Friday, June 28, 2013

A great way to learn about culture

As a parent, I am very concerned making sure my kids don't just learn about other cultures and people through books, but through real-life experiences.  One of the best ways I have found to do this (other than extended travel) is to host exchange students.  We've hosted a couple of times and now I work with students during their time here in this country.  My kids love the students and love learning about their home countries.

Having a houseful of children, travel is just difficult and expensive.  Hosting is a great way to bring culture to your kids in a season of life when you can't travel.  Hosting is a great learning experience, but also a lot of fun.  I'll never forget my 4 year old pretending one day that he was going to fly in a plane over the ocean to visit Germany.  He loved his German sister.

We experienced German holidays, German food, and German music and books right in our own home.  My kids don't just know in their head that there is a country called Germany, but they lived it and it is personal and understood to them.  Having our student with us for a year went far beyond any learning we could achieve with a unit study.  And it helped them to step outside of our own little world and see the world with a wider perspective. 

And beyond learning about her country, we learned about our own.  We were able to teach her how we do things, and through her questions, we were able to stop and think about why we do things the way we do, what is important to us, and how we live life in a way that was much more introspective than we normally would have been.

When I studied in England, I learned first hand how difficult it can be to be in a new culture and far away from family, and how important it is to have local support.  I loved my family's experience hosting when I was in high school, and now it is my honor to be able to help these students find families and to support the families and the students during their time here in this country. 

I would love to talk to you more about the possibility of hosting if you are interested.  Even if you aren't local, I can put you in touch with the right people. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

10th grade

My oldest will be in 10th grade this year.  Most of his time will be spent in his history and literature work, which will be explained in another post.  He will also be studying chemistry with Science at Home.  We order science supplies through Home Science Tools. 

Math:  Math U See

Language:  Analytical Grammar high school reinforcement book
                   AP Comp readings with Everything's an argument and IEW's Succeed on the AP Comp Exam

Electives:  AP Microeconomics (more about the AP program soon)--Mcconnell Microeconomics and IEW Economics-Based Writing, as well as AP study guides and lessons
                  French 2--online with BJU French 2
                  Latin 3-online with Henle
                  Russian--with Pimsleur and Russian in 10 minutes a day
                  Old Testament Survey with The Promise and the Blessing
                  Health--Total Health (1 semester)
                  Driver's Ed/Car Maintenance-Safe Young Drivers and Auto Upkeep (car maintenance curriculum which uses real hands-on "labs" teaching a wide range of owning and driving a car from changing windshield wiper fluid to changing brakes (1 semester)
                  Art-continue with the Annotated Mona Lisa and the Story of Painting for art from the Middle Ages, as well as studying painting with Introduction to Watercolors
                  Music-The Classical Experience

Speech and debate

One of our favorite parts of homeschooling last year was participating in our local speech and debate club.  This club competes through the NCFCA.  I was blown away by the level of competition and the quality of performances of these students. 

My oldest participated in the LD debate, but there were others involved in TP and many categories of speech.  Participants are 12-18 years old.  The experience was excellent for him to learn about how to structure an argument, how to present himself, what evidence is important and useful, and even how to go through the formal process of a debate.  He learned a ton about the year's resolution, and it provided us great opportunity to discuss current events and history with a depth we don't usually get to experience.  The whole family was in on letting him know of any relevant quotes or fact they encountered.

I think my favorite part of the experience was the excitement and enthusiasm I saw in him for research.  In NCFCA debate, there is one resolution over the course of the year.  Each student has to write and prepare both an affirmative case (supporting the resolution) and a negative case (against the resolution).  In a tournament, each student will be required to debate both sides.  This requirement forces them to dig deeper and build strong cases, but also to look from both sides of the argument.  Instead of just picking a side, they have to be able to see the other side's point of view and understand it enough to even argue for it.  It's an incredible exercise in argumentation and research.

Parents attend tournaments and help judge which was a lot of fun.  I loved watching other debaters and speakers.  Again and again I was blown away by the quality and level at which they were competing.  To watch high school students be able to stand up and speak eloquently and deeply about real subjects and issues in an educated and passionate way--well, I just can't say enough good about the organization or our club.  It was a great experience in oral presenation that fit perfectly with our goals in the rhetoric stage. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

9th grade

So high school--Most my student's day at this point should be focused on his great books study for history and literature.  The details of that are coming in another post.  At this point, we are working on building skills like note taking, essay writing--timed and note, time management, test taking skills, reading skills, and oral presentation skills.  We study the ancients and biology using Science for High School. 

Math:  Math U See

Language:  Analytical Grammar High school reinforcement books
                   Writing Exposition
                   Vocabulary from Classical Roots

Other:  Rhetoric--A Rulebook for Arguments as described in the WTM
            Art--The Annotated Mona Lisa, The Story of Painting, and a drawing instruction book
            Russian-Pimsleur and Russian in 10 minutes a day
            French-online with BJU French
            Latin-online with Henle
We also joined a speech and debate club this year.  More on that experience in another post. 

And I have a toddler underfoot

I think one of the hardest parts of homeschooling many is keeping the littlest ones busy during the school day.  I have always had a toddler, an infant, or both during my time homeschooling.  During the next school year, I will be introducing my 3 year old to our Montessori materials and entertaining a 1 year old, while trying to school 5 other from kindergarten through high school.  It's always a challenge balancing their needs, and I honestly don't think I come even close to doing a great job most days.  Mommy guilt is tough.  I love break weeks because that gives me extra time to spend with my youngest kiddos. 

I think how you handle toddlers during school time depends very much on their personality and temperament.  I have had some toddlers who are quite content to play quietly in their own space, and some that require constant, hands-on entertainment and containment-ha!  Here are some ideas that I have used over the years and that others have shared with me. 

1.  Montessori--I will write more on Montessori at home later, but even toddlers can make use of simple Montessori materials to keep themselves busy while the others work.  In fact, this is one of the reasons I love Montessori so much.

2.  Along with the idea of Montessori materials, have certain activities and toys that only come out at school time.  Some moms will do a busy bag swap.  Some set up special boxes.  You can even look into  The main idea here is to have extra exciting, interesting, special activities and toys for your little ones that only come out during school, and that they can play with in a contained environment. 

3.  School during naptime.  This isn't always practical, but sometimes it is necessary.  We do our science and history work during naptime because the house is quieter, and the bigger kids can actually hear me read-ha!

4.  Have your older kids be more independent.  The reality is, when you have little ones running around, they are going to need you.  This is a great reason to foster independence in your older children.  Work plans are a great way to do this.  Also, having a routine with a typical way they should start their day helps.  If they know they should start their day with copywork, then they will be able to go ahead and get started, without waiting on your to sit down with them.

5.  This year, we actually woke up extra early and schooled in the morning before my then 2 year old woke up.  This gave us a good start while he got plenty of sleep.

6.  Take turns with the toddler.  I have had a few who just need hands-on attention during this time.  We just take turns entertaining that child while I work with other kids.  This isn't always easy, but it does give your older kids a break and gives them some one-on-one time with their younger sibling.

It's just for a season.  Soon, your toddler will be older and can participate more fully in school. It's temporary. Hard. But temporary.

What other tips do you have for entertaining and occupying toddler during school time?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

8th grade

In 8th grade, we continue with the WTM formal reading list, formal logic, Latin and French, and outlining in history.  My 8th graders plan their own schedule and are responsible for their own time management.  They still participate in history and science with younger siblings to some extent, but are doing most of their work own their own.  Most of their time should be spent on science, history, working through their reading list, and writing about their reading at this point. 

In 7th and 8th grade, to go along with our history studies, my students use the Critical Thinking in US History books to build their skills in textual analysis and their confidence in working with primary documents.  These books are involved, but a great way to teach point of view and how to question and apply logic to texts you are reading. 

Math:  Math U See

Language:  Analytical Grammar season 3
                  Vocabulary from Classical Roots C and D
                  Stobaugh's Literary Analysis--great foundation for high school literature

Logic:  Intermediate Logic by Canon Press with dvds

Other:  Music--we do a composer study using some Beautiful Feet resources and The Gift of Music
            Art-Photography and study modern artists and pieces
            French--I have used Tell Me More and power glide, as well as a verb book and a translating book
            Latin-My oldest started high school Latin with Memoria Press online academy using Henle

7th grade

7th grade is a big year.  We begin formal logic instruction in 7th, and I also expect my 7th graders to take charge of their own schedule and planning.  I plan out in my 7th grade folder where I expect them to be each week, but I no longer write a workplan for them.  They are required to get the folder out and write out their own plans in a planner.  They can move as fast or as slow as they want over the year, as long as they don't get behind my goals for them in the folder.  They are completely in charge of their schedule and turning in work on time at this point.

I start a formal reading list in middle school taken mostly from the WTM.  For each of the pieces of literature my student reads, he is required to discuss it with me--literary devices and historical context, and also to write a report evaluation.  There are lots of great resources to help you as a teacher through these discussions.  I will write a post on those soon.  I encourage you again to read the WTM and check out the reading list she gives there. 

Math:  Math U See

Language:  We have finished spelling by 7th, and we start on Vocabulary from Classical Roots A and B
                    Editor in Chief
                    Beyond the Book Report by Analytical Grammar people
                    Analytical Grammar season 2
                    Learning Language Arts through literature-green

Logic:  Introductory Logic by Canon Press (they have a dvd set if you prefer for instruction)
            The Thinking Toolbox
            And if you notice your child needs a little extra help for logic, I love the James Madison Critical Thinking course by Critical Thinking Company.  It teaches formal logic, but in a way that is fun and easy.  You basically follow a series of crimes told in story format, and use logic to sort through and solve each.  We used it as supplement to Introductory and Intermediate Logic in 7th and 8th. 

Other:  French from Memoria Press
             Latin--Second Form Latin
             Music-Understanding Music by Tatchell and Understanding Music by Yudkin (and we listen to music from the time period)
             Art--Scultpting this year with Hands on Sculpting and we study art from the time period
             All about Money/All about Time/All about Talent/Money Matters for Teens


I didn't include any discussion about phonics on my 1st grade page, because I am very child-specific when it comes to reading.  Some of my kids have been fluent readers in 1st.  I have had 1 reading long Harry Potter books in kindergarten.  One was reading American Girl by the middle of the year.  One was just getting through basic readers with fluency.  And one is going into first able to slowly read and sound out basic readers, with no fluency.  And my kindergartener behind her is working on a word level.

I use what works for each kid with phonics.  The first book I ever used was called Teaching your child to read.  It was wonderful for a kinesthetic learner.  You used very active play to teach sounds and games to teach blending.  It was wonderful.  It worked for him.  He was reading Bob readers at 3. 

My very visual learners love Phonics Museum by Veritas Press.  This curriculum is gorgeous.  It uses real artwork from museums as all the illustrations throughout the curriculum.  It is a solid, challenging program.  I don't love the scripting, but I just ignore it and teach it on my own and use the resources and workbook.

My struggling readers tend to go from Phonics Museum to Explode the Code.  This just basic, funny, but not visually distracting reinforcement.  It's easy to use and those of mine that have used it, enjoy it. 

I also use the phonics instruction with Learning Language Arts Through Literature.  The benefit to it is that it's great reinforcement and it is integrated with grammar and the rest of the language arts.  It has been good to boost the skills of my students who are doing better, but not enough for those struggling.

This year, I am thinking about giving All About Reading a try with my 2 English as a second first language speakers.  I think the step by step, very concrete instruction with the letter tiles will be useful for them.  One of mine has a language processing disorder, so the more I can make phonics visually and physically appealling with building words, and less dependent on oral understanding, the better for her.  If you have used All About Reading and loved it/hated it, please share your feedback.

Tons of people use Ordinary Guide to Teaching Reading or Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons, but I have never used either, so I can't give a good review for you.  I have heard they are easy to use.  I am just can't do things normally--ha!

My best advice with phonics curriculum is to know your child's learning style and be flexible.  Teaching a child to read is just not fun.  They will get it.  And be sure to get their eyes checked if you are having never ending struggles!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Online Options

There are so many options out there for online classes.  We have loved doing high school foreign language online, because it allows my student the opportunity to interact and speak with other students learning the same language.  There are things I look for in an online program--is it a real time class?  Is there a teacher available to ask questions and grade?  What level of work is required and how is that work evaluated? 

The 2 programs we have used are Memoria Press Online Academy for Latin and The Potter's School for French.  Memoria Press is a very straightforward, easy to use online class.  The student attends a real time class taught by a live teacher.  She will lecture, and the students participate via a headset.  They can see her, her board, and notes she pins to the screen, and they speak and interact by typing and voice.  They occasionally have individual and group work during class time as well.  If your student is very independent, Memoria Press is great.  Homework is assigned but not graded.  Quizzes are graded weekly relating to the work you complete.  Teachers are readily available to answer questions.

The Potter's School was a wonderful experience this year.  I was blown away by the wide range in variety and level classes they offer.  They have a lot of AP-approved level classes.  My oldest took French through the Potter's School this year, and it was similar to Memoria Press in that it was a live class, interactive, and used text and headset.  The major difference I saw was that homework was turned in and graded weekly for The Potter's School.  The teacher gave feedback on all work, not just quizzes.  He was also required to turn in monthly project.  I loved the thoroughness and feedback of the program.  He also took the optional conversation class that went along with French, and I was super impressed by how much his skills progressed in the combination of the two classes--writing, speaking, reading, etc.  We were very pleased with our experience.

Other online, live class programs I know of include Landry Academy and  Landry also offers science lab intensives that will travel to your area for a day or 2 of hands-on labs, which are a great supplement to science programs.  Math-U-See also offers a co-op program with live classes through their website.  Online classes tend to be pricey, but are a great option especially with foreign language classes or classes that are harder to find resources and support for such as calculus.  If you know of other programs, please feel free to tell me about them in the comments. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Why not a boxed curriculum?

There are really great curriculum out there that are boxed, all-in-one curriculum.  Some even would work with my Classical inclinations.  Then why not just used one of those??  The short answer is I'm stubborn, and I don't like to make things easy on myself.  I love the flexibility of putting my own things together.  And I love the ability to change course and follow the interests of my kids. 

