Dear Homeschooling Parent,
Living Books Curriculum Grade Four continues the pattern of using living books and life experiences begun in the Foundation Year, Grades One, Two and Three. Grade Four will establish a pattern of learning for your child.
Grade Four will involve more written work, independent reading, and somewhat longer periods of study-30 minutes instead of 20 minutes recommended in earlier grades.
Grade Four continues with a plan of weekly dictation and spelling. Because fluency in oral language is as important as fluency in written language; storytelling remains a key language experience in Living Books Curriculum. American History is the study of the Civil War and the period following, the Reconstruction. World History focuses on the Middle Ages. Science explores the rich subject of Astronomy.
Planning for Learning™
LBC uses a 36-week schedule divided into four terms. Each term is eight weeks, 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. You can begin and end each term as best fits your schedule.
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. 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).
End-of-Term Narration Questions
We include end-of-term narration questions for two reasons: First, our research of Charlotte Mason’s syllabi for the Parents National Education Union, 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.
Heroes of the Faith Literature Journal
This journal is your child’s personal record of reflections, observations and reactions to the spiritual biographies that are part of history and science. It is kept on a regular basis, much as a diary. The literature journal is worth doing just for its own sake and it can also be used for review for end-of-term narrations or as a reference for written narrations, essays, and related writing activities.
Book of the Centuries
Read “A Book of the Centuries in the Living Books Curriculum” found in Grade Four Resources. Plan a few minutes once a week for your child to work in his Book of the Centuries. Use this Book of the Centuries for History, Science, Music/Composer Study and any other subjects where it seems right to add information to the timeline. You can also purchase History Through the Ages, a prepared timeline.
The use of narration is one of the key aspects 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 your child is new to the use of narration, begin with very short narrations. The process of using narrations effectively is described in Telling Back: A Parent’s Guide to Narration found in the Grade Four Resources.
It will be up to you to decide how much narration your child can accomplish during the year. We encourage frequent and consistent supported narration.
Christian Faith Studies
This year your child will be reading through the New Testament books of Luke and Romans. In the Old Testament they will read from Joshua, Judges and I & II Samuel.
Heroes of the Faith
World History, Science, and American History have biographies of individuals who had a strong faith in the face of great obstacles and events. These individuals also changed the course of history. This year your child will begin keeping a Heroes of the Faith journal. (Note: See “Heroes of the Faith Literature Journal” above, and also read “Charlotte Mason on Bible Study” found in the Grade Four Resources.)
Grammar: Intermediate Language Lessons – Part 1
The Living Books Curriculum Grade Four language arts program is based on Intermediate Language Lessons -Part 1 by Emma Serl. The examples in Serl’s book are taken from classic literature, illustrations from nature, and descriptive pieces about people, places, and events.
For review, you may ask a question at the beginning of each lesson about one of the previous lessons. It is suggested that you observe your child’s writings and help him make corrections on topics that you have previously studied. Constant, consistent review is key to learning language constructions.
Your child will be using Italics: Beautiful handwriting for children for the year as a guide for instruction in penmanship. You must decide if your child is ready for cursive italic or needs further work on basic italic.
Plan 10 to 15 minutes a day for penmanship. Consistency and frequency, rather than length of session, is the key to your child’s success in handwriting. Also read the article “Suggestions for Better Penmanship,” found in the Grade Four Resources.
Suggestions for reading poetry: Poetry for Grade Four is primarily Civil War Poetry: An anthology. Occasionally there will be other poems from Intermediate Language Lessons—Part 1. When reading a poem aloud, make your voice reflect the cadence and rhythm of the words. If your child is inattentive, do not correct him, but rather say, “We’ll put this away to enjoy another day.”
Doing this tells your child poetry is something special to be treasured. Occasionally ask your child to read some lines. There may be poems that your child would like to put in his copy book or in his nature journal, and then illustrate. Encourage this activity; you will find the results are very satisfying.
Charlotte Mason called recitation “the children’s art” and believed 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. For more help, read the article “Charlotte Mason on Recitation” in Grade Four Resources.
Shakespeare is a master storyteller, and familiarity with his plays gives the student a rich experience in character study and in expressive language.
Homeschooling families sometimes wonder why it is important to study the works of this playwright…
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.
—From Great Books of the Christian Tradition, Terry W. Glaspey
The next question is “Can elementary age children enjoy Shakespeare?”
The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Of course, the plays need to be presented in ways that are understandable. If you and your child have not yet read Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit, we highly recommend it.
Tips for reading Shakespeare:
- Read aloud with several voices (i.e., people), each person taking a part.
