Homeschooling Journey: Paul Bunyan, Wisconsin, Photosynthesis, and Grant Wood

Last week was a crazy week! It was our second week back and we were still working out our rhythm and routine. We also added in the subjects we didn’t do the first week back, so we had a very full second week! Music, art, phonics, reading, math, science, social studies… we did it all.

Let’s start with..music and social studies. Wyatt is absolutely loving The Waldock Way’s Traveling the States curriculum. It is by far his favorite subject that we cover. I have to admit, it is pretty neat! I loved geography and history as a kid, and even in college so it makes sense. I was even in school to become a Social Studies teacher when they got rid of that degree and I had to choose sometime else (I picked History – I should have picked Geography) Anyway, back to Wyatt and our school! I have been starting every school session with a folk song or song that pertains to our lessons and this week we listened to the Wisconsin state song as well as songs from Bunyan and Banjoes, and Voices From Across the Lakes. Wyatt loves this – and was super pumped up by the Roll Loggers, Roll song. It also tied in with our Literary Arts for the week. We have been making our way through legends and tall tales, and last week we read about the mighty Paul Bunyan, and Babe, his blue ox. I asked Wyatt who he liked better, Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan, and Wyatt is sticking by Johnny Appleseed.

Wisconsin facts we learned: toilet paper was invented there, which for some reason was hilarious to Wyatt, and that the first ice cream sundae was made there as well. Those were Wyatt’s two favorite takeaways. My favorite Wisconsin fact though is that Laura Ingalls was born there.

Science this entire year is all about plants, and we started at the beginning, with photosynthesis and how we get oxygen from trees. It’s still such a perfect design, that we need to live hand in hand with trees, as they use our carbon dioxide and we need their oxygen. We also had a very simple observation experiment to complete. We took two freshly cut leaves (I used my pothos) and put them in two jars of water. One was to be put in the sun, and the other in a closet. After an hour we needed to see the difference, were there any bubbles, etc.

Art this week was about Grant Wood, probably best known for his painting American Gothic. We read a few different books about Wood, looked at pictures of his work, and then we were supposed to make a sculpture over the weekend – but it didn’t happen. Note to self: Do not save work for the weekend, at least until the weather changes. Wyatt loved Wood’s sculpture work which were made out of just anything he found. I loved his portraits best, especially the portrait of his mother holding her snake plant, called Woman with Plants.

The sculpture is named “Lillies of the Alley”, and I found this photo online at Antiques and the Arts, photo credit to Stephen Gassman.

What We Used: (contains Amazon Affiliate links)

Living Sunlight // B is for Badger // American Gothic // Grant Wood: The Artist in the Hayloft // Paul Bunyan

Bunyan and Banjoes // Disney American Legends

I am sure a lot of these resources can be found either available online for free or at the library.

We also use curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful, The Waldock Way, and Blossom and Root.

I am hoping to get my blogging situation with timing of posts, replies to comments, and visiting you all and commenting under control this week!

Homeschool Journey: The First Week Back

Well, we made it through our first week back! Wyatt had a fantastic week. We had our moments where we struggled, both of us, but overall this was a great first few days back!

The first day I got up way too early and got started. I tried to make a special back to school breakfast of french toast but, I totally screwed it up somehow. Lol. I wasn’t awake enough maybe? So we had just a breakfast of buttered toast and we were happy because Wyatt and I are superfans of toast, which I know sounds funny. I gave him his little bin of supplies, some that he had chosen and some that were surprises, and he ate breakfast while exploring them.

After breakfast, we got ready and took back to school photos. He opted for his new lizard shirt – and told me that he was looking forward to learning about geckos. I guess I need to get a unit study together!

I can’t get over how much he has grown since even last year. Where did my baby go?

Then we headed in and got straight to work. I had a week that was structured to let us ease back in. We only tackled reading and language arts, social studies, music, and art last week. Next week we will add math and science back in. We need to form our new routine, get used to the new schedule, figure out how to work around therapy, all that good stuff.

