In this post I’m sharing some of our secular homeschool curriculum resources and plans for the upcoming school year. While I draw inspiration from both Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason, our homeschool methodology is largely influenced by what works best for both my children, who will be in 1st and 4th grade this year.
Our Reflections on the Previous Year
Before planning and starting each new school year, my children and I set aside some time to reflect on the past homeschool year. This is a great way to evaluate what’s working and what’s not, so you can fine-tune your approach to best meet your child’s needs.
Consider asking your child the following questions:
- What was your favorite subject or activity?
- What did you most enjoy last year?
- Is there anything you’d like to change about (subject/activity)?
- What are three things you’d like to include this year?
- What are your goals for the upcoming school year?
Here Were Our Takeaways:
- Folk Tale Tuesdays were a huge success!
- Cooking Class was a favorite, but we need to be more consistent with it. Fried bannock bread won the award for most popular North America recipe.
- We managed to read a LOT of books. Ruth Behar’s Letters from Cuba was the overall favorite. If you can, listen to it on audiobook. Rebecca Soler does an amazing job with the narration. Anne of Green Gables, Salsa Stories, My Name is Maria Isabel, and Island Treasures received honorable mentions.
- We need to make more time for handicrafts. While we did pretty well when they were scheduled as part of our curriculum, intentionally making time for general handicrafts didn’t happen as much as everyone would’ve liked.
- RightStart Math was a fail. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it definitely wasn’t a great fit for my oldest. She loathed it. My youngest was ‘meh’ about it. She completed each lesson, but it was more of a “I’m doing this to get it done” versus having fun exploring, investigating, and playing with different math concepts. It’s a great curriculum, just a bit too dry for our tastes. Everyone touted its game-like nature, but the lessons themselves took too long, which ate into our available time to play the math games my kids really, really enjoyed playing.
- More. Science. Experiments. Here’s something both my kids requested be included this school year. Noted.
- My oldest desires a different approach to written narrations. I’m reminded again that educating requires flexibility. There’s no sense in trying to adhere to a certain methodology if it’s simply not working.
- Our learning baskets are still serving us well. I consider them to be one of our most important tools for keeping us organized each week.
- Morning basket time is still a two thumbs up from everyone.
- We slacked on foreign languages. It happens.
- Hand-Drawn Maps is amazing! It’s such a great resources for inspiring us to creatively explore different books we read throughout the year. Full disclosure, though — my kids did struggle a little at the beginning and had to overcome the fear of failure that can be associated with perfectionism. It got better and better as they completed more maps, and in the end they were always so proud of their creations!
- Practice makes progress. Having a learning motto for the year was extremely beneficial for us, especially during the inevitable moments of frustration. Our learning motto last year was “practice makes progress” and I’m not sure if we’re ready to change it yet.
- Let’s do more journaling together, Mom! Honestly, I didn’t anticipate this one. My youngest asked for her own Big Life Journal and wanted a special day to work on it, much like our Folk Tale Tuesday. My oldest also requested her own special journal, one where she can reflect upon her feelings. Done and done.
Secular Curriculum Homeschool Resources
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Math. Is. So. Much. Fun. I’ll be honest, there are so many GREAT math resources available, that it’s hard to choose just one. Or two. Or five. After realizing we’ll be utilizing so many different math resources this coming school year, I enlisted the help of my 9-year-old to help me figure out how to fit it all into our busy days. Together, we were able to come up with a manageable plan. Of course, now we get to put it into action and see how it all works out! I’ll keep you updated!
Beast Academy is generally regarded as a pretty rigorous math curriculum. Prior to this year, we’ve used some of the books as a supplemental material mostly during the summer. This year, my youngest requested it be her main math curriculum and my oldest said she’s cool with that, too.
In an effort not to spread myself too thin, and to ensure we have time for some of our other math resources, we’ll be utilizing Beast Academy Online this year.
How did I not know about Hands-On Equations and Developing Fraction Sense prior to this year? Apparently, it’s an older resource that’s been around since the 90s, and I can’t believe it’s not more widely known, at least among homeschoolers. Or have I been living under a rock? Maybe?
Essentially, Hands On Equations is a manipulatives-based learning system that introduces algebra to children as young as third grade. It aligns so well with Montessori. We’ll also be using its counterpart program, Developing Fraction Sense, as well.
I’ve raved about these books before, and I’ll continue to sing their praises. Developed by Jo Boaler, the Mindset Mathematics books introduce “big ideas” to children through a series of activities, appropriately categorized into Visualize, Play, and Investigate.
The activities really encourage children to think about each mathematical idea, play around with it, and investigate it through fun, hands-on activities. We’ll be incorporating these activities on “Festive Friday” this year.
Mindset Mathematics is available for grades K-8th. If you’d like to learn more about Jo Boaler’s approach to math, I recommend reading her book Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Mathematics, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching.
Learning Basket Task Cards and Activities
Every morning we implement basket time. We’ll do morning basket together, and then we transition to learning basket time. My children have their own baskets in which they keep a variety of educational activities and games.
