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Deep Dive: Thoughts on Our Transition from Homeschooling to Public School

I shared in January how we decided to switch to public school mid-school year and I was met with a lot of encouragement and support but also lots of questions! All excellent questions, but I know many of you want more details and I am happy to take the time to share. I think a number of you were very surprised at our decision given how public I was about our homeschool journey and how much I clearly loved it. (That wasn’t just me faking it for Instagram: I did genuinely love it).

It’s important to say right at the beginning of this post: this post contains my opinions, my thoughts and feelings on our family’s unique experience. My kids are unique and our public school situation is not the same everywhere. Yes, I have some broader opinions about education that you may or may not agree with. We can still have mutual respect and agree that all of us are just trying to do the best we can for our children. I believe that for you. I believe that for me.

One other thing I want to say is that we are still at the beginning of this journey and of course will be navigating this day by day. The public school experience, just like anything else, isn’t always going to be one thing. Right now, four months into it, it’s fantastic but that doesn’t mean I expect it to always be so. Also, we are open to the possibility that homeschooling might make sense for us again some time.

All that to say: I’m sharing about our experience right now and in no way am pretending to be an expert or an advice-giver. I’m personally always wary of advice-givers when it comes to parenting. We all have to make our own decisions and who I am to tell you what you “should” do?! I’m happy to share my truth and experience and if that helps you in your unique process, great!

For those who don’t have time to read all this, here are the highlights:

  • A homeschooler doesn’t love their child more than a public schooler. 
  • Our family loves the connection to our community public schooling brings.
  • Just because my kids are in public school doesn’t mean I’m not a part of their education.
  • I love having boundaries to my work day now and that I get to just be mom when the kids are not at school.
  • Interest-led learning isn’t exclusive to homeschooling.
  • We are still the same family and value the same things, it’s just *how* we go about prioritizing those things has shifted.

Homeschool vs. Public School: Which is Definitively Better?

I’m going to answer that question!

Ha, clearly joking. What a jerk would I be to sit here and write: “Oh, homeschooling is an absolutely terrible idea” or whatever?! Like I just said above, we all make our own choices.

As an early education homeschooler (preschool through 2nd grade), I will admit that to some degree bought in to the idea that educating my children at home was “better than” public school. I read John Holt and lots of other homeschool books, I listened to podcasts and followed all the “famous” homeschoolers on Instagram — all celebrating the homeschool experience. But, (1) I’ve also read Educated and understand that homeschooling (rightfully) also has a terrible dark underbelly. Some of the fears non-homeschoolers have about homeschoolers is legit. We have to be able to say that and still celebrate homeschooling. And, (2) I actually always felt like at some point my children would be public schoolers. As much as I leaned into the homeschooling world, I knew it was never forever for us.

I think it’s become popular for homeschoolers to really “sell” the homeschool experience by sharing beautiful images and words and only the best things, as if to prove to the non-homeschooling world that this is in fact a better life. And I get that homeschooling is not what it was 30 years ago. There are a lot more options to make it a fantastic experience for all! But, just because homeschooling is great and worthy of celebrating for a particular family does not mean that the alternative, public schooling or something else, is less worthy and less great.

Here are a bunch of super fun black & white statements:

  • Homeschooling is amazing. Homeschooling is terrible.
  • Homeschooling is the right choice. Homeschooling is the wrong choice.
  • Homeschooling is great for the kids. Homeschooling is awful for the kids.
  • Homeschooling will gift a child a rich education. Homeschooling will limit a child’s education.
  • Public school is amazing. Public school is terrible.
  • Public school is the right choice. Public school is the wrong choice.
  • Public school is great for the kids. Public school is awful for the kids.
  • Public school will gift a child a rich education. Public school will limit a child’s education.

But — does it have to be one or the other? I think when we look at those statements it’s easy to see how much gray area there truly is.

If there was indeed one perfect way to educate ALL our children, one that is amazing and right and great … wouldn’t we all be doing it?

Further, that question presumes there is even an option, that people have the ability to choose.

It important to acknowledge that MOST (yes, most) people do not have the privilege to even choose. If you are able to choose between more than one option of education for your child: you are privileged. I’m not sure where along the way privilege because such a bad word that we feel like we have to avoid be labeled as such and defend ourselves against it. It’s not a bad word. It’s a truth of every human: depending on circumstances we all have some form of privilege. Maybe it’s that you speak the dominant language of where you live, maybe it’s your health, maybe it’s your skin color, maybe it’s your mobility, maybe it’s the house you live in, maybe it’s your height. There are so many ways we can be privileged. What matters is that we aren’t evaluating the character of a person based on the existence of their privilege … but rather, how we as people use our privilege to help and benefit others.

In summary: no one way of education gets to gift itself the gold medal. Let’s find ways to celebrate the good in all circumstances and help our communities along the way face the challenges.

Q&A: Homeschool vs. Public School

Throughout this post I’ll be answering specific Q&A questions I received on Instagram. I’ve organized them by thematic topic.

What do you hope public school will do for your family that homeschool wasn’t doing?

I love this question because it really makes me think. I don’t think that this question really entered my mind when we were making the choice to send our kids to public school, so I like thinking of it in retrospect.

One aspect of having our kids in public school is that it brings about a direct and tangible connection to our local community. My husband and I both particularly wanted this. We have been able to find new friends for the kids and get to know families that live in our neighborhood with such ease. Almost any time we go to kid-friendly places or events, the kids spot friends from class! I enjoy getting to know the families of the students in my children’s classrooms. I am volunteering with the Parent-Teacher Organization and can meet other parents and caregivers and feel that “we’re all in this together feeling.” Homeschooling felt more isolationist to me with a greater focus on our kids and our home and our family. With the kids in public school the care and love has extended out beyond our own home.

We feel that the scope of our “world” as a family in this community has only ever increased since the kids started going to public school. And we really value that.

Other than that, there isn’t anything where I felt like homeschooling was failing us. The kids were both doing great with it. I was able to find curriculum that worked for them and for me. In terms of education there were a few insecurities I had about where my kids were at but I also trusted the process and that they would learn things in their own time. Spelling was one thing my second grader struggled with and I struggled to teach him, but he has been doing amazing with that in public school and his interest in spelling has increased greatly just in a couple of months. His ability to spell has exploded in just a few months of public school. It could be because he’s being taught by someone not his mom … or it could simply be that he was ready to advance in that area at this time.

How do you cope with the homeschool bashing of public school?

Here we go…

It’s part eye roll, part empathy.

This is something even as a homeschooler I really cared a lot about and said as much in a number of my Instagram posts: to celebrate one way of education NEED NOT come at the expense of the other! If you are a homeschooler and want to celebrate that, great! Please do. It’s a wonderful thing and for so many children it’s giving them a rich education in a loving home. That does not give you license to say that children in public school are worse off.

If you are a homeschooler: your children are not better off. Your children are not more loved. Your children are not better educated. Your life is not better. Your choices are not better. You are not a better parent. You are not a better person.

Yes, there are valid criticisms of the way we do public school but please do not suggest that your child is more loved than mine. Stop celebrating homeschooling by way of comparison! I see loads of homeschoolers celebrating their lives and children but in a generous and expansive way — it really is possible.

I acknowledge that adults and their kids have been hurt in public school and choose to avoid public school (if they can) for those reasons. I feel, again, it is valid and okay to have your own reasons for your family as to why you choose to homeschool … but that need not come by way of bashing those who choose what you did not or making blanket statements about “all public schools…” or saying things like “at least my kid isn’t ____.”

Back to privilege — please also consider that there are families who would love the opportunity to homeschool but are unable.

I do feel, however, it is important for communities to support and celebrate homeschooling and allow families the freedom and ability to choose that lifestyle if they want to! I do understand that it does go both ways, that homeschooling can be judged unfairly.

Why the Heck Would We Choose to NOT Homeschool If We Have the Means To?

I suppose there are a few who will think “I bet she couldn’t hack it” about me. I can appreciate this because homeschooling is indeed a challenging thing to commit to.

Overall the decision came down to a number of factors:

  • I never wanted to homeschool their entire education. I always envisioned at some point our kids would be in public school, it was just a matter of when.
  • I was increasingly burnt out by trying to do two full time jobs at the same time: homeschool and run my Etsy shop. We felt that structuring our days where someone else could be in charge of the education part would allow me to do my job while they are at school, then then JUST BE MOM when they are home. This is huge! Both for our relationship and for my mental health. More on this below.
  • The kids wanted to go! I’ve told them if they ever want to homeschool again we can talk about it, but they both were a part of the decision to go and both are enjoying it right now.
  • I think my oldest in particular was reaching a phase where he could really benefit from someone not his mom being his educator.
  • We felt that with our kids in public school we could be more integrated into our local community.
  • Both my husband and I were public school kids and had positive experiences. I’m not going to pretend it can’t be terrible or won’t be at some point for my children, but I think acknowledging that it can be wonderful is an important first step for a homeschooler considering a transition to public school. Also: to some degree it is what you make of it! There is a lot I cannot control but there are a lot of tools we can empower our children with.
  • We have a number of public school educators on both sides of our family and understand there are challenges but we have always supported it. I like being a part of the system and supporting educators in their amazing work.
Q&A: Why Choose Public School?
Was it the kids’ decision? If so, why did they want to start school?

Yes! A part of what went into our decision as a family is that our kids were interested in public school. Since we moved into a neighborhood and they gained so many non-homeschooling neighbor friends, it was clear that they were interested. I talked with them about what public school looks like (and how their days would be very different), and around October 2021 we started thinking that the NEXT school year would be a good time to transition (Fall 2022). Well, the more we talked about it the more excited the kids got. They asked if they could go … immediately. I said we could go meet the principal and tour the school and then make a decision. Again, the excitement only ever increased and so we made the decision to allow them to transition mid-school-year in January 2022. Both their teachers were more than happy to integrate them at that time, and actually in my 1st graders’ room there was another child starting at the same time as her!

My kids were excited about being around a lot of other kids their age. As a homeschooler, I honestly bought into the idea that with homeschool my kids could interact with children not just their own age and this would be really positive for them. I still feel this is important, but I see now that (a) there is value in them being in a classroom environment around lots of kids their own age and (b) there are lots of ways to get experiences playing with older and younger children outside of the public school hours. We have close family with lots of cousins with a range of ages from my kids and our neighbor group of kids is actually wide range as well – from Kindergarten to 6th grade. It’s really neat!

