Top 3 Best Gifts for Homeschoolers

At a children’s museum many years ago.

As I look back over the years, these are the items that were the most appreciated and long-lasting. If you have a homeschooling family to buy a gift for, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

A school table and chairs. An adjustable table and comfortable school chairs was a gift I greatly appreciated when my kids were young. We still use it to this day, although after we lifted the table to its maximum height, my husband had to put new legs on it for my tallest teenager! I know some homeschoolers use the kitchen table, but having a separate school table allowed us to leave projects or school work out, and this made going back to work easy. When my son was working on a project, seeing it on the table always invited him to finish it too.

A membership to an aquarium, museum, or other venue. Homeschoolers take advantage of local venues to give their kids hands-on and meaningful learning experiences, but this is expensive. Yearly memberships make it more affordable. We would get a membership to a different venue each year and go as often as we could. Our kids learned so much that way, and they met adults who had interesting jobs and could talk to them about science or art, etc. I can’t emphasize what a great gift this would be for a homeschooling family. In addition, many memberships come with reciprocal benefits. For example, by being a member of our local botanical garden here in Georgia, we could get into the Chicago Botanic Garden for free when we visited relatives in that area.

Quality art and craft supplies. All homeschoolers need art and craft supplies whether or not the kids are into art. These items come in handy for science experiments, making posters, dioramas, books, or any kind of graphic that would showcase what a child learned. But all kids should be able to have fun and get creative. Learning about art and drawing techniques are skills that everyone can benefit from, and fostering creativity will help kids problem solve and think for themselves. While individual art supplies aren’t very expensive, buying them continually over the years can add up, so buy sketchbooks, quality pencils, paints, paintbrushes, modeling clay, cloth and sewing supplies….and then just walk up and down the aisles at your local craft shop and look at all the interesting stuff you can add to their collection. You never know what they might be able to create with it!

What are some of the best gifts you’ve received as a homeschooler?

NEW! Join me on Patreon where I can give you individual support as you homeschool. This is much cheaper than any of the gifts listed above. 😜

Supporting the Little Makers

{How to Support Kids Who Like to Build Things}

Some kids will be natural builders. They will gravitate toward toys such as blocks, Legos, Zoob pieces, Tinker toys or many others that are available. They can also do wonders with cardboard and lots of tape. They like building, making, and creating. Let them do this to their heart’s content. There are other kids who may not like building, or they just do it a little. That’s okay too. Let kids do what they want when they have free, unstructured time.

Supporting the little makers is perfect project-based homeschooling territory, and over time, it may help you see how these techniques work.

Every parent wants their child to be independent and do things on their own, but that’s not going to happen until well into adulthood. So don’t think that when I say “fostering independent learners” or something similar, it means that you need to let your kids struggle or always play alone. On the contrary, when you follow project-based homeschooling techniques, you’re going to be available to your child and offer them the support they need.

During the time you set aside for your child’s projects, you can consider your child the boss, and you’re the employee. Your child gets to tell you what they want to happen, and you can do it for them. This is especially helpful when your child is little, and they may not have the manual dexterity to create what they envision. The important thing is not to take over your child’s project. Just ask them what they need you to do and don’t do anything else.

Don’t wander off or look at your phone during this time unless it becomes clear that your child doesn’t want you there. Sit there and let them know you’re available to help. Be interested in what they are doing. You can show interest by asking them questions about what they are building, but sometimes they’ll be happy if you just watch. Be enthusiastic. Just taking 30 minutes to an hour to sit by your child’s side even if they don’t need you to do anything will show your child you love and support them!

You can sometimes make suggestions, but I recommend waiting until they’re a little stuck or having a hard time accomplishing something. Always hesitate and ask questions. Wait and watch to see if they can figure it out on their own. Project-based homeschooling is about letting your child do the work when they can. You may think your child could not possibly figure out a way to fix a problem, but they might surprise you. I know there were a few times when I was working with my son, and I could see an easy way to make whatever it was he wanted, but I didn’t say anything. I saw him start doing something that I didn’t think would work, but then guess what? He made it work! His mind was working differently from mine, but his way worked just as well.

