Summer is quickly coming to an end! Can you believe it? I get a lot of questions about our homeschooling methods and curriculum so I thought this might be a good time to share on the topic since lots of homeschooling parents are putting their plans for the year together.
Since it’s an inferno outside in Texas in August, I decided to just go ahead and start doing school most mornings since it’s too hot to play outside unless we’re in a pool. The plan is to take a nice long break in October when the weather is perfection and spend all our time at the zoo and the park.
Our Curriculum Plans for 2016-2017
Our homeschooling method is VERY laid back. We’re of the opinion that young children love to learn and our job is to nurture and guide their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge. So we do very little structured school time at this point because “school” is woven into the rest of our lives.
Our three-year-old won’t do any structured school this year (but she’ll probably jump in with her big sister so she can feel like a big kid). Our preschooler will just be focusing on reading and writing. So only our second grader will have structured school time (and we don’t do school every single day. We do lots of field trips and unstructured playtime).
As our kids get older, I know the structured school time will increase so I want to enjoy these days when school feels a lot like play.
Ok, here we go!
Last year we did Singapore Math (1A and 1B) with our oldest. I was pleased with the curriculum but it wasn’t a good fit for Benjamin. He had no trouble with the concepts but with his strong choleric temperament, getting him to sit down with a workbook was like pulling teeth and he wasn’t enjoying math.
I didn’t enjoy math until college and didn’t want history to repeat itself, so we switched to Life of Fred. I really love Life of Fred.
It’s written as a narrative and Benjamin really enjoys reading each chapter. Then we do the short practice section together so I know he understood the content. We supplement with Khan Academy math. (A great free online resource!) Khan Academy is great for drilling the concepts until the student achieves mastery. And there’s fun badges to win, so what’s not to love?
Because my second grader is super internally motivated and already loves to read for pleasure, I don’t make reading part of our “schooling.” It it ain’t broken, don’t fix it! I do enjoy reading aloud to all three kids so we make that part of our morning.
Last year we read a lot of Rudyard Kipling, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tolkien, and Greek Mythology. I usually do our read alouds first thing during or just after breakfast. The kids are allowed to color or play with LEGO while I read.
For preschoolers, I really love the Catholic preschool curriculum Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven by Sarah Park because the picture book lists in it are worth the price of purchase. I go to this book first when I’m ordering books from the library.
I don’t think anyone’s ever too old for GOOD picture books, but a couple of years ago we added chapter books to the mix, particularly for bedtime reads.
We’re currently reading The Silmarillion and The Jungle Book. These are a few of the titles we’ve enjoyed reading to them in the past or plan to read in the future:
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
- Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
- The Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
- Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
- The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Redwall by Brian Jacques
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
If you’re interested, you can read about our favorite authors and favorite picture books. We’re also very into audiobooks. I’m not ready for the kids to use an iPad or anything with an internet connection to listen to stories so we just ordered a simple CD player from Amazon and use actual CDs. How old school, right? I came up with a big list of audiobooks we especially love and where to find good audiobooks (and free ones!)
We used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann to teach our oldest to read and now we’re halfway through it with our preschooler. She loves it! Highly, highly recommend.
This is the first year we’re adding handwriting to our curriculum. My seven-year-old boy’s handwriting looks like a seven-year-old boy’s handwriting so we should probably do some work on that. Starting out with Handwriting Without Tears recommended by Christy. I started with their first grade level because it’s not something we’ve really pushed at all until now.
Story of the World audiobooks — We loved Ancient World and we meant to tackle Medieval last year but never got around to it. Giving it a try this year. You can also get Story of the World as a print book.
We may be taking the kids when we go to a speaking engagement in October in DC, so we’re also doing some American history. We just started watching Liberty’s Kids and we’ll probably stock up on good picture books from the library.
The little homeschool co-op we joined last year used Classical Catholic Memory curriculum. We’re going to use it to cover geography this year and maybe join in the little geography club some families in our co-op are starting.
P.E. Art, Music, Science:
We’ll tackle these at co-op. Benjamin seems very interested in science so we’ll probably also do some fun supplementary stuff. He joined the local beekeepers association so that’s fun.
I think this year I’ll start asking Benjamin to do some more focused writing. He occasionally writes little stories, but we’ll start slowly easing into more. He gets frustrated with his handwriting so I think handwriting practice will help with the writing. Not planning to use a curriculum for this, just hoping to wing it.
Benjamin really enjoyed memorizing the poems in his co-op class last year, so we’re going to do more poetry memorization (probably in the CCM curriculum). Lucy (almost 5) also enjoys being a part of poetry memorization, so she’ll join in. Robert Louis Stevenson poems are a good bet and we might learn some Shakespeare.
