Category Archives: Homeschool Planning

Focus (Part II) (Or: I’ve Always Gotta Be Tinkering…)

I’ve been thinking a lot about where we’re headed as well as Classical Writing and Harvey’s Elementary Grammar and Composition (which I hadn’t heard of until recently…Harvey’s, that is) which we plan on using later, and realised that we’re leaning more towards a Latin-Centred approach, which I’m quite happy with. I strongly believe in the concept of multum non multa– not many, but much…in other words, quality, not quantity.

Although our homeschooling is going well, I think it could be better. We’re doing a lot, and sometimes we’re digging in deeply…but not as often, and not as deeply, as I’d like us to.

I was looking through the curriculum presented in The Latin-Centered Curriculum (refered to here as The LCC, which is different from LCC, which just means a Latin-centred curriculum) and I found myself, eyebrows furrowed, frown in place, searching the table of contents and index for any mention of spelling. There’s no spelling! I hissed. No grammar, either, from what I can see!

No, there’s no spelling or grammar curriculum in The LCC, because those things aren’t needed when you’re using Classical Writing, although the authors of CW recommend Harvey’s and the use of a spelling programme…so I’ll have to take a closer look and evaluate as we go.

Could we really drop spelling and grammar?

Well, we’ve dropped grammar (First Language Lessons) for now, until Homer, then we’ll begin using Harvey’s, which is supposed to be the best, most thorough grammar programme ever written.

Spelling? Yes. We are going to drop spelling when we begin CW. Sequential Spelling is fantastic, but I think with CW it’s just going to be overkill. Plus, spelling takes about 30 minutes each day. That’s a lot of time in a homeschooler’s day. If I see a need for a separate spelling programme, we can always add Sequential Spelling back in. But with all the writing and Latin he’ll be doing, I don’t think we will need it. CW takes a total of an hour a day, plus we’ll be spending about 30-45 minutes each day using Lively Latin and Minimus. Plus we’ll have handwriting practice and reading. That’s around 2.5 hours each day of English and Latin, and we’ll still need to do science, history, and math. Something’s gotta give, and it’s going to have to be spelling.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, what I’m about to say may come as quite a shock, but here it is: I don’t think studying grammar at this age is necessary. We’ve spent over a year doing grammar, and Esa pretty much knows what a noun is, but he’s still shaky with verbs and shakier still with pronouns.  I’ve been taking a close look at Harvey’s, and it starts from the very beginning with nouns, what a sentence is, and the different types of sentences. What is point of doing it now and doing it later, when we can just do it later? I’m not going to teach him to read twice, so why should I have to teach grammar twice? When he’s a little older, it’ll all make much more sense and the information will stick, because he’ll be able to practice the concepts more. The time previously spent on grammar will be much more wisely spent on something like math or reading.

I’m also thinking of making some changes to our history studies. Well, more so when we begin our studies of the ancients again, in fifth grade. I like some of the resources recommended in The LCC, and I’d like to take a slower, more in-depth study of the great books. The Well-Trained Mind recommends a dizzying number of books to read each year. I know they don’t intend for the student to read all of them, but when I look at that list, it suddenly becomes a necessity and I feel I’m leaving something vital out if I don’t.

I really like the idea of taking our time and going slowly through the Greek, Roman, and Norse myths. I also want to learn more about Greek and Roman history, and  from next year make Latin our main focus, now that phonics instruction is complete. The following passage from The LCC really struck a chord with me:

Classical language study increases our knowledge of the past and of our own history. It’s quite impossible to study classical languages without delving into classical history. What is a ‘gladiator’? (If you know the meaning of the common second-declension noun gladius, you’ll have an important clue.) Who was Caesar? What is an aqueduct and why were they built? What is the meaning of ‘democracy,’ and where was it first practiced? This history is our history, the history of the West. We cannot understand the roots of our own government, legal system, or religious traditions without reference to Greece and Rome. (emphasis my own)

Many of the resources recommended in The LCC are Christian, so inappropriate for us, and the study of science isn’t seen as important and is fact-based in the early grades, so The Latin-Centered Curriculum won’t be our homeschooling bible, as such, but we will probably follow it more than we do WTM (which I still love).

The changes I’d like to make aren’t huge, really. We’ve already begun leaning towards a Latin-centred approach without really trying. I’m just going to give it a little nudge. To sum up, here’s what I’m planning:

  • Math: Continue with Singapore. This programme really instils and promotes mathematical thinking and mental math skills. This curriculum comes highly recommended in The LCC.
  • Writing: Continue with Writing with Ease for now. Re-evaluate at the end of second grade. Move on to WWE level 3, or progress to Classical Writing.
  • Poetry: Continue enjoying and memorising poems. Begin Poetry for Beginners in fifth grade.
  • Handwriting: Continue as we are with Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting. We have just begun book C.
  • Grammar: Stop FLL. Restart grammar in fifth grade using Harvey’s.
  • Spelling: Stop spelling when we begin CW. If spelling becomes an issue, resume Sequential Spelling and omit the spelling element of CW.
  • Latin:
  • Science: Continue with Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding, having one lesson per week, or every two weeks and one day of science reading.
  • History: Continue as we are with SOTW, cutting back on the supplementary reading. Instead, we will read Greek and Norse myths, medieval tales, and fairy tales this year. We will also continue working through British history, very slowly, using Our Island Story audio book, The Usborne History of Britain, and Britannia: 100 Great Stories from British History
  • Reading: Phonics instruction is complete. We are going to make a phonics chart to help cement learning. I allow Esa to choose his own reading material, but he often goes for the same books over and over, so I occasionally choose for him.
  • Art & Music: Weekly art lesson from Artistic Pursuits, plus plenty of self-initiated art projects. Esa’s recently expressed an interest in learning to draw realistically, so we may pick up Drawing with Children again. We play classical music during art times. For picture study, we’ll be using the Page-a-Day Art calendar.

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Week 2 or, The Template of all Future Weeks

(Dictation exercise from last week; forgot to post this)

Wow, what a week! We did everything I’d planned for the week…everything. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. All the extra work hasn’t phased Esa one bit. He’s enjoying it and asking for more…I’m very happy to oblige. Here’s a snapshot of some of what we did and a few tweaks I’ve made.

  • Reading

On Fridays Esa has IRT (independent reading time). During IRT, he’s to choose a book that he’s not yet read, go away and read, then tell me what the book (or chapter, or whatever) is about. This was fabulous. Esa chose a Hot Wheels annual (not exactly Newberry material, but it does have lots of big words). He was happy to be finished, but later in the day I saw him reading from it again.

  • Spelling

Last year I purchased Sequential Spelling. It was great, but it was just too much handwriting for Esa and since he wasn’t doing a lot of writing I felt it was pointless to worry about spelling. I also knew there was a real risk of him forgetting everything he learned, so I shelved it. We’ve picked this back up and it’s working beautifully. Esa is loving it and he’s learning a lot.

However…I’ve been really tempted to try All About Spelling. This programme looks great and I like that it teaches the spelling rules. Sequential Spelling teaches patterns, but you aren’t told the rule behind it. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time or if you know me at all, you’ll know that I need to know the rules behind spelling (and everything else).

The problem is, AAS is only available from the AAS website. It can be shipped here, but it’s very expensive to do so. They do have a very generous guarantee, but I wouldn’t get that shipping charge back. I was also a little put off by all the cards- word cards, phonogram cards, and whatever else. It’s just too fiddly for us.

Since Sequential Spelling is working for us and it’s really the rules that I’m after (and it’s now available as a Kindle download, so I can view it on my computer or a Kindle if I buy one), I thought it made more sense to buy a book with the spelling rules in it. I’ve ordered the  Handy English Encoder Decoder: All the Spelling and Phonics Rules You Could Ever Want to Know which I’m hoping will live up to its title. We can do Sequential Spelling and learn the rules alongside it. Problem solved. Hopefully.

  • Latin

Sometimes when we begin a new curriculum I’m not always sure what I’m doing. I read through it and try to plan, but inevitably the best thing to do is just get it out and make a start. Within a few days things fall into place and we develop a routine. This happened with Story of the World and Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. When I got Minimus I saw quite quickly that this was one of those I-can’t-figure-out-what-to-do-with-this-so-I-won’t-try-we’ll-just-wing-it programmes. But after a week I was still just as mystified as when we began. We listened to the CD, followed along with the book, translated the passage (well, I translated it for him)…and then I just didn’t know where to go from there. So we did it again. And again. And again. And on Monday, Esa and I looked at each other with mirrored expressions that said, ‘what the blazes are we supposed to do with this?’ Even the teacher’s manual wasn’t shedding any light on things.

I needed something more scripted, something that would hold my hand. Something parts-to-whole.

Enter Lively Latin.

I’d planned on using this for third grade, but after having another look at it, I thought Esa might be ready for it. Esa and I spent a good hour on the Lively Latin website having a look and decided to take the plunge. We were both giggling and giddy when I clicked ‘pay now.’ We purchased the PDF version, so we were excited to be getting it right away.

But that didn’t happen. I never received the password to get the materials. I sent an email to the Magistra, Catherine Drown, who replied within a few hours, and then we were on our way! I printed out the introductory material, the notebook cover and dividers and the first lesson.

After spending a few hours printing, organising, and planning, the little cheeky rascal picked up Minimus and proceeded to read the first passage, in Latin, with near-perfect pronunciation. You can watch him here:

Oh, for the love of all things holy!

Never mind; I was going to get Lively Latin anyway, so if we do go back to Minimus, it’s not wasted, it’s just one less thing I have to buy for next year.

Lively Latin is fantastic. I think Esa is a little bored because it’s parts-to-whole so the beginning is a bit slow and tedious, but I know things will take off once he’s got a little vocabulary under his belt.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by telling you all about Lively Latin; the website has all the info you need, but I just want to mention what I love about this programme.

  • Holds my hand. I know exactly what I’m doing and how to teach with this. It’s not scripted and you can adapt it, but there is a sense of direction and I know what I need to do.
  • Parts-to-whole. This is how I learned French, German, and Spanish so I’m very comfortable with this.
  • The added bits. This programme has some art appreciation, Roman history with templates for making a My History of Rome book, activities, online games, flash cards, chant sheets, teacher’s notes, and more.
  • The introductory material. There’s some interesting stuff here, with a language family tree, an article on why we should study Latin, the origins of English, and why English is so messed up. There’s also a choose a Latin name section and tips on staying organised and how to teach. I love it.
  • It’s secular. That’s a big one for us. So many of the Latin curricula are religious and I don’t want to have to work around all that.

So, which are we using, Minimus or Lively Latin?

Well, I don’t know. We’re going to keep going with Lively Latin and see how it goes and use Minimus as a supplement. If it’s too much for him, we’ll switch back to Minimus and make the most of it.

  • British History

This is back on. I’ve nicked a great idea from Neo: instead of reading from Our Island Story, listen to the audio book. I bought this book last year, but we didn’t have time for it. To fit it in and make it easier, we’ll listen to the audio book, which I got free when I joined Audible. (You can also listen for free here.) We’re doing British history on Fridays. We’re also using :

  • Poetry

Happily, we’re back to reading poetry each day. Hat tip to Suji and her fantastic poetry recommendations. We’ve added

to our poetry library. These are fantastic additions and have spiced up our poetry reading.


We’re continuing with BFSU, which is just the greatest science curriculum ever, in my opinion. It really can stand alone, but my little guy loves science and could do science all day, every day, and sadly we’re only doing science once a week at the moment. I’m going to try to add a little nature study and some fun activities to our week. More on that later.


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Back to School Excitement…(a little less than) One Week to Go!

(This post was written on Sunday.)

It’s a beautiful day today. We’ve had several days of lovely weather, in fact. (Sadly, the weather is now horrendous.) Although the near-constant rain sometimes gets me down, I must say that I don’t miss the scorching temperatures and stifling humidity of Ohio. I did my best to spend very little time outdoors during the summer because it was just so flippin’ hot and miserable. English summers are much more inviting (when it’s not raining). You can’t help but want to go out.

Esa and dh are outside  now, breaking in the new jet washer. Suddenly, everything is filthy and in dire need of being blasted with water: rubbish bins, car mats, empty plant pots, bike, windows, rocks, slugs, neighbours…

As I look out the window I can see Esa in his high-visibility jacket, huge sponge clutched in his little fist, wiping our car’s parcel shelf. I can tell he’s itching to finish the scrubbing so he can blast it with the jet washer.

I’ve not spent as much time outdoors this year as I did last year. Partly because we’ve had a pretty miserable summer, but even on nice days I’ve just not felt like going out. I do regret that. I did spend about 5 minutes outside today repotting an aloe plant. And lovely as it was, I just didn’t feel like staying out. I don’t know why, although I do know that when the cold weather hits I’ll be cursing my stupidity.

Dh has this whole week off. Normally I groan when he’s at home for a whole week and we have no real plans, but I’m looking forward to it this time. This is the last week of Ramadan, we have Eid this week and no lessons, so there are some preparations to be made. We’re planning to take Esa to a museum in Manchester to round off our prehistory studies and we need to do a little shopping. I’m hoping to get some time for my artwork, but best of all I’ll be finalising our preparations for our first week of second grade, which begins September 13th.

I’m so excited about school…but a little apprehensive. Ok, a lot apprehensive. I’m worried that I’ve gone overboard and all this work I have planned is just going to be stuff we have to get through. I’m afraid that there’s too much writing. I’m terrified that he’s going to hate it.  The fact that I go all googoo eyed when I steal glances at our books doesn’t mean Esa’s going to share my enthusiasm. And if he hates it, I’ll end up hating it, too.

Well, we’ll see how it goes and make adjustments as necessary. Nothing new there…

Here’s a partial list of what I need to do:

  • Hole-punch the SOTW 2 activity book student pages, skim through books and teacher’s pages for chapter 1
  • Read through the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting teacher’s manual for books B & C
  • Read through our first Minimus Latin lesson and make notes, photocopy worksheets, etc.
  • Remove cat from stack of papers
  • Get out the delicious Writing with Ease workbook 2 and read through the first lesson, tear out student pages and hole-punch
  • Prepare paper for Sequential Spelling lessons (Use student writing paper I already have? Or make paper using Italic Handwriting printables from manual?)
  • Reprint any pages cat has shredded
  • Get out Singapore Math books, which have been collecting dust and select review pages/new material to cover the first week. Math drill? Math stories to read? Math games?
  • Read through next science lesson, take notes, gather any materials & books we’ll need
  • Brush punch-outs from cat’s fur
  • Choose phonics lessons from The Ordinary Parent’s Guide
  • Look through web links for any relevant websites, book recommendations, activities, etc.
  • Make note to send cat outside the next time I need to do any planning

That ought to keep me busy for a day or two.


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The Holidays Are Over…Time to Get Back to Work

We’ve had a few glorious weeks off which were spent lazily and indulgently; they went by far too quickly. The week before last Esa and dh along with 20+ members of his family all went to Scotland and stayed in this gorgeous Jane Austen style, seaside house for a week. I had obligations at home, so I stayed behind. I spent much of the week working through The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (I can’t begin to tell you how great this book is for homeschoolers and anyone wanting to learn to draw) drawing, and painting. It was lovely having a week to myself (the house stayed so clean), but it was just a little too quiet.

Esa was a little out of sorts during his holiday. The family thinks he was missing me, but I think it was because he’s was coming down with a cold and not feeling well. He perked up, however, when he learned how to ride his bike without training wheels.

The day he came back, he lost his first tooth. It’s been a week of milestones.

Last week saw us returning to lessons; we’re doing a gentle summer school with 4-day weeks, reviewing a few things, continuing with science, art, and handwriting, and taking a jaunt through prehistory.

We aren’t doing anything all that special for prehistory. We’re using the Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History along with some library books. We’ve got a dinosaur colouring book, too, but I can’t seem to find any other activities or colouring pages for prehistory. We’re doing a timeline and I’m having Esa memorise the different eras.

Our books for second grade have arrived and I’m really looking forward to September.

This year I’m more concerned about saving time. Last year I was happy to spend  hours and hours planning, preparing, and putting things together myself. Not so anymore; I want to spend less time fussing about with things and more time doing.

I bit the bullet and purchased the teacher’s manual for Minimus. I had a 10% off voucher from The Book Depository, which helped, and I know I’ll be able to resell this once I’m finished. It’s a must-have, I think, and fleshes out the programme nicely. I thought I could create my own supplementary activities and worksheets, but when I sat down to do it, I just kept sighing and drawing blanks. The teacher’s manual also provides the answers to the exercises, which saves me even more time.

Writing with Ease level 2 workbook is another time-saving purchase. I spent so much time creating copywork pages and struggling to guide his narrations for writing…I can’t be bothering with that anymore. The workbook will make writing pick-up-and-go.

The only curriculum we’re using that is teacher intensive is our science programme: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I can live with this. We love BFSU so much that it’s worth the prep work.

I see some changes on the horizon for this blog as well.

There for quite a while my life pretty much revolved around homeschooling; I spent vast quantities of time reading and researching methods, curricula…I read every book and article I could lay my hands on. I don’t regret this; all this preparation was necessary and has shaped our homeschooling. I think it’s helped prevent too much floundering and has contributed greatly to our success.

Homeschooling has broadened our horizons so much that we now have so many interests and pursuits that researching homeschooling isn’t necessary anymore. My enthusiasm hasn’t waned…I feel comfortable with what we do and now it’s just an integral part of our lives; it isn’t something that needs investigating, it’s something that we live. We’re living a life of exploration, investigation, and education…which is the whole point. 🙂

That’s not to say I won’t be researching curricula and reading articles from time to time; I certainly will, and I’ll still talk about it here. But I think I’ll be talking about a broader range of topics on this blog. (Art, which I’ve developed a passion for, is something I blog about here.)

We shall see.


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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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Are We There Yet?

We’ve been having a lot of 4-day weeks recently, and for some reason it seems to be working now.  And then I had one of those light-bulb moments. I was doing it again…putting unnecessary restrictions on our schedule . Why do I do that to myself? Why can’t we just do what works…a 4-day week here, a 5-day week there…why do we need to be locked in to one way or another…after all, this isn’t a school for goodness’ sake…

Funny how often I do that. Fortunately, I’ve come to my senses (regarding this at least.)

We’ve sort of gone back to Singapore. Since it’s a mastery curriculum, we can skip around a bit. We covered the unit on telling time to the hour and half hour, we’re going to a unit on place value, then we’ll do the unit on fractions. We’re peppering this with math stories, games, and activities.  I’m not sure when we’ll go back to addition and subtraction, not to mention multiplication and division, but we will get to it when he’s ready. In the meantime, we’re enjoying math again.

I think we’re experiencing end-of-year blahs. We’re eager to finish up our first grade materials and have a little break before diving into second grade. Esa’s quite excited about SOTW volume 2; he keeps asking me if Japan, Britain, and many other countries will be covered in the next level. We’ve also got it on CD and he’s eager to get that out.

Our reading lessons leave me smiling. He’s nearing the end of phonics instruction and he’s needing help with fewer and fewer words; he’s nearly an independent reader now. His comprehension is excellent and his reading often leads to discussion.

I’ve been a little at a loss as to what to write about. Things are flowing, we’re busy with everyday things that just aren’t noteworthy. I’m also less interested in researching curriculum and more interested in just getting on with things. I’m not buying as many supplementary materials and our studies haven’t suffered in the least. We’re making do with what we have and what the library can provide and we’re happy with that (and saving money).

We’ve also become much more relaxed. We’re not so academically driven these days. And since lightening up, Esa’s having more of a chance to indulge his academic interests. He actually asked to do handwriting the other day. I raised an eyebrow and casually swept my hand across his forehead whilst mumbling something about him not feeling well.

We’re gardening, playing, reading, watching, talking, painting, going, doing, laughing, listening…

We’re living life as fully as we can.


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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……..?