My kids were also excited to have their own independent experiences — independent of me and independent of their sibling. They didn’t explicitly say this but I do think this was something they were contemplating. I personally love that we homeschooled our children during their preschool and kindergarten years especially because it allowed them to spend so much time together. They are truly best friends and continue to look out for each other at school and on the bus ride. And, they still play together so well when they are home.

Oh, and of course the kids were excited about school lunch and gym class and riding a bus — those things you can’t quite recreate for a homeschooled child. It’s one of those “grass is always greener” things, though. It’s clearly not essential for a child’s development but certainly a fun perk!

How Is Mom Doing?

Well, I still love my kids. I’m still a good mom. That hasn’t changed!

Overall I’m feeling super positive about our decision. I think a part of what goes into that feeling is how well the kids are doing. I think, honestly, if they were having a hard time, then I would feel differently. I had so much anxiety about those first few days of school and friends: my kids were TOTALLY fine! I cannot even describe to you how fine they were and I didn’t need to worry at all.

I said before I really loved homeschooling. That is true, but I also was finding less joy in the whole homeschooling thing. A part of that was the stress of doing two full time jobs and realizing I didn’t have to be homeschooling. I had another option! I think it’s popular among homeschooling moms to be martyrs for their kids and there’s a philosophy and culture upholding that at the expense of the mother’s health. I’m not here to convince anyone of seeing the dark truth of that (because you won’t see it if you’re in it), but just to say that I LOVE MY KIDS but that I wholeheartedly believe that my health and needs and wants matter too. No one wins if a mom just digs in and does something she doesn’t want to be doing “for the sake of her kids.” That’s awful for her and awful for the kids. Truthfully, I wasn’t personally in that dire or extreme of a mental state, but I did feel a little pull towards “Hey, I don’t think I really enjoy this as much and wish things were different.” Now that they are, I do indeed feel better about our relationships.

I feel like I’m a better mom when I’m not a homeschooling mom.

Q&A: Mom First, Former Home Educator
How do you feel your relationship with the kids is now? Do you like just being mom?

Friends, this is huge for me. HUGE.

I was trying to homeschool and run a small business at the same time. This meant that often when my husband got home from work AND on weekends I would be spending time alone painting peg dolls while my husband and kids were off having adventures. Adventures without me. I got to have my own time with the kids during the days but a lot of that was in this mode of homeschooling or trying to multitask. My kids literally started saying to me “Mom, you don’t play with us anymore.” And they were right.

Now, I get to get my work done while they are at school and when they get home I can just spend time with them as Mom. And I get my weekends back!! I can spend an entire weekend ignoring my business and just enjoy whatever it is that is going on. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t do things for myself still and that I’m always on the kids’ clock … but this shift really is a wonderful change for me.

What do you miss about homeschooling?

I miss being able to go to busy places with my kids any day I want and avoid crowds — like the zoo or children’s museum.

I miss us being able to take a family vacation or randomly go visit family whenever the heck we wanted. Now our vacation time is relegated to the time period when everyone around us is also taking vacation. Not cool.

I do miss being able to see and witness all the things my children are learning firsthand. This was really hard at first and I felt like I overly-grilled my kids when they got home to tell me about their days. Now I don’t need to know as much. Their teachers do a great job communicating with us and we see their work when they bring it home.

That said, I have realized that even with public schooling I am still so much a part of my children’s education! I knew this intuitively because I watched my husband for years have a full time job and yet still be a part of so much of the kids’ learning. I know in the homeschooling world there is often (not always) an emphasis on child-led learning or interest-based learning. Friends, that is not exclusive to homeschooling! That happens even with public schooling, and especially in the home depending on the environment. Whatever the situation may be (and there are infinite), a family can still be a part of educating their children. For us this means that we do follow interest-based learning through books. We might go to events or museums. We might pursue a specific sport or extracurricular activity. We have a particular family interest in nature so we are often spending uninterrupted time in nature learning new things every time we do so! Learning knows no boundaries and is not confined within four walls. I still get to be a part of this even though I don’t homeschool anymore.

How Are the Kids Doing?

I think when it comes down to it, most of a homeschooling parents’ questions and fears surround around the child, right? Is my child going to be okay at public school? Can they hack it academically? What if we don’t like their teacher? Are they going to get bullied? What if something terrible happens to them and I’m not there?

When we homeschool we get to see almost everything and there are certain risks that can be avoided. When they are at public school there is so much of their day that we will not know about. There is so much a part of their day we cannot control.

I personally tried to make sure that our family’s reasons for homeschooling was never fear-based. I did not want to be homeschooling simply because I was afraid of what the public school experience might be for them. And so, when we did switch and send our kids to public school I tried to be realistic but also still child-focused. Yes, there is much I cannot control, but my children are full persons and capable of knowing, doing, and being so much in their own way in this world. I want them to feel empowered to face a variety of circumstances rather than spend my efforts controlling and limiting their experiences. Also, as I said before, just because a child is homeschooled does not mean they are free from negative experiences.

We talk to our kids every day about what they experienced at school (the good and the bad) but of course there are things that don’t come up and a lot we will not know about. One time my daughter told us three days later: “Oh, I went to the nurse on Monday.” Ummmm… WHAT? What happened? Why was this not important to tell me that day? Why did the school not call me? Turns out it was just a fall at recess and she was fine, but it is interesting to learn about what your child thinks is relevant to tell you.

It is a huge adjustment to make when you are used to witnessing so much of their lives. That’s just a note for any homeschoolers out there considering public school.

Q&A: All the Kid-Based ANXIETIES!!!
Was the full day at school a shock to the kids systems at first? How long to adapt?

Totally! They were exhausted the first week for sure but I do think by that second full week they started getting used to the new normal. The kids took a couple weeks to learn how to read day-by-day what they need after school. Sometimes they are full of energy and want to just run and play with neighbors. Sometimes they need some quiet LEGO play. We try to help them gauge that each day.

One thing I will talk about more with the next question is the social-emotional coping skills and how that in a way was more exhausting than just the actual amount of time spent in the school environment.

They stay busy and engaged in what they are doing in school and enjoy it, so I think that helps the time pass and not feel so much like a long drudgery of a day.

Obviously public school requires a decent amount of sitting as compared to homeschool. That kind of thing is an adjustment for kids who are used to being active or, in our case, having short lessons. We strove to not do long table-based lessons while homeschooling, but I just talked to my kids about this in advance so they were not shocked by the public school experience.

That said, I appreciate our kids’ school and teachers. It seems they really do what they can to get the kids moving and give them brain breaks. Both my kids’ teachers give their classes “extra recess” on nice days and get outside to do a variety of activities when they can. They play and dance and do things to move their bodies. They are not just sitting and doing worksheets all day. I realize that won’t be true of every public school situation.

What non-academic skills were most needed once they started public school?

On one level: nothing special was required of the kids to be “prepared” for public school! Really. I didn’t do any major sort of prep or training or whatever to get my kids ready. I got their supplies ready and told them to listen to their teachers, be kind, do their best, and ask for help when they need it. Oh, and drink water!

A good friend said something super helpful to me when I was thinking about this transition from homeschool to public school. She had already done the same thing, and she reminded me that the most important preparation is that my kids are loved. The love and stability we provide for them as a family is monumental in affecting their ability to thrive in any circumstance. They are capable and they do not need me to coach every tiny bit of their lives.

I really was blown away at how well my kids did with this transition! They’re thriving with their individual experiences and it’s wonderful to hear all their stories when they get home.

One practical non-academic skill that we later discovered was important for my youngest (first grade) to learn: keeping track of her things! This was something she didn’t have to worry about as much while at home. The first couple of weeks she’d come home with a different thing missing or forgotten at school. She figured it out eventually, but it was an adjustment.

There are indeed a lot of important non-academic skills we can talk about, but I think some of these things are behavioral norms that some children will not be able to match due to a variety of reasons and I want to be careful not to resort to labeling those things as “good” skills and the alternative as “bad.”

One thing that I think is important which we worked on as homeschoolers and still value now is coping skills. Mindfulness exercises, breathing exercises, visualizations, positive affirmations to name a few.

A family member with public schoolers warned me that my kids might come home with nothing left. Meaning, during the school day they’ve done their best and really honed in on those coping skills when necessary BUT then they’re done. They’ve got no coping skills left and so when they get home they might be more irritable or impatient or just plain mad or sad. We noticed this with my youngest — during the week she might have a good cry during the evening about something small that happens. The crying might seem overblown for what the situation is, but it’s good to realize that she is not just crying about that one little thing. She’s releasing so much of what she has been holding on to.

Adults are like that too! Right? We’re just done at the end of a hard day. It’s been important for me to not expect my kids to be totally at their best and happy from the moment they get home until bed time.

How do you deal with bullying?

This is, I’m sure, one of the major fears of parents sending their kids to school. I think what often doesn’t get said in these conversations, though, is that we should be equally afraid that our child might be the one who bullies as we are that they would get bullied.

There’s a lot of parental responsibility there and I’m not a parenting expert so I don’t want to dive too deep in to that.

My kids have had occasional disagreements with classmates but nothing on the scale of bullying. If that were something I was concerned about I would obviously be talking to their school about it.

To me it’s important that my kids feel like they can communicate with me.

I also think we aim to parent towards kindness and we expect our kids to keep an eye out for when others are being treated unfairly or harshly.

How do you feel about the kids being away from home for a lot more time?

I love that they are gaining their own independent experiences!

Even with the kids in public school there is still so much time I get to spend with them. Several hours every day, weekends, holidays, breaks, and summers. I think many homeschoolers value time together with their children and families as a whole, but I don’t see this as a huge loss to have my kids out of the house for public school. There is still so much time in our lives and in a way I value it more now.

The Constants Regardless of Circumstance: On Family Values

Homeschoolers. Public schoolers. We are still the same family. We love being outdoors. We love LEGOs. We love IndyCar. We love games and puzzles. We love soccer and basketball. We love exploring our town. None of that has changed.

We have certain family values that have stayed the same as well.

