Oh Right, We’re Homeschooling

I recently stumbled on a post written when Hannah was 2 1/2.  It was about what we were doing for homeschool.  With a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old and a babe in utero.  I think at the time I felt like I needed to quantify what I was doing, because I felt like I just read out loud for hours every day.  In hindsight, that was probably the most important thing I did for the kids, and that habit is still one we benefit from.

So yeah, I’ve been a homeschool junkie for a while.  I will say that I’ve learned a lot over the past five years.  I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie.  But some things are the same–the core of our day is reading out loud together and I’m still passionate about education.  I don’t know, and would not venture to guess, what our schooling will look like in years to come (or even next semester), but this is what we’re doing now.

Math

Most days, we start with math.  The day just goes more smoothly when we get this under our belts immediately.  That’s why there is a lot of oatmeal residue on the math books.

  • Hannah: Saxon 3
  • Jack: Saxon 2
  • Sarah: Saxon K

We took a detour last spring and Hannah and Jack both completed Singapore math books.  I like the approach, but the reality is that I don’t have time to do extra drill, whereas Saxon builds that in for me so we’re back to Saxon this fall.  And no, Sarah doesn’t really need a math book at age 4, but she likes to feel a part of things and kept asking for her own Saxon book.

READING TIME

We cover a lot of subjects together, because it’s easier and fosters a shared body of knowledge and I think that reading aloud together is just about the most important thing I do with my kids.  We’ve been reading together since they were babies so they pay attention pretty well and we all like this part of school best.  As we read, the kids narrate back to me what they remember, so I can tell if they are paying attention and getting it, or if I need to backtrack and explain something.  We have a lot of interesting conversations along the way.  Here’s what we cover in Reading Time:

Bible

We are using Training Hearts, Teaching Minds for our Bible study.  Finally the kids are perfect ages for this fantastic book.  Each week focuses on a different catechism question and talks about related scripture and issues.  We also do Jack’s Sunday School Biblestudy, work on our memory verses, and sometimes sing a Psalm or hymn.

Grammar

We do a lesson from First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1 together.  This is for Jack, but Sarah knows it just as well as he does and Hannah really ought to be doing the lessons from Level 2 but I haven’t gotten around to adding that yet.  Her workload is a lot higher this year, and I think she needs time to feel secure about that.  We might add Level 2 work for her later.  Meanwhile, she’s doing a lot of extra writing and grammar work with Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids–her co-op class is doing level 3.

History and Literature

Sarah and Jack are in the Lower Grammar class of our Tapestry of Grace group, and Hannah is in Upper Grammar.  So we do the Lower Grammar history and literature assignments as read-alouds, while Hannah does the Upper Grammar reading as independent work.  Jack reads aloud from a short chapter book related to the topic we’re studying as his reading work (he’s reading chapter books really well, but still working on expression when he reads out loud).  It’s a lot of reading, but it’s interesting.  This year we’re doing Tapestry of Grace Year 2.  We also use the Classical Conversations history statements and timeline, although we are not part of a CC group this year.

Science

We learn the Classical Conversations science statements and read living books about science (lots of these are listed on the Sonlight reading lists, if you’re interested).  Our Tapestry co-op meets every 2-3 weeks and does an experiment from Noeo Physics, and once a week we try to do a science experiment at home–either from Classical Conversations or another experiment book.  We’re taking a break from a science textbook for now.

Preschool/Basics

Sarah is in preschool and although she enjoys learning along with Hannah and Jack, I don’t want her to miss out on the fantastic literature I used to spend all day reading when the big kids were little.  So every day we read some Mother Goose (good for rhyming and cultural literacy, if you want to get technical), an Aesop fable, a fairy tale or folk tale, and three or four picture books (we have our favorites from all sorts of lists, but I go for strong storytelling, great artwork, proper grammar, and no twaddle).  Sarah is learning to read from The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading but we do her lesson separately once we go back to the table (see below).

