secular homeschool
Our Homeschool Week in Review series, Parenting

Our Homeschool Week in Review 1/21 – 1/27

Giving Space to the Good Stuff

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I like to think we maintain a very whole-child balanced homeschool, but the truth is that I often go through phases when less-academic activities are perpetually put on the back burner. I always give plenty of space and time to free play and interest-based, curiosity-led learning, but the “good stuff,” as I call it–the art and baking and making stuff together as a family–is frequently put aside.

I don’t beat myself up over it. I work full time from home while homeschooling, after all, and I’m not wonder woman. I’ve thankfully matured enough (finally) to give up the notion that I even want to be wonder woman. But the truth is that the “good stuff” is really, really important to me. For me, it’s not just fluff, it’s a foundation for our whole family dynamic. It matters.

So what to do about it? Like anything else, the easiest way to make space for something important on a regular basis is to make it a habit. Habitually make room for it in our daily and weekly rhythms. Habitually take time to sit down and choose stories, recipes, activities, etc. for the weeks ahead. Habitually pause to actually feel the season we are in. It’s going to take some time.

One step at a time. I did pretty good this week. I think winter’s a good time to build this particular habit.

Tasty Rock Cycle

secular homeschool science

As usual, we kicked off the week with science. Our geology studies with Blossom and Root First Grade continued with an edible rock cycle activity. This was a big hit with Blake and Brice, as are any activities that involve food. We used cut-up Starburst candies to demonstrate the three kinds of rock and how they cycle back and forth between each other.

Tip: When microwaving the pieces to make “metamorphic rock” it only takes a couple of seconds (literally) to soften it just the right amount. Anything longer than that and you’re going to have “igneous rock” instead. 🙂

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

secular homeschool blog

This is never an easy lesson for me. I struggled with it every year as a kindergarten teacher and the struggle continues at home with my own children. I can never get through a single book, story, or conversation without tearing up. In so many ways, this year was harder than normal. I feel like this should be a story where I get to say “but now things are very different and everything is okay.” But I don’t. We have so much work left to do as a society. I believe that work starts at home, in the conversations we have with our children.

This year, I wasn’t content with the usual picture books. I wanted the girls to hear and see the power of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. We pulled up his “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube and watched it together, then talked about it while the girls made pictures of him.

Making Banana Bread with Daddy

blossom and root early years vol. 2

Tuesday was a wonderful day. Jason’s work morning was very light, so he taught the girls how to make banana bread. He’s so incredibly patient with them, and they had such a great time. He showed them how to crack the eggs, measure and mix, pour and load the pans in the oven. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but cooking and baking are really powerhouses of home education experiences. They cover pretty much every subject in one way or another: math, science, reading, writing (when Blake records the recipe in her notebook), history, and self-care.

Making Window Transparencies

homeschool art

I really wanted us to do a “making” activity that was open-ended, and had been inspired by some gorgeous window transparencies I saw on Instagram. We’ve made transparencies before with our Blossom and Root Book Seed issue on Marie Tharp, but I wanted to do one where we could make whatever we wanted.

Transparencies are really simple, and a great activity for a chilly afternoon. Simply lay out a sheet of clear contact paper for each side (remove the paper and lay it sticky-side up.) Cut a simple frame out of construction paper and place it on the contact paper–this helps to keep it stable while your child works. Provide tissue paper (for transparent sections),dark contact paper (for opaque sections), glue, and scissors and let them go to town. I love how our pieces turned out! We just taped them to the window. The light coming through the tissue paper is so beautiful!

Hands-On, Laid-Back Pre-K Days

homeschool pre-k

Brice was on a bit of a math kick this week, so I indulged it. We did a lot of the activities she loves the most from Blossom and Root Early Years Vol. 2, all with very simple supplies such as playing cards, buttons, tangram blocks, and wooden numbers. She also spent a lot of time making things with play-dough and modeling beeswax. We read Mike Mulligan again this week, at her request.

First Grade History: Wrapping Up Our Pilgrims Unit

homeschool history

We finally finished our pilgrims unit this week–we’ve been working on it on-and-off since October! Blake was completely amused when we read about “bubble and squeak,” a kind of fish and vegetable stew the pilgrims ate. She made her own version out of beeswax. Her big Evan Moor History Pockets book is finally complete and joined her Native American one on the shelf.

I have to say, this was not a very satisfying unit for me. I really do not like using the history pockets at all. They just seem like such busy work to me, and the learning experience feels shallow for us. I’ve tried really hard to like them, as we’ve used them for the last two units we’ve done. Blake didn’t even seem like she enjoyed them this time around, though she liked the Native American ones more.

The problem is that none of the imagery or processing or recording belongs to her. It’s all through someone else’s lens. I think we would have enjoyed this so much more if we would have just read the books I’d chosen (which we loved) and then done our own artwork, projects, and narrations from them. I’ve already purchased the pockets for ancient history, but we will not be using them. I’m writing my own units, in full, from now on. And don’t worry–I am going to refine them and add them to our store for those who struggle (like we have) with finding quality secular history resources for creative learners.

Our history units should begin showing up in our store around late fall of this year.

Beauty and the Beast and the Wonderful World of Shapes

first grade homeschool curriculum

This week, we read Beauty and the Beast for Blossom and Root First Grade. We also watched the movie version and compared the two. I love when we have the opportunity to compare a film version to a book version of a story. We always have such great conversations about what they left out or what they changed and why we think they did that.

In addition to our money unit with the Moffat Girls, we’ve added in some artistic explorations with shapes. I think shapes are one of those topics that are rushed through in most math curriculum programs, but they offer so many rich learning experiences that can be built upon year after year. We are using a bit of a Waldorfy approach with our shapes unit. First, I tell a story that relates to the shape we’re going to focus on, and then we explore it with manipulatives before recording an artistic interpretation of it in our big sketchbooks.

For example, I told Blake the “Star Money” story from Rooted Childhood’s January collection, and showed her how we can use two triangles to make a six-pointed star. We did this with tangram blocks, and then with triangles cut from kite paper. The translucent quality of the kite paper made this a really beautiful expression of the star shape. Finally, she made a picture in her sketchbook from the story, including several hand-drawn six-pointed stars.

Snowy Forest Hike

nature-based homeschool

We ended our homeschool week with a beautiful, though exhausting, romp through a snow-covered forest about twenty minutes from our home. It was so pretty, and so cold! The wind was kicking up from the north and it stung every time it hit our faces. Still, the view was worth it! And, of course, hot cocoa and the last of our Christmas shortbread cookies were waiting for us when we got home.

the mitten

Resources We Used This Week:


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