And in the middle of our first day, I discovered we had a runaway caterpillar! I was crawling around the office looking for it everywhere! I finally found it on the baseboard behind my desk. (This is a giant swallowtail caterpillar)

When we finished up our work for the first day, we went outside for a much needed break. Wyatt played and played while I sat in my new yard chairs by the zinnias, enjoying the cool of the day and listening to Wyatt playing. It was a tiring but wonderful day.

What We Learned:

Our week was all about Johnny Appleseed, the state of Michigan, and the artist Thomas Cole.

Our Language Arts curriculum is one that I designed so I was excited to try it out! I need to fluff it out more with some projects that correlate with the book, etc but the actual work and how it went made me very happy.

We are learning about the states this year using a program from The Waldock Way, and we had a blast with it last week! I added in some Motown music, of course, and I had found the book Voices Across the Lakes on Amazon for $6, when other copies are selling for $40! It is described as “Beautifully told and illustrated stories about the Great Lakes region. Historical content, written around 10 authentic songs.” It is really cool, and we are probably going to use it with music class for a few more weeks.

I was also really excited to start our art program. I am not using anything formal, but I have a list of artists I want us to learn about this year and I am sort of making it up as we go along. This week we learned about Thomas Cole. I found an awesome picture book called Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art, which we read together. I also visited the Thomas Cole National Historic Site website and they had some wonderful free downloads available to use. It would be an excellent field trip for anyone living in that area too, with free outdoor explore kits for students to use while visiting. Plus that view from the porch!! We are going to complete our art project later this afternoon as a family, by sketching the view from our porch. Not quite as scenic, not by a long shot, but it will be fun to do.

What We Used:

(contains Amazon Affiliate Links)

S is for Sleeping Bear Dunes // M is for Mitten // Voices Across the Lakes // Picturing America // Seed by Seed

For a look at what we are using for our curriculum this year, check out my post here.

We ended the week with a crazy road trip – but that is a story for another day!

2022-2023 Homeschool Curriculum Reveal!

If you have ever homeschooled, or know someone who does, then you probably know just how much time, effort, research, conversations, and comparisons go into picking the curriculum your child uses. Our position is unique – we do not need to choose something that will be effective for an entire school district of children all with different needs. We need only choose based on our own child and their educational journey. However, despite having a much, much smaller student body, it is just as important and just as time consuming.

After weighing Wyatt’s needs, where he is academically, and how he best learns, I FINALLY made my choices and started purchasing them, always with the slightest trepidation and anxiety about making the wrong choice. And then I remind myself, when I start doubting myself, that if it doesn’t work, then we find something that does. Wyatt’s education is probably our biggest expense outside of our actual bills, and it is something we sometimes make sacrifices for. But it is 100% worth it.

The homeschool world has so many options. Secular, non-secular, nature based, wildschooling, unschooling, roadschooling. We sort of take a little bit of everything over here, and have a very eclectic approach. The past two years we have used Blossom and Root for everything, for the most part, and then in January I decided Wyatt needed more structure in math and in grammar, so I added in another curriculum. We will be using bits and pieces from a few different curriculum this year, including one that I am designing myself.

This year for Math we are using The Good and the Beautiful, which is what we started using in January last year. Since we started using it late in the year, we will finish up from where we left off before moving on to Course 2. We both like it quite a bit, and math is Wyatt’s least favorite so that is a definite win! It is academically strong, easy to follow, hardly any preparation, and very aesthetically pleasing, which really isn’t important at all but does make it nicer. They also utilize a lot of nature themes, which we enjoy, and use inclusive and diverse images. Wyatt and I were very pleased to see one of the lessons included an illustration of a little girl with braces and crutches! Kids like to see themselves reflected in books and Wyatt definitely liked that lesson.

Since we are talking about The Good and the Beautiful, I will just say we are also using it for reading and grammar, for all of the same reasons. One other thing about The Good and the Beautiful – you can purchase the whole kit and caboodle, or you can get a download of the curriculum for free! I think this is spectacular. The program is fantastic, and I like that anyone can have access to it for their child.

We are sticking with Blossom and Root for science, as their science and nature program is very strong. It looks like this year is going to be learning all about the world of plants – which is pretty exciting to me as well!

