We use the All About Reading curriculum to teach our children to read. I love this curriculum for so many reasons–it’s phonics-based program with a multisensory approach. It’s fun, easily to teach, and follows a developmentally appropriate progression. My son (First Grade, age 7) is finishing up Level 2 soon and will move on to Level 3. My daughter (Kindergarten, age 5) is currently working through Level 1. Keep in mind the curriculum is mastery-based and Levels do not correspond to grade level. You can read more about our use of Level 1 on this blog post and see a video walk through as well: Do A Lesson With Us: All About Reading Level 1.
All About Reading has decodable readers that coordinate with the curriculum. These readers contain a number of wonderful and engaging stories that work through concepts learned in the curriculum. Each reader contains about 15 stories and each level of All About Reading has 2-3 readers! I love having these readers to work through with my children. They love the stories.
Note that you can purchase just the readers from All About Learning! You don’t need to be using the curriculum to use the readers with your child(ren). When you go to the appropriate Level of the curriculum, there is a drop-down option for purchasing Individual Items and you can select the readers there.
While these readers are fantastic, my children have also wanted to have more to read than just these readers when we “do school” and work through the curriculum. I desire that for them as well. They now take turns with us reading bedtime stories and spend timing reading in bed each night with booklights.
Reading is one of life’s true delights, and so I do what I can to spread the feast for my children with literature they can read and enjoy. Below I’ll share my favorites.
About Using & Finding Early Readers
I first want to say: I’m not an expert on this topic at all! In many ways I feel out of my league trying to figure out how to teach my children to read. Which is why I love All About Reading — it takes the pressure an anxiety off of me.
Beyond teaching my children to read, searching for the right books for them can be a confounding process. One frustration I have run in to is that different publishers use different distinctions for their “levels” of early readers! So, here’s a scenario: you reserve a bunch of Level 1 readers from the library to find that some are WAY too easy for your child, some are WAY too difficult, and only a few are just right. It can be frustrating to find the right fit.
One way to possibly combat this is stick with the same publisher/line of readers–that way when you know your child is comfortably reading at Level 1 of those readers, you can try some Level 2 from that same publisher. I recently did this once I latched on to the fact that my son could read Level 3 in the Penguin Young Readers series. So, I just hunted for others at the library at that same level. That feels unrealistic to always do, though, and it is limiting to try and stick with one publisher.
So — my best advice is: use the library as much as humanly possible, and realize you’ll run in to some challenges with the search.
The Frog & Toad series gets a lot of attention but I really feel the other early readers of Lobel’s are equally amazing. I cannot even contain how much I love him. And the audiobooks (with him narrating) are equally spectacular!
There are six books in this series and these particularly appeal to my son to have a male protagonist playing sports. The stories are sweet and playful and this is an excellent series representing a boy of color.
Other Notable Early Readers With Characters of Color:
I am a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant — she has an excellent way of creating stories where characters are kind and the storylines celebrate life and love. Henry is a boy with a 182-pound Mastiff named Mudge and they have all sorts of adventures and lessons together. This series is a joy because your child can get to know the characters and have a wide range of scenarios to read. Twenty-eight stories in all!
I love the nice progression from each box set (A, B, C, then D) with these books! When your child masters one set you can confidently move on to the next level. Each set comes with 10 beautifully illustrated and diverse books, and the stories are of a nice variety that will appeal to children with a wide range of interests.
I particularly love that these box sets have little mini books for children just starting out to read (Box A and Box B), so those children can feel like they are reading a whole little book! It’s so satisfying.
Note that these boxed sets CAN coordinate with The Good & the Beautiful homeschool Language Arts curriculum, but they do not have to. You can purchase and use these readers even if you are not using their curriculum!
These beginner books are on the more challenging level of early readers and definitely note that some subject matter might even be sensitive to some kids (hazardous weather, history, etc.). Usborne books aren’t always my favorite, to be honest, but what I particularly love about these readers is that they are an opportunity for children to engage deeply with nonfictioninformation in a reading-level-appropriate format. Your child can read to you and feel like they are teaching you something! So fun. And, this type of book has repeat-read value if it is a subject matter of interest to your child.
Note: I am not an Usborne representative. These links are from Amazon, for which I am an affiliate.
I want to put in a note here to say that I personally love finding random (and admittedly sometimes absurd) books that fit my child’s interest! Both kids get so excited to read these types of books. Yes, I understand the need and desire for providing quality literature to our children, but for me I also want my child to enjoy reading and that means that they often get to pick the subject matter. LEGOs, dinosaurs, natural wonders, dragons, and characters based on TV shows or movies.
No, I do not want ONLY these types of books around, but I definitely want the range available. I myself enjoy reading a range of genres of literature and can understand the value in exploring a variety of types of stories.
For my first child, I used A Year of Tales as our Core Curriculum (which has language arts components as well as others) and then added on The Good & The Beautiful: Level K Language Arts to teach him how to read.
