I’m not going to be guilt-tripped about homeschooling

It’s not about charter schools. While I used to be firmly anti-charter schools, I have come to change my mind over the years. Vesia Hawkins, in particular, has persuaded me that for students who are frequently marginalized and under served by traditional public schools, charters are an important choice. For example, “only 17.5% of Black/Hispanic/Native American students read at grade level,” but minority students who attend charter schools focused on their success do better on test scores.

And though I used to be firmly anti-test, I have become persuaded that we cannot ignore them. Even though researchers can predict test scores solely on parental socio-economic status, regardless of educational quality, with the exception being the very worst schools, we cannot pretend these tests don’t matter. To quote Jasmine Lane, “Only those that have never had to worry about passing standardized exams have the privilege to say that tests don’t matter.”  So yes, I test my children.

I happen to think that our local public schools get quite a bit right, and are actually doing a very good job in many senses that the general public tended to ignore pre-COVID. For example, they provide medical and dental care, vision checkups, two hot meals a day, clothing for children in need, weekend food for parents who can’t afford to feed their children, referrals to social service agencies for the homeless, etc. These are all real, tangible benefits that our public schools provide and I think they’re critical family supports.

My choices are not because of ethnicity or race. Charter schools aren’t available in West Virginia, and neither is school choice—you get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. My local public school is 92% white. West Virginia as a whole is 93% white. It’s not like my children’s diversity exposure would increase by attending my local public school. But, through their many extracurricular activities pre-COVID, they met children from all income tax brackets, from those whose parents can’t afford to buy their children lunch every day to those who hire full time, live-in language tutors. Because I have more flexible time as a homeschooling parent, I have led clubs and other extracurricular activities for all children.

My choice doesn’t impact what’s going on in the local public school. I still pay taxes (60% of my local property tax are levies for the district), and the fact that my children don’t attend means that more levy money is available for the local children because it’s not spent on my children. Furthermore, 25% of the local district’s funding comes through excess levies. That’s $135 per student, or $3200 per class that isn’t spent on homeschooled children in my district and stays in the district even though my children don’t attend.

Yes, the local district loses state aid on a per-child basis, but the statewide pot is enlarged for others because my children (and 20,000+ other children in West Virginia) aren’t getting a share. Only 12% percent of WV school funding is from federal public education funds. That means that West Virginia saves $247,456,000 a year by not educating homeschooled children, or almost a thousand dollars per student—nearly 8.5% of the total per student funding.  I don’t think many parents would appreciate their district’s budget being cut by 8.5% if homeschooled students moved back into public schools wholesale.

Parents of gifted children, especially gifted children with other exceptionalities to compound the issue, seek out private schools and many, many of them home school because public schools are not cutting it, after years of begging and pleading and IEP meetings. Often these children have significant mental health issues because of years of their needs not being met. I’m not willing to let that happen to my children.

I’m morally obligated to do my best by my children because they are my children. They are totally dependent on me for their food, shelter, clothing, and every other support in their life—and I made them that way by choosing to have them. I have to see my commitment through. If providing them with adequate support means providing them with more than my local public schools can provide, then that’s what I’ll do. Making sure our children have a better life than ours is part of what the US is all about.

Yes, my children would probably slide on through in public school, because as a middle class parent in the modern USA, I practice High Intensity Parenting. We make sure our children do the schoolwork that is assigned, and then we go beyond by doing after schooling with our children, signing them up for academic camps, theater classes, sports clinics and enriching their education in the ways that public schools are not. Nearly 70% of West Virginia fourth graders are not proficient readers. I want my children to be proficient readers and I will teach them myself if that’s what I have to do.

I would argue that parents of color who can afford it do the same thing—time spent on parenting has increased across all social classes in the United States, but middle and upper middle class parents spend 7 times as much on their children’s extracurricular activities as lower SES parents. If I’m going to spend money on a field trip, I don’t feel guilty about making sure it’s a field trip that my children actually have a real interest in—and those public school field trips are among the endangered classroom “extras”( like end-of-year performances) that we have deemed unnecessary.

It’s not that parents are adjusting the expectations of the local public schools—those are set in stone at the state and federal level. At least in West Virginia, school administrators, teachers, and parents don’t have much say in how schools are set up, no matter their SES. What about the general expectations of society for the local public medical system? We’ve had so much success changing that at the local level, haven’t we? Oh, wait, that’s not true. Why would it be true for schools? These are systematic issues, bigger than any one parent, teacher, or principal.

I was wildly underprepared for college level courses by my local public high school, but it wasn’t a bad school. They did the best they could with what they had for the largest number of children. My teachers were genuinely caring human beings, for the most part. But sometimes, the best that you can do just isn’t good enough. My choices were limited by my preparation, and I want my children to be able to make whatever choice they want.

Moreover, my children’s attendance at their local public school wouldn’t make it better for the children suffering in the bad public schools—and yes, they do exist, albeit not in my local district. My local district is one of the best in the state. Refusing to eat my dinner does not make anything better for a child hungry elsewhere in the world.

That said, my children may not deserve better than another child, but since I made the choice to bring them into this world, they deserves the very best that I can offer them. It’s my moral duty as a parent to do my best for them, and that means giving them every advantage I can provide—which does include a sense of humility about their privilege. I’m not ashamed of doing my best for my children, and I don’t think any other parent with a functioning moral compass would be either. In the end, my children are not sacrifices to an ineffable public good.

Homeschool Day in the Life

This post is an old one from back in 2006. My kids were 1,7,10,12,15. I think I typed this up for one of those WTM threads when I was Jen in IL. It makes me tired just reading it. If you know us, you’ll be able to figure out which kid is which number. I did some editing for clarity but left it pretty much as is.


6 am: I’m up with the baby (I should call him toddler now) drinking tea and reading my oldest’s Biology lesson for the day. It doesn’t look that hard. It calls for him to dissect the bluegill. I can send the oldest three boys over to the pond to catch one at lunchtime.
6:30 am: I put the baby back in the pack n play, switch the laundry, let the cat outside and wonder who was cooking late last night. Dirty dishes first thing in the morning is so annoying.
7 am: I’m hearing movement upstairs, so I start breakfast. 10 comes down and wants to play Mario. Sure. The game noise wakes up 7. They play a game while I cook up a batch of muffins. I run up to shower while they are in the oven.
8 am: Everyone’s up now except 15. I read a book that has you block out every hour of the day and write what each person should be doing during that time. I think it will help with who is watching the baby while I do school with the other kids. It needs tweaking as the times are all off. Nothing takes as long as you think it will. I’m hoping the oldest two will cooperate trying it again today.
8:30 am: Baby threw up all over me, and now I have to change my clothes. He still isn’t talking, but he screams a lot. 7 watches him while I run upstairs to change and try to get 15 out of bed. I get sidetracked sending husband out the door.
8:46- Give 12 his math lesson, 7 has the baby watching Barney, 10 is reading his lit book and 15 is in the bathroom. We’re not too far off track.
9:30- doorbell. The neighbor who stayed home from school wants to play. I send him away because we are doing this block thing. It will work. I tell him to come back at noon, or 3. 10 and 12 are now annoyed with me. 15 is finally out of the bathroom, and I ask him to start his work. I’m letting him choose what he wants to do except when he is on baby duty.
9:40- we should be on a break, but I tell the kids if we go to the next block we’ll be able to catch up and be done sooner. No one likes these blocks but me. I start math with 10. 12 has the baby, and 7 watches a nature video that I’m calling science enrichment, but is really just something to keep her out of the way and quiet.
9:55- 12 tells me that baby has thrown up, and luckily, the dog licked it up. Luckily? That’s up for interpretation. I make a note to call the gastro doc, this is getting to be a bit much. I’ve already eliminated most foods from my diet.
10:00- I do math with 7. We’re using Saxon 2, and she loves the counting bears. 12 is reading, and 10 has the baby. 15 is playing loud music, which means he isn’t reading his Psych book. I go upstairs, and he is reading. Crisis averted.
10:30- My homeschooling friend is here with her 3 girls. I’m teaching all of them Latin. Her twins are 8, and her other daughter is 12. I park them in the dining room with my 10 and 12. None of the kids did their workbook from last time, so I have them start there. 7 keeps dancing through with her army of Polly Pockets. I tell her she can sit with us or go play in the yard. I nurse the baby while we do Latin chants.
11:15- We decide to take all the kids to McDonald’s for lunch and to use the nearly empty play place. Except for a few toddlers, we are alone there. I grab a large soda and am thankful I haven’t had to give that up. Afterward, I drop the oldest three off at the pond. 7 goes home with a friend to play with the girls. I’ll do a reading lesson at night with her.
1:00pm- Baby is napping, and the boys bring the fish in the kitchen. 15 shows me the Biology lesson, and we both agree that he has dissected it according to the directions. I send him off to write it up in his lab book and remind him to read his American History.
1:30- 10 and 12 will not work together. I keep trying to combine them, but they fight nonstop. I make more tea and send 12 downstairs to switch the laundry while I work with 10. We do all his workbook stuff, and then they switch places, and I work with 12.
3:00- the Neighbor kid is at the door right on time. 15 and 12 go outside. I do Math with 10 while nursing the baby again. He cannot get a long division. Understands dividing as a concept but gets lost in the algorithm.
4:00- I call the homeschool day done and check my email, start dinner, and deal with some insurance calls.
5:00- Dinner. Husband isn’t home yet, there is construction on the tollway, and it sometimes takes him 2 hours to get home now. We eat and then I go get 7 from a playdate. We do some phonics and then take turns reading aloud.
6:30- Reheat dinner plate for the husband and talk to him while he eats. Watch him do yard work until LOST comes on. We all watch that, and then I start sending all the kids up for showers at 9.
9:30- get 7 tucked in with audiobook playing. Remind 12 to clean up and feed his ferrets. I can’t even go in his room anymore cause they freak me out.
10- Remind 15 that he needs to mail his tests into the school the next day and to finish them up. Go to bed with book and nurse 1 to sleep.

A Day In the Life

This is an old entry, from when I had a demanding toddler.

7:30 Will the baby go back to sleep? She’s quiet..

7:54 No.

8:06 Morning ablutions with a fussy toddler on my hip. Meanwhile, elder DD has gone into the living room to watch YouTube.

8:10 Checking email while snagging breakfast. One important student email I need to respond to is flagged for later. I grab 2 breakfast burritos out of the freezer and jam them in the microwave. Husband can drive through McD’s tomorrow because I’m almost out of this batch of breakfast burritos—mental note to make another batch this weekend. With the toddler still on my hip, I grab a soda off the back porch. It’s too warm to keep storing my soda on the back porch—mental note to bring it in. Sometime when the toddler isn’t screaming at me to come back inside. Her separation anxiety is fierce. Meanwhile, the older is still watching YouTube. I think about saying something, but don’t. The microwave beeps, and the toddler demands my breakfast.

8:15 trying to persuade the older child to eat breakfast is always a losing battle. Her gastroesophageal reflux tends to make her queasy in the morning. Nevertheless, I make her two pieces of cinnamon toast, and get her a glass of water for her Prilosec.

8:20 While DD’s toast cooks, I try to eat my breakfast and respond to email, but the toddler sits on my lap and eats all the sausage out of my burritos. DD is still watching YouTube.

8:25 The toast has been retrieved from the toaster and offered to the eldest child. Her Prilosec has been taken, anyway. I settle back in at my desk with the toddler, trying to finish answering my email.

8:37 where did the time go? The toddler is wandering around the living room, wreaking havoc. Eldest child is still watching YouTube. I tell her that we will do school in 10 minutes, and open up the tab for Facebook.

9:01 it’s a good thing eldest daughter wasn’t paying attention, because I wasn’t either. The toddler has curled up on my lap, on the Boppy, and is nursing peacefully. I decide not to disturb her.

9:07 So much for peaceful nursing.

9:15 having overcome all the vociferous objections to actually doing academic work, I wrangled the child to the dining room table. Once she is actually seated, she works quickly. We do math, poem memorization, composition, grammar, handwriting, history, and I decide to do Latin in the car, listening to the CD and repeating it.

10:20 I pick up the science book, and start reading it to her, but then realize that we don’t have enough time to finish it because we all have to get dressed and tidied before the sitter gets here. I finish the paragraph.

