And then, suddenly, it was October.
Honestly, how did October sneak up on me so quickly? And how has it been nearly five months since my last blog post??
Well, I can tell you how. Our third grade curriculum is how. I spent months buried in stacks upon stacks of books and notes and edits–a happy place for me, however intense. When I finally came up for air in mid-August, after we launched third grade, I found myself diving straight into the new homeschool year.
Over the last month and a half, finding our rhythm has been a struggle–but not an unpleasant one. We’ve had dozens of field trips, outings, and special activities competing for time and space on our calendar. The weather in the second half of September was so dreamy and perfect that we found ourselves doing everything we could to take our homeschool outside every day. And I have been trying to recover from the intense focus of the summer, a feat that ended up taking over a month (rather than the three “off days” I had designated for it.)
Looking back at all our photos as I’ve prepared to write this post, I’m a bit dumbfounded by how much we’ve already done this year. I’ve honestly felt like we were a bit “behind” at this point. Due to all of the outings and field trips, we’ve started out with an incredibly relaxed pace. I’ve clung to my trusty checklist-and-planning-from-behind method as we’ve soared from enthusiastic seat-of-our-pants adventuring mode to kitchen-table homeschooler mode and back again, week in and week out.
If I wasn’t already in love with the simplicity of checklists, I would be by now.
Let’s take a look back on the past six or seven weeks:
Tall Tales with Blossom and Root Second Grade
Blake has been enjoying our six-week tall tales unit with Blossom and Root Second Grade. She especially loved the story of John Henry, and making her Paul Bunyan peg doll. We took the summer off from all academic work, something we’ve never done before this year. The rest seems to have done wonders for her reading confidence. Currently, she’s reading the Owl Dairies books out loud to me each day for her independent reading.
Botany with Blossom and Root Second Grade
As a shameless plant nerd, I couldn’t have been more excited about starting our year of botany with Blossom and Root Second Grade. So far, we’ve learned about how plants help to sustain life on Earth, about plant anatomy and needs, and about the first plants. We ended up extending the “first plants” unit for several weeks as we explored different varieties of mosses around the Rocky Mountains. (We also saw so many beautiful lichens!)
We won’t be marching through the full second grade science curriculum at an uninterrupted clip, though. I’ve divided the units into several deep-dive “chunks” that will happen at different times of the year. One of the lessons I’ve learned from these first few weeks is that it’s nearly impossible to do the science from kindergarten (astronomy) and second grade (botany) at the same time, and really feel like we can dive deep into each, because both girls LOVE to do all of the science activities. We’ll wrap up our first botany “chunk” at the end of October, then switch to astronomy for November and December, and back into botany in January. This, I expect, will be a better fit for us.
Astronomy with Blossom and Root Kindergarten
My youngest daughter became positively obsessed with all-things “space” over the summer–a happy coincidence for us, as our kindergarten science curriculum is focused on astronomy. We kicked off the homeschool year with a visit to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to visit the Space Odyssey exhibit. A few weeks later, we were back to see a show at the planetarium and to see Apollo 11 at the IMax (which I highly recommend!)
After the first several weeks of juggling both science programs, I decided to pause the madness and deep-dive into one at a time. While we’re still reading space books almost every day and watching plenty of shows about space, we’ll be pausing our astronomy curriculum until November and December. That way, we can really take our time and hyper-focus on astronomy–something I’ve learned that both of my children prefer over short, dispersed science lessons.
Wild Math is a natural addition to our homeschool. It fits right in with our learning style and our homeschooling approach. We are using it as our primary math resource this year, for both of my daughters. For the first six weeks, my youngest has been focusing on writing numbers. We’ve made numbers out of sticks, flowers, and other natural materials. We’ve hidden numbers to collect along nature trails. We’ve written numbers in shaving cream on the kitchen table when it was too hot to go outside. But, for Brice, nothing could top the hopscotch activity. She’s done it over and over again, and she loves it so much! As a result, her numeral printing has improved tremendously!
Blake spent almost two full weeks making a “thousand things” poster from one of the prompts in Wild Math 2/3. We spent a day or two brainstorming how to collect 1,000 things. Finally, we decided on flower petals. Blake determined that, if she “collected” flowers that each had 10 petals, each bouquet of 10 flowers would have 100 petals. (We figured that out by counting by tens.) If she had 10 of those bouquets, she would have 1,000 petals. We decided the easiest way to display this collection was to draw and paint it. She drew a ten-frame, something we practiced a lot last year with Wild Math 1. Then, in each frame, she drew a ten-petaled flower. Then I photocopied this ten-frame nine more times. We cut them up, glued them to a big poster board, and spent days painting each petal together.