Of course, there were also times he got frustrated, cried, and I wondered what the heck I was doing. This is definitely a long road and takes practice for the parent. You are getting to know your child, learning when to step in and when to back off.

Do you have a little maker? I’d love to hear about them!

Also, please join me in one of my video chats as I discuss more project-based homeschooling techniques and answer all your questions. I’m going to schedule one for January, so please contact me, if you’d like to know when I do that. Alternatively, patrons can unlock access to all my classes, PDF resources, and much more, so please check out my Patreon page!

Thank You, First Patron!

On my Patreon, I have promised to thank all my patrons in my public blog posts, but I think my very first patron deserves a post of her own!

Thank you Lou Rahman for signing up to be my first patron! Your support means so much to me because being a stay-at-home mom can be a wee bit lonely, and I love connecting directly with other moms who are interested in homeschooling in a similar way. ❤️

Looking forward to chatting with you more about this homeschooling journey and project-based homeschooling in video chats and online.

You can follow Lou on Instagram @lou_rahman. She lives in the U.K., and she’s got the sweetest four-year-old.

I’ll be putting together some classes for Lou, which is part of the benefits she signed up for. These will also be offered à la carte in my store, so I’ll let you know when they are available.

November 2022

Happy Month of Thanksgiving! I want to say a heartfelt thanks to anyone who has been reading my blog long-term. I don’t know who you are, and maybe there’s only two of you, but for anyone who has stuck with me, I greatly appreciate it. I am also indebted to those of you who have reached out and sent me an email or message on social media. I appreciate your friendship so much.

I am not sure what compels me to keep writing on this blog. It’s just something I do to stay sane, I guess. But knowing it’s helpful to a few people means a lot, so thank you.

You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more lately. I’m trying something new as I reflect back on these years of homeschooling. I am writing posts that I might have liked to have read when I first started homeschooling. I hope that they can be encouraging to new homeschoolers. I don’t know how many posts I have in me, but we’ll see. And stay tuned because even though I hate my recorded voice, but I may try to do a few videos too. (Maybe.) Wish me luck!

I’m going to record more current, personal nitty gritty on my Patreon page, and I’m always happy to share more information with people via video chat too. I’m putting this behind a paywall partly for privacy and to make sure I connect with those who truly appreciate the information. I don’t want cost to  be a barrier, however, so email me, if it is. I will add a few links below to some of the work my boys and I have been doing on other sites.

As I have been writing this, my son spotted a young hawk outside my window, and then I had the privilege of watching it for about fifteen minutes. I saw it dive down into the leaf litter and catch a red-bellied snake and eat it! Then I saw it go up into the trees again, fluffing up its feathers because it’s cold outside. It was always looking around, looking for prey, I imagine. A very nervous squirrel sat in a tree nearby and sent out warning sounds. I never saw another bird while the hawk was in our yard. The animals in our yard work well together when they need to, don’t they?

It was a good reminder to me to slow down and remember why I’m doing everything I’m doing even when it seems pointless. The fruits of our labor don’t always show up in tangible ways. I hope someday I will look back on this life and see that homeschooling and all the sacrifices we’ve made were worth it. I hope I’ll feel that I’ve done well by sharing my tips on this blog too. But I imagine it will be a lot like my nature encounters: The time I’ve spent savoring them will add up to time well spent, though only in my mind and heart. I can live with that.

My Patreon Posts:

What I Wish I Had Done Differently
Homeschool Parents: Keep Good Records!

(NOTE: I have a $1 tier for anyone who would like to support my blog and read my posts on Patreon, but you don’t need the support group.)