10:25 The girls’ room is a mess. No time to clean. Must find decent outfits for both. Of course younger child needs her diaper changed right now!

10:30 Strenuously objecting to the diaper change, younger daughter has run away half naked while I’m still not dressed for work. At least elder daughter is dressed, although she’s hungry, finally.

10:35 Younger daughter caught and dressed, bean burrito plucked out of the freezer and microwaving for elder daughter, I venture into my clean laundry pile. I need to buy some un-stained tops.

10:40 finally, we are all dressed. I grab a cucumber out of the refrigerator and quickly slice some up. Cucumber in a little glass bowl, tomato slices in a bowl, chopped cold chicken in a bowl, bean burrito cut up on a plate, and apple sauce poured into a bowl equals lunch for older daughter. Extra handful of Cheerios, a pouch with some applesauce, and some diced cucumber for younger daughter means lunch is pretty much done. I grab a protein bar and another soda, and frantically put away toys in the living room while I wait for the babysitter.

10:47 of course sitter is running late. I pay almost 25% of my take-home salary in babysitting fees, and I am lucky to get her.

10:50 I have deposited my screaming toddler in the arms of the college age babysitter, and harden my heart as I walk away. She will be fine. It is only two hours. I try not to think about her screaming as I walk downstairs.

10:52 I load my whiteboard, and prep for class. I transfer all of my attention to my students. They’re my sole concern for the next two hours. Compartmentalization is a skill, and I can exercise it.

12:52 Hopefully I have been entertaining enough, engaging enough, and had enough relevant expertise to keep up with these fiercely bright and curious students today. My noon section was particularly on the ball, and I just needed a light hand to steer the conversation. They created their own lightbulb moment. I love teaching.

12:53 Back to motherhood. All is silent upstairs.

12:55 I quietly write a check for the sitter. She transfers the sleeping toddler into my arms, and of course she wakes up. Her face is tear stained, and she grabs me, holding me tight. I settle down at my desk to nurse her, but she wiggles and twists and turns while she nurses. (Years later, I realize that this is a sign of her vicious GERD). Meanwhile, eldest had settled on the sofa with a book, but since her sister is awake, she decides to go back to Minecraft.

1:11 The toddler wants to go outside, but I need to check the discussion forums in my classes. She wanders over to the window and bangs on it, while I load up Blackboard.

1:46 Only 45 minutes before we need to load up in the car. Of course the toddler needs a fresh outfit. This one is smeared with the beans from her sister’s lunch.

2:06 I decide to load them up a bit early. It takes a half an hour to get anywhere anyway, and this way we will have enough time to run through McDonald’s for an afternoon snack. Elder daughter grabs her Kindle to read in the car.

2:33 The toddler is screaming loudly, when we drive through McDonald’s. Of course. I order an extra small french fry, in hopes that she’s just cranky because she’s hungry.

2:40 Having devoured the french fries, the toddler has fallen asleep. Unfortunately, I have to wake her up in 15 minutes to walk her sister in to therapy.

2:55 Everybody out of the car. I snuggle the cranky sleepy toddler in the mei tai so I can have my hands free while we walk in.

3:00 Big sister dropped off, we wait in the waiting room. I wonder how often they clean the toys, and make polite conversation with the clearly harassed mother of two. Hers look 3.5 and 2, if I had to guess. She’s got fabulous hair.

3:30 Big sister is finished, time to load everybody back into the car, so I can go home and make dinner. I belatedly remember Latin, but I can’t figure out how to pause the CD in the car, and they speak so fast, I’m not sure it’s useful.

4:00 Time for dinner. Too hot for the planned Salisbury steak, I decide to make spaghetti Carbonara. It’s not much lighter, but it’s quick. Plus, I have ham that needs to be eaten, and as expensive as that was, it’d be a shame to waste it.

4:07 Thank goodness DH arrived home. He takes cranky hungry toddler, while I chop ham, and eldest daughter complains about being bored.

4:27 Spaghetti is boiling, so I quickly write up the recipe as a possible submission to the faculty blog.

4:53 Dinner is on the table and so is the toddler. I call eldest daughter away from the computer, asking her to tell my mom that dinner is ready. She’d arrived home from work while I was cooking, but I’ve not yet talked to her today.

