Homeschooling Plans for 2017-2018 {featuring Sonlight and Heart of Dakota}

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Hello, friends!   So, it's an exciting time of year for many homeschoolers as the Spring planning season is upon us.  Catalogs and Vendor Halls and Conferences, OH MY!

This year, I spent most of January and February praying, researching, and planning.  This was mostly done while feeding a precious baby in the middle of the night.  *wink*  We had a beautiful baby boy join our family in December through adoption and it has been a wonderful whirlwind!  I haven't done babies for 8 years... but we are back in the swing.  And loving it!

I realized quite quickly, however,  that I couldn't possibly put together all my own plans this tear.

And actually,  I didn't want to.  We prayed for years for this baby in my arms (yep typing one-handed...) and I want to spend as much time as possible holding, cooing, and cherishing and as little time possible planning, printing, scheduling.

I previously used and reviewed Sonlight and Heart of Dakota.  

So, I already knew I liked these curriculum choices.  

I knew Heart of Dakota would give me what I needed.  I knew Sonlight would enrich our learning with wonderful literature, meaty history books, and some great maps, vocabulary ideas, and discussion prompts.

So - this year, we are doing Sonlight Core B+C along with Heart of Dakota's Preparing Hearts for His Glory together as a family.  All three of my bigger kids (age 12, 10, 8) will be doing these programs together with their individual Language Arts, Math, and Reading mixed in.

There two major differences between HOD and Sonlight that I'd like to mention with regards to implementing the programs in the home:

  • Sonlight gives a weekly grid style schedule of readings from wonderful books.  These include the subjects of Bible, History, Geography (mapping), and Literature.  There is usually a poetry book or two mixed in.  The Teacher's Guide includes discussion questions, maps, and vocabulary words.  There are very few (if any) hands on activities or projects in the program (though you could add your own and many people do).  It is pretty much all reading, mapping, discussing for Cores in Sonlight.  This does not include Science.  One weekly grid is shown on one page of type.  It is historically based (so everything revolves around an historical time period).
  • HOD gives a full-out daily program schedule/outline including: Scripture memory, Bible Study, Literature,  History, Geography, Science readings, notebooking activities, plus experiments, poetry and poetry assignments, narration prompts,  hands on activities and history projects, crafts, recipes - not to mention individual assignments that include copywork, art, sketching ... there are just way more things 'to do'.  The daily spread takes up two pages of print.  (See my snapshots in this post.) It is historically based also.

So, you can see how these programs could definitely compliment each other if you want a really rich curriculum for your kids with lots of reading and activities added in.  

(P.S.  I actually plan to write a post completely comparing and contrasting these two very popular Charlotte Mason-friendly, books-based homeschool curriculums really soon...)

Can I just interject with my two cents for Canadians?  

I know one of the biggest stumbling block for SO MANY Canadian Homeschoolers wanting to use programs like these is the seemingly overwhelming amount of "American" content.  I'm in this boat as well (being Canadian) but haven't found this to be a huge issue - you can navigate around it or you can go with it...

For example: Fellow Canadians - If you love Sonlight or Heart of Dakota but fear getting all messed up when it comes to years that focus on American History, let me encourage you.  First of all -worry about one year at a time.  Don't start worrying about 4 years in the future.  Secondly - We actually ended up doing a massive amount of American History over the past two years and we LOVED IT. Don't write it off so quickly!   

I would highly recommend just doing the year or two of American History and adding in some Canadian History books... American History is FASCINATING and so connected to our own history.  Thirdly - If you really don't want to do the American History years, there are ways around it by staggering and slowing down and adding in your own content to 'skip' forward in most literature based programs.  Don't let it stop you from looking into these amazing programs just because they are American and you are Canadian.  *smile*  Ok, I'm done.

OK... back to the plan...

A good friend was selling the Sonlight B+C Teacher's Guide for $20, so I happily bought it from her.  (Thanks MC!)  I then took the required books we already owned off the shelf and ordered the rest of the required titles from Amazon.  For a couple hundred dollars Canadian, I had a Sonlight Core.  B+C is a bit young for our age range but it uses the same spine as Heart of Dakota Preparing Hearts for His Glory - A Child's History of the World.  They also cover the same time period - a sweep through all of history!

So that is how I ended up with 2 programs.  You don't need both.  One would MORE than suffice... but I'm always filling in space and reading through the Summer and adding titles for Morning Time or evening reading.  Our kids are accustomed to a ton of read-alouds, so getting lots of reading in isn't usually a problem.

Also, in a nutshell, I'm a little crazy.

Here's a peek at the Teacher's Guide and books for Preparing Hearts for His Glory:

This is a bunch of the titles from the 'basic' package.  Draw and Write through History is optional but I knew my daughter would love it as an independent History study (it's scheduled in the guide).

So, we absolutely LOVE the Hero Tales series (there are several volumes) from Dave and Neta Jackson.  Volume 1 is included in the Preparing Hearts curriculum, but we own all 3 volumes.  These are treasuries of inspirational devotionals based on the lives of heros of the Christian faith.  Super well done and very engaging.  I definitely recommend them for any family looking to learn more about faithful servants of God who have lived in the past and enjoy meaningful family devotions.  So inspirational and also challenging! 

A Child's History of the World is a wildly popular history narrative among Classical and Charlotte Mason-inspired home educators.  I like it.  I don't LOVE it because to LOVE it, it would need to be Christ-centered, which it is not.  It is a narrative of history and so well written, but written in a secular/neutral perspective, so I need to add commentary here and there.  Still, a wonderful living book.

Grandpa's Box is a spine too - and it is a creative walk through the redemption story using a Grandfather's heart-warming chats with his grandchildren. He focuses on the idea of Spiritual Warfare through the Christian perspective using the carved pieces he has created to illustrated the various parts of the account of Christ.

More titles recommended by Heart of Dakota for Preparing and a few of my own choices mixed in.

The Science package from Preparing Hearts.  I'm missing one title from the One Small Square series... still on its way.

All the Science is done with living books, notebooking pages, narration, and one experiment per week to go with what you are reading and studying.  Science is scheduled into the guides but it is optional - I think you'd be missing out on a huge part of the program, however, if you didn't do the Science portion.  It coincides with the historical timeline and time frame.

I'm used to doing a lot more outdoor, hands-on Nature Study but this works for us in this season.

A peek at the Heart of Dakota guide for Preparing:

The two page spread show ONE DAY of the program.  It is very detailed.

A look at one day of the schedule of Preparing from the HOD website:

The Preparing Teacher's Guide is very comprehensive.  I actually LOVE the layout.  Having a two page spread for each and every day is so simple and easy to follow along and check off boxes as we go.  There is enough detail to make it that I actually don't have to do any planning.  (How many times have I purchased programs then had to add 70% more to make it enough to amount to something worthwhile...?)

I do add ideas for videos we can watch or additional maps or books to read, but I don't need to.  The program is beefy enough already, especially with language arts, math, and various other things mixed in naturally.

The categories include things like:  Reading through History, Research, Vocabulary, Storytime, History Projects, Geography, Poetry, Language Arts, Bible Study, Independent History Study, Math, Science prompts for reading/notebooking/experiments, History Notebooking ideas and written narration prompts, and more...

If you really want to see what these guides look like close up, you can download a free week of any of the levels at the Heart of Dakota website.

A look at the Teacher's Guide and titles for Sonlight Core B+C:

*NOTE - our collection of books and Teacher's Guide are from a few years ago.  There are differences with the current Core B+C available through Sonlight.  Both programs are awesome and will be very similar but I wanted to note that there are differences between what you see here and what will be on the Sonlight website right now.  :)

Alright, I need to be completely honest, I'm a bit nostalgic about Sonlight.  

Sonlight was the first homeschool 'curriculum' I ever bought when I started homeschooling.  The older two children actually worked through Core A (then called Core K) and Core B about 5 years ago.

ONe of my biggest regrets is selling our books to Core B.  I have purchased back most of the titles sice then.  (ha...)

So, it might seem odd to you that 5 years later, we would be picking up and doing Core B+C.  Well, the thing is... Sonlight, in my opinion, is a very advanced program.  The books are rich and can be enjoyed by all ages.  My now 8 year old remembers nothing of the program and my now 10 year remembers very little.  I was basically reading through the books for my eldest and many were read exclusively with my eldest.  I also believe I had the 2008 version and this is the 2012 version.  So, the titles have changed.  There are only a few of the same books and actually none of the read-aloud novels are repeats at all. (Not sure how that happened...!)

I could have placed my kids higher up in Sonlight, but this Core is so lovely and fits beautifully with Preparing Hearts - so we went with it and I'm very glad we did.  The books are so rich...

Having said this, if we were to do Sonlight again next year or the year after - I'd leap them up to the Eastern Hemisphere Core.  *smile

In the top photo: The Teacher's Guide, and several core books.  One core not photographed is A Child's History of the World.  Bottom photo: Many of the read-alouds scheduled in Core B+C.

How we will use Sonlight:

So, although I LOVE Sonlight, I've never been very good at following their schedule... I want to follow it... but our family doesn't seem to be able to do it that well.  

It looks like this -

This is a screenshot taken from the Sonlight samples section of their Core B+C listing on their website.  This is the most current format of their Teacher's Guides.

I LOVE that everything is so beautifully laid out with map prompts and timeline suggestions, and a wonderful daily mix of quite the 'feast' of literature.  The problem for us occurs usually with the read-alouds... my kids aren't the best at reading only one chapter a day of a novel they love.  They will beg to read more of the titles they love and less of the titles they don't love as much and it takes only a few weeks for us to get that beautiful schedule all muddy.

