On Homeschooling : Curriculum, Routine, and Heartbeat


As we're finishing up second grade, and in conjunction with a bit of a Q & A that I've been doing on my instagram I thought it would useful to jot down what direction we went for the past two years (1st and 2nd grades) and what we'll be doing in this next year. Several of those around us have asked about what curriculum we use. Like many other home school parents-we, after a year of boxed curriculum-found the joy of pursuing different publishers for different things. The question of 'what curriculum' we use has become complicated, especially as I've grown to understand more about what 'curriculum' really means,  but I thought it might be useful to show a few of the resources we have discovered to form our general home school environment.

For first grade we used Master Books for Math and Language arts. The "Living Education" series are Charlotte mason based books, and we enjoyed the math book quite a bit. The story-based learning model (two twins on a farm explore math with grandma and grandpa) coupled with the affordability and open-and-go approach was exactly what we needed while we had a young baby. I wanted to make sure we were focusing on some fundamentals (skip counting, addition/subtractions/, shapes, patterns, time telling for starters...) and this fit the bill.

As I saw my daughters affinities for math grow (in Kindergarten we had done a more 'pure-math' approach with singapore and she really loved it) and due to her dad being a math major himself, we returned to the desire to pursue a more 'pure math' approach. This led us to Math-U-See. Math-U-See is what we chose to pursue for 2nd grade and beyond. We seriously contemplated it for 1st, but because of the way it focuses very deeply on a smaller set of math concepts (Takes a Mastery approach) per year, I was anxious to commit to it if we later found that we would pursue traditional schooling options and Eowyn would lack breadth of understanding. While it's a much less affordable option, it goes into higher levels of math which is exciting to consider as we continue into those more tricky concepts to master (All the way up through Calculus.)

Ben had been eyeing this up a few years ago. Now a year in and having  used their primer for Eli, I wish we would have pulled the trigger for Eowyn years ago. The manipulatives and the DVD's make it a fun different approach and my kids all cheer when they get to watch a new lesson. It just makes a ton of sense for our family.

Also since we live in NH and have a portfolio requirement, the nature of the tests that are provided at the end of the week allow us to have something substantive to put into the portfolio. It allows me to assess progress and mastery of concepts additionally.  All in all, we love the whole design of this program and plan to use it for the foreseeable future.

Language Arts:
For language arts back in first grade we used Master Books for their Language Lessons for a Living Education and struggled through it.  L.A is such a passionate subject for me, and to see my girl actively avoid that part of her schooling made me quickly begin looking elsewhere. At the start of first grade we finished 100 Easy Lessons (Ben taught her the lessons, and it was such a sweet way to learn to read.) and we've continued from that into readers her level. After a good deal of searching, we've landing in the Brave Writer camp for L.A and plan to continue in that program for the foreseeable future. We're well into the Quiver of Arrows program now and its sister writing program, Jot-It-Down and really love the scope and sequence of their lesson planning, the emphasis and manner the program teaches forming a writing voice, and the way it uses such fantastic literature to pursue those concepts. 

However, I have found that it is a 'trust the process' approach and for many this wouldn't be a good fit. I know several who have felt the need to add spelling programs and other programs to it. We haven't felt such a need.

With the copy-work, Eowyn has memorized some favorite quotes from the books and enjoys it immensely. Seeing her eyes light up when we read the section of copy-work she's been working on is something I cherish. Also hearing her try to say onomatopoeia is one of my highlights from this past year!

Eowyn is currently reading through the Zoey and Sassafrass books. She would highly recommend them.

Social Studies/History:

We thoroughly enjoyed our last unit with Beautiful Feet Books and plan to stay with them throughout the upcoming years for our social studies/history component. In 1st grade we did Around the World with Picture Books part 1 and it was the first subject that I was really able to see both kids get into together. So, with that in mind, we pursued it for  2nd grade. In 2nd  we focused on the elementary character studies and recently have begun Around the World part II.  I have loved the set up and way they teach about different cultures  through the 'living books' this unit provided. The teachers manual is wonderfully organized and open ended, the kids regularly enjoyed exploring other cultures and it was such a brilliant way for Eli and now Rowan to be included. In addition, these books are such timeless pieces that we keep going back to now a year later. I have yet to think 'this wasn't worth buying' when it comes to these books.

Side note: One benefit of Beautiful Feet Books is they offer just the teaching manual. I know several homeschool parents who have awesome community libraries, saving them tons of money. We started with BFB not having access to a very good library, and as we've gone, I'm finding that we're quite pleased to be building our home library (especially since we move often,) but am grateful that we can make use of our public library going forward.


Science is probably the most eccentric of our studies. This is heavily child lead learning. Eli is very experimental/baking driven, and Eowyn is very animal fact/story driven so we've used that to pursue different fun concepts as their interest leads. Seeing as every other subject is quite structured, it's been fun to see how our kids get to explore and deep dive or just snack on concepts. Also, I love that in science, they feel a good deal of control over their learning.

For science resources we rely heavily on our library, and we rotate different books on anatomy, geology, biology, chemistry and just observational science. We are also part of the Wild Explorers club (think  scouts for homeschool kids) and they are working towards badges. This has propelled a lot more motivated learning outside and has been super fun to be able to do with both kids . I plan to have Rowan join as well once he's older.

Morning Basket:

As a form of preschool for Eli (and Pre-K for Row) we do morning basket and include all three of the kids. This is when I throw a wide net and try to dabble in the topics I've been eager to expose them to, but don't necessarily want to spend dedicated daily time. We rotate through topics like art, science, history, bible studies etc. during this time.

We typically start with a song of sorts (we have a bunch of silly ones.) We ask everyone how they're doing and we work on our skip counting. Rowan is learning how to count to ten (we basically just try to find ways to include him, but I don't try to make him do anything.) We read a poem a day and look at a  days of the week/month/time/weather/season/clock calendar we bought in Finland. Each kid takes a turn and I've been surprised at how they're slowly piecing together these bits as times go on.

We then read on a rotation. Sometimes a bible story, sometimes a library read, sometimes art with a craft to go with  etc. The day typically depends on how much we deep dive and I also try to find freedom with this.


When a new mom comes to me with questions about homeschooling (I'm so impressed with so many of these moms with babies, wasn't even thinking about schooling at that point! ) I often just encourage them with all I have in me to start read-a-louds. Exposing our kids to story, different characters, emotions, relational dynamics, adventure....what other tool does a home school parent have to equip their kids to face the world?

Some of our  Read-A-Loud book resources (and just resources in general) can be found here.

 We've looked at the way color weaves through Sarah Plain and Tall. We've seen the magic of a spider building a beautiful worded web, we've flown on dragons wings and listened to sweet songs in prairies. We thoroughly enjoyed the My Fathers Dragon series last year, Gooseberry Park, the Secret Garden, The one and Only Ivan, Hobbit, Little House on the Prairie, Sarah Plain and Tall,  E.B. Whites books and more. I tend to leave the more intricate books for bedtime (the Hobbit, Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia etc.) because they're books I plan to return to and I want to introduce them to that rich language without expectation for them to do any true narration just yet. Ben has thus far read the nighttime read-a-louds (which I love!) Also the idea of such rich language in their dads deep voice filling their brains before bed makes me happy. They often remember much more than we'd expect.

Our Routine:
We school year round, which allows us a bit more freedom to just keep the ball rolling. We have formed into a habit of six weeks on/ one week off style that seems to suit us well. This obviously is flexible with life. Here in NH there isn't a set amount of days you have to school (in AL we had to take attendance for 180 days.) The state standards do require a portfolio and state testing/performance reviews.


On normal school days we start the days with breakfast and a show (we deem anything non educational 'twaddle' and ask them to watch something 'not twaddle.' So there's a lot of Wild Kratts, Story bots, magic school bus etc.) I spend a few moments prepping/ bible reading/ drinking chai during that time.

We go outside typically around 9-10ish and come in around 10:30 for snack time/morning basket. We aim to do this 3X a week.

On those other two days one of them is "Lady of the House Day" where we focus on life skills (and mom gets them some socks for the week! I'm the lady of the house. ) This means helping with gardening/laundry/baking etc. I used to be tentative about this freedom, until I realized that learning how to live well is a major component of being a healthy adult.

In the afternoon 4X a week we do our math/reading/language arts programs. We typically bring our poetry book in or a few others we want to read.

Eowyn has piano lessons once a week and we get together with our nature group/friends/women club once a week. We work to be out and about with our people 2X a week.

We spend on average about 3-4 hours maximum on school daily. Some days it looks more like 2 hours. I once was quite vexed about this and I'm thankful I've since gotten to rub shoulders with several families (many of whom have high school graduates now and into post-secondary) that have reassured me of the appropriateness given the age of our kids and the lack of school management that we have to do (Shout out to any teachers in the public school setting, the amount of directing and coordinating 15-30 kids is incredible. You're such a gift to your communities.)

Because of the time requirements this means we have a lot of time for play. A lot of time for Lego, fort building and bug catching.