Q&A: Family Values
What values you had as a homeschooler have shifted with the transition?

For the most part this has stayed the same. We have had to be more mindful how we spend our time outside of school a bit more. So, it’s not so much that our values have shifted but rather HOW we need to fight for those things has shifted. We are the same people, just in a new context.

How do you use after school time?

My kids adore Minecraft but we have a rule that they don’t do screen time on school nights. This was the same rule when they were homeschooling but I feel it’s all the more important now since they have less hours at home. Neither of my kids has homework yet but we thought setting a standard now would be helpful in the future. It’s not that we do no screen time every school night, but it is the exception rather than the rule. We do occasionally watch a show together or I let them use their school iPads for a bit, depending on the day. As I write this we are in to spring now with lots of gorgeous days so getting outside time after school is pretty easy!

We are currently doing piano lessons and soccer with both my kids. That takes up one hour on three days a week. It is important for us that they have exposure to new activities but we also do not want to overwhelm them or our schedules right now. There is a time where they will get busier with that stuff but ages 6 and 8 is not that time. We do want to still protect their after school time as a mostly unscheduled time. They can play with neighbors or we might do something together as a family.

Our family dinner time is important; this is something I personally grew up with. My parents had four kids and a set family dinner time was so valuable and protected. I feel that way to. Meals are a great way to be together in conversation and care.

Things About Public School That Took Me By Surprise

  1. All the germs. We haven’t even been affected by the pandemic, but of course we get exposed to all the other illnesses traveling around. It is what it is.
  2. Screen time. I think because we started in winter and there were also still some stricter protocols in place (e.g. classes ate lunch in individual classrooms) there was a greater reliance on technology and shows during the school day. Instead of outdoor recess on an inclement weather day, my kids play on their school iPads. For some time in January they would watch a TV show during lunch time instead of socializing with classmates. Initially this did rub me the wrong way but at the same time I’m not the one making those choices so I trust they are doing what works best. With improved weather and loosening of pandemic-based restrictions, the screen time has definitely reduced.
  3. I was first taken aback about how much I cared about the kids’ “success.” I honestly did feel anxiety at the beginning that my kids would be behind or something. Homeschooler insecurity for sure. I worried that if they didn’t “do well” then that ultimately came back on me and meant I was a terrible educator for them. Obviously these fears were not legit and eventually I came to see that they both are thriving in their own way in the classroom environment.
  4. They are exposed to SO MUCH in the course of a week! I know there’s always criticism about how much time is wasted in public school but MAN, I am blown away at all they get to learn and experience in a week. Taken as a whole, I do feel it was more than I was doing with them or able to provide for them at home — in a good way. I know more does not necessarily mean better quality but I do feel that my children are taking it in and are not information-overwhelmed. I just mean that even beyond their core lessons and beyond the extra stuff of music and Spanish and art and gym, there is the exposure to lots of life lessons and interactions with others that overall provide for a rich learning environment. We also live in a university town and have access to amazing cross-cultural learning opportunities. The kids have had some incredible guests recently.
  5. There’s not as much science as I would have hoped. I feel like we probably over-emphasized science in our home because it’s my favorite. I’m sure every homeschool family has their “thing” and if you switch to public school you’ll probably notice the gap in that specific thing first. For me it was science. They do science every week but I was basically doing it maybe 3-4 days a week with my kids plus our regular nature explorations meant bonus science. Actually, on the kids’ snow days I found myself doing science experiments with them because we all missed that.
  6. My kids’ bus driver is AMAZING! I hadn’t calculated this initially but it’s so cool to see how she and even the crossing guards and janitorial staff spend their time caring for each and every child that crosses their path. The staff at school do so much. I’m grateful for the people that choose these careers. I wasn’t expecting how emotional I would get feeling the gratitude for all the other adults besides my family that care for my two children. It’s beautiful.

Practical Tips

For those of you who are seriously planning to transition your homeschool children to public school, I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Find a local friend or neighbor to ask lots of questions! This helped me immensely to have a parent friend at our same school where I could ask all the questions. I had SO MANY QUESTIONS about the schedule and what to put in their backpack and what kind of lunch container to buy. It really helps to have someone walk you through it, if possible.
  2. Get to know your child’s teacher. Open communication is great. I’ve found that our teachers are wonderful humans and so gifted at their jobs. I love trusting them and letting them do their job and have no interest in being a helicopter parent. That said, I do feel it’s important to not be afraid to ask questions and check in if needed.
  3. Find ways to volunteer at your child’s school. This will help you still feel like you are a part of their lives in that way. In January our school was doing no parent volunteers due to the pandamic but now there are lots of things going on and opportunities for me to serve and help.
  4. Recognize your children are people and the initial transition will be a unique experience to that specific child. Be open to the possibility it will not go according to your plan or expectations.
  5. If possible, try and spend meaningful time in the mornings before school with your children. If it means setting alarms even 20 minutes earlier so you can have some unhurried time in the mornings, do it. It will help you all to have a bonded morning before the long day apart.

It also goes without saying you need to know your State’s homeschooling laws and requirements. In Indiana, I did not have to show any records nor did my children need to do any assessment or testing in order for us to send them to public school.

Thanks for Reading!

Feel free to comment or ask further questions below.

About

Our Transition from Homeschool to Public School

We did a thing! We decided as a family to transition to public school with the start of 2022, having my kids enter second and first grade mid-school-year even though we had originally planned to homeschool this entire school year.

I wanted to update you on our decision since I created this blog as a homeschool-based site. As of now, my plan is to keep all the current resources and posts available and hopefully continue to share nature-based and education-based content, with perhaps some new ideas thrown in the mix! I would like to share more specifics eventually about our public school experience and even some tips we learn along the way. I know when I searched online I had trouble finding much advice on transitioning homeschooled kids to public school. In the end, we honestly did not need a whole lot of outside guidance, though. Our kids have done beautifully with the transition, are thriving and engaged at school, making friends, and having a blast.

The balance to our family’s days is proving to be a nice change as well. I am able to work on my Etsy business full time while the kids are at school, instead of trying to do two full-time jobs at a time. Homeschooling is a full-time job, after all! With my kids at school, I am able to have a healthy boundary to my days now. When they are home, I can just be Mom. I can put aside my work, any educator-prep or all the other things that can distract me from just being their mom. It’s honestly been so nice and lovely to be able to spend time with them, play with them, talk to them … and I get my weekends back to spend quality family time. When we were homeschooling I often worked on my business on the weekends, missing out on adventures my husband would have with the kids. All that to say: this is just *one* reason of many that we decided to make the transition to public school. For my health and livelihood.

My kids also wanted to do public school! It is something we talked about since moving towns in January 2021. Since living in a town in a neighborhood it’s been fun to see my kids thrive in meeting other children and have their own independent experiences. School is an extension of that. They get to experience so much (and yes, some is good and some is not so good) at school. There is so much to their days that I could never give them.

If you have followed me on Instagram or here for any amount time, you’ll know that even as a homeschooler I never once felt that just because I homeschooled somehow my kids were better off. That their education was better. They were smarter. They were freer. Their lives were better. I was a better mom. Literally NONE of that is true or ever has been. There are homeschoolers that love to regularly praise the “better-ness” of homeschooling and I never have had the space for that kind of sentiment.

Yes, I loved homeschooling and will continue to celebrate it. But that celebration need not come by way of detriment to a different experience. Similarly, now that my kids are public schooled I need not say things like “well, my kids are more ___ than homeschooled kids.” Nor do I need to feel like my kids are having a less-worthy life and education compared to private-schooled kids in town. We don’t need to compare. This is the experience we have chosen as a family for now. It’s working and we are happy. I hope we can all find ways to celebrate when others are able to do as they wish.

And I never forget the privilege it is to even have a choice! We had a choice between two great options. I see and understand that privilege.

I also want to mention that I truly believe that our family values are something any family can foster and celebrate, no matter what educational circumstance your children are in. We aren’t losing anything about the core of our family just because we aren’t homeschooling anymore. We are an outdoorsy kind of family. We love puzzles and watching sports and playing games. We enjoy music and culture and much more. Obviously, all of those things will still be true of us even though we are not homeschoolers anymore! Every family is unique and I think it’s beautiful. We aim to give our children rich and challenging and beautiful childhoods. Right now the context for that is with them attending public school.

I want to close this post by saying a huge THANK YOU to all of you for following me for so many years! I started my Instagram journeying our homeschool experience back in April of 2017, started this blog later that year, and launched my Etsy shop after that! It has meant the world to me that literally even one person would care to read my blog or my posts. All the comments and questions and encouragement has just been so wonderful this whole time. I really love the homeschool community and it’s a neat thing to use social media to help parents out in such a crazy journey! Please feel free to continue to contact me with any questions–even homeschool related! I’m happy to chat any time.

Curriculum · Uncategorized

Our Second Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

ABOUT OUR HOMESCHOOL

I’ve been blogging about our Homeschool curriculum choices for awhile now and have used a variety of things over the course of Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade. I’ve settled in to a few favorites and you will see some continuations from last year. At this point I prefer secular curriculum, but I do not mind sourcing a few things from religious-based companies as long as the curriculum can be adapted. I’ve landed on Blossom & Root as my go-to curriculum and we will be using almost all of their Second Grade year materials.

I’m choosing curriculum that makes sense for my second grader and our family values. The beauty and freedom of homeschooling is that there is not one perfect formula or expectation for every single child at the same level. So if you have a second grader, you might find there are some things that are more advanced for where your child is at and some things that your child mastered last year. That’s not something we should stress about or feel shame over. That is the gift of homeschooling! We get to choose and then make adjustments when things aren’t working or we feel like totally changing up the methodology.

A few curriculum options I will be sharing are currently in process. We are already working through a certain curriculum level because those items are mastery-based and it’s not like there is a clear line of NOW it’s second grade. It’s just what we are working through. So, you might see me share two different levels of a curriculum, just to say we will work through those as the year goes on.

Note that I have a second grader and a first grader for the 2021-2022 school year, so because my kids are so close together, there are a few things we do together – things like science and literature and history. So, in a way, a number of things I’m sharing are a hybrid first-second grade year. Again, with homeschool, I do not think it really matters what “grade” we call it.

