Pezze e Piselli

Pezze e Piselli, by Briana Elizabeth

I am big on plans. I’m not big on following them to the letter of the law, but I do think they help us aim well, and that’s the most important thing. If you’ve followed us for any amount of time, you know I love a good Bullet Journal. Why? It’s inexpensive, it doesn’t need battery backup, you can’t lose it in a crash (my iMac recently crashed, and we had to wipe it. I did not have an external hard drive for backup, alas). You can set it on fire, but that’s another post. (I do have friends who set theirs aflame after the year is done as a marker of a new year to come and a goodbye to the last. An interesting way to mark time, no?)

Anyway, that time is upon us. If you’ve put off planning, don’t worry, you can still write a few things down to order your mind and days.

Here are some links I collected for you.

Why Bullet Journaling works.  How a Bullet Journal might work for you.  An interesting way of prioritizing our work.  How the Ivy Lee method is working for Jen of Viking Academy.  Jen from Wildflowers and Marbles has free printables to help you organize. She also has a page specifically for planning, with printables, helps, and ideas to help your year go  more smoothly.


If you’re setting up a seasonal table for your littles and picking books for a Morning Basket, here are a few wonderful titles with lovely illustrations. The Year at Maple Hill Farm  and Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm both by Alice and Martin Provensen.
I loved this beeswax snail tutorial from Frontier Dreams and this felted pumpkin from Hinterland Mama. For olders, one of my favorites is always A View from the Oak. And you really must follow Lynn on Exploring Nature with Children because her watercolor journaling videos are so encouraging and beautiful.


For older kids, this time of year is harder – at least at my house. Marching band camp is over, practices have started, football is all over my schedule, and choir is starting back up, which leads me back up to the bullet journaling in the beginning of the post. It keeps my head on straight and my people fed. The days of morning baskets and nature tables are long over at my house, and I miss them, but these older student days are so filled with new and beautiful things. I am trying to hold onto afternoon reading this year, but this may be the year we bid a fond farewell to that also. Older children…they have to be given their own leisure time. Time to build, discover, learn in very different ways than the younger children. It’s also a quieter time because they need their privacy about studies and accomplishments. Finding the balance is tricky and a daily tension, but growing like this is a part of being a homeschool parent.


Happy Schooling, all.

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.



A Legacy….by Brit

There was a time when a man spoke very impatiently to my father. He had seen a copy of the Iliad lying on the table. “You are reading this?” he asked.

“I have read it many times. Now I read it to my son.”

“But he is too young!” The man protested, almost angry.

“Is he? Who is to say? How young is too young to begin to discover the power and the beauty of words? Perhaps he will not understand, but there is a clash of shields and a call of trumpets in those lines. One cannot begin too young nor linger too long with learning.”


My father was a tall man, and now he stood up. “My friend,” he said, “I do not know what else I shall leave my son, but if I have left him a love of language, of literature, a taste for Homer, for the poets, the people who have told our story–and by ‘our’ I mean the story of mankind–then he will have legacy enough.”

Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141-142

Though our homeschool has changed a bit here and there over the years, one thing has been constant pretty much from the beginning – we wanted to make sure we read to our children, read often, read good books, and gave them a love of reading. Honestly, you could say this began on our oldest’s first night home from the hospital. He had his nights and days very mixed up, so after he nursed, my husband took him and hung out with him until it was time to feed him again. Starting that very first night, my husband read to him. If I remember correctly, it was Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You Will Go! It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand a word of the story. What mattered is that he knew his daddy’s voice, heard the rhythm and cadence that comes with spoken language, and knew that daddy was with him.

That practice has continued throughout our children’s lives. Even now, I still read to them in the mornings during the school year, my husband reads to them most nights at bedtime, and we often have a family audio book going. Reading – together, alone – has become part of our culture as a family.

