Although I felt extraordinarily prepared going into the homeschool year, the reality was that life presented a lot of unexpected challenges during that time. So, although I had - what I felt - was a solid plan, in actuality only a fraction of what I had hoped would happen did. We still did a lot and the girls learned quite a bit in a variety of subjects...it was just not everything that I had planned.
So, this year I'm stepping back a bit and adjusting my expectations to reflect what can be realistically accomplished in a homeschool year. I've listed resources that would be good to use in an ideal world if everything goes well and we have a lot of time.
However, if we don't get to something...fine. If more activities can be added...great. What won't happen is having a schedule so packed that Sophia and Olivia feel overwhelmed and burdened by learning....or that I feel like we aren't accomplishing enough because of an unrealistic plan. That takes the joy out of learning for us all.
What I am keeping from last year is the planner that I used last year: a small, maroon 3-ring binder. There's a pencil case and lined paper in it so some of the essentials I need for planning are all in one spot.
3-ring binder for academic work,
tabbed dividers, and a pencil case.
One of the things that we did at the beginning of last year that the girls and I truly enjoyed was having a daily color and food theme. We did this for about two months - or until the holidays began (Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). After that, my mom was hospitalized, went on hospice, was in a nursing home, had multiple strokes and TIAs, and by the end of the homeschool year was stabilized (probably from all the good care she was receiving).
We talked about how nice it was to have the table set beautifully and to look forward to trying some new recipes based on the grain/food item of the day (e.g., rice, barley, oats). We're going to try to get back to that again this fall and see how well that goes.
These are two boards on Pinterest for different subjects that focus on these areas:
=> Waldorf Rhythm, Routines, and Meal Times
=> Waldorf-Inspired Home
My next step was to create a school calendar. For us, that means a yearly calendar since I consider homeschooling more of a learning lifestyle than a set period of days when the girls learn. That being said, there is a "start date" and "end date" of the more "formal" homeschooling. This year, that is September 2nd and May 29th respectively.
Normally, we go on a "not back to school" trip the day after Labor Day for a few days. This year, however, we will not be going on a trip. Instead, we will do a "not back to school picnic" on September 2nd - the day after Labor Day.
Also on the calendar are days that there are no school or a holiday. This year on holidays we will focus on activities related to the holiday rather than doing traditional school work.
The calendar also shows birthdays and anniversaries (e.g., Adoption Days); breaks; and when we start and end the time period where we focus more on alternative ways to learn (e.g., 4-H, county fair, state fair).
Wheel of the Year.
Next, I looked at the different holidays that we will be celebrating and learning about this year. I found pins on Pinterest for them last year and have added some new ones as they have come along. Although I have quite a few holidays listed, the reality is that we didn't celebrate them all last year. This year we probably won't celebrate them all as well. However, it's nice to have a place to reference if we want to do something special. Here are the links to the boards on Pinterest:
=> Tu B'Shevat
=> Chinese New Year
=> Brigid's Day
=> Groundhog's Day
=> Valentine's Day
=> Mardi Gras
=> St. Patrick's Day
=> Spring Equinox
=> May Day
=> Memorial Day
=> Pentecost or Whitsun
=> Summer Solstice
=> St. John's Tide
=> Fourth of July
=> Labor Day
=> Autumn Equinox
=> Rosh Hashana
=> Yom Kippur
=> All Saints Day
=> All Souls Day
=> Adoption Day Celebrations
=> St. Nicholas Day
=> St. Lucia Day
=> Las Posadas
=> Winter Solstice
=> Christmas Eve and Day
=> 12 Days After Christmas
=> New Years Eve
Monthly activities on a circular calendar.
Last year, I created a wheel of the year after I found a pin that I liked. using a free PDF pattern from Daily Colours. I set up a weekly rhythm that I thought would be good to do last year. For about two months this worked last year, and then I had a difficult time integrating a daily rhythm with major holidays and family issues.
I'm hoping to re-explore this concept during the 2014-15 year and see if we can get back to creating this daily and weekly rhythm that worked so nicely when we began it.
Rhythm of the week.
These are the colors, grain, and activities that ideally would be done each day of the week:
=> Bread Making
=> Renew the Spirit
=> Art and Painting
=> Yard Work
=> Wash and dry bedding + towels
=> Adventuring (field trips, visit my mom, volunteering at the nursing home)
=> Soup Day
=> Handiwork (e.g., sewing, embroidery, crocheting, knitting)
=> Menu Planning (also includes cleaning out the refrigerator)
Daily activities on a circular weekly calendar.
For the color of the days, we focused on having them be part of the table decorations (e.g., coasters, place mats, tablecloth, table runner, candles).
Pinterest also had many ideas for ideas for food that incorporates the different grains.
