My 1st Grader’s Ongoing Projects

As I look back over our school 2016-2017 school year, it’s been fun to think about what my boys’ major projects were this year. For my eldest, it was pretty much piano and gaming. But for my seven-year-old, he pursued many endeavors, and I had fun pursuing some of them with him. Yet it was so different from when his older brother was seven and I assisted him with his many building projects at that time. This has also been part of the fun — to see how these boys are both similar and different.

I used to feel that it was a bit of a shame that while my eldest son got so much of my one-on-one attention, his younger brother had to be a sidekick or share my attention. Well, the tables have turned a little bit. Now that my 10-year-old spends so much time practicing piano, I get to spend more one-on-one time with my first grader. I partly use this time for teaching lessons. The other part I let him decide what we’ll do together. Sometimes, he likes to play by himself, and that’s fine too. (Then I can be an audience for my 10-year-old!)

So what does this little guy like to do? Well, I’ll show you. The following are snapshots I took with my phone camera, but each of them reveals a bit of my first grader’s favorite pastimes!

Playing games

Truly, his favorite games to play are digital games. Both my boys adore their digital games, and much of their conversation and make-believe are inspired by digital games. So, I’m going to write a post just about their digital games. (I know I keep saying that — I promise I really am!)

My youngest son also loves to play board games, card games or dice games with me. What I love about this is that many of the games we play help him with math skills, and he’ll insist on doing the counting himself. He likes to be the banker in Star Wars monopoly! As I’ve noticed in the past, he seems to be good at math, and he’s always been a little bit obsessed with numbers. So I’m more than happy to indulge him in this pastime, although I sure wish he weren’t such a sore loser.

Serious Make-believe

While his elder brother used to like building things (but he rarely played with his creations), younger brother will build lots of little things with zoob pieces or Legos and then use them for battle. He covers the entire floor with his imaginary worlds, and for this reason, he rarely wants to go outside — the action is clearly inside! This happens on a daily basis, and I love it!

Drawing and Painting

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you’ll know my son used to love drawing and coloring. For many months, this interest went away, and I thought it was gone forever. But a few months ago, he suddenly wanted to draw and color again. Then painting came back too. He likes for me to draw with him, and I’m more than happy to. Sometimes he’ll try drawing what I’m drawing such as the mug above. I was also drawing mugs as I was working through the exercises in Drawing for the Absolute Beginner. I would love to do more exercises with him, but he resists being taught. So I just do what I want to do, and sometimes I’ll get lucky, and he’ll follow along.

Baking & Cooking

This kid loves to help me bake and make other things in the kitchen, which is a great motivator for me to cook more! (And believe me, I need the motivation in this area.) I’m planning (hoping!) to continue to bake seriously and have him help me frequently. I want both my boys to learn how to cook basic meals, but I feel that this boy may someday be a more serious hobbyist chef, at the very least!

Puzzler

My 7-year-old has always loved doing puzzles. Again, I think it has something to do with that math brain of his, but I’m not sure. He used to put together puzzles often when he was a little tyke, and this year, he got into it again. I also bought some 300 piece puzzles and one 500 piece puzzle, which were harder for him, but I helped, and even the whole family got into these puzzles a little bit because they sat out on the table for awhile. It was a lot of fun, and now I just need to talk him into letting me take them apart so that we can do them all over again!

Piano

This was my 7-year-old’s first year taking piano lessons, and he did quite well! We weren’t sure whether he would like it or not, but he says he wants to keep taking lessons, and he continues to practice once a day for about thirty minutes.

(Obviously, this is the one thing we don’t do while his older brother is practicing!)

 

 

 

 

Last But Not Least: Birds

Again, if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know that birds have been this young boy’s major passion for several years now! (See: Birds & Feathers and It’s All for the Birds) He has been carrying around his toy “Chick,” a black-capped chickadee, for well over a year. (You can see it perched next to him at the piano.) He even wanted to be a black-capped chickadee for Halloween, so I made him a chickadee costume! But mostly he’s just had me read to him — just one or two pages at a time — about birds from some bird guides at the end of his lesson time. I’m quite impressed how this has been a steady interest of his for several years now, and though it’s subtle, he continues to learn about birds in his own way.

