Archive | March 2018

Homeschool scheduling, or how do I plan our learning path for the entire year?

One of the most common questions I hear is “how do you plan out your year? What do you study, and when?”

First of all, I get comfy at the computer. Coffee, chocolate, chips, and I’m good to go.

I head over to Calendarpedia and download a split year calendar in excel format. I tweak it so it begins and ends when we do (this year we’re going from March 2018-Feb 2019). This takes me about 15 minutes to do, but once it’s done, I save it and I’m ready for the planning to start!

On the calendar, I color all the holidays (I use a cheerful colour like purple). Next I use the same colour to mark off our birthdays (after all, who wants to work on their birthday? haha ). Now I decide how long I want our Christmas holidays to be, and mark them off in a lighter purple.

Now comes our scheduled days off. We don’t have any regulations here about the number of days, weeks, or hours to homeschool, so I follow a 144 day plan. I can bump it up to 180 in the future if we need to. We also school all year, so we don’t follow the local public school calendar. We find that schooling 2-3 months without a break causes us to burn out very fast. So…

We take every Friday off, unless we are sick and need to make up the day. So using another color (this time a blue), I color in every Friday box. We also take off every 4th week! Those get colored in blue too! Now our calendar is starting to look like a wonderful, colorful road map. As I count out the white boxes left, I see we have 36 week, or 144 days!

So what if we get sick, need an unexpected holiday, or something else gets in the way of my carefully planned out schedule? Easy, those days off become our days off, and the scheduled blue days will become our school days! We have up to 105 days that can be remade into school days! Talk about a lot of wiggle room! haha! (ignore the weeks under the middle row, this was an “oops moment”)


Now it’s time to gather all my resources, get another coffee, and start figuring out our weekly plan.

I take each book and count the number of lessons or pages we will need to do for the year, then I divide that number by either 36 (for # of weeks) or by 144 (for # of days). This tells me how many lessons/pages to do per day or week.

So for example if I wanted to finish Story of the World in 1 year, it means: 42 chapters divided by 36 weeks = 1 chapter a week, but every 6th week we need to add an extra chapter. But since each chapter has a lot of activities to do, this works out well.

Something like Math Mammoth that has 260 pages, I divide it by 144 to get 1.8 pages a day. I’m okay with doing 1 or 2 pages a day, depending on the workload that day.

So I have my pretty calendar, all my books with the # of pages to schedule per week or per day, so now to put it all together!

I love the teacher planner from One Stop Teacher Shop:Classroom organization is important! My teacher binder helps me stay organized all year. Here are some of my favorite tips and ideas for putting together the best teacher binder. (I can't live without #5)

It’s a download, editable, free updates for life, and she updates it at least twice a year. It goes on sale several times a year on the Teachers Pay Teachers site, and it’s well worth the price! I fill out each week with my plans (this is where the bulk of my time is) and then I print out a few weeks at a time, usually between 1 and 2 months. This way, if things change, I can edit my schedule on the computer, then just reprint the pages that may have changed.

Punch some holes in the planner, put it in a binder, print out the cover page and spine, and I now have my year all planned out! And I’m probably shaking from caffeine and chocoloate overload, too.


Grade 1 reboot…

We finally did it. We are starting Grade 1. I had found a curriculum I thought we would love called Mosaic, but it is just a year or two more advanced than Peanut is able to do. We may use it eventually, but for now we’ll just stick with the complete package for Story of the World Volume 1 and the lesson plans I found from Covington Christian Academy.

Story of the World Volume 1 Complete Package | Main photo (Cover)

Also, there is a great website dedicated to all things pertaining to Story of the World at Learning Mama. The free lapbook from Alia Macrina Heise is AMAZING! Unfortunately she doesn’t have a website anymore, but the files are still in the dropbox. I wish I could thank her for this incredible work.

So our “final” (haha, those who know me know I’m always tweaking things!) grade 1 resources are:

Math: We are using MEP math year 1, but adapting it for homeschool use. It is both gentle and complete. It is very kinesthetic and hands-on, and comes with 140 days of lessons. Oh, and it is totally free!Math Mammoth Light Blue Series Grade 1 Colored Package | Main photo (Cover)

We also are using Math Mammoth 1. Peanut is doing great in math, and since MEP math only has a bit of math practice, I will add at least one page a day from Math Mammoth to reinforce what he knows.

Reading A-Z

Reading and phonics:we are using Reading A-Z. It is phenomenal! I highly recommend it, and you can get a deep discount by ordering it through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

Exploring Science Teachers Guide | Main photo (Cover)

Science: Elemental Science is so easy and fun! A gentle introduction to science that has the child exploring their world. The Teacher’s guide has a 2 or 5 day schedule and the student pages have awesome activities! It is recommended to purchase Science Play, as all the experiments use this book as reference, but it seems to be out of print, so I’m using Pinterest as a guide.

