Homeschooling 2013/2014

We started back into our school year last week!  It’s always so exciting to start fresh.  For us, our ‘school’ (I honestly, really dislike that word… but for ease, I surrender and use it…) year starts in August.  I find this works very well for us.  We usually do our more intensive work and full schedule from August to May with June and July being much more relaxed.

Can I just say, I absolutely LOVE educating our children at home.  Everything about it is such a gift and I feel completely called to this lifestyle, as does my husband.  I am still learning every day and leaning on God for guidance, but boy, have we come a long way since we first started.  There are so many reasons why we choose to educate a home.  You may want to check out my page, “Why Homeschool?” to read through some of ‘whys’ I wrote up last year.  If you are considering home education for your family, or need some encouragement as you gear up again this year, maybe, by grace, you can find some soul food there.

I can’t believe this is our fourth ‘official’ year of homeschooling and I feel like I’m finally in a good groove.  (Yes, it takes a while.)  I’ve really had a lot of time to assess and re-assess our children’s gifts, skills, abilities, and challenges.  I’ve also been able to tailor ‘programs’ that are perfectly suited to their individual needs.  We have a schedule that gives time for both ‘group’ work and individual studies, which are done with me at this point.  The group studies are such special times that help us learn together as a family and work on the same subjects at varying levels of difficulty. 

If you ask our kids what ‘grade’ they’re in, they will likely say, “I don’t know”.  That’s not because they are disconnected from their learning experience, but because I don’t stress things like grade level with them.  They are actually all over the map with regards to ‘level’.  For example, Simon is able to do Math at a grade five level but is still working at the grade 2/3 level for Language Arts.  Just so there is some context to what we’ll be doing this year, Simon is 8, Audrey is 6, and Alex will be 5 in September.

Most of all, we’re just enjoying the day to day experience of living and growing together.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!

If you have any questions about home education, feel free to either message me through Facebook or leave a Comment at the bottom of this post.

Oh, and I have a new camera (hooray for birthday gifts!)… and I’ve been enjoying snapping photos with it!  So, this post is picture heavy!

As a blog reader myself, I’ve found it so helpful to see other plans and reviews.  I’m praying this post is also helpful for other Moms and Dads who are either contemplating home education or are already on the journey.
Here goes:

Core Programs


This year, we are using SONLIGHT Core B and Five in a Row, Volume 3 as the platforms for our family’s core studies.

About Sonlight:

Sonlight is a Christian, Charlotte-Mason based program that is based on great literature and living books.  There are no grades of textbooks.  I did a detailed review of Sonlight, HERE.

The Sonlight day to day schedule includes:  Bible Reading, Memory Verses, Apologetics, Simple Read-alouds (Poetry, Mother Goose, etc.), Literature (also read-alouds, such as chapter books and short stories), History, Geography, and Cultural Studies.  Each ‘Core” has a different subject focus/topic based on age and interest.

We studied parts of Core A last year, which was “Introduction to World Cultures”.  It worked well in combination with our tour of the globe (see the side panel of the blog to peek in on some of the country studies we enjoyed).  This year, we are the next step up, Core B, “Intro to World History”.  This year covers Creation to the Fall of Rome.  We’re really excited about the content of this program!

Here are the books we received with Core B –

We also got the Timeline book and Timeline figures (stickers you stick into the timeline book for history), as well as the great big Markable Map of the World/USA.

  Five in a Row – Volume 3

We will also be working through Five in a Row, Volume 3.  This is a FANTASTIC literary-based program that focuses on Unit Studies through the use of wonderful children’s books.  We absolutely loved working through Volume 1 and much of Volume 2, so, naturally… we’re continuing!

Our little Five in a Row shelf with all the books from Volume 1 and 3 along with our lapbook binders for this year and a few added resources to go along with themes in the studies!

Most of the books for this year’s use of Volume 3.

To read more about FIAR and how much I love the program, click HERE.