Observing and identifying my child’s major interests helps me consider how I can continue to support his endeavors. I’ve realized I can do this effectively in these ways:

  • Give him the time and tools. Then get out of his way!
  • Don’t tell him what to do. Get out of his way!
  • But be there. And pay attention. Help him when he wants help. (He won’t always say he wants help. Sometimes he gets frustrated and cries. Sometimes he gets “bored” or tired. Sometimes he needs a break more than my help, and he’ll return to the project later.)
  • Start my own similar projects without expecting him to join me. But the magic is that he often does! 

Both my boys have showed me that these tactics work. Children will feel their interests are validated when they see adults doing the same things! There is no better expression of love than this.

Summertime for a Homeschooling Family

For most families, summertime means a huge change of pace. The children are home and need entertaining. There are trips to the pool, BBQs, family gatherings, outdoor entertainment etc. Well, we don’t have access to a pool, and we rarely eat BBQ, and we see our extended families about the same as always. While we love getting outside, we do that more in the fall, winter & spring when the weather isn’t so unbearably hot…and places aren’t as crowded either. 🙂

Our kids don’t need entertaining. They are home all the time and know how to entertain themselves, if they need to. So mostly, our routine changes very little. I still do homeschool lessons because it’s easier to keep some structure to our days, but I always do something a little different. This summer I’m concentrating on Spanish lessons and read-a-louds. I’m hoping to find a Spanish curriculum that we will stick with, and I have some books I want to read that I didn’t get to in the winter.

But even though not a lot changes, that doesn’t mean summer doesn’t have its seasonal treats, so to speak. Here’s a list of everything I think about when I think about our summers. I’m including some links to posts I’ve written about our summer habits.

  • Going out of town. Though I guess it’s technically still spring in May, that’s when my husband usually has some time off, so if we can swing it, we go on vacation. This year we went west, and it was our most memorable trip yet.
  • Gardening. I always plant a garden, and it has to be watered frequently, which is a good way to get the boys outside even for a few minutes everyday. This year I planted roma tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and dill. We’re also trying to grow milkweed and sunflowers, but so far, that’s not going too well.
  • Plants and more plants. We also have some permanent flowers and herbs in the garden and around the house, and it’s fun to see them come back to life and grow. The boys take good care of their carnivorous plants, which provide insect control and entertainment every summer!
  • Baby Birds. We have two birdhouses around our house, and there’s usually at least one brood being reared at all times during the summer. We’ve also found bird’s nests in our trees and bushes. Sometimes we’ve been lucky enough to see the chicks fledge. These little miracles are my favorite part of summer.
  • Nature Discoveries. Even though we’ve lived in our home for 14 years, there is always new stuff to discover in our wooded yard. Sometimes it’s wild animals, and sometimes it’s plants. This year we discovered we have four wild black cherry trees in our yard! (It produces fruit infrequently, which is why we haven’t noticed them before.) We’ll probably leave the fruit for the birds because we love the birds and are happy to have a natural food source for them. (Well, I think the squirrels are going to finish off the cherries before the birds do.)
  • Lemonade. My 10-year-old loves lemonade, so I make him fresh lemonade every summer. He says mine is the best, and since he’s tasted a lot of lemonade at restaurants and his grandpa’s house, I am going to trust that assessment. 😉
  • Fruit. We love fruit in this house, so we love it when strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, watermelon, and many other kinds of fruit come into season. My 10-year-old loves fruit too, which makes me happy. Oh, and we love to make smoothies and sometimes margaritas! (Those are just for the adults!)
  • Summer day camps. Every year my boys attend at least one summer camp each. The camps at our local botanical garden are our favorite. I appreciate how the garden gets them involved in nature and with other kids in a way that I can’t, and they take great care of them too. My boys have so much fun playing large group games and activities – something they don’t get at home. It’s a nice change of pace for them, and it’s the only time I get a day off, so it’s a bonus that it’s five days in a row!
  • Homeschool Wrap-up & Planning. Summertime is record-keeping time. I have to write up progress reports, and I print out reading lists and certificates of completion. I put everything in 3-ring binders, and I generally clean up the year’s work. Then I store all that away and I make new binders for next year, and I plan what we’re going to start in the fall. It sounds like a lot of work, but the only thing that takes a significant amount of time is a slideshow I put together with all the photographs from our year. I use that when we have our end-of-year review, and the boys love it.
  • Part of my homeschool wrap-up involves getting my blog up-to-date too, so you can expect a few more posts from me in the near future. 😉

I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that’s pretty much what summer looks like around here. It’s pretty simple, but it’s pretty wonderful too.