5:01 Why does eldest child not want to eat this?! She gobbled it down last week!

5:03 My mother asks me if there’s egg in the sauce. Of course there is. “Why are you letting her eat it?” Bad Mommy. I had forgotten that the allergist recommended the toddler avoid egg. sigh

5:45 Everyone has drifted away from the table, but I’m not clearing it. I need to check my email, and frankly, I’m tired. Dear Husband has gone outside with the girls, so I take a moment to call a potential Birth To Three client, review a specialty developmental assessment with my mother, balance the bank account, and return parent email.

6:37 I venture on the back porch, where Dear Husband and I have a tense discussion about the need to replace our 15-year-old car. The girls are filthy, and are going to need baths.

7:09 I vegetate on Facebook while Dear Husband runs a bath for the girls.

7:29 I commence operation Scrub The Children. This is a complex, multi-part operation with up to four different players, which can easily take an hour.

8:34 I decide I need a shower.

9:06 Time to nag eldest child to brush her teeth.

9:16 I try to quickly return a parent email, only to realize I’ve lost an important file. It takes me a good 25 minutes to find it, while Dear Husband wrangles the children into pajamas.

9:45 I attempt to nurse the toddler to sleep, but she’s discovered that Daddy is awake in the next room, reading science to her sister, and she wants no part of a boring, dark room with Mommy. Three tries are required before she finally falls asleep.

10:46 Dear Husband finally slips into bed with me, but we’re both so fried, we putter on electronic devices instead of talking.

11:30 I shut off my Kindle, as Allan Bloom is no longer making sense.

The Work Smart Academic Planner Review

One of the most common reactions I get to homeschooling is that of parents saying that their child won’t work for them. Usually, those kids aren’t doing great in school either, and it all may be an executive skills deficit.

The Work-Smart Academic Planner is the gold standard of teaching the skills that students (grades 6-12) need to master, and it’s their planner for an entire school year. I’m going to use it alongside my eighth-grader as a sort of ongoing study skills seminar.

Parents/ Teachers can access their user guide to determine how they can present the material to the student. After reading through the planner and teacher materials, it looks easy to implement.

Section 1 includes an Executive Skills questionnaire/checklist/ tip sheets that are useful for both teacher and student. I’m going to copy the questionnaire and answer it for myself, and then we can both look through the strategies and keep each other on task. This section is going to take a while to dig into as it includes these common problems and then the approach you’ll need to draw from to improve:

  • Response Inhibition
  • Working Memory
  • Emotional Control
  • Task Initiation
  • Sustained Attention
  • Planning
  • Flexibility
  • Organization

Section 2 is Goal Setting. Again- great checklists and lots of suggestions that aren’t the same ideas you may have encountered in the past. See also the authors’ Coaching Students with Executive Skills Deficits, which provides additional resources and guidance for professionals working with this population, plus the authoritative Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, Second Edition. Also from Dawson and Guare: Smart but Scattered parenting guides and a self-help guide for adults.

Section 3 is possibly my favorite. Strategies For Success includes:

  • Studying for Tests
  • Five Paragraph Essay Template
  • Long Term Project planning Form (!)
  • Reading Comprehension Strategies
  • How to write a Summary
  • Managing Distractions
  • and more

That’s all before you get to the actual planner that they can use daily for the entire school year. It’s a slim book despite all that it contains. There are Daily/Weekly and Monthly Planner pages that all include the same terminology that you are familiar with after you’ve completed the first half of the book.

I’ll check back in and let you all know how it went for us in a few weeks. I decided to push the review out now before we get too far into the school year. Trust me, I’ve paid for an ADHD counselor, and this $15 may be the best money you spend this school year.

Read More Buy Less

This the season for Home School Planning. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned in the last 18 years at this gig. Homeschool success is in no way influenced by how much money you spend on it. You don’t need a Pinterest like school room or even new materials.

Go Ahead and Procrastinate

Probably not what you expect to hear. Here are some things you can do instead of shopping:

  • Wait until you’ve finished everything on hand. Kids change and improve so much over short amounts of time that waiting until you’ve finished is best.
  • Use the downtime to reflect and analyze what truly did and didn’t work this year.
  • Read and learn to be a better teacher. Invest in yourself.

