In our home education, I have found that it is easiest to school year-round. We take breaks throughout the year when our family needs them, and I plan ahead in little batches at a time. That being said, as we are entering the new year, I spent some time re-evaluating all of our curriculum choices. While some are staying the same, I am making a significant shift that I will be sharing about in this post, along with sharing all of the curricula we are using and plan to continue to use.
Related blog post: Homeschool Planning 101
A few things to note:
My two older children are 7 & 8 years old and would technically be considered First and Third grade, although we don’t stick to grades and just progress as makes sense to each child. My two younger children are 19 months and 3 years old. We don’t do any formal preschool with my 3-year-old quite yet. He occasionally is involved in our lessons in a few ways, but it is optional and we always prioritize play above all. The majority of our schoolwork is done “family-style” meaning I try to choose things that can be done with both of my older children, with slight adaptations to challenge them at their own levels.
To read about how we fit this all in our day, read: Our Family Rhythms 2022.
Over breakfast, my husband leads the family in devotions. This includes worship through music, prayer, journaling, Bible readings, discussion, and scripture memory. We have used various devotional books to help guide this time over the years. We started going through Our 24 Family Ways for the second time a few months ago and paused for Advent studies, but we will be continuing that in the new year. When we complete Our 24 Family Ways, I am considering trying out WonderFull: Ancient Psalms Ever New by Marty Machowski (the same author as The Ology that we used last year and enjoyed).
Check out this blog post all about Our 24 Family Ways.
Our Morning Time
We will continue using Treehouse Nature Study as the core for our Morning Time. We will start with Treehouse Nature Study: Winter and move into Spring and Summer as the year goes on. Each week covers a seasonal nature theme with selections for each beauty subject to coordinate. The curriculum provides display sheets for each area, so these sheets will also slip into our Morning Time menus. A Morning Time Menu is essentially a book of transparent pages into which you can slip papers for your child to look at, read, or even write on using a dry erase marker.
Read more about Our Homeschool Morning Time.
The only exception will be when we pause from this to do our three-week study leading up to Easter, An Expectant Easter, in the Spring, and our Christmas study, A Connected Christmas.
Calendar/ Weather Chart
We start our day by using the Morning Time Bundle from my shop, which includes a Traceable Calendar and Weather Chart. The kids love to trace the letters and numbers and look at the weather report to track the day’s weather.
Beauty Subjects with Treehouse Nature Study
After our calendars, we move into the beauty subjects. The areas we cover are:
Each week we learn and enjoy a new folk song that coordinates with the week’s nature theme. Each song has a link to Spotify so we can listen and sing along, reading the lyrics from the display sheet. Some days we even pull out some instruments!
Next we follow along with the hand rhyme sheet and sing a short rhyme with hand motions that coordinates with the theme. There is also a link to the motions on YouTube in the guide.
Visit my YouTube channel for free access to hand rhyme videos and curriculum reviews.
For poetry, we have a new poem and poet to study each week. Each day we interact with the poem in new ways such as copywork, recitation, illustration, and poet study.
For picture study, we have a new piece of art and an artist to study each week. Each day we interact with the art in new ways such as artist study, observation activities, and replication.
During Morning Time we also read a book or two from our Book Basket. I fill this basket with the fiction picture books from the Treehouse Nature Study book list that would most appeal to my three-year-old. I also include other classic read-alouds I want to expose him to that my older children also enjoy.
Related: My Favorite Preschool and Early Elementary Booklists
We may also squeeze in the hands-on nature connection from Treehouse Nature Study during Morning Time if it is an activity that would appeal to my youngest child. Some examples of these activities are handcrafts, recipes, and sensory experiences such as clay modeling. If it is a more involved project, I save it for later when he is napping.
Our Core Curriculum
We have been using My Father’s World Adventures in US History as our core curriculum for about a year (referred to as Adventures in this post). While Adventures is a full curriculum and offers what you would need for most of your children’s subjects, I have over time been slowly replacing elements of Adventures with my own picks in certain subjects, and most recently have only been pulling from it for History. We have gone at our own pace, taken breaks for various unit studies, and stretched some weeks into two. Because of that, we still have quite a few events left to cover in American History. While we have really enjoyed the first part of Adventures, we started losing interest over the past month or so when the curriculum switched directions to primarily a U.S. state study.
Image courtesy of @thepeacefulpress
We read one of the books from the Little House on the Prairie series during Adventures; the kids really loved it and wanted to continue the series. I was familiar with The Playful Pioneers by The Peaceful Press and knew that it is an American History-focused curriculum based on the Little House series, so making the switch seemed perfect! I have used many guides offered by The Peaceful Press in the past and have always loved them, so I knew The Playful Pioneers would be a good fit. I have decided to hop into The Playful Pioneers mid-year and pick up where we left off in our history studies, as well as in the Little House series. We are looking forward to a lot more projects and recipes directly related to the Little House books. I will post an update on how we are enjoying The Playful Pioneers after we have used it a while.
