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Using the 6-Year History Cycle

Charlotte Mason History Lesson Plans

In this post I want to show you a little technique that I use to help me think through, adjust, and fine tune our history cycle to fit different family situations. We’re going to answer this question:

Why do you have a six-year history cycle and how can I use it with multiple children?

So let’s get started. First, why do we have a six-year history cycle?

We have a six-year history cycle because we put a big emphasis on Bible history. We believe it’s important for students to understand how the Bible fits into world history—that the events recounted in the Bible actually happened and in a historical setting. So the first three history studies are

We put the main emphasis on the Bible history and bring the ancients in on the side. Most four-year history cycles combine all of those ancients, but we didn’t want to cram all of Genesis through Acts into one year; so we take three years to go through those Bible history events and bring Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome in as we go.

Once we get through the book of Acts, the rest of the Bible shifts away from historical events and centers on the epistles and Revelation. So once we get through Ancient Rome, the shift of our studies changes to an emphasis on world history with the epistles on the side, spreading them out evenly throughout the remaining three years of study:

In this way students have a strong Biblical foundation laid and can trace the people and events of history—both Biblical and world history—chronologically.

Our curriculum is set up to keep the whole family on the same historical time period, in order to save you time and money and to foster good discussion and relations. But sometimes it can be a puzzle figuring out how the six-year cycle will work with your children’s age ranges.

So let me show you a simple technique that I use for that. This is how I lay out those puzzles when I’m helping a homeschool mama figure out how to customize our curriculum to best suit her family. And that’s the important point: make the curriculum your servant, not your master. Use it as it will work best for your situation.

Let’s start with just one child so I can show you the basic idea. Then we’ll expand into a family with multiple children.

First, I grab a sheet of paper and write down the grade level that the child will be in when he is starting to use Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum. Then I list in a column all the grade levels left until he graduates.

So if this child will be in 7th grade, the list would look like this:

7

8

9

10

11

12

Then I start playing with the six time periods in our history cycle, using abbreviations to keep it simple and quick, plugging them into the years that are listed and seeing how they might come out.

If the child will be in 7th grade when he starts, it comes out neat and tidy:

7  Gen (Genesis through Deuteronomy & Ancient Egypt)

8  Josh (Joshua through Malachi & Ancient Greece)

9  Matt (Matthew through Acts & Ancient Rome)

10  Mid (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation & Epistles)

11  EM (Early Modern & Epistles)

12  MT (Modern Times & Epistles, Revelation)

One of the main considerations is that each student in the U.S. needs to have American History and World History for his high school transcript. So each student will need to cover Early Modern and Modern Times sometime during his high school years. In this model, the student will get Early Modern in eleventh grade and Modern Times in twelfth grade. It works quite neatly.

But what if that child is starting in 6th grade? Well, let’s list those grade levels and play with it.

6  Gen

7  Josh

8  Matt

9  Mid

10  EM

11  MT

12

First, let’s check that we have the critical Early Modern and Modern Times studies listed during the high school years. Yes, we do; they’re listed during tenth and eleventh grades. So now we can brainstorm options for that twelfth year.

One possibility would be to stretch out the Early Modern and Modern Times studies, taking more time to complete them or adding more reading if you want to, and give yourself three years to finish those two studies.

Another option would be to use that twelfth grade year to complete a government course and/or an economics course.

Or your student could use that year to do an apprenticeship or internship in a field that he’s interested in pursuing.

Or he could choose to repeat one of the history studies from sixth through eighth grade but with the high school level books.

OK, what if that child is starting in 3rd grade? Let’s try it.

3  Gen

4  Josh

5  Matt

6  Mid

7  EM

8  MT

9

10

11

12

Now, let’s stop here for a minute. You can see that we have only four years left, and we know that we need to have Early Modern and Modern Times in there somewhere during those years. If we go clear back to Genesis and start the cycle there, we won’t get up to Early Modern and Modern Times before graduation. But what if we go back to Matthew through Acts & Ancient Rome? That study gives us a natural break in Bible history, because it starts with the New Testament. So in this instance, I would probably recommend going back to Matthew and finishing the cycle from there:

3  Gen

4  Josh

5  Matt

6  Mid

7  EM

8  MT

9  Matt

10  Mid

11  EM

12  MT

Another option would be to go back to the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation—the point in the cycle where world history becomes the emphasis and the Bible study comes in alongside. That would be another natural entry point. In that case, your listing would look like this:

3  Gen

4  Josh

5  Matt

6  Mid

7  EM

8  MT

9  Mid

10  EM

11  MT

12

And you would have that extra year during twelfth grade to do one of the other options we talked about earlier.

