Why does alveary cover more subjects?

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  • Kayla Nichols

    If the Alveary and SCM are both following the same method, why does the Alveary have subjects or streams that are not included in the SCM curriculum guide or Keep It Simple guides. For instance Latin, solfege, dance, recitation, daily nature walks (instead of weekly), multiple streams of history. I might be overlooking something. I find it confusing how different companies with the same method don’t just differ in book choice and support materials but seem to differ in scope and sequence. Does anyone want to explain this to me?  I absolutely love the SCM materials I’ve used so far as well as every interaction I’ve had with the company, but how do I know that the materials they provide are thorough when they are missing pieces that other CM providers think are critical. I’m confused. Thanks for any insight you have.

    Kayla Nichols

    And News? And Plutarch?  Alveary has Plutarch in form 2 under citizenship, but I don’t see it or a different citizenship book listed in the SCM history guide, enrichment study, or individual lesson plan. I don’t see it on the “Plan for My Year Form”. I am pretty sure Sonya addressed most if not all of these topics in the Learning and Living DVD. I wonder why they aren’t included in the Keep It Simple plans or clearly listed as an add-on for certain grades? It seems even if I used all of SCM lesson plans I would still need to research CM (reference L&L DVD and ADE podcasts) and add in missing subjects. Please feel free to straighten me out.


    Since CM was a person who used her method there are many different ways people use and interpret her method. SCM, AO, Alveary, and many many more…

    For me, I find that I can do SCM with my family successfully. It brings CM methods to me in an easy to follow and not overwhelming manor. It also allows me to add to it when we want to, but not feel we have to when life gets crazy and busy.

    Personally I don’t like multiple streams of history or science, it feels very disjointed to me and my kids. I also don’t feel that we need to do Plutarch in elementary or even middle school, if we get to it in highschool that is great, but it is not “high” on my “must do list” because I know that plans change so we will wait and see what happens when we get there. We can’t squeeze in nature study daily, but weekly we usually can. I am not going to do dance, because I don’t know how to dance and at this time I don’t have a strong desire to learn and teach the kids, LOL. We don’t do Swedish drills because we exercise in other ways. Folk songs sounds fun, but I am happy if I remember to do hymn study twice a week.

    With the CM method there are so many extras that are suggested and what they feel is critical depending on the author of the curriculum, blog or podcast; for us, we pick what we know we can do, and don’t worry about the rest. I remind myself that the kids education is not completed in 12 years at home, the goal is also to create life long learners who enjoy learning and continue to learn after school is completed. Our extras include picture study, music study, hymn study, poetry, and this year we added Shakespeare which will only be one term, but is going over really well!

    Not sure if that helps.

    Plutarch is in the Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome history guide for grades 10-12. I thought I remembered mentions that some use the AO suggested Plutarch reading schedule for their kids as well. If you do a search on this forum you can also find many threads about Plutarch and how families study and what materials/methods they use.

    Kayla Nichols

    Sarah2106, thanks for taking the time to post such a well thought out and lovely response.  It helps.


    Kayla – I have about 9 friends who were doing Ambleside Online. (I do a mix of AO/SCM). My friends and I were at CMI together when they announced the Alveary and all of them signed up. I did not for several reasons and as time goes by I feel less pressure to join.

    To be fair, most of them still like it. In our conversations they have been so excited about various things…books and ways to carry out the plans. But when I asked for a few ideas of what they were talking about and when they answered, I was shocked silent for a minute because this curriculum had been advertised like it was all unique to the Alveary. I stopped worrying about what I might be missing as much because, as I told them, SCM had been doing that subject that way or using this “new” resource or book for years! They do not use all the same books but there are definite overlaps between all the CM curriculum I have looked at.

    When my last friend to join called and talked to me about their data base of information (it is still quite small and not very fleshed out – I know that they will add to it), I looked around and realized that most everything that they cover has been addressed by SCM in one way or the other.

    Sonya has a plan for her family and created her curriculum around those goals, using CM’s philosophy and methods. She is amazing and generous and kind and shared those with us at a lovely affordable price. However, Sonya will be the first person to tell you to do what you feel lead to do with your family. So based on your family plan/goals, look at those subjects you listed and see if they are going to help you accomplish that plan or simply stress you out.

    If you want to do Plutarch, the Alveary uses Anne White’s guides that are free on Ambleside Onlineor as books through Amazon. They are easy to use and are so helpful in starting Plutarch. He is read as a part of the Character Training subject. We really enjoy him here.

