This Year’s Curriculum

I know some places have already begun the 21/22 school year but here in Oregon most kids don’t typically get started until after Labor Day, so that will be my plan as well. Of course my approach to school is to never really stop. Throughout the Summer Nathan has continued to do math regularly and has also begun typing practice because he wants to learn to code as well. Nathan is a voracious reader so I don’t assign him books. He has a book journal that he writes the title of ever completed book in and his numbers are always high so I see no need to give him specific reading directions at this point. Though I am always hunting for new books for him because he goes through them so quickly. As we begin the new school year I’ll have books picked out for us to read aloud together where we’ll take turns reading, so that he continues to build his reading aloud skills. Reading aloud well is actually harding than silent reading, and something that many people never really develop. As I discovered in my first college class.

Going into this new school year I’ve switched up a few items we were using, and have decided what areas I feel we need to focus on as Nathan’s core subjects vs. what we’ll do on more of a loop “schedule” or as the fancy takes us. Because he reads so well this will not be an actual subject he has to do. We will be doing math, handwriting and typing, spelling, some language arts/writing. Nathan will be doing mostly 3rd grade level work, but he is only “suppose” to be in the second grade, so there are some thing like writing where I don’t expect him to be at a third grade level. He also likes to creative write his own stories and I don’t want to put a damper on that at this time by forcing too much writing. There will be time for that.

For math Nathan began using the first level of Beast Academy at the beginning of the summer. He is using both the online and physical versions of the curriculum. He really loves it so far. He’s very much a fan of earning stars and rewards through the gamification of things and the online version does this. It also has very good videos that explain new concepts, as well as the comic book style guide books of the beasts doing various math concepts. The approach to math in this program is a lot different than what I learned. There is a lot more logic involved and puzzle/problem solving. I can see the benefit of being able to think of numbers in this way though, so I don’t mind the times where I also have to learn what Nathan is doing in a lesson. I enjoy the opportunity to stretch and train my own brain in new ways. It’s not a good fit for every kid, but we’re liking it a lot, so it’s definitely one to look into further if you’re needing something different in the math arena.

For handwriting Nathan will continue with Handwriting Without Tears, and when he finishes this workbook we’ll probably just do copywork.

For spelling I decided to go with Sequential Spelling. I didn’t want to use a curriculum with spelling included because I am a bit opinionated when it comes to learning to spell. It’s something I actually really enjoy, but I did’t like how it’s presented in most curriculums I looked at, so I decided to separate LA from spelling, and found this curriculum that approaches spelling more purposefully in my opinion. It focuses on word families as well as words within bigger words, and the common prefixes, and suffixes added to these words. This allows the brain to actually train in spelling multiple words together rather than just trying to remember how to spell a word on its own. Lol I don’t know if that makes sense or not. It’s a bit hard to explain. If you want a separate spelling program though I would suggest looking into this one as a possible option. We haven’t actually used it yet though, so I can’t give a review, but I plan to make it fit our needs even if I end up needing to tweak it, but I don’t really foresee that needing to happen.

For Language Arts we’ll just be using a simple workbook. I’ve looked through so many and found them all to be about the same. Like I said I didn’t want one that included spelling so that ruled out quite a few. I decided to just go with an inexpensive workbook. Harcourt fit the bill, and looking through it I think it will be just fine. I also like to add fun things like Mad Libs or Apple to Apples Jr. to keep it a bit more interesting. We have the Usborne Grammar and Punctuation book and Nitty Gritty Grammar that we can use for reference when needed. I also thrifted a newer children’s dictionary, and bought a used children’s thesaurus this year to add to our bookshelves.

This year writing will be a lot more go with the flow or inspired in the moment. I did purchase our first Dart from the Brave Writer’s program that I plan to try out. It’s for the book Charolette’s Web, which is one I’ve been waiting for the right time to read with Nathan. I also hope to include a bit more poetry this year, but we’ll see if we get around to actually writing any of our own. I see it happening, but am not holding myself to it. Nathan is always full of new book ideas, (mostly Minecraft related, but to each his own) and I want to encourage this in him, so I won’t be pushing a ton of writing for now.

You might notice in the picture the notebook that I wrote “Book of Centuries” on. This is basically a book that you make entries in when you learn about something that happened at a particular time in history. These can get very detailed and impressive, but this will be our first one so we’ll just make it super simple. When we read about a historic event, a new person, a new scientific discovery et cetera we will enter it in its proper place on the time line. I think it’s a great idea for beginning to line up what happened when rather than trying to memorize specific dates. I’m actually looking forward to doing this as well. God knows I have no idea where a lot of things fall on the history timeline. You might notice the Story of the World book in the picture as well. I intend to continue using this periodically as time allows. I do enjoy it, and we’ll just make an entry in the Centuries book after reading something new.

I don’t stress about science because we’re all naturally interested in various fields of science, and we learn a lot just as topics come at us in life. Sometimes we’re a bit more purposeful, but other times science just happens. We have a ton of amazing science books in our house. ( I just purchased some new ones which I hope to get around to sharing). We also stop and google when we have a question, which will often lead us down a fascinating rabbit trail of discovery. Nathan’s grandma also sends him and Simon science subscription boxes which are a fun way to add science in. Nathan’s is MelScience Kids, and Simon gets Little Passports.

There is more we’ll be doing, but that’s the main stuff right there. We’re a homeschooling family where both mom and dad love to learn new things too, so learning is a big part of day to day life. We’ll probably do some foreign language stuff like Spanish and ASL because I’m interested in these things and I include the boys in what I do. Nathan will likely do more computer learning with daddy, and I do hope to get him in piano lessons at some point, but with the pandemic it hasn’t happened yet.

So this is what our homeschool year will look like as we start out. It’s bound to change a little. Our homeschool is very fluid. I also will not do all of these things every day. The core will normally happen every day, but some days are just hard and school needs to be on the lighter side. Some days we get an opportunity to do something fun and different, so we set school aside for the day and do that. Some days we’ll play more games or watch a documentary. Some days we may decide we need cookies, and so to the kitchen we’ll go. It’s all learning.

As Seasons Change

There is something about school supplies that excites me. I know I am not alone in this. I have to fight to keep myself from buying new crayons every year, especially since I typically have several unopened boxes from the previous year. There is just something wonderful about fresh crayons, and you never know when you may need a new box right? The few new supplies we actually needed were purchased and have been waiting in a bag these many weeks to be cracked open on the first day of school. After patiently waiting, that day is just about here.

We technically never stopped doing school work. I find it much less stressful to school to some degree all year round, and since I don’t live in a state that requires I track hours and days, I am free to do this. I believe it also helps to keep up with skills like math all the time. This way nothing is ever forgotten, and we can just always be moving forward, instead of needing to stop and relearn something. That being said, I plan to officially begin Nathan’s first year of second grade this coming week. I also plan to be more intentional about doing educational play with Simon, and we’ll call it preschool. I have been collecting new supplies, learning games and activities, and plan to make up a big shared basket of all the items to give the boys on our first day. I’ve purchased a few new books (I can never have too many) and I have scored some awesome thrifted finds in games and such that I will also be adding into the basket. I’m excited for the new year, and the basket of new (or new to us) fun things will help the boys also be excited. I’ve never done this before, but I love to put together fun baskets of things, and thought that this year I’d take the opportunity to do it.

As we approach the new school year I am ruminating on what I want and hope for it to feel and look like. Not just the goals I’d like to accomplish, but what I want the atmosphere in our home to be, and what memories I hope to make. I adore Fall and the anticipation and enjoyment of the holiday season. I want to wrap our homeschool in the wonderful coziness of it all. I’m excited for the ideas I have come up with to make memories with my boys as we all learn together.

I know this school year is going to be harder than normal for most people. Whether kids are attending in person school, online classes, or officially being homeschooled, I realize that for many this school year has added stress and worry to most lives. I know that I am fortunate homeschooling has always been my plan, so this year isn’t really different where the schooling bit is concerned. I am very thankful that in this change of season, I can be heading into it with some excited anticipation. I encourage you to find yourself a moment of quiet to think of what you would like to find in this new season for your family. As we hunker down for the colder months, how can you bring a feeling of peace and coziness into your home when the world around you is in turmoil? Yes, for many this coming season is going to be difficult, but as a parent, I hope that you can find a way to make your home a place of security and comfort for yourselves and your children. I think this year more than any other, the need to make a “hygge” environment in our homes is so important. If you’re not familiar with that term do a quick search to find out all the loveliness it entails.

