A new school year begins in just a couple of weeks! That means it’s time to post about what we are doing this year, and how we are doing it! This year, I have a 9th grader, 7th grader, 4th grader, 2nd grader, and kindergartner. Also, I have a 4yo and a 2yo. And, I am pregnant. The baby is due at the end of 2019. So, newborn in the middle of our school year. With so much going on, it becomes ever more important to maintain a minimalist approach to homeschooling. That said, here is our minimalist homeschool curriculum for 2019-2020.
We take a back-to-basics approach to homeschooling, and focus on mastery of math, reading, and writing. We use Robinson Curriculum as the basis of our homeschool, which focus entirely on reading, writing, and math. It has the best approach to science, which is to teach physics and chemistry as calculus-based extensions of math. All other science is taught through reading living books, and, if the child is interested, through observing and collecting natural objects, star-parties, gardening, and animal husbandry.
History and geography are also learned from reading living books. Basically, the curriculum is 1-2 lessons from Saxon Math first thing in the morning. Then the child corrects their work. After math, they write a page or so. Usually, they do copywork until about 6th grade, and by high school, they are writing 2 pages a day. Finally, they read for a couple of hours. After that, they can pursue their other interests. The curriculum is excellent, because it emphasizes skill practice, the content is found in reading living books, and it leaves plenty of time for interest-led learning. It teaches independent learning, and self-reliance. It also doesn’t require me to spend all my time planning and teaching. I have time for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, teaching my beginning learners, cooking three meals a day, doing all the housecleaning, and disciplining.
I also appreciate that Robinson Curriculum doesn’t address religion. It is Christian-based, and it includes unashamedly Christian reading, including the 1611 King James Version Bible. BUT! Religion is part of family culture. It is part of connecting your family to your culture and your community. In our house, using this curriculum allows us to choose our own catechism for religious instruction, our own holidays and celebrations, and our own family traditions. I can teach my children etiquette and work on character training, without it conflicting with our curriculum.
How We Do Minimalist Homeschool
In our state, there is an hourly requirement, and a requirement to study certain subjects as homeschoolers. I prefer a minimalist homeschool curriculum. So, for our minimalist homeschool curriculum for 2019-2020, I have a complete set of math books, pencils and composition books, and a booklist from the Robinson Curriculum. I divide up the booklist into subjects, and I also include supplementary reading that we need to cover. But, I keep the curriculum to be about reading, writing and math. In middle school and high school, we have to add a foreign language, state history, and career readiness for graduation. We also have to do P.E./ health and arts, but we cover those as part of things to do every day.
All the work is done in old-fashioned composition books. Math is done in graph paper composition books. Writing and notebooking are done in regular, college-lined composition books. In addition to a copywork or writing book, they learn to keep a field journal, commonplace book, and Book of Centuries. Starting in middle school, the student begins writing information from reading in a field journal (nature, science, and engineering), a Book of Centuries (timeline of history with illustrations and maps), and a commonplace book (quotes and feelings about stories and books). Each student practices map drawing every day from 3rd grade on, until he can draw the world and label features and locations from memory.
We all meet together for 15-30 minutes at the beginning of the school day. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the 23rd Psalm. Each child learns to “speak pieces” from the McGuffey’s Readers and recites their current piece. We go over the catechism question-and-answer memory work. Other memory work is also recited. Then everyone goes to their individual work.
Middle and High School
So, the 7th and 9th graders are totally self-directed. At 8:30, after doing their morning routines and chores, they collect their school things and start working. The only thing that I do for them is correct their writing. They start with math, then move on to English grammar and spelling/vocabulary. Then, they write for about an hour. Both of them are still working on content, rather than form. They are both studying Latin this year, so after writing, they take 30 minutes to study Latin together, then take a break for the noon hour (which is not RC, but is good for our family). After lunch, they do reading. The last part of reading time, they notebook their reading. Finally, they have 30 minutes to study civics, home ec, and business, which qualifies as career readiness.
As you can see, in middle and high school, my kids are entirely self-directed. They don’t use screens, just pen, paper, and books. They have access to atlas, dictionary, globe, encyclopedia, and field guides and they know how to find information and put it in their own words. THAT is the value of Robinson Curriculum!
There are two different levels of elementary school. There is 1st and 2nd grade, where children are learning to read, learning to write, and learning their math facts. Then, there are grades 3-6, where they are practicing reading, writing, and math. I also teach kindergarten, but I don’t use a curriculum, just a set of objectives, and flash cards, pattern blocks, classic read-alouds, and the Wee Sing series.
