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Around here, we incorporate a lot of Charlotte Mason's philosophy into our homeschool. Particularly when it comes to history and literature. Ms. Mason believed in using high-quality, living books for the bulk of your studies.

If you think about it, this actually relieves a lot of stress for a bilingual homeschooling parent. Instead of searching for that perfect curriculum (hint: it doesn't exist!), you can searching for beautiful living books that cover your topic of study.

That said, it's taken me a few years to sort out the best way to plan a bilingual reading schedule. For those of you in similar situations I thought I would share how I plan our bilingual reading schedule in hopes that it may save you some time.

Fair warning, this is a detailed post. But there is a freebie tucked in here!

So without further ado, here are 5 steps for planning a bilingual reading schedule for history and literature.

Step 1) Define Your Time Period of Study

The two most common ways to divide the history of the entire world is into a three-year history cycle or a four-year history cycle. There are also programs out there that cover a more or less chronological study of history starting in early elementary school and expanding as the child grows.

Sample Three -Year History Cycle

  1. Ancient World
  2. Medieval to New World
  3. US History (or Modern World History)

Sample 4 -Year History Cycle

  1. Ancient Times
  2. Middle Ages
  3. Early Modern Times
  4. The Modern Age

Since the very beginning we have used a four-year history cycle, and I prefer it for a couple reasons. First, you have a bit more time in each history cycle to dig into interesting stories and events. 

Second, (and this would be the same for a three-year cycle) all the children in your family are studying the same era at the same time. The older children simply go a bit deeper than the youngers. This makes history and literature a family affair.

Third, children can enter into the history cycle at any point, and the longer they maintain the cycle the more times they go through (and the deeper their knowledge becomes) of each era of history. As opposed to a chronological schedule, in which case a child entering the cycle in the 4th grade would have much to catch up on.

After you know what era of history you are going to study...

Step 2) Lay Out Your Year

Be sure to check your state requirements for how many school days you must have. For us, I follow the Charlotte Mason school year with 36 weeks of study, divided into 12 week Terms.

I made a History & Literature Reading Plan Template in Google Docs that reflects this. Feel free to make a copy and edit it for your own homeschool! But keep reading first, so you'll understand how I have laid out the spreadsheet.

If you follow a different schedule, simply plan out how many weeks you will have for school so you can divide your reading across the weeks.

So, after you know what you are studying, and how many weeks you'll be studying it...

Step 3) Choose An English Spine and Identify The Gaps

A spine is simply a single book that covers a lot of ground, and can be used over the course of many weeks.

I did not start out using an English spine, and I lost hours of my life because of it! There are many wonderful history spines out there, so choose one and take advantage of the structure it provides. 

That said, for many multi-lingual and multi-cultural families the history spines available don't bring to life our particular cultures as much as we would like.

That's why we need to identify the gaps. This can be done by looking through the Table of Contents and noting the chapter headings.

Feel free to make a copy of my History & Literature Reading Plan Template in Google Docs for yourself, and then you can enter in the chapter headings per week to really see the overview.

For me, while there is often mention of Latin America, the shallow coverage is not sufficient for my family. Same goes for much of Africa and Asia. So I spend a lot of time looking for history books about those areas to fill in gaps.

If you don't even know what gaps you're looking for, ask older family members and start Googling. Consider it a treasure hunt. Make a list as you go of interesting things you find.

If you're curious about history spines, here are some of the most common ones available:

History Spines

Story of the World (4-year, "faith-neutral")

Mystery of History (4-year, Christian)

History Quest (3-year, secular)

Curiosity Chronicles (4-year, secular)

Please note: We are a Christian family and use Story of the World. I have not read any of the other spines listed, but mention them to get you started on your search.

Step 4) Fill the Gaps with Spines, Poetry, and Picture Books

With gaps identified, start searching for books that tell about the stories, events, and historical people from your culture that you want your children to know about.

When possible, search for spines in your minority language. When you can't find spines in your minority language, it's okay, use a good spine in English instead, and then...

Break out the secret weapon: the literature (stories) of the people.

Myths, fables, poetry, and biographies seem to be more easy to come by in our minority language. So when I need to use a spine in English, I make sure to fill out the history topic with good literature Spanish.

For example, I am using Before Columbus by Charles Mann for our Ancient history of Latin America spine. But I balance it with Leyendas de los Incas, Mayas, y Aztecas contadas para niños: a literature spine in Spanish that is full of Mayan, Incan, and Aztec legends.

For Africa, a quick google search led me to Amber at Heritage Mom who recommends A Glorious Age in Africa as a spine for Ancient Africa. I'm filling that out with picture books in Spanish about African fables. 

When you find these gems, keep a running list. I use 4th page "Master Booklist" (found at bottom) of my History & Literature Reading Plan Template to keep track of books that correspond to that history cycle. Feel free to make a copy of my Google sheet and use it for your homeschool.

Simple spreadsheet for tracking books related to your history cycle. Click image to see full spreadsheet.

So, where do you start looking to find these diverse books in diverse languages? Here's a few creators I know and love:

Where to Look for Not-So-Common Living Books

Stories of Color: Nicole has put together a searchable database of diverse living books!

Stories of Color Spanish & Bilingual Books: Stories of Color has a list for Spanish titles, and I am honored to help curate this list!

I also host a few booklists on this site. Check out: Top 5 Anthologies of Latin American Myths and Legends.

Heritage Mom Blog: Amber curates living resources specific to Africa.

Korea History & Korean Language Books: Check out Sandy's instagram @Korean4MyKids.

*If you know of other language-specific sites, let us know in the comments!*

Once you have your books figured out (or at least mostly figured out) you can start on the final step...

Step 6) Fill Out Your Weekly Schedule

Screenshot of my filled out spreadsheet. Click image for a template you can copy and use.

There are two ways to do this, and I use a combination of both. (See above for a sample of out first 4 weeks.)

To explain, I will use the example of, Before Columbus, the spine we are reading for Latin American Ancient History. This book has 12 sections (an intro and 11 chapters) roughly divided by Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs. We intend to read 4 sections each term.

If you have the time and prefer a detailed plan, you can plan from ahead. This is probably what you think of when you think of planning. Enter the chapters or page numbers that you intend to read each week. For us, we will study Mayan culture for the first four weeks of Term One.

Click to see my History & Literature Reading Plan Template. Feel free to make a copy and use it.

So on the line for "Other Spines" > "Spine 1" will be "BC, Chapter 1" for the first week, and "BC: Chapter 2" for the second week, and so on. I will warn you, this is time consuming, and often you will find yourself adjusting as the year goes on.

Therefore, an easier and more time efficient way is to fill out your schedule after you read the books. This is called planning from behind.

Simply take stock of about how many pages you need to read in a given amount of time. You can even put a sticky note inside your spine to remind you. But then record the pages in your spread sheet at the end of each week. 

This saves you time up front, and allows you more flexibility to change out books if you find better options as the year progresses.

In general, I plan out our spine readings ahead of time, but track picture books as we read them.

Happy reading!

PHEW! That was A LOT!

Thanks for hanging in there!

If you have other planning tips for organizing a reading schedule in two languages, let me know in the comments.


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Lauren Stengele

Lauren is a 4th generation Mexican-American, and 2nd generation homeschooler. She learned Spanish as a way to reclaim her heritage, and now passes it on to her three children whom she homeschools bilingually. She started Bilingual Together to provide encouragement and resources to other bilingual homeschooling families.

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