Language Arts encompasses a great number of things, and this year for my Level K child has not been solely about teaching her how to read and write. The All About Reading curriculum has reminders with each lesson to read aloud to your child. We read aloud from a range of stories for my Level K child. NOTE: because my children are so close in age, what we read for my First Grader is easily combined in to read alouds for my Level K child. I don’t treat them separate, other than I do make sure not ALL our reading each day is coming from history texts or longer books. We read a lot of picture books! Most days I let my Level K child choose what picture books she wants me to read to her. This happens regularly in the mornings and bedtime, and then we try to incorporate some other reading throughout the day.
If you need inspiration for the importance of reading aloud to your child, I recommend the following books:
In addition to simply reading stories, for my First Grader and Level K child I purchased some Composition Notebooks to journal and keep track of copywork and narration for stories. I would not normally see this as a requirement for Kindergarten to do copywork and narration; however, my child has shown lots of interest and wants to do what her older brother does. So, she gets a notebook of her own. I keep the copywork very simple and minimal for her, and it is only one time a week. The narration is optional, and usually she keeps it brief. Know and Tell by Karen Glass is an excellent resource for learning about narration.
We started out using the Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell (First Grade Language Arts) curriculum for inspiration for stories, but I ended up dropping this curriculum because it felt like too much language arts on top of our All About Reading / All About Spelling stuff. I love the actual stories used (fables, folklore, classic tales), though, so we have kept in theme with that.
I honestly don’t keep a schedule with this at all! I just randomly pick a story (I do read it advance) and then we read it together and the kids (1) illustrate the story, (2) copy some words, a phrase, or sentence from the story, and (3) give a narration of the story that I write down.
Kindergarten Handwriting and Letter Formation
For handwriting and letter formation for Kindergarten I utilize a variety of methods. I love all the Montessori-inspired methods utilized in The Peaceful Preschool, and ever since we used that curriculum I’ve still kept a lot of those methods in the mix. My daughter is old enough now and self-directed in some aspects so some days she’ll just ask for what she wants to do. It might be a salt tray or it might be a Handwriting notebook with worksheets. She’s doing great with her handwriting so I really do not pre-schedule this kind of thing in to our days. I just make sure we are doing a little bit each school day.
Here are some products we have used over the years that may or may not be helpful to you:
I created that simple tracing sheet linked above and my kids do this multiple days a week. It’s a nice option for me to give to one child while I work with the other on curriculum. My Level K child no longer uses the wooden tracing board but does use a tracing chalkboard sometimes.
I just want to say that mostly for Kindergarten I focus on child readiness and learning that is fun and engaging. I really am not aiming at this age for school to feel forced or burdensome. Often I even find that most of my daughter’s learning happens through simply living life, and not through a curriculum or purchased material. For example, we have taught her that asking questions is ALWAYS good and so she is constantly asking “What does that word mean?” when she doesn’t know. She also particularly loves to draw so we have encouraged her to “write stories” and you can hear her often yelling from the next room “How do you spell ____?” so she can write a word or two on her art piece. Mostly I want to emphasize that with Kindergarten it helps to set yourself (the educator) up for success and give yourself the tools you need, but often education at this age is simply: pay attention to your child. Give them room to be a child. Much of the learning develops naturally.
History Quest is a new curriculum designed by Pandia Press. The first unit covers the Early Times. The most recent History Quest release covers the Middle Times. The curriculum is designed as a narrative approach, and the main book can be utilized on its own without the need to pair ANY supplemental books or the study guide with activities! Seriously: you can just read the core chapter books to your child(ren) and leave it at that. There is even an audiobook option!
Each segment of history is covered in two parts in the chapter book: one narrative section and then something called a History Hop! where you pretend to travel back in time and have a conversation with one main person from that time period. You likely travel to a significant event or location in that time period and witness things “first hand.” Both the History Hop and regular chapter portion do an excellent job of making connections between various civilizations and helping your child put people and events in context.
If you desire, you can do more than read the core chapter book. We did purchase the companion Study Guide because I do feel that having supplemental picture books, videos, and hands-on activities is beneficial to learning AND the study guide provides notebooking pages & maps to keep track of what your child learns. My children are in First Grade and Kindergarten, too, so I feel that having all the hands-on activities and visual learning is so fun and helps them saturate in the learning. My Kindergartener often skips out on reading the entire chapter from the History Quest book but she will happily participate in everything else.
Allows your children to delight in imagination and exploration
Explores civilizations all around the world
The study guide is detailed and easy to follow for the parent!
And last but not lease: History Hygge weeks!
Occasionally throughout the curriculum you are instructed to schedule weeks where you read and explore longer narratives from that period in history and do nothing else. No main chapter to read or a History Hop, no activities, no notebooking. Just read.
We absolutely loved reading a picture-book and young-child-friendly version of the Epic of Gilgamesh:
The kids loved the cuneiform project for learning about the beginning of civilizations. Learning about the beginnings of writing paved the way for learning about how later civilizations wrote and kept records. We more recently learned about the importance of the Phoenicians and the invention of the alphabet. This is a great example of a provided hands-on activity that doesn’t require a lot of materials, prep, or set up.
