We’ve got all the books. I’ve stocked up on supplies. After a summer filled with lazy days and pool hangs, the kids were ready to ease back into a rhythm of gentle learning and exercising the muscles of the mind. So here we are embarking on our sixth official year of homeschooling!
What grades I’m teaching this year
This year, my kids are almost 10, 7.5, and 4.5. Grades are relative when it comes to homeschooling, but when people ask what grade my kids are in, the short answer is fifth, second, and pre-k. The long answer is…it’s complicated.
My oldest’s birthday is on September 1, which is the cutoff date for kindergarten in our state. That means that if I would have sent her to traditional kindergarten she would have been the absolute youngest person in the class, and actually 4 when she started school. If I held her back until the next year, she would have been the oldest person in class, turning 6 a few weeks after school started. Since we homeschool and follow the Charlotte Mason method, which delays formal academics until age 6, we used her kindergarten year for play-based learning and by the time she turned 6 she was ready for easing into formal lessons. So we did start first grade when she was 6 and that would put her in fifth grade this year. But she’s academically kind of in between 4th and 6th grade.
For my 7yo, we truly delayed all formal academics until he was 6 years old and began last year with introducing the letters of the alphabet and numbers 0-10. He quickly caught on, and we moved though learning to read and adding and subtracting numbers through 60 plus lots of history, geography, Spanish, and other subjects. Since his birthday is in May, I feel like he is more aligned with his traditional grade level and probably doing work that’s academically between 1st and 2rd grade.
My youngest turns 5 in November, and has already shown a lot of interest in learning letters and simple math. I won’t do any formal, required lessons with her this school year, but we will do some gentle learning as she wants to. This year will probably look a lot like what people would call kindergarten, and I’d suspect that next year when she is 5, almost 6, we will begin our formal lessons with first grade work even though we might call it kindergarten just to stay consistent. That’s the beauty of homeschooling, isn’t it? We can make it up as we go along!
A Charlotte Mason education has both breadth and depth. We are tackling a lot of subjects this year! Between all of my kids, we’ll cover:
- US history
- British history
- ancient history
- science/nature study
- art appreciation
- music appreciation
- philosophy/world religion
Phew- 24 subjects that we’ll cover each week! I don’t use a set curriculum though there are many wonderful ones out there, and we absolutely may use one in the future!
Planning out the curriculum
For now, I have pieced together our own curriculum based on a general scope and sequence of time periods that other curriculums follow plus my children’s interests.
We have loosely followed the recommendations by Wildwood Curriculum for a few years, and I appreciate all of the work that went into making these free recommendations available to everyone! I also love the ladies at A Delectable Education and use many of their recommendations as well.
You can see the detailed process for how I plan out our curriculum over on this post.
I basically make a list of the subjects we want to cover, list out the resources I want to use to cover those subjects, and then figure out how to fit it all in to a school year/term/week/day.
Our Curriculum Options
And now what you’ve been waiting for…what we’re using this year! I have to preface this that I am sharing all of this because I know it’s helpful to be able to see what other people are doing for certain subjects and that especially when you’re starting out, it’s nice to see a full picture of what someone else’s homeschool looks like. I am not sharing all of this because it is the right way to homeschool, the best way to homeschool, or the only way to homeschool.
This is what works for our family right now. My middle child’s first grade year looked a lot different than my oldest’s first grade year so even I am constantly evolving and updating what we’re doing. I’ve made our selections based on a lot of factors including what books I already had on hand, what resources I already had, budget, amount of hands-on time required from me, each child’s ability to work independently…there are so many individual factors here that you will have to analyze and evaluate for your own family when choosing curriculum options.
Now with all of that said…here’s what we’re doing this year.
We have used and loved Simply Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Arithmetic for the past three years. Unfortunately, they have not come out with Book 4 yet so I started exploring other math options. We decided on Simply Good and Beautiful Math 4.
An important note on The Good and the Beautiful
While I have picked and chosen the resources we use from The Good and the Beautiful, I cannot in good faith recommend them in case others use resources that are not as straightforward as math or typing. They recently released a history curriculum that is extremely problematic in its the racist, political, and white-centered worldview regarding slavery and the founding of our country. If you are a Christian family, you may be interested to hear other criticisms regarding the LDS worldview of TGTB.
We’re sticking with Simply Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic for my 7yo.
