Category Archives: Handwriting

Half-Way Through the Year

We’ve been plugging away happily with our school work, and we’re three weeks shy of the midpoint. Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to:


We have just begun Singapore level 2. I cannot emphasise enough how great his curriculum is. It truly does develop mental arithmetic skills. Esa does not work out math facts on his fingers; he is able to add and subtract 2-digit numbers in his head. My own math skills have even improved. He has nearly all of his addition facts memorised now.


Song School Latin is such a light and fun introduction to Latin. The little stories with Latin words mixed in help to bring it to life. If there isn’t a story for the chapter we’re doing, I make one up. Esa really enjoys doing SSL, and he especially enjoys the online drill.


We’ve done lesson B-4 of BFSU, but this one was a bit of a dud for us. It was on life cycles and it didn’t really cover anything Esa doesn’t already know. However, I chose not to go into too much detail with regards to human life cycles. Esa’s very innocent when it comes to the differences between boys and girls and knows nothing about the birds and the bees, and I’d like to keep it that way for a while; I’m just not ready for that innocence to be quashed, and I honestly don’t think he’s ready yet, either. He’s not asking questions. Well, a while back he did ask me where babies came from, and I just told him, “from God,” which is the truth according to our beliefs. When kids ask this question, they aren’t always looking for a full breakdown, complete with diagrams and a viewing of “The Miracle of Life”. He was satisfied with this answer and hasn’t shown any further curiosity. When he does, I’ll go into a little more detail.

Lesson B-4A is one of those on-going ones, so I’ve taken a few notes and I’m preparing for lesson D-4. I’ve posted the study sheets for B-4 and D-4 on the curricula page. I’ve also posted our sequence of study.


Esa’s moved on to book C in the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting series. In all honesty Esa’s handwriting isn’t great. It can be beautiful when he takes his time, but it’s often a mess. The italic font is lovely, I just wish he’d make more of an effort to use it when he’s doing his spelling, copywork, and dictation.


Esa’s reading well, but he gets sloppy sometimes. He often forgets some of the phonemes, so we’re going through The Road to Reading and reviewing everything briefly, focusing on weak areas.

He’s currently reading Fantastic Mr. Fox and is addicted to The Secret Garden. He listens to the audio book for at least an hour a day and he has me reading it aloud in the evenings. It’s his new favourite.

I knew some things needed to be cut out of our schedule, and although I was loathe to do it, I have put the axe to a few things. Here’s what we’ve cut and why:

British History: This was always scheduled for Friday, and for the past several weeks it’s been omitted because we’ve needed to finish up something else that got bumped earlier in the week. I’ve decided to leave British History until we’ve finished our survey of world history, then do a year of BH, go through world history again, then do BH again. By that point Esa will probably be doing A-levels..

  • Picture Study: This was such a great addition to our homeschool last year. But for some reason we’re just not into it any more. ARTistic Pursuits contains some picture study, so for now we’ll content ourselves with that.
  • Handicrafts: This has been on my lesson plans sheet since we began homeschooling 3 years ago. We’ve never done any handicrafts, so I’m ditching it until Esa’s older.

I’d like to say that these cuts have lightened our load, but they haven’t; these things weren’t getting done anyway. However, I feel less over-scheduled and less guilt over missing so much out, now that there’s less to miss out.


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Second Grade Plans

We’re officially finished with first grade. We’ll have a few weeks off, then have a few weeks of light summer school, working on reading, math facts, pre-history, science, and a little handwriting. That sounds like a lot when I type it out, but we won’t do everything every day and it will be very relaxed.

My thoughts have now turned to second grade. I’ve been doing lots of planning, sorting, and arranging. Out with the old and in with the new. 🙂

Second grade sees the addition of a few subjects. Here’s what we’ve got lined up:


For a gentle and fun (and inexpensive) introduction to Latin, we’ll be using Minimus. Now, I believe in parts-to-whole learning, but looking back on phonics instruction, I know that kind of learning can be a bit boring, especially in the early days.  I want this first year of Latin to be fun and engaging; I’m not terribly fussed if Esa doesn’t walk away being able to read Cattus Petasatus after this first year. Minimus is whole-to-parts and quite lively. I think it will be much enjoyed.