So, we created a cardboard ziggurat as we learned about the ancient city of Ur!! This ziggurat was much more work than the cuneiform tablet BUT it got a ton of play. Also, since this was so early on in our History Quest journey, I think having kind of an epic project like this helped solidify the joys of learning about ancient history. We used a number of different small boxes and cut holes so the kids could play with people figures and put them in the ziggurat. Too fun!
My son in particular was REALLY looking forward to all things Ancient Egypt. And so, I decided to supplement History Quest with some extra play and learning over the course of several weeks:
Egyptian Mummy dig kit (this experience was a HUGE hit and the result mummy is high quality and not just a random piece of junk)
Learning about the ancient peoples of Peru was so fun! We watched some interesting videos on the art of weaving and dying cloth. We learned all about the Nazca lines — so fascinating. We enjoyed the lovely story The Llama’s Secret. Again, I appreciate that History Quest does a great job of representing a variety of peoples, cultures, and religions throughout the curriculum.
For learning about Mesoamerican civilizations we took a deeper dive in to learning all about chocolate. We loved the book No Monkeys, No Chocolate and the unit study on Chocolate from The Masterpiece Studio. There was so much to learn about and explore with this! Again, this deep dive was NOT a part of the original History Quest curriculum, but I wanted to share how this curriculum does inspire so much learning beyond the core because it engages your children in a variety of ways.
For Ancient Persia the History Quest study guide did not have any picture book suggestions but I did some searching online and found The Secret Message and The Green Musician were both ancient Persian tales. We enjoyed both, and used our MAPS book to explore Iran, and made baklava to enjoy with our lessons.
Note: The copywork page you see in this photo was something I made for my First Grader. The History Quest Study Guide has copywork suggestions and I decided to make pages in advance with traceable text for my son because he doesn’t love handwriting. For older elementary children or kids that enjoy that much writing, I think you can just get blank lined paper to have them do the copywork.
We are currently in the midst of a multi-week journey to Ancient Greece. Some books we have been enjoying are:
Other than the main History Quest: Early Times chapter book and Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, I have also utilized a number of Ancient History based books. Some are all-encompassing that we use as references depending on what unit we are on.
Note that a few of these do include history through modern times and depending on the age of your child you will likely want to screen these in advance for any images that may be too sensitive to your child.I personally keep a couple of these on my bookshelf and only get them out to reference when it matches our lesson.
I also use the coordinating History Quest Study Guide to reserve unit-based picture books from our library to pair with each chapter. These picture books mentioned in the Study Guide are all nicely curated with explanations and things to be aware of. Sometimes delving into history can hit on sensitive topics for children and I find it so helpful to have these things curated in advance.
For example, for Ancient Egypt we used these excellent books:
First — just a quick reminder: STEM represents science, technology, engineering and math. STEAM represents STEM plus the arts – language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, etc.
STEAM-based books for children have become more and more popular lately. Many supply great at-home learning for homeschool curriculum enhancement or just fun project-based books for any school-aged children to spend time exploring on their own or with family members. Children have a wide range of interests when it comes to STEAM topics, and I fully appreciate the value of a physical book to dive in to versus trying to explore the wide world of the internet to find project ideas or lesson plans. Books can go a long way and provide insight, imagination, and skills-based learning.
So, What Is Quarto STEAM Club?
Quarto STEAM Club is a bi-monthly e-newsletter that keeps you up-to-date with the new and notable STEAM books for kids. It’s just one email every 2 months to help make shopping for STEAM books easier. In addition to the STEAM-panel’s specific book selections, you will receive:
A discount coupon for 40% off the Quarto STEAM Club book picks on Quartoknows.com
A recommended STEAM-based toy
Free STEAM-based downloads
Access to a STEAM Club private Facebook group
I appreciate that joining doesn’t mean you are going to be inundated with email. It’s really simple and fun to see what new books are out there that might interest your children or the whole family. And a 40% discount cannot be beat!
Recent Picks: Five Books and a STEAM-Based Toy
Below are the recent Quarto STEAM Club books & toy selection so you can see more detail:
I absolutely love the concept and delivery of Copycat Science! The comic-strip is a playful and unique way to visualize STEM concepts and meet 50 of the world’s greatest scientists. The book is divided up by topical categories (e.g. biology, electricity & magnetism, light, etc.), and while the book highlights 50 different scientists from varying time periods the focus isn’t to get overly bogged down with historical facts. The page simply highlights the dates a given scientist lived and then throughout the comic strips might define important terms. This book is intended to be fun. All of the associated scientists and topic of interest are paired with activities for children to do, which are nicely illustrated and paired with easy-to-follow-instructions. The idea is to pair a simple experiment with a given scientist and topic so hands-on and visual learners will thrive with this.
The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids is a fun concept! I am a huge fan of kitchen science projects for kids. The idea is that materials used will be things you already have an doesn’t require a huge investment of energy. Chemistry can feel daunting for homeschoolers or families who favor STEAM learning at home, but this book makes it accessible. I love that this book combines projects with real-world scientists and their discoveries, and a diverse range of scientists are included. Kids will first learn about Agnes Pockels, for example, and then do a lab on surface tension. Real photos are included to demonstrate the labs and instructions are clear throughout!
Animal Exploration Lab for Kids contains over 50 project ideas for children (and families) to learn about amazing animals in playful and engaging ways. Each project is highly detailed and includes plenty of real photographs so the instructions are clear. A variety of science concepts are explored — how we study animals, animal adaptations, animal behaviors, animal senses, animal movements, animal families, living alongside animals, and supporting local animals. Kids will enjoy learning about a range of animals through thoughtful labs, including several which are meant for kids to not just learn *about* animals but learn how to respect and care for those around them. It’s a beautiful concept of a book and well implemented.
Adventures in Engineering for Kids is highly detailed, fun, and an engaging STEAM book for children. This book has an incredible concept and will provide excellent learning material for kids interesting in engineering or STEAM as a whole. I love that this book takes kids through an imaginative adventure that is all inter-connected; the projects are connected, inclusive, and challenging in all the right ways. Kids will love the empowered feeling of problem-solving through a fictional journey of epic proportions! So fun.
The Encyclopedia of Insects is an excellent kid-friendly topical encyclopedia. This book is a must-own for bug-loving kiddos and families. The illustrations for each entry are realistic in style and the information presented is concise and helpful. Insects included throughout the book exist worldwide, so it is nice to have a focus not just on where a child might live. That said, what this book might NOT work well for is if you are trying to research insects in your localized area. There may be a few represented but it would be impossible to include so many. The insect world is fascinating and this book does it justice!
The Smart Labs Storm Watcher Weather Lab toy was the Quarto STEAM Club’s recent selection for a STEAM based interactive learning toy. The toy and science projects are all self-contained. In the box is everything you need to conduct a range of weather-based experiments. The booklet included explains all the concepts in detail with clear diagrams. This type of learning toy makes for a great gift for kids who love interactive learning.
My kids pretty much beg for science every day of our homeschool so I feel it’s genuinely lovely to have quality books around with one-off projects to dive in to that won’t cause disruption to our regularly scheduled school plans.
Going in to Kindergarten year with my oldest (2019-2020), I used The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts program to teach my child to read. This for the most part worked, though it became clear towards the end of it that his reading level was more advanced than his spelling level. That, combined with all the extra stuff in The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts program that we constantly were skipping, I decided to search for something different. ((By “extra stuff” I mean that The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts is intentionally designed to go well beyond reading and spelling. It includes literature, poetry, memorization, and more)).
I had heard about All About Learning for several years but it can be so hard to purchase a curriculum you haven’t seen in action! It is a lot of money, and what if you don’t like it or it’s just not working with your child? I can honestly say after using this for several months I totally understand what the hype is about and I am so happy we made the switch!
Here are a few of my favorite things about All About Reading:
Lessons are clear & focused for the child.
Lessons are fun! There are lots of engaging activities utilized and the illustrations and stories are wonderful.
A multi-sensory approach is used so I know my kids will take part fully in their leaning and maintain excitement for the lessons.
It’s truly open-and-go! Lessons are easy-to-follow and require minimal prep for the educator.
I’m not left wondering if I’m forgetting something or doing it wrong!
One important note is that in both Level 1 and Level 2 I have noticed one “lesson” in the curriculum can be quite long. I strive for short lessons with my children so often it may take us more than one day to complete one “lesson” in their curriculum book. The All About Reading curriculum does suggest spending no more than 20 minutes per day on these lessons, and that’s what we aim for — a set time or a feel instead of trying to complete a whole lesson and check a box.
Which Specific Curriculum We Use in Our Homeschool
We also use the coordinating Letter Tiles App for all levels which we will use on our iPad. The app makes switching between programs super easy, plus requires less space than having physical letter magnet tiles.
I also purchased the All About Reading Review Box to store all the phonogram cards and word cards. Since I have two kids with two separate curriculums in use, this box has proven super helpful in my organization!
Note: All About Reading Level 1 is for our Kindergartener, and I approach this in a gentle and interest-led way. She has shown interest in reading but also this is a challenge! I am in no rush to get through this whole curriculum this school year or have a set completion date in mind. I want her to gain confidence and continue to learn in a way that she enjoys.
Note that we are on Lesson 10 and have been doing school this year for 12 weeks. This is to say: we spread out these lessons over more than one day. And, I often incorporate reading activities for my Kindergartener that do not utilize this curriculum.
Other Resources We Use for Teaching How to Read
The All About Learning curriculum contains everything you need to teach your child to read and continue to expand on that learning.
That said, we also have a couple things I occasionally incorporate that help build in some phonological awareness:
For handwriting at this age I keep it pretty relaxed. I do not require copywork but if my child wants to that’s fine. I do have the Level K Handwriting book from The Good & the Beautiful as well. We have also used Handwriting Without Tears.
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*Note that this book is a very basic introduction to fish with sparse text. However, the last few pages provide much more detail that will be of interest to older children.
Swimmer by Shelly Gill is a stunning and excellent narrative that includes detailed information about the life cycle of salmon, anatomy of salmon, and different salmon species on the outside illustrated frames of the core story. You can read through the narrative (and learn about indigenous culture in a beautiful way) and then revisit some of the nonfiction information provide throughout when you are done. I highly recommend this book for any Salmon lesson!
