How to Make a Big History Timeline for Your Wall

We have a hallway upstairs that is rather drab with nothing on the wall, so for quite some time, I was eyeing that hallway with the keen observance that only a homeschool mom can have. Pretty artwork? I couldn’t afford that even if I wanted it. No, it was the perfect spot for a history timeline. This past spring, I finally got around to making that timeline, and once I was finished, I realized I had room for one more!

I’m a very visual person, so this timeline is a huge help for me as I try to grasp history — a subject that I wasn’t particularly interested in as a youth. Now I’m married to a historian and a history professor, so I’m not worried that my boys will not learn about history, but if a timeline helps me, I think it might help them too. It’s also something we can refer back to time and again, and we can see where the stories we’re hearing about the past intersect. They will no longer be separate stories, floating around in “the past,” which could mean yesterday, last year, or hundreds of years ago. With the timeline, we can see that Thales lived much earlier than Sir Isaac Newton, but he lived only approximately 100 years before Pythagoras. It may be hard for young people to grasp the length of time that comes before they’re born, but I trust as my sons mature, ask questions, and study this timeline, they will begin to understand it.

You can see the timelines I made in the photo above. The one on the bottom was my first and most ambitious timeline. My husband was rather dubious when I told him that I wanted a timeline that would illustrate time from the approximately the dawn of civilization to 2000C.E. To say that I’m squishing time into a small space is an understatement.

My plan with these timelines is to add points of history to them as my boys learn about them. I will keep them on the wall for the entirety of the boys’ education five years, so this will be a slow, on-going project. The bottom timeline may fill up to the point where we have no more space left, but that is why I decided to also make a timeline (the top one) from 1700-2000C.E. I imagine that we’ll be concentrating most of our efforts on these years, so I don’t have to squeeze all the major wars and American history into that small space (in red below) on the bottom timeline.

How did I make the timelines? I did it using a little math. First, I measured the wall and determined that I had about 11 feet (or 132 inches) to work with. Then I determined how many years I wanted to illustrate on the timeline. My husband says that there is no way to know exactly when the dawn of civilization occurred, but 3000 or 3500B.C.E. would be sufficient for my purpose. So, I had about 5,000~5,500 years I wanted to get onto the timeline.

There are 100 50-year increments between 3000B.C.E. and 2000C.E. With 132 inches of wall, I used the equation 132 divided by 100 to figure out that I could tick off every 50 years at about 1.3 inches. You can certainly do that, but this is not how I ultimately did it.

From 1000B.C.E. to 2000C.E., I have every 50 years spaced apart by 1.5 inches. From 1000B.C.E. to 3500B.C.E., I began counting the years by hundreds (again, at every 1.5 inch). There are no early records, so dates this far back are all guesswork, and most of our studies will not take us this far back. I marked it clearly on the timeline when I made this change. (See below.) By doing this I had a little more room between years, it was easier to measure, and I was able to get all the way to 3500B.C.E.

For my 1700 – 2000C.E. timeline, I had a generous 2.1 inches to represent every 5 years.

After determining the space I had, I used the following materials:

  • Long roll of white craft paper. I happened to have a Melissa & Doug Easel Paper roll on hand.
  • Tape measure
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Something flat with a straight edge, such as a folded piece of paper.
  • Tacky Adhesive, such as this, for mounting on wall. Although you can pin it up any way you like. [UPDATE: We kept our timeline up for 5 years. It served its purpose. However, the tacky adhesive made a mess, and we had to paint the wall. It may be less destructive to pin up with thumb tacks.]

And this is how I made the timeline:

  • I laid the paper out on the floor, and I stretched out about 11.5 feet (more than I needed) of the tape measure in the middle of the paper.
  • I used a little tape to hold down both ends of the measuring tape, and later I simply trimmed each side of the paper, so if the tape messes up the paper when you pull it off, that’s okay.
  • I traced a line on either side of the measuring tape, and then I put a folded piece of paper under the tape measure to use as a straight edge to help me mark off the points where I wanted the numbers to go at every 1.5 inch. (Again, see pictures for illustration.)

Voilà! After it was complete, since it’s so long, the whole family helped take it upstairs and mount it on the wall with the tacky adhesive. It’s heavy, so whatever you use to hang it up will have to be strong. We used a lot of the tacky adhesive in several places along the top and bottom of the paper.

