Saturday, July 17, 2010

Planning and Preparation for the New Year

We've pretty much resorted to 'natural learning' these past two months as we travel from state to state making our way to our new home.  But in the meantime, I have been planning and preparing for the new school year to come. We use a smattering of curriculum resources which I distribute into workboxes and centers. While we do most workboxes, most days we don't have a set orders to what they cover, instead it's more child-led.  We meander through the day following a very loose, general routine. On any given day we cover 5 to 10 boxes and/or centers. But there are days when we spend hours on one topic or get sidetracked learning other things. 

Here are some of the things we may/hope to cover in the months to come:

READING and LITERATURE: We do lots and lots (and lots) of reading. I read in the morning to ED (and DD) when they first get up.  I try to read during breakfast and lunch.  And I also try to read aloud a bit during quiet time (not to mention books at bedtime). This year LD and I will be reading longer, more challenging novels, while I will continue to read endless picture books (especially the Caldecott Winners) to everyone.  I use various reading lists from the Austin Montessori school, Jim Trelease' s Read Aloud Handbook and from looking over the recommended books in the Sonlight program as well as reading treasures we find at the library. We also read a lot of Caldecott and Newberry Award winners which I bought off ebay.

This year, I'd like to include more biographies. I'd like to discuss with the kids some of the amazing qualities people bring to this life.  I think it's important for them to start to identify how others have lived a purposeful life, leaving the world better/richer than they found it. I'd like to explore the character qualities that we all aspire to. Now granted, my kids are young, but it's something I'd like to build upon as we continue on the journey of homeschooling and life.

This year I would like to work with LD more on oral narration after hearing selections I've read aloud or after he's read something on his own. 

LD continues to read well and he will have his own independent reading time and time with me to read .

I'll work daily with DD on her readers, as she continues to progress using Bob Books and other resources (I did a long post on this a couple months back here and here.) The girls have been really into again and we'll probably use this resource quite often this semester.

WRITING: LD in particular needs to work on these skills.  We have all kinds of resources on hand and we'll use these in varying degrees:

   *Handwriting Without Teras
   *Draw Write Now
   *Nature Journal
   *Art Work
   *Peggy Kaye's Games for Writing


We'll continue with our Right Start Math curriculum and Singapore Math workbooks. As always, we'll use lots of hands-on activities from Peggy Kaye's Games for Math and Family Math by by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, Ruth Cossey, and Marilyn Hill not to mention great ideas gleaned from the Internet. We also have quite a number of Montessori math manipulatives that we use with regularity. You can find a lot of free Montessori math downloads here.

MONTESSORI INSPIRED CURRICULUM (Science, Social Studies and Geography)

I use the Montessori 6-9 teaching albums a lot in preparing for DD and LD's science and geography lessons. Last year, for example, we did the First Great (Montessori) Lesson and our follow-up studies included readings and a journal book about the planets.  We also spent a lot of time last year studying the classification of living things.  We covered non-living and living things, vertebrates-invertebrates, the animal kingdoms as well as a long unit on biomes that fit in well with our general continent studies. While we will continue to use the materials I made last year, we're going to explore other things as well. 

**SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS: We also do a lot of science experiments that come from the 6-9 Montessori resources I have, as well as other places (books, the Internet and so forth).  I can guarantee that science experiments will still feature prominently; probably once a week.  LD begs for science experiments!

**NORTH AMERICA (geography and the natural world): My kids know very little about the North American continent, so we'll look closely at the geography and environment (local flora and fauna).  We have a country-box exchange we did with another homeschooling family that will kick-start our studies! Hooray!! I made a pin map of North America (I'll share the picture at some point, but it's still in our shipment) with various geographical features.  And no doubt we'll get to know a lot about the plants and animals in our area just exploring the woods behind our soon-to-be new house. 
   --(In particular, I've looked closely through the Plant Kingdom resources at for this coming semester/year)
   --Tree identification
   --Nature activities (Nature Detectives has some wonderful ideas)
   --Nature Journal
   --Bird Unit: I would like the kids to get to know the birds of our area since we've lived overseas all their lives.  I have a lot of activities (a list of more than 20!) for all three kids planned for a North American bird unit.

**TIMELINE UNIT STUDY: We will be using the Second Great Montessori Lesson as the springboard for a number of explorations (here and here are two resources about the Second Great Lesson). We'll explore the geologic timeline ideas developed by Maria Montessori (the long black strip, the clock of eras and a homemade timeline version of the clock of eras that I made this summer). And of course, looking closer at the geologic eras, we'll talk/learn about fossils (no surprise, eh?) and dinosaurs (which, believe it or not, we've never learned about in much depth).