I also understand that beyond curriculum people often want to know how the function of our actual school day works and how all the components come together in a sane and manageable way. I am always a bit overwhelmed when I read about other people’s curriculum choices because I’m like HOW are you doing all of that?!? So, I get it.

The HOW is just as important as the WHAT. But, for this post, we’re just going to discuss the WHAT. So, take a deep breath and let’s begin!

SECOND GRADE SUBJECTS

  • Language Arts:
    • Literature
    • Reading
    • Spelling
    • Writing
    • Grammar
  • Math
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • History
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music Appreciation

Keep in mind: curriculum covers academic subjects but home education is about SO MUCH MORE than academics. 

Also: it’s important to know your state’s legal requirements when it comes to homeschool. I am in a state with very little requirements or regulation, so I have quite a bit of freedom with my curriculum choices.

LANGUAGE ARTS: LITERATURE

For this coming school year I am combining Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts and Level 2 Language Arts. The Level 1 Language Arts has recently been updated and the entire selection of literature is different from the Level 1 that I used for First Grade. I was really excited to see all these changes and since I have a Second Grader and First Grader this year I thought it would work well to pull from both language arts curriculum pieces. So, I am using 16 weeks from Year 1 and 19 weeks from Year 2.

We will be reading from the following books:

What I am leaving out from Level 1 (Weeks 1-19 and Week 36):

  • Classic tales and fairy stories
  • Ananse stories

We already have read a lot of the stories used in the first half of the Level 1 Language Arts, so instead I wanted to incorporate the folktales from around the world from the second part. We also just finished a special unit on Africa and read a bunch of Ananse stories so I am leaving that out too.

What I am leaving out from Level 2 (Weeks 13-29)

We have already read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz twice together so I do not want to repeat that again. I’ve tried The Wind in the Willows before with my children and did not care for it. And — The Hobbit is a book both my husband and I have been excited to read with our children since before they were born! My husband *really* wants to read this with them, and so of course that’s what we will do! Therefore, I didn’t see the point in including it as a “school” focus where the kids would also do some narration and copywork. They’ll just read it for reading’s sake with their Dad.

I am also using a condensed version of this curriculum, focusing in on:

  • Literature
  • Narration
  • Copywork

In addition, we may (or may not) incorporate some of the:

  • Fun projects, play, and storytelling
  • Journal prompts

***I’m skipping all the reading lists and poetry activities from the curriculum because we use a separate curriculum for reading and spelling (see below).

I printed out and bound an abbreviated student notebook using just the relevant narration and copywork pages for the corresponding weeks in Year 1 and Year 2.

Note that I do not expect ANYONE will be following exactly what I’m choosing to do for this year! I thought it would be helpful to share, though, to see how easy it is to adapt curriculum to suit your family for any number of reasons. For me, it came down to: (1) not repeating stories we have already read and (2) meeting my two children in the middle. I really love the style and literature choices Blossom & Root makes for their language arts program, so that’s why at the core I wanted to stick with that rather than just do a different curriculum.

READING AND SPELLING

We will continue using All About Learning for reading and spelling in our homeschool.

Right now, my 2nd Grade son is working through All About Reading Level 3 and we will begin All About Reading Level 4 at some point this school year. And what happens after Level 4? We’re in the “Read to Learn” phase, hooray!

I also wanted to mention that we do a lot of independent reading separate from the actual curriculum. My son can read a lot but we still stick with this reading curriculum because I believe in the effectiveness of giving a child a strong foundation for reading fluency.

You might be interested in this post: My Favorite Early Readers

My son also listens to audiobooks during his quiet time and throughout the learn-to-read phase we’ve enjoyed using ABC, See, Hear, Do products.

For All About Spelling my son is on Level 2 and we will continue on with other levels as he completes them. I will be purchasing Level 3 next! I also use this Primary Spelling Notebook from schoolnest — they work perfectly with All About Spelling because they have the same number of lines as the word lists in the curriculum.

If you are interested in getting a closer look at All About Reading Level 1 see this blog post.

I really love this curriculum BECAUSE it separates out reading and spelling into two separate tracks. We have tried a one-size-fits-all style curriculum (The Good & the Beautiful), and it did not work for us. Read about why All About Learning is customizable and why that might be a good fit for you here.

Note that we use the Letter Tiles app which is perfect for switching between the two curricula as well as switching between two different children at different levels.

WRITING AND GRAMMAR

Building Writers from Learning Without Tears

For this curriculum you can also download the Teacher’s Resources for free which have extra printable writing pages in this program’s format — these are SO great because you can write well beyond what the notebook provides!!

In terms of other writing programs, I have heard good things about Brave Writer (we’ve actually used some of Jot it Down), Once Upon a Pancake, and Writer’s Toolbox.

Handwriting Notebooks from The Good and the Beautiful

Note that these notebooks are not secular and include Bible verses.

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

Grammar and Punctuation from Evan Moore

I like the simplicity of the lessons in these notebooks. I have also looked at Easy Grammar and may give that a shot as well this year.

We will work on other types of writing activities through our language arts and history programs as well. And I have these fun resources to help inspire creative writing (which we will use with the Building Writers format:

Overall I still try to take a really gentle approach here and do a lot of writing WITH my kids, transcribing their words in little books they create or we verbally create stories through play. I also still write or type out for them their narrations when it comes to science and history.

MATH

For math we will be using Dimensions Math Level 2 from Singapore Math. I buy the Teacher’s guides, Textbook, and Workbook for each level.

You can read about our experience with Dimensions Math Level 1 on this blog post and why I love it so much!

Note that the curriculum rollout for the Home Instructor teacher guides for Dimensions Math has begun. As of this blog post, the Year 1 guides are available. The original Teacher’s Guides (like those pictured above) are designed for classroom use. Many activities assume several children can work together, which doesn’t always fit for a home experience. The Home Instructor guides are tailored for homeschoolers and eventually there will be a guide for the later elementary years. As soon as the Year 2 ones come out, I think I will purchase them. Though — I will say that using the Teacher’s Guides is working out just fine for me.

SCIENCE AND NATURE STUDY

Blossom & Root Wonders of the Plant & Fungi Kingdom

One of my kids’ favorite parts of our school year last year was the Blossom & Root Science Unit – Wonders of the Earth & Sky. The format and style of this science curriculum worked well for our family.

The recommended books to pair with this curriculum are as follows:

I also really like the DK Trees, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds book and I Ate Sunshine for Breakfast — I am using these instead of the recommended Botanicum book to pair with the curriculum.

I’ve also pulled out the following books to explore with our year of plants & fungi

We will also incorporate fun things to extend all the learning:

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

A NOTE ABOUT NATURE STUDY

I like to say this a lot: nature is the curriculum. I mostly consider nature study to be simply: immersive nature experiences. Any kind of “nature study curriculum” to me should involve being outdoors and very little to no expense, printouts, resources, etc.

There is a Nature Study companion to the above-mentioned science unit, and I do have this printed and ready to use. The nice thing about this curriculum is there’s no particular order or schedule to it. The projects are all something we can fit in throughout the school year without it being overwhelming for me to prep. The big project ideas to coordinate with Plants & Fungi are things like creating your own leaf book with pressed leaves or seasonal wreaths out of plant material. Overall there are about 32 prompts and 4 bigger projects, all of which can be completed in whatever schedule makes sense to you.

I like the overall approach of the Blossom & Root curriculum when it comes to nature-based lessons. The idea is that it’s great and fine to have a prompt or guide, but the topics are never intended to be a fixed agenda that you hold fast to at the expense of letting your child’s interests and curiosity be the guide. Therefore, we will use this in ways that are fun and assist in learning our science concepts, but I won’t let this be something I feel we have to do.

HISTORY

This year for history we will be using History Quest: Middle Times. Last year we so enjoyed History Quest: The Early Times — the format and depth and richness of this curriculum was so lovely and I can’t wait to continue with it! The curriculum uses the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History to pair with lessons.

The Study Guide provides learning summaries, guided prompts, curated reading lists, suggested ways to plan out your week, examples for copywork, and additional crafts or engaging projects. You can just read the chapter-book style book of History Quest, but I highly recommend purchasing the Study Guide as well.

I created a unique student notebook for each of my children using some of the student pages provided by History Quest (in the Study Guide) but also included pages for copywork with ruled lines for my kids to write on, and then pages for illustrations and narration to summarize what they learned each week. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see the details of how I created this notebook in my “History Quest” stories highlight.

We will also be using this awesome History Timeline notebook from schoolnest to document our learning.

ART APPRECIATION

For art appreciation we will be using Blossom & Root Exploring the Math in Art (Year 2) which is such a unique and interesting way to approach art! We enjoyed the Year 1 version of this curriculum. In includes a simple picture study of a famous work of art (sourced from a wide range of artists and styles), then exploration of a math concept. There are also simple guided prompts to crate an art piece based on that week’s artwork and math concept.

I recently came across Drawing Workshop for Kids and hope to find ways to incorporate this with my kids this year!

My kids also take a weekly art class that they both enjoy attending — the teacher usually has different themes each month like ancient art or color theory. My kids also spend a lot of time with independent drawing and creating. I purchase drawing notebooks for them to fill up to their heart’s content.

OTHER SUBJECTS

We build in music appreciation to school as well and poetry. My kids have a few other activities they participate in but overall I try to keep lots of room for freedom and play and exploration in their days. I know all the above seems like a lot, but I want to be clear that we also do a whole lot of nothing in particular. It’s glorious sometimes and boring sometimes.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK

WHAT THIS LOOKS LIKE ALL SCHEDULED OUT

I’m not going to give a fully detailed weekly schedule here, but just wanted to share a few quick thoughts about how all of this fits in to a week of lessons.

We work on our core academics Monday through Thursday. Every day I make sure we do (1) math, and (2) some form of language arts (reading, narration, literature project, copywork, writing, spelling are all options — we might do a couple of these but I would never do all those in one day!)

I then rotate and switch around history and science lessons, typically spending maybe 2-3 days on each of those topics, depending on that week’s topic and/or my childrens’ interest level. Some weeks I’m sure we could do science in one day. I’m pretty flexible with how we spend time on these subjects. I just try to make sure I’ve done a library grab of topical books in advance (based on curriculum suggestions), and we go from there!

