Advice - Grade Eight

Dear Homeschooling Parent,

Grade 7 and 8 in our curriculum are rich and challenging for your emerging adolescent. In it he will find adventure, a sweep of history, time to craft his own learning. Grade 8 consolidates books and skills from the earlier years and offers new landscapes of people, events, and ideas in preparation for high school and beyond.

In the year before High School you will be preparing your student for his or her future academic career! Whether your child goes to a regular high school or continues to be educated at home (we REALLY suggest that you do this – our Homeschool Your Teen the Charlotte Mason Way parent course can help you with this. In this year be prepared for some growth and change in all areas of your child’s development – academic, social and emotional.

We suggest that during this year you begin to transfer some control from yourself to your child. Go slowly and introduce this “co-regulation” gradually. Continue to exercise general supervision while letting your student engage in moment to moment self-regulation. Good family management practices have been consistently shown to result in good academic results.

You will be surprised and (we think) pleased with our plan for the year. As you know, not all teens and preteens are alike. Children bloom at their own rate—if allowed to do so. One reason why we homeschool is to meet the emerging adults needs of a teen for meaning and purpose and God’s calling for their life.

Perhaps the greatest role for a parent is to help in the development of these key emotional issues. Why? Because the consequences of low self-esteem include anxiety, depression, overweight and obesity and delinquent behavior. A consequence of low self-efficacy is hopelessness and the belief that “I can’t” as opposed to “I can”.

If you feel your child would do better at a slower pace, Grade Seven and Eight can be spread over three years (Grades 7-9). As there is a significant amount of reading, a third year may be ideal for some. You may wonder if the work is “high school level”? LBC’s curriculum is well above any high school level work at a traditional school.

Read: Four Reasons Why You Can Use LBC with Confidence


Living Books Curriculum Grade Eight continues the pattern of using living books, habit formation, and life experiences begun in the earlier years. Grade Eight involves more written work, independent reading, and sometimes a longer period of study. It also offers current events study, significant writing, and exploration of essay writing.

The areas of study for Grade Eight include studies in the Christian Faith, an extensive language arts program, science, nature study, picture study, American history, world history, and composer study. Because fluency in oral language is as important as fluency in written language, storytelling remains a key language experience in the Living Books Curriculum.

Planning for Learning™

LBC uses a 36-week schedule divided into four terms. Each term is eight weeks of instruction, with the ninth as a “flex” week. The flex week permits the student to complete unfinished work, the teaching parent to assess learning through end-of-term narration questions, and also allows time for field trips.

Correlated Studies

Charlotte Mason taught that correlated studies enabled greater exploration of ideas but ought not to result in “busy work” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 114, ff). To correlate means to bring one thing into a complementary relation with another. To correlate studies means to bring one subject, such as history or science, into a complementary relationship with other subjects, such as art or nature study.

In the LBC curriculum, we have designed the major subject areas, i.e. the histories, sciences, language arts, to correlate with work in other areas, such as copy work, poetry, Bible study, and so on. Your student will greatly benefit by integration of the lessons in this manner. It also means that, while there are a number of “subjects”, in fact the amount of work is very manageable and enables a homeschooling family to spend the afternoons in outdoor activities and life skill training.

Journals and Notebooks

A Grade Eight student utilizes several notebooks for narrations and a Nature Journal. A student has the option of incorporating all of them in one large, three-ring binder with subject-divider tabs or using individual notebooks for each subject. One notebook that should be separate is the Nature Journal.

The Enrichment Reading List

Enrichment Reading List for Grade Eight provides titles of other books that will enrich the study of history, science, composer and picture study subjects. All of the books listed can be borrowed from your local library, through inter-library loan, or purchased directly from book distributors.

End-of-Term Narration Questions

Each term in the LBC curriculum is an eight-week period with the ninth week as a flex week. The flex week is included to complete any unfinished work and to assess a student’s learning with end-of-term narrations or in other ways. The questions provided are meant to be suggestive; you may want to formulate questions that more closely reflect the work a student has done during the past term.

We include end-of-term narration questions for two reasons. First, our research of Charlotte Mason’s syllabi for the Parents National Education Union (PNEU), used for over eighty years, showed that each term ended with “narrations” as a means of assessing student progress. Second, teaching parents who are using Living Books Curriculum have asked for assessment tools for their own planning and to demonstrate learning, where necessary, to state and local school officials.

LBC Book of the Centuries

Charlotte Mason recommended using a “Book of the Centuries” throughout the elementary and junior high years.

Read: “Using a Book of the Centuries in the Living Books Curriculum”

The Timeline of History is for use in Grades 7 and 8 (and Grade 9 if you use an extended plan) and provides you and a student with a high-quality, easy-to-use Book of the Centuries that will be a treasure for years to come. LBC has provided images of most of the persons studied in Grade 7 and 8 on CD for you to print out.


