Would it be wrong to start off a post about relaxed homeschooling curriculum choices for the upcoming year and admit that a lot of the time I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing? Would it make you feel better to know that I have a degree in education, am an experienced teacher, and I still find homeschool planning challenging?
That’s honestly how it feels right now. I feel like I have been making it up as I go for the past four years since we attempted homeschool preschool (here and here), did something that I guess was kindergarten (and here), muddled through first grade, and we’ll call last year second grade.
The realization this spring that Caroline is gifted has made that muddling a bit clearer and explains a lot. When I look over the posts I wrote about our past experiences, words jump out at me now because they all point to her giftedness that I couldn’t clearly see at the time.
So if you are looking for a traditional approach curriculum post, this isn’t it.
If you are looking for ideas from a mom who is winging it as she tries to figure out how to home educate a gifted, right-brained child with some significant asynchronous development… I’m your girl!
Homeschool Planning with My Child, Not for My Child
One important realization I came to is that even though Caroline is only seven, I have to plan with her and not for her. I’m not comfortable with becoming complete unschoolers and giving her total control, but we have become very relaxed homeschoolers and that includes (starting this year) letting her suggest a lot of what we are going to be doing. Otherwise, it is just too much of a… I don’t want to say battle because of the negative connotations but you get the idea. I’ve come to the conclusion that the more input she gives, the smoother our journey together will be. 🙂
Yesterday Caroline and I sat down and brainstormed all the things she would like to learn about this year. I already had some things planned, but I also wanted to hear from her. Once she got rolling, she gave me lots of good ideas. So her suggestions are incorporated below.
Learning That Requires Little Writing
Writing is not one of Caroline’s strengths. Because of that, I’m leaning heavily toward activities that require as little writing as possible. Drawing is great, writing is not.
Notebooking and Lapbooking
In keeping with the less writing is better theme, we are going to be incorporating more notebooking and lapbooking this year. The notebooking will include minimal writing and I know there are lots of ways to notebook effectively without it. I will have her dictate to me as necessary. The same with lapbooking. I did design one lapbook to use with her last year that required almost no writing and had hoped to make many more, but time did not allow it.
Tools We Love
We have some learning tools that we love and will continue to use. We have a Dry Erase Board and Dry Erase Markers. These are a must have in my opinion. Caroline loves to draw on the whiteboard and it makes it seem less like work when we use it. I have it mounted low to the floor so she can sit on the floor and draw whenever she would like to do so.
We will also continue to use the Boogie Board. It’s another fun tool.
Boogie Board 8.5-Inch LCD Writing Tablet
We still use our Calendar Pocket Chart which is similar to this one, but not the exact same one.
I like using the Fellowes Comb Binding Machine. This is especially helpful when I find old books online that I want to print out and give to her to look at. I also use it to make my own little learning packets on different topics. And we use it to make blank books with white or colored cardstock pages that Caroline wants to do things with on her own.
History and Geography – The Mystery of History
I’m looking forward to doing history and geography with Caroline. It’s arguably my favorite subject area and I haven’t done much with it because she’s had classes for this at co-op the past couple of years.
The basis of all our academic learning this year is going to be The Mystery of History Volume 1 (Creation to the Resurrection) from Bright Ideas Press. Caroline saw the book on my desk and said, “Oooo, what’s this?” (That’s a very good sign!) She’s been completely fascinated with Ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures for quite some time so this is totally appealing to her.
I’ve got the whole kit and kaboodle to do with her.
- The Mystery of History Volume 1
- The Mystery of History Volume 1 Reproducibles Download
- The Mystery of History Volume 1 Craft Pack
- The Mystery of History Volume 1 Challenge Cards
- The Mystery of History Volume 1 Notebooking Pages
- The Mystery of History Volume 1 Folderbook Full Set
Caroline specifically asked to learn about Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt so we’ll cover those in TMOH.
She also expressed an interest in learning about:
- The Great Wall of China
- Machu Picchu
- Lewis and Clark
- John F. Kennedy
- Abraham Lincoln
- The Titanic
- Strange creatures (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, Ice Monsters, UFOs, werewolves, vampires and Frankenstein)
We’ll probably cover these topics primarily as read alouds and I will probably develop some of my own materials for those.
Caroline’s main requirement for science was nothing gross. I can’t say I blame her! She expressed an interest in making a leaf collection this fall and learning about Venus flytraps.
I have a Homeschool Science and Nature Study Pinterest board where I continue to add interesting ideas. I plan on using ideas off that for our science.
I also have some science activity books and workbooks that I’ve picked up here and there over the years. I plan on having us do different activities out of them.
