Our 2020-2021 Homeschool Curriculum Choices

With so many families deciding to homeschool this year, I thought it was time to share our curriculum list for 2020-2021. This school year, we have a PreKindergartener, 1st grader, and 6th grader. We keep things much lighter for the younger ones and are combining several of their subjects for the foreseeable future to make my life a little bit easier. The eldest becomes more and more independent each year, but I’m grateful to still have the time with her reading aloud and discussing major topics in history and science each day. Here, you’ll first find a simple list of our curriculum choices by subject, and below that I will clarify how we use some of these in our home if you are interested in that extra bit of information. Some of these items will list two levels; this is because as relaxed homeschoolers, we just pick up where we leave off each year and start new levels as we finish the old, whenever that may be during the school year. As such, I will list the levels we are still completing, along with those we will likely move into during the year.

6th Grade:

History/Bible/Literature
Sonlight Core F (Study of the Eastern Hemisphere)
Supplemented with the additional Chronicles of Narnia novels
Supplemented with the prior novels of Gloria Whelan’s Russian Saga

Science
Sonlight Science G (Evolution, Genetics, and Geology)
Supplemented with graphic novels The Stuff of Life and Evolution

Math
Teaching Textbooks Online Math 6 then Math 7
Life of Fred (Conceptual Math) Elementary Series Book J
Life of Fred (Conceptual Math) Intermediate Series Books K, L, and M

Language Arts
Essentials in Writing (Composition and Grammar) Level 5
All About Spelling Level 6 then Level 7
Wordly Wise (Vocabulary) Book 5 then Book 6
Supplemented with spelling and vocabulary games at spellingcity.com

Physical Education
Up to 8 hours of ballet, tap/jazz, and lyrical dance classes each week with bi-annual recitals
1 hour of tumbling classes each week
All of this is part of the requirements for the eldest to participate in her dance studio’s Company level program, which includes competitions and The Nutcracker performances.

Music
1/2 an hour of piano lessons each week plus daily practice

Other
Girl Scouts First Year Cadette Troop participation

1st Grade:

History/Bible/Literature/Science
Sonlight Preschool and PreK Books at Leisure (Combined with PreKindergartener)

Math
Horizons Math Grade K Workbook 2 then Grade 1 Workbook 1 and Workbook 2

Language Arts
Handwriting Without Tears 1st Grade Workbook then 2nd Grade Workbook
All About Reading Level 2 then Level 3
All About Spelling Level 1

Typing
Keyboarding Without Tears 1st Grade Online Subscription

Physical Education
1 hour of ballet dance classes each week with bi-annual recitals
1 hour of tumbling classes each week
1 hour of gymnastics classes each week

Music
1/2 an hour of piano lessons each week plus daily practice

Other
Girl Scouts Second Year Daisy Troop participation

PreK:

History/Bible/Literature/Science
Sonlight Preschool and PreK Books at Leisure (Combined with 1st Grader)

Math/Language Arts/Readiness
All About Reading Pre-reading Level
Handwriting Without Tears My First School Book with activities and songs
Supplemented with iPad apps like Starfall, Khan Academy Kids, etc.

While our family loves the scope of Sonlight’s program, we have been taking a more relaxed approach over the last few years wherein we do not use the official Sonlight instructor’s guide or any of the worksheets. We often also drop some of the books from their list that we know won’t work for us and supplement those with something in a similar field or with prequels and sequels to the novels from a series listed in Sonlight’s materials. This year, we are using the Core F Notebook for the 6th grader, but we are simply using the book lists from P3 and P4 for the little two to choose books from each day for read aloud time. We usually do not use the Sonlight science experiments at all anymore, as they always got put off and forgotten in the craziness of extracurriculars during the school year. The kids get a lot of STEAM activities by participating in Girl Scouts, visiting museums, and engaging with other community events throughout the year, along with pursuing their own interests, many of which involve technology and art, in their free time.

As I said before, we move through these materials at our own pace, so we may even progress beyond Core F for the 6th grader this year, in which case we’ll just segue into Core G when that time comes. We’re all about just picking up the next page/lesson/chapter each day and seeing where we go. We have made huge efforts to keep the workbooks and bookwork pretty minimal while maintaining standards that would be required by a public school if ever they had to attend one. Most of our schooling is about keeping a good, but relaxed foundation in the three Rs while using literature as exposure to ideas for the remaining subjects and engaging in lots of our favorite extracurricular actives for enrichment. I hope our experience is helpful to you in your own homeschooling journey. Best of luck!