    For the 3 strands of history, it wasn’t all done at the same time (as in 3 books on the same day) and it was not 1000’s of pages out of each book, either. You can easily do 3 strands if you read 1 Ancient History book once a week, an American history book twice a week, and 1 world history book once or twice a week. SCM does the world and American history together in their last history modules 5 and 6. This is not a big scary thing. And you don’t have to have to the Alveary to do so. Yesterday’s Classics have dozens of ebooks or print books that you can do this with. Remember that biographies are history and can count as a strand of history.

    Recitation was part of a Tea Time thing that CM did. If you are memorizing scripture or other things together, you have this covered. We have a poetry tea time once a week (not stressful – we just have water and a cookie on a pretty plate) where we read poetry (everyone picks a poem to share), and I read our term poet’s biography and 2 poems. I also have started reading our period literature during this time (so when we did the Middle Ages, we read Beowolf and a children’s version of the Canterbury Tales) as well as a musical appreciation moment. Why not add recitation? You are already in an appropriate place.

    For current events, there are student newspapers you can subscribe to. Look up current events on the forum and you will find excellent resources and recommendations.

    Latin is cool, but CM was also in favor of children reading the great books in their own language. She was adamant about it, actually. She knew most people do not have time to learn Latin to read the books. (She mentions this a lot in Vol. 6.) Do it because you have a real desire to know it, or don’t. It really is NOT that big of a deal.

    She did do solfage and dance, but again, it is not always practical for us. I haven’t been able to really find a comprehensive solfage package and we are in a small town without a lot of money, so a tutor is out, even if I could find one. We sing songs anyway. 🙂 As for dance, take a class or find a DVD for a term.

    Keep in mind that while we do as much as we can with what we are able, it is the philosophy and methods you use, NOT the schedule of books or subjects that denote whether or not you follow CM’s path. Brandy Vencel once said the end goal is what matters. How you get there is less important. She was talking about learning to read, but I think that this can apply here too. If you know where you are headed and are enjoying that journey, don’t make the mistake of looking over the fence and deciding the grass is greener. It just looks that way because you aren’t up close and personal. 🙂

    Now I am not saying that you can’t and shouldn’t always be looking to improve, but I am saying don’t let your end goal out of sight when looking around. Think about the bells and whistles before you buy. It saves a lot of frustration, guilt, and lost time. (Ask me how I know that… 😉 )

    I have been doing CM for the last 8 years and I am a research junkie. I am not telling you that the Alveary is bad or that you should not explore it. I AM telling you that SCM has done AMAZING things for the CM community without a bunch of fanfare and been very thorough about it. Your children will have an excellent education using their products. If you want to add subjects, that is okay. If you are happy where you are, that is great too.

    Kayla Nichols

    Shiraz, thanks for your reply. So much to think about.  We’ve been doing Anne Whites Plutarch for a while now. I’m really looking forward to the SCM post on high school.  I love what we are doing this year with all elementary aged kids. However, I have had to assign my 5th grader books from the 7-9 and even 10-12 grade individual history readings. This was based on her own preferences and desires. I can’t figure out how I can make SCM work for the long term if I’m already needing to use their upper level book choices. I did not use an enrichment guide. I planned all my own this year. I have no idea how I will increase the depth of study for these subjects as the kids get older and coordinate them with their history studies as ADE suggests. Maybe the enrichment guide specifies how to tailor studies for each age group. I absolutely love SCM’s learning and living DVD, but if I had lesson plans that reminded me how to tailor family studies to an older child I wouldn’t worry that I am forgetting something I once learned.  Full lesson plans (similiar to the Alveary) would also keep me from having to use my own brain power to come up with more in depth work and exam questions for the older children’s enrichment studies.  I guess I see SCM as being perfect, absolutely perfect, for younger children, but am realizing it might take some work on my part to make it work for my children as they age. I know many have done this successfully and hoping the new series by Sonya will help me feel comfortable staying with SCM for the long haul. I really do love the company and the people who work for it. They are always so humble, kind, and understanding.

    Kayla Nichols

    Sonya,  if you happen to see the forum posts:

    I just realized exactly what I would love to see from SCM. I would love to see you pick through the ADE podcast covering forms 4-6 and explain how SCM materials and guides meets Miss Mason’s goals as specified in that podcast. I realize I’m asking a lot here. 😉 But I bet I’m not the only one who would love to see it.   Just thought it was worth a shot to suggest it.