So... what I've learned to do is relax and use the guide as what it is A GUIDE and not worry so much if we get ahead or behind.  I just work through and add checkmarks where we've read the given title and discussed the questions/maps/timeline figures.  Slowly but surely, it all works out.

Readers and Reading Titles:

Alright, these are now the individual readers the kids will (hopefully) be using.  I've chosen them based on their personal level, interests, and based also on the book lists I trust for readers.  I used Sonlight's Grade 3 and Sonlight Grade 4 readers as a guide as well.

The kids will always read WAY more than their assigned readers, but these are books we will be intentional to read aloud together (the kids reading to me for the younger two) in order to improve our reading skills and comprehension.

Some of the Assigned Readers For Alex (grade 3):

Some of the Assigned Readers For Audrey (grade 5):

Some of the Assigned Readers For Simon (grade 6/7):

Individual and Additional Studies:

*Deep breath*

Alright... so if you are still reading this post... BLESS YOU!  I know, I'm long winded! But it's homeschool planning... c'mon!

I always get asked what we are doing for individual studies, so I thought I'd better add it here.

As for individual work, the kids are doing quite a bit of Notebooking, Narration, and some writing and projects, etc. through Heart of Dakota.  For example, every week they will do Copywork of the memory verse selection in their Common Place Notebooks, a Science Notebooking page, a Science Exploration page, etc.

Here's the other stuff we are doing:

Language Arts:

I really love Christian Light Publications.  They offer such Godly, wholesome books and resources.  I have ordered many books from them and always wondered about their Language Arts and Math, which I've heard great things about from friends.  Just as a side, their Bible Curriculum looks amazing... I'd consider using it as a guide for family discussion and study or even allowing the kids to do their own level and then narrate aloud for some of the questions rather than having them become exasperated with too much 'writing' (for the boys anyways).

So, this year, we are doing Christian Light Language Arts with all three big kids.  

It isn't how we have typically done Language Arts in the past, but I actually love it.  This is a workbook based Language Arts program that is extremely open-and-go.  In these grades it includes spelling lists and activities, penmanship, grammar, and writing (though minimally).

My Workbook-loving daughter THRIVES on these because she adores working independently and following a checklist type system.  If she can do a test, score perfect, and get stickers and checkmarks, she's a HAPPY GIRL.  (So, you Charlotte Mason people out there can see how CM's methods of Language Arts wouldn't be as exciting for this type of learner...)

You can very easily work through the lessons just by following each step consecutively.  The lessons say things like, "Go to page 62, cut out your spelling list, keep it somewhere safe... or, Underline the common nouns, circle the proper nouns..."  etc. (See a sample here.)  Some kids love this style.  It is helpful for parents (like me!) who just want to open and go with certain subjects and also offer the kids a chance to take some initiative and work independently.

My boys are a bit reluctant to this style of learning, but they are reluctant to a lot of things that look like 'school'.  (So... yea...)

I find this style of Language Arts helps with getting through content in a logical manner in which they can measure their progress.  So, reluctant workers can see they need to accomplish Lesson 5 and can visibly understand how much is included in this work.  Sometimes I compromise and do a bit orally rather than having them write as much as my daughter likes to write.

This is much different than the super free-spirited style of Language Arts we've embraced in the past where my kids would always be asking me, "are we done yet?".  Now, they can see when they are done and it isn't me making it up as I go.  It is a book telling us when we are done for the day.  It's kind of nice.

The 'tests' have actually been enjoyed by the kids (go figure, after 7 years of never implementing a single test in our homeschool... they LIKE it...).

I've seen progress already in my youngest son's handwriting and the kids' spelling overall.

The boys do willingly accomplish these books and my daughter enthusiastically embraces them.  She woke up one Saturday recently and begged me to 'let her do her tests' because she was SO looking forward to them and didn't want to wait until Monday.  *HAHA!*  I love her.  Her brothers just think she's completely nuts.

More Language Arts...

Copywork has somewhat run its course in our home.  I think my kids are actually getting tired of it and I am a little bit as well.  However, they will do one copywork assignment per week based on the scripture memory work for the week. This they will copy in their Commonplace Book.

Dictation has been of huge benefit to our children over the years.  I know they have learned a ton from it because I didn't do any other spelling for years and my kids are decent spellers.

For Dictation, we are using the Dictation Day by Day passages at the back of the Heart of Dakota Preparing guide for Alex.  This is a resource that is available for free online.

We are also using Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well for Audrey and Simon.  A review of this Simply Charlotte Mason resource is coming next week.  These are dictation exercises (Spelling Wisdom) coupled with short, easy grammar lessons that go with the dictation.


We have done Teaching Textbooks for Years and will continue to use Teaching Textbooks for as long as it is working well for our children.  I love this program because I have the option of implementing the computer-based program or the kids can opt to do their workbooks.  If the children did the computer program, it would be entirely independent.  

