Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Window into Our Schoolroom

Well, the school year is beginning to take shape in my mind's eye. We have signed up for most of the activities we will be starting in the fall and I have an outline of goals for each child and the resources I plan to use to achieve those goals. Many veteran homeschoolers will have heard of these, but I thought I would share some of our favorite books and resources as well as some that we are looking forward to using for the first time this year. This is not a complete list, but a sampling of our home education...

Language Arts:

English From the Roots Up is a wonderful resource for building vocabulary and sharpening reading skills by teaching the meanings of Latin and Greek roots found in language. My husband will be working through the first volume of this program with the boys this year.

Wordly Wise is a terrific resource for building vocabulary as well.

We will be using Simply Grammar for the first time this year, too. I'm looking forward to that.

For the younger ones, we like the Abeka phonics program. It is brightly colored and not overly complicated and seems to work. We also use Montessori sandpaper letters and tracing insets. These just seem to give my little kinesthetic learners the boost they need.

For read alouds, my husband is always reading something to the boys, usually Tolkein's Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis' Narnia series and I am always reading them something else. I have a long list of read alouds that I keep handy for myself at Amazon. I love Amazon lists! Now that Simeon reads chapter books by himself, I keep a list there for him as well.

N.B: The best search engine on the web for used books is This search engine will give you information about the book you are looking for (including the list price) and then link to every place the web that offers this book for sale in order from least to most expensive--including shipping! You can't ask for more than that.

Writing and Spelling:

The motivational techniques in Spelling Workout really work on my kids. We're happy with this program.

We love Seton Handwriting. The religious artwork is just lovely and the copywork is spiritual as well. I've always thought of handwriting as a meditative activity. Play a little chant in the background and you have a complete monastic atmosphere for your manuscription work.

N.B: You must take traditionally bound handwriting books to an office store, cut off the restrictive binding and make them spiral bound so that they lay flat on the table. We did this with great success for our left handers last year and Cheryl posted about the benefits of doing this recently.


We will be trying Math U See out for the first time this year and are very excited about it. Thanks, Lissa and Alicia for encouraging me in this decision. I have a feeling I won't regret it.

Here's another kinesthetic math resource we'll be using for the first time this year, Family Math.

Science Resources:

We love, love, so very much love the DK Eye Wonder science series. These books have just the right amount of information on every page. They are perfect for teaching science essentials without overwhelming the student, and the pictures are just captivating. Love, love these books! I think we have them all.

This is a collection of three Bereinstein Bears science books. We actually only have one of the books in this complete collection, The Berenstein Bears' Almanac, which was a favorite book of mine as a child and now it is a favorite for my children. I love that!

This is our favorite Animal Encyclopedia. We like this one too, and this one and this one also are great for coordinating Science with Geography studies, which we try to do as often as possible.

An interesting game that blends language skills with zoology is the Alpha Animals game. Thank you, Aunt Phylis for this popular pastime!That version is fairly sophisticated, though not too much for us. Here's a newer? junior? version of the same.

The Discovery Channel's Planet Earth series is a wonderful resource for exploring the world in the comfort of your own home. Fascinating stuff!

Also the Blue Planet series! David Attenborough, we love you!

N.B: Both these wonderful collections are available from netflix. Netflix, we love you!

Geography Resources:

National Geographic is hard to beat for quality geography materials. Our boys read The National Geographic Pictoral Atlas of Our Fifty States for fun. It is a fascinating book filled with vivid photographs. The Atlas for Young Explorers is also wonderful. A new addition to our library this year combines History and Geography in a unique way. The National Geographic Almanac of American History answers the question, "How was the land responsible for the way America developed?" The Barnes and Noble Children's World Atlas is pretty good, too. Lastly, this book is a real find for young explorers!

The Complete Book of Maps and Geography is terrific fun, brightly colored, and teaches a wide array of map reading and graph skills through creative methods. This is the sort of thing my kids beg me for. I have to say things like, "No, no, can't do any more geography skills today. That's enough for now. Go play."

For kinesthetic learning, we like to play geography board games and use fandexes. We love this map and this globe and can't praise this wooden puzzle highly enough--or Small World Toys, for that matter. *

*Would you believe that when we moved from Michigan to Connecticut, we lost Texas and New Mexico? I don't know how it happened. I email Small World Toys asking to purchase the two states separately because my children so love this puzzle and I wanted it complete. Well, within 24 hours of my hitting "send" UPS showed up on my doorstep with a complete new replacement puzzle. For free!


