Seeking Leisure & Scholé

I am currently in the midst of the summer teacher class “Bringing Scholé to the Home & Homeschool,” taught by Dr. Christopher Perrin. He’s been assigning chapters from The Liberal Arts Tradition and Leisure, the Basis of Culture, and though I’ve read both books before, it’s been excellent to revisit Leisure (it’s been years since I last read it) with the opportunity to discuss it with others and to see how The Liberal Arts Tradition is putting legs on the philosophy of Leisure.

So I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had while reading so I can clarify them in my own head and also have the opportunity to chat with you about them in the comments.

Leisure (which is scholé) is receiving knowledge with an open heart.

Pieper uses the word leisure, but from the outset he clarifies that leisure and scholé are the same thing, they are synonymns – the same concept coming from different roots. So any of the quotes below could be read with the word scholé instead of leisure and the meaning would be the same.

Leisure is the condition of considering things in a celebratory spirit.

Scholé is more than a practice, it is also a mindset, an orientation toward the world that is looking at its nature in itself rather than looking at it for its utility or possibility.

The leisure of man includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.

Thought: Must modern man refuse leisure because he has refused the entire concept of creation. Nothing is created, all is chance, therefore, why dwell on it approvingly?

Leisure is not the attitude of one who intervenes but of one who opens himself; not of one who seizes but who lets go, who lets himself go.

Letting ourselves go here does not mean losing self-control, as we often use the phrase, but rather it is self-forgetfulness. It is not imposing ourself on the world or on the book, but rather immersing ourselves in the world or the book to the degree that we forget time and our own concerns.

And then this dovetails with this quote from The Liberal Arts Tradition about the direction and emphasis of our schools & homeschools:

Classical education seeks rather to build a robust poetic and moral education before it moves to analysis or critique.

If we want a truly grounded, traditionally classical education, we begin with wonder and awe, with copious time out of doors and music and dancing and innumerable stories – not with chants full of random facts or cotton balls glued on construction paper. And even as our children grow and “age out” of the free play stage, still they need space and time and movement and fresh air to allow the connections to form in their minds.

My Book Bag

Get more great quotes & recommendations at ladydusk’s Wednesday with Words!

Classical Homeschool Plan for Summer Term 2015

I always want to kick off the new year in full gear, full speed, full throttle. Turns out that approach drives the whole venture straight off the cliff, and fast. It was two years ago my friend pretty much forced me to ease into my schedule by saying we shouldn’t start our lesson-trading mini-co-op until September, even if our year-round schedule begins in July. I went along with that suggestion, but it hadn’t been my idea – if we’re going to do it, we should just start! But when we started up in July with only half our plan rather than full blast, I didn’t crash and burn the first week! We solidified the backbone of our school day: Morning Time and math. We even got to Latin most days! With a little extra breathing room in the week, we were able to focus on getting a good morning rhythm going and I didn’t end up feeling like I was riding herd all day long, making everyone conform to my idea of our Perfect Homeschool Day.

So, I was sold. We now plan to start slow. Elementary Group Lessons & our little Language & Logic group begins in the second term, and our focus in the summer term is getting into a good morning groove and being consistent with Morning Time, math, and Latin.


Convocation (Morning Time)

Our Morning Time content changes each term. Here’s what’s new this term!

About two-thirds of our morning memory work time is spent in review work, but this is our new content we’ll sing or recite every day all six weeks:

New Memory Work Content

  • Psalm: Psalm 33
  • Passage: Matthew 5:2-16
  • Proverb: Proverbs 4:7-8

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. – Proverbs 4:7-8

New Poems

You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are sane and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse —
But all may be described in verse. (from T.S. Eliot’s “Proper Addressing of Cats”)

Review Memory Work

After singing one hymn from the hymn tab that contains all the hymns we’ve learned to date, and then the next Psalm in the tab that holds all the Psalms we’ve learned to date, we’ll move on to review these pieces this term:


  • Proverbs: Proverbs 6:6-11
  • Motto: “Obey right away, all the way, with a good attitude every day.”
  • Micah 6:6-8
  • Romans 8:1-4, 26-39
  • Motto: “Hustle to help out!”
  • Latin Motto: “Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” (To the greater glory of God) this is actually new content
  • 10 Commandments section: Exodus 20
  • Closing Hymn: A Mighty Fortress
  • Benediction: Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Hebrews 13:20-21

And all the people said: Amen!