Anya’s 10th Birthday Letter

Current Mood:thankful emoticon thankful

Current Music: the kids playing video games together

Happy 10th Birthday, Anya!

You are becoming a preteen, but you understand the responsibility that comes with getting older, so you are perfectly happy to put off drama and boys for a later date and stay a kid as long as you can. I won’t pretend I’m not grateful for your wisdom that ironically helps you make more mature decisions, and I’m always so proud to hear how steadfast you are in your interests and beliefs no matter what your peers do to belittle them in the name of appearing more grown up. You don’t understand their rush, and I am so very glad that you feel comfortable talking to me about everything and discussing our opinions on how to handle social pressures and whether something is actually appropriate for your age.

Despite having to have some conversations about what growing up has in store for you, you have somehow maintained a youthful innocence that I adore. You believe in magic. You unashamedly love everything pink and sparkly, princesses and unicorns, playing dress up, watching Sailor Moon with me, and creating fairytales of your own. You have aspirations in the arts, especially dance, music, and storytelling, and have developed a recent fascination with mythology and astronomy that reminds me of my own middle school years. You are my mini me in so many ways, and it’s humbling and comforting to know that you are proud of that.

I hope you will never be afraid to talk to me, to ask your questions and tell me your views. Sometimes you blow me away with your observations about our Christian faith and the way the world works. You wear our shared Asperger’s diagnosis like a badge of honor, and I’m thankful that somehow I’ve done enough of this parenting thing right to give you a firm foundation in your sense of self that took me decades to even begin to achieve.

Don’t let anyone dim your light; the world will be a better place because you dare to dream and shine even against the bleakest darkness. Be exactly who you are, always, magic and all. We love you and are so proud of the young lady you are becoming. Happy Birthday. 💖🦄👑

Our Fall 2019 Homeschool Routine/Schedule

Current Mood:productive emoticon productive

Current Music: the kids watching Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on Netflix

I know how much everyone that homeschools (or is thinking about it!) loves to read details of how others make it work for their family, so I decided to share how our routine has changed going into this school year. I have officially started to lean in a more relaxed direction, so we don’t strive to check every box or even complete curricula within the calendar year anymore. Instead, we just take it one page/lesson/chapter at a time and move to the next book on our list as we complete something. It has made a world of difference in my stress levels and given the kids a bit more free time because we aren’t frantically trying to get all the things done by a certain timeframe. Ironically, after beginning this method sometime during the course of last school year, we actually made it through more materials than we had in previous years. Maybe it’s just the feeling of being more in control of our learning instead of it controlling us, but whatever the reason we’re sticking with it moving forward.

This year, we have a 5th grader, kindergartener, and little preschool-aged brother tagging along but not doing anything formal. Our week always changes a bit each semester as activity schedules change for our myriad of extracurriculars for the older two, including dance, gymnastics, piano lessons, and Girl Scout meetings and events. We are also not morning people and choose to let the kids stay up a bit later than most because it works for us. We’re usually up around 9 or so in the mornings, and bedtime for the kids is around 9PM, though sometimes it gets closer to 10 depending on the day. All three kids have a chore chart in order to earn screen time that includes making beds, completing school and piano practice, cleaning up any toys they got out, and asking if there’s anything I’d like their help with. They complete these at their leisure, other than school/piano since it’s built into our routine, and no one is allowed to do any electronics that take up the TV and will be distracting to those still working until everyone is done with school. If they choose to use their screen time while a sibling is still working, they must use handheld devices with the volume down or headphones in. Sometimes we limit the amount of screen time more than others, but if they are using educational apps or taking their own breaks to play pretend or with toys or do something creative, I feel less need to step in and require them to turn off the electronics for a bit.

During my eldest’s independent work, I’m free to work on my own grad school assignments, administrative stuff, etc. and complete any chores I deem necessary for the day. I will say, that I hired out regular house cleaning a long time ago, so my husband and I mostly worry about clutter, laundry, and kitchen-related duties in between kid wrangling and our other commitments for work and education. Our school day lasts as long as it does because my eldest wants to listen to her sister’s read alouds and sometimes takes her time working through her subjects while listening to music and interacting with everyone else. She knows she only takes her own time if she dawdles too much, as I require her to work through all her subjects before she can call the day done on the school front.