I used a similar method to make the 1700-2000 timeline. You can certainly use this method to make a timeline during any period of history, and it can be as long or as short as you like.

TIP: Use a pencil and don’t press hard. You’ll thank yourself later as you want to rearrange items on the timeline or especially if you make a mistake while writing out all those numbers. (I’m speaking from experience!) As my husband said, “It’s not a piece of art. History is messy.” 

As you can see from my photos, we’ve already started to add a few points of history to our timelines, and we haven’t even done any formal history lessons! It took awhile to get into the habit, but whenever we learn about history through a documentary, book, or even an online article, we make a point to add something to the timeline. My nine-year-old is starting to warm up to history, and I think the timeline is making it fun for him.

Project-based Homeschooling: Birds & Feathers

My six-year-old loves these toy birds, especially the little brown one on top, which he named “Feathers.”

Both of my boys are fascinated by birds, feathers, and they love looking at the iBird app on our iPad. So in a way, this project is for both of them. But, really, it’s my six-year-old’s project. (Note: He just turned six!) He has spent more time looking at that bird app (with me every night before bed), drawing birds, making birds, building nests out of clay, making a feather book, and most of all, playing and coddling his favorite bird toys. It’s been so fun for me to see him develop what is clearly turning out to be a self-driven interest, a “project” of his own, because his older brother, well, he has LOTS of interests. My six-year-old, while he is also interested in most of the things his brother is interested in, and he follows along, and sometimes digs deep into his own work, I am tickled pink to see him develop interests independent of his brother.

The whole family delights in our resident hummingbirds. To read about more adventures we had with real birds this summer, click here.

For a long time, all my six-year-old wanted to do was look at the bird app, and that was okay. But during this past spring and summer, he began making representations of birds and feathers. The other interest of his, which is also an interest his brother doesn’t share, is drawing. So naturally, he began drawing and painting birds and feathers. I admit, I made the suggestion that he draw a bird in his sketchbook, but the six-year-old liked the idea, and over time, he ended up drawing several birds in his sketchbook. He looks at photos of them in the bird app to do this.

He told me he wants this sketchbook to be only drawings of birds. I’m not sure that’ll happen, but it’ll be very neat, if it does.

One day he wanted to make a hummingbird out of paper. As usual, that meant he wanted me to make it, but that’s okay. He directed me as to how to do it, and then he colored it.

I wanted to buy the boys Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species for their end-of-the-year present, which I did, and it’s been awesome because we find some interesting feathers in our yard, and this has helped us identify them. But at first, I wasn’t sure my six-year-old would really appreciate the book. I decided to ask him if he would like a bird feather book, but when I asked him, he thought I said, “Do you want to make a bird feather book?” He began jumping up and down and said, “Yes! Yes! Yes! I want to make a feather book!” Ha! Sure enough, a few days later, he sat down to actually do it. He traced a few feathers he found and then colored them. He finished it all in one night. Later, he had me label each page with the name of the bird. This book is such a treasure.

Below are a few other things he’s made regarding feathers and birds. And there’s probably more that I’m missing!

Drawing and painting feathers.

One day he asked me to draw the roadrunner on his library book so that he could paint it.

The next day he wanted me to draw a cardinal so he could paint it.

And then a blue parakeet.

I always encourage him to draw or create things by himself, and since sometimes he does draw and try to create things by himself, I don’t really worry about it when he wants me to do something for him. I think he knows his limits, and when he knows he can’t make something as well as I could, it’s reasonable for him to want help. I think the important thing is that he comes up with the idea by himself, and he directs me. This is what good leaders do, isn’t it? Find the right person for the job and make sure it’s done according to their plan. I feel certain that as he gains better motor skills, he will take over these jobs himself.

But one day my nine-year-old convinced his brother to try to draw something by himself. Of course, little brother has drawn birds by himself in his sketchbook, but on this particular day, he wanted me to draw for him, and I wasn’t available. Big brother inspired little brother to draw some birds in different poses and that made me happy. 🙂

On the left: My nine-year-old drew his toy cardinal, Red, in different “modes.” He tells me it’s “Red in flight mode. Red in statue mode. Red in relaxed mode. Red in surprise mode.” On the right: My six-year-old was inspired by his brother. These are drawings of his toy bird, named Feathers. “Feathers in squid mode. Feathers in dancing mode. Feathers in stupid mode. Feathers in flying peep mode.” 