Read more about my 2021 Curriculum Choices including Adventures in US History.
Language Arts- Phonics, Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, and Writing
Both of my children are strong readers, but we still do some light phonics work to help with decoding more complex words and spelling. We use Explode the Code primarily for phonics. We absolutely love these simple and fun phonics workbooks. Each child has their own level and can work mostly independently.
For spelling, we don’t use anything formal, but instead have found copywork and writing through poetry, scripture, and notebooking to be sufficient. Instead of a formal spelling curriculum, we are just sticking with those things and doing dictation once or twice a week. For more about what dictation is and how to do it, check out this article from Simply Charlotte Mason.
As we journey through US History using Playful Pioneers, there is a heavy focus on language arts through reading, narrating, and notebooking. We also practice notebooking with Treehouse Nature Study, so between the two, the bulk of our writing, spelling, grammar, and reading practice is done via history and nature study lessons in an organic way. We also have started “Mail Mondays” where they each write a letter to anyone on Mondays and we focus on grammar and writing skills then.
A couple of times a week we will also continue to use My Father’s World Language Lessons for Today, which includes short lessons on English usage, punctuation, composition, and oral language skills. There is also a lot of poetry and picture study in this book which we will simply skip over, since we are doing so much of that in Morning Time and with The Playful Pioneers.
We are using Cursive Success by Learning Without Tears this year a few times a week and will transition to cursive copywork when they are ready.
Both Pioneers and Treehouse Nature Study offer book recommendations for each week to further study the topics that we are learning. I gather these from our local library or purchase them second-hand and rotate the books out of a basket each week. I read some aloud and some are there for them to explore the books on their own. Along with this, both of my children spend hours each day reading on their own. They read fiction, non-fiction, and chapter books. This isn’t a part of our lessons, but just their daily habit. I try to keep our shelves stocked with the best of the best. Again, check out this post on how I find good, quality books!
Science/ Nature Study
Treehouse Nature Study covers our science for the year. Along with all of the Morning time activities, we will also read and narrate non-fiction books from the book list and complete the hands-on connections, such as experiments, nature walk observations, and nature study notebooking.
As mentioned, one of the main topics of study this year for us is US History, as well as the geography of America. The main source for learning all of these topics is through reading hundreds of living books, narrating, notebooking, hands-on projects, and creating a timeline over the course of the year. We also learn world history and geography through artist and poet study, Biblical study, and history studies.
We are currently using and loving Math U See. My 7-year-old is using Alpha and my 8-year-old is using Beta. They will both advance into the next levels within the year. Stay tuned for a blog post about our math journey and how we are liking this.
Loop Subjects & Projects
Loop Scheduling is a method in which you go down a list of subjects that you go through in order, one per day in the time slot of your rhythm that allows for it. Rather than “every Monday we do Nature Study”, we just go down the list of subjects as we have space in our rhythm to fit them in. For us, at this stage with a baby and toddler in the mix, this takes a lot of stress out of our days. My priority is to cover the main lessons each school day. If we have time to fit in our Loop Subject after those are complete, then we do that too.Using my Customizable Homeschool Planner really helps me stay on track.
For our loop subjects this year, we will be covering:
- Sign Language - I have chosen Sign Language as my children’s foreign language because they are both hearing-impaired. While they do use verbal language, I thought it would be helpful and useful in their lifetime to know sign language. I plan to use Signing Time Classroom Edition.
- Music - Each week we enjoy folk songs through THNS. My son is taking piano lessons this year as well.
- Art - We study artists and explore art in many forms through THNS and Pioneers. We will also be taking a homeschool art class this year in our local community.
- Practical Skills and Handicrafts - Both Pioneers and THNS include art projects, handicrafts, and baking projects. My daughter is also taking a sewing class this year.
- Typing - We are continuing typing lessons by using Keyboarding Without Tears.
We actually stopped using MFW halfway through when it got to the states study. We picked up the Playful Pioneers where we left off in MFW. So we never really used both at the same time!
Hi! Can you explain how you integrated Playful Pioneers with Adventures or did you just pause Adventures and switch to Playful Pioneers? I love the looks of both of these and would love to be able to incorporate both for my boys. They love history and the 1800’s so, I think this would be great for them.
Hi Ashlyn, THNS is designed to be reused year after year. Many people don’t make it through all the books and activities suggested for each unit. So the following year people can visit the things that were missed or by diving into subjects deeper with more books or activities. We have a FB community group and each week we have a thread going of that specific unit- people are sharing all their wonderful ideas!
Is THNS something you buy every year? Or is it tailored to re-do each year with different book lists?
Do you have any suggestions on keeping a 2 year old occupied when working with the 7 year old? She is very active and on the move.