During the summer, I got up early to take my walks because it’s too hot here to take them any other time of day. Above is a photograph of a sunrise I happened to capture on one of my walks. It’s also symbolic of the path I’m on right now. I have to retrace my steps over and over in daily life. Sometimes this can feel like a grind, but if I pay attention, every day offers something new.
How to Create a Homeschool Schedule
I have written a post about our 3rd and 6th grade curriculum for the home/school/life blog, and you can see all my favorite curriculum choices on this page, which I keep updated.
Since I already wrote about our curriculum, I thought I would take the time to share how I schedule our week, though it’s not complicated. You probably use a similar way to schedule your homeschool.
First, I work around our weekly appointments, and then I try to keep to the routine that we established when the boys were very little, which is work in the morning and rest in the afternoon. (Although now that they are older, we also do some work in the early evenings too.)
Morning – academic lessons for eldest son/educational activities for both
Lunch – watch a documentary
After Lunch – piano practice for eldest and academic lessons for youngest
Late Afternoon – rest/T.V./play for boys
After Dinner – instrument practice for both boys (piano and cello)
Showers and rest/T.V.
Books before bed
That is roughly how our daily routine goes, though three afternoons a week we have appointments, and on some evenings, we attend music recitals or concerts at a local university. I should also mention that this schedule is also my schedule and partly my husband’s too. He usually sits with my eldest son as he practices piano, and I sit with my youngest as he practices cello. This habit has benefitted us all, but it makes for a very full day for the parents. 🙂
Fitting in the Academic Subjects
How do I work in all the academic subjects? It’s impossible to do every subject everyday, so the first thing I do each year is make a big list of the subjects we’re going to study. Then I arrange them from the highest priority to the lowest. This year writing, grammar and math are my highest priorities, so we do those subjects first at least three days a week.
Each day is a little different. I usually work one-on-one with my eldest son in the mornings, but, for example, I will schedule a list of lessons that he can do without me on the morning that his brother is preparing for a cello lesson in the afternoon. On days that we have no appointments, I can spend more time on more challenging subjects, or I can spend more time reading history or doing science projects that both boys participate in. If I can’t fit the lower priority lessons into the week, I will just skip them or possibly rotate them in the following week.
For these past six years of homeschooling, I have mostly not worried about finishing a particular curriculum in one year. In general, when we want to take a break, I’ll close the book and then open it again when our break is over. As long as we are making progress and moving along, this strategy has worked, and it’s benefitted my boys to go at their pace.
However, now that my eldest is twelve, and he’s in “middle school,” I have changed my tactics this year, especially with math and grammar. I have a goal to finish our current resources by early spring, so to determine how much we need to do each week, I’ve counted the number of lessons or chapters, and I’ve divided by the number of weeks we have until my self-imposed deadline. We’re going to try to do that many lessons each week. But the deadline is flexible, of course, and I used a rather absurdly early deadline of April 30 to determine how many lessons to do. If we finish by June, that’ll be great too. There isn’t any REAL deadline when you’re homeschooling, but as I said, I like to see us making progress. Part of the reason I’m trying this is because this is a testing year, and I’m hoping we can take the test early. If we can’t, no big deal.
I’m also trying this new “goal setting” because as my son gets older and into high school, he will have to work more independently, and he’ll be working on more challenging assignments, so 1) I want to make sure he’s met the prerequisites for this higher level work, and 2) I want to teach him about setting goals and pacing himself. He’s learning a lot about this by playing the piano and preparing for competitions, but he can see how it will work for his school work too. Or maybe I’m the one that needs a trial run before we get into high school! (Yes, I think that’s it.)
This year I’m finding it helpful to plan our whole week at one time. I usually do this over the weekend. (Last year I planned each day the night before, and that worked okay too.) I made up a little planning chart for myself. I make photocopies of these, and then I discard them at the end of each week. (I have another chart that I use to record what we actually did, and I put these into the boys portfolios.)
Click here to upload my weekly planning chart. (PDF)
I’m happy to share this weekly planning chart with you, but you could easily make one up for yourself too. Each week I first pencil in our regular appointments and any other appointments that may arise. Then I work in our lessons around that. I always use pencil because it’s always bound to change.
I could go into much deeper detail about how I schedule our lessons, but that would make this post too long and confusing. Instead, I invite you to ask me any questions, and I’d be happy to answer in the comments section.
Even if you don’t have any questions, I hope you’re having a happy homeschooling year! I’d love to hear from you, if you have minute.
Our 2nd Grade Homeschool Schedule and Curriculum
Here I am teaching 2nd grade for the second time to my eight-year-old.
I consider second grade part of those “early elementary” years where children should have more time to play and explore than do sit-down academic work. But my youngest son has a little more structure and academic lessons than his brother did at this age because he has an older brother who is doing more structured, academic work. And I feel there are some lessons, such as history and Spanish, that he can join us for. But he still has a lot of time to play, so it works out well.
As for his schedule, he practices cello for about twenty minutes and, as I mentioned above, sometimes joins his brother and me for lessons in the morning, but otherwise, he gets to play by himself in the mornings. Then I do his main lessons (reading, math etc.) after lunch for about an hour while his older brother practices piano. He sometimes practices cello again after dinner, but this is negotiable. He and his brother have a lot of time to play together in the late afternoons.
