Lesson Plans: January 2014


Hello, January. Here is what we’re up to.

Vincent, 12 years old, grade 6: Vincent will begin the new year with a block on geometry that will include both geometric drawing and history. I am using Melisa Nielsen’s geometry curriculum for grades 5-7 as my guide and I have found it to be exactly what I need. Melisa and I really gel when it comes to math. I highly (highly) recommend her math book for grades 1-5, especially if you are coming to Waldorf late. Her geometry book continues where her math book leaves off with the same simple clarity and full-scale lessons. I am starting Vincent with the Grade 5 lessons, as I think they provide a solid foundation, not to mention they will be challenging enough for both of us. To augment this practical and artistic study, we are also going to read the illuminating String, Straightedge and Shadow by Julia E. Diggins. This is a fascinating book about the philosophical foundations of mathematics in general and geometry in specific and also a wonderful continuation of The Library at Alexandria by Kelly Trumble that we read back in the fall with Rome.

Jude, 8 years old, grade 2: Jude will be exploring geometry as well, using Eric Fairman’s excellent guide Path of Discovery: Volume Two. I remember perusing this book back in the summer when I was doing my initial planning. I kept checking the cover to make sure what I was reading was really for a second grader. It was, and a lot of the same concepts are echoed in Donna Simmons’ Second Grade Mathematics as well. In addition to drawing the circle, square and triangle, we will also freehand an octagon and a hexagon. We will explore how triangles and squares relate, which will lead into a lesson on square and triangular numbers. The afternoons will find us all listening to the second book of the Little House series, Little House on the Prairie. This has become a tradition to start the new year with the Ingalls family. I buy the audio cds and we periodically revisit them throughout the year. (I think we listened to Little House in the Big Woods about five times last year.) We have gotten away from afternoon storytime and I am looking forward to having this quiet, intentional hour to sit, listen and sip tea.

Sheila, just about 44: January is a funny month. Usually chock-full of sweeping declarations and virtuous resolutions, it can be somewhat of a bust. Coming off December, which is always funky in some form or fashion, I usually try to start in slow this month: take stock and assess the first semester; get back to rhythm; plot out the remainder of the year. This is a lot, and yet, I normally see January as a place of prolonged paralysis. We don’t have the fresh energy that begins the new year, nor the downward momentum that kicks in around March or April. Last year, this led to serious thoughts of doubt (you can read about that here and here). Rather than staring wide-eyed at the next two months, viewing them as a dead-zone full of mental and emotional land mines, I am trying to reframe the picture and change my thinking. January and February are the fulcrum of our school year. They are a place of balanced rest. With this in the forefront of my mind, I’m going to use the next 60 days to collect my energy, make some adjustments and continue down the path. Thanks for walking with me.

Plans: December 2013

IMG_6665Here we are: another December and another chance to figure out how to get it right! Last year’s plans didn’t work (you can see them here – maybe they’ll work for you), so we are trying something else. (I wrote this before Jean Miller posted her thoughts about homeschooling in December here. I’m going to take what she says to heart.)

Vincent, Age 12, Grade 6: Vincent has a birthday this month that will be celebrated with pizza and college football on a big screen. Considering our pocket-sized television set lives mostly behind the couch, this is a big treat. As far as school goes, we will use the first couple of weeks to tie up some loose ends from our first semester. Mostly this will include his timeline project up through the fall of the Roman Empire, the corresponding chapters in A Little History of the World, and completing Key to Percents Book 1. This feels manageable and will finish everything we started since August.

Jude, Age 8, Grade 2: Jude will have a pretty easy month that will revolve around The Festival of Stones by Reg Down. Maybe there will be some knitting. Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath.

Sheila, 43 and 11/12: I found these notes from last year. I’m going to actually try to listen to myself and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted.

  • “Too many things scheduled last year.”
  • “One craft a week is enough!”
  • “A novel doesn’t work in December. Gear stories to Advent themes. Get The Festival of Stones by Reg Down and Hark! by Tomie de Paola.”
  • “Work on one extended project all month like stringing buttons, popcorn or fabric yo-yos.”

Lesson Plans: October 2013


Our impromptu week at the beach has altered our lessons slightly. I never put vacations into my planning schedule, as we are not advance planners in that regard. Usually, I just pick up where we left off, but this time I’ve decided to cut and condense instead. We are ready to wrap up our current blocks and move on. So move on we shall. October is a busy month with a Michaelmas celebration, several shows at the downtown theatre, a camping trip, a visit from the NJ grandparents plus all the regular scout meetings, penny whistle lessons and whatnots we’ve got going on. Here’s what we are up to:

Vincent, 11 1/2 years old, grade 6: Vincent is still working his way through Rome, and while he is enjoying the material, he is not as enthusiastic as he was about Greece. In our remaining two weeks, we will be studying the historical Jesus and the fall of the Empire. After Rome we will move onto some math. I had originally slated geology for this month, but when I looked at our calendar, I knew we needed a block that wouldn’t suffer from the choppiness of all our extra activities. Math to the rescue!! We will be using the Key to workbooks for learning percentages and this book from Simply Charlotte Mason to begin business math. Vincent’s independent work will continue with handwriting practice and also exploring Latin roots with this workbook from the Critical Thinking Company.

