This Gentle Feast review was a long time coming. My children and I are nearly through cycle two, Wars, Whigs, and Washington and last year my oldest went through Cycle one (formerly the Green Year). I think now I have a firm grasp on the ins and outs of A Gentle Feast.
A Gentle Feast is purely based off of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education. If you’re unfamiliar, you can read more here: What Is A Charlotte Mason Philosophy of Education?
One of the biggest changes was the names of periods in history. A Gentle Feast use to separate history periods by color coding it but now it’s Cycles 1-4.
New to A Gentle Feast?
If you’re not, skip this part because it’s just a quick run down of what is A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is the closest open and go CM curriculum that I know of. A Gentle Feast encompasses all subjects, except for math but it does come with several Charlotte Mason friendly math curriculum recommendations. Similar to what Charlotte did, grades are separated by forms. Which looks like this:
Form 1: Grades 1-3
Form 2: Grades 4-6
Form 3: Grades 7-9
Form 4: 10-12
Note: My review is from the perspective of teaching a form 1 child.
How A Gentle Feast Works
This is important so I hope you don’t skip over this part. When you’re first starting out with A Gentle Feast there seems to be some confusion until you understand how it works.
Particularly with the history cycles.
I think the misunderstanding I see most commonly is the mix up between cycles and forms.
Therefore let me try to make it very clear.
Forms are the grade your child is in which I separated for you above. The cycle is what period of history is covered. Each year, your child goes through a different cycle in history until they go through all four cycles and then cycle back through. Yes, they will be repeating periods in history but going through them in higher forms (aka higher grades). Therefore the material will be different, more advanced, and the content will take them deeper into that period of history.
Now is that clear as mud? 😂
Seriously, if you’re still having trouble understanding how it works feel free to email at Sarah@holistichomeschooler.com. I’ll do my best to walk you through it or answer any other questions you have.
A Gentle Feast is different than conventional approaches.
If you have been teaching from A Charlotte Mason method then you know this already. A Gentle Feast is surely different than a traditional style approach. While it includes all of your core academics such as reading, language arts, science, history, and geography. True to a Charlotte Mason education, it also gently blends in morning time plans and beauty subjects.
I have to pause here a moment and mention this but don’t you just love that term? “Beauty Subjects” Does that term sort of conjure up a sense of delight and yearning for your child’s education? It does for me but maybe it’s because I know what “Beauty Subjects” entails.
- Picture or Composure Study
- Poetry Recitation
- Poet Study
- Fables, Hero Tales, and Biographies
- Hymn Study
If you’re looking at the above list with interest but wondering what you are suppose to do with it all. No worries, the A Gentle Feast Teacher’s Manuel includes step by step ‘how to’ instructions for each beauty subject.
Beauty Subject Samples:
While I do not feel it is complying with copyright laws to include everything that is in AGF. I will provide samples of each subject just for you to get a flavor and feel for it.
Picture Study is one of my favorite beauty subjects. I enjoy sitting with my children and studying a beautiful portrait with them. Plus, it increases the powers of observation and enhances ones attention to detail. On better days, I thoroughly enjoy sitting down for tea together while wrapping in a picture study, poem, or reading some of our living books.
Sample Picture Study: Mary and Elizabeth Royal.
After the initial picture study, I like to display that weeks picture at the end of our kitchen table. This way our children can glance over it whenever they are near. I’ve been asked a couple of times if the picture studies line up with the history period. Which means, does the artist whose picture your children are studying, line up with the time in history your children are learning about?
Well, yes it does.
Sample Composer Study: (Taken from term 1 week 10) Option 1 “Paris Concerto” Option 2 “Air on the G String.” Often times the composer study includes two options for you to choose from.
Sample Poetry Recitation: The Caterpillar by Christina Rossetti. Several of Christina Rosetti’s popular poems are woven into cycle 2 form 1.
Sample Poet Study: The Eagle and the Dove (term 2, week 23)
Sample Hymn Study: “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” A beautiful hymn that is hyperlinked in the online membership section. I do enjoy the one that is provided but I really like this one by Elenyi and Sarah Young.
Sample Fable or Hero Tales:
Stories of Great Americans is a book that contains short stories of American Heroes. Once a week you read a short story from it in term 3 week 27 the short story is, “How Washington Got Out of a Trap.”
Morning Time Plans
Morning time plans include the beauty loop which was explained above and a daily bible reading. I like how Julie explains the purpose of establishing morning time: “Morning Time is simply a focused, daily ritual that brings the entire family together to share in the feast of books, beauty, and biblical truth. This practice builds a family culture around these shared experiences.”
