• Sarah

Our Homeschool Curriculum for 2021-22 (with a 14-year-old and an 11-year old)

Updated: Sep 13, 2021



This school year, things are a bit different as my 14-year-old Alina daughter has moved into Scholar Phase! That means she is doing more self-directed studies on her own, and I am doing more one-on-one schooling with my 11-year-old son Ian. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2021-2022 school year.


Character Comes First

Education is much more than academic learning; it involves our emotional and spiritual development as well. I believe that teaching my children to be honest, responsible, kind people is more important than the acquisition of academic knowledge. I intentionally focus on character development through:

  • Household responsibilities

  • Discussion of character during read-alouds

  • Service within our community

  • Relationship development


Life Skills

When my kids were younger, I focused on teaching them life skills that we worked on together. Now that I have one young adult and one adolescent, I’m feeling a need to impart more independent life skills to my kids, to ensure that they are prepared for really owning tasks.


Household Responsibilities

Both of my kids have a fairly large list of household responsibilities, which they have been taught and are expected to complete on their own. They are working to master all aspects of home care, including laundry, cleaning, maintenance, etc.


Cooking

Although they are still expected to help me with dinner preparation as needed, my kids are also each assigned to cook dinner for the family once a week now. They get to choose the menu for their assigned dinner days.


With Ian, I often help him learn to cook new recipes. However, for Alina, being a 14-year-old who has a harder time accepting instructions and feedback from her parents now ☺, she generally prefers to learn to cook simple new recipes on her own rather than alongside me.


Most of the recipes my kids use are simplified versions of recipes I have developed. Both kids have binders where they can store their recipes. Alina, especially, seems excited to be creating her own cookbook.



With their differing ages, Ian is still learning to cook very simple foods, while Alina is learning to make more complex meals. Some of my kids’ favorite meals to prepare are:


Ian:


Alina:

  • Einkorn pancakes topped with smoked salmon, cucumbers, green onions, capers, and sour cream

  • Salad bar with many different toppings including meats, cheeses, nuts, and vegetables

  • Teriyaki beef and broccoli, served over rice

  • Simplified chicken long rice soup


Individual Needs and Interests

The homeschool philosophy we love and implement is Thomas Jefferson Education. In this homeschool model, rather than children being in specific grades, they are in “Phases” which each have a specific learning focus. There is more info about the Phases here, and in brief, they are:

  • Core Phase – Age ~0-9 – Focused on character development, right and wrong, good and bad, etc

  • Love of Learning Phase – Age ~8-13 – Giving the child the opportunity to fall in love with learning through nurturing their own interests and providing opportunities for exploration of academic subjects

  • Scholar Phase – Age ~13-17 – Focused on study in a wide range of topics with increasing ability and commitment


An important part of nurturing a love of learning in my kids is through encouraging them to pursue their own interests. One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that my children have as much time as desired to follow their passions. I'm supporting my children's current interests as follows.


Egg Business

My kids are partners in a small chicken egg business. They work together to take care of the chickens daily, and each earn a small amount of money for every dozen of eggs that are sold. Owning their own business has given my kids the opportunity to learn much about raising and caring for animals, handling and saving money, profit vs. loss, the value of hard work, perseverance, and long-term commitments. They're becoming experts in management of the flock, and they make the hard decisions about keeping their business viable throughout the productive and unproductive egg laying years of their hens.


14-year-old daughter Alina – Scholar Phase

After participating in TJED High for a few months last semester, Alina recently decided to undertake self-directed Scholar Phase. This is new ground for us, and the two books that have helped us know how to make Scholar Phase work well are:



As recommended in the Phases of Learning book, Alina has a Scholar contract which lays out her responsibilities and benefits. There is time scheduled every week for her to work on her Scholar studies (currently 8 hours of study per week).



Alina develops her own curriculum of books to read (with my guidance). As recommended in Hero Education, Alina will work on a list of 10 books at a time.


Alina’s First 10 Books List

  1. Scarlet Pimpernel by Orczy (with Mentoring in the Classics Introduction and Debrief)

  2. Turn the Page: How to Read Like a Top Leader by Brady

  3. The Emperor’s Soul by Sanderson

  4. Conversations with God: Book 1 by Walsch

  5. Little House in the Big Woods (with Mentoring in the Classics Introduction and Debrief)

  6. Math Doesn’t Suck by McKellar

  7. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by Gatto

  8. Pollyanna by Porter

  9. The Rithmatist by Sanderson

  10. Intelligence by DeMille Robinson

Back-up Books, in case there are books on the above list that are just not working for Alina:

  1. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Pyle

  2. Ancient Rome and How It Affects You Today by Maybury

  3. A Little Princess by Burnett


Additionally, Alina is currently very interested in sewing stuffed animals. Resources for supporting this interest include



11-year-old son Ian – Love of Learning Phase

Ian is in Love of Learning Phase. He has had a lifelong passionate interest in cars and other wheeled vehicles, tools, and machines. More recently, his interest in dogs and hunting have been increasing. I support these interests through:

  • Getting him involved in household maintenance (such as letting him help with annual cooler maintenance, changing bike tires, using the drill and manual staple gun, etc.),

  • Including a focus on inventors and inventions in our history studies,

  • Providing him opportunities to ride his rollerblades, scooter, and bike,

  • Helping him learn how to hunt and clean dove, and

  • Making sure he has plenty of books about dogs, vehicles, and machines to read.


Academic Subjects

I purposely do not push my children academically, but I do give them exposure to plenty of academic subjects and pursuits. We currently have family “kidschool time” for 1-1.5 hours each morning, before Alina goes off to do her Scholar Time and I do more one-on-one academic explorations with Ian.


There is more about the how we make our homeschool successful and sustainable here, and more about our general homeschool routine here.


Literature

Literature is foundational to our homeschool. It gives us exposure to different cultures and values, allows us to "walk a mile" in others' shoes, and facilitates important discussions that lead to character growth.

Daily Read-Aloud and Kids’ Book Club

I read aloud classic picture and chapter books to my children most days. Read alouds spark many of our most important discussions about culture and character.


I also facilitate a children’s read-aloud classic book club once-a-month. Our recent and upcoming read-alouds include:



Classic Audiobooks

My kids are allowed to listen to 1-hour per day of classic audiobooks, usually during our (absolutely-essential) afternoon Quiet Time. Audio books have been a fantastic way to give my kids exposure to a wide variety of classic books without any additional effort from me. Most of the audio books are free downloads from Librivox.


Recently, my kids have chosen to listen to:

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

  • Eight Cousins by Louisa Mae Alcott

  • Rose in Bloom by Louisa Mae Alcott

  • Love Among the Chickens by PG Wodehouse

Reading

Through a steady habit of read-alouds year-after-year, my children have fallen in love with books. I also make a point of reading on my own frequently; children naturally emulate their parents, so it is important for them to see me engaging in reading and discussing books as part of my own lifelong education.


Alina learned to read at age 4, and Ian learned to read at age 8.5. Although Ian's reading would have been considered "late" were he in school, thankfully I had learned about the wide range of developmental readiness for reading so that my son did not feel pressured or insecure about his reading progression. Some kids like Alina naturally learn to read when they are very young, but it is totally natural that some kids do not read until later, even until as late as 12 to 14 years old. Knowing about this gave me the confidence and patience to (mostly) relax and wait for Ian's reading journey to unfold.


Alina and Ian both choose to read on their own most days. I just need to make sure they have plenty of fresh reading material on-hand. Some of the books they have chosen to read lately include:


Alina:


Ian:


Writing, Spelling, and Typing

We don't use a formal curriculum for writing or spelling. Instead, I try to find ways to incorporate writing into our everyday lives, so that the writing my kids do has real meaning rather than being a forced exercise. There is more about writing in our homeschool here.


Some of the current ways in which my kids engage in writing are:

  • Writing stories, both on paper as well as typed on the computer

  • Informal spelling bees, where we take turns asking each other to spell words

  • Email accounts for communicating with family members

  • Spelling games such as Quiddler and Scrabble



Math

We don’t use traditional math curriculums. Instead, we focus on learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through math read-alouds. For more details about how I teach math without a formal curriculum, check out this blog post.


Currently, our favorite resources for math study are:


History

Each semester, we alternate between focusing on science or history. This reduces the stress over trying to fit it all in and allows us to dig deeper into specific topics.


We use the following a 4-year-cycle for history:

We have completed two iterations of this four-year cycle, gaining more complexity and nuance each time. We will be studying Ancient History again this year. Our main history resources for this year will be the following:


Hands-On Science

We use a 4-year cycle for Science:

Since we have completed two iterations of this science rotation, this school year we will be focusing on Animal Science, Human Body, and Plants. Our science studies will include the following resources:



Spanish

We are using the following Youtube resources for learning Spanish together:

Current Events

2-3 times per week, we watch CNN10 as part of our morning homeschool block. Although I find CNN's usual news coverage to be very lopsided and unbalanced, their CNN10 program (which is designed for schools) actually provides surprisingly balanced coverage. CNN10 gives us many opportunities to have discussions about complex issues in the USA and around the world.



Beauty and Creativity

Arts and Crafts

Here are some of the resources we currently use for arts and crafts: