Updated: Sep 6, 2020
We homeschool year-round, but each August we officially start our new school year. It is a fun and exciting time when we dive into our new school supplies and books. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2018-19 school year.
Character Comes First
One of the foundational aspects of our homeschool philosophy is the focus on building good character. I believe that teaching my children to be honest, responsible, kind people is more important than the acquisition of academic knowledge, so I focus quite a bit of my efforts on character development. Household responsibilities, read-alouds, and relationship development are just some of the ways I focus on character development.
My post about Core Phase delves deep into this subject and gives lots of examples of how I work to develop good character in my children, so check out that post if you want more information about how I purposely focus on character in our homeschool.
An important part of encouraging my children to love learning is allowing 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 daughter started her own small egg business a few years ago, and last winter my son saved up enough money to buy-in as an equal partner in the business.The kids work together to take care of the chickens daily, and they each earn a small amount of money for each 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, 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.
11-year-old daughter Alina
Besides chickens, Alina's other primary interest is horses. I support her in this interest by:
Taking her to visit the horses at the local university and museum several times each year,
Continuing to find more books and videos about horses, horse care, horse breeds, horse training, etc., and
Making sure she has plenty of craft supplies for creating horse-inspired artwork.
Since Alina is getting older and is now moving through puberty, she is starting to transition into Scholar Phase. Currently, this looks like playing at being a Scholar, such as periodically asking to have "Scholar Time" wherein she spends a few hours in self-directed study. I'm supporting Alina in this time of transition by:
allowing her vacillate back and forth between wanting to be more independent and wanting to just stick to our usual routine,
helping her set goals for her learning, and letting her determine the best ways to meet her goals, and
giving her extra one-on-one time to talk through the unaccustomed emotions and changes that are happening.
8-year-old son Ian
Ian is very interested in cars and machines. I support this interest through:
Letting him (and helping him) disassemble things that break (old electronics, broken lawn mowers, etc.),
Getting him involved in household maintenance (such as showing him how plumbing works, letting him help wherever possible such as screwing things in, using the manual staple gun, etc.),
Doing car maintenance so that he has a chance to be involved,
Taking the time to stop and let him observe construction sites and vehicles in action, and
Checking out books about machines and cars from the library.
I do not push my children academically, but nonetheless I do give them exposure to plenty of academic subjects and pursuits. My kids are not required to do school; nonetheless, they love engaging with our different curriculum options. You can see an overview of our daily homeschool routine here.
I read aloud classic books to my children daily. These include both picture books and chapter books with beautiful language, engaging storylines, and memorable characters. My children also participate in a Read-Aloud Classic Book Club, wherein they discuss books with their friends once a month.
Because I've been reading-aloud classic books to my kids since they were very young, they have progressed to the point that they enjoy listening to adult classics as well. A new tradition that developed over the last year is that everyone in our family listens to an audiobook version of a classic book independently, and then we all watch a couple movie adaptations to compare with the book. Thus far, we've read-and-watched Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Jane Eyre. This has been an excellent way to get my husband involved in our homeschooling, and I foresee this tradition continuing as our children get older.
I help set the stage for reading proficiency by reading-aloud often. This allows me to show my children what a wonderful world is hiding between the pages of 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.
My 11-year-old daughter is an advanced reader who reads voraciously, so I don't do anything in particular to help her with reading. For the last few months, she's enjoyed reading aloud chapter books to my husband a couple nights per week at bedtime.
My 8-year-old son seems to be right on the cusp of really taking off with his reading skills. I'm letting him take the lead in determining when and how to practice reading, and he is making noticeable progress over time. Currently, his favorite resources for reading lessons are:
We don't use a formal writing curriculum. Instead, I encourage my children to write in the following ways. There is more information about writing in our homeschool here.
I make sure that my children see me writing in my own notebooks on a regular basis. This makes a huge difference in the amount of writing that they choose to do themselves.
