We are currently learning about birds and nests for Natural History. Last week we started reading A Nest is Noisy and I am pairing some of the birds in the book with videos. This week we focused on Hummingbirds.
For Science, we are learning about evolution, and last week we discussed the evolution of fashion and hairstyles.
Here are a few random videos we also enjoyed last week.
Do any of you use Evernote? I have had it for a few years but just started using it for homeschooling a year ago. I initially used it last year for our end of year meeting with our facilitator. I made a slideshow for each subject, I used images of my kids doing various activities and all the books we read. It worked so well and because I love documenting our homeschool days it was easy to put together.
Last three weeks I decided to try out Evernote for in more depth for planning, as well as recording all the learning we are actually doing, and it was so wonderful. While I absolutely adore physical planners, they are visually beautiful, but I am very Type A when it comes to planning, spread sheets and tables are my jam. It also saves me a lot time, as I am a much faster typer than I am a hand writer.
I started out by copy and pasting my current Spring term Panning sheet, as well as all the future term documents over from Word. I was able to add links for activities, short videos and ideas for chalk drawings that add pixie dust in to our lessons. Everything is in one place and I can access it on each of our computers and my iPhone if needed.
I type out our "ideal" week based on our typical loop schedule rotation, plus activities and field trips. I have always done this as it helps to make sure I am prepared for activities and crafts plus have all my books ready. I adjust each night and print a hard copy for the next day. My oldest loves lists and checking things off lists, so I print one for her too.
For daily recording, I found Sue Elvis's method to be the one I prefer. I don't want to go into the exact details to set this up, just go watch her videos if you are interested. The only major difference is that instead of doing a note on each different learning outcome, I created one note for each subject, and list the outcomes all together. It is a really easy and visual way to record, and it takes just a bit of time to set up the first week, then each week after you can simply copy any past notes into a new notebook and edit the details.
One of the best parts is tags. I tag each note with the subject, topic, key words, month, term, and specific children if needed. I will be using tags when putting together our year end slideshow.
Every morning, after math, we sit down together to have a "meeting". We discuss the plans for our day and I usually have an interesting video or two picked out to show the kids. It is such a fun part of our lessons that I thought I would start sharing our favourites each Monday. I hope it creates some sparks in your home.
We first started our nature collection when my girls were very little. They would collect rocks and sticks, leaves and pinecones where ever we went.
The cure for boredom is curiosity, and there is no cure for curiosity.
Last spring we were introduced to Nature Pal Exchange and our collection of nature treasures quickly grew. We exchanged with three families from different parts of Canada, from both east and west coasts. It was such a rich learning experience for my children (and myself).
But then came a problem, after our last exchange and a trip to the west coast ourselves, our collection was out of control and a mess. I wondered how we could keep our collection and while still working towards a minimalist life. So I asked my very handy husband to build us a cabinet so we could display our favourites. I think it turned out really well.
If your family (it isn't just for homeschooling families) is interested in participating in the Nature Pal Exchange this year, their Spring exchange signup opens April 3-7.
Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives. - Thomas Berry
Earlier this week I shared what our Winter Term looked like and how I plan, it was our cozy hibernating term and we had a great flow of our routine. But life is always changing and I like to stop to assess what is working well and what needs to be tweaked a bit. This, my friends, is just another beautiful thing about homeschooling, you can switch things up as needed. When I do this I also ask my children what they think is working and not working.
So for our Spring Term, I have decided to turn things completely upside down. I am scrapping our normal "Morning Time" and instead structuring our morning to be a bit slower. We are still starting with Math, it is everyone's least favourite so we get it out of the way right away.
When we normally would be starting our 2 hours Morning Time, I instead have scheduled Language Arts Lessons, which is First Language Lessons, Arrow and Jot It Down. Once we have finished that each girl does 2-3 things off their LA Loop, while I do some lessons with Haiden. We have about an hour or so to go get outside for a walk, or if it is miserable or cold out I put on an exercise video.
This usually brings us to about 11 AM, when each girl does one thing from their Elective Loop.
Elective Loop - Craft / Perler Beads / Drawing / Prodigy Math / Correspondence
During this independent block is when I make lunch, do some chores and try to find my lost coffee.
After lunch and some chores, we sit down together to do our afternoon learning loop, which looks similar to our Morning Time.
History and Science we do each day and then just one subject from each loop. Takes us about an hour and a half to work through.
We have had two weeks of this new routine and it is working really, really well. And for some reason we are finishing a half hour earlier, which means more free time for everyone.
I know some of you were interested in how I set up our loops, so I have included a FREE download of our current learning loops. I have this printed off on card stock and use large paperclips to keep track of where we are. You can find the download button below.