I still remember something my principal told a group of us when I was still teaching. His two sons were older – one in college and one in high school – but he said they still read aloud as a family. They often took turns, sharing books they loved with each other. They also would listen to books in the car as they drove places. To realize that once my children were able to read to themselves it was still a good thing to read to them made a huge impact on me. My firstborn, that little boy who heard his first story the night he came home from the hospital, still loves to listen to his father and me read to him and his siblings. Truth be told, they all still love to listen to the early pictures books being read to the youngest two.

“Who knows how much he will remember? Who knows how deep the intellect? In some year yet unborn he may hear those words again, or read them, and find in them something hauntingly familiar, as of something long ago heard and only half-remembered.”

Louis L’Amour, The Lonesome Gods, p. 141

Being raised in a literature-rich home is having its effect on our daughter with special needs as well. She loves books. From the time she was able to crawl around and make mischief, she has been pulling books off the shelves to “read” them. Over the years she has amassed quite a collection of her favorites. She still has us read what some would consider “babyish” books – board books with little print on each page. But those books are sinking in. She is beginning to recite them with us. She sits with those books and reads them to herself. She brings them to the dinner table and takes her turn at “recitation” by “reading” them to the family. She also loves longer books – books that, given that she has Down syndrome, some would say she wouldn’t have the attention or comprehension to sit through. But I know she does. And I attribute so much of her love for language and literature to it being a strong part of our family culture.

We may not have monetary riches to leave our children. At this point in our lives, with my oldest nearing the end of his homeschooling career, I’m just hoping we have riches enough to help with college for five children. But we can leave them a few things money can never buy – a love for language, a love for literature, a friendship with some of the greatest writers who wrote some of the greatest works.

Image courtesy

Brit and her husband are living this beautiful, crazy life with their four sons and one daughter in sunny California. They made the decision to homeschool when their eldest was a baby after realizing how much afterschooling they would do if they sent him to school. Brit describes their homeschooling as eclectic, literature-rich, Catholic, classical-wanna-be.

Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Pencil Drawing, by Olivia

Armon and Tristan Natsua

Olivia is a sixteen-year-old writer and artist who enjoys spending her time sewing, first person interpretation acting, and attempting to exchange dairy goats for small children under the age of one. She currently works at The Texas Renaissance Festival and Sherwood Forest Faire and attends Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp.

About Classical

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ at the Gap, by Courtney

Parents of public school children who are thinking about homeschooling often ask questions like:

“How do you homeschool your child without leaving gaps in their knowledge? How do you know homeschool curricula authors have expertise and their curricula are covering enough?”

The most common answer I see is this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

In words:

“No curriculum is perfect! Students are always going to have gaps! You should just follow their lead and let them study whatever they enjoy! As long as they figure out how to learn, that’s the important thing.”

I have a problem with this, and the following is why I have a problem.

One of the original thinkers in the study of how children learn is Jean Piaget. Piaget came up with the idea of schemas. (East Tennessee State University, 2016) Schemas are the basic building blocks of knowledge. If you spend much time around toddlers, it is easy to notice huge gaps in their schemas—all animals with fur and four legs are “doggy,” for example. Toddlers eventually refine their schemas to exclude all but canines in the “doggy” category.

So what? From my example, most people would point out that everybody has gaps, right? Well, yes and no. The more we learn, the more we refine our schemas. “This has four legs and fur, but it meows, so it is not a dog.” Our schemas become incredibly complex, in fact—and this is a good thing! (East Tennessee State University, 2016) The more refined the schema, the more information inherent in it and the more opportunities a child has to attach more information to it!

In terms of schemas, random facts do not “attach” to anything, which is why they are so difficult to learn. This also explains the phenomenon of “in one ear and out the other”—students aren’t making connections to existing schemas. However, when a student is attentive, with proper background knowledge, refining a schema can be effortless—see also, “meow” versus “bark.” As an instructor, one should be on the lookout for incorrect schemas. Without correct background knowledge in their schema, a student “knows” that gravity does not act equally on bowling balls and feathers (Clement, 1982).

This is where my problem with laissez-faire education occurs. When they don’t have an introduction to human knowledge in a structured fashion, with explicit connections to prior knowledge, students will have enormous gaps in their education of which they are unaware (East Tennessee State University, 2016), (Clement, 1982). Furthermore, their lack of prior background knowledge will actually impair their ability to learn in the future. (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006), (Clement, 1982).

If you want your child to be a good learner, it’s self-defeating to shrug off the “gap” question. In educational research, this is called the Matthew effect (Sanovich, 1986), after Matthew 25:29:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.

Students with refined, complex schemas—or in other words, well-organized depths of background knowledge—learn more easily (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist, 2003) and are more likely to draw correct conclusions when given new information. For example, every progressively-educated public school student in a study was gullible enough to believe that a website about tree octopuses was telling the truth (Krane, 2006). Why would we not do as much as possible to “mind the gap” so that our students do not fall prey to tree octopuses?

Classical education is good for all kinds of students, not just students who love to read. For poor readers, background knowledge increases reading comprehension (Kosmoski, Gay, & Vockell, 1990). For students who struggle with working memory, education research has firmly shown that increased background knowledge increases working memory (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006).

One common criticism of classical education is its emphasis on rote memorization. If you want your child to have good problem-solving skills, random, scattered background knowledge is insufficient. “The student must have sufficient background knowledge to recognize familiar patterns—that is, to chunk—in order to be a good analytical thinker.” (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps, 2006). Classical education’s emphasis on memorization actually contributes to good problem-solving skills and flexible thought!

On the other hand, schemas are not composed solely of facts—they are also composed of knowledge of how those facts fit together. This allows students to draw analogies between prior knowledge to create new knowledge:

a shark is to a vertebrate as an octopus is to a(n) ______________

Classical education’s emphasis on learning facts in context—history as narrative, for example—helps students “fit” their memorized facts into their increasingly refined schemas.

Will every classically educated student become an expert in every subject? Of course not. But background knowledge of facts and concepts is required for students to develop expertise in their chosen areas of interest (Willingham, Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise, 2002).

Another way to look at this research is to note that the hierarchical, highly structured nature of formal classical education actually lends itself beautifully to the way children learn. We provide them with oodles of background knowledge, diving deep into a particular subject for a year or so at a time, explicitly scaffolding their schemas with timelines, science notebooks, and nature journals. Then we revisit the topics at different age groups, making connections and relationships between knowledge clearer, strengthening schemas until students develop a deep understanding of the material.

Classical education’s overarching view of knowledge, organized into interrelated domains, actually works with the way our minds create schemas. Will there be gaps? Of course—but we’re minding them, providing our students with basic, underlying structures for their schemas, instead of throwing our hands up and shrugging at the inevitable

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. –Edward Everett Hale



Clement, J. (1982). Students’ Preconceptions in Introductory Mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 66-71.

East Tennessee State University. (2016, May 31). Schema Theory: What is a Schema? Retrieved from Faculty Support for Instruction:

Kosmoski, G. J., Gay, G., & Vockell, E. L. (1990). Cultural Literacy and Academic Achievement. Journal of Experimental Education, 265-272.

Krane, B. (2006, November 13). Researchers find kids need better online academic skills. Retrieved from University of Connecticut Advance:

Sanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy”. Reading Research Quarterly, 360-407.

Willingham, D. (2002, Winter). Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Inflexible Knowledge: The First Step to Expertise. Retrieved from AFT American Educator:

Willingham, D. (2003, Summer). Ask the Cognitive Scientist. Retrieved from American Educator:

Willingham, D. (2006, May 31). Ask the Cognitive Scientist: How Knowledge Helps. Retrieved from AFT American Educator: 2016

Willingham, D., & Riener, C. (2010, September-October). The Myth of Learning Styles. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning.


