Hello! We are just about to finish our first year with A Gentle Feast (Cycle one, Form one) and wanted to share our honest, yet simple review for anyone considering the curriculum.
I think back to a post I wrote about the word “Gentle” a while back. I think the name “A Gentle Feast” can easily be mistaken to mean “an easier” Charlotte Mason Education than others, or something like that. But I can tell you this curriculum is not a system and it is not the opposite of “hard.” It will be academically challenging for us as a CM education will naturally be through the years. A Gentle Feast is absolutely used as a tool in our home and I think a good way to describe it is that it has been the opposite of “harsh” or “forced” for us. Our year was absolutely not one of force-feeding. All year, learning felt natural. I was never pulling my child through the day which would inevitably cause tension/resentment in our home and atmosphere. Rather, I felt like I was “gently” leading or coming alongside my student and respecting their personhood in that way. When you understand Miss Mason’s philosophies, you understand that we are only part of the participants of learning for our children. The Holy Spirit, the student herself or self-education, and the living ideas play major roles in the “gentle art of learning”. We (mothers) simply prepare the Feast and present it.
I’d also mention that if you’re looking into this curriculum, I would highly recommend learning more about the CM method of education before buying. It is absolutely and completely “open-and-go” but I would not use AGF until you have done a bit of your own learning on the CM method.
That being said, here are some summarizing thoughts about A Gentle Feast:
ELIMINATES DECISION FATIGUE
One thing this quarantine has taught me is that I’ve unknowingly had what I’m calling “decision fatigue” with just daily life with four children. We’re always making choices. What to cook, where to go, what to do, etc… For me, I needed a curriculum created that I trust for giving all four of my children a fully Charlotte Mason education from first grade through twelfth. This is that for me, friends. I don’t have to choose which artist/composer/hymn to study for Morning Time all these years, (sure I can substitute anything I’d like and I have!) but the initial plan is there, printed out for me for all my students in all their future forms. I don’t have to chart, plan, or schedule every subject for every child all year long, year after year. It’s completely done for me. This alone makes the curriculum incredibly valuable to me, but there’s more.
CONNECTIONS WOVEN THROUGHOUT SCHOOL DAY
I absolutely love how the copywork one week will be a passage from the afternoon read-aloud or the natural history lesson or the poem for recitation. It’s delightful to see the themes flow throughout the day! Our children will make their own connections between all of their feast subjects, but it’s just beautiful when there are these little prompts too. My daughter will light up with excitement and I’ll never grow tired of seeing that.
GENTLE LEARNING RHYTHM WITH A REALISTIC (no burn-out) LAYOUT
I wanted to find something that we could begin early on so that we could grow in the habit of our learning rhythm for all the years to come. We thrive in a familiar routine and I’m just not a “let’s-change-it-up-for-fun” kind of mama. So we began and enjoyed this schedule of 36 weeks of AGF lessons. 3 terms of 12 weeks, working 6 weeks on and 1 week off. There were weeks when we shaved off a subject or two. Some subjects weren’t done at all the way AGF planned them! (Music for example; we have private lessons for those) but for the most part, we were able to stick it out to the end of the year without burnout. In fact, often we finished a history book much sooner that AGF planned which allowed us to blend in the Early American History pack from Beautiful Feet Books. There were only two books I didn’t particularly care for in this history rotation, but it worked out beautifully to blend in the BFB books as a supplement and practical addition to our scheduled early American history studies.
HAND-HOLDING, BEAUTY, KEEPSAKE VALUE
All throughout the teacher’s manual is the perfect amount of hand-holding that I needed for feeling confident in giving a fully CM education for my children as I’m slowly working my way through reading the six volumes myself. Explanation on everything (narration, dictation, picture study, CM principles, I mean everything) is provided. Sample schedules, sample exam questions, pre-reading and prep prompts; the list goes on!
Besides all of that, there is the physical beauty in the design of this curriculum. Every day, I get to open my teacher’s manual to a delightful image and Scripture passage. I get to flip through and find a quote by Charlotte Mason that gently reminds me to fill my cup with nature or Mother Culture so I can continue to fill theirs. (“If mothers could learn to do for themselves…Vol 3, p. 33) Everything about the actual physical curriculum is beautiful and that is very important to me.
And lastly, there is the keepsake value to these spiral bound packets! I will hold her first grade Language Arts packet years from now and be magically transported to this special time that we shared and grew in and loved together. I just know it. I’ll look back on her copywork, her drawings, her creative writing prompts, and be forever grateful that though their childhood is fleeting, these will always remain.
So overall, we are in love with this curriculum and plan to continue with it indefinitely. It’s truly a dream come true for the Charlotte Mason home educator, particularly those with larger families. If you’d like to learn more about it, there is a link on my main page which will take you to the website. If you are considering using A Gentle Feast, I’d highly recommend spending some time on the website. Explore it. Read the FAQ’s. Heck, sign up for the two-week FREE trial! I absolutely love it and if it seems like a good fit for your family, then I hope you do too!