Advice - Grade Three

Dear Homeschooling Parent,

Grade Three is a transitional year for a child using our curriculum. The earlier years established learning habits and awareness of subject areas, as well as the large developmental task of learning to read well.

In Grade Three, the studies are more challenging and the student does more independent work. There are over 40 wonderful books in this curriculum designed to bring delight to your child’s learning. 

Areas of study include:

  • Bible study
  • An extensive language arts program
  • Science
  • Nature study
  • Geography
  • Art
  • Picture study
  • American history
  • World history
  • Composer study

Grammar and regular copy work were introduced in Grade Two. Grade Three continues with the addition of weekly dictation and spelling. Storytelling remains a key language experience in the LBC curriculum because fluency in oral language is as important as fluency in written language. Learning to tell stories is the easiest and most enjoyable way to gain that fluency.

In American History, the focus of study is the westward expansion beginning with Daniel Boone. It then moves on to the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition before ending with the California Gold Rush. In World History, the focus is a study of Greek and Roman civilizations, up to the fall of Rome in 476 AD.

Charlotte Mason wrote extensively about how children learn best. The use of living books and a way of learning were uppermost. Though we thoroughly enjoy the books we have chosen for our curriculum – the learning is based on a set of principles rather than a collection of books—it’s the method, not the books.

“Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––

“Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.”

In devising a SYLLABUS for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered:

  1. He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.
  2. The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite (i.e. curiosity)
  3. Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form. “

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 an idea of what a day looks like, have a look at my article on “Planning a CM Day.”

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.

Correlated Studies

Charlotte Mason taught that correlated studies enable greater exploration of ideas, but ought not to result in “busy work” (A Philosophy of Education, pp. 114, ff). To correlate means to bring one thing into a complementary relationship 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 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 child will greatly benefit by integration of the lessons in this manner. It also means that while there are a number of “subjects,” the amount of work is very manageable and enables a homeschooling family to spend the afternoons outdoors.

In Grade Three correlated studies include picture study, poetry, science, geography, storytelling, and Shakespeare with American and World History. So, for example, students learn about the civilizations of Greece and Rome in World History, and simultaneously study Greek and Roman art and Greek music. In Geography, students study the region and culture, as well as map the journeys of historical and literary figures. Storytelling includes stories from Greece, Rome or the book of Acts. Shakespeare includes a reading of the historical play Julius Caesar. As the year progresses, be aware of the interrelationship of one study to the next and discuss this with your child.


The use of narration is one of the most important aspects of any child’s education. It is the key to really knowing something. Charlotte Mason put it this way:

Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. A creative fiat calls it forth. ‘Let him narrate’; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease. This amazing gift with which normal children are born is allowed to lie fallow in their education…this power should be used in their education to its fullest. Home Education (pp. 231-233)

Here is a longer article than given in previous grade descriptions. This one explores how to introduce written narrations and Narration Notebooks™ into your child’s learning: Telling Back: The art of narration.

Use of Notebooks and Journals

In Grade Three your child will keep two notebooks and a nature journal:

  1. A portfolio notebook will keep his best efforts, such as maps, narrations, stories, copies of letters, illustrations, and so on.
  2. A notebook for copy work and penmanship practice.
  3. Nature journal. This may be one your child may have begun in an earlier grade or begins new this year. A template for an LBC nature journal is provided for you on the Grade Three Resource CD.

End-of-Term Narration Questions

Each term is an eight-week period with the ninth week as a flex week to complete any unfinished work and to assess your child’s learning with end-of-term narrations. The questions provided are meant to be suggestions; you may want to formulate questions that more closely reflect the work your child has done during the past term. We include end-of-term narration questions for two reasons.

First, our research of Charlotte Mason’s syllabus for the Parents National Education Union, used for over 80 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 officials who request it.

What is this method and how do you do us it in your homeschool day? Here is a snapshot of the method which will help you begin to see the possibilities for your homeschool: Seven Keys and Six Tools.

Bible Study

Discipleship is the purpose of Bible study rather than “Bible knowledge.” Grade Three continues as in the earlier grades with Scripture memorization and a study of biographies (Heroes of the Faith). Beginning this year is the study of Church History. We chose the Book of Acts because it correlates with your child’s study of Greek and Roman culture. Practical work is included as a means for students to apply the principles of discipleship which they are learning.


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 include a math-related activity.

Language Arts


A regular weekly dictation is added to your child’s school work in Grade Three. Dictation is the transcription by your child of a passage read aloud to him. It can be either studied or unstudied. Studied means that the passage is shown to your child at the beginning of the week. He then has the week to learn the spelling of any unfamiliar words and to study the mechanics, punctuation, and capitalization. Charlotte Mason wrote about the importance of this practice.

Reading Comprehension and Fluency

This year’s curriculum is designed to help your child improve reading fluency, sustain longer narrations, listen to and tell more complex stories. Children are often at different stages in their development of skill in reading. Typically, boys gain these skills later than girls. If your child is not yet reading independently, he or she may just need more time. We suggest you read Ruth Beechick’s book used in previous grades, The Three R’s. It is full of wise counsel that, when applied faithfully, yields good results.


In Grades One through Four, we use Italics: Beautiful handwriting for children. Penmanship should be done no more than ten minutes a day.  Also read “Suggestions for Better Penmanship“. This article includes specific teaching and activity suggestions to help improve your third-grade child’s penmanship.

Copy work is important to the process of learning to write because it provides writing practice, as well as giving child something to write about. Meaningless, repetitive exercises in printing do not engage a child’s sense of beauty, nor does it build the habit of doing things well.