Last year I made a rhythm of the week wheel. Daily Colours (the website mentioned above) has a free PDF pattern. We will continue to use that this year.
Once the overall rhythm of the year, week, and day has been established, I looked at the upcoming year from an academic point of view.
The girls each have some subjects they will be continuing on from where they left off at the end the 2013-14 homeschool year.
Because of a tremendous amount of water damage to our home this year (an ice dam in March that led to three rooms being gutted and reconstructed; the bathtub leaking which resulted in the gutting and re-doing of the upstairs bathroom in July/August; and replacing and/or cleaning the duct work in the home because of mold from the ice dam issue; as well as forthcoming projects including regrading around the entire home so our basement won't be flooded again), funds are limited for purchasing curricula.
So, we are using Ambleside Online this year for both Sophia and Olivia. It's a free curriculum that follows Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy.
I also will be using the resources I have on hand (e.g., books, curricula, photocopies I've made throughout the years) to create the curriculum for the 2014-15 homeschool year.
Olivia began using Ambleside Online's curriculum last September at the Y3 level, and found it to be both engaging and challenging. Since she is working with the local elementary school to receive assistance with some learning, auditory processing, and short-term memory issues, some of her subjects are covered in a way that works well for her: through workbooks.
This year for Olivia, we are using parts of Y5 including:
- History (1800-1914 up to WWI, World and American, Bios of Lewis and Clark, Lillias Trotter, and Teddy Roosevelt, Bios of ancient Romans and Greeks)
- Geography (Wonders of the World, Land Forms, Food Crops, Other Vegetation Biology).
- Science (inventions, nature study)
- Literature (numerous classical stories plus writings by Kipling, Longfellow, Whittier, and Dunbar)
For Sophia, we are using parts of Y8 including:
- History (1400's-1688 - Renaissance to Reformation), Elizabethan England, King Charles, and Oliver Cromwell
- Geography (Kon Tiki, Columbus)
- Science (nature study, natural history)
- Citizenship (Ourselves - by Charlotte Mason, Bacon's essays, Whatever Happened to Justice, and Utopia)
- Literature (numerous classical stories)
- Art (The Story of Painting)
- Foreign Language (continuing with Latin and Greek root words - From the Roots Up)
- Mapwork (locating places from readings on a map)
- Current Events (reading the newspaper and picking 2-3 events to write about each week)
For science, we are using Elemental Science this year. Olivia will be doing Biology for the Logic Stage and Sophia will be Chemistry for the Logic Stage. Olivia is excited because she will be using a microscope that is on par with what would be used in junior and/or senior high classes in a public school. Sophia is looking forward to the chemistry experiments she'll be doing throughout the year.
Also for science, Sophia will finish Grey's Anatomy. As a family, we will be doing a couple year-long projects. One is learning about monarchs and creating a monarch waystation in the spring/summer. The other is using a schoolyard habitat curriculum that I've had for many years. Basically we'll be analyzing our farm/land and then creating a certified wildlife habitat.
For nature study, we will be continuing to use The Handbook of Nature Study and exploring a different topic each week. I found some resources on my bookshelves which will supplement The Handbook of Nature Study and provide some hands-on activities.
For math, we will be continuing with Math-U-See. This curricula seems to work with the girls' learning style. Sophia will be finishing Zeta and moving to Pre-Algebra. Olivia will be finishing Delta and moving to Epsilon.
For spelling, we use Spelling for a Reason. Sophia will be transitioning to another program since she is in the final book of the series. I haven't found a new spelling curricula for her yet.
Both girls will be learning about Shakespeare. The plays we'll be focusing on this year include: Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, and Richard II. For the first two plays, I found a parallel text for students along with a teacher's guide. I'm hoping that it helps make Shakespeare's writing more accessible for both Sophia and Olivia.
We also will continue with poet/poetry study. This year's poets include: Hilda Conkling, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lord Byron, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Keats.
The girls also will write different forms of poetry each month. I found pins on Pinterest that have different ideas for creative expression through poetry.
For music, we'll be looking at the following hymns: Abide with Me, Lift High on the Cross, O Worship the King, I am Thine, O Lord, Come Down O Love Divine, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Jesus Paid It All, Man of Sorrows, All Praise to Thee My God This Night, Let Us with Gladsome Mind, Just As I am Without One Plea, and How Firm a Foundation.
We'll also listen to and learn about these folk songs: Barbara Allen, Billy Boy, Star of the Country Down, Lord Randall, Andrew Barton, Once in a Royal David's City, The Holly and The Ivy, The Death of Queen Jane, I'm 17 Come Sunday, The Keeper, The Miller of Dee, Yellow Rose of Texas History, Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes, Three Mariners, The Oak and The Ash, and My Lodging is on Cold Ground.