Language Arts

 Sonlight Language Arts K (and a few more tidbits) – (for Alex, age 5)

 Level K is always tricky for me.  The whole ‘teaching reading’ thing is a bit of a mystery at times.  Our first child taught HIMSELF to read easily after only reading through a bit of “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons”.  I used no phonics program at all with him and he reads at an advanced level.  (Well, that was easy!)
Our second struggled a little more with reading and I attempted to use Jolly Phonics with her because it was musical and fun.  She loved it and still listens to the songs.  Although it helped her learn letter sounds, I found it wasn’t a super comprehensive program and left out much of the needed grammar and copy work.
With Alex, I knew Jolly Phonics wouldn’t appeal to him nearly as much and wasn’t scheduled or organized enough for me.  That’s why I chose to go with Sonlight’s Language Arts K program.  So far, I love it.  It’s exactly what I need in a pre-reading/reading program. 
If you are looking for a flashy, exciting, manipulative-heavy program, this IS NOT it.  This is a very quiet, calm, discussion-based program.
Every week a new letter sound is introduced, with the children learning to read basic words within a few weeks.  All the copy work pages are included with the program.  I didn’t purchase the K readers Sonlight offers because we have a lot of readers already and I didn’t read the best reviews about them.
Along with the LA K, I’ll include a lot of fun activities with letters and letter sounds.  There are countless ideas online and in books.  Tactile fun, crafts, games, rhymes, etc. will be included as we go.  I’m not a fan of paying big money for what I can do myself easily with a little google searching.

Our Word Boxes are a hit with the kids, along with our Word Drawers I made up a couple years ago.  I got this idea from a Montessori School I was visiting.  Each drawer has small items in it starting with the letters on the front of the drawer.  (IE: MNOP has a Marble, a Pin, and Nametag, etc.)
Copywork pages from LA K.
Alex, enjoying his work.  I had a whole book of copy work pages from Jolly Phonics, so I added them in to the mix for fun.

Language Arts 1 – (for Audrey, age 6)

LA 1 comes with more books than I’ve photographed, so if you’re looking at it for your child, be sure to check the Sonlight website.  I really like this program as well.   This is for Audrey and she has been thriving with it.  The readers are easy to follow and are scheduled into the program to encourage daily progress.  At the beginning of every week there is a new list of words the children learn along with their sight words.  The copy work pages are fun and easy to follow and included with the program.  Everything is ready and there for you.
Just a note: I did not purchase any of the ‘optional’ choices from Sonlight.  I felt we had enough with the LA program on it’s own, along with many other language building activities we do.
The “I Can Read It!” books included with LA 1.
We are also reading through the Usborne Very First Reading Program.  LOVE it!

Language Arts 3 (for Simon, 8 years)

This year, Simon (age 8) is working through Sonlight’s Language Arts 3.  I love the collection of readers included in this program.  Simon seems pretty excited about the titles, which is always a good sign. 

Here’s a peak at the program (all these books were included as part of that $500 package with the Sonlight Core Curriculum) –

More Language Arts

We also have been and will continue to work through our copies of First Language Lessons Level 1 and 2. These books are really great for grammar and basic language skills.  I have found them very easy to follow and our children have grasped quite a bit from them.  I include 2 or so lessons every week from these.  Audrey is book one and Simon is working on book 2.

Art and Music

This year we are using:

The Usborne Children’s Book of Art for Art Appreciation and Art History.  This is beautiful book that introduces famous artists, famous pieces of work, and also art history. 

The Usborne Famous Paintings Sticker Book for Picture Study and Art History.  Can I just say, this is a STEAL!  For all you Charlotte Mason-ers out there seeking picture study prints of famous paintings and work by famous artists, this is a must.  The stickers are very high quality and the image quality is beautiful.  Every week we choose a few paintings and discuss them after placing the stickers in the right place.

GoFish Art Cards for Picture Study and Art Appreciation.  Another great find for picture study.  I chose the Renaissance and Impressionists set for this year because I really liked the prints included on the cards.  Not sure yet exactly how we’ll use these, but we’ll definitely use them for memorization and picture study.

Discovering Great Artists for Visual Art and Art Appreciation.  This book is pretty neat.  It gives TONS of art activities for children at varying levels that correspond directly to a famous artist.  The projects either highlight that particular artist’s technique or specialty, or mimics one of their art pieces.  We’ll work through this as our Visual Art component this year.