Last year I purchased Writing with Ease. I didn’t purchase the workbook because I wanted to choose the copywork and narration selections myself and I also wanted to keep costs down. The result was that after a few weeks I stopped using it. I came back to it, but it got dropped again. It was too much work and I wasn’t sure I was “doing it right.” So for level 2, I’ve decided to purchase the workbook. I don’t think we need to begin at level 1; he’s done lots of copywork and narration, plus he’s gone through FLL level 1 which dovetails with WWE level 1, so we’ll dive in with level 2. I’m very excited about this for some reason…I’m not sure why. After all, it’s just a workbook and the WWE programme isn’t new to me…but there’s something about it…it feels weighty and substantial. We’re not in Kindergarten anymore, Toto.


In first grade we began using Sequential Spelling. I stopped this because although it was great and Esa was learning to spell, it was a little too much and since he wasn’t doing much writing apart from handwriting and copywork, I worried that he would forget what he’d learned. In second grade he’ll be doing more real writing (he’s currently writing a book called “Lego City Police Story”) and will have more writing assignments and I think spelling instruction will be beneficial.

Here’s what else we’ll be doing:


Phonics instruction is more or less completed. We’ll be reviewing things from time to time because although the point of phonics is to get them reading, I don’t want him to forget the rules. Why? Well, I was taught by phonics, but I’d forgotten many of the rules. Since teaching Esa, I’ve found some of those rules to be beneficial to me. I want him to know these rules because reading instruction never ends; even as an adult he’s going to come across words he doesn’t know, so having a good grasp of those rules will be helpful in his reading and his spelling.

He’s been reading a lot of Mr. Men books. These are fun, lively, and challening. We’ll continue with these for the time being. Mostly I’ll let him choose his reading material, but I will steer him clear of twaddle or too many easy selections and there may be times I assign him something to read. I want him to read a variety of things, including non-fiction, which he likes to read, anyway.


We’re currently in the middle of Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Book B. We’ll plug away at this and move to Book C whenever he’s ready.

World History

We’ll be using Story of the World Volume 2: Middle Ages. I have the activity book, purchased as a download from the Peace Hill Press website. (Big mistake; they don’t allow you to save it to your computer and you’re limited in the number of times you can download it, so you have to print off all the 400+ pages…not very economical.) I also purchased the audiobook, which we’re very excited about.

British History

I was planning to do British history alongside world history, but I’ve decided not to do that. When we’ve worked through all four SOTW books, we’ll then spend a year or two working on British history, then we’ll do four years of world history again. The educational system works differently in the UK, so I probably won’t be homeschooling via the classical method all 12 years. During his last few years, he’ll be working on A-levels, which may not even include history, so we’ll probably only have two history rotations.


We’ll be continuing with First Language Lessons. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly impressed with level 1. Nouns went on for an eternity, but then pronouns and verbs were barely touched upon. And some of the lessons were, in my opinion, downright useless. I also didn’t like how the child was to learn the months (in order), but yet the poem which teaches how many days are in each month (what 6-year-old needs to know that, anyway?) gives the months out of order! We skipped that poem and I taught Esa the knuckles trick, so that if he does want to know how many days are in each month, he can work it out.  However, level 2 looks more promising, so we’ll keep using it.


We’re about 2/3 of the way finished with Artistic Pursuits book 1. This has been a nice curriculum, but not spectacular. Some of the lessons are better than others, and if you want a pick-up-and-go art programme, it’s fantastic. But because we do a lot of art, including art appreciation, this hasn’t been the must-have curriculum that I imagined it would be. However, I do think the upper levels will be more useful to us and we will continue using it. This is a book that I know I can sell on, so I don’t feel it’s a waste of money.


I’m not totally sure in which direction we’re headed with math. Second grade could see us adhering strictly to Singapore Math, we may use a little of it, we may use a different programme altogether, or we may just unschool math completely. I just don’t know. I’ll have a better idea of what the plan is come September. I don’t really like the idea of buying another curriculum. Math curricula is expensive and who knows whether it will be any better. There are some great things about Singapore:

  1. It truly has fostered Esa’s mental math abilities
  2. I like that you can skip around a bit; you don’t have to do everything in order
  3. It’s challenging and thorough

What I don’t like about it is that it’s a little boring. So, it’s one of those programmes that we will probably continue using, but we’ll supplement with other things, skip around, and take breaks from it.


