Independent Work

I don’t really plan more than a day in advance. I used to plan out each week for the year, but there are so many different variables (an unexpected field trip, an illness, a little extra review needed on a concept) that my schedule would inevitably get thrown off. Then, I would drive myself crazy trying to get back on schedule. That, in turn, would stress out the kids and make learning more difficult. So, I’ve learned to relax over the years. The important thing is that they’re all advancing, not that they’re following some unchangeable schedule.

Every week, I print up a chart with all the classes they have that week. When they finish a lesson in a certain subject, they cross off the corresponding box in the chart. They can choose to work ahead, they can see where they’re behind, and they have some sort of structure to their days. Below is N’s weekly schedule:


As the kids get older, they’re assigned more and more independent work. A fellow homeschooling mom gave me an idea for keeping track of daily independent work. Each morning, I look over their weekly charts, I find the subject that requires independent work for that day. I print up a list of independent work (maps, worksheets, reading assignments, assessments, etc.), along with any corresponding paperwork. I give each child her independent work packet in the morning. One can work independently while I have instructional time with one or more of the others. The kids can also choose to put off their independent work until later in the day, but I always caution them against that. I tell them they’re not going to feel like doing it later. It’s a way for me to help them develop some self-discipline and see real consequences to procrastination. Some are learning self-discipline better than others!

Schedule and Curriculum (H)

H played at school here and there throughout last year, but this is the first year that she will actually be doing school daily. As per the trivium, we’re starting out with a foundation in the basics before expanding her educational repertoire.

Her weekly schedule follows:

Monday – Math, Handwriting, Reading, and Bible.

Tuesday – Math, Handwriting, Reading, and Bible.

Wednesday – Math, Handwriting, Reading, and Bible.

Thursday – Library and Art (with S).

Friday – Math, Handwriting, Reading, and Bible.

H picked up a few things last year and so she’s not starting at square one, but her curricula is pretty basic. Here is the curricula we are using:

Math – H will begin to use Saxon Math Homeschool. She will start with level K.

Handwriting – H will begin by learning to write the upper and lower case alphabets, and then move on to copywork on handwriting sheets I custom design at the Writing Wizard website.

Reading – H will use the Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. I used it successfully with N and C.

Bible – I will work through a children’s Bible with H, and will give her appropriate memory verses weekly.

Art: H will join S to work on basic drawing skills using the Usborne Step-by-Step Drawing Book.

Art Curriculum

I’m not artsy-fartsy. At all. I’m not the “crafty homeschool mom.” I cringe at the mess, the planning, and the unfettered enthusiasm that hinders following instructions. But I strongly believe art is an important part of education. I’ve tried Pinterest projects with varied success, but I feel like all the projects are disconnected. Then, I discovered Usborne art books. Eureka!

For the younger children who want to draw but are still mastering fine motor skills and detail in drawings, I’ve started using The Usborne Step-By-Step Drawing Book. I love it! It’s got simple instructions using basic shapes. Kids don’t need to be able to read well (or at all) in order to follow the directions. They’re taught how to draw animals, people, monsters, buildings, plants, vehicles, bugs – anything that a kid could possibly be interested in drawing. The book gives them ideas for backgrounds and scenery. The younger three (S, H, and Toddler R) have been “playing school” in anticipation of the start of the school year, and this book keeps them busy for hours on end. Other art books that are not quite as exhaustive are What Shall I Draw? and I Can Draw People, both by Usborne.

The older two have much better fine motor skills. I want them to continue to develop that. Almost every accomplished artist I know grew up watching Mark Kistler (aka “Commander Mark”) on PBS. N and C use his book Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad. He does a great job of teaching drawing techniques like perspective and shading.

I also want the kids to learn how to work with a variety of materials for making art. My favorite book for this is The Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas. It introduces different materials, explains different techniques, tells the difference between the different types of paints and inks, and gives the kids some rather impressive-looking projects to complete.

I struggle with figuring out how to teach art history as well, but I’ve found several books that provide a good introduction to it:

The Children’s Book of Art

Art Treasury

Name that Style: All About Isms in Art

What Makes a Rembrandt a Rembrandt?

What Makes a Degas a Degas?

What Makes a Monet a Monet?

I gladly welcome suggestions for teaching art history!

Schedule and Curriculum (S)

S recently turned 8 years old. I strongly suspect dyslexia, but I haven’t had her officially tested. I don’t want her to be labeled as such. So, I did a lot of research and have been working hard to get her reading and number recognition well-established.

Her weekly schedule follows:

Monday – Math, Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, Reading, Bible (with N and C), Biology and Botany, History (with C), and Ukulele.

Tuesday – Math, Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, Reading, Bible (with N and C), Biology and Botany, History (with C), and Ukulele.

Wednesday – Math, Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, Reading, Bible (with N and C), Biology and Botany, History (with C), and Ukulele.

Thursday – Library, Art (with H), and Ukulele.

