Homeschool Planning Part 4.

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Creating Group Study & Individual Study Lists

The next step in the planning process is to make a list of what you can combine and study together as a family, and what needs to be worked on, individually.

If you have been following me on Instagram for a while, then you are aware that I try to combine as many subjects as possible. Even though my children are all at different levels, there are still things that we unite and study together to save time and also create a productive learning environment in our home.

Some of the best memories I have are of my kids sitting around the table, discussing the Bible story we read that day, doing the same picture study, working with chalk pastels for the first time, learning about different cultures and discussing them, or taking turns reciting poetry. There is something about the family group setting that makes these moments sweeter. Plus, I could never imagine sitting down with each student for every subject. I would be doing it all day.

Of course, some subjects/categories require guidance and need individual attention from me, and I’m sure it is the case in your home.

As I plan for the year, I am going to make a list of subjects that we usually study together in a group setting. I am also going to make a list of individual studies for each child, simply because they need my one-on-one help and attention.

Group Study Recommendations;

  • music study
  • picture study
  • art
  • poetry
  • bible
  • scripture memory
  • hymn study
  • history
  • geography
  • physical education
  • Shakespeare
  • habits/character development
  • some handicrafts
  • read alouds

Individual Study Recommendations;

  • math
  • reading lessons
  • language arts (spelling, writing, copywork, dictation, transcription, etc.)
  • Personal readings for history, etc.
  • science
  • typing
  • some handicrafts that may be too advanced for younger students

I encourage you to do the same as you plan your homeschool year. This will help you have a clear picture of what your goals are for the year. Here are two printables that I have created for you to download.

Create Your Own;

Creating a Resource List

Now that you have written down what subjects will be covered individually with each child, plus family (group) studies, you can start selecting and collecting the books and resources that you will be using this year.

When I first started homeschooling, I had no idea there were so many excellent resources for homeschool families. They are lovely, but it is easy to get carried away. I recommend praying about your choices and only writing down what you think you will really need and use. Then when you actually go to purchase your resources, you are less likely to pick up books and things that you will not need for that school year.

I am learning to be more intentional with what I bring into my home. This helps to avoid clutter and ensures that what I buy will get used by our family.

I made a column on the right side of the printable to write down any tools, resources, books, and guides you will be using for the year.

Here are some of my favorite places to get books and resource recommendations from;

I also recommend talking amongst other moms in the homeschool community to see what their reviews and recommendations are. You’ll be happy to know that most moms are honest and open about their opinions on a particular curriculum and resources.

Lastly, feel free to download a resource list that will help you categorize what you need to buy, borrow, which library books you need to put on hold, etc. This will make it easier for you as you go to collect these resources and don’t have to carry around all the planning sheets you have so far.

Resource/Shopping List

That’s it for Part 4 of my planning series.

I hope that you have found this series helpful. I look forward to sharing more with you in the future on how we plan our months, our weeks, and our days.

Many blessings,

Crystal

 

 

 

 

Homeschool Planning Series Part 3. Creating a 12 Year Plan

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If you’ve been following along with me, then you have read the first two steps in the planning process.

You can find Step 1. HERE

You can find Step 2. HERE 

Step 3. in the process is fun!

You have made a list of what is important to you in your child’s education, you know what your state requires of you (by law), and now you can make a 12-year plan/overview. Please do not feel overwhelmed. I promise it is easy!

I have created a 12-year plan for you to use. You can download it and print it for FREE!

12-year plan: (BLANK)

You can also view my 12-year plan, as an example

Go ahead and print yours out, if you’ll be using it, so you can follow along with me as I talk about how to fill it out.

The first thing you’ll do, on the 1st column going down, is write in the subjects or the categories that are required of you (by the state), to include in your child’s education (Alabama does not have any specific requirements for me).

Once you have filled those in, you can go ahead and write in the subjects and/or categories that are important to you, that we talked about in the first step of the planning process.

Now, across the top, there is a space (in grey), to fill in the grades. You can start with preschool (year 0 or early years),  and go all the way through to 12th grade (forms).

Now you are ready to mark what subjects you’ll be including in your plan (marked with a checkmark or an x), in each specific grade. This will help you plan future years with ease because you will have a 12-year chart to reference.

*DISCLAIMER; If you choose to use my plan (I highly recommend you create your own), please keep in mind that I am using Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. Some of you may notice that grammar isn’t studied formally until fourth grade or 10 years old. This is my plan, which is why I love the thought of creating my own curriculum. You can make these decisions based on your beliefs and what is important to YOU, not someone else. 

Please remember that this plan is not permanent. If things happen in your life that warrants a change to your 12-year plan, then simply change it. This is the beauty of creating a plan for your family. Only you know what is best.

When you are creating a 12-year plan, feel free to use one for your entire family, or create individual ones for your children, if they have special needs or a completely different learning style. It is up to you how you decide to use this resource.

That’s basically it for Step 3. of the planning process. If you have any questions, contact me. Once again, I hope this is helpful to you. Make sure to keep an eye out for the next step.

-Crystal

 

Homeschool Planning Series Part 2. Homeschool Laws

IMG_3488.JPGThe next step in the planning process is not fun, but it is a necessary and integral part of making sure that how we homeschool is compliant with our state’s laws.

We are a military family and move around quite a bit. This makes it a little more complicated to keep up with homeschool laws because we are continually trying to adapt to the new area. Hopefully, for you, you are staying in one place for a long time, and you only need to get familiar with your own state’s Laws and regulations.

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The website I utilize to find these laws is HSLDA. It is a free online website that gives you the requirements for your state. I have made it so the link takes you right to the page. All you need to do is click on your state.

Currently, I am living in Alabama, and the requirements for this state are low. Take the time to find out what is required of you from your State. Even though Alabama does not need me to keep a detailed record of my children’s work, I still create portfolios for them because you never know. I know some states require individualized home instruction plans, yearly reviews with a teacher, etc.

I have created another straightforward Homeschool Laws download that you can use to keep your planning process neat and organized.

Once you know what is required of you, use the planning sheet to write down any essential requirements that you need to abide by to homeschool your children, legally. Some states also have specific subjects that you need to include in your home instruction, and there is a space for that on the sheet too.

I’ve also attached an attendance sheet that we have been using for years. I did not create it, but I have linked it for you to download and use. Credit goes to http://homeschooling.about.com

That’s it for step 2. I hope you guys are enjoying this series. I really want this to be something that brings you peace through the planning process and does not make you feel overwhelmed. Until tomorrow, friends.

Blessings,

Crystal

 

Homeschool Planning Series Part 1

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It’s that time of year again. Most homeschool moms are busy planning for a new school year. We are researching all the curricula options and trying to decide on what we want for our family. Everyone is sharing their plans and curriculum choices, but no one is sharing exactly how it is they are planning their year.  It’s hard to find a step by step process of how every person intends to educate their children because we are all unique.

I am a massive fan of curricula. I awe over all the excellent guides and resources. There is even a specific curriculum that I have used over again with my kids, but it does not cover nearly everything my children will need for an entire year. Curricula can be very helpful, and there are so many options to choose from.

But what if you do not want to use a curriculum? Maybe you choose not to utilize curriculum because you don’t like the idea of following a strict guideline, it could be because of the cost,  or it may not be what you’re looking for,  and you want to make your own decisions when it comes to educating your children.

I will be honest and say that I have tried loads of different curricula, always in the search for the perfect one. As far as my family is concerned, there is no complete curriculum. I’ve always found that they either don’t align with my chosen method of education, they are too complicated, perhaps they don’t cover enough, the books required are too expensive, it’s not all-inclusive, some of the resources were utterly unnecessary, and the list goes on.

When I decided to homeschool using the Charlotte Mason method, it was hard to find a boxed set that had everything I needed, from guides to resources and all the books I would need in one conveniently packaged box. Now I realize that a boxed curriculum is not the answer for my family because it is not made tailored to our specific needs.

As a new homeschool mom, there is no way that I could have pieced together our own curriculum with confidence. I needed help. What I really needed, and would have liked, was someone to take my hand and guide me through all the steps of planning out a year, completely customized to my family. For me, this has always been my goal, but I’ve been paralyzed by fear and doubt in the past.

I don’t know if I would or could consider myself a veteran homeschool mom, (going on 3 years) but I feel comfortable enough in our journey and what I know to start making some of these big decisions for ourselves. And if you feel the same way about your children’s educations, then maybe we can try this together.

I believe that we are blessed with authority over these decisions, and we do not have to be afraid. We are capable of educating our children at home and feeding them beautiful ideas that will nourish their hearts and minds. All we need is a bit of guidance and support.

Over the next several weeks, or however long it takes, I will be sharing with you my planning process on how to create a custom plan for my family.

STEP 1. Find Your “Why” and Create a Master Plan

If you look back to your “why” for homeschooling, you’ll find that the reason you decided to homeschool your children in the first place may have very little do with curricula or book choices at all.

Some of the reasons why I chose to homeschool my children are due to the fact that I wanted to be the one to guide them through life, allowing the Holy Spirit to be in constant access with their spirits while trying my best to provide my children with truth and living ideas. I wanted to instill ethical values and morals in my children and not allow them, in their young and impressionable age, to be influenced negatively by the world. 

So as I get ready to plan the next few years on my own, I want to look at the overall big picture, not just look ahead to tomorrow or next week. It is hard to remember our goals and reasons for doing this when we are continually trying to decide what we will be doing next week or even next year in our homeschools. We can lose sight of the overall goal, the end result, if you will. We will then have an end goal, and can look at it when we are having doubts or simply trying to plan a school year for our family. 

I created this chart that will help you and me create a master plan (goals) for the overall education of our children. In other words, when we are done homeschooling, and they are ready to leave the nest, what kind of person do you want to see standing in front of you?

I have attached my own master plan that I have created for my family. Please know that I have created this plan for our family with our faith and chosen method of education in mind. In the end, I know that God has a will and a plan for my children and above all else, I choose to surrender my children to Him because I believe that He is The Great Educator of mankind.

To create your own, you can use this free chart below. This is honestly my first time adding a pdf that I’ve made, so please let me know if it is not working correctly, and I will do my best to fix it. Customize your educational goals for your family based on your beliefs, values, and what is important to you.

Master Plan

Master Plan / Printable Chart 

*There are no strings attached with this chart. You do not need to provide an email or subscribe to a list to use it. This is something I made and am offering it to you, free of charge. Please feel free to use this to help you plan but please do not distribute this in any way for monetary gain. Thank you. 

I will be talking about step 2 and giving you some tips on the next blog post. Please let me know if you have any questions or if you want to talk about planning in general. I’d love to chat!

Many blessings,

Crystal

Teaching Cursive

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Today I am going to share what we use for teaching cursive in our homeschool. My son was interested in cursive last year but because he is left-handed, it was too difficult for him at the time. He picked it up again this year and I am already seeing major improvements and of course, he is happy with his progress as well.

The first thing I want to share is the curriculum I have been using with my 9-year-old. It is called Handwriting Without Tears- Cursive HandwritingI like it because it comes with a teacher guide and even has a weekly checklist of what to do each day. So far, I love the tips and tricks the lessons provide to make learning cursive enjoyable for my son. I look forward to using it with the rest of my children as they grow older.

handwriting without tears

The next resource we have incorporated into our homeschool for teaching cursive is a Montessori moving alphabet in cursive. I love these moving alphabet letters because they are a great sensory way to learn. All of my children, even the baby can pick the letters up, hold them in their hand, feel them and see them in a sensory way that helps them make those connections. They are also really fun to use! They come in a beautiful sturdy box with a lid. It allows the children to keep things neat and orderly while pleasing to the eye. This resource is an investment. It is well worth it in my opinion as all my children will use this resource for many years.

moving cursive letters

We use the moving alphabet with our line placement board. You can find these boards in my Etsy shop. I make each one by hand. They are a great way to teach spelling and line placement for little hands who cannot write. If your child knows their letter sounds but does not have neat penmanship, then this board is perfect for them. It is a great sensory way to learn how to read and write while speaking to their senses.

line placement board

Lastly, we incorporate sandpaper letters in cursive. They are wonderful! I love them because they are large and easy to hold and pick up off the table. The letters are made of sandpaper and my children love to trace the sandpaper letters with their fingers. This is perfect for learning cursive if they do not have the fine motor skills to begin writing cursive with a pencil and paper! I recommend these sandpaper letters from ages 4 and up.

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For now, this is what I recommend because it is working for my children. I will write a part-two post about this in the future. The new resource I am testing needs to be used in our home for some time before I can give you my opinion on it.

I hope you found this post helpful. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

– Crystal

 

 

Living Books For All Subjects

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Where do you begin when you decide you will educate your children from home? A parent will spend countless hours searching for the perfect curriculum. What books do you need to teach each subject? These are the questions I receive almost daily.

What if I told you that you REALLY don’t need a curriculum to teach most subjects (in my opinion, one is needed for math)?

The answer is simple, my friends. The answer lies in living books.

WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK?

“Living books” was a term originated by Charlotte Mason. A living book is a piece of literature, written by one author who knew a lot or had a passion for a certain topic or subject. If an author took a special interest in a certain subject, chances are there is passion behind the words. Words create ideas. We want our children to be fed with living thoughts.

When you first pick up a book that you think may be a living book, look inside to see if the facts and information are presented in story form. For example, an author will aim at accuracy in depiction while also depicting action. This is the type of book or story that ministers to children and adults alike.

An author who writes a living book will give you a peek into a story full of accurate facts and descriptions, but if the young reader looks further with interest on the subject, then the living book has done its job.

Many living books are written against a factual and detailed background. The story is usually based on personal observation and the author will do a good job of acknowledging outside sources of information, scientists, Drs, etc. for their advice.

It is a shame that we no longer see books like this in today’s classroom. Perhaps, the school system believes that a child will learn nothing from a book that speaks with passion, interest, wonderful stories, facts, and accurate information. Charlotte Mason believed the opposite. She believed that children are reached by living books in ways that a typical school book or textbook could not.

I find it fascinating that more than a hundred years ago this woman believed that these types of books were necessary to feed a child’s mind with living ideas. She firmly believed that this was the type of instruction they should receive.

A textbook that contains pure scientific knowledge is not considered literature or “living”.

One more thing to look for when searching for literature and living books… Take the time to see if the book contains truth, nobility, and beauty. Literature needs to be all three. It must also contain some type of truth- facts if you will. It must be ethical as well as nourishing for the mind and soul, which goes back to the belief Charlotte had- all children are born persons and should be treated as such.

What I am going to share with you next is an array of books, categorized by subject, to get you started on your homeschool journey if you are just starting out. Pair these books with narration exercises and you have a wonderful lesson on your hands. This is not an exhaustive list of course. They are simply books, pulled off my bookshelves that have brought joy and truth to our lives. These are books that I have done my own research on. Each one was purchased by myself for our homeschool and that is why I am recommending them to all of you! Because we love them!

PHONICS AND LANGUAGE ARTS

Because I am a fan of Charlotte Mason and her method, I have become concerned about the content that my children read. I would rather they read content that supports or promotes moral growth and excellence of mind in habits and attitudes. For lack of better words, I hope that what my children read is aligned with the Christian religion. In my own opinion, no other foundation could produce true morality. This is how I base my selections.

*There have been times when I compare my own children to the “status quo” of where children should be, intellectually, based on a scale. This is not where my true heart lies. It can be easy to let go of what your heart says for the sake of keeping up with everyone else. I know, in my heart that education is a life and that formal lessons can often start too early in life.

I have four children and I know that I must adapt to the individuality of each of my own children. No two minds are alike and my treatment should be somewhat different for each, while still keeping the method the same. Moving at my children’s own pace helps to preserve the vigor and energy of their mental action. For example, my four-year-old son will become exhausted and overwhelmed, limiting his vigor and energy if I push him too hard. For what? For the sake of staying ahead or catching up? It is simply not necessary. The books I am about to recommend to you align with my views on this. Of course, find what works for you.

I have loved using The Original McGuffey Readers with all my children. They are perfect for teaching phonics.

The original version is strongly Christian based. Many of the reading in these original readers contain bible stories, verses, and the idea that the Lord is above all else. I personally want my children to read this but I have stumbled upon a revised eclectic version of these books that are full of truth, nobility, and virtue, perfect for a child’s mind.

This is what the original version of these readers looks like… There are 5 readers total.

the original mcguffy

The same McGuffey Reader, which has been revised to be more non-denominational, look like this… When you see my children reading out loud on Insta stories,… this is what they are reading.

eclectic readers

For Language Arts, we use Primary Language Lessons by Emma Serl. It is perfect for a Charlotte Mason Homeschool. In it includes “living stories,” good literature, framed artwork, comprehensive lessons and drills in the things I want my children to master. The exercises cover proper use of English, composition, punctuation, memorization, speaking, letter writing, dictation, reading and etiquette in writing. It is the best! Another plus, it is in the form of a living book.

I would recommend starting using these books at the age of 6 and once they know their letters and sounds.

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SCIENCE/NATURAL HISTORY

Another pillar of the Charlotte Mason education is nature study.

Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty  includes timeless stories and uses nature and scripture to reveal God in a beautiful way.

parables from nature

The Burgess Animal Book for Children is another great living book for natural history (science). It is a story about Peter Rabbit. In these lessons, Peter learns about animals of all kinds. It is a wonderful introduction to many animals in North America but also is a great study of how they relate to each other.

the burgess animal book for children

The first nature book I ever bought was the Handbook of Nature Study” by Anna Botsford Comstock. This book is wonderful for a mother like me who does not know much about the natural world. I have learned so much from reading this book. This book encompasses all living things except humans, sea life and plants. This book talks about land organisms, the ones most of us see every day.

handbook of nature study

HISTORY

We recently started reading the Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. It is a classic living book that talks about the earliest civilizations up until the present time. It is a must-have in my opinion. The story is engaging and easy to understand. We love it.

 

story of the world

Another classic living book is 50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin. They are stories that everyone needs to know. It contains stories that shaped our culture and are frequently referenced in our songs and literature. I love this version because it contains all the original illustrations.

50 famous stories retold 

Geography

Geography may be divided into the geography of home, the geography you see and find when you take a step outside your front door and the geography of the entire world. Geography of your home is easy to obtain by direct observation. To know the geography of the rest of the world, you will need imagination, assisted by information from living books of course.

One of the first Geography books we ever read as a family was Elementary Geography written by Charlotte Mason herself. It is written in a conversational form and absolutely lovely. This is a book we will read over and over again. elementary geography

Another great living book for geography is Home Geography by C.C. Long. The book itself is broken down very simply. It contains poetry and short chapters. Chapters include maps, rain, wind, snow, distance, direction and much more. Again, it will be used for many many years in our homeschool.

home geography

Material World/A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel was one of the first books I bought for geography. Basically, it is a geography lesson come to life! It is personal and whets a person’s appetite to see the world. It is my favorite geography book we own!

material world

The last book I will share in this blog post is a recent addition to our library.

Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’aluisio is probably essential to anyone who really cares about what the world eats.

hungry planet

That’s it for today! If you are looking for living books to teach each subject, then I recommend these, personally. I hope you have found value in this post. Please let me know what you think or if you have any questions below.

Blessings,

Crystal

 

 

 

Morning Basket

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MORNING BASKET

Because of morning baskets, I love to wake up and I look forward to learning with my children! Morning basket time has been such a blessing to our family. We laugh, cry and grow together through living books and wonderful conversations.

No one is perfect and because we fall short, I believe that a morning basket is vital for us, as a family, because it helps to turn our hearts to Him, while at the same time building strong relationships with each other. This is why I try, and encourage you, to fill it to the brim with beautiful and wonderful things.

You will not see me posting a lot about this on my Instagram because I truly cherish this moment with my kids. This is our special time together and I see no reason why I should do anything to take away from it.

WHAT IS A MORNING BASKET?

A morning basket is simply a basket of any kind that is filled with a feast of poetry, literature, living books, songs, hymns and “busy work,” for the younger children if you feel that is necessary. My oldest two like to illustrate what we are reading in their Jaq Jaq Bird doodle books. This is also a good time to practice the habit of attention. During this time there is an opportunity to ask questions, narrate, and have deep conversations together. It is our favorite part of the day!

BENEFITS OF A MORNING BASKET

  • It creates a bond between families.
  • Even if nothing else was accomplished that day, it was not in vain.
  • There is an opportunity to touch upon many different subjects in the form of living books.
  • It is a great way to include younger siblings (education is a life)
  • It creates a habit of self-care (making sure we are filling our cups on a daily basis so we do not become weary)
  • It is jam-packed with knowledge/food for the soul
  • It takes no more than an hour and a half at most! It is so fun!

WHAT IS IN A MORNING BASKET?

There is no set of rules that tell you what you can and cannot incorporate into a morning basket. There is beauty in custom tailoring a basket, rich with literature and beautiful things for your family to feast upon, first thing in the morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Here is what we currently have in our morning basket;

We read from our Bible following Ambleside online’s bible schedule for year two.

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We are currently reading The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennet. It is a treasury of great moral stories. We have wonderful conversations together about these stories.

 

We read a poem every single day. The children work on memorization and also practice recitation during this time. It always amazes me how quickly children memorize poetry!  This poetry book has been a blessing to me and my children. It is one of our most loved poetry books.  “A Child’s Book of Poems” by Gyo Fujikawa 

a childs book of poems

I find that working on phonics during this time works great for our family. The older two always refresh on their phonics skills and encourage my 4-year-old son to learn them as well. I have an abundance of flashcards but these are my tried and true, favorite! We love these phonics cards. They have a phonogram sound on one side and on the reverse side is teaching information for the parent. I love their simplicity and how large and sturdy they are. It also comes with a nice poster to keep track of the milestones your child reaches while learning phonics.

phonics cards

These Guidecraft 3D tiles and shapes matching set help keep tiny hands busy during our morning time. There are many tiles and shapes to sort and match. It is one of their favorite toys. Every two weeks or so, sometimes sooner, we swap for a different toy (as long as it is quiet).

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We sing one hymn and one folksong for an entire month. This is just enough to keep things interesting but long enough to make these songs a part of their memory bank. We have been using this Hymn Book for over a  year now and it is a wonderful asset to our morning basket.

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We have been incorporating Teaching Character Through Literature from Beautiful Feet Books during our morning time. Our behaviors, our choice of words, and our intentions reveal our hearts. In no way is this a claim that your children and even yourself won’t make mistakes in life, especially in relationships. This sweet guide helps us reflect on when we have made poor choices, said things we didn’t mean, and it inspires us to be better.

This guide helps point our children to Jesus. We are faced with a world that desperately tries to rip us away from Him. This guide helps our children to face this beautiful and terrible world with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self- control” (Galatians 5:22-23). This guide helps cultivate a love for God and others.

teaching character through literature

We use these FREE scripture memorization cards from The Peaceful Preschool for scripture memorization.

scripture cards from the peaceful press

Lastly, we include chapter books in our morning basket. We usually read a chapter or two from each. Currently, we are reading The Burgess Bird Book and The Wind in the Willows .

 

 

I hope this helps give you confidence when it comes to putting together your own morning basket. It can be as big or small as you want. My prayer is that it brings your family joy!

All the best,

Crystal