I gathered up the kids on the first day of school and took their pictures. Some were a little more willing than others. You can read about our back to school curriculum choices for the year here.
I’m finally mostly planned out for this coming school year. I usually don’t do quite so much pre-planning, but I’m having a baby late October/early November, so I figured I should plan out all I could in advance. A couple new things for us this year: First, I planned in terms instead of just all year. 5 terms total. Three 12 weeks terms, an Advent term, and then a summer term. The kids have been begging me for a more traditional summer, so I have taken their request and we made a compromise. (We usually do year round school.) They will still be completing their third term after the local schools get out. But then they get an actual summer term, which will mostly just consist of each of them having a required reading list. The other new to us thing is the Morning Basket. It is a Charlotte Mason homeschooler thing, but I have adapted it a bit for our more classical methods. More about that if you click the Morning Basket link below.
I did look into switching from The Well Trained Mind to Ambelside this year. I love a lot of things about Ambelside, but ultimately felt The Well Trained Mind is still a better fit for our family. I did look over the Ambelside reading lists for the corresponding years of history and picked a few of those suggestions that I thought might be a good fit for my crew. The Well Trained Mind is really adaptable on a child by child, family by family basis. You have a wide variety of ways the method is really done and worked out in families. We’ve used it from the beginning of our homeschool journey. (This is our 8th homeschooling year.) I’m always tempted by other things, but ultimately decide every year to stick with The Well Trained Mind. It just fits us best.
This year, I am homeschooling 5 kids. One of those is an optional one who is currently opting in. (“School” in our house is optional until you are 6 years old.) Grade levels also get a little mixed when you’re talking about homeschool, especially when you’re not just using a box curriculum. Kids tend to move at their own pace and advance quicker in some areas than others. I kind of average out their level and that is what grade the kid says they are in, since “What grade are you in?” Isn’t usually meant to be answered with, “Well, I have the vocabulary of a high school sophomore, but in math, I’m around grade 6. In literature, we read higher level books than our ages would suggest. And in Grammar, I am on grade level.” People usually expect something more like, “I’m a sixth grader.” Believe me, getting testing scores back for homeschoolers learning in non-traditional methods is quite amusing as they may very well likely place in every single grade in something. But on the average, this year I have a preschooler, a first grader, a fourth grader, and two sixth graders.
This year should prove to be a bit of a challenge for each of them as I am realizing they can do some pretty hard things. They are typically limited by the challenges, or lack there of, that I give them. We are not doing Latin this year, though that is a typical classical homeschooler subject. We are incorporating it a little in their vocabulary studies. We are also leaving out handwriting for the time being. They have a lot of writing to do, so I am not too convinced a full handwriting course is really necessary this year. If I change my mind, I can always add it in for Term 2 or 3 or even the Summer Term.
To save us from an infinitely long post, click on the links to the individual parts of our school year below.
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These two are doing most of their work outside of the Morning Basket time on their own. They are much more capable of getting things done without my help these day. I write their work to be done in their planners and they check it off as they go. They have weekly and daily assignments to complete each week.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin (The Bargain Book A Treasury of Fairy Tales from Barnes and Noble does have this story included.)
For each book read, they will have to write a brief book report including information about the author and intended audience, setting information, why they think the book was written, and what they thought of the book. They will also have to write a character list for each book they read. They also have 30 minutes a day of additional reading time, but they can choose any book they like for that time and they only have to keep a list of what they have read. One will likely choose Goosebumps every day. The other will likely choose Harry Potter or Hunger Games.
In addition to the Morning Basket History and the additional history reading, each week this age group has a few tasks to complete. They have to write the significant information on their timeline. They also have to look up the appropriate section we are covering in the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and write an outline for the information they read. They also have to find the locations we cover in the Atlas and then also find them in their Geography Coloring Book and color the pertinent areas. This is pretty much the way The Well Trained Mind lays out history for this age. We are using The Story of The World 3 Activity Book to help line up the Kingfisher readings with our Story of the World readings.
In addition to the Morning Basket Science and their Science reading, they have to choose a topic related to our science work that week, research it, and then write one to two pages on the topic.
We’ll be covering one chapter each week in the book Fallacy Detective.
Selected assignments in Writer’s in Residence. They used this last year and didn’t finish it, so they are working on finishing it up this year. I still don’t like it as a whole, so I’m just picking out the parts I want them to read and the assignments I want them to complete.
In addition to our group Bible study and family devotions, they are doing Walking In Peace on their own.
These two are also learning to play an instrument this year. One has chosen the violin, the other is still deciding.
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*** Most classics are cheapest on Amazon. Puffin is one of my favorite publishers. However, I love Barnes and Noble hardback classics. Take your declaration of intent or homeschool ID to your local Barnes and Noble for an Educator’s Discount Card, which will save you 20% on books!***
I just have the one forth grader this year. He will have the option of being grouped with the younger kids for Literature if he wants, but that will entirely be up to him on a day by day basis. I write his work to be done in his planner and he checks it off as he completes it. I have his broken down into daily assignments. This is all in addition to Morning Basket time.
This guy is on Teaching Textbooks 4 this year.
For each book read, he will have to write a review on the book. He also has to read an additional 30 minutes each day. He can choose his own books to read during this time and only has to keep a list of books he has read. His fun reading usually involves Choose Your Own Adventure books, Origami Yoda books, or Captain Underpants books.
In addition to his reading, he also has to find each country we mention in our Morning Basket time in the World Atlas.
Easy Grammar Grade 3. (This isn’t his strong suite, so I’m going down a level for him so he isn’t overly frustrated. The Easy Grammar program goes over the same things every level, it just dives a little deeper and is a little more difficult as you go. This will actually be his first year in a Grammar program.)
He also used Words I Use When I Write on all his writing projects. When he asks us to spell a word, he either writes it in himself right then or we write it in for him. This way he only has to ask how to spell something once.
In addition to his grammar, he will be choosing 10 spelling words each week to learn. The available words are on index cards on a ring. Each day, he’ll either write the word 3 times, write the definition of the word, or write a sentence using each spelling word- depending on what day it is. At the end of the week, he will have a quiz. The words he gets correct will move to his “mastered” ring. Words he gets incorrect move back to the ring with available words to choose from.
In addition to our group Bible study and our family devotions, he’ll be doing the Walking in Peace study on his own.
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***For classics, Amazon typically has the cheapest prices. I love the type and feel of the Puffin books. However, I usually go with Barnes and Noble hardback classics when they are available. They are just so pretty. Take your declaration of intent or homeschool ID to your Barnes and Noble for an Educator’s Discount Card and get 20% off your books!***
There are a few things my first grader is doing that my preschooler will not be joining in on because of ability. However, I like to keep the kids grouped as much as possible because it is a better use of time and it helps the days flow more smoothly. These are in addition to the Morning Basket time.
The current plan is to use Life of Fred alternating with a few math activity boxes that we’ll rotate through. That could change depending on how these guys do with Life of Fred. Keep your eyes open for a post about those math activity boxes!
Our first term, we are studying Fairy Tales. We will be reading them daily and doing a couple activities a week based on a fairy tale from that week. We’re reading various tales from the following books:
Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection (the illustrations in these are amazing)
A Treasury of Best Loved Fairy Tales (Barnes and Noble Bargain Books)
For the first two terms, we’re doing Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales the first two and we’ll see where that gets us. I expect the preschooler to stick to Alpha Tales while his brother moves through Phonics Tales. We’ll also be adding in My ABC Bible Verses whenever it isn’t backordered anymore.
This age really loves books about science. So, we’re doing science daily with them.
My first grader will be doing this one alone. He’ll be going through the Critical and Creative Thinking Activities grade 1 workbook. This is our first year using these, so we’ll see how he likes them.
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***While Amazon usually has much cheaper prices for classic books, I really love the hardback Barnes and Noble classics. If you go that route, take your declaration of intent or homeschool ID to your Barnes and Noble for an Educator’s Discount Card! You’ll get 20% off your books!***
I got the idea for a Morning Basket from some Charlotte Mason homeschoolers I came across. We have used similar methods, but this is the first year we are giving it an official name and an actual basket. Morning Basket work is so ideal for large families. We do a lot of our work together. For the younger kids, it provides exposure to more complex ideas and themes. For the older kids, it can be a great jumping off place for their more individualized studies. We already try to do as much together as we can, a one room school house sort of vibe. But the Morning Basket really makes it official and gives it a more organized place in our home and our day.
Our Morning Basket consists of 7 categories. It is mostly reading and discussing. Some people call this “Couch Time” since you’re not sitting at a table pouring over workbooks.
Each morning we will begin with prayer. We have time throughout the day for spontaneous prayer, so during this morning prayer time, I wanted to focus on memorizing prayers. We will pray through each prayer daily for four weeks, then change to the next prayer. The prayers we are learning this year are:
The Lord’s Prayer
For Joy in God’s Creation from The Book of Common Prayer
For the Human Family from The Book of Common Prayer
John Wesley’s Prayer
St. Augustine’s Prayer
St. Patrick’s Prayer
St. John Vianney’s Prayer
St. Francis Prayer
John Wesley Covenant Prayer
This category includes our Bible Study, character reading, and manners study. Our older kids also do their own personal Bible study. And as a family, we also do family devotions. This morning basket Bible study is separate from both of those. During Term 1 and the beginning of Term 2, we are finishing our Herein Is Love: Genesis study. In Term 2, we are also doing The Talk. Term 3, we will be doing Herein Is Love: Exodus.
For manners, we’ll be reading through the book Modern Manners once a week.
Beauty includes art and music. During Term 1 and 2, we will be doing a different hymn each week. Term 3, we will be using a more contemporary worship song each week. For Art, we are reading about one artist each week from 50 Artists You Should Know. Here is our list of hymns and worship songs for the main three terms (Advent has its own unique schedule.):
All Hail The Power of Jesus’ Name
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
This Is My Father’s World
Praise to the Lord, The Almighty
Lead On, O King Eternal
Jesus Paid It All
I Am Thine, O Lord, I Have Heard Thy Voice
For The Beauty of The Earth
Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling
Praise Him! Praise Him!
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
And Can It Be That I Should Gain
Trust and Obey
This So Sweet To Trust In Jesus
Be Thou My Vision
He Leadeth Me
How Firm A Foundation
I Must Tell Jesus
It Is Well With My Soul
Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross
Jesus Lover of My Soul
My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less
Savior Like A Shepherd Lead Us
Called Me Higher
Oh How I Need You
But For You Who Fear My Name
Lift Your Head Weary Sinner
Up On A Mountain
Burn Like A Fire
In Christ Alone
Old Church Choir
I’ll Always Love You
I Heard the Sound of Voices
Our literature selections that we are reading aloud together fall into this category, as well as our once a week poetry readings. For poetry, we’ll be reading a few poems from a Treasury of Selected Poems (Barnes and Noble Bargain Book) one day each week. We are also adding in Mad Libs Mondays just for fun. Our literature selections for the year:
I like challenging my kids to memorize things. But I don’t want them memorizing useless things. This year, we’re focusing just on Bible verses. For the first two terms, I selected random verses, one verse each week, that I felt were worth memorizing. For the third term, we’ll focus on memorizing a verse from Proverbs each week.
This isn’t usually in a Morning Basket, but since it is something we do together, I added it here. The older kids have additional work to add to this, this is simply the portion we read aloud together.
I decided to redo Story of the World Volume 3 this year. We used it last year, but we did a really poor job of it. I was tempted to just move on, but there are so many interesting parts of this particular time period, including the American Revolution, that I felt deserved more time. Once a week, we will read one chapter of Story of the World 3. I do have a few weeks with 2 chapters in order to get all the book done this school year. In addition to that, we’ll also be reading the following our loud together:
John Wesley: The World and His Parish (I would seriously love the entire collection of these Christian Heros books. I’m building a library of them.)
What Was the Gold Rush? (I would also love a collections of these “What Was” and “Who Was” books. They make it so easy for kids to read and understand.)
In addition to these, we’ll also continue our Godbold Academy Geography. The older ones have their own geography specific assignments, but we enjoyed learning about the spiritual needs of various countries and having the opportunity to pray for them. So we will continue choosing a country each week from Operation World.
Again, not a usual Morning Basket inclusion. However, it is something we do together. The little ones have their own science stuff, but they loved watching the experiments last year, so we’ll continue with that. We are continuing with Berean Builder’s: Science in the Scientific Revolution. We’re doing about a lesson per week of that and then some additional Science reading out loud. The Berean Builders series is science chronologically by discoveries made. We chose this particular year because it goes along with our history timeline. It does include experiments, which my kids love. All the ones we have done have used simple household items and haven’t needed anything complex or weird.
