A Gentle Feast™ is a flexible, Charlotte-Mason based curriculum designed for Christian families that encourages you to work as a family as much as possible. Using a mixture of living books and educational resources plus online sources and the materials provided in the Gentle Feast packets, you will have a curriculum that can be used for everything except math and foreign language for grades one through twelve. A Gentle Feast provides complete lesson plans along with a significant amount of lesson material, but you will still need to purchase or borrow quite a few books. A Gentle Feast materials are currently all sold only as downloadable PDF files.
A Gentle Feast is presented in Forms I, II, III, and IV. Form I covers grades one through three. Form II is best for grades four through six. Form III is for grades seven through nine, and Form IV will suit grades ten through twelve. Forms loosely differentiate groups of grade levels, but you should try to combine all of your children together for learning as much as possible. The more a parent is able to have his or her children working in the same Form, the more efficient it will be.
In addition, you select from a primary concentration in four historical eras
- Green Year - American and British history from 1000 to 1650 plus early ancient civilizations and the Egyptians
- White Year - American and British history from 1650 to 1803 plus Ancient Greece
- Red Year - American and British history from 1804 to 1900 plus Ancient Rome
- Blue Year - American and British history from 1900 to the present plus the early Middle Ages (not yet available)
It is expected that you will cycle through the four Years (historical periods), so students might be in Form I the first time through The White Year. When they recycle through the White Year four years later, they will be in a higher level Form. While the Morning Time Packet described below remains the same for all ages, their assigned books and other work will be quite different. (Eventually, there will be additional content for Morning Time Packets for those cycling through the Years a second time.)
As you can see this is not comprehensive coverage of world history since primary emphasis is upon American (U.S.) and British history. You might have noticed the addition of ancient history and the Middle Ages alongside the primary historical period for each Year. These strands are introduced beginning in Form II. Author Julie Ross decided upon this approach as most consistent with that of Charlotte Mason. In Mason’s case, the emphasis was primarily upon British history. In A Gentle Feast Ross expands this to include American history.
Charlotte Mason was not concerned with trying to cover all of history. She believed that children should first learn about their own country and do so through stories that make historical characters come alive to them. She also believed that using a story approach using living books would stimulate an interest in history, and that children would continue to read and learn other areas of history in later years.
For each Year there is a Morning Time Packet, a different Parent Packet for each form, and a different Student Packet for each form. Student Packets for the first two levels include both cursive and print versions.
The Morning Time Packet is used with the entire family, ideally first thing in the morning. This consists of Bible reading, Bible memory verses, and prayer time plus rotating activities from the “Beauty Loop” for hymn studies, poetry study, recitation, picture studies, composer and classical music studies, and read-alouds (fables, hero tales, and classic literature). Some subjects such as those within the Beauty Loop should actually loop. This means starting with the first one on the list and working through them sequentially. If you miss a day or run short on time, you just pick up from wherever you are in the loop. Poems, hymn lyrics, and recitation material are all included in your packet, and pictures and musical compositions are connected by hyperlinks. Many of the items in the Morning Packet are linked to the time period being studied in that Year’s program.
Along with your Morning Time Packets you will need additional resources: Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert Morgan is used for every Year. You will also choose one of four read-aloud books for each Year depending upon the age range(s) you are teaching. These four books change for each Year.
Parent Packets are the mainstay of the curriculum. They explain how the curriculum works and lay out lesson plans for three terms of 12 weeks each for a total of 36 weeks. Lesson plans are presented in weeks for the most part. You will be using many additional resources. These are mentioned in the sections describing each part of the Year’s course work, but you can find a succinct list of required resources generally about half way through each Parent Packet. For example, for Form II of the White Year, some of the additional required resources are Tales of Troy and Greece by Andrew Lang, Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall, The Story of the Greeks by H.A. Guerber, Famous Men of Greece by John Haaren, The Story of the 13 Colonies by Christine Miller, Simply Grammar by Karen Andreola, Grammar Land by M.L. Nesbitt, The New Way Things Work by David MacCaulay, a K'Nex Simple Machines Kit, and Physics for Every Kid by Janice Van Cleave. The lists of resources as well as the geography lesson plans section of each Parent Packet include links to free resources as well as to others that you will need to purchase or borrow.
If you are unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason’s narration technique, you can read about how to implement it in the first part of each Parent Packet. As you expect from a Charlotte Mason program, extensive booklists for other living books are included.
Student Packets coordinate with the Year (Green, White, Red, or Blue) covering a historical time period, and you also select by level from Forms I through IV. Student packets coordinate with the reading and study assignments for the course. Here is where students will complete much of their written work. Within these packets are Scripture memory verses, hymn lyrics, poems for recitation, copywork passages (from the read-aloud books for the entire family), space to write dictation passages, creative writing assignments, and drawing assignments (in Forms I and II). Student Packets do not stand alone but are entirely dependent upon the other packets as to how and when to use them.
The flow of activities happens in blocks following an analogy for a feast. Morning Time, the appetizer, begins every school day. Language Arts is considered the soup and salad. During this period, students work on reading, phonics (for younger students), dictation, copywork, and creative writing, and grammar. (If you have children in the primary grades, you might want to check out Ross’ list of suggested student readers .) The Academic Block is considered the main course. During this time, students will work on natural history, geography, history, math, foreign language, singing, and either play or “Swedish Drill”—a form of physical education used by Charlotte Mason. Science is added in Forms II and above. Most of these subjects will rotate every other day. Dessert for your educational feast consists of weekly add-ons from nature study, “poetry tea time,” handicrafts, drawing, and read-alouds with Forms II and above adding the study of Shakespeare and Plutarch. Ross suggests a weekly rotating through the dessert activities with read-alouds sometimes doubling up with drawing or handicrafts.
There are a number of different lesson plan charts in each Parent Packet. Most important are the charts showing weekly assignments for learning prescribed by A Gentle Feast. These charts do not include math or foreign language, and there might be other subjects you want to add. However, a sample schedule chart shows blocks of time set aside for math and foreign language to remind you that those are an important part of the curriculum. You should read through the Parent Packet carefully to really understand how the program works and make sure you are covering all that you need to.
While you’ll need to gather many resources, you get to choose what sorts of hands-on activities and outings you will do. This makes the program very flexible.
The entire program should leave plenty of free time in each day for both parent and children. In the Parent Packets, Ross quotes Charlotte Mason regarding scheduling. Mason encourages parents to keep lessons short, alternate types of lessons and activities to keep from losing students’ attention, and make sure that children have plenty of free time each day (preferably spent outdoors).
A Gentle Feast makes it easy to implement a Charlotte Mason program while maintaining a sense of order and progress in your curriculum. It does a fine job of helping you develop a manageable flow to your curriculum while ensuring that your schedule includes time for learning the Bible, learning to appreciate and love good literature, and developing an appreciation for beauty through the arts and nature.
Note that Ross will be launching a member site in the summer of 2017 so that purchasers of the curriculum will have access to additional online resources and links.