Also note — several of the books above have repeat information but I wanted to provide several options as I know books can be hard to come by either to purchase or find at your library.
If you want to add in math & literacy to your Salmon Study, there is a great free resource from 123 Homeschool 4 Me. I also have a free Salmon Count Lacing Card set in my Free Printables section. My Anatomy of a River System would also pair nicely with this (also in the Free Printable section).
Scale Print Foil Fish Craft How-To
Cut a piece of cardboard in the shape of a salmon. I printed out a coloring page first as a pattern to trace.
Have your child wrap the cardboard fish in aluminum foil.
Cut small pieces of bubble wrap (you don’t need much!) to use as your stamper.
You can either paint the bubble wrap directly or spread a small amount of paint first on a paper plate to dip the bubble wrap in.
Press the bubble wrap with paint on to your foil fish. Try not to move around, just simply stamp it. Repeat until the areas you want are covered. The bubble wrap on foil will look like fish scales.
You can view inside looks at a number of these books on this list on my YouTube Channel!
Be sure to subscribe to my Channel if you want to see more video inside looks of books like this!
About These Books
You can read my personal reviews of many of these books on Amazon. Note that I have included a range of style of nonfiction books. Some are encyclopedias used for reference, some are animal atlases, some are based on a specific feature (e.g. migration, animal bones, nocturnal animals), and some are narratives with educational information about animals inherent to the story.
**Note: all of these lists above include fiction, not just nonfiction. Also, I continue to add to all of these lists as new books are published.
Most of these animal nonfiction books are aimed at elementary-aged children; however, I think Kindergarten-aged children and younger will certainly enjoy many of these as well!
If you are interested in an actual field guides for animals, I recommend the Peterson Guides (we like the Mammals and Reptiles & Amphibians) or the Sibley Guide to Birds. For field guides, though, I generally recommend finding as localized of a guide as possible for your specific region.
I have a child in First Grade (age 6, nearing 7) and one in Kindergarten (age 5). Because these two are so close in age many of the “school” things and rhythm-based things we do naturally fit with both of them. We have had this rhythm established for awhile now. I did not just start this with this school year.
Also note that we gradually worked in to this rhythm over time. It wasn’t like one day I just established all of these things. In fact, the Quiet Time has been established since they were babies! I just gradually transformed that afternoon nap into quiet time when they were ready.
Before we get in to the details I feel it’s important to say that by sharing my daily rhythm I am not trying to come across as an expert. I am in the earliest phase of homeschooling and still learning, making mistakes. I’m constantly changing and adapting. In fact, I’m thinking about switching up one thing in particular about this rhythm as I write this.
I am happy to share what we do in detail, but please know that I do so knowing this won’t exactly fit any other family. That said, I personally find it helpful to read how other families do this and take bits and pieces and incorporate what I feel is appropriate to our family. I do sincerely hope in some way this is helpful and encouraging. Please feel free to ask any me questions.
On Daily Rhythm
I Do Not Really Care About the Clock
I purposefully use the word “rhythm” not “schedule” even though you see specific times written out. I truthfully do not care about the time markers. I am not really looking at the clock or setting a timer. I more wanted to write the times out to get a sense of how long we spend on a variety of things, versus when they happen.
My children also do not care about the clock. They respond more to rhythmic cues rather than specific times.
Rhythm vs. Schedule
I do not like the word “schedule” because I do not want to insinuate that we are trying to recreate the public school environment at home. That said: many homeschoolers choose to do this! By saying we choose not to keep a set schedule I am not saying I think keeping an exact schedule is a bad idea. In fact, my kids are still so young and I can see the value in having a little more strict set “school time” than we do now when they are older. But, who knows! I will figure it out when we get there.
Also, I think with finding a good rhythm there will always be a balance of “living in the moment” versus providing some structure. Yes, we want to leave room for our children to be children. We want to leave room for the rabbit-trails, or provide free space for those sparks to ignite in their own minds and heart. But, it is no surprise that they also respond so well to structure and gentle cues. Like I said: it’s a balance.
Education is Life
Everything we do, encounter, experience together is education. Education is not a schedule to manage, curriculum to complete, or lists to check off. So when I say to my kids, “It is time to do some school,” I also make sure to regularly show them how they are truly learning all the time and not just when we open a curriculum book at the table.
The Joy of Whatever
Okay, so let me explain what I mean by The Joy of Whatever. You’ll notice this occurs multiple times in the daily rhythm sheet I wrote out. This is for all the hours in a day we are literally doing “whatever.” There is no plan in motion. Things happen. Sometimes it is made of rainbows, sometimes it is made of weeping.
Here are some examples:
Go outside with a purpose
Go outside with no purpose
Unstructured play (mostly this)
Puzzles and games
It also could happen that during this “whatever” time I add in a random prepared educational activity. The main idea is that I keep it open-ended. I pay attention. Most days my kids play well together but on those occasional rough days I may need to enter in and mediate and help them come up with an alternative. On grumpy days, I’ve found for us cuddling up on the couch to read stories together works quite well.