- Stop to explain the action, but don’t labor over it, just enough to make it clear.
- Take time to get to know the major characters, referring to the “Dramatis Personae” at the front of the play (i.e., the actors in a play, cast of characters) and in the book Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare.
- Stop reading if your child is inattentive and tell him, “We’ll save this for another day.”
- If you are new to Shakespeare, tell your child that you will be learning along with him. You do not need to be an expert in everything.
- Allow only 20 minutes per reading. Remember short lessons?
Spelling and Dictation
With Grade Four, a regular weekly dictation is added to your child’s school work. Dictation is the transcription by your child of a passage read aloud to him. It can be either studied or unstudied. Read “The Royal Road to Spelling and Dictation” found in Grade Four Resources. For more information about how to do a dictation and spelling lesson, see “Charlotte Mason on Spelling and Dictation” in Grade Four Resources.
Storytelling is one of the unique features of the Living Books Curriculum. Be sure to read the essays “Storytelling: the Invisible Gift” and “Teaching with Stories” found in the Grade Four Resources.
Here are some tips for helping your child gain confidence in telling stories for Grade Four:
- Create a sense of anticipation by having a special place or time when your child will read or hear the story, and then begin to learn it.
- Read the story with a lively tone. Then ask your child to tell you back the story in his own words.
- If there are significant omissions, act out the story together as a form of narration. Keeping a playful attitude will free up your child’s creative spirit.
- Continue until your child can narrate back the story with ease. Doing this each week for 20 or 30 minutes is enough to build storytelling skills. Sometimes it may seem easier to get a book and read it aloud rather than take the time to teach a story. But, if you will be faithful in this weekly activity, you will see results that far outweigh the time and effort.
Living Books Curriculum does not provide a math program. We investigated several math programs and found a few we liked. However, after interviewing many parents, we found that each had their own preference for a program. When appropriate in other areas of study we included a math-related activity. We also have provided a space at the end of each week in Part 3–Week-by-Week Teaching Guide for the parent to document any work done in that subject.
We offer two suggestions for a math program that we feel are consistent with the Living Books Curriculum, though there are many other fine programs. They are:
Science – Astronomy
General notes on science
The Living Books elementary science curriculum is a structured adventure into basic science concepts using living books. The core text for the study of Astronomy is Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright, from Apologia Educational Ministries.
Why literature in a study of science?
Charlotte Mason wrote of the fatal and unnecessary divorce of the sciences and the humanities: “It is through great literature that one gets at great thoughts, not through dry, ‘dumbed down’ textbooks” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 223). Ms. Mason was not opposed to textbooks, only to their exclusive use with fact-laden pages and uninteresting presentation.
Grade Four includes lessons in writing in the specific area of science. Science writing distinguishes itself from writing in general by the integration of activities that develop questioning, curiosity, and the formulation of testable hypotheses.
Why poetry in a study of science?
Encouraging and refining the ability to imagine is one of the highest order tasks of an educator. The most direct way to accomplish this is through story, song, and poetry.
Maria Mitchell, an astronomer and the first woman member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, said:
“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but is somewhat beauty and poetry. To wonder at creation and to guess its origins are innate powers. Without them, there would be no ground for scientific inquiry.”
Nature Study is one of the keys to a Living Books education because it develops keen powers of observation. The goal of nature study is careful looking. Albert Einstein said, “All great science begins with a close observation of nature.” 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 they must deal with the stresses and strains of adult life.
The choice of study is drawn from Handbook of Nature Study, which is used from kindergarten to eighth grade. The first 23 pages of the Handbook outline the author’s philosophy of nature study. The author, Anna Comstock, originally published parts of this book as leaflets in the Home Nature Study Course at Cornell; she was writing to a home-schooling parent. The leaflets were written a century ago; therefore, some of what she presents in her book might not be applicable to you and your home school.
Read over the introductory pages to orient yourself to her philosophy; then spend some time with the section “How to Use This Book” on pages 23 and 24. The goal of each week’s activities is to help your child with his or her powers of observation, and to some extent to get them thinking about the natural world around them.
Here is what Miss Comstock has said on the subject, from page 23: “The suggestions for observations have been given in the form of questions, merely for the sake of saving space. The direct questioning method, if not used with discretion, becomes tiresome to both pupil and teacher. If the questions do not inspire the child to investigate, they are useless. To grind out answers to questions about any natural object is not nature-study, it is simply ‘grind.’”
During the school year your child will keep a Nature Journal. ”Tips for Better Nature Journaling” can be found in Grade Four Resources as well as a complimentary Nature Journal template for each week of the learning year.