They are touch and go with the computer component but I do encourage them to use the computer based part of the program because it is what the program is based upon and it cost me a fortune!   It's also really well done and engaging.  Mind you, once you own the CDs, you can use them over and over and add students as needed.

To be honest, part of me wishes I had of never bought the textbooks, but rather, just bought the CD-Roms.  The reason is because it would force the kids to use the computer program and simply write questions in a spiral notebook.

The computer takes a little longer, yes (their biggest beef) but that's because you are actually covering the material more thoroughly.

This year, Simon is in Math 6, Audrey is in Math 4, and Alex is in Math 3.

 Individual Task Books:

I adopted the Spiral Bound system for daily planning/records of the kids' individual work a few years ago.  It's helpful in letting them know what is expected of them individually.   I've adapted it as we go along.

Typically, parents would write out what is needed for the task list the next day (like a daily hand-written bullet list).  I LOVE the idea of hand writing their work but, boy, have  I have struggled with actually getting 3 lists written out every night.  I either forget, can't remember what to put on the list,  or write the wrong thing.  I als find it very repetitive as they do much of the same thing every day.

This year,  to simplify, I created weekly grids for each child to be able to easily see and check off the work they need to do every day of the week.  There is a little space for me to jot in specifics too.  These print outs get glued into or taped into their little spiral notebooks.  A fresh one goes in each week.

This is for their individual work and does not include our family learning, which makes us a good portion of our day.  That information is in my own planning binder (the Teacher's Guides).

Here is what Audrey's looks like close up:

Planning Tools for your Homeschool:

I love using the Plan Your Year resources.  They are a great planning springboard and super helpful.

You can see my review of Plan Your Year right here.  It is honestly a great resource - one of the best I've seen for planning homeschool.

Plan Your Year Ad

I've also shared Morning Time resources many times before and highly recommend the Your Morning Basket resources!

Check out my reviews and posts:

A Review of Your Morning Basket

Our Morning Basket

Your Morning Basket Ad

Our Favorite Read-Aloud Books from this School Year.

Monday, March 20, 2017

As a Charlotte Mason-inspired, book-based homeschool, we try our hardest to read lots of high quality, living books in our home.  I thought I'd share what we've read and enjoyed this year...

Novels we all loved...

Alright, I can't possibly comment on every single book photographed (well, I could but it would take way too long...).  I always try to pick a good selection of classics, award winners, historical fiction, comical, mystery, etc.

Many of these we listened to on audio.  Audio books are a life saver for me!  Books we found on audio included:  Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, Frindle, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Elijah of Buxton, Rascal, Dewey the Library Cat, The One and Only Ivan, Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague,  and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler.  (Yep... tons!)

What Alex (8 years old) really loved...

I read the Ralph books by Beverly Cleary exclusively with my youngest son (he's 8).  He absolutely LOVED them and would beg me to keep reading and wanted to read each consecutive book.  I highly recommend these for fun read-alouds that will turn kids on to longer novels.  They would also just so enjoyable and light to read together.  Adventure, fantasy (seriously... a mouse who talks and rides a motorcycle), and humor make a great combo for young boys especially.

Books Audrey (9  years old, turned 10 recently) really loved:

Alright, so All of a Kind Family and Sarah, Plain and Tall are classics and we really enjoyed reading those together.  We also read the follow ups, Skylark and Caleb's Story.  I've just ordered the las two books in  the series - so, yes, we liked them!

What really got Audrey reading more independently was the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary.  I read these as a young girl too and still remember how much I loved them!  They are funny, engaging, and relatable.  Cleary writes to kids in a special way that very few authors can achieve.  

Some Moms find Ramona annoying for various reasons, but I find the books hilarious... and my kids all agree.  In fact, all the kids love this series but it was Audrey who was curling up in bed and reading through them independently!

Books Simon (11 years old) really loved:

Simon loves to read and be read to as well.  These were some of his faves - The Crispin series by AVI, anything Roald Dahl (I have mixed emotions about the weirdness of Roald Dahl but my son LOVES these books...), The Prince Warriors series by Pricilla Shirer (HIGHLY recommend this - these books captivated my son and are a mirror of the spiritual battle and the armor of God), and various others, as you can see in the photo...

Also shown:  My Side of the Mountain, Two Against the North and Curse of the Viking Grave by Farley Mowatt, The Secret Church by Vernon, The Shakespeare Stealer, The Sign of the Beaver, Indian in the Cupboard, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. 

Spines and Morning Time Reads

Alright... we read so many books this year, but these are the ones we read most often and enjoyed together as a family.

Of course, the scriptures are always part of our daily reading.

For devotional reading we really loved Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  It is so beautifully illustrated with very quick devotional snip-its of truth to 'make your heart sing'.  

Prayers that Changed History  by Trish Goyer is a great read for Hero Study and Inspirational Reading.  It goes chronologically, high-lighting people of faith whose prayers made a difference.

The Children's Treasury of Virtues is bind-up of several classic William Bennet titles (Book of Faith,/Virtues, Book of Heroes, Book of America).  This is a top fave in our home and I really recommend it!  The Illustrations are engaging and the stories are well written and meaningful.  We also read The Book of Virtues (big one on far right of the top row) and our kids ask for that one.

The Story Bible for Older Children is an oldie but a goodie.  It is living book style narratives of the entire New Testament.

Poetry included A Child's Book of Poems by Fujikawa and several other anthologies (we own countless poetry books).

We also enjoyed Simply Charlotte Mason's Stories of America and Stories of the Nations for History.

And... then there are the books we LOVE over and over again...

The Chronicles of Narnia

 Nothing compares to Narnia for our kids.  They will read these books countless times and they are a mainstay in our home.  I highly recommend the series as family read-alouds.

Also, we have the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre dramatic presentation of the books and our kids LOVE them.  I have listened to them so many times....  I reviewed the set HERE.

Hello from the Homefront! {Updates, Homeschool planning, and upcoming posts.}

Saturday, March 18, 2017


So, I thought I'd just write a very down-to-earth post sharing what's been going on in our family for the past few months and what is whirling around in my mind as I ponder our year.

I know, it's been too long!

This year, in so many ways has been quite different.  To be honest, as I always warn, we have completed some but definitely not all of our 'plan'.  We started our walk through Modern History (using Simply Charlotte Mason's family guide) and are still only at Lesson 36 of a 176 lesson program.  *sigh*

But, that doesn't mean we haven't been learning.

I don't know if any of you do this - but we get to a certain topic and I just find way too many great books about it to just move on so quickly.  It seems many history based curriculums want to push on through SO MUCH history in one year.  To me, 1850 to present day could take 3 years to cover if you really dig in to the topics!!!

We camped at the gold rushes for weeks!  The Klondike Goldrush here in Canada and the California Gold Rush.  The kids were fascinated by it and loved the two books we read - Gold Rush Fever and By the Great Horn Spoon.

We've still been slowly crawling through Stories of the Nations and Stories of America Volumes 2, which the kids love and I reviewed here.

But, the kids do need a change of pace and the nice thing about the Charlotte Mason guides is they are only about $10.  So... if you don't finish the whole year, it's OKAY to move on if you feel the kids need a shake up int he homeschool.  Which we definitely do.

Clockwise from top left: the Gold Rush books we loved, a pile of new books for our launch of Sonlight Core B+C, a snapshot of the workbooks our kids were doing (see below), and a pile of books I'm sorting through right now...

Snapshots of (some) of the books we've really enjoyed this year: 

When I look at how many books we actually were able to read this past year, I am amazed and reminded that we are doing tons.  Even when it feels like we aren't doing a lot of 'written' work, we are taking in so many wonderful living books all the time.

I will put up a post showing many of the books we loved from this year on Monday's Charlotte Mason Monday post.

So, Workbooks got us through a busy season...

When the baby (we're currently fostering to adopt a beautiful baby boy!) came to us in December, we picked up a few workbooks at a local educational store to get the kids through the first few months of having a new family member.

The kids NEEDED to keep doing some homeschooling and my two youngest actually very much enjoyed the ease of the open-and-go books.

I would not consider most workbooks to be a source of a living education but let me tell you what doing 'workbooks' for 2 months DID do for my kids.  Workbooks opened up the world of working independently... which, surprisingly, they hadn't truly experienced before.

My eldest (he's 11, almost 12) is very bright.  Workbooks drive him nuts because he feels they are very watered down and 'cheesy'.  I've struggled with homeschooling him the past several months (years?) as he is super smart but reluctant to almost... well... everything.  *sigh*  Except reading.  Thank goodness, he enjoys reading great books.

Having said all this... having a beautiful baby in our home who we are caring for and fostering to adopt had been the most life-changing and wonderful experience for us and our children.  There is no 'education' more powerful than nurturing empathy and love and a sense of selfless servanthood.  Workbooks or no workbooks - it didn't REALLY matter.  The true learning was happening in all our hearts and it was a very precious season none of us will ever forget.

For any who are ever wondering if God truly hears your prayers... He does.  And in His time (HIS time!!!), He will answer you... in the most miraculous, mind-boggling way!!!

Here is something I shared on Facebook, and I think it is worth sharing again here... this is a photo of Audrey feeding our little guy.

"Homeschooling. I've had many people ask how we are possibly going to keep up with homeschooling now that we have a newborn in our family. I'd like to send them all this photo and ask them what education means to them. 

To me, loving and caring for a person in need is the most important thing that we could ever *teach* our kids and ourselves. Academics have their place, and sure... 