Not Every Day is Exactly This!
One nice thing about having an established daily rhythm is that you can veer away from it on some days and not disrupt the bigger picture. One day where we decide to go to the playground or meet a friend or go to the zoo and skip all the morning stuff (Morning Time and Table Lessons) won’t mess things up the next day when we go back to doing those things.
We are of course flexible and don’t stress if things are not going exactly according to the set rhythm.
Also, note that we only do structured school stuff Monday through Thursday. Fridays are our nature journal and poetry tea time days so I specifically keep that day open-ended. We may catch up on curriculum if there is an easy project to get to or more books to explore, but the idea is that Fridays can be reserved for fun outings as well so I want the load to be super light.
I also found immeasurable help on this topic from the Parent Guide in A Year of Tales from a seasoned homeschooler! If you purchase this curriculum I highly encourage you to read ALL of the introductory words.
Breakdown of Daily Rhythm In Detail
Wake Up, Breakfast, and Self-Care
My kids are awake around 7 AM. My oldest sleeps longer some days but my daughter’s internal clock is incredible and she is up and ready to eat breakfast immediately. I usually wake up before the kids, as early as 5:30 AM. I work on painting peg dolls, read, workout, or other such things. My husband usually wakes up before the kids as well.
We have one hour between the time my kids wake up and when my husband leaves for work (he has basically a 0 minute commute since we live on the camp property where he works). In the hour before my husband leaves for work we eat breakfast and get ready for the day.
The Joy of Whatever
My kids typically start out playing right after breakfast, and often my husband will join them for a bit before he heads to work. During this time I usually finish getting myself ready, maybe do a quick chore (e.g. load of laundry), or do any prep I need to do for school stuff that day.
Again, by the “Joy of Whatever” I mean this time is just whatever it is! The kids are inspired into play by a variety of things. Who knows what it will be each day!
Morning Couch Time
At some point in the morning I have the kids break from play and join me on the couch for Morning Time. We have done this enough times where they expect it. A nice transitional help to move from play to attentiveness is that I have them switch out our calendar first. We use peg dolls and my Full Moon Name cards as well as the Calendar Pack from The Peaceful Press. My husband built us a little simple shelf for this and the kids love it.
I will share more detail about what we do during Morning Time later. Right now we keep it quite simple: a few spiritual transformation exercises or stories, and then several read alouds. Generally speaking the term “Morning Time” is associated with a variety of activities. The idea is to make this in to something that makes sense for your family. Try not to worry to much what others are doing. I honestly feel that last year and the year before I stressed about making Morning Time is to something I thought others’ expected. Who knows why because no one really cares what I’m doing or is grading me. This year I have felt more freedom to make this time something meaningful to me and my children. Again, I hope to share this in more detail in a separate post so this one doesn’t get too long!
After Morning Time we move to the kitchen table to do some structured curriculum. We do not have a separate school room. Our house is small so we do everything on the kitchen table. Each day (Monday-Thursday) we will do some form of Language Arts and Math. It may not always be from our curriculum. I strive for short lessons so usually this is 10-20 minutes each kid, each lesson. Sometimes I can work with each kid simultaneously, other times I work with them one at a time and the other child is free to leave the table or stay and do something on their own like coloring.
My Kindergartener has a light load — I really don’t have a ton for her as far as structure goes. But, she also begs for school and loves it so I do try to give her little bits. She is learning how to read but we are going slow to ensure she’s not overwhelmed.
The Joy of Whatever
After table lessons we typically need some movement. Often we head outside at this point. Sometimes we take walks, other times it is just hanging out in our yard. We live on a forested camp property with plenty of trails and easy access to wild spaces. We have a family “rule” that says we go outside every day. Even if it’s raining or cold or gross. We make it work. Obviously we avoid lightning storms but you get the point. I think living here makes us feel obligated to be in nature as much as we can, in a good way! We know we won’t live here forever so we soak it up while we can. If we ever move to a real neighborhood I’ll be sure to share how we do daily time in nature then!
We usually eat around noon. Lunches are simple and the kids help get their meals ready. We typically see my husband at this point. We live where he works so his office is just a jog away and it’s been a huge blessing for our kids to get so much time with him in the early years.
Lunch time is one of my favorite times of the day! We sit and talk. It’s so funny that we usually end up having our bigger conversations during this time. My kids like asking tough questions and we just chat about a variety of things. It’s a sweet time.
Clean Up and Stories
After lunch we make sure the kitchen is clean and often I will read at least one story to my kids. Typically it’s a picture book of their choosing.
Early afternoon consists of a one and a half hour quiet time. I use this time to work. I run a small business and need this time to get in some peg doll painting. If not painting, then maybe I’m catching up on email or writing blog posts like this!
My kids can do whatever they want during this time as long as it’s quiet. They also need to be separate from each other. Again, my kids do play so well together most of the day but we also value time spent alone. They can be either outside, in our living room, or in their bedroom (they share a room). They can play with toys, color, play with play dough, do puzzles, read books, listen to audiobooks, lay down and rest, whatever they want.