We will continue using Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. This is an amazing curriculum and is suitable for all, regardless of your views on evolution because it’s not covered in this programme. It is quite teacher-intensive, but since everything else I’m using is pick-up-and-go, I don’t mind. I think science needs to be this way, at least in the early years. Once Esa’s a bit older, he’ll be able to take on some of the responsibility of initiating science activities himself.

My only complaint with this programme is that it could do with a little fleshing out via literature. There are book recommendations, but they’re all non-fiction selections, not always the greatest, and our library doesn’t usually have them. I think reading about science (in fiction and non-fiction format) is a great way to cement and supplement the learning, and Esa loves science books. I know once his reading skills advance a little more he’s going to be clamoring for science materials to read.

I think it would also be nice if for each lesson there were some sort of outline to ensure certain key points were covered. It’s a little too fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants for my linking. I don’t want it scripted, I just want to make sure I cover all the bases. I do make notes for each lesson, but I still worry that I’ve left something out.

I also need to devote more time to Esa’s science instruction. We only do science one day a week, plus read a section from The Story of Science, but because this book is being read out of context, it’s not much of a supplement. We’re not getting any nature study in, which I feel guilty about. I just don’t know what to do. We go out, look at a few plants and bugs, and I just don’t know where else to go from there. There’s nowhere within walking distance that will provide more diversity. (I’m working on getting my UK driver’s license, which will broaden our horizons quite a bit  more). I need to make more of an effort with this. And as I write this, I feel more determined to do so. It’s summer and we need to be out there exploring. I’d also like to start doing something about those nature journals.


We haven’t done a whole lot with this. Esa is learning a little food preparation and he helps out a fair bit with housework, but this winter I’m hoping to begin him with some easy sewing or cross stitch and maybe crochet. I tried him with some cross stitch several months ago, but he wasn’t quite ready for it.


We will continue with our composer study. Well, there isn’t much “study” involved. I choose a composer (usually whoever I’ve manged to pick up at the charity shop) and we listen when we feel like it. Esa likes classical music, so I count this area of our homeschooling as a success.


This tapered off a little at the end of first grade. We were using this set of discussion starters, but this died out.  We were studying Kandinsky and our library only had a few books on him, none of which contained the paintings I wanted to study. I allowed Esa to choose most of the paintings, but I did choose one or two, including a watercolour. 🙂

I’m hoping get back to our discussions, and I’d like to study a few watercolourists, including J.M.W. Turner.


Although we faithfully memorised several poems (I say “we” because when you’re child is memorising a poem, you can’t help but memorise it yourself!), the reading of poetry for fun waned. I want to revive this. It’s just laziness on my part, really. (“It’s almost time for lunch…we don’t have time for poetry now.” Etc.)

Our days will take longer, I can see that. I don’t think it’s going to be realistic to expect to finish before lunch. I think we may do 2 hours before lunch, and 2 hours after. Four hours is a lot, but we will have little breaks here and there. (“I need to put the clothes in the dryer, let’s have a little break” and so on.) And breaking it up like that will hopefully allow us to get a good balance of quantity and quality; I want to take our time with things and not rush, but I also want to get it all in…or most of it, anyway. I always feel guilty when I rush things and I learned to cut out certain things and go  more slowly rather than rush through everything. This is partly why nature study and poetry often get missed out. But I need to make more of an effort to include these things.

We will begin second grade on….er, sometime in September.


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Early Thoughts on Second Grade…and the End of First Grade…and a Bit of Third Grade

We have 15 weeks of first grade left. I know it sounds trite, but I just can’t believe it. I really can’t. I spent so much time thinking about first grade, planning, reading, preparing, imagining…I was so excited to start first grade and we have really enjoyed this year.

Here is a document I created outlining the remainder of the year. Subject to change, of course. Remainder of First Grade

And now my thoughts are turning to second grade.

I spent a huge amount of time planning first grade. Partly because I was doing so much research about methods, and partly because I was doing so much research on curricula. Now that we’ve got the method down, and we’ve tasted quite a lot of curricula, planning second grade isn’t such a big deal.

