Is there a complete curriculum package?

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  • Maria

    I am new to homeschooling and while researching curriculum, I came across CM which I absolutely love! But I find myself struggling between it and MFW. Everyone is saying they are similar but I want to know how they are different? CM is definitely  preferred but the convenience of MFW complete package is tempting for a beginner like me. From, what I see, the CM curriculum lesson plans are put together but everything else(living books, science, math) must be purchased separately. I need some info that can help me finalize my decision. Thanks!


    Hello and welcome to homeschooling! First off, I would recommend that you get grounded in the ideals of your homeschool and what resonates with you personally. There are many philosophies of homeschooling out there, and the one that you are drawn to will largely determine which curriculums you want to use. Simple Charlotte Mason does have many wonderful products and components for teaching in the Charlotte Mason style. My Father’s World tends more toward the Classical style, in my opinion. If you do a google search for those terms, you will find out what the philosophy they are each springing from is and how they might work for you. There are more complete Charlotte Mason curriculums out there, but I would say that most of them blend the Charlotte Mason style with other methods and this doesn’t always result in an improved curriculum. However, some of the curriculums that tout themselves as CM are: Sonlight, Living Books Curriculum, Ambleside Online, Charlotte Mason Help, EpiKardia, etc. Cathy Duffy’s homeschool reviews are a great place to check out different curriculums. I have found them to be balanced and their opinions help when making decisions.

    Personally, I love the Simply Charlotte Mason materials, and I think they are do-able for a beginner – more so than many pre-packaged curriculum plans. But working out your philosophy, scheduling, and ‘how-to’ teach will be a learning process for you as well. Don’t worry about getting everything just right this first year – you will get the hang of it!

    I highly recommend the free resources on this site, as well as the SCM All Day Seminar. That DVD set taught me more about how to homeschool the CM way than all the (very expensive) curriculums I had tried in the past. And the beauty of CM education is that it is delightful, and it works! Blessings!


    I’ve been debating on MFW vs. CM for next year. I’ve never used MFW but I’ve looked and looked and looked at it. 🙂

    For me, the Teacher’s Guide contains a lot of things I wouldn’t use. I wouldn’t use their LA or their science. I don’t do a lot with science at this age. We read living books and do nature study and my kids find birds and bugs and things and we look them up. But I’m not doing a specific “science” at home for my little guys. That’ll change when they are older.

    MFW also has more busy work. (Why I’ll use SCM LA over their choices.) I really love the simplicity that SCM has brought to our homeschool. My kids are learning and I’m not totally stressing out trying to get a whole bunch of things done. So, for me, SCM is more my style.

    I was really considering doing MFW Rome to Reformation. But I went to their website, checked all the books I’d need (leaving out the ones in their kit I wouldn’t use or already had) and it ended up really expensive for me to pick and choose rather than buy the whole bundle. So, I’ll do something different. 🙂 Just the Teacher Guide is $100 whereas you can get a SCM guide for $12.



    I’m still formulating a thoughtful answer to this question, but I wanted to say, reading the curriculum list that ServingWithJoy posted, that I can’t imagine Sonlight calling itself CM! (Not arguing with you, Serving, just surprised at Sonlight’s claim.) I used SL for three years when my oldest was in elementary and I’d almost call it the opposite of CM. It does use excellent literature for the most part, but it ignores the part of CM’s philosophy about going deeply into a work rather than shallowly and widely into many works. And especially the concept of allowing children to form their own connections and have a relationship with the material on their own terms. I’m not anti-Sonlight but since using CM methodology more seriously with my youngest our homeschooling feels very different than it did when my first two were young. I think SL works great for some families but as far as cultivating the richness and simplicity that CM philosophy can help with….it just won’t be the same. JMHO.

    Just a thought. Everyone has said such wonderful and helpful things, I probably don’t have anything eloquent to add!


