Although we homeschool year-round, each August we officially start our new school year. It is a fun and exciting time when we dive into our new school supplies and books. This post will detail our curriculum and resources for the 2017-18 school year.
Character Comes FirstOne of the foundational aspects of our homeschool philosophy is the focus on building good character. I believe that teaching my children to be honest, responsible, kind people is more important than the acquisition of academic knowledge, so I focus quite a bit of my efforts on character development. Household responsibilities, read-alouds, and relationship development are just some of the ways I focus on character development. My post about Core Phase delves deep into this subject and gives lots of examples of how I work to develop good character in my children, so check out that post if you want more information about how I purposely focus on character in our homeschool.
Individual InterestsAn important part of encouraging my children to love learning is allowing them to pursue their own interests. One of the biggest advantages of homeschooling is that my children have as much time as desired to follow their passions. I'm supporting my children's current interests as follows.
10-year-old daughter AlinaAlina is now several years into having her own chicken egg business. As she is getting older, she is getting to take part in more aspects of the business, such as planning the long-term goals for her flock, making decisions about managing the health of the flock, and learning about profit margins (or, in this case, learning about how far we are from actually turning a profit). Having her own business has taught her much about raising and caring for animals, handling and saving money, the value of hard work, and long-term commitments.
Besides chickens, Alina's other primary interest for the last few years has been horses. That interest seems to be waning now, so I am waiting to see what will spark her interest next.
7-year-old son IanIan is very interested in cars and machines. I am supporting his interest through:
- Teaching him how to use the lawn mower (he is SO excited to mow the lawn),
- Letting him (and helping him) disassemble things that break (old electronics, broken lawn mowers, etc.),
- Getting him involved in household maintenance (such as showing him how the inside of the toilet works, showing him how plumbing works, letting him help wherever possible such as screwing things in, using the manual staple gun, etc.),
- Letting him participate in car maintenance (which I haven't done since I was in college over 15 years ago, but I realized this would be a good way to let him get involved so I'm going to start doing my own oil changes and routine maintenance once again),
- Finding videos that show machines working (such as special tractors for harvesting pumpkins, how cotton is turned into cloth, etc.),
- Letting him get involved in using the kitchen appliances (mixer, food processor, blender, immersion blender) whenever I need to use them for a recipe,
- Taking the time to stop and let him observe construction sites, and
- Checking out books about machines and cars from the library.
One curriculum resource that supports Ian's interest in machines is Snap Circuits Jr. Electronics Discovery Kit. Both of my kids love doing the experiments in this kit, and Ian especially loves learning more about how electricity works.
Academic SubjectsI do not push my children academically, but nonetheless I do give them exposure to plenty of academic subjects and pursuits. My kids are not required to do school; nonetheless, they love engaging with our different curriculum options. You can see an overview of our daily homeschool routine here.
ReadingI help set the stage for reading proficiency by reading aloud often. We read chapter books and picture books with beautiful language, engaging storylines, and memorable characters. Through reading aloud, I am able to show my children what a wonderful world is hiding between the pages of books. My children participate in a Read-Aloud Classic Book Club, wherein the children discuss books with their friends once a month. I also make a point of reading on my own frequently; children naturally emulate their parents, so it is important for them to see me engaging in reading and discussing books as part of my own lifelong education.
My 10-year-old daughter is an advanced reader who reads voraciously, so I don't do anything in particular to help her with reading. She does periodically ask to do a "reading lesson" wherein she reads aloud from a McGuffey Reader.
My 7-year-old son is in the early stages of learning to read. Ian likes to plan ahead, so a few months ago he set a goal for himself to do two reading lessons per week, on Wednesday and Friday. With his naturally-structured nature, he makes sure he does his two reading lessons each week, and he usually does them a day early! Currently, his favorite resources for reading lessons are:
- McGuffey's Primer,
- Magic Treehouse books,
- Henry and Mudge books,
- Fly Guy books, and
- National Geographic Readers about Trucks, Trains, etc.
WritingWe don't use a formal writing curriculum. Instead, I encourage my children to write in the following ways:
- I make sure that my children see me writing in my own notebooks on a regular basis. This makes a huge difference in the amount of writing that they choose to do themselves.
- Since their writing skills lag behind their composition skills, whenever they ask I will write or type poems, stories, or songs for my children.
- When we do Nature Study, my children have the option to write in their Nature Notebooks.
- My children have Pen Pals in Nevada and Canada. My children love receiving letters in the mail, so this has been the biggest motivator for them in practicing their writing frequently.
- After seeing me write in my commonplace place book over the last several years, my daughter decided to start her own commonplace book. She uses this book as a place to copy down her favorite poems.
MathI am not using a traditional math curriculum for my children. Rather, they are learning math in the context of everyday life, through games, and through math read-alouds. For more details of how I teach math without a formal curriculum, check out this blog post.
Currently, our favorite resources for math study are:
- Settlers of Catan Dice Game, which is like a cross between Yahtzee (the classic dice game) and Settlers of Catan (a "strategy game where players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory"),
- Life of Fred books, which tell stories about Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who teaches classes at a university (there is a detailed post about how we use Life of Fred books here),
- Sir Cumference books, which weave math and geometry concepts into colorful picture books,
- Milles Bornes card game, where we race our cars to see who can reach the 1,000 mile finish line first, and
- Monopoly game, where we buy and sell properties, pay rent, manage our finances, and try to accumulate the most wealth (we play a shortened version of this game where we play for 1.5 hours, starting the game with 3 properties per player).