Friday – Math, Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, Reading, Bible (with N and C), History (with C), and Ukulele.

S is starting to venture into a longer school day with more subjects. At her current reading level, independent work is still a little tricky, so I’ll be spending more instructional time with her than with N or C. Here is the curricula we are using:

Math – S will continue to use Saxon Math Homeschool. She will finish up level 1 and start on level 2.

Spelling – S will start spelling this year with Spelling Workout A. I may need to rethink spelling curriculum later in light of her suspected dyslexia, but I’m going to play it by ear for now.

Grammar – S will continue using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. She will also continue her poetry memorization. She’s anxious to begin learning Latin, but I told her she has to get through the current textbook before we move on to Visual Latin.

Handwriting – S will continue copywork on handwriting sheets I custom design at the Writing Wizard website.

Reading – This year, S will continue with All About Reading Level 1. She will also continue working through the Dick and Jane Reading Collection, which she enjoys very much.

Bible – S will begin Bible class with N and C using Foundations 2 homeschool curriculum by Anne Elliott. Memory verses are included in the curriculum.

Science: N will study biology and botany this year. I don’t currently have any set curriculum. The plan is to learn about a new animal of interest to her every week during the fall, and then spend the spring learning about people and plants. I’ll list my resources weekly.

History: S will join C in going through Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern. She’ll do the mapwork that goes along with her study, and will do some activities as well. I will try to work in some videos on the topics that are covered.

Art: S will work on basic drawing skills using the Usborne Step-by-Step Drawing Book. I tried working through Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad with her (I love that book!!!!), but it was a bit too advanced and she got frustrated easily with it.

Music: S has decided to pursue the ukulele, so she will start working in Alfred’s Kids Ukulele Course Complete.

Schedule and Curriculum (C)

C is currently 11 years old. She’s just beginning the transition to more independent schooling and will still require a bit more instructional time with me than N will.

Her weekly schedule follows:

Monday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with N and S), Chemistry (with N), History (with S), Geography (with N), Spanish, and Ukulele.

Tuesday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with N and S), Chemistry (with N), History (with S), Social Studies (with N), Spanish, and Ukulele.

Wednesday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with N and S), Chemistry (with N), History (with S), Geography (with N), Spanish, and Ukulele.

Thursday – Library, Art (with N), and Ukulele.

Friday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with N and S), History (with S), Geography Review (with N), Spanish, and Ukulele.

I wasn’t going to give C a list of assigned Great Books for her reading class, but she saw N’s list and asked for one of her own (proud homeschooling mama moment there). Here is the curricula we are using:

Math – C will continue to use Saxon Math Homeschool. She will be working on level 6/5 this year.

Spelling – C will finish up Spelling Workout C and move on to Spelling Workout D this year.

Composition – C will continue to do assignments from Unjournaling, correcting errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Reading – This year, C will read Robinson Crusoe (abridged), Gulliver’s Travels (abridged), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (abridged), Les Miserables (abridged), The Three Musketeers (abridged), Great Expectations (abridged), Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (abridged), 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (abridged), A Christmas Carol, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and Oliver Twist (abridged).

Bible – C will continue using Foundations 2 homeschool curriculum by Anne Elliott. Memory verses are included in the curriculum.

Science: C will finish up Chemistry II by Noeo Science this fall and will begin Physics II by Noeo Science in the spring.

History: C will spend the year going through Story of the World Volume 3: Early Modern. She’ll do the mapwork that goes along with her study, and will do some activities as well. I will try to work in some videos on the topics that are covered. Amazon Prime is wonderful for educational videos.

Geography: C will continue studying the countries of Africa while learning their location on a map. I’ll continue to use the websites Time for Kids, National Geographic Kids, and CIA World Factbook to get information. After Africa, the kids will learn about Canada and then do more in-depth studies on each of the fifty states.

Social Studies: C will focus on current events in America and around the world this year.

Art: C will use a variety of media to create her own art, taking direction from the Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas. She will also study some of the great artists of the Early Modern time period.

Spanish: C will work independently on her Spanish using Rosetta Stone Homeschool Spanish (Latin America) this year. Once she completes the five levels of Spanish, she wants to study Japanese. If Rosetta Stone works out, I’ll have her use the homeschool Japanese course in high school.

Music: C will finish up Alfred’s Kids Ukulele Course Complete and will move onto Ukulele Songbook: In Notation and Tablature and The Ukulele Songbook: 50 All Time Classics. For reference, she will have Alfred’s Ukulele Chord Dictionary on hand.

Daily Schedule and Curriculum (N)

N is currently 12 years old. She’s starting to transition to more reading and independent work than last year.

Her weekly schedule follows:

Monday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with C and S), Chemistry (with C), History, Geography (with C), Spanish, and Piano.

Tuesday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with C and S), Chemistry (with C), History, Social Studies (with C), Spanish, and Piano.

Wednesday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with C and S), Chemistry (with C), History, Geography (with C), Spanish, and Piano.