Courtney is a relatively recent, accidental homeschooler of the secular, classical persuasion. Courtney has been teaching online (mostly community college algebra) since 2000, while working towards a ridiculous number of college credits for teaching certifications in general science, social studies, and visual impairments. Along the way, she’s done substitute teaching, face-to-face college adjuncting, technical writing, web design, public relations, data analysis, teaching in a public school, homeschool portfolio evaluations, providing vision education services for Birth To Three, and a whole host of “other duties as assigned.” In her spare time she enjoys reading, photography, cooking, sewing clothes, and other various domestic arts. She lives in the middle of the Appalachian mountains on the east coast of the USA with her husband, her two children, and her mother. Her family’s menagerie currently consists of a dog, assorted lizards, assorted cichlid fish, and assorted cats.

How We Make it Work, Uncategorized

I’m pregnant, I have a toddler, and I still have to educate older children! by Cheryl


First, take a deep breath! (That’s just as much for me as it is for you.) Then, take a nap.

Okay, now you are ready to think about school, a toddler, and a baby.

Last time I was pregnant with a toddler, I only had one school-age child, and he was only in first grade. We had relatively few problems, even though I was very sick for six months of the pregnancy. Now I have a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and an energetic preschooler.

The best thing I have done with our homeschooling was to train my oldest to be independent. He works alone, and then I check his work. We go over troublesome issues together, but he normally does well on his own.

Not all kids can do this – my daughter cannot. I have to sit with her for every minute of school. So, how do we make this work?

We are combining some subjects. Last year we started The Prairie Primer but only made it half-way through the book. We will spend this year finishing that. With this curriculum, we cover literature, some history, some science, and some nature study.

My oldest is working on a book of centuries for history. He is reading through the Kingfisher Encylopedia of World History a couple of pages a day, making notes in his book, and following up on what truly interests him with other books we have at home or that he finds at the library. He can also make entries from our Little House on the Prairie studies. This is completely independent.

We have always used Real Science 4 Kids for science. We will work through the middle school series for geology and astronomy this year. Because they are only ten chapters each, it is easy to finish two in a year. Even if we miss a few weeks, we can still finish the books. If we are on track to complete everything, we can supplement with other labs, books, and activities. The flexibility is great!

Everything else – math, grammar, writing, reading, etc – is open and go, just do the next thing. No planning, no searching out supplementary books. I simply track our days, and we do the next thing until we have completed 180 days, or really close to it.

We also attend a weekly co-op. This doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always been great for us. I enroll each kid in a class that is fun and fluff and one class that is more educational. Plus, they both do PE. If I put them each in a science class, I know that if we fall behind at home and skip science, they will still be getting science all year.

While these things help us maintain our education in the busy times in life, it is not perfect. I still have to remind myself that this is just one short season in life. I am only pregnant for a short time, they are only babies for a short time, and while toddlerhood seems never ending – too soon they are preteens.

We got behind a little when Matthew was born, and again when I had gall bladder surgery. Both times, we caught up and even surpassed what I had planned. The break from the norm may help reset everyone so that your school time is more effective. Relax, breathe, and enjoy the new baby smell.



Celebrate Reading! Enter to win a bookstore gift card!

Do you keep track of the reading your children do during the school year?

Usually I just keep a list of books in their portfolios, but a couple of years ago, I decided to make it a fun project for the kids.  I cut strips of scrapbook paper of various colors, and we turned them into book chains.  Each color represented a different type of book, such as red for read alouds, yellow for science, green for biography, blue for history, etc.  This was a great visual for the kids to see just how much reading they had accomplished.

What interesting ways have you tracked your kids’ reading? Join the conversation in our Facebook group HERE.

To celebrate our love of books, Sandbox to Socrates is having a giveaway.  One lucky person will win a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.  Click on the link below to be directed to the giveaway on our Facebook page.


Math in Real Life, by Briana Elizabeth

My children are not geniuses. I am most happily teaching regular, normal children. They are good in some things and not good in others, just as we all are. If anything, homeschooling has given us the chance to lay the best foundation for their weakest areas and allowed them the time to delve into their strongest areas.

