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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Our Homeschool Curriculum for 2023-24 (with a 16-year-old and a 13-year old)

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

This school year, my 16-year-old Alina daughter continues her self-directed studies alongside our all-together schooling. We'll be focusing on world history from 1500-1850, Chemistry, and following the passionate, unique interests of both of my kids. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2023-2024 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 messed up on this in the early years of our homeschooling by focusing too much on academics. Through painful experience, I was re-oriented and realized that character development has to be paramount over everything else we do in our homeschool.


I intentionally focus on character development through:

  • Relationship development

  • Household responsibilities

  • Discussion of character during read-alouds

  • Service within our community


 

Life Skills

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.


 

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.


 

Farm-to-Table

Although they know all about raising chicks and keeping chickens on a day-to-day basis, one aspect that I'm focusing on teaching the kids this year is how to butcher and prepare chickens for our dinner table. Old hens must be periodically culled in order to keep our flock productive, so I'm teaching the kids all about respectful chicken harvest.



 

Cooking

Each of my kids cooks dinner for the family once a week. They choose the menu for their assigned dinner days. When my schedule allows, I help them learn how to cook new recipes.


Besides simple spaghetti, quesadillas or pizza, some of my kids’ current favorite meals to prepare are:


Ian:


Alina:

  • Slow cooker roasted chicken and potatoes

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

  • Lemon thyme chicken with rice



 

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 ~0-8 years old – Focused on character development, right and wrong, good and bad, etc

  • Love of Learning Phase – Age ~8-13 years old – 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 ~13-18 years old – 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.


 


16-year-old daughter Alina – Scholar Phase + Creating Beauty

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 how we implement self-directed Scholar Phase here.


Alina creates her own study plan each semester, with my guidance towards making it balanced as far as content. Go here to see Alina's book list and curriculum plan for this school year. For the last couple semesters, we have been doing mother-daughter book discussions of some of the books on her list and this has been a sweet way for us to learn and discuss together.


Below is Alina's Scholar Contract for September 2023-May 2024. This lays out her responsibilities and benefits, as well as her general plan for her Scholar Studies. She plans to take things easier in late November/December when she will be working on Christmas presents and decorations. There is more about how to create a Scholar Contract in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning.



Alina is naturally passionate about creating beauty through sewing and decorating. Some of her current passions in this regard are:

  • Sewing stuffed animals and her Alina's Adorables business

  • Creating old-fashioned paper holiday decorations

  • Baking and decorating cupcakes



 


13-year-old son Ian – Love of Learning Phase + Cars Cars Cars

Ian is in Love of Learning Phase. He has had a lifelong passionate interest in cars and other wheeled vehicles, tools, and machines. 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 and car races,

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

  • Paying him to do home maintenance jobs that involve power tools such as sanding the picnic table, clearing brush piles, chopping wood, etc., and

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

A big project Ian will be working on this year is learning how to take apart and rebuild a lawn mower engine (thanks to a friend who gifted us with an engine).


 

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 1-2 hours most mornings, before Alina goes off to do her Scholar Time.


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

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 recent change is that we are now taking turns reading aloud to the family in the evenings; this is helping my kids learn public speaking and how to project their voices.


I also lead a children’s read-aloud classic book club once-a-month at our homeschool group. Our recent and upcoming read-alouds include:


Classic and Fun Audiobooks

My kids are allowed to listen to 1-hour per day of audiobooks, usually during our 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:

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 their favorite series' that they return to over and over include:

See this post for Alina's 20-book list for this school year. Ian has also chosen to undertake a Reading Challenge for this semester as follows:



 

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 will have 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:

  • Penpals, writing letters to family and friends

  • Writing stories, on their own or in collaboration with friends

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

  • Formal spelling bees, once a semester as part of our homeschool group

  • Email accounts for communicating with family members

  • Spelling games such as Quiddler and Scrabble

Alina also writes quite a bit during her Scholar Time, since she is writing a fantasy novel and will be writing an essay each semester.



 

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 are working through our third iteration and will be studying 1500-1850 History again this year. Our main history resources for this year will be the following:


 

Principles of Freedom and the Constitution

Recent events have shown us just how tenuous our hold on freedom and liberty are now. Alongside learning about the American Revolution, all together as a family, we will be continuing to watch and discuss the Constitution 101 Course from Hillsdale College. We completed about half of this course last year and will continue this year.



 

Hands-On Science

We have completed two iterations of this science rotation and are working through our third iteration. This school year we will be focusing on Chemistry. Our science studies will include some combination of the following resources:


 

Spanish

Spanish is a subject that I have struggled to fit into our homeschool routine for years. This summer, we focused on Spanish and I think I finally found our Spanish groove!


These are ways that are currently working well for us to learn Spanish together:

  • The Language Tutor - Spanish Lessons for Beginners

  • Using Spanish as much as possible when playing games together (alongside the Google Translate app)

  • Incorporating children's books in Spanish, such as those by Mo Willems

  • Having a weekly Spanish movie night as a family (currently we're working our way through The Mandalorian but with Spanish language and English subtitles)

  • Listening to and learning the lyrics to Spanish music with artists such as Juanes

  • Translating some words into Spanish when I'm reading aloud to the family


 

Current Events

2-3 times per week, we watch a short current events show as part of our morning homeschool block. This gives us many opportunities to have discussions about complex issues in the USA and around the world.


We were saddened when Carl Azuz unexpectedly left CNN10, as he was our favorite source of current events for kids. However, we are very happy that he has now launched his own free current events program, The World from A to Z. Episodes are 9-minutes long, perfect for adding into our routine.



 

Beauty and Creativity

I'm not naturally a very artistic person, but both of my kids are. I nurture these interests in the following ways.


 

Arts and Crafts

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


 

Music Appreciation

We cultivate music appreciation through:

  • Homeschool band class 2-3x 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

  • Attending live music shows including classical music, jazz, and classic rock

  • Listening to a wide variety of music including classical, world music, classic rock, and pop



 

Physical Education

Some of our current favorite ways to get physical activity are:

 

Free Time

Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, there is still plenty of unstructured free time for my kids throughout the week. Through their free 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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