History, Geography, Social Studies and Art: The Story of the World Volume 1 is perfect! The package with the activity guide and student pages really bring this curriculum to life. From coloring pages to map work to activities, this is a very full curriculum. Add the lapbook, and I now have a year of unit studies! For example, this week we are doing the introduction and chapter 1: We get a read aloud (the book is written in story form, and Peanut seems to like it!), a coloring page to do as I read, mapwork, then we watch a few videos on archeology and the earliest people, then we have a ton of learning activities to do. We made a history timeline of Peanut from birth to now, a family history booklet that covers his family tree up to his grandparents, we will do a simulation of an archaeological dig, make a shelter, create a cave painting, and make a hunter’s game bag to collect treasures we “hunt” for! We also will do the lapbook pages for these two chapters. And this is all just for this week! I don’t think we’ll get it all done, hahaha!

You may be wondering where is the rest of Language Arts? Well, because Peanut is having so much difficulty with his writing, drawing, and coloring, I am not going to force a formal writing program on him. This is an example of his best coloring to date:No automatic alt text available.

and his writing too:

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Those b’s are all over the place. He has the basic idea of how they should look, he just can’t manage to do it! And his numbers… oh boy! the top is my writing, then he wanted to do it himself! Thank goodness he told me the answers verbally! I won’t discourage him from trying though, the more comfortable he gets with trying to write, the better his fine motor control will get (at least I hope!)

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For spelling, we’ll use spelling tiles to spell out words from our Reading A-Z book. We’ll focus on the words he has difficulty with for now. So far he’s not had any problems! Yay Peanut!

When you find a new curriculum just as you are 1 week into your new school year

I was searching for some resources for next week’s history and social studies lessons, and I stumbled across a curriculum I had once seen and then promptly forgot about. Now looking at it again, I want to do it!

Mosaic is a free literature based history and geography curriculum that reminds me of Bookshark’s reading with history level 5-7 and 6-8. It is well written, has great read aloud literature, and uses excellent books. 

The only drawback is that it’s now 10 years old, and hasn’t been updated or revised since then. Many online links are broken. Some required books are now hard to find. But even with these, I already printed out a copy of Myths, Maps, and Marvels and I’ll be going through it the next couple of days to see what links work, what doesn’t, and then find other resources to replace them. 

I need to source a few books, but I may use Kindle for the read alouds. We’ll be reading classics like Charlie and the chocolate factory, Understood Betsy, the Tale of Despereaux, and others!

For the main history spine, it used Story of the World Volume 1 and Usborne encyclopedia of world history. I’ll write more about this later, for now I just want to tuck in and read this curriculum tonight and see what we can use! 

Why do I use a secular homeschool approach when I believe in God?

Warning: This is MY opinion! You have your own beliefs about religion, and it may or may not agree with mine. I respect your choice, and I hope you respect mine. Although I won’t elaborate here, unless you are atheist, I probably believe in the same God(s) you do, we just know them by different names.

I am spiritual. I believe in God. I can’t honestly say I’m Catholic (although I was raised as one, even confirmed!) but I AM spiritual. I believe there is a higher being or beings, and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the proof is everywhere from the entire universe to the smallest grain of sand. I truly believe God is a part of every molecule in this universe.

So why don’t I teach my little Peanut about my beliefs as part of his schooling? The easy answer is because he learns about God in everything he does, everything he sees, and eventually it will be his decision as to how he embraces it.

The more difficult answer is because, in my opinion, the most pervasive religion for homeschooling is Christianity, and it seems to concentrate more on religious dogma rather than proven facts. I personally find it more than just a minor annoyance.

A good example is Science. When we discuss the creation of the universe, and the creation of the earth itself, there is a huge contradictions in terms of how old it is. I accept the big bang theory, but I also accept that God created the big bang! I accept that the universe is at least 10 to 20 billion years old, an the earth itself is about 4.5 billion years old. If I were to use a christian curriculum, I would be telling Peanut that the universe is only 6000 years old, and the earth is just over 4000 years old. Oh, and let’s not even get into dinosaurs, the theories from “they are just a myth” to “they were alive when man walked the earth, and they were on Noah’s ark” just make my head want to explode…  I even stumbled across a very popular free online christian new-earth curriculum that, under it’s history tab, had a coloring page of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and Adam was riding a dinosaur! Ugh! No.

Plus Peanut has Autism. He has difficulty sometimes recognizing fact, fiction, fantasy, and reality. He sometimes takes things as how they are said, but not as they are meant. In his education, I want him to have a firm, established foundation of all the basics that a non-religious education brings with it. I want him to know about the big bang, evolution, science, math, social studies, and history without any kind of religious bias.

When he’s ready, we will begin with religion. But it won’t be integrated completely into our subjects as many christian curriculum does. Instead, we will explore as many different religions as possible. Yes, we will be doing a subject called Religious Studies. We will delve into the various branches of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and as many others as we can. I hope he’ll see religion the same way I do, but that is for him to decide when he’s older, and that is his personal decision to make. Each and every person on earth has made their own religious journey, some have found their path, and others still are searching. Our Peanut will join into this journey when he’s ready.