Memory Work

In addition to our Bible memory and Classical Conversations memory work, we also use Reading Time for memorizing our Shakespeare speech, doing math memory like addition and multiplication facts, Latin vocabulary, and so forth.

BACK AT THE TABLE

After finishing up Reading Time, we head back to the table for other subjects.

Spelling

  • Hannah: Spelling Plus (she does this as part of her independent work, but does the dictation sentences at the table) and looking up vocabulary words in the dictionary (one or two per day)
  • Jack: All About Spelling Level 2

Handwriting/Copywork

Geography

We do the Classical Conversations map work as well as the Tapestry of Grace map work that ties to what we’re studying that week.

Writing

Hannah is doing a lot of writing this year, or at least it seems like a lot.  As I mentioned above she is doing level 3 in Tapestry of Grace Writing Aids.  Each week she writes a composition incorporating a different pre-writing technique or type of writing.  She learns about the type of writing on Monday, pre-writes on Tuesday, does a rough draft on Wednesday, and a final draft on Thursday.  She’s catching on.  Last week she wrote a three page treatise on Joan of Arc with only help on spelling and a few reminders to alter her sentence structure. I was proud.

Latin

Our Tapestry group is doing Latin for Children, and I really, really like this program.  Concepts are well explained, and grammar is presented well so that kids (and parents!) can understand it and apply it.  I think we were a little burnt out on Prima Latina, and it’s helpful to have the co-op for accountability.

Art/Music

We do orchestra once or twice a week (listening to a composer’s music while reading about him), and listen to classical music frequently.  We do art study when it coincides with what we’re learning about in history that week, and on Shakespeare Fridays we do a lot more music and also do lessons from Drawing With Children.  We have had some good art study so far in covering the Middle Ages, and as we move further along we will have even more chances to learn about artists in their historical context.

HOW LONG DOES ALL THIS TAKE?!?!?!

Written out like this it seems like a lot, even to me.  We build on a little bit year by year, so it’s not overwhelming to us now.  Generally we start school some time between 8 and 9, and Jack and Sarah are almost always finished by noon or 12:30.  Before lunch, at any rate.  Hannah spends a portion of afternoon quiet time doing independent work at her desk–usually reading her history and literature assignments and working on spelling, handwriting, and writing assignments.  Occasionally we have days where everyone is determined to be as sloooooow and inefficient as possible and the kids are still straggling over schoolwork at dinnertime, but that’s rare, thank goodness.  It’s more fun when school is finished early, so that after quiet time they can play or we can do an art project or read for fun or go on a walk or something.

One reason this works is that I have learned to plan ahead.  I’ll go into that process in another post–this one is already pretty long.  I hope it was helpful and/or interesting.  I always like to read about what other families are doing, even if I don’t do the same things.  I definitely don’t want to present what we’re doing as prescriptive in any way.  If nothing else, this post will probably be good for a laugh in another five years, when schooling a 7 1/2 year old will seem as simple as “school” for a 2 1/2 year old seems to me now.  🙂

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments or send me an e-mail.  I’m not an expert, but a lot of what I do know I learned from other homeschoolers who were willing to talk about their experiences, so I’m happy to do that too!

7 thoughts on “Oh Right, We’re Homeschooling

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I love reading about what others use for homeschooling. 🙂

    I was curious if you were still doing CC or something else. I had no idea TOG had co-ops. What do you like about it compared to CC? Obviously you like some aspects of CC since I still see some of their work in your day, but that ouls also be because it fits well with what you are doing. I am really curious to know because I am interested in CC but I like the look of TOG, too. Decisions, decisions!