The use of narration is the most important aspect of Living Books Curriculum. It is the means by which students take up the ideas presented in living books and make them their own. A student of Charlotte Mason expressed it this way: “We read; we narrate; then we know.” If a student is new to the use of narration, begin with very short narrations. The process of using narrations effectively is described in Telling Back: The art of narration.

Read: Telling Back: The art of narration

Written Narration

Charlotte Mason did not recommend a program of writing instruction (she called it composition) until the student was in his early teens. This was to allow the student to learn by imitation of great writing. It is a truly amazing process to watch as your student writes well and with a truer sense of meaning by using this method.

Written narrations provide ample exercise in writing. Miss Mason’s warning against “writing programs” did not mean that a student should not learn the standard forms of grammar usage. She meant that a “program” produces a stilted form of writing; whereas imitating great works produces high-quality writing. Your student should be doing 1-2 written narrations daily.


Charlotte Mason on history and living books:

It is a great thing to possess a pageant of history in the background of one’s thoughts. We may not be able to recall this or that circumstance, but ‘the imagination is warmed.’ Philosophy of Education, p.178


We must read history and think about it to understand (that) …we owe a great debt of gratitude to the historians … who call in Imagination to picture for them the men and events of the past…so that everything seemed to take place again before their eyes, and they were able to write of it for us. But their seeing and writing is not of much use to us unless, in our case, Lord Intellect invites Imagination to go forth with him, and we think of things and figure them to ourselves until at last they are real and alive to us. Ourselves, p.37

History scope and sequence for Grade Seven and Eight

Grades One to Six explored history from Creation to the 20th century (World History) and the early explorers to the 20th century (American History). In Grade Seven and Eight your student will revisit the previous epochs in a two-year period. He will use books that have a clear overview of the time period, as well as tell a good story. As often as possible we use original source material.

Not all books can or should be narrated, but all books should be responded to in some way, whether through a Literature Journal, History Notebook, Book of the Centuries, or the narration questions Use the Grade Eight Enrichment Reading List to add more reading in areas of interest for your student.

American History: Overview—Civil War to Modern Age

In Grades Seven and Eight, your student reviews all of the American history studied to date, starting with the earliest explorers and concluding with the 20th century This has been done to help take past learning and consolidate it Your student will not be reading the same books, but rather the books will be at a much higher level of comprehension appropriate for a junior high student The primary books are: This Country of Ours and The History of US: Sourcebook and Index.

Both of these books were used in Grade Seven. This year your student will read the last half of This Country of Ours. In addition a student will be reading the last half of The History of US: Sourcebook and Index. As the title implies, a student will be reading original material, written by the men and women whose actions and thoughts were put into writing and shaped our nation

The Sourcebook is part of a eleven-volume set by Joy Hakim Since we use living books, not textbooks, we have not used any of the other ten books The reason for including this book is that is provides original documents in one place with sidebar annotations to help the reader clarify unfamiliar concepts . This book begins with a small section of the Magna Charta (1215) that sets up the rationale for the later American Revolution (1776) . Other documents range from grisly notes of early Spanish Conquistadors, to early documents establishing the basis for liberty, to simple, profound truths of Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac

World History: Overview—Middle Ages to 20th Century

In Grades Seven and Eight, a student will be reviewing World history from ancient Greece to the Modern Age As with American history, this has been done to provide a comprehensive overview The books used are living in the way Charlotte Mason meant and present history as story and provide original source material

In Grade Eight, a student will read Our Empire Story, a survey of British history during the time of colonization of South Africa, India, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The expression “The sun never sets on the British Empire” will become clear in this work that covers early explorations, establishment of colonies and creation of government. The text follows world history up to the late 19th century. A student will focus on learning 20th-century world history through a series of research topics LBC has created a template for making reports that are assigned in each term.


Geography correlates well with World History. The primary text is A Book of Discovery; used in both Grades Seven and Eight. Each chapter is the biography of an explorer who has added to our knowledge of the world

If you have used LBC up to this point, your student should have a good sense of American and world geography This year will consolidate previous learning and provide a foundation for studying people and cultures in high school

Christian Faith Studies

Charlotte Mason called this part of your student’s study “Religious Knowledge”, but such a term today is not specific enough, since one could ask, “Which religion?” In her time it was a foregone conclusion that such a term referred to the Christian faith.

Scripture Reading

This year your student will read 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, Hosea, Amos in the Old Testament, and Acts in the New Testament. The rotation of readings comes from the PNEU syllabus of Charlotte Mason.

We suggest Charlotte Mason’s writing on the study of Scripture.

