Updated: Sep 6
This school year, my 15-year-old Alina daughter continues her self-directed studies alongside our all-together schooling and I am doing more one-on-one schooling with my 12-year-old son Ian. We're also working on learning more about the principles of freedom and the Constitution specifically. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2022-2023 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 my kids are older, I’m teaching independent life skills, to ensure that my kids will be ready for life on their own.
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.
Each of my kids cooks dinner for the family once a week. 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 15-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.
Besides simple sandwiches, quesadillas or pizza, some of my kids’ current favorite meals to prepare are:
Grassfed beef hamburgers on sourdough or sprouted grain buns
Mongolian beef with rice
Slow cooker roasted chicken and potatoes
Einkorn pancakes topped with smoked salmon, cucumbers, green onions, capers, and sour cream
Ground beef and broccoli teriyaki bowls
Individual Needs and Interests
The homeschool philosophy we love 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.
15-year-old daughter Alina – Scholar Phase
Alina is in self-directed Scholar Phase. This means that, in addition to our all-together schooling time, Alina is also pursuing her own studies independently. There is more info about our self-directed Scholar Phase here.
Thus far, Alina has chosen to alternate each semester between creating her own study plan and using the TJED High liberal arts online mentoring program. This has given us a good balance of making sure that Alina has time to dedicate to her own passions (writing fiction stories, reading classic fantasy novels, sewing, and drawing) as well as giving her exposure to topics of study which she doesn't tend to gravitate towards through TJED High (such as finances, the Constitution, Shakespeare, and leadership).
Here is Alina's Scholar Contract for Fall 2022. This lays out her responsibilities and benefits, as well as her general plan for her Scholar Studies. (She asked for some leeway the first few weeks in determining how many study hours she will do per week for the coming semester, so that has not yet been finalized.) There is more about how to create a Scholar Contract in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning.
Alina developed her own curriculum of books to read for the coming semester (with my guidance). As recommended in Hero Education: A Scholar Phase Guidebook, Alina works on a list of 10 books at a time. Alina intends to complete her Scholar studies for the semester by Thanksgiving, so she will have time to work on Christmas crafts and presents in late Nov-Dec.
Alina’s Fall 2022 10 Book List
Rhythm of War (Book 4 of Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson
Basic Math and Pre-Algebra by Cliffs Study Solver
The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by Alan Cohen
Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens by DeMille and Brooks
Brandon Sanderson's BYU Creative Writing Course Videos (not a book, but important for Alina since she aspires to be a writer 😀)
The Five Love Languages of Teenagers by Chapman
Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
Adventures of Perrine by Hector Malot
Back-up Books, in case there are books on the above list that are just not working for Alina:
Additionally, Alina is still currently very interested in sewing stuffed animals. Resources for supporting this interest include:
Felt, fabric, and stuffing
Stuffed animal patterns from https://dollmaker.nunodoll.com/plushie/
12-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. Recently, he has also become passionate about keeping a dirted aquarium. I support these interests through:
Getting him involved in household maintenance (such as letting him help with changing bike tires, using the drill and manual staple gun, etc.),
Including a focus on inventors and inventions in our history studies,
Attending car shows,
Paying him to do home maintenance jobs that involve power tools such as sanding the picnic table, clearing brush piles, chopping wood, etc.,
Making sure he has plenty of books about vehicles and machines to read, and
Helping him research dirted aquarium care, fish species, etc.
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 most mornings, 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, why the homeschooling environment is more important than curriculum, and more about our general homeschool routine here.
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. One new change is that we are now taking turns reading aloud to the family in the evenings; this will help my kids with learning public speaking and how to project their voices.
I also facilitate a children’s read-aloud classic book club once-a-month. Our recent and upcoming read-alouds include:
The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy
Homer Price by Robert McClosky
Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
When the Sea Turned Silver by Grace Lin
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
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. Some of the audio books are free downloads from Librivox.
Recently, my kids have chosen to listen to:
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka
Many animal books by Thornton Burgess
A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Lawrence Yep and Joanne Ryder
Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
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:
Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson
Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson
Star Friends Series by Linda Chapman
Tuesdays in the Castle Series by Jessica George
Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Brotherband Chronicles by John Flanagan
Skyward Series by Brandon Sanderson
Hazardous Tales (Graphic Novels) by Nathan Hale
Henry and Ribsy Series by Beverly Cleary
Writing, Spelling, and Typing
We don't use a formal curriculum for writing or spelling. Instead, I 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
Penpals, writing letters to family and friends
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, and division
Basic Math and Pre-Algebra by Cliffs Study Solver (Alina chose this book as part of her Scholar plan for the semester)
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 are working through our third iteration and will be studying Middle Ages History again this year. Our main history resources for this year will be the following:
A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert, as our history "spine" book
Middle Ages Book List for lots of supplemental books to read alongside the spine book
Principles of Freedom and the Constitution
Recent events have shown us just how tenuous our hold on freedom and liberty are now. Thus, in addition to our chronological history studies, we are also learning more about the founding of our country and Constitution. All together as a family, we are watching and discussing the Constitution 101 Course from Hillsdale College.
We use a 4-year cycle for Science:
Year 1 - Human Body, Animal Science, Plants
Year 3 - Chemistry
Year 4 - Physics
We have completed two iterations of this science rotation and are working through our third iteration. This school year we will be focusing on Astronomy and Earth Science. Our science studies will include the following resources:
Hiking and field trips to explore different ecosystems
Business Builders Class
My kids are taking a 9-week Business Builders class this semester. This is a youth Entrepreneurship program offered through Kids Can of Doña Ana County.