He has made two bird posters. One was of his favorite birds, and one was of ducks. (He especially likes ducks.) I printed out photos for him, and he cut them out. I helped him glue the photos on the poster where he wanted them to go, and then he had me write the names of the birds under their pictures. We hung the posters in his room.

His latest work is this wood duck made out of clay. No, he didn’t sculpt it. He insisted that I do the sculpting, but he told me what to do and then he painted it!

That’s the bird project for now. Stay tuned for more.

Our Homeschool End of Year Review and Celebration

Our 2014-2015 “school” year ended in July.

Though I haven’t quite caught up my blog with this past year’s activities (I will be doing that soon), we did finish our 2014-2015 year in July, and since the new school year is starting for so many homeschoolers, traditionally schooled kids, and us, I thought I’d mark the occasion here on my blog.

My end-of-year review and celebration is very simple and informal, and it takes much longer for me to get it all together than for us to celebrate it.

  • First, I write up the boys’ progress reports, which are required by law. I use this blog to help me do that! It’s my main record-keeper.
  • I print out the progress report, a list of books the boys have read this year, and I also print out simple “certificates of completion.” They don’t get report cards, but they can at least see they have accomplished another full year of their education.
  • I put together a slideshow on a dvd of the year’s photos, including vacations and homeschool work, field trips and activities, and we all watch it together. I’ve done this for two years now, and we’ve really enjoyed reviewing our year together. (This year, due to using different software than I have used in the past, it was a hard job. I appreciate my husband stepping in to help me get it done!)
  • I lay out the boy’s portfolios, some of their significant work, any certificates or badges they earned during the year, and we snap a photo, which you can see above.

And there you have it. The end of 2nd grade and pre-K.
Where does the time go?!

We have taken a few weeks in August off so that we can concentrate on birthday celebrations, cleaning up the old projects to make room for the new, organizing the calendar for our new school year, getting the new curriculum ready, and, of course, having fun and relaxing.

I’ll be starting our new year very soon, and we are adding quite a lot of work this year since my oldest is turning nine and going into the third grade, and my (gulp!) six-year-old is starting his FIRST OFFICIAL YEAR OF HOMESCHOOLING! In Georgia, we don’t have to report we are homeschooling until our child turns six-year-old. Now I have two official homeschoolers, and I’m very excited to see what this year brings us!

Note: To see the forms I use for record-keeping, the progress report, or to use the same certificate, see my free printables page.

Greenville County Museum of Art

On one spontaneous morning, we decided to drive to Greenville, South Carolina and visit their Children’s Museum. We didn’t know much about Greenville at the time or how much we’d love it. (We’re definitely going back!) Right next to the Children’s Museum was the county’s art museum, and it was open one hour later than the children’s museum. It was also free admission. How could we not go in?!

We all enjoyed the Children’s Museum, but the Greenville Country Museum of Art was the most memorable part of the trip for my husband and me. It was a beautiful, small museum, and it happened to have the biggest collection of artwork by Andrew Wyeth in the country. I fell in love with his work, and I’m planning to read some books about him. (He was homeschooled!) He is one of the most well-known artists of our time, so you have probably seen some of his work even if you are not familiar with his name.

This museum also let me take photographs of their permanent collection, but I’m not going to post many because I’m not sure they’d like that. My boys really enjoyed this sculpture of the hawks killing a snake, though. Most of the other artwork was paintings on the wall. I will share these little quotes they posted on the wall next to some work by Jasper Johns because I had to agree with him.

This happens to me all the time!

 

Art field trip to GMOA again

Before looking at the artwork inside, my boys burned off some energy in the art museum’s courtyard. (We would never allow them to run inside!)

Early in the summer, I surprised the boys one Friday morning by saying that for Art Friday, we were going to our local art museum, the Georgia Museum of Art, which is located on the University of Georgia’s campus. I already wrote a detailed column about this museum, so check that, if you want to know more about it.

What I love about this museum is that it’s free admission (although you have to pay a little for parking), and they let you take photographs of their permanent collection. (Be sure to check rules about photography in any museum you visit.)

My husband I really loved Jay Robinson’s work here.