  • Proverbs 10:9
  • Motto: “Leave it better than you found it”
  • Romans 10:9-11
  • Colossians 3:1-4, 12-17
  • Motto: “If you fall down, get back up, smile, and keep playing.”
  • Latin Motto: “Usus est magister optimus” (Practice is the best teacher) this is actually new content
  • 10 Commandments section: Catechism Q&As on #1 & 2
  • Closing Hymn: Holy, Holy, Holy
  • Benediction: 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. – Proverbs 10:9

And all the people said: Amen!


  • Proverbs 10:23
  • Motto: “Hand Shake! Firm and cheerful, eyes on eyes!”
  • Philippians 4:4-9
  • 2 Timothy 2:20-26
  • Motto: “Have more than you show, speak less than you know. – Shakespeare” this is new content
  • Latin Motto: “Age quod agis” (Do what you are doing) this is new content
  • 10 Commandments section: Catechism Q&As on #3 & 4
  • Closing Hymn: That Man Is Blest (Psalm 1)
  • Benediction: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

And all the people said: Amen!


  • Proverbs 12:1
  • Motto: “Clean room count: 1) Floors cleared; 2) Beds made; 3) Drawers closed; 4) Books tidy; 5) Lights off.”
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-17
  • Hebrews 4:12-16
  • Motto: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. –Shakespeare” new
  • Latin Motto: “Audi, Vide, Tace” (Hear, See, Be Silent) new
  • 10 Commandments section: Catechism Q&As on #5, 6, & 7
  • Closing Hymn: For All the Saints
  • Benediction: Romans 16:25-27

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. – Proverbs 12:1

And all the people said: Amen!


  • Proverbs 15:1
  • Motto: “When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.”
  • 1 John 1:5-9
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15
  • Proverbs 20:11
  • Latin Motto: “Animum debes mutare non caelum” (Change your disposition, not the sky) new
  • 10 Commandments section: Catechism Q&As on #8, 9, & 10
  • Closing Hymn: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
  • Benediction: Jude 1:24-25

To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. – 2 Thessalonians 2:14-15

And all the people said: Amen!

And after the Amen, we close our binders, get up and put them away while listening to and chanting with the playlist of Latin, Bible, and random chants we want to learn. I’m still working on creating an index page with our audio memory.

Find out all the material we’ve covered in our seven years of morning time here: Memory Work Index



7th Grade Extra Reading

Things we’re changing up this term

I’ll be writing next week about how we do composer and art study and how I’ve planned that out, but for now, I’ll just let you know we choose one composer and one artist per term.

Nature journalling is on the kids’ checklists this term, but I plan to also do additional family outings, with and without friends. But I think we’ll wait until the weather isn’t in triple digits.


Seventh Grade Homeschool Plans

Wow. Somehow the years have added up and we’re at seventh grade. Crazy times.

Sixth is the beginning of middle school, but last year it seemed best to keep on keepin’ on with the way we’d been doing things. Now we’re at 7th and it is time to change things up and move this budding young man up a notch.

There’s always room and time to tweak as we go based on how long this work actually ends up taking and how well he does with more independence. When we have conversations weekly, we’ll talk not only about what he’s read but also what he thinks about his load. Of course, I don’t doubt I’ll hear about it at unappointed times if he has a problem with it.