While I don’t condone actually buying curriculum years ahead, I do think you should have an idea where you want to end up with your children’s education. You can even write out different scenarios. Then when you go to order for the next year, you aren’t just buying whatever has a flurry of activity around it.

As far as any long term plans? Think of them as just rough drafts. So, what can you do after you’ve got a couple drafts and the materials you’ll use right away?

Prepare to Teach

  • If you aren’t schooling all Summer, get next years books out and start watching videos on the concepts that will come up this year. This is especially helpful in Math and there are tons of free videos out there. Khan Academy is my favorite. I buy a lot of materials from Memoria Press and they also sell video lessons for much of their curriculum. I’ve already starting streaming those now.
Remind yourself that you are awesome.
  • Choose a Homeschooling Planner- start figuring out a schedule for your school days. You can buy a planner or just use a spiral notebook.

Right now I use a homeschool planner even though I also purchased lesson plans. Instructor’s Guides are awesome and save time and energy, but they are not all you need.

Why do I buy plans? Because there is no need to reinvent the wheel. However, your wheel may look different than mine. Ready-made plans still need to be customized for your situation. Transferring the plans into your planner allows you to work at whatever pace works best for each child. Why not just check off what you’ve done on the plans you purchased? You can. But I don’t. I like to incorporate review, memory work, and sometimes I can see that the next thing on the pre-printed plans just isn’t needed for that particular kid. By writing out each day myself, I can take just what I need from them.

Like I said above you don’t need an expensive planner, I’ve had great success with a plain old spiral notebook. Every night I’d write down the next things and then the kids would have a list when they woke up in the morning and know exactly what to do.

My final homeschooling tip today is simply to be prepared. You and your kids need to know what is expected of each person in the family to ensure that homeschooling gets done, everyone eats, and is reasonably clean. It may sound simple, but it takes dedication to see it through.

BORROWING VS. BUYING BOOKS

It’s a chicken and the egg scenario at best. There isn’t one right answer. I find that it depends on the type of book. I buy textbooks because I have a slew of kids and odds are someone else will use it. If not, I can re-sell it and recoup the money quickly. I buy books that we love even if I was gifted an ARC. It’s my way of giving back.

I don’t buy books we “like” as in, “That was good, or okay” Those books can sit at the library and wait for us. I don’t buy new release big name books anymore either. I’ll be able to pick up the latest Patterson or Grisham at the library sale in hardcover next Summer for a quarter. I can wait- it’s probably going to be a movie anyway- right?

BUYING PRO:

You own it. It’s always there. Finding it on your shelves may not be easy- but it is there somewhere.

Immediate Gratification is no small thing when it comes to new books. You can be reading that new release book the day of publication, especially if you’ve been waiting for a sequel.

The Re-Read. Each Autumn I re-read all or part of the Harry Potter books. It’s a tradition.

Sometimes buying is the best financial choice. Have you ever checked the same book out of the library two thousand, million, times and then either spilled on it or lost it? I have, and then I ended up buying it anyway. If you or your kids love a book- buy it. Library fees add up, and Library versions are more expensive than regular hardcovers.

Write a dedication or memory in front of books that you love. I found some books that my great grandmother wrote in and they are the only things I have from her. Do that for your kids and grandkids.

Buy classics and favorites in hardcover. If you have multiple kids who love that book, you may want to consider multiple copies so that they each have one as adults.

BORROWING PRO:

Library Trips. A weekly trip to the library is a fun and useful tradition to start with your kids. I use this list from Susan Wise Bauer and have each kid pick up a book in each category:

History, Science, Fiction, Poetry, Art, Craft, Biography.

Deadlines. Yes, books can get renewed. But, there is something to be said for a period. I know if its a library book I have to read it while I have it rather than letting it sit on my TBR shelf for months.

No Buyer’s Remorse. You can ditch that book at 3% and not look back. Yes, you can borrow E-books from most libraries which make it even easier to decide that you aren’t finishing it. Just hit delete and move on.

You won’t break the bank. Even if I were Bill Gates, I wouldn’t be able to buy every book that interested me. Unless I had that library from Beauty and the Beast- Hmmm.

