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We have officially completed our first year of homeschooling, and with it, our Gentle + Classical Primer curriculum!
I first heard about the Gentle + Classical Primer from my mother, who heard about it from her homeschooling circles. This is one of the perks of being a 2nd generation homeschooler. Your mom knows about all the good stuff. You also get wonderful hand-me-down books, but I digress.
Despite getting off to an unusual start, it was a good year. On March 12, 2020, I left the church preschool where I taught and my boys attended, thinking we would eventually return. However, the pandemic had other ideas. Once I realized that we would not actually be going back to preschool in a couple of weeks, I decided to launch into teaching my son at home.
We are a second generation homeschooling family, and had originally intended to begin homeschooling when my oldest son started kindergarten. The pandemic caused an earlier start, but that was a gift in a way. Due to my experience teaching a class of 4 year olds at the preschool, I felt quite comfortable with teaching my own 4 year old. I might have felt more apprehensive if I had started with a level that I had never taught before.
When we began our studies with the Gentle + Classical Primer, I was about 30 weeks pregnant with my daughter. My older son was just shy of 4 years old, and my younger son was 2 years old. Currently, we homeschool year round. This is partially due to the fact that we started at an odd time of year, partially because we welcomed a new baby during our first year, and partially because we dealt with a family emergency for several months over the course of the year. We took breaks to deal with these things as needed. It took us just under one calendar year to complete the 36 units of the Gentle + Classical Primer.
What is the worldview?
The author, Erin Cox, is a super sweet lady. She has both young children and teenagers and is an experienced homeschooler. She is also a non-denominational Christian, and the curriculum is written from that perspective. It includes Scripture memory, catechism, hymn study, and Bible stories.
What does it include?
The Gentle + Classical Primer includes 36 units for a full school year. Each unit covers a virtue, manners and hygiene, hymn, math, catechism, Bible story, Scripture memory, a tie-in with Gentle + Classical Nature, wonder tale, nursery rhyme, poetry, and either art or music.
Do I need to add anything else?
If your child is working on a K5 level, you will need to add phonics, math, and handwriting.
What philosophy of education does it espouse?
Though the word classical is in the name, I would describe it as more of a Charlotte Mason approach. If you are familiar with Ambleside Online, it is very much what I would imagine Ambleside Online Junior to look like, if such a thing existed.
Like Ambleside Online, GCP is divided into three terms, with twelve units in each term. Some components change from unit to unit, and some components are studied for the entire duration of the term. For example, a new Bible story is introduced each week. The same virtue, hymn, artist, and composer are studied for 12 weeks.
The teacher’s guide begins with an extensive description of the educational philosophy of the curriculum. The author really encourages you to read Home Education by Charlotte Mason before beginning. I echo that recommendation! Before I had read Mason’s book, I was overwhelmed by all the bits and pieces. Reading Home Education gave me an understanding of why there are so many parts and why those parts have value.
“We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can.” – Charlotte Mason
The primary concept behind a Charlotte Mason education is providing a whole-to-parts education. Expose children to great art, music, and literature, and let them draw from it what they will in their early years. In Charlotte Mason vernacular, we call this spreading the feast. You will be amazed at what even young children can glean from hearing quality literature, music, and ideas.
How much preparation does it require? Is it open and go?
This is a complex question. When I first looked at the teacher’s guide, I felt a sense of overwhelm. However, it is actually fairly simple to implement. You just have to understand the rationale for all of the components.
I would say it is open and go…once you understand the philosophical underpinnings. I spent about 10-15 minutes per week switching out the materials in our morning basket, and we just rolled from there.
Can you use it with multiple children? What is the age range?
I used the program primarily with my 4 year old, who was in pre-K. My 2 year old tagged along and really enjoyed himself, but I would not purchase this with the intent of using it for a 2 year old. I think it could be entirely appropriate for an older child as well. If I had it to do over again, I would have used it for the K5 year.
My 4 year old had already attended nearly 2 years of preschool, so he was solid on his letters, numbers, shapes, and colors already. If you have a 4 year old who has never done preschool work, I would definitely start with the Gentle + Classical Preschool instead of Primer.
How much does it cost?
The teacher’s guide is available as a free download. There are also required books. The cost of those would vary based on whether or not you could find used copies.
If you are only going to buy one additional thing from the Gentle + Classical shop, rather than the whole bundle, I highly recommend the Art + Music Pack. It includes all of the paintings that are covered in the artist study. The music cards are delightfully illustrated with watercolor images.
If you can afford to buy two additional things, the storyboard packs are also gorgeous. Before children begin to formally learn to narrate or tell back stories, they can “play back” stories with the storyboard pieces. My older son adored storyboard time on Fridays.
Would you recommend it?
Yes, absolutely! We had a beautiful year and made a lot of memories. The recommended books are all high quality and will be part of our permanent home library.
I hope this review is helpful for you as you make decisions about educating your littles!