And yes: they interrupt me every day. It’s inevitable. Somebody needs a Band-aid or someone built a cool thing I just HAVE to see. Honestly: some days I do better with this than others in terms of keeping my Mom-cool.
Also — sometimes we skip Quiet Time or just do a short one, maybe 30 minutes. If the weather is just too ridiculously amazing we might want to all have an adventure together. Or, often on weekends we skip Quiet Time or keep it shorter.
I used to be better about doing this every day, but often I have my kids clean up their toys at the end of Quiet Time. If not all of them, at least enough so we have room to walk. Again, we have a small house so any amount of toys on the floor can feel a bit much at times. They have a knack for getting everything out during Quiet Time.
After Quiet Time we usually do some type of learning rotation: science, history, art, music, or who knows what else. Again, I have a post of all the curriculum we are using this year. This typically involves some reading and a project of some kind and often does not take a long time. The kids also usually want a snack during this time.
The Joy of Whatever
And back to that Joy of Whatever time! For the several hours before dinner, we just do whatever. Again, typically we are outside, but not always. If in the morning we had a huge outdoor adventure, I might put less of a priority of getting outside in the afternoon, for example. Sometimes they might get screen time around now, but that’s not every day. And lately we’ve been reserving screen time for the evenings to make it more of a family affair.
Before 2020 and the coronavirus reality, my husband would be home right at 5:00 PM (again, his commute is effectively 0 minutes). This year he has been able to shift his schedule some days and come home earlier. For a few days he has been able to participate in our school projects and learning: he helped build a volcano recently. Other days he may take the kids to the beach swimming (we have a lake on property) and I stay home to get work done. Or, if I’m not stressed I’ll go swim with them. Another favorite “whatever” activity lately is to go on bike rides through the woods. There is also a large camp parking lot across from our house the kids just love to ride in circles around in.
We keep meals simple. Often my husband is a part of the cooking too. Most meal prep happens at meal time unless we had a soup or something to start earlier in the day. We are at a season of life with our kids’ ages where meal prep is not really a stressful event.
Family Together Time
After dinner we do stuff all together as a family. Again, there is some flexibility here. In a year that isn’t defined by a pandemic my husband and I might trade times to be with the kids on a particular week night, and he or I might go do something with friends or something alone. But most of 2020 has been all of us together. A lot. We sometimes watch a kids show together (or a movie on a weekend). We play games, go outside again, do puzzles, and just have fun together.
Clean-up and Bedtime Routine
Often we are cleaning up at the end of the night to some sort of music, making a Mary Poppins-style party out of it. The kids sometimes do baths in the evening around this time — the other option is in the mornings after breakfast. Just depends on the day and what we did!
The kids get all ready 30 minutes before their bed time. They’ve got their little bedtime prep ritual down. And sometimes they race each other.
Stories and Snuggles
My husband and I rotate evenings who reads the kids stories. I treasure this time so much. Bedtime stories are simply the best! Most nights the kids pick books from our home library or maybe we have a stack of seasonal books from the library that appeals to them. My youngest child is still in that phase where she wants to read the same few books over an over.
Bedtime is 8 PM for the kids and usually they fall asleep within 30 minutes. We keep them active and tire them out! They have a room together since we have a 2 bedroom house, which is so sweet. They love it.
After the kids go to bed my husband and I may spend time together or do our own things. These couple hours before I go to bed are often good peg doll painting time for me but I don’t do that every night since often I’m pretty tired. I’m more of a morning person so I’d rather wake up before the kids and paint then!
Weekly and Monthly Rhythm
Monthly we have a number of rhythms we keep in line with:
Weekly we honestly do not have much going on right now because it’s 2020. Normally we would have something like soccer (evenings) or gymnastics (mornings). Even my husband and I would have some more regular stuff weekly where we might shift a day on who is home parenting solo. As it is, right now we are getting LOTS of whole-family time.
When do we do chores, errands, and meal prep?
Since this is pandemic-2020 when I write this, errands are typically done by my husband or I alone without the kids. My husband has done most of our grocery shopping this year. Last year I would typically do a grocery run with the kids in the morning maybe on a Monday.
But generally speaking I like to run errands in the mornings after we have done our table lessons for the day. It may mean a quick trip to the post office or library.
Meal prep is usually done when my husband gets home from work, sometimes I start before he gets home depending on what the meal is. This really varies on the day, too. We eat simply and I don’t feel too overwhelmed by food prep.
We don’t keep a set weekly meal plan or anything like that. Our style is to wing it. And I really don’t care if we’re all eating peanut butter toast and fresh veggies for dinner if it meant we were outside more. Elaborate home-cooked meals are just not a priority for me.
We have tried a variety of things to have the kids participate in household chores. I used to have us all do chores first thing in the morning and attempted to keep a weekly schedule. However, I soon found out this doesn’t really work for us. I prefer to do chores on-demand. Since we live in and small house and live in the woods and have a dog, I basically at minimum need to vacuum every other day. My son can help do the rugs, but mostly I just do it. I can vacuum my whole house in maybe 5 minutes. It’s not huge task. I’ve tried scheduling out “vacuum day” but in the end it never made sense to me. I prefer to just clean something when it needs cleaning.
