English Lessons Through Literature: A Beautiful Blend of Charlotte Mason and Classical Styles

June 1, 2015

Sarah Shelton

Sarah Shelton

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Have you heard of Barefoot Ragamuffin Curricula?


Two years ago we stumbled upon Barefoot Ragamuffin Curriculum written by Kathy Jo Devore! I was first drawn to the name as my husband always jokes that I am a barefoot hippie! We were so impressed with the quality and style of this beautiful Charlotte Mason Curriculum with a Classical Twist! I have been a Charlotte Mason Style Homeschooler for years now, before the Charlotte Mason Style I used quite a few history books that had a classical style to them. I was excited to find that English Lessons Through Literature incorporates both styles! It’s the best of both homeschooling worlds! I loved this program so much, that last year I dumped EVERYTHING that I was using for Language Arts and English and switched over to English Lessons Through Literature.

Description from Barefoot Ragamuffin Curriculum:
English Lessons Through Literature is a unique program which combines the gentleness of Charlotte Mason’s methods with the thoroughness of modern classical methods. Traditional, proven methods are used to give children a firm foundation in all core language arts areas: grammar and mechanics, writing, penmanship, spelling, vocabulary, and of course, literature. Picture studies, poetry, and Aesop’s fables are also included.

Let me tell you a little bit about the program and why we love it! 
There are two books to this program, a teacher edition and a student workbook. I prefer the digital edition as you can view the teacher’s manual with the full colored pictures and answer key on one device. The book is quite large and would take up a lot of room on a bookshelf! The student workbook can be purchased in print form or digital. You can have your children copy their work into their own notebook from the digital version, or you can print their own book or purchase the printed version. I prefer printing the pages from the PDF, so they can use the lines and diagram lines in the upper grades. It just makes it easier for me, then I can use it for all my children as they progress!

What I love about ELTL is that books are scheduled into the program for you! There are many Charlotte Mason style Language Arts Curricula that do not include readers into the lessons, so you have the CM style, but you still need to find books on your own. There are other programs that include books, but they are so expensive and cost a fortune for a complete program. All of the books that are chosen for this program are classical works of literature that can all be found for free on the public domain! Each lesson tells you what chapter needs to be read before completing the lesson. Now, if you have a strong reader they can just read the chapter on their own and then work on their lesson. If you have a child that needs to be read to, you will read the chapter aloud to them. 

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I had a dilemma because I have one daughter using Level 1 who couldn’t read on her own yet, and another daughter using Level 3 who is dyslexic and struggled with reading. I can honestly tell you that I do not like to read outloud. That’s tough for a homeschool mom! I should love it, but I don’t. Especially multiple times a day. It would take us hours to get our work done with multiple ages. Kathy Jo suggested using Librivox for the books. I downloaded the app to my Kindle Fire which we use specifically for school, and downloaded every book that I needed. My girls take turns listening to their chapter and then going to sit down and do their work. When one is listening, the other child is working on something else and vice versa. Most books have a couple of free versions to choose from. You can listen to a sample and see if you like the reader’s voice. Some voices we didn’t like. My girls specifically like one that has a sweet Grandma voice and anything that is British. Who doesn’t like a British voice reading to you?!

After the chapter is read (or listened to) it is time to do the work. The lessons includes copywork, dictation, narration, picture study and grammar exercises that incorporate sentences or passages from what they just read. Starting in Level 3, they begin to diagram sentences. This is the first Charlotte Mason style program that I have found that incorporates diagramming. It is very thorough and very Classical. There are also poems and Aesop’s fables that are to be read aloud to the student. These are short and sweet, and do not take long at all. I actually enjoy reading them to my children. 

Picture Study is sprinkled in throughout the curriculum. The digital versions have beautiful prints in full color. This is why we love to look at it on our Kindle so they can see the full color version. Printed versions have the prints in black and white to save the cost of printing the books.

In the early levels, narration is done by drawing pictures of what they learned and read. My 7 yo LOVES this! It is her favorite part of the curriculum. Every page that has copywork on it has a huge space to draw a picture of what they learned from the story. These are a fun keepsake! Copywork includes excerpts from the stories they have read, or poems, Aesop’s Fables and even Maxims and Bible verses using the NASB version. The upper levels have written lines for the student to do written narration, there is also a smaller space at the top if they would still like to draw a picture. 

The Grammar is a lot more thorough and complete than other Charlotte Mason Style programs I have found. It is still gentle in it’s instruction, but I feel like it is covered in a very thorough manner. It progresses with each level. Composition and Spelling are naturally included when the student is exposed to the Literature and as they begin their narration and dictation exercises. 

One of my favorite parts of this program is that it is only done THREE days a week! This was such a blessing to us! I use the other 2 days of the week to plug in Science or History. It’s a nice break, keeps the lessons short ala Charlotte Mason Style, and doesn’t have us doing school ALL day long!

To make this a COMPLETE program you will need to have Handwriting and a Reading program. Luckily, Barefoot Meandering provides these as well. 
Handwriting Lessons through Literature and Reading Lessons Through Literature. These use Webster’s Syllabary and phonograms using the Orton Gillingham Method. There are multiple handwriting fonts to choose from in manuscript, cursive or italic. Reading Lessons through Literature also include the Elson Readers into the curriculum.

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