A Second Year of Homeschooling

Well, it seems we've officially started up our second year of homeschooling. We spent a fun summer swimming just about every day at the lake and now, waterlogged, we're ready to get back to learnin'. Well, at least I am. I gave the girls an opportunity to go back to public school this year if they wanted (I'm all about options), but they said, "No no no! we're good here" (and said it while still in their pj's at lunchtime I might add). So, onward we go...to 5th grade and 2nd grade.

Well, technically 4th grade I suppose. I've come to the conclusion I should have held my oldest back for another year before letting her start kinder. Her birthday was only two weeks past the qualifying age so she's always been the youngest in her class. After watching her struggle in public school the past few years, and seeing where she's at now, academically, I really think she's at more of a 4th grade level than 5th. Which is absolutely fine! We're in no hurry and I have no interest in keeping up with academic dogma. As long as she's challenged, but not frustrated. As long as we're within range, I know she'll not only catch up, but will pass on ahead when she's ready.

So, back to school for us means back to the library! We have a wonderful local library, but we also take trips to town when we can't find the books we want locally. The stacks pile up each week. My job is to make sure the correct book gets returned to the correct library. With six library cards and two libraries, this is something I average about a B+ with. Hoping to improve to an A this year. Fingers crossed.

So, we're about a month into our semester and so far these are some of the stacks we've been working through. Including videos and books on CD.

I added art history, music appreciation, and geography to our curriculum this year. Along with art and piano lessons (I'm determined to prove the piano we've been moving from house to house the past few years is more than just a guilt-inducing love-hate catchall piece of furniture), which has fattened up our library stack somewhat. But I've come across some wonderful art books; some I ended up buying I liked them so much.

If you're teaching art to young kids be sure and check out the Usborne (I'm slowly learning to not just like, but love, the Usborne books, like in a wicked want to make out with them kind of way) Complete Book of Art Ideas. The Children's Book of Art is also wonderful, as is the Usborne Art Treasury and the Usborne Big Book of Things to Draw, oh, and Usborne's Drawing Faces. Gah! I need an intervention.

Some of you have asked what curriculum, or style of teaching, we're doing. We're following (loosely?) the curriculum suggested in The Well-Trained Mind, which is a guide to classical education. This is our second year with this method and so far we love it. I've made a few modifications to suit our personal needs, but overall I think it's a great outline to plug into, especially for those new to the world of homeschooling.

Specifically, we're on Volume Two of the Story of the World, which is a history activity/chapter book put together by Jesse and Susan Wise (the mother-daughter team behind The Well-Trained Mind). I couldn't love these books more. Granted, I love history so I may be biased just a bit, but these study guides, combining literature and history, and teaching history chronologically, are simply brilliant. In Volume Two we pick up with the fall of Rome and go thru early Renaissance (Middle Ages). So, some of the books you see in our library stacks reflect the religion, literature, and history going on around 500-600 AD. Both girls are being taught the same history together, but the 4th/5th grader has to take more notes and read/summarize harder books/texts. This makes life so much easier.

The same goes for our science. Both girls are studying the human body this semester (for 10wks), so I'm only having to teach one lesson to both kids, but the older one has to do more outside reading and take more notes/quizzes, etc. than the younger. I'm not willing organized enough to homeschool different lessons to different kids. I imagine next year I'll have to re-evaluate things, but for now this works for us. (All of this is explained in depth in The Well Trained Mind).

Speaking of Bill Nye. Do you ever get his intro song stuck in your head? Bill Bill Bill, Bill Nye the Science Guy. Bill Bill Bill. My kids are currently on a Bill Nye roll. Can't. Get. Enough. Bill. Bill. Bill.

Sometime during the first week back to school I made these chair slings, pockets, junk holders for the back of each kiddo's seat at the table. I had some scrap fabric and ribbons and thought, hey, why not. These little pockets are proof that when things are out of sight, they are out of mind. But hey, at least the Chinese erasers and cursive handwriting books have someplace to hide.

So, a lot of our literature each semester ties in with our history. So this year we'll be reading classics like an abridged Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, Song of Roland, Arabian Nights, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Shakespeare, etc. But we're also reading books together, and I'm assigning independent reading as well.

So just for fun, and to limit mental breakdowns every week when we make our library runs, here's a reading list I've put together for this year (for both 4th and 2nd grade): Nancy Drew, Harry Potter, Shiloh, Winnie the Pooh, Because of Winn-Dixie, James and the Giant Peach, Love That Dog, The Little White Horse, The Trouble With Wishes, Sideways Stories, Tom Sawyer, The Puppy Sister, My Father's Dragon, The Water Horse, Blubber, The Talented Clementine, The Reluctant Dragon, Gooney Bird Greene, The Cricket in Times Square, The Black Stallion, Walter: The Story of a Rat, and whatever else comes up over the next few months.

If you have any other book suggestions would love to hear them!

And, also just for fun, here are links to some of what we're using as curriculum for this year (2010/11):
  • Math - both girls are doing the DK Math Made Easy workbooks for their respective grades.
  • Cursive - both girls have cursive workbooks, and I also found this great little workbook for the older girl to practice in
  • Geography - both girls do Daily Geography workbook pages for their respective grades (favorite subject of both)
  • English/Grammar - the 10yo is working from the Master Skills workbooks for English and Reading Comprehension
  • English/Grammar - the 8yo is on Level 2 of First Language Lessons
  • Logic - the 10yo is using Logic Countdown
  • Spelling - we are on books F and C in the Spelling Workout series
  • History - Story of the World: History for the Classical Child Vol 2 and the corresponding (and ever-so-brilliant) Vol 2 Activity Book (and many many library books)
  • Science - we're currently studying the human body (10wks), then animals (20wks), then plants (8wks). My favorite science/craft books are the Arty Facts. Great way to combine science with art.
  • Language - we're working thru a Spanish workbook together, and I just ordered a Latin book called Minimus Pupils. I'll let you know how it is. My 8yo wants to learn French - ha! working on that!
  • Art History - we're picking one artist a week and using library books and videos to study from. We're also using the Usborne Art Treasury to practice some of the art skills. Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists is a helpful series as well.
  • Art Lessons - see earlier paragraph about art books we're working from
  • Music Appreciation and Piano Lessons - for this we're just using online materials as well as books, CD's, and movies to study the different classical composers (one each week). I have a few simple piano books that I'm teaching the girls to read music from but still shopping around for one worth buying. If you have any suggestions I've love to hear them!
We've also recently fallen in love with lapbooking! If you're following the Story of the World and are interested in lapbooking (or looking over more specific curriculum from The Well Trained Mind) this is a great blog: http://runofthemillfamily.blogspot.com/ 

And this one has wonderful lapbooks! We're currently working on a Medieval Times lapbook, including lots of information on Vikings, but plan to do their Renaissance, Glass Blowing, and Fall lapbooks as well. Great stuff here!

Happy Homeschooling!


  1. I enjoy your blog. Check it every now and then. Sorry to hear about your sweet Papa duck. I loved those pictures of the ducks and chickens when you first got them.

    Ever heard of Classical Conversations? It is a Christian group and I'm not sure where you stand on religion. Classical Education with curriculum that is prepared for you. All ages up through high school. You meet once a week for class led by a tutor and then teach the material at home. For the younger ones you add math and reading. Older children (around 4th) start a writing program in the afternoon and younger ones just have three hours in the morning. Might interest you if the religion part does not put you off. www.classicalconversations.com.

  2. I'll look into it. Thanks for the suggestion!