Thinking Beyond Grade Levels (& a Timberdoodle Announcement!)

Thinking Beyond Grade Levels When Planning Your Homeschool Year

If you’re brand-new to this blog, coming over from Timberdoodle — WELCOME! I’m so thrilled you’re here.

I’m Gina Munsey, a second-generation homeschooler and a third-culture kid, child to homeschool pioneers and missionaries. I was born in Southern Mexico (Oaxaca wuh-HA-kuh specifically, thus the name of this blog), and then spent my formative childhood years behind the Iron Curtain in the former Yugoslavia. (Fun fact: I was in Germany the day the Berlin Wall fell, and came to America just after the tanks rolled in to Yugoslavia, but before Sarajevo fell.)

After stints in the Midwest, Florida, and the West Coast/Best Coast AKA California, I now find myself in the idyllic historic town of Franklin, Tennessee, just outside Nashville. I homeschool my neurologically gifted 8-year-old, and our school days usually involve an abundance of books, lots of math, and yes, Mandarin Chinese, too. I’m expecting my second (miracle!) child this fall, so our school days are about to get a whole lot more…interesting.

And a whole lot more heavily caffeinated.

I’m in the thick of planning for it all now.

Are you like me? Do you love planning for a new school year? I definitely do. I obsess over delight in all the new catalogs, text about curriculum endlessly with friends, click through book preview thumbnails until my eyes cross and water, shuffle through my note-ridden index cards, and track down all the used book sales in the area, tempted to buy enough schoolbooks to teach at least half a dozen more students than I actually have.

Homeschoolers love to talk about curriculum, don’t they?

Whether it’s in person or online in my FREE homeschool community for outliers, people always have questions about curriculum.

But curriculum really can pose quite a conundrum for our differently-wired kids. If there’s anything I’ve learned through the years of being a child to homeschool pioneers — and now a second-generation homeschool parent to a neurologically gifted, asynchronous child — it’s that homeschooling allows us the immense privilege of creating a completely personalized custom education for each child.

Think about that for a minute! As a homeschooler, you have front-row access to choosing a learning path tailored perfectly to your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses.

There are

  • no IEPs to battle through,
  • no boxes you have to force your child into,
  • no rigid grade levels you’re tied to.

For each subject, you get to

  • choose the level,
  • set the pace, and
  • adjust the overall trajectory.

What a privilege!

While selecting curriculum can be overwhelming (so.many.choices), I find it helps enormously to take your eyes off the hundreds of choices floating around out there in CurriculaWorld, and focus your eyes on your child for a moment.

  • What does he/she need?
  • Are there any specific area of interest he/she especially loves?
  • Where could he/she use some extra support?
  • In what areas does he/she excel?

You’ll have to work these into legal requirements, of course. For instance, in the state of Tennessee, we’re required to conduct school for at least 180 four-hour days — and some states are required to cover a set list of subjects — but within those parameters, there is

  • so much freedom,
  • so many possibilities, and
  • endless opportunities to learn.

Grade levels can be used as a baseline, but as a homeschooler, you can adjust these up and down to meet the needs of your child.

Remember, as I’ve written before, “The belief in same-age sameness arose out of institutional necessity, as the school system sought to streamline the education of large groups of children. And as a result, we’ve all been conditioned to think in terms of being behind or ahead of grade level.”

But what if we broke free from those restrictions? We don’t have to educate classes full of children en masse, we only have to tend to the personalized education of our own children. And when we’re focused on individual needs, we can be so much more personal and intentional in our curriculum selections.

For example, my daughter — who would be considered a second-grader according to her age — is at a fifth-grade level in math and fourth/fifth in grammar. For science, we’re firmly in middle school, yet in art she’d be delighted with a kindergarten or first grade project. Then when it comes to choosing comprehension guides for rooting out themes, identifying inferences, and analyzing literature, she’s about a second-grade level — but she’s already devoured the unabridged Hobbit and Oliver Twist.

And that combination (or mashup, if you will) is just plain amazing. She’s able to thrive in this customized environment, rather than being locked into learning only those topics associated with her chronological age.

Can you tell I love the flexibility and freedom of this whole process?

Truthfully, I’ve loved the process of choosing curriculum since I was about ten years old. (Yes, really. #homschoolkidproblems) I’ve always loved reading curriculum catalogs. Our whole education was a gloriously eclectic smorgasbord of the very best resources available from across various publishers (plus thousands of reading books over the years.) I used to go to book fairs and conventions with my mom, and I remember pouring over the pages of the Timberdoodle catalog in particular, starry-eyed over all the amazing books and learning tools.

