The Bridge: Joyfully Blending Classical Conversations & Charlotte Mason for Upper Elementary Families

This entry is part 26 of 38 in the series Classsical Conversations

bridging the gap between Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason (AO) in the upper elementary years, grades 4-6

The following post was originally published in May 2021. I have updated it in May 2022 to reflect the upcoming school year.

I am part of a small minority of homeschooling bloggers who believe the Classical and Charlotte Mason approaches to education are extremely similar. We have successfully combined the two approaches over the past 5 years of homeschooling. I love the richness of our homeschool! We have the grounding in Classical Conversations memory work, which has given my kids context, rooms, categories (whatever you want to call the memory pegs) to categorize information. And we have the beauty of a Charlotte Mason-inspired list of books, courtesy of Ambleside Online, to delight in learning in every subject imaginable.

Oh, the delights!

While there are not many bloggers, I have noticed there are a LOT of homeschooling families who are in the same boat as us – looking for a way to combine the beauty of CM with the truth and history of the Classical model. Each of us looking for that perfect balance of truth, goodness, and beauty.

This post may include affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase based on my recommendation, I get a small remuneration at no extra expense to you. I only recommend things I use and believe to be a blessing.

A Widening Gap Between CC & CM

Even as we have enjoyed bridging the gap (however small) between these two educational philosophies, I have understood there would come a day when the gap would widen. One day we would have to choose between one or the other. I like to believe no matter the choice we make, our early years spent in both camps will be beneficial in our final years of homeschool. We have developed habits in both approaches which will hopefully abide forever.

Having surveyed the landscape of both Classical Conversations Challenge years and the later years of Ambleside Online‘s book lists, I have identified the narrow gap widens in two places, the 4th-grade year and the 7th-grade year. This three-year period of time is unique to both CC – known as the Essentials years – and to Ambleside Online – known as the FOURTH year. Both offer heavier workloads to students, as they build toward middle and high school. In 7th grade, the gap is so wide as to require the aforementioned need to choose.

With all this in my mind, I sat down this April to plan our next school and realized I needed to pare down some of the AO list for my upcoming 5th grader. She simply cannot be doing school for 7 hours a day. It’s too much.

Then the gears started turning in my head.

The Bridge Between CM & CC

I decided I would prepare a Charlotte Mason-inspired, Classical Conversations-friendly plan for the upper elementary years. It is lighter on reading than the 4th, 5th, and 6th years of AO and heavier on related content than the upper years of Foundations in CC.

Those of you who have followed me for the past couple of cycles of CC may know I created some lists of One Thing More for individual subjects for CC. They were intended for students repeating a cycle. This new plan is a LOT more than that. I have attempted to create something that will fit our homeschool as we have known it while cutting back in some places where AO pushes forward.

Where Ambleside would recommend 5-6 books for history per year – yes! – I cut that down to one or two per term. Each of the other subjects is pared back a bit, too. Where Ambleside would be on their history cycle may not match (and likely doesn’t) each year’s CC Cycle, I am attempting to be in the same “general ballpark” for CC Cycles. There is still the richness of a Charlotte Mason education, with attention to the amount of time we want to homeschool.

Slaves Need Not Apply

For a number of years on this blog, I have shared our homeschool experiences – the successes and the failures. I hope one of the things I have shared with you in every article about homeschooling is the JOY we have in our homeschool! We absolutely love it – not every day is roses and lollipops – but we wouldn’t even think of trading!

But another thing I hope to share with you is our refusal to become slaves of any curriculum. Yes, we are big fans of what works for us! But the key to that phrase is “what works for us.” The things which don’t fit our lives get tossed. Only the good stuff – the best stuff – remains.

We are not entirely in either Classical or Charlotte Mason camps. I see choices from homeschool bloggers in both camps all the time I would not make. And I don’t think we are that good of an example of homeschoolers for either approach.

So, as I lay out the plan I have for the Bridge (that’s what I am calling it right now), I am not seeking followers. I am just letting you know the map for the next year. Do you want to come along? Great! Don’t like that item or this item? Drop it! Don’t want to pick up anything else? Fine by me, girl! You Do YOU! Your homeschool will be all the happier for it.

What you Can Expect from the Bridge in the Near Future

I will be working on actual week-by-week reading lists in the model of Ambleside Online’s book lists and schedules in the following subjects:

All this will be soon released for the upcoming Classical Conversations Cycle 2 year.

Other Subjects

We are devoted (not slavish) users of Saxon Math from the beginning. If you are thinking, as many CC families are about transitioning to Saxon Math in 5/4, I recommend you read my articles about Saxon Math 5/4. Start here.

We are also big fans of the IEW and EEL work we do during the Essentials years. I did not want to miss out on these elements of Essentials while doing this plan.

If you are not planning on adding Latin until CC does, no worries! Charlotte Mason (and other Classical programs) recommend starting Latin in 4th grade. Having done a modicum of Latin studies this past year, I agree with the early start. Our Conlatio – a once a week Gathering for the entire family – is simple and built upon the Classical Conversations memory work for Latin from all 3 cycles. It is amazing to watch how much the Latin grammar and the English grammar feed each other! I am always floored by how much my kids can do simply because of the CC memory work. UPDATE: While my heart’s desire is to provide you with the Conlatio resources this year, it is just not a reality for me. However, stay tuned, because I sense God is moving in this area. Where He moves, I shall eagerly follow.

