Main Lessons

I recently had a question about main lessons-what are they/what does that mean? We are eclectic homeschoolers.  I would not call us unschoolers because my kiddos definitely follow “a plan,” but the plan is fairly open with some requirements.  Daily math, spelling and reading are requirements.  In addition to these subjects, we work through other interests and subjects in blocks.  Insert main lessons!

I use Melisa Nielsen’s Waldorf Essential’s program loosely.  I read the curriculum for each grade and each year.  Then I divide the subjects into blocks.  I really love the way Waldorf works with the developmental stage of the child.  Every child delves into age-appropriate worlds filled with history, lessons, science and folklore.

Each child has a main lesson book.  In the past, we used nice sketch books.  This year, we tried actual Waldorf main lesson books with one blank page and one lined page.  The books are very nice, but we all decided that we like the sketch books more.

So the steps we take are:

1. Read a story.

2. Discuss a creative avenue to depict the story

3. Draw a border around the page (this makes it less intimidating than having a blank page.  the border is also a terrific place to practice form drawings)

4. Create with either paints, pencils, crayons, sculpt or cook (if we do something that cannot be “put” into the book, then we take a picture of it and paste it into the book)

5. After at least 24 hours(this allows the story/information to sit with the child), we write out a summary of the story on the same page as the picture.  The summary also includes a good bit of discussion and how the story relates to each of us.  This is by far, my favorite part of Waldorf lessons.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the end of the year, the main lesson book serves as a terrific portfolio of the lessons.  I must say that I really cherish these books.  The kids love looking through their old books as well.  The main lessons comprise the majority of our homeschool time and energy besides being outside!

Homeschooling Ideas for a Reader

homeschooling for a reader

I am amazed at how different children can be-especially siblings!  Earlier I posted some of our ideas on homeschooling a child with dyslexia.  Today I am going to post on some of our ideas on homeschooling a child who doesn’t want to stop reading!  My daughter is a reader.  She loves to read.  We have to constantly tell her to put the book down to get out of the car, to walk into the store so she won’t walk into anyone, to go to bed….you get the idea.  She always has a book in her hand.  Yes, the fact that she loves to read is awesome-however, it can also make homeschooling a challenge.

Reading, spelling and grammar are not really major areas of concern.  She is an amazing speller but I continue her spelling program to reinforce what she knows from reading.  She reads amazingly well.  I do continue to have her read aloud for at least a few minutes each day.  Grammar is interesting.  If she sees a page that has improper grammar, she can spot it quickly (she is a good editor); however, grammar does not come naturally when she writes.  Thus, most of her grammar I have her fix.  She writes a paragraph.   I have her take a break from it and come back to it the next day.  She then edits her own errors and does fairly well.  If she does not take a break, she doesn’t slow down and edit properly.

Math: How do you get a child who likes to read to do math?  Find math story books!  Our favorite series is the Life of Fred series.  All of my children read through the books; however, Sawyer reads them, works the problems and then redoes each book.  She LOVES Life of Fred!  The stories are funny and relevant.

Science and History:  Another area that I have to be very inventive.  I have stated in the past that I am a very eclectic homeschooling teacher.  We mainly use the Waldorf approach but in this case we use as many living books as possible (more of a Charlotte Mason method).  Living books are simply books that children can relate to.  Living books tell a story that becomes real and that you can feel like you are living.  For example, this year one of Sawyer’s blocks included Judaism.  She read books on Judaism but she did it begrudgingly.  I also had her read The American Girl Series Rebecca.  Rebecca is a little girl who grew up NYC and her family is Jewish.  Sawyer learned exactly what I wanted her to learn.  She learned how Judaism effects a person’s everyday life and the historical events that are celebrated throughout the year by people of the Jewish faith.  Finding living books that relate to what you are trying to teach can be a challenge but it is doable (I actually found one about a family that harvests silk worms during our textile block-that took a lot of researching!).

Organization: Now it may just be my reader that is completely disorganized but I hear from other parents that organization is an issue for their readers as well.  When Sawyer begins reading, she does not stop (a good thing right?  not when you are trying to do school work!).  We use the timer on the microwave a lot.  She can read first thing after breakfast for 30 minutes.  The timer is terrific for a lot of things.  We use it to limit her time reading during school time and as a motivator for activities that she does not want to do.  We set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes.  She sees the time going by and she is able to continue with grammar or spelling.  Getting through all of her work in a day can be a challenge as well.  I am still working on this one and am open for  We tried a daily workplan, a weekly workplan, a workbox type of system in which she moved a card from needs to be done to the done side and simply me asking her what she has completed.  I saw on a post recently (I cannot remember where so I cannot give them the credit right now, but if I figure out I will) a method with clothes pins in a jar.  The clothes pins are snapped around the top of the jar and as the activity is complete, the clothes pin is dropped into the jar.  I may give this a try this year along with a timer.

What about pesky papers?  We use our main lesson books to place all papers into.  Papers are glued, taped or stapled into the book right after it is completed.  This includes the wonderful art work that used to be floating around the house.  Once a week, she goes through her cubby to declutter.  Again, this is still a work in progress.  As she gets older and more independent, paper organization and time management will become more important goals (these will be in her goal list for this next year).

Do you have a reader?  I love suggestions!



2013/2014 Year End Report

We're Done!

We’re Done!

I love the end of the school year.  We finally have warm weather and sunshine.  I also get to plan for next school year, but before I begin telling you my plans for next year-I thought that I would give you the final list for this year (if you are new to the blog, my hubby likes the list format.  He can look at it and see what we did during the year.) Thus, this may not be the most exciting blog post.  Below is what each kiddo covered-roughly- over the past school year!

Parks-Grade 1

  • Folk tales and fairy tales
  • IEW’s Primary Arts of Language
  • Sound Foundation’s Apples and Pears level A lessons 1-28 (we started this in January.  He only did one page at a time due to the amount of writing that each lesson required).  He will continue this over the summer. (Spelling program)
  • Sound Foundation’s Dancing Bears A completed and started B.  He will continue this over the summer as well. (reading fluency/decoding)
  • Singapore Math 1 A and 1B completed
  • Citizenship Block
  • Various unit studies on whales, cheetahs, cats, the titanic, etc.

Sawyer-Grade 3

  • Apples and Pears Level B (spelling)
  • Judaism
  • Israel
  • Shelters
  • Old Testament
  • US Government
  • Teaching Textbooks Level 3
  • More books than I could ever list!  She reads all the time. I find her to be the easiest homeschooler as she loves to read.  When I have a subject that I want to cover, I try to find a historical fiction book for her to read based on the material.

Sims-Grade 5

  • USA
  • African history
  • Indian history
  • Egyptian history
  • Greek history and Greek myths
  • Apples and Pears levels A and B (spelling)
  • Dancing Bears Fastrack AB and beginning of C (we will continue this through the summer)
  • Geometry
  • Outdoor Leadership
  • Teaching Textbooks 5

As a group or everyone (difficulty was varied based on the grade level)

  • Unit on textiles
  • Biography paper
  • Geology
  • Book report on fiction book
  • Persuasive Letter
  • Poetry
  • Chemistry
  • Introduction to Botany

We also do a lot of nature study and try to get outdoors as much as possible.  This year, we spent way more time inside than I would like.  We also went on several trips this year including skiing, Tugaloo State Park, Florida, Blowing Rock and LEAF.  My goals for this school year included using a monthly workplan, documenting work and individual planning meetings.  Overall, we did use the work plan for most of the year.  I had to alter it several times, but overall it kept everyone on track throughout the year.  I will most likely continue with the work plans but I may alter them slightly.  I am still pondering this.  The second goal did not happen (which is why I am thinking over my workplan idea).  The kids did not write in their planners at all past the third week.  The final goal was wonderful.  Meeting with each kiddo allowed them to have more input on their plans.  When the kids get the feeling of ownership over something, then they are much more likely to complete it.  I think the year went well.  We finished up earlier than I had planned due to the lack of getting outside so much.  As I plan for next year, I am going to plan for more outside time and then I have to stick to it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How did your year go?  Did you meet your goals?

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

I recently read a blog on Simple Homeschool a blog that inspired me for today’s post.  I decided to ask the kiddos some questions about homeschool.  I told them that they were free to say anything-nothing would be held against them.  I asked each of them a few questions including: 1) Do you like homeschooling and why? 2) What are the down sides to homeschooling? 3) Academically, what is favorite part of homeschooling and what is your favorite curriculum? 4) What do you want to change for next year?


Sims- Sims is my 11 year old son.  He loves to bike and be outdoors.  He wants to be a survivalist, a smoke jumper or maybe a doctor.  He completed the fifth grade this year.  Here is what he said:

I like homeschooling a lot because I get to hike and to me more of me.  (I am not sure when he is not himself, but again these are his words and not mine).  I like to bike a lot which I can do throughout the day.  I also can hang out with my friends more and still do activities because I can play during the day.  If I could change anything, I would like to see my other friends more. (Obviously, this has more to do with the fact that his friends attend different schools and then they do different after school activities.  They see each other in the summer).  Homeschooling lets me learn at my own pace and I can research more stuff.  My favorite curriculum is Dancing Bears and Spelling (Apples and Pears- OMG!  Can you believe that my child with dyslexia puts fluency and spelling at the top!)  My favorite activity that we do is Muddy Boots Club at Latta Plantation and OUtdoor Leadership.  Next year, I would really like to work outside more (I hope this happens too.  We had a lot of rain and cold weather this year).


