Putting the Pieces Together: our 2016-2017 Plans

21. August 2016 Homeschooling 3



This is technically our second year of homeschooling.  Georgiana (not her real name) is 5 and entering Kindergarten, but 4-year-olds in our area regularly attend full-time Pre K.  Last year, I didn’t feel my girl was ready for that intense jolt into institutional education.  And I’m sure I wasn’t either.  My best friend wisely counseled, “You’ve always been curious about homeschooling.  There’s never going to be an easier year to try it out.”


She could not have been more right.  But, at the same time, oh how wrong she was.



Georgiana’s PreK year was more of an education for me than for her.  I needed that time to discover my educational philosophy, my preferred teaching style, my must-do’s, as well as my no-can-do’s.  Wise homeschooling moms counsel that the style that works for your kids is often the style that works for you! At the beginning of last year, though, I knew none of this about myself, my student(s) or homeschooling in general.

Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”  This describes my first year as a home educator to a “T!”.  I had to try every curricula and material (or at least read their reviews exhaustively).  I devoured blogs, books, and podcasts, regardless of my philosophical alignment (did I really have one yet?).  I exhausted myself in the process and accomplished very little “schooling” for my daughter.  Thankfully, PreK is completely optional (possibly unnecessary).  Only by holding firmly to that truth, as well as my vision for the future, did I refrain from throwing my hands in the air.  I certainly tried to do too much.  I absolutely accomplished very little.  But I gained a confidence in myself and an understanding of my personal philosophy which I hope will set a firm foundation for this and future years.



One of my favorite bloggers (and podcast hosts) Sarah Mackenzie recently asserted that “planning is just guessing.”  With that, here’s my best guess for this year:





Georgiana is in Kindergarten and Fitzwilliam (also not his real name…but turning 4) is in PreK and serves as general mischief-maker!


Charlotte Mason/Classical-ish? Bear in mind that I’ve come to understand Charlotte Mason’s philosophy to nest with the Classical model, although not the common “ages and stages” version of Classical education popularized by Dorothy Sayers’ essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.”


Math Lessons For A Living Education-Level 1 – This is complete guess-work here, folks  I’ve considered Saxon Math.  I’ve drooled over Right Start Math and Schiller Math at the Great Homeschool Convention exhibit hall.  They all resonate with me on some level.  For the most part, they’re also a significant investment.  I figured since we’re taking a shot in the dark here, it might as well be low-risk (cost-wise).  And I appreciate the simple construct and the CM-influence of this program.

We are also supplementing with Mind Benders, Can You Find Me, and Hands-On Thinking Skills, all from Critical Thinking Co.  This may be overload, so I’m more than prepared to drop these extra materials.  I’ve also amassed a collection of MathStart books to use when introducing new concepts.




Reading Lessons through Literature by Barefoot Ragamuffin Curricula.  Another *fingers-crossed* choice here.  Can I say that I’m terrified of messing this up? We attempted some phonics work in PreK.  Several materials fell by the wayside, but I lacked the certainty of whether it was the material or the readiness of the student.  I then decided on something that appeared fun (Phonics Museum by Veritas Press), but ultimately scrapped it because it was also complicated.  I’m going with simple and basic…and hoping it works!


language learning for kids-multimedia set-german learning set-german english

Charlotte Mason promotes French for initial foreign language studies.  And we may dabble into some French exposure.  But, my mom is German, I have a degree in German (although lack true fluency) and I harbor secret dreams of one day living in Germany (again…yes, we’ve lived there before).  So, we’re starting with German.  I nabbed a great deal on Petra Lingua, so we’ll give it a whirl.  Otherwise, I was content to use First Thousand Words in German from Usborne Books and More.


As Catholics, we will work through some simple catechetical materials.  But the bulk of our religious education will come from our living of the liturgical calendar.  One of my primary goals in choosing home education is having the opportunity to steep my family in the culture and history of our faith.  But as a spine, we’ll use The Mass Book for Children and Little Acts of Grace to introduce concepts.



My Baptism Bible, since we own it and the illustrations are adorable.  I also plan on introducing The Story of the Bible by audio this year.  This series includes a spine, instructional DVDs, workbooks, etc.  It’s built to grow with the family.  For now, though, the dramatized audio version seems right up our alley.  The audible explosions after “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” hooked me!




Excuse my use of this ten-dollar word.  I love it.  In reality, though, we will read about the lives of the saints.  My favorite saints books for this age are Catholic Saints for Children by Ignatius Press, as well as Saints for Girls and Saints for Boys by Neumann Press.  This is a major focus of my plan to live the liturgical calendar: more feasts, more connections, more inspiration.  I have created a monthly plan with readings, activities and recipes, which I’ll share in another post.


We need some character work in this house!  Can I get an “Amen?”!

I joke that my homeschool style is “Books! Books! Books!,” and I’m sure just reading good books is the start to a great education.  At the same time, I feel a bit inexperienced and in need of the support of a well-written guide.  Unfortunately, I find most guides dry and formulaic…the exact opposite of the CM Education I hoped for.  Thankfully, Beautiful Feet Books is the perfect blend, in my opinion: great literature, a couple poignant questions and get-out-of-the-way-mama-and-let-the-book-do-its-magic.  And they even have a guide titled, “Teaching Character through Literature.” Yippee!