Librarians are awesome. I was even more convinced of this after attending ALA. Librarians know books, they know old books and new books and can lead to books that you’d never find on your own.

Not sure if you’ll like that book? Borrow it and find out. Thinking about buying a boxed set as a holiday gift? Borrow the first book and see if your kids love it.

Our 8th Grade Plan

I’m about to teach Eighth Grade for the 5th time! This time around I’m using old favorites and brand new resources.

Textbooks:

  • Saxon Math 87
  • Grammar for the Well Trained Mind Red Set (year 2)
  • Writing With Skill Level 1
  • Wordly Wise 3000 Book 8
  • Spelling You See Level F
  • Memoria Press Geography 1 (The Middle East, Africa, Europe)
  • Memoria Press Geography 2 (Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Oceania, & the Americas)
  • Story of the World 1,2,3,4
  • Sonlight Instructors Guides G and H
  • Memoria Press Introduction to Classical Studies (Bible, Greek Myths, Famous Men of Rome)
  • Getting Started With Spanish

Literature List:

  • The Bronze Bow
  • Adam of the Road
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Poetry & Short Stories- American Literature

Science List:

  • MEL Chemistry Kits (affiliate link, if you use it we both save $)
  • Science Conservation, Robotics & Technology 

Extra Stuff:

  • Timeline (homemade with figures from Sonlight Core G and H)
  • World History 1 Lap Book ( Sonlight Core G)
  • Read Alouds from Sonlight Level G and H

You can see just about everything on one page: here. You’ll support this blog with a few cents that I’ll earn on commission from Amazon.

One thing that I am doing this year is a completely planned 14 week Summer School. We start on Monday and we’ll be finishing up Saxon 76, and our Science program. We’ll also be studying the States and Capitals, The Hobbit, Grammar, and I picked up the program Myself and Others from Memoria Press in order to study a bit of Manners, Safety, and Nutrition.

I’ll update a bit on Instagram using the Story function if you’d like to follow along.

Memoria Press Nature Study: A Review



C. S. Lewis once said that second things suffer when put first. This is exactly what I saw in my chemistry classroom, where much of the time, rather than teaching chemistry, I had to teach the math they should have known but didn’t because they had spent too much time being taught science in elementary school and too little time being taught math.
If they had learned math, they could have done chemistry, but because they were required to do science and math, they didn’t know their math, and therefore couldn’t do chemistry.


Cheryl Lowe, Memoria Press

Why make time for nature study?

  1.  This may be the only time in their education where you have the luxury of time to spend memorizing the specific details,  knowledge which isn’t as as common place as it once was.
  2. These science materials are meant to be covered in approximately one hour each week.

You can certainly schedule more time in and complete multiple books in a year if you’ve got a kid that is a whiz at memorization. 

The best part of this schedule is that if you feel strongly about a more rigorous science curriculum you’ve got time for that as well. Spending a couple hours a week studying nature is win/win. 

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
Richard Louv  author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle

To be clear, Memoria Press takes either a creation or neutral approach to science depending on the materials. If you are a secular family there are some things you’ll need to leave out, edit on the fly, or prepare to discuss with your kids.

In K-2nd science/nature study is included in  the enrichment guide for that grade. Memoria Press also sells Supplemental Science Sets that in my opinion, are excellent and unique in the classical curriculum market Hint: you can/should buy the books used (or hit the library) and save a lot of money.

Third grade-Seventh grade studies rely heavily on nature studies and those programs (along with Literature) are where MP shines. If you follow the Charlotte Mason method this is the kind of study you may aspire to put together on your own using something like Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. You could spend hours researching and writing lesson plans or you can choose a subject, buy the set and dive in. For another $2 you can even purchase lesson plans to break down the work day by day.

You can use the books in any order, but I’d say that Mammals is the easiest and Trees is the hardest if you are choosing where to begin. MP lists a grade range and so they are perfect to use in a group or to combine your kids that are within a couple grade levels of each other. If you do combine you’ll want to require all the work from any child that matches the grade level requirements and less for younger/more for older.

