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.

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.