Here’s a little breakdown of how most of our school days go:

10:00 AM Kindergarten Bible, History, Literature/Poetry, and Science Read Alouds with Mom
10:30 AM Kindergarten Math, Handwriting, and Phonics/Reading with Mom
5th Grade Independent Piano Practice
11:00 AM Kindergarten Independent Piano Practice and Computer Keyboarding
5th Grade Spelling with Mom
11:30 AM Kindergarten Complete for the Day
5th Grade Bible, History, Literature/Poetry, and Science Read Alouds with Mom
12:00 PM Lunch – 5th Grade Read Alouds Continued with Mom
(Independent Audible and/or Internet-Linked Resources while Mom prepares food)
1:00 PM 5th Grade Independent Science, Language Arts, Computer Keyboarding, and Math
3:00 PM to 4:00 PM School Day Ends as all subjects are completed

If we have extracurricular activities, which we do at least three or four days a week, we usually have to leave the house anywhere between 1 PM and 3 PM to arrive on time. The 5th grader takes anything she hasn’t completed with her in a backpack, including her iPad for access to her online math software and internet-linked materials. Because we finish anything that requires my help or participation by the time lunch is over, she is able to easily work on her own in the car and while waiting if the activity we’re at that day is for the kindergartener. Other school years we’ve usually had one day that’s heavier on being away from home than others and so instituted four-day school weeks a long time ago. This year, things are more spread out, but my eldest decided she would rather take work on the go and still get a third full day off each week than to divide the work we do into the times we are home around activities throughout the week. So, for this semester, at least, we take Friday’s off from homeschool work. The kids get a three-day weekend, aside from any extracurriculars we may need to attend on those days. It can make for some full days for the 5th grader Monday through Thursday because she is basically doing school and/or activities until dinner if we aren’t home all afternoon, but she still prefers it, and we’re usually home a day or two each week for her to finish up at normal time and play for the two or three hours until dinner. I also really enjoy the three day weekends for extra time to get things done for myself that I’ve maybe been putting off during the first part of the week while working with the kids.

Sometimes, our school-day mornings get away from us, and we don’t start school until 11 or even noon, but everything can still be done by dinner because of how we organize our work and don’t take on more than we can handle in any given subject each day. My eldest is given a lot of freedom with the order that she does her independent work in, which has helped a lot with previous issues dragging her feet through her work. We work together to find the best curricula that fit her needs and meet my requirements if something isn’t working for her or is causing a lot of pushback. By getting to choose which things she does next as she works, it gives her enough control to not feel like she has to fight me about getting the schoolwork done, even when she’s having a rough day. By switching to a relaxed next page/lesson/chapter methodology, even on the worst days, she can complete every subject easily by dinner because the work required in each subject is in small, manageable chunks. Going into this semester, we have so far had the least stressful experience of homeschooling we’ve had since she began more formal work in 1st grade. I’m a recovering box checker, and the benefits are definitely encouraging me to stay on the proverbial relaxed homeschooling wagon!

Our 5th Grade Curriculum Choices for the 2019-2020 Homeschool Year

As relaxed-ish homeschoolers, we still follow the general guidelines of workbooks and curricula that we have loved in the past, but we are no longer feeling beholden to checking every box by a certain point in the year or using every aspect of something if it doesn’t work well for our needs as a family on the spectrum. We try to touch on each subject every day that we do school, but if things are taking a little longer or we’re feeling a little burned out, we just start where we left off the following day to ensure we are not missing any particular subject repeatedly. My main goal with subjects like history, Bible, literature, and science is exposure to the ideas, while I prioritize daily practice in small chunks of math and language arts concepts so we don’t lose new skills from the lack of repetition. With that in mind, here is what we are using going into the fall semester of Anya’s 5th grade year:

History
Sonlight Core E (American History Year 2 of 2):
We completed reading the materials up to the beginning of WWII last year, so that is where we will be picking up this year.*

Sonlight Core F (Eastern Hemisphere):
Once we complete Core E, we will be moving on to Core F, probably after the Holidays. We’ll likely make it through a study of the East Asian countries in the program before breaking for summer.*

Bible
Sonlight Core E (Starting Strong Series):
We completed two of the three studies included in the collection provided by Sonlight for this Core. We will begin the fall semester with the final book.**

Sonlight Core F (Case for Kids Series):
We will move right into Case for a Creator for the rest of the fall semester, with plans to continue into Case for Christ and Case for Faith in the spring.**

Literature
Sonlight Core E (American History Year 2 of 2):
We will be reading through the remaining books that accompany the WWII materials, as well as a few just for fun titles included in Sonlight’s program. We also added the rest of the Logan family saga to our Audible list rather than only reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry on its own.***

Sonlight Core F (Eastern Hemisphere):
As with history, we will read through the titles that correlate to the East Asian nations for our spring semester literature and see where things go from there. Living in Japan means we will probably spend a bit more time on this portion of the Core.