    We are still with Sonlight (core C with different readers for each child’s level). I really love it and am hesitant to switch because of all the great books we read. (By this I mean “switch to CC, because several church friends in CC sigh when I share about a current reading fave, and they reminisce about the days reading good literature with Sonlight. They said they really can’t do that with CC, and when I hear that, I cringe. ) We use Abeka for math and Explode the Code for X for phonics and additional handwriting practice. M uses Wordly Wise C for some additional vocabulary and spelling practice. Our Bible and geography work comes from the curriculum so, after breakfast, we sing our memory verse, color our geography map and sing our corresponding song. (We use Geography Songs by Kathy Troxel.) For handwriting, we use A Reason for Handwriting.

    After B goes down for a nap sometime around 1:30, we finish the bulk of our work. We sit together and read our history (from Sonlight but also supplemented with SOTW), do any related worksheets (sometimes I supplement with things online), and work on phonics, reading, and language arts. We also have quiet time to listen to classical music and we do our science experiment, if we have one. It is also time for our poetry work and art. And every day, the kids have a required quiet time when they need to read for a certain number of minutes.

    1. Vicky, I think I may pull your question about CC out for a separate post. But the short answer is, I’ve never used CC as a curriculum so it never prevented us from doing a more literature-based approach (the first year we were in CC we did Ambleside Online, last year we did TOG). I know some people do use CC as their only thing, but that’s not they way I define classical education, and it wouldn’t meet my educational goals for my kids. I see value in some of the CC memory work, but only if it’s tied to bigger ideas like we get from TOG. Our co-op is a group of families who do CC AND TOG, so it’s certainly possible to do both, although we are only doing CC at home this year. If Sonlight is working for you, I say keep with it. I needed something more chronological and integrated for multiple levels over the long-term, so TOG works better for us, but I think Sonlight is a really strong program. You could do CC as a supplement (which is what we always did) to get the social benefit of a homeschool group, but it’s a pretty expensive supplement. Depending on your area you might look for other families who are doing Sonlight or whatever curriculum you use in the future, or get your homeschool group fix with a co-op that does art and music or something totally different.

  2. Thanks for your feedback. 🙂

    See, while I love Sonlight, I know we could never do CC AND Sonlight together (too expensive at this point). But I love the concept of everyone learning the same things together, instead of me trying to teach 3 kids with 3 levels of Sonlight (which is what we are facing, and it would still be expensive). Maybe that will help guide me in my contemplation of TOG? 🙂 Most of the CC moms I know have used something else, and they said CC simplifies things for them, so they are not using multiple packages to teach their children, but one best-fit approach.

    1. That was my conclusion about Sonlight too–with four kids in different grades it seemed it would get overwhelming pretty quickly. Whereas with TOG they can all be learning the same thing, but at four different levels. Plus you only have to buy the year plans once and then can use them the next time you cycle around, so you buy four year plans and decide if you want to buy the books or get them from the library, and that’s your K-12 for however many kids you have.

  3. Oh my word, THANK YOU for continuing to post your homeschool updates…we are about to make our homeschooling efforts officially official (before this, we were doing Five in a Row, mostly as an excuse to read more out loud but still call it ‘school’…hehe!) and I am absolutely freaking out with all the options and choices for a classical education. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you posting this all; both practically and emotionally, it is WONDERFUL. 🙂

    Do you think you could elaborate more (at some point) what the cost(s) are for y’all and your various curricula? Do you spend much each year past your initial investments? We don’t have a particularly classically-focused homeschool group in or near our somewhat-small town so I have a feeling I’ll be purchasing many (most?) of these items new.

    Thank you again, so sorry for the long and rambling novel. I’m a longtime reader/stalker, but first time commenter. 🙂

  4. Loved this post! Our plan is still to start ToG next year. Hoping to talk to you and Adrienne about that (ToG) later this school year.
    I never thought about doing the CC memory work just at home!! Maybe b/c I’m still pretty new, but I just assumed you needed to do the co-op as well!! Now I just have so many more questions! I like seeing how you are using CC with ToG for multiple kids at different levels. Excited to see the post you mentioned to VIcky about more answers to her questions.
    Thanks for all the detail in this post!
    sarah recently posted..The {essential} Oiler’s Handbook

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