Chronological History, Science, and MathLast year we took a break from our usual history studies to focus on world and United States geography and culture. This year, we are diving back into our 4-year cycle of history, and will be studying Ancient History. This school year will be my daughter's second time studying Ancient History, and will be the first time for my son. While planning ahead for this year, I came up with the idea of incorporating math and science into our chronological studies, so I will be using the following books concurrently, reading selections from each in chronological order.
- Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer - This book tells of ancient history in a story format, interweaving myths and legends in with the history. The audio version of this book offers a great option for turning driving time into learning time. Because we have used this book once before (4 years ago), I know that I prefer to follow a different order for the chapters in the book. Instead of following chronological order as in the book, I prefer to focus on each ancient culture individually.
- A Child's History of the World by Virgil Hillyer - I will read this book alongside SOTW, giving different perspectives and details of many of the same events in SOTW. Hillyer's writing style is particularly engaging for my children, as they absolutely loved it when I read them A Child's Geography of the World last year.
- The Story of the First Americans: Ancient Times by Suzanne Strauss Art - This book highlights what was going on on the Americas in ancient history, and will be a good addition to round out our history studies. I like that the end of each chapter includes a few ideas for projects that correspond to the text.
- The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim - I was uber-excited when I found this late-elementary/middle-grades series that tells the story of science in chronological order. This book will allow us to incorporate science alongside with our history studies. This book includes many full-color photographs and looks like it will be an engaging read.
- Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer - This books tells the stories of mathematicians and their lives. While studying Ancient History, we will get to learn about the mathematicians Thales, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Hypatia.
A few resources that I find useful to complement our history studies are:
- All Through The Ages: History Through Literature Guide - This excellent book is a great resource for finding picture and chapter books to supplement Story of the World and A Child's History of the World. Whenever either of my children seems particularly engaged in a topic from one of those books, I use All Through the Ages to find more books on the subject at our local library.
- Rand McNally World Wall Map - This beautiful map adorns one of our living room walls and allows us to easily see the regions we are studying.
- Replogle Globe - We frequently use our beautiful globe to look at the locations of the places we read about in our history lessons, so history lessons become geography lessons as well.
- Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method by Sally Kniedel - This book will lead us through finding insects and using the scientific method to perform experiments with the insects (such as determining whether a particular insect prefers moist or dry environments, determining their preferred foods, etc.). This book will also guide us through creating our own backyard pond, from which we can study critters such as frogs, plankton, and many more creatures.
- The Animal Book: A Visual Encyclopedia of Life on Earth by DK- This book is a feast for the eyes that includes full-color photographs of all sorts of insects and animals.
- The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body by DK - This outstanding book includes full-color photographs and diagrams of the parts of the human body.
- Paper Life-Size Human Body Model - My daughter enjoyed making a paper model of the human body when we studied biology 4 years ago, and my son is excited to do the same this school year.
- The Human Body for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave - This book is filled with experiments to illustrate the workings of the human body.
- National Audubon Society Field Guide and Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America - We refer to these books frequently as part of our Nature Study.
- Project Feederwatch - This a very enjoyable way to integrate math and science into our home school. To participate, we observe the species and numbers of birds in our backyard about once or twice a month. In addition to reporting the number of birds we see, we are also required to report the weather conditions (low/high temperatures, precipitation, etc). Both kids love participating in this program.
Beauty and CreativityI incorporate beauty and creativity into our home school in the following ways:
Circle TimeAbout twice per month, my children and I have Circle Time, where we sing, dance, and read poetry together. Our poetry book is Favorite Poems Old and New: Selected for Boys and Girls (which is a great compilation of poems about a wide variety of topics including childhood, the seasons, and family). You can read more about our Circle Time here.
Arts and CraftsI make sure we have plenty of materials on-hand for arts and crafts. In addition to crafts they come up with, I make time to do painting, simple sewing projects, and holiday decorations with my children. We're using the following resources for arts and crafts:
- Draw Tip Tuesday - This youtube channel is a great source of inspiration for drawing and painting.
- Crayola Air Dry Clay - My kids love making creations with this inexpensive clay. It can be painted once dry.
- Kinetic Sand - Kinetic Sand is kinda like sand, except it sticks to itself, never dries out, and is not very messy. My kids have been playing with our Kinetic Sand for hours each week lately, creating bridges, creatures, and freeform shapes.
- Pelikan Watercolors - These are not washable, but they are really vibrant compared to the Crayola watercolors we've used in the past.
- Low-temperature hot glue gun - My children use the low-temp hot glue gun for making crafts.
Music AppreciationMy children and I are learning about the lives and music of great classical composers. We enjoy listening to the fourteen Music Masters CD's, which tell the story of each composer as well as demonstrate some of their music. The Story of Classical Music is also enjoyed by all. These CDs are a great way for us to make use of driving time, and we are all gaining a greater appreciation for classical music.
My children and I also attend live concerts. These range from classical music concerts to folk music concerts to Christmas concerts. And once a year, in December, we have a small family music recital which the children are welcome to participate in. Through these concerts and performances my children are able to gain first-hand experience with the beauty of music.
Play time is hugely important in brain development. Though we do school work throughout the week, I make sure that there is plenty of time for my children to just play every day. Through their play time, they are able to engage their curiosity, develop their creativity, and learn much about how to interact with each other and their environment.
What changes have you made to your homeschool for the coming year?
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