Monday, May 26, 2014

A Day in the Life of Our Little Homeschool

Some of you may remember that on the day that Sadie turned five years old, she announced that we needed to begin kindergarten "right away."  She meant that we needed to begin that day, but I managed to convince her to wait until the following Monday to give me a bit of time to get ready.

As a result, we finished kindergarten towards the end of March and while I was ready for a break, a certain someone was eager to keep going.  After all, Maggie is having therapy in the playroom every day (which Sadie calls "Maggie's school") and so it seemed natural to keep going.

I sat down with a calendar and we came up with a plan.  We're taking off a whole week for each persons' birthday in the family and for extra special holidays and feast days and I threw in a little extra time off in October for the new baby's arrival.  In the end the new schedule took us right up to Easter break next year, giving us a year round calendar with plenty of school and plenty of time off (and exactly 180 days of class).

We plan our year around the suggestions laid out in The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.  I first read it when Sadie was tiny and though I've read many more books, and looked at many different types of curriculum, it's still my favorite for Sadie so far.

We're six weeks into the new school year and so far I've been amazed at how smoothly things have gone.  We spend two to three hours in the morning doing basics like grammar and math (usually we finish in about 2 hours and then throw in lots of extra reading time, or move into history).  Some evenings we do history, or science, or art, after "the babies" go to bed.

So for those of you who are curious, this is what a day looks like in our little homeschool:

The Daily Routine:

We start each morning with a morning prayer, and on days we're not running late we read from the children's Bible and about the lives of two saints. And then...

Spelling- We start of the academic portion of the day with Spelling Workout.  As someone who was never a fan of spelling growing up (and who was very thankful when Spell Check came on the scene), I'm really amazed at how much Sadie seems to enjoy spelling and how much it's helped her with her reading lessons.

Grammar- After we finish spelling we move on to First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 1.  These lessons seem to fly by and they have Sadie saying things like "A noun is a person, place, thing or idea."  The lessons also includes a new poem to memorize once every two weeks.

Copy Work- After Grammar Sadie spends about ten minutes working on her handwriting.  She copies down a quote that I've written out for her.  Sometimes it's a prayer. Sometimes it's a quote.  Frequently it's a section of one of the poems that she's working on memorizing.

Memory Work-  Although her Language book does have a short poem for memorization every couple of weeks, Sadie has always made quick work of memorizing, so we usually spend about five minutes going over another poem, which she picks out of one of the poetry books that we have around the house.  So far she's memorized about one full page poem a week (she keeps picking long ones!) and she takes great pride in reciting them... and it's an opportunity to work on her pronunciation of new words.

Reading- After we finish her Memory Work we move on to her Phonics lesson.  We've been using The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We'd actually used it as part of last year's curriculum, but while Sadie loved math, history and religion, reading was stressful.  So we put reading on the back burner for a while, played a lot of games involving letters and sounds without doing any particular program, and have picked it back up with much more success.  While she was ready to do fraction worksheets for fun, she just wasn't quite ready for reading last year.  This year things are really starting to click!

Math- Once we finish her reading lesson we move on to Math.  Last year we used Singapore Math's Essential Math Kindergarten Set--Books A and B and since Sadie really enjoyed math we decided to move ahead with Singapore using the Singapore Math Level 1 Set.  Sadie will tell you that this year is a lot more work (on certain days!  On other days we finish in five minutes!), but she's still doing really well and I'm happy with our choice in the program.

Religion- Sadie tells me almost every day that religion is her favorite subject.  If I don't ask her all the questions from all the units we've covered so far (which we've written on flash cards) she'll usually remind me that I'm forgetting them (even when I just wasn't planning on doing a full book review...).  We use the Our Heavenly Father Student Book and the Our Heavenly Father - Revised Grade 1 Activity Book (Faith and Life).  I really like this program, and have to admit that I've learned a lot of basics that just didn't come up all that much in RCIA (especially with definitions from the catechism).

After we finish our religion class we snuggle on the couch and read for half an hour.  Some days we read books about the period of time that we're covering in history.  Some days we read books about the animals that we're learning about in science.  And some days we just pick out "fun" books that we've brought home from the library (which usually end up being about ballerinas or princesses).  At least once a week we do a narration exercise where she retells me the story that we just finished in her own words and I ask her questions about it.

A couple days a week we also do...

History- I have to admit, history hogs far more than it's fair share of our time.  We're "supposed" to do history three days a week, for an hour at a time.  However, we really, really love The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor (and the accompanying activity book The Story of the World, Activity Book 1: Ancient Times - From the Earliest Nomad to the Last Roman Emperor, which includes projects like the one we're currently working on to mummify a chicken).  There are additional reading suggestions, maps, questions, narration exercises and, as I mentioned above, projects!  If religion is Sadie's favorite subject that we cover in our little school, history is mine.