This allows them time to independently practice and re-visit math topics throughout the school year. They both like to roll a die to determine how many task cards to do each day, or they’ll pick a math game to play, either independently or with me.
Gameschooling makes up a large part of our homeschool now. Math games, in particular, are a favorite with both my children.
Our Top Picks for Math Games
Here’s some of the best math games our family loves to play. From addition and subtraction, multiplication and division to rounding, estimating, exponents, decimals, fractions and more, these games are a surefire way to help kids practice their math facts while having fun!
Geography and Culture
The Global Explorers Club
We’ll be continuing our continent studies this year, first in South America and then Africa. Our unit studies include the following subjects:
- Language Arts and Literature
- Geography and Culture
- Creative Arts
- Cooking Class
- Practical Math Activities and Games
You can read more about what activities and resources are included in each continent study, plus a preview of the online planning database as well by clicking either of the curriculum units below:
The Writing Revolution
We started using The Writing Revolution by Judith C. Hochman last year. I appreciate its straightforward approach to teaching writing skills to children, as well as the ability to tailor the activities to different subjects and different ages.
We spend at least two days a week working on sentence-level strategies, and my oldest will be moving to paragraph exercises this year. We currently use them in conjunction with each country we’re studying, along with the related Circle Round folk tales and various books that we’re reading.
This year each of my children has their own copywork book. My oldest requested a book of poetry to use for her copywork exercises, and my youngest is working with an Aesop’s Fables copywork book.
Additionally, they each copy a virtue affirmation into their learning journals as part of our character education curriculum.
I like to set aside 15-20 minutes a day for my youngest to practice reading. She has a selection of books to choose from which include Little Bear, Frog and Toad, and Free & Treadwell’s Reading-Literature.
This year my fourth grader will also begin written narrations related to her assigned reading. We tried to ease into them last year, and it didn’t work. At least not the way in which you’re technically “supposed” to do written narrations. After a bit of discussion we’ve decided she’ll read, then do talk-to-text for her written narration, and then edit her writing. We tested this method out over the summer, and it’s been working really well so far.
We’ll continue to use a modge podge of resources for grammar instruction. Together, we use Montessori’s symbolizing sentences since it is the most game-like approach to grammar that I’ve been able to find. My oldest daughter will move onto working with the Critical Thinking Co.’s Editor-in-Chief, Beginning 2, having completed the Beginning 1 book last year. My first grader will begin some sentence-level editing exercises that will be in conjunction to the Writing Revolution sentence strategy activities we use.
The Science Spell Book
Both my kids requested more science experiments this year. Initially, I debated ordering the Generation Genius home kits. I’ve heard such great things about them, and my kids do like the science videos available on their website.
In the end, though, I decided to save some money and we’re going to try Cara Florance’s The Science Spell Book instead. I’m hoping it’ll be well received by my Harry Potter-enthusiasts.
We’ll continue to use the Generation Genius videos as a supplement to the science topics we’ll be exploring throughout the year as originally planned. We’re lucky that they’re made available to us for free through our homeschooling program.
I’m aware the company recently did away with its plan for homeschooling families, making it cost prohibitive for most. Frankly, that stinks. I do believe they offer a limited number of lessons for free now, but I wouldn’t recommend the program to other homeschooling families unless it’s available at a deep discount.
Hopefully, with enough feedback, the company will change its mind and reinstate an affordable plan for homeschooling families.
For history, we’ll be revisiting Montessori’s Great Lessons this year. Once again, I’ve decided to use Christopher Lloyd’s book Absolutely Everything!: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots and Other Things Too Numerous to Mention as our spine. For prehistory, we’ll also be reading Abby Howard’s Earth Before Us series as well.
Additionally, we’ll be exploring the history of South America and Africa as part of our continent studies.
As we continue our studies in South America, some of the topics related to history that we’ll learn about include the Inca Empire, Simón Bolívar, the field of archeology, Alexander von Humboldt, and Charles Darwin.
When we visit Africa, we’ll explore the ancient kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay as well as ancient Egypt. We’ll also learn about Mansa Musa, Wangari Maathai, Nelson Mandela and more inspirational individuals who have made significant contributions to their respective countries and to the African continent as a whole.
We all love handicrafts. Aside from the activities we’ll be doing as part of the Global Explorers Club, we’ll continue the three handicrafts we started over the summer: brushwork, paper modeling, and blackboard drawing.
Additionally, we’ll be using the sewing and embroidery skills we learned last year to try making mmmCrafts’ Twelve Days ornament series. Hopefully, we’ll be able to complete one ornament a month!
I’m also going to try to be more intentional about carving out time for my kids to learn how to play a musical instrument this year. We’ll be using the Hoffman Academy for piano lessons and Emily Arrow’s Kids’ Guide to Learning the Ukulele.
My children will continue to use Typing Club to work on typing skills. It’s a practical skill they both need to learn, and it’s a great option for self-directed learning.