    I think I’ll also post this to the suggestions for HS series thread.


    Kayla, I’m curious what you mean when you say you have already had to assign your 5th grader books from the 7-9 and 10-12 grade level history?

    From my experience with SCM I am guessing you feel that they aren’t assigning enough reading for history so you’re pulling more books in. Or that you’re not holding your student to the slow reading/savoring pace of CM so they’re getting through books very quickly. Or you feel that because your child reads well they should be reading ‘harder’ books. I would suggest a couple thoughts:

    1. Don’t. Let it be the amount of reading it is. Slow down the pace. Let the books be age appropriate content wise. Don’t feel that you need to cram in more books. Leave that time for fitting in other subjects in the feast of learning or for free afternoons to be spent outdoors, doing handicrafts, and enjoying life.

    2. Use book lists appropriate to your child’s age from other publishers/places instead. The grade recommendations are there for a reason. Examples of places you may look at would be AO, Beautiful Feet Books, Sonlight, etc. Again, I don’t think you need to have tons and tons of extra books.

    I’m not sure your kids ages beyond the 5th grader you mentioned. Mine are 11th, 7th, 6th, 4th, 3rd, 1st, K, PreK, PreK, and baby #10 is joining us this winter. I have some kids who love to read and others who are content with fewer books. I hold each child to a steady reading pace for history to let them savor the books. It is very rare that I let them read more/ahead of the schedule. Why? Because they can read other books if they want to read more, but I want them to slow down and develop relationships with these books in a different way. If they are gulping down an entire book in just a week or two they are not being given time to think about what is going on, what might happen next, what they would do if they were in that character’s place, etc. I’ll also be the first to say I don’t slow down our reading quite to the speed of some programs where a child reads the book once a week. Find a balance that is right for your family.

    Kayla Nichols

    Tristan, thanks for the reply. We do believe in slow reading. And I certainly don’t have book worms. My oldest prefers the older age books but never chooses reading over outdoor play. She isn’t reading outside of morning school time and 30 minutes of afternoon free reading.  I guess I mostly find it confusing that what scm recommends as 10-12 reading (Plutarch as stated by Sarah 2106) is assigned starting in grade 4 or 5 by the Alveary.  What Veritas’ Omnibus schedules starting in 7th grade is not covered by SCM until much much later if ever. It seems there is no agreement on what age level a book should be read.  While I do believe in long slow reading and realize things like Omnibus will never fit due to their harried pace, I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what books are appropriate for my child and their age and what will be appropriate for them in the future. And I wonder if there is a curriculum out there that matches my kid without me being made to feel guilty for having them working ahead or feel guilty for having them read less than recommended. It seems like there is a lot of guilt both ways.  And no matter what a child will be ahead based on one provider (you are pushing too hard and giving developmentally inappropriate material) and behind based on another provider’s recommendations (pick up the pace momma and don’t neglect your child’s education).  Sorry for the rant. I guess figuring this out is just all part of being an educator and knowing your students.


    LOL, that makes more sense! Yes, it is hard being the one in charge of your child’s education.

    When I think about a book for age appropriateness to figure out when to assign it I look at a couple things:

    1. Is it within my child’s reading ability? Meaning are they going to understand the sentences without needing to sound out or look up a lot of the words? This is where our kids vary so much I think. My 2nd child and my 4th for example are opposites. The 2nd was slower to master reading and progress to chapter books. The 4th taught himself to read chapter books at age 3 1/2. However this then lead me to my next evaluation question. It is a combination of being able to read the words AND comprehend what the sentences mean.

    2. Does this book talk about situations, relationships, or topics in a way that is not appropriate for my child’s developmental age? While my 4th child could actually read Across Five Aprils or To Kill a Mockingbird at age 5, the topics they cover (war, civil rights era, rape, etc) are not topics that are appropriate for a 5 year old developmentally. In the same vein, a history or literature book may cover a topic that I do not want to discuss with my child until a specific age/developmental stage, such as genocide, graphic war descriptions, murder, married or unmarried physical relationships, etc.

    Let’s look at an example: Amos Fortune, Free Man is a book that discusses slavery and is pretty descriptive. I would not be comfortable having a 4th grader read that book, even if they can comprehend it just fine. I would want to choose a less descriptive book on slavery. At the same time it’s a book I think 7th-9th graders would be developmentally ready to tackle and handle the questions and emotions it brings up. And I would not want my 1st grader reading a book centered on slavery at all. We would save that entire topic for a later age/developmental stage.