Trip West

In May, we took a trip out west. We weren’t expecting to undertake such a big trip this year, but we often mused about taking the boys out west. Then, my sister asked us when we were coming for a visit…she and her family live near Denver, Colorado. That was the push we needed to get us on the road.

It was the longest road trip we’ve ever taken, so we weren’t sure how anyone would behave (most of all, the adults!). But we made it almost-painlessly on the two day drive to New Mexico, which was our first destination.

New Mexico

I used to live out west, but seeing it with my children was like seeing it for the first time again. The boys were thrilled to see the desert landscape, pronghorn antelope, a horny toad, and my 10-year-old was even lucky enough to get a glimpse of elk while we were driving! They were familiar with these animals from all the documentaries we watch, and especially Wild Kratts, so seeing them in person was very exciting! We (especially me!) were also thrilled to identify some birds that don’t live in Georgia — grackles, ravens, magpies, etc. It was so much fun!

Santa Fe, New Mexico

We spent a couple of days in Santa Fe, which I’d always wanted to spend more time in, and so did my husband. It’s a beautiful, artsy, touristy town with a lot of history. We spent an afternoon looking through the art galleries, and I thought the boys might get bored there, but they enjoyed that! My seven-year-old said he had fun because he “saw many things I liked!” The only place they did get a little bored in was the Georgia O’Keefe Museum, but I enjoyed that.

Oldest church ever built in the U.S.A. It was built by the Tlaxcalan Indians under the direction of Franciscan Padres, circa 1610.

The second day in Santa Fe, we headed a short distance out of town to see Bandelier National Monument, and this was perhaps our favorite site to see. We took what was at least a 2-mile hike through a beautiful landscape that was quite different from home.  This hike ended at some incredible Pueblo ruins. I had never even seen anything like that before. (We bought some books about the Pueblo Indians at the visitor center, which I’m reading to my boys now!)

“Tyuonyi (pronounced Qu-weh-nee) is a free standing pueblo from the 14th century built in an unusual circular shape in Frijoles Canyon midway between Frijoles Creek and the north canyon face. Two and perhaps three stories high in some places this village housed about 100 people in 400 rooms and was constructed of carefully shaped tuff blocks cut from the canyon walls. There was a single ground-level entrance and a plaza area that had three small kivas which served as the center for social village ceremonial life.”
My boys viewing the Pueblo ruins at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico.
a kiva

After Santa Fe, we drove up to Denver and spent four days at my sister’s house. My grown-up niece and nephews stopped by to see us too, so my boys got to meet their cousins, which was great. There was a big snowstorm in the area when we arrived, which kept us from going farther north. But since we were tired from traveling, it was nice to stay around my sister’s area, enjoy the mountain view from a local park, and go to the pool at her gym.

Approaching the snowstorm.
View from Bluffs Regional Park. Overlooking Denver and suburbs.

After our time in Denver, we headed south again, but this time we went to Albuquerque. We were there for just one day, but we packed a lot in. We went to the Indian Cultural Arts Center, Petroglyph National Monument, and Old Town Albuquerque for dinner and a bit of shopping.

Indian Cultural Arts Center

This was an incredibly educational trip. The Indian Cultural Arts Center was a fascinating place, and I read most of the exhibits to my boys, which were full of stories and inspiring messages from various Pueblo cultures. The museum is owned and operated by the 19 Pueblo tribes that are located in New Mexico.

I had seen petroglyphs before, but I had never seen as many as I saw at Petroglyph National Monument. The petroglyphs are carved into large basalt boulders, ancient volcanic rock that had once flowed around a hill, but now the hill has eroded away. This is called reverse or inverted topography, and the canyon that is left behind is called Boca Negra Canyon.

This trip created memories that will last a lifetime, and we’re so glad we took the plunge and went.

Do you have any special trip plans for this summer? I would love to hear about them.

Celebrating Nature

The weather is gorgeous right now, and the flowers and trees are blooming. It’s a beautiful time of year, and we’ll be celebrating Easter this weekend too.

I love sitting outside on our front porch or taking a long walk through the neighborhood on days like this. Unfortunately, I also get allergies, and the last couple of days, it’s been bad. So I’m taking a break from going outside, and I’m staying inside with the air filter running…I feel much better. But how sad I am not outside!