That said, even though a boxed curriculum isn't for me, there are some really great ones out there for those that do want the structure and the direction.  Having everything in one is a good way to alleviate that fear of missing something.  I'm not the only one that feels that way right?? 

For people that ask me about curriculum that are just getting started, that see the appeal of the classical style, but are overwhelmed by the planning, I tend to point them toward My Father's World.  This curriculum uses some of my favorite resources, such as Story of the World, but lays everything out for the user in clear cut lesson plans.  It is integrative and chronological, both important things I look for in a curriculum.  It also allows for some flexibility to teach multiple ages at a time.  That is something you just have to have if you have a ton of kids.  No one has time to teach 6 different histories...or sciences...I'm overwhelmed just thinking about it. 

For those that aren't necessarily needing the logical, chronological flow of the Classical style, but are interested in real books, and their kids are strong readers and oral listeners, I point them to Sonlight.  I love Sonlight.  I would love to use Sonlight.  But it's not chronological, and I need that.  However, what Sonlight does really well is allow kids to learn through reading.  The curriculum is based off of the literature you read, and it is good lit.  I actually use this site and use a lot of their book suggestions, but in a WTM cycle.  Sonlight also allows for multi-age teaching and gives you step by step directions and lesson plans.

For those that tend toward unit studies, you might want to explore a curriculum like Konos, or even the newer, but very promising Trail Guide to Learning series.

There are so many choices out there that aren't just your typical school-at-home set, but that still give you step by step support if you are looking for it.  If you know of others, please feel free to comment and let me know about them.  I know there are many more.  Some I know about and some I don't.  I am always looking to learn about new resources. 

6th grade

In 6th grade, we continue our early logic studies, as well as Latin.

Math:  Math-U-See
           Another great math resource that I have used as a supplement at times is the Life of Fred series.  These are written more in novel form and are great for kids that are more verbal and less math. 

Language: Spelling Workout--we finish spelling this year and move onto something different the next year
                   Editor in Chief from the Critical Thinking Company
                  Analytical grammar--More on this curriculum coming later.  It is taught in 3 "seasons"-so it covers 3 years--6th, 7th, and 8th grades here. 
                  I am super excited about Analytical Grammar's new writing curriculum.  I haven't used it yet, but it sounds like what I'm looking for in these grades to replace Writing Strands.  It's called Beyond the Book Report and it works with Analytical Grammar.  We plan to use this with future 6th-8th graders
                  Learning Language Arts Through Literature-green

Logic:  The Fallacy Detective
             Critical Thinking book 1 and 2 from the Crititcal Thinking Company
             And we continue with Mind Benders and Red Herrings from the Critical Thinking Company

Other:  Latina Christiana 2
             The Easy French 2b--with some verb book work and translating
             Art-We continue to study the art that is relevant to our time period, but in 6th we also study painting techniques with Watercolor for the Artistically Undiscovered
             Music-we listen to music from our time period and use graphic organizers to start evaluating and not just passively listening

Saturday, June 22, 2013

5th grade

5th grade begins what the classical world calls the logic stage.  At this point, your student developmentally is probably asking questions about why things are the way they are.  They are looking for more than just facts.  They have the basics down, and now they want the why.  This is the point when you can start teaching logic skills to your child.  Before this point, developmentally they are ready for amassing large quantities of information.  In 1st-4th grade, I fill them up with facts and information.  In 5th-8th grade, we focus on how to process that information---how to look for fallacies and weaknesses in arguments, how to not just take information at face value.  I don't start with formal logic in the beginning.  In 5th an 6th grade, we work more on logic puzzles and critical thinking skills, so that by 7th and 8th, we can study logic more formally.  I also beginning our Latin studies in 5th grade, and we begin the WTM's approach to art technique--see below. 

Math:  Math U See

Language:  Spelling Workout
                    Editor-in-Chief (this is written as a series of articles that the student edits.  It's great for working on and refining punctuation/capitalization skills--by The Critical Thinking Company)
                    Writing Strands--again, thinking about changing this one
                    Learning Language Arts Through Literature-tan book
                    Jr. Analytical Grammar:  Mechanics

Logic:  Mind Benders and Red Herrings books from The Critical Thinking Company  (they have tons of really awesome resources!)

Other:  The Easy French 2a
              Latina Christiana 1
             Maps, Charts and Graphs for geography
             Art--in 5th we study drawing with Drawing on the right side of the brain.  Over the logic stage, we study drawing one year, painting the next, sculpture the next, and finally photography
            Music-We use the Young Person's guide to the orchestra and The Story of the Incredible Orchestra as explained in the WTM

Middle School/Logic stage history

In the logic stage, I expect more out of my students than just narration.  My 5th-8th graders still participate with us with our Story of the World work and unit study work, but they go beyond that work on their own.  For those students we begin the process of outlining. 

First of all--the why.  Outlining is a very important skill.  To be able to read a text and tease out the most important information is very important to comprehension and rentention.  It is also a skill they will need in reverse when they start writing essays and longer papers.  Practicing by directly observing the struture of other's written work, will make this process of organizing their own work easier and more natural.

To outline, my 5th graders read a corresponding or connected section in our Kingfisher History Encyclopedia.  That student will then take the section (1 or 2 pages) a paragraph at a time.  The main idea of paragraph 1 goes with the I. in the outline.  The main idea of paragraph 2 is roman numeral 2 and so on.  The sections in Kingfisher are not so long that the process is overwhelming, but they are meaty enough that the student is learning more details and practicing the art of selection.  In 5th grade, this outline will be a one-step outline:

In 6th grade, we begin 2 step outlines.  Paragraphs are not just given the roman numeral and the main idea, but the main facts behind the main point will be now labelled.

In 7th and 8th grade, these 2 step outlines become 3 step outlines, and a 1, 2, 3, etc are added below the letters.  The WTM does a good job of explaining how to outline and giving specific examples.  I highly recommend you read that section before you start outlining with your child. 

So basically, logic stage history is grammar stage history with the family, plus independent outlining of Kingfisher. The Story of the World activity book lists out for you already the relevant pages of Kingfisher that match each chapter. All that work is already done for you.

Edited to add:  My logic stage students also have a blank timeline book.  I like the one Sonlight puts out.  They will add important dates to their timeline book, color coded by type of date. 

SOTW my way

Edited to add: In elementary and middle school, we work on memorizing the lists given in the WTM to go along with each year cycle, and we also work through learning the countries of the world by continent. We also have a blank timeline on the wall and a blank map on the wall and we input the informaton we study from each SOTW chapter on those 2 resources each day we do history. We do history 2 days a week around here.

As I mentioned in my first post on history here, I re-order Story of the World.  No, I don't think this is necessary.  I think you can use Story of the World straight through and it is fine.  It is really excellently written (and I am picky about history).  However, it jumps too much for us, and I also want to set it up in a way that is conducive to using unit studies and slowing down to study a topic with more depth.  And so I re-order and group Story of the World.  Below is our basic structure for each year of the WTM cycle as requested.