I made a new document. It began when I was outlining our final weeks of first grade (see above document) and I decided, just for fun, to draw up a schedule for second grade.  All throughout this year, I kept wondering, “Are we going to finish FLL/SOTW/Singapore Mat/etc on time?” I’m not really worried about it, but I like knowing where we are. I then decided to create one for second grade as well.  I spent a few very happy hours creating this schedule. If you click on the link below, it will open in a Word document. I created it in Excel to make it easier to modify, but WordPress won’t allow the uploading of Excel documents, so I copied and pasted it to Word.

Second Grade Curiculum Plan

Here is a key to the plan:

The black lines separate the year into 4 terms.

SOTW: Story of the World Volume 2.

FLL: First Language Lessons Part 2. Numbers denote lessons.

Minimus: Numbers denote chapters. We will use the first volume during terms 1 and 2, then Minimus Secondus for the second half of the year.

GSWL: Getting Started with Latin. Numbers denote lessons. For the first 5 weeks, we will do 3 lessons per week, after that we will do 3 lessons during weeks that have 3 lessons in FLL, and 4 lessons when there are 2 lessons in FLL.

Math: Singapore Math, level 2A and 2B.

AP: ARTistic Pursuits. B1= book 1, B2=book 2.

BFSU: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. Denotes lesson. The blank spaces are there because for some lessons, we may want 3 weeks, but I’m not sure for which lessons. Or we may work more quickly. Hard to say. I was hoping to finish BFSU during second grade,  but the lessons at the bottom are those that we will still need to cover (written twice for scheduling purposes).

SS: Sequential Spelling. Numbers denote lessons. I’m not totally sure when we’ll begin this. This is very much open to adjustment. I’d like to begin the second book during second grade, but I’m not too worried about it.

This schedule is most definitely not set in stone. It will get changed, I’m sure of it, especially the holdidays (as you can see, we’re doing lessons over Christmas…I doubt that will be the case). I tried to create plenty of wiggle room as well. I did not, for example, double up any SOTW chapters, apart from one week when one of the chapters has only one section. We can always do more than one chapter some weeks if we fall behind, because I do want to finish SOTW on time. I’m not so worried about other areas, though. The weeks marked as ‘review’ in the math column can be used to get caught up, do review, or play math games.

Here’s another document I created, outlining the curricula we will use for 1st through 4th grades. Again, subject to change. Curriculum Plan 1-4.

Further  second grade planning:

  • History

When we finish SOTW level 1, sometime this summer, we’re going to take 4-6 weeks to do pre-history. I would have preferred to begin with pre-history, but Esa was raring to go with Ancient Egypt, so I went with the flow. We’ll learn about dinosaurs, pre-historic man, and touch on evolution. Some of you may be wondering how that meshes with our religion. Well, we believe that we have a creator, obviously, but the idea of plants and animals evolving isn’t a problem. The idea of the earth being billions of years old isn’t in conflict with our religion, either, and neither is the big bang, really. The idea that humans evolved from animals is, however, a problem, and one that I will address when it comes up…not entirely sure how, but I’ll think of something…

I’ve just purchased SOTW volume 2 and decided to spring for the CD version as well. I wasn’t going to initially because Amazon was selling it for over £38 ($60), which is highway robbery. I had a peek at Book Depository and they were selling it for £23! So I thought it would be a nice supplement. We can listen to it in the car during long journeys.

There’s a slight problem with the SOTW volume 2 Activity Guide. It’s not available new here at a decent price (sellers on Amazon are asking over £80! ($120), so instead of paying exorbitant shipping rates and risking it being lost in the mail and/or incurring customs fees by having it shipped from the States, I decided to download it from the Peace Hill Press Store. It’s available as a PDF.

Beware: You are not able to save it to your computer. You are given 5 downloads and have to get it all printed off in that time. Sadly, I wasted 2 of my downloads because Firefox was blocking the pop-up that had the actual file. I’ve since managed to print all the student pages when I opened it the next time with Internet Explorer. I had wanted to save it so I didn’t have to print off the teacher’s pages and could just open the file as and when needed. I understand why they won’t let you save it, but still…

  • Math

We’ll be using Singapore, level 2. We’ve loved Singapore and it’s really fostered Esa’s natural abilities with mental arithmetic. I’ll be using the Singapore Math Practice books as supplements, along with Family Math, The Book of Numbers, math games, and any other lovely things we find.

