Home education with a high school sophomore, a freshman, and a 5th grader.

We did some of 9th and 10th grade together, namely history and literature/composition.

Ancient History:

We used Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World as our spine. I read the book over the summer and then assigned the kids 2-3 chapters a week, which we then discussed in a weekly “class” at the kitchen table. I really enjoyed Bauer’s book, and we had some good discussions. We also had a chance to visit Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, Cahokia, and the Oriental Institute of Chicago, which provided some great visuals to flesh out our study.

Chaco Canyon


We used Brave Writer’s Boomerang for most of our curriculum. (Boomerang is an integrated literature/grammar curriculum written designed for home schoolers.) Last year’s book list included:

After reading the book list during the summer, I opted to skip A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The House on Mango Street, and Wolf Hollow.  We substituted Bob Massie’s memoir A Song in the Night and Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book.

While Boomerang covers all sorts of writing techniques and grammar rules, my favorite part of it is the section of “big juicy questions” at the end of each guide.  These led to great discussions and thoughtful essays by my kids.

We supplemented our writing with Brave Writer’s freewriting prompts, Thursday Poetry Teas, and the use of Birkenstein and Graff’s They Say, I Say.

Additionally, our sophomore studied:

  • AP Computer Science A (through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers)
  • AP Chemistry (through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers)
  • Precalculus (using Teaching Textbooks and Khan Academy)
  • Spanish literature (we read poetry by Pablo Neruda and short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  • Enrichment school classes: musical theater, world percussion, art, health, speech & debate)
  • Piano and violin
  • Robotics club through our local high school
Robotics Team field trip to NASA

Our freshman also studied:

  • Algebra 2 and trigonometry
  • Dance
  • Harp
  • Enrichment school classes: biology, musical theater, creative writing, and Spanish 2
  • as I look at this now, it doesn’t seem like that much. There really was an awful lot of dancing…
first pair of point shoes

5th grade:

  • Singapore Math Primary 5A and 5B
  • Ancient History (using Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World Vol. 1: Ancient Times) and field trips
  • We had a mid-winter visit from also 5th-grade cousins, in which we did a unit study on Central America (chocolate, coffee, alibrijes)
  • Literature: we used Brave Writer’s Arrow (integrated grammar/literature curriculum for middle school), reading The Penderwicks at Last, Redwall, Mary Poppins, Journey to Jo’Burg, Because of Winn-Dixie, Harriet the Spy and By the Great Horn Spoon. We really enjoyed the book choices.
  • We finally got her dyslexia analyzed and began using the Barton Method for some writing help. She doesn’t like it, but I think it’s going to help.
  • Friday Freewrites
  • Thursday Poetry Teas (seriously, this was one of the best parts of our year)
  • Cello Lessons (which came out of a freewrite prompt, “if you had all the money and time in the world, what would you want to do/learn/try/become?”)
  • Enrichment classes: piano, drama, art, mountain lab/environmental studies, US history
poetry tea with cousins

These past year was a particular challenge for me. Between one of our family member’s serious battle with depression (and the fear, anxiety and medical visits that went with it), and the struggle to get my 5th grader’s learning difficulties diagnosed, I had a hard time focusing on teaching. Or cooking. Or being a friend. Or learning how to be a better teacher. Or anything, really, other than the fear that my beloved might die. We are coming up out of the darkest part of the canyon now, for which I’m so grateful, but it certainly changed my priorities and colored how I have looked at the past 2 years. And yet, learning happened. I remind myself that regular school teachers have bad years, with medical issues and struggling classes, and the good enough IS good enough.