Reading — We picked up Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons again, and we’ll be finishing it this year. I still have him work on Starfall.com quite a bit, and after we finish 100 Easy Lessons, I’ll start the Star Wars Reading workbook. He likes these workbooks.
Literature — This is something he joins me and his brother for in the mornings. Right now we’re reading Blood on the River: James Town, 1607, which is a young adult novel about the first permanent English settlement in North America. It’s a great history lesson, and although it is a book for “middle school,” he’s enjoying it as much as his brother. During his one-on-one lesson time with me after lunch, we’ve been reading Stuart Little. In the evenings, I’m reading the Magic Treehouse Books to him, and he won’t let me read anything else! He LOVES them.
Note: See my page Book Reviews to learn about some of the books we’re reading.
Math — I ditched Singapore Math. I still think Singapore is a good curriculum, but I got so tired of having to read ahead and plan the activities and gather the materials when it’s SO EASY to just open up Life of Fred and read the next chapter! And I knew he’d love Life of Fred like his older brother does, so what was I doing not using it? We will be sailing through the first few books because they are quite easy for him, but I think it’s important for him to get the whole story. We are also using the Star Wars Math workbook right now because he wants to do it!
History — This is another subject that he’ll join his brother for in the mornings, but I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t always expect him to listen. Some of our history lessons are a little hard for him to understand, but I can tell he’s getting something out of it because he asks questions. He’s learning about the different cultures of our world, our timeline, and he enjoys the history documentaries we watch. Whatever he absorbs at this point, I’m happy with because we’ll be going over this stuff again in the future. I’ve written about the history books we purchased in Diving into Human History, and I’m recording the progress in our history lessons on this blog. Click here for that or see the main menu.
Science — We watch a lot of science documentaries, and he takes nature and science classes at the nature center and botanical garden. I am also reading several elementary science books to him that we have in our home library, mostly Let’s Read and Find Out Science books and a few Magic School Bus books too. He’ll also join his brother and me when we read The Usbourne Science Encyclopedia, which is a cool book because it has over 180 QR links that I can scan with my phone and then we can watch videos related to the material we’re reading. (In general, we do a lot of science studies in this house. See my science page for links.)
Spanish — This is something that he joins his brother for too, and mostly, he likes it. Although it does require a lot of prep time on my part, the boys are enjoying the games and activities I have found using the Risas y Sonrisas curriculum (one of the reasons why I wanted to stop using Singapore math). I’ll be writing a review on this curriculum soon for home/school/life.
Art — I am not doing formal lessons this year like I did in the past, but we do have fun making art sometimes, and my husband and I take the boys to an art museum once or twice a year. The eight-year-old still enjoys drawing sometimes too. 🙂
Music — The eight-year-old decided he wanted to try the cello! So he’s taking lessons and doing quite well with it. We give him a lot of freedom as to whether or not he wants to practice each day while also making sure he practices enough. Does that make sense? I hope so.
By coincidence, my post “Homeschooling 2nd Grade for the Second Time” is on the home/school/life blog today. In it I talk about how homeschooling for the second time around is both different and similar. I hope you’ll check it out too.
Our 5th Grade Homeschool Schedule and Curriculum
Here we are: the fifth grade! I guess you could say I “officially” started 5th grade on September 1st this year, but truthfully, I started some of this curriculum a little earlier, and some of this is just a continuation from last year. I only use grade levels as a sort of approximation or guide. I believe we achieve better results when we go at our children’s pace, while also challenging them at appropriate times too.
I came up with a game plan, and I’ve been tweaking it ever since Sept. 1st. It formed partly from necessity (i.e. to make progress, we need to do writing and math at least three days per week) and partly from my kids’ desires (i.e. they picked the times they want to practice their instruments and do their formal lessons). I have mostly tweaked the morning lessons as I’ve been able to see better how much time we have to complete things.
It’s also important to note that this schedule is not set in stone. We don’t follow it to the letter, and everyday is different, but it’s roughly how I schedule our days. It’s a guide to help me as I plan our daily lessons, which I try to do the night before or early in the morning before the boys wake up. 🙂
Note that I do the eight-year-old’s main lessons (2nd grade reading, math, handwriting, etc.) right after lunch time, but he also joins his eleven-year-old brother for a few lessons in the morning, such as Spanish, History, and Readalouds (a.k.a. literature).
I will be writing more detailed reviews of each of these curricula, and when I do, I’ll link them all to this page.
Writing — I’m using the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Student Writing Intensive Level A. We haven’t used it long enough for me to write a proper review, but so far, so good.
Literature — At the moment, we’re reading Blood on the River: James Town, 1607, which is a young adult novel about the first permanent English settlement in North America. Both my boys are enjoying it, and it’s a great history lesson. In the evenings, my eleven-year-old and I are reading the Redwall series together, and he also reads a ton of graphic novels to himself everyday.
Note: See my page Book Reviews to learn about some of the books we’re reading.
Grammar — Fix it! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Student Book 1) with the Teacher’s Manual. This is the same book we began about half way through last year. This past summer I also read Grammar Island to both the boys, and they enjoyed that book.
Cursive — Believe it or not, it took me awhile to find a workbook for cursive that I liked. I finally found Beginning Traditional Cursive. It’s super cheap and just what I wanted.
Math — We are still using Life of Fred, and we’re about to complete the elementary series and move into the intermediate series! Whoo-hoo! I also use Spectrum Workbooks for a little extra practice where he needs it. Also, the workbooks more closely resemble the standardized tests he’ll need to take, which I want him to get used to.