My pianist’s Patreon Posts:

Practice Video #1: Ginastera Piano Sonata No. 1, 4th Mov.
Chopin Etude Op. 10 No. 5
Music Notes: October 2022 (monthly newsletter of activities)

As for my 13-year-old, he’s thrilled to have almost 100 subscribers on his YouTube channel, and he’s working on a celebratory video for when he reaches that milestone. If you haven’t seen any of his videos yet, here’s one:

Top 7 Things I Dislike About Homeschooling

Today I’m reflecting on what I dislike about homeschooling after doing it for twelve years:

  1. People make a lot of assumptions about you that aren’t true. One small assumption is that people tend to think we have lots of free time. As for other assumptions, I won’t go into details, but this is always the case when anyone does anything “off the beaten path.” For the most part, I have thick skin, but it can be hurtful sometimes. 
  2. In that same vein, I have been told that the reason my kids do well on standardized tests is because we cheat. WTF?! Note: People who lie and cheat tend to think other people lie and cheat, but there ARE many honest people out there, including us. One of the reasons we homeschool is so that we can impart good morals on our kids.
  3. Three meals a day for four people = three sets of dishes to clean everyday. I mean, come on! If someone had told me before I got married and had kids how many meals I’d have to make or all the dishes I’d have to do, I may have decided to stay single. (Just kidding.) While I admire people who enjoy cooking, this isn’t for me. (Shout out to my husband who occasionally gives me a break by doing the dishes and getting take out!)
  4. On a similar note, I’m not sure I ever realized how little time I’d have for myself, and even though I can make time, it can come at a price because there’s always something that’s not getting done, or someone is trying to find me, I’m forgetting that I need to make dinner, and my house is never truly clean. But who cares about that, right? I take breaks when I need to.
  5. When we first started homeschooling, I found plenty of social activities for my boys, but it was hard to find friends who were kindred spirits. I didn’t find too many other kids who clicked with my kids, or the parent didn’t click with me, or our schedules didn’t match, or the interests of all the kids were different, etc…..I did find friends, but it wasn’t as easy as some homeschoolers have made it seem. Also, we live in a rural area, so that made it more challenging. 
  6. Overwhelm. Some days I drown in the overwhelm of taking full responsibility for two kids’ entire K-12 education. The curriculum choices are overwhelming…figuring out what works best is overwhelming…figuring out what I can let go and what I shouldn’t let go can be overwhelming.
  7. Lack of time and funds to do everything. Trying to give the boys some free time while also making sure they do all their work and get some exercise is hard; I’ve never found that perfect balance. And then when you end up fostering awesome kids who have interesting life goals, and you realize you don’t have the funds to support all of it, that’s soul crushing. But I still wouldn’t have it any other way because without walking this unconventional path, I might not have these awesome kids.

To see what I love about homeschooling, click here

If you would like some camaraderie about homeschooling in a new private, online support group, please consider signing up for mine here.

Private Homeschool Support Group for Project-based Homeschoolers, a.k.a. any Homeschool Family :)

I’m excited to share some news. I have created a Patreon account so that I can form a small, nurturing community of like-minded parents. Space will be limited, so we can get to know each other.

It will be a homeschool support group for project-based homeschoolers, but you don’t have to consider yourself a project-based homeschooler (PBH) to join. You just need to be interested in becoming a better mentor and guide for your child, which is what PBH is all about! Seasoned project-based homeschoolers are more than welcome too!

Project-based homeschooling might seem like unschooling or common sense parenting, but there are actually a lot of tips and tricks that I learned that helped me find a balance between stepping in to help my kids and stepping away when appropriate. That’s harder than it seems! I will be sure to share everything I’ve learned in this support group and help you with whatever comes up in your daily homeschooling life. I hope everyone in the group will support each other.

We will not be restricted to talking about project-based homeschooling! As a support group, we can discuss all aspects of homeschooling, parenting and daily life as homeschool parents. Also, you can use PBH techniques whether you unschool, use a strict curriculum or are somewhere in between.

So, if you’d like a small, nurturing group that you can check in with daily, weekly, monthly (whenever it’s good for you), please join. If you’d like to share your child’s projects and successes, but you don’t want to put it out for everyone on the Internet to see, please consider joining. If you’d like some camaraderie with like-minded parents, please join. 