Science-  Twice a week we're supposed to do an hour of science.  For the majority of the year, this year, we study different animals (Sadie has already picked them out).  For the remainder of the year we do a section on plants (we're going to do part of that unit when we visit my parents in California and can borrow my mom's garden!) and another section on the human body.  Sometimes history tries to butt in and take over our science time... and I try to resist...

Art-  Art happens here and there.  We usually dedicate one night a week to it, after the babies go to bed, where we clear off the dining room table and take out water colors, colored pencils, acrylic pains, oil pastels, or whatever else we decide on at the moment and do an art project.  Often times history over laps into art, so that I now have paintings of a pyramid and a baby mammoth, along with many, many paintings of princesses.  Sometimes art even happens outside on the sidewalk!

And that is what a day in our little school looks like... with plenty of sunlight and running around outside thrown in!

There are affiliate links in this post!  They make it easier for anyone who's interested to find some of my favorite books!


  1. Just a heads up from someone who taught Susan Wise Bauer's Story of the World: by Vol. 3 it's unabashedly anti-Catholic. If you go that far with her history books, make sure you read ahead and check alternate sources if your history isn't in tip top shape, before going through the lessons with Sadie. I skipped chapters altogether when I taught it, and eventually found a different history curriculum because the "history" was presented from a narrowly Protestant "viewpoint," and painfully anti-Catholic at times. TB

  2. Oh no! Thank you for the heads up! I wish there was something comparable (in terms of how it goes through history, because I really like the order) without that skew. I think I'll probably plan to use it and read ahead like you suggested and then just substitute in the same time periods with the actual history from Catholic and other not anti-Catholic sources... or maybe this will finally inspire me to start writing. I keep coming across things that we're using and getting ideas for writing my own curriculum... I just wish there were more hours in the day!

  3. My criticism of Susan Baur's books are similar. They get anti-catholic AND they ignore the thousand year Christian Empire that knew itself as the Eastern Roman Empire and we know it as Byzantium. Although nearly all History programs do leave out Byzantium.

    I can recommend the SETON workbooks for Science and History to supplement what we have always done unit study style because it is so fun that way. I love how both give information on famous Catholics, which can lead to some fun biographies.

    My next child to homeschool is gradually showing readiness. I can hardly wait!

  4. A GREAT overview of history is DR. WARREN CARROL's CHRISTENDOM SERIES. They are written for adults, but I would read in them and then story-tell the content at their level and let them quiz me and I would quiz them back. That was fun! If you find a strongly Catholic classical history for children program I'd love to hear about it too.

  5. It's very difficult to find a History series that isn't either anti-Christian all together or anti-Catholic without going to a Catholic publisher. I've resigned myself to having to work around it somehow when we have kids because I don't really like the Catholic curricula.

  6. Love the Faith and Life series! They use them at our parish's First Communion and Confirmation programs! (of course the school board uses something really airy fairy) F+L is a nice solid catechism. A friend's child (not F+L) program; had questions like "what is your favorite part of Mass" To which he answered: "Leaving"! F=L avoids such situations by asking more concrete questions about The Holy Family, Sin etc.

  7. I must be missing something. We are completing the Vol. 3 of SOTW this year and I didn't notice any real anti-Catholicism.

    Regardless, I have one friend, very devout RC family, who uses RC History's Connecting with History. I don't know much about it but I could ask her. She uses it for Religion but it does basically go through History from a Catholic perspective.

  8. I am eventually planning on getting Story of the World Vol 1, to read through with my children to cover the basics prior to Ancient Greece, but then we use Memoria Press's Famous Men series, (Greece, Rome, Middle Ages, Modern Times - and I think there is an Ancient Egypt one but it isn't sold through Memoria Press) to cover World History in the early years.

    If you like The Well-Trained Mind, Memoria Press and their classical curriculum you ought to check out. I have never read The Well-Trained Mind, but I have Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Behrquist, and a large part of what I use, especially this next year, will be coming from Memoria Press, with the exception of Religion, Math, and Spelling.

    It is a Christian publisher, but they have several Catholic offerings too, (they advertise a couple of Peter Kreeft's books, and have sophomores reading City of God). They're religion, math and spelling is not specifically Catholic, nor is it just simply secular (as math and spelling go). So we use Faith and Life for religion, combined with Saint biographies and Bible Studies. We use Life of Fred for Math, and I use Sadlier Vocabulary books for spelling (killing two birds with one stone). Not that Life of Fred is Catholic, but my kids really, really enjoy it.


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