History — My husband is a history professor, so we’re having a lot of fun exploring history with his help. I’ve written about the history books we purchased in Diving into Human History, and you can follow along with our history lessons on this blog. (See the menu at the top of the page for our history lesson logs.) I’ve already written the first one.
Science — You might have noticed that science isn’t on the schedule, and that’s because I had not really decided on what to do for science when I made it. My son hated the curriculum I bought last year. I have had more luck “unschooling” science because my son is very interested in it. (See all our science posts.) He just taught himself how to use our old telescope, and we’re hoping to get a lot of use out of it this year. We’ve also decided to read The Usbourne Science Encyclopedia, which is a cool book because it has over 180 QR links that I can scan with my phone and then we can watch videos related to the material we’re reading. Perhaps we’ll figure out some experiments we can do along the way too.
Spanish — I have been on a grand search for a Spanish curriculum that would work for us, and I finally found it. I will be writing a review on this for home/school/life soon. We are using Risas y Sonrisas.
Art — Art is an important subject to me, but our exploration of art ebbs and flows. At the moment, I am not planning any formal lessons like I did in the past because we’re busy doing everything else. Both boys are also working on their music lessons in earnest. However, I have found that the best way of getting the boys to get a little creative has been to buy new art supplies once in a while. I also throw art history into our history lessons. I have found Cave Paintings to Picasso to be a helpful book. We also visit an art museum once or twice a year.
Music — Music is still my eleven-year-old’s “project.” He continues piano lessons, preparing for competitions, learning about music history, and attending as many classical music concerts as we can take him to. He’s very serious about it, and it has been an adventure for the whole family. 🙂
As I mentioned before, I will add my reviews of these curricula as I write them. I will also follow up with a post about my 2nd grader’s curriculum.
What are you working on this year?
Homeschooling 4th Grade: Our Schedule and “My Master List”
As I wrote in my last post, it’s hard to believe we are beginning to homeschool fourth grade. I’m slowly making my way to the harder stuff, but as I sit down to think about the priorities I have for my boys, I’m sticking mostly to the basics with a few exceptions. The great thing about homeschooling is that I can tailor my curriculum to their needs, so this post reflects not only what I need to teach my 10-year-old but what I feel he needs the most. It also reflects what he’s most interested in doing right now too.
If you want to see a well drawn out schedule (and chart), then you’ll need to refer to my post about his 1st grade schedule and curriculum. That worked well that year. Now there’s more to teach, and our days are more full because my son practices piano 2 hours a day (1 hour after lunch and 1 hour after dinner), and he has one or two piano lessons per week (depending on his needs and our money situation), and my other son has two appointments per week plus a class at the botanical garden he will be attending once a month. We have appointments Monday-Thursday, but luckily most of them are not long, so I still have most of the morning to teach. However, it’s still a lot, and this makes me wonder how other homeschooling families get any lessons done when I hear about all their extracurricular activities!
I sat down at my computer and I made a rough sketch of our week, plugging in appointments, and then I tried to add the lessons according to what I felt I could accomplish on each day. We do all our lessons before lunch so that after lunch we’re free to pursue other things, and now that I’ve been homeschooling a while, I have a pretty good idea how long it’ll take to get through a lesson. In general, it always takes longer than I think it will. I began to realize that there’s not enough time to do everything in a week. Is this something new? No, no it’s not. Sigh.
Not having enough time is the way of Life. But I still need to teach the basics, so as I stared at my list of priorities and those extra things I’d like to teach, I decided that instead of having a daily schedule, I’m going to rotate the lessons or either use my own judgement as to what is important to work on that day. (See below for more detail.) This means it may take me a week and a half or more to get through all the lessons I want to teach. It’s an experiment. I’m going to try it, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Before I share our curriculum, I’ll share the “Master List” I keep in front of me at my computer. I wrote a list like this in the summer, and it worked well as a simple reminder of what we are working on and what I’d like to work on when we get some free time or need a change. I refer to it each morning when I decide what we’ll tackle that day.
There is always something that jumps out at me on that list, and it will say, “You haven’t worked on this in awhile.” That’s pretty much how I decide what to work on. As I mentioned above, it’s basically a rotation of sorts. But sometimes it might say, “You really need to keep working on this.” If so, we’ll do that. I will also jot down ideas that the boys want to do, and I’ll also rotate in time spent outdoors, baking together, or anything else that seems important.
First, I wrote my priorities.
Priorities for the 10-year-old
piano & piano theory & music history
Work on everyday or rotate, if possible
News-O-Matic & election news
Amazon prime shows
citizen science projects
I will probably take turns starting the day with a read aloud or the times tables. Then, I will rotate working on our math curriculum, science curriculum, and my son’s effort to write, spell and learn keyboarding. He will practice piano everyday because this is his thing (a.k.a. he wants to!), but I also have to make time during our lessons for him to fill out his piano theory book. I’ll try to do that once a week. He also loves to read about the lives of the great composers, so we’ll throw that in frequently.
The “extras” are just that – extras. I will throw them in when we need a change. My son enjoys looking at News-O-Matic, and the Amazon prime shows are short (15 minute) educational shows that I have them watch when I’m not quite ready in the morning, and I need 15 more minutes to throw in some laundry or what-have-you. The citizen science is a big, personal project of mine, and I try to include the boys in it as much as I can. It’s usually a good excuse to get out into nature.
After I feel like we’ve got a good hold on our schedule and curriculum, I will probably begin “Art Fridays” again or something similar to it. It’s always been my intention to teach a foreign language, but that’s been tremendously hard to do since I don’t speak another language. I’m going to be spending some time researching curriculums and coming up with a plan for this, but it remains low on my priority list this year. Still, we might throw in an episode of Salsa now and then.
I think this post is long enough, so I’ll write about the curriculum resources we’re using in my next post….
Homeschooling 3rd Grade: Where It’s Taken Us And How our Schedule and Curriculum Have Changed Over the Year
I just read over the post I wrote earlier this year, Homeschooling 3rd Grade: A New Venture. That was a good title for that post. Third grade has had a different feel to it than the first years of our homeschooling adventure, and my nine-year-old is making a huge shift in his maturity as well as activities. In the last 2-3 months, he has done very little creative building and clay sculpting. This makes me a little sad, but I know it shouldn’t. It’s because he’s turned his attention to the piano, and this has been exciting for all of us. It’s a big commitment on all our parts. For my son, he has to practice, practice, practice. For us, we have to create the time and space for him to practice and also be there to support him. On top of that, I’ve had to do more academic work with him. I don’t think he’s lost interest in building and sculpting, but he doesn’t have the time, so he’s choosing what is more important to him, which I think is great. He is also maturing, showing glimpses of the adolescent to come, and while he’s capable and willing to take on more work, he also needs plenty of downtime and fun time, which I try to give him.
Learning the piano has become a time crunch for everybody in the house because my husband and I try our best to sit and listen to him play. We’re delighted to do this, and I think it helps motivate our son. We also help him remember what his teacher told him. Since this is a big part of our day, and it’s become important to our son, I have let other subjects slide. I know that letting my son focus on his work is essential, and it’s a great opportunity we have while homeschooling. Because we’re flexible when it comes to curriculum and time, I can make sure he has plenty of time to play and be a kid as well as work hard at what he loves. (At least, I try to do this.)
I hope to continue on with these other subjects again at some point, but I’m not worried about it. My son’s education in music goes well beyond his practice since he’s learning about the composers and doing a lot of listening and observing too. But I’ll write more about that in a different post. This post will focus mostly on the work I require him to do.
During the Fall season, we were quite busy but in a good way. We had appointments on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. My nine-year-old had a piano lesson on Thursdays and a class on Friday morning. The first 8 weeks, he took a pottery class, and the last eight weeks of the season, he had a chemical engineering class which was a program done by Engineering for Kids. We enrolled him in both of those classes because of his interest in these subjects.
I’ll digress a minute to talk about the classes. Unfortunately, we weren’t happy with either of them. A new pottery teacher seemed to “dumb the class down” to the level of very beginning students. (This was my son’s third class.) As for the chemical engineering class, we could have done many of those projects at home with a book. (Very disappointing considering Engineering for Kids does these programs in public schools.) This was the first time we were ever disappointed in classes my son has taken, so I think we’ve been pretty lucky. But it showed me that as my son gets older and more knowledgeable about the subjects he cares about, it will be harder to find outside sources that can challenge him.
This season, my son has only had piano lessons to concentrate on. I still do main lessons with him on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday mornings with a few exceptions.
We also took time out for both my boys to attend a three-day spring camp at the botanical garden. That was fun for them!
3rd Grade Curriculum
We’ve been doing a lot of reading and that makes me happy. I start most our mornings off with a read-aloud (this is something I let go for awhile, and I’ve managed to weave it back in, so I’m very happy about it), and I also read to the nine-year-old right before bed. Briefly, here is some of what we’ve read:
My son is reading (and re-reading) three big volumes of Calvin and Hobbes, which he loves. They sit on the kitchen table with our newspapers, and he reads them throughout the day. Besides this, he’s been reading the Battle Bugs series, which he seems to enjoy.
This year, I have read My Father’s Dragon, Charlotte’s Web, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Story of Dr. Doolittle, and On the Shores of Silver Lake out loud to him. I also read (at his request) some books about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and several books (of my choice) about the Cherokee Indians, including Only the Names Remain. Right now I’m reading Alice in Wonderland and The Long Winter. (Some of these books my younger son listens to as well.)
We finished All About Spelling Level 1! Can’t say my son loved it, but I thought it was a great program, and it showed us both that he can spell, if he thinks about it.
For handwriting, we switched from Handwriting Without Tears to a calligraphy set. My son still loathes writing with a utensil, but it became a little more bearable with a calligraphy pen. I let him pick a sentence of his choice to write in calligraphy.
With a test prep book and some posters I have, I’ve been going over parts of speech with my son because I know that will be part of the test he’s required to take at the end of the third grade. I can’t imagine a worse way to foster a love of writing (unless a child likes it) than teaching kids the parts of speech at this age, and for the life of me, I don’t know why he needs to know this right now. I really hate having to teach it, and I hate having to test him. (But grateful we are homeschooling considering the ridiculous testing they do in schools these days!) Enough said about that.
I am so proud of how far we’ve come in math this year, but it was my academic priority. We completed four Life of Fred books. (Yes, four! Which puts us at completing seven total.) This year we worked through Dogs, Edgewood, Farming and Goldfish. I have the next three books, which is suppose to take us through 4th grade, and I plan to start them in the summer (or maybe fall). For now, we’re just doing some practice in the test prep book.
I have also begun to require that my son memorize the times tables, and we started with the three times tables. I put a little chart of “the threes” up on the wall, and I covered the answers. We go over it every time we do lessons. To make it fun, I began timing my son on how fast he could recite the 3 times table, and I get him to try to beat his last time. To my delight, my six-year-old wanted to join in on the fun. (Let me be clear: It’s fun for the six-year-old because he’s obsessed with numbers. Not so much for the nine-year-old.) So now they do this together, which makes it more fun. (At least for the six-year-old. Perhaps it’s tolerable to the nine-year-old.)
As mentioned above, my son took a chemical engineering class during the fall season. We also continue to watch science and nature documentaries. However, for the first time, we’re going to be starting a science curriculum, and we’re so excited! My son is so far ahead in science that we picked a middle school curriculum. We purchased Elemental Science’s Biology for the Logic Stage. We’re going to start this during the summer, and I’ll let you know how we like it. (For those of you looking for science curriculums, elemental science is a secular curriculum.)
Not much has changed in my approach to social studies. My son is still enjoying News-O-Matic occasionally, and we’re trying to follow the presidential election, though not in depth. My son is beginning to show more interest in history documentaries. (Especially this recent one about the Vikings.) And we’re putting our History Timeline to good use.
Most important to note is that my son’s segue into studying history is coming through his interest in music. He loves learning about the famous composers, and we’ve been using Meet the Great Composers as one resource.
Also, I already mentioned that we did a little unit on the Cherokee Indians by reading several books and visiting the Cherokee basketry exhibit at the Georgia Museum of Art.
My son took a pottery class this fall, and during that time, I went sketching with my younger son. After this, however, I have only done a few Art Fridays, and this makes me sad. I need to find a new, inspiring resource to get me going again.
We have had some good art sessions though, and we recently visited the Georgia Museum of Art to view a Cherokee basketry exhibit and the MFA student exhibition. My boys don’t love art as much as I do, but I think it’s an important part of a well-rounded education.
I shouldn’t fail to note that my son is learning about music, which is art, and he has attended several classical concerts this year too!
Spanish and/or Chinese
This is the first time I’ve mentioned Chinese, huh? Well, we have a Chinese calligraphy set that I plan to use. We got started, but then that got stalled. And same with Spanish. We had a great start at the beginning of the year using Mango free through our library, but that’s just something I’ve had to let slide as my son focuses on his music and I focus on teaching him what he needs for a test AND make sure he’s got plenty of free playtime.
But third grade is not over yet! I need to test my son because the Georgia law says I need to do so every three years, starting in the third grade. I’m going to be doing that soon, and then I’m going to consider third grade over, and we’re going to be focusing more on the wonderful work that my kids love to do. In many ways, I’m already doing that.
Next up I will post about how kindergarten is going with the six-year-old!
Making Time for Project-based Homeschooling
Projects and creativity are a natural part of a child’s life. They can be big or small. They may last a few minutes or many years.
Project-based homeschooling seems to be changing for us, and on one hand, it’s made me feel like I’m not doing it right, but as I sit here writing, which is how I work things out in my brain, I realize maybe it’s just growing and looking different as my child grows. If you read my last post, How do you balance supporting your child’s interests while also achieving the academic goals they need?, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with balancing our academic goals with his many interests. This is a follow-up to that.
It was very easy to see how building the titanic and a rocket and learning about carnivorous plants and everything else my son has done is project-based homeschooling. They had a clear starting point and ending point, though occasionally he goes back to those subjects, adding more to his knowledge. That is how I felt a project should be. It should be something I have to make time for in the mornings when I’m available and alert, and it’s something I need to actively be helping my son with.
But now I realize there are many things going on that could look like projects, and we are indeed supporting them in many ways. I’m just not as hands-on anymore, and many projects have become part of our daily or weekly routine, which is ideal, when I stop to think about it.
- My son has always been interested in science, and I guess you could say we’ve done lots of things to support this interest. There is no beginning or end to it. Now he’s interested in learning about engineering, especially robotics. Aside from buying him a robot, we’ve been able to support that by enrolling him in some nearby classes. He’s taken some STEM Club classes, a robotics summer camp, and right now, he’s taking a homeschool Chemical Engineering class, which he loves.
- He likes working with clay, and we still do that at home on occasion with air-dry modeling clay. But now my son has taken several classes at a local pottery studio, and he can’t really work at the same level at home as he can at the studio. So this project depends mostly on our budget – when we can afford to let him take another class.
- He is also taking piano lessons once a week, and he practices twice a day. This has become part of our daily routine so much that I tend to forget that it’s my son’s major interest right now, i.e. his project. My husband and I usually make time to sit down and be his audience, and we try to help by telling him when it sounds good, or if we notice a mistake. Our son seems to like the attention and feedback. We also watch a lot of YouTube videos of the songs he’s playing, which he requests so that he can get to know the music, and in the evenings right before bed, my son is watching pianists compete in the Tchaikovsky Competition with his father. His dad started watching it for his own pleasure, but my son wants and asks to watch it too! (You can watch the latest performances online.)
- My younger son’s major interest seems to be birds (and dinosaurs), but as with anything, his active engagement comes and goes. Mostly, he just likes playing with his toy birds. He’s not so interested in the books about birds, though we’ve looked at a few, and he’s stopped wanting to look at the bird app every night, which he wanted to do for months. I asked him if he’d like for me to sew him a little toy bird, and he was very excited about that, so we did that, and he helped as much as he could. He hung them on our Christmas tree. We’re also planning to go out looking for real birds whenever we can, but that’s something we have to work into the whole family’s schedule.
