Homeschooling, How To

How to Use Middle-Grade Fiction Books to Teach US History & More (FREE Printables!)

Using Middle-Grade Fiction Books to Teach US History, Geography, Music, Vocabulary and More (FREE Printables!): Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory BooksWhen I was a girl, I read countless old books. These brittle volumes usually smelled of crumbling book glue and dust; some left a sprinkling of yellowed page edges on my lap as I turned each leaf. I read and re-read my old books until they, quite literally, fell apart. But in all my reading, I never cared much for the stories about perfect, quiet girls, who had little more to offer than exquisite conversation skills and needlework. I wanted to — and did! — read about the spunky outliers; I loved the books about fearless girls who dove, often, into the unexpected.

And I wasn’t interested in the idea of life having been more wholesome long ago. (Human nature, after all, has always been human nature.) I was far more fascinated by the degree to which people have stayed the same, despite obvious changes in culture, manners, fashion, and technology.

As a voracious bookworm, I never considered all the vintage books I read as school, per se. Yet looking back, there’s a whole world of knowledge I gleaned from reading old books. (Yes, even the fiction titles!)

Using Vintage Fiction Books to Challenge Gifted / Accelerated Readers

If you are familiar with our story at all, you know books are a huge part of our everyday. Aside from having been a mini bookwork myself, I’m now raising a mini bookworm — a kiddo who hasn’t yet turned seven, but read 561 books in 2016, and has read 450 books so far in 2017. Talk about trying to keep her in age-appropriate reading material!

If you have a gifted child or an accelerated reader, you know firsthand just how difficult that is. Although I wholeheartedly believe kids truly can handle a lot of unabridged classics, there has to be room for escaping into light, fun adventure novels, too. (After all, how often do adults actually read books at the true upper end of their reading comprehension level?) But with so much of the middle-grade fiction published today full of themes entirely inappropriate for a sensitive six-year-old, books for an accelerated reader can be incredibly hard to find.

[Disclosure of Material Connection: I received two titles from the Aunt Claire Presents series in exchange for reviewing this product and publishing this post, and I was also compensated for my time.] [We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.]

Using Middle-Grade Fiction Books to Teach US History, Geography, Music, Vocabulary and More (FREE Printables!): Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory Books

Introducing Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory Books

I’m so thankful for throwback chapter books, like these 1910 novels re-released under the series name Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory BooksThese books are big on adventure, but nil on romance — so perfect for my tiny, voracious reader. I recently had the pleasure of reading the first books they’ve released, The Automobile Girls at Newport by Laura Dent Crane and Grace Harlowe’s Freshman Year at High School by Jessie Graham Flower, A.M. Except for the brilliantly-written introductions, which offer some historical context and cultural background for the stories, the text of the books remains unchanged from the original editions. (And the original cover is hidden under the modern dust-jacket, too!)

These are definitely books about mighty girls — they’re educated, independent, meet with detectives, and act as their own chauffeurs and mechanics. (Can you picture the girls in their Gibson Girl pastels, driving at break-neck speed along a dusty road? So fascinating!) Written just as the Gilded Age was transitioning into the Progressive Age, these books have powerful undercurrents of the suffragette movement, and weave themes of empowerment naturally into the story lines.

These are adventure stories; there’s no doubt about that. The plot twists range from homework and road trips to burglaries, kidnappings, jewel thieves, and even hungry wolves. They have a playful flavor, too, with the occasional foray into spooky Victorian parlor games and Halloween mischief. My favorite part? Reading the Aunt Claire Presents series is an immersive experience in early 1900s life. I love how each book is overflowing with real-life examples of the music, clothing, books, and architecture which made this era so extraordinary. These are ideal books to integrate into your homeschool lessons, since they show a real microcosm of life at the turn of the century.

And did you know? Historical books can be used to teach more than just history. I especially enjoy using old books to teach literature-based geography.

Download a FREE Geography Supplement for The Automobile Girls at Newport

Geography Supplement for The Automobile Girls at Newport, by Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory Books

While it’s true not all titles lend themselves to teaching geography well, there are more ways to extract geography from books than you’d think. The Automobile Girls at Newport, though, happens to be perfectly suited for geography exploration. The book’s plot centers around a road trip from New Jersey through Yale to Rhode Island, and author mentions a plethora of actual historical locations by name. To spur further research, I’ve listed several of these in a FREE printable PDF supplement, and included links to photos, both modern day and historic.

