Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In Defense of "Too Much Curricula"

I see it all the time - people asking "here's my plan, is it too much?" And, inevitable, many of the answers are a resounding yes. I often disagree, as I think it's the attitude toward schoolwork and education that needs evaluated, not the pile of curricula.

Anyone who has read my yearly resource posts will know that we have a lot of educational materials around here. They fill shelves. Several of them. And they aren't all on the school shelves - they're on my daughter's own bookshelves, they're on the game shelves, they're on the toy shelves...

And that's great for us! We love variety. When I say that I am going to do two language arts programs plus a pile of supplements, a science program plus multiple science units plus xyz else in science, I don't mean that we're using each one of those things every day! Or every week. Or even every month. As a general rule, I don't care when (or, sometimes, if) we finish whatever our "curriculum" is. Sometimes a resource will stay on the shelf for a year or two and then it suddenly fits perfectly with what we want to accomplish. Sometimes we're bored and burnt out (hello, winter!) and want to do something different. Sometimes I see others complaining about how they're dragging through lessons in order to get to the next break, and I'm reaching for something we haven't used in a while and pulling it off the shelf to rejuvenate us.

I love having these options!

This isn't even all the math we're using this year!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

7 Year Old Resources (Second Grade, Take Two!)

It's halfway through the year and I never did post this year's annual school resources post. As I posted earlier, I have no idea what grade to call her, but officially this will be second grade with an independent public charter school. This is the grand list of everything I plan to pull off the shelf at some time this year.

Language Arts
  • Michael Clay Thompson Town level - we completed much of this level last year, but not the writing assignments or the poetry book. We'll go back through this year, filling in what we left out previously.
  • Brave Writer - we always use bits and pieces of the lifestyle (especially poetry teas!). I also have Partnership Writing and a few Arrows in waiting.
  • NaNoWriMo - The Kid is already excited and planning to write a sequel to a book she wrote two years ago. We'll spend most of October on the workbook before she does the writing in November.
  • Editor in Chief grades 3-4 - The Kid is working through this workbook to clean up a few odds and ends that we may have missed along the way.
  • Homemade copywork plus calligraphy/creative lettering books - her handwriting has really been catching up this year. By the end of the year, we may be able to start transitioning to less copywork and into some dictation.
  • Vocabulary Cartoons - these are fun! I had the spine cut off so that I can hang up one word per day, and they really do seem to stick in her head. This is a great option between levels of Caesar's English.
  • Burning Cargo - this is a game-ified typing program that has really worked to improve her fluency.
  • Beast Academy - our core. Just starting 4th grade, but will also do the 2nd grade books as they come out.
  • Zaccaro's Primary Grade Challenge Math - The Kid has done bits and pieces of this book, which I expect to complete this year.
  • Math Kangaroo - DD has decided she would like to compete in Math Kangaroo next spring. To that end, we'll practice using some old tests and a prep book from Borac.
  • Hands on Equations
  • Math Projects - I found this nifty book on Amazon and it should work to add some more hands-on ideas into our math time
  • Kumon 4th grade math workbooks - these have been useful for practicing algorithms after The Kid learns the theory from Beast Academy.
  • Math-y books - I Hate Mathematics!, Math for Smarty Pants, Murderous Maths, Sir Cumference
Science will be fully interest-based.
  • Athens's Academy Marine Mammals class - eight week class in fall
  • Athena's Academy Cryptozoology class - eight week class in spring
Social Studies
Foreign Language
  • Hoemschool Spanish Academy once per week to keep up skills
  • Galore Park's So You Really Want to Learn French, book 1 - The Husband is using this as a spine for the first year of introductory French. He's a fluent French speaker, so he gets to teach this in the evenings and weekends, whenever it fits.
The Kid has had her usual mishmash of extras, including Hoffman Piano Academy, tennis, swimming, ceramics, circus arts, gymnastics, and indoor skydiving. She's changing things up more often than usual, preferring to do just a session at a time then switching off. She's taking art, music, Lego, and a math games class at the charter school.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Cultural Geography: Oceania