The riches will still be covered by our Gathering Placemats. This separate morning-time resource has been available and beneficial to many families for the past three years. I release Gathering sets for the upcoming school year each August. I will also be writing up a 5-day Bible reading plan for my daughter.

What does the Bridge Cost?

Nothing. I am putting together this plan for my students not knowing your students at all. The program I am creating for my kids is based off of our experience with Ambleside Online and Classical Conversations. And I wouldn’t want to have “unhappy customers” if the plan doesn’t work for you. This is not a business venture for me.

However, I would ask one simple thing. If you get a recommendation for a book or a curriculum from this website, would you please use my affiliate links to make your purchases? The curricula will cost the same for you, but the recommendations I make and the remunerations offered by those companies make our homeschool possible. I try to make as many things as possible free on this site. Your purchases through my affiliate links help facilitate that goal.

How Can I get Updates on the Bridge?

You can stay in the loop with the Bridge through constant vigil on my site and social media.

Just kidding. You can get updates and extras when you sign up to get my emails. I have a specific email list for you. Here’s the sign-up.

Looking to continue navigating the paths between Charlotte Mason and Classical philosophies in the upper elementary years? Please sign up here. If you are already a subscriber, it will NOT double-subscribe you.

Will the Bridge Work for you?

Short answer? I don’t know. Are you a family who has already been combining CM and CC? Then it may! Are you a family who has just done memory work in the early years of Classical Conversations and looking to expand? Again, it may.

You see, that thing about not being slavish to any curriculum is so important to me. I put it on a shelf in my mind right next to the sign which reads, “Build Your Own Nest.” I can’t build your homeschool nest for you. However, I can offer you a look around mine. Hopefully you will find inspiration in your perusal. Perhaps you will find ideas.

I hope for one thing with my blog: to be a blessing to you. If I succeed in that pursuit, I am over-the-moon excited and encouraged to keep going. The Bridge is offered with the same target in mind – blessing.

Here’s to the upper elementary years – HOPE!

UPDATE: How the Bridge – Cycle One Went for Us

We LOVED our year together. I ended up adding my not-quite-eligible-for-Essentials-4th grader to our Bridge schedule, in order to lighten my workload. It was a delight for all of us. My kids were constantly talking about their favorite books and have become quite reliable book influencers within their CC community.

As I have been preparing for Cycle Two, our options have become a source of delight and excitement for me. I can’t wait to share all these beautiful books with my kids!

bridging the gap between Classical Conversations and Charlotte Mason (AO) in the upper elementary years, grades 4-6

Series Navigation<< One Thing More: CC Cycle 2 GeographyMath + History + Art, a Scribblers Resource for CC Cycle 1 >>

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Melissa

    This makes me SO HOPEFUL! Even in the foundations level I feel frantic. Now that my eldest is finishing challenge A, it is even more so. Everything goes so so so fast. We just struggle to have the restful, wonder-filled education Id envisioned even though i do see the benefits we’ve gained through our classical study. I need help for my younger two and clarity for my oldest. I desire CM but have been so tied to CC and community that I don’t know how to venture out. Etc etc. And ultimately, I’ve felt the Lord encourage us to stay with CC and I trust Him, but I also know that saying yes to His direction doesn’t always mean that it will look like I think once I step out into it. So, THANK YOU for this! I’m grateful and excited to see what you are doing and experiment to see how it might fit for us. Thank you!

  2. Natalie Bowen

    Thank you! I love this! I go back and forth between CC and wanting something a little more in depth, like CM does. And I SO appreciate sources for repeating a cycle! Thank you for your time and effort in this! It’s a blessing!

  3. Joanna

    I love this idea! We’ve been in CC six years and have done all levels, but I have struggled giving my littlest learners more but not too much. We have tried many things alongside CC but none of them have “stuck” because they either didn’t fit with what we were already doing or were too much on top of CC. I am considering A Gentle Feast for next year (for a number of reasons), but this “bridge” may help me scale Foundations up to where I would like us to be without overwhelming me (I have 5 kids in 5 different grades). In fact, I had often thought of making a program to correlate with the CC cycles and help families fill the gap, but I have had too much on my plate the last few years to seriously consider it. Can’t wait to see what you pull together for your family and figure out if it might work well for ours, too! Thank you for putting in so much time and effort on something that will bless so many others!

  4. Liss k

    This sounds so amazing! However, am I missing something?? I don’t see a link, a list or anything more for CC Cycle 2. I’d love to be able to utilize this resource, but I don’t actually see it anywhere 🙂 Thanks for any help or direction you can give me!

    1. Leah Hudson

      Thanks for letting me know about my oversight! I added the links to the individual subjects. 🙂

  5. Molly Rudolph

    Leah, are you planning a cycle 3 for next year? I am very excited to find your resources. I have been doing CC for 9 years, with lots of CM at home, but as my dyslexic youngest is getting ready for Essentials next year, she really needs more CM- and support would be lovely! Do you have a forum where we CC and CM moms can exchange ideas or encourage each other?

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