(Look for some of my year specific posts soon on some of my favorite resources for each year of the WTM cycle.  I also love this link which gives you great ideas for books to go along with SOTW that are included in the Sonlight program.)

Year 1:  Intro-what is history-week 1--intro, ch. 1
              Egypt--weeks 2-5--ch. 2, 3, 4, 12, 13
              Mesopotamia--weeks 6-9--ch. 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15, 16, 17
              India---weeks 10-12--ch. 9, 30, 31
              China--weeks 13-15--ch. 10, 32, 33
              Africa--weeks 16-17--ch. 11
              Greeks--weeks 18-22--ch. 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24
              Persia--weeks 23-24--ch. 21
              Hellenistic world--weeks 25, 26--ch. 25
              Rome--weeks 27-32--ch. 27, 28, 29, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42
              Americas--weeks 33-36--ch. 26

Year 2:  Fall of Rome/Germanic Tribes--weeks 1-2--ch. 1, 4
              Islamic Empire--weeks 3-5--ch. 6, 7, 12, 24
              Europe:  Knights, castles, Vikings, Crusades, etc--weeks. 6-13--ch. 2, 3, 15, 16, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23
              India--weeks 14-15--ch. 5, 30
              China--weeks 16-17--ch. 8, 21, 22
              Japan--weeks 18-19--ch. 9, 10
              Americas and africa--weeks 20-21--ch. 29, 32
              Fall of the Middle Ages--weeks 22-24--ch. 25, 26, 27
              Renaissance--weeks 25-27--ch. 35, 39
              Reformation--weeks 28-30--ch. 34, 36
              Exploration--weeks 31-36--ch. 28, 31, 33, 37, 38, 40, 41, 42

Year 3:  Pre-European North America, colonies--weeks 1-4--ch. 1, 4, 6, 7
              Stuarts and Civil War in England--weeks 5-7--ch. 3, 9, 12, 8, 18
              Tokugawa Japan, Imperialism--weeks 8-12--ch. 5, 10, 11, 19, 20, 24, 28, 39, 41
              Absolutism--weeks 13-15--ch. 13, 14, 15, 21
              Englightenment--weeks 16-17--ch. 16, 17, 26
              18th century colonial life, Revolution, constitution--weeks 18-26--ch. 22, 23, 36, 37
              French Rev, Latin Am Rev, Industrial Rev--weeks 27-32--ch. 25, 29, 33, 30, 34, 35, 27, 31
              Westward Migration--weeks 33-36--ch. 32, 38, 40, 42

(We also build our state history studies into Year 4.  I have extra reading on our particular state's history that we add into our studies in context.  ex.  We study the Civil War, and we also read a section on our state's history specifically in the Civil War.)
Years 4:  Asia and Africa--weeks 1-4--ch. 1b, 2a, 3, 4b, 8b, 9, 10, 11, 12b
                Industrial Revolution and Modernism--weeks 5-8--ch. 8a, 1a, 2a, 12a, 14
                Americas:  Civil War, Latin America, Mexican Rev.--weeks 9-15--ch. 6, 13, 5, 16
                Unification of Germany, WWI, Russian Rev--weeks 16-20--ch. 4a, 7, 18, 15, 20, 21, 23
                Post War, Depression, Fascism, WWII, Holocaust, Atom Bomb--weeks 21-29--ch. 26, 24, 27, 19, 28, 29, 31, 22
                Cold War, 50s-80s--weeks 30-36--ch. 35, 38, 32, 33, 34, 30, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42

Elementary History

I get a lot of questions about how I do history.  Since history is my field, I piece together my own history really.  I can tell you my approach, and I am happy to send you my lessons plans if you want to see what that looks like.  There are also other great curriculum out there that are laid out for you.  This post, and the next couple will cover how we approach history here.  I will write a post soon with other suggestions for history curriculum that are done very well and would be a great choice if you are looking for something that comes more planned for you.

For the grammar stage (1st-4th grade), I use Story of the World as our core text.  I love Story of the World.  It is chronological, entertaining, and covers just enough information.  I love love love the mapwork and the discussion questions that are already for me in the activity book, as well as the games and crafts we can choose from and the literature suggestions.  There are a couple of things I don't love about Story of the World.  First of all, I don't love the order of the chapters usually.  It jumps too much for me.  I have re-ordered and grouped chapters in a way that allows more of a unit study approach.  I will give you those details in a 2nd post.  Second of all, I have children who don't process orally well.  For those kids, reading the chapter isn't going to be enough.  It is for those kids especially that I love the hands-on activities.  Story of the World can be used just the way it is and done well. Just pick a chapter a read.  Add on as much or as little as you want from the activity book.  No pre-planning required. 

Our basic approach is to read the chapter, answer the questions, and do the mapwork.  After we have completed a chapter, my grammar stage kids will narrate what they have just heard.  For a 1st grader, that means they will tell me a brief summary, I will write it for them, and then they will draw a picture.  A 2nd grader will write a few sentences on their own and draw a picture.  A 3rd grader will write a paragraph and and work toward half a page.  A 4th grader will be writing a full page by the end of the year.

After we have completed Story of the World work, we will choose from the variety of activities in the activity book.  It contains games, crafts, cooking, and larger projects.  We do as many or as few of these as we have time and interest.  I also usually have other reading and resources to go along with the topic, and we pick and choose from the suggested further reading. 

Since I have re-ordered the chapters, it is very easy for me to stop our basic Story of the World work and throw in a unit study if my kids are particularly interested, or if I find the topic very important.  For instance, when we cover the modern world, we always do the couple of chapters in Story of the World on the Civil War and then we break off and do much more.  We read books, watch movies, visit battlefields, build diaromas, go to re-enactments, and complete literature-based unit studies like those from Teacher-Created Materials.  We will take 4-6 weeks to study the Civil War, and do significantly more than Story of the World does on that topic because it is fun.

That's basically our approach--Story of the World as our base, but re-structured, and allowing time for deeper exploration with additional resources, building literature into our history study.  Next, I will give you the info on how I re-order SOTW chapters as requested.

Edited to add:  In elementary and middle school, we work on memorizing the lists given in the WTM to go along with each year cycle, and we also work through learning the countries of the world by continent.  We also have a blank timeline on the wall and a blank map on the wall and we input the informaton we study from each SOTW chapter on those 2 resources each day we do history.  We do history 2 days a week around here. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

4th grade

I have a year off from 4th grade next year, with one just finishing, but this is what 4th grade looks like here.