Since their writing skills lag behind their composition skills, whenever they ask I will write or type poems, stories, or songs for my children.
My children have a few Pen Pals. My children love receiving letters in the mail, so this has been a big motivator for them in practicing their writing frequently.
Inspired by Alcott's Little Men, my kids and I decided to start a monthly Composition Day for local homeschoolers for Fall 2018. Once a month, all of the kids (and parents) will have a chance to read-aloud something they have written to the group.
I am not using a traditional math curriculum for my children. Rather, they are learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through math read-alouds. For more details of how I teach math without a formal curriculum, check out this blog post.
Currently, our favorite resources for math study are:
Penrose the Mathematical Cat, which is a math chapter book that weaves all sorts of math concepts into the story,
Settlers of Catan, which teaches addition, skip counting, strategy, and risk management while "players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory",
Monopoly game, where we buy and sell properties, pay rent, manage our finances, and try to accumulate the most wealth (we play a shortened version of this game where we play for 1.5 hours, starting the game with 3 properties per player),
Life of Fred books, which tell stories about Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches classes at a university (there is a detailed post about how we use Life of Fred books here),
Milles Bornes card game, where we race our cars to see who can reach the 1,000 mile finish line first, and
Uno card game, which we usually play as Add and Subtract Uno such that players can combine two cards through addition or subtraction to match a number being shown.
Chronological History, Science, and Math
Last year, we studied Ancient History and incorporated science and math in chronological order. This year, it's time for us to move on to the Middle Ages. I will continue to integrate math and science into our history studies, so I will be using the following books concurrently, reading selections from each in chronological order.
Story of the World Volume 2: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer - This history book uses a story format, interweaving myths and legends in with the history. The audio version of this book offers a great option for us to study history while eating or driving in the car.
The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim - This late-elementary/middle-grades series tells the story of science in chronological order, so it is a perfect complement for our history studies. This book is a little dense because it can get fairly technical, but nonetheless my children enjoy it if I make sure to use it in small doses.
Mathematicians Are People, Too, Volumes 1 and 2 by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer - These books tell the stories of mathematicians and their lives. While studying the Middle Ages, we'll use these books to learn about the mathematicians Omar Khayyam, Fibonacci, Girolamo Cardano, Rene Descartes, John Napier, and Galileo.
A few resources that I find useful to complement our history studies are:
All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide - This excellent book is a great resource for finding picture and chapter books to supplement Story of the World. Whenever either of my children seems particularly engaged in a topic from one of those books, I use All Through the Ages to find more books on the subject at our local library.
Rand McNally World Wall Map - This beautiful map adorns one of our living room walls and allows us to easily see the regions we are studying.
Replogle Globe - We frequently use our beautiful globe to look at the locations of the places we read about in our history lessons, so history lessons become geography lessons as well.
In addition to the chronological science book mentioned above, this year our hands-on science studies will focus on Astronomy, Earth Science, and Nature Study. We'll be using the following science resources:
Star Walk App - This app helps us easily find constellations, stars, planets, and satellites, and gives lots of detailed information about it all.
Paper Model of the Solar System - We will be constructing a to-scale model of the solar system as we learn about the sun and planets. This provides an excellent way to really understand the sizes of things in our solar system.
Great Astronomers Audio Book - This free classic audio book tells of astronomers such as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Kepler. It is very interesting, but probably too technical for kids under-8.
Usborne Encyclopedia of Planet Earth - This will serve as our "spine" book, and will be supplemented by books on specific topics of interest from the library.
Rock and Mineral Kit - This kit will give us a hands-on way to interact with Earth Science as we learn about the different types of rocks and minerals.
Rock Tumbler - We'll use our rock tumbler to polish rocks that we collect in the desert around our home.
More Mudpies to Magnets - We'll use this book for simple for science experiments related to Earth Science.