After using these books for years, I can say that I love how simple they are to implement. You get one, beautiful hardcover book and you can pair that with objects from around the house to create short, but thorough math lessons. There’s no preparation at all- just open the book and read the problems.
By using concrete objects to practice the math skills, I definitely feel like my kids have gotten a solid understanding of the concepts. They also have incredible mental math skills- something I wish I had!
We are continuing reading lessons with my 7yo using Simply Charlotte Mason’s Delightful Reading program. We are about halfway through Kit 2, focusing on specific letter combinations and sounds. At this point, he can confidently read Bob books, but we haven’t quite made the jump to fluency.
I used the Charlotte Mason method to teach my oldest how to read, and I love that these kits make it easy to use the method in an open-and-go, no prep way. We’re also using Kit 1 for a gentle introduction to letters for my 4yo when she really wants a lesson.
As much as we love Delightful Reading, I’m currently researching other phonics-based programs. I think Delightful Reading and the way Charlotte Mason proposed teaching reading can work for the vast majority of neurotypical children. We’ve had so much research done on reading over the past 100+ years that if it isn’t clicking easily with a child, it would be wise to find a well-researched program that can isolate the challenges and focus on pushing through those before reading becomes a big issue.
Seven is well with the range of normal for any child, especially a boy, to still be learning to read. I’ve noticed that he isn’t picking it quite as easily as my daughter did, which is why I think a phonics-based program might be helpful. We switched and started using The Wand by Bravewriter at this point with my oldest, but I’m looking at using Logic of English this time.
Spelling & Grammar
My 9yo is continuing to use the Spelling & Writing Workshops from The Good and the Beautiful. She started this last year, and will finish before I decide on a new program to switch to (see note above about TGTB).
For my 7yo, we are using Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serle. This is an old book, but the lessons are very short and sweet.
Charlotte Mason advised stopping formal reading lessons once the child was reading fluently and then picking up with grammar in about 4th grade. Spelling would happen naturally through copywork. This is what I did with my oldest, and something I definitely DON’T want to do with my other kids. I have seen the value in consistently teaching spelling and grammar over time and will absolutely continue these lessons each year so that it is not a huge hurdle when they are older.
All of my kids use Handwriting Without Tears. Whenever they finish a book, we just move on to the next one. We start cursive in third grade so my 9yo is doing cursive workbooks, and my 7yo is doing print. My 4yo just finished the pre-K workbook and isn’t quite ready for the kindergarten book so I got her a workbook at Costco to do during our lessons.
In addition to our handwriting lessons, we also do copywork a couple times a week. Each child has a “book of mottos” in which they can choose to copy down inspirational or impactful phrases or sentences that they hear or read.
We also do a notebooking page once a week that is a combination of writing practice and copywork. Each child chooses to narrate something from a lesson that week, and together we edit and revise the narration. I print it out and that becomes copywork.
And finally, we will use The Dart from Bravewriter to practice grammar, copywork, punctuation, and dictation. The Dart uses wonderful read-aloud books as inspiration for the lessons. We read the book throughout the week outside of our lesson time, and then complete the short lessons 2-3 times a week.
Our tales this year will overlap a lot with history. We’ll read tales of inspiring Americans, tales of King Arthur, and tales from the ancient world. We’ll also have several historical fiction read alouds that we’ll work through throughout the year.
A few of the books I have planned are:
I also plan to do one writing project a month for each child from Brave Writer. We used and loved Jot It Down with my oldest and will continue with my 7yo this year. Jot It Down includes 10 fun writing projects that we can do family style. These projects aren’t so much focused on the child writing as he is still learning to read and spell and work on the physical act of handwriting. Instead, it uses the parent (or an older sibling!) as a scribe while teaching the mechanics of good writing. Kids have so many ideas and stories to tell long before they are physically capable of writing them down so this is an amazing bridge to writing.
We’ll use Brave Writer’s Partnership Writing program for my 9yo this year. It also has fun writing projects designed specifically for 9-10 year olds who are in the transition where they’re not quite ready to write independently, but are eager to do more writing.
My daughter did a Brave Writer class over the summer, and we both loved it so much that I am sure we’ll add one or two classes this year as well. We took the Go Wild with Words class and it was fantastic. It really inspired my daughter to think creatively and not be afraid to try new things with writing.
We are taking a vacation to New England so we’re focusing on the settlement of America and the American Revolution this fall, and we’ll continue through the mid-1800s in the spring.