The girls will continue playing instruments. Sophia will play the harp and piano; and Olivia will play the piano.
We will continue with artist/picture study. The girls will study Fra Angelico, Diego Velazquez, and Edgar Degas.
They both will work on their drawing skills this year. Olivia will be taking a drawing class at the local homeschool co-op and using an art/literature book about Lewis & Clark that involves a lot of drawing. Sophia will either draw a scene from a reading of her choice each week and/or do some of the activities that Olivia is doing.
We also will continue with composer study. The composers we're going to focus on this year include: Hildegard von Bingen, Benjamin Britten, Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Dukas, Engelbert Humperdink, Claude Debussy, Georges Bizet, and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
For handicrafts, the girls both want to do ceramics (which they'll do through the homeschool co-op) photography, cross-stitching, spinning, embroidery, and latch-hooking. Sophia also will be continuing knitting at the co-op, and developing her skills in beading, Spencerian handwriting, and sewing.
For Olivia, we want to complete the Five in a Row cookbook that she started a couple of years ago. We have read the books in the Five in a Row series that complement the recipes in the cookbook. We still have a couple of the Beyond Five in a Row books that we need to read before she makes the recipes corresponding to those books.
For physical education, we have a variety of activities. This year we are starting out the year preparing for a 5K walk at the end of September. After that, the girls will do six-week blocks of different activities (swimming, hiking, ice skating, yoga, table tennis, and biking. In the spring, a six-week block will be split between tennis and croquet.
Also for phy ed, the girls will do equine vaulting in the late spring and summer. Dog training - obedience and agility will be done throughout the year by Sophia. Sophia also works out at the fitness club a few times per week.
In addition, the girls each have a variety of subjects that they learn about during the year:
A to Z Book (Olivia is creating a book about different subjects that begin with each letter of the alphabet)
Art (several books and resources will be used including Teaching Literature through Art and a book by Usborne that focuses on different artists and making art projects based on particular works of art)
Character Education (we will be finishing the multi-year curriculum we've been using from Character Education)
Critical Thinking (each of the girls has their own critical thinking workbook. In addition, there is a weekly activity that we'll do in the Brain Stations book.)
Handwriting (standard for Olivia and Spencerian for Sophia)
Home Economics (using Keepers at Home and Hope Chest for ideas and activities)
Holidays (using Pinterest and several books for ideas and activities)
Journaling (the girls do monthly journaling activities based on pins I've found on Pinterest)
Life Skills/Handicrafts (using the book Hope Chests for handicrafts as well as the Webelo and Cub Scout handbooks for life skills - particularly outdoor/survival skills)
Reading/Literature (personal reading of classical books as well as books that received the Newbery award that I read aloud)
Second Impressions (this is a curriculum I wrote many years ago for use in a homeschool co-op. We will be revisiting it again this year and doing many more activities since the girls are older. The curriculum focuses on pre-cycling, reducing, recycling, and reuse.)
Spirituality (using the UUA Family Pages inserts that have been in past issues of UU World - one insert per month.)
Service/Volunteering (we will continue to volunteer at the nursing home and other places as we feel called to do. We will be setting up accounts of the President's Volunteer Service Award to track how many hours we are volunteering since volunteering is such an integral part of homeschooling and our lives.)
Social Studies (Olivia has a workbook that is part of a series that she enjoyed last year and wants to do this year at the sixth-grade level; and Sophia will be using the Create a Culture book)
Speech Therapy (Olivia only)
Typing (Mavis Beacon program)
U.S. Geography (Cantering the Country curriculum - focusing on 18 states)
Vocabulary (1 new word a day, M-F)
Writing (both the girls have writing books to help them develop skills in this area)
Using free printable sheets from Donna Young's website, I planned the homeschool year. I have the schedule for the academic portion of the girls' year in a purple 3-ring binder. There are tabbed-dividers that separate the plans by week.
The last component of planning for the upcoming home- and homeschooling year includes creating a larger binder with non-academic subjects and home management items. I began working on this last year, but never completed it.
Now that the majority of these health issues and home repair projects are behind us - plus a major decluttering effort from March through now, I'd like to focus on getting these sections completed. This will help maintain a sense of order as we go through the homeschool year.
Binder with non-academic subjects and
home management items.
Organized Home has many free printables that will be invaluable this year in terms of keeping organized. The tabbed sections in the white 3-ring binder include:
- Contact numbers - includes emergency numbers, frequently-used numbers, and a list of birthdays/anniversaries
- Menu planning - this has a plan for theme dinners when things get a bit more hectic and we don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, or making meals for various school subjects (e.g., meals that focus on different states, meals from the Five in a Row cookbook).