When I write it all out, it looks like a lot, but we RARELY do more than an hour of structured school time. I am not all about weighing young kids down with workbooks and all about them mostly climbing trees and digging in the dirt.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a title linked in this post, at no additional cost to you, a portion of the sale will keep Carrots up and running. Thank you!
Oooh! I enjoy reading the homeschool plans of other families. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Have you checked out Tan’s Catholic version of Story of the World? (http://amzn.to/2aItyyb if you want to check it out). It’s called “The Story of Civilization.” I’m not really familiar with Story of the World, so I’d love to hear if you have thoughts on the comparison.
Bauer’s “Story of the World”, while a good history resource, is actually quite ANTI-Catholic. Instead, I second Alicia’s recommendation for Tan’s “The Story of Civilization” and also “RC History” aka “Connecting with History” [http://www.rchistory.com/]. The RC stands for ROMAN CATHOLIC History, which is the only history that a Catholic should be using anyway! Definitely check out both Catholic history resources before you dive into an anti-Catholic one!
Ditto RC History! We are a Catholic homeschooling family and we started with Story of the World, then switched to RC History and haven’t looked back.
Classically Catholic Memory is so awesome. I use it as a spine for my curricula; it’s been a great experience using it to enrich our lives and write those small everyday examples of truth on our hearts.
Tracy Bua Smith says
Great ideas Haley! I love seeing how each family makes Catholic homeschooling work for them! We used CCM as a co-op last year and enjoyed it, but unfortunately that co-op won’t happen this year because of lack of space and family dynamics in the group have changed. I’ve never heard of the 26 Letters to Heaven book before. I’ll have to check it out! I recently put up my 2016-2017 curriculum for our family. I’ll be teaching grades 11, 9, 7, 3, and a 3 year old. Here’s the link: http://www.asliceofsmithlife.com/2016/08/our-2016-2017-homeschool-curriculum.html
So what would you say your “method” is? I’m in-between so many that I feel like I don’t fut into anyone perfectly. And when I try to ask advice, people just tell me “well that’s not what (Maria Montessori or Mason or whoever” would do.
This whole “method” thing gets so crazy! When I was homeschooled (90s) it didn’t seem like people were so focused on method/giving everything a name/doing everything “right”. (Or maybe that’s just a child’s perspective?) I would encourage you not to get too hung up on a “method” (unless it helps you) and just go with what works for you and your children. The whole point of homeschooling is that you *don’t* have to fit into a methodology perfectly! 🙂
Angela Vincent says
I always used to say, when people asked about method, “There are as many ways of doing home ed as there are people doing it!” I agree. Don’t get hung up on labels – apart from anything else, it encourages comparison, but also, you’ll likely change your methods quite a few times in any given year, never mind through your home ed journey. You and your family are unique 🙂
We’re doing many of the same or similar things with our seven year old! I too agree about keeping the book work minimal. I was homeschooled myself, rarely did more than 2 hours of textbook work per day, and still managed a full scholarship to college (and graduated magna cum laude). I think the 3 keys to success are fostering true curiosity/love of learning, teaching your child how to ask questions/ find answers, and lots of read alouds. My mom kept reading to us right through highschool… the content changed (lots of theology and high literature!) but the importance of read alouds didn’t.
And wow, The Silmarillion with a seven year old! I’m going to be introducing my daughter to Anne Shirley and Meg Murry this year. I’ve been waiting for that meeting since before she was born! One of my favorite things about teaching my kids is getting to introduce them to my own favorite books, and seeing their reaction. All the sleepless nights of infancy somehow became worth it when we read the Hobbit and she told her dad “it has dragons and goblings in it, and a quest. I want to read more books like that!”
I use CCM as our spine too! we supplement with library books for science & history. (also for history, I’ve been building a small library of Catholic novels… there are so many good ones out there!)
My kids like Life of Fred, but they are hitting a place where Fred’s explanation isn’t enough. So my 2 oldest (7th & 8th graders) will be taking an outside math class this year. I think they will be able to grasp Fred better after this class.
I’m considering The Latin Road to English Grammar this year.
Benjamin might breeze through the HWT book, as my son did (he, too, hated worksheets after worksheets). We found the Seton Press Handwriting for Young Catholics to be a great follow-up. The pictures are stunning, the letters are formed in the same manner, and the extra practice was good. We did HWT for the first half of the year, and HW for Young Catholics the second half of the year. Thank you for the book list! We will check these out.
You’re reading the Simirillion?! Aloud? To kids?!
I am officially in shock and awe. I’m 23 years old, have read the LOTR books a couple of times through, and still haven’t managed to read the Simirillion straight through. I can read chunks at a time, but that’s it. How on earth are you managing that?
Seriously. You’re like a Master Jedi level Nerd in Awesomeness. Major Kudos.