We used the Early American History pack from Beautiful Feet Books with my oldest for 2nd grade, and we’ll use those books again this year. We didn’t make it through most of the books so there will be a lot that’s new to my 9yo.
In October, we’re flying to Boston, and it will be amazing to walk the Freedom Trail and see a lot of the things we’re learning about in person!
My 9yo is studying British History this year. Last year, we failed at this subject mostly because I just could not get into it! We tried to use Our Island Story and it was dreadful every single lesson.
I tried out a few different resources, and we’ve finally settled on Kings and Things: A Light Hearted Romp Through British History, which is by the same author as Our Island Story but so much easier to read and comprehend.
We are using A Child’s History of the World along with the study guide from A Mind in the Light to study ancient history this year. This is the second guide we have used from A Mind in the Light, and I love how she lays them out and makes it so simple to use these older books. Each lesson includes a preview of important people, places to find on the map, vocabulary, and additional suggestions for related books and activities.
We’ll use a lot of picture books from the library to go along with our ancient history studies.
We will continue with Living Geography for the Primary Grades, which is the updated version of Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography book. This book has short, simple lessons to teach the basics of geography- how the Earth and sun interact, what seasons are, etc.
I want to focus on U.S. geography this fall with Minn of the Mississippi. We’ll begin in the Great Lakes region and travel down the Mississippi River to the southern states and the Gulf of Mexico. I love this book, but there are parts of it that are problematic with its stereotyping of American Black people in the south. I am reading this aloud and will skip over portions I do not want my children to hear.
We’ll also use this as an opportunity to explore true Southern culture using the Sweet Tea & Cookies Multicultural Enrichment Guide from Heritage Mom Blog.
In the spring, we will read Paddle to the Sea and explore the Great Lakes region using the study guide from A Mind in the Light.
We’ll pair this book with a deeper study into the culture of some of the indigenous tribes in the Great Lakes region.
We’ll also use the book Mapmaking for Children as part of our co-op this year. This book is designed for classroom settings so I find it better suited to do with a group of children. I love the activities in this book as they are so practical and useful.
The book walks you through different ages and developmental stages in relation to maps and then provides hands-on activities to expand a child’s world in a concrete way.
And finally, we’ll use the book Draw the USA as enrichment for my oldest because she requested it!
We have fallen in love with Sabbath Mood for our science and will use her Physics: Energy unit for our fall term. Each week we will read from The First Book of Electricity as our spine text for this subject.
We’ll also read from a book of nature lore, a more general study of the world around us and how we interact with it. We’re using The Secret of Everyday Things for our nature lore book. This book has so many interesting, deep ideas in it! We are skipping past the first few chapters of how fibers are made because we have studied that recently. We are starting with creating dyes and how fabrics are colored with dyes- really fascinating and practical topics we can explore with impromptu experiments, art, and handicrafts.
Sabbath Mood’s guide also includes a hands-on component where each week we’ll be doing an activity or experiment. For the first week, we built a model of a copper atom and next week we’ll be building our first circuit.
To go along with our study of energy and electricity, we’ll be playing with our Snap Circuits a lot too!
In addition to our Sabbath Mood unit, we’ll also take regular nature walks and go on nature adventures as a family. We each have sketch books where we aim to make daily notes about our interactions with nature. Then we also try to make a more detailed entry in our watercolor nature journals once a week. I use and love the book How to Teach Nature Journaling for inspiring our journals. We’ll also do many of the activities from the book with our weekly co-op.
We’ll also be doing some science and nature study with our weekly co-op. Each family will take turns bringing a science experiment to share with the group. We’re also lucky to have my friend Anya, the creator of Beacon Bridge curriculum, to guide us through some of her science and nature activities.
I am so excited about Spanish this year because we have resources that we love!
We are going to use Beautiful Mundo Volume One as a family resource to inspire our learning. Emma was so generous and gifted me this curriculum to use with our co-op. It is everything I have been searching for and more. Teaching Spanish through books and songs in a playful, natural way is important to me, but planning lessons was so time-consuming for me. Beautiful Mundo has each week planned out with a theme, vocabulary, picture books, songs, poetry, activities, and more! She also includes a phonics coloring book that my kids will love.
In addition to our gentle home learning and practice centered around a theme, my oldest will continue with one-on-one lessons with (affiliate link) Homeschool Spanish Academy. HSA gifted us 10 lessons last spring and these lessons were exactly what we needed to take our Spanish up a notch!
