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:
Discussion of character during read-alouds
Service within our community
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.
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.
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:
Grassfed beef hamburgers on sourdough or sprouted grain buns
Quesadillas with fresh tomato salsa
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.
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:
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning by Oliver and Rachel DeMille
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
Scarlet Pimpernel by Orczy (with Mentoring in the Classics Introduction and Debrief)
The Emperor’s Soul by Sanderson
Conversations with God: Book 1 by Walsch
Math Doesn’t Suck by McKellar
Pollyanna by Porter
The Rithmatist by Sanderson
Intelligence by DeMille Robinson
Back-up Books, in case there are books on the above list that are just not working for Alina:
Ancient Rome and How It Affects You Today by Maybury
A Little Princess by Burnett
Additionally, Alina is currently very interested in sewing stuffed animals. Resources for supporting this interest include
Sew Mini Animals Kit by Klutz
Felt, fabric, and stuffing
Stuffed animal patterns from https://dollmaker.nunodoll.com/plushie/
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,
Helping him learn how to hunt and clean dove, and
Making sure he has plenty of books about dogs, vehicles, and machines to read.
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.
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:
A Dog Named Chips by Albert Terhune
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Stormy, Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
The Good Master by Kate Seredy
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes
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
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:
Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Death Gate Cycle series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Robotech series by Jack McKinney
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
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:
Uno card game, with a rule that we can use addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division to be able to play two cards at once
Las Cruces Opoly (local version of Monopoly game) (there is more about how we use Monopoly to teach math and finances here)
Many other games which incorporate math
Individual bank accounts and personal money management
Chicken egg business
Flash cards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and money
Math Doesn’t Suck by McKellar (Alina is working through this book on her own in Scholar Time; I don't like the title of this book so I have changed it to Math is Awesome)
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:
Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer
We use a 4-year cycle for Science:
Year 1 - Human Body, Animal Science, Plants
Year 3 - Chemistry
Year 4 - Physics
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:
The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia sections about different types of animals
Short BBC videos about different animals
Terrariums for raising roly polies, caterpillars, fish, etc
9-Animal Dissection Kit from Home Science Tools
We are using the following Youtube resources for learning Spanish together:
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:
Art Hub for Kids Youtube channel
We cultivate music appreciation through:
Homeschool band class (online) twice per week; Alina plays flute and Ian plays trumpet
Music and arts focus in December, culminating in a small family music recital and A Christmas Carol reading on Christmas Eve
Listening to a wide variety of music including classical, world music, classic rock, and pop
Some of our current favorite ways to get physical activity are:
Bike and/or scooter rides
Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, there is still plenty of unstructured free play time for my kids throughout the week. Through their play time, they are able to engage their curiosity, develop their creativity, and learn much about how to interact with each other and their environment.
Typically, we do the bulk of our schooling in the mornings, leaving the afternoons free for the kids to play, create, and explore.
What changes have you made to your homeschool for the coming year?
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