This printable also includes the page number where the location is first mentioned, so you can easily find the context. The activities I’ve included are only suggested starting points. You can use the locations as research prompts for independent or directed learning, and enjoy exploring your local library or reputable websites for additional information. There’s so much potential here for any entire geography unit of the Eastern Seaboard!

Click to download the FREE Geography Supplement for The Automobile Girls at Newport

Using Vintage Fiction Books to Teach Geography

Even when vintage books are set in entirely fictional locations, as with Grace Harlowe’s Freshman Year at High Schoolreaders can infer information about the climate, landforms, and physical geography by using context clues in the story.

Now there’s a fun writing assignment — making the case for the kind of place in which a given fiction book is set. Astute readers can scour the pages for hints.

  • Does the author mention inland bodies of water, or oceans?
  • Do the characters see mountains?
  • Are prairies or grassy fields mentioned in the story?
  • Are any plants, flowers, or trees mentioned by name?
  • If so, what type of climate might support these types of foliage?
  • At what time of year is the story set?
  • What does the weather seem to be like?

A well-written book, fiction or otherwise, leaves the reader with a distinct sense of the setting. (These are cues kids can take, too, when creating the setting for their own creative writing ventures or short stories.)

Using Vintage Fiction Books to Teach Music

One of the delightful aspects of old books is how they retain the flavor of the era in which they were written. And this doesn’t end at visual descriptions. I love uncovering what the world of vintage books must have sounded like, beyond the hum of dialogue or the clickety-clack of a train.

In Grace Harlowe’s Freshman Year at High School, for instance, the characters perform a play while the Funeral March of a Marionette plays. That’s a whole research-rich rabbit trail right there!

  • What does The Funeral March of a Marionette sound like with full orchestra?
  • What about just piano?
  • When was it written?
  • Who was the composer?
  • How old would this song have been at the time the book was written?
  • Was the piece of music originally written a parody, or was it composed in a serious context?
  • Why do you think it was sometimes later chosen by film and television directors for spooky scenes?
  • Do you agree that the song sounds spooky?
  • Can you get piano sheet music for Funeral March of a Marionette, and learn to play it?

And that’s only one song! There are several more songs mentioned in The Automobile Girls at Newport, too. When you learn to pay attention to the songs and music mentioned in old books, a whole world will open up.

Using Vintage Fiction Books to Teach Nuances About History

The narrative, immersive nature of living books offers historical insight textbooks simply cannot.  When we learn history from a textbook, we’re told that the Gilded Age ended in 1900. While this is technically true, if we — like the Automobile Girls — were living at the turn of the century, we wouldn’t know that yet. The living, breathing reality is that the end of one era faded naturally and unobtrusively into the birth of another, with amorphous blending and intermingling of each era’s greatest characteristics. No woman stepped out of bed on New Year’s Day 1900, and scrubbed her life clean of any trappings of the Gilded Age. Life went on.

As the Automobile Girls’ adventures demonstrate, the towering edifices on Bellevue Avenue — home of John Jacob Astor and the Vanderbilts — did not crumble at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve 1899. Many people continued to bustle about in excess, unaware the days of the railroad tycoons were growing smaller in the rear-view mirror, and unaware just how significant the cultural impact of the dawning Progressive Age would prove to be.

Living books show us that for those living inside history — just as we live inside history now — the ages march on, unnamed and unknown.

Using Middle-Grade Fiction Books to Teach US History, Geography, Music, Vocabulary and More (FREE Printables!): Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory Books

Using Vintage Fiction Books to Encourage Annotation and Close Reading to Uncover Historical Clues

Encourage your young readers to annotate the book as they read! Annotation is such a great skill to develop. Allow them to mark directly on the book pages — a fine-point mechanical pencil is perfect for this. Help your child develop a personalized system for annotation — asterisks next to unknown vocabulary, brackets around phrases or topics they’d like to look up later, etc. You can learn so much about a book’s historical and cultural context by diving into what the characters are talking about. Pay attention to topics such as —

  • What books are the characters reading?
  • What foods do they eat? Are these the same foods you eat?
  • Do they talk about clothing unfamiliar to you?
  • What music do they talk about, sing, or play?
  • What holidays do they celebrate?
  • What aspects of life seem normal to the characters, but strike you as odd?
  • Do the characters talk about or mention any names of people who aren’t characters in the book? Use these names as clues to research!

For instance, in the Automobile Girls, one of the girls says, “You did look…like a sort of desperate, feminine Darius Green with his flying machine!” Unless you’re annotating, you’d probably skip right over the mention of Darius Green. But if you’re working on your close reading detective skills, you’d underline the name, wonder who he was, and look it up. With a little research, you’d discover a narrative poem called “Darius Green and His Flying-Machine”, published in in 1867. And then, you’d see Houghton-Mifflin re-released it again  in 1910, and you’d remember the Automobile Girls was originally released in 1910, too. You can even read the 1910 version of Darius Green and his Flying-Machine!

Close reading is such a great opportunity to share a literary experience with the book characters themselves. Developing your investigative reading skills opens up a huge, undiscovered world inside the already-rich world of books.

Download FREE Printable Vocabulary Supplement for The Automobile Girls at Newport

Middle-Grade Vocabulary Printable for The Automobile Girls at Newport, by Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory Books

Apart from technology, the passage of time is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the evolution of language. Dialogue-rich stories such as the ones reprinted by Aunt Claire Presents offer us the unique opportunity to hear the exclamations, idioms, and turns of phrases en vogue over hundred years ago. But beyond the historical vocabulary, there are also dozens and dozens of relevant bits of vocabulary worth studying. Don’t buy into the myth that old books can only teach you old words; that’s simply not true. I’ve created a FREE downloadable PDF containing all the notable vocabulary words in The Automobile Girls at Newport.  I’ve defined — or given a synonym for — each word, and showed the context as it appeared in the book. And, I’ve organized the printable supplement  by chapter, too, making it an easy-to-use reference tool. As your child annotates unfamiliar words in the book, he or she can use the vocabulary supplement to look up those words.

Click to download the FREE Vocabulary Supplement for The Automobile Girls at Newport

Using Middle-Grade Fiction Books to Teach US History, Geography, Music, Vocabulary and More (FREE Printables!): Aunt Claire Presents, Published by Laboratory Books

Using Vintage Fiction Books to Enrich Homeschool Lessons

While I don’t advocate pummeling the life out of reading for pleasure by requiring kids to do homework based on the books they’ve read during free time, I do believe you can intentionally assign fun books as schoolwork. After all, there shouldn’t be a required-reading/free-reading dichotomy.  Books which are enjoyable to read should appear in both categories, and these books are a perfect example. Truly considering using the fun-to-read Aunt Claire Presents series in a unit about life in American in 1910!

And there are two more titles coming out in the spring, too.

I can’t wait to read about the girl aviators! Be sure to follow @auntclairepresents and @laboratory_books on Instagram, so you don’t miss the releases in Spring 2018.

How about you? Have you ever considering using fictional books in your lessons? How have you integrated adventure stories or vintage stories into your homeschool days?

FREE HOMESCHOOL PRINTABLES for middle-grade novel The Automobile Girls at Newport by Aunt Claire Presents, by Laboratory Books


Disclosure of Material Connection:: I received two titles from the Aunt Claire Presents series in exchange for reviewing this product and publishing this post, and I was also compensated for my time. All the photographs, opinions, and experiences shared here are in my own words and are my own honest evaluation. I was not required to write a positive review.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

The Homeschool Post
Advertisements
Homeschooling, How To

Gifted Classical-Leaning Homeschool Curriculum Choices (2nd Grade)

Our favorite educational resources and homeschool curriculum for homeschooling a neurologically gifted child, blending a literature-based approach and classical education with an emphasis on science.Gifted Classical-Leaning Second Grade Curriculum 2017-2018 by Gina @ Oaxacaborn

I’ll just get it out in the open right away: my daughter eats curriculum for breakfast.  She’s gifted, and I mean that as a neurological identifier to explain why we have such a crazy life, not as a bragging right. Since the age of two, she’s been on a mission to flatten forests. (Don’t fret. Trees, lumber, paper, and all the various related accouterments, are a renewable resource.)

Here’s the thing. If I had held rigidly to the no formal education before age seven doctrine, I’d probably already be in a padded room. Remember, I wasn’t planning on being a hyper-caffeinated homeschooler. I was planning on having a normal (read: typical) child, play with her until she was five, enroll her in a nice neighborhood school, then drive a few blocks away to a coffee house and write a book while someone else taught her to read.

Academically gifted children often crave formal instruction earlier than “recommended”

This post contains affiliate links.

When my intense toddler turned two, she made it a habit to walk into my bedroom each morning — she’d learned to flop out of cribs and playpens early on — wielding a very large, very heavy, over-sized copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. She’d thump me on the head with the book, screeching, “More letters, p’ease! Learn letters, p’ease! Learn letters! Write letters! Write!”

And then she turned three, and one day blurted out, “I’m done wiff my toys now. P’ease do a maff [math] book? P’ease, do maff?” [Spoiler alert: yes, she still has toys and a very large collection of maff books.]

When she turned four, she invited me into her room for a bedtime story. She deftly flipped to the appendix of a microscope encyclopedia, fluently read aloud the best practices for preparing a slide, then discussed it all with me.

It was around that time, after touring pre-kindergarten classrooms with her — and having teachers pull me aside and whisper that it didn’t seem like a good fit — I began to reconsider homeschooling. It was becoming more and more apparent that our daughter was not going to easily fit into the sequence of education offered by the traditional school model (and more and more apparent I wasn’t going to be spending any unfettered writerly mornings in a cafe.)

It was also around this time my mom laughed. She reminded me I’d read at age three, and she was hassled for letting me be “too academic”, too.

So, please understand. My daughter was fearfully and wonderfully made by the hands of God, custom-made to His exact specifications. And this crazy life of mine that’s followed? It’s a gift, too. People always ask, “What did you do to get her to be like this?” (as if this particular flavor was something you can find on Amazon Prime.) And I always answer, “She came to me this way.”

Formal lessons and free play are not mutually exclusive

If our experience doesn’t resonate with you, that’s absolutely fine. Our family’s experience is not the norm — but I also know our family is not alone. I know there are some of you reading this right now saying, “Yes, yes!”

Some of you have felt like outsiders. Some of you have been criticized for hot-housing or pushing, simply because you have given your child the information they’ve asked for. But responding to a child’s clear signals of readiness is not the same as pushing formal academics on a child who is not ready.

And responding to a gifted child’s quest for knowledge does not mean banning child-led play. Structured academics and child-directed exploration are not mutually exclusive. Can we just pause here for a moment and let that sink in? Formal lessons and free play are not mutually exclusive.

Gifted Classical-Leaning Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2nd Grade (2017-2018) by Gina @ Oaxacaborn

When I responded to my then-two-year-old’s begging for “More letters, p’ease” by teaching her what she so eagerly wanted to know, that does not mean she never played. She spent hours and hours each day sculpting playdough, smearing glue sticks over stacks of construction paper, singing happily, breaking crayons coloring, finger painting, banging pots and pans together, tasting sand playing at the beach, building with blocks, and climbing playground equipment (although, I did inadvertently make myself a playground pariah when I let her climb up the slide.)

My point is, it’s a logical fallacy to assume any sort of formal lessons automatically preempts play. It is entirely possible to meet a young gifted child’s academic needs and play needs. You do not need to choose one or the other.

Curriculum choices and educational resources for teaching a gifted child

This list of second-grade curriculum is just that, a list of curriculum. It doesn’t show the hours my daughter spends creating elaborate imaginative worlds out of LEGO bricks. It doesn’t show the time she spends singing songs at the top of her lungs, dressed in inside-out clothes. (“Mom, the tag said, “Turn garment inside out”.) It doesn’t show the gales of laughter tumbling down the trampoline track with her friends, or anything else that isn’t, well, that isn’t a list of curriculum.

It does reflect how intense, how voracious, how completely insatiable this girl is in her quest to be constantly, actively, bookishly learning. When we have gloriously exploratory days, where she pokes anthills and tumbles in the grass and reads a stack of non-fiction and plays puzzles and does experiments and wires Snap Circuits and goes to the library and helps me cook, she laments, begging to pull out the school books. (Yes, I have a weird life.) So, I’m not saying your second grade needs to look like this.

But, if you are curious about what curriculum makes a very quirky six-and-a-half-year-old girl squeal with delight? I can show you what that looks like.