It was time-consuming, but we really enjoyed doing the project together. And, most importantly, it really helped Blake to solidify the concept of 1,000 in her mind. We did several other similar activities (like a “thousand steps walk”) from Wild Math 2/3.
Right Start and Beast Academy
In addition to Wild Math, we’ve decided to add Right Start A for my youngest and Beast Academy 2 for my oldest. Originally, I was planning to use Singapore for both this year, but after thinking about it all summer, I decided it just wasn’t a good fit for either daughter.
So far, Right Start is a good program for Brice. She enjoys the hands-on aspect tremendously. However, the pace is feeling awfully slow. She probably could have started halfway through the curriculum, but I wasn’t sure if that was a good idea. I felt like she needed to move through the whole program to understand how the pieces fit together. I’ve looked ahead and it does seem to go up a notch in a few weeks.
On the other hand, Beast Academy is proving to be just the right intensity for Blake. I cannot say enough great things about it, honestly. I wish I’d had Beast Academy (and Wild Math, for that matter) when I was in school. We are both loving it! For those who have asked, we do use the textbook, the workbook, and the online component. I find the combination of all three is really helpful for Blake.
Generally, we do Wild Math about 4 days per week. Brice does 2 or 3 days of Right Start (and right now, those lessons only take her about five to ten minutes, max.) Blake does 2 or 3 days of Beast Academy, and we just adjust our pace as needed, depending on the difficulty of the current lesson. We’ve also been playing LOTS of games to reinforce the concepts we are learning with Wild Math, Right Start, and Beast Academy.
Language Arts and History with Blossom and Root Kindergarten
We started kindergarten in April, did the first several weeks, then took the summer off. When we returned, we did the Stone Soup week again, to refresh our memories and get back into the rhythm of the curriculum. We’ve since read several Frog and Toad stories and most of My Father’s Dragon. Brice loves Frog and Toad so very much. I made her special peg dolls to help her with her narrations, which she prefers to “act out.”
In kindergarten history / geography, Brice has been working on “the history of me.” She learned about how she got her name, and about the day she was born.
History, French, and Yoga
In addition to our core academic subjects, we’ve added in a short unit on Ancient Greece, daily yoga, and continued sprinkling in some French. Our Ancient Greece unit was light and fun. We’ve been reading Mary Pope Osborne’s version of The Odyssey, which my daughters love. We usually read from it during snack breaks. We also read several Greek myths, learned about theatre in Ancient Greece and the Olympics, and played a bit with the Greek alphabet.
For yoga, we love the Cosmic Kids yoga channel on YouTube. And for French, I found little seasonal journals on Teachers Pay Teachers, which we do 1 to 2 pages from each week. I also read fairy tales in French several times per week.
I wanted to kick off our unit on Asian geography at the very beginning of the year, but felt we had plenty going on for now–we can add that in over the winter.
Seasonal Fun with Rooted Childhood
Each week, I’ve added in at least one activity from the Rooted Childhood guides. We absolutely loved making kites and sock stuffies with the August issue, and enjoyed revisiting the September issue for the second time. I have a feeling these guides will continue to provide beautiful, seasonal traditions for our family for years to come.
Nature Study with Blossom and Root Second Grade
If there’s one thing we are never short on, it’s resources for nature study. This year, we have more to pull from than I feel we could ever get through, but that’s okay with us! We haven’t started kindergarten nature study yet–we’ve decided we’ll be doing that over next summer instead. During the school year, we’ll mostly pull from Blossom and Root second grade. So far, we’ve enjoyed many activities from the nature study parent guide. Our favorites have been leaf rubbings and dying playsilks using natural dyes. We used red cabbage for the purple silk, turmeric for the yellow silk, and coffee for the gorgeous brown / gold silk.
Side note: I ordered the girls forager pockets from Chaos Fairy Creations after seeing them on her Instagram feed (see photo above.) Oh my gosh, we love them so much! If your children are anything like mine, you know the struggle of pocketless leggings and dresses, especially when you’re collecting tiny acorns or leaves or interesting pebbles from the back yard. These are a brilliant and adorable solution–definitely check them out. (Not at all a sponsored post–we just really, really love them!)
Pond Unit with Book Seeds
Book Seeds are another nature study resource we’ll be pulling from throughout the year. In August, we did a short pond unit, using the issue for Over and Under the Pond and the issue for Butternut Hollow Pond. (More pond-themed issues will be available by next summer!) With these issues, we explored the anatomy of a pond, the art of Monet, and pond food webs, and we went on a pond mini-beast scavenger hunt. We read tons of books on ponds, which you can see here on our Instagram TV channel.
Sunflower Unit with Book Seeds
In September, we continued our fun with Book Seeds and did a unit on sunflowers. You can actually grab the entire sunflower Book Seed issue for free by clicking right here. We learned about pollinators, the Fibonacci spiral, and the life cycle of a sunflower. Everywhere we went, we saw sunflowers of all shapes and sizes. I let the girls take pictures of all the flowers we found, using my cell phone.
For those who have asked, yes–we will be creating autumn and winter Book Seed issues! We’re working on new issues right now, and will be releasing them soon. 🙂
One of my goals for the 2019 – 2020 school year is to attend more live arts events–theatre, ballet, the symphony, opera, street performances, festivals, etc. Over the summer, my husband and I booked a least one event each month for the year ahead. In August, we saw a performance of Little Women (the musical) at a local high school. In September, we went to a fabulous, interactive performance of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow at Miner’s Alley Playhouse in Golden. (For my fellow Colorado homeschoolers, they do children’s theatre performances throughout the whole year, and they’re very affordable!)
This has added such a wonderful dimension to our homeschool this year!
Additionally, Blake auditioned for, and was cast in, her very first play–a musical performance of Snow White at the enrichment program they attend once a week. She also auditioned for, and was cast in, her very first film–a “sizzle reel” or demo reel for a film about the Cottingley Fairies, which she will shoot in early October. She’s over the moon, and we are so excited for her!
Like nature study, we have more resources to pull from for art than we could possibly use in a single year–another good problem to have. We are also fortunate to live in a city with a thriving arts scene, which adds even more possibilities every month. For August and September, we held off on any specific art curriculum in order to absorb the wonder of Leonardo DaVinci, and to take advantage of the visiting DaVinci exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
In music, we began our lessons with Legends of the Staff of Musique. This is a lovely and natural addition to our homeschool rhythm, and the girls are loving it so far.
For the next several weeks, we’ll be following the first quarter of Blossom and Root Kindergarten art to study Monet, culminating with a visit to the Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum in mid-November. However, we’ll be replacing Bach with Danny Elfman as our composer for that period, as we’ll be attending a performance of The Nightmare Before Christmas at the Colorado Symphony at the beginning of next month. It’s all about flexibility, and taking advantage of the serendipitous occasions that present themselves to us throughout the year. Even as a curriculum creator, I rarely feel the need to follow the plan verbatim–that’s one of the very best advantages of homeschooling. There’s always room for magic and curiosity!
And Above All Else….Outdoor Free Play
As I said, September brought with it some pretty phenomenal weather. We took full advantage of it, keeping our lessons short and sweet in the morning and dashing off to spend the afternoons outside. We enjoyed playing in Bear Creek, romping around Evergreen Lake, climbing rocks all over Rampart Reservoir, running amuck at Roxborough State Park, picnicking at a bird sanctuary, and more. It was a glorious month to spend outdoors.
So far, our year is off to a great start, despite the struggle to “nail down that perfect homeschooling rhythm.” We’re having so much fun learning and exploring our world, and honestly, this year seems to be more closely aligned with our homeschooling goals than ever before. I feel like I’m learning to trust my intuition better, and to trust the feedback from my daughters (vocalized or not) in order to craft a vision of homeschool that works best for us.
How is your year going so far? What have been your highlights? Please share them in the comments–I would love to read them!
Links to Curriculum We Used in August / September:
- Blossom and Root Kindergarten
- Blossom and Root Second Grade
- Wild Math
- Right Start
- Beast Academy
- Rooted Childhood
- Book Seeds by Blossom and Root
- Legends of the Staff of Musique
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This FREE issue, inspired by the book The Three Sunflowers by Janet Lucy, includes two weeks of activities including nature study, STEAM, art project, recipe, and exploring language and poetry. Suitable for ages 3 - 8. Grab yours today!