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, 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:

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.