Read: “Charlotte Mason on Bible Study”

Here is an excerpt:

Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels. The Old Testament should, for various reasons, be read to the children. The gospel stories they might be read for themselves as soon as they can read them beautifully. It is a mistake to use paraphrases of the text; the fine roll of Bible English appeals to children with a compelling music, and they will probably retain through life their first conception of the Bible scenes, and, also, the very words in which these scenes are portrayed. This is a great possession. (Home Education, p. 248)

Practical Work

When we visited Ambleside, England, to study the works of Charlotte Mason, we discovered that “practical work” in Bible Study was required of a student in the PNEU curriculum. Practical work meant putting one’s faith to work in practical ways, such as visits to a shut-in or writing letters to a missionary.

Language Arts


An optional review of grammar for Grade Eight is The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation: An Easy to Use Guide with Clear Rules, Real World Examples, and Reproducible Quizzes. This book is an excellent review of all the rules. The author’s Web site <> has a number of free resources and additional quizzes that are also helpful


Storytelling is a unique feature of the Living Books Curriculum. It is included because fluency in storytelling directly relates to a student’s ability to excel in reading, writing, comprehension, narration, and creativity. Each term your student will have a storytelling opportunity assigned that will build confidence in public speaking, enhance expressive language, and improve writing (yes, writing!).


By Grade Seven and Eight, most children are fluent in cursive italic. If your student needs further work, we recommend purchasing Italics: Beautiful handwriting for children.

Copywork is the transcription of a favorite passage by the student into a book reserved for this alone. The copybook can be a spiral notebook or lined pages put into a three-ring binder. The passage should be from high-quality literature so that your student is always learning from examples of good writing. Each week, your student will be directed to choose the passage he prefers.

Charlotte Mason wrote of copy work (which she called transcription):

Children should transcribe favorite passages. —A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favorite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favorite poem, an exercise, which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure. (Home Education, p. 238)


Dictation is the transcription by your student of a passage read aloud to him. It can be either studied or unstudied.

A studied dictation is one in which the student is shown a paragraph or two selected from the assigned readings in science, either of the histories, or another subject. The selected paragraph(s) is shown to the student early in the week. The student is then asked to “study” the material in preparation for a dictation by the teaching parent later in the week.

An unstudied dictation is one in which the student has not seen the passage previous to the dictation. LBC recommends unstudied dictation as part of end-of-term assessment. The value of this approach is to assess learning in a specific area, not to “catch the student doing wrong”. If more work is needed, it will become apparent through the dictation.


The study of Shakespeare’s works began in Grade Three and continues through Grade Eight. Shakespeare is a master storyteller, and familiarity with his plays gives the student a rich experience in character study and expressive language. After Holy Scripture, Shakespeare’s works are considered the greatest in the English language.

Homeschooling families sometimes wonder why it is important to study the works of this playwright. Terry Glaspeys addresses this issue in Great Books of the Christian Tradition:

Shakespeare presents us with the same dramatic tension we recognize in a study of Scripture: that of good vs. evil, the need for courage in the face of adversity, and the reality that God is moving in and behind the scenes of human action. Whatever the circumstances of his personal life, it is unquestionably true that Shakespeare wrote from a Christian worldview. His insights on human will, guilt, forgiveness, and the search for truth should be required reading for every believer. His grasp of the human condition is perhaps unmatched in literature.


The play for this year is Hamlet, a perfect play for a teen. To prepare for reading Hamlet read Edith Nesbit’s retelling by the same name. You can purchase a copy of Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare. There are also online versions of Nesbit’s stories. Knowing the plot ahead of time actually enhances a reader’s enjoyment of Shakespeare.


This year students will be reading selections from two great poets: William Wordsworth (19th century) and Robert Frost (20th century). We assign one or two poems each week. The student reads these aloud at least twice, narrates them once, and discusses their meaning together with the parent. Make enjoying the listening and discussion enjoyable rather than simply assigned work by doing it together


Charlotte Mason felt that children learned to spell well by reading quality literature. Those words which are misspelled, in a written narration for example, become part of the following week’s spelling list.

Read:  “The Royal Road to Spelling”


Charlotte Mason called recitation “the children’s art” and that all children, even a student whose parents have little background in literature, may be taught the fine art of beautiful and perfect speaking. Throughout the year your student will be asked to memorize certain pieces for recitation. If your student is new to memory work such as this, begin slowly.

Read: Charlotte Mason on Recitation


In Grade Eight, we present an LBC exclusive: English Literature for Young People, a classic narrative of the history of English literature from medieval times to the 19th century. The author presents the story of the writer and a well-known text which were definitive in shaping English language and literature. The author does not include the complete works because the length would make the book too large. However, we encourage you and your student to read as much of the original as possible. A student will use the first half of the book in Grade Eight and the parent may complete it in Grade Nine.

We also complete another LBC exclusive: Best-loved Literary Fairy Tales, which is a collection of well-known literary tales. You may want to read these together as a family as they are a delight for all ages.