Reading

We’ve already gone through the Sonlight Readers for kindergarten, first, second and third grade, so this year,  Aveline’s diving into the fourth grade set of Sonlight readers. I love how the corresponding Readers Schedule / Study Guide incorporates mapping as well as comprehension questions, although I don’t do all the Q+A sessions. I do a spot check maybe once a week or so, flipping open the study guide and asking a handful of questions at random. If she tells me about the book during the week (she’s a talker), then I don’t even do the spot check — but we always stop to check the location, and add a map pin to our huge wall map.

And independent reading? It never stops. We have thirty to seventy books in our library baskets at any given time. And when she asks if she can do a book report (yes, she is for real) then I photocopy a template from Evan-Moor’s How to Report on Books, Grade 2.

Literature

I couldn’t help add in some comprehension guides, especially after Aveline’s eyes lit up like Starry Night when she saw the rack of them at the Veritas Press booth at a recent conference. The questions are terrific, and the included activities and paper crafts are delightful! We’re using the Milly-Molly-Mandy guide and the  Baby Island guide (both for second grade), the third grade guide for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and an anthology guide called More Favorites, which covers books like Sarah, Plain and Tall; Hundred Dresses, and more. I love how introducing comprehension guides at a young age eases kids into the critical thinking skills so necessary in a classical education — and in life!

I am also outsourcing a little more of close reading (analysis, making inferences, and more) to the amazing director of our local co-op. Aveline will be working through an abbreviated version of Rooted in Reading (Grade 3) with her class there.

Read-Alouds

We’re following Sonlight’s Level C schedule for read-alouds, which means we’ll be covering everything from The Penderwicks to The Aesop for Children to Red Sails to CapriOur cozy read-aloud time tends to be in the afternoon, after lunch (hurricane season lasts until December begins, so our autumns are full of grey afternoons, darkened by monsoon rains.)

Poetry

Combining the recommendations of Sonlight and Veritas Press, respectively, we’re enjoying the contrast between the laugh-out-loud funny Cornstalks and the more traditional Favorite Poems. And because Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass features heavily in our year, there’s been a lot of Jabberwocky, too. ‘Twas brillig!

Writing

I’m so excited to begin our journey with IEW! I’ve seen Andrew Pudewa speak a couple of times now, and I was really impressed with the logical, straight-forward (but not formulaic!) way IEW approaches writing. Knowing how to write is one thing; knowing how to teach writing is another matter entirely. I think many writing programs making the mistake of breaking up the ebb and flow of writing into a series of formulas, resulting in stilted, robotic writing. IEW, on the other hand, gives students a set of tools to use in the art of writing. So far, Aveline is enjoying it tremendously.

Grammar

Of course, no writer’s toolkit is complete without a good handle on the structure of language. Last year, following the Veritas Press catalog recommendations, we completed the first level of Shurley English. This is such a tremendously effective method; I highly recommend it! It’s also a very repetitive program, so we’re jumping right to Shurley English, Level 3 this year.

As I do in many repetitive subjects, I’ll be condensing the lessons to allow Aveline to move forward to the next concept as soon as she masters it, rather than making her go through all the exercises. I’ll also be skipping the writing instruction, since we’re using IEW for that. Even with all those modifications, I still highly recommend the program (and if your child  thrives on repetition, not as much modification will be needed, anyway).

With the rapid mastery and with telescoping the curriculum, we’ll probably finish quite a bit before the school year ends. I have First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 3 (plus student book) waiting in the wings, so we can move right into that, and get started with diagramming.

How does Aveline feel about learning grammar? Well, here’s an actual conversation —

ME: Tell Papa what subject you started today, Aveline.
AVELINE: Grammar!
ME: And why did you start learning that?
AVELINE: To relax, probably?

Handwriting / Cursive

We used Handwriting Without Tears last year to teach cursive, after years (yes, years) of Aveline asking to “learn how to write with loops”. A font nerd after my own heart, she’s now also asked to learn some different methods of cursive. So, yes, in case you’re wondering, Classically Cursive and Handwriting without Tears do use two different forms of lettering.

Why Logos School’s Classically Cursive and not another method? I love how the series (there are four books) incorporates the Westminster Shorter Catechism!

Chinese

In addition to the First 100 Chinese Characters writing practice book, Aveline will also be doing Chinese character practice in her Chinese school weekend classes (they use the MeiZhou Chinese curriculum. ) The bulk of her instruction will come from Chinese school — this is her fourth year there —  but we also supplement with Chinese kids’ songs, kids’ TV shows translated into Chinese, character flashcards, and, soon, beginning readers in Chinese, too. Read more about how we teach Chinese at home, or follow my Mandarin for Kids Pinterest board.