Except for this one photo, I’m not going to post any of the other photos because I’m not sure they’d want me to post them on Internet. What I do when we’re at a museum is tell my boys that I’ll take a photograph of their favorite pieces. And my plan is to look at them again when we’re at home and learn more about that artist, but we haven’t done that yet (ahem!).

I did take a photo of a piece of artwork by Georgia O’Keefe at this museum, however, and one day at home we read a book I have about her, and we looked at more of her artwork online. But that was my choice.

Both my boys can get tired in an art museum much faster than my husband and me. But I consider it lucky that they remain interested for any amount of time, and I know that by starting young, they will learn how to behave and will learn more about art too. My eight-year-old remains interested much longer than his younger brother. In fact, I think he likes looking at everything. He just wants to go at a faster pace and than my husband and me. He’s good about being patient, though.

As for my five-year-old, he might say he doesn’t like the art, but he’ll pick a dozen paintings that he does like and ask me to take pictures of them. He also loves the benches.

Civil War Badge

This summer both my boys earned a Civil War Badge from the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. The badge was offered temporarily as a way to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the war, and, unfortunately, it’s not being offered anymore. It’s a shame because it was a great way for my boys to pay a little more attention to the historic sites. We haven’t formally studied the Civil War yet, but my son has had a nice introduction through this activity as well as conversations with us.

There were a lot of activities listed that they could do in order to get the badge, and for their age range, they only had to pick four of them. We picked the following four:

  • visit a historical marker that mentioned the Civil War: These are all over the place, so it was easy to find one near our home.
  • visit some civil war soldiers graves: This was also easy for us because every Memorial Day, we visit one of the cemeteries where my ancestors are buried because that was a tradition in my husband’s family. We picked Oconee Hill Cemetery where my grandmother, great-grandmother, great-grandfather and extended family is buried, and this time, we also roamed the older section of the cemetery which is very historical, and we found many Civil War soldiers buried there, including a section with unknown soldiers.
  • listen to popular songs from the Civil War era: I did better than that. I had my boys listen to both Dixie and The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and we watched YouTube videos about the history and significance of the songs.
  • watch one segment of Ken Burns’ The Civil War: That was a cinch too because this documentary is on Netflix. It was a little heady for my young boys, but I was surprised that my eight-year-old found some interest in it. This shows me he’s almost ready to venture into studying history, which hasn’t been a big interest of his.

We have learned about the Civil War in other ways too, but nothing too formal, and this is what we did for the badge. I’m grateful for the Parks and Historic Sites for sending my five-year-old son a badge too even though that was not a recommended age for the badge. Although he might not have understood everything as well as his big brother, he was right there doing all the activities too, and I do feel he deserved it.

Both my boys had fun earning the badge, and I found it a good motivator to get them thinking about history. 🙂

 

 

Project-based Homeschooling: My five-year-old’s Grocery Store

INK Museum’s pretend grocery store

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to take my five-year-old to the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, or INK Museum, in Gainesville a few times. It was fun going there with him without his brother (who was attending a class next door). We also had the opportunity to meet a friend of his there a few times too, so that was extra fun.

It’s important for my youngest child to get to do some things without his brother because big brother can certainly influence him. Sometimes this good, but sometimes, it isn’t. For example, when my oldest was this age, he did not care a flip about playing make-believe in INK’s exhibits. Instead, he was more interested in the trains, airplane, musical instruments and building supplies. However, his younger brother liked all that and the opportunity play pretend, although he was very specific about where he wanted to play pretend. Mostly, it was in the grocery store.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. He is a great help to me and his dad at the real grocery store! He wanted to shop twice, and I think he would have been content to stay in the store, if I had not reminded him we had a short time to see the whole museum.

After going to INK a few times and seeing how much he enjoyed the grocery store, I asked him if he’d like to make a grocery store in his room, and he was thrilled about that! So we worked on this for awhile, saving some recyclables and adding to the store whenever we could. He got a little carried away, and eventually I had to tell him he had enough groceries!

We also have a toy cash register, which isn’t in the photos. I had some baskets that I gave to my son in lieu of shopping carts. He also wanted to make some shopping carts, and we worked hard on that one day. We never finished because after trying out different supplies, we couldn’t figure out how to make the wheels work. But we may try again, if my son wants to.

We added more groceries (recyclables) over time. Now those shelves are full!

Big brother mans the pizza parlor in the grocery store. Later we wrote all the pizza specials on that big easel.