On a personal note, establishing a morning time routine, really has founded in us all a day beginning in a very deep sense of peace. Prior to this, I felt as though our mornings were a little bit unorganized and slightly chaotic. Now we start with a verse from scripture which nourishes our spirit. Then I pick one subject from the beauty loop to share in together. I mingle this all in during our breakfast time. Our morning time routine typically takes 15 minutes but since I blend it in during breakfast, it isn’t added time to our day.
A Gentle Feast Cycle 2 covers these books from the Bible:
- Plus a term memory verse
A term memory verse is a scripture verse that your children spend the term memorizing. Therefore, by the time the year is over, your child will have memorized 3 scripture verses.
Sample Bible Memory Verse: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8.
All scripture verses are taken from: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version but depending on your denomination, one can easily use their own bible.
Soup and Salad
Soup and Salad is part of an analogy to explain the language arts portion of AGF. Charlotte Mason often used food as a comparison to educating the whole children. Just as food nourishes the body, a rich “diet” in education feeds the mind.
Language Arts includes copy work (writing), grammar, phonics, dictation, drawing and a free write. All which is provided in a student language art workbook. Copy work is usually one of the poems your child has learned to recite, sometimes a scripture verse, or a few sentences from one of the living books that are being read. Basically, the Copy work and dictation relate to other aspects of material that is being covered and is another way for your child to naturally memorize information for better retention.
Sample Copy Work: The Wind by Christina Rossetti. You can choose to have it come in printed or cursive. A Gentle Feast does have a separate cursive workbook.
Sample Grammar Focus:
This picture cuts it off but further direction is provides which says: “All sentences are divided into two parts: the subject (who or what we are speaking about) and the predicate (what is said about the subject).
Description: “Sunlight, twilight, half moon and half sun.”
Drawing Prompt Sample:
(relates to the poem recitation “The Caterpillar” by Christina Rossetti)
Spelling Word Sample:
(Picture cut off spelling word “rose.” How to teach spelling the CM way is provided in the introduction to the LA workbook)
Prompting for oral or written narration is blended throughout the teacher’s manual and your child will need a separate notebook for that.
The Main Course
In line with a Charlotte Mason philosophy, history instructions should begin with the child’s home country. A Gentle Feast has American and Canadian history plans so that you can choose the right home country history for your child.
American Cycle 2 is called Wars, Whigs and Washington and covers:
All Grades- American 1700s History: The American Colonies, The Revolutionary War, The Constitution.
Grades 4-12- British/World (1700-1810)
Grades 5-12– Ancient History: The Greeks
Just to share one History sample was a tough choice to make. I truly wish that I had living books to learn from as a child. Honestly, I often feel as though I missed out by not being offered rich living history books. Reading these with my children has sparked a new interest and thirst in relearning American History, so much so that I greatly look forward to our history readings together. I’ve enjoyed them so much that I purchased some of the high school selections. I blend them in as one of my “mother culture” rotations and read them in my spare time.
Form 1 (grades 1-3) History Book Samples:
“We The People” by Lynne Cheney the story of the constitution.
Form 4 (Grades 10-12) History Book Samples:
“The Story of the Constitution” by Christian Liberty Press.
Reading is a separate purchase but is scheduled into A Gentle Feast. For those that are just learning to read, it is 100 Gentle Lessons in Sights and Sound. It is purely based off of Charlotte Mason’s approach to teaching reading. There is some phonic work and sight work blended into the LA workbook but it isn’t enough to teach reading rather it expands off of concepts taught from Sights and Sounds. You can read my review here: Reading Review: 100 Gentle Lessons in Sights and Sounds.
The level after is Sights and Sounds Level 2.
Read Aloud Sample
The online membership section has a tab for a comprehensive book list. Every reading, from every subject that is schedule throughout A Gentle Feast cycle 2, comes from a book that is on this book list. If you don’t want to have a full and complete curriculum you can even purchase this carefully vetted living book list here:
Sample Form 1 read aloud:
“Understood Betsy” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher was the winner this year even though the reading selection were all Magnificent. My children really felt this story and we all wept together during the bad times and rejoiced in the good. If you’ve ever read Understood Betsy, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you haven’t, prepare yourself for a treat.
Like everything else AGF, geography is taught from a Charlotte Mason approach as well. Grades 1-2 (under form 1) uses Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason which is carefully scheduled throughout the year.
Sample Geography Grade 3 (still form 1): “My American Journey” tour 6, label map and chart using atlas.
Sample Form 2 geography recommendations actually worked best for my oldest. Form 2 geography schedules in readings from Paddle to The Sea with associated map work.
