Beginning Again | Our Resources for the New School Year

I tend to get more emails this time of year wanting to hear what resources and materials we’re using in our home. Early in this journey, I felt awkward sharing public details about our annual plans or routines. It sounds a little silly to me now, but it also reveals the level of insecurity I felt about charting an unknown course in such a public manner. If you scroll back far enough on these pages, you’ll find there’s no direct course at all, no magic trick to the best education, or must-use curriculum for every child or family. Routines and process have ebbed and flowed here with our family’s needs. As it turns out, the unknowns I felt so insecure about in the beginning have become the most important and life-giving element in this journey. What I have learned is this:

pay attention, recognize the needs in your home, and plan accordingly. Fear and doubt are prone to creep into any choice one makes, but they should never be the decision-makers. A beautiful story waits to unfold in those unknowns. 

As I mentioned here, Liam began high school this year, and aside from the emotional strangeness of entering his final years at home, I find myself stretched in a new way to meet the needs of a high school, junior high, and grammar school under one roof. It changes so quickly. They change so quickly. While I am no longer having to consider nap-times or potty training, I am now considering PSATs and college admissions and keeping transcripts right alongside reading and spelling lessons and experiential learning for my younger two.

I’m mentioning this because you’ll notice the shift here, even as I write out the resources we’re using this year. The boys are both in the Challenge program with Classical Conversations (at their request), and following a designed, socratic-style curriculum with a once/week classroom seminar. Their learning feels like an organic step from our home toward preparation for the college years, learning how to plan for deadlines, how to study or annotate a book, how to take notes in a class, how to form an argument and listen/respond to someone else’s, etc. Although the content they will be studying this year is selected ahead of time, the quality of what they learn is still largely dependent upon them, so they are slowly learning how to manage time and take responsibility for their education in a new way. Their descriptions below will feel more robust than the girls right now, simply because their curriculum is designed ahead of time, and the girls, who are still learning in a more self-directed manner appropriate to their ages are not. We will add activities or reading to their year more naturally as we go, instead of planning the entire course on the front end (which in past years has been too cumbersome for our home).

As for the way these two paths intersect in our home, I spend more time with the girls in their learning, whereas the boys are working far more independently. I am available to answer questions and help both the boys during the day, and I work with each of them on one seminar of their choice each day. All four children are still using Saxon math, and I will say, these teaching videos are life-saving for me!


Liam / Ninth Grade

Liam will began Classical Conversations Challenge 1 program this year. It’s a 30 week, one day/week program with seminar style classes, classical pedagogy, and a Christian worldview. There are six seminars covered each year in Logic, Grammar, Science, Rhetoric, Exposition/Composition, and Debate, although the specific content changes at each level. This year, the content will build around American government, economics, and literature. He will study (and memorize selection from) several American documents, the history and foundations of the US government and economy, read 20+ American novels, short stories, and essays exploring the relationship between government and freedom, which will also be the fodder for his writing of persuasive papers with the help of this writing curriculum. He will continue with Latin studies and also study drama and music theory, reading his first full-text Shakespearean play, The Taming of the Shrew, three different times over the year with his class, and separately studying the connection between math and music. For math, we’ll continue with Algebra 1 and will use these teaching videos to help him with greater understanding, self-teaching, and review. Math is still his most challenging subject, but he’s committed to learning how to do it, which I love! He will also study Physical Science, learning to study from a textbook for the first time and also how to keep a formal lab notebook and write lab reports. Although some parts of the class divert from my own style (and pace!), this will be Liam’s third year in the Challenge program, and he absolutely loves it. His academic workdays are as full as they sound, and although it’s a lot to manage, he is rising to the occasion. The structure has been so good for the both of us in different ways. Plus, at almost fourteen, I’m grateful for him to have a peer class experience without other family members. He is also playing basketball this year, which has been good for so many reasons, and will be wrapping up his summer lawn business with Burke very soon.

Burke / Seventh Grade

Burke is beginning his first year in the CC Challenge program in Challenge A, at his choice, and he is also loving it! The seminar style learning and six classical blocks are the same in his level, although the content serves more as an introduction to several skills that carry through the program. He will begin Latin studies this year and will begin learning the structure of persuasive writing and rhetorical argumentation using the Lost Tools of Writing. The content for these papers derive from the 10 novels he reads for the course, many of which are favorites he’s already read and loves (i.e. The Magician’s Nephew; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Carry on, Mr. Bowditch, The Door in the Wall; Amos Fortune, Free Man; Number the Stars, to name a few). Science will be similar to what he has been doing already at home, studying the natural world and anatomy, researching, writing a weekly paper with illustrations, and presenting to the class. He is learning how to study texts and use a highlighting system for retention and review. He is also studying cartography, one of his favorite seminars, slowly learning to trace the entire globe, labeling all of the countries, provinces, and major features by memory. Burke wasn’t interested to play a sport this year, but he is interested in music. We’re not able to do music lessons for him quite yet, but I’m wanting to help him learn the keyboard or a string instrument on his own, maybe? If anyone has thoughts, I’d appreciate to hear them.


We have so many books and curriculums accumulated over the years, so this year, instead of purchasing new ones for the girls, I decided to simply go through our bookshelves together, asking them about their own interests. It’s been a refreshing way to approach the year, and I’ve been happily surprised by some of their choices. I have restocked supplies (paper, quad notebooks for math, art supplies and materials) and will seek out small things we may need as go, but for the most part, we’re using what we have already.

Blythe / Fifth Grade

Blythe will continue with the same pattern of notebooking this year––writing and illustrating her learning for this year. We’re still building her reading list for the fall, but there will be an assortment of literature in classics, science, history for her to choose from and copy/narrate passages. I plan to adapt some lessons in descriptive or analytical writing for her from this book, and she will begin studying grammar more formally this year, too, which she is excited about, preparing her for Latin in the upcoming years. I’m using an old edition of this guide from the class I used to tutor, but if you don’t have access, I highly recommend English Lessons Through Literature, as it’s a structured and gentle introduction. Spelling instruction is a must, although I’m not positive which curriculum/method I’ll use with her yet, we have a few and I’m sampling out to find the right one. Blythe loves drawing, painting, and hand-lettering and has been begging for art lessons the last two years. I’m so happy both girls will be taking a weekly art class this year, and I also purchased two new illustration books for her (this one and this one) to practice design and pattern. She will continue with Saxon Math 7/6 and she’s interested to go through this History of Science study she and the boys and I read through and loved a couple of years ago. I’m happy to enjoy it with her and Olive this year again!

Olive / Third Grade

Olive is still a busy bee and loves working with her hands, so all of her learning takes on a natural kinesthetic vibe. She will also be notebooking a couple of times a week from readings in literature, history, and science, and I imagine doing a lot of self-initiated crafts and forts. Wink. She is still growing in her confidence as a reader, so we’re pulling abridged classics from the shelf for her to practice reading aloud or independently. We are using this book for spelling and for reading practice with me. If you’re interested in hearing more about our family’s long journey in teaching reading, you may find this webinar helpful. She finished Saxon Math 3 over the summer, but I didn’t feel confident about her speed and confidence with multiplication facts to move onto 5/4, so we borrowed this math book from a friend (which we both love), and are spending this semester reviewing concepts and strengthening her fact skills. We’ll re-evaluate in January whether to begin 5/4 or do something else. We’re not doing any formal grammar this year. She’s not interested, and I honestly don’t find it necessary right now. It’s more important to me that she’s confidently reading (and enjoying it!) and practicing skills she’s interested in right now. I think having older children has made me appreciate how simple these years can be. She’s listening and enjoying the History of Science study with Blythe, and she decided she also wants to listen to this history on Ancient History (MP3 audiobook here) and trace maps. She refers to this as “her history.”  Like Burke, she has a general interest in music, but we havne’t been able to do formal lessons yet. I’m hopeful we can work something up here at home sometime this fall, but I’m open to feedback and ideas for any of you who may have them!

GENERAL SUPPLY + RESOURCE FAVORITES

Check out both of my Homeschool Gift Guides here and here. Or follow the bunny trail of past years here, here, and here.