Jude, 8 years old, grade 2: Jude has loved hearing the animal fables, drawing pictures in his main lesson book and bringing a menagerie of puppets to his desk everyday. We will finish this block tomorrow and then move on to our first math block. This block will be a review of the four processes, a bit of daily mental math and an introduction to place value. In addition to Eric Fairman’s A Path of Discovery and Donna Simmons’ Mathematics Grade 2, we are using this little gem from The Toymaker: The Mysterious Math Carnival. We will also embrace the season and incorporate a little nature study as we move into autumn. I have several books and stories that we always read at this time of year, plus the mandatory leaf and acorn crafts that we all love. I am also hoping to dye some yarn one day soon, if for no other reason than to clean out the bags of onion skins I have been saving for longer than I am willing to admit. (Ok, it’s been two years. That’s a lot of onions.)

Sheila: I think I actually started to twitch when I flipped the calendar page yesterday. I loathe having a chock-a-block schedule, but that is what this month is shaping up to be. At times, I can be really narrow-minded in my thinking of what constitutes “school”. “Learning” happens at the desks in that beautiful school room, whose color I agonized over and is evidenced by all the drawings and summaries I so painstakingly planned this summer. Yes? Yes? YES???!!! (Please tell me you are ruefully chuckling with me and not hysterically laughing at me.) My lesson this month will be to take one day at a time and delight in whatever that particular day brings. Taking a day (or two or more!) away from the desks each week will hopefully rejuvenate the spirit, stretch the mind and fill the heart. Maybe the boys will get something out of it too . . . Here’s to the bounty of autumn! May our harvests be full to overflowing.

Lesson Plans: September 2013


I thoroughly enjoyed my August Break, but it feels so good to be back writing in this space again. My camera feels re-inspired. I have a bunch of posts lined up. And, most importantly, we got school started. Win. Win. Win. I do need to share one funny bit of irony: I had the most monthly views of my blog (by far!) and I didn’t write one original post. Not sure what to make of that . . . but I sincerely hope those who are new are not disappointed now that I have started posting again.

This is my favorite time of the year, when everything feels expansive, energetic and new. We are all excited to start school in earnest tomorrow and here is what we are up to:

Vincent, 11 1/2 years old, grade 6: We are beginning the year with Ancient Rome, which is a nice segue from Greece, where we ended last year. We will take about 6 weeks to cover the founding of Rome through the fall of the Empire. That is a lot of history, but we are concentrating on story, daily Roman life and biography using Charles Kovacs’ Ancient Rome as our spine with a few other supplemental books as well. I have structured this block with a main lesson book, however it is the only formal main lesson book we will be creating this semester. I have several maps, paintings and drawings planned, and also a written independent report on a single historical figure/concept. Vincent and I will continue to summarize together, do dictation and copywork during our main lesson time. Our handwork project for the month will be these embroidered color wheels I mentioned last month. (You can see my collection of resources, links and ideas for grade 6 here. I think of it as a gathering space of inspiration that I update frequently. I’m never, ever going to use half of what’s there, but it is good to draw from.)

Jude, 8 years old, grade 2: Second Grade will start with Animal Fables, using a combination of resources from Christopherus and Live Ed. My focus for Jude (again!) is to concentrate on his retelling of the tales. Admittedly, I went a little overboard in planning different props he can use to assist his efforts. We have felt puppets to sew, paper animal masks to color, real puppets to use and more. We won’t use half of these ideas, but I have them at my disposal as the year goes on. We will be creating a reader from a single fable and making a main lesson book for this block. My goal here is to go deeper with one story in addition to doing a single sentence summary/companion drawing for each of the fables we read. Jude’s handwork project will be knitting a little lamb from Barbara Dewey’s Handwork for Homeschoolers K-4. One of the last fables in our block features a sheep, so I am hoping this project will be finished by then. (You can see my collection of resources, links and ideas for grade 2 here.)

Sheila: See those two little paragraphs above? You would not believe how long it took me to write them. And I’m not talking about composing the words, but rather the mental gymnastics it took to figure out exactly what to include in our first blocks of the year. Honestly, I was making myself nuts. Remember my conversation with myself about Rome? Yeah, well, it continued unabated. Not so much as to what resources to use, but rather all the writing, projects, drawings and activities I was trying to squeeze in. One particular afternoon last week my brain reached a fever pitch. I went to the phone to call Tom. Then I went to text Andrea. Then I went to email Jean to give me a price for daily consulting – as in consulting every single day. Thankfully, I pulled myself back from the abyss. I got a cup of tea, quieted my head and focused on my boys. Not my fears about middle school. Not my anxieties about homeschooling. Not my ideals about the perfectly planned block. But rather, I asked myself one simple question: what does this child need? In this tiny pocket of calm I remembered two things. “Go deep, not wide.” and “Stretch them, but not to the point of frustration.” (Thank you, Jean Miller.) The results are what you see above. Not perfect by any means, but intentional, flexible and most of all, doable.


Here’s what we were doing last September: Ancient Mythologies and Letters.


A Bit of a Break


Andrea and I are off to Taproot tomorrow morning. I look forward to this little retreat every year. Re-connecting with old friends, meeting new ones and indulging in long stretches of uninterrupted time by myself. These quiet days away allow me perspective on the way ahead. I’ve decided to extend this time away and participate in “The August Break” hosted by the lovely Susannah Conway. I think it is just what I need to re-invigorate myself, get school started and return fresh in this space come September. I am most likely going to stick to my regular posting schedule, however, I am not planning on writing much. I hope to follow Susannah’s photographic prompts (see below) and post them beginning Monday August 5. I also have a few old posts I want to re-blog, a couple of very exciting guest posts and perhaps a few other surprises along the way.

Wishing you all a cool and dry August that is everything you need it to be.



*** My camera feels lifeless lately, and I am in sore need of some photographic inspiration. And really, it’s not my camera, but my eye that needs a little help. I’m hoping having a daily task will help me to see what is around me in fresh light. Here is the list if you want to join in as well.