    I’m so nervous about this but my 6 year old is so excited! Lol But no matter how many mistakes I make, I can’t see myself regretting homeschool. Those prepackaged curriculums are tempting but CM really resonates with my philosophy so I’m simply CM all the way!


    This forum is a great place to get advice and wisdom from moms who have been doing this a long time. I, for one, am really old. I’m kidding, but not about the advice part :).

    And I agree with you about Sonlight, Maria, but they used to claim to use CM methods, and many people using them think that they are using a CM curriculum. Actually, I just got on their website (for the first time in about a decade) and discovered that they have replaced their CM claim with “literature and history rich”. So maybe they aren’t trying to claim the CM method anymore. There are very few curriculum packages out there that are strictly CM, and so many claim to be CM when they are really adaptations of Classical or traditional schooling.

    Please do get the videos if at all possible – Sonya really walks you through step by step how to teach each subject. And if I were starting over again on my homeschooling journey, I would find a homeschooling co-op and start trying to make connections with CM moms to mentor me. I would have saved a lot of trial and error that way! In the end, though, God has got this and it’s going to be great!


    Thanks Servingwithjoy! Your response was soooo what I needed to hear! I appreciate the encouragement and yes, I will definitely check out that seminar DVD. I didn’t notice it. I need all the advice I can get. MFW seems great and I know its popular but simply CM just tugged my heart the more I learned about it and I need to stay true to that and just find my way. Thanks again!

    Doug Smith

    By the way, the older All-Day Seminar and the Books & Things DVD sets have been replaced by our Learning and Living: Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason Way DVD Set. This new set covers the material that was in those older videos and expands on it with even more. It’s the best resource we have to take you from the theory of Charlotte Mason’s methods to practical day-to-day use.


    I would love to know what other methods Ambleside Online, Charlotte Mason Help blend in order to create a curriculum?  I love this forum and the resources here but I use some of both of those.  I just don’t see a difference.  However, I have trouble even sticking to one or both of those.  I guess I’m more eclectic than anything but definitely my foundation is CM.  Sorry to those gunho CM-style followers but I (like the poster) can’t seem to find a good true curriculum.  Anyway my question is can someone explain the other methods for those curriculums?


    I don’t believe they pull from anything else. To my mind they are actually a little more true to the original CM than SCM, only because SCM is simplified to make it more practical for combining students, or just reducing the workload to a more manageable level (JMO though). But all three are true CM. I personally start by using the schedules from Charlotte Mason Help for a framework, but we can no longer keep up with the total number of books recommended there, so I tweak a lot.


    Remember that Charlotte Mason taught a philosophy of education (the WHY of education) and a way of attaining that philosophy through a method (HOW to attain the goal or why of education).

    The various methods (living books, narrations, habit training, etc.) are used to teach the whole child, not a specific set of books used at a specific age to teach specific skills at a specific pace (a system of education). The WHAT (curriculum) is much much easier to teach once you understand her philosophy and methods.

    Yes, there are guidelines. Yes, there are book lists – but not her own personal list because she was always adjusting it and she didn’t want anyone to get stuck on a book list.  Yes, you can buy some packages of pre-chosen books. But it is HOW you use the books – and WHY – you use the chosen books that create a Charlotte Mason education.  That is something to consider when embarking on this glorious journey. So relax a little on that newbie-desire for a curriculum in a box and give yourself time to get a bit of foundation under you.  =)

    SCM’s offerings empower you to begin with confidence as you study the philosophy and methods. They are great. So for a new mom trying to balance her own learning I would recommend reading their free ebooks and then getting their handbooks to read and study. Those handbooks contain many of Charlotte’s specific ideas and suggestions quoted from her Original Homeschooling Series.

    Free ebooks to start with:

    Education is…

    A Thinking Love

    The Way of the Will

    Smooth and Easy Days

    Masterly Inactivity

    The Handbooks are invaluable as you are learning. You can get those here:

    For Language Arts:

    For Narration:

    For Math:

    For Nature Study (serious foundation for science learning):

    For Young Children (up to age 6):

    For Habit Training:

    A Charlotte Mason Education is a great quick read on how to “do” each subject. There are several of these types of books available from SCM.