Fridays are for nature time, poetry and art appreciation.

And of course we take breaks here and there just because. I don’t keep a planner or anything. I might look one month or two in advance just to get a general idea of where we are headed with the topics and how we might need to work around holidays and celebrations, but I would never strictly plan out our weeks far in advance!

FOR FURTHER READING

You can find more details about our curriculum choices for Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade here. I also have lots of general homeschool related resources on that page!

Thanks for following along with us. I know some of you have been with me since the very beginning of our homeschool journey and I can’t believe we’re on to 2nd grade now! It’s so fun and crazy.


This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Curriculum · Uncategorized

Blossom and Root First Grade Curriculum Review

Why I Love Blossom & Root

Blossom & Root is a rich and secular homeschool curriculum choice that is flexible, engaging, and affordable. Each year can be purchased in its entirety or families may pick and choose which specific subjects meet their needs.

When you purchase a specific subject for a specific year, note that the Parent Guides are robust and meaningful; the “how to” is thorough but there is also a lot of room for freedom for you to implement the curriculum in a way that makes sense to you. All book lists and website link are thoughtfully curated to be age-appropriate as well as include a diverse range of perspectives. This is one of my favorite parts — knowing I can trust the resources that pair with our devoted topics.

Blossom & Root focuses on language arts and supports STEAM subjects. Blossom & Root incorporates lots of hands-on activities, projects, and outdoor activities. Student notebooks are included to document your child’s learning, but so much of the curriculum is “done” through hands-on and rich learning practices. This curriculum helps foster a child’s natural love of learning and invites them to make connections on their own.

Blossom & Root is decidedly secular at its core, but educators will be able recognize some learning style elements from Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and Waldorf approaches. Of course any religious family may use this curriculum and easily incorporate their family’s personal beliefs/choices in addition to this curriculum! Open-ended play and outdoor adventures are encouraged. Narration, copywork, and dictation are incorporated in the language arts programs. Rich literature is celebrated. STEAM subjects are included through a range of hands-on experiences.

Lastly, I mentioned above that Blossom & Root is committed to including a diverse range of perspectives in its curriculum. This is shown through a commitment to revisit and revise existing curriculum to alter booklists and learning subjects when appropriate.

You can read about my entire set of curriculum choices for First Grade here.

Language Arts

The MOST IMPORTANT point to make right out of the gate: Blossom & Root just released their Version 2 of the Level 1 Language Arts curriculum! So exciting!

You can view a sample of the booklist here. Stories include a wide range of folktales and legends from Indian, Scottish, Vietnamese, and Hispanic origins, among many other fairytales and folktales.

The Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts curriculum contains:

  • literature projects
  • journaling
  • word building
  • poetry activities
  • narration
  • copywork

In addition to these language arts components, there are opportunities to explore geography and culture as you read through favorite folktales of the world. Children will have opportunities for storytelling through play and engaging project ideas as well as record their ideas and what they learned in a Student Notebook.

This past year wee had the first edition of The Stories We Tell. The literature used in this version was:

Note: The Version 1 and Version 2 language arts components both include fairytales, myths, and folklore. Version 2 does not include the nature lore stories (Among the People). If you purchase the Blossom & Root Level 1 Language Arts curriculum at this time you will receive BOTH Version 1 and Version 2 of the curriculum. Please read more at Blossom & Root for details.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK at both Version 1 and Version 2 language arts components

Okay, so how did utilizing this curriculum go for us?

The short version: I gave up on using this curriculum *exactly* as directed pretty early on in our school year.

The long version:

If you join the Blossom & Root Year 1 Facebook group, you’ll see lots of discussion about the literature used for Version 1 of The Stories We Tell. As stated above, this curriculum has all been recently updated. We honestly did enjoy the Among the People nature lore series; however, my kids were less enthused about pairing these stories with literature projects and narrations and copywork. So, in the end, we just read the stories and let the stories just stand on their own without projects or notebooking. I do know others had children that did not enjoy these stories and left them out entirely. In terms of the fairytales and folklore section of the curriculum, read below for how I adapted that.

I decided then to switch tactics a little bit BUT keep the same spirit of The Stories We Tell. I bought my kids each a simple composition notebook, then would read them one of the fairy tales or folklore stories. I chose some stories from this curriculum selection (books noted above) and other stories I picked on my own from books like the following:

The kids would illustrate something from the story, I would have them do simple copywork from a memorable line from the story, and then they would narrate to me what happened while I wrote down exactly what they said in the notebooks. We did this one day per week. Again, this style of learning in essence captures what you’ll find in The Stories We Tell curriculum! In addition there are fun, engaging narrative prompts, ideas for play in storytelling, word lists, and even prompts for creating poetry using cut-and-paste words. The depth of skills touched on in this curriculum is rich while remaining age-appropriate.

I want to note that a part of the reason I switched to simplifying this language arts component was that both of my children are working through All About Reading and All About Spelling (which I still love). So, I felt like some of the words lists and other journaling prompts provided in The Stories We Tell Student Notebook were redundant with what the kids were getting in All About Reading.

Science

Okay, this science curriculum (Wonders of the Earth & Sky) is SO GOOD!! This is partially due to subject matter, but my kids ADORED every minute of this curriculum. They would beg to do science every day! Yes, probably because sometimes were were making igneous rock treats and building exploding volcanoes outside — but that’s exactly the point! This was so much fun. The concepts for geology and meteorology can be complicated for college students, and I love how these were all broken down in meaningful ways while keeping the kids engaged with topics.

Wonders of the Earth & Sky covers geology, weather, and seasons. You will get a Parent Guide, a Laboratory Guide, and a Student Notebook. The main book spines used throughout the whole curriculum are the Super Earth Encyclopedia and Nature Anatomy. There are alternative suggestions when you purchase the curriculum.

For each week, you as the parent are given several “big picture points” to read over with your child(ren). Beyond that, there are lots of options depending on what kind of family you are, what kind of time you have, and how your children learn best. Each week presents at least one hands-on experiment or project. You obviously do not have to do these each week, but I did find that most of these were easy to implement without too much fuss or even expense.

There are books (some required, and many optional) to gather from the library for that week. Or not. If it feels like too much to add in the extra reading, skip it. But, I personally did love all the extra picture book options for each topic. The book list is fantastic.

Each topic also has a few curated videos to find online (typically 3-5 minutes long) which I found to be extremely helpful for my visual learners.

Lastly, there is a student notebook which includes a single notebooking page per week/topic. Children are asked to illustrate what they learned and either narrate or write themselves what they learned. At the end of the school year my kids absolutely loved having this completed Student Notebook of their very own to read through and remember all the fun learning we did this past year.

NOTE: There is a coordinating Nature Study companion to this science unit, which I think can be a great way to get children out in the natural world around them, exploring the topics they are learning for science. That said, I choose not to have a specific nature study curriculum for our homeschool because this particular topic I prefer to have nature itself be our curriculum. What happens in the natural world and what we observe through our regular outdoor time is the thing that is our guide, our teacher. I just want to be clear that I think the Blossom & Root Nature Study companion to the science is great and that my choice to not use it has nothing to do with my opinion on the quality of the program.

Book Seeds

Year 1 also includes six special edition Profiles in Science Book Seed issues. You get all of these with the purchase of the curriculum so do not add these to your cart. These Book Seeds all coordinate well with the Wonders of the Earth & Sky curriculum topics and can be incorporated throughout the year at any time. I preferred to dive into these around the same time a coordinating topic came up in the Wonders of the Earth & Sky that way the kids could make connections. For example, we read more about Marie Tharp when learning about the Earth’s crust and plate tectonics in Week 3. It is also possible to come back to the Book Seeds once you finish the science curriculum altogether.

Math in Art

Exploring the Math in Art is a unique and fun curriculum component for the Year 1 level! Each week you introduce your child to a specific art piece for an art study, then you discuss and learn about a given math concept and how it is incorporated in that art piece (e.g. shapes, symmetry, patterns, and balance). Last, you can give your child an opportunity to do an art project implementing what they learned in a way that coordinates with the selected art piece and math concept.

I love how unique this program is and the wide range of art, artists, and art styles that are incorporated. We looked forward to this each week and the kids especially grew in their art study skills over the course of the year.

On to Second Grade!!

We plan to use the full Blossom & Root Second Grade curriculum next school year. Though, I think I may also include some stories from the updated Version 2 of the First Grade Language Arts! The book selection looks fantastic, and next school year I will have a child in Second Grade and a child in First Grade, so I do think I will included language arts elements from both years.

NOTE: The next big sale for Blossom & Root will run August 1 – September 15th. Please note if you are homeschooling beginning in the fall and need time to print out the parent guides and student notebooks this process of printing may take awhile. Online printing companies like Making Family Count, Family Nest Printing, and The Homeschool Printing Company get busy this time of year.


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Uncategorized

Favorite Early Readers

Early Readers From Our Homeschool Curriculum

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.

Favorite Early Readers

ANYTHING by Arnold Lobel!!

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!

Mo Jackson Series

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:

Henry & Mudge Series

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!

Mr. Putter & Tabby Series

Similar to Henry & Mudge, this series was written by Cynthia Rylant and features endearing characters with relatable stories. There are 19 books in this series and they never get old!

The Good & the Beautiful readers box sets

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

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!

Penny Series

This is a lovely Level 1 set by Kevin Henkes. Really sweet and engaging stories. There are four total in the series. Again, I appreciate books that have recurring characters for children at this age.

Usborne Beginning Readers

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 nonfiction information 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.

Little Bear Series

The classic Little Bear series is a sweet and enjoyable series for kids and adults to enjoy! There is a very good reason these have been favorites for years and years.

Other Early Reader Joys

Elephant & Piggie series

Ling & Ting series

We do like some of the Dr. Seuss books as well.

A Note About Interest-Based Books

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.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Happy Reading!

Books · Uncategorized

Quarto STEAM Club Highlight

The Need for STEAM 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
  • STEAM-based videos
  • 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.

Past STEAM Club Selections

You can view more selections on the Quarto STEAM Club Amazon page. Enjoy!!

Note: I was given copies of all the Quarto STEAM books mentioned in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions are my own.

This content uses referral links. Please read my disclosure policy for more details.