Math:  You guessed it--Math-U-See
           But in 4th, I also add in a Simply Charlotte Mason math curriculum--because it's fun, and it's good reinforcment, and solid practical skills.  Your Business Math let's the student pick a type of store to run--we have the pet store, but there is also a book store or a sports store.  It walks your student through ordering inventory, filling orders, writing checks, paying bills and taxes, advertising, and calculating profit.  Kids love it.  I love to see them eager to practice their basic math skills.  Win-win

Language:  Learning Language Arts Through Lit
                   Jr Analytical Grammar--I love this curriculum.  It's easy to use and they get the grammar concepts.  I have a short lesson I go over with them once a week, and they have practice pages the rest of the week.  It teaches parsing and diagramming, but in a way that even my most reluctant diagrammer can get it.  And yes, I love diagramming.  I think it takes understanding to another level to have to think not just part of speech, but relationship to the whole sentence.  And it will help Latin learning later on, and vice versa.  I've been very pleased with this curriculum for grammar.  One thing that is very different about it is that it doesn't last the entire year.  The writers have an interesting, yet convincing philosophy on grammar learning, but it is working for us. 
                   Vocab--I give a list they look up in the dictionary
                   Journal--I give a prompt and they write a 1 page, cursive response
                   Writing Stories--creative writing
                   Proofreading Paragraphs
                   Again--I typically use Writing Strands, but we are looking to make changes here

Other:  Geography with Maps, Charts, and Graphs
            Art Smart
            In 4th, we go through the entire level 1 The Easy French

Foreign languages??!!

I know one area that tends to scare a lot of homeschoolers is teaching a foreign language.  To be fair, with some programs, it isn't easy if you don't know the language, and a person will never develop fluency without total immersion (see my post later on exchange students ;) ), but I still think foreign language exposure is very important.

Learning a foreign language helps you understand grammar and syntax in a way you won't appreciate until you are working through translations.  Learning a language helps you learn about other cultures and people groups, and gets you outside of your own preconceived world view.  And learning a language can be fun.

Around here, we start learning French very young.  Why French?  Why young?  We do French because I know French.  It's just that simple.  If I knew Spanish, we would start there, or German, or Russian, or any other language.  If you know even a little of a language, that's a good place to start.  If you know none, that's ok too.  I think it is very important to start kids hearing and being exposed to language young because our ears and specifically designed to process language and sound at young ages.  Those skills are harder as we get older.  Even my preschoolers are exposed to French vocabulary and voices through games and cd's. 

By 2nd grade, we start the curriculum The Easy French to increase their exposure (there is also The Easy Spanish).  This curriculum is a gentle way to start a language and make it fun.  It uses an immersion technique where the student will listen to a conversation with French words sprinkled throughout.  They will understand the words in context.  Then you are given a variety of activities you can complete throughout the week to build up those skills.  We use The Easy French from 2nd-6th grade.  It is great for vocabularly and building pronounciation skills.  It isn't super formal or grammatically-base.  At that point, we branch out and use the French curriculum from Memoria Press.  This curriculum allows my student to learn French a little more formally with grammar instruction to go along with vocabulary learning.  For high school, we have been using BJU French materials in an online class, and have found this combination to be working very well.  I put my oldest in an online class at this point, so that he has the opportunity to hear a variety of French speakers and not just my voice.  The class is live and he participates with a headseat through the computer.  More on online classes later. 

In 5th grade, we add in Latin instruction.  Most traditional, classical schoolers will start Latin first.  There are many arguments for why to teach Latin.  However, Latin is not a spoken language and we lose our ear for hearing the nuances of language as we get older.  For my family, I would rather focus on a modern, spoken language when they are younger to take advantage of their natural abilities, and add in a more formal Latin education in the logic stage.  Once you've worked on learning one foreign language, a 2nd...or an easier process.  We stick with Memoria Press curriculum for Latin--Latina Christiana and First Form, Second Form, etc.  There are lots of other good programs out there, and Memoria Press isn't exciting, but I find it to be straightforward and easy to use, and they have a DVD set that you can buy to go with them.  Since I don't know Latin myself, this is a big plus for me.  In 8th grade, my oldest began online study of high school level Latin with Memoria Press online academy using the Henle materials. 

And to round out our language study, my children will be allowed to select a 3rd language for their high school years--continuing Latin and French as well.  My oldest has chosen Russian, after experiencing that language first hand while we were in Ukraine adopting.  He is using a Pimsleur program paired with Russian in 10 Minutes a Day.  I have been very impressed with how much he has learned through those programs. 

If you are reading this thinking, wow, 3 languages is crazy, keep in mind that for the rest of the world, 2-3 foreign languages is the norm.  Students around the world start learning other languages young and add more languages through their educational career.  And they do it well.  Not only can our students handle this level of learning, they need it to be competitive in this world. 

If teaching a foreign language thoroughly intimdates you, be encouraged that there are so many choices and resources out there from free online resources, to online classes, to video and audio programs.  Do your research and you will find something that fits your family.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

3rd grade

3rd grade--This is what 3rd grade typically looks like around here.  I will have a 3rd grader next year again.  By this age, homeschooling usually gets more fun for me.  They are getting the basics down.  Reading is getting better.  They know the routine.  Now my oldest, he was not easier at this age.  But that's another post entirely. 

Math:  Math-U-See

Language:  1st Language Lessons 4 (some will still be on 3)
                   Learning Language Arts Through Literature--we always work a grade level up
                   Vocabulary--I give them a list of 5-10 words each week to look up in the dictionary
                   Journal-I give them a prompt, and they write a page response.  I require this to be in cursive and I use this opportunity to talk about handwriting and refining those skills
                   Writing Stories--I add in a creative writing book and we start working on the concept of plot, and other relevant literary terms
                   Info Please--this is a research book which teaches the basics of how to find information.  That looks different now than it did when I was a kid, but these are still relevant and important skills, although they might involve a computer more than actual books these days.
                   Writing Strands--I have used this in the past, but I am actually looking for a new writing curriculum. 
                   Proofreading Paragraphs--This is an editing curriculum similar to Editor-in-Chief where they edit a paragraph for punctuation.  We do 1 paragraph each week.
                    Spelling Workout

Other:  Geography with Maps, Charts, and Graphs
            Art Smart
            French--The Easy French 1 (2nd 1/2)
            some kind of Bible/devotion

Planning--how do I keep up with all this?

So many people, especially those just starting out, struggle with how to organize and plan.  What does that physically look like?  My system is just that--my system.  It works for me.  You will have other needs and preferences, but maybe this will give you a good starting off point or some ideas you can pick and choose from.  You are welcome to use all of these ideas, none of these ideas, or pick and choose as it works for your family.

To begin with, I separate by grade level and by year of the WTM cycle.  I have a folder for each grade level and a binder for each WTM year.  In each grade folder, I break my plans for the year into 36 individual weeks--math, language, foreign language, logic, art, anything else that is grade specific.  I don't put a lot of detail here.  I just divide out the curriculum or resources into an even flow over the course of the year.  I build in lighter weeks around holidays and toward the end of the year as I can. 

In each binder, I lay out my rough plans for grammar stage, logic stage, and rhetoric stage history/literature and science.  Typically, this is a chart with a range of weeks (say week 1-4), a topic we will study during those weeks, Kingfisher pages related to that topic, SOTW chapters related to that topic, and additional resources I might have collected related to that topic.  See my post on teaching history for more detail.  I do not break these plans into what I plan to cover each week in particular.  It is a rough guide.  I tend to make these plans at Christmas the school year before, but normal people could do this planning over the summer-ha!  I keep these binders and grade folder intact and on my shelves so that when the next child comes to that grade, I can just pull out the folder and tweak for his/her specific needs.