Last year I had envisioned having a meal plan. I'm not sure if I want to do this or not...or if it involves too much planning and making of new food and not acknowledging a way to eat all the leftovers. I don't like to see food wasted, and if I'm always making new food there is bound to be food that will be wasted.
At any rate, this would be the plan for the week in an ideal world:
Sunday - Sunday Dinner - meat with potatoes and carrots. The leftover meat can be used for sandwiches during the week. Have a very light meal in the evening if anyone is hungry (e.g., cheese, crackers, fruit).
Monday - Asian Night
Tuesday - Crockpot Night
Wednesday - Pasta Night
Thursday - Leftovers
Friday - Soup Night with Fresh Bread
Saturday - Mexican Night
Shopping List - Copies of a shopping list. One will be posted in the kitchen to add to each week. In this way, when we run out of something it can be immediately added to the list.
Food Inventories - There are sheets for the freezer, pantry, and larder. The larder, in our case, is part of a closet that holds heavier canned goods (e.g., peaches, pears, tomatoes, applesauce) as well as the top shelves of a built-in bookcase that hold lighter canned goods (e.g., jams, jellies, salsa).
Recipe Locations - There are pages that have the name of favorite recipes, the cookbook/source, page number, and comments.
Monthly Rhythm - This is my chart that has five columns: month, mood, symbols/color, activities, celebrations.
One of the pages that has the monthly rhythm.
This page still needs to be retyped
so that it includes the hand-written information.
Each section has a list of the holidays and when they are in 2014-15. I've also included some ideas, instructions, and information that relates to some of the holidays. Following that is the plastic page protector that has the recipes for the month.
This is December's section.
The first part has a list of holidays and
the second part has a sheet protector filled with recipes
that can be made for the month's holidays and celebrations.
Seasonal Chores - Organized Home has a free printable that has a fall and winter checklist; and spring and summer checklist.
Weekly Rhythms - This is the typed version of the daily color, grain, learning activity, and home activity. There also are daily to-do sheets from Organized Home.
Grain Sections - The next seven tabbed sections are labeled with the grain of the day - starting with wheat and ending with corn.
Protector sheet with
a variety of recipes using rice.
Patterns for Meal Time Accessories - I printed out some ideas for making tables look welcoming and pretty. There also are patterns to create napkins and place mats.
Blessings - There are some blessings I've collected that I would like to print out on cards made from watercolor paper that the girls painted.
One of the meal blessings in the binder.
Daily Rhythms - This section is a reminder of what I would like my daily rhythm to look like:
Wake up before the girls and:
- Get dressed
- Let the dogs out, take them for a walk, and feed them
- Make hot chocolate
- Write in my journal
- Start the laundry (if needed)
- Review the meals for the day, and take out anything that needs to be thawed
- Prepare breakfast
I'd like to play a board or card game with the girls each day. Integrating an element of play into each day is a goal I'd like to work on during 2014-15.
The next section focuses on family values. In terms of family values, I'd like to have the following words describe my home: contentment, love, acceptance, comfort, spiritual, truthful, generosity, helpfulness, exploring, learning, togetherness, openness, happiness, caring, compassion, wonder/discovery, reflective, excitement, enthusiasm, gratitude, and service.
The last section focuses on a family mission statement. I have a rough draft of one; and would like to work on finalizing that during 2014-15.
I also included several daily to-do lists from Organized Home. These will come in handy - especially during November-January when there is a lot to be done on a daily basis.
Daily Chores - This section has ideas for keeping a home clean. I have a proposed schedule for daily cleaning that I am interested in seeing if it will work or not this year. It is:
Thursday: Dining Room
Friday: Living and Family Rooms
Following that are more comprehensive daily chore lists that I pinned from Cedar Ring Mama. At some point during Autumn 2014, these would be nice to review and adapt to my home.
First Aid Inventory and Medicine - Organized Home has a inventory sheet for first aid supplies. I also would like to list everyone's current medications they are taking.
Bills - There are forms on Organized Home that are for each month. The top half has lines, and the bottom part has the name of the bills, date they are due, and the amount owed. There also are important dates and a monthly calendar on each sheet.
Social/Support/Craft Groups - This section will have information about any groups that the girls and I are participating in and/or leading. Once the groups begin in September, this section will have more things in it and may be sub-divided for each group.
So, what happened to the maroon binder? It has information that I still want to read, think about, and integrate into our daily lives and homeshool. This will be an ongoing resource that I can refer to, add to, and adapt the 2014-15 homeschool plan by as I make my way through the information.
Information about handiwork in the maroon binder.
The plan is definitely a work in progress as I see what feels right for our family and what doesn't feel like a good fit.