In following, this is the story of how a weak area is given a stronger foundation when Mom supplies three days, endless cardboard, markers, and thingamagigs from all over the house. (it was like I had a passel of ferrets, I tell you).


Sophia has had some trouble with adding and counting money.  No matter how hard I pushed and pulled and prodded, she just drew a blank whenever I tried to review money.

So her sisters (who are thirteen) took it upon themselves to help her: they made her a store.

Perhaps they were all tired of listening to the constant review. Perhaps they knew something I didn’t. I think I know which it was.

It didn’t start out with a Big Plan. Matter of fact, I didn’t even know it was happening. The house was quiet, I was going about my business, and they were entertaining themselves for hours. What more could I ask for? Indeed.

They built the cash register and made all of the money. Mind you, I didn’t give them any ideas, and I made no requests. Those things on the side of the cash register? Are credit cards. They had Sophia tally up the prices, too.

By the end of the day, Sophia understood how money works.

They played like this for three days. They brought the neighborhood children to their store. They ferreted everything they could get their hands on for inventory.

Math in real life. They knew what Mom didn’t: Fia needed practical application. The play was the ‘work’ that cemented the ideas.

Some of you might yawn and say that your kids do this all the time – excellent! Such creativity is a thing to cherish.

Some of you might be wishing your kids would do things like this. All I can share to help you is that I have always allowed my children time. Time doing nothing (with no screens allowed). I have allowed them use of anything they like, as long as they use those things with respect (scissors, box cutters, etc) and put them away after use. And I encourage play by playing. Not so much games (Catan!) but in that they see me playing.

Real life math. So go play. All of you.

Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

About Homeschooling

What I Would Tell New Homeschooling Parents, by Diane

Editor’s Note: In case you missed it last year, here’s Diane’s timeless words to new homeschoolers. In an ever-changing world, some things remain a comfort: a warm drink on a cold day, a friendly smile from a stranger, tried-and-true advice from the trenches. Diane is a friend of Sandbox to Socrates and a homeschooling mother with two decades experience.

It is very hard to explain to a homeschool mom with young children, or a homeschool mom with only a few years of experience, exactly how to do the things you’re doing when you’ve done them for so long. Just a curriculum list won’t cut it because the curriculum itself isn’t doing the instructing.

I think your ability to teach in a classical manner is VERY dependent on your own educational experience. What are you bringing to the table as a teacher? If your own education was lacking, you will have a much harder time executing this than a mom who was classically educated as a child.

Simply as background information: I was fortunate enough to have a classical education before anybody even called it that. I studied Latin in high school for all four years, so teaching Latin to my own kids is easy. I’ve studied both French and Italian since second grade, so that’s two more languages I can teach with no problem. My exposure to classic literature was very thorough. I hated it as a kid, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am now. I never had to “pre-read” any of the classic works; I’d already read them. In my high school, you couldn’t graduate without taking a literature class every year, and the discussions were deep and thorough. Four years of mathematics were also required, in addition to four years of lab science and four years of Latin, plus one other foreign language. Logic was taken during our junior and senior years. We took art history for two years, which required a study abroad in Paris, so that we could see all of the important works of art for ourselves. Music history was also taken for two years, and we had to attend the symphony and opera more times than I can count. I hated the opera. LOL Not any more.

So, my point is that my own educational background, combined with the fact that I’m now finishing my 20th year of homeschooling, means that much of what I do is instinctual and not quantifiable. I don’t think I could explain it in a way that would enable someone else to glean anything from it. And providing you with a list of curriculum I use wouldn’t really be that helpful. You would need to spend a few days in my school to see how it works.

