Category Archives: Planning and Registration

Learning Plans for 2017

Here in Australia, the end of the school year is also the time to start planning for the new school year.  Since I have to hand in my homeschooling paperwork, plans and reports in early December, all of my ‘Back to School’ plans are already completed…but I won’t start purchasing resources until part way through January.  There’s already enough stuff to buy in December with Christmas coming.  But I don’t tend to buy all of my resources up front anyway.  I only buy those books that we’ll use first, purchasing the rest as we need it.  This helps spread the book costs over the whole year.  Plus, it allows us to be more flexible and alter our plans as we go, without too much wasted money.

Anyway, this is what I have planned for 2017, although it’s bound to change and expand as the year progresses.  We love a good tangent.

For Language:

Most of our Language program will stay the say.  We will continue with MCT grammar resources, continue learning Spencerian cursive, continue diagramming sentences, and continue using “Teaching the Classics” literary analysis methods.  We will also continue to write narrations and use IEW writing methods.  However, we will be adding the “Lost Tools of Writing” (LTW) to our writing repertoire this year.  IEW gave us a great grounding in ‘how’ to write and LTW will mentor us in ‘what’ to write.  I think it’ll be a great shift for the highschool years.  We might also add in “Marie’s Words:  Picture Words in a Flash” which is a box of vocabulary flashcards.  We will, of course, continue to read.  We are going to read “The Iliad” and use Roman Roads Media video course to guide us through.  (I’ve also bought the Circe literature guide for the Iliad, while it was on sale, but I’m yet to see it so I’m not sure how/if we’ll use it.)  We also plan to read:  “The Chrysalids”, “Gulliver’s Travels“, “Around the World in Eighty Days”, “Dracula”, “Frankenstein” and “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”, Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”, Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations”.  However, this list is bound to change as the year progresses.  We are terrible at sticking to a book list.

For Math:

We will continue on with our current Singapore Math text but very soon we have to part ways with Singapore Math as they don’t seem to extend into the senior years.  😦  Oh course, for Math we always manage to find something interesting to read and watch.  Currently, added to my Netflix list, I have the Math documentary, “The Code”, which should be interesting to watch.  I’ve also ordered a book about Blaise Pascal.  No, I don’t have a nice pre-formulated list of Math books or docos.  We just add them as we find them or as the interest takes us.

For Science:

This coming year we plan to study Physics topics.  It almost goes without saying that we’ll view Wes Olson’s “Physics 101” dvd series first.  We love ALL of his dvd series.  We watch them for fun, that’s how good they are.  Since we don’t use textbooks (ick!), our Science reading will consist of numerous great books.  In the past, we’ve used the resources from Guesthollow, and hope to do the same for our study of Physics.  However, they have not yet released their highschool Physics programs, which they suggested might be ready for the current US fall.  There’s no sign of it yet, but, I’m holding my breath, crossing my fingers and hoping like crazy that it’ll be available before the end of January.  If not, we’ll just start reading a Physics title of our own choosing, until Guesthollow comes to our rescue with their excellent resources.  We’ll also be reading about related Scientists, like Einstein and Newton.   All of this reading is always accompanied by plenty of hands on activities and exploration.  Sometimes the books suggest the activities but, mostly, a great book creates an interest in the reader that must be expressed, which is when we look to Google for ideas.  Oh and we’ll also be visiting the Hadron Collider exhibition at the Queensland Museum.  How did they know we were studying Physics this coming year?!

For History:

We have a real hodge podge of jumping off points for History this year.  When we sat down to make a list of interests and a list of big gaps to be filled, this is the list we came up with:  English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell; British Colonies and their relationship with Britain, specifically Ireland, India and Africa; Modern Conflicts, specifically Afghanistan and the Arab-Israeli conflict; Destruction of the Jewish Temple and the siege of Masada; Mexican-American War; Armenian Genocide; and the Byzantium Empire.  I look at this list and get so excited by the smorgasbord of great books we can read in order to study these topics.  Oh and we also want to read some biographies about a few key historical figures that have drawn our attention, namely Winston Churchill, Mussolini, Mao, and Booker T Washington (I suspect we’ll add more as we progress through the year).  We also have two video courses from Compass Classroom that we want to watch – Modernity and American History.  There’s a curriculum that comes with these but I think we’ll be happy to discuss what we’ve viewed and write summaries and response essays.  In History, we write a lot of summaries and essays.

For Geography:

We planned to study the countries and cultures of Africa this past year, but, we got so caught up in other countries and cultures that we never arrived at Africa.  That’s okay.  We will study it this coming year.  Once again, I’ve prepared a smorgasbord of interesting looking books set in Africa.  We use these as our launching point for our studies.  I’m thinking we may start our reading with “King Solomon’s Mines” and see where that leads us.  We’ll also be reading about people linked to Africa, for example, David Livingstone, Jane Goodall, Mary Slessor, and Albert Schweitzer.  We’ll also be reading books focused on the issues of poverty, refugees and the plight of girls in some countries, starting with “No Ordinary Day”, “Boys Without Names”, “Long Walk to Water”, and “Parvana”.

For Civics and Citizenship:

This time we are making Plutarch a priority.  It got pushed to the end of the queue this past year and, consequently, didn’t end up happening.  So this coming year, Plutarch is a priority.  We’re also going to read Albert Marrin’s “Black Gold:  The Story of Oil in our Lives” and Uncle Eric’s “Are you Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused?“.  We’ll also be reading about Aboriginal history, culture and current issues, starting with the book, “Welcome to My Country” and “Riding the Black Cockatoo“.

For Economics and Business:

We’ll be watching Compass Classroom’s “Economics for Everyone” videos.  We’ll also read  “The Money Mystery”, “Uncle Eric Talks about Personal, Career and Financial Security“, and maybe also “Capitalism for Kids” and “Common Sense Business for Kids“.  We’ll also be looking at advertising and reading “Made you Look” and watching some Netflixs documentaries – “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold“, “The Persuaders” and “The Merchant of Cool“.