Now that we are more than halfway through our fifth year I can say it's really turning out to be our best year yet.
A few major changes from last year, the biggest one was we opted out of the blended homeschool program that our school board offers. My oldest was a part of it for three years and my middle for one year. While it had many good aspects, I found it increasingly too much like public school, and we also never really found a good rhythm at home during the week.
In years past we gravitated to more of an unschooling approach, but as my children's learning styles developed I saw how more structure was better for them. I turned to Charlotte Mason's teachings on education; short lessons on many topics, living books, nature study, art/music study and narration. Her methods and philosophy speak to me a lot, however, I am nowhere near a purest. Never will be.
The contrast of this year to last is astounding. We have more structure with a steady routine that is extremely relaxed and flexible. My kids are happier and I see their true personalities reemerging, especially my oldest.
HOW I PLAN OUR YEAR
We homeschool year round, I find it creates a consistent flow in our routine and allows us to be more flexible. I have divided up our year into seven terms, Harvest, Autumn, Yule, Winter, Spring, Verdure & Summer.
Harvest, Autumn, Winter, Spring and Verdure terms are seven weeks long, with six weeks of lessons and then one week off.
Yule is scheduled for eight weeks, it still has about six weeks of lessons, but is spread out and more relaxed.
Our Summer term is roughly nine weeks long and will be structured a lot different. I have planned three weeks of lessons, and one one off. This term likely looks a lot more unschooly than all the rest, as who wants to be inside when it is nice outdoors.
To help break down our year I used Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education in 5 Easy Steps. While I didn't use her guide to the fullest, it helped with breaking everything down, and I am already using it to plan out our next year. I spent a month slowly planning, gathering resources and building book lists. Once I had our plan set I typed out a simple summary (year overview) of what we would be focusing on in each term. I have had to move a few things around, but overall I have stuck to this plan.
HOW I PLAN EACH TERM
Once I knew what we would be learning, I started with fully planning the upcoming term. I type everything out in point form so it is easy and simply to reference. I print it out and keep it in my lesson binder so I can use a highlighter to mark off what has been completed (this also acts as a way to keeping record).
Nearing the end of the seven weeks I start planning out our next term. Because of the highlighting, I can easily see what we haven't completed so I can make sure to keep it in the lesson plan.
Planning a term takes me just a few hours. I review what is coming up, ensuring we have all books and materials, and place holds on library books. The way I have it set up is that we just do what comes next, I don't worry about becoming behind. We sometimes take a bit longer on a subject if sparks interested, and quickly get through other areas that don't.
HOW I PLAN EACH DAY
I create a weekly schedule that is set for each term so I can work around different activities. Each day is divided into blocks, this makes it easy to see what we have to do each day. While our days seem very structured, most of their learning is done in loops which are actually really flexible
Loop scheduling has made such a difference in our homeschool. It allows us to take a day off and not feel like we are behind. Because sometimes we have company, or sickness arises, or I simply want to surprise them with a fun outing.
WHAT A DAY LOOKS LIKE (winter term)
Monday through Thursday our mornings start with happy music playing and Math. I like to think they balance each other out.
Then we move into our Morning Time which is scheduled from 9-11. It has some standing lessons and two loops of other subjects.
Mondays my oldest has a drama class all afternoon, so this is the day I usually pick up groceries and holds at the library. I usually have downtime while my little two play.
Fridays are our relaxed day. We start slowly with breakfast and an audiobook around the table. Then we transition in poetry teatime, although it looks much more like literature teatime these days. We do read poems, but I also tend to read a lot of our library books. We finish with a bit of review from the week, I ask a few questions on what we have learned about that week or play a Professor Noggins game. Then our afternoons we either run errands, go for a nature walk, field trip or simple have a flex afternoon.
This overall set up has been working really well for us this year, although each new term I tend to tweak things around because everything is always changing. Check back later this week to see what I have changed for our current Spring Term, I will explain more about each of our learning loops, and there just may be a free download!
“There is no difference between living and learning ... it is impossible and misleading and harmful to think of them as being separate.” — JOHN HOLT
I have dreamt of one day going traveling and road schooling with my family, while my kids are still at home with us. I have planned trips in my head ... a trip across Canada, west coast to east coast, and fun parts in between; traveling down the west coast of the US and coming back up through Yellowstone; a trip across the Atlantic Ocean to explore Europe and all its incredible history.
Then one day, earlier this year, I realized I don't have to wait to go traveling with my children because we don't have to plan long and elaborate trips. Instead, it can be shorter trips, closer to our home. Trips that will be filled with nature, love, fun, rich experiences, and camping.