    For actually teaching your children, I would use all the pre-planned guides this year as you are learning which will help you to understand what works and what doesn’t work for your family. SCM is such a great blessing in this regard.

    So – to have the comfort of knowing that all subjects are planned and ready to go once you get the supplies listed in each guide, I would use these three things:

    For the enriching feast subjects:

    For History, I would use this:

    For skill subjects, you could use this:

    If you are like most people and can’t afford to spend lots of money up front for the whole year, just buy the supplies needed for one term at a time.  Each sample download in these guides gives you a list of what you need to do each term. Make choices from those lists and learn from them. Next year, assess where you are and then decide what your family needs when you have more solid foundation of learning and experience behind you.

    Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods are incredible. They build and feed a whole person: intellectually, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Take the time to really study them. You will find an enduring enthusiasm for life and learning that will sustain you as you share them with your family.


    Hey all! I wanted to give my 2 cents towards this one! I am just finishing up my first year of teaching K to my daughter. We started with Sonlight and I actually sent it back. It has a LOT of reading and the material is really hard to grasp (in my opinion) for a Kindergartener. The first lesson starts with the “soul” and trying to explain that to a child in K can be difficult. She was scared of that as well as the topics of weather, etc.

    We use a tutorial program as well that is two days per week. Sonlight is a 5-day per week curriculum and is VERY organized but I found myself feeling guilty if I got off-track and behind schedule.

    Being diagnosed ADD, I feel like it is hard for me to try and stay focused on the material – which means that it really has to be difficult for her as well. I found Sonlight to be a drag. (I’m sorry for those who love it – I personally didn’t think it was for us) There were a few of the books that I did keep and have enjoyed them.

    We are jumping over to Winter Promise for 1st grade ( I have ordered all of my curriculum already with the exception of math – which I am still researching. WP’s style is REALLY CM style. They use notebooking and timelines to teach the story as well as interactive means to keep the kids interested. I have received most of my curriculum for next year and chose to do the e-book option where they send me the file and I print it up using Staples, etc. <they also have a reward code that they provide that gives you a nice little chunk off of your order if you choose to use Staples to print yours> If you have the printed books sent to you, they are printed in black and white. They have a “themed” program where you choose the core studies that you are interested in based on your child’s grade and interest. From there, you build your package. We are doing the American Story 1 theme ( and from what I can tell you in the materials that I have received, I am IMPRESSED. Let me tell you that I *did* order the supplemental books on Amazon and saved probably $100 or so doing that so definitely think about that as you are ordering. Also, the prices are not cheap for WP but you will receive unique, well thought out materials which include GOD in them. I love how God is brought into the discussion straight from the History books. If you aren’t familiar with WP, check out their Statement of Beliefs here:

    I am also planning to supplement some of the amazing books from the Thinking Tree series. The books for reading are AMAZING! We have been using series A for the reading piece this year and my daughter LOVES the patterning questions and the ability to color the pages. I HIGHLY suggest you give them a try if you want something different. ( They are geared around kids with dyslexia, etc, and although my daughter doesn’t have dyslexia, she still loves the coursework and it’s not like pulling teeth to get her to work the books. Also, they are very hands-off for you!

    Sarah Brown also makes some supplemental materials that we love! (and she has things for mom and dad to use while they are having some homeschool downtime!!) You can get her books on Amazon only – READ THE REVIEWS TO SEE SAMPLE PICS! – here is her link:

    Sorry that I wrote a novel here but I wanted you all to have some additional ideas as to CM style methods that I have found and plan to use! I am SO excited to be introducing a new method next year and my daughter is excited as well.

    Let me know if you have any questions about the curriculum! I am happy to share!

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