For the Arts:

As always, we’ll continue to go to the theatre and the orchestra.  I’m keeping a keen eye on local theatres to see what is coming in 2017.  We’ll also be attending two Shakespeare plays by our favourite performers.  We’ll be reading “Art that Changed the World” and visiting the galleries we have access to.  (I’d like to take some gallery tours this coming year.)  We’ll also continue to study artworks the Charlotte Mason way.  Currently our list of desirable arts and crafts includes scratchboard drawings, bead craft, leather craft, string art and Aboriginal dot art, so these, and others, will be explored in the coming year.

For Health and PE:

For PE, we’ll continue to live active lives – riding, swimming, trampolining and all those good things.  For Health, we’ll read “The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence“, and “Chew on This:  Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food“.  We’ll also watch the series “Drugged“, which is about the effect of different drugs on your body, and “Foodmatters” and “Food, Inc“.  For personal development, we’ll be reading “Do Hard Things“, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and maybe also “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.

And for Technology and Design:

We’ll continue providing our boys with resources to explore technology and design.  This is an area which we don’t really ‘teach’; we just use technology and get better at it.  However, we will be reading and watching a few engineering things.  We’ll be reading “Engineering the City“, “The Art of Construction” and “Building Big” and watching “Engineering Connections“, “Engineering Disasters” and “Engineering an Empire“.  I dare say these will lead us all sorts of hands on tasks.


These plans should launch us into a year that is full to overflowing.



Posted by on December 15, 2016 in My Library, Planning and Registration


Our School Plans for 2016

My HEU paperwork is due at the beginning of December so my free time in October and November is always filled with reporting and planning.  But it’s all done now and I’m free to use my time to blog again.  Doing a happy dance.  🙂

Here’s a peak at what we’re planning to study next year:



This is easy.  We’ll just keep moving forward in our Singapore Math texts.  We’ll also keep reading inspiring Math books.  I have a shelf full of them.


Nothing new in this area either, just more of the same.  We’ll be reading aloud for several hours each morning and listening to audio in the car.  We include classics among our reading.  Next year we’ll be reading some Dickens and also Robinson Crusoe.  Shakespeare will also make an appearance (well hopefully not literally!).  We’ll attend at least two of his plays and study these prior to attending.  “Teaching the Classics” is the product that I use to guide our literature discussions.  For grammar we use Michael Clay Thompson’s program with daily parsing and diagramming (which take us less than five minutes).  We’ll also be reading through “The Best Punctuation Book, Period”, “King Alfred’s English” and will reread the “Word Spy” series.  For writing, we’ll be using IEW’s Structure & Style program, using the topics we read about as our writing inspiration.


One boy is using “Latin’s Not So tough” and the other is working through “Lingua Latina”.


This year we’ve been studying  Chemistry and since we haven’t yet satisfied our interest, we’re going to keep reading about it next year.  We don’t use a textbook preferring instead to learn from real books.  As well as Chemistry, we want to study anatomy.  We’ll probably study this alongside Chemistry because I’m not sure we can wait.  As always documentaries will be included, as well as experiments and hands on activities.  We don’t need a curriculum to tell us what to do next.  Books always motivate us to activity.  Oh yes, and we’ll renew our Science Centre passes.  Other Science topics are likely to find us too, they always do.


We have a hodge podge of topics we want to study this year.  As we’ll be traveling to the East Coast of the US, we’ll be reading about American History over the holidays (we have some gorgeous books arriving that I’ll have to share with you in another post) and watching as many documentaries as we can squeeze in (we just finished watching the movie “John Adams” which was excellent!).  Once we’ve had our fill of US history, we’ll move to studying world explorers (Columbus, Magellan, Da Gama etc) and also a little bit of mapping history.  We’re planning to read “Robinson Crusoe” as well (mixing Literature with History is vital in my view).  When we study explorers linked to South America, we’ll pause and have another look at the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas.  We’ve studied them before but the boys were so young that I’m sure they’ve forgotten a lot of it.  We also want to read about the Industrial Revolution as I don’t think we’ve ever really touched on it at all.  This is of course when we’ll read some Dickens, possibly “Oliver Twist” or maybe “Great Expectations”.  We have to read something about Irish history too, or at least the Irish famine.  Oh and I want to read through “The Big Book of Australian History” for a bit of a review.  There will be related documentaries for many of these topics.  We watch one documentary (or related movie) as a family every night.  Yes, it’s a lot to squeeze in one year but we’ll see how we go.  Aim high I say.  Oh, I nearly forgot, there are quite a few excursion opportunities too.  The one we are most excited about is the “Medieval Power” exhibition at Brisbane Museum.


We’ve been studying Asian cultures and history so we have to wrap that up before we can move on.  We want to study Japan, Tibet and Indonesia.  Then we want to switch continents and study African countries.  At the same time we want to study some missionaries from around the world.  We also want to study the eruption of Mt St Helens as well as some other Geology topics from a Creationist perspective.  The boys are keen to study some major blizzards and tsunamis in history.  Oh and we want to read about Islam from books that are written by Christians who were once Muslim.  This could be a good time to read some middle eastern literature like, “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights”.  We should probably read something about Muhammad too but that’s more History than Geography.  For both History and Geography, we record our learning by narrating and writing essays.  We aim for one essay a week.


We want to read more about democracy in the coming year (we read about communism this year).  We’ll also read more about the Australian Government, which we do every year anyway.  This year the plan is to read and study the constitution (we’ve been reading the American one so we want to compare it to our own).  We’re also going to attempt to read some Plutarch with Anne White’s guides.


We want to finish reading through the “Money Matters” series we’ve been reading this year and perhaps read the “Real World Economics” series as well.  I’ve also purchased the Economics videos from Compass Classroom.  These look excellent.  We also have “Pirates of Financial Freedom” to read.  Oh and we want to read the novel “The Year Money Grew on Trees”.  I also want to hunt down some books about people who have shared their wealth to improve the lives of others.