  • Science

We’ll be continuing with BFSU, which is THE BEST science curriculum I have seen…ok, I haven’t actually seen many (or any, apart from  online samples), but when something works for you, you love it. We’re loving it. This will probably last until the end of second grade as we’re moving quite slowly.

For nature study, we’ll use James Herriot’s Treasury for Children along with lots of other goodies and work on our nature journals.

I need to find a few more resources for science next year.

  • Handwriting

We’ll continue with Italic handwriting. Esa will probably still be on the level B workbook, but will move on to level C after a short time.

  • Writing

I’ll have another look at Writing With Ease, but mostly we will continue with copywork and narration and begin dictation. I plan to use Classical Writing, which uses the Progymnasmata, beginning in third grade.

  • Spelling

At some point during second grade we will resume Sequential Spelling. Well, we’ll probably start it from the beginning since we were only 18 lessons into it when I stopped it and I’m sure Esa will be needing the review. Amazingly, I am still seeing the benefits of those 18 lessons in his creative writing.

  • Grammar

We’ll continue with First Language Lessons, moving on to level 2.

  • Latin

We will be finishing with phonics instruction this summer and so will begin Latin this autumn. We will be using Minimus along with Getting Started With Latin. Actually, I plan to purchase GSWL first. It may be enough for first grade, but I’m not sure. I really love the colourful and engaging format of Minimus. I’ll purchase the student book and CD, but I won’t bother with the teacher’s manual. £43 is just too much for a few supplemental activities and worksheets. I can make those up myself if we need them. I’m really hoping to get to the States this summer, and if I do, I’ll purchase Lively Latin to be used in third grade.

  • Art

We will continue with ARTistic Pursuits, moving on to the second book whenever we’re finished with the first. We’ll also continue with artist study and will possibly be studying expressionist painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Edvard Munich, Anita Malfatti, and August Macke.

  • Music

More of the same. I’ll choose a composer for each term, purchase a CD, and we’ll enjoy it during art, or whenever.

These plans aren’t terribly exciting as they don’t differ too much from first grade. I’m sure they will change, so I’m trying not to purchase too much in advance, but I will have to start making more purchases come May in order to have all of our spines by August so that I can organise/read/plan, etc and be ready by September. I’m not a good saver, and my husband would have kittens if he saw that many books being delivered within a week or 2, so I spread the book-buying out over a period of months. Many of these purchases will be funded by the books I sell on Amazon.

Hmmm…what else can I plan……..?


The Half-Way Point…More or Less

By the calendar, we’re half-way through first grade. In our books, we’re nearly there. Here’s what we’ve been up to and where we’re at:


We’ve just finished lesson 40 (out of 100) in First Language Lessons. I skipped about 10 of the lessons because some were just too repetitive or covered things, like home address, that we’ve already done. We’ll be heading into pronouns soon.


We’ve got about 3 or 4 weeks left of Singapore 1A, then we’ll begin 1B. The last couple of weeks have been quite challenging for Esa. We’re doing subtracting within 20 and the method taught is fantastic, but challenging. Basically, you have to alter the equation so that you’re subtracting from ten, like this: 14-7 becomes 10-7, then after you subtract, you add the 4 back on. Esa can do it, but this multi-step approach is a little hard to remember.

Fortunately, the next few sections are fun things like shapes and measuring, so he’ll have a little break from it. We’ll then revisit adding with the Singapore supplemental workbooks. I also plan during the ‘fun’ sections, to work on math facts. Esa doesn’t have his addition and subtraction facts to 10 memorised and doing so will really make those larger problems easier.

World History

We’ve just finished chapter 18 (out of 42) (The Minoans) in SOTW. On BBC iplayer there is a fantastic series called How Earth Made Us which goes along nicely with our studies. The presenter talks about Crete and how it was destroyed. We also enjoyed reading about the lost city of Atlantis. I’m a definite believer. 🙂

British History

This is moving slowly because there is little to read about pre-Romans and I’m wanting our British history study to correspond to world history. Well, actually, I don’t want it to match up exactly because it would be overkill, but the Roman invasion into Britain doesn’t begin in SOTW until level 2, and that’s a little too far away. We’ll probably start Our Island Story during our last term (April-June) along with the matching sections in Usborne British History. Then when we get to it in SOTW2, it will be a nice review and we can compare and contrast the accounts.


