Archive for April, 2012


This year, we are making our way through ancient history with a focus on Egyptian, Greek, and Roman history along with a few forays into other parts of the world.

We’re using the audio version of Story of the World for everyone. Now, if I had only young children, I would use this for history and add a combination of read-alouds books and books they could read themselves for history, historical fiction, and some science as well.

As it is, though, since we have a broad age range at this point, I decided to use several different “spines.” Even though the first volume of Story of the World is definitely too simple for the older children, since we’re using it for the younger children, it still provides a nice jumping-off point, so we listen to a chapter every Monday morning.  Because I am lousy at crafts and my 16-year-old is very good at them, she is in charge of planning a craft for the younger children to go with the  chapter.  She is mostly using the Story of the World Activity Book for inspiration.

In addition to Story of the World, my 16-year-old daughter is using Light to the Nations, put out by the Catholic Textbook Project.  My 14-year-old son and 12-year-old son are both using the first part of The Old World and America. The very complicated part for us was this: I wanted to have everyone studying the same parts of history at the same time so that it would match their literature and philosophy. Therefore, I kept the order of Story of the World but changed the order of Light to the Nations and The Old World and America to match.  That means that some weeks, the older children don’t have a history assignment.  This happens occasionally with Light to the Nations and more frequently with The Old World and America.  Of note, I have heard a lot of positive comments about Connecting with History, but I have not used it yet.

After choosing the history spines, I made a list of what I wanted each child to read as well as a number of read-alouds that we would enjoy together. This year, they had a little say in the matter but not all that much. For many of the read-alouds, I tried to aim toward the middle so that everyone could enjoy them, but I did make some exceptions to that. For example, I think plays are best done aloud, so we all took parts in the three Theban Plays by Sophocles and will be doing so again starting quite soon for Julius Caesar. With Sophocles, I had intended for just the older three children, but my 9-year-old daughter wanted a part too and did a formidable job as Ismene, Antigone’s sister.

Here is a list of the books we used for the various children:

Read-Alouds:

  • The Children’s Homer
  • The Cat of Bubastes (we downloaded this from www.librivox.org)
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh    (children’s version)
  • Pythagorus and the Proportions
  • Pythagorus and the Ratios
  • Archimedes and the Door to Science
  • The Forgotten Daughter (we really liked this one and are looking for more of her books)
  • The Young Carthaginian by Henty (we downloaded Jim Weiss’ audio for this through the Well-Trained Mind website)
  • Julius Caesar
  • The Eagle of the Ninth (we’ll be reading this during the summer)

E and JP (teenagers)

  • The Golden Goblet
  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  • Sophocles the King
  • Sophocles at Colonnus
  • Antigone
  • The Iliad (they actually just watched Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver’s lectures for this)
  • The Odyssey (they read this and watched her awesome lectures)
  • Julius Caesar

A – 12-year-old son

  • The Golden Goblet
  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  • Sophocles the King
  • Sophocles at Colonnus
  • Antigone
  • Herodotus and the Door to History
  • D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths
  • The Wanderings of Odysseus
  • Several selections from Heroes and Heroines (an old book that might be hard to find)
  • Galen and the Gateway to Medicine
  • Pompeii and Herculaneum
  • City

M – Age 9

  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile
  • Sophocles the King (see above as to why my 9-year-old was reading this)
  • Sophocles at Colonnus
  • Antigone
  • A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls
  • Selections from Heroes and Heroines
  • Herodotus and the Door to History
  • The Traveler’s Guide to Ancient Rome
  • City
  • Pompeii and Herculaneum

I just don’t have it in me to include links to all of these right now, but if you have any questions about the books I’m referring to, feel free to ask.

So that was literature for the year. At the same time, my 14-year-old son has been listening to a podcast called History of Philosophy without any Gaps by Professor Peter Adamson at King’s College inLondon. It’s quite wonderful but definitely not something you want to send an innocent youngster off to listen to by himself as he definitely goes into issues of homosexuality as mentioned in Plato. It isn’t terribly explicit, but it is there.  Some of its fine, but we skipped the lecture of the Symposium. 

All in all, this has been a great year for us.  The children have enjoyed some books more than others, which is to be expected.  I tried to give my teens a good introduction to classical ancient literature, but you can’t do everything.  I think it is better to read a few great works with enough time to mull them over than it is to zip through more titles.  Nonetheless, I must say that for my two teens (soon to be three), time seems very short!

Next year, we’ll be doing medieval history, which is probably my very favorite.  I know my teens will be reading Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Tristan and Iseult, The Song of Roland, Romeo and Juliet, and probably another Shakespeare play as well.  I also know that I want to focus a lot on scholasticism and medieval saints, and there are some great children’s books like Adam of the Road that we’ll be reading for sure.  Beyond that, well, I have summer to figure it out.

In my last post, I talked about the nuts and bolts of planning a whole year in advance.  Here that is.  Now, I’d like to talk about the actual process of planning–the thinking part.

Some subjects are pretty straightforward.  As I mentioned in the last post, planning for math basically involves each child doing a lesson each day.  I don’t try to make science match up with history.  Susan Wise Bauer recommends doing so in The Well-Trained Mind, but it just doesn’t seem worth doing to me.  Planning for piano or another instrument is just a matter of practice time.  For this and other subjects like art, typing, computer programming, and the like that involve a given amount of time rather than a specific goal per day, the children each have a timer that they use.

The humanities are where it gets more complicated.  We plan everything around history.  I think it would be possible to plan everything around a different subject, but, well, I can’t think of one that makes as much sense to me.

This year, we have come back around to ancient history.  In case you’re looking for inspiration for some possibilities for ancient history with a wide range of ages, I’ll make that part III.

Meanwhile, here’s what I did.  First, I took the history textbooks we would be using.  Then I chose literature that was either:

  • written in the time period and country we would be studying
  • or written about that time period and country we would be studying

For my teens, I focused on the classics.  In the case of plays, I made those read-alouds that we all take parts in because I think plays are meant to be performed rather than read in isolation.  I definitely go for quality rather than quantity here.  Also, I have discovered some wonderful college-style lectures from The Teaching Company that we have used this year, specifically Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver’s lectures on The Iliad and The Odyssey.  You can find these used on Amazon for much less than new, but they are still a bit of an investment.  Here’s a link to her video lectures on The Iliad This sort of thing provides much greater insights into these classics than I could provide, give a feel for college lectures, and provide a great opportunity to learn notetaking skills.

For my younger children, I chose a combination of children’s versions of classics and good children’s literature written about the time period.  I would rather the latter than the former where possible.  Some books really are both though, like Nathaniel Hawthorn’s A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls.  That one can be downloaded for free as an ebook.  Also, where I could find them, I included a few books on inventions of the time or other scientific accomplishments.

The trick has been figuring out how long to allow for any given book.  Rather than risk having more than they could read, I made sure to leave ample time and then let them read books of their choosing in between.  In our household, The Lord of the Rings is almost always being read by someone in between other books.

In addition to the literature they are reading on their own, I chose several read-alouds that I would read to everyone over the course of the year.  This allows the younger children to be exposed to something beyond their reading level and makes it possible to effectively “double up” on literature.  I read these as bedtime stories and also during the day whenever possible.  As I mentioned above, when it comes to plays, everyone takes parts, and we read these aloud as well.

Other subjects can certainly be combined with history and literature.  It would make a great deal of sense to combine writing with literature, assigning reports and essays to go with them.  In our case, however, we’re using the DVDs from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, so writing remains separate from literature.  This is definitely a compromise for us because I would prefer them to be combined, but Andrew Pudewa teaches writing in such an entertaining and effective manner that it has been a worthwhile compromise for us.

What else fits in with literature?  Well, theology does.  Since we’re doing ancient history this year and my teens are using the Didache series for theology, my 16-year-old is doing the Scripture book this year.  Next year, she’ll do the church history book, which should go along nicely with medieval history.

Also, studying the art and music of the period is a great idea.  Here’s a list of some famous composers by era.  Another great resource once you get to the Renaissance and beyond is www.cpdl.org, which has audio versions as well as scores for gobs of wonderful music that is in the public domain.  And here’s a great website for art beginning with the Renissance as well:  http://totallyhistory.com/art-history/famous-artists/.

Philosophy can also be studied alongside of history–at least history of philosophy can be for teens.  More about that in the upcoming post on what we’ve done for ancient history this year.

I suspect some of you might be wondering where I came up with the books we chose.  There are lots of sources for that.  I recommend The Well-Trained Mind and Designing Your Own Classical CurriculumAlso, I’m willing to bet that a majority of homeschool moms and dads were avid readers in their youths.  What were your favorite books?  There’s also the wonderful Well-Trained Mind forum where you can find suggestions on great books for any time period and age of children.  Another great source for historical fiction is Bethlehem Books.

Let me know if this post is of help to you.  The next one will include some specifics on ancient history from what we did this year.

This has been one of the more chaotic years of our lives.  I have been juggling working as a medical transcriptionist with homeschooling as well as a lot of uncertainty for the immediate future.  In spite of that, it has also been one of the best–perhaps the best–year we have had as a homeschooling family.  What made the difference?  Planning!  Now, this is totally against my natural tendencies, but we have gotten so much more accomplished this way.

Until this year, I have always planned our years fairly loosely.  In some subjects, I continued that method this year.  Math, for example, is planned like this:  Do the next lesson.  Repeat.  On the other hand, when we were doing modern history and literature last year, I planned as we went along, choosing the next work of literature with each child as they finished the last one.  It worked fairly well, but this year has been better.

Now, if you are using a planned curriculum provider, you probably don’t need to do much of this.  In fact, that’s probably the major advantage of using a planned curriculum provider.  If, however, you’re doing what I do (the reinvent-the-wheel-and-hope-it-doesn’t-turn-out-octagonal method), as the children get older, planning substantial periods in advance becomes more important and just makes things run more smoothly.  The major improvement for us has been this:  It keeps me from just calling off homeschooling on a beautiful or crazy-busy day.  It’s just too much hassle to rework the schedule to make up for the missed day.  Also, since I work from home and homeschool (a combination that is not for the faint of heart but can be done), it makes it possible for the kids to keep going even on days when I am only minimally available.

Basically, I spent a large chunk of time over the course of a couple weeks last summer planning the whole year for every child and every subject using an Excel spreadsheet.  Until I did that, I didn’t know it was possible to run out of columns in Excel, but it is!  In case you’re wondering, I started to use Homeschool Tracker.  In fact, I spent many, many hours getting it all set up.  In the end, though, I just didn’t like the layout compared to a good old Excel spreadsheet.  I think it is a very strong program with excellent customer service (they were Johnny-on-the-spot anytime I had a question); however, it just wasn’t for me.  I also considered using some other neat resources like Donna Young’s forms.  These too are great, and I highly recommend her articles on planning.  I’ve used some of her forms in the past as well, and I gained inspiration from her forms for this year’s mega-planning spreadsheet, but these still didn’t quite do what I wanted.  What I did want was one huge color-coded spreadsheet (with a color for each child) with the ability to print the week’s work for each child and the ability to make changes as needed (in case I had wrongly estimated how long it would take my 14-year-old son to read The Odyssey, for example).

Here’s how I did it:

Starting with a blank Excel spreadsheet, I entered each week (i.e. week 1, week 2, etc.) at the top of the page.  I used the “merge and center” tool for this.

Next I pulled out a calendar and planned out the days and weeks we would be taking off.  Since my husband is a school teacher, we planned our vacations to line up with his.  I then entered the dates across the top.  This can be automated fairly easily by entering one date and the using “=that cell+1” and then copying and pasting groups of date.  Excel automatically enters the next date.  I did not include the dates for weeks we would be taking a holiday.

The first page going down was my page.  I used this for subjects that don’t happen without my direct involvement.  For my 6-year-old, that’s pretty much every subject.  For my 16-year-old, it only includes a couple things.  This page also includes the subjects that several or all of the children do together so I could easily make sure they were getting done.  Down the left column of each week’s page for me is the subject and the child with whom I do it.  Some things were done daily.  Here is an example of one of my pages:

Mom/Everyone
Week   27
03/12/2011 03/13/2011 03/14/2011 03/15/2011 03/16/2011 03/17/2011 03/18/2011
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Mass/Italian/
Movies/
Chores/
Notes
8:15
Leave for Mass/Italian; Laundry
11:00
Leave for Mass/Italian
Bathrooms Co-op   Mass & Party
8:15
Writing
SICC-B   DVD SICC-A   DVD
8:15 Joy of Science Watch   DVD
9:30
SOTW
Ch   28 Empire Gladiators
1:00
Read Aloud
Finish The Forgotten Daughter
J – 100 Easy Lessons Half   a lesson Half   a lesson Half   a lesson Half   a lesson
M – Spelling One-third   of a step One-third   of a step One-third   of a step One-third   of a step
A – Grammar One   worksheet One   worksheet One   worksheet One   worksheet
JP – Spelling One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step
E – Latin Roots Next Next Next Next
J – Math One   Lesson One   Lesson One   Lesson One   Lesson
A – Spelling One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step One-half   of a step
J – Spelling Next Next Next Next
M – Mult review Next Next Next Next
M & J – Bible Next Next Next
Theology A   – Faith & Life Narration M   – Faith & Life Narration
Check Work