Both Technology and Design are really just play for us.  The boys are surrounded by technology and design opportunities and don’t really need my input.  I consider my role for these subjects, to be a resource supplier.  Ethan has computer programming books galore (and more arriving on the 25th) and he’s helping teach a programming class at Hubby’s school every week.  There are plenty of construction supplies to inspire Brayden; Lego being his favourite but he’s almost as happy with a few recyclables and some tape and string.  We have several new Knex sets arriving for the 25th (there was a sale at Amazon).  We also have a Mindstorm Robotic set, an Edison Robot, and several large Brainbox sets.  These are great for both boys but I usually need to encourage them to use these.  They are not their default modes.  In the coming year we also want to read about inventors and watch through the series “Secret Life of Machines”.


We focus on appreciation rather than skill (because our skill level would fit in a thimble).  I always tell people that I’m training up appreciative audiences for talented artists and composers.  We don’t mind dabbling in art but it’s a purely pleasurable focus and often social (they like doing art when friends come over).  I print out art project options and leave them lying around for the kids to choose.  During the year we also visit the Gallery of Modern Art for each of their exhibitions.  We also keep an eye on the exhibitions at Ipswich Art Gallery.  We’ll also head to the theatre several times during the year (four shows is our average).  We already have our first one booked!  We’ll also see at least two Shakespeare plays and maybe head to the orchestra as well.  There are some good offerings from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra this year.  Each year we study a couple of artists and composers.  We never pre-select these though.  During the year, something always inspires our choice.  Perhaps an artwork we’ll see in a New York gallery will inspire further study.  We’ll also read through an art book.  We choose one or two a year.  The two I’m considering are “An Eye for Art:  Focusing on Great Artists and Their Work” and “Art That Changed the World”.  And it’s a given that we listen to great music in our home.


PE is always fitness related and never competitive.  So instead of team sports, we walk, ride, swim and pursue an active and enjoyable lifestyle.  Our anatomy study for Science also doubles as Health, but we want to add a nutritional focus as well.  I’m also always on the hunt for documentaries about various abuses (drugs, alcohol, etc) for us to watch as a family.  In the coming year the boys have expressed an interest in learning more about bush survival skills.  We have a few great books to start us off – “The Bush Boy’s Book” and the “Bush Boys” series.  For personal development, we need to finish reading the Bob Schultz books – “Practical Happiness” and “Everyday Battles” (his books are excellent!).


That will be our year.  I’m sure it’ll keep us very busy as always.  It’s hard to believe that the high school years are here already.  But we’re not changing our homeschool approach to narrow us into tertiary requirements.  We’re going for a broad, mind-nutritious, liberal education.  This means that you won’t be seeing more and more textbooks creeping into our plans as we move through the high school years, but you will be seeing more and more great real books.  We have an insatiable appetite for them.  🙂


Posted by on December 10, 2015 in Planning and Registration


Plans for 2015

Since planning for the coming year is one of the main reasons I’ve been neglecting my blog, I thought I best put the goods on the table to prove that I’ve been hard at work and not just twiddling my thumbs.  So below is my plan for the coming year.  You’ll notice that it isn’t just a list of textbooks and purchased curriculum.  I’m moving further and further away from that style of teaching and learning.  There’s still a few textbooks/curriculums in the skill areas, but mostly we’ll be reading great books for our learning in the future.




In the coming year we will continue to listen to the Bible each morning using our audio version, “The Word of Promise”.  We finished up to Acts this past year so we’ll pick it up at Romans.

We’ll also be memorising Bible verses.  I need to come up with a plan for making it happen with continual review.  It disappears from the brain otherwise.  So more thought is needed in this department.

No doubt there will be books to add to our read aloud time that are Bible or Faith focused.  Suggestions are welcome.



This year both boys are studying the same level of Math.  I’ve fast tracked the youngest by two years to give him more of a challenge.  No, the eldest doesn’t mind at all.  He hasn’t any schooly notions about grade levels and each aged child having to do their own separate leveled books….thankfully.  Plus, this past year, when the boys were essentially doing the same work, I sat between them and did the Math exercises too.  So there were three differently aged people working on the same Math!   I loved it.  It was a great way to refresh my memory of topics I learned so long ago.  It also helped me help the boys when they struggled and it gave them the opportunity to correct old mum when her answer didn’t line up with theirs.  Yes, it happened and I won’t admit how many times.

In the coming year, since we’ve now finished all of the primary Singapore Math books, we’ll be moving on to Singapore’s “Discovering Mathematics” series.  It looks great.  So Math will really be stepping up this year.  I hope my old brain is ready for the challenge.  🙂

We’ll also continue with our daily word problems.  Just one a day.  It builds our problem solving repertoire and keeps us on our toes.  I don’t know of any high school versions of the Singapore Challenging Word Problem books so we’ll just keep on using the upper grade primary ones for the moment.  Nowadays, there’s various word problem books in the Singapore style.

We’ll also be starting times tables speed tests.  The boys will be thrilled – NOT.  But Hubby swears by speed tests.  Every morning his students have to do 100 multiplication or division sums in under 5 minutes with less than 5 errors.  By the end of the year, they are generally under 2 minutes with few errors and the kids actually like doing it.  It will be a miracle if my boys end up enjoying it, but, regardless, we are going to give it a burl.

We’ll also keep up our regular algorithm practise.  We used to do it daily but realistically, nowadays, once a week is enough. Or maybe we’ll just do one type of algorithm each day.  That would work too.  Actually I’m falling in love with that idea as I type it! Algorithm review is good exercise for the brain and it keeps the skills fresh and sparky.   In case you were wondering, our algorithm practise includes subtraction and addition with regrouping, multi-digit multiplication, long division, and various fractions problems.  We add more things as we learn them.  Actually I might have to consider what needs adding after a big year of Math this past year.  Perhaps working with various measurement formulas.  Hmmmm…

We’re bound to do some Math reading too.  There’s lots of good Math books on our shelves begging for time in our read aloud queue –

*The Number Devil
*The Adventures of Penrose
*Further Adventures of Penrose
*Mathematicians are People Too – Vol 1 & 2 (only partially read)
*What’s Your Angle Pythagoras? (read but screaming for re-reading)
*Pythagoras and the Ratios

And probably other Math books begging to be purchased!  Feel free to add suggestions.

I also want to watch several Math related documentaries. I spotted the “Story of Math” dvd collection at Amazon and drooled a little over them.  We also haven’t yet purchased and watched Flatland 2, which of course means we’ll have to watch Flatland 1 and maybe even “Donald in Mathmagic Land”.  It’s been ages since we watched those.  And then there’s “The Story of 1”, “The Science of Measurement” and “Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension” and I haven’t even looked at the library catalogue yet.

I think that’ll keep us plenty busy during Math this year.



We are IEW fans in this house so of course we’ll be continuing on with our IEW writing.  This year we’ll be focusing more on writing with notes from multiple sources, adding direct quotes and bibliographies.  We complete a piece of writing each week.  We don’t use the theme books, preferring instead to take the IEW teaching skills I have learned from the “Teaching Structure and Style” dvds and apply them to the content we are learning.  For example, if we are learning about Michelangelo in Art and History, we will also write about him.  This extends the boys’ writing skills while reviewing and summarising content – two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Some handwriting and copywork should also happen this coming year as both boys have the handwriting of doctors, yet neither desires to be a doctor.  They particularly need to work on their cursive as neither can read it.  It just takes a firm commitment from me to make handwriting a daily task. *Sigh*  Or do I just give it up as a lost cause. *Double sigh*.  I know, I know.  We can’t give up.  There’s still hope….perhaps.  *More sighing*

Every day the boys will parse and diagram a sentence (one sentence per task).  We’re into the habit of doing this each day and it works beautifully.  It takes mere moments and is really strengthening their grammar skills (and mine!).  We’ll also continue reading through Michael Clay Thompson’s grammar series of books.  We just read a little each week.  We’re in no hurry to complete them.  We’re just enjoying learning new things.  I’ve also got “Our Mother Tongue” on my shelf that is begging to be used.

We finished Compass Classroom’s “Word Up” level 1 this past year so we’ll be looking for new levels in the coming year.  Of course we’ll have to include some review of level 1’s words.

Something has to happen with spelling too.  I’m still pondering this one.

The reading component of Language is easy for us.  We read all of the time!  We read aloud for about two hours each morning (or until my voice gives out), we listen to audio stories every time we get into the car, Hubby always has a read aloud he reads to the boys (he’s reading one at this very moment), and the boys have books that they read in their free time.  So, when I plan, the issue isn’t how will we read but rather what will we read.  Our read aloud session will include titles from all of our subject areas so I just need to consider our ‘fun’ reading.  But I don’t plan it out in advance.  We choose according to whim and fancy.  There’s a few things that help – we always read the book for any movie we plan to see (so our next audio story will be “Unbroken”), Hubby has lists of his favourite books in mind that he wants to read to the boys, and I’m always stumbling across interesting reviews and books at Amazon that I note down.  So really, ‘what will we read’ isn’t an issue either.  The real issue is finding the time (and voice stamina) to read it all!

Each week, well mostly each week, we analyse and discuss a picture book using the techniques we learned from “Teaching the Classics”.  We also use these skills when we finish various read alouds, audio stories and even movies.  I highly recommend “Teaching the Classics” by Adam Andrews.

We’ll also attend at least two Shakespeare performances.  We’ll attend the play performed at the Brisbane Shakespeare Festival and the play performed by the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble (provided both are appropriate of course).  We’ll study each of these plays prior to viewing them.

Of course we’ll also head to the library each and every week and drag home bags and bags of books and dvds.  That’s a given, like breathing.  🙂



We’ll be using two different Latin programs this year – one per child.  One child will be using “Latin’s Not So Tough” and the other will be using Lingua Latina.  We just work through them a little every day, adding in lots of review.



In the coming year, we are going to study Eastern Civilisations such as China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Korea, Tibet, and Cambodia.  We’ll use real books (fiction and non-fiction) rather than textbooks.  I’ve collected lists of interesting looking books that we’ll choose from (at present they are mostly historical fiction but rest assured we’ll read many more non-fiction titles).

Possible Book Selections for the Eastern Civilisations:

Books about China:

*Li Lun, Lad of Courage
*Imprisoned in the Golden City
*The House of Sixty Fathers
*Mao Tse-Tung and His China
*The Emperor’s Silent Army
*The Mystery on the Great Wall of China
* When the Mountain Meets the Moon
*Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze
*Great Race: The Story of the Chinese Zodiac
*The Great Wall of China
*You Wouldn’t Want to be in the Forbidden City
*Story of China (nf from Heritage History)
*China’s Story (nf from Heritage History)
*Travels and Adventures of Marco Polo (nf from Heritage History)

Books about Japan:

*Shipwrecked: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy
*The Big Wave
*Master Puppeteer
*Hachiko: The True Story of a Loyal Dog
*Heart of a Samurai
*The Boy and the Samurai
*The Young Samurai
*The Cat Who Went to Heaven
*The Samurai’s Tale
*Born in the Year of Courage
*Commodore Perry in the Land of the Shogun
*The Sign of the Chrysanthemum
*Life as a Ninja
*Story of Japan (nf from Heritage History)
*Japan: Peeps at History (nf from Heritage History)

Books about Mongolia:

*Golden Hawks of Genghis Khan
*I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade
*Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde
*Arrow Messenger
*Genghis Khan (nf from Heritage History)

Books about Vietnam:

*The Land I Lost: Adventure of a Boy in Vietnam
*Water Buffalo Days: Growing up in Vietnam
*Goodbye Vietnam
*Grandfather’s Dream
*The Lotus Seed
*America and Vietnam: The Elephant and the Tiger

Books about Korea:

*Seesaw Girl
*When my Name was Keoko
*The Royal Bee
*The Kite Fighters
*A Single Shard

Books about Tibet:

*Daughter of the Mountains
*Caravan to Tibet
*Story of the Buddha (nf from Heritage History)

Books About Cambodia:

*Half Spoon of Rice: A Survival Story of the Cambodian Genocide
*A Song for Cambodia
*Brother Rabbit: A Cambodian Tale
*Running Shoes
*Sinat and the Instrument of the Heart

(Feel free to share your suggestions.)