Sawyer- Sawyer is my 9 year old daughter.  She loves to read, dance and do gymnastics.  She wants to be a photographer or a fashion designer when she grows up.  This year, she completed the third grade.  Below are her comments:

I like homeschooling because you get to do more stuff.  You have more freedom to go places and meet a lot people and families.  I would like to get to see my friends everyday.  My favorite school activities are my main lesson work where I get to draw, dance, Latta Plantation classes and hanging with my friends.  I like that homeschooling is short and that there is no yelling (really?  I feel like we yell way more than I like..maybe not?)  I also like that you can work anywhere-especially outside.  Next year I would really like to do more nature studies.  Why are we doing this again?


Last but not least is Parks.  Parks is my 7 year old dare-devil of a son.  He loves anything crazy that most people would be scared to do but he also loves art and animals.  He wants to be dolphin trainer or a cheetah rescuer when he grows up.  He finished up his first grade year.  Here is what he said:

I like homeschooling because we get to travel and go outside more.  (He got a seat in a local charter and chose not to go next year so I asked him why he made this choice).  At that school, I wouldn’t get to go outside as much as I do now.  I thought about going because I want to hang out with more kids my age but when you see them everyday, they become like your brothers and sisters.  Homeschooling doesn’t let you make a lot of friends.  You make good friends but a lot of times they move away and that is hard.  I like that I get to pick what I want to research like cheetahs.  My favorite thing to do is math on the computer (teaching textbooks) because I can do it on my own.  I also like going to classes at Latta Plantation and getting tadpoles. Next year I would like to make the rules more fun.  I want to be allowed to do more dangerous stuff (yep, that is pretty much what I expected him to say or something similar like next year I want to be able jump off of the roof..LOL).

Overall, I think they are enjoying their educational opportunity.  We spoke today about going back to school and they all opted to keep homeschooling-even if it means doing some school through the summer (they have a mean teacher).


Wrapping Up the Year-Main Lessons

As mentioned in previous posts, we mainly followed the Waldorf Essentials curriculum for our main lessons. Overall, I still LOVE this program. Parks, 1st grade, focused on fairy tales and folk tales. Sawyer, 3rd grade, studied the Torah, Judaism, and shelters. Sims, 5th grade, delved into Ancient History including Africa, India and Greece. He also worked on geometry and the Greek Myths. As a group we studied textiles and plants. The program is fantastic and full of wonderful stories that are perfect for the developmental age of each child. The difficult part was teaching three different grade levels and three different programs. I found that the kids were interested in everything. Thus, when I was teaching one child, the other two were right there with us. That is a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, I love that they want to know more and to participate. No, I need them to do some work independently!

In the end, we worked together and somehow combined the lessons. Sawyer’s lesson on textiles turned into a group unit study that included folk tales and the history of the textiles. The Greek myths turned into hours of sitting on the couch together reading the Odyssey (the children’s version) and the Greek Myths together (of course, we added in some Percy Jackson stories as well…smile). We included a lot of drawing and creating with each lesson trying to maintain some of the Waldorf creativity behind the lessons. However, the lessons were definitely a far cry what was written in the curriculum books.

We are trying a different route this year. We are using Trail Guide to Learning’s Paths of Exploration series.  It is an inclusive curriculum just as the Waldorf Essentials requiring you to only add an outside math program.  Each unit should last about 6 weeks.  I decided to venture into a new curriculum for a little sanity break.  Paths of Exploration has three different levels, 3rd through 5th grades, and an additional resource for middle schoolers.  Next year (basically, starting now), I am teaching 2nd, 4th and 6th grades.  We started the program today and it went well.  I will give another update as we move through the program.

I have not scrapped the Waldorf Essentials.  I thought about for -oh- maybe a minute.  I love the stories in Waldorf Essentials!  I decided to work the Waldorf Essentials into the breaks in between the unit studies.  I am not exactly sure how I am going to make it work, but I do not want Parks to miss the saint stories or Sawyer to miss the man-animal studies along with the Norse myths or Sims to miss Roman history.  There are just too many fun things to learn!

Wrapping up the year! Math

Believe it or not, we are pretty much through all of our curriculum for the year!  Obviously, we did not do enough fun stuff.  We are still trying to figure out the best methods for homeschooling that work for us (of course, I know this will be an ever-changing piece of our lives).  However, this week I am going to focus on math.