That stuff will get done eventually. But this... This photo encapsulates the very depth of why homeschooling is so powerfully beautiful for family culture. Never underestimate the power of nurture and the role it plays it bringing up a child in the way he or she should go. 

A baby is not an interruption to real education.... They are the most powerful display of God's grace, and our role as lovers of others and servants in His name. 

Learning how to embrace and cherish these precious family moments and build strong bonds with each other, to learn to set aside our own desires for the sake of another, to sit in awe of how the Lord weaves and works... Now thats the kind of education I desire for my kids."


Thinking and Planning:

So, even with baby - there is still some serious planning that must take place.

I don't know about all you (fellow homeschoolers!) but every year, in about February or March, I start to freak out.  I lose my cool and start stressing that we aren't learning enough, aren't doing enough, that the kids are behind... you know all the typical homeschool fear-based stuff.  Sometimes it is warranted, sometimes it isn't.   Always, it is pointless.  I mean, the worrying.  It gets me nowhere, as you all know.

Sometimes we are tempted to plunge into something totally new without really thinking and praying about it. The temptation is SO strong.  All those shiny websites and pretty catalogs promising the world...  All those new books all coming in a great big cardboard box delivered by our friendly and tired mail carrier (Ha, he recently came INTO MY KITCHEN and rested while dropping off parcels).

But I know as well as you do that no one 'curriculum' can give us the world and make homeschooling perfect. It just doesn't happen that way.  If you purchase believing it, you will always be disappointed.

However, there are definitely seasons when purchasing a great homeschool curriculum will really add wonderfully to your homeschool and relieve you of much stress. 

Not to mention give you peace of mind and allow you to actually implement some great learning with very limited planning time.  I have experienced this many times.  We have enjoyed many so-called 'boxed' curriculums in the past and for the most part, as long as I've prayed and thought it through - it does tend to work well.  So long as it is the right fit for our family.

We have LOVED Sonlight in the past as well as Heart of Dakota, both 'boxed' Charlotte Mason-friendly programs.

We also completed most of  Five in a Row (all 4 volumes) and that would be considered a type of 'curriculum', I suppose.  I am actually counting the years until I can do it all again with our newest little man!  Haha... LOVE Five in a Row!

So, all of January and February, I really took time to pray and to think (REALLY THINK) about our plans for this coming year.  I kept asking how I could, in this crazy busy (and to be honest, a little emotionally exhausting) season of life, still offer a wonderful 'feast' of inspiration and learning to my big kids.  (They will be 12, 10, and 9 this coming school year!!!)

I felt pretty quickly that putting together my own plan and implementing it just wasn't going to work in this season of life.  It takes a huge amount of time and energy to do this well, as I'm sure many of you know.

We prayed for YEARS for a baby and... well... I want to have as much time as humanly possible to just savor this time.  Not spend every waking moment (and every middle-of-the-night moment) printing, planning, creating, and so on.

So, I started revisiting ideas for a more planned out curriculum we could purchase.  I've done so many reviews and so much research over the past 10 years that it really doesn't take long to figure out because I already know there are only a few boxed curriculums I would ever actually purchase.

So, the plan for this Spring and Beyond -

We are implementing Heart of Dakota's Preparing Hearts for His Glory combined with Sonlight's Core B+C with extensions for my eldest son.

I'm so, so excited, guys!

Sure, it cost a bunch of money to buy the programs and get all the books to go along with them - but it is worth every penny to have peace of mind and a state of rest.

Just so you know, I purchased the Heart of Dakota program new but I did not purchase Sonlight new.

I had most of the books already and purchased a used guide from a friend for $20.  But Preparing Hearts for His Glory and Core B+C use the same spine (Children's History of the World) and follow almost the same course of history so we are combining much of the learning and many of the books.

I know (REALLY know) that we have a very solid year ahead of us.  These programs are so wonderfully rich and it is all laid out for me.  So, I follow the plan (with a few rabbit trails, I'm sure) and I will be sure to have given my children a real 'feast' of an education.  *breathe out*

The best part is the load off my tired shoulders.  We have a plan.  It is spelled out for us.  And the kids will like it.  I know this because I know what my kiddos love and this plan includes tons of reading of wonderful books and some notebooking and some hands-on activities.

I'm excited to share our homeschool 'plan', including the choices for our kids' language arts and math in its entirety next week.

We start Monday!!!

Oh... and in light of my new little bundle, hooray... I can enjoy babywearing again!!! SO, naturally, I started a new Pinterest Board.  Baby Wearing is seriously one of the most wonderful, beautiful, heart-warming things in the world.  *smile*

Blessings and huge hugs and kisses from our very snuggly and happy home.


Posts on the way:

Nature Studies for Spring Time with NaturExplorers {it's that time again!}

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Spring is on the way... and its time to start thinking about Spring Nature Studies!  Right?  I think so!

What is included in the NaturExplorer Units?

There is SO much in these amazing unit studies!

