We school year-round because of the flexibility it gives us to take time off as needed throughout the official school year, both for planned breaks (like Christmas and our recent trip to Florida) and for the unexpected — a benefit I always point out when the girls complain about doing school in the summer. (Read more about the other benefits for our family here.)
However, last week the girls’ piano teacher asked our oldest if we were almost done school for the year, and Peyton replied, “Well, we do most of our school in the summer since we don’t do as much the rest of the year.” Aye yay yay! Not quite what I meant when I explained it, and I’m really hoping the piano teacher isn’t friends with the homeschool liaison at the school board, LOL!
I’ve described our educational philosophy as a mix of classical and unschooling, which is still the label that fits for us. For us, this basically means we believe that:
- subjects should be taught as part of a whole rather than individual entities
- it’s more important to master the basics than to cover as much as possible
- memory work provides the pegs that future learning is built around
- teaching our kids how to learn is more important than what we actually teach
- free play, boredom and exploration are as important as academics
- children are capable than so much more than we give them credit for
As part of this eclectic approach, we blend resources from Classical Conversations, Sonlight and Peace Hill Press, as you’ll see below.
This year we’ll have a kindergartner (we do two years of kindergarten for our fall babies, so our 5.5-year-old will start her second year), a 2nd grader and a 3rd grader. For last year’s post, read our 2012-2013 curriculum plans and my mid-year update.
Classical Conversations is both a model and method that focuses on the three stages of the trivium. At the Foundations level (elementary age), we focus on memory work in 7 subjects (timeline, history, math, science, English grammar, Latin and geography) as well as fine arts.
What I love most about this program is that our family will continue to study the same information in a three-year cycle. This means that our kids will be studying the same topics as each other at an age-appropriate level, which makes the idea of homeschooling all four of them in just a few short years a lot less stressful.
While CC works best within the campus model, where memory work is introduced weekly by a tutor and then drilled at home, we’re actually taking a break from our campus this year for two main reasons: 1) We’ll be welcoming a new baby in the fall, and I know that my desire will be to hunker down and enjoy those first months without the pressure of attending CC each week, so it seems silly to invest the money if we’re not going to attend faithfully.
2) Because of the distance our campus is from our home, it’s a big commitment each week, and we’ve had to step down from some other activities in order to fit it into our schedule. Taking a break from CC will give us the opportunity to participate in a homeschool gymnastics class as well as a field trip group with our church, which we’re excited about!
We will, however, still be doing CC at home each week. My plan is to introduce the new memory work each Monday (I’ve been a tutor at our campus before, so I’ll probably follow the official CC methodology for that) and do the science and fine arts activities at home whenever we can as well. I’m also hoping to get the big girls’ involved in setting up our tri-fold board each week and helping their sisters practice each day as part of our move toward more independent learning.
- Classical Conversations Foundation Guide*
- Classical Acts & Facts Timeline Cards
- Cycle 2 Geography Trivium Table
- Cycle 2 Resources CD*
*We’ll be using the old version of the memory work since we already have those resources and will be working on our own at home.
Last year was a breakthrough year for us in reading, and both our 7- and 8-year-old are now reading chapter books, which is exciting to see, especially given where we were at the beginning of last year.
We’ll be finishing the Explode the Code program with the older girls (either over the summer or in early fall, depending on how fast we get through it), while our kindergartener is just getting started with the series (and loving it).
The older girls read for 20 minutes twice a day, and while they sometimes read out loud to me or their sisters, they mostly read to themselves these days. We’ll be adding the I Can Read It books from Sonlight and BOB Books to our kindergartner’s daily work, which she’ll read out loud to one of us for practice.
We abandoned Singapore 2 in the fall last year and switched to Teaching Textbooks for our two oldest instead. They’re working at the same level (3rd grade), and they should finish that over the summer and move into 4th grade in the fall.
Our kindergartner flew through the Singapore Earlybird program this past year, and she’s now working through Singapore 1. We’ve found that the transition from Singapore 1 to Teaching Textbooks 3 (the lowest level) went pretty smoothly, so that’s our plan with her as well. (We’re not rushing her at all, but I have a feeling she’ll be our math whiz because so far it’s all coming very easily to her!)
I really like the Life of Fred books for reinforcing math concepts, but it’s yet another thing that I haven’t been very consistent about, so we haven’t made it very far in the series yet. We’re going to keep plugging away anyway, though!
We’re currently working through First Language Lessons by Jessie Wise, but as I mentioned last week, we haven’t been as consistent with that as I would have liked (we only got through the first level last year), so consistency with that program will be a priority for us moving forward. I’d like to work through Levels 2 & 3 with the older girls in this coming year, and our kindergartener will start Level 1 in the fall.
We also do daily copywork, where the girls copy 2-3 sentences from a book their reading into their language arts notebook, and they’ll be color-coding the punctuation and capitalization in that copywork this summer and moving on to the parts of speech next year.
In addition, I discovered and fell in love with the Logic of English Essentials program midyear, and we’re making slow-and-steady progress through that work, which we’ll continue into the fall.
Finally, we added the Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive Handwriting workbook to our daily work last year, and the girls are enjoying that as well. They still do most of their schoolwork in manuscript, but I’ve been amazed to see their handwriting improve overall since we started!
Ah, Bible work. This is an area where we’ve really struggled to find something that clicks, honestly!
However, a few months ago, Angie Smith posted this picture on Instagram, and it was really an aha moment for me. Since then, I’ve been choosing a verse or passage for the girls and writing out daily prompts to help them understand, apply and memorize the verses, and it’s working really well. My goal is to get some of these prompts on the computer ahead of time (rather than handwriting them in their journals) so that they’re not waiting for me to write them out each day, but so far we’ve done a few individual verses as well as the Lord’s Prayer, and both big girls are working on Psalm 23 now.
Sadly, history, geography and science have also been areas where we’ve struggled, despite those subjects being a priority for our family! I tried to build my own curriculum based around our CC memory work for the first couple of years, which I honestly wasn’t very good at. Last year, I switched to Story of the World and Apologia instead, but that left me feeling scattered and like we weren’t really staying true to the idea of “all subjects being related”, since we were teaching them each independently.
Inspired by our success in Bible and with independent work in general, I’ve decided to move back to using CC memory work as the basis for these subjects. My plan is to create daily prompts to help the girls really interact with the memory work — copying the sentences, drawing pictures to go with them, reading related books and narrating what they’ve learned. I’ll be testing some prompts over the next couple of months so that can figure out what works best, and I hope to share those with you once I figure it out!
ETA: We also added The Complete Book of Maps and Geography to our daily schoolwork. This book really focuses on map skills (how to read a map, how to make a floor plan, etc.), and the girls are really enjoying it so far!
- I’m currently putting together my book lists and prompts, but I’ll share more with you soon!
Last year, I set aside reading to the girls in favor of audiobooks simply because I was having trouble fitting everything in each day, but I realized this spring that I really, really missed what is probably one of the best parts of homeschooling, especially with my littler girls! We’ve been slowly moving the big girls toward working more independently on their schoolwork, and the changes to history and science this year will free up some additional time as well so that we can add reading together back in as part of our regular schoolwork.
My main goal with read-alouds this year (like last year!) is to reread some of our favorite stories from years past to the little girls. It’s a hard balance for me because we have so much new material just waiting for us, but I want to be sure that they hear the classics from Robert McCloskey and Virginia Burton in mama’s voice as well!
Most of our read-alouds come from the Sonlight lists, but my goal has never been to read all of the books that come with a single core as much as it is to fill our home with great books and choose our read-alouds from that collection. I’ll share more about the books we hope to read in the coming year in another post next week.
I’m currently trying to decide between Latin and Spanish from Classical Academic Press as well. While I believe that Latin provides an important foundation as part of a classical education, we are already doing some basic Latin through Classical Conversations, and I think that will become a bigger focus as they get older, so I’m leaning toward a few years of Spanish now.
I tend to think through my options until one clicks and feels right for our family, and I’m not to that point yet, though, so I’m still considering both. (And I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!)
The girls also take biweekly piano lessons, and we do a few other odds and ends (like the daily Q&A Journal for Kids), but for the most part, that sums up our curriculum for the year!
Have you posted about your curriculum choices for the coming year? Feel free to leave the link in the comments!
|Mandi Ehman is the blogger behind Life Your Way. She and her husband have four beautiful girls plus one baby boy, and together they live, work and homeschool on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia. Mandi loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.|