Nature Study · Uncategorized

Salmon Nature Study

Books

*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.

Resources

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

  1. Cut a piece of cardboard in the shape of a salmon. I printed out a coloring page first as a pattern to trace.
  2. Have your child wrap the cardboard fish in aluminum foil.
  3. Cut small pieces of bubble wrap (you don’t need much!) to use as your stamper.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Lastly, we hand-painted the fins.
FOR MORE OF OUR NATURE STUDIES SEE THIS PAGE
Uncategorized

Our Homeschool Daily Rhythm

About Our Homeschool

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.

If you are interested, I have all of my First Grade Curriculum Choices on a blog post.

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)
  • Read together
  • Dance parties
  • Create something
  • 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.

Some Helpful Resources on Daily Rhythm:

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!

Table Lessons

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!

Lunch

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.

Quiet Time

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.

Projects/Learning Rotation

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.

Family Dinner

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.

Common Questions

When do we do chores, errands, and meal prep?

ERRANDS

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

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.

CHORES

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.

That’s it!

Thanks for reading this far. Feel free to ask me any questions!

Uncategorized

Our First Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

FIRST GRADE HOMESCHOOL CURRICULUM.jpg

ABOUT OUR HOMESCHOOL

What School Year Are We In?

This coming year I have a 6-turning-7 year old and a 5 year old. My oldest will be doing his First Grade year and youngest will be doing Kindergarten. We have been homeschooling from the beginning with both children — you can read about our Preschool and Kindergarten curriculum choices and years of learning on this blog.

What I Changed This Year

This year I am changing some things up a bit and I am very excited about it! Last year (for Kindergarten) we used The Good & the Beautiful for Math AND Language Arts but this year I have chosen not to continue with The Good & the Beautiful. I honestly do not have any major complaints — they provide wonderful curriculum options at very low prices. Truthfully, the low cost was a major factor in my choice for that for Kindergarten. Plus, the Level K Language Arts program helped me teach my son to read. How cool is that?! That said, we ended up skipping a LOT of the curriculum — both in the Language Arts and the Math–more so in the Language Arts. And I had concerns about continuing with it. I will explain more in detail in those subject areas below.

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

What Is my Homeschool Philosophy?

Note also that I do not follow any one homeschool philosophy. If you are new to homeschooling I recommend you check out my Homeschooling Resources page for helpful articles and quizzes on a variety of philosophies as well as websites and curriculum broken down by a few of my favorite philosophies. We are an eclectic mix of all the things and I am happy to change it up at any time.

Preference for Secular Curriculum

One other factor that has guided our curriculum choices: We are cautiously Christian and prefer secular curriculum. I did not realize this last year but I do know now! We are a Christian family and faith in God and spiritual practice is important to us, but I am finding that most Christian-based homeschool curriculums are not in line with our family’s values and beliefs. I am more often than not frustrated with institutional Christianity and I guess in a way it is not surprising I find Christian-based homeschool curriculum to be frustrating as well.

When thinking about a science curriculum, I do not want it tied to the Bible. When thinking about a history curriculum,  I want something that features a diverse and inclusive set of voices. When thinking about literature, I want books published today and not 75 years ago. I am not saying all Christian-based curriculums are wrong or off, but that I have a less likelihood of running into these personal-preference problems if I seek out secular curriculum.

Now — please know I’m sharing my own personal preference here and not making any kind of judgment overall about how I think everyone else should operate. I thought I would take a risk and share the truth of my journey with homeschool curriculum choices because I know many of you struggle with this kind of thing. There is no perfect curriculum so we all have to make our individual choices on what we feel is best. I am also NOT saying I will never use a Christian-based curriculum, just that I am generously skeptical about it.

For me, I have found that basing our core curriculum in a secular framework works best, and then I can add in our spiritual practices in a manner befitting our family. 

Alright, so here we go!

FIRST GRADE SUBJECTS

  • Language Arts
  • Reading and Spelling
  • Math
  • Science
  • Nature Study
  • History
  • Art Appreciation
  • Music Appreciation

And a few extra things which I will explain in detail below!

Keep in mind: curriculum covers academic subjects but home education is about SO MUCH MORE than academics. 

LANGUAGE ARTS

Blossom & Root Language Arts 1st Grade.jpg

Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell

I love the literature included in this curriculum and how Blossom & Root incorporates principles of Charlotte Mason using living books and narration. The literature featured in this curriculum and others of Blossom & Root are diverse and inclusive, which I often find lacking in many Charlotte Mason booklists. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters is an excellent example. This curriculum even integrates geography and culture as you explore the countries of origin of many of the folktales you read together. “Language arts” can include MANY different categories—in this curriculum it includes:

  • literature projects
  • journaling
  • word building
  • poetry activities
  • narration
  • copywork

Oral narration and copywork are both things I am excited to incorporate more with my oldest; that said — I plan to do this gently at least at the beginning. Because we are also doing a reading/spelling curriculum (see below), it may not be that every week we are completing all of the language arts elements listed above from The Stories We Tell.

What I love about Blossom & Root is that this curriculum invites you to explore narration through play and imagination, not just in a formalized oral narration or written narration. It should be fun and natural, and in that regard both my kids are already excellent at narration–we just don’t write it down! I highly recommend reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass if you are interested in incorporating narration in to your homeschool.

Note that we are using other elements from the whole Blossom & Root First Grade pack.

Jot It Down! from Brave Writer

I love Julie Bogart and Brave Writer! She’s such an inspiration. Highly recommend reading The Brave Learner. The Jot It Down! curriculum includes one project per month for 10 months and is geared towards ages 5-8. I will note that Brave Writer is not just a writing curriculum—it’s a lifestyle. There is much that I am excited about with this addition to our homeschool.

READING AND SPELLING

All About Reading All About Spelling.jpg

All About Reading / All About Spelling

I mentioned in the introduction that last year for Kindergarten we used Level K Language Arts from The Good & the Beautiful and it helped me teach my son to read. However, we skipped so much of the curriculum. He was interested in the reading portion, but the curriculum incorporates spelling alongside the lessons which I felt he wasn’t ready for. Not to mention we skipped things like poetry memorization or art narration or curriculum-specific stories included in The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts. At base level I thought: if I’m skipping so much, why are we using this?

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

Enter: All About Learning! This curriculum separates out reading and spelling which is EXACTLY what I wanted! Here is a helpful post explaining why reading and spelling is taught separately. It’s brilliant. I really wish I had done this last year. Honestly, a big factor in my decision last year was this felt more expensive than The Good & the Beautiful, but now I totally see the value and understand why. This is an amazing put-together curriculum that’s easy on educators and incorporates a wonderful multi-sensory learning style that I know my kids will love and respond well to.

For my First Grader we are using:

For my Kindergartener we are using:

I also LOVE LOVE LOVE the coordinating Letter Tiles App which we will use on our iPad. This removes the need to have a white board and physical letter tiles for the lessons (which has been the standard use for All About Learning). We live in a small house and I am so excited there is this option to have LESS STUFF to manage for lessons. The app also makes it super easy to switch between children at different levels as well. It’s made for multiple-child families in mind. Love it!

Note: Later we will likely add in a bit more grammar lessons. This post is helpful to understand language arts sequencing as a whole.

MATH

Dimensions Singapore Math

Dimensions from Singapore Math

Last year we used The Good & the Beautiful Level K for Math and as I mentioned in the intro, I felt like we just skipped a lot. The content of math subjects and flow was fine, but it felt like there was a lot of narrative and stuff I just skipped. To be honest: I also found when we got to cartoon Native American depictions in the 2nd half of the curriculum, I just could not bring myself to continue. Note — I also had *briefly* tried Math Lessons for a Living Education before we started last year and did not care for it. It is not comprehensive.

*Note that since the writing of this post I have decided not to promote, support, or recommend ANY products from The Good & the Beautiful.

As I researched what math curriculum to switch to, this was a helpfuI post I came across:

I ended up landing on Dimensions from Singapore Math. This is a helpful detailed review of Dimensions Math I do not feel the need to repeat. But, I will say this: I am a huge fan of math! My favorite subject in high school was Calculus. I want math for my kids to be fun and interesting and yes: challenging.

What We Are Using

For my First Grader we will be using Dimensions 1A and 1B. Note that pacing of these levels is entirely up to you. I have looked through 1A and think we will end up going through that pretty fast with my son because he knows most of that already.

For my Kindergartener we will be using Dimensions KB and we will go slow with that for her.

Key Notes on Dimensions from Singapore Math

  • Dimensions is the newest line of curriculum products from Singapore Math. It was written by American educators who have been using Singapore Math in their classrooms for years.
  • Singapore Math use a unique CPA (Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract) progression to learning.
  • Dimensions has full-color Teacher’s Guides and Workbooks through all of Elementary.
  • The curriculum provides a wide range of activities and hands-on learning to make math hit home. You will use math manipulatives to pair with the lessons. The textbooks are fun and engaging, but that is not the core learning of this curriculum.
  • Currently the Teacher’s Guides are designed for classroom use. They WILL be making Home Educator’s Guides for the Dimensions line soon (Home Educator Guides are available for the other Singapore Math lines that exist). But, this means in the meantime if you have Teacher’s Guides as a homeschooler you will need to adjust and adapt (or just skip) some activity options! To me, this has been no big deal because I am not interested in doing EVERY activity anyway. I strive to keep our Math lessons short and engaging.
  • I think this curriculum works well for a range of types of learners!
  • Coordinating printable resources (flashcards, printable ten frames, etc.) are all available online and organized by chapter.

Thankfully there are a lot of different Math curriculum options out there. I am happy to have found one that so far seems to work well for both of my learners.

SCIENCE

Blossom & Root Science First Grade

Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky

This year for science we will be using Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky. As indicated in the name, this is an earth science curriculum. We will learn about geology, weather, the seasons, and more.

I love the Parent Guide in this curriculum — each lesson is guided with several options on how to explore the topic further depending on what type of family and learner you have:

  • Minimalists
  • Book Basket
  • Visual Learners
  • Outdoor Learners
  • Table-led Crowd
  • Crafts-and-Projects

The idea is that each week you aren’t doing ALL of these to learn one thing; instead, you can pick which idea best suits your situation! I love this. There are so many great ideas and depending on the week I think we will change our tactic. Maybe one week we will do an outdoor learning idea and another watch curated videos and the next do a craft.