We played grocery store a few times, and our friends enjoy playing in it when they came over. Now it’s a little messy and neglected. But I’m sure we’ll clean it up and play again. 🙂

Art Fridays: Homeschool Art Lessons

I was pleasantly surprised that they got into my lesson about still life.

If I had more time, I would write a post after each art session, but instead I’m trying to catch up this homeschool year on my blog. (This is why I’ve been posting more lately, or actually, why I scheduled a bunch of posts over a few days in early February. Those will eventually run out. As you can see, I blog in spurts. Or between magazine issues. 🙂 )

So here’s a little assemblage of various “art days” that usually take place on Fridays, though art is not restricted to that day. The boys do a lot of art projects on their own, but Fridays are the days when I initiate something, and sometimes I try to teach them a new technique and tell them about an artist who used that technique. I am neither an artist, nor do I know a lot about art, so I have used a few resources to help me out. My favorite go-to resource for this has been Amy Hood’s Art Together e-zine.

Some Fridays when I’m not (ahem) prepared, I say things like “My only requirement of you today is to draw a picture in your sketchbook.” (This usually results in more than one piece of artwork.) Or one morning, I woke up early and had already started to paint some of the nature collection that my son had left on the table the day before. When my boys saw me doing that, they immediately wanted to join me. (I didn’t know that this is called a “provocation” until I read Amy Hood’s recent art column in home / school / life.)

Sometimes I try to teach the boys a new technique, and they are not interested in doing the project, such as when I showed them Joseph Cornell’s art boxes (via Art Together). Usually they want to do something else like paint or draw. This is fine. Unlike math and reading, I don’t require them to do the art lessons because I think art should be fun and voluntary. When they see me produce the art, they are still learning about that technique, and they learn a new possibility.

Looking back over these art sessions, I’m reminded that there was a time when I felt like our homeschool was desperately missing out on art. Because of that, I was intentional about starting “Art Fridays.” I’m so pleased with how this has turned out, and I think my boys have benefitted from it greatly. Of course, there are other things I feel like we are missing out on, such as Spanish lessons or belonging to a big homeschool group, but alas, one thing at a time. As many homeschool moms have told me, you can’t do everything, and you shouldn’t worry about doing everything, and someday you may look back and realize you did more than enough.

Click on an image to enlarge and read the caption. Also, a big thanks to Mo Akwati for his tutorial on how to draw a moth, which my dissatisfaction of my own drawing inspired him to do.

 

Project-based Homeschooling: Sketching at the Botanical Garden

When my eight-year-old went to pottery class, I drove my five-year-old ten minutes down the road from the studio to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which is probably my favorite place on this earth (and I’ve been a lot of places). I used to go there 2-3 times a week when I first moved to Georgia. I didn’t know many people, and for me, walking on the beautiful, wooded trails or sitting by a stream was like visiting with a friend.

Now that I have children, I don’t get to go there as much as I would like to, but I am happy that we have taken my boys hiking there several times, and my eight-year-old has even taken summer camps there. Sometimes my five-year-old and I took advantage of these times by walking on the trails while waiting for older brother.

I consider Fridays “art days,” and we usually don’t do our other lessons on these days. Luckily, pottery class happened to be on Fridays last fall, so while older brother took that class, I took my five-year-old to the botanical garden for our “art.” I didn’t do formal art lessons though. I decided to just take our sketchbooks and see what would happen.

I am not an artist and until now, I have never put any effort into drawing or painting because it hasn’t been a huge interest of mine. The main reason I’m giving it a go now is because my five-year-old LOVES to draw. He is always coloring or drawing a picture, and I have stacks and stacks of his work. I hang some of it up on the wall above my desk, and other artwork is filling our stairway. As another way of trying to support his work, I got all of us a sketchbook, and occasionally I try to use it. I’m not very good except, maybe, at drawing plants. So that’s what I usually draw. I find it’s a very relaxing exercise too, which is beneficial to me. My goal is to try to make it a weekly practice, although I don’t always get to it that often. (You can read more about how and why I started a sketchbook habit in this post.)

My five-year-old is not very confident at trying to draw new things by himself. He likes to draw “storms” or trees, and loves to use stencils. Usually he colors pictures from a coloring book or he has me draw something for him that he can color. But he has also created some really interesting artwork. Some of it is highly detailed too. Maybe you could call it “doodle art” or abstract art. You can see a slideshow of that on this post. I let him create art however he wants to do it, but I hope as we continue to explore art and drawing together, he will try new things.