So as I’m pulling together all the details for our 2019/2020 school year plan — a plan which

  • is tailored for asynchrony (being many ages at once),
  • allows for hands-on and kinetic learning,
  • basks in the glory of dozens and dozens of free-read books,
  • gleans from many eclectic sources,
  • remains true to classical foundations, and
  • incorporates a Christian worldview —

I’m also delighted to announce I’m a new member of the Timberdoodle 2019/2020 blog team.


But what does this mean for you?

It means throughout the year, I’ll be sharing — right here in this space — helpful detailed reviews of various learning tools, to help you as you tailor an individualized education for your own wonderfully quirky child.

Who are you homeschooling this year? What is it about your unique students that makes homeschooling such a great fit for your family? I’d love to get to know you better. You can find me on

If you follow me, please don’t be shy — leave a comment letting me know you saw this post, so I can follow you back as well.

And make sure to subscribe to receive my blog updates by email, so you don’t miss a single post.

Meanwhile, what subjects do you most need help figuring out for the upcoming school year? What’s the one area that always leaves you feeling stumped? Leave a question in the comments — or join my FREE online homeschool community — and I’ll help you brainstorm.

Happy planning!

Thinking Beyond Grade Levels When Planning Your Homeschool Year - homeschool planning blog post from the Oaxacaborn blog - Pinterest pin


Diverse US History Books for Kids

I’m frequently asked for recommendations on diverse US history books for kids, especially to supplement American history curriculum.

There’s only so many books you can read about George Washington, know what I mean? And honestly — why would you keep reading about the same handful of people over and over, when there’s a whole wonderful world to embrace?

Continue reading “Diverse US History Books for Kids”


Teach Art Appreciation with a 365-Day Calendar

Teaching Homeschool Art Appreciation with a Daily Calendar

Homeschoolers make art appreciation too complicated — too fussy, too drawn out, too obscure.  I see so many questions in forums and Facebook groups, posted by moms wholly intimidated by the idea of teaching art to their children.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to tackle all the art at once.

You don’t have to learn how to draw like Leonardo da Vinci.

You don’t have to be an art historian.

Continue reading “Teach Art Appreciation with a 365-Day Calendar”

Poetry & Words

7 Things Evangelicals Can Learn from the Liturgical Church

Why do evangelicals ignore ancient church history? Why do nondenominational churches reject liturgy? Why is there such a gap between American evangelicalism and global Christianity? //
7 Things Evangelicals Can Learn from the Liturgical Church
When I was rebranding this blog, I wanted to include the term “liturgy” in my tag line. But my multi-faith writers’ group quickly said no. Liturgy, they said, was synonymous with Catholicism. I countered liturgy simply meant “the work of the people”, as in

  • our habits,
  • the intentional environment we create,
  • our patterns, and
  • the way we worship through the consistent choices we make daily.

Everything we routinely do is our liturgy, I argued. Besides, even in the context of church, Catholics do not own the term. Many Protestant worship services contain liturgical elements. My colleagues dissuaded me. I compromised, concluded I’ve spent too much time reading the dictionary, and went with the word “rhythms” instead.

But the exchange stayed with me, and I haven’t been able to stop asking questions. (I still like the word “liturgy.”) Why do we tend to think liturgy is Catholic? Don’t even the most seeker-friendly emergent evangelical churches practice many repetitive liturgies of their own invention — for example, in the distinct and recognizable way a worship team continues to play chords and pluck guitar strings while the leader transitions from singing to prayer at the end of the first set of songs, every single week?

Why are so many Christians determined to reinvent and rename the entire church experience, swapping out every term for something more relevant and hip?

Why do evangelicals shun the concise ancient creeds and write forty-page Statements of Faith instead? (Seriously, why?)

Why do American evangelicals think there’s an inverse relationship between the quantity of art in a church in the the quantity of holiness? Why is “church art” dismissed as religious in non-denominational circles?

Has America’s history of intense individualism really had that much effect on the way we view worship? (In other words, can we blame our uniquely-American hangups on the Puritans?)

Continue reading “7 Things Evangelicals Can Learn from the Liturgical Church”


100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids

100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids - by Gina of the Oaxacaborn Blog

Are you homeschooling a gifted / twice-exceptional (2E) child with sensory-seeking tendencies? Me, too! Let’s navigate this wild ride together. I created this mega-post for you, a huge list of 100 resources, sensory tools, educational websites, digital subscriptions, apps, games, morning time ideas and tips for homeschooling gifted and advanced learners. Continue reading “100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids”