Homeschool curriculum choices are a deeply personal decision. The child’s learning style, age, and interests are all factors to consider, as well as your family values.
I feel the need to add the disclaimer that this is my plan as of August. However, I know myself at this point. I am endlessly optimistic about the upcoming year. But I also realize that some of the choices outlined here may not work for us long-term. I now have the confidence to shift as needed to find what works best for us though. That is the beauty of homeschooling, you can tweak things to fit you and your child!
I also want to note that this is a full look into every aspect of our homeschool for my 4th grader. It’s a lot, and it doesn’t all happen every single day. We have certain days for certain subjects and also lots of activities outside of the home that factor into our days.
Morning time is what we call the block of time each morning where we do family-style learning. I have a fourth grader and pre-kindergartener, so other parts of the school day are done more individually, though usually together in the same area.
Our morning time includes bible study and morning prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and enrichment subjects. We loosely use the Ambleside Online schedule for literature, history, and nature, which includes a good deal of reading. It’s usually during this block of time that we read and discuss the passages for that day, although with a busy schedule, those subjects are sometimes explored using the audio versions as we travel to various practices and engagements. I use the free Librivox app for audiobooks because I find it really difficult to make time to do all of our daily readings myself.
After our family-style morning time, my fourth-grader completes many of his enrichment studies independently such as foreign language, typing, and cursive.
We have also been using our morning time to learn the meaning behind the pledge, as well as the history of the American flag and some of our leaders. These are some of the books we are really enjoying.
This year we are continuing Duolingo for Spanish. I use Duolingo Classroom and am able to create assignments, daily time goals, and due dates, as well as track his progress. I’ve been super pleased with this program over the last couple of years. It’s very interactive, and makes it fun to complete new achievement levels. It’s also very easy to navigate as an educator.
For typing this year, we are using Keyboarding Without Tears. Last year I spent way too much time searching for free typing games and activities when we should have actually been learning, which led to us totally avoiding typing altogether by about halfway through the year. Having a plan is the number one key to success for me when it comes to our homeschool days.
We don’t usually take time specifically to focus on art, but rather intertwine it with other subjects. For example, our nature study, as well as certain bible studies that we will follow throughout the year from Treehouse Schoolhouse include a daily art project of some sort. Our Language arts curriculum also incorporates various artist studies and teaches about mediums for creating art.
My son enjoys following along with tutorials from Art for Kids Hub on Youtube as well, and will sometimes incorporate one of their lessons into our other studies like we did last year when we studied the history of St. Patrick’s day, then followed their tutorial for drawing a leprechaun.
We have an incredible program in our community called Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAMS) that I cannot say enough good things about. My son started their weekly fiddle lessons last year and we will be continuing them this coming year. It is such a neat program where children play in a group jam-style session focusing on heritage music of the appalachias. He learned so much his first year, and I actually pulled out my old fiddle that I’ve been meaning to play for years and started practicing with him. We usually do this in the mornings after our bible study and journal time.
Language Arts Curriculum
If I’m being honest, I’m a little torn in this category. We have always used The Good and The Beautiful for Language Arts, and are doing so again this year. I love that the lessons incorporate Geography, Art, and Social Studies, as well as Language Arts. So far this year we are studying Italy, and using the Language Arts lessons as a basis for some of our geography studies as well. I also love that this curriculum highlights the beauty of God’s creations, how important our individual creativity is, and how we can use it to build His kingdom.
My main struggle with this curriculum is how lengthy the lessons tend to be. My son already has a bit of a difficult time focusing on any type of bookwork because he’s a boy of action. He wants to be outside, working with his hands, to accomplish some sort of task. He finds it very difficult to spend any amount of time learning sentence diagramming and structure. I do realize that it’s obviously necessary, but I have to admit that we sometimes have to break the lessons down some because they seem to drag on for longer than his attention span can handle and turns into a battle where no one is learning.