See, there are many ways that you can slice and dice this. The key is to make it work for you.

Let’s do one more with one child, and let’s say that this child will be starting in 5th grade, but he already studied the Middle Ages and Renaissance last year. In that case, rather than jumping into the SCM curriculum at the beginning, you would want to jump in at that point in history. So for 5th grade, he will pick up where he left off and do Early Modern.

5  EM

6  MT

7  Gen

8  Josh

9  Matt

10  Mid

11  EM

12  MT

That one comes out very tidy. That’s why I like to use this little format; it makes it simple to get a quick look at the big picture and play with options.

Now, let’s try a few scenarios with multiple children. Let’s say, you have two students: one who is in 3rd grade and one who is in 6th. When I’m working with more than one child, I write down their grades in a column just as before but go ahead and list all the grade levels involved:

3, 6

4, 7

5, 8

6, 9

7, 10

8, 11

9, 12

10

11

12

And let’s say they want to start at the beginning, with Genesis through Deuteronomy & Ancient Egypt. OK, let’s plug the full six-year cycle in and see what we get.

3, 6  Gen

4, 7  Josh

5, 8  Matt

6, 9  Mid

7, 10  EM

8, 11  MT

9, 12

10

11

12

Let’s pause there and take a look. Your oldest student will have the critical Early Modern and Modern Times studies during high school; they’re listed for his tenth and eleventh grade years. So you’re good there. During his 12th grade year, he can either study what his younger sister will study or he could do one of those other options we discussed earlier.

Your younger student will have four years left, so you might want to cycle back around to either Matthew through Acts & Ancient Rome, and start at the New Testament:

3, 6  Gen

4, 7  Josh

5, 8  Matt

6, 9  Mid

7, 10  EM

8, 11  MT

9, 12  Matt

10  Mid

11  EM

12  MT

or you could cycle back to Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation and save that senior year to pursue another option for her too.

3, 6  Gen

4, 7  Josh

5, 8  Matt

6, 9  Mid

7, 10  EM

8, 11  MT

9, 12  Mid

10  EM

11  MT

12

I think you get the idea of how this little technique works. Just for fun, let’s try one with four children in 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades.

1, 3, 5, 7  Gen

2, 4, 6, 8  Josh

3, 5, 7, 9  Matt

4, 6, 8, 10  Mid

5, 7, 9, 11  EM

6, 8, 10, 12  MT

7, 9, 11

8, 10, 12

9, 11

10, 12

11

12

So far it’s working out right down the line. Both the oldest and second oldest children will have Early Modern and Modern Times during their high school years. One of them during 11th and 12th grades; the other during 9th and 10th grades.

So let’s focus on the younger two. The sweet spot for them to do Early Modern and Modern Times will be during their 11th and 12th and 9th and 10th grade years also, so let’s pop those into place.

7, 9, 11

8, 10, 12

9, 11  EM

10, 12  MT

11

12

Looking at the list, we can easily see that we would go back to Matthew through Acts & Ancient Rome and work forward from there to make that happen.

7, 9, 11  Matt

8, 10, 12  Mid

9, 11  EM

10, 12  MT

11

12

That leaves two years of your preference for your youngest student. You could cycle clear back to the beginning and pick up the Genesis and Joshua studies during those two years if you wanted to fill in that Old Testament history.

7, 9, 11  Matt

8, 10, 12  Mid

9, 11  EM

10, 12  MT

11  Gen

12  Josh

Or you could select specialized studies that reflect that student’s interests or do some of the other options we discussed earlier.

Each family will be different. Each student will be different. The important thing is to make the curriculum work for you.

So now you know why we have a six-year history cycle, and I hope this little technique helps you to fine tune it to fit your family’s situation. It’s pretty simple: just list the grade levels and pop in the abbreviated studies, then play around with the puzzle to find the best solution for your children.

Use the curriculum as a tool to help you teach the child.

13 Responses to “Using the 6-Year History Cycle”

  1. Zabrina July 16, 2019 at 8:09 am #

    Thank you so much for creating this post! You have such a wonderful ability to organize information and to state clearly how we may also utilize your organizational methods. What a great read to start my day!

  2. Shelby July 17, 2019 at 12:02 pm #

    So helpful, thank you!