We will also talk about other timelines and schedules used in our daily lives:
   *our daily schedule
   *the yearly timeline including seasons (which we never experienced in our desert environment) and major holidays
   *the kids' life timelines (which will hopefully spur me on to work on ED's baby books).  I think this will be a big hit for all the kids as even ED will be able to sort through and 'talk about' her life milestones now


From our works last year, DD and LD can identify the seven continents.   What I'd like to do in an informal way is get them interested in particular countries from these continents.  My hubby's father was a foreign diplomat and they lived in countries all over the world.  As a consequence, his family has an amazing array of small objects, masks and more representing various countries. Not only that, but my Dad and step-Mom travel extensively, as have I.  Also, I participated in a number of continent object exchanges this past year.  I'd like to make use of these materials by setting up a geography station that I'll swap out weekly with whatever I have on hand -- coins, paper money, nick-nacks, language examples, paintings, books, plus the country flag, country and continent information/activities. I have lots of country-cards that I printed out from one of the Montessori groups (can't remember which off the top of my head) with photos of some of the famous land-marks of various countries, representative dress and so forth as well. We'll also continue to use geography pin maps with country flags. Someone shared these paper dolls from around the world.  I don't think LD will be very interested, but DD and ED may be. We'll see how it goes, but my vision is for them to slowly color in a world map with countries around the world.



We have been slowly progressing through history and I haven't decided whether we'll jump back to Ancient Greece to finish a few things. LD and I were reading a series of books on The Odyssey that he LOVED, but we only finished 4 of the 6 books. At any rate, from there we'll head on to Ancient Rome this next semester/year. We use a vast array of resources for our history studies and do lots of reading and crafts (you can browse through our Ancient Greece label on the side bar for a better idea of how we cover history).


Music and art appreciation are just a part of life for us.  I play lots of music in the mornings which helps to calm the mood when one of us is grumpy.  I play lots of classical and folk music on the CD player. I have composer pictures posted either in the calendar or up on the wall which I switch out. I'd like to make a concerted effort to play more music myself now that ED is a bit more independent.  I'd like to brush up on my piano and guitar skills (don't know how much oboe playing I'll do at the moment; it's not really a solitary instrument!)

We'll continue to play lots of music related games (last year's music games and activities are here).

I'll also continue to swap out an artist each week in the calendar.  I've read lots on how kids need larger art prints to truly appreciate art works, but for now I don't have the space/time to set up yet another center (another goal for this year?). For now, I'll continue with the 7 homemade prints I put up each week in the calendar. Here's an example of what I mean.

Arts and Crafts: We do lots of crafts as you can see in the sidebar to the right.  I am inspired by these amazing sites:
Art Projects for Kids
The Crafty Crow
Deep Space Sparkle

LD will continue to learn to play the piano.  We will continue to do kindermusik type activities either in the home, with friends, or in the community. DD is anxious to learn an instrument this year.  She wants to learn piano, but I might encourage her to learn the glockenspiel first as LD did when he was 4 1/2 -5 years old.  That'll depend on her interests, though!

I have obviously focused more on LD's schedule than the girls'. In large part, we work together on things.  Even when I work with LD on his math, for example, I set up math activities for the girls as well or they play along with the math games with a bit of help from me. But life also includes lots of preschool activities too numerous to mention in this post!  The theme table worked well last year and I'll probably set up a theme table once a week for the girls.

That's about it for now.  It's nice to put all this down on "paper."  Often I plan lots of things and simply let all the ideas whirl around in my head. If you made it to the end of this post -- thanks for reading!!


  1. This is my first time visiting your blog (I came from your post on Playschool) and I really enjoyed reading your plans for the year. Sounds very enriching and exciting!

  2. Sounds like a great year! Can't wait to see how all of these ideas evolve!

    :-) Leann

  3. I love your ideas and have an award for you. Please visit this link to see it:

  4. Great plans. The more I read your blog the more I feel at home here and that the feel and flow of our homeschool is alot like have many plans and work to do but there's no real pressure to do it! I love that, it really gives the kids freedom.

    so following on from that do your kids 'have' to complete their workboxes daily? Do they have to work on the centres you create? Do you have 'school time' or does your day just flow and the kids pick and choose as they go about their day? I'm curious to hear more. :)

  5. Hi everyone,

    Thank you for all your comments. I always enjoy hearing from others! Kylie, you had great questions and I'll try to get back on to answer some of your questions soon!