Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homeschool Series: What’s in Store for Next Year

Previously in our little homeschool series we have discussed why we homeschool, what we have done and are doing with toddlers and preschoolers, and what we are doing this year for kindergarten.  Today I’ll be writing about our plans for next school year when we will have a first grader, a kindergartener, a preschooler, and a 1-year-old…and I thought life was a bit hectic this year!  ;)

At the start of August when we began our first official year of homeschooling, I read that it would be wise to already begin thinking about first grade.  This overwhelmed me more than I can describe.  We were learning a memory verse each week and Joshua was starting a phonics/reading program – and that was more than enough each day!  But after following this advice, I now see the wisdom in such a suggestion.

I visited all of the major Christian homeschool curriculum publishers – A Beka, Sonlight, and Horizons to name a few – but none of them seemed quite right.  So, I kept adding to our daily school lessons and continued looking into grade school options.  Then one day in the church nursery, one of the volunteers told me about a program her grandson was using.  They memorized everything from the Five Kingdoms of Living Things to the Hittite Empire to the multiplication tables through 12’s - and her grandson is only six years old.  This, surprisingly, seemed doable to me because it was right in line with how we’ve taught our kids from before they could talk.  We read, we memorize, we recite, we retell, and we repeat, repeat, repeat!

I ordered the book for this program – Classical Conversations – and so began our journey into the classical model of education.  It’s a model that I automatically turned down in all of my reading about different styles of homeschooling.  Who would want to spend all day reading Homer and learning Latin?  But the more I read about the method, the more convinced I became that this would work for our family.  Besides, it's more than ancient literature and dead languages - it's a method that, to me, seems very natural and workable for our family.  I’m not sure that I can give a great explanation of the method, so please refer here to learn more about it.

I read "The Well-Trained Mind" and really liked that the emphasis for the early years is to produce strong readers and writers, and to take time to learn well the foundations of math and English grammar.  I also really liked how natural the history, geography, and science was laid out.  And I loved that history and geography are taught in chronological order starting in first grade with the ancients.  Again, I’m not going to attempt to recreate the wheel here.  If you want to learn more, please read this book and check out this blog or this website.

"The Well-Trained Mind" not only gives a very thorough outline of teaching your child in the classical method from preschool through high school, but it also gives great reviews of the main curriculum choices for math, English grammar and spelling, Latin, and every other subject that is needed in grades K-12.  It is by far the best homeschool book I have ever read because it gives the big picture and also the nitty gritty of how to do it.  I highly recommend this book!

Anyway…back to our plans for next year.

Joshua, turning six in July, will be in first grade.  His school day will look something like this:
-Memory Work – Bible verse, *Science, *History, *Geography, *Math Skip Counting (memory work from Classical Conversations - we will not be doing the CC co-op, but will be using the memory work as a guide in our own lessons)
-MathSingapore PrimaryMathematics U.S. Edition 1A and 1B (plus Intensive Practice, Extra Practice, Challenging Word Problems, and Math Sprints as needed)
-Handwriting and Structured ReadingA Reason for Handwriting: Manuscript A; reading about weekly science and history/geography topics and writing short notebook entries about what he reads
-Writing – Copy work and letters to friends and family; Writing with Ease: The Complete Write
-Music – Violin and Piano practice as usual
-History (Mon, Tue, Wed)The Story of the World, Volume 1; library books and other resources; note-booking about what we read together
-Science (Tue, Wed) – the human body, animals, and other living things using library books and encyclopedias like this and this; hopefully some fun projects to go along with our topics; note-booking about what we read/study together
-Art (Thur)Drawing with Children; other fun art projects as time allows

The days look full, but Joshua is a busy guy and if he’s not gainfully occupied I’m never really sure what condition the house will be in at the end of the day.  He definitely thrives on structure and lots and lots of fun and appropriately challenging plans.  I’m looking forward to diving into this with him later in the year and I think he’s going to have fun, especially with history and science!

Hannah, turning five in October, is officially slated as a Kindergartener but her work is primarily on the first grade level.  Instead of keeping her on a Kindergarten level in subjects where she’s ready to continue progressing, I’m choosing to keep her load light so she can still work at a good pace in the core subjects but wait on things like grammar and writing.  Her day will look something like this:
-Memory Work – same as Joshua
-Math – same as Joshua with the option to work slower if she needs to (although, math seems to be a strength so I anticipate her keeping up just fine)
-Handwriting and Structured Reading – with Joshua; no required note-booking
-SpellingSpell toWrite and Read
-Writing – with Joshua with the option of skipping writing if she is tired or needs a break
-Music – Violin and Piano practice as usual
-History (Mon, Tue, Wed) – with Joshua; no required note-booking
-Science (Tue, Wed) – with Joshua; no required note-booking
-Art (Thur) – with Joshua

As for Abigail, who is turning three in September, I have not yet decided the best way to get her involved in school time.  They will certainly join us for the beginning of our Memory Work – we always learn Bible verses together as a family, no matter how old our youngest kiddos are.  Abigail already joins us for Handwriting, so I think we will continue that.  She will certainly be able to participate in special history, science, and art projects, and will also be with us for anything we read aloud.

My plan for Jeremiah is still hatching but I think it will involve one of these.  He is proving to be the most active baby we’ve had so far…I need to keep him safe somehow!  ;)

So, that’s our 2013-2014 academic year in a rather large nutshell.  This year has been challenging but rewarding and fun…overall.  We’re developing a stronger and stronger sense of family community through the common pursuit of “school time”.  I am looking forward to what’s in store for next year.  I am especially excited about diving into the life sciences, ancient history, and geography!  We get to order maps and globes and all kinds of cool books…see Mom, all of those summers playing school in the garage are paying off!  ;)

For all of you homeschoolers out there, what are your plans for next year?



  1. I am so impressed with your planning! I am only just starting to plan our year for next year.
    We love the classical approach as well. In fact, I hopped on your blog to see if you had tried Story of the World, if you liked it, etc.
    I haven't heard of Classical Conversations before. I'm excited to look into that further.

    1. We haven't started Story of the World yet, so I'm not sure how I like it. Honestly, I wasn't as impressed by it as I thought I would be once I started looking through it. But, it does make planning out history/geography simple. The activity book has all of the maps that you need for the year, which meant that I didn't have to find them myself, and I like the progression for the first year. I'll let you know what we think once we're in it for a bit.
      I started planning early partly because I was excited, but also because we're actually starting next year in the middle-end of July. We're trying out year-round schooling with 4 day weeks and 6 weeks of school with 1-2 weeks off throughout the year. We're doing that schedule now and it works beautifully! But unless we want to finish our year in August, we have to get an early start. That combined with very few chunks of time to plan, meant that I needed to have materials on hand so I can work on it little by little.
      I've learned more about Classical Conversations since talking with some moms in our homeschool group who are part of the co-op with their kids. It sounds rigorous and fun - perfect for kids who thrive on a challenge - they all love it. We're not doing the co-op, but I really like the memory work, so we're using thar for history, geography, and science. If you get a hold of the book, you'll have memory work laid out for the first 4 years (the do break up history and science differently than The Well-Trained Mind suggests).
      Sorry...enough rambling about all of that!
      What are you considering for next year? What grade will you be doing with J? It sounds like he's really advanced for his age! Have fun with the planning! :)