 

Each of the children then had a page going down after that, going from oldest to youngest.  One thing that I found helpful was to fill in the oldest child’s first.  After that, I was able to copy several subjects to the younger children.  Here is a sample week for each of the children:

E
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15
Watch
SICC-B
Start   assignment
Biology Parts   of a Cell (second 6)
Piano 30 minutes 30 minutes 30 minutes 30 minutes
Latin   Roots & Spelling Next Next Next Next
Algebra 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson
Computer Typing
30 minutes
Gamemaker
30 minutes
Typing
30 minutes
Gamemaker
30 minutes
History Ch 11, The Consequences of Alexander’s   Conquests.  Enter dates in timeline and answer checkpoint questions.
Arts & Crafts 3:00
Story of the World Craft
Illustrator Plan   Story of the World Craft Paint,   Scupt, or Draw
Theology pp.   207-209 pp.   210-213 pp.   214-216 pp.   217-218
Literature Watch   Odyssey Lecture 3 Read Odyssey Book   8 Read Odyssey Book   9 Watch Odyssey   Lecture 4
JP
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15
Watch
SICC-B
Start   assignment
Piano 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes
Biology Parts of a Cell   (second 6)
All about   Spelling Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson
Geometry 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson
Computer Python
1 hour
Typing
30 minutes
Python
1 hour
Typing
30 minutes
History: Old World and America Unit III, chapter 1
Computer/
Philosophy
Microsoft   Tutorial Microsoft   Tutorial Microsoft   Tutorial History   of Philosophy
1 Lecture
Theology: Introduction to Catholicism Prepare ch 22 questions.  Read chapter and answer circled questions   in complete sentences.
Literature Watch   Odyssey Lecture 3 Read Odyssey Book   8 Read Odyssey Book   9 Watch Odyssey   Lecture 4
A
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15
Watch
SICC-B
Start   assignment
Piano 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes
Analytical   Grammar Next Next Next Next
All about   Spelling Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson Half a lesson
Math 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson 1 Lesson
Religion & Logic Thinking   Toolbox Chapter 23 Bible
Computer Typing Gamemaker Typing Gamemaker
Literature Read third quarter of The Wanderings of   Odysseus
Science: Astronomy Astronomy Lesson 8
History: Old World and America Unit III, chapter 1
M
Week   24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Writing Start   assignment Work   on assignment Finish   assignment 8:15   Watch SICC-A
Piano 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes 30   minutes
Mult.   Facts Next Next Next Next
All about   Spelling Next Next Next Next
Science Astronomy Astronomy Astronomy Astronomy
Religion Faith & Life   1 Lesson Children’s Bible   with Joseph Children’s Bible   with Joseph Children’s Bible   with Joseph
Math Mammoth Next Next Next Next
Map Skills/Fred Map Fred   Butterflies Map Fred   Butterflies
Literature Explore   http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/art/greekart.htm
Arts & Crafts/Typing 3   PM Story of the World Craft with Elizabeth Typing
30 minutes
Art Typing
30 minutes
J
Week 24
02/20/2012 02/21/2012 02/22/2012 02/23/2012 02/24/2012 02/25/2012 02/26/2012
Start/Subject Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
All about Spelling Next Next Next Next
Math Mammoth Next Next Next Next
Reading: 100 Easy Lessons Next Next Next Next
Handwriting Next Next Next Next
Explode   the Code 3 Butterflies 3 Butterflies 3 Butterflies 3 Butterflies
Flex Math   Fact Children’s   Bible with Mary Children’s   Bible with Mary Children’s   Bible with Mary
Flex 3   PM Story of the World Craft Fred   Butterflies Math   Facts Fred   Butterflies

Unfortunately, all the pretty colors aren’ts showing up in the post, but each child’s page is a different color.  Also, just in case you’re wondering, on Fridays, we have a co-op for part of the year.  When that’s not going on, Fridays are considered a catch-up day.

That’s about it for the nuts and bolts.  Next, I’ll talk about how I went about planning the various subjects.

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