These are very Charlotte Mason-friendly. Cindy has packed the pages full of incredible ideas and inspirations to jump start all kinds of nature study as well as notebooking and nature journaling.  The guides are easy to use and very well laid out.   They are also good for quite the age range, with ideas to carry you from preschool to even high school depending on how you use the information and how you direct your student.

Some of the elements include:

Getting Started - Literature Launch gives a list of recommended children's literature to inspire and introduce the concepts of the study (love this so much!), Inspiration Point and A Bit of Background offer the 'teacher' a chance to gain quick and easy basic understanding of the motivation behind the study and some background knowledge before heading into nature study both in and out of doors.

Getting Outside - Nature Walks and Outside Activities (the core of the curriculum) is the section where Cindy has written so many great topic-related ideas for getting outside!  This is exactly what I was looking for since the simple, "Hey let's go for a walk," doesn't always captivate my kids anymore.  

Branching Out - This section goes more in depth and, well, branches out on the topic of study.  There are many ideas for hands-on science experiments and activities, vocabulary and scientific concepts (this one includes a look at Allen's Rule, Bergmann's Rule, The Egg Rule, and Gloger's rule, along with discussions and activities for the concepts of adaptation, camouflage, how to make your yard animal and bird friends, and much more.)

In the Branching Out section, you will also find a ton (really!) of ideas for research, study and creative writing.  The ideas are so many and so varied that I mentioned to my husband that I would surely keep these units for years to come and pull them out during the applicable seasons to use as a launching pad for Nature Study over and over again.  Cindy gives hundreds of ideas that could serve as a very engaging springboard for all ages.

Bible, Poetry, Artist and Picture Study, and Composer and Music Study:

I love the Bible Lessons from His Creation section.  This highlights multiple verses and chunks of scripture that relate to the topic of study.  We used Matthew 6:28-30 as our copywork in our Nature Journals.

Poetry Place includes several titles of theme-related poems and suggested books of poetry.  For this unit, we printed off all the poems and read them aloud.  We used Something Told the Wild Geese by Rachel Field as a nature journal page and learned more about the Canada Geese from Handbook of Nature Study. when we used Coping with the Cold this winter.

I was so excited to discover the Artist and Picture Study References included as well.  What a wonderful addition to any Nature Study!  Cindy gives great suggestions for kid-friendly picture study with artists and artwork related to the topic.  We really gravitated towards studying works by Robert Bateman for our Coping with the Cold unit and it was wonderful.  

Composer and Music References offers some lovely ideas for music study related to the specific theme of the given Nature Study unit.

There are also many notebooking pages to use within your home and homeschool for each unit - so many I couldn't list them all!  Each page pairs easily with the content within the unit study and can be printed off as needed!

Seriously, amazing resources!

My suggestions for Spring Nature Studies -

Remember, there are easily downloadable samples of all the NaturExplorer Units on the site!

First, I want to share with you the NaturExplorers Bundles.  These are a really inexpensive way to load up on tons of wonderful Nature Study resources that will last you way longer than one season (trust me on this one!).  Many of the units work great in many seasons.  I love that Cindy has made bundles so that we can get the best bang for our buck (so to speak) and grab 3 studies at once.  Both the Early Spring Bundle and the Late Spring Bundle have awesome Nature Studies that will work through Spring, Summer, and into Autumn as well, actually!

Early Spring Bundle

The Early Spring Bundle includes three great individual NaturExplorer units: A Fungus Among Us, Animal Signs, and Remarkable Rain.

Late Spring Bundle

The Late Spring Bundle includes: Wonderful WildflowersEverchanging ErosionBeautiful Birds.

Early Summer Bundle

The Early Summer Bundle includes:  Flying Creatures of the NightFrogs and Toads, and Peaceful Ponds.

Some more Ideas for Nature Study this Spring:

This Spring, we are diving into Everchanging Erosion, and over the Summer, I plan to do a bunch of  Hard as a Rock.  I'm sitting here flipping through the guides, so I thought I'd share some of the great ideas and resources in these two units.  They both look fantastic!

Everchanging Erosion

Some of the ideas in the Getting Outside section include:

  • Go on an Erosion and Scavenger Hunt (and use the notebooking page to go along)
  • Draw an Erosion site that you visit and/or draw a small area map 
  • Find examples of wind erosion
  • Look specifically for signs of erosion along a creek with a focus on bends in the creek bed (use the notebooking page that goes along with this)
  • After a heavy rain, observe a body of moving water for signs of erosion happening quickly because of the fast moving water, use the After the Rain notebooking page
  • At the beach, build a sand castle near the low tide - observe stages of the castle's erosion
There are also tons of ideas in the Branching Out section, including: experiments to show how water expands when it freezes, simulating ice, water, and wind erosion on a mound of dirt, a Lifesaver rock experiment, observing how sediment settles, a simulation showing how a cave is formed using sugar cubes, a landslide experiment, a water weight experiment, make clay models of various landforms, and many more.