Note : the purchase of Wonders & Earth & Sky also comes with the Blossom & Root Book Seeds curriculum which focusing on great thinkers in the STEAM world: Marie Tharp, Mary Anning, William Kamkwamba, Isatou Ceesay, Charles Darwin, and John Muir.

Secular Homeschool Science

For those interested — here is a helpful list of secular-based homeschooling science options.

Additional First Grade Science

I would love to also do sometime this school year another science unit — I think both of my kids would love a Human Anatomy unit.

We may also do one of the Burgess Simple Studies units this year because my kids love those stories.

NATURE STUDY

I do not follow a specific nature study curriculum. You can read more about how we do nature study here. The short version is: we spend time in nature every day. We let that be our curriculum. Nature is the curriculum. If a particular topic or creature becomes a notable interest point, then I go about gathering some coordinating books or printables. Though, most often we are not doing some elaborate nature study parent-guided lesson!

That said: I fully appreciate that we live in a not-average setting. We live on a woodland camp property with a lake, wetlands, creek, etc. to explore with easy access right out our front door every single day. I fully appreciate that that is not normal! If we did not live where we live now, I would possibly follow something like Exploring Nature With Children. The truth is I have tried to follow that before and became frustrated when topics did not line up with what we were actually witnessing in the natural world. So, I just gave up and we do our own thing. But in a different setting, I could see that working out well.

Note that Blossom & Root does have a coordinating Nature Study that pairs with the above-mentioned science unit. It is very open-ended and prompts are not even designated specific week numbers! You just do the prompted activities as you see fit.

HISTORY

History Quest

History Quest: Early Times from Pandia Press

This school year we will be studying the ancient world using History Quest this year! My son has been showing major interest in this part of history so I am so excited to be using this curriculum. History Quest is designed as a narrative-based history curriculum (similar in style to The Story of the World for those who are familiar, but History Quest is secular and excludes religious bias). Note that Pandia Press is committed to inclusivity and anti-racism and is currently rewriting all their older history guides.

I am excited that this ancient history goes all across the globe to different places and includes wonderful coordinating book lists where we will explore archaeology, mythology, and a variety of world religions. Because of the nature of this curriculum, this inherently includes culture & geography. Through the year I will use related fun books like See Inside World Religions or The Ancient World in 100 Words.

We will also use the coordinating Study Guide which includes curated book lists, educational videos, simple-to-implement projects, as well as journaling through narration and illustration.

Shopping for history homeschool curriculums presents a challenge if you are looking for diverse and inclusive options. Truly inclusive. I do know many people end up just creating their own “curriculum” by reading from diverse and, more importantly, own voices literature. Moving forward, after we do this ancient history curriculum, I would like to do American History. Some sites for inspiration I am currently looking at for that are here:

I want to wait to do American History until my youngest is at least First Grade level that way we can dive in a bit more.

ART APPREICATION

Art Appreciation.jpg

Blossom & Root: Exploring the Math in Art

For art appreciation we will be using Exploring the Math in Art from Blossom & Root. This is a super simple guided art appreciation curriculum that includes a wide range of art styles, eras, and country of origin. I appreciate an art curriculum that goes beyond “the masters” which predominately means white Europeans and Americans.

For this curriculum, each week we will explore an art piece in three ways:

  • Simple Picture Study
  • Explore the Math Concept in the Art Piece
  • Create a Coordinating Art Project

I will find each week’s art piece online or in a book if we have it. I have the following art history related books that we may or may not use depending on the week:

Note that art appreciation is also incorporated in to our history curriculum.

MUSIC APPREICIATION

SQUILT.jpg

SQUILT: Eras of Music

We will be using the Musical Era Bundle from SQUILT this year, beginning with the Modern Era. These lessons are wonderfully curated and include important music concepts in such a fun and engaging way for kids.

We also have a SQUILT Membership BUT you do not need to have a membership to use the Musical Eras Bundle! You can also purchase the Meet the Composers cards, Meet the Instruments cards, and Elements of Music posters. I keep all of these in a “music” bin and we use them regularly through our lessons.

I am also super excited about the upcoming release of the book Composers: Their Lives and Works to enhance our music learning experience.

You can view my Favorite Music Appreciation books and resources here.

CULTURE & GEOGRAPHY

Our culture & geography is covered both in History Quest and Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell.

We also subscribe to Letters From Afar.

After we finish History Quest, I plan to do a culture, geography, and history unit on Africa. We will using books from Heritage Mom’s blog post African and African-American Culture: Early Elementary Books and her Amazing Africa Heritage Pack as well as others!

You may also be interested in a previous Culture & Geography post of mine.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Seasonal Songs

Rooted Childhood is a thoughtfully created inclusive seasonal guide that includes poetry, book recommendations, songs, handcrafts, and recipes to help connect through seasonal-based experiences. We use the songs (which include tutorial videos for those who are like me and not musically-inclined) for our morning time and love them!

You can save 10% at Rooted Childhood if you use the code: SILVAN

Creative Time

Art is integrated in to several of the curriculum choices above but we will also do projects from ChalkPastel and Rooted Childhood.

I am also interested in maybe trying out Waldorfish this year.

Poetry Tea Time

Poetry Tea Time is something we have done for awhile and I plan to continue. It’s honestly way simpler than it sounds. The idea is for it to be time together reading poetry and (sometimes) drinking tea. We don’t always make fancy snacks or anything. It is often popcorn and chocolate bars. I have a range of poetry books I use and enjoy skipping around. We will use poetry from Rooted Childhood and once a month also use the Chickie & Roo Flower of the Month Club once a month.

Brave Writer has a wonderful free quick-start guide on Poetry Tea Time if you are interested!

Spanish

The Cultured Kid

I honestly really want to continue with our Spanish learning but it happens so slowly. I treat this more as a fun thing to add on rather than a true curriculum we have to incorporate.

Everyday Life

And I do not want to leave out the fact that just “living life” is a subject of its own that is beyond the scope of curriculum. This is such a huge benefit of homeschool: we incorporate chores and self-care and all that good stuff just as a result of all being together in the same space all day. It is simultaneously simple and maddening, right?

I also try to be mindful of health & safety on a regular basis. This stuff isn’t popular to talk about and doesn’t make for pretty social media photos but it’s so important. Do my kid’s know how to call 911? Do they know their address and phone number? What should they do if someone is choking? And we have conversations about getting lost in the woods and body autonomy and so much more. I put a “health & safety” note on my monthly planner pages just to make sure I am mindful to incorporate these topics regularly. I have the Safety Unit from The Good & the Beautiful (*religious content) which works well for some aspects but I don’t feel it is wholly necessary to have a guide like that.

FOR MY KINDERGARTENER

My Kindergartener will join along for Morning Time each day. She will listen to the stories from our language arts curriculum: Blossom & Root The Stories We Tell. She will not do the coordinating oral narration or copywork, but will certainly participate in our play-based narrations and general enjoyment of literature! I often let her choose picture books she wants to read for Morning Time as well.

I imagine my Kindergartener will want to participate in the History Quest stories and lessons but I am not requiring her to. It’s totally up to her!

For reading, she has been showing interest and readiness, so we are doing All About Reading Level 1 with her.

For math, she is on Dimensions KB by Singapore Math. Lessons are short! Maybe 15-20 minutes at most.

For science, she gets her own Student Notebook to pair with Blossom & Root: Wonders of the Earth & Sky, but I am not requiring it of her. I suspect she will want to fully participate though. She really does not want to be left out of what her big brother is doing and loves anything labelled as “school.”

Nature study = go outside every day.

And I imagine everything else she will participate in to the degree she is interested. We really do most things together. She especially loves crafts and cooking so I plan to have some focused one-on-one time with just her during our weeks as well.

VIDEO INSIDE LOOK

HOW DOES THIS ALL COME TOGETHER?

Well … you’ll have to wait for it!

But, seriously, that was just a lot of info so I’m saving our weekly schedule & plan and how this comes together for a separate post. Stay tuned!

Note that this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information see my disclosure policy.

Uncategorized

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Homeschool Curriculum Comparison - The Silvan Reverie

To Preschool or Not to Preschool…

There is a wide range of opinions in the homeschool world about whether or not to “do preschool” with our children. Charlotte Mason purists will hold to the idea that under age 6 should be a “quiet growing time” and that no formal lessons should begin until age 6. I believe that most homeschoolers are some kind of eclectic mix of philosophies and are not purists in the sense they hold fast to that as a hard rule. Many are willing to do school in some way before the age of 6.

I think sometimes there is this notion if you buy a preschool curriculum or you see others doing preschool with their children, that it creates an overly structured learning environment that is too much for kids at that age. We use phrases like “protecting childhood” which are important, but I truly do not believe if you are going through a preschool curriculum you are NOT robbing your children of childhood. Most preschool curriculums are specifically designed to NOT be overly time-consuming or burdensome. There are SO MANY hours in a day that you have to spend with your child, and a preschool curriculum might give you some intentional learning space for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes a day.

Further, the activities in these homeschool preschool curriculums are often so gentle and naturally fit in to the flow of your day. Many activities are about focusing on the child and where they are at, figuring out their learning style as well as what works for you as the home educator. It’s supposed to be fun!

Preschool at home can appear to be overwhelming, especially if you are considering it for your first child, but it truly does not have to be!

One last point I have is that preschool for your children likely is going to look vastly different between your first child and subsequent children. It’s just a thing that happens. As your older children move up in grades they will require more planning and prep and focused time from you, so moms of multiple children will have to get creative with preschool curriculums if they are interested in incorporating these with their preschoolers. There are a number of ways to do that: only do a few of the activities each day, or take one day a week to dedicate special time with just the preschooler, or involve the older children in helping do activities with the preschooler. Lots of options for creativity and finding a fit that flows with your family!

When to Begin Preschool?

Between the ages of 2 and 6 there is such a WIDE range of interest and ability when it comes to learning. You as the parent are going to have to figure this out on your own. No one can do this for you. And you will likely falter and need to re-find your footing. There will be some things you try with your child that just do not work. Try not to take that personally. Try not to see it as failure. The fact that you are the parent at home with your child and able to see that child in love and fullness is a huge gift! You get to decide that something is not working and reimagine something new for them. They will not have to be forced in to something simply because 20 other kids their exact same age are doing that thing already.