Give yourself time. Over the past twenty years, I learned by experience how to stop children from dawdling through their work, how to make it interesting, and how to carry out my educational plans. I will say that if your children are not being obedient, and not doing their tasks, you need to get control of it. You will never have success as a homeschool mom if your children don’t listen to you and respect you as their teacher. Having a neurotypical child take hours to get through one subject (in which they understand the material and can do the assignment) is completely unacceptable. So if that is happening in your house, don’t bother reading up on educational theory and Socratic discussions because that is not what you need to focus on.

If your own education was lacking, then you need to remedy that as well. You will need to do A LOT of studying and preparation so that the discussions about literature come to you naturally. I have never followed a “literature guide” because I don’t need one. I had it modeled for me by every teacher in my youth, and it’s second nature for me now. If that wasn’t your educational experience, then you will need to work to get there. Read Susan Wise Bauer’s book The Well-Educated Mind, if you haven’t already. It’s a great help for parents who are struggling with their own lack of a classical education. Take some courses on your own that will help you feel more confident in your knowledge base. That goes a long way toward being successful in teaching in this way.

So, personal experience in homeschooling plus your own knowledge are what makes teaching this way easier. Start with developing order in your home and school because teaching in the midst of chaos is a recipe for failure. I don’t just mean a clean and organized home and school (although that is important, too). I mean that your children have the degree of self-discipline necessary to do their work, pay attention, participate, and be respectful. They should be able to do what is age appropriate and not inject additional chaos into the environment. No learning is accomplished without a certain degree of self-discipline. In turn, as a teacher, you owe your students the respect of having well-planned lessons (not running around looking for things at the last minute…”Where did that book go? Why there are no scissors here? Why is the copier out of ink? I thought we had eyedroppers? We can’t finish this experiment without an eyedropper.”), being prepared, and knowing your material well enough to make it interesting and engaging. In a great deal of homeschools, there is more lack of self-discipline on the part of the teacher than the students. And you can hardly expect your children to learn anything other than what they see their mother model for them on a daily basis.

So, that’s the end of my ramble. I’m sorry if it sounds harsh in spots…I don’t mean it to be. But I do like to tell younger homeschooling moms the truth, without sugarcoating it. You are the end-all and be-all of your children’s education. You hold the whole thing in your hands. In the final analysis, what is comes down to is DOING it. All the theory and reading and curriculum in the world won’t mean a thing if you don’t execute the plan.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to follow every theory and recommendation perfectly. It doesn’t have to be done with the newest, shiniest curriculum out there. But it does have to be done. Teach your children with love, with honesty, with integrity, and from the heart. Do it every day. Be faithful to your goals, ideals, and personal standards. Teach them that reading is wonderful, that learning is exciting, and that knowledge is inspiring, and you’ll be successful in your educational endeavors.

That’s the best advice I can give you after twenty years at this gig.



A Day at the Museum (and More if I Convince You Properly), by Jen N.

When I heard Science Week at Sandbox I thought: field trips. I resisted the urge to add an evil laugh. Those of us following any set curriculum including day to day plans that we’ve purchased or created ourselves may find that a field trip becomes the enemy. Especially at the beginning of the year. Those plans are new, and my impulse is to reject anything that comes between me and my plans. In the dead of winter or the first warm days of spring, it may be a different matter. By then life has already intervened. There have been sick days, days of running errands for family, days when you babysit to help a friend. But at the beginning of the year, plans are almost sacred.

I’m here today while you are still planning and scheduling to encourage you to plan days at the museum now. It is not an intrusion if it is part of your curriculum. I think the term “field trip” has become a sort of euphemism for a day off from learning. I know that my children learn as much or more when we are in the field than on the days where we are home with our books. This year I am going back to a set curriculum,  and as I sat with the plans and my calendar I too fought the impulse to leave each day intact. I really want Monday to be on Monday. Throwing the entire week off-kilter on the first day seems counterproductive to keeping on track.

There are two ways to get around this feeling. I’m giving you permission from the high council of homeschoolers here at Sandbox to Socrates to adopt either method.