On top of all this there are also suggestions for writing and research projects, poetry, music study, art and picture study, lots of notebooking pages, and ideas for including very young children as well as teens.  Love it!

Hard as a Rock

This study introduces us to types of rocks, the rock cycle, and various topics related to rocks and rock types.  Activities include:  keep records of interesting rocks you find and start a collection, compare and contrast different rocks you find, go on a fossil hunt, go on a rock scavenger hunt using a specific notebooking page, walk a dry stream bed in search of interesting rocks and pebbles.

Branching Out activities include: find the absorbency and volume of rocks, make sedimentary/metamorphic/igneous rocks to eat, create your own fossils from plaster, grow rock candy, build a rock wall around a flower bed, and many, many more ideas for looking under rocks as well.
As with all the NaturExplorers units, on top of all this there are also suggestions for writing and research projects, poetry, music study, art and picture study, lots of notebooking pages, and ideas for including very young children as well as teens.  

A couple more that would be great for Spring - 

I think Captivating Clouds could truly be done at any time of the year.  I think we might launch into this in late Winter this year.

Here are just some of the ideas from Captivating Clouds: learn to identify different types of clouds, observe and journal clouds on a nature walk using an identification chart, keep a log of the cloud types you see every day, use a compass to identify the direction clouds are moving, learn about water vapour,  identify shapes in clouds, observe and journal about colours found in clouds, write Haiku, sculpt clouds using clay, learn the five main cloud components, learn about condensation, evaporation, and precipitation, make 'fruit in a cloud' for a snack, and so much more! 

For writing ideas, suggestions include: make a chart showing cloud levels and altitudes, create an accordion book about fog types,  research, illustrate, and write a paragraph about Interesting Cloud Names, and several more engaging writing topics.

Multiple biblical references and readings are provided along with poetry suggestions.  Art and Picture Study includes Van Gogh, Monet and Norman Rockwell, among others.  Also has composer suggestions and numerous suggested fiction and non-fiction titles to work with the study of clouds.

Incredible Creeks

We used this unit over the Summer last year and still have TONS left that we can do.  It is full of great ideas for studying not only creeks, but streams, rivers, lakes, you name it.  This would work well in the Autumn, as it is often recommended to study creeks and watershed areas in Autumn!

Incredible Creeks includes: looking at the Water Cycle, completing detailed observations on both a large and small scale plus accompanying Notebooking pages, Wading Scavenger Hunt, observing rocks and collecting pebbles, finding and exploring waterfalls, discussing the various parts of watershed areas, looking at tree roots, identifying and journaling about Wild Flowers, looking for signs of a Healthy Creek, looking at amphibians, monitoring and charting creek temperatures, and tons more.

There are also ideas for making a model of a creek, drawing a cross-section mural of a creek,  and several really interesting science experience to help understand watersheds, erosion, and creek habitats.  Writing ideas include things like creating lyric poems, researching and writing about a famous gold rush, and learning and writing about dams.

There are multiple scriptures included in the unit that relate to life, water, and God's care and provision for His children as well as songs

Peaceful Ponds

Some of the hands-on ideas in the Peaceful Ponds unit include: Creating an underwater sampler, using a strainer to find live creatures in a pond, identifying specific pond plants and sketching and labelling parts in your Nature Journal, identifying and note booking the four main zones where pond plants grow, creating a map of your pond and surrounding areas, watching for birds/insects and create stories about their adventures, dissecting a pond plant, looking at pond water under a microscope, and looking at various pond animals.  

There are scriptures tied into baptism, creation, and God's hand in nature.    Poetry includes poems from Matsuo Basho, Alfred Noyes, and Eleanor Ferjeon and suggests a beautiful poetry book that specifically covers Pond Poems.  Picture Study includes Claude Monet, Cezanne, and Rousseau, and Renoir!

There are over 25 amazing suggested read-alouds to go with this unit as well as numerous note-booking pages to print-out and use along with the hands-on activities and learning.

Creative Nature Walks

This is such a great resource!  Who couldn't use 100+ 'easy and fun' Nature Walk ideas on hand to pull from?  I have used this at the drop of a hat, literally as we're walking out the door.  The ideas a varied in age range, length of time require, prep-time (most require none), and ease.  

Some of the ideas include: ABC's of Nature (I recently posted about our ABC walk here), Adjectives Abound - describing things in nature using adjectives, Below My Knees- noticing and journal things found below 'knee' level, Collect and Create - collect things that are no longer living on your walk, bring them home, and get creative, Fly By- noticing and identifying things found in air, and on and on it goes!  Honestly, this is an amazing Nature Study resource for any family to have on hand!  

I highly recommend it! 

I hope this is helpful as you embrace Nature Study this Spring!

Our Journey Westward

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