Fun Fact Cards
For history, geography, science and holiday topics, we’ll be using my Fun Fact Cards. I already have many made for topics we’ll be doing and I’ll continue to add more over the year.
I am not planning any kind of formal reading curriculum. We read to her all the time. She reads on her own. I’ll have her read to us. She is way ahead of her grade level in reading ability. We make multiple trips to the library each week and always have a large basket full of books. We’ll check out many books related to the history topics we study.
For read alouds, we’ll finish going through the American Girl series. David reads them to her every night and they have been great for giving her an historical reference for many time periods. They’ve read the following series so far: Caroline, Kanani, Isabelle, Lanie, Saige, McKenna, Kit, Chrissa and are working their way through Molly.
I’m thinking we might start going through the Little House on the Prairie books (which I’ve tried in the past and she just wasn’t interested yet), including the newer series about Caroline and the other ancestors when they were younger including The Caroline Years and The Martha Years.
She’s also expressed an interest in my Nancy Drew books she saw so I’m thinking maybe trying to hook her on Trixie Belden first and then move on to Nancy Drew.
We also have a membership to Reading Rainbow online that she accesses with the Kindle Fire and she enjoys that a great deal.
Writing and Handwriting
Writing is currently one of the bugaboos for our lefty, right-brained learner. I’m going to order Handwriting Without Tears and see how it goes. Unless Caroline expresses an interest in learning cursive, we won’t be starting it this year.
As far as formal writing, I’m not planning on doing a formal writing curriculum. I’ll incorporate writing with The Mystery of History and that will be enough for us this year.
The past few years we’ve kept a journal in a Primary Journal. Caroline dictated the content to me and then illustrated it. I’m thinking we will continue to do this as she really enjoys going back and reading what we wrote at various times. Toward the end of last year I had her do bits of the writing and spelling so I’m hoping we will continue to build on that. My hope is that by the end of the year, she will be doing the writing herself.
Caroline has started learning to type this summer! I’m doing a review for Type Kids next Monday so we’ve been using the program. I’ll save my comments for the review, but so far it has been great!
Math is currently our other area of puzzlement. We’ll be doing a combination of using math websites, Kindle math apps, and some miscellaneous workbooks I’ve picked up here and there.
Last year we used GrapeVine Studies for the first time. Caroline and I both loved it. We did the New Testament Overview Part 1 last year and I’m planning on Part 2 this year.
Caroline will be taking a gym class at co-op so I’m not doing anything with this.
Caroline is taking an art class at co-op so this is covered. However, she had many ideas of things to learn related to art so I’m going to incorporate these as I’m able. She was interested in:
- A field easel, paint palette trays and canvas panels
- Paper mache
- Taking a pottery class
- da Vinci
- van Gogh
- Going to open paint times at Art Engage in Cute Little Town
And Duck Tape. Lots of Duck Tape.
Caroline has a very nice children’s guitar we bought last Christmas and I’d like to see her actually get into it. I’m not sure if private lessons would be best or what. She has also expressed an interest in piano lessons at times. I’m not sensing anything clear at this point so we’ll just wait and see what develops.
We have not done nearly as much travel as I would have expected when we started homeschooling. Part of that has been financial and part of it has been my health issues. I believe that field trips and travel can be such an important part of homeschooling so I hope we are able to do more in the years ahead.
Caroline suggested a few places she was interested in visiting and I added a few. They include:
- Rockford Museum
- Grand Rapids Art Museum
- Art Prize
- Grand Rapids Children’s Ballet
- Grand Rapids Public Museum and Chaffee Planetarium
- Michigan State Capital
- Lake Michigan
- Apple Farm
Caroline really wants to learn how to sew. I have minimal sewing skills and honestly don’t enjoy it because I am too much of a perfectionist. However, I am willing to get it out and see what we can do with it. I have no agenda with this. This will totally be according to her interest level.
She said she didn’t want to learn one. I’m going to try to find a really fun website and convince her to try it out to see if she changes her mind. David took French in high school and I took two years of German at Michigan State. It would make the most sense to have her choose one of those since we’re familiar with them, but she’s expressed an interest in Spanish. We’ll see.
We already have a good collection of games. I should probably buy a new UNO deck as ours is quite well used. (Caroline will clean your clock in that game!) Last year I purchased Blokus, Qwirkle and Appletters. I was describing Tiddly Winks to Caroline the other day and think that would probably be a hit. LOL!
Caroline has enjoyed playing Minecraft on the Kindle Fire and is amazingly good at it. Last week we downloaded the full Minecraft to the computer. She only plays on Creative mode and loves it. I suspect she will spend lots of time exploring Minecraft in the coming year.
One game I know Caroline would enjoy is a magnetic dart board. My parents have a really nice one we purchased for my Dad at Restoration Hardware a number of years ago. They no longer carry it, but I found this one online. It’s rather pricey, but I’m thinking this might be something I buy for our family.
So there you go. That’s an outline of our plan for this year. I see it as more of a general roadmap that will change and twist along the way.
While we’re more structured/formal (on paper, at least… it rarely works out as well in real life), your daughter sounds a lot like my seven-year-old, lefty son. I will be following your journey!
Thank you for sharing!
Even with my now high schooler we are a lot like you – relaxed and let her guide instruction. (She and Caroline are A LOT alike, methinks!) We have a deal on reading though. She has to read one book of my selection, no griping/whining allowed, after one of her selection. We alternate back and forth. She LOVES to read but she likes to read “her stuff” and not always the classics, etc she needs to be reading for school’s sake. So the “I choose, you choose” approach has worked tremendously for us.
And minecraft? Oh my…my younger two ADORE it. And they have learned quite a bit there. It’s not “just” a video game.
Relaxed always wins. Like you I hesitate to say unschool because the connotations there aren’t always positive. And, we do plan some things. But we are very, very relaxed. My goal for this year though is to do math every single day Monday – Thursday. I will be teaching Algebra 2 and 6th grade math to mine. It’s a lofty goal…but it is going to get done…somehow! 🙂
I think you are amazing coping with all that you do. I saw the webcast that you contributed to, about homeschooling an only child. I am basically doing this, as my 2 eldest kiddos are in their 20s and don’t live at home; and they weren’t homeschooled. My 10 yr old daughter is a reluctant writer+++ and I have found no magic wand. I will try those OT books your recommended. Like you, I try not to make learning about writing. We do lots of games, discussion, visuals and read, read, read! She is a prolific reader; can’t add 2 numbers together to save herself, but can read anything. Lol!! She has such a discrepancy between her language and math ability that she was given a diagnosis: nonverbal learning disorder. Hmmmm…… she also has sensory processing disorder. Sometimes I think having an only can be hard work, especially if you are an introvert – I am too. The socializing thing can be a struggle sometimes – having to force yourself to go out and meet new people and do all that interaction. Anyway, just wanted to say thank you for all your wonderful thoughts, insights and tips. And keep going – you are doing great things and are an inspiration! Hope you find some yummy things to eat too. Cheers!!
I am not homeschooling my son, but I like your ideas. My son has very strong ideas about what he wants to learn, so I will just get as many materials I can find, while the rest he will search for them on his own. Current topic of interest is dinosaurs (again).
Very helpful post! Thank you!
I feel like I am reading about my 7 year old daughter!!! 🙂 I need to come back later when I can fully digest and read more. Great blog post!
P.S. – you also might like the well trained mind accelerated learner board – I find some good things on there – just take what you like and leave the rest…haha
I love that you involve your daughter in your homeschool plans! We are trying Grapevine this year, too. I hope that we will like it as much as you did! We also don’t follow a “real” reading program…I’m glad to know we’re not alone.
I think we are twins or something! Right down to being a teacher, gifted creative child and chronic illness! I just gave in and unschool kinda like you I leave stuff out and follow his interests! So glad I found you!
Thank you for all the encouraging comments! I’m slowly catching up on them. I’m glad to meet many new kindred spirits! 🙂
I am thankful to have found you. My daughter has much in common with yours! The fine motor/handwriting challenges seem overwhelming at times. I feel like I need to find a new way to school her, as what we are doing is bringing much frustration. I feel a responsibility to cover the basics, but I also see that she needs to be schooled in a way that connects with her and yet isn’t exhausting for me! I’m looking forward to reading more on your site.
Great to hear about others who take the same approach to homeschooling. I use the term “Self-directed learning.” My daughter was a self-directed learner from 4th-the middle of 8th grade. She’s now a straight A, thriving honors student in a private high school. We never forced her to read and write. I am now homeschooling my self-directed middleschooler. We love Minecraft and Roblox. Not only can he use his creative side, but he practices team work and delegation with his friends. He’s also learning to program by modding these games.
It’s nice to meet you! Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. Yes, self-directed would also be a good description. We’re some form of self-directed, delight directed, eclectic, relaxed, unschoolerish homeschoolers. I settled on relaxed homeschooling because it seemed to make the most sense.
Caroline is a middle schooler and she loves Roblox, Minecraft, Terraria, etc. If this pandemic lasts too long I’m going to have to set up a separate line item in the budget for Robux. LOL! But, yes, these games are incredibly educational in terms of math, science, teamwork, communication, writing, etc. Just don’t tell the kids this!