I’m also choosing a habit of the month.  First in the chute: Obedience!  I have Simply Charlotte Mason’s Laying Down the Rails, which I love for inspiration and conviction.  I find it short on implementation, though.  I discovered Kids of Integrity, which, sure enough, has a lesson on obedience…with a 17-page guide full of scripture readings, games, songs and activities.

Composer Study & Classical Music


The goal this year is simply to start ordering their affections.  Sadly, my kids have listened to more Disney Junior albums than classical works.  So, I’ve mined the internet for a few sneaky tools to work it in: Maestro Classics and Ann Rachlin (you can get these on Spotify!) Both weave stories into classical music, which I’m hoping will hold their interest.  Beyond that, I’m willing to hold them hostage in the car for a listen.

Artists/Fine Art


Again, I’m going for broad exposure here.  First up is Monet, and I have scoured Half-Price Books and Better World Books to have plenty to look at.  For the hands-on variety, Preschool Art by Mary Ann Kohl is our main resource, but at this age anything is art…or it can be!



We live in hot, hot, hot Louisiana.  So, months of the year we rarely venture outside.  The rest of the time, I’m apparently just lazy (as we have a gorgeous fall and spring and hardly any winter).  So, we are jumping on the CM bandwagon and GOING OUTSIDE…hopefully.  As a guide, I’m using Exploring Nature With Children  to structure our studies.  And because I can’t help supplementing with books, I plan to work in Let’s Read and Find Out Science, One Small Square, Thornton Burgess, Among the Pond People, etc. as far as I’m able.



I plan to let our geography lessons flow out of interest in the people and places we come across in books.  I bought Maps, and it is already a hit.  Georgiana wanted to look at China (because it had a Panda picture), and after spending ten minutes going over every detail (“The Yellow River looks blue Mama!”), she announced she wanted Chinese food for dinner.  Charlotte Mason’s 12th principle for the win! (Education is the science of relations).



As much as I love history, I do not believe this deserves a ton of focus in Kindergarten.  She will undoubtedly be exposed to many historical topics through our study of the Saints, the Bible, and stories in General.  We do plan on using Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans by Edward Eggleston.  This is one of Mater Amabilis’ Kindergarten recommendations, and it’s also in the public domain.  And since I don’t believe we’re ready for Book of Centuries, we’ll use Bede’s History of Me (and Us) to introduce the concept.

Memory Work:


In true classical style, I want to instill this skill early.  I am planning on one verse, poem, prayer and hymn a month.  I will adjust based on skill.  For poetry, we will use IEW’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization: Level 1.  For hymns, we’re using Traditional Catholic Living’s Hymn Study resources.  We’re not going deep on this.  Just listening and learning some good songs.  For the verse, I’ll most likely base it on the character trait and the recommended verses in Kids of Integrity.



While at the GHC in Fort Worth, I discovered A Year of Playing Skillfully.  If I had stumbled upon this last year, I think our year of discovery-learning would have gone smoother.  Even though I plan on advancing Georgiana beyond this program (even though the authors wrote it for kids 3-7, as long as you supplement math for the older range), I will incorporate the themes, skills, games, and crafts to ensure that Fitzwilliam isn’t just “along for the ride.”


Is this too much?  Probably.  I’m sure we will drop some things, add others, and generally discover what works.  This year, however, I have confidence that we will tweak our plans instead of scrapping them one-week in.

3 thoughts on “Putting the Pieces Together: our 2016-2017 Plans”

  • 1
    Kristen B on August 21, 2016 Reply

    Where do you start?! It all seems so overwhelming!

    • 2
      Heidi on August 22, 2016 Reply

      It does. And it can be. But it doesn’t have to be, if that makes any sense. I am a consummate researcher, so I read, and read, and read…before I decide anything. I know many moms, though, who peruse a few websites or curriculum catalogs, choose a course that resonates, and stick with it. I wish I had chosen more wisely for the preschool age (or started sooner just to get into habits). For early years, I dislike the Monday-Friday lesson plans. They make me feel overwhelmed when life interrupts the schedule. Instead, I find a checklist works better. For instance, do a math activity 3x a week-Check! I’ve found three resources that are designed more around that approach: a) A Year of Playing Skillfully– we have this and you can take a look at it. Each month has a checklist you can put on the fridge. b) My Father’s World-Their full lesson plans are daily, which I dislike. But their PreK Activity Cards are “grab a card, and teach this” with a specific set of manipulatives. c) anything from Timberdoodle-this website can get expensive, but their early lesson plans are checklist-structured by the week.

      Andrew Pudewa, Founder & Director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, wrote his tips for homeschooling parents who feel overwhelmed: 1. Read to your children. 2. Write a little bit. 3. Do some math. 4. Go outside. 5. Play or sing some music. (This is from “Hope for the Overwhelmed Homeschooler” from Sarah Mackenzie’s blog. It’s full of encouragement, as well!)

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