Sunday, August 9, 2015

U.S. History Plans: Part 1 (of 5)

The kids and I started into U.S. history late last spring. I am so excited, and the kids seem to enjoy it as well.

My plan is to break it into five sections, and take a little over a year to explore the United States. Previously for history, I used RC History (or Connecting with History), which has worked well for us and my teaching style. Unfortunately, RC's U.S. history plans are unfinished so I veered off on my own for this time period.

Part 1 covers early explorers (St. Brendan, Leif the Lucky, Columbus, etc.) through the first colonies of the Spanish, French, and eventually English (ending with the Mayflower and William Penn). You can download my plan overview here, and below you will find the core materials listed (supplemental materials are listed in the plans). For this first part, my plans are a tad lighter than normal as we were nearing summer and our workload was lessening.
My plans are quite loose. I read from the textbook first, usually over lunch. Once the textbook is done, I start on any read alouds or extra reading. Then, on the road or for a quiet time, the kids listen to audio stories. I put on videos a day or two following the reading of the same material. Copywork and timeline work is done in spurts. It takes a month to cover about two chapters, though a fun topic can easily go longer. At the end of each, I try to have some fun hands-on projects.

I think the favorite moments of this time period were drawing boats and playing this online interactive Jamestown Colony game.

John Cabot's boat by Mr. D

The Mayflower by Mr. A

As we go along with history, we are doing a state study together using Our United States of America: Catholic Social Studies. We read about each state, are memorizing capitals and such. Each kid has a Dover United States coloring book, and Mr. A fills in a student workbook to go along with the social studies book above while Mr. D fills out a puzzle/activity book we picked up somewhere along the way. At the end of our states study, we will study our own state in-depth, and perhaps may have a 50 States party.

I just love history! How about you?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015-16 Homeschool Plans

We are four weeks into our new school year. Naturally, summer is heating up, so we are torn between play and work. However, I know how much we like to play hooky in the fall, and with a family vacation planned, we need to crack the books now. Besides, it gives the kids incentives to work hard so we can still go swimming at the end of the school day.

So far, the year is going well. Everyone is pretty much picking up where they left off at the beginning of June, with a few new items on the agenda, and a change in science.

What's the basic plan?

(You can see how I organize school plans here.)

Mr. A (10 years old, 4/5)


  • Faith and Life 5 (book + activity book). I debated doing this online, but was unsure. Anyone have a review to share?
  • My Path to Heaven - one topic a month.
  • Prayer memorization and liturgical activities.
  • CCD through our church. I will teach his grade this year, which covers prayer, the Mass, and the seven sacraments.
  • Service Project - still undecided. Ideas?
Math has long been a dreaded subject for me with Mr. A, but I am happy to say that it seems to have finally clicked with him. He is more confident and enjoys math this year. He does not particularly like the supplements, but he needs practice with word problems and filling in the gaps.


Mr. A reads all the time. This year, I wanted to focus on reading aloud. He hates it, but it is an important skill, and it helps me see if he is pronouncing words correctly. He also reads independent books for fun as well as assigned books, and works on comprehension with Reading 5 for Young Catholics (this looks like an interesting story!).

Language Arts
Mr. D (8 years old, 3rd)


  • Faith and Life 3 (book + activity book).
  • Prayer memorization and liturgical activities.
  • CCD through our church.
Language Arts
Miss L (6 years old, K/1)

  • Faith and Life 1 (book + activity book).
  • Prayer memorization and liturgical activities.
  • CCD through our church.
Math: Horizons 1

Language Arts
Miss Z (3 years old, dying to do school)

For Miss Z, I roughly block two weeks to work on a letter of the alphabet. I put together loose plans and ideas (Pinterest!!!) that I think she will like. She wants to learn how to say and write each letter, and is exhausting me in her pursuit. She would have been so much fun to do "school" with when I had more time and energy! 

(What do you do to keep energetic, eager learners busy?)

I have some basic tools I am working with:
If that feels like a lot for a three year old, I would completely agree with you. Except, with Miss Z, even all that is never enough. None of my other kids were like her at this age. They were very content to simply play and explore.

...................Ok, now for the fun stuff!

I think history and science keep me going through rough patches with the basics. Both subjects have been engaging thus far this year.


I debated long and hard on what to do this year. Mr. A really wanted to do Chemistry (using Apologia). I ordered the book in early spring to start planning out science (because it takes me forever and I wanted a summer break). The book itself is gorgeous, but I was completely overwhelmed. I knew the reading would go over most heads, and I am not great at chemistry and had no confidence in breaking it down for them. Plus, the book is chock-full of experiments. Since one experiment can send me into a panic at times, I knew this wouldn't work.

So what to do?

Knowing our history plans were extensive this year, I wanted a low-key yet fun science. Eventually I came to Real Science 4 Kids. I had seen it ages ago, but as we were happy with Apologia, I found no reason to switch. However, I am glad we did!

We have so far done three lessons and experiments, and everyone (even Miss Z) likes it. The chemistry topics are broken down very simply, but that makes the content so much clearer and understandable. There is one experiment per lesson, with the kids observing and recording in their lab workbooks. The kids are definitely excited for lab day.

Our basic week is three days of science:
  1. Read the lesson.
  2. Recap the lesson and make notes in our science notebook. (This is not required by Real Science 4 Kids; only by me).
  3. Do the experiment.
There are ten lessons for Chemistry. From there, I plan on doing the Physics unit, and finishing the year with Biology. Note: I did opt to have them all use the same book (grades K-4). I will do the same for Physics, but I am not sure on Biology and will reassess once we are to that point.


I love, love, love history, but I especially love this year as we are finally studying U.S. history! From the early explorers to modern times, we are on an exciting path. 

Up to this point, we have used RC History, which has worked really well for us. Unfortunately, their American unit (year four) is incomplete - from Columbus to the end of the American Revolution is complete, with the early nation through the Civil War due out the end of August (so rumored), and then the final bit still undone (pioneers, immigration, Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression and World Wars).

Our spine this year is From Sea to Shining Sea, and then we add in living books (both read alouds and independent reading), as well as notebook work, copywork, and hands-on projects.

Alongside history, we are doing a U.S. state study using Our United States of America from CHC and Dover United States coloring book. The goal is to finish the states by the end of our third quarter so we can spend the last quarter studying our state in more detail.

Finally, the kids do individual map work: Miss L uses Down to Earth Geography and the boys use Map Skills at level.



This is one long post, but it sure is nice having a record of our homsechool. Who has exciting homeschool plans this year?