So, my sons definitely have projects. But I worry that by having such a busy schedule….the lessons and the classes, I am not giving my children enough time for more spontaneous work. Would they dig deeper, if we had more time? Well, right now, we just don’t have the time, but now that I’ve written about everything we are doing, it doesn’t look so bleak. Right now I’m realizing:
- As for spur-of-the-moment projects and crafts that my older son used to do frequently, I can’t say I’m surprised he’s doing that less when he’s working so diligently on several interests through classes and lessons.
- I also can’t forget that my younger son still likes to draw and color a lot. Lately he has been drawing a lot in an art app on the iPad while my older son is practicing piano! It hasn’t evolved much more than that, despite my attempts, but at six-years-old, he’s working right at his level. He mostly likes to draw dragons or prehistoric animals that are either real or made-up.
- My older son will sometimes draw because his younger brother is drawing. When we took a break from homeschooling while my in-laws were visiting, he did a little building project too. So it does happen; it’s just not scheduled. It’s not anything I need to help with…that’s not a bad thing!
- And before I forget, the most important time of the day to my boys is their tablet time. They get about 1 to 1.5 hours a day to play on their tablets together. Most of the time, they are collaborating on building projects in Minecraft. Throughout the rest of the day, they spend about 50% of their time discussing their plans for what they are going to build on Minecraft and another 10% of their time telling me about Minecraft. There are days when I wish they wouldn’t care so much about screen time, but gosh, I’m forgetting how much they are getting out of it, how interactive they are while playing side-by-side, and how educational most of their games are. This is important to them, so I’m glad I honor it as part of our daily routine.
Our Project-based Calendar. An imperfect solution.
Finally, I’m going to share something I came up with to help me make sure I gave those random projects – not just the ones that are part of our routine now – a chance to come to fruition.
Every month I print out a blank calendar from my computer’s calendar. (I do this in iCal by unclicking all my “calendars.” This makes the master calendar blank. Then I print it.) You could use any calendar though, and you can even print calendar pages from the web.
I keep the monthly calendar page on a clipboard on the table where we do our lessons. At the beginning of the month, I fill out the calendar with any appointments that the boys or I have. Right now, we have appointments three days a week, which only gives me three other days (including Saturday) to do lessons with the boys. So I haven’t designated any day as “project day” because there isn’t much time, and as I mentioned above, most of their interests are part of our daily routine, or either they are taking outside courses, which is on the calendar.
Every Monday morning, I show the calendar to the boys, tell them what appointments we have that week, and I ask them if they have anything they want to work on. If they do, we pencil it in on the calendar. I’ll even offer to skip a day of lessons, if they have something they want to work on.
I call this imperfect because so far this year, the boys haven’t had much they want to do. Either that, or if they do have an idea, by the time the scheduled project time comes around, they aren’t interested anymore. Still, it has worked a few times, and if they are really interested in doing something, they do follow through. Mostly I’ve been prudent enough to make project day that very day – Monday – so as not to lose momentum in their enthusiasm.
So as you can see, I am starting to learn that project-based homeschooling can look differently as my child grows and becomes more independent and capable of working on his projects without my direct assistance!
This and my last post are very long posts, so if you’ve made it this far, I thank you! How have you made time for your child’s interests and balanced that with their academic lessons?
Homeschooling Kindergarten for the Second Time
I’m so proud of my boy who just turned six-years-old. He is growing — in body, intellect and creativity — by leaps and bounds. He is becoming more independent, and he’s in a constant state of “play.” He plays well with his brother or by himself. He loves playing with his toy animals and dinosaurs, and he spends hours building creatures or vehicles with Legos or Zoob pieces and then lining them up in perfect formation. He fills the house all day with the sound effects of his make-believe creations. He loves playing Minecraft with his brother or any other game on the tablet for that matter. He loves to draw, and he has an eye for color and design. (See photo below.) He still supplies me with all the affection and adoration a mother can need.
Now that I can call him an official kindergartener, I am feeling pretty good about homeschooling kindergarten. Unlike the first time, I have tread these waters before. I know I can relax because Kindergarten is easy-peasy. If you want to see my philosophy on it, read this. Although it’s about preschool, I feel the same way about kindergarten. However, I am doing things a little different with my kindergartener now. He does have more lessons to work on. I’ll explain what we’re doing below.
I spend about one hour doing lessons with my kindergartner after lunch. This is because I’m doing 3rd grade with his older brother in the mornings. This seems to work well for him because in the mornings, all he wants to do is play. There are exceptions when I have an activity or game that I want both my boys to do. He’ll join us sometimes in the mornings for that, and sometimes he likes to watch, although that’s rare. I’m really glad he likes to play by himself because my main goal for a child his age is giving him plenty of free time for unstructured play.
As I explained in Homeschooling 3rd Grade: A New Venture, we have a lot of outside appointments this year, so for my kindergartner, the one-hour lessons tends to be on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. I don’t worry about making him do more than that.
Although I’m sad to say I don’t make it a daily ritual anymore, my six-year-old listens to many readalouds with his older brother, and in the evenings before bed, we often read books, but for a long time, he was more interested in looking at the bird app. (See Project-based Homeschooling: Birds and Feathers.)