One of the best gifts of a life of a preschooler spent at home is: freedom. This time truly should be filled with unstructured time and play and read alouds and creative exploration and lots of outdoor time. If you buy a curriculum, keep in mind your core home values and make sure to stick to those things. Feel free to skip activities or take weeks or months off of caring about the curriculum. These are invitations, not requirements. Know your child. Love your child.

Similarly, what I feel does not get said enough is that YOU matter. You as the home educator matter: what you enjoy, what you are capable of, who you are. Be attune to yourself and your needs and try not to compare yourself to what others are accomplishing with their children.

How to Choose Curriculum

I encourage you to sit down and think about your homeschool vision and priorities before you start shopping around. This does NOT mean you need to have your entire homeschool philosophy for the next 12 years perfectly articulated and solidified! I am still in the early stages with my children but, as I understand it, many homeschoolers shift and change and revise and grow as their kids grow. The vision may alter and adapt as needed, but that does not mean your initial vision was wrong! It was right for the right season.

Here are some helpful places to start thinking about your homeschool philosophy and vision:

For example, our home incorporates a mix of homeschooling models, but we have some core value “key terms” that I try and consider and even revise a few times a year:

  • Knowledge of God
  • Living education, not school
  • Outside every day
  • Atmosphere of love
  • Rhythm, not schedule
  • Celebration of beauty
  • Whole self health
  • Community-mindedness

I have a list where I expand on each of these items and try to evaluate if any are lacking at given times.

Four Favorite Preschool Curriculum Options, Reviewed

Below I have provided some detail for four Preschool Curriculums that I own:

I encourage you to download the free sample week from each shop if you are interested in seeing what these are like.

Here are some helpful budget-friendly options to print digital versions of curriculum:

The Peaceful Preschool Overview- The Silvan Reverie
The Peaceful Preschool

Overview

A literature and project-based 26 week gentle curriculum that runs on on a letter-a-week theme. The Peaceful Press is predominately Charlotte Mason and Montessori inspired, though elements of other pedagogies weave their way in.

We did this curriculum all the way through, and absolutely loved it. I decided, since my son was 3.5 at the time we began, to extend the time of preschool to longer than 26 weeks and instead spread it out over longer than a year. We spent 2 weeks on each letter and did some extra on-theme activities, taking breaks here and there. This is not at all necessary! You can stick to the 26-week curriculum and not add on a single thing.

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Read Alouds
  • Phonics
  • Counting Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Large Motor Skills
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Art Skills
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Easy to follow; the weekly grids are well-designed and supply lists are organized meaningfully
  • Adaptable to work with what works best for your family
  • Excellent book list!! The book list for this curriculum is so good! Even if you do not wish to do a full-blown preschool curriculum, any home library for little ones would be enriched by any book from this book list.
  • Developmentally appropriate activities, hands-on learning and beautiful projects
  • Considers natural rhythms and home life with multiple children
  • Budget-friendly activities — most activities take in supplies you likely already have around the home or at least could come up with a suitable alternative.
  • Access to a private Facebook group when you purchase.
  • Designed with some religious content (Bible stories and optional weekly Bible verses) but this can be easily adapted for the secular household

What Comes Next?

Depending on when you began, you have a couple options if you want to stick with The Peaceful Press. You could go to their Early Elementary series like The Playful Pioneers (based on The Little House on the Prairie series) OR they have monthly guides that work well for a Kindergarten year (e.g. Sky, Mountain, Desert). There are (or will soon be) 12 guides so you could do one per month! Check out The Peaceful Press for more.

A Year of Tales Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie
A Year of Tales Preschool

Overview

A literature and hands-on approach to preschool with beauty and nature learning weaved in. This uses the Beatrix Potter tales as well as nature-based literature for a gentle year of hands-on learning and exploration. It is a full and rich curriculum and well worth reading the introduction for general homeschool inspiration.

We used the A Year of Tales elementary curriculum for our Kindergarten year for my oldest child — this blog post details what I planned for that year. Towards the end of our year when the Preschool curriculum was released I began incorporating it with my Preschooler (age 5).

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Character
  • Phonics
  • Literature
  • Math
  • Imagine and Explore
  • Handcrafts and Project-Based Invitations
  • Friday Tea
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Easy to follow with weekly grids and supply lists but also adaptable — the activities are invitations and it is up to you to decide what works for you
  • The nature learning is beyond excellent and age-appropriate
  • Hands-on approach that is also age-appropriate and full of beauty
  • Emphasizes character building and takes in to account the whole child, not just academics
  • You get a LOT of extra worksheets and printables with this curriculum to weave in if you child is interested and ready, but these are not at all necessary to do the core work of the curriculum. There are also nature study-based printables that are beautiful and would be useful for beyond the preschool years. It is shocking how much extra you get for the price.
  • Easy to pair with the A Year of Tales elementary curriculum if you have multiple children. You can take two approaches: pair it with A Year of Tales Elementary, or do it on its own going through the alphabet A to Z.
  • Incorporates a Friday Tea Time which is used for engaging in beauty and review of the week
  • This does incorporate Bible verses weekly but if you wanted to do this from a secular approach I believe you could

What Comes Next?

Blossom & Root Early Years Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Blossom & Root Early Years

Overview

A comprehensive open-and-go curriculum with hands-on learning, engaging projects, and beautiful incorporation of the arts. You can read more detail and download free samples here.

Note there are two volumes to the Early Years Volume 1 covers ages 2-4 and Early Years Volume 2 covers ages 4-6. You can purchase them bundled together and save.

Subjects Covered in a Week

Early Years Volume 1

  • Read-Together Time & Prompts for a Literacy-Rich Environment
  • Environment / Experience Prompts
  • Nature Study
  • Composer Study
  • Math & Science (with Environment, Experiences, Engagement)
  • Picture Study
  • Kindness & Connectivity
  • The Arts (Visual Arts, Dramatic Play)
  • The Kitchen Classroom

Initially this might seem like a lot of categories for ages 2-4 but these are truly meant to be incorporated so easily in to your day!! Everything is experience and play-based and minimal to no prep is involved for each week.

Early Years Volume 2

  • Read-Together Time (Read-Aloud plus Activity Invitation, Poetry)
  • Reading / Writing Readiness
  • Composer Study
  • Picture Study
  • Kitchen Classroom
  • Exploring Artistic Expression
  • Early Math Foundations
  • S.T.E.M. Activity
  • Nature Study & Notebook
  • Interest-Based Investigations

Highlights

  • Hands-on learning requires no worksheets or printables to manage
  • Open-and-go and little prep is involved
  • In my opinion this is the best option out there for a secular household or a household that incorporates its own specific religious traditions. We fall in to this category. We are Christians but often I am shopping for secular curriculum to ensure it fits with our worldview.
  • Budget-friendly and designed for a busy household. Most activities are incorporated in to the flow of your day.
  • A beautiful and seamless incorporation of the arts (picture study, composers, etc.)
  • Weekly STEM-based age-appropriate learning in addition to math and nature study. I really appreciate the STEM focus!
  • Excellent book list and incorporation of poetry

What Comes Next?

I highly recommend buying the Early Years & Kindergarten Bundle to save money!

Habitat Schoolhouse Preschool Overview - The Silvan Reverie

Habitat Schoolhouse

Overview

This curriculum is mostly housed in a worksheet-style student notebook but that does not mean there are no hands-on activities! I love the inclusion of a wide range of arts & culture lessons, the science is nature-based and there is an inclusion of Montessori-based skills on a daily basis. You can read more about the preschool curriculum here.

Subjects Covered in a Week

  • Reading
  • Letters & Phonics
  • Number/Counting Skills
  • Shapes & Color
  • Arts & Culture
  • Plants & Animals
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Field Trip

Highlights

  • Pretty much everything you need for this is right in front of you once it is all printed out
  • Low-stress for the home educator to incorporate
  • I think this works well for having multiple children around and wanting to not spend a ton of time gathering resources each week
  • Some children genuinely respond well to worksheets and the ones in this curriculum are engaging, thoughtfully-designed and beautiful. I know many parents are grateful that a program like this exists.
  • Globally-focused in literature, art, culture, and nature
  • Includes shape and color recognition activities every day
  • There is a private community for this program but you need to purchase a membership

What Comes Next?

Comparison Charts

Preschool Curriculum Comparison

Preschool Curriculum Overview - Weekly Categories Covered
A Few Other Options

I have had friends use the following curriculum for preschool and love them. I personally have never used these so I cannot speak directly, but I wanted to add them to the list here for your exploration:

A Year of Playing Skillfully (Religious)

  • Designed for ages 3-7 to have a year of wonder and discovery through hands-on activities and play. Each month has a set theme and the curriculum activities are laid out monthly instead of weekly/daily to allow flexibility. Charlotte Mason inspired and includes memory verses from the Bible. Free sample here.

Before Five In A Row (Religious)

  • A precursor to Five In A Row, designed for ages 2-4 but similar in style in that it is literature-based. Activities are built around the stories. You can download the Goodnight Moon unit as a sample.

My Father’s World (Religious)

The Gentle + Classical Preschool (Religious)

  • Charlotte Mason-inspired with hints of Classical. Follows Charlotte Mason’s List of Formidable Attainments Before Age 6. Includes memory work from catechism and the Bible. Open-ended, literature-based. Level 1 is for ages 2-4 and Level 2 is more Kindergarten-leaning, for ages 4-6. Level 2 includes math. Note: The Teachers Guides are completely free! Seriously! You can then purchase printable bundles to pair with each level.

Torchlight Pre-K (Secular)

  • A 32 week full curriculum designed for ages 4-5. Not dependent on religious beliefs. Follows traditional educational standards for this age but also includes the development of emotional intelligence and humanistic values (truth, morality, etc.)

Charlotte Mason – A Quiet Growing Time

If you are sold on a more purist Charlotte Mason style homeschool I do recommend Leah Martin’s Charlotte Mason Preschool Foundations guide.

For a secular perspective of Charlotte Mason’s principles for ages 3-6 see A Quiet Growing Time from Juniper Pines.