Homeschool Spanish Academy offers personal classes with a native speaker. You get to choose the time and the teacher, and they help place you in the level that’s the best fit for you. They have a fantastic structured curriculum that each teacher follows, which means you can try out different teachers or use whoever works with your schedule and they always know exactly where to pick up in your lessons. I’ve found that they have the perfect balance of new material with built in review so they it’s never overwhelming.
My 9yo completed her lessons last spring and in just a few months she was speaking sentences in Spanish, using Spanish in daily life, and having conversations with me in Spanish. I have been speaking Spanish to her and teaching her some since she as a baby, so she already had a good foundation, but her lessons with HSA made the biggest impact on her ability to actually speak it.
I absolutely love Homeschool Spanish Academy, but I do have a note of caution for younger learners. I got the lessons thinking they would work for my son and my daughter, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t the best fit for my son who is still learning to read, even though he was doing the “preschool” curriculum. The lessons require learning the Spanish alphabet and reading in Spanish and English so I think they would be best suited for children who are already confidently reading in English.
Since the lessons didn’t work for my son, I decided to take the lessons myself. That’s right, Homeschool Spanish Academy has a curriculum for adults too! I set up my lessons for after the kids were in bed, and it was so great to spend 30 minutes each week with my teacher practicing Spanish. I was able to use what I learned to inspire our practice at home with my little ones.
You can try a free class with Homeschool Spanish Academy though this link.
If you know me, you know handicrafts aren’t an issue around here!
For our more formal handicrafts this year, we’ll do clay modeling using A Manual of Clay Modeling. We’ve tried this in the past and failed, but this is the year!
We’ve done our first lesson and it went great! A separate blog post to come with more details…
We’ll also continue doing paper sloyd using Paper Sloyd For Primary Grades, which we started last year. Paper sloyd was a big hit with my kids last year, and we’ll do it with our co-op this year.
My daughter will also work on quilting this year using a Sewing School books. We have all of these books and love them all!
We’ll also be doing some loom knitting- we plan to knit hats for the whole family for our trip to New England this fall- I love practical and useful handicrafts!
Poetry, Art, and Music
In the past we have focused on one poet per term, but this year we are just reading good poetry. We’ll also explore beautiful art and wonderful music from artists and composers through the ages from varied backgrounds.
Our selections will be gathered from a few sources including Morning Virtues, a resource I collaborated on with Gentle + Classical Press and Meaningful Menus. Each Morning Virtues box is centered around a character-building virtue and includes beautiful poetry and art prints, composer study, hymns and more to insert into a menu cover that makes it so easy to use for morning time.
We’ll also use the poetry selections, artist studies, and composer studies included in The Children’s Hour during our evening gatherings.
And of course, we’ll continue our weekly poetry teatime. It’s hard to believe we’ve been enjoying poetry and snacks and tea for seven years now! It’s just as magical all these years later.
We’re going to use Philosophy for Kids as a springboard for discussing philosophy this year. It’s designed for grades 4-12 and the concepts are deep, even for me!
There are 40 questions that are really conversation starters. The author presents the questions and then uses arguments from great philosophers like Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle along with a guided activity to help children begin to for their own thoughts on the subject.
We’ll continue our study of world religions that we began last year with One World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship. We covered three religions last year, and we will cover three more this year.
My oldest will be doing Waldorfish Geometry, and I might be a little too excited about this one!
These classes are designed for grades 5-8 so we will likely take it very slow. It will probably take us 2-3 weeks for each lesson, and I’m totally OK with that. Each lesson includes a well-done video introducing the concept plus ideas for the parent to bring the concept to life with conversation, activities, and movement. We practice the form several times over the course of a week or two and then complete a final form in our main lesson book.
For art this year, we will use two video-based courses.
To introduce basic brush drawing and learn techniques on how to handle the brush to create different strokes, we will use Bestowing the Brush. I did several lessons last year with my first grader, but we weren’t consistent. The videos are pretty short so my plan is to do the lessons anytime we’re painting as a quick warmup. We can do them before we do nature journaling, notebooking, or even right before our art lessons.
For our main art lessons, both of my kids will get to do Waldorfish Weekly Art. My has complete the course once already, but is excited to go back and do it again with her brother. He’s been impatiently waiting until he was 7 to be able to join in!