Aimee Landreneau says
Have you read the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson? If they can handle the Tolkien books, they would LOVE these, I think. I read them this summer to my four big kids (6-14) and the 6 year old was enthralled! Such great books!!
Andrea S says
What was your method for finding all the curriculum and how did you decide what to use? Did you just talk to people about what they use? or did you find most of this on your own?
K. Cooper says
Handwriting is fabulous – have you looked into doing cursive first rather than printing? Lots of information (studies no less, rather than just anecdotes) out there about why it’s easier for kids, the different pathways created in the brain that are not present when printing, and how it helps with learning disorders. Andrew Pudewa of IEW discusses this on Episode 47 of his podcast and a little digging on the internet will give you enough information to show that it’s something at least worth considering even if it’s not what you choose this year. We’ve done cursive first for 3 of our 4 and have not regrets (#4 is two and not quite ready yet)!
K. Cooper says
And Belloc – don’t forget Belloc … he’s fabulous for memorizing poetry, especially with little boys (as long as they don’t slam doors)
I really enjoyed reading this post! Thank you for sharing, as I have been brainstorming about next year a lot lately. Our families sound very similar in style. And oddly similar in makeup, as I have a choleric second grade boy, an almost 5 year old girl (named Lucia) ?, and a toddler. Your reading list is practically the same, though you gave me some new ones to throw into the mix. We get out A LOT for field trips and learning by discovery and play. I also use CCM as our guide and delve into those topics deeper with library books. The only difference is we use Right Start math. Also, handwriting is a HUGE struggle for us. We tried Spelling You See and threw in the towel because it was such a fight. Not sure if Handwriting Without Tears would be better. Though in our case, I hope it’s “Handwriting without Fights.”
We use the iPad for audiobooks, I just put a passcode on it and lock it before handing it to the kids. I love audible, I’d never be able to afford all the audiobooks I have on there.
I washed out of Singapore too. Found Math Mammoth to be an awesome alternative and super inexpensive.
Kaitlyn Mason says
This is soo great!!! THANKS for all of this great, colorful info!!!! 😀
Desiree Hausam says
We love Handwriting Without Tears, been using it for several years now.
Between our conversion to the Catholic church last spring and our recent (like, two weeks ago) relocation across the country, homeschool prep feels like an impossible task this year! I’m nowhere near as ready as I wish I was.
Jennifer S says
Desiree, WELCOME HOME! Congratulations on coming into the one true Church of Christ!!!!! I would offer that with soooooo much going on in your life right now, you take a SLOW, EASY year. Focus on learning more about the Faith (which obviously is a never-ending, life-long quest), and reading aloud. Explore your new state and acclimate yourself to your new life! Don’t sweat the academics! Your children will learn PLENTY by just living life! Sure, throw in some math lessons, watch some history DVDs… but go on LOTS of nature walks, keep a nature journal, learn stuff about your new state. Over the course of the twelve years of homeschooling, it’ll all even out! Prayers for your family!
Can you place a link for the CD play you bought on Amazon? I’m of the same opinion….no ipads in the house.
It’s this one, Althea, but I don’t love it! http://amzn.to/2b0kx1m It doesn’t work great with headphones which is a bummer, so we’re planning to get a different one eventually.
I loved this post !
Could we talk you into a once a week homeschool update blog post ? 😉
You might like Writing with Ease … we are trying that out this year and it has copywork from classic children’s literature. It isn’t intended for handwriting practice but I think we will use it as writing/handwriting together.
Speaking engagement in DC in
October?! Where and When?
How do you find Story of the World? I’ve been advised to use to prepare my son for GED (South African homeschoolers write the GED or Cambridge). Parents cannot issue the high school diploma here.
We were also at an expo. My husband and my 8 year old daughter seemed to love Singapore Math and the Science. We will give it a try. Other than that, we use a bit of everything. At this point both the kids use Mathopolis for Math. I love how it explains and drills concepts.
Silvia Imberti says
I have a question about reading aloud to kids. my children are 3 1/2 and 5 1/2, and bilingual. I try to read in both languages (I am better obviously at my mother-tongue, and they are better at the language they speak outside the home, and they are used to my accent anyway). 🙂 I don’t know if it is for this reason or not, but it seems that they do not follow much if I read aloud a book without many pictures. They seem to struggle to follow and eventually they get bored. How do you do it? Do you explain the plot now and then? Do you explain difficult words or do you even substitute them with other words? I am also keen on understanding how you help children memorise poetry.
Thank you very much in advance for your help!
I think it just takes practice for them to get the hang of it, Silvia! I highly recommend Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revivial site and podcast on all things read aloud 🙂
Where are you speaking in DC?
This is actually a post from last year, so the event was Oct. 2016. Sorry!