I want to make it accessible, affordable and easy to join, but I can’t do this for free because I need to pay fees to keep up the infrastructure. I have created two tiers that I hope you find very reasonable:

$3.00/month subscription — Join the group I’m calling the “Wrens,” and you will receive the following benefits:

  • You will unlock posts on Patreon that are not on my public blog. I can be a little more candid there. Some of what I’ll share:
    • Resources I’m using right now and my candid feelings about it.
    • Curriculum I don’t like.
    • Ups and downs of daily life.
    • Our research into colleges and universities and what I need to do to help my kids reach their goals.
    • The pitfalls of homeschooling.
  • Ask me any question in a comment, and I will respond ASAP. Or you can access a private Discord server for this group that I will monitor daily. Share your child’s projects, ask advice, or just chat with the group!
  • As a sign on bonus, I will give you access to all my PDF resources.
  • You will also be supporting this ad-free blog (which will remain unchanged), and you will have my deepest thanks!

$6.00/month subscription — Join the group I’m calling the “Ravens,” and you will receive the following benefits:

  • You will have everything from the Wrens tier plus:
  • I will offer a monthly, live online support group meeting. Day and time will be determined by the first few members, so please don’t hesitate to sign up!
  • As a sign on bonus, you will have access to the classes in my store. That is, you do not have to pay extra for these classes. You can even take them more than once. (Each class is worth between $10-$25 each, and I will be adding more classes in the coming months.)
  • I will also create classes/presentations by request from my patrons on specific topics.

NOTE: I also have a $1 tier for anyone who would like to support my blog and read my posts on Patreon, but you don’t need a support group.

Click here to access My Patreon. Also, please share this post with your social networks. Thank you!

If you aren’t sure what project-based homeschooling is all about, start here: https://mamaofletters.com/project-based-homeschooling/

To learn more about me, see https://mamaofletters.com/bio/

Please join. Will you? Please comment or ask questions below.

Project-based Homeschooling in the Later Years

Recently I gave a Zoom presentation on project-based homeschooling (you can sign up here for the next one), and a question I received made me think about how I have never stopped using project-based homeschooling (PBH) techniques, but PBH looks very different in our home than it did ten years ago. I don’t think about the techniques anymore. My sons each have a project that has become more of a life goal, and my role is to support them on a higher level. In other words, our lives revolve around these activities. My own projects have evolved over the years, overlapping with the boys’ activities, so we learn and grow alongside each other.

Here are the current state of our projects:

My eldest son is a classical pianist, and at 16, it’s clear that he has his heart set on a career in music. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but we’re sacrificing a lot to help him. As we do more research, we know what we can offer him may not be enough to catapult him to the place he dreams of, but he works hard, and I have no doubt he’ll carve out a life full of music making. Besides taking the time he needs to practice and work on his technique, he has started a Patreon account where he will share short, weekly practice videos, and I’ll help him chronicle our research into his next steps, including college applications, scholarship applications, auditions and more. I hope someone will show their support for him there. 🙏

He got to hold his favorite bird!

My younger son has been interested in birds since he was four-years-old, and it’s interesting for me to look back at how this interest has always been there, though there have been long periods when he hasn’t done much with it. Now that he’s 13, this is changing, and that’s largely because he’s old enough to join certain classes related to birds on Outschool and get something out of them. He also has an active YouTube channel where he shares his videos of birds. Recently he also got to visit a bird banding station in a program run by Georgia Audubon for teens. Now that he’s getting a chance to meet people with similar interests, I hope it’ll introduce him to many possible paths that will most likely include birds.

As for me, I’m thinking about what I can do to support the boys in these later years, yet I also know they are going to go by fast. So I’m wondering what life has in store for me when they don’t need me as a teacher/facilitator/coordinator anymore. With that in mind, I’m slowly building a store and some other opportunities for families to connect with me in video chats so that I can share more of what I’ve learned. (Watch this space for updates on that.) I don’t know how much interest I can stir up, but if nothing happens, I’ll lose nothing….except a little pride, maybe. 😉

If there is one thing about project-based homeschooling, it’s that the learning never stops, the creating never stops, and the striving never stops. It’s a life-long endeavor. You have to find joy in the journey. Ultimately, the big project is creating a life that is worth living that also puts some good into the world. With the proper support, you can’t go wrong with that.

Time for a Change

Here it is October, and I’m relieved by the cooler, beautiful weather. Yet the boys are full swing into their new homeschool year, and I’m already feeling the crunch of time. Sometimes I sit and breathe and remember that all will be well. No matter what we get done or don’t get done, the boys are growing into intelligent, caring people, and what more can I ask for?