I started Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with him in September, and we’ve finished over a quarter of the lessons. This is the same reading program I used with my eldest child, and I didn’t know if it would work with my younger one, and up until Lesson 25, it went well. Just this week, however, I feel it’s too challenging for him. I’m going to try either splitting each lesson in two, or switching to some other workbooks. Last year he did really well working in Brainquest’s Star Wars workbooks, so I may go back to those, and give 100 Easy Lessons a rest for awhile. We’ll see. Keeping the lessons lighthearted and not too stressful is important to me.
I am using Singapore‘s Primary Math Textbook 1A with Home Instructor’s Guide (U.S. Edition) for my kindergartner. This may surprise you because I’ve spent so much time writing about Life of Fred, which my older son loves. I tried Singapore after looking over a friend’s copy, and I liked the approach. Since he’s not as good of a listener as his older brother (right now), and he likes doing, Singapore’s short worksheets and games work better for him right now. What is especially helpful is that I can use the games with both boys for review and practice. I sometimes give my nine-year-old the mental math problems from Singapore to practice on too. I will probably use elements from both curriculums interchangeably with boy both boys over time. Again, I don’t worry about rushing through this curriculum. We started it last year, and I do one lesson in the textbook, a worksheet or game at a time, but I’m very thorough about going through everything before we move on. This curriculum definitely takes some time to prepare, especially when it comes to collecting or making materials for the games.
As I mentioned above, last year we used some Star Wars Workbooks, and my six-year-old (then five-year-old) loved those. He still has some of his kindergarten math workbook to finish, so I’m using that on occasion, and I plan to continue to use the Star Wars Workbooks for extra practice, as long as he continues to like them. (Unfortunately, they only make them for up to the 2nd grade.)
Standing under his own creation at Greenville’s Children’s Museum.
Science & Social Studies
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that science is a favorite subject in this house because my nine-year-old has always been fascinated with all things nature/science/technology. His younger brother follows along and learns so much from him. We watch documentaries, go to museums, read science books, do science experiments, and frankly, I’m not going to worry about doing a formal approach to learning about science or social studies for awhile. (My husband is a history professor. We’ve got history covered.) The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that these subjects can be built into the fabric of our lives. Foster curious minds, and you’ll cover these subjects, especially for a kindergartner.
My kindergartner loves to draw, so I’ve done a few things to help encourage that. Read Project-based Homeschooling: Mama’s Sketchbook Habit, Project-based Homeschooling: Sketching at the Botanical Gardens, and Art Fridays: Homeschool Art Lessons for more information.
Homeschooling 3rd Grade: A New Venture
This August, my eldest son turned 9, and I consider him a third grader. Third grade definitely has a different feel to it. For the first time, I’m doing less “child-led” and more “teacher-led” work. (The teacher being me.) Keep in mind that my six-year-old son is now in kindergarten, and I’m doing a little more rigid course work with him too. Not much more than I did with my eldest at that age, but since I have two students, it’s a longer day for me. (I’m going to write about how we still do child-led Project-based Homeschooling in a future post. I will also write a post about Kindergarten for my six-year-old: here it is!)
For the most part, I do lessons with my nine-year-old in the mornings, right after breakfast (around 9am), and we finish about lunch time. I do lessons with my kindergartener right after lunch, and that takes about an hour. During the mornings, my six-year-old plays by himself while I do lessons with his brother, although sometimes I can combine their work, especially if we’re playing a math game, so he might join us in the mornings.
For the first time, we have quite a few weekly appointments which happen on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. I can squeeze in math on Tuesdays and Thursdays for my nine-year-old, but on Fridays we don’t do any lessons because my son is taking a pottery class, and that takes a lot of driving time and energy. Because of our limited time, I have also started doing school on Saturday mornings. …..I know! I’m becoming a hard-nosed homeschooling mom!
On top of this, my nine-year-old has chosen (this is completely child-led) to take piano lessons, which requires him to practice twice a day. The practice started off about 15 minutes at a time, but as he progresses and the music becomes more complicated, his practice sessions sometimes can take 30-60 minutes each. Since he wants to do it, it’s great, but it definitely takes a big chunk of time in the day.
I was worried about this schedule being too much for my children, which is why I’m writing this post two months into our school year, but so far, it’s gone well. I can’t say that my boys love their formal lessons, but they are getting older and more mature, and they are both able to focus longer than they could in the past. And even though we have a lot of work to do, they still have time to play during the day. If they have a project they want to do, I skip lessons and give them time to do it. This hasn’t happened a lot, and that may be because I’m giving them too much formal structure, but then again, my eldest son’s project seems to be piano now, and my six-year-old still finds time to fill the floor with his coloring pages anyway!
All of this is subject to change, of course. I am always trying to gauge when I need to push them to work harder on their lessons or give them a break to go play or do a project. It’s really something you have to think about when you’re homeschooling. I want them to succeed and learn how to work hard when necessary, but I also don’t want to push them too much. I want our days to be productive yet cheerful. It’s hard to balance everything, and it’s something that I just have to use my intuition on. I’m sure I’m not always on the mark, but I have well-behaved boys (most of the time), so I think that’s a good clue that we’re doing good.