We LOVE Waldorfish Weekly Art because it teaches art techniques through creating beautiful art. I see a lot of art programs where the child is encouraged to copy someone else’s art, and just as in handicrafts where children mimic a finished project, I don’t see a lot of value in that. The course videos for Waldorfish Weekly Art walk the student through the whole process and empower them to make decisions about their own work, all while teaching art concepts that they practice in the course and can transfer to work outside of the course as well. I have been amazed at the art skills my daughter has developed through this course.
Both of my older kids will continue with private piano lessons this year. We began virtual lessons with our local teacher when the pandemic started, and we love it so much we’ll continue with virtual lessons this year. Virtual lessons allow me to be more involved and listen in on what’s going on with the lesson, which helps me be able to guide their practicing a bit more.
My 9yo took a break form piano lessons over the summer, and was slightly reluctant to begin again, but it’s something I feel is very important so she’s going to give it a try again. She would like to try violin, but the homeschool lessons in our area are complicated by the pandemic so hopefully by next year we’ll be able to try new instruments!
We’ll also dabble with a little recorder and do handbells with our co-op. I got a set of handbells on Amazon, and they have been so much fun!
I plan to use a few Play-Along Adventures from Growing Gardenside because she has some great simple handbell activities to go along with composer studies or studies of specific pieces of music.
This year, I’m letting my kids choose texts and poems that they would like to recite. My oldest has already decided to learn the Gettysburg Address this term after hearing about it during our Morning Virtues read aloud. My 7yo will likely choose a few nursery rhymes and short poems from the Rooted Childhood Signature Collection.
Our goal with recitation is not memorization, but for them to be able to read and recite the selections with an emotional connection to the material.
We started Shakespeare last year and have fallen hard for it! We worked through Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Twelfth Night last year. This year we are starting with As You Like It. Our other plays are TBD at this point because I’m struggling with the tragedies and little innocent hearts.
We started studying Shakespeare with How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare.
We studies two plays with our co-op last year, and I’ve found that it’s most enjoyable to do with a group. In working through these plays, I’ve developed a system that works for us: introduce the characters, introduce the plot, read a narrative version, and then read or watch the play.
My daughter will start working on typing this year with The Good and the Beautiful. After trying a few other programs, I love the simplicity of their typing program. It’s not an online program so I don’t have to worry about ads or online safety. All the child needs is a computer keyboard and a word processing document to complete the lessons. See note above about why I can’t recommend using TGTB.
My preschooler tags along during our lesson time and soaks up more information than I would ever expect!
I truly believe the preschool years are for play and adventures, and that preschoolers are filled up through just living life.
But she is almost 5 now and beginning to insist on more intentional learning time. I plan to wait until she turns 6 for formal lessons, but until then I have a few gentle, play-based resources we’ll use including my own Rooted Childhood Signature Collection, resources from Let’s Play School, Preschool Math at Home, Delightful Reading, and the Homegrown Preschooler (the curriculum we used and loved starting with my oldest!)
I’ll have to do a separate post with more details about our preschool rhythm…once I figure it out!
While I just listed out a toooon of resources we’re using and subjects we’re studying, there is still so much more to our homeschool. We’ll be doing PE with our co-op as well as our own physical education as part of our lesson breaks. We love doing yoga and dancing- we’re currently using YouTube to learn how to shuffle!
We also do a lot of baking and cooking in the kitchen. We’ve been using HelloFresh (you can get $100 off your first few boxes through this link if you want to try it!) for a few meals a week and that’s a great opportunity for all of the kids to get in the kitchen to help prepare a meal.
We also read A LOT of books. We’re making regular trips to the library on Tuesdays for loads of picture books and stacks of chapter books for my oldest. I love picking up non-fiction activity books to have on hand to use as invitations to learn, create, or move. Through library books, my kids have explored how to use a microscope, paper mâché, making pop-up cards, made a stop-motion animation movie, and so much more. We also usually have a few audiobooks going at a time that my younger two listen to during quiet time or we listen to in the car.
We’re also doing Girl Scouts and Wild Explorers Club this year. We also live on 7 acres, have a large vegetable garden, a fruit orchard, flower gardens, and animals to tend to. We’re constantly planting, growing, harvesting, fermenting, canning, and doing all the things that go along with having a homestead. There is no shortage of learning that can happen around here!
All in all, I just know it’s going to be a great year!