I thought I might console myself by pulling out some of the best photographs I’ve taken over the years of our journeys and discoveries in nature. Some of them were taken in my yard. Others were taken at nearby parks or on trips. They bring back a lot of memories. They are my favorites, and I hope you enjoy them too.

Click a photo to enlarge and scroll through.

I hope you’re having a beautiful and memorable springtime, and I hope you’ll tell me how you’re spending your recent/upcoming days. If you celebrate Easter, I wish you a Happy Easter. If you celebrate passover, I wish you a Happy Passover.

Homeschooling 1st Grade: A Look at Our Year & Curriculum

This year has been going well for my youngest son who is seven-years-old and in the first grade. At the beginning of the year, I gave you a glimpse at the basic curriculum I was going to use, but in this post, I am able to tell you more in depth what he’s been working on this year. In a future post, I’ll write more about his self-led projects.

My main focus for him continues to be reading and math. I don’t worry about finishing any curriculum in a set amount of time. We go slow so that we can keep it light and be thorough. I spend about an hour with him after lunch 3-4 days a week (while older brother practices piano), and we do reading, handwriting, piano theory, math, related games, and I read certain books that I want him to hear (see below). He also does a few lessons with his brother in the mornings — listening to the history lessons or science lessons or other readalouds. Otherwise, he gets to play while I’m working with his brother.

Reading & Language Arts

We’ve worked our way up to lesson 65 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and he’s doing quite well. I am extremely satisfied that I waited until he was seven to start this book unlike my eldest son whom I tried to teach at five. Now I know that’s too young (unless your child is an early reader). The book gets more challenging as it goes along, so I think we may take a break from it starting soon and use some other resources. Then we’ll come back to it in the fall. But I haven’t completely decided about that yet.

I’ve also enjoyed playing games with him that may help him learn to read, such as my sight word game, sight word bingo, and also matching games with words.

We finished Handwriting Without Tear’s My Printing Book, and now I’m having him work in Printing Power.

I wrote about some of the fiction I’m reading to my 10-year-old in 4th Grade Homeschooling: Language Arts, and my 7-year-old sits and listens to some of those books. However, he still loves picture books, and every night before bed, I read something to him. This year I decided to take some of his favorite picture books that we own and order other books by the same author/illustrator from the library. For example, he loves The Mitten by Jan Brett, so he wanted to see more of her books. We got a few of them from the library, and we enjoyed comparing all of them. Then we got Lentil by Robert McCloskey because Make Way for Ducklings is one of his favorite books. (Mine too.) I also got him a big book of Curious George because Curious George has been one of his all-time favorites, and this isn’t the first time I’ve had to get more Curious George from the library. Anyway, it’s been fun to explore our favorite author/illustrators. In addition, I read a lot of Calvin and Hobbes to him. 😉

Math

We finally finished book 1A of U.S. Edition of Singapore Math. I know I probably took way longer with this book than I needed to, especially since my son is quite good at math, but I’m also glad we took our time and had fun with the activities. I will probably begin book 1B soon, but right now I’m taking a break and reading from an old World Book’s Childcraft Shapes and Numbers book, which has some fun activities and stories. (Library sale find!)

I should also mention that my youngest son loves games in general. He especially loves his digital games, which I’ll write about someday, but we also play games together several nights a week for fun. I’ve noticed how these games have quite a bit of math in them, and he enjoys doing the math himself. He can add up the dice in Yahtzee quickly, and he enjoys being the “banker” in Star Wars monopoly. He even enjoys playing the games to memorize the multiplication tables with his older brother, though that is much more difficult for him. So I feel like we’ve gone well beyond the math in our curriculum.

History

I’ve let my first grader listen along to the history lessons I’m giving my 10-year-old. (See Homeschooling: Diving into Human History.) I think he’s a little less interested, and some of it goes over his head, but he also seems to like some of it too. He also enjoys any history documentary we watch together as a family. Overall, I think he’ll get a good general idea of human history, and when he’s older, we’ll dive into it again in more depth.

Science

Science was something we used to do everyday in this house, and we attended many homeschool science classes at the nature center too. But that’s all changed, so now I’m reading our vast collection of science books to my 1st grader (mostly the Let’s Read and Find Out Science books that I picked up at library book sales), and he also follows along with his brother’s science curriculum. He especially likes the experiments! We also watch a ton of science documentaries together as a family.