The first is easiest. Just decide that the schedule and plans are not going to be the boss of you. If you want to take your kids to the museum regularly and then do it. Be comfortable with doing Tuesday’s work on Wednesday thereby throwing off the pre-printed schedule. Don’t worry about fitting it in with anything that you are reading or studying. Those connections will come later as you get to those subjects. Did you study the ancients last year? Or not for two more years? It doesn’t matter. Some part of the mummy exhibit will stick with the kids. We were at the Field Museum recently and thoroughly enjoyed their Mammoth and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.  We studied the Ice Age during our study of the ancients two years ago. It turned out to be the highlight of our day. We actually went there to check out the insects on display.

When you encounter something you studied awhile ago, you’ll get a “Oh, yeah that guy- we read about him.”  If you haven’t studied that subject yet, you’ll have to wait to hear,”We saw that at the museum, I remember that.” As Susan Wise Bauer says,” Your goal is to supply mental pegs on which later information can be hung.”

The second way takes a bit more planning. If you are a planning junkie,  you probably won’t need my step by step directions either – but humor me. I’m actually sitting down this morning hoping to do this myself. I’ve got my plans out, and I’m reading through them and the texts to see if any obvious connections between museum exhibits and subject matter jump out. Then I look at the websites of all the museums that we could possibly get to and take a look at both the permanent and temporary exhibits.

My point is simply this: Don’t let the schedule rule the year. Any kind of home education takes so much dedication. You are already a hero for taking it on. The memories that my graduates talk about are all field trip-related and since I am down to two students, I am trying to keep that in mind. The one thing I can’t help you with?






Jen N. Jen has spent her time homeschooling her five children since 2001. She has read over 5,000 books aloud. A fan of all things geeky, she calls her children her horcruxes — each one has a talent for something she might have pursued herself. Jen and her husband have created a family of quirky, creative people that they are thrilled to launch out into the world. With the three oldest graduated, Jen now has time on her hands and has started a blog:


Excited About Earth Science, by Lynne

Last year I wrote a post about our grammar stage earth science which was really fun for all of us.

This year, we are going to be doing logic stage earth science. Actually, I should say THEY are going to be doing logic stage earth science this year. Unbeknownst to my children as of yet, I am going to have very little to do with teaching science this year. They will be doing most of the learning themselves. In fact, I have not purchased or borrowed any materials whatsoever for earth science this year. (I feel positively un-schooly about this!)

We happen to have a membership to a decent natural history museum. I’ve decided to take advantage of this membership and let the museum be the cornerstone of our science curriculum this year. Here is my plan:

Before we begin, I’m going to purchase notebooks in which they can draw and write Perhaps something like this or this. I will take them shopping or let them browse online to pick a notebook they will enjoy using.

Once we’ve started our new school year, I’m going to have them look at some websites, such as to learn what Earth Science is. Then I will have them pick a particular field in Earth Science to study first. So, let’s say Boy #1 chooses meteorology. I am going to assign him several tasks relating to the meteorology exhibits at the museum. First, he will have to list all of the meteorology exhibits he can find. Next, he will have to choose one particular exhibit and write a summary of what he has learned from that exhibit, including a drawing, graph, diagram, or some other type of illustration that demonstrates that he understood the exhibit. I will then discuss with him what he has written and drawn and assign him the task of doing more research on that topic using library books, websites, or materials we already have at home. I may assign the topic. For example, I may decide that I want him to learn more about the causes of hurricanes. Or, I may let him decide what aspect of meteorology has sparked his interest enough for further study. I will ask him to include the new information he has gathered in his notebook. We will discuss the topic again, comparing what he originally learned at the museum to the new information he has gathered.

Once I’m satisfied that he has thoroughly ingested this one topic, we will return to the museum where we’ll start the process over again with a new exhibit. I figure we will probably end up at the museum once every two weeks or so, with lots of reading in between. I’m looking forward to seeing their completed earth science notebooks this time next year.