Some think Math-U-See is less rigorous or less adequate for upper math, but Hans is doing well with it. After several years of being a book or two down from his grade level, these last two years something has clicked and he’s completed 3 1/2 books in two years so that he ended last school year in the tenth lesson of Pre-Algebra. So, my current plan is to stick with Math-U-See through 8th grade at least and then reevaluate for high school. I have Algebra and Geometry on hand for him, just in case he starts flying. These are the new editions of Math-U-See with the “honors” pages, which seem to have problems that require figuring out what operations are necessary and then using multiple operations to get to the answer. So I am requiring he do one honors page a week. I will be adding the honors page from a previous lesson on his clipboard at the beginning of the week and it is an additional sheet to be turned in by the end of the week, but he can work on it in little bits or tackle it on a day where his other math turned out to be easy – his choice so long as it’s complete by Friday.

I do check his math every day and he has to work his assignment until he has 100% – that’s the way we do it. And he shows his work on a separate graph paper sheet to help him keep his work neat and his numbers lined up.

He’s passed all the levels of xtramath, but I’ll be giving him a drill page at least three days a week to help keep him practiced in those basic operations that will make doing Algebra so much smoother.

Math-U-See - Exodus BooksCalcuLadder MasterPak 2 CD-ROM - Exodus Books

Writing & Grammar

Hans’ writing is tied to his reading this year, plus he’ll write a few 5+ paragraph papers over the course of the year. His paragraphs will all need topic sentences, conclusion sentences, and strong word choice, though they are simply written narrations. He’ll turn them in weekly, I’ll give him feedback, and he’ll have to revise them before he’s through – first drafts are never final drafts. It’s one of the blessings of having your mother be a writing tutor and editor. Writing is one of his strengths, though, so this will not be a hardship – though I’m sure there will still be plenty of complaining along the way.

He types his composition – it makes revision much more palatable. Two years ago he did touch-typing practice, but last year typing his compositions was all his practice. I observed that his speed and accuracy could use some improvement, so he has typing practice on his checklist and once a week during our meetings I’m going to administer a speed test (I’ll use 10fastfingers – my speed is 82 with 100% accuracy, but Matt’s is 112 and I remember as a child my mom bragging about her 100 WPM, so I’ll be working to improve my score, too) and we’ll see if he can get his speed up; last time he took it he had 22 WPM. I think handwriting and cursive are important, but I also think touch typing skills are vital as well.

For grammar, we’ll be using The Mother Tongue and planning to take two years to go through it – that means about 2 lessons a week. We’ll be meeting once a week with at least two other friends to go over it, so I’ll be assigning the three students to read the next two chapters and do most of the exercises on their own – they’ll each have their own copy of Workbook 1. Then when we get together, I’ll field questions, we’ll all self-check verbally and talk through any mistakes, then do a few more exercises together or they will bring a “stump the teacher” sentence that they found in their writing for me to diagram – I think modeling the thought-process behind diagramming is a great way to teach grammar, and I’ll make them do a little bit of it, too.

Mother Tongue - Student Workbook 1 - Exodus BooksTyping Test


Hans left off last year in Latin Primer B lesson 18, so we’ll spend a couple weeks reviewing and then move on ahead from there. I have LFC Primer C on hand for him to move into when he completes B.

And, for fun, I bought some extra Latin supplements. At least once a week Hans will read some Latin aloud and then orally translate. Latin for Children comes with readers for this purpose, but I bought some extra Latin-reading material so we can switch things up and to perhaps inspire extra-curricular Latin reading also. After all, if the goal of Latin study is to read Latin, we should have some books in Latin to read, don’t you think?

We will also be doing extra Latin composition, translation, and parsing to solidify the skills using the practice pages I made, which you can download for your own use, too, if you’d like:

Latin for Children Primer B - Mastery Bundle - Exodus BooksLatin for Children Primer C - Mastery Bundle - Exodus Books

Literature & Reading

Our theme for 7th grade is Ancients, so my literature picks correspond with that. I have always had Omnibus I in the back of my mind as what I’m aiming for, and now here we are and I have to actually decide if we’re doing Omnibus or my own thing. To the surprise of no one, I chose my own thing. But I bought Omnibus I as a reference anyway. Hans will be