Fruit and Vegetable Garden - My kids learn so much through caring for their own plants in our family vegetable garden. Every year, they each select a few types of plants to grow. They help me amend the soil with compost, and then they plant their seeds and nurture their plants until they reach maturity. Harvesting their own fresh produce gives my kids such joy and a sense of accomplishment.
Natural Pond - Last year, my kids and I dug a small pond and lined it with a heavy-duty tarp. Since this pond is natural (meaning it has no filter or pump), we are able to use it as a mini-ecosystem where we can observe pond life such as dragonflies, water striders, algae, tadpoles, etc. Our pond is also home to goldfish (who eat mosquito larvae!), and the goldfish have successfully bred baby goldfish in the pond.
National Audubon Society Field Guide and Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America - We refer to these books frequently as part of our Nature Study.
Project Feederwatch - This a very enjoyable way to integrate math and science into our home school. To participate, we observe the species and numbers of birds in our backyard about once or twice a month. In addition to reporting the number of birds we see, we are also required to report the weather conditions (low/high temperatures, precipitation, etc). Both kids love participating in this program.
My kids have becoming interested in learning Spanish, so I'm finding simple ways that they can learn Spanish in the context of our daily lives.
Common phrases and words charts - I've printed out lists of common phrases and words that we can referenced as needed. To make these more useful, I've taped them to our pantry door, and the kids like referring to them there.
Living Language Spanish CD's - We use these CD's in the car. No one is required to participate; we just listen to the Spanish instruction a couple times each week while we are driving around, and everyone is free to participate as much as they feel like it.
Speaking to each other in Spanish - We practice our Spanish skills by speaking to each other in Spanish at impromptu times. For instance, we often say "buenas noches, hasta manana" at bedtime.
Beauty and Creativity
I incorporate beauty and creativity into our home school in the following ways.
A few times each semester, my children and I have Circle Time, where we sing, dance, and read poetry together. Our poetry book is Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls (which is a great compilation of poems about a wide variety of topics including childhood, the seasons, and family). You can read more about our Circle Time here.
Arts and Crafts
I make sure we have plenty of materials on-hand for arts and crafts. In addition to crafts they come up with, I make time to do painting, simple sewing projects, and holiday decorations with my children. Here are some of the resources we use for arts and crafts:
Draw Tip Tuesday - This youtube channel is a great source of inspiration for drawing and painting.
Draw Stuff Real Easy -This youtube channel focuses specifically on drawing animated creatures and objects.
Kinetic Sand - Kinetic Sand is kinda like sand, except it sticks to itself, never dries out, and is not very messy. My kids have been playing with our Kinetic Sand for years and it still seems like-new! They use it to create bridges, creatures, and freeform shapes.
Pelikan Watercolors - These are not washable, but they are really vibrant compared to the Crayola watercolors we've used in the past.
Low-temperature Hot Glue Gun - My children use the low-temp hot glue gun for making crafts.
Prismacolor Colored Pencils - These high-quality colored pencils were given to my children as a gift, and they are now one of our absolute favorite art supplies. The colors are vibrant and the lead does not break so easily as other brands.
Music and Theater Appreciation
My children love participating in a youth choir. We also attend live concerts and plays, ranging from classical music concerts to holiday concerts to children's plays to Shakespeare plays. We generally attend ~6-8 concerts and/or plays in a year's time. These give us all a chance to cultivate a taste for The Arts.
Once a year, in December, we have a small family music recital and A Christmas Carol reading. We choose a few Christmas songs to play together; throughout the month, we practice individually and together, as much as we each desire to. On Christmas Eve, we perform the songs together and read A Christmas Carol script.
Physical activity is healthy for us all, so I make a point of getting regular physical activity with my kids. Some of our favorite ways to get physical activity together are:
Bike and/or scooter rides
Open gym at a local gymnastics academy
Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, I make sure that there is plenty of time for my children to just play every day. 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.
What changes have you made to your homeschool for the coming year?
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