Vocabulary

Since last year’s Chinese class focused so much on Chinese phonics (using pinyin, which is a method of transliterating Chinese sounds using our Roman alphabet), I took a very hands-off approach to English spelling at home. One of Aveline’s big requests this year was to learn how to spell “really big words by heart”. I knew a repetitive beginning spelling program wasn’t going to cut it. After meeting Claire Jane Beck at the FPEA Special Learners Conference last fall, I picked up her Vocabulary Explosion: Greek / Latin Etymologies for grade two. It’s a very straightforward approach — one prefix or suffix and five related words are introduced each week, and the student learns to use the words in context. The spelling learning really happens behind the scenes. It’s a huge, huge hit around here; and, along with cursive, Chinese characters, and Bible, is part of our daily seatwork routine.

Gifted Classical-Leaning Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2nd Grade (2017-2018) by Gina @ Oaxacaborn

Math

This is one of our very favorite subjects. Choosing math curriculum was a no-brainer (read more about why Singapore Math works best for us). This year, we have levels 3A and 3B on the docket, although I have the sneaking suspicion we will need to break out 4A before next summer arrives.

With DragonBox Algebra 5+ behind us, Aveline alternates between Dragonbox Algebra 12+ and Dragonbox Elements (geometry) for math enrichment. And we picked up the Multiplication and Division editions of Classical Math to Classical Music at the Veritas Press booth at the FPEA Convention this year, too.

And, oh yes, how could I forget? Dozens upon dozens of living books about math.

Science

We’re working — rapidly! — through Sonlight’s Science C, and continuing through the Apologia Chemistry/Physics book we started last year. Since Science C is going by so quickly for us, and since we’re already half-done with the Apologia, I might end up pulling down the AIG (Answers in Genesis)  Human Body set and using that for the second semester.

Chemistry and anatomy are two of Aveline’s big obsessions, so I do as much as I can to nurture her interest in those areas.  For “fun”, she’ll often request to listen to the human body songs from Lyrical Life Science, or pull out the anatomy coloring book. The beloved Elements book is a favorite free-read, and our shelves and library bags are overflowing with nonfiction math and science books.

Last year, Aveline read Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy in her free time, and since we live about 50 miles (as the crow flies) from Space Coast,  we keep tabs on NASA, too. If there’s a launch, we’ll watch the first few seconds on the NASA or SpaceX livestream, and then run outside to see it in the sky.

We rotate through science resources pretty often, so I might come back and update this section a little further into the school year.

Bible / Theology

I find it a little challenging to find a really solid Bible course. One resource I absolutely love, though, is Songs for Saplings  — scripture and doctrinal truths set to song. They’re loosely based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and are free to stream or download from a number of sources.  I also really love  The Children’s Illustrated Bible, which I discovered through Veritas Press.  It has such excellent archaeological and historical sidebars which really put the Bible in context. So I made my own 180-Day Theology Reading / Listening Schedule for Kids, incorporating them both, but focusing on the  New Testament.

We also periodically break out the utterly fantastic church history books by Ned Bustard — Reformation ABCs: The People, Places and Things of the Reformation from A to Z and Church History ABCs: Augustine and 25 Other Heroes of the Faith. These are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and break down oft-esoteric topics and biographies into bite-size, kid-friendly chunks. One thing I absolutely adore about classical education is the idea that kids can handle starting to delve into really topics at a very young age. Augustine doesn’t have to wait until high school. Church history doesn’t have to wait until they’re old enough to understand all the complexities. It doesn’t have to be a sudden introduction to the ancients once high school hits. Rather, we can just incorporate these big topics in an age-appropriate way from the beginning, and expand the breadth and width of our study as time goes on.
Gifted Classical-Leaning Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2nd Grade (2017-2018) by Gina @ Oaxacaborn

History

As a part of Sonlight’s Core / Level C, we’re continuing with A Child’s History of the World, which we began last year (Sonlight uses this book in both Level B and Level C).  We also really enjoy some of the lessons and enrichment activities in Calvert’s accompanying fourth grade student workbook for Child’s History of the World, which Sonlight does not use.