**This post contains affiliate links. These links do not cost you any more if you use them to purchase the item, but they do benefit our family!**
*** Amazon usually has the cheapest price on classics. However, I love the look and feel of the Barnes and Noble hardback classics. If you go the Barnes and Noble route, be sure to take you declaration of intent or homeschool ID to the store and pick up an Educator’s Discount Card that will save you 20%! Though I also really like the look and feel of Puffin Classics. Even Puffin paperbacks just have a better font and page feel than some of the other publishers.***
**** You can get a lot of the classics in e-book format for very cheaply or even free in some cases. I’m just a book lover than prefers reading an actual book.****
We haven’t yet moved into our next school year, but the planning for next year is coming along. This past year was our 7th homeschooling year. We had 4 official students and 1 who insisted on jumping into the fun with us. (Preschoolers do that from time to time. Sometimes they want to participate. Sometimes they don’t. Before age 6, we let them choose. Play time is learning time for that age, so I’m not comfortable pushing them toward rigorous studies just yet.) I figured I’d let you guys know what worked and what didn’t this school year. But I always like to give an update on what worked and what didn't, since my opinions may change by the time we get closer to the end.
Overall, we have used The Well Trained Mind throughout our schooling days. We’ve been a little more relaxed in the Grammar stage. Some of the suggested resources haven’t worked for us, so we have found alternatives that work.
I had two fifth graders this year, one third grader, one kindergartener, and one preschooler.
We used Teaching Textbooks 5 and 3 for these guys this year. Teaching Textbooks has been the best math program for these guys. These two started with Singapore Math and then switched to Teaching Textbooks for fourth grade. We no longer buy the workbooks, because my kids only use the computer disc portion of the program. Each lesson is well explained, having them do practice problems as they go. If they don’t do well on a lesson, you can go in and delete the grade and let them try again. They get two tries at each problem, and the program explains how the answer is achieved. It gives immediate gratification, telling them if they are right or wrong on each problem before they move on. The kids do very well with this program. I have read some reviews that say the grade levels are off, but I have not found that to be the case. Each year starts off pretty easy, but builds back to more difficult concepts. So, a student may find it easy at first, but there is more challenge coming. My only issue with the program is the cardboard cases the CDs come in. I feel like for the price, they should come in some durable CD cases for long term use. I’ve had to move all our discs into a zippered CD case. That works, but for $99 a set (higher in the higher levels) they should come with something more durable than paper. The program keeps up with the grades and you can check them at any time. We don’t usually do grades, but since the kids were doing it all on their own, it helped me keep an eye on their progress.
We started the year with Essential Math K. He flew through it. It wasn’t a challenge for him at all. We switched to Life of Fred about halfway through the year. It introduced more complex topics and he liked the storytelling aspect. The preschooler joined us for these lessons, but will likely need to do them again.
I signed the older two up for Wordly Wise Online through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. The program isn’t well laid out. It is very confusing and takes a lot of time per lesson. I also felt like they weren’t really learning much for the effort being put in. We stopped it mid-year and will not be picking it back up.
We also grabbed the new Writer’s In Residence program from Apologia. Each student needs their own book. And the books are hefty. While I like some of the content, overall, the program didn’t work well for us. For one, it isn’t well laid out. The grading rubric is confusing. Everything has to be graded, which is weird for us since we don’t really grade things. Some of the assignments were frivolous. Also, it got really messy. It is a huge workbook, so I expect all the work to be done in the book and fit in the book. But there were several times when things were cut out of the book (which annoys me greatly) or they had to paper clip extra pages into the book. I felt like they could have made it all work, but didn’t. If the kids are needing to use separate paper, I would have just liked it in textbook format with all the work being done on their own paper in a separate notebook. My kids did learn from the program, but it was far too parent intensive and far too convoluted. You will need at least one of the Teacher’s Guides. I won’t be continuing this program. Even if I wanted to, I can’t. They released Volume 1 of 4 last year but haven’t released Volume 2 yet. I have such mixed feelings on this program. Some of it is SO good. But then some of it is SO bad.
I kept my third grader signed up for Explode the Code online. I absolutely love that program. It has worked so unbelievably well for him. He enjoys it. It challenges him. He is finishing up the program now, so he won’t be using it next year. I’ll be looking at buying it again for our rising first grader, though.