In years 6-8 traditional science is added with the Tiner books, which are not secular at all. They are a good introduction to textbook science with a narrative to read and a guide filled with questions that contain more than just simple What did you just read comprehension questions. It’s not busywork and it won’t take hours to complete. The downside for us would be the biblical slant. Not everything printed in a book or newspaper is necessarily scientifically accurate, so for us the Tiner books are also a lesson in critical thinking when we’ve used them.

We finished up the books with the Tree Study last Fall and I’m wishing we had one more year of books to use before high school. We may go through and do a review of all the books since I own the flashcards and materials already.

Science and the Secular Homeschooler


Biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose.

Richard Dawkins

As a secular homeschooler, this is one area that you have to be cautiously pessimistic and do your due diligence. 

When my kids were little one of them wanted to study dinosaurs. I thought, “Sure. It’s first grade, that’s science.”

Nope. Every program out there was written from a creationist stand point. I could have put something together myself, but I had four kids to homeschool that year. There was no time for that. We ended up just reading a lot of books from the library and called it good.

There is probably a whole other post in the reasons that science is so complicated in the homeschool world. 

When kids are older it is even more important to stay diligent. High school students need real science. For one thing some colleges require you to prove that you’ve completed a laboratory science program in high school. 

Even if they don’t ask you for proof your student will need to be familiar with all kinds of scientific methods whether they enter the trades or attend a University.

There are three kinds of science programs marketed to homeschoolers:

  • Mainstream Science: Includes information about how current science views evolution, the age of the Earth, and the age of the universe, including the Big Bang.
  • Creationist: Evolution didn’t happen. All things created by God.

  • Faith Neutral: They omit key information about the age of the Earth (and universe) and evolution.

Keep in mind what you choose may have long lasting affects. Kids may not know what they want to study after they finish homeschooling and if you haven’t exposed them to enough science or math (for that matter) you’ll handicap their future before they make any decisions on their own.

Using the classical method each stage of science requires a different focus. Susan Wise Bauer breaks it down for you here. And if you are already home educating or soon will be her book can be your bible/roadmap from preschool to high school graduation. The best endorsement I can give is that I’ve purchased all four editions over the last 17 ish? years.

We’re planning on creating a curriculum recommendation list soon. We’ll list purely secular programs and those that we’ve tweaked and used ourselves. 

Put a Ring On It

“I wish I could go in there like Moses and part the waters, and carry everyone to freedom on my ark.” said my friend Nadine.

I laughed and laughed at that. We were chatting about homeschoolers who won’t consider any curriculum that espouses or includes mention of any faith. That is a totally legitimate viewpoint and if it is your line in the sand, have at it. Go you!

Not all secular homeschoolers feel this way. People like to label themselves (despite not wanting to be put in a box, we often put ourselves in one) But why are we afraid to use curriculum as a tool, rather than an identity?

On one hand, it is convenient to slap a label on our “brand” of home education. If you meet at a park day and you introduce yourself as a Lit Based homeschooling family, your new friend won’t expect you to be as happy as she is over her new workbook program. And you know she’ll cringe at the sight of your box day. But aren’t we all lucky to have these choices? That’s part of the reason that most of us educate our kids at home, so that we have these choices in their education.

I’d go out on a limb and say that you might identify with whatever the curriculum company that you bought from tells you that they are. It’s quite a good sales technique and make no mistake, you are purchasing a product.

What they don’t mention is that their plans and books are just that. You can take them apart and use them any way you want to. Ever heard the phrase Every Tool’s a Hammer? I hadn’t until I read Adam Savage’s new book and it got me thinking about how curriculum is a tool, not a methodology.

Adam says things like, “don’t wait until everything is perfect to begin a project, and if you don’t have the exact right tool for a task, just use whatever’s handy.”

His book is about creating a culture of people who know and want to make things- “makers” It’s the same culture we’re in as homeschooling parents. His advice holds true for us all well.

I’d like to ask you to take some time to plan out where you’d like your kids’ education to end up. Do some reading about educational methods and take a good hard look at the kids you have, before you spend money on the latest box of homeschooling goodness. Don’t worry about the religious beliefs of whomever wrote it or is selling it.

We’re planning more posts about curriculum we like, why we like it, how it works, and why we can ignore any faith based elements that may be included in it. We hope you’ll stick around and see what Good Enough Homeschooling looks like for us.