Because we also love big cut-and-paste paper messes projects around here, we’ve also started incorporating a freestyle hybrid of lapbooking / notebooking, too.  I print out a related image or two from the Home School in the Woods Timeline Figure CD set, and Aveline goes to to town with 3-hole punched colored cardstock, a stack of mini-book elements, glue stick, markers, scissors, pen and pencil. She’ll write down any thing she thinks is important from the chapter, and glue everything together with aplomb…and glitter.

We were also planning to complete weekly Egypt-themed projects with another homeschooling family using Veritas Press’ Old Testament and Ancient Egypt as our spine, but that’s on hold right now.

Geography

Mapping, mapping, mapping! Did I mention mapping? Sonlight’s mapping method seems too simple to work: anytime you encounter a new location anywhere in your reading, you mark it on a map. That’s it! I am astonished at how much Aveline can recall about geography simply because we learn geographic  locations in context. She’ll also beg you to play Scrambled States at any given moment.

We’re using another Sonlight-recommended resource, too — Window on the World, a full-color encyclopedia of countries and cultures. As we read through by region, we also listen to Geography Songs. Those will stick with you for years! I can still sing the States and Capitals version we had on cassette as kids.

We were planning do to hands-on United States geography projects with another homeschooling family, but that’s on hold at the moment.

Art

I’m teaching Art History at our local homeschool co-op again this year, so our art lessons will be done in that setting.  Last year I taught first grade, and this year I’m working in a multi-age setting of second- through fourth-graders, which I think will be really exciting.  In this class, we’ll work our way through a number of famous artists and art genres, read children’s literature highlighting an artist’s life or a specific art technique, and create a hands-on art project relating to the week’s historical topic.I like to pull art from the public domain (see links above), print it full-color and have it laminated. This way, we can get up close and personal with the art without worrying about spilling on a book or smudging the print! Feel free to follow my Elementary Art / Homeschool Co-op Pinterest board for more ideas, too.

Physical Education / PE

It looks like this semester, phys. ed. will switch back and forth between kung fu after Chinese school, and free-play at the gymnastics facility where our co-op classes are held. This will be her first year trying out kung fu at the Chinese school; in the past, she’s done Chinese lion dance / drumming and Chinese folk dance. (Here’s a video of her performing a traditional Chinese dance at a Lunar New Year performance when she was four.)

Memory Work

Did you notice  how many of our subjects above include songs? I integrate memory work into what we’re already doing! We have math songs, science songs, grammar songs, geography songs, theology songs,  songs in Chinese..and a whole lotta Johnny Cash. Which brings us to the last topic…music!

Gifted Classical-Leaning Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2nd Grade (2017-2018) by Gina @ Oaxacaborn

Music  / Vocals / Piano

After completing the 2-year Yamaha Junior Music Course at the music conservatory downtown, Aveline’s between piano teachers right now. She’s been working on pieces on her own as we look into other options.

Just as every family is unique, every homeschooling plan is unique

That’s a lot, right? So before I wrap up this tour, I just want to stop and point out a couple of ways in which our situation isn’t the norm.

First, like I’ve said, this is a plan for a child who is wired differently. She just is.  She’s quirky, she’s intense, she’s relentless. School calms her down. Workbooks are a balm to her. Structure gives her relaxation. If you have a child like this, you know exactly what I’m talking about! If you don’t, that’s okay. (Amy at The Hmmmschooling Mom, in her excellent piece, Schedules and Routines: Some Kids Actually Like Them, talks about how both structure and very little structure spell freedom, depending on your unique personality.)

Second, I want to point out that we obviously won’t be doing every subject every day. (I kind of hope that would go without saying.)

Third, I  want to reiterate once again — this is what our journey looks like. This is not what everyone’s journey needs to look like. The beauty of homeschooling is being able to design an individualized education plan to very personally meet the unique needs of  a specific child, within the dynamics of that particular family.

Fourth, I have one child.  I would love, so very much, to have our days interrupted by the needs of a sweet little infant or a toddler, but that isn’t the path God has chosen for us right now. So yes, while it’s true I have more time in each day to devote to getting through these educational resources,  please also know, this was not my original plan. I take comfort, often, in Isaiah (strange go-to book for comfort, right?) —

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isaiah 55:8-11)

Fifth, there’s another unique twist to our situation: we don’t live near family. My family is two thousand miles north; my husband’s family is three thousand miles west. This means our Sunday afternoons aren’t filled with cousins’ birthday parties, and our weeknights are not spent at family dinners. Again, is not our first choice, but this is the life we’ve been given for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).  Rather than lamenting where God has placed us, we’ve chosen to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:16) and “number our days” (Psalm 90:12), and celebrate the miracle child God’s graciously granted us to steward.