We’ve only just started Sequential Spelling, and I’m not worrying about levels with this. We’ll do a lesson a day until we’re finished. This program is excellent. We’ve just finished lesson 7 and already I see results. Without studying or memorising, Esa is now able to spell many words, including ‘beginning’ and ‘disagree.’ This program does require a fair bit of writing, at this point 20 words a day. You can omit some words, and we usually skip about 3. This is a fantastic non-workbook approach to spelling that is sure to also improve his reading.


We’re chugging along quite nicely with reading. He is beginning to enjoy his reading and occasionally picks things up and reads briefly for pleasure. We’ll be finishing with phonics instruction this summer.


We’re working on our second lesson in Buiding Foundations of Scientific Understanding: solids, liquids, and gases. This was a lot of fun and even I learned a few things. There are 41 lessons in this book, and I’m hoping to make it stretch through second grade. The next level of this book will be out in May (I can’t wait!) so we’ll have that to look forward to in third and fourth (and fifth?) grades. I’m beefing this programme up with supplemental books and activities. One thing we did was to measure the amount of air in a sponge. We did this by immersing the sponge in a bowl of water, squeezing out the air, allowing the water to fill it, then measuring the amount of water.

By the way, BBC has another great 4-part programme on iplayer called Chemistry: A Volatile History. We’re really enjoying this.


We are just over half-way through level A of italic handwriting. We plan to be finished with it in about 13 weeks. We’ll go straight on to level B; I won’t wait until second grade.


We’ve just finished week 4 in Writing with Ease. I’m still a bit unsure of this programme. And since starting spelling, I’m worried we’re doing a bit too much writing. When it comes time to do copy work, Esa’s balking a bit now. I’m hoping he’ll adjust. Before starting spelling, I was wanting to increase the amount of writing he does anyway since it hasn’t been increased at all. Week 5 sees the addition of another day of copy work, so we’ll see how that goes…


We’ve completed our first lesson from ARTistic Pursuits. This was a big hit. I’m not worrying about being on a certain level with this, either. There are only 3 books for the first 4 years, so I’m sure we’ll finish the 3rd book by then.

In Drawing with Children, we’re still working on the first lesson, but we’re enjoying it and learning a lot. We’ll probably start the next lesson next week or the week after.

For artist study, we’re still looking at Monet. We’ll study one more painting then move on to Van Gogh.


We’re struggling to fit this in. I think this may be something we do on the weekends. In about 2 months we’ll be spending a lot more time out in the garden, so we may not really get to any handicrafts (apart from our usual baking, housework, etc) until autumn. He may have more of an interest then as well.


We’ve left Grieg and are now enjoying Vivaldi. The first day I put the CD on Esa said, after about 20 seconds, ‘This is better than Grieg.’ I agree. 🙂


My husband is teaching Esa to read Arabic…and he’s now teaching me as well. 🙂 Arabic is very phonetic and not too difficult to read. Meaning and grammar are a completely different challenge that we’ll conquer later.

According to my schedule, we’ll be finished with first grade by the end of June. I’m not sure if we’ll acually be done with everything by then, but we’ll have July and August to finish up. And if life throws us a curve ball…well, we’ll just keep at it as best we can until we get done. 🙂


Hitting Our Stride

Last month I wrote about our schedule being too overwhelming, I had the occasional meltdown, and I’ve lately said that Classical Education was too stifling for us. I’ve since realised that these were simply growing pains. What I mistook for ‘problems’ were merely settling-in and adjustment issues that have since ironed themselves out. After all, I did begin first grade a year early so it’s not surprising that we encountered a few bumps along the way. The only real changes I’ve made that were necessary were allowing Esa to choose what he wants to study for science, requiring less narration and focusing on narration as a skill, rather than an assessment tool, at this point. We’re back to doing copywork as we were (via Writing with Ease), albeit smaller chunks. Adding in a few breaks has made a huge difference as well.

Things are now, thankfully, running like a well-oiled train. And I’ll add that it’s mostly WTM. I’ve learned that ‘living books’ are different for everyone. For us, living books are books that make a subject not only come alive, but make it accessible. Esa was not enjoying the old living books that Ambleside recommends. Maybe he’s just not ready for them. (He does, however, enjoy a few like James Herriot and Our Island Story). He loves the Usborne and DK books, with their bright pictures and photographs. These books may be packed with facts, but he likes that and learns from them. He makes up the ‘ideas’ himself.

We do, however, do more with art and music than WTM recommends, and handicrafts, all CM influences that enrich our homeschool greatly.

So, how are things? Here is a glimpse at what we’re up to and Esa’s progress:


We’re steaming along quite well and things are really coming together. Esa’s reading easy books fluently and reading things from his environment with ease. Doing dictation with magnetic letters has been such a great tool; I can’t recommend it enough. If your child struggles to write, this is an amazing way of getting dictation in. (Any sort of movable alphabet, with several of each letter will do) We plan to finish phonics instruction by next summer (possibly sooner).


I’m being more selective about our literature choices and Esa is enjoying the stories more. If none of the recommendations from the SOTW activity guide are to his liking, we find our own. We use these for our narration practice.


We do it when we have time. We can go several days without reading any, then have phases where that’s all we’re reading. I recently bought Esa a new I Can Read book (level 3!) called My Parents Think I’m Sleeping and it’s a book of poems. Esa’s going to love reading that.


We’re working our way through First Language Lessons. It’s quite slow in the beginning, so I’m remedying this by combining lessons, or skipping some. We’re on about lesson 32 and are very ready to move on to pronouns!


Although Esa’s handwriting isn’t very Italic-y yet, it has greatly improved. He does 2 letters a week and I supplement with handwriting sheets that I make for him using the StartWrite software. He’s half-way through the first workbook and I plan to start him on the second one while he’s doing capital letters from the first workbook.


Handwriting serves as a kind of warm-up for copywork, which we do immediately after handwriting. I make the copywork sheets using the StartWrite software, which helps to reinforce the Italic handwriting. We do copywork twice a week at the moment.


We’re following the model laid out in Writing With Ease and as we’ve just finished with week one, I can’t comment too much just yet. One of the reasons I was worried about the WTM method was that shortly after implementing it fully, Esa stopped wanting to write on his own. He loves to write and used to write all the time, and obviously I was worried about this. but he’s back to writing again. He makes his own little books, writes letters and cards to friends and family, and enjoys any kind of labelling activity. We also supplement with activites from Games for Writing.


Esa’s doing wonderfully well in math. Singapore Math deserves much of the credit. This programme is just right for Esa and challenges him just enough. I was having a look at the second half of it and discovered that he’ll be doing multiplication and division in a few months. Gulp! 🙂


I’m a bit bored with our curriculum as it’s simply vocabulary-based and requires a lot of drill, but Esa’s enjoying it. I’m looking forward to finishing it and using something more immersion-based.

Natural History

We’re wrapping up our study of snakes and reptiles. This has been a big hit and Esa has learned so much and can even identify many snakes (not something we worked on directly). The Life in Cold Blood DVD has been an amazing supplement. Esa wants to study mushrooms next, so we’ll do that for a week or 2 in January. Not sure what we’ll do next. I’m looking forward to spring when we’ll resume our study of plants. This is something we will do each year. Esa loves gardening and I’d like for him to gain in-depth knowledge of at least one area of science.

World History

We’ve just finished chapter 15 of Story of the World. We’re really enjoying it and doing more of the hands-on activities from the guide.

British History

Esa really likes the Usborne History of Britain. We read a 2-page spread each week and Esa does a colouring page from his Ancient Britain Colouring book. We’re hoping to resume Our Island Story soon.


We do Geography one day a week. We do the map activities from the SOTW activity guide, then I drill Esa on things like the continents, the compass, the oceans, hemispheres, etc. Sometimes I print off a blackline map of the world and have him colour the contients different colours or some other similar activity.

Artist/Music Study

We’ll study 2 more Monets and then move on. I’m planning to switch composers in January. (More about that later) We love these subjects.


We’re working slowly through the first lesson from Drawing with Children. The activities are challenging for Esa, but I’m having him repeat them several times and he’s making definite improvement.

So, Classical Education is working for us. And I’m so pleased. I fell in love with Classical Education 2 years ago and wanted so much to teach my son this way,  but I had so many doubts, so many worries. The biggest of which was: What if it doesn’t suit him? And, What if it’s too hard for us? What if he hates it? What if it kills his love of learning?

Yes, it’s still early days yet, but already I can see the fruits of our labours, his love of learning is growing, and it is working for us.

I’m planning to add 2 new things to our homeschool…more art and spelling. (I’ll talk about that another time.) And since we’re about half-way through first grade, I’ve started thinking about second grade…more planning…yippeee! 🙂 (and I’ll definitely be blogging about that soon!)

For the next 2 weeks, we’re going to continue our homeschooling, but we’re going to have a more relaxed pace (I don’t want to stop his reading instruction because he’s having a learning-spurt with reading just now and I want to run with it). We’re going to focus on math and handicrafts, do some baking, finish up reptiles, review previous sections of Spanish, play games, and read A Christmas Carol.


Is it too much?

Lately I’ve been feeling like our schedule is a bit too full. And after reading this post on my friend Suji’s site, I really began to crave more relaxed, less jam-packed days. When others talked about their days, and they only covered 3 or 4 subjects, I’d always think, ‘they’re missing out on so much.’ Now I realise how wrong I was. It’s we who are missing out on everything. Well, not everything, but a lot. We’re not taking enough time to savour things; it’s bam-bam, bam, got to get it done before lunch, now you can go play.

When we began first grade, we were only doing a few subjects and we really took our time, really enjoyed them, and truly absorbed what we were doing. Gradually I began adding subjects and gradually things just got out of control. I then switched to a more Charlotte Mason approach, but that didn’t really solve our problems. I cut out 2 things and added about 5.

Here’s a list of all the subjects we cover in a week:

Reading/phonics 5x

Grammar 3-4x (First Language Lessons 2-3x, Mad Libs 1x)

Handwriting 5x

Spanish 5x

Math 5x

Natural History 3-4x

World History 2-3x

British History 1x

Geography 1x

Shakespeare/Dickens 1x

Writing 5x (Writing with Ease 4x, Games for Writing or pen pal letter 1x)

Drawing/Art 2x

Picture/Artist Study 2x

Music 1x (we listen to music everyday, study music once a week)

Poetry when we can fit it in

Handicrafts when we can fit it in

Our lessons are short, but I’ve realised that’s not working for certain subjects like natural history and art; those areas need digging into, 10-20 minutes just isn’t enough. And I can’t cut back on the number of days we do things for various reasons that I won’t bore you with.

I haven’t come up with a good solution yet. There’s nothing I want to cut out, either because Stiggy loves it (Spanish, [and yes we need 5 days; 3 days just wasn’t enough for him to learn it], Natural History, the arts, Shakespeare) or I feel it’s important (like handwriting, reading, and copywork/narration [a.k.a. writing]). I have changed my lesson plans sheet, though. Instead of using a calendar-like approach, I’ve listed each subject and written below it what I’d like to accomplish for the week. Certain things have to be done daily, then after that we can pick and choose what we want to do that day. It does rather feel like going to an all-you-can-eat-buffet and less like ‘we’ve still got to get through this, this, and this.’ So that’s good.

I’ve also added a few breaks during our day, which has helped some.

I’ve tried spreading things out and doing a few things in the afternoon, but I can’t always do this. Some days we have outings, appointments, other obligations, or Stiggy is just itching to go and play, so this isn’t a workable option every day.

I’d thought about doing certain subjects for half the time, or a quarter of the time, then switching, but in order to do that, we’d have to study them really intensely every day which doesn’t lend itself to much ‘savouring’ and ‘absorbing’ (I like a few days’ marinating after some lessons before moving on), and while we’re not doing those subjects, much of it will be forgotten. so I don’t like that idea, either.

Any ideas? Is it too much? Just right? Do I need to just be patient and let things settle? To be honest, Stiggy is ok with it all and is learning well. It’s me. I have this idea of how our days should go, and the reality just doesn’t quite match up.