Whether I like it or not, life is always changing. By that I mean people change and circumstances change, and I can’t control it. I’m getting older, and my body doesn’t agree with what my mind wants it to do. I can’t get society to act in ways that I wish it would, so instead I accept what is, and I do what little I can to help my family and make the world a better place.

One thing I have always loved to do is offer encouragement to other homeschooling parents. I don’t do this because I’m an expert at it. I’m carefully considering my every move on this unsure journey. However, I feel confident I have found some things that work well for the boys and me, and as they get older, I find it’s the boys themselves who are validating the overall choice to homeschool, go at their pace, and focus on their interests. Because like I said, they are growing into intelligent and caring people, and they have such interesting pursuits. (This doesn’t mean I think everything is perfect or that I don’t wish I had more resources at my fingertips!)

I hope we can help them in this later stage of homeschooling as they take what they’ve gained here and make their way into more independent lives and, most likely, higher education. I can’t wait to see what happens, but I’m humbled by knowing anything could happen, and nothing is certain.

I also think about myself and what I will do when I finish homeschooling. There are things I’d like to try, but I have less interest in the things I used to do. Will that interest come back when I’m less exhausted and have more time? Maybe. For now, I hope I can continue to be a source for homeschooling parents.

I have always been available by email, but I need to change that. I’m getting busier, and I have less energy for typing long emails. So I’m going to try out Zoom so that I can talk to parents. Unfortunately, I can’t do this for free, but I don’t need much to sustain it.

This Saturday, I’m giving a presentation on project-based homeschooling with plenty of time for a Q&A. (I can also make it available at a time that’s good for you.) These simple but powerful techniques helped me shift from thinking of myself as a parent-teacher to more of a mentor. It helped me identify my kids’ interests and not just the ones I thought were education-worthy.

I think it’s important to say that this is not about helping kids get into the best schools or putting them on a certain career path (unless that helps them with their goals). It’s more about supporting kids where they are at and creating a relationship of trust so that they know you are their advocate. Every kid should have an advocate that truly cares about what they care about! I think it’s these relationships that create a path of success for kids, and by success, I don’t mean just financial success. I mean a path that will be meaningful to them and the community they live in. When you respect kids and their interests, they will turn around and respect others. And that makes the world a little bit better.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. I hope you’ll sign up for my presentation. Click here to do that.

If there’s an interest, I may create an on-going homeschooling support group for a nominal fee. So let me know, if you would be interested in that.

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Homeschooling

a rare selfie 🙂

I’ve been homeschooling for over ten years, and now that I have some hindsight, it may be a good time to tell you what I love about homeschooling. Keep in mind that this is my experience; it may be different for other families. I may follow this up with a post about what I don’t love about homeschooling, but I’ll have to think about that.

So here are the top five reasons why I love homeschooling:

  1. Flexibility. Whether it’s curriculum, taking time off, or giving my kids the time they need to master a subject, I would say that flexibility has been the best part of homeschooling. We are not on anyone else’s calendar. We can sleep in, if we need it. When Life gets hectic, we can take some time off. If I end up disliking the curriculum I bought, I can toss it and try another one. My boys can take their music lessons with their teachers during the school day, so we can get a good time for that, and we can go to the park or zoo when it’s not crowded. Since my husband’s time off from his work does not correlate with the public school calendar, that is a big bonus too. This doesn’t mean we aren’t busy. It means my family gets to decide how we use our time.
  2. Out of the Box Learning. Although I try to match the traditional course of study as much as possible, I have a lot of flexibility in how I teach it, and if I can tell it’s not working for my kids, I can put it off or skip it. (If they hate it, they are not learning it.) We can learn so much in an informal way, such as through the documentaries we watch, visiting museums or conversations with knowledgeable people. My kids also like looking up the answers to their questions on the Internet, though they learn in many other ways too, such as through video games, T.V. shows, and, yes, books. Sometimes they surprise me with knowledge I didn’t even know they had. It’s amazing how good kids’ memories are when they are interested in something.
  3. Going at their pace. I have nudged, and I have challenged, but I don’t force learning, and that makes a big difference. Take, for example, how my boys learned how to read. I started them off around the age of four or five with 15~20 minute reading lessons, and depending on how well they did, I either kept going or I took long breaks from teaching it. I took a full year off from teaching reading to my eldest son when I could tell he wasn’t ready for it, and when we went back to it, I spent 20~30 minutes a day teaching him how to read. I remember getting a little anxious and stressed about it. Would they ever learn? But I knew going at their pace was better than pushing it. Around seven-years-old, they started to get it, and then at age eight, they began reading perfectly. At nine-years-old, they started reading books without being told to read. I never made them read anything outside our short lessons, and I also let them read whatever they wanted. They both started with comic books and graphic novels. Now they are avid readers, and they read long novels or non-fiction on their own time. In fact, we can’t keep enough library books on hand for my younger son! I love this, and I hate to think how different it may have turned out, if they were in public school and forced to meet certain milestones in reading before they were ready.
  4. Discovering interests unencumbered. If homeschooling parents give kids enough freedom, they have time and energy to discover what they’re interested in. Then they can begin to gain valuable skills. (If you’re lucky, this will prevent them from floundering for years as a young adult like I did.)  I don’t think you have to be an unschooler to do this. I don’t unschool, but I have used project-based homeschooling techniques (PBH), which helped me see how I could give my kids the time and tools to create and explore while also teaching them subjects I thought were important. Some kids don’t want to explore or create. They may prefer reading or gaming. Others will keep trying new things and not settle on any one thing. That’s okay! Let them do that. You never know where it might go. Other kids may find something and wham! You can see that they’ve found their vocation. That happened for my eldest son, the pianist. The flexibility of homeschooling gives my son time to practice the piano, do his lessons, and just be a kid too. If you’d like to learn more about PBH, I am offering a class on it.
  5. Close family ties. This is a byproduct I never thought about before I started homeschooling. I love how close we are as a family, and I love that my boys are best friends. They rarely squabble, and when they do, it’s amusing to watch. Since my boys are three years apart, I think things would have been very different, if they attended school. I’m grateful I have been there for every special moment and milestone, and I know my husband is too. (However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need space from each other. When we need space, we have places to retreat to in the house.) This is an unexpected part of homeschooling that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

If you would like some camaraderie about homeschooling in a new private, online support group, please consider signing up for mine here.

What do you love about homeschooling? If you are considering homeschooling, what is holding you back?

Our 6th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

If you look closely, you can see the Great Blue Heron on the other side of the lake.

This is bittersweet for me because this will be the last post I write about our curriculum on my Mama of Letters blog, though I will keep writing here in other ways. For middle and high school, you can find my curriculum resources here. As the boys get older, I want to protect their privacy a little more and give myself new ways to connect with parents who value my work.

My younger son has completed 6th grade. In some subjects he’s a little ahead where his brother was because after developing these plans for his brother, I had them on hand, so I used them earlier with him. He’s also a different kid. He isn’t practicing an instrument several hours a day like his brother, so he has more time for other things. He loves to read, and I gave up trying to keep track of the books he’s reading. I think he was averaging a new book every 2~3 days at one point. 

Here’s a run down of his course of study and the resources I used:

Language Arts

Besides all the books he reads on his own (and I have to thank my husband for making many trips to the library to keep him supplied with books), I assigned him some books for a literature unit. The theme was survival. After reading the books, we talked about them, and I prepared a series of worksheets for him to fill out. The worksheets included information about the author, vocabulary, discussion questions, short answer, short essay, and a review of literary terms. I cobbled these together from stuff I found on the Internet, so I can’t share it here, but the last few books, I kept it simple. We discussed them, and I asked him to write about how survival was a theme in each book. This is what I assigned:

  • Island of the Blue Dophins by Scott O’Dell
  • Woodsong by Gary Paulsen
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • The Cay by Theodore Taylor
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  • Short Story: Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Short Story: A Worn Path by Eudora Welty

In addition to this literature unit, he worked through Michael Clay Thompson’s Paragraph Town with me, and he did all the paragraph labs, four-level sentence analysis and punctuation lessons and worksheets.

