I have been homeschooling for over 14 years now and I still get a little giddy and very passionate when it comes to planning each year out. I am by no means an expert on homeschooling, but really, is there such an expert? I say no. Every family is unique as is each child in our families, so there is no “perfect way to homeschool”. It should definitely be personalized for each family. So as I write this, I hope it will benefit you and you will be able to take what you feel would be a good fit to apply to your family and leave behind what doesn’t work.
Every year around late spring and early summer, I like to pull out some of my favorite inspiring homeschooling books or even check out new ones. Reading them inspires me in getting our next school year planned out. I like to also use this time to look back at my “Master Plan” to see what changes may need to occur or what has been working out for us. My Master Plan is a very detailed written plan thinking long term what my goals are for our children to learn throughout the years to help them become the best they can be. I also look at the individual needs of each child as I plan out everything. In addition, I make a point to have a mentor meeting with each child during the summer and several times throughout the year to talk about goals, their strengths and weaknesses, any needs, and what they are excited about or interested in learning.
I actually do not use a specific brand of homeschool planner at this time. I have used different ones in the past but have found that I prefer to start my planning in my basic notebooks with a pencil of course because my plans are inevitable to be edited. Once I plan out all of my thoughts and ideas on paper, I then transfer it all on good old Microsoft Word to print out and keep as a guide and then I also keep my plans and to do lists on my Trello Homeschool Board. I am mostly old fashioned when it comes to digital versus writing on paper. I usually much prefer writing things down, but I have loved having my Trello account to keep important things organized and it’s so easy and fun to work with, plus it’s free!
We do school for the most part year round with plenty of breaks in between to help refresh both myself and the children. One thing that has worked out well the last couple of years is that we do school for 6 weeks at a time and then on the 7th week, we will take a break. During our break, we are still learning a great deal, but just taking a break from the normal routine. We like to use this time to go on some extra field trips and even work on some extra hands on learning such as art among other things. One thing that I am implementing during each of our 7 week breaks this year is that I will be using that week to evaluate how everything has been going during the last 6 weeks as far as the resources we have been using and if there are any changes that need to be made, this is the time that I will be making them. I got this idea from the book, Teaching at Rest, by Sarah MacKenzie, and I love this! So instead of ditching or adding things too quickly or waiting until the end of the semester or longer, we will evaluate every 7 weeks.
Throughout the summer, although we have a lighter load, we do still continue learning by reading (this never ends in our home) and we like to continue to make regular visits to the library. We also continue with formal Math lessons averaging about twice a week (throughout the rest of the year we do Math everyday) and we practice writing through journaling. Another learning that never stops in our family, not even in the summer, is nature study.
Nature study is a huge part of our homeschooling and family culture. This summer, we had the privilege of being able to participate in a Nature Pal Exchange that we learned about on Instagram. We had such a great experience and loved it so much that we are definitely going to participate in the program throughout this upcoming school year. Basically how it works is that each season, you will be paired up with another family that have similar aged children (if possible) and from a completely different region. It’s like having a pen pal with nature items included! So our family was able to take some of our nature treasures here in Georgia that we collected on our outdoor excursions and send them to our pals in California and we also received their treasures from California. It was such a neat experience and we were able to learn more about different plants, lichen, shells, insects, and so much more from the west coast. It also inspires our family to learn more about our own local nature. It was a great learning experience and we look forward to more adventures with participating in the Nature Pal Exchange for this upcoming school year.
As I plan out our school year, I also plan out our agenda for our homeschool coop classes. Another mama friend and I lead a local homeschool coop. We do fall classes as well as spring nature school. This fall, we will be focusing on Science for our coop classes and since fall is such a nice time to be outdoors, that is where we will hold our classes. We’ll do them at various local parks or at someone’s property. For our spring nature school, we will have weekly nature topics that we have a brief lesson and activity on and we will have those at different local nature areas. I have realized that having our coop classes outdoors and in different locations is what I definitely prefer so I am so glad that even our fall classes this upcoming school year will be outdoors as well.
I have enjoyed and preferred having nature outings versus regular classes so much more, that I am actually starting a “Nature Group” in addition to our coop. Since me and my family are so passionate about nature and we had such a great experience doing our nature outings with other families this year, I felt it was a great fit for our family and our goals. It will also hold me more accountable in the midst of our busy lives, to take the time to get out in nature and do our nature study each week. We will still have coop classes occasionally throughout the year, but nature excursions will now be our main focus. We will also join in with other homeschool groups for book clubs (monthly discussions) and field trips.
As for our resources or “curriculum”, I get asked a lot from new homeschooling families or people who are curious about homeschooling what curriculum we use. We are a very eclectic homeschooling family and maybe I will just post about those details another time as it alone can take a whole post. I would say though, that the bulk of our learning comes from living books or classic literature, narrations, real life experiences, and nature study. I will be posting about some of our resources and experiences on Instagram so if you are not already following me on there, I invite you to!