In addition to this, my 1st grader still loves birds, and we make a point to read a little bit about birds in one of our bird guides after every lesson. This is a self-led project. He always gets to pick what he wants to read, and he usually chooses just one or two pages — perfect, really! I love this long-term interest and how consistent he is with it. I hope he’ll always love birds.

He also mentioned to me recently that he’d like to do more experiments, so we’re diving back into DK’s 101 Great Science Experiments, a book that I used with his older brother. I think his interest is more in doing an experiment/activity than actually learning about science, but that’s okay with me for now, and it’s why this book is perfect too. He can pick any experiment in random order as long as we have the materials to do it, and he’s still learning a little bit about science too.

Music

I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned this yet or not, but the seven-year-old started piano lessons last October! We asked him if he’d like to try piano lessons since we have the piano and his older brother is a pianist. He wasn’t sure at first, but we assured him we wouldn’t make him continue, if he didn’t like it. Well, he likes the lessons, and he’s already passed the Primer level and well into Level 1. I have no idea if this will turn into a long-term interest or not, but so far he says he wants to continue to “at least until the intermediate level.” For reasons that aren’t relevant here, he goes to a different teacher than his brother, but that is working out well, and I’ve enjoyed learning about how different teachers do things — a good education for me! If anyone is interested, all the teachers that we have had the pleasure of working with have used Piano Adventures for their beginning students. The seven-year-old’s teacher supplements it with other books and sheet music that she owns too. (If you have any questions about our experience with piano lessons, purchasing a piano, or finding good teachers, you are welcome to e-mail me. This is not something I plan to write about in the near future, but I know that for parents who have no musical background, there is a big learning curve! )

Extracurricular

In addition to these lessons, my seven-year-old has attended a homeschool class at the state botanical garden this year. This is a class I spearheaded by asking and meeting with the awesome facilitators at the garden. It meets once a month, and it’s been a great class for him. They get outside on the garden trails, learn about animals and plants, and do a lot of activities. Once they even met at the art museum. I’ve been especially happy with this class because I feel like my older son got to participate in so many classes and camps when he was younger, and his younger brother was just a tag-along then. Now it’s my seven-year-old’s turn to have his own special classes. 🙂

I think that’s about all I can say about 1st grade this second time around. What a difference it makes to have done this once before! It’s been a huge pleasure to spend one-on-one time with him and plan special lessons just for him. He is a pleasure to teach too. I’m a lucky mama.

As always, if you have any questions, ask away!

Thoughts on Photographs and the Last Ten Years

Due to several reasons, we had not been getting out for regular day hikes as much as we used to, and this made me sad. But last week we woke up, the weather was good, the time was right, and we decided at the last minute to go to the mountains for the day. (We never plan ahead for these things.) I can’t tell you how good this felt. My soul needs a good dose of nature. So included in this post are some photos from that hike.

Speaking of photos, I was also feeling sad that I have not gotten out to take real photographs in what feels like forever. My photography website has been neglected. My Nikon is collecting dust. Though I always had good intentions about pursuing photography more seriously, the life of a homeschooling mom proved to be a like an ocean wave that swept over all my prior intentions. Suddenly everything I once wanted to do isn’t so important anymore. My heart swells with pleasure at creating lessons, birdwatching, listening to classical music….all those things that my boys have brought to me. I know I will still pursue photography and all those other interests again someday, but for now, I am enjoying riding this wave.

However, I was determined to bring my Nikon with me on our hike the other day, and wouldn’t you know it, we were on the highway before I remembered that I had forgot it! How typical of me in my current state! At least my lovely husband bought me a phone with a decent camera, so I had something to capture our time on the trail.

Recently I also happened to look through some old photographs of my boys when they were babies, and it was a little shocking to me to realize that this was ten years ago for my eldest son. I mean, I know he’s ten years old, but to think that these photographs were taken ten years ago…that’s a decade! And so much has changed! We have different sofas now, but these “new” sofas are already starting to look old. The garden looked so green and fresh then, and we had grass too. Ten years of homeschooling and putting all our resources into our boys have taken their toll, and home improvements have taken a backseat too.

