How we Plan our Home Education
I am seeing so many people on Facebook deciding to home educate, either because they have been planning it for ages anyway (which is normal for this time of year) or because they have chosen to take their children out as they don’t feel that now is the right time to be back in the classroom while this pandemic is going on. The government are forcing some hands, I know, and there are some of you who are now panicking about making sure your child gets a good enough education.
Well, first of all, don’t panic. Home education looks completely different for every family, even those that buy in a curriculum and follow it to the letter. So your home education will look different to mine, and that is totally ok.
I seem to be typing this up a lot and sharing it, so I am just putting it on my blog to save me some time and make it easier for you to refer back to. I am going to share with you how I approach planning our home ed curriculum, and while we started off one way, we are constantly evolving and changing what we do, although where we have settled has been working for a couple of years, and only changes a little these days.
Two years ago, I was at my wit’s end because things were just horrible. Chaos reigned. Behaviour was terrible. TV was on a lot too. I decided to look into an approach to education I had heard a little about, and actually, loved it. It is called the Charlotte Mason method. I won’t go into the theory here, as I am asking my good friend and mentor to do what she does best, and that is inspire parents to use Charlotte Mason at home, as she has done for many years. But I did want to share what and how we actually learn different subjects.
I decided that I wanted to maintain a broad educational approach with my children, and I feel that we achieve that. I wrote down all the subject areas I wanted us to cover, and what I am going to do is break it down into them for you, give you a brief overview with some resources, and then I will go into more depth in future posts, one per subject.
So, the subjects I wanted us to cover were English, Maths, Sciences, History, Geography, Art, Music, Entrepreneurship, Foreign Languages, Coding.
This is actually an interesting one, and the one we have struggled with the most. My kids hate writing. Hate it with a passion. And I figured that I wouldn’t push it too much with them. But they love reading. So they read a lot. And every now and then they will write stuff. Our English study is mainly based on grammar at the moment, which is younger than they would do normally in Charlotte Mason, but later than they would in Montessori (I am a Montessori primary teacher by profession). So we do a lot about grammar, but we are taking it slowly, and repeating it from time to time to make sure they have a good understanding. They are picking up spellings quite well, and this year we are going to be using a more structured approach to spelling so I can make sure they are where they need to be to have more confidence in writing. They are also going to get their first stories published in a Child Author Project book on Family, which is exciting, and I am hoping will spark some more creative writing. They definitely have great imaginations from all the reading they do. We have also tried to study a book and then build learning of language structure around that, but they had less interest in it, so for now, we are going with lots of reading, talking, some writing and a love of learning grammar – oh and discussing homonyms and homophones, which they love!
We also read a poem a day from the I am the Seed that Grew The Tree book – 365 poems about nature. We learn a new poem off by heart each week so they can recite it, and we will often discuss the pattern of the poems. We have used the book for 2 years now, and about to enter our 3rd year. I will be using other poems too from our nature curriculum, and we will start looking at different poets as well.
Did you know there are fictional books and stories to help your children learn maths concepts? There are! And this is what we have been doing for the past year, and it is working really well. The children love the stories, which we take our time over, and then we spend a good few days, or weeks even, exploring the concepts! Maths is one of their favourite topics, but it definitely is not worksheets and lists of sums. It is out and about, experiential maths. We also use our Montessori materials too, so they get hands on experience with concepts, and we talk a lot about maths too. In fact, yesterday, my son asked three questions in the car on the way to the beach:
Mummy, is 2 quarters a half?
So how many wholes do you have if you have 10 quarters? (we worked it out)
How many days in a quarter of a year? (we did some division)
So, I plan our maths adventures around 2 maths book series – Beast Academy and the Sir Cumference stories. I have also found other books too which we will be integrating next year.
I think we spend a lot of our time learning science topics, and I literally don’t have anything I need to plan out, because we use a weekly nature curriculum (Exploring Nature with Children), a weekly science curriculum which this year will be Biology focused (REAL Science Odyssey) and then we receive 2 KiwiCo crates a month – the Kiwi Crate and the Tinker Crate – which gives us hands on things to build and experiment with for 2 weeks of the month, and then the other 2 weeks we look more into the concepts covered in them. There are other things we will bring in too, like reading about scientists and be inspired by their explorations, but I haven’t planned anything… we will just see what we can find!
I have 2 history streams that we follow. One is UK history and we are currently working our way through the Kings and Things book which gives bitesize fun accounts of different events in history. I think we are about half way through the book, and I love the pace we have with that because the children seem to really remember things well from it. We will repeat it again once we have finished, and go into more depth with each story, and possibly bring in other resources too.
The other thing we are doing is going through different significant periods of history. Last year (2019) we covered the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages, mainly hanging out in the Stone Age. This year we were planning on doing Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. But we are still in Ancient Egypt, and Rome/Greece will be happening in 2021. We are reading stories, other books, watching programmes, making crafts and learning about the Nile, traditions, archaeology and much more with Ancient Egypt, and I am going to tie it in with our South America study because I am actually going to look at Aztecs and Incas briefly too, and compare pyramids in different continents.
So, just so you can see the bigger picture, after Ancient Greece & Rome, we will spend a year in the Medieval era, and then move on to Victorians and 20th century history to an extent, before cycling back to the Stone Age and going through the cycle again and in more depth.
Well, my plans for 2020 were to cover South and North America, but we are still in South America, because there is just so much we haven’t done, and the children are so interested. We started off with a map drill – where each week we learned the name for a new country in the continent (when we did Europe we learned 2 countries a week). Now we have been looking at the culture and animal life outside of the rainforest. So the rainforest is next, and then we will look briefly at the Aztecs and Incas – we will circle round to these again when they are older. In 2020, we will cover North America, and see how we go. If we finish it before the end of the year, we will do Oceania too. Or Antarctica, depending on the time we have left.
(NB. When I say end of the year, I mean December. I normally plan Jan to December, but because we are less structured from June-August, we do start back up again in September too, so some things go from September to the next December, some are Jan to Dec!)
We are also learning a lot about geology this year, using the Rocks, Rivers and Changing Earth book.
We use Artventure. The children love doing the lessons on there, and will do a couple in a setting normally. They also do crafts with everything else we do, and also spend hours in their free time painting and making things. I am happy with that at the moment. We may start up our Art History lessons again too – using the Vincent’s Starry Night book.
We are learning some music theory out of a book that I can’t remember the name. We have also used SQUILT in the past, and I might use that again. It is a weekly music curriculum with a webinar that goes into more depth than we could cope with at the time, but now might be ok. They also make up their own songs, and love listening to all kinds of music. We are also planning on getting a weighted electric mini piano, and we have an electric drum kit too, so will be looking a bit more at rhythm and playing that. We also listen to music from the continent we study, and watch a lot of musicals too.
This has been quite ad hoc so far, but I will be looking at some of the resources out there, as Addie definitely wants to run her own business. She ran a lemonade stall over the summer (for family only of course!) and made £8.80, and has caught the bug!
We have used the One Third Stories a lot, in Spanish, and we will be revisiting them again, doing one book a month. I am also going to try them on Duolingo, but we will see how that goes. I find it a bit weird for beginners if I am honest.
We also have loads of story books in German which we may start looking into, and started learning Greek at the beginning of the year using a Greek Alphabet Detective book which was fun. We will finish that, but focus on the Spanish for now.
We love code.org! So many free courses and resources on there, which I can just set them to do and let them get on with it. And we use the Usborne Scratch for Beginners book. They were completing a project a week last winter and then we let it drop a bit as the weather improved and lockdown happened. They are definitely keen to start back up though.
One major change for this year
There has been something I have been waiting to introduce to the children. Actually, if I am honest, I jumped the gun and started it a little with Addie 3 years ago, but decided to hold off until I felt they were ‘ready’ – being able to read more widely, write (we are working on that, but they are keen) and be a bit more independent from me with their work (again, this is a goal for the next year and a bit).
We are introducing the Montessori Great Lessons.
These are 5 Great Lessons. These are taught when school starts up, and then fuel their own interest work for the rest of the year. I have decided we will do these in September and October each year so that we don’t lose momentum when we do our 3-month unstructured learning months over the summer.
The lessons introduce huge concepts of the history of the world to the children. They are taught every year, and each year the children will choose one or more topics to delve deeper into. This will be on top of all of the above (which might seem a lot, but honestly, all of that takes us 2 hours a day max) and will be the foundations of them becoming more autonomous when they are older.
The lessons cover the coming of the earth, the coming of life to the earth, the coming of man, the coming of language and the coming of maths. These are told as inspirational, abstract stories and spark the children’s imagination on a whole host of things. I won’t go into all of that here, because this is already really long, but take a read of my A Cosmic Education – The Five Great Lessons post for more on them.
We are doing these because I believe in the power of them to spark a real love of learning and helps children to really develop research skills, independent working skills and gives them a greater sense of their place in the world, and why their legacy and their uniqueness is important. It provides a framework that will give us an enriched approach to learning, and while what I plan is the skeleton ‘curriculum’ we will use, the Great Lessons will bring so much more for the children. Or at least that is the plan. We shall see. It may be that they take over from our existing plans, or combine greatly with them. Or maybe it won’t work at all. And that is ok, because we are in control of this, we can choose, and we can change the things that aren’t working and keep the things that are.
Do you plan your home education? Or are you just starting out? Is there anything you would like help with?