I was looking at Michigan’s Common Core because I do try to make sure we follow along in our own way, and it didn’t look like there was much on there about history/geography/social studies. It seems to focus quite a bit on community so we will make sure to include that in our studies, but I also added in Traveling the States by The Waldock Way. I think it is perfect for where Wyatt is right now. It gives him a nice overview of the fifty states, and it looks like it is very fun and engaging. It was originally designed for roadschooling, but can be used in a home classroom as well, as we are doing. It would be neat to include some long distance field trips this year though! You can check out an inside peek video here!

Music! I always struggle with this one, as I am the farthest from musical anyone can be. So this year I am pairing music appreciation, learning about different instruments and genres, with our literature and art program. I am also looking for music lessons for him nearby, that will take special needs children. And Jeanie at Marmalade Gypsy has told me about a program at MSU called RicStar, and I think I am going to try to get him in to their camp next summer. It looks like something Wyatt would absolutely love!

And finally, literature and art. This is separate from The Good and the Beautiful program we are using to learn the mechanics of reading and writing. This will be all literature based projects and activities, based on the readings for the week, and will include poetry, geography, history, comprehension, art, vocabulary lists, copywork and narration. I am designing this myself, so I am super nervous about it but feel I have all his bases covered with the other programs we are using so it should be ok. This will just supplement everything we are doing in a nicely complimentary way.

As for physical education, Wyatt does go to physical therapy once a week, as well as occupational therapy and speech. However, I did find swim lessons specifically for special needs children.

And since I have made my choices and started buying them all, I have also begun planning – and have some awfully fluffy assistants.

And.. that pretty much sums it all up! I can’t wait to share all of this with you when we begin in the fall!

Homeschooling: Pirates, Raccoons, Magical Fish!

First, can we talk about how big this kid looks these days? What is happening? Where is my baby? Lol.

We have been so busy the past two weeks! We have established a pretty good routine – we start with Language Arts and phonics, then move on to math in the mornings. Then in the afternoons we rotate between history and science, along with whatever extra unit study I have thrown in the mix. It seems to be working well!

This week in Language Arts we were supposed to read Magic Fish but being me, I remembered we had a similar book, The 1000 Star Hotel. Wyatt absolutely loves this story, written by the Okee Dokee Brothers, whom he also loves. And even better, there is an accompanying audio for it! We were able to read it together, and then listen to it (for the 1000th time maybe but he loves it so it was perfect), before getting to work on our copywork/journal/narration pages and projects. The “fun” project was decorating a magic fish, which was supposed to be made from a sock, but I didn’t have an extra so I sewed these little felt fish instead for him to decorate. They turned out pretty cute! We skipped the rabbit trail suggestion of studying a specific fish, Wyatt just wasn’t that thrilled with any fish suggestions and I figured we had enough to learn about so we moved on.

For our extra study unit, that I will probably refer to as our nature study, we started a month long unit about nocturnal animals. Our animal for this week was the raccoon. It was a cute little study – we read a few books about nocturnal animals and raccoons, played a matching game, and then matched shadow pictures to the animal. Wyatt also completed his journal page about raccoons which I am going to put together in a book at the end of the month. I also felt quite clever in finding this craft. We are talking about simple fractions in math, and I talked about halves and equal sides and all that while I was showing him how to cut hearts out of construction paper. We have to do this sort of thing hand over hand, so I did a few as demo and then cut a few together before he assembled it all. I think it turned out super cute!

We are using The Waldock Way’s Passport to Adventure for our history unit this year, although I am doing a rather poor job of connecting the historical parts to it in our lessons. It is turning into more of additional language arts right now – although, one of the GLCE goals for first grade is about maps, and we made a treasure map, so I guess I hit one goal. This curriculum is based on the Magic Tree House series and this week we were reading Pirates Past Noon. These books are super fast reads and pretty cute! We completed notebooking pages and journal pages based on the reading, talked about pirate treasure, what Wyatt would choose to put in a buried treasure (fruit snacks, a Mickey Mouse toy, and a book), made a map, crafted a cute pirate puppet, and painted a treasure chest, which I filled with “treasure”. This was Wyatt’s favorite thing we did. I find him going through this treasure chest all the time, and putting on all of the jewelry. I think today we are going to watch Peter Pan, eat Pirate Booty, and hide the treasure somewhere and make a map for Billy to find when he gets home. We also have to make time for our art project today as well.

