Planning for the 2016-2017 school year

planning a relaxed homeschool year

Official plan: SURVIVE.

We’re entering our 5th year of homeschooling this year. That’s crazy to think about on so many levels. I never dreamed we would be a homeschooling family. But here we are 5 years in, loving it, and still going strong. When planning for the new school year rolls around I usually get excited. Excited for fresh starts, new school supplies, and a beautiful, blank planner.

This year is a little different.

This year we have a baby on board.

Who never sleeps. Ever.

Mama is majorly sleep deprived.

And Mr. Thistle travels more now than he ever has for work. So, I’ve been nervous about how to get it all done. I haven’t even had much time to plan. We start next week and I’m just now getting some of my plans on paper (in pencil of course, because let’s be real, you know a lot of it is going to get erased). Normally, I would’ve spent weeks on planning, poring over catalogs and blogs and instagram and had our entire year mapped out and ready to go by now. But, even if I’d had the time to sit down and plan out an entire year of curriculum like I used to do, it’s not likely that the baby will be on board with all of it and it would end up a jumbled mess as I tried to shuffle things around on the calendar.

Nope. That would just make me even more anxious.

So, this year, I’m going full-homeschooler. I’m finally embracing (through much encouragement from my husband and my Instagram gal pals) the wonderfully flexible nature of homeschool. I’ve dipped my toe in the unschooling waters, flirted with Charlotte Mason ideals, and experimented with life schooling over the years. But this year? This year I’m diving right in with the “the baby is the lesson” camp. I mean, I’m a fan of all of those philosophies and methods so why haven’t I fully embraced them before now? I blame my k-12 public school experience for my tendency to try to recreate “school at home” a lot of times. That, and the fact that I don’t have a lot of real life homeschool support outside of our core family to reassure me that baking counts as school. There’s nothing wrong with the “school at home” method, it’s just that it’s not conducive to our lifestyle or the kids’ learning styles. The boys learn so well through hands-on, play-based, experiential learning. And we really love the philosophies of John Holt, Ken Robinson, Charlotte Mason and others who encourage child-led learning and a rich diet of good literature and living books.

So, we’re doing it. This year I’m going to try to let go and take a more relaxed approach (BAHAHAHA. Says the woman whose never relaxed a day in her life. I’m pretty much Monica Gellar.) I’ve talked to the boys in depth over the summer to find out where their interests lie. I’ve experimented with a few things to really draw out their passions (i.e. an online animation course for kids that I plan to write a review about soon). And I’ve tapped into our home library for unit studies to fit those passions and fill in any gaps.

So, this year will look very different from the other years. It’ll be a full but much more relaxed approach (she says confidently). It will take a lot of mindfulness on my part to trust the method and not freak out that I haven’t “controlled” every detail of our school days in my trusty planner. It’s not haphazard though. Let me be clear about that. We value a full education. But my mindset of what constitutes learning and how I schedule it is changing. What counts as school has evolved in our home since I first signed on for this homeschool gig. Every year I get a little better at not caring what everybody thinks. I get a little better at honing in on what is good and right for our family. And I think this year I’m finally ready to just be comfortable with it. Or I’m being forced by a cute little baby to get comfortable with it. Either way, I’m finding that this homeschool business teaches me a lot about myself and my parenting and what God wants to do in my heart and our home. What a wonderful opportunity a baby is providing for growth in each of us! (Remind me of that when I have glue in my hair, spit up on my shirt, the baby is screaming, it’s 4 p.m. and I haven’t planned anything for dinner, missed lunch, and all we’ve accomplished is a pseudo art lesson wherein I tell the boys to “just go draw something for heaven’s sake and quit being bored!”) 

So, here’s what we’ll be focusing on:

  • Government – I’m not wasting such a high profile election year. There’s some really good material to work with and the boys have strong opinions so we’re going with it.
  • Bible
  • Math
  • Writing
  • Nature Study (including our Wild Explorers Club assignments)
  • Field Trips (after hockey season ends in February)
  • Cooking (one day per week)
  • Character (often combined with Bible)
  • Anatomy (2016)
  • Oceans (2017)
  • Early American History
  • ALL things art (illustration, animation, Bob Ross)
  • Mastering poker (yes, poker)
  • Reading, reading, and more reading

Now, that might look like a lot, and it is for some. But, a lot of it won’t even use a curriculum and will overlap with other studies. For instance, both boys want to dive deeper into a bodies unit study so we’ll hit the bodies exhibit in Atlanta. Field trip, check. Anatomy lesson, check. Our character study guide uses picture books so it’s super easy to implement and will often overlap with our bible lessons. Our only official curricula are writing and math for Owen and reading and math for Oliver. And truthfully, Oliver is halfway through his reading curriculum already and I don’t anticipate it lasting us through the end of the school year since he decided to surprise us all and start reading ALL THE THINGS over the summer. Side note: he read most of the words out of the third grade “word of the day” jar  the other day much to our amazement. Why? Because his dad told him if he tried he could have 3 oreo cookies. So he tried and he KILLED IT! The kid who just last year in kindergarten, when asked what sound the letter G made, responded with “bleesh.” Help me, Rhonda.


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