Other chores we keep up with as-needed or do a task when it presents itself. For example, when the dog’s food bowl is empty, I ask one of my kids to get him some. When the compost needs taking outside to the bin, my son will take it. We use weekends to catch up on bigger household chores like yard work or cleaning cars or cleaning windows. My husband is honestly a better cleaner than I am and enjoys doing it so that’s nice! We kind of all four of us have our jobs that we are good at and we work together when appropriate. Kitchen clean-up usually just happens while we are in the kitchen at meals. We do not have a dishwasher so we hand wash dishes after every meal.
For the kids, we decided to give them allowance for doing chores. If in the span of one week they complete 10 tasks then then get an allowance. If they haven’t completed 10 then they get nothing and we try again next week. Most weeks they get it done, and it does usually take them a whole week to get to 10. There have definitely been weeks where they haven’t completed it. We give them ideas for chores but don’t force it. It’s their choice if they want to get the allowance or not. And we obviously talk about money with them and what to do with it in age-appropriate ways.
I keep a simple chart on the fridge that’s laminated and they give themselves X’s with a dry erase marker after completing a chore. You can see that below (I blocked out my kids’ names but that’s in the blue spot so they each have their own section). We do not give X’s for general clean-up that is expected of daily life: clean up your toys, if you spill something sweet it up, bring your dishes to the sink after a meal, etc. I do give X’s for making their beds because they don’t do this most days, and honestly I don’t care if they do or don’t. Most days they’re playing with their blankets at some point so what’s the point of making the bed?
This system suits us well for now but I could see if we ever move into a bigger house I would need more of a schedule. And as the kids get older we may increase the allowance and add more than 10 X spots on their charts.
What do we do when things go awry and we get off track?
If you’re reading this you’re likely a parent and you KNOW this deeply. Things just don’t go as planned. We all (including our children) have those days where we’re just a mess and maybe don’t even know what we need.
For example, let’s say we sit down to do our Table Lessons and I get out the Math curriculum to do with my son and he complains about writing one thing down. Do I just totally abandon the plan? Sometimes: yes. Sometimes: no. Sometimes it just takes a conversation and we’re back “on track.” Sometimes, maybe we need to push away the curriculum for the moment and come back to it later in the day. Or not at all.
I will say that the biggest “off track” thing for me in this phase of life with my kids (6-nearing-7 and 5) is maybe on a particular day they are having so much fun playing together that I choose not to interrupt them to have our Morning Time. Then, if we don’t do our Morning Time and it gets later and later in the morning, I have to make a choice: should I skip Morning Time altogether so we have time for curriculum before lunch? Or, should I just do the Morning Time and maybe swap the order of things in the day. I’ll be honest: sometimes I feel like I’m getting these little choices exactly right and sometimes it’s all wrong. I try to on those “all wrong” kind of days to take deep breaths, center myself and be present to the moment. Maybe for that day nothing “gets accomplished” and I need to be okay with that.
This is why I don’t pre-plan and write out in a planner day-by-day lessons for our homeschool. Because I will immediately get off track!
When and how do we alter the schedule?
I have kind of discussed this above but I just want to say that we alter this schedule all the time! It could be in big ways, like say we decide to go to the zoo on a Tuesday and that “throws off” the whole day. Or, it could be in small ways where maybe those morning Table Lessons are just NOT a thing I feel we need to do that day! Maybe what we need is to just spend time together. Or maybe it’s a gross-weather Thursday and I’m exhausted and I need to put a movie on at 10 AM. It happens. Of course it does!
I said this above — but the idea behind having a set rhythm like this is that it’s more than OKAY to alter things occasionally and it’s not going to totally throw the kids out of whack.
Thanks for reading this far. Feel free to ask me any questions!
The article talks about how most children’s book in nature-based landscapes feature either animals or white families. Further, many picture books that do feature black children in nature do so either in an urban landscape or in the wilderness as they escape from slavery.
There are a great many nature-based children’s books available but only a small amount feature BIPOC families. Bears have better representation in children’s books than BIPOC children! Since creating this website I have been an advocate for regular nature-based experiences for children, combating in Richard Louv’s words Nature-Deficit Disorder. And I truly believe that children seeing themselves represented in nature adventures in picture books at such a young age can attribute to that desire and practice.
I am not going to pretend to be an expert on diversity or diverse books as a whole, but I do consider myself a connoisseur of nature-based books. I receive review copies of nature-based books from a range of children’s book publishing companies (large and small) and have noticed a trend in the last year or so to include more non-white children and families in nature landscapes. That said, there still is a major lack of representation in terms of the authors and illustrators. The books I am highlighting are worthy of celebrating, but there is still a long way to go.
Today, I am sharing my list of 40+ favorite nature-based children’s picture books that represent diverse characters. The hope is for moreand more books featuring diverse protagonists, back to the original article I shared: the black Blueberries for Sal.
I will continue to add to this list as new books come in.