Planning for Another School Year: Combined Subjects

Planning for Another School Year: Combined Subjects

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On Monday I shared how I plan for the new year.  I outlined how I determined which subjects and topics I plan to teach for the upcoming year. I also shared some of the tools I use to get that done. Then I shared all of curriculum choices I made for the core subjects.

Today, I want to take some time to share what I’m planning for the subjects that my girls will be studying together. (This is a different outline than last year’s since we did a lot of unit studies like this one. This year, I wanted a little more structure since Rosie is headed into her middle school years. ) I find that these combined subjects tend to be more fun because we do lots of hands-on activities and learning seems to be more natural in a group setting.

To recap a little from Monday, I put this table together to outline my plans for the combined subjects. I wanted to cover all of these subjects over the year, but initially couldn’t figure out how without us sitting at the table all day everyday. (That really isn’t what we want…and there’s just no way my kids want to sit still for that long.) After deciding on a schedule of 6 weeks in school followed by 1 week off, I assigned each 6-week “session” a subject that we would learn about together.

With this outline in mind- and on paper, I’m old-fashioned, remember? 😉 – I headed to a homeschool bookstore about 40 minutes from where I live. (It’s seriously worth the drive…and we moved to the middle of nowhere so everything is a drive but this drive is worth it.) This bookstore sells both new and used books and you could easily spend an afternoon in this place. There is just so much stuff! Thankfully they have the books I was looking for divided on the shelves by topic versus by grade like some subjects.

So we started with Science.

I lucked out and found a used science textbook for studying ocean animals: Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. I like that it uses a biblical worldview, has hands-on “try this!” activities throughout the lessons and ends each lesson with a project.

If you can afford it, they sell a kit that contains everything you will need to complete the activities in the lessons. They also sell a student’s notebook that goes along with the text. (I only bought the used copy of the textbook; I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything too extravagant needed to complete the activities.) I didn’t buy any other books to supplement because we already have some at home and we’ve found numerous cool books at the library for this topic.

While still browsing the Science shelves, we looked for Astronomy.

I wasn’t looking for any kind of textbook for this topic. I have a few hands-on activities already in mind for this and we already have a handful of books at home about stars and the universe. My aim here was to find something that gave a good overview of Astronomy and would be a good companion for our studies. I found The Astronomy Book by Dr Jonathan Henry; it’s part of the series of books Wonders of Creation.

Still in Science, I needed something for my last topic.

For our last session, I know I want to do something with simple machines, forces and energy. I had wanted to do this last year and had bought a book last year on simple machines. This time, I needed something for the forces and energy. I found a textbook with lots of activities and pictures that I think will engage my kids called Motion, Forces, and Energy: Science Explorer by Prentice Hall.

Moving on to History.

We’ve already started covering North Carolina history so I already have a few history books that also cover United States history. Also, since I haven’t had time to go through those books and come up with an outline for that session, I’m not sure which books, if any, I’ll need yet. So I focused on Ancient Greece. Wow, were there a lot of choices! I picked the 2 that I liked best to go along with an ancient civilizations textbook I already had at home (because last year we studied Ancient Egypt). My first choice was an Usborne book titled A Visitor’s Guide to the Ancient World. This book definitely has kid-appeal with the fun style of writing and the illustrations, as well approaching the topic as if you are going to visit today. My second choice was a book specific to Ancient Greece since my other books covered a few ancient civilizations. I found that Ancient Greece: Cultural Atlas for Young People by Anton Powell is written at a little higher level and may be more appropriate for Rosie, but Ladybug will still be able to benefit from it. After getting home I took to Amazon with a specific book of hands-on activities in mind for Ancient Greece. (I’ve ordered a book for Geology from this series and it was pretty neat.) I ordered Ancient Greece! 40 Hands-On Activities to Experience this Wondrous Age by Williamson Books.

Last up, World Geography.

This topic was a little trickier…which is probably why I saved it for the end. While teaching world geography, I know I want my focus to be Christmas traditions around the world (because I know that this will be our subject of study in our last session before our Christmas break). But there weren’t any books specifically for this. I flipped through a lot of books. Honestly, I started to get discouraged that I wasn’t going to be able to find any books to go along with our studies. As I was about to throw in the towel (because at this point we had been in the store for going on 2 hours and I did have all three kids with me…), we found what seems to be the perfect book. The Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World Geography with Complete World Atlas is going to work well for my plan. I love how it breaks down the countries and continents around the world into 6 regions and tells a little bit about each. With 6 regions and 6 weeks to teach it, I can do one region a week and complete a crash course in world geography. I’m really excited about this session! It’s going to be a lot of fun!


Actually, there is one more thing.

I wanted to start exposing the girls to famous artists. I’m not expecting them to become experts, but I want to at least introduce them to various artists and see what sticks. To do this, without overwhelming our schedules, I made the first Friday (which is our non-planned day) of each month an Artist Study. I lucked out and found a book at the homeschool bookstore that was perfect for getting this monthly artist study started: Short Lessons in Art History by Phyllis Clausen Barker. I like this book because it breaks down the artists by when they were alive or where they were from or by their style. The book has 28 artists, some of which I’ve already introduced the girls to. I really like that the lesson on each artist gives a short but concise summary about him or her and then I can follow it up with pictures of their work and a project.

In addition to our language arts curriculum and handwriting curriculum, I’m having the girls pick a few out-of-state family members to start writing to on a regular basis. I’m also looking into the penpal correspondence program with Peace Corps volunteers.

To round things out though, both girls do have piano lessons, Ladybug takes gymnastics, and Rosie does drama. For the fall, once every one else starts up school again as well, both girls will be taking a foreign language. I’m hoping our local group will put a French class together again, and if so, both girls will join that class. (If not, I’m not sure what Ladybug will do.) Rosie, regardless of how French pans out, will be taking an American Sign Language class. (I learned that ASL counts as a foreign language in high school! So cool!) Also in the fall, both girls will be in a Girls Scouts troop. Lastly, but not least, we are going to start up a Chess Club again in the fall with our local homeschool group.

So that’s it!  That’s what I’ve got planned so far for this new school year with a 3rd grader and a 6th grader here at home!

In case you missed it, I initially talked about the Top 10 Things My Homeschool Can’t Survive Without. Seriously, all of things are a must-have for us.

In the last post, I talked about the core subjects that differ based on the levels/grades my girls are at individually.

What do you have planned for this year? I’d love to hear about it!

Need some help thinking up some first day activities? I’m sharing some of our favorite first day activities!

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