Sunday, August 14, 2011

Back to School Mode

We're gearing up to start the school year on Monday, which makes me think it might be time to, you know, plan some stuff. This year I'm going to try having weekly lesson goals, because daily lesson plans just don't work for our family. I'm too laid back and things always pop up to change the plans. Plus I don't really like the word plan. Here's hoping weekly goals work better.

We're sticking with the general guidelines for classical education as laid out inThe Well-Trained Mind. For history, we'll move onto the third book in the Story of the World series: Early Modern Times. We'll cover Queen Elizabeth I through the Forty-Niners, and most of our reading, writing, and geography lessons for a given week will correspond to our chapter in history. Today we stopped at the library to pick up our reserved books for the first two weeks, including the following: Anno's Spain, by Mitsumasa Anno; Don Quixote and the Windmills, by Eric A. Kimmel; I, Juan Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino; Secret of the Andes, by Ann Nolan Clark; The Two Mountains: An Aztec Legend, retold by Eric A. Kimmel; The Lost Treasure of the Inca, by Peter Lourie; Kids During the Age of Exploration, by Lisa A. Wroble; Herstory: Women Who Changed the World, by Ruth Ashby; Mary Queen of Scots, by Emily Hahn; Rembrandt, by Mike Venezia; Scotland, by William Lace; The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJohn; Always Room for One More, by Sorche Nic Leodhas; and The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, by Thomas Locker. Several of these books are novels that Bonnie will read independently, and many are non-fiction and picture books that we will look at together with the boys. The Louisville Free Public library has become an invaluable resource for us!

Bonnie will also continue working through the Mensa grades 4-6 recommended reading list and will always have time for "free reading", with her genre of choice usually being Fantasy.

As far as Jack and Fred go, I want to get them both reading this year. At ages five and almost-four, I know there is no rush, but I will definitely feel a sense of homeschooling accomplishment when I can mark it off the list. We are ditching The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading and moving on to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I hope it's a better fit for us.

All the kids will use Saxon for math: Bonnie's moving up to the 6/5 book, and the boys will complete the Kindergarten level.

For writing and spelling, Bonnie will use Writing Strands Level 4 and Spelling Workout Level E. We're also going to introduce her to logic with Orbiting With Logic and Brain Benders. This year we are trying a new (to us) curriculum called Serl's Intermediate Language Lessons for grammar. I say "new to us" because the book was originally published in 1914. I'm definitely more excited about the sentence diagramming than Bonnie is.

We're doing life sciences this year. We'll pull anatomy, zoology and botany lessons and projects for Bonnie from several sources, including A+ Projects in Biology, How the Body Works, and How Nature Works. The boys will work on similar but less-advanced topics from Kingfisher's First Encyclopedia of Animals, Kingfisher's First Human Body Encyclopedia, and Green Thumbs. Obviously no study of life science would be complete without learning about evolution, so we will be reading Evolution: How We and All Things Came to Be, by Daniel Loxton. Bonnie will continue making regular entries in her Nature Journal as well. Our goal will be a science lesson and project each week, but honestly, at their ages, I strongly believe my kids learn more about life science playing outside in nature than I can really teach them from books.

In addition, we'll be using Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong and What Do You Stand For? For Kids for lessons in ethics and good citizenship.

A good friend let us borrow a program for learning to play the recorder, so I'll work on that with all three kids. I'd really like to get Bonnie started on an instrument, and I've been saying that for a couple years now. If she seemed more interested, I think I'd make it more of a priority, but she doesn't and I haven't. We do spend a lot of time listening to classical music and learning about the classical musicians, but that still leaves plenty of room to improve in that subject area.

Art is another subject which I am feeling less capable of teaching as Bonnie's abilities in that subject have already outreached mine. She gets some instruction on technique from Kelly, but we are considering some kind of private lessons or workshop for her in that subject as well.

I think that about wraps up our major plans for the 2011-2012 school year. One history chapter, an average of four math lessons per week, and reading are the only things that are non-negotiable, and our school year is over when the math and history books are finished. For our family, one of the best things about homeschooling is the flexibility, and a too-rigid schedule takes away from that.

In other homeschooling news, I've become reacquainted with some old friends and through them learned about a great secular homeschooling cooperative in Lexington. They meet once a week and offer a variety of classes, operating with a "leave your religion at the door" motto. Kelly and I will be looking into all the classes offered and discussing it before registration next week. It could be a great opportunity for the kids to be around other freethinking kids, but obviously we have to weigh that with the distance and cost to enroll.


  1. Have you checked out Louisville Free Public Library's page on homeschooling resources? There seemed to be a few secular groups on there (as well as a link for the Girl Scout who it specifically says welcome both genders at their meetings). Sorry if this is ground you've already gone over.

  2. Thanks, Sarah! I hadn't seen that link before. Looks like a good resource.