We are a couple of weeks into their fourth-grade lessons and the same is still ringing true. I’m hoping that as the weather turns colder and the outdoors aren’t calling quite so much, we will be able to give a little more energy and focus to these lessons. We do try to take our work outside as much as possible, but I have to say that they still feel pretty long, even to me.
We also use The Good and The Beautiful for our math curriculum, and have for the last few years. I have been really pleased with the math from this company. In the younger grades, they used lots of manipulatives, songs, and games to teach math concepts. So far this year we have gotten through the lessons much more quickly. I think this is partly because there is a QR code at the beginning of each lesson that takes the child to a short video lesson. These have been super helpful for my son. He is able to do most of his work independently using this, which he really values.
I also love that their math curriculum builds on skip counting to lead into multiplication and division concepts. These, along with math songs that we use from the Classical Conversations app have been very helpful with learning multiplication. Though we don’t participate in CC, I really do love their songs for memorizing various facts.
As mentioned earlier, we loosely follow the Ambleside Online schedule for History. I have not done the best job of staying on track with this over the last year, mainly because I can’t seem to find the time to do all of the daily readings. So this year, rather than following their schedule for Year 4, we are doing Year 3.5 to ease our transition. This yearly schedule doesn’t necessarily correlate with grade level.
As mentioned earlier, I will be using Librivox for many of our readings. I was able to create a reading list titled “Ambleside 3.5” and add most of the books on our reading list. This means that we can listen together while we are doing other things like laundry or dishes with our hands, then have a great discussion afterward and add the events to our history timeline book.
Last year I also purchased The Playful Pioneers early American history curriculum from The Peaceful Press, and plan to incorporate some of their activities into our readings.
For science, we also read many interesting books from the Ambleside library. I also like to incorporate the activities that we are doing throughout the year into our science curriculum. For example, we have been studying pond life this month because we like to spend this time of year around the pond fishing and gigging frogs.
In the fall when we take our annual beach trip, we will focus on the marine science stories, as well as the marine life sections of the Treehouse Schoolhouse Nature Study. We follow this curriculum throughout the year with our Wild + Free homeschool community, and try to coordinate our events and activities to correlate with our lessons.
The old argument against homeschooling, that the children will be unsocialized, is so funny to me. Our children are out in the actual community insteracting so much throughout the week. At times when they would otherwise be in a classroom alongside only children of their age, they are helping grocery shop for the meal plan they helped to create, and speaking with various employees and adults in the process. They are volunteering at local organizations and meeting people from all different walks of life. They’re assisting me in weighing, packaging, and shipping merchandise from our family business and interacting with customers nearly every day. They are also involved in so many programs in our community that they are around youth of all ages and backgrounds many times each week.
Wild + Free
When I first began homeschooling three years ago, I knew that I didn’t want to do it alone. I needed other mamas to connect with. To bounce ideas off of, troubleshoot, and to seek encouragement from when I questioned my decisions for the hundredth time. I, along with a dear friend, set out to cultivate such a community when we created our local Wild + Free group. Over the years we have build deep and special relationships with those mothers and their sweet children. They are our closest friends whom we learn and worship alongside. We hike, create, read, and play together. Lots of play. Our children have the blessing of meeting with their friends on some sort of adventure almost every Friday, and I have to say, it is soul-filling to us mamas as well.
Homeschooling is not easy, but it is deeply fullfilling and worth every hard moment for the relationship you get to build with your child and the deep connection it allows with family and friends.
We haven’t been as diligent about our involvement in 4h over the past year, but plan to jump back in this year. My son is enthralled with horses, and wants to begin competing this next year, so we will do that alongside our local 4h horse club. I grew up heavily involved in my local 4h and plan to keep my children involved as well. It’s an incredible organization with so many opportunities to develop skills in leadership, self-development, teamwork, and healthy living, among other things. Be sure to check out your local state extension office for information on 4h programs in your area.
We participate in baseball and soccer with our city recreation department, a local indoor soccer program run by our dear friends, and our county wrestling club at various times throughout the year. Each of these programs attracts different children and the opportunity to build new friendships every few months. They are also wonderful for character-building and teamwork.