Thursday – Library, History, Art (with C), and Piano.

Friday – Math, Spelling, Composition, Reading, Bible (with C and S), History, Geography Review (with C), Spanish, and Piano.

Her curriculum has changed a bit for history and reading. She’s going to move away from a history text and start reading biographies, historical non-fiction, and original sources from the time period we’re studying this year (Early Modern). I’ll list the required topics she needs to study below. She’s also going to move into reading more Great Books (for the Early Modern time period) for reading class. Here is the curricula we are using:

Math – N will continue to use Saxon Math Homeschool. The goal is to finish pre-algebra in the fall and start on Algebra I in the spring.

Spelling – N will finish up Spelling Workout E and move on to Spelling Workout F.

Composition – N will continue to do assignments from Unjournaling (I really love Unjournaling!), correcting errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Reading – This year, N will read Don Quixote (abridged), Perrault’s Fairy Tales, Gulliver’s Travels (the chapters on Lilliput and Brobdingnag only), The Pilgrim’s Progress (abridged), Robinson Crusoe, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (abridged), A Christmas Carol, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. She will also be going through a list of authors from the Early Modern time period, either reading their works (mostly poetry) or their biographies. The authors are Alexander Pope, John Milton, William Blake, Alfred Lord Tennyson, William Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edward Lear, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, Christina Rossetti, and Herman Melville.

Bible – N will continue using Foundations 2 homeschool curriculum by my old college buddy, Anne Elliott. Memory verses are included in the curriculum.

Science: N will finish up Chemistry II by Noeo Science this fall and will begin Physics II by Noeo Science in the spring.

History: N will go through the first half of A Patriot’s History of the United States with me (covering Columbus through the end of the Civil War). She will also read all original documents referenced in A Patriot’s History of the United States, which can all be found in the companion book A Patriot’s History Reader: Essential Documents for Every American. I absolutely love these books! They are so full of information. They are, in my humble opinion, completely non-partisan, showing the good and the bad. They are factual and not full of commentary. There are sections of the book that address common historical misconceptions, all fully sourced. If you want a completely exhaustive history of the United States, I highly recommend these books. In addition to delving deep into American history, N will also research world history during the Early Modern time period, including: Russia under the czars, 18th century Prussia, the Enlightenment, the agricultural revolution, Native American cultures, the British in India, the French Revolution, British-French conflict in Canada, the Napoleonic Wars, the industrial revolution, Simon Bolivar, and Australia’s beginnings as a penal colony.

Geography: N will continue studying the countries of Africa while learning their location on a map. I’ll continue to use the websites Time for Kids, National Geographic Kids, and CIA World Factbook to get information. After Africa, they will learn about Canada and then do more in-depth studies on each of the fifty states.

Social Studies: N will focus on current events in America and around the world this year.

Art: N will use a variety of media to create her own art, taking direction from the Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas. She will also study some of the great artists of the Early Modern time period.

Spanish: I decided to switch from Excelerate Spanish to Rosetta Stone Homeschool Spanish (Latin America) this year. I think N and C will both do better with independent computer work, and I like the idea of a parent/educator tool that enables me to set goals and record their progress. We’ll see how it goes.

Music: N will continue to work on piano with John Thompson’s Teaching Little Fingers to Play More. She’ll move up to the next book as she progresses.

Schedules for 2017/2018

So, I really slacked off on the blog at the end of school this past spring. The last nine days were filled with video school (finishing up the “Families of the World” series on Amazon Prime, watching videos on the history of the Roman and Greek Empires, and a great video on the War of the Worlds Radio Scandal – which led to a lively discussion on the power of the media to shape popular opinion and to spread propaganda). We went on several field trips (historical programs, library programs, state park programs).

Over the summer, S (now age 8) continued to practice her reading, and spent a lot of time playing school with H (age 5). I love when they play school, because it reinforces concepts for S while introducing concepts to H in a way that’s fun for them.

And now, we’re two weeks away from the start of school. Curriculum is trickling in. N (age 12) and C (age 11) are already working on their reading lists for the year. I spent the weekend cleaning and organizing the classroom (which, I must admit, got pretty trashed over the summer being used as a playroom, video game room, and catch-all for quick clean-up of the rest of the house). I’m so excited to get started and get back to a daily routine. Which leads me to the purpose of this post, which is our schedule this year.

The “Sabbath Schooling” schedule worked well for us last year, so we’re going to be using that again. “Sabbath Schooling” involves six weeks of school followed by one week of vacation, plus vacation for the month of December. Last year, we didn’t take all of our scheduled breaks and finished a couple weeks early, but I liked having the option of taking time off in the event of “education fatigue.”

Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays will be regular education days (with occasional field trips on Saturdays or for special educational events. Thursdays will be dedicated to library time, reading, art, and music. Two Fridays a month will include homeschool gym class at the local rec center. Homeschool soccer dates aren’t available yet, but it will probably be two mornings per week for about six weeks during the fall and spring.