Upper Elementary Grades
In 3rd-6th grades, most of the work is reading and math. Students draw or copy a map for five minutes a day after they finish their reading. They make rock, bug, or pressed plant collections. They read G. A. Henty, Horatio Alger, Rudyard Kipling, and others. In 3rd and 4th grade, they do copywork instead of original writing. In 5th and 6th grade, they start learning how to put original thoughts on paper. They study spelling, vocabulary, and grammar from old-fashioned schoolbooks. And, they do a lesson from Saxon Math every day. If Saxon Math doesn’t work for them, they can choose Ray’s Arithmetic. Both are great programs, and both are self-teaching. The self-teaching aspect is a benchmark for any resource included in our minimalist homeschool curriculum for 2019-2020, since I am pregnant this year.
In 1st and 2nd grades, the emphasis is on the basics of literacy. I teach phonics from an old-fashioned speller. I like Webster’s Speller because I prefer to use a syllabary, although the method also works with McGuffey’s Speller. In kindergarten, children learn the names of the letters and their sounds. In 1st grade, they begin the syllabary. After they get through the syllabary, or in the first few lessons of McGuffey’s Speller, they start McGuffey’s Primer. Every day, we go over the spelling tables or lessons, recite the spelling rule, speak and spell out loud, then turn to McGuffey’s Primer and First Reader.
After phonics and spelling practice, it is time for McGuffey notebook pages. For these, we go over the Primer or First Reader lesson, sounding out the words. Then she copies the letters and words into a composition notebook. I demonstrate each letter, and she writes rows of them for practice. She learns them in the same order as the lessons. By the time she gets through the First Reader, she can write a full page of copywork at a time, ready for 3rd grade.
Finally, she also memorizes all her math facts. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, through 12. We use Ray’s Primary Arithmetic to connect math to life, but the core of math learning is memorizing math facts. Until math facts are memorized, we don’t really write problems, we just do word problems orally from Ray’s Primary Arithmetic.
How We Do Life Skills for Our Minimalist Curriculum
During the school year, we follow a strict schedule, but allow time for individual pursuits. The children have chores. They are responsible for their own rooms, for their own things, and for taking turns helping me cook and clean up afterwards. The older ones also help in the garden, with the chickens and other farm animals, and with other outdoor chores. I keep a list of life skills that I want them to learn, which includes household skills, outdoors/survival skills, old-fashioned skills, and crafts.
I also keep a list of etiquette from an old-fashioned etiquette books, of manners I want my kids to learn. During the year, we work on manners every week. Table manners, manners in public, greetings, polite conversation — Hopefully by the end of the year, I will have covered it all. For my teens, I include weekly lessons from vintage home ec books, vintage style & beauty books, and vintage etiquette books, along with the weekly civics and business lessons. They get embarrassed, but I know that the weekly practice of the same concepts over and over will make it easier for their social skills to be natural later on.
Oh, and I should mention that my kids wear uniforms for homeschool! They are part of their simplified wardrobes. Clothing care skills are part of their life skills list. Life skills are an important part of our minimalist homeschool curriculum for 2019-2020. I only have a couple more years with my teenagers!
This year, in spite of this pregnancy, I am trying to keep up with my 1950s Mom Schedule. I planned everyone’s schedule, and compiled them on a Daily Family Schedule. I also wrote out detailed individual schedules, so each person knows what they should be doing. We are currently following them, except for the school-day part, to get in the habit and identify problems before school starts.
Now that the schedules are written, I am going to write out lesson plans for the school year. My method of planning lessons follows this one pretty closely. (Her whole site is fantastic!) The only real difference is that I do all my planning and record-keeping in bound notebooks. Even the kids’ assignments are composition book checklists.
Once the schedules and lesson plans are complete, it will be time to write down my cleaning system and my meal planning system, so that everything is laid out in writing. Any time that I am going to have a baby during the school year, I like to have everything written out. Partly, it’s because remembering everything for everybody takes SO MUCH ENERGY. Partly, it’s so someone else can step in and supervise the schooling, housekeeping, and meals if there are complications.
So, that’s the plan for the school year. It may not seem like a minimalist homeschool curriculum for 2019-2020, but the education part of it is certainly simple! As for the rest — life is never simple, even when it is minimalist, when you are a 1950s mom and homeschool housewife with 7 children and a husband! Is there anything else you’d like to know about? Leave a comment with anything you want to know more about, and I will try to get back to you!