The end of the first half of the school year is quickly approaching! I’m not entirely sure when that happened, but when I look back on what we’ve accomplished in three month’s time, it really is a lot. I always want to do SOOO much more than time and the kids’ attention spans provide, but I am trying to remember that we have many more years of school ahead to dive deeper into subjects, people, and places.
As promised, in this post I’ve included my six (Grade 1) and eight-year-old’s (Grade 3) combined subject materials for the 2020-2021 school year. This includes history/social studies, science/nature study, the arts, Five In A Row, and morning time.
History + Social Studies
This is our fourth year using Story of the World for our history spine. We LOVE it. It is written in an engaging way and literally weaves a story of the major happenings throughout world history. I love that it touches on things happening in different parts of the world at the same time in history. (This is a secular curriculum, and by that I mean it is not overtly Christian. I will say more on this later, but we try to weave our faith into everything we do, so I don’t pick curriculum based on religious content alone.) We are using volume 4 this year, The Modern Age, as we started on volume 1 in my oldest son’s kindergarten year. I believe it is meant to be started in the 1st grade, but he REALLY loves this kind of stuff, so he was fully invested even in kindergarten. It’s his favorite subject! My current 1st grader doesn’t really mind it, but it’s not her favorite. Her words, “Does everybody die in this story?” ha!! Maybe a more gentle, community helpers lesson is more her social studies’ style? (We’ve done those too.)
The activity book, which is optional, includes follow-up review/narration questions to ask the student(s), suggested literature selections, and further history reading to go along with the chapter’s topic. It also suggests craft ideas, games, recipes, and activities for delving deeper into each chapter. I just pick and choose what we will do according to what we need to get done that week, what I think my children would be interested in doing, and what energy I want to put into it. (Can I just be real?) At the very least, I check out books related to the chapter’s topic and the children (including the four-year-old) color the coloring page for the chapter. We don’t always do the map work, but we used to do it for every single chapter. It is a bit much for my six year old, but my eight year old can handle it just fine.
I have been using and loving a site that has curated extra picture books and chapter books to go along with each chapter of each volume of Story of the World. That is from Lexi at Lextin Eclectic. I have used this all year so far and love to have the extra suggestions beyond what the publisher has provided (v4 picture books/v4 chapter books). I believe the intention of using Story of the World is to cycle back through all four volumes again, touching on different things and maybe delving in further than the first time through. My plan is to do that at some point in future years (and to be more intentional with a history timeline), but I think I may have a different plan for next school year!
Science + Nature Study
Science is another favorite around our household! I believe my children’s favorite subjects are the ones that take me the most time to prepare for. Hmm. Oh well. For our spine this year, we are using the web-based Mystery Science curriculum along with Lynn Seddon’s (from Raising Little Shoots) Exploring Nature with Children. These are both secular options for science and nature study. For our family, it is not mandatory for our science curriculum to be marketed as faith-based because we weave that into everything we study any way. That is just my opinion for our family, but you need to do what serves your family best. We use other resources that are faith-based, the center of our home is Christ (we are NOT perfect in that), and the truth of God’s creation is taught. We believe that faith and science can coexist, because science is the study of all that God created! As Albert Einstein once said: “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”
Mystery Science is set up in units, each with about one to eight lessons in it and each with suggested age ranges. For example, under the Plant & Animal Secrets unit, the first lesson is Animal Needs: Food. Each lesson is approached as a question, or a mystery, to be solved. The question for this particular lesson is Why do woodpeckers peck wood? You and the student explore the question with Doug and then there is an activity or experiment. My kids LOVE it. It’s engaging and NOT boring at all. You can look to see what things you may need before starting each lesson, minimal prep in my opinion, and the lessons take anywhere from 10-45 minutes depending on what you are doing that day. They also have mini-lessons and seasonally themed lessons that pop up periodically and they are fun as well!
As for the rest of our science resources, as I mentioned, we use Exploring Nature with Children and try to stick to the weekly themes for each month. There are so many great ideas for extension activities and crafts to be found on Instagram just by following hashtags for the weekly theme (i.e. #enwcfungiweek or #exploringnaturewithchildren). The curriculum includes a poem for each week, a suggested art piece to study with the theme, and non-fiction and fiction book suggestions. We are really enjoying using it more this year, because we didn’t get around to it much last year.
Also pictured above are our Christian Liberty Nature Readers which we read occasionally and the Louie Giglio science devotionals Indescribable and How Great Is Our God. I try to pick ones that correlate with whatever we are studying in science that week. And the last thing I will mention is that we love using the Julia Rothman Collection of books for reference, along with Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. This is not an exhaustive list of resources mind you, just the things we use the most.
This year for our art and music study I decided to stick to artists and composers/musicians that were alive and creating during the span of time that our history covers. So, we started the year off with Vincent van Gogh. There were so many good books available in our library system and the kids really enjoyed learning about this very eclectic, troubled artist. (He’s always been my favorite to tell the truth.) Since my children are still fairly young, we keep things light and I don’t do anything too involved. Just some reading and learning about the artist and some of their works, along with trying our hand at some of their techniques. I have one child that isn’t super into the creative aspect of art study, but they are very engaged with learning about the artist. The Mike Venezia books are a favorite around here!
As for music appreciation, we are a musical family. My husband sings, plays the violin, and the piano a bit. I also grew up singing, playing guitar, and taking flute lessons and playing in a flute choir. (Yes, that was a thing.) I couldn’t really play the flute now to save my life! We appreciate all kinds of music and we hope that our children develop a love as well, and will pick up an instrument or two. We have not really started any formal lessons, but hope to in the near future if the interest is there. I try to pick a composer a month and use the same general guide as I do for artist study. Literature about the composer, along with listening to the composer’s pieces, and discussing them on a level that suits my children’s ages. I have looked at some more “formal” music appreciation resources, but this is working for now. If you have any recommendations, please pass them along!
Five In A Row
This is our second year using Five In A Row Volume 1 (there are 4 total along with mini-units). This is meant to be used as a stand alone curriculum for the younger years (with the addition of math and phonics). Think pre-school and kindergarten. However, I have only used it as a supplement to everything else we do. The idea is that you read a book for five days in a row (hence the name) and each day you focus in on a different subject area as it pertains to the book. Areas like literature, art, music, geography, social studies, math, and science. For instance, in the book Storm in the Night above, we used geometric shapes to create quilt squares for the math focus one day. The curriculum offers suggestions for each subject area and you can just pick and choose what you want to do with your children. It’s such a great way to introduce beautiful, classic, quality picture books. We tend to row a book for two weeks at a time, and we don’t do it every day. For instance, I don’t think we are going to do one this month at all. I wanted to do Cranberry Thanksgiving, but I’m finding it hard to get my hands on one to borrow.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about morning time. This is a phrase thrown all around in the homeschool world, but essentially at it’s core it is special time set aside for some slower things. Things like poetry, hymn study, calendar & weather time (as seen below), Bible devotions, etc. Some families include their history, science, art, and/or music appreciation in their “morning time”. It can really be whatever you want it to be. It also doesn’t have to be in the morning. It can be during the baby’s nap time in the afternoon or as a pre-bed ritual. I have a lot of moving pieces right now with my children (aged 2-8), so we fit it in whenever we possibly can in the morning, but sometimes don’t get to it until the afternoon! I haven’t been the best about keeping a consistent rhythm this school year. I blame that on the two and four-year-old.
We have been working our way through Leading Little Ones to God as our main Bible study/devotional. My oldest two both have their own NIrV Adventure Bible and covers. My 1st grader also loves using her own Bible Reader from My Father’s World. It has select stories from the Old Testament and New Testament that are written at a 1st grade reading level. She feels very empowered when she reads it.
I also like to read through the Morning Exercises book (pictured above) each day. It includes things like poetry selections, character study, and historical trivia. It was published a long time ago, but it’s just fun and we enjoy learning little nuggets from it. We don’t necessarily get to it every day.
These are the subjects where my love of resource hunting really comes out. I LOVE scouring the internet for resources to use alongside what we are learning. These are the subjects where I feel like the beauty of homeschooling really shines! We can rest in a certain period in history, or a certain moment in history, and just research it until we are satiated. My kids love these subjects the most and I feel like they teach us the most about the world and our place in it.
What are your child(ren)’s favorite subjects? What are your favorite subjects to teach? What is your LEAST favorite? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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