I like to keep our History and Literature to correspond around the same time frame, but not always. Because we read so many different books within our family and I am always adding more to our list throughout the year, I will just list a few of the other resources that I do know we will be using this year. We don’t typically label our children in certain grade levels but for purposes to better understand what “grade level” they would be in should they attend a public or private school, here is what I have: 14yo (almost 15yr) daughter who would be considered 9th grade (entering high school), 9yo son who would be a 4th grader, 6yo son who would be a 1st grader, and 3yo son who would be an early pre-schooler. Of course for my 3yo, most of his “school” will consist of a ton of read alouds and free/creative play and outdoor time. I will also throw in some quality activity books such as Kumon and Early Learning.
We will continue to use Math-U-See for everyone. We have really enjoyed using their program and it has been a good fit for our whole family. In addition, we will sprinkle in some lessons from Life of Fred for the younger kids.
We have a pretty big list of books on our agenda for Literature and a good bit of them are ones that are listed on Ambleside Online and Milestones Academy sites for each grade level. However, we do throw in and switch out other picks as well. The books listed on Ambleside and Milestones are great living books.
Language Arts (Grammar/Spelling/Writing/Copywork/Dictation)
The core of our Language Arts learning is done through narrations, copywork/dicatations, and journaling for approximately ages 10 & up. We also use some of IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) resources. We have found this to be so simple and effective in learning grammar, spelling, & writing skills. Writing book reports and essays also enhances my children’s Language Arts learning and practice. This year, my 9yo will be taking a writing class (IEW) with some other homeschoolers from another homeschooling mom once a month. It should be a good balance of learning some basic elements of writing but done in a way to enjoy writing. When my children are younger (under 10), we usually focus on oral narrations versus written ones. This has been a great way to prepare our children for written narrations while also working on their verbal skills.
We will continue to use Handwriting Without Tears (Cursive) for our 9yo. this year as he works on improving his cursive penmanship. My 6yo will continue working on his penmanship through journaling and copywork as will my 9yo.
Science/Natural History & Science
The core of our Science learning will be done through Nature Study. This has by far been the most effective and fun way to learn Natural History & Science for our family. We will focus on Nature Study through nature outings, keeping a nature notebook, and using our favorite Nature Study resources. I will do a separate post about what we use for Nature Study soon but one of our most used and favorite one is The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
We will also sprinkle in lessons from Apologia Science books. This year, we will use Apologia Zoology 2 (Swimming Creatures) for most of the year and Botany during the spring and summer. We have used Apologia for many years and we love them, however, we have found that instead of using them as our core of Science learning with just sprinkling in Nature Study lessons, doing it the other way around has worked best for our family. For my 14yo, she will be diving deeper into Science lessons and will be learning from Apologia Physical Science in addition to Nature Study. She has discovered that she has a passion for learning Science and really wants to focus a lot of her studies to Science.
This year for our younger children, we will finish up reading from A Child’s History of the World and Our Island Story. Then we will go onto This Country of Our’s and George Washington’s World. We will also have some additional literature in the mix. In addition for American History, we will use some Beautiful Feet D’Aulaire Biography books.
For my 14yo, she will be doing her own History this year and diving pretty deep in learning about The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist, The Constitution of the United States, and other important articles and speeches in addition to some Literary History living books. Until high school, we learn History, Science, and Geography as well as other topics such as Shakespeare, Memorization, Picture/Artist study, Music/Composer Study, etc. as a family. Although my “high schooler” will still be learning along with us in some of these topics, she will have more in depth studies as well.
I like to incorporate Geography with our History lessons. We will locate from our map and globe and illustrate places from our current readings. We will also do 10 minute map drills each week. In addition, a few other resources that I will use are Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinksa, Hungry Planet, some of Hollie C. Holling’s books, The Illustrated World Atlas, Children Just Like Me, and Dover United States Coloring Book.
We are also focusing on one country a month and learning about different ones from all of the continents to enrich our learning about different cultures. I have always loved learning about different cultures and feel it is important to help our children have the experiences of learning how all of God’s children live around the world. One resource that I’m excited about using for our around the world culture study this year in addition to some of the ones listed above is Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin. It just came out this year and I love it! It is filled with ideas of different books to incorporate in our learning from all of the different continents and they are all living books. We will be utilizing the library for many of them.
So that is what I have been planning this summer for our next year of home learning. These are just some of our main resources that we will be using for those particular topics. Of course, throughout the year, we will most likely add in some other wonderful resources as well. We do other individual topics in addition to the ones listed above such as Personal Development, Typing, Logic, etc. I have also planned out our “Morning Time” agenda which includes our Family Devotional, Read Aloud, and Enrichment learning. Look out for my post about that soon! I would love to hear what you have been planning!