To me, homeschooling is not just about getting our kids educated. It’s about having a culture in my home of learning and togetherness. The Fall and Winter seasons seem to have an innate togetherness about them because we are indoors and well, together, so I feel like they provide a great opportunity to families. We can help add to this though by being purposeful about our time together. Here are a few ideas if you need a little help to get started:

  • Pick out a new game or two to be played as a family, or pull out some games that haven’t been touched in a while.
  • Plan family movie nights, and maybe even attempt making popcorn from scratch.
  • Pick out a family read aloud.
  • Attempt learning a new indoor hobby together like a hand craft or drawing.
  • Sit down with a cookbook together and write a list of new meals to try, or new desserts to make, and attempt one a week, but do it together.
  • Make your home cozy by bringing out the warm blankets, throw up some twinkle lights, or put out some candles.
  • Buy a few new teas and have a tasting time. Or any new foods!

These are just a few of the ideas that I am planning to implement this coming season, but really the possibilities are vast. This new season will have its challenges for everyone. Life is challenging us all right now. You can go into this next season with some simple plans and dreams though. You can view these coming months as an opportunity to make good memories with your children. You will only get one chance at this year with them, and yes it has been a kinda sucky year so far for most, but you can make some good memories with your children in this next season. Those will be a lot of what they remember of this year. They’ll remember how they were helped to feel safe, and loved in their home, and the best way for kids to have this feeling is simply by spending quality time with them.

You’ve Always Been Their Teacher

The comment I probably see most often when it comes to homeschooling, (besides “socialization”) is parents feeling like they aren’t qualified to teach their kids. It seems as if some parents are worried that they themselves won’t have the skill needed to teach their children things. I think I understand where these thoughts are coming from. I mean people go to school for many years to study how to teach kids, but that isn’t the whole story. Teachers are trained in how to teach a CLASSROOM of kids. Yes, teachers have hopefully been taught the different learning styles, and given plenty of hands on experience in implementing different methods, but the reality of teaching a classroom of children is very different than teaching your own children in your home. If a teacher has learned about various learning styles, that doesn’t mean they are able to bring that experience to the classroom. Teachers are required to maintain order and teach to the learning styles that best accomplish that order. They are not free to teach to the need of every child, or give children the individual attention so many kids actually need to learn well.

Now step into the homeschool “classroom” and notice that it is not a classroom at all. There is no class. Just your own children. Parents homeschooling their children do not need the classroom training that teachers go to school for. Even parents with multiple children, in various learning levels do not need special training. All it takes is some trial and error to figure out what works best for you family, and how your kids best learn. And you don’t have to figure these things out right away either. This is your family, and you can try things out and change things up as much as you need until you find what works.

It is my strong opinion though that the biggest reason you don’t need a certification to be your child’s teacher is because the moment that child was given to you, you became their teacher. A parent is the first teacher a child will ever have, and that is the way God designed it. How many things have parents taught their children by the time they turn four!? SO many things! To walk and to talk. To use a spoon, a toilet, and a toothbrush. We teach our kids to catch a ball, to ride their bikes, or to jump rope. That is only to name a few physical skills that the average child is taught by their parents, but what about the more complicated things like social etiquette or moral virtues. Society can easily testify to how hard it is to teach morals. It seems some people never learn them, but involved and caring parents are doing their best to teach their children to be good people. And keep in mind that being good does not come natural to any of us. It is an up hill climb for every person. Granted some people are better at climbing that hill than others, but we all climb it. Good parents teach their children how to climb that hill. As parents continue to climb the hill themselves, they teach their kids what they know, and help them along their own journey. This is the essence of teaching; example and support. It is the same in all forms of teaching.

What is teaching reading or arithmetic compared to instilling virtues in our children? A walk in the park comparatively. There is no box curriculum that can really help you raise your children to be good people. Sure there are books and some “guides”, but it’s the continual lesson called “life” where a child learns all the most important things. Keep all this in mind if you are one of these parents questioning your own ability to teach your children academic subjects.

We can also be thankful that when it comes to homeschooling there are so many resources out there to help you teach your child anything. You are not on your own. You don’t have to feel like you know how to teach a child to read or the steps to carrying out a new math concept. There is help for everything. Making the decision to homeschool does not mean that you are now on your own, thrown into the homeschool pool to figure out how to swim. There are communities for support and help, and most curriculums explain how to teach a subject. Not to mention we live in a world with the internet! We didn’t have the amazing tool of the internet when I was a homeschooling kid, and I am still so thankful that I now have it as a homeschooling mom. It is an endless resource for learning just about anything!