One of the unique features of the Living Books Curriculum is the strong and early use of orality. Orality refers to speaking and listening; just as literacy refers to reading and writing. Grade Two uses folktales with a simple plot and some Bible stories as the means for developing your child’s oral language skills including tips for helping your child gain confidence in telling stories and have fun at the same time.


In Grade Three your student completes Primary Language Lessons begun in Grade Two. If you did not use Primary Language Lessons in the previous year, we suggest you review the grammar lessons with your child before starting on Lesson 51 in Week One. You can omit the picture studies and poetry if you wish.

NOTE: Primary Language Lessons will teach some of the basics of grammar and sentence construction but it is the reading and narration of high quality literature that best teaches grammar and usage.


The Roman poet, Horace, believed that the purpose of poetry is to teach delight. We heartily agree. Early and frequent exposure to poetry gives an appreciation for the music of language. Grade Three poetry studies include poems written by 18th-century Americans during the period of the westward expansion, which is part of the studies for American History. Many of the poems are story-poems, such as Wordsworth’s “The Wreck of the Hesperus.”

There may be poems that your child would like to copy into his portfolio, copy work, or nature journal, and then to illustrate. Encourage this activity, as the results are very satisfying.


The Living Books science curriculum is designed to prepare your child for high school-level work and beyond. It is a structured adventure into basic science concepts. As with all the other subjects in the Living Books Curriculum, we use many living books which put abstract concepts into a time and a place.

There is an underlying process at work with your child that will result in a spirit of scientific inquiry and an ability to do advanced studies in different branches of science. Former Secretary of Education William Bennett’s book The Educated Child (Free Press, 2000), said that a person literate in science exhibits the following character traits: curiosity, formulation of testable hypotheses, experimentation, reliance on evidence, adherence to rules of logic, skepticism balanced by openness to new ideas, objectivity, intellectual honesty, and perseverance (p 350). This is the essence of Living Books science education.

We also include an extended study of flight, both in animals and man during this year in Science. The studies of the history of science, mathematics, and medicine correlate with our studies of Greece and Rome. We have also provided many applied science activities in connection with these studies.

Each year the science curriculum addresses four major strands: life, physical, earth, and health. Within the four major strands we touch on these eleven themes: plants, animals, ecology, matter, energy, technology, the earth, weather, space, the human body, and well-being.

Wonder how can you teach science with literature instead of textbooks?

Nature Study

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 they are 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 meant as a guide. However, if something interesting is happening in your backyard or nearby woods, by all means spend time on that subject.

The focus for Grade Three is as follows:

  • Term One—Garden Flowers
  • Term Two—Mammals I
  • Term Three—Mammals II
  • Term Four—Amphibians

American History

A general note on American History— one feature of our American History curriculum is we study it each year. Meanwhile, most curricula introduce it in Third or Fourth Grade. Our reasons for doing this are:

  1. Knowing American history for Americans is like knowing the stories of one’s own family—it teaches you where you fit.
  2. Learning our nation’s history is essential to a full, participatory citizenship.
  3. A study of American history gives a real understanding of the principles of our governance.
  4. To come to a full understanding of America’s role in the world today takes time.

By beginning in Grade One, Living Books Curriculum allows the time necessary to give a full picture of American history. The American History curriculum extends from 1000 AD to the twentieth century in the first six years. We revisit these epochs in the following two years. By Grades Seven and Eight, your child will be studying primary documents of history and government and do an overview of American History.

Grade Three American History includes the story of the settlement of the West. There are many strands to this story, from Lewis and Clark’s expedition through the unexplored Louisiana Territory, the Oregon Trail, and the California Gold Rush, to the annexation of Texas and the Battle of the Alamo. It also covers the building of the Erie Canal, and the logging and mining industries that grew up to serve a growing nation. Check the Enrichment Reading List for Grade Three for more suggestions of books to enjoy for this period.

World History

Grade Three begins the study of the History of the World series by M.B. Synge. This series has five volumes in all. Grade Three uses Volumes One and Two. Volume One, On the Shores of the Great Sea, tells the story of ancient history around the Mediterranean Basin along with the the rise and fall of Greece and later Rome. Volume Two, Discovery of New Worlds, takes the study up to the fall of the Roman Empire.

You will also use this volume again in Grade Four with the study of the Middle Ages.

This year your child will have an opportunity to make maps of journeys. They will discover Odysseus’ journey home to Ithaca from the Trojan Wars, Lewis and Clark’s expeditions west, the Oregon Trail, the Wilderness Trail that Daniel Boone helped open, and the Mormon Trail that Brigham Young’s band trekked. Each of these journeys is a stirring story.

Read what Miss Mason says about teaching history with living books.

Picture Study

A regular facet of a Charlotte Mason education is the study of great works of art. In Grade Three we have a combination of early American art and a study of ancient Roman and Greek art.

Music/Composer Study

From Grade Three on, the Living Books Curriculum studies the works of one or more composers per term. This year includes ancient Greek music, Palestrina, Vivaldi, and J.S. Bach. Be sure to tell your child that you will be learning alongside him if you are unfamiliar with the composers or their music. The goal of Composer Study is to teach your child to appreciate and enjoy fine music. Plan one twenty-minute listening period per week in which your child is only listening to the music.

Also included in Grade Three: Book of the Centuries, art project, nature journals, folk songs, handcrafts, and planned outdoor times, many helpful articles and templates.

Often Asked Questions

What if I want to teach multiple children with this teaching guide?

What are the books and subjects covered in Grade Three?

Why do you use storytelling in your curriculum?

When should I begin narration?

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 email and a Facebook Community. 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 to 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.