Sometimes my five-year-old wasn’t into drawing at the botanical garden, but he almost always wanted to get a snack at the small cafe, and that was okay. (I didn’t mind getting a coffee.) After that, I would pull out our sketchbooks or whatever I brought. He rarely wanted to walk around the botanical gardens at this time, which was okay since it was cold outside, and I had never really sat and lingered in their visitor’s center before. This was definitely a huge treat for myself as well, and I already miss going! (Yes, I know we could go any day just for fun, but that is easier said than done.)

One day was particularly special. It was the day that he wanted to bring his camera, so on that day, we not only enjoyed a leisurely snack and drawing in our sketchbooks, he used his camera to document our workspace and everything around us. He even took his very first video, which turned out to be hilarious (imagine a five-year-old swinging the camera around and talking to his mother at the same time).  It is a video that I will always treasure, and I think he’ll enjoy watching it when he grows up.

Many of his photographs were blurry, but a few were great, I thought, especially since we were sitting in some wonderful light. Below are his photographs. I asked him if he wanted to walk around to take photos, but he didn’t want to do that. He took all of these from his chair. Above are a few snapshots I got with my phone so that you can see how serious he was about his drawing and picture-taking. He didn’t want me to take photos of him, so I had to be quite sly about it! That was necessary because I never want to forget this day. I wish every homeschooling day could be like this one.

Our 2nd Grade Homeschool Schedule and Curriculum (with Pre-K too!)

 

I love new school years! It’s an accomplishment to close out the previous year and plan a new one, and in the beginning of the year, everything feels so tidy and structured. I like structure, but I try to remain flexible about our schedule as the year goes on. It’s inevitable that new priorities will pop up, and some of what we do will fall to the wayside. But I think that is what is awesome about homeschooling – you get to be flexible. You get to follow your instincts about what is best for your kids on any given day. Just do that, and you’ll do great.

The five-year-old joins us.

My boys just turned eight and five! I am considering them in 2nd grade and Pre-K. This is the first time I’ve attempted to do any formal work with my five-year-old, and that’s because I can tell he’s ready for it. Earlier last year he would play while my older son did his lessons, but later in the year I noticed he would hang out at the table and watch/listen as his brother would practice reading. So earlier this summer I offered him a little ABC workbook, and he gleefully cheered “yes! yes!” After that he demanded what he termed his “reading lesson” everyday, even when I wasn’t planning to do it. Now he’s happy to take a day off, but he still likes doing his reading lessons alongside his brother.

What has changed since last year.

I have a popular post from last year about our first grade schedule and curriculum, and I always worry when a post becomes popular because we remain in flux, and while I try to write the truth of any given moment, the next month we might change what we’re doing! But I’m relieved that as I look back over last year’s schedule, not too much changed. But a little did:

  • I nixed the stretching fairly quickly. My boys just hated it. It felt useless to keep trying even though I still think they could use it.
  • When I wrote that post, we had a Friday morning bi-weekly class, and I thought we might have the occasional play date then too. Well, the class didn’t go, and neither did the play date, but later we enrolled my son in his pottery class, which was on Friday mornings for eight weeks, so the schedule didn’t really change after all.
  • Other than this, we kept that schedule fairly well, although we definitely had days when we didn’t do our lessons because other things took priority. I used it as a compass to get back into a routine when I felt we needed it. (Mostly I need it to stay sane. The boys would be fine with just playing everyday.)

So below is our weekly plan this year. It’s not too different from last year.

2nd grade MOL Weekly HS Schedule copy

What this doesn’t reflect: It doesn’t reflect all the little things that pop up like play dates that I don’t have a regular date for on my calendar and all the outings we do as a family, which could be considered field trips. We like to go hiking and to museums and other places of interest whenever we get the chance. Some days we may just go shopping. It also does not reflect my son’s project time.