Science
Sonlight Science E (Electricity, Magnetism, & Astronomy):
We only have a couple of titles left from this Core to finish up during the fall semester, along with about half of the experiments. Interests in astrology and mythology were spurred by the astronomy materials last semester, so we’ll be exploring that a bit on our own, as well.*

Sonlight Science F (Health, Medicine, & Anatomy):
We’ll move into these materials as we finish up Science E. I decided to swap out the nutrition-related experiment book for a DK book about nutrition that we will read through together instead. Involved experiments are not realistic for us, and they would just end up left undone.*

Math
Teaching Textbooks (Math 5 and Math 6):
We switched from Saxon Math to TT after the Holidays last year, and it has gone very well. She has finished over half of the program and will keep working through the lessons this semester, moving on to the next level once completed.

Life of Fred (Elementary Series):
She just began using this series when we switched to TT, and it has been a lot of fun! She’ll continue reading through them at her own pace, beginning with Book D for this semester. Applying math to real life was alluding her, and this has helped tremendously.

xtramath.org:
Free, timed math fact practice. Finishing up multiplication this semester and moving on to division facts soon.

Language Arts
Sonlight Core E Readers:
She still had a couple of just-for-fun titles left from Core E that she began reading through over the summer, and there weren’t really any historical readers that needed to be held off for the WWII portion of the Core, so she has already almost finished these materials a few weeks into the semester. We added in additional novels based on her interests instead, such as the Pandora series and fairytale sagas by E.D. Baker.

Sonlight Core F Readers:
As with history, she will begin reading the novels that correlate to East Asian studies when we begin working on Core F materials as a whole, probably after the Holidays.

Handwriting Without Tears (4th and 5th Grade):
She has already almost completed the last few pages of the 4th-grade cursive workbook from last year and will now be moving into the 5th-grade cursive workbook for the rest of the fall semester. She plans to then complete the print review workbook afterward for extra practice because dysgraphia has made writing neatly a struggle. We only use the workbooks, which she does independently.

Easy Grammar (Grade 4 and Grade 5):
A couple of pages of this a day keeps her up to speed with grammar mechanics and identifying parts of speech. She had a few weeks of Grade 4 to finish up this month but has now begun Grade 5. She does this independently and checks her own work to identify mistakes.

Wordly Wise Vocabulary (Book 4 and Book 5):
She had about three lessons left of Book 4 at the beginning of this semester, so she will be completing what is still left of those before moving on to Book 5 in a couple of weeks. We only use the workbooks, which she does independently.

All About Spelling (Level 5):
She is about halfway through this level. We will continue on to the next levels as she is ready, as the program is designed.

Essentials in Writing (Level 4):
I had been feeling for a while that composition was a weak point in our homeschooling. We tried a lot of different things before finally trying this program about halfway through the spring semester last year. I was okay starting her out in Level 4 because I felt she needed the extra instruction and practice. We’ll move on to the next level as she completes this one, whenever that ends up being. She enjoys the online teacher videos and fun design of the accompanying workbook.

Keyboarding
Keyboarding Without Tears (5th Grade):
She completed all of the 4th-grade program last year, so we began the new school year with the 5th-grade level. She will be sad to complete this final year of keyboarding using these materials, as it has been a source of a lot of random knowledge that correlated to other things she’d learned and a fun part of her school day because of the game-like presentation.

Music
Piano Lessons:
Once weekly piano lessons with an instructor, with daily practice and recitals twice a year. This will be her seventh year of piano, and she still loves it.

P.E.
Ballet Classes:
She is cutting back to just two ballet classes at the dance studio each week this semester, as adding in jazz, tap, and contemporary last year ended up being very stressful for her. She would never admit it, but having almost every weekday be just school, dance, sleep, repeat was very draining for her. She is doing much better with more free time after school. She will still have a recital at the end of each semester. This will also be her seventh year of ballet.

Art
We have been attempting a formal art curriculum every year we have homeschooled and never made it very far. It would be the first thing to go when a day got overwhelming. This semester I have instead opted to make sketchbooks, art supplies, how-to-draw books, etc. more accessible for every-day use, and she is enjoying being able to pursue art in the direction she so chooses (currently anime and fairytale illustrations).

Extracurriculars
Girl Scouts:
She has been in Scouts since kindergarten and will be continuing as a second-year Junior this year. We are careful not to overdo it by opting out of events that don’t jive with our internal clocks or sensory needs when we feel it is reasonable to do so. She saves her energy for attending overnight camp at the end of the year, as it is something that is important to her.

