Planning: Here and Now


The planning posts on this blog are by far the most popular. If they help someone get organized and make sense of their homeschool year, that’s great. However, my personal planning looks very different these days. For one, I’m not spending very much time doing it this year. My program for certification in spiritual direction goes into high gear in September, and that is taking precedent as far as my time and attention. And as much as they would love it, I’m not giving the boys free rein. I will be combining our learning (4th and 8th grades), streamlining how we do things and yes, even doing math on the computer. It’s a brand new day! And honestly, I’ve never felt more at ease.

Here is an overview of what homeschooling will look like at our house next year.

  • Math: Vincent used Teaching Textbooks for math last year and that is what saved us when we were shipwrecked. The lessons are short, thorough and fun. He will be finishing Math 7 this semester and then begin Pre-Algebra somewhere around December or January. Jude will also be doing TT; Math 4 for him.
  • Science: Vincent will be reading the textbook and completing the corresponding workbook of Joy Hakim’s Story of Science. The first volume, “Aristotle Leads the Way” is mostly a review of how we have done science in the past (largely through biography and a historical progression of thought). Jude will be studying animals, primarily through art/nature journalling. Actually, I’m planning for the three of us to do this together and will detail my ideas in a separate post.
  • History: Both my boys love history. Up until this point, Vincent has studied world history chronologically. This year, I have decided to focus solely on American history, using Joy Hakim’s series, A History of US. (Yes Joy Hakim is my new BFF.) My plan is for all of us to listen to one volume per month via audiobook. (The entire series is available at Audible and I purchased the actual books from If you don’t know this site, you should. And if you want a coupon, give me your email in the comments. I won’t publish it on the blog, but will email you privately.) Vincent will be doing some combination of note booking, timelines, maps and extra reading. I picked up a few of Anne Rinaldi’s I am America books at a library sale this summer and think they will be a great resource. Jude will be following along, and his reading will be focused on the “American Girl” series. (Mothers of Boys: don’t let the marketing fool you. These are great books – both the fiction and the non-fiction.) Jude will also be studying the local history of our home state of North Carolina, mostly through stories and geography.
  • Language Arts: Vincent will continue with some parts of the BraveWriter curriculum, most especially The Arrow. He will also be working with the Editor in Chief series from Critical Thinking Company. Jude will be working on spelling (please let this be the year it clicks!!) and handwriting through a daily notebook. I have never done anything like this before, but saw this one and it looked like a great idea with some modifications.
  • Art: I have wanted to do an art history program for the last couple of years, and this summer found exactly what I wanted at one of my favorite places to shop for curriculum: the Salvation Army. (I’m not even kidding.) I found a series of high quality coffee table books called Great Museums of the WorldEach volume profiles an individual museum (Uffizi, The Louvre, The Tate, The Rikjsmuseum, etc) with architectural information, historical facts and of course wonderful photographs of their permanent collections. My plan is very, very casual: put a different book in the living room every month or so with a pad of post-its to mark our favorite pieces. I’m hoping it will become part of our family’s discussion around the dinner table.
  • Story Time: Story time continues to be an anchor in our day. We have several series that we read every year and always look forward to the new installment: Harry Potter (Book 2), Anne of Green Gables (Book 4 or 5; can’t remember), Little House (Book 4), Swallows and Amazons (Book 5 or 6) Story of the World (Book 3). I’m sure there will be plenty of animal and American fiction, and maybe even a reprise of one of our favorite books ever. I only use audiobooks now, but this is an idea of how we got started.
  • Filmstrip Friday: We have been watching a variety of documentaries on Fridays for about a year and half now and it is consistently the highlight of our week. I am not a movie person and neither are my boys, so this was a real surprise. We have watched some real gems on a variety of subjects, but our favorite – hands down – has been The National Parks by Ken Burns. It took us 3 months to watch the whole thing, and we loved every minute. It even inspired our trip to Yellowstone next month . . . which is why we are starting school so early this year. August 3 is our first day!

14 thoughts on “Planning: Here and Now

  1. I think this sounds terrific. I have never heard of the story of science and your history curriculum. Upon checking them out, they look really promising! I would love to look through one for us for eighth grade (I will keep my eye out for it). We are moving away from a Waldorf approach this year too but keeping the elements that we love like using art to solidify the lessons and movement. I am also using many of the BraveWriter items for the first time. I picked several books from the past issues that work into the areas that I want us to concentrate on. Cheers to a new year!

  2. Sounds like a wonderful year! My eldest read the Hakim science books in grade 8 as well (and my current 8th grader will too). We really enjoy them. I’m still trying to figure out my year with a senior (and all *that* encompasses, especially emotionally – as in *my* emotions – – – ) and an eighth grader. I’ll get there though – I always do.

    Question – why Arrows and not Boomerangs with your 8th grader? I’ve been going back and forth on this one myself.

    Oh! And Editor in Chief is one of my favorite resources. Both of my daughters love(d) it. I hope you r boys enjoy it too!

    Rascal is one of my top two favorite all time books, right up there with Trumpet of the Swan.

    Have a great year – your plans look absolutely terrific!

    • Hey Penny!
      Did your kids just read the Story of Science or did they do the workbook too? i just ordered the workbook to take a look at it. Thinking Vincent might like completing it for his independent work.

      As far as The Arrow goes. I’m still working through the bundle I bought last year at the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. But I remember when I looked at the Boomerang titles, they seemed too old for Vincent. Plus, I like them to be read alouds (or listen alongs, LOL) and want to keep them appropriate for Jude too.

      Thanks for all the encouragement.
      Wishing you a wonderful year too!

      • As I recall, there were some work pages, etc that could be used independently, but there was also some classroom based stuff in it. You will have to judge for yourself :) I used it 5 years ago, so maybe they have changed it for the homeschool crowd. :) My youngest will just be reading the series and we will talk about different things. She is doing physics as her primary science this year, using a Thames and Cosmos kit , Snap Circuits and plenty of books from the library, She loves science though, so I know she will enjoy these books a lot.

        I wanted to say that you may find you learn as much history as science from these books – they are really wonderful that way.

        That makes sense about the Boomerangs. I know you will enjoy the Arrows. I always have grand dreams about them but in reality we read the books and discuss them and do other things for writing. It all works though! C (8th grader) will be focusing on creative writing this year, having done the lots of the essay business last year. It’s all good!

        And I’m prepping a senior for college! Please send good vibes! lol

        Best wishes in all you do – Penny

        • Sheila,

          I want to thank you for posting these plans, and thank Jean for writing about grade 8 being a transition year. Both of those thoughts have really hit me and made me rethink some things. I am grateful. I’m revisiting the Arrows too. I like the BW philosophy, I just have a hard time putting it in action (except the teatime, I’m really good at that!). I’ve always thought the best school years are “read, write, do math, and do stuff (art, science projects, outings, whatever)”. I think I’m going to revisit that belief, and drop a few things so that she has space to still be a kid while ramping up s-l-o-w-l-y to the high school years. As I well know, they go too fast… why rush through them and not enjoy the ride?

          Sorry if that’s confusing – – – I need my tea!

  3. Great plans, Sheila. You rock! I find it really interesting that in the first Waldorf school, Steiner didn’t want to include 8th grade in the elementary school because he say it as such a transition year. In the end, it was included because this was one of the compromises for the authorities (so the grades matched other schools). 8th is definitely a transition year and as such, I think we really need to look at the individual child more than ever! Also, I agree on the Arrow, stick with it longer than Brave Writer recommends. Choosing is a lot about the book titles and the developmental age of our child(ren).

    • Thanks Jean.
      This post felt surprisingly vulnerable for me. I was telling Alison (bc she just phones or text her comments, LOL) that I took out the words “waldorf-inspired” in describing our homeschool plans. It was a conscious choice bc honestly, I don’t “own” this yet. As in, I still feel like I am in a tenuous place with what the heck it is we are doing. I don’t really care if there is a label or not, but I was bracing for a backlash that I didn’t feel ready for. Crazy, maybe, but true.

      This whole Waldorf-bloggity-bloggity-world is a funny place, and the ground sometimes feels like its made of eggshells. Not very hospitable to cowboy boots, LOL. So I just try to stay in the patches where I feel something solid beneath my feet. And then take another little step when I feel ready.

      xxoo to you!

      • This is so good! The devil is in the details. 😉. I gotta remember that. I’m working on 5th grade and 1st. My first year teaching and preparing for so many lessons. There’s also a 3 year old in the mix. So I’ve made a list of ways to simplify homeschooling this year and I added audiobooks as well as movie nights. My kids love both and I do them grudgingly because well you know, media, screens, etc. But an audiobook is better than no story time and supporting their interests in documentaries is a darned good thing when I stop to think of it. Anyways, I am a devoted follower and inspired by you. You’ve offered the Waldorf homeschooling blog following mama’s so much inspiration over the years. Thank you! I look forward to hearing about Spiritual Direction too. I just read this in live ed’s ancient Egypt intro…”perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children is the effort we make as adults to grow and embrace a fuller measure of our potential”.
        Blessings on this year’s adventure to all of us!

        • Thanks for your kind words, Ivy.

          I really understand that “grudging” impulse. I remember when I first started with audiobooks (it was the first “break” I gave myself) and thinking my boys were going to grow up to be sociopaths or something because of the lack of human voices in their day. The fact of the matter was (and is) that I read aloud everyday during main lesson time – although recently I have cut this back to reading aloud for only one ML a day. It is too much!! And being kinder to my children means I need to begin with being kinder to myself. Plus audiobooks let all of us have a break in the afternoon together. I don’t have to be “on” holding the space. I can just sit and enjoy the experience. Well worth the audible subscription price! LOL

          I’m planning on posting some more specifics about SD after we get back from the West. Looking forward to having that conversation in this space.


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