We had been reading the Susan Wise Bauer Story of the World series (and enjoying it) but I think we need a focused and formal American History unit this year. Though it is intended as a fifth grade text, we will be starting From Sea to Shining Sea this year. I've heard rave reviews of this text--one reviewer at Amazon say it is the closest thing to a living book a textbook can get. I am excited about this unique textbook and used Laura Berquist's Designing your own Classical Curriculum book list as well as some books from the 4Reallearning Booklist and other sources to compile relevant literature and biographies for Simeon to read alongside this History text.

We will continue with The Story of the World series, but on audio (a total of 30 plus CDs) and the boys can listen to it during quiet times of the day. They will listen to it, too. This is "homeschool candy" for them. I see Jim Weiss' name on these. Is this the Jim Weiss we know and love? Is he reading these or did he co-author parts of these books? I do hope he is the voice reading these. What a perfect combo that would be--like coffee and chocolate!


We will continue with the art projects we do at home and add to our resources as the year goes around. We may, or may not sign up for formal art classes this year. We'll have to see what our schedule allows.


Alex will be making his first communion this year so we will be using the St Joseph's First Communion Catechism. Simeon will continue serving as an altar boy and continue using the Faith and Life Series, Jacob starts the kindergarten Catholic Picture Bible stories and all the children will be practicing prayers in Latin and living the Liturgical Year through our own art projects, cooking and baking, and through storybooks.

Practical Life:

I always loved the Montessori approach that considers practical life skills an integral part of a complete education for the child. So many kids grow up without ever learning basic life skills because nobody ever taught them. I have a goal plan for each child. Some of us will be learning to tie our shoes, others to answer the phone, and we always need to brush up on table manners. Then there's cooking skills, social skills, posture, and developing organizational habits as well as habits of personal hygiene.

N. B: I won't say who is learning what, but I just want it to be perfectly clear that I already know how to tie my own shoes.

Physical Education:

Young boys have large stores of energy. It is important to help them find healthy outlets for this energy. Regular exercise removes impediments to concentration and allows for better sleep at night which is important for learning, mood, and behavior the next day. Trust me, I know. I'm no expert... but just trust me. Since we have many boys here, homeschool, and live in a region that has winter for four or five months out of the year, we're joining a gym. The boys will also start attending a Catholic boys club this year that has sports activities.

Odds and Ends:

Some subscriptions we enjoy here are Ranger Rick and My Big Back Yard.

Magnifikid! is also a hit with us, Thanks Grandmama and Grandpapa for these neat magazines! We learn so much from them.

Highlights is pretty terrific, too, of course. I like to buy old Highlights magazines on ebay. I prefer the old ones for some reason, maybe because I remember those issues from when I was a kid?

Which Way USA is also a great geography subscription, by Highlights. If you don't think your child needs state maps for all fifty states, you can purchase many of the individual magazines and state maps on ebay as well. We've found some in local consignment stores.

Schoolhouse Rock is wonderful resource, too, for many subjects. These are a favorite here. In fact, the kids are breathing down my neck waiting for me to finish this post so they watch these on my computer.
* * *
That's all for now. I hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our home education. You might have noticed that we don't have much to say about poetry. That would be because the only poetry my children can bear is the Shel Silverstein variety. The way they see it, rhyming isn't an element of beautiful language (something they have a hard time appreciating) but rather, an element of humor (which they certainly appreciate). So it is.

I have to work with the material God gave me. So far, He's given me these good natured, energetic, curious little boys with a natural inclination toward science, history and geography.
Spelling is a drag and so is handwriting-- they'll put up with a Language Arts lesson, too, but that's about all they can take of disciplined work they don't particularly enjoy. I won't make them memorize poems on top of it.

Though they aren't poets, they still love a good story. They'll happily listen to a good book about a boy and his adventures, or a boy and his horse, or a boy and his farm, or just about a boy... or the farm. They will work hard to learn to read, not because they love language for its own sake, but because they know it holds the key to wonderful stories and to all the information in those non-fiction history and science and geography books they've been drooling over since they they were old enough to get one open on their lap.

These are the little persons and minds that God has asked me to form and for that, I thank Him. I love to watch these children learn. I can feel their excitement-- It's contagious and it makes a wonderful life for us all.


Cheryl M. said...

Just one word...."Perfect!!!" :))

Erika said...

Wow. I am tired just reading that. I hope you get more energy as your children grow.

Matilda said...

We are using Math U See for the first time too and have been using Spelling Workout for a few years now.

If your boys like Shel Silverstein poetry you might be able to slip in a little Jack Prelutsky. I can recommend It's Raining Pigs and Noodles.

Anonymous said...

We use many of the same curricula you listed. When I read you will be using Math U See for the first time, I was very excited for you and the boys. We have used it for two years now, and have immensely enjoyed it's take on mathematical concepts. It was like opening a new world of understanding for myself, too. Congrats on hammering out the plan and enjoy your educational year. Blessings!

scmom said...

Great post, Suzanne. You have been busy. We too love Alpha Animals and for US geography I recommend Great States. Games are great tools for teaching young boys (and big boys!). I love your focus on geography. I also teach much geography and think it's sad that it's such a lost subject in school (public and private).

Crafty Mom said...

Thanks for the post. I always love reading what other are using and doing. We are going to try Susan Bauer's History of the World this year for the first time, and I am very excited.

I can't possibly tell you how much we love the Eye Wonder books as well. I have been searching our local Half-Price bookstores for copies, and so far have collected 8 of the titles. They are perfect!!

I just saw the Highlights geography magazines at the same bookstore. They had about 10 different states, and I contemplated purchasing them, but didn't. I will have to take a second look next time, knowing that someone has used them and likes them.

Good luck and happy homeschooling.

Caroline said...

Thank you for such a great post! Would you mind sharing your read aloud booklist?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this awesome info! I am so very happy you shared all of this for I am just about to start my planning for next year and needed the boot to do so!
you have some great ideas that i am going to add to my plan for this year, ones I did not know about yet.

Jill said...

Wow. How wonderful for you to take this time and effort to share your homeschooling line-up. What a help this will be to many moms!

Sue said...

Suzanne, Thanks so much for posting this. I am particularly grateful for the grammar recommendations. I have not yet found a program that I like, and I will definitely check those out. I am also going to get the Story of the World CDs. We really enjoy the books too, but I would like my older children to do this independently.

Kristen Laurence said...

...and, may I say, those boys are incredibly blessed to have YOU as their mama!

Lina Martin said...

>>>f your boys like Shel Silverstein poetry you might be able to slip in a little Jack Prelutsky. I can recommend It's Raining Pigs and Noodles.>>>>

jack prelutsky is a great poet for kids, i think especially for boys, with such winning poems as

"there's a new kid on the block" about a bully who turns out to be a .... GIRL!! lol

"today is very boring"

and "homework, oh homework, i hate you, you stink"

and since you're doing us history, they might enjoy "paul revere's ride," its kinda exciting, seeing what is going to happen to him.

i'm a teacher, and would like to homeschool my kids one day, so i love info like this, your resources sound GREAT!! :)

and... i was born, weaned and raised on the berenstein bears, so to find out that they have educational books as well just makes my day! :)

Michelle Halpin said...

I think you'll be pleased with Math U See, Suzanne...we switched to MUS to remediate poor Emma, and we haven't looked back. I'll be starting Jack with it this year for first.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Very interesting...i have more girls than boys! We don't homeschool as we have very good Catholic schools..enjoyed reading your schedule..

Mia said...

Wow... sure wish I had had a chance to come to your school *grin* Sounds awesome. Those are some lucky boys. How excited you must be to watch them grow... wonder how many astronauts or future presidents you're homeschooling over there :)

ryan m. said...

I agree with Mia...

And thanks for posting this list!

J.C. said...

Thanks for sharing your plans. It's always a wonderful treat to have a peek into the homeschooling world of others...

Cheryl said...

I enjoyed looking through your schoolroom window.

Suzanne Temple said...

Thanks everyone, for your suggestions, ideas, and encouragement! Caroline, two of my lists are public, now. You just need to search Amazon wish lists using my first and last name.

Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for sharing all of your plans and insights about your boys. You have been so helpful and encouraging to me and my husband and as we begin our homeschooling adventure. THANK YOU - please keep blogging!

A daily reader.

Anonymous said...

Hi! This is great! I was wondering if you can tell me where you buy the Montessori products? My daughter would do great with this method. She just turned 5 years old and is very tactile.
Thank you.

Suzanne Temple said...

Anon, Montessori n' Such is a wonderful and affordable Montessori resource. They have a web site. It is Enjoy!

Faith said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm taking notes!! :)