding faith's passion for all things natural, I have collected a few books on birds. I chose birds as they have some obvious adaptations within the species to notice and discuss such as different beaks, types of feathers and feet. I am anticipating that this list will grow throughout the year so it isn't yet complete:
  • Seabird by Hollings Clancy Hollings
  • Owl Puke by Jane Hammerslough - this contains an owl pellet to dissect and I plan to get another so there is one for each girl!
  • The Boy Who Drew Birds, A Story of John James Audobon by Jacqueline Davies
  • Just Ducks by Nicola Davies
  • I am researching adding a novel by Michael Morpurgo here. They often tackle ecological and ethical subjects with accurate historical and geographical detail and a good dollop of human traits thrown in but the content isn't always suitable for younger readers so I want to be sure before I pick one!
An interest in Kings and Queens has resurfaced after the recent discovery of Richard III's remains in a carpark! I have books collected last year to feed this interest, they are:
  • Our Island Story by HE Marshall
  • My Amazing Book of Kings and Queens by igloo books
  • The Ladybird book of Kings and Queens by Louise Jones
  • The Usborne Kings and Queens Sticker Book by Sarah Courtauld and Kate Davies
  • I-spy Kings and Queens
My Mum sourced the majority of the monarchy books after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, but we didn't get around to using them as the other projects we had going rolled on. I am planning to use these to dip in and out of as we come across the 'characters' in Our Island Story, and build some visits into it as we have such a rich heritage of amazing places all around us! 

Our Island Story is the only 'classic' Charlotte Mason curriculum book that has made it on to the list this year. I say 'classic' as it appears on most of the online curricula that you can access. Charlotte Mason herself encouraged the use of new and fresh books though so I have embraced that within my planning, making the books relevant to the girls and the times that we live in. I think I have managed to cover a good range of genres and to interweave the subjects that I want to cover. I learned from last year's book lists what worked well and what didn't and have incorporated that knowledge into this years but I'm sure there's much to learn still!

I read 'chapter' books separately to the girls at bedtime as they have different tastes and really enjoy the one-one attention this gives them. Faith likes animal stories, so I have 'The animals of Farthing Wood' by Colin Firth and James Herriots treasury lined up, whereas Eve likes historical novels with a strong female character, so we have enjoyed What Katy Did and Heidi over the last year and are currently reading 'The Secret Garden'. I'm not sure yet what we will move onto!

We do a fair bit of science and up to now I have planned and written the lessons as things came up that sparked an interest (see my science page at the top of the blog for some of the things we have done). This is wonderful but time consuming and with a new baby on the horizon, I know that I'm not going to be able to do that for some time. With that in mind I am busy making Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding into an 'off the peg' curriculum by bagging up the materials needed for each lesson ready to grab and go in the rare times that both toddler and baby will allow it! We have covered a lot of the material already but it will be good to fill in the gaps and tie understanding together. We tend to read books related to the science that we are doing as we go, so those titles will get added in throughout the year also. Some examples of the science living books we have read are 'The Pebble in my Pocket' by Meredith Hooper and Cracking Up: The Story of Erosion (Science Works) by Jacqui Bailey and Matthew Lilly.

I am using The Reading Reflex for phonics progression still which is showing results and is pleasant to work with for all of us so worth continuing with!

I have been dabbling in using Living Maths as a way of teaching maths concepts but have stalled a little (OK a lot!) over the last few months as other ways of enjoying maths have come up. I am still really interested in using living books to teach maths but as I'm currently reading a lot about it and researching books to use and thinking how we will go about it - scheduled or spontaneous? through the history of maths or topic by topic? Insisting on learning maths facts or focusing on keeping them excited and interested? There is still a way to go before I make those decisions so maths for now is a 'watch this space' item on the curriculum list!!

We are also going to be teaming up with another family to do Story of the World together once a week which again is still in the discussion stages but I'm looking forwards to teaming up to do it as the girls really enjoyed it when we started it (and then unfortunately abandoned it) before!

In the next and final part I will sum up some of the things that I have learned about writing your own curriculum, as well as some of the questions that I still have and write about how we incorporate the books into our days and how we use them - I have some new ideas to try to make the most of the times when the girls are eager to do something!


  1. Hi Jenni - I love reading how you plan your curriculum and I too am looking into the Charlotte Mason way and love the use of books to do this. Would love to know how you develop on Living Maths as it is a subject I find hard to get to grips with in how to present to my daughter. I notice in a previous post you mentioned a book on maths that you had said you had been glad you had read as it showed you how children learn maths - if you know the one I mean can you let me know which one it is please so I can research it. Thanks again Natalie

    1. Hi Natalie, thanks for leaving such a lovely comment, I'm thrilled that my mutterings are proving useful for someone!! I think the book you mean is 'Mathematics Explained for primary teachers, 4th Edition by Derek Haylock'. It isn't a book to read through as such, but rather dip in and out of for you to understand what you are teaching and how/what to say to your daughter. It's quite expensive but well worth it! I've decided what my maths approach will be and there is a post in the pipeline with more resources and information in it so hopefully won't be too long before I get it out!! With my littlest still a toddler, my blogging time is a tad sporadic!! Kind Regards, Jen