If that’s not enough, on a whim I decided he could join his brother and me as we read the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare. Some of what I did to explore this play was listen to a professional reading of the original text followed by reading the modern text out loud together (from No Fear Shakespeare). We discussed the play, and we watched a BBC movie version of the play too. I’m really excited to start exploring Shakespeare with both my boys!

Math

For math I finally switched curriculums for the middle school level, and I have to tell you that if I had to start homeschooling over again, I would use this curriculum from the get-go. (But who knows? It might not have been a good fit when they were six-years-old.) Anyway, he’s working in Math Mammoth now, and if you use this curriculum, you should know that it’s more advanced than most math curriculums. For example, Math Mammoth “Grade 7” is pre-algebra. Most kids take pre-algebra in 8th grade, so if you use Math Mammoth, your kid will be slightly ahead of their public school peers. My son is on track to do pre-algebra in the 8th grade.

Science

This year I outsourced science because this kid is still into birds. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll know this is the one and only project he has stuck with over the course of his short life, and he even has a YouTube channel that’s all about birds. If he continues to find this a major interest, there’s a good possibility he may go into one of the sciences. That’s still to be determined, but just in case, I didn’t feel like I could make science very exciting by teaching it myself. For this reason, I’m very grateful for Outschool.com. He’s taken many classes on this site, including some excellent classes specifically about birds and zoology, and he’s also been part of an ongoing, weekly ornithology club and more. But to meet a more typical course of study for 6th grade, I enrolled him in a year-long middle school Life Science class.

To be honest, I wasn’t crazy about how this Life Science class was taught even though it ticked the boxes for what I needed, and my son liked it. I’m not going to promote this particular class, and instead I will tell you that if you are looking for classes on Outschool, I find the best teachers are usually those who were not public school teachers. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but if you can find someone who has a degree in the subject, they will be excited about it, and they’ll have interesting ways of teaching it and a depth of knowledge that can’t be matched. Again, not always the case, but that’s been my experience so far. If anyone else has other experiences with finding good classes on Outschool, I welcome your comments. I do highly recommend Outschool. It’s been a game changer for us, and I appreciate how affordable most of the classes are.

artwork by the 6th grader

History

I had such ambitious goals for learning history and recording it on this blog, but Life taught me to keep it simple. I began reading Everything You Need to Ace American History In One Big Fat Notebook out loud to my youngest son last year, and we continued it this past year. We stopped reading sometimes so that we could read history-related middle grade books that I had picked up at library book sales. One of those that I would like to highlight is Frederick Douglass for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders. We loved this book, so we read it slowly over a long period. I highly recommend it.

If it had not been for the pandemic, I probably would have ordered more history books from the library, but we’ve really enjoyed this simple approached and the few books we had on our shelf. It won’t be long before he does U.S. History with his father (a history professor) in high school, so I think he’s getting a good introduction.

Foreign Language

Both my boys have been taking weekly Mandarin Chinese lessons with an online tutor for almost three years now. As time went on, I felt that they needed more practice speaking Chinese, but I couldn’t figure out how to do this without spending more money. Suddenly this year we got what feels like a huge gift dropped on us. They are going to start getting twice weekly lessons with a new, fantastic tutor for free! I am over the moon excited. I wish I could share this resource with everyone, but unfortunately, it’s not mine to share. But I would urge anyone to just keep looking for opportunities in your community because you never know what you might find.

Physical Education

I always include physical education on my end-of-year progress reports, though I’m not sure how much I’ve written about it on my blog. We’re not an athletic family, but we are active in that we take many walks and hikes. This year I made more effort to take this kid out for more walks, and I succeeded.

Music 

And now we just passed my son’s 5th anniversary for taking cello lessons! I say this every year, but I can’t believe how fast the time is going. He enjoys playing the cello and considers it a hobby, so he spends about 45~60 minutes on daily practice, six days a week. His cello teacher is awesome, and he started back to in-person lessons this past winter.

I hope this is helpful for you. If you’d like to chat with me on Zoom about homeschooling, you can sign up here.