Lives of Musicians for Composer Studies.  We will read through the entire book, which highlights several famous composers and musicians through mini biographies and illustrations.  We will also borrow music from the library corresponding to each musician or composer.


Simon is in the middle of his Math 4 work right now.  He will probably need the 5th grade Math by mid-year.  He loves Teaching Textbooks and so do I.  I would highly recommend it for kids who are self-starters and enjoy working independently on Math.  He can choose to either do the book work or the computer work.  He usually chooses to watch the lecture on the computer and then do his work in his book.

For Audrey and Alex, I’ve struggled with what to do.  I found an alternative Math program that we’re really enjoying.  It comes from a lesser known company called Queen Homeschool.  I was looking for something a little gentler, more Chalotte Mason-based for the earlier years of Math.  These books are fun.  Both Audrey and Alex are enjoying them and I would recommend them if you are looking for a more comprehensive, whole-book Math program.  The only thing I’d mention is this – if you’re looking for a repetitive, drill-heavy program, this isn’t it.  This is where I find our Math is lacking.  The long read-aloud portions of the Queen’s Homeschool Math the kids find boring.  So, we’re missing half the point. 

We will be doubling up with our Math U See (Primer and Alpha) to reinforce some key points and do more practice questions.  Alex seems to really thrive with Math-U-See.  I love that my four-year-old is easily doing math equations like 10+10, 5+4, etc.

Queens Homeschool Math 1 and 2

Inside Queen Homeschool Charlotte Mason Math l1 (love Alex’s little men… haha)

Inside of the Charlotte Mason Math 2

Charlottle Mason Math 2 – you can see how text/reading heavy it is for a Math book.  This is the ‘living math’ portion of the program.  I love it, and I hate it.  Haha… it works very well for certain subject matter, and not so well for other things that are made simple by keeping it easy.

Math-U-See Primer and Alpha (work well for K and grade 1/2)

Inside of Math-U-See Alpha, about mid-year.



This year we will be working through Considering God’s Creation.  I LOVE this Science curriculum.  It was very inexpensive and is reproducible for your family.  (I paid $30 for the program).  If you’re looking for a really hands-on, family style Science, this is great.  It is very biblically based with ‘Evolution Busters” throughout (which I love!).  There are 36 lessons covering topics such as, The Plant Kingdom, The Animal Kingdom, Insects, Animal Classification, Animal Lift Cycles, Human Anatomy, Rocks and Fossils, and Weather.

We will be using our worksheets from Considering God’s Creation along with various other print-out and projects and compiling them into our Nature Study binders for Science this year.

Organizing Our Year

Well, Homeschooling takes a LOT of organization.  I’m still learning.  And, I only have three kids, which is a relatively small number compared to so many homeschooling families.  (Props to those Mamas of many!!!)  Even with a program like Sonlight that is hugely laid out for me, planning still takes several hours every week.

At the beginning of the year (ie: now), I will spend time mapping out each ‘subject area’ in months and weeks.  For example, I know in August we will be studying Charlotte’s Web through Sonlight, with an added lapbook project and a science unit on Spiders.  I will sit and plan out each month with regard to the major areas of core study and decide what I need and what I want to supplement. 

Which months are we studying Medieval Times?  Roman Empire?  These will be planned so it is easier to be prepared with craft supplies, projects, reading materials, etc.

From there I narrow it down to the weekly and then daily plans.


Day to Day Planning

Every day, there is a hearty pile of books that are assigned for reading.  This happens both through Sonlight and also through my own additions to our reading list.  I always try to put these books aside so I have the ability to work through the reading as the day progresses.

Our days do not have a strict ‘schedule’, as I’ve found this too frustrating to maintain.  For two years straight I tried to do “8am-9am THIS, 9am-9:30am THAT, etc…” and it was a nightmare.  I just didn’t feel it left the freedom we were so craving in our daily life.  There was no flexibility to learn and explore as we were led.  I’ve realized, the way we learn and grow best is to have a schedule that is loose. 

Having said that, we must accomplish the tasks given for the day, but we have literally from 7am to 8pm to achieve this.  “School” can happen any time, and sometimes, is happening at 7:30pm while younger kids are getting ready for bed.