    I’m not sure if that helps or not. Even with a great book list from someone else we still need to use discernment to find what we feel is right for each child. That means pre-reading it yourself or knowing what guidelines a person used to compile their book list. (For example, The Good and the Beautiful offers a book list for a couple of dollars that is extensive and they spell out exactly what the books on the list may not contain. Such as no profanity, no violence used for shock value or graphic, no portraying bad behavior as normal/acceptable.)

    Doug Smith

    Kayla Nichols said …

    “but if I had lesson plans that reminded me how to tailor family studies to an older child I wouldn’t worry that I am forgetting something I once learned. Full lesson plans (similiar to the Alveary) would also keep me from having to use my own brain power to come up with more in depth work and exam questions for the older children’s enrichment studies.”


    We have those things. They are in our history and enrichment lesson plan books.

    Kayla Nichols

    Doug, thanks for the reply.

    I use and love the history plans. I’ve never seen the enrichment guides other than the samples online. Do they show how to increase the depth and make sure we are requiring enough of our older students? I am nervous about implementing this as my children age. I can easily see myself expecting the same thing out of them in first grade and 12th grade. After listening to the ade podcast on high school forms I realized there is more to this in high school than in elementary school. I would prefer something that walked me through how to adjust the level just as the scm history guide adjusts for the age levels by adding in individual readers and different exam questions.  (Maybe the enrichment guide does this and I just overlooked it)

    For instance, I see the enrichment guide tells you how often to do Spanish with Miss Mason, but how do I take them from learning with this program as a young student to eventually reading and narrating and being fluent in Spanish by graduation? How should art study change in high school?  Will the enrichment guides address this or add in an art survey course? Can the enrichment guides be paired to coordinate with the time period we are studying in history?

    Will there be grade 7-12 lesson plans written for the individual subjects that show what they should be studying at that age and give prompts for written narrations? I am assuming from all that I’ve heard so far that things like solfege and dance are purposely not covered in scm’s lesson plans, but are there some subjects like citizenship and current events that aren’t in the enrichment guide because they will be added only in upper levels? Would I expect these things to pop up in future individual lesson plans for grades 7-12?

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read through my ramblings and help me sort things out. Thanks for all the wonderful resources you have and the work you do.

    Tamara Bell


    A much of this is covered in blog posts or specific books like Your Questions Answered: Narration.

    SCM is getting ready to do a series on CM in highschool.  Hopefully it will help.  🙂

    Kayla Nichols

    Tamara, thanks. I’ll go look there.

    Sonya Shafer

    Kayla, you have some great questions and have received some wonderful answers. I would just like to pop in here to add a little more background information that I hope will be helpful. Here’s a little peek into my heart.

    Yes, the plan is to detail the increased work load for high school in the Individual Studies for those grades. It probably won’t look exactly like any other CM curriculum, though. My goal is not to replicate Charlotte’s 19th-century British classroom work and schedule. My goal is to apply Charlotte’s philosophy, principles, and methods to a 21st-century American Christian home school.

    I want to put a large emphasis on Bible history as it aligns with world history (those are my streams of history for the first three time periods) and make sure my students understand how American history aligns with world history (the streams of history for the last two time periods).

    I want to make this type of education simple to implement and very doable for a busy mom or dad. I want to encourage each family to teach the child, not just the curriculum; so I try to give suggestions and recommendations that can be tweaked as needed to best fit each individual situation.

    I don’t have sol-fa or dance in the line up, because those seem like they would be easier to do in a group setting. If we ever move into producing resources for groups, I would love to include those subjects. But something similar that seems more doable in a home setting is the hymn singing that we recommend (and possibly the Swedish Drill, if desired).

    I include some Plutarch and Shakespeare, just not as much as Charlotte did.  Same with Latin. You are free, of course, to add more as desired. I figured it is easier to take a suggested course of study and add more to it rather than try to decide what to leave off it. Most homeschool parents I know tend to overload rather than simplify. 🙂

    (Oh, and just between us girls, we are working on something that will be a huge help with increasing the difficulty level of narrations as the students level up. But don’t tell anyone.)

    I wish we had all twelve grades of lesson plans and resources done right now, but we will keep plodding along and faithfully try to add more each year.

    I hope this little peek “behind the scenes” helps you know where SCM is coming from in its approach so you can select the resources that will best meet your needs and help you give your students a wonderfully enriching CM education.

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