3rd Grade Curriculum
My goal this year was to have my son begin reading silently to himself. My husband helped achieve this goal when he bought our son a bunch of old Looney Tunes comic books for $1 each at some antique stores. My son read all of those, and after that I offered him some wildlife adventure books by one of our favorite T.V. ecologists, Jeff Corwin. They are right at my son’s level, and he’s finished the first one, and now he’s reading the second. I realize that I need to make time for him to read aloud to me so that I can make sure he’s reading fluently, and I haven’t done that enough, but he has been able to tell me about the stories in his books, so I know he’s comprehending them well.
So I’ve moved on from teaching “reading,” and now we’re working on spelling, which is actually something my son mentioned he needed to work on. (I hope next year, we’ll move into writing/grammar, but it’ll depend on where he’s at.) I am using All About Spelling Level 1, and I really like it. My son is doing well, though sometimes it has been frustrating for him, and it’s caused some tears. (I don’t think anything I use to teach him this subject is going to be “tear-free” because this isn’t his thing.) To make it better, I don’t try to complete a step in one day. I try to keep it short. (The curriculum says to go at the child’s pace and make it light-hearted, which is exactly what I’m trying to do.) I also give him a choice between writing the words on paper or spelling them out with the letter tiles.
He also works in these Handwriting Without Tears workbooks because he needs to work more on handwriting. (I don’t like HWT cursive, and I don’t know if I will use it when we get to cursive writing.)
To give him a jumpstart into writing, I occasionally take dictation from him. Last year, he wrote Volume 1 of The Plant Man, which he made up on his own. Not surprisingly, it follows a similar pattern to some super hero shows he watches, but I was proud of him for following through to the end even though it took a few months for me to work in the time to do it with him. While I take dictation, I don’t comment very much on diction, though I might explain how “it sounds better to say it this way” once in a while. My goal is not to teach him how to write, but to instill an enjoyment of making up a story of his own. He has plans to do a series of four books. I don’t know if he’ll want to finish that or not, but I plan to offer my services to take dictation again, which is usually for 30 minutes before lessons begin.
My husband and I also read books to our son. Currently, I’m reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to him, and he loves it. I also try to do a read aloud in the mornings for both boys, but we don’t always have time. Currently we’re working our way through The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh.
If you read my blog post Achieving Homeschool Academic Goals, which is over on the home/school/life magazine blog, you’ll know that this year, I have appointed math as my son’s main priority. That just means if our time is limited, I make sure we do math first so that we’re getting to it everyday. I’m also working harder to find games and activities to make math more fun. I began this during the summer, and we did only math games and read books such as The History of Counting and Mathematicians Are People Too. (I can’t say my kids love math despite my best efforts, though.)
In September we moved back into our curriculum, and for my nine-year-old, I haven’t found anything more engaging than the Life of Fred series. He really loves those books and says he doesn’t want to do math any other way. So, we started Life of Fred: Dogs again (I had stopped it last year when it got a little beyond his level), and this time, we finished it in less than two months because we’re doing two chapters at a time, at least four days a week. Now we are working through Life of Fred: Edgewood, and I have the next book Life of Fred: Farming on my shelf so we can dig into it as soon as we finish Edgewood. I’m hoping he’ll be able to grasp the material in all these books so that we don’t have to stop.
In addition to this, I give him more math practice by having him play math games and do the mental math sheets as I come to them in his younger brother’s Singapore math curriculum. I also found a little gem, Time Life for Children’s Right In Your Own Backyard: Nature Math. It’s not in print anymore, but it was for sale used on Amazon. Overall, it’s more at my kindergartener’s level, but I’m slowly making my way through the book with both boys and using a game in it to help with addition skills, etc.
As I’ve written countless times before, my son’s main interest is in science, so I have not tried to do a formal curriculum with him. (At some point, I plan to do a systematic study of science, however.) We have taken many Homeschool Science classes at the nature center in the past, and sadly, for the first time, they are conflicting with our other commitments. We did several science experiments last year, but since we’re very busy with outside appointments this year, I’m not putting that on the agenda. We still learn a lot through documentaries, reading science news articles, going on field trips to science museums and nature centers, and my son will be taking a six-week homeschool Chemical Engineering class by Engineering for Kids very soon.
I have not referred to a curriculum to cover social studies because I know my boys learn so much through our daily activities. We visit museums, watch documentaries, and my son is a fan of News-O-Matic, which I include in our lessons, and it is a great tool for learning about current events and people’s jobs. My husband is a history professor, so our conversations are peppered with his knowledge. I also created a big history timeline which we’re utilizing, and you can read about that in How to Make a Big History Timeline for Your Wall. When my son gets a little older, I’m going to have him listen to his dad’s history podcasts. My boys are a step up in their knowledge of geography because we love looking at the globe and using maps, and last year I read them World Book’s Childcraft See The World, which I picked up for a $1 at a library book sale.
I have already written quite a bit about how I do Art Fridays, and you can see this page for information on all our formal art lessons. Currently, my son is in a pottery class on Fridays, and I sketch with my younger son during that time, so I’m not planning any formal art lessons. Going forward, there will be a conflict with our Art Fridays, so they might be temporarily suspended until I can work something else out.
We have finally been working on our Spanish in earnest. We use Mango free through our local library, and we can access it at home, but I’m not sure we’re getting the full package through the library. (If anyone knows about this, please e-mail me.) I’m going to try something new soon, and if I like it, I’ll be sure to tell you about it.
So far, this is what we’re doing for third grade. There’s a lot more to do, but it’s an exciting year! How about you?
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.
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.
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.
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!)
–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!