*We read the books provided by Sonlight, but we do not use any other part of the IG or extra activities. It was more than we could realistically handle. Instead, we use the internet links from any Usborne books in the program for a fun way to make the information more engaging for Anya, whose interest in history and science is limited only to things that relate to her other existing special interests. I have been relying only on the schedule from Sonlight, but moving forward, I won’t be purchasing an IG at all. We will instead work our way through the books that we would like to use from the program at our own pace in the order we choose, eliminating some cost and books that we have learned from experience won’t be a good fit.

**We do not do any of the extra scripture reading or memorization scheduled by Sonlight. We simply do the devotionals and related reading together, otherwise discussing Biblical topics as they come up naturally in our household. We often read other Bible story materials together and have lots of such resources available all over the house.

***We divide literature up between Audible in the car and read-alouds on the couch, and we like to add in sequels and prequels to books listed by Sonlight every chance we get, which extends the time needed to finish a Core’s worth of reading. We don’t do discussion questions or activities from the IG; we just discuss naturally as we read and things come up in the day-to-day that relate to the material.

1 in 4

I should have had a baby this week. Our family should’ve grown by one to reach a grand total of six. I should’ve been watching Anya and Marie fawning over a new brother or sister, while Benjamin’s adorable fascination with babies overwhelmed us all with an overload of cute. He would be the sweetest, gentlest of big brothers. And I hope someday he gets to be one; but, unfortunately, that day isn’t today.

Today, I’m grieving the loss of a child I never held or named. One that existed only for a moment in my mind’s eye. The pregnancy was unplanned, but I fell in love the second that pink line appeared. I wasn’t ready for another baby, it’s true…but during the twelve or so hours between that positive test and the first signs of miscarriage, I convinced myself otherwise. I got excited. I daydreamed. I hoped. And then, as quickly as it arrived, that hope vanished.

I spent several weeks in a pretty dark depression, one I posted about online here and there without revealing the reason. I wasn’t ready to share just yet. I usually share everything, but this was my first loss. Every other pregnancy has ended in a beautiful baby placed in my arms and sent home with me to grow into the three amazing children that we already have. I never once for a moment believed that this one would be any different…until it was. It happened in November, just before the Holidays, which I’m sure didn’t help matters.

It still feels surreal that I was pregnant at all, while at the same time it seems impossible that the pregnancy was so short-lived. The kids don’t know; it wouldn’t be right to tell them and put them through this grief, so as parents we are mourning alone. There aren’t any more babies in the cards for us right now; the housing situation and lackluster medical care options available to us here in Okinawa just aren’t something I want to deal with through another pregnancy. My last overseas birth resulted in an intense postpartum depression that kickstarted years of autistic burnout from which I’m still not entirely recovered. My health is an issue, too, and I need to figure out what is going on there before I add anything else to the mix.

But, logic doesn’t sway the longing I feel for another baby or the intense reaction to the loss of this child we weren’t expecting. The kids are always asking when they will get another sibling; they have baby fever worse than I do, it seems. It fills me with joy to know that the love they have for one another is so strong and sure, that the idea of adding another member to their bond is a given to them. There is no fear or jealousy, just…love. And a desire to nurture and care for one another that seems innate to their precious little personalities. Knowing how much it would add to their lives for this child to have become reality makes it that much more difficult for me to process and bear.

I know it’s not the thing I should want right now; that it makes absolutely no sense to even consider it until I am healthier and preferably when we are no longer stationed overseas. I think it scares me a bit to know I’ll be in my mid-30’s by then, and considering the alphabet soup of diagnoses already present in our family that rolling those dice becomes exponentially riskier by then. It makes me feel like a clock is ticking, but life circumstances dictate that I must wait and potentially miss the opportunity to have another child entirely.

I try to convince myself to be content. I have three amazing kids; I need to be okay with this being it for me. They need to be enough. And they are. I had already accepted that three might be all we can handle for a multitude of reasons…but then that test turned positive, and it just completely wrecked all of the delicate scaffolding built through the mental gymnastics of putting the tangible realities ahead of my emotional desires.

I’ve been slowly rebuilding it, knowing that the best thing I can do is concentrate on myself and providing the best possible childhood for Anya, Marie, and Benjamin right now. They are here and need their mother; that keeps me going. I know I am blessed to have never experienced the loss of a pregnancy before now. I know the statistics. But that doesn’t dull the pain of knowing what could have been.