Other helpful resources from friends: Wild+Free bundles. Jodi Mockabee’s “Schoolhouse Curiosities” guides. At Home podcast. Jennifer Naraki’s main lessons. The Peaceful Preschool and Playful Pioneers both here. Salty Tribe homeschool videos. And Pinterest.

14 replies
  1. Janelle
    Janelle says:

    I second the ukulele idea! You can purchase a Ukulele for about $50 at a music store or Amazon, and Amazon has a course called Alfred’s Kid’s Ukulele Course 1 for only $17. My 8 year old wanted to learn an instrument as well and we were short on time in the schedule as well as funding, so we went this route and so far, so good!

    Reply
  2. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Have you looked at YouTube for any music lessons? Also, if they’re interested, you can buy pretty inexpensive but decent ukuleles on Amazon (try searching for mahalo ukulele), and our local PBS station runs lessons at odd hours for the ukulele.

    Reply
  3. Nessa
    Nessa says:

    I still can’t believe that I read your blog nearly 2 years now and that I love your homeschool posts. As a working single-women 😀 – from a country where homeschooling isn’t an option.
    I surely have my struggle with the idea of homeschooling, but I think, the biggest positive thing (what I see) is, that you are getting to know your children as best as you can. And they know you in return. I love the thoughts you have for each of your child and that you make ways to reach them in their character. Mostly I see parents who are happy to have their kids in Kindergarten or school, so that they have time for themselves and they don’t reflect what their Kids are learning in school. And in Germany there is so much shit in schools. Your blog shows me the extreme opposite and I’m so so so thankful. I wrote it before, but I feel like write it again and again to appreciate your way to share your thoughts.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Nessa, I’m so honored. Thank you. I have learned so much about my children through homeschooling. It has required me to be present, to learn them and for them to learn me in a really crucial manner, I suspect. Of course, I know many incredible parents who also send their children to school, but for us, this journey has mattered significantly. Thanks for reading and continuing to support this space. x

      Reply
  4. Alexis
    Alexis says:

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this! Regarding music, I’ve been impressed with Hoffman Academy online beginning piano lessons if you have access to a keyboard. There are free video lessons (9 units of about 20 lessons each), or if you’re able you can pay to add in some practice suggestions and printable materials. Seems like a very solid start to cover the basics at a fraction of the cost (or free!) of private lessons. I also wonder if your kids are old enough to get pretty far with YouTube tutorials if you have access to any inexpensive instruments.

    Reply
  5. andi
    andi says:

    My kids are really wanting to take piano this year too, but we can’t swing it quite yet so I am going to be using Hoffman Academy’s online lessons as a start! Their lessons look wonderful, affordable, and also include basic music theory! I have heard nothing but good things about them and we are excited to give it a go!

    Reply
  6. kimberly
    kimberly says:

    Today started the first of planning for this new learning season. Late to the party, and (mostly) ok with it. Life has been such, that this is simply me learning to relax and trust.
    I love seeing what others are doing and reviewing my own past years of teaching. Working towards a plan for September and allowing that to be enough.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      What I love and am realizing more and more––the gift is molding the journey to YOUR family’s needs and your own. Joy and curiosity and grace to you as you begin this year. x

      Reply
  7. Anna
    Anna says:

    Thanks for sharing! I have 4.5, but no high school yet!

    I wanted to share that one of my girls wanted to learn ukulele. We asked a musical young lady in our church if she wanted to help and she did! She is not a professional music teacher, but she loves music and taught herself to play several instruments. Her goal is to give my girl enough lessons to understand the ukulele, so that she can practice and play on her own!

    I had thought music lessons had to go on forever, but our awesome uke teacher is a homeschool grad. She is teaching my girl that with a strong foundation, she can keep teaching herself!

    Have a beautiful year

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Thank you so much, Anna! I’m hopeful that the right person or idea will come at just the right time. I love that you had someone to ask right near your daily life. I’ll have to keep my eyes open. And yes, these high school years have snuck up on me! Enjoy those sweet little years. x

      Reply

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