And you know what? This life is a wonderful gift. These golden days are a treasure. We have genuine, joyous, happy fun, and I have no apologies for “this one wild and precious life”. (Mary Oliver)

This post is part of the 9th Annual Back-to-Homeschool Blog Hop: Curriculum Week link-up, hosted by the wonderful iHomeschool Network. Click through to read more curriculum choices from other homeschool families! Are you a blogger? Link up your own 2017-2018 curriculum post!

BTS-Blog-Hop-Sept-2017-89985Disclosure of Material Connection: Some links above are “affiliate links” provided in conjunction with my participation in Home School in the Woods’ affiliate program. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.  Please be assured, I only recommend products or services I use personally, and I will always disclose any such links. 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Gifted Classical-Leaning Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2nd Grade (2017-2018) by Gina @ Oaxacaborn

Homeschooling, How To

Uncovering the Worldview Hidden in your Homeschool Curriculum

Uncovering the Worldview Hidden in Your Homeschool Curriculum
Are you trying to decide what homeschool curriculum is right for you? Homeschool publishers often sort curriculum into secular, neutral, and Christian categories, and further divide science resources into Old Earth Creationism, New Earth Creationism, and evolution. Even with those categories, when you’re faced with dozens of catalogs, or hundreds of enticing vendors, it can be hard to know what a publisher’s worldview really is. The truth is, the nuances of worldview go far deeper than those already weighty topics.

But as a second-generation homeschooler who’s had some close scrapes with fundamentalism, I know first-hand how important it is not to cut corners when evaluating a publisher’s worldview. You have to take the time to uncover what the authors are truly trying to get across.  When I’m trying to unearth the worldview of any given curriculum, I start my search by looking at the author’s perspective on on rules, religion, race, and women.

Here are the seventeen crucial questions I ask when trying to determine a homeschool curriculum’s worldview:

  1. Does this material assume all girls should grow up to be wives and raise children, or does it empower and inspire girls to follow whatever path God calls them to, recognizing that not all women marry, and some struggle with infertility?
  2. Does it highlight women and girls as independent actors?
  3. Does it tell stories of women beyond focusing on their roles in a family?
  4. Does the material promote compliance with a set of rules, or does it allow for freedom and grace?
  5. Does this material present a morality-first viewpoint, emphasizing outward virtues and traits with the goal to get the child to imitate certain character values, or does it recognize that it’s only through a heart surrendered to Jesus that a person can only be truly transformed?
  6. Does the material oversimplify good and evil and present it as an easy-to-spot either-or choice; or does it teach analytical and critical thinking skills, discernment, and problem-solving?
  7. Does the material only present what to learn and/or believe, or does it also provide context and a “why” behind the belief?
  8. Does the material present history predominately from a Western perspective, or does it also present facts from a non-European point-of-view?
  9. Does the material perpetuate the idea of “otherness” by teaching about non-European cultures using stereotypical depictions, or does it allow for each culture to have its own strong, rich, identity?
  10. Does the material mainly contain books with white main characters, or does it offer books with nuanced, fully-developed, non-stereotypical heroes and heroines of diverse backgrounds?
  11. Does the material teach (implicitly or explicitly) that the “primary” actors in history or literature are white? Who does it teach my child to identify and sympathize with?
  12. Does the material attempt to “Christianize” certain historical events, or does it recognize that every event has more than one side?
  13. Have I truly evaluated the content and worldview of this material, or am I simply choosing this material because it’s popular in homeschooler subculture?
  14. Will this material allow my child to be challenged to the best of his/her God-given ability, or am I simply choosing this material because of its price point / ease-of-use / etc?
  15. Will this material equip my child to follow any number of career paths God might have in store for him/her, or am I choosing this material because I want my child to follow the path I have in mind?
  16. Is this material based on fear and reliance on man’s own goodness to combat what is perceived as evil, or does it promote courage and a reliance on Jesus?
  17. Is this material designed primarily to shelter and insulate my child, or is it designed to inform, equip, and empower?

What essential questions would you add?

This list above is excerpted from an interview I originally gave with Amanda of Sicily’s Heart & Home, on the topic of Christian education as equipping, not as sheltering.