A Gentle Feast offers several foreign language options. In the online membership section one can find a complete schedule for Spanish, French, Latin, and German for all forms. We have chosen Spanish as our second language.
Year 2 Uses Talk Box Mom Book phrases as one of the Spanish resource. Additionally, links to Spanish songs off of You Tube and Spanish for kids (free) off of Spotify. More options are within the resources this is but a quick glimpse of how Spanish is taught. All carefully scheduled in a separate foreign language tab within the online membership section.
Living Science and Natural History
Form 1 schedules in nature study from exploring nature with children. As well as adding in natural history living books which are also scheduled in readings.
Sample Natural History lesson: “Burgess bird book for children” There is an additional natural history book provided that I prefer over this one but my daughter has loved this one quite a bit. All year long we’ve grown quite acquainted with our backyard birds, woodland birds, and winter birds.
This month (May 2020) my daughter has shown more of a delighted internally driven interest in our backyard birds. I’ve happily joined her on a rabbit trail while she learned more about humming birds. Which was initially inspired by Ch. 35, “A Butcher and a Hummer” from Burgess Bird Book. She later went on to make her own humming bird nest. Which to me seemed to be a way to dramatically act out and process the concepts she learned from reading about them.
Note: Forms 2 & 3 will be doing family science lessons together. From 4 students will keep a science notebook of narrations and lab pictures, diagrams, etc.
- Grade 9 covers biology
- Grade 10 covers Chemistry
- Grade 11 covers physics
- Grade 12 covers advanced human anatomy and physiology
An extensive handicraft list is offered in the online membership section of A Gentle Feast. This list links to handicraft resources and Pinterest links for all ages.
Sample Handicraft resource:
Soap Carving which is a beginner’s way of learning to carve that leads into wood carving. Something both of my children are interested in as a handicraft.
Sol-fa is scheduled through A Gentle Feast which are singing lessons for your child. Sol-fa is scheduled for twice a week. (Sample Sol-fa) A Gentle Feast starts off by using “Singing Sol-fa.”
Aside from the copious amount of out of door time that is strongly encouraged by Charlotte Mason and the natural physical health that comes with that. Swedish drills is how physical education is taught from her philosophy which is provided in A Gentle Feast.
Drawing and Art
This is a lesson that is encouraged in AGF, to occur during tea time. Which I feel adds to the overall loveliness that we have found in A Gentle Feast.
Sample Brush Drawing:
John Muir Laws nature videos
The teacher’s manual provides a ‘how to’ section that is immensely helpful for newcomers. It also covers the principles for scheduling A Gentle Feast. Which aids one in understanding the meaning for it all. Additionally, there is a section provided to track term attendance, habit training, field trip ideas, materials needed, and even books needed. For each week (within the teachers manual) there is another space to write in your “wins for the week” and sections for “prep for next week.”
All available online resources are hyperlinked in the membership section, making finding things easy.
As an example, Hymn studies and folk songs are linked to You Tube. Even some of the living books are linked to Librovox which is a free resource that provides a recommended audiobook.
Let’s get to the elephant in the room…
At the very beginning when all of these new updates were to be released there was a hiccup on the printer end. I know a couple people reached out to me about that and some felt discouraged on going forward with A Gentle Feast. However, I want to point out how it was handled.
(1) Once the errors were made known, it seems questions and inquiries were answered promptly. Especially, considering Julie is a one women operation who still educates her own children too.
(2) People were refunded for curriculum that contained errors/damages.
(3) At one point, Julie drove/flew (herself) to the small printing company to help and ensure the remaining printed curriculum was fixed and shipped within a timely manner.
Sure is was a little messy but it was handled incredibly well.
Sometimes mistakes happen we are all human after all. If anything this speaks volumes on Julie’s integrity. I can certainly trust a curriculum creator that fixes someone else’s mistake.
All that to say, that was last year and I want to make it clear, it is no longer an issue. In fact, when I reached out to Julie and asked if the quarantine would affect her ability to produce A Gentle Feast her response was this, “All updated products are in stock. I package the orders in my garage and take them to the post office myself.”
Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
I am often asked, “Are you still using A Gentle Feast?”
My response: “Absolutely and I have no plans in switching.”
I really don’t like curriculum hopping as I think it can easily create gaps within a child’s education. I am incredibly thankful that I found A Gentle Feast early on in our home education otherwise I could have been jumping around until I found something that worked for all of us. A Gentle Feast will likely be the spine of our home education for as long as I can. Now of course, I’ll tweak some things to make it my own. Still, A Gentle Feast is more than enough just the way it is, at a very affordable price.