Yes, a lot of changes have occurred in ten years, including the fact that I’ve aged ten years. How young and thin I looked at 35! I was a new mother. A fresh mother. Now…..hmmm…..What will another 10 years do to me? **mockingly bites nails**

I have taken a lot of photographs over the years since I became a mother, and I’m so glad I did. As I scroll through a decade’s worth of photos, I notice how in ten, short years, I have already lived through a few different “stages” of my sons’ childhoods.

There was the infant stage. I remember breastfeeding, napping, breastfeeding, changing diapers, breastfeeding, going to the doctor a lot, napping, and breastfeeding. And we had a lot of visitors that year. (Family don’t visit as often after the “super cute” stage.)

Then there was the “nature stage,” which could also be considered the “science stage.” My memories are filled of visits to the nature center, snakes, making friends, walking on trails, discovering all sorts of critters, and realizing my son had a special interest in nature and science.

Overlapping with that was the “building” stage. He built with paper, cardboard, Legos, clay. He got into robotics. He took pottery classes. Life was rich with nature, science and creating.

None of that has gone away completely. He’s still interested in those things and does them when he has time, but I would definitely say we’ve moved into the “piano stage.” Or the “music stage.” And this is just another form of using his hands to create, right? A lot of time is spent everyday in this pursuit. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else. Not only does he practice piano, he reads about composers, watches classical music on YouTube, and enjoys attending concerts.

We are also in the midst of the “gaming stage.” Both my boys are deep into it. They play countless digital games and take them very seriously. They also love to watch other people playing games on YouTube. When I listen in on their conversations, it’s usually about a game, or their plans for future games. When they run around outside, I’m pretty sure they are imagining themselves in a game. Games have even increased their interest in history. In addition to this, my seven-year-old and I play board games or card games at least every other day. He’s my little gamer.

My seven-year-old also went through a “drawing stage,” and a “puzzle stage.” Just imagine drawings everywhere — on the walls, on the floors — and big puzzles all over the floor too. These interests still pop up every now and then.

Last but not least, my seven-year-old is still in the “bird stage.” It started long ago, and it’s still going on and on and on and on.

I see all these “stages” in my photographs, and I’m grateful I have a record of them. I am impressed with the longevity of these stages. People always tell me how children will flit from one interest to the next, but my boys have stuck with some of their interests for a good, long while. I know that proper support and tools inspire children to stick with things, but it may just be a coincidence too. Or my boys’ personality. I don’t know why, but I love it.

Notice, however, that I don’t call these moments in time “phases.” Somehow to me a “phase” has a connotation of something trivial that will pass whereas a “stage” is something that is natural and part of one’s development. It may or may not pass, but it’s an integral part of that development.

My husband and I take each of these stages very seriously, and despite criticism we may receive from other people, we know that it’s important to respect our children’s interests and consider each one as more than a “phase.” It’s what they are now, and we want to do whatever we can to help them do their best with it. We know that if they do their best now, they will do their best with anything they pursue in life.

I look forward to the continuation of these stages. I look forward to future stages. Really, it’s just one, big, magical time.

Homeschooling: Diving into Human History

bookshelf

I’m extra excited to tell you that one of the things I added mid-year are history lessons. If there’s one thing I’ve been wanting to learn more about, it’s history. 🙂

Until now, history is something I have not worried about incorporating into our homeschool lessons for several reasons. First, I don’t think young children need a lot of history unless they are interested in it.** I doubt they will fully understand it or remember it. Also, my husband is a history professor, so I knew we would get a good history education with his help. Indeed, he peppers our documentary-watching with relevant historical facts as needed!

Until this past year, my eldest son didn’t show much interest in history. We watch a lot of documentaries, but when the boys were smaller, they needed to be nature documentaries. They liked animals and nature, but documentaries about people were boring, and frankly, over their heads. However, this changed during this past year~year and a half or so. We have slowly begun to watch other kinds of documentaries such as science, engineering and history, especially those dealing with archaeology. So I saw more of an interest in history creeping up. It was at this time I made my big history timeline, and as we watched or read about historical events or people, we would add a tag about them to our timeline. But I still didn’t do “formal” history lessons.

Then, my boys began to play digital games that incorporated military tanks and ships, etc. In the games, they would learn a tremendous amount about many, real military vehicles, and they soon wanted to know more. One of their Christmas presents was a big book about tanks, and they still study it everyday! This is one of their major interests right now.