An example of one of our piles of dinner time/evening reading.
BEST  gifts I was ever given – a Recipe Book Holder!  LOVE this and use it every single day to hold books up while I read through meals.

I’ll share my little my variation of work boxes.  I have always thought the work box system looked amazing but I’ve never fully implemented it for various reasons.  Some of the reasons include, lack of space and the way we learn.  I don’t have a lot of separate ‘subjects’ for each child.  So, making a separate ‘work box’ wouldn’t make sense for the majority of our learning. 
However, it DOES make sense for Math, Language Arts, and extra drawing sheets and papers.   So, that’s what I’ve done this year.  It’s very simple, not nearly as exciting and interesting as some systems I’ve seen, but it works.  Each child has their row of bins and each child knows exactly where to find their Math, Language Arts copy work binders/ readers, and have a bin for their little sketches, crafts, etc.
Makes it easy for children to take initiative and get going themselves as well as encourages the habit of order, giving them a specific space to put things away and then retrieve them again when needed.

As you can see from the mess under the drawers, we’re still working on the whole ‘order’ thing… *sigh*
Ikea – we already had this unit from years ago.  I just bought some extra drawers.  Easy.
Our little ‘homeschool room’… 🙂
My favorite space… our outdoor learning area on the back deck.  Boy, I’ll miss this come Winter!

Ok, so, I think I’m done.  Yes, I really talk this much in person.  Haha!


The NOT Back to School Hop

The Homeschool Village


  • Desiree

    Wow, this is the best "curriculum" post I've seen yet. This really is a lot of what I want. I want sonlight to be a part of our curriculum next year, but trying to figure out how to afford 3 different cores. My head is swimming with curriculum choices right now, and sonlight seem so easy. I could be done! … Sigh! Love all your choices!

  • Keri at Growing in His Glory

    This is such a comprehensive post! I have looked at Sonlight and may consider it in the future, but right now, I'm just making my own curriculum. I love to see what people are using and your arts and music books look great! I'm ordering most of the ones you mentioned. Thanks! Have a blessed school year!

  • Colleen

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a first time HS mom, that was a SUPER helpful post. I have decided on most of my cirriculum, but I'm having a hard time choosing LA (for gr 1). I will take another look at Sonlight, and I love your spreadsheet with all the subjects. Do you think Exploring God's creation would be suitable for a 4 & 6 yr old?

  • MomLaur

    Yay! Congrats on year 4! It was such an enlightening year for us too, where we finally figured some things out! It was only last year, but I felt like we just grew so much over the year!

    Wow, what a great post for Sonlight! I bet you're going to get some great attention from them on this ;0) We don't use Sonlight but do use their book recommendations for reading. I grew up homeschooled so I'm somewhat "anti-boxed-curriculum" but if I had to pick one, I'd probably go with Sonlight.

    And WE LOVE Child's History of the World! It should be on every person's shelf, homeschooling or using Sonlight or not. It is just plain so interesting and an amazing overview of history!

  • Stefanie

    Well I know you are going to have a great year cuz you're using many of our favorites. lol We are Sonlighters too! Love everything about it (okay not their LA lol). We're doing core G and my second trip through A this year. We also love MUS, First Language Lessons (so bummed she didn't continue the advanced series), the go fish art cards, and the Ikea shelves.

    Popping in from the blog hop!

  • Unknown

    Thank you for such an informative post! I have a 2 year old who I plan to homeschool (and hopefully more blessings along the way!) and I love soaking up all the different posts by other homeschoolers. Thanks. 🙂

  • Linda

    I see so many familiar friends in the stacks of books in your pictures. We are huge fans of FIAR – used it with our 6 youngest, though the 2 oldest liked joining in too. I refer to Sonlight's reading list often when choosing read-alouds, especially.
    Love the school room, and those bins for each of the children. Nice and handy. Enjoy your new year of learning!

  • Rachel Larkin

    This is a great post full of good ideas for planning the homeschool year!
    We do Math U See and love it! Although my oldest is nearly 16 and we are now doing Cambridge Exams from home. But I highly recommend Math U See!
    Thanks for your post.

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