Last year we used Singapore Math for everyone with Montessori and Waldorf exercises in the mix.  Parks was the only kiddo who really enjoyed this method.  Thus, Parks continued with the Singapore math mixed with Montessori and Waldorf.  He finished up his level 1 A and 1 B books by the end of January.  For him (1st grade), Singapore worked well.  The book had a lot of pictures and not an overwhelming amount of information on each page.  For me, it was very easy to tie in bead chains, the multiplication board, the hundred board and the Waldorf stories into the Singapore Math curriculum.

Now with the older two kiddos, we did a complete change.  They did not want to continue with Singapore, and they also did not want to continue Saxon which we did the previous year.  Where to go? Looking at our schedule and considering that now I had three levels to teach, I decided to go with a computer based math program.  We chose Teaching Textbooks levels 3 (Sawyer) and 5 (Sims).    Yep, I handed in the towel on math-my favorite subject.  However, I freed up a lot of time and put a new responsibility on them.  Initially, the kids were excited but unsure of whether or not they were going to like it.  In the end, they loved it and asked to do it again next year.

My opinion of it-well, it definitely freed up some time.  The kids took ownership of the program, and they were very good about asking me when they did not understand a concept.  I do not think that either child was challenged much at these levels.  However, at this time-a challenging program was not the goal.  In their end of year testing, they each scored average on their computation skills (straight addition, subtraction, multiplication and division), and they scored amazingly well on their applied math skills.  So I am happy that the program seems to be teaching the math in an applied way.  We will continue to work on straight comupation skills, but understanding when and how to use those skills is more important in my mind.  Beginning in the middle of May, I plan on getting them each started on the next level.  Now that they are comfortable with the program and using the computer (My kids are not on the computer much so this program required them to also gain some basic computer skills), we will work on challenging their math brains a little more.

In addition to their basic math curriculums, each kiddo continues to work through the Life of Fred series.  Parks and I started back at Apples and we just finished Butterflies.  Sawyer worked through Cats, Dogs and Edgewood.  Life of Fred is her favorite way to learn math!  Sims worked with Parks on Butterflies and is now working through Goldfish on his own.  Life of Fred is the only curriculum that my kids all ask to do-even on the weekends.  The books are funny and entertaining.

What math program did you use this year?  I am always interested in what others are using and how it is working for them!


March Madness-Homeschool Style

I posted earlier in the month how I planned for the February blahs and how we made it through.  Evidently, I did not plan well for the madness of March.  In my mind, March is the beginning of spring and new beginnings.  However, nature has a different plan.  NC had snow, ice, rain and just plain cold weather.  For those of you in the northern part of US, you expect the cold to stick around.  Those of us in the southern US states await the warm breezes and the signs of spring-not the cold furry of winter.

We begrudgingly made it through our work this month.  Sims, 5th grade, worked on an Ancient Greece block which included reading the Greek myths, Mary Pope Osborne’s version of The Odyssey, and the study of several Greek philosophers.  Sawyer, 3rd grade, explored the US government including laws, the US Constitution and various aspects of the US government. Parks and I are doing some inner work which will continue into April.  He is working on ways to be a good citizen, the importance of being responsible and trustworthy, and finding his strengths.

So where is the madness?  The madness is within me.  I am a person who needs sun and warmth.  I enjoy doing our work outside at the park or in our backyard.  Hiking, playing at the White Water Center and exploring the outdoors are some of my favorite parts about homeschooling.  Unfortunately, I did not put my big girl panties on and trudge out in the wet, cold weather.  I am paying for it now.  I noticed myself getting frustrated very quickly and having little patience.  Luckily, my kids are amazing at reading me and they began to step in to help.

Even more wonderful than the kids helping out is the wonderful surprise that my hubby gave me.  We planned a trip to Lake Lure to go hiking and enjoy the wonders of spring in the NC mountains.  We should be there now.  Looking ahead at the weather channel, I noticed that the weather forecast was cool with possible rain throughout the week.  I couldn’t do it-not when the Charlotte forecast is sunny and 65 degrees.  I have never stated that I was not going to join a family vacation before, but this time I did.  I know-awful right?

I hit the wall-not of homeschooling but of rainy, cool weather.  Well, Wednesday I received a beautiful email from my hubby that asked me if I would like to scrap Lake Lure and head south to Florida.  YES! YES! YES!  So we are here in sunny Florida.  We are soaking up some much needed vitamin D, catching lizards, and enjoying the beautiful landscape of Florida!  I almost cannot believe that we are here.  Enjoy the rest of your March-I will send sunny thoughts to you all in hopes that they will bring warmth to where ever you are!