Grade Eight will use Apologias Exploring Creation with Physical Science plus the Solutions and Test Manuals. The first six grades of our curriculum were a structured adventure into basic science concepts using living books and were designed to prepare your student for upper level work. For junior high, LBC launches into science studies using the Apologia Creation Science curriculum.


The goal of nature study is careful looking. Albert Einstein said, “All great science begins with a close observation of nature”. Nature Study is one of the keys to a Living Books education because it develops keen powers of observation. Charlotte Mason taught that time spent in the outdoors is a “balm and a blessing” for children, not only when they are young, but also when grown and must deal with the stresses and strains of adult life.

Each term has a focus for study. The choice of study is drawn from Handbook of Nature Study, which is used from kindergarten to Eighth Grade. The topics are only meant as a guide. If something interesting is happening in your backyard or nearby woods, by all means, spend time on that subject.

Focus for each term of Grade Eight:

  • Term One—Climate and Weather
  • Term Two—Minerals and the Soil
  • Term Three—Trees Part II
  • Term Four—The Skies


A regular and important aspect of a living books education, as recommended by Charlotte Mason, is the study of great works of art. The study this year revolves around the work of well-known modern artists and uses Come Look with Me: Exploring Modern Art.

Read: “Picture Study: Teaching Children to Love Great Art”


This year a student will review some familiar and some new composers There are seventeen composers in the book Meet the Great Composers 2: which works out to four composers for three terms and five in one term.


Since the afternoons should be relatively free of academic studies, this is the time to teach your student handicrafts. Which handicrafts you choose depends on your student’s interests, your interests, and your budget. Most boys and girls enjoy activities such as sewing, woodworking, gardening, and cooking. These are skills every student should know. You may have a skill or craft you want to teach, or you may want to invite someone to teach a skill.

Charlotte Mason gave guidelines for handicrafts:

  • The habit of perfect execution each time. To make sure this happens, each task must be small enough so the student can learn it easily.
  • Finishing one’s work. Acquiring the habit of finishing projects is a highly desirable trait. Unfortunately, crafts have a way of being left half-finished. Choose only one activity on which to concentrate each term and oversee your student’s work to the finish.


In a Living Books Curriculum day, the morning is devoted to academics, and the afternoon revolves around outdoor exploration, sports and handicrafts. Allow children unstructured time. You will often be tempted to stay indoors after lunch to finish work. Keep such times to a minimum, allowing your student to play outdoors.

Physical education is a crucial part of a student’s optimal growth. Junior high is often a time when team sports and specialized instruction such as gymnastics, martial arts, or swimming can be part of a student’s experience, but they should not take the place of free play.


LBC does not provide a mathematics program because each family is unique in its learning styles and needs. We do recommend the following company for seventh and Eighth Grade: Video Text Interactive Mathematics.

Charlotte Mason recommended that each day have lessons in a foreign language. Her teachers taught both German and French. We highly recommend including at least one language in your homeschool. Choose a language that is appropriate for your family and of interest to your student. Spanish is useful in every area of the U.S. Plan to continue the same language over a period of years to make it most beneficial for your student.

Latin is technically not a foreign language but rather a root language, the knowledge of which improves a student’s abilities at every level—reading with greater understanding, clearer thinking, facility in learning a foreign language, and recall of information. There are many fine programs available; one we like is Latina Christiana.

Lessons in a musical instrument are a life skill and a source of pleasure and beauty. If the cost of lessons is too much for your budget, we recommend your student learn to play the recorder. Penny Gardner has an excellent book, The New-Note Recorder Book, available at her Web site.

Often Asked Questions

Is it too late to start a Charlotte Mason education?

Mothers ask me that from time to time. They see the value of a living books education and want if for their child. It is never too late to begin! Children are wonderfully resilient and they know the genuine article (living books) when it is given them. To give you and idea of what a day looks like, have a look at my article on “Planning a CM Day.”

What is a living book?

“…We owe it to every child to put him (or her) in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts…and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” A Philosophy of Education, p. 12.

Living Books Curriculum uses books considered “living” according to Charlotte Mason’s guidelines because they “warm the imagination, nurture thinking, and communicate knowledge mind-to-mind”. Children require books that are living in order to develop mind and hearts to fullest capacity. The high quality of thought expressed in great literature creates like thought in the child. When the books are many, varied, and living, the child is able to adopt the ideas just as a plant takes nutrients from the soil.

Here to Help

We’re here to help. Living Books Curriculum fully supports our curriculum though an online community forum. We invite you to join the growing community of parents using this wonderful way to home educate. Questions? Email me at

All the best,

P.S. 100% of the proceeds of your purchase help us help children in Africa receive a living education. Jim and Sheila Carroll’s non-profit, Worldwide Educational Resources, has seven schools at this time, educating nearly 750 students. The Carroll’s non-profit was founded in 2000. Learn more.