Homeschooling 4th Grade: Our Schedule and “My Master List”

My desktop. I keep my daily attendance charts and my master list right in front of me so that I don’t forget to use them.

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.

Our Schedule

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. 

My List

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

read aloud
times tables


News-O-Matic & election news
Amazon prime shows
citizen science projects
foreign language

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

Putting together his Meccano robot.

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.)

Intermission at the symphony.

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.

Our Schedule

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

Language Arts

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.)

Using the Magnetism experiment kit that Nana sent them.


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.)

Social Studies

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.

Tellus Science Museum. My boys are on the right side of the dinosaur.


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.


Language Arts

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!)

Our Schedule

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

Language Arts

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 1and 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 Goalswhich 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 MathIt’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.

Social Studies

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.

2nd grade MOL Weekly HS Schedule  copy

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

Project Time

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

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


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

The weekly plan.

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

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

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

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

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

The eight-year-old

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

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

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

–Stick Kids Workbooks: Amazing Mazes

–A+ Alphabet Workbook

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

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

Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks: Kindergarten Writing & ABCS

Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks: Preschool Number Fun

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

Starfall – This is for both boys, although I didn’t tell my eight-year-old that. I asked him if he would sit with his younger brother and go over all the phonic reading lessons, games, books, and videos on  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!

Sweet Spot

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on December 18, 2013. 

There is something about having a four-year-old and seven-year-old that makes me feel like we’re in a sweet spot of time. My eldest has not acquired that “attitude” that older kids are prone to get. My youngest has emerged from the terrible threes and is beginning to become a little more independent. He still needs his mama, but he’s not glued to my hip anymore.

We’ve had a very good year so far. There’s a rhythm to our days, and it feels good to me. I created a homeschool schedule at the beginning of the year, and though we don’t always stick to it, I use it like a compass to get us back on track whenever I find myself wondering what we should do next.

But wondering what to do doesn’t happen for my boys, who are full of ideas for playing and making, so I don’t have to wonder much. My eldest son always has some kind of project he’s working on. Just when I think one project is winding down, he’ll come up with something else.

For example, he’s working on a model kit of the U.S.S. Constitution with his father. My husband is not thrilled that I bought such a difficult model kit, but I thought it would give them something to do together, and it has.  My son has been able to do a lot of the work with support from his dad, especially since they aren’t trying to make it “perfect.” He’s also started asking questions about the ship, otherwise known as “Old Ironsides.”

At Thanksgiving, my son heard the story about the pilgrims again, and he decided to make a Mayflower ship out of clay, and he did a good job. Then he came up with the idea to make a model of the Mayflower out of cardboard after he finishes the U.S.S. Constitution. Again, he started asking questions about the Mayflower too, so we looked up pictures online, and we took a trip to the library.

We came home with a big bag of books, and two of them were about the U.S.S. Constitution and the Mayflower. We’ve begun reading the one about the Constitution. Did you know it was one of America’s first Navy ships, and it’s still owned and operated by the Navy?

These projects are just part of our days. Both my husband and I spend time with our son on reading lessons. I also do math and Spanish lessons with him, but that’s not so interesting to write about.

My four-year-old is watching and listening during his older brother’s lessons, and he’s fortunate in that he’s never had to sit down and do a formal lesson himself. But he’s teaching himself many things, and recently he taught himself how to count to 12. He counts everything. He’s completely different than his older brother was at that age, and sometimes I forget how smart he is because he shows it in different ways.

He loves books, especially books about dinosaurs. I won’t lie. I’m sick of books about dinosaurs, but I read them anyway.

We’ve been going to classes and play dates, watching wonderful documentaries on Netflix, and when the weather is nice, we get outside for hikes at Fort Yargo or the Botanical Garden.  We have been cooking together more, and the boys have been gracing me with lots of quiet time as they play more and more by themselves.  That more than anything, is why I’m calling this era of their childhood “the Sweet Spot.”  And it’s also why I’m grateful we can homeschool – they have time to play and foster those imaginations.

I know someday I’ll look back at this time and think of it as a happy time, despite the normal ups and downs daily life can bring. We’re blessed to be together, doing meaningful work and play.


FYI – I have lots of things I’d like to share with you. For example, we’re doing something a little different with reading lessons. And I want to tell you what we’re doing this year for math. In addition to this, there are projects, art and all kinds of other little stuff that I just can’t seem to find the time to write about. Eventually, I hope I will. Unfortunately, you may see less of me in the coming weeks, though I will be posting my columns each week. Due to the holidays, I’m trying to relax more. Due to a deadline, I’m trying to get another project done. But you never know. Sometimes I get my best writing done when I’m procrastinating on something else!😉 Please e-mail me to chat, if you like. I’d love that.