Project Time

Last year our lessons were shorter, so we had an hour or more for projects in the mornings before lunch. This year, our lessons are taking us right up until lunch, so here is what I’m going to experiment with this year:

Since I want my son’s projects to have priority, every Monday morning I get our project notebook and go over what he’s told me he wants to do. He gets a lot of ideas that he doesn’t follow through with, and that’s okay. He’s in charge of his education. He knows that if he wants to build something or learn about something, we will make time for it. I’ve told him I’m willing to skip our lessons completely, if needed. So far this year, however, he hasn’t been doing anything that he needs me for, or either he seems to make small inquires at other times of the day. He does have one thing he wants to make that we don’t have the materials for yet, so when we get everything, we’ll do that. I’m also wondering how I can spur him on to dig deeper into his latest interest – Star Wars. I’ll write about how all this goes in the future.

Curriculum

Our curriculum is very eclectic. I choose our curriculum based on 1) what I think my kids will actually like and 2) what we have on hand or can find conveniently and/or cheap. I get a lot of resources from teacher-friends, though I don’t use a lot of that stuff. I have bought little workbooks and things on sale over the years and saved them. I have bought some things full price because I thought they were perfect for my boys. Buying a full curriculum that would cover everything has never seemed prudent when each subject requires its own strategy for my boys’ particular needs.

The weekly plan.

I have told my eight-year-old that he has to learn reading, writing, math, etc. The law requires them, and he understands that. But I also tell him we’ll go slow, at his pace, and we’ll try to use books and resources that he likes. This is not always easy, and I’m always wondering when I should nudge or pull back. This is just an ongoing part of homeschooling, I think, and I try to use my good instincts, though they fail me at times.

I am still not completely comfortable with unschooling my eight-year-old or using project-based homeschooling as our sole means of education, though a big part of me wants to do just that. I have opted instead to require him to do just one page in a workbook (to help build his handwriting and reading skills) and read just one or two pages in a book. If it gets hard for him, I usually make him finish at least part of what we’re working on, and then I take a break from it the next day or use a different resource. As I said before, I am willing to take long breaks from our lessons and work on his projects too. But I feel a slow progression in the fundamentals is important, and he is progressing, and I’m happy with that.

This is my order of things that happens between breakfast and lunch unless we have an appointment outside the house or a project to work on. Sometimes we don’t finish before lunch, but we usually do.

Read aloud – This is new. I have sorely missed book time, which is what I did when my son was little. Now we don’t have time in the a.m. for everyone to pick one or more books of their choice, so I’ve decided this is the time I get to pick one book of my choice. I can cover a lot of different subjects this way. (In the evenings before bed, my husband and I read to the boys, and they get to pick the books they want.)

1 Page Workbook – I have purchased simple workbooks (the kind you can get at Walmart or Target or teacher’s stores), and this year I’m having them each do one page each in a workbook. My eight-year-old hates the physical act of writing, so this is kind of an experiment, but also a slow way to build up his muscles and just get him used to writing a little bit. Below are listed the workbooks my boys have completed or are working on. (We started this during the summer, btw!)

The eight-year-old

–I started him out in an easy kindergarten workbook in which he only had to trace and write letters. This is because, as I said, he hates the physical act of writing, and I just wanted him to get used to having to write a little.

–I was not in the market to buy more workbooks, but we were in Barnes and Noble one day, and I happened to find Brainquest’s Star Wars workbooks. I picked them up because both my sons love Star Wars. I’m not so dumb as to think my eight-year-old will also love the workbooks, but if I can make doing what he dislikes a little more fun, I’ll try it. And the reading workbook happened to cover just the things I want him to work on. So we’re just now starting Star Wars 2nd Grade Reading. This is already proving to be difficult, and he’s in tears over it. It’s not that he’s not smart enough to complete the work, he just hates doing it. I may have him do only 1/2 a page at a time or pick and choose the pages. Part of me would like to nix it. Not sure what to do yet.

The five-year-old is my easy kid! He likes doing these workbooks! (I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that he loves drawing too.)

–Stick Kids Workbooks: Amazing Mazes

–A+ Alphabet Workbook

–A+ Numbers 1-12 (He’s almost finished with this.)

After this, I’m going to have him start:

Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks: Kindergarten Writing & ABCS

Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks: Preschool Number Fun

Reading Lesson – This is for the eight-year-old, but the five-year-old usually listens. I have him read 1-2 pages in a book. We have worked through most of the follow-up books recommended at the end of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We have two more to go on that list, and I’m hoping he’ll be willing to finish those books, but I’m not going to push him. I’ve had great success at letting him read books about the things he loves most, which are Legos’ characters and Superheros. We just finished Scholastic’s Super Heroes Save the Day! It makes a huge difference when he can read something like this versus any other book. I will probably alternate this will the workbook because doing both in one day proves to be too difficult.