Our history years aren’t lining up smoothly because we spent longer than a school year on Ancient history. We use Story of The World. This year, we started a history co-op with some other families in our church. That slowed us down considerably, so we didn’t finish a full year of history this year either. We finished up Story of The World 2 and then moved into Story of the World 3. We tried the audio version of Story of the World 2, but the kids hated it. They did not like listening to the CDs. So, we went back to me reading it to them from the book. When we started Story of The World 3, I added interactive notebooks. It would have worked well for just my kids, but in the co-op setting, it got a little hectic. We will be continuing Story of The World 3 next year, but these two will be moving into the Logic stage, so they will be adjusting how they do history. (Technically, the Logic Stage begins in 5th grade, but my kids needed an extra year of writing and grammar before they could really tackle outlines and summaries.)
We found a really awesome Science curriculum that works alongside Story of The World so well. Berean Builders Science is chronological science, studied by scientist and discovery. That has made so much more sense to my kids and given them a better understanding of how we come to know what we know. I’ll admit, they watched a few too many documentaries that had distorted their view of science. Because each documentary presents everything as fact, not theory. Then the documentaries would contradict one another or come from an atheistic world view. My kids became super skeptical and I was having difficulty drawing them back into the subject. The Berean Science books have been perfect to hook them back in. We started using Science in the Scientific Revolution along with Story of the World 3. There are experiments to better understand the discoveries made. It has been awesome. The kids love it, they are actually engaged, and they better understand the scientific process and how new discoveries change the way we see the world.
I have never used a proper handwriting program. However, my kids really needed it. They were having a lot of trouble writing clearly enough to communicate their ideas. So, I opted for an actual handwriting book. I chose Patriotic Penmanship. I liked the selected quotes. I decided to keep my third grader in print writing because he was only 7 and he needed some reinforcement on the proper way to make letters. One of my fifth graders did introductory cursive and the other did her proper grade. The workbooks are great. I had them work on a two page spread, one lesson, each week. Day one they would just practice making a letter. Day two they would practice key words. Day three they would work on a full phrase or two. Day four they would write the entire quote. It didn’t take more than a few minutes each day and I simply asked for very hard work for those few minutes. All of them have improved their handwriting significantly with just a little work each day. I will definitely be ordering Patriotic Penmanship workbooks again this year. Each child needs their own workbook as they are consumable.
For our Bible study for the older kids, we used Herein Is Love: Genesis. This one has a lot more lessons in it than the Leviticus book. The kids really enjoyed it and I think they learned a lot. It does a great job of weaving the whole story into the beginning story.
For the Little Guys, we used the Jesus Calling Storybook. I was not as in love with this Storybook Bible as I was with the Jesus Storybook Bible. It has little notes from Jesus, but they are worded oddly and it makes it a little difficult to follow in a read aloud format. But the kids liked it and they did learn.
We used my Operation World geography plan. It went really well. It helped open my kids’ worldview and show them more than what is outside their front door. I was really happy with how it went and will continue it next year.
I purchased Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales at Costco for the little guys. We did not get into the Phonics Tales. It will really be a toss up this year if we do that book or The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. I’m not sure which will work better for these guys.
I also signed them up for ABCMouse.com mid year. They have loved it. They can use their tablets to play. I signed up for the assessments, as well, but found that portion pretty worthless.
I basically let the kids pick what they wanted to read this year instead of using the reading list from Well Trained Mind. Turned out, that was a mistake. Well, the kids really loved reading, but they essentially spent the year reading junk books. I did strongly suggest a few classics that they did read and enjoy. The third grader loved the Roald Dahl books we have and finished all the Magic Treehouse books we own, plus ventured over to the Imagination Station books. The fifth graders read Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They also read some Judy Bloom. But they did read a bunch of Goosebumps books and other junk type books. Next year, I’ll separate the required reading and the fun reading a bit more.
I kept track of everything in a composition notebook that I used like a bullet journal for schooling. This helped the planning significantly. I’ll be doing the same again because it worked so well. Though I’ll likely opt for a real bullet journal this year. (I’ve been using a bullet journal for a class I am taking and another one for the upcoming 2018 year. I’m liking the customization so much more than a standard planner. I also have one that I’ve been using alongside my 2017 planner for notes and things. I do like having separate planners for each of those areas, since I feel like everything together just gets too cluttered.)
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