American History: Civil War and Reconstruction
This was the largest and deadliest conflict ever fought on American soil. Over 620,000 souls lost their lives. The effect was greatest on the South. It took the Confederate states a full hundred years to recover.
Suggestions for teaching the Civil War:
- Use narration regularly, both written and spoken.
- See the year’s study as an integrated whole, with stories, poetry, and art correlated to history.
- Use the Enrichment Reading List for Grade Four (Part 4) to add related literature in areas of interest for your child.
Civil War Photography
The Library of Congress established the American Memory Archive to preserve and make available online over seven million documents, images, audio, and video recordings. The Library of Congress has also provided excellent teaching materials and lessons plans.
World History: Middle Ages
Grade Four students will enjoy a study of the Middle Ages. This period of history is rich, complex, full of adventure and high drama. During an approximate thousand-year period, the western world transitioned from the monarchs of antiquity whose rule was total to the rise of nation states and the early signs of self-government.
Literature for study
There are 16 lessons for the study of the Middle Ages, one lesson for every two weeks. Along with The Discovery of New Worlds, each lesson recommends works of literature for study and focuses on a topic or aspect of Medieval life. Most of the literature for study is at the upper elementary reading level. In addition there is a four-part essay in the Grade Four Resources which describes the four eras of the Middle Ages. Essential reading for you as the teacher!
Enrichment Reading List
The “Enrichment Reading List” provided in Part 4–Grade Four Support Materials provides the teaching parent with titles of other books that would enrich the study of the lesson topic. All of these can be borrowed from your local library, through inter-library loan, or purchased directly from book distributors. For more suggestions of titles by historical period and reading level, we highly recommend All Through the Ages: History through literature guide by Christine Miller.
This year your child will have an opportunity to explore maps of Europe and of the United States as they relate to the Civil War. Plan to make copies of the maps provided in Grade Four Resource CD. Have available colorful markers, stickers, and other creative materials. Use protective plastic sheets for the maps once they are completed and have your child include them in his notebook.
How to listen to music: Each term will have a focus for music correlated with the study of either American or World History. Plan one or more 20-minute listening periods per week during which your child’s concentration is on listening to the music. You may also organize some listening time around a quiet activity like drawing or coloring. Additionally, any selection of classical music can be played in the background for some kinds of work.
A regular facet of a Charlotte Mason education is the study of great works of art. In Grade Four we have correlated Civil War-era art and art from the Middle Ages. For directions on doing picture study, see “Teaching Children to Love Great Art” in the Grade Four Resources. Each week leave the picture to be studied in a location where your child can see it frequently. If possible, purchase an inexpensive picture easel on which to display the book or picture.
Formal art activities are not included every week, as in earlier grades, but when they are, a short description is given. Picture Study is included weekly and teaches an appreciation and understanding of great art. In addition, Nature Study includes drawing or “dry brush” painting in the Nature Journal each week.
Since the afternoons should be mostly free of academic studies, this is the time to teach your child handicrafts. Which handicrafts you choose depends on your child’s interests, your interests, and your budget. Most boys and girls enjoy such activities as sewing, woodworking, gardening, and cooking.
You may have a skill or craft you want to teach your child. Or you may want to invite someone to teach a skill to your child. It is important your child finish what he started. Acquiring the habit of finishing projects is a desirable trait. Choose only one activity on which to concentrate each term and oversee your child’s work to the finish. Also, be sure that your child is developmentally ready for the skill being applied. You want to stretch him, but not frustrate him.
In a Living Books Curriculum day, the morning is devoted to academics, but the afternoon should revolve around outdoor play and handicrafts. The key is to allow children some unstructured time. You will often be tempted to stay indoors after lunch to finish work. Keep such times to a minimum, allowing your child free play outdoors.
Physical education is a crucial part of a child’s optimal growth. Plan regular times outdoors where your child can run, jump, tumble, climb, and swing. Play high activity games such as tag or badminton. Play inventive games in which your child can let his or her imagination create the setting and the action. Keep the games as noncompetitive as possible, so that everyone has the pleasure of play. Team sports, and specialized instruction such as gymnastics, martial arts, or swimming can be part of a child’s experience, but they should not take the place of free play.
Charlotte Mason recommended that each day have lessons in a foreign language; her teachers taught both German and French. We recommend including at least one language in your homeschool. Choose a language that is appropriate for your family and of interest to your child. Spanish is useful in every area of the United States. Plan to continue the same language over a period of years to make it most beneficial for your child.
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 several fine Latin curricula available; one we recommend is Latina Christiana.