My 10-year-old began asking questions about the world wars, and one day, I let him listen to his father’s U.S. history podcast about World War II. It was at this point that I felt we could start history lessons. I considered doing American history first since his interests seemed to gravitate in that direction. In addition, I’ve been reading to them about Native Americans now and then for a while now too. But ultimately, with my husband’s help, I decided to go with World History first because that’s what I wanted to do in the first place, and we happened to find some very cool books that we both loved. (I want to give a shout out to my online friend, Kristina Daniele, for sharing her history resources with me. She helped me get started in my search for history resources that would appeal to my young boys.)

What’s exciting about studying history as a homeschooler is that we can start at the beginning and spend time delving into each era, and we don’t have to stop. In public school, I got bits of history in each grade, but I only remember the big events of American history. I know I never studied ancient humans or ancient Egypt. I know I never understood “the big picture” of the human timeline (until now). I am sure when my boys are adults, they will have forgotten a lot of our history lessons too, but that’s why I made the history timeline, I’m going slow, and in high school, we’ll circle around to the beginning again. Even if they don’t remember the finer details, they are going to understand the big picture of human history.

I’m going to write in more detail about our history lessons as we come to each unit. But below is a blueprint of how I’m getting started and what I’m using for our “spine.”

I am using my husband’s history lectures as a “spine” or guide. Even though his podcasts are for college level students, they are short, and my boys can understand most of what he’s saying. I use the “key terms” he lists under the lectures as a guide when I’m searching for additional books at the library. I don’t try to get a book on everything, but for example, under “Mesopotamia,” one of the key terms is “Epic of Gilgamesh.” When I looked up Mesopotamia in the library search engine, I found a storybook for kids about the Epic of Gilgamesh — that’s a nice supplement to our studies on Mesopotamia!

We also bought three history textbooks that we’re reading as we go along too. My husband gets a lot of free college textbooks to review, but we obviously needed books that would appeal to young kids. Finding the perfect world history text for kids didn’t prove easy! My husband and I spent some time searching for books on Amazon, and I checked these out from the library before we bought them. I’m going to list them in order of our preference.

The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia — This is our favorite. It’s a beautiful book with rich photographs and illustrations, and it has all the relevant information in it that we’re looking for. However, this is not meant to be an in depth look at history. Like my husband’s podcasts, it can be used as a starting point. For example, “Ancient Egypt” covers a two-page spread. Still, this is the kind of overview that kids would be getting in a world history class, and you can pause wherever you like and get more books from the library about each section. (This is a perk of homeschooling — no rushing through a curriculum!) As we get further into this book, I’ll be able to tell you more about it.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History — This is a great book too with beautiful illustrations and photographs. It doesn’t have quite as many details as the Kingfisher, but it covers everything and then some. We bought this intending to let our son read it on his own. Usborne considers “World History” to also mean “Earth’s History,” and it begins with about eighty pages dedicated to prehistoric time, what fossils are, and evolution, etc. When I think of “World History” I tend to think of that as “Human History,” which is what they do in school. But that makes little difference, and there is something to having the “big picture” laid out in one book. However, we’ve already learned so much about Earth’s history through our science interest that we already know this information. So I’m not requiring my son to read those first eighty pages unless he wants to.

The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer — We are well aware of the criticisms of these books, but having looked at the first one, we decided we would try it because learning about history through story form might interest our sons. As a history professor, my husband reviews many college level textbooks, and he tells me that many of them have biases. The point is that you should never use just one text as your information source just as you should never use one media outlet for all your current news. By studying many different resources, you will be more informed and better able to find mistakes or biases, and learning how to do that is a good learning lesson in itself. We have not gotten very far into SOTW, and my 10-year-old doesn’t love it, but I think my 7-year-old liked it better. I am not sure we’ll continue with these books, but I’ll let you know.

As we get to each section of our history curriculum, I plan to write short posts about what we’re reading for each. For example, right now we’re studying Ancient Egypt, so I’ll tell you what books I found for that soon.

If you have any history resources you love, please tell me about them in the comments.

**Note: My seven-year-old is less interested and perhaps doesn’t understand the history I’m teaching as much as my 10-year-old. However, I usually ask him to try to listen, but if he’s really bored, I don’t make him. I think he picks up on quite a bit, however. At this point, I’m not requiring any written work. We’re just enjoying reading about history.