This summer we bought a (very) old travel trailer, that we have gutted and are in the long process of remodeling to make it our home on wheels so we can regularly explore the world closest to us. Which means next year I have been planning some amazing road trips not too far from home. Trips that are centred around local attractions and history.
ROADSCHOOLING TRIPS - ALBERTA
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats
Even though our little vintage trailer is going to take a complete overhaul, we aren't waiting for next year for some road schooling. We are a few sleeps away from a 10-day boat trip to Vancouver Island. We have filled the last few weeks with books and documentaries about oceans and marine life. We have our explorers backpack ready to be filled with a camera, journals, pencils, watercolours and pencil crayons, as well as specimen jars and ziplocs. But the real magic is going to take place in the tidal pools, walking along the shore at low tide, spotting animals and bird, and the little island explorations. All I ask of my children is that they ask as many questions as they want, and observe and document what they see, what they hear and how they feel.
So you see, education is not only what happens within four walls of a classroom, or around a table in our homes. It starts as soon as we are born, and if we are lucky enough to find a genuine love of learning, it will stay with us until our very last breath. And that is my primary goal in teaching my children.
“Since we can’t know what knowledge will be the most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.” — John Holt
Over the past few weeks, I have found myself thinking back to our first homeschooling year. I had a 5 year old, 2.5 year-old and was pregnant. I knew I wanted to homeschool my children but had no real idea what I was doing, and was extremely overwhelmed. Some how we managed to make it through that first year unscathed and now here we are in our fifth year. I do feel a bit wiser, but each year is different and my children's needs are always changing.
There is a lot new this year, for one we are starting a purposeful year-round homeschool schedule, which will consisting of six 6 week terms, each followed with flex week. There will be extra time off at Christmas, and in Spring while we work in the garden, and then we plan to take all of June off before starting again in July. Each Term will have a different intensity based on my children, my hope is to follow their interest and dive deep when sparks fly.
I recently heard this amazing term: Tidal Homeschooling, from Melissa Wiley.
"there is a rhythm to the way learning happens here; there are upbeats and downbeats; there is an ebb and flow." - Melissa Wiley
This is exactly how I feel our homeschooling has been in the past is... ebb & flow. So while we all do better with a little structure, there are definitely times where a relaxed routine in best. So using six 6 week terms this will allow some structure, flexible enough take breaks, and room in our days to explore one topic for as long as we want. Sort of unschooly or interest led, mashed with charlotte mason, and topped off with a few unit studies. We are very eclectic.
I have based most of homeschool structure on the Charlotte Mason Method, which I started implementing last winter. It is a literature rich approach, with living books, not books full of dry facts. It is also made up of short lessons on a wide range of subjects. The way I have set our days up is using a loop schedules, this way I never feel like we are behind, and I can easily keep track of subjects we do every day or less frequently.
We are now in our third week of our new school year. I have been following a slow start which means I introduce a new subject every few days, or each week. It has been such a great way to get back into routine and find our new rhythm. This slow start has allow for some tweaking each week, which has helped me finalize our learning plan for the year.
This year the majority of our learning will be done together each morning in our Morning Loop. We have a morning basket and each day I fill it with books based on what we are learning that day. In September we will be starting an Afternoon Loop, mainly for language arts.
Here is a list of what we will be learning together:
This is one area that has had a lot of tweaking. In years past we have done an assortment of workbooks for our language arts study. But I really want this year to be about fun and enchanted learning so I am going with a new approach.
There will still be time set aside for workbooks in our Afternoon Loop, because my girls do enjoy them, and about once a month we will have a breakfast outing where we will bring our workbooks. The ones that we like best are Explode the Code, Handwriting Without Tears, Daily Grams & Copywork.
Poetry Tea Time is another bit of enchantment that we added into our homeschool last year. It involves poetry, tea and yummy treats. It was an instant favourite of ours and will be a fixed addition to our homeschool.
Other things we will be including will be daily vocabulary & memory work, free write Fridays, learning about idioms, playing mad libs, and various games.
While each girl will be doing their separate math curriculum, we will be doing some math together in our morning loop.
We have been using Bedtime Math now for 3 years. They are word problems that are fun and have 3 different levels so both my girls can do them. They have a few different books, and an app, as well as you can sign up for daily math problems sent to your email.
We are also going to be a lot of fun math books and games this year.
We have been slowly working our way through the Middle Ages. We are using History Odyssey as our core, but will be pulling various book lists for this time period. We finished up last year working on the Vikings. So we will be starting right back up where we left off, learning about the Saxons.
This summer I started reading A Little History of the World to the girls. It is such a wonderful living book, with short, interesting chapters and with wonderful pictures. This book easily captures all of our attention.
Closer to the end of the year we will be studying Canadian History, First Peoples of Canada & European Exploration.
Near the end of History Odyssey there is a lesson on William Shakespeare. This is when we are going to study our first Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, using How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare & Leon Garfrield's Shakespeare Stories.
While we do a lot of geography in history, we will also be reading stories from Around the Word in 80 Tales & Stories from Around the World. The best thing we have done for learning geography has been to hang a huge map of the world above our kitchen table. I am pretty sure we reference it daily. We also use MAPS a lot, my children all love this book!
SCIENCE + NATURAL HISTORY
Science is a favourite of everyones in our house and takes up a lot of our learning plan.
We are going to be using Mystery Science this year and seeing what sparks interests. I really like how they have set their program up, it is very much open and go. There are various topics, with different mysteries to explore. They include videos, discussions, actives & experiments. We have done one mystery so far, and it was meet with a lot of praise (and hugs) from my kids. Hopefully we fall down some rabbit holes.
This year we are going to be working our way through Nature Anatomy. We have had this book for awhile, but recently came across this simple schedule from Calli at Sparrow & Lilies. I love how simple she has set it up. We have started with the August schedule, learning about Water Bodies, but we will most likely jump around the schedule. I also plan to pull from Exploring Nature with Children, but want to keep each topic simple unless they want to learn more.
One of the biggest highlights of this year is going to be our ocean trip in October. We are going to be spending 11 days staying on a boat and exploring Vancouver Island. The weeks leading up to our trip are going to be filled with learning about the ocean, various fish, aquatic and marine mammals. Once we are on our trip it is going to be hands on learning at its best. Tidal pools here we come!
We started Learning About Birds study guide at the end of last year and we have already started back up last week. The girls love the story from The Burgess Bird Book and we use the 50 Favourite Birds colouring book along side it.
In the new year we will be starting a short unity study on Darwin and Evolution, full of great books and fun activities.
This will be a big part of our year, both girls are incredibly creative and I hope to pull art through out most of our subjects. I have signed the girls us up for Studying Under the Masters which starts next month, as well they each have Draw, Paint, Print book that we will be working through together.
We will be studying about 1-2 different composers this year. I haven yet to narrow them down but we will be using Music Study with the Masters.
The girls (and myself) want to learn the Ukulele, so our winter months are going to be spend learning using Ukulele Course of Kids.
ASHLYN | 9 Years Old | Grade 4
Teaching Textbooks. She used this last year and it work amazingly for her.
She is also going to be using Times Tables Activity Book from Usborne to help her while she is learning her times tables.
Ashlyn has grown so much with her reading, and is never away from a book for long. I am working on a book list for her to work through this year.
Drama Class. A local class, that is 3 hours class each week, staring in October.
Swimming, weekly lessons
Baking & Cooking
Girl Guides Club
Homeschool Gym Class at our local YMCA
BRIANA | 6 Years Old | Grade 2
She is going to be using Usborne's First Reading Library & various other level books
Gymnastics Classes, weekly classes
Swimming, weekly lessons
Baking & Cooking
HAIDEN | 3 YEARS OLD | PRESCHOOL
I haven't included any pictures for Haiden because his "first day" isn't until September 19. However, I am going to be using The Peaceful Preschool Curriculum to guide his year. It is a beautiful, modern curriculum, that is literature & project based.
“At this time, as blossoms emerge from slumber, as leaves shoot out, birds play, and the earth awakes from a long winter, go out and let the cool breeze blow around you. Dig your toes into the dirt. Let the sun peeking behind clouds kiss your face with its light. Draw in the moist air with slow, deep breaths. Hold each breath for a moment and release them with gratitude. Once more, we seek renewal; for the year, the earth, the garden, and for ourselves. May we all take steps toward renewing our bonds with the natural world, its spirit and wonders. May we all grow a little further toward a healthier way of living within nature.” – Raven J. Demers
Spring is my absolute favourite season because it means longer days, more daylight, and the world waking up and becoming green again. I love all the changes that take place in such a short period of time. It makes for a great time of year to start a year round nature study.
We have been nature explorers and collectors since my oldest was little, but it was done with no real direction. So I was really excited to find Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon. So far it seems like it is going to be a great addition to our lessons. There are weekly themes with a reading list, nature walk activity, nature journaling, poem, art study and extension activities. But the best part is that it really allows for flexibility to do a little or a lot.
The next three weeks we are going to be learning about the spring equinox, Easter & Ostara, the four seasons, frogs, birds, gardening, plus we will be going on weekly nature walks. I have some some fun activities planned, starting some seeds for our garden, a lapbook or two, and reading a lot books, many of which I have posted below if you are wanting some inspiration. I will be sure to document as we go!