With the end of the year testing, (We use the CAT) it's allowed us to gauge any major blind spots. Fortunately as of last year's testing she was on target in all categories and above grade level in the ones we suspected. If Eowyn was significantly behind? That would clue me in to work we need to do-but honestly, I wasn't surprised by the results as I'm getting to see first hand where her affinities lie and where we get to put extra focus.

And to end this post on a hopeful note here are a few of Ben and my favorite things that have come from Homeschooling:

1. (Ben) Seeing their creativity! Creating comic books and lego creations! It's been fun to see how the time and opportunity to create lended itself to such cool expression. We found Eli building a fire pit and at a nature group they worked to build a pretty epic tree fort with other kids. It's very cool to see them explore.

2. (Ben) The friendship between all three of them. Since they spend such considerable time together, they have had to figure out how to play together. Hearing the stories they come up with and adventures they go on has been special.

3. Speaking of friendship, since our kids aren't specifically hanging out with only their peers, my kids come at relationships with others with quite a bit of curiosity. Eli would say his best friends are age 29 (an awesome guy in our small group that's super kind with him) 8 and 4. Eowyn is similar. They approach friendship with generally less reservations and for it I feel like they are exposed to such a wide network of people. Forever grateful for that. I would argue that in regards to socialization, my kids get a wider breadth and depth than many others, and I'm humbled by that reality.

4. This past week Eowyn walked up to me and asked me if we could re-read a book we read last year. She said "mom, I just miss them...!" and I almost squealed! A lover of books is born!

5. Character development has always been a major pillar for why we want to home school. While academic competency is imperative for us to feel like we've succeeded at this, raising wise adults is more important to us than just raising smart ones. We're able to see the major lapses in character because we daily are living life on life (and our own major lapses in character are exposed!) which means we get to have conversations on a regular basis about heart issues. I'm not sure I would be gifted that privilege (at least, not in this way) had we not pursued this.

6. In a world where kids are more anxious and depressed, I see it more and more as a gift to give them the gift of peace in their learning. My kids feel all sorts of feels, and as someone who dealt with academic anxiety even as early as 1st and 2nd grade, allowing my kid to come at learning for the beauty and sake of learning has been beautiful. She LOVES math and when she takes a test she laughs when she realizes she made a mistake and is about to correct it. "THEY CAN'T TRICK ME!"

7. Homeschool has gifted us with the ability to speed up or slow down so our kids can fully grasp concepts.  This was a gift I wasn't always granted. I schooled well (and gave speeches to prove it!) but I mostly just learned the art of regurgitation. Grateful we can come at it differently. I've said this a million times, after hearing a dear friend share it with me. "I'm getting to redeem my education!"

As a final note, I feel like it is incredibly important to say this to anyone reading this: These gifts I've listed above are real gifts for our family because we're called to this. We're called to this until we're not. That calling may look like three homeschool graduates in the end, but it may not. We assess every year if this is the 'best yes.' While we have mostly grow more convinced of schooling in this way with each passing year,  our life circumstances can change and thus make this no longer 'the best yes. '

Private schooling or public schooling may be the educational path we go to in the future. We may  have a list very similar to the one above that shares all the things we absolutely love about public schooling, or private or charter.

Why do I say this? Because I think to suggest homeschooling as the ONLY way would disregard how pivotal and significant other educational options are. For those of us who claim a judeo-christian worldview, it so easily is turned into an idol. "This can save my kids!" "Protect them from the world!"  But this won't. If we pursue this for fear of outside, it will always be to our dismay.

My three kids will come out of this having to lean on Jesus. I hope that they will have strong character because of the characters we introduced them to (in so many books!) to guide them. I pray that they will remember what bravery looks like, because they saw it unfold before them, and forgiveness and wisdom and resourcefullness and grit. I hope they feel competent for what they want to do, and know how to truly experience their work for the good work they do and not for fear of man.

I know they'll have things they wish I did, They will say that in areas, I failed them. I'm okay with that.

 I am a product of my education and they will be a product of theirs. I'm grateful to my education because it equipped to now homeschool my kids. Thus,  my public education did not fail me. While I hope for even more for my kids than what I had, what a gift that I was equipped with the critical thinking skills to weigh and measure what we hope for, then the research skills to find it. May they have what they need to pursue what they're called to.

I hope this proves to be a resource wherever you find yourself. If you don't homeschool, or choose not too, just know you can still have intentional conversations, lego building parties, and read-a-louds.

And I think in the end that will be what matters most.

As Always, Thanks for Reading.


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