Family Read Aloud:
  • Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford – Violet is a 7 year old Ramona Quimby-esque character growing up with her family in modern-day Australia. If this catches interest, there are more books in the series. (for younger kids)
  • Does My Head Look Big In This? By Randa Abdel-Fattah – A Muslim teenager in Australia makes the decision to wear the hijab full time. Includes typical teen themes of friendships and crushes, as well as being a minority religion. (for older kids)
Free Reading Books:
  • The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea by Sy Montgomery – This is part of the Scientists in the Field Series, about a biologist who is studying rare tree kangaroos in Papua New Guinea.
  • Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner – part of the Scientists in the Field series
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox – The story of an elephant seal who lived in a river in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the townspeople who enjoyed watching her.
  • Possum Magic by Mem Fox – A possum, magically invisible, becomes visible again only after eating Australian foods.
  •  Multicultural Cookbook for Students 115-125, choose recipes as desired

1.       Introduction to Oceania
How People Live 266-269
Throw Your Tooth on the Roof 21

2.       New Zealand
How People Live 292-297
Children Just Like Me 76
School Like Mine 78

3.       Australia
How People Live 270-277
Children Just Like Me 74-75

4.      Australia (continued)
      Hungry Planet 22-29 (the first time we used this book, so we spent extra time with it, understanding how it is set up and comparing the food to what we are familiar with)

5.       Australia (continued)
      School Like Mine 76-77
My Librarian is a Camel 6-7
Hungry Planet 30-35

6.       Polynesia/Samoa
How People Live 290-291
Material World 170-175

7.       Melanesia and Micronesia
How People Live 278-289
My Librarian is a Camel 24-25

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cultural Geography

We are undertaking a Cultural Geography class this year. The result is shaping up to be a literature-based and food-based mashup of different levels for an asynchronous learner. I am sharing this here in case it is helpful to anyone.

What this is not: It is not a physical geography course. We check in with our map, but that's it. It is not a history course. We are reading about and discussing the world as it is now and has been within the past 20 years.

This course has adjusted along the way, and my own eyes have been opened quite a bit, most notably by the sheer lack of resources. I started out with the ideals that we would only use materials published within the last 20 years, we would focus on writers who live in the areas we were studying, and we would focus on the everyday lives instead of special celebrations or outlier populations. This proved impossible for many areas, and even for our spines. I did let go of some of these ideals, though they still drove my preferences, and accepted that we would make do with what we found and continue to educate ourselves about the world throughout all the years to come.

Come along with us, share resources where you can, use whatever may work for you and ignore the rest!

For no particular reason, we decided to start with Oceania and roughly work our way west around the world from there. In subdividing the world, I considered many options and eventually decided to use the U.N. geoscheme.

**Our primary books used throughout the year**

We started off by reading pages 4-13 in How People Live, which gives an overview. The following units could be done in any order:
South-east Asia
Southern Asia
Eastern and Central Asia

Western Asia and Northern Africa
Eastern Africa
Southern Africa
Central and Western Africa
Eastern Europe
Southern Europe
Western Europe
North America
Central America
South America

Cultural Geography Spines

Can they really be called "spines" when there's a pile of them? These are the books that we'll be using throughout the year.  Where I list age/grade ranges for the book, I am assuming neurotypical kids; adjust as appropriate for you. For those wanting resources for kids on the older end of the range here, I'd suggest the first four books. For those wanting resources for kids on the younger end of the range, I'd suggest the first book and the Children Just Like Me books. The others are truly more optional and add interesting information that we enjoy. We're using it all, with the simpler options breaking up the heavier options in our schedule.

Note: I don't even know how to do affiliate links. These go to, which can be configured to donate a portion of your purchases to the charity of your choice.

How People Live - This would be our "main spine". It covers so many geographic areas and cultures! The great news is that it is available used for very low prices. The bad news is that's because it's a wee bit dated, being published nearly 20 years ago. It works for my purposes and I found nothing else that aimed at this age range and focused on modern culture. Unfortunately, the more we used this book, the more I recognized that it sometimes focused on very small, unique populations within areas instead of focusing on the majority of the culture. Still a good option, but not quite the original intention. Written for grades 2-6.

Material World - A photojournal with detailed information on what possessions people own throughout the world. They have a website with updated photos of some of the families. Middle school +, but heavy on pictures which can make it appeal to younger grades as well.

Hungry Planet - Photojournal with detailed information on what families eat during a typical month throughout the world. Middle school+, but heavy on pictures with can make it appeal to younger grades as well.

Women in the Material World - Photojournal with detailed information on women's roles and work throughout the world. The style of the text is different in this book than the last two, with more portions in interview formats, making it harder to read aloud well. Some of the themes are also more difficult/mature, including rape and genital mutilation. While I am using this with my elementary kid, I would generally place it in a high school+ category.

Multicultural Cookbook for Students - This was by far the most comprehensive world cookbook I could find, but what really impressed me was the focus on "normal" food for each place instead of "special occasion" food. 

Children Just Like Me - the DK/UNICEF classic has a 2016 version. Brief portraits of elementary-aged children around the world. This is a much gentler introduction to individuals around the world than the above photojournal-style books, written for elementary students. The gentler nature means it glosses over poverty and struggle.

Children Just Like Me: A School Like Mine - another spinoff of the CJLM books, this one gives brief introductions to the different types of schools attended by children in different parts of the world. My child can't be the only homeschooled kid obsessed with school structures, can she? Written for elementary students.

Our World of Water - Picture book about what water means to people around the world and how they access it. Elementary grades.

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof - Tooth traditions from around the world. Best for kids who are losing their baby teeth and are still fascinated by the subject. This book is unpaged, so I wrote in my own page numbers with "page 1" being the first page of traditions in North America. Though I decided not to use it, another option would be the book Wish, which talks about wishing traditions around the world.

My Librarian is a Camel - Descriptions of different, unusual libraries around the world. For elementary ages.

One World, Many Religions - This is the most non-biased introduction to major world religions that I have found. It discusses major beliefs, holy books, celebrations, and the basics of how and where people worship. This book is written to inform, not to persuade. Target age is mid-to-late elementary, but it is completely appropriate for younger or older, in my opinion.

Back to the Cultural Geography home

Saturday, May 20, 2017

What grade IS she in, anyway?

We started The Kid in "kindergarten" around her 4th birthday. It made total sense: many of her friends were starting Kindy that school year, she was already working at levels higher than that in most things, and she was quite adamant that she was supposed to be starting, too. Since then, we've promoted her one grade level on each birthday. Therefore, her birthday this Sunday marks the end of second grade and beginning of third.


We're moving to California this summer. Land of public charter schools. With enrichment classes that she can take with other kids! She is so excited about this idea. At this point, she has no desire to go to "regular school", but seeing the same group of kids every week for art or music or a book club or whatever it is that gets offered, while being able to continue homeschooling? Absolutely!

By public school cutoffs, she would just be starting second grade this fall. Neither "second grade" nor "third grade" nor any other grade describes where she's at academically. Her physical writing ability is low, her math ability is high, and her language ability is very high. Socially, she's a bit all over the place as well.

So, for now, she's 7. Or, she will be tomorrow, anyway! We'll enroll her as a second grader this fall. On the blog, I think I'll just start referring to her age.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Unfinished Stuff and a New Adventure

Wow, I really haven't been posting.

Tomorrow, The Kid and I are off on a new adventure - four weeks of Spanish school and homestay in Antigua, Guatemala, followed by a week of vacation in Roatan. Should be fun!

When we return, we will have a "class" that I'm tentatively titling Unfinished Stuff. We want to wrap up some of the piles of projects that we (or she) have started and then left languishing. She has several large art projects to finish. We started working through a chemistry set and then stopped. The list goes on and on and on. We filled a sheet of notebook paper listing it all out. So, yeah. Unfinished Stuff.