Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Year 5 school plan (2016-2017, age 10)

Here it is, our annual plan! Our homeschool is secular, classically designed (based loosely on the Well Trained Mind), and not at all grade centered—we do things depending on Calvin's pace and interest level.

I will come back through the year, or at least at the end, to update our progress.
X indicates an accomplished goal
+ indicates an added goal or activity/resource

June 2016-June 2017
Age 10 (public school grade 5)

Building Foundations in Scientific Understanding Vol. 3 (we'll spend at least two years with this book)

Technology and Engineering
Snap Circuits Student Guide (with Snap Circuits Pro SC-500 kit)
Javascript for Kids
Lego Mindstorms (beginning with Geek Mom's lesson plans and branching out from there)

The Arts
Drawing with Children on level three (first term)
Artistic Pursuits grades 4-5 (second term)
X Art and theater classes through our homeschooling group
Piano Adventures Level 5 (plus Performance, Theory, and Pop Rep)
X Public school band classes—clarinet (twice weekly rehersals, plus performances)
X Boychoir of Ann Arbor (twice weekly rehersals, plus performances)

Physical Education
X Twice weekly dance classes: tap and ballet
Biking, running, or yoga twice weekly depeding on weather
Hiking several times a month  

Math and Logic
Math-U-See Geometry
Perplexors Level E 
Building Thiking Skills Level 2 (first term) 
Red Herring Mysteries Level 1 (second term)
Mind Benders Book 4 (second term)

Language Arts:  
Avancemos Level 1 Homeschool Package plus the Cuaderno

MCT Level 4 Grammar of Literature plus the practice book
MCT Level 4 Vocabulary of Literature
MCT Level 4 Poetry of Literature
MCT Level 4 Writing of Literature

Assigned (mostly read-alouds) for discussion and analysis (one or two a month):
Moby Dick
David Copperfield
The Red Badge of Courage (with Novel Ties study guide)
Frankenstein (also Gris Grimly's version)
War of the Worlds (possibly this version)
A Christmas Carol 
Silent Spring
All Quiet on the Western Front (with Novel Ties study guide)
Paradise Lost (with this plain english assist)
A Separate Peace (with Novel Ties study guide)
Animal Farm (with Novel Ties study guide

Social Studies 

Draw the USA (first term)
Draw Europe (second term)

Story of the World Volume 4 with the student workbook (I'm not sold on this curriculum: it's too biased and not secular enough, but we've been successfully using it as a backbone and supplementing with literature, living history books, and documentaries as the true meat of our study).

Supplementary reading for history (about 1 book per week; we won't get through all of these but will choose at least one per topic area):
Where Soldiers Lie, Wilson, John
Begumbagh, George Manville Fenn
The Sebastopol Sketches, Leo Tolstoy
Out with Garibaldi, G.A. Henty
The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, Dino Buzzati
Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom, Katherine Patterson
Flags of War and X Battle Scars, John Wilson
Stories of Young Pioneers, ed. Violet Kimball
At Her Majesty's Request, Walter Dean Myers
The Shadows of the Ghadames, Joelle Stolz
Nory Ryan's Song and X Maggie's Door, Patricia Reilly Giff
Journey to the River Sea, Eva Ibbotson
Where the Flame Trees Bloom, Alma Flor Ada
Caddie Woodlawn, Carol Ryrie Brink
Ties that Bind, Ties that Break, Lensey Namioka
The Night Journey, Kathryn Laksy
The Wave, Todd Strasser
China's Long March, Jean Fritz
Bud Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis
The Bread Winner, Deborah Ellis
Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
The War that Saved My Life, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Twenty and Ten, Claire Hutchet Bishop
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, Eleanor Coerr
Hiroshima, Laurence Yep
Escape to West Berlin, Maurine Dahlberg
The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, Sook Nyul Choi
The Fire Eaters, David Almond
Linda Brown, You Are Not Alone, ed. Joyce Carol Thomas
Escape from Saigon, Andrea Warren
Phoenix Rising, Karen Hesse
Red Scarf Girl, Ji-li Jiang
China's Son, Da Chen


Year 4 school plan (2015-2016, age 9)

Our homeschool is secular and classically designed. It is based somewhat off the the suggestions in the Well Trained Mind, but we don't pay a lot of attention to grade expecations; instead we follow Calvin's pace and interests to determine where we are and what we are doing each year.

I will come back through the year, or at least at the end, to update our progress. An X means the goal was accomplished (or the book read), a + indicates was an added goal. No marks mean we did not accomplish or dropped the goal.

June 2015-June 2016
Age 9 (public school grade 4)

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding Volume II (this is our second year with the book and we will probably finish it) (completed)

Typing with Mavis Beacon (completed)
X Blog upkeep 
+X Gaming (mainly Minecraft)

The Arts
Piano Adventures Level 4 Lesson, Performance, Theory, Technique, and Pop Rep (finished)
Piano Adventures Level 5 Lesson, Performance, Theory, and Pop Rep (started)
X Boychoir of Ann Arbor (twice weekly practice)

How to Teach Art to Children  (completed)
X Photography: Capture Your 365
X Classes through our homeschooling group (theater, sculpting)

Math-U-See Algebra I (completed)
Perplexors Level D (completed)
+X More Perplexors Level D (completed)
Orbiting with Logic (completed)

Physical Education
X Running or biking twice weekly (only in good weather)
X Gym once weekly through our homeschooling group (first term only)
X Dance class once weekly: Musical Theater

Language Arts
Foreign Language 
Spanish for Children B (completed)

Spelling Workout Level H (completed)
Michael Clay Thompson's Level 3: the Voyage Series: (all books completed)
MCT Grammar Voyage and Practice Voyage
MCT Caesar's English II
MCT Essay Voyage
MCT A World of Poetry 

Reading: in addition to choice and history supplementary reading, we will have one to two assigned books per month, many of which we will read aloud together and discuss, some of which will also have accompanying study workbooks. 
Holes, Louis Sachar (with study guide)
X The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (with Novel Ties study guide)
The Canterville Ghost, Oscar Wilde
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beacher Stowe (with study guide)
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
Treasure Island and X Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain
The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare (with Novel Ties study guide)
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
The Last of the Mohicans, George Fenimore Cooper
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett (with Novel Ties study guide)
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy
The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells 

History and Geography
The Story of the World Volume 3 and Activity Book (we use this as a backbone only and supplement heavily with reading and video materials)

Supplementary history reading (about 1 book a week; we won't get to all of these, but will pick at least one title per topic area):
X indicates read, + indicates added/ to the list mid-year (and read)
I, Juan de Pareja, Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
The Wheel on the School, Meindert DeJong
Pocahontas, Joseph Bruchac
The Broken Blade, William Durbin
The Samurai's Tale, Erik C. Haugaard
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin
Grimm's Fairy Tales, Grimm
The Cat Who Went to Heaven, Elizabeth Coatsworth
Rama and Sita, David Weitzman
A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe
German Hero-Sagas, Barbara Leonie Picard
Egg & Spoon, Gregory Maguire
Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare
Mr. Revere and I, Robert Lawson
Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes
My Brother Sam is Dead, James Lincoln Collier
Ben and Me, Robert Lawson
In the Reign of Terror, G.A. Henty
Kashtanka, Anton Chekhov
Lyddie, Katherine Patterson
The Monkey King, Aaron Shepard
The Gate in the Wall, Ellen Howard
Midnight is a Place, Joan Aiken
The Courage of Sarah Noble, Alice Dalgiesh
Lewis and Clark and Me, Laurie Myers
Streams to the River, River to the Sea, Scott O'Dell
The Legend of Lord Eight Deer, John M.D. Pohl
Nightjohn, Gary Paulson
The Journal of Jesse Smoke, Joseph Bruchac
Only the Names Remain, Alex W. Bealer
The Whale Rider, Witi Ihimaera
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
+ White Fang, Jack London
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, Karen Cushman
By the Great Horn Spoon!, Sid Fleischman




Learning tools: reading

Reading as a skill is hot button topic. Back in the days when we were shopping for schools, before we decided to homeschool, it seemed that every preshool in twon was advertising their success in early reading training. Where kindergarten used to be about learning your letters, today it's about hard core reading drills. In many programs kids are expected to be independent readers before they enter the first grade. The push for early reading skill development is strong.

I think reading is one of the most important skills a child can master. Just thnk of all the doors that open up for a child who is reading on his own, a child who can seek his own information and follow his own dreams and desires. But it's because of this that there is so much pressure placed on educators and kids surrounding the reading topic, and the stress has drained it of enjoyment. Flashcards, computer programs, audio programs, workbooks, easy readers, high demands, outrageous expectations...when the most important tools we have are simply a library card, and patience.

Where my unschooling plans have failed in other subjects, they have succeeded with flying colors here. Reading is a huge passtime in our house; we are readers ourselves and have created a culture of reading in our home. We read to Calvin many books, many times a day, beginning on day one before we were even home from the hospital. Instead of toys he has always had only books on the shelves in his room. When he showed an interest in reading I provided him with a selection of the Bob books and lots of my time, but I also also got him started on keeping a journal, with which I credit much of his reading success. Calvin is now an advanced independent reader who sees reading the way other kids see video games or TV, and my biggest job now is to make sure he has lots of quality reading material available to him, the operative word being quality.

So what does reading education look like in our house? What are our greatest tools?

Books, of course. Lots and lots of books. But where do we get them and how do we pick them? Library checkouts—as soon as he had memorized his home phone and address and could write that information legibly I took him to the library to get his own card, and that card gets a workout. But we also hit up used book sales, particularly library used book sales.

And it looks like reading together and out loud. It looks like journal keeping, and illustrating. It looks like listening to books while illustrating them ourselves.

It looks like a life revolving around reading.


Ancient Civilzations: Egypt (resource list)

Ancient Egypt, from ~3000 bce to ~1000 bce, the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the New Kingdom (April-May 2012)

Topics of focus:
Timeline of Ancient Egypt and its Kingdoms
Names and dates of some pharaohs
Architectural contributions
Mythology and religious beliefs
Writing and hieroglyphs

Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, by Henry Barker (fun list with pictures, easy reader)
The Egyptians (Crafts from the Past)
Encyclopedia Mythologica Gods and Heroes (Sabuda, a beautiful pop-up book, not just Egyptian)
Gods of Ancient Egypt (Dover Coloring Book, fun coloring plus great information)
I am the Mummy Heb-Nefert, by Eve Bunting (beautiful story and illustrations)
Life in Ancient Egypt (Dover Coloring Book, fun coloring with great information)
Ms. Frizzle's Adventures in Ancient Egypt (Magic School Bus)
Mummies and Pyramids (Magic Tree House Fact Tracker)
Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House)
Mummies Made in Egypt, by Aliki (wonderful children's book on the mummification process)
Pharaoh's Boat, by David Weitzman (wonderful picture book)
Senefer: A Young Genius in Old Egypt, by Beatrice Lumpkin (loved this, and it's also a living math book)
Tutankhamun (Usborne)

Web and other technology:
Ancient Egypt for Kids (web reading)
Britannica for Kids: Ancient Egypt (iPad app)
Explore Ancient Egypt (the British Museum online)
Explore Ancient Egypt (the Children's University of Manchester online)

Videos online:
The Egyptian Creation Myth (from The Big Myth, on youtube)
History of Egypt Part I (Stephen Shifflet via neok12 online)

Videos via Netflix or Amazon:
Building Pharaoh's Ship (Nova via Amazon)
Egypt: Engineering an Empire (The History Channel via Netflix, this was our favorite)
Empires: Egypt's Golden Empire (PBS via Netflix)

Crafts and activities:
Africa and the Middle East puzzle (GeoPuzzle)
Making a book of the dead
Draw like an Egyptian
Making a pyramid out of Legos
Keeping a weather chart comparing weather here to weather in Egypt
Making an Egyptian feast (recipes)
Making a mummy and mummy case (clay and paper mache)




Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia (a resource list)

Ancient Mesopotamia, from ~3000 b.c.e. to ~1000 b.c.e. (February-March, 2012)

Topics of focus:
Civilization—why it happened, its unique opportunities and problems
Mythology and religious beliefs
Sumerian cuneiform
Timeline of events and rulers

Book/reading resources:
Archaeology for Kids (Richard Panchyk)
The Epic of Gilgamesh (pdf)
Gilgamesh the Hero (Geraldine McCaughrean)
Gilgamesh the King (Ludmila Zeman)
The Last Quest of Gilgamesh (Ludmila Zeman)
The Revenge of Ishtar (Ludmila Zeman)
The Story of the World (Susan Wise Bauer)
The Story of the World Activity Book (Susan Wise Bauer)

Ancient Mesopotamia for Kids (
Cooking ancient recipes (
The Egyptian creation story (The Big Myth)
Explore Mesopotamia (The British Museum)
Sumerian cuneiform alphabet (
Sumerian cuneiform numbers (

Videos online
Ancient Mesopotamia: A Timeline (YouTube)
Ancient Sumerian Civilization, animated (YouTube)
Ancient Ur, part 1 (YouTube)
Ancient Ur, part 2 (YouTube)
The Epic of Gilgamesh, animated (YouTube)
People and Places: Mesopotamia (National Geographic Kids online)

Videos via disc or streaming
Legacy: The Origins of Civilization, Episode one: Iraq (Michael Wood via Netflix)
Michael Wood: In Search of Myths and Heroes, Episode One: The Queen of Sheba  (PBS via Netflix)

Building a Ziggurat out of Lego blocks
Geo Puzzles (Africa and the Middle East)
Enjoying exhibits at nearby museum (DIA)
History Pockets: Ancient Civilizations (Evan-Moor activity book)
Making an ancient Mesopotamian feast
Making cuneiform clay tablets
Reading, coloring, reading, drawing, reading, writing, and more reading