  3. Jamie July 22, 2019 at 11:32 pm #

    Mind Blown!!

    This was a VERY helpful post this week. Thank you so much!!!

    Now… I would love to see your suggestions for our family of 10.
    😉😉😉

  4. S. Chapman July 26, 2019 at 7:15 pm #

    We’ve gone through Middle Ages with SCM curriculum. My daughter is going into 9th grade. What would be the best plan for her last four years?

    • Sonya Shafer July 29, 2019 at 3:27 pm #

      A few options come to mind. I’m sure you’ll think of some other possibilities too.

      • You could proceed to Early Modern and Modern Times but take your time and complete the two studies over three years if desired.
      • You could do Early Modern and Modern Times for ninth and tenth grades, then circle back to any of the ancients that you/she wants to pick up.
      • You could do Early Modern and Modern Times for ninth and tenth grades, then use eleventh and twelfth to do any government and economics courses that might be needed in your area.
      • You could do Early Modern and Modern Times for ninth and tenth grades, then use eleventh to do any government and economics courses that might be needed in your area. Use twelfth to pursue studies or work opportunities in areas of personal interests or perhaps to do dual enrollment if desired.
  5. niro1689 August 12, 2019 at 3:43 pm #

    I’m stuck. I love the layout of your plans, but if I’m reading the requirements right, in our state New York, U.S. History must be taught in every grade from grade 1-6! PLEASE–what are your suggestions? I really want to use this curriculum, but feel that U.S. and Ancient History would be too much at the early ages. Please help! What would you do?

    • Sonya Shafer August 13, 2019 at 1:04 pm #

      First, I recommend that you double check whether your state requirements contain any information about the amount of U.S. History that needs to be covered each year. If no guidelines are given for the amount to be covered, then keep in mind that you would not have to teach it every day all year long. As long as you include a component of U.S. History sometime during the year, you would be adhering to the requirement.

      With that in mind, here are a couple of ideas.

      1) You could go ahead and do the SCM curriculum as is, but set aside a few certain days to focus on U.S. History. For example, you could use holidays to include a U.S. History component through a living book: the history of Thanksgiving; Presidents’ Day could focus on Abraham Lincoln or George Washington; Veterans Day or July 4/Independence Day could focus on the Revolutionary War or other wars; Flag Day could be about the history of the U.S. flag; Columbus Day could relate the story of Columbus discovering America; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day could relate the story of Civil Rights; you could even take advantage of Election Day.

      2) Another potential would be to set aside a few weeks each year to do a short focus on American History. The SCM curriculum lesson plans give enough for 36 weeks. You could easily take another three or four weeks sometime during the year to read and narrate some U.S. History books or do a study on your state’s history.

      • Mamatime14 August 21, 2019 at 12:00 pm #

        Thanks so much, Sonya–this is helpful!

    • HSMom03 August 15, 2019 at 9:26 pm #

      For NY the following courses must be taught at least ONCE during grades 1-8:

      -United States History and the Constitution of the United States.
      -New York State History and the Constitution of New York State.

      Hope that helps!!

  6. HSMom03 August 15, 2019 at 9:38 pm #

    I love this post!! It helped me so much with finally diving into SCM history modules this year. So everything works perfect, until I get to my youngest. I have the first 3 doing EM & MT their 11th and 12th grade years. With my youngest, she would be doing EM her 8th grade year and MT her 9th grade year. So she’ll have to take EM again even though she just took it and that would be after MT so kind of out of order. Do you have a suggestion for her last 3 years or something? Maybe my 3rd should not do EM & TM his 11th and 12th grade years (but it seems to work perfectly)? Everyone was 2 years apart except baby #3 and #4. Ahh, I don’t like to think of my baby in high school. We are using the SCM Preschool Life this year and we are looking forward to it!!

    • Tamara Bell August 15, 2019 at 9:53 pm #

      It sounds like you have everything figured out. You’ll need to check with your state but often classes taken in 8th grade can count as a high school credit provided they are doing high school level work. This isn’t a problem with how our guides are written. The individual books are divided into 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12 grade levels.
      Enjoy these early years. 🙂

      • HSMom03 August 17, 2019 at 9:06 pm #

        That’s awesome!! I didn’t realize!! So when she is studying EM in 8th grade, would she use the 7-9 books or 10-12? Thanks so much!!

        • Tamara Bell August 19, 2019 at 7:51 am #

          She can use the books scheduled for grades 7-9. 🙂

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