Last summer, as I planned our 6th year of homeschooling, I got a little scared because I was putting together our first year of truly custom plans. I wasn’t using a boxed curriculum for our together subjects. I trusted myself to know what had worked over the previous 5 years of homeschool but I still doubted if what I planned would be exciting to the kids or cause a mutiny. And now I can say that we did make it to the end of they year with most of the plans still working for us. Also, I can look back and review what curriculum worked and where we needed a plan B. This school year ended like no other as we sheltered in place to slow the spread of a global pandemic. As so many of the activities we loved were cancelled our school routine kept us grounded.
We planned to read through Story of the World Volume 2 using the coordinating maps and coloring pages and adding a Lapbook for the 5th grader. This worked wonderful. They had a great time listening to the audiobook each week and the coloring pages helped with focus. We did give up on the lapbook in the spring because other projects and Covid-19 took over. But over all it was a success.
As we looked forward to our empty summer days of pandemic restricted life we choose to continue with Story of the World Volume 3 over the summer. We are moving faster through volume 3 and adding some timeline figures to our books so we can see them when we start American History in the fall.
The plan was to use Expedition Earth by Confessions of A Homeschooler to study countries around the world and make a lapbook along the way. I can say this was a success. We had a great time visiting 30 different countries over the year. The lapbook was teacher intensive because I had to go looking for different pieces for each country. The curriculum we used had very cookie-cutter lapbook pieces and we wanted more variety. One of my goals was sneaking in more fine-motor work besides writing, and this worked great for that. Cutting each week’s lapbook out and short writing and coloring assignments achieved my goal.
My plan was to try a completely new curriculum and follow science through history with the Berean Builder’s Science in the Scientific Revolution. We gave this a good try and used it for a good 12 weeks, but it didn’t stick for us. When picking this curriculum I forgot I am not a hands-on mom so the required experiments didn’t work for us and the text referred to the experiments too much to not do them. The kids also felt it was over their heads and required background knowledge we hadn’t covered.
We jumped back to our old favorite of Sonlight Science. We jumped in to the Science “C” curriculum and picked a unit that interested us, on how machines work. In the spring we also did two different unit studies on Coral Reefs and the history Space Exploration inspired by our vacation to Texas and a cruise. During the Shelter in Place period we added another audiobook to the rotation and enjoyed listening to Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry and wrapped up the year with a few more units from the Sonlight C on weather and birds.
For our Art curriculum last year we planned two things. Art Appreciation with the book Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories, and Four Artist Study units with some friends. The art appreciation went great as weekly part of our together school. The chronological presentation let us see how new techniques developed. We will read the second half of the book next year.
It can be challenging to know what will happen when you make plans with a friend nine months ahead of time, but for our Artist Studies it was another success. We used the Greatest Artists lessons from Confessions of a Homeschooler and made it work for us. My friend is a messy art mom and I’m a read aloud mom, so we split the teaching to our strengths and everyone said it was a success. It worked really well to plan our units at times in the school year when other activities were in a lull, instead of adding one more thing every week.
Our Literature selections this year were Aesop’s Fables and poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was fascinated by some of the lessons the kids drew from the Fables and their understanding of relationships from the stories. We read an abridged collection of Stevenson’s poetry which left time in the year to add some other titles. We added some short biographies and stories from around the world. Around the World in 80 Tales was a great supplement to our World Geography studies. And we added some math enrichment as we learned about the lives of great mathematicians in Mathematicians are People Too.
Our Bible studies started the year by finishing Leading Little Ones to God, which we had started the previous year. After a short break we added Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones, which lasted the rest of the year. It’s a series of encouraging reflections on scripture. Many of the readings are filled with vivid imagery which led to good discussions on our faith. We also took time to enjoy some different offerings, like daily online worship, from our local church during the Shelter in Place period. We learned prayers and readings that were used in our virtual services.
We have now completed 6 years as a homeschooling family. Every year our schooling changes as the students change and mature. Over the course of the year our morning time got longer as everyone’s attention span grew. After being so nervous to plan our school from scratch a year ago, I am amazed at how much of my original plans for the year we completed. Seeing the results reminds me to trust myself and my understanding of the kids as we make plans each year.
One advantage of learning and living as a family is being in tune with your child’s ability and interests. We had previously discussed starting a year-round school routine this summer. Due to the pandemic restrictions it was even easier to keep going without a break this summer. We have changed things up and been more relaxed about some of our learning. But for our family, the routine of our school time is a healthy anchor everyone looks forward to each day.