We did other things as well, like sight words (which we call cake words) and word family activities, learning about the layers of the earth, make a felt model of the layers, fractions, telling time, and all the other things you learn in first grade.

I will post about our nocturnal animals study in a future post, with links and activities for anyone who is interested! I am going to combine that post into multiple weeks as well, so I will probably post that information next Friday.

Next week is all about coyotes, mountains, turtles, and the Choctaw Nation! And with that, I better get moving! I have a lot to get together before Monday!

Homeschooling: Our Curriculum

Here we are again, homeschooling! First grade this year! Last year we had so much fun learning together, that I am really excited to be homeschooling again. We are still working on our routine and rhythm, but I feel confident at least about our curriculum. It was an easy decision, as I went with the same curriculum we used last year for the most part. I like the basic scope of the curriculum, and its focus. It is also budget friendly compared to other curriculum out there.

If you are new here, Wyatt has been homeschooled since Kindergarten. He has cerebral palsy which creates the need for some creativity and accommodations with the lessons, which I feel is really well suited to homeschooling. I can keep working on things that we need to spend more time on and move on when we are comfortable, and go quickly through lessons that he picks up easily. I can tailor to his strengths at home, rather than try to make him fit into a system that may not work for him right now. I also found a Blossom and Root First Grade Cohort Group on Facebook! This group will move up together each year. It has been so helpful already!

For Language Arts, Science, Nature, and Integrated Art and Math, we are using Blossom and Root. Blossom and Root is all about wonder, discovery, creativity, books.. all things I value very highly and want for Wyatt in his learning. This year I had a choice of two different language arts programs through Blossom and Root, and it was a tough decision! The first choice was based on more nature based stories that were a little more old fashioned, and then more modern picture books as the second option. I went back and forth a few times before finally deciding on the more modern version. The scope is based on values and morals, like appreciating what you have, working together, and other character building traits for the first half of the year, while the second half focuses in on fairy tales and folk tales from different countries, introducing new cultures and geography into the lessons.

The Science curriculum covers so much about Earth and Earth science this year! I am super excited to dive into it. There are also extra “Book Seeds” that cover different topical events as well, such as climate change. The past two weeks we have spent discussing the rotation of the Earth, and how it effects seasons and daytime and nighttime, and we are moving on soon to layers of the Earth. The Nature part of the curriculum is more about observing and interacting with our natural world. Things like building insect sanctuaries, painting the weather, making nature necklaces, etc and then keeping a nature journal.

The Integrated Math and and Art … is more art I guess than math, so we supplement math with a more traditional curriculum but still do the lessons from Blossom and Root, more as art with some math involved. We are learning about Kandinsky right now, which is a lesson for me too, since I never learned about Kandinsky in school.

For history, we are using Passport to Adventures from Waldock Way this year. I didn’t see the need for a super intense history program this year, and I felt like this would introduce history in a fun way to Wyatt, which was important to me. I feel like kids get off on the wrong foot with history sometimes, thinking it is boring and I wanted to try to cultivate a sense of excitement about it. This curriculum is completely based on the Magic Tree House books, and we have started off slowly, doing only a few of the activities a week to start. So far so good!

For math, we are using Math Lessons for a Living Education. I feel like this is well paced for Wyatt, and he enjoys the stories and hands on activities that are a part of these math lessons. I also like that this keeps up to pace with the public school as well, just in case we decide sending him back to school would be more beneficial, although that is not where we are right now. For now, everything is going well with homeschooling.

I have to be honest though. These first two weeks felt a little off to me. Like we had lost our zest and magic. And I realized I was trying too hard to be “school” and leaving out what made us, us. I plan to shake things up next week, and add in those extras that made our school special.

Stay tuned to see where our year takes us!