Starfall – This is for both boys, although I didn’t tell my eight-year-old that. I asked him if he would sit with his younger brother and go over all the phonic reading lessons, games, books, and videos on Starfall.com.  They do about two rows every time they sit down to do this. I knew my five-year-old could benefit from it, but I wanted my eight-year-old to get the review as well as gain confidence in his reading ability. It’s working well, and my eight-year-old is shining as “teacher.” They don’t do this everyday, but they are almost finished with all fifteen rows on the website. I’m not sure if we’ll continue this, or go to other sections on that site.

Math – This is for the eight-year-old, but the five-year-old usually listens. We started right in on the next Life of Fred book this year! We are working on Life of Fred: Dogs, which is the fourth book in the series. I have considered changing our math curriculum in the past, but now I feel confident that the quirky story format of Life of Fred is perfect for my eight-year-old. (We are story lovers around here, after all.) I think Life of Fred does a great job teaching him what he needs to know, and when I feel it’s getting a little above his level, we just stop and practice math in other ways until I feel he’s ready to move on. Doing math twice a week still feels just right. If this book starts to get too hard, we’ll pause it awhile and practice math with other resources for awhile.

Science – This is new, although science has always been a huge part of our homeschool. I’ve never made time for it during our lesson time because my son’s projects, the homeschool science classes, the books he picks to read, and all the documentaries we watch daily have skyrocketed him well beyond 2nd grade science! Despite all this, I have a goal to study science in a more systematic way, especially when he gets older. And, this year, his pottery class conflicts with homeschool science, so we’ll have to miss out on those for the first time. (I’m really sad about that, although a little relieved to have a lighter class schedule.) Each year, I seem to be able to weave one more thing into our homeschool. Last year, it was art. This year, it’s science. (I hope by next year, I’ll find a way to take our Spanish lessons to a higher level.) We’re starting with something simple. I happened to have DK’s 101 Great Science Experiments, so we are working through this book and doing 1~2 science experiments a week. By the way, the first time I asked my son if he had a project he wanted to work on, he said, “Can’t we just do the experiments?” So, in a way, this is still his project.

Spanish – I wanted to find a better program to work on, but in some ways, I think watching Salsa is still the best bet for my boys so that they don’t lose interest in Spanish. I still write down the vocabulary, and I watch every episode with them – because I want to learn Spanish too!

Art – Last year at this time, I felt like we didn’t have enough art in our homeschool (despite all the craft and building projects that my son initiated on his own). I wanted to be able to teach a little bit about different artists and techniques. It’s also a part of project-based homeschooling to introduce children to new tools and techniques so that they’ll have a variety of mediums they can choose from when working on their own projects. I’m proud of myself for working in several art lessons last year and establishing a sketchbook habit with my younger son, who loves to draw. This year, we’re going to make Fridays our art days, and I’m using Amy Hood’s fun Art Together e-zines as my guide. Right now we’re learning about printmaking techniques and the artist Hokusai. When my son begins his pottery class, I’m planning to use that time for sketch booking with my five-year-old.

This is probably the longest post I’ve ever written, and it may seem like a lot on the page, but it only encompasses about 1~2 hours of our day. If you have been following my blog, you know that we do a lot of other things, and we have certain priorities for our boys that haven’t change. In brief:

  • We want them to have time to move, play and explore the things they love. In the afternoons and early evenings, they have lots of time to do the things they love the best, including playing with Legos and a variety of other toys, playing games on their tablets, and watching T.V. Sometimes we go to play dates, sometimes we cook together, and sometimes we play games together. But this is also the time I have to work and get my chores done. I feel grateful for homeschooling because I feel it is creating a strong bond between my boys, and they are learning to be independent doers!
  • We want them to love nature, and they do. But we make a point of getting out into nature a lot by visiting parks and going hiking. My son will slowly be working toward earning the third junior ranger badge this year too.
  • We also keep a garden, and in the evenings after dinner, you might find the boys and me outside watering it and picking ripe tomatoes. I find that by late August and September, the boys are less interested in this though. But I don’t mind having a few minutes alone outside!