Our 2013-14 school year

We’ve finally settled on our plans for school this year and are well in to finishing our first month. It’s a bit difficult to plan our first few weeks, since I’ll be traveling for work for about two of those six weeks (leaving in just a few days, actually), but this is exactly why we’ve been easing in to our new year. If I tried to do too much too soon, I’ll burn out and the kids will revolt. I know us all too well.

building on the beach


This is also why I’m thinking of the school year in trimesters, not semesters. We’re not following a traditional school year pattern—one of the perks of homeschooling, I say.

We’ve also got chunks of time called “School Lite”—these are phases when we’re just focusing on reading, writing, and math. We may do a little history or science here and there, perhaps a smidgen of geography or Spanish, but it’s not a heavy focus.

• Mid-August through the third week of November: Fall Trimester (with School Lite during two weeks in September and a one-week break in October, both due to my work travels)

• Last week of November: Thanksgiving break

• First two weeks of December: School Lite, with a unit study of Christmas around the world

• Last two weeks of December: Christmas break

• January and February: Winter Trimester

• First two weeks of March: School Lite while roadschooling, traveling down south to find respite from the snow (and for my book tour!)

• Last two weeks of March: Spring break and more book tour

• April and May: Spring Trimester

• June: School Lite as we gear up for our Big Trip! Estimated departure date is around September. Ish.

Learning Resources

Curriculum research is overwhelming—as soon as you’ve settled on one thing, you then read on an online forum about some kit or book that changed the educational trajectory of some student, so you second-guess yourself and stay up far too late with countless tabs open on your Internet browser. Or maybe that’s just me.

drawing on the chalkboard

Language Arts—Grammar, Spelling, & Phonics

• 3rd grade: We’ve started with The Sentence Family, which has been a HUGE hit. Once we’re done (around the end of September), we’ll move into English Grammar Recitation the rest of the year, possibly also doing Grammar-Land as a read-aloud reinforcement. Spelling Workout, Levels D and E, self-paced (girlfriend can spell), along with SpellingCity games from spelling lists I import.

• Kindergarten: Continue with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading, along with basic readers from the library (BOB books and the like). All About Spelling for both basic spelling and phonics/reading reinforcement (this is a great resource for Reed’s kinesthetic learning style, since he loves to move around the magnets). We’ve also been using the Logic of English phonograms app, but it freezes on us quite a bit, so hopefully they’ll get the kinks worked out soon. I do like it.

Language Arts—Writing & Handwriting

• 3rd grade: Writing With Ease 3 for listening comprehension, narration, and dictation, or sometimes writing about her current reading material. Journal keeping a daily “commonplace book,” per the TJed—a paragraph recapping the things she learned that day. She’ll also write occasional paragraphs about her history or science studies. New American Cursive III for cursive practice (she has beautiful penmanship but still prefers manuscript writing, understandably).

• Kindergarten: Handwriting Without Tears for basic letter formation, along with weekly letter practice using textured materials (rice, shaving cream, soap in a baggie, etc.). Reed has a slight fine motor delay, so it’s a workout for him to hold a pencil and form letters. We’ll be extremely gentle in this area, so as to not turn him off from writing as he grows.

Language Arts—Reading

Lots and lots (and lots!) of read-alouds, both the picture and chapter variety. Reed loves story time, which will hopefully translate well into independent reading when he’s ready.

For Tate, lots of independent reading from lists like these from Classical House of Learning, Mt. Hope Academy, and Classical Homeschooling’s list of 1,000 good books. She’ll also be participating in a weekly Charlotte’s Web book club at a new-to-us co-op.


• 3rd grade: Teaching Textbooks 3 and 4—Tate is flying through level 3, so we’ll start on level 4 whenever she finishes at her own pace. Life of Fred independent reading, for enrichment. Occasional math and logic games using Tangoes, Phase 10 cards, Mastermind, logic puzzles, apps, and the like.


• Kindergarten—Math U See: Alpha with Dad, Khan Academy, and Dreambox for enrichment, along with the Splash Math app for grade 1.

Fine Arts

• 3rd grade: Children’s Art Academy, Level 1 class at Art Station, where Tate will learn basic art history and learn foundational composition technique from an artist in residence. We’ll also have a monthly artist and composer, and research about their lives and works once a week via library books, Netflix, and YouTube. Both the Louvre Museum and National Gallery in London also have fantastic apps.

• Kindergarten: Art & More class at Art Station, where Reed will learn basic art skills based on weekly picture books. He’ll also learn about our monthly artist and composers.

Artists & Composers:

  • Cimabue and Giotto
  • Limbourg Brothers
  • Jan Van Eyck
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Michelangelo
  • Raphael
  • Hildegard Von Bingen
  • Correlli
  • Vivaldi
  • Bach
  • Mozart
  • Handel


• 3rd grade & kindergarten: Karate, along with lots of time to wander and play outside, not to mention tons of wiggle breaks for the younger set.



• 3rd grade: Duolingo on the iPad, self-paced—I’m in love with this app (I’m learning French with this app as well). Library books, flashcards, YouTube videos, and other apps as I find them. Watching Salsa with Reed when she’s in the mood.

• Kindergarten: Salsa videos, library books, flashcards, YouTube videos, and the Bilingual Child app.

…That’s it for kindergarten. Our only real educational goal for Reed this next year is to get him reading independently (or closer to reading). For math and handwriting, we’d like to see him progress—math is naturally easy for him, so he’s actually ahead; handwriting is difficult. For the rest, he’s welcome to listen in and enjoy learning with Tate, but in a no-pressure way.

The remaining list reflects 3rd grade.


Story of the World, volume 2: Middle Ages to Renaissance. Weekly story from these beloved audio CDs, along with making a master lapbook (a name I hate, by the way), lots of library books, YouTube, and Netflix. Adding dates, events, and pictures to an ongoing timeline hanging in the stairwell. Listening to CC’s Cycle 2 history songs as they relate. Education Portal movies, Western Civ I for enrichment.


Trail Guide to World Geography, working our way through the world while poring over maps, atlases, and globes. Map tracing using CC’s Cycle 2 map of the world and Europe, and memorizing Cycle 2′s geography list. Lots of library books, YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu (Rick Steves!).

All this will accompany our round-the-world trip planning this year, so geography will be a strong focus in our school time.


One day per week, the kids will have Dad Day for school while I get the bulk of my writing and business work done. They’ll go through Christian Kids Explore Earth & Space (another name I hate), do a few experiments with From Mudpies to Magnets, along with—you guessed it—lots of library books, YouTube, and Netflix.

Mostly, though, they’ll hit the road and explore the natural world of central Oregon and its caves, lava rock beds, mountains, glacier-fed lakes, streams, and a bajillion other landmarks. Then the snow will hit, and they’ll study weather and astronomy using library books and NASA apps.

In the winter trimester, Tate will take a weekly earth science class from Bend Science Station, and in the fall trimester, she’ll take a nature journaling class in our co-op (which covers both science and art). Reed will take a human body class in our co-op during the winter trimester, just for fun.

shevlin park

This may seem like a lot, but so much of our time ends up reading books, books, and more books. I’m a huge fan of learning through living books, so a large portion of our days is spent learning from Winnie-the-Pooh or King Arthur and his knights, or from Laura Ingalls and Frog and Toad.

When something works, we stay at it. When it doesn’t, we set it aside and move on. We days are good, we dive in deep. When we need a break, we take one. This year? So far so good.

I’ll add resources to this post as we find them useful in our studies.