Storing curriculum--I have shelves where I keep grade-specific curriculum in order.  At the beginning of each set, I put the grade level folder so that it is easy for me to distinguish.  I also have a shelf (or 2) for each year cycle of WTM with history, literature, art, music, and science resources related to that specific year. 

Throughout the year then, we do 4 weeks of school and take a week off.  We complete 32 weeks between the middle of August and the middle of May.  I spread the remaining 4 weeks out over the summer as we have time, to complete a full 36 weeks. 

I use those break weeks to do my specific planning for each child.  I take their folders and write out a workplan (see my post on workplans) for each of the next 4 weeks with what I expect each child to complete in each subject over the week.  I can go through each subject quickly because I have a list of each one in the folder with my year-overview plans.  I can also evaluate if a child is struggling somewhere or if something isn't working.  During those break weeks, I also decide how to divide up the history/lit/science plans I have over the 4 weeks and write out those plans.  This break week is great for gathering any supplies we might need for history or science, going to the library or ordering books to read, field trips, appointments, educational movies, or any other ways to solidify the learning we have just completed.  It gives my kids a chance to re-charge and process the previous 4 weeks, and it gives me a chance to get caught up on everything in my world.  This is by far one of my favorite homeschooling decisions.  Some people take a break after 5 or 6 weeks, but work it out over a real calendar. With Christmas break in the middle, you finish about the same time regardless.  4 weeks is about what it takes my kids to start acting like they need a break. I want them excited a learning at their peak.

I often use free resources like the ones you can find free on the Donna Young Printable website to create my lesson plans.  I love paperwork and organizing though.  You might not.  You might just want to create a simple word or excel document to lay out your plans. 

I don't keep grades until my kids enter high school, so I don't do a lot of record keeping for the younger grades, but I do keep their workplans and each month evaluate their progress.  See my post on high school to learn more about how I record keep for those years. 

This system works for me and makes my life easier with lots of kids and repeating grades every other year with a new kid.  I do not want to re-create the wheel.  In a couple of years, I will be to the point that I have grade level folders for all grades and I only have to re-evaluate for specific kids each year.  Almost there!

What does a day look like? Workplans and Independence

I get asked all the time what a typical day looks like at my house.  The short answer is that changes from year to year.  I have never homeschooled without a toddler and or infant underfoot or on my hip...or both.  Year to year, we might start earlier in the day or later, read aloud during naptime or over lunch, or even take turns with a little one, if they are a particularly difficult or distracting little one.  More on all of that in the next few posts. 

So, it changes, but the routine is basically this.  We get up at a set time.  My kids do their best work in the mornings, and we typically start at 8.  Last year, we started at 7:30 because my then 2 year old was a late sleeper, and we could get a lot done before he woke up for the day.  We school during the morning for a few hours.  The preschool/kindy kids do Montessori during that time, and the older kids do language, math, and other work on their own.  I might stop at their table to do language with them or to answer a question, or they might get up to watch a math DVD.  I might stop in with a little to introduce a new lesson or to some group work, but each day looks a little different, with the same kind of flow.  We all work together in the same classroom space from high school down to the toddler on the floor playing.  Life isn't quiet and uninterrupted and their school environment isn't either-ha! 

We usually wrap up around 10-11 and then will head upstairs to eat lunch and play.  My high schooler is probably still working at this point or has found somewhere to read quietly or is signed into the computer for an online class.  After lunch, my youngest kiddos nap and I do history or science with older kids.  My high schooler is on his own.  I will have discussions with him as needed, or in the evening, but he rarely needs my assistance.  We do have a designated time each week to discuss his history/literature and science work.  After naps, we typically head out the door to an activity or the park. 

This is our typical Monday-Thursday.  Friday is reserved for art and music--mess and play, history projects that are more involved and we didn't get to, science projects that are more involved, or if we are in a unit study, we dig in more with that on Fridays.  And my high schooler attends debate and speech on Fridays.  With my English as a second first language learners, Fridays usually involves listening exercises and fine motor skill building.

The key to making our school work like this is independence.  I know, I know.  I can hear you now.  Not all kids are independent.  My oldest was not at all.  And it took years, but that was still our goal with him.  He has it now.  More on how we got there soon. 

I start them early with independence.  Montessori is naturally conducive to independent work.  In 1st grade, as we transition to more traditional schooling we start workplans.  Each week, each child gets a new workplan in his binder with all the copies he might need that week.  Each child has his own shelf with all the resources he will need for the year.  That child is responsible for going through the workplan and completing that work by the end of the week and placing finished work in the back of the binder.  I can not always stop working with one kid to run check and see if another kid has finished his work.  If the child has no questions, the work goes in the back when it is finished, and I can check as I come around.  This cuts out the multiple kids screaming, "look!  I finished it!!  Mom!!  Look!" that tends to happen otherwise, and which interupts everyone else that is working. 

The workplans I write are basically checklists of the work they should complete.  I use a form that is basically a series of boxes, and I put one subject in each box with the work to be complete, the book to be read, the memorization work to focus on, etc.  If a task should be done each day over the week, I label 1 2 3 4 next to the assignment, and the child can check a number each day.  Workplans give them control over which tasks they do when.  And it also helps them take ownership of their own work.  They are responsible for making decisions about what subjects to do which day.  If a child wants to finish the week early, they can.  If they want to do all of a subject on Monday, they can.  They are learning time management and decision making skills.  My 1st graders get a workplan, and I guide them through these skills over the course of the year.  By 2nd grade, they are able to get right to work on their own each day. 

For those kids that are not as self-motivated and independent, it might be a longer process, but it is a worthy goal.  Stick with it. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2nd grade

Ok, continuing the theme.  2nd grade at my house is much more independent.  In 1st grade, I walk my kids into a routine of looking on their workplan daily, completing work, and returning it to their binders.  Each kid's books are stored on their own shelf, and they learn how to find their books and complete their tasks.  They have freedom to choose the order and the day the work is completed, as long as it is completed by the end of the week.  I will write a whole post on how that works and what that looks like soon.  By 2nd grade, they should have this routine down, and their reading skills are improving so they can complete most work without me. 

Math:  Math-U-See--see 1st grade for my why's--Beta or Gamma

Language:  Learning Language Arts Through Literature
                  1st Language Lessons 2 or 3
                  Spelling Workout
                  And we begin cursive with the I Can Write Cursive series and Pictures in Cursive
                  (See:  What Cursive Does for Your Brain)

Other:  Maps, Charts, and Graphs for Geography
            Art Smart
            Typing games
            Listening activities
            We also start formal studies of French in 2nd grade--I will write a post on why French and why young soon.  In 2nd, we use The Easy French and do the 1st half of that curriculum with 1 lesson every 2 weeks.  It includes listening and activities to go along with learning, and uses the immersion method.  More on foreign language in another post. 

High School Science

When my oldest was starting high school, I started my research again.  High School science.  I had great ideas about what I wanted for him.  I wanted hands-on, research-based learning.  I didn't want him reading a textbook and regurgetating the facts he had just read on a test.  I also don't want my kids to suffer with lab sciences and lack of materials because we home school.  I want to see microscope work, dissection, and true experiments that use the scientific method.

Most everyone uses Apologia, so I looked at it.  But, as you know by now, I am massively stubborn and can't just use what other people are using.  Apologia seemed thorough and well-organized to me.  It included labs and activities.  It just felt too textbooky to me.  I didn't want to just hand him the information.  I wanted him to have to work for it. 

I searched and I searched and I just could not find what I was seeking.  I read review after review of all the typical curriculum choices, until I stumbled on a review for the Science for High School series.  This was what I was looking for all this time.  This series is research based.  Each week, your student will be given a series of questions which they need to research answers.  I bought my son a few standard textbooks he could use to do his research, but this research could be done on the internet or at a library, or a combination.  Each week, the text included a relevant lab, as well as a quiz. 

Our approach was basically background reading on Monday.  Research on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Discussion and lab on Thursday.  Quiz on Friday.  I also had him watch any relevant Khan videos, and write lab reports each week.  For background reading, he read from Biology:  A Self-Teaching Guide, as recommended in WTM. 

We loved the approach to learning Biology.  Active learning kept his interest and made him work for his knowledge and understanding.  It was a good, basic first biology course and the labs were interesting and relevant.  They included dissection and microscope work.  You will definitely need a good microscope if you choose this curriculum.  I had no difficulties finding the specimen and equipment we needed (Home Science Tools), and the author was easy to contact when I had questions.  I did find a few errors in the teacher's book, and had to be careful grading because the numbering was different on a couple of quizzes, but overall, we were very pleased and plan to use the curriculum for chemistry next year.  At this point, she has written physical science, biology, and chemistry.  Physics is due out soon.  Yes--that makes me very excited.

Our high school plan is Biology 1 in 9th, Chemistry in 10th, Advanced Biology with the intent of seeking AP credit and AP testing in 11th, and Physics in 12th.  That plan might alter depending on the child and their interest/future plans, but that is the rough plan at this point. 

Super excited about my newest science finds!

You probably thought I would start with history didn't you??

My first disclaimer here is that in the past, I have typically done pretty much exactly what the WTM suggests for science.  It can be done, and done well, if you have the time.  Science curriculum isn't a necessity.  And it is covered clearly and easily in the book honestly.  I do not love textbooky science.  We prefer real books and hands-on learning.  Yet, seeing as how I have racked up so many library fines that I can not actually use the library, and they pretty much block the door when they see my noisy crew coming, I was looking for something a little different this year.  But I love the WTM and I wanted whatever I used to stay true to that scope and sequence, and also the process--narration, hands on work, real books.  Basically, I was looking for someone to plan out the WTM for me and give it to me in book format with worksheets and diagrams and narration pages and lab pages all ready to go.  And I found that!  Yes!  Exactly that!  Can you hear my excitement?!

This is what I found.  Elemental Science.  It's genius.  Ok, so it's just the WTM all ready planned out and packaged for you, but it's exactly what I was looking for.  Basically it follows the plan laid out in the WTM, but sets you up with your reading (using some awesome Usborne and Kingfisher spines), your narration pages, and your labs.  It is divided into the 4 year cycle of the WTM--biology, earth/space, chemistry, and physics.  And it has a grammar stage and a logic stage that can be coordinated or used separately. 

(For WTM newbies, the grammar stage is 1st-4th grade when kids are focused on amassing facts and data and information.  The logic stage is 5th-8th where the kids developmentally are ready to start questioning information, and when you start teaching them logic to deal with those questions.  And the rhetoric stage is 9th-12th, when they learn how to present their own ideas).

My plan is to coordinate my grammar stage and logic stage students, but have my logic stage students complete the work in their level that goes beyond what my little ones are doing.  We will be doing biology this year so even my preschooler will enjoy listening about animals and the body.  We will also take a trip to the zoo or local science museum weekly to obeserve in person the animals we are studying.  The curriculum provides blank observation forms for animal studies, as well as year long project ideas to take your studies even deeper.  We are all excited about getting started!

I tend to do science and history with my kids, although I have been known to let my olders take the lead in labs and projects as they are able.  For those of you who need science to be super independent, the logic stage is very suitable for independent work as needed, without much parental involvement.  The student is actually given a checklist they can easily follow to complete the work each day.

The curriculum is also set up in 2 different plans--a 5 day week and a 2 day week.  We do science twice a week, so I appreciate that option already being laid out for me with no tweaking.

So in summary, you can easily go to the WTM and put together your own science plans, or if you, like me, need a little break in one curriculum, but want to stay true to the WTM, then you might want to look into Elemental Science.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

1st grade

I have had requests to list what I use for each grade, and so that is what I intend to do over the next couple of weeks, as well as to talk more about organizing, curriculum, common issues, etc.  My oldest is going into 10th at the moment, so I haven't taught 11th and 12th to my own child yet, but I do teach that age for other people's kids, and we have made our plans for high school already, so I will give you those lists also as they stand now.

I am skipping kindergarten and preschool for the moment, because we mostly Montessori-it during those years, and I want to write about Montessori more thoroughly.

Also, these grade-specific lists won't contain history, literature, or science because we do those on a WTM cycle and not on a graded cycle.  Look for separate posts about each of those subjects to come.

Math:  We use Math-U-See every year.  I love that it is hands-on, concrete, and focused on the why, not just the how.  I love the emphasis on word problems, and the review.  And I love that it isn't visually distracting to my easily distracted kids.  The biggest bonus is that Math-U-See comes with a DVD that my kids can watch and learn math from someone who loves math (not me!).  They learn the skill of listening to someone other than me teach, and how to take notes and ask questions later.  Most of my 1st graders have done the 2nd half of Math-U-See Foundations in 1st grade, but we are switching to the newer Alpha/Beta sequence this year.  I have some kids that will be in Alpha in 1st and some that will do Beta in 1st. 

Language:  Learning Language Arts Through Literature-Red book--simple and easy, gentle
                  approach into grammar.  This book includes spelling words, but I don't think they are
                  challenging enough, as well as dictation, handwriting, reading comprehension, etc.

                  First Language Lessons 1 or 2 depending on the kid--this is by the author's of the WTM.  I
                  don't love books 1 and 2, but I love books 3 and 4 in this series, but I do 1 and 2 anyway. 
                  I don't love a scripted curriculum.  I use these mostly as reinforcement

                  Spelling Workout for my visual learners, and All about Spelling for those that struggle
                 with spelling

                  Copywork for Little Girls or Copywork for Little Boys--depending on the kid ;)

Other:  Geography with Maps, Charts, and Graphs B
            Art with Art Smart (more to come on this resources soon)


            Listening Activities

            We also do some kind of Bible/devotion book, but I change that every year and typing games on the computer.

Add in our history/literature and science that we do all together and that's basically what 1st grade looks like around here. 
Before you ask--no, I don't do a formal handwriting curriculum.  I go over handwriting with them specifically on their daily copywork, but also any time I notice a recurring issue, I will bring it to their attention.  And, honestly, if I had more time, I wouldn't use a formal spelling curriculum either.  With my oldest, we just picked out words in the books he was reading or the history he was studying, or any words that seemed to be giving him trouble and we made lists that way.  Spelling is developemental, and kids will pick up good spelling habits as they read and expose themselves to more, so we don't stress about spelling here.  As they get older, I am more likely to point out bad spelling to them, and we work on those problems then. 

Yes-I've been singing that song all day, and my MOST favorite thing

When I thought about how I would approach this blog, the song popped into my head and it stuck.  So there you go.  I think it fits. 

I am going to start this blog off right and talk about my most favorite homeschool thing ever.  The book that completely changed my world.  The book that took me from I don't know if I can do this God, to I can not wait to do this God!! 

A little background, we moved a ton when my oldest was little.  I hauled him to England, Nashville, and back to Birmingham through his preschool and kindergarten years.  The one constant in those years was Montessori.  I love Montessori.  It is a hands-on, logical approach to education, and it worked for him.  He could go as fast or as slow (in his case fast, fast, fast), as you were ready for.  It kept him challenged and motivated, and out of trouble...mostly.  Anway, in his kindergarten year, child #2 was born, and we started contemplating private school tuition for 2 kids.  And then 10 months after she rocked our world, we found out that baby #3 would be coming.  3 kids in private school was just not going to happen.  My Montessori education, hyper-active, constantly needing a challenge son was just not going to make it sitting in a desk in public school.  But how to do you send 1 to private and not the others.  This is how God put homeschooling in our world.  I thought homeschoolers were insane before I was slapped in the face with it and started doing what I always do, researching.  I spent the next 2 years researching.  Yes, 2.  Years.  That's how I do things.  I planned out his entire 1st grade year, and then sent him to Montessori school.  I then re-planned when I found new things.  I have a bad habit of finding new things, and just adding them onto the old, instead of replacing.  Anyway, I continued this process for 2 years while he was in 1st and 2nd grade.

It was about January of his 2nd grade year when God took over my insanity, and finally got through my thick, planning-obsessed skull.  I was looking at needing 3k for child #2 for the next year, and I had no idea how to swing it.  At this point, I finally listened to one of the many, many recommendations to read the Well-Trained Mind (if you haven't read it, this is your recommendation--pay attention).  I picked it up at the library, and that book rocked my world.  If you are a planner, read the whole thing.  If you are easily overwhelmed, only read the part relevant to your child at this time.  This book encouraged me that not only could I teach them at home, but that I could do it well. 

Basically, the WTM is a book that lays out an approach to schooling, a scope and sequence that is typically referred to as classical.  You teach in a 4 year cycle, and that cycle repeats 3 full times throughout 1st-12th grade.  As a historian, it was so appealing to me that history was taught chronologically, and that literature, science, and real books were all tied in to the approach.  This was not only an education, but an excellent education, and that is what I desired for my kids. 

With this approach, in year 1, you teach the ancient world and biology.  If you think about the Greeks and the Romans--biology was what they knew.  They were dissecting and studying the human body and nature.  Your literature selections feed into that.  You read fiction and non-fiction based in that time period.  Year 2 is the middle ages and earth/space science.  In the beginning of the middle ages, people only knew what was in front of them--earth science, and then the great space discoveries, such as Galileo, occurred during this time.  Year 3 is the early modern world and chemistry, since the early modern world is the age of chemistry.  And year 4 is the modern world and physics, since the modern world is the age of physics.  It just makes so much beautiful, logical sense.  American history is studied in context, and not isolated from the rest of world history, and students learn what happens and how those event relate to others before them in the timeline.

That same cycle will repeat again in 5th-8th, and again in 9th-12th.  In the 2nd round, you add in logic, so that your student isn't only learning the subjects, but they can go deeper and start to ask why questions that developmentally are happening anyway.  In high school, the student will take the facts and the logic they have learned, and will add in study of argument, called rhetoric.  They will learn how to present their own unique ideas in writing and in speech.

Your first assignment then, if you are new to homeschooling.  Read the Well-Trained Mind.  It completely changed my focus and structure of our homeschooling and gave me the courage and plan I needed to take that first step.

Us...the long, required intro

A new blog.  I've been thinking about this for a long time.  I mostly want to write this blog for myself.  I think it will be a good way to keep track of my own thoughts and ideas.  What has worked, what hasn't, what I've chosen to use, what I haven't and why, how I've organized, what choices I've made.  I want to record what resources I have used each year, so that the next time I have a child in that grade, I have one place to go to.  If you know me, you know I have meticulously recorded this information somewhere, but it's handwritten, with lots of scratch outs and re-writes, and most importantly, not portable.  This blog will give me easy access. 

I am a big believer in not wasting your brain space remembering things that you could just write down.  I am a huge post-it note and google calendar fan.  This blog is going to be my homeschooling brain for me.

But maybe there are others that might benefit from my experiences, successes, and failures as well.  I love to help other homeschooling families.  Whether you are just getting starting, or you are struggling and need some inspiration or re-direction, please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to get you pointed in the right direction.  And if I ever do get around to writing that curriculum people have begged me for, you will find out about it here first ;)

A little about us for those us of you who might not know me.  I am a historian by trade, so my poor kids probably get a larger than normal dose of history and literature.  (They all love history still!)  My husband is an engineer, so he tends to favor the maths/sciences.  I have studied at Cambridge, taught college and AP classes, graded AP tests, and taught ACT/SAT prep classes.  I am much more comfortable with high school than preschool-ha! 

We have been blessed with 8 children, 7 of which we get the honor of raising and education, 1 of whom is in heaven and we miss on a constant basis.  2 of our children came to us by way of adoption from the beautiful country of Ukraine.  If you want to read more about our grief journey or adoption journey, I blog at  With 6 kids currently schooling, I have kids from high school through preschool, and a baby on my hip.  I have kids that learn in any style imaginable, kids that are gifted, and kids with learning struggles, kids that have attention issues, and kids that have a never ending focus, kids that do everything fast, and kids that do everything at their very own speed, kids that didn't even speak English the first 3 or 4 years of their lives, and kids that can probably speak English better than I can at this point.  I have art lovers, science lovers, history lovers, debators, and several to be determined.  I have introverts and extroverts.  I have kids that need lots of one-on-one, and kids that are extremely independent.  They keep me on my toes.

We are eclectic, classical educators from elementary school and up, and Montessorians for preschool and kindy.  I loosely follow the scope and sequence of the Well-Trained Mind from 1st grade onward, but I love to find resources that are challenging, hands-on, multi-sensory, and integrated to augment our learning.  I put lots of things together and rarely use a scripted or laid-out lesson plan.  We approach history and literature as one subject--reading lit that fits into our chronological study of world history, with unit studies thrown in to add depth to our studies as they show interest.  I encourage my kids to be independent in their studies as much as possible, so I favor curriculum and resources without a lot of teacher-involvement, and I teach them in groups as much as possible, so I favor resources that allow for multi-level teaching.  However, I am also a curriculum junkie, and I love to research all kinds of curriculum, even if it is something I would never use. 

I hope that eventually, you might find useful information here.  I plan on telling you about the curriculum choices we have made and why, how I organize, what I teach and which resources I use at each level, and even giving you tips about high school and college homeschooling.  If there is something specific you would like to me to address, just let me know.

And I would love to say I won't always be this wordy, but that would be a lie.