Ultimately the most important thing that you as your child’s teacher must bring to the table is a desire within yourself to also learn. You will not know how to do everything your child will need to learn, but it isn’t hard to find out how. My children often ask me questions I don’t know the answers to, but I love when this happens because then we get to learn together. One of the best bits about homeschooling is how much I get to learn right along with my kids. I think this ‘togetherness’ in learning actually helps our children learn all the better, and instills in them the oh so important lesson that life is meant for learning; that even adults should be continuing to learn. That is my main goal in homeschooling my kids; that they will leave my home still loving to learn and always wanting to. If that happens, and I am confident it will, then I will have been a great teacher.

Why “Gradient Homeschool”

To start off this blog I want to share why I chose the name “Gradient Homeschool.” I wanted a word that expressed the ease, and the natural progression of learning. I asked a couple family members to brainstorm with me, and the word ‘gradient’ came out, as in ‘color gradient.’ Picture in your mind the gradual increase in a spectrum of color. How colors move nearly imperceptibly from one shade into another, going from light to dark. But you can’t tell where the actual change takes place. It happens over time until suddenly it’s another color, and you notice the difference. My boys have a light that has a color changing rotation. While we sit and watch it, it is changing, and we’re trying to guess what color it’s going to be next. Sometimes we get it right, but some of the time the change is so gradual that it is too hard to tell until the transformation is complete. I say complete, but it’s never fully complete. The light continues its cycle from one color into another, into another, and so it is with education. The growth of a child’s knowledge and understanding is gradual and often times, not even perceptible until one day, it suddenly is. A knew concept is finally understood. A new skill is finally acquired.

 
Children follow a gradient path as they grow. Going from one stage, smoothly into another, and then another. Sometimes it will seem to us that a child just jumps from one of these stages into the next; that they suddenly can do something, but that’s never the case. There is preparation, practice, and unnoticeable learning that takes place inside a child before they grasp some new ability. Take learning to walk for instance. A baby has so many days of practice pulling themselves up, standing holding onto something, falling down, standing solo, and falling down some more. Then finally steps happen, and some more falling, a few more steps, and suddenly they’re walkers! But that baby didn’t just go from crawling to walking. There was a learning gradient they followed. The process from crawling to walking is a bit more perceptible than some other gradients of learning, but you can see my point. Learning flows from one stage into another, and does not just take place in these stages alone. Honesty I don’t much care for using the word “stages” when it comes to learning. To me it seems too cut and dry; too boxy. Kids and education do not fit into nice and neat little boxes. Both are too complicated and complex for boxes. But a beautiful color gradient of learning; that is an educational concept I can visualize and get behind. 


The notion of how a color gradient blends the colors, also goes to support my idea of how life and learning blend together. The two go hand in hand. As a homeschooler, there is no start and stop to the educational process.. We don’t learn 8am-3pm Monday through Friday, September through June, with breaks on weekends and holidays. We learn always, and should always be ready to learn. Homeschoolers don’t juxtapose “home” and “school” because they are one and the same, just as living and learning should be. Life grows, and the truest form of growing, is learning. If you are not learning, then you are not growing, and if you aren’t growing then are you really living?


This isn’t to say that those who go to a brick and mortar school are not really living. Don’t misunderstand me. What I’m saying is that for the homeschooled child, their learning is allowed more gradiency. It flows from one thing into the next. This is why it isn’t uncommon for a homeschooled child to struggle when asked what grade level they are in. For many homeschoolers they are not in a set level, but typically somewhere in between levels in various subjects. My son would have been in kindergarten this past school year had I sent him. But when asked what grade he is in I cannot say kindergarten because he is somewhere in-between kindergarten and 2nd grade in just about every academic subject. Yet his physical skills like riding a bike or brushing his teeth are a bit lacking for what would be considered most “normal” for his age. My son’s learning is on a gradient. In some things it’s a lighter shade, in others he’s already an obviously new color. Our lives are on a beautiful color gradient. Our learned skills blend for one shade into another, and into yet another. It’s forever and it’s beautiful, and it’s woven together into all areas of our lives. This is a Gradient Homeschool; a gradient life.