#Back2School in #31Days: Day 11 – Planning: Curricula

Have you ever spent a lot of time with someone but looking back on that time it feels like you were with them but not engaged with them?

There’s a big difference.

That’s how I felt about being with my children this past year.

In some ways we had an average year with learning. We finished some of our subjects and totally changed course with others.

We clocked a lot of learning time in our calendars.

But in other ways, our year was unique and came with different challenges.

Before beginning anything new, I like to take a full-stop and think everything through, which is why we are committed to attending the Great Homeschool Convention every year. (This is an affiliate link, but I promise with how much I recommend them – they are not sponsoring me. I’m just eager for free.)

Each year, I’m corrected in my thinking as a woman, wife, parent, teacher, writer, friend – all of it. The sessions always seem to untangle the connections and allows me to understand where each of my roles fit.

I’m coming to anticipate a major shift in my thinking and researching of resources and curricula. It’s stretching for me to trust that God will guide us to the right sessions, booths, and materials for teaching and training our children.

It’s been a huge blessing to trust and commit to the way He shows us. We have made the decision for what we will learn in the fall by April – 3 years in a row now. I have really loved being able to go over the materials during the summer at my leisure – then by August each year I feel not only decided but prepared.

Back2School Logo

So far in the #Back2School journey, we’ve covered the why, envisioning the flow, using Pinterest with caution, creating a book nook, staying in the present while preparing for the future, decluttering before you begin, defining a family culture, and discerning the big picture.

Now for a little more nitty gritty on what we’ve decided to try this year.

I wrote about what I thought we were going to use in the takeaway post from the convention, but we (my husband and I) ended up feeling deeply drawn to reading together as a family. At one point in the exhibit hall, my husband said “I just feel like we need to just read lots and lots of good books together.”

Yes. That.

Let’s read lots and lots of books together.

All you need for a good education is a comfortable couch and a library card. – Steve Lambert of Five in a Row

I wasn’t sure about Steve Lambert’s session – Become Your Child’s Favorite Teacher – for the first 15 minutes. I mean, he was interesting and very funny – his jokes made me laugh out loud and when I repeated one to my husband later, I laughed until I cried.  But I was looking for an “aha!” moment and it never came.

What I did walk away with was a conviction. He emphasized again and again the importance of reading aloud to your children. For me, reading aloud is the easiest thing to put off for later. It’s easier to say, “Go work on a page in your math book” than it is to stop what I’m doing to sit and read together.

By the end of the convention, I knew Steve Lambert had been the most inspiring and helpful speaker for me – and before the convention Five in a Row wasn’t even on my list of curricula to look at.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 3

Long story short, we went with Five in a Row Volume 4 for ages 7-8, which isn’t a well known volume. It comes with the Five in a Row Christian Character and Bible Study content, cookbook, and laminated story disks for a map.

We are really excited to see how unit studies will enhance our home, especially in the 4-corners of our home school puzzle.

The books in the unit study are primarily picture books and at first my 8-year old was apprehensive – and I was too to be perfectly honest. I have leaned on the side of hurrying my eldest to strive for the next levels, the harder challenges, and the deeper materials. So to see “easy” content feels beneath her. But as I was taught in the session “You CAN do unit studies” by Steve Lambert, anyone at any age can do a unit study at their level from great children’s literature. (I wrote an example of how he applied Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel for 4 different age levels in this post.)

Five in a Row unit studies cover all the major subjects: social studies, geography, language arts, art, math, and science – plus Bible and home economics!

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 4

We are really looking forward to the relationship building on the foundation of books, the reading – all of us will take turns reading through these stories, the real discussions that will take place as we dig into these rich stories, and the rest from the busyness of trying to build an education from textbooks and worksheets.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 2

In addition to the unit studies, we chose to add a separate history curriculum. Rea Berg of Beautiful Feet Books was also speaking at the convention and I was able to attend two of her sessions. My husband is deeply interested in history and the books included in this Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades are excellent. For us, it wasn’t a decision from wanting to do more packaged curricula but rather a decision to surround our children with more quality books to choose from in our library.

Many of the books in this package are hard to find on their own. We felt like it was a worthy investment.

B2S Day 11 Planning Curricula 1

We plan to try using lapbooks to enhance the units of Five in a Row. We bought Heidi St. John’s eBook Lapbooking Made Simple to help encourage the set up and follow through of this method of learning.

What is a lapbook?

It isn’t a curriculum. It is a method. It’s like taking a large Science Fair poster board and shrinking it to fit in the child’s lap. You use manila file folders – open it flat, then fold both sides to the middle spine – and that’s it. You now have your lapbook ready for pasting any number of things into the folder on the topic of choice.

So that’s it. This next year is going to be another adventure for all of us in learning together. I plan on sprinkling posts about how things are going with these resources this year – more for accountability on my part to keep going than for your benefit – but I do hope seeing a snapshot of our planning helps inspire you to engage in your learning journey along with us. Let me know if you would like that in the comments or ask anything you’d like about what I’ve shared in this post!

This is part 3 in the Curricula: What We Use series. Click the link to read Part 1: Preschool and Kindergarten or Part 2: 1st and 2nd grades.

And it is also Day 11 in the #31Days to #Back2School series; check out Day 1 and the Index by clicking here.



Thank you for reading this post. If you've found it helpful, bookmark or share it for future reference. There are affiliate links in this post, because that's just good business - they are all marked by underlining. If you want to know more about affiliate links read my disclosure. As always, be sure to subscribe for more free content and to download your free guide to writing your own Parenting Purpose Statement.

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