We’ll also watch related documentaries (we borrow them from the library and watch them in the evening as a family). As we read and watch, questions arise and we seek to answer them.  We also always write about what we learn – in notebooks and reports.  The boys may also create Powerpoint presentations about each country.

We’ll completely immerse ourselves in each culture as we study it.  We listen to their music, study their art, read their myths and folktales and read about their religions.  I’ve picked up some lovely art titles – “Come Look With Me: Asian Art” (by Kimberly Lane) and “Hands-On Asia” (by Yvonne Merrill).

We’ll also continue memorising the countries of the world.  We’ve covered most of the continents now but we’ll continue reviewing each.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly the children forget if they don’t periodically review what they have memorised in the past.  We’ll also add further elements to memorise like capital cities.  We use Sheppard Software for our Geography memorisation.



This coming year, we will explore the Middle Ages. Some of the topics we will cover include:

*Early days of Britain
*Christianity’s arrival in Britain
*Viking Invasions
*Norman Conquest
*Knights and Castles and all things typically Medieval
*Byzantine Empire
*Islam and the age of Crusades
*Magna Charta
*Genghis Khan and the Mongols
*Marco Polo
*Ottoman empire
*Explorers – Columbus, Vespucci, Magellan
*Mayans, Aztecs and Incas
*Cortes and the New World
*Martin Luther and the Reformation
*The Renaissance

Once again, we do not use a purchased curriculum or textbook for our History studies, preferring instead to read real books.  A good story helps us connect to the people and the time period we are studying. From there, questions are asked and we search for answers and further information in non-fiction sources. We also utilise a lot of documentaries and talk about what we are reading.  We also write about what we have learned.

Possible Book Selections for the Medieval Period:

Early days of Britain:

*The King’s Shadow
*Black Horses for the King
*Roman Britain Trilogy

Christianity’s Arrival in Britain:

*Augustine Came to Kent
*The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
*History Lives Series
*If All the Swords in England


*Crispin Trilogy
*The Door in the Wall
*Adam of the Road
*Men of Iron
*The Great and Terrible Quest
*The Adventures of Robin Hood
*King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
*Otto of the Silver Hand
*Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Viking Invasion:

*Leif the Lucky
*The Vikings
*Viking Adventure
*D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths
*The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow
*Viking Quest series

Norman Conquest:

*Wulf the Saxon: A Story of the Norman Conquest
*The Striped Ships
*The Bayeux Tapestry

Byzantine Empire:

*Anna of Byzantium
*The Byzantines
*Constantinople: The Forgotten Empire


*Saladin: Noble Prince of Islam
*Seven Daughters and Seven Sons
*Shadow Spinner
*One Thousand and One Arabian Nights
*DeGranville Trilogy
*The Boy Knight: A Tale of the Crusades

Magna Charta:

*The Magna Charta

Genghis Khan:

*Genghis Khan
*Who Was Genghis Khan
*Genghis Khan: 13th Century Mongolian Tyrant

Marco Polo:

*Who Was Marco Polo?
*Looking for Marco Polo

Mayans, Aztecs, Incas:

*The Well of Sacrifice
*The Lost Temple of the Aztecs
*Mayan and Aztec Mythology
*Secret of the Andes
*The Incas
*Machu Picchu
*Francisco Pizarro: Destroyer of the Inca Empire
*The Ancient Aztecs
*The Ancient Maya

Conquistadors and the New World:

*The King’s Fifth
*By Right of Conquest
*Hernando Cortes: Spanish Invader of Mexico
* Seven Serpent Trilogy
*La Malinche: The Princess who Helped Cortes Conquer an Empire


*Explorers Who Got Lost
*Who Was Ferdinand Magellan?
*Who Was Christopher Columbus?
*Around the World in a Hundred Years
*Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus
*A Long and Uncertain Journey
*Magellan’s World
*Ferdinand Magellan: Circumnavigating the World

Martin Luther/Reformation:

*Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World
*The Hawk That Dares Not Hunt by Day
*The Barbar Who Wanted to Pray
*The Bible Smuggler
*The Beggar’s Bible
*Thunderstorm in Church
*Morning Star of the Reformation

(Looking at this list of books and topics, it is possible that this study may extend beyond a year.  But that’s nothing new at our house.)

When studying a time period, we also like to read related classic literature and mythology so this year we may be reading Beowulf (again), The Canterbury Tales (perhaps a children’s version) and the Tales of King Arthur.

Of course, we’ll also continue with our timeline, updating it as we learn about new people and events.

We’ll definitely have to attend the Medieval Festival this year.  It has been quite a few years since the last time we visited.

I suspect we’ll also take a little detour around Anzac Day and read more about Australian involvement in WW1 given that it’s the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Landing.  I bet they publish some new books around that time.  We’d also like to attend the “Air and Land Spectacular” at Emu Gully where there will be re-enactments of the Anzac involvement in wars.

Oh and our Geography topic of Eastern Civilisations is also technically History.  But that’s okay.  It’s all learning.



Civics is a new subject area in my planning this year.  We’ve always done it but never under its own subject heading.  But it’s just about to come ‘online’ (this coming year or the year after) as an official key learning area so the bureaucrats will want to start seeing some paperwork for it.

To be honest, it’s no something that I ‘plan’ for.  It’s something that happens as part of living in an environment that fosters learning.  We talk about the things that are happening in the world around us, we look for answers to questions, we seek out people who can share their experiences with us, we commemorate national holidays, involve ourselves in community events, model respect and compassion for others, and encourage the children to develop the habit of staying informed.  That’s a pretty good civics and citizenship program right there.  But to appease the powers-that-be we’ll also crack open some books to make sure we are intentionally and purposely ‘teaching’ the subject area.

There will be plenty of overlap with other subject areas as we read about things like the Magna Charta and Communist Governments.  When we read about inspirational people, like Mother Teresa, Gandhi and Mandela (who we read about this past year) we are learning how to evoke change in our world and how to live for the betterment of others.  I’m always looking for documentaries and audio books that will create conversation about significant topics.  Recently we watched a documentary called “Slumming It” about a man who goes to live in a slum in India to learn what it is like.  It was fascinating and helped us see their world with different eyes.  We’ve also just finished the Giver series of books.  These introduced discussions about euthanasia, abortion, immigration, community, materialism, socialism and more.  With a little planning, there are always books and documentaries being read and viewed that teach civics and citizenship.

Possible Documentaries from the library:

*Democracy in Australia
*Vote ‘Yes’ for Aborigines
*White Australia Policy
*Why Democracy series
*Black Australia
*Government & Law Making
*The Prime Minister is Missing
*I’ll Call Australia Home

Possible Books on Global Awareness:

*Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
*Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together (Citizenkid)
*The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle (CitizenKid)
*How to Build Your Own Country (Citizenkid)
*Little Things Make Big Differences: A Story about Malaria
*Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education (CitizenKid)
*Beatrice’s Goat
*The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough (CitizenKid)
*One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (Citizenkid)
*If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People
*One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
*Mimi’s Village: And How Basic Health Care Transformed It

 Of course there is also a state election due in the coming year so we’ll be pulling out our government and parliament books and reading through them again.  We do this every time an election is due.  I’ll also keep an eye out for any newly published Australian Government books for kids.  And it goes without saying that the kids will collect the campaign propaganda letters and brochures that will clog up my mail box, join us at the polling booth on election day, and watch the election night coverage (because they’ll be nothing else to watch on the tv that night).

Government/Democracy Resources:

Books from our shelves:

*So You Want to Be Prime Minister
*Government in Australia
*Australia’s Government Explained
*Who’s Running This Country

Books by Nicolas Brasch from the library:

*Australia’s Federal Government
*Australia’s Prime Ministers
*Australia’s Democratic History
*Australia’s State and Territory Governments
*Australia’s Electoral Process
*Australia’s Local Government
*Political Parties

Excellent website:

*Parliamentary Education Office:

I’d also like to start read some finance focused books to my boys (which is technically economics and another soon-to-be mandatory key learning area). These are some titles that have piqued my interest, some of which I already have on my shelves:

Richard Maybury’s Books:
*Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?
*Uncle Eric Talks about Personal, Career and Financial Security
*Whatever Happened to Justice?
*The Money Mystery: The Hidden Force Affecting Your Career, Business & Investments
*Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused?

Other useful titles:

*Capitalism For Kids: Growing Up To Be Your Own Boss
Common Sense Business for Kids
How to be Your Own Selfish Pig: And Other Ways You’ve Been Brainwashed


In the coming year, we are going to study Introductory Chemistry through the reading of actual books.  Yes, truly – there will be no textbooks or purchased curriculum.  Textbooks simplify and sterilise information, ask all of the questions, make all of the connections and dictate what must be done with the information.  Textbooks just want you to read and recall and we’re tired of it.  We want to be inspired and awed.  And we want to ‘learn’ rather than ‘recall’ so we are going to read books written by people who are passionate about their field of knowledge.

Possible Chemistry Books to Read:

*How Did We Find Out About Atoms?
*A Beginner’s Guide to the Periodic Table
*Mystery of the Periodic Table
*Memorise the Periodic Table
*Exploring the World of Chemistry
*The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
*Molecules: The Elements & the Architecture of Everything
*Christian Kids Explore Chemistry
*The Disappearing Spoon…and other true tales from the Periodic Table
*Mixtures and Compounds (Usborne)
*Materials (Usborne)
*Let’s Wonder About Science series by Patten
*Atoms and Molecules (Usborne)
*Building Blocks of Matter series by Spilsbury
*Adventures with Atoms and Molecules
*Uncle Tungsen

We are going to explore elements, mixtures and compounds, atoms and molecules, the Periodic Table, chemical bonds, simple formulas, reactions, acids and bases, and organic chemistry.  Nope, I know nothing (well little) about any of this…yet.  But that’s fine.  We are going to learn it together.  Great books will be our teacher.  We studied Genes and DNA this past year and I knew nothing about that either, but now…well I could sit and chat to you for ages about it.  It’s fascinating stuff.  Oh yeah and the boys learned plenty too.  🙂

At times, different activity ideas will present themselves, such as creating concept maps, model building, experimenting, making charts, applying solutions to problems, data collection, presentations, diagrams and Powerpoint presentations. We don’t plan these in advance; instead we allow the topic and information to inspire us to activity.  Sounds a little unschoolie doesn’t it.  But it works.  We switched over to this type of learning half way through this past year and have no intention of returning to textbooks and curriculums.

I’ve purchased two Molymod Inorganic/Organic Student Molecular Model kits and we already own a basic child’s chemistry set and a kit called  “Chemistry Chaos”.  I may also investigate a not-so-beginner Chemistry set to explore.  Preferably something that has no chance of blowing up the house.  I’ll have to do some research on that.  I also have the book, “Christian Kids Explore Chemistry” – not to use as curriculum, but to utilise for hands on activities.  And the dvd series “Chemistry 101:An Overview of God’s Chemical World” has been ordered and is on the way.

There’s no time frame on how long we’ll study Chemistry.  We’ll just keep reading and learning until we feel it’s time to move on.  I’m not sure where we’ll head after that – I like to keep our options open in case another topic has caught our attention – but Geology, Creationism and the Human Body are high on our interest list.

Possible Creation Resources:

*Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
*Evolution Achilles’ Heel
*It Couldn’t Just Happen

Possible Geology Resources:

*The Geology Book
*Discovering Evidence for Creation and the Biblical Flood
*Geology: A Biblical Viewpoint on the Age of the Earth
*Perhaps a Creation Research Geology Field Trip

Once again we’ll renew our MyMuseum Membership so we can visit the Science Centre throughout the year and book in cheaply for any special exhibitions at the Museum.  We’ll also keep our eye out for interesting excursions and activities in the homeschooling community.

Oh and some little men I know are getting a whiz bang telescope for Christmas from Grandma and Grandad so I better start looking for some cool Astronomy resources since I dare say we’ll be gazing up at the sky a lot this coming year.


The Arts:

During the year we regularly visit the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane and the Ipswich Art Gallery. We eagerly watched for news of upcoming exhibitions and ensure that we attend each of them. The boys love the interactive nature of these two galleries.  They are our favourites.

Each year we study an artist or two in depth.  They always seem to select themselves from what we are reading in other subjects.  But this year I’d like to include Renoir and Picasso as well.  You can probably guess how we approach this study.  If you said, “Reading great books”, then you read my mind.  We’ll also watch documentaries we find at the library.

We’ll also read through “Children’s Book of Art” and “A Child’s Introduction to Art”.  We read a little bit of these each day.  We also have a series of books called “Look!” which we are keen to read, and a new title called, “Name that Style: All about Isms in Art”.

We’ll do hands on art lessons over the holidays, when friends come to visit, when we visit the art gallery or when we feel inspired.  I browse art teacher blogs and create a folder of great ideas from which we can select.  With our study of Asia there will be plenty of interesting art projects to try.  We’ll also print and laminate significant Asian artworks to display.

Our Asian and Medieval focuses will give us plenty of opportunities to study music from different places and periods of time.  We already have the Classical Kids cd “Song of the Unicorn” which is described as “a musical journey through Medieval times”. Our local library has plenty of other cds for us to enjoy.

We may also attend an orchestral performance by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. This coming year there are two suitable performances to consider:

-“Stories, Legends, Fairytales” – for the primary age group, featuring the “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, “Cinderella’s Waltz” and others
-“Lights, Camera, Action” – for the middle school age group, featuring popular tv themes

We’ll also be attending (at least) four theatre performances.  We’ll attend:

-“Marlin”, a performance inspired by the classic story, “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway
-“The Carnival of Animals”, an acrobatic performance inspired by Camille Saint-Saens’ music
-“I am Jack”, inspired by the book of the same title
-“Cranky Bear” which is also adapted from the book of the same title


Health & PE:

We opt for a physically active family lifestyle rather than participation in competition team sports. As a family, we walk and bike ride. During summer, we take the boys to the beach and pool and spend an afternoon each week at Wet n Wild.  With friends, the boys enjoy scootering and time at the park.  We prefer these kinds of fun, social, fitness related activities over competitive, time-consuming, expensive team sports.

In the coming year, we want to learn about genetically modified food since our study of genetics has sparked the interest.  There are lots of documentaries on the topic.

We also want to read, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” by Dr Paul Brand and Phillip Yancey. We may also read “10 Fingers for God” by Dorothy Clarke Wilson, a book about Dr Brand’s work with leprosy, a topic that has piqued our interest after we watched a documentary about Mother Teresa.  Who know where all this will take us – perhaps onto further study about the human body or somewhere entirely different.

We’ll also continue discussing manhood, appropriate to our Christian worldview. First we’ll finish reading Bob Schultz’s wonderful books – “Practical Happiness” and “Everyday Battles”, books which always spark wonderful discussions. We’ll also read “Teknon and the Champion Warriors” and “Knights, Maidens and Dragons”, books which address honour, integrity, and purity.

I’d also like to read some biographies about inspirational people.  We’ll start the year with Ben Carson’s biography.

 Technology & Design:

Technology and design is a daily part of our life. It is not something that I need to plan or schedule into our day. I am just a facilitator and money resource provider.  We just surround the boys with technology and design materials and leave them to it.

For Christmas, Ethan is receiving the following boring computer books, which he will think are brilliant.  So really I don’t need to teach him Technology.  He teaches himself and it’s best if I just get out of his way and don’t mess things up.

*Learn to Program with Scratch
*Scratch Programming in Easy Steps
*PHP and MySQL Web Development All-in-one Desk Reference for Dummies
*PHP 6 / MySQLD Programming for the Absolute Beginner

Both boys also love Minecraft (which children don’t).  Since Ethan loves to utilse his programming skills on his Minecraft server (yes he has his own), we’ll add a few more Minecraft programming titles to his bundle:

*Minecraft mod Development in 24 Hours
*Adventures in Minecraft

Brayden is more of a design kid than a technology kid so for him we’ll be getting Lego (of course).  There’s also a cool book coming out next year called, “Lego Chain Reactions: Design and Build Amazing Moving Machines”.  He’ll love that.  These three books also looking like something Brayden would enjoy:

*The Lego Technic Idea Book: Simple Machines: Gears
*The Lego Technic Idea Book: Wheeled Wonders: Vehicles
*The Lego Technic Idea Book: Fantastic Contraptions: Walkers

He also enjoys 4M kits.  Currently we have several in the cupboard waiting to be discovered:

*Amphibian Rover
*Dynamo Torch
*Electric Dragster

This year, after using our DNA K’NEX Education kit, the boys expressed an interest in exploring other K’NEX Education kits. There are several in the range from which we can choose.  Over the coming year I’ll be looking for opportunities to purchase some of these on sales:

*Intro to Simple Machines: Levers and Pulleys
*Intro to Simple Machines: Wheels, Axels and Inclined Places
*Intro to Simple Machines: Gears (already purchased)
*Intro to Structures: Bridges
*Force and Newton’s Laws

The boys also have a Lego Mindstorms EV3 Robotics Kit so I’ve purchased several other titles for the boys to explore this coming year:

*Lego Mindstorms EV3 Ideas
*Lego Mindstorms EV3Discovery
*Lego Mindstorms EV3 Laboratory
*The Lego Mindstorms EV3 Idea Book

We’ve also purchased the latest robotic device called “Edison the Lego Robot” so there will be no end to the boys technology and design opportunities this year.

I also want to pull out our Brainbox sets (the boys have had them since they were small) and show the boys the potential of these sets.  They really haven’t used them for more than making circuits with lights, fans and switches, and yet they have a mega set that can do all sorts of whizz bang things.  So it’s time to intervene and get them enthused.

I’ve also found this website full of cool things to make which I’ll share with the boys, alongside with some glue, rubber bands, pegs and paddlepop sticks. I’m always on the look out for interesting engineering projects like these.

My boys also love watching documentaries about how things are made. This past year, I purchased the dvd series, “How It’s Made” and “Popular Mechanics for Kids”. The boys have watched them repeatedly so we are on the lookout for other interesting series.

Basically, I don’t formally plan or schedule these activities.  I just actively keep a keen look out for resources and activities that I know will appeal to my little men.


So that will be our year.  Well it’s the plan.

But I’m shocking at sticking to a plan.



Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Planning and Registration


Planning the Upcoming Week

Each weekend I sit down and type up what we achieved in the past week in my homeschool journal.  Once completed, I can plan the upcoming week.

In my planner I have a double page spread where I’ve listed all of the subjects that we study, each in their own box:  Bible, Mathematics, Language, Science, History, Latin, Art, Music, Technology, Logic, Geography, Sport and Social.  Okay, so we don’t study social skills…although I’m sure the rest of society thinks it should be a mandatory subject for homeschoolers.  I include it in this list to remind me to check our calendar to see if we have any upcoming social engagements.

Having these subjects listed in front of me, prompts me to think about each and ensures I don’t forget to at least consider each subject.  I might decide to drop a subject that week because of limited time or because we just don’t need to do certain subjects every single week.

In each subject box on my double page spread, I decide what I would like to accomplish during the week and how many lessons I can reasonably complete.  For example, in my Science box, I’ve listed three lessons as I’ve worked out that I need to complete three each week, where I can, to be comfortably finished by the end of the year.   Before I listed all three, I checked to make sure we’d be home enough this week to make three lessons possible.  I also pulled out the curriculum we are using and checked the materials we’ll need for the experiments.  For one lesson we need an empty tin can so I wrote that in my box as well to remind me to source one before the end of the weekend.  I also scanned the topics we’ll be studying to see if I can add any extra resources.  We are studying the Science of Music and also atoms so I located a few Bill Nye videos for the boys to watch.

There was also mention of pointillism in one of these three Science lessons and that made me think of including a quick art activity or perhaps an art appreciation lesson on one of Georges Seurat’s artworks but I decided against both.  The idea was great, but looking at our week and the other things I want to accomplish, we can’t do everything if we want to do the important stuff well.

So my coming week will include the following things:

Bible:  Listen to the audio Bible each day while following along in our own, then answering questions.  Starting at Chapter 6 of Matthew and completing two chapters a day.

Mathematics:  Review operations and fractions page four times a week; Complete two to three exercises of Singapore Math, working on operations

Language:  Read each day; Work on spelling notebook;  Complete the first chapter/section of Sentence Island; Complete sentences in Practise Island; Work on a section of IEW Student Intensive Continuation Course each day

Science:  Three lessons (pitch/sound; pitch length; atoms); watch Bill Nye video on sound, music and atoms

History:  Read “The Lion and the Unicorn” and “Avoid Being a World War Two Evacuee” and start reading the novel “The Dolphin Crossing”; Include a war movie/documentary during the week

Latin:  Review two lessons each day from Getting Started with Latin; Watch Song School Latin dvds twice a week

Music:  Listen to Couperin’s Chaconne for the Organ in G minor each day and discuss on the first day; Listen to bookmarked youtube video about major and minor notes

Logic:  Review the lessons we’ve completed in Fallacy Detective and move to the next chapter

Geography:  Review countries in Asia and South America for two days each and one day for Europe; Read the chapter on Great Britain in Hungry Planet and Material World, discuss and map.

Social:  Play date on Wednesday.  (Whoohoo.  That’ll get us over the half way hump of the week.)

Before I add these activities to my weekly planner I pull out each curriculum or book and look at what the lesson will entail.  I don’t want to be opening the curriculum on the morning, kids with pencils in hand, to discover I need something I don’t have, or that I don’t really understand the concept myself, or that the book we planned to read is just terrible…I want to be prepared so the week runs as smoothly as possible.  If Mums are preparing the lesson on the spot, they are bound to lose kids as they dwindle off to play while they wait for Mum.  Plus this just adds wasted time to the school day.  I can tell you from personal experience.  🙂

So today I’ve pulled each book off the shelf in turn and had a quick preview.  It didn’t take long for most of them.  I’ve printed pages I’ll need, I’ve bookmarked the videos/websites we’ll use, I’ve tossed out two books from our History selection and replaced them with better choices, I’ve had a squiz at the boys’ Math concepts to make sure they are fresh enough in my mind to teach, same goes for Latin, I’ve watched the IEW disk for this week…well you get the picture.  Planning and preparation doesn’t mean just noting things on your planner and making sure you have the materials you need.  It’s also about making sure the teacher is at least one step ahead of the student.  You aren’t one step ahead if you are opening the book on the day and saying, “Well let me just have a look at this first”.   That’s a recipe for disaster, just waiting to happen, particularly as the kids get older and the work gets harder.

Finally I place items onto my weekly planner.  I place in my outside the home commitments first and make sure to work around them.  On a day where we have to leave the house at a certain time we don’t want to have the weight of a full day’s schedule on top of us.  So I lighten the load on those days and move the excess to days where we are at home.  Then I add in the subjects that are givens every day, like Bible, Math and Language.  Finally I shuffle the remaining activities onto days where they’ll work best.  I’m always mindful of the time each activity will take so as not to add all the longest activities on one day, but spreading them evenly throughout the week.

Of course, this is just a plan.  It’s not written in stone.  We aim to complete the activities noted on each day, but I also keep an eye on the day as it unfold and the brain strain of the students.  If I happen to see steam leaking out of their ears, it’s usually a signal that things are going to blow if I don’t adjust course and quickly.  So sometimes things are left undone.  If they are important things, I’ll move them to another day.  And if they’re not, we’ll just leave them and move on.  It’s not the end of the world.

There you have it – my planning process.  Not exactly riveting reading, but perhaps someone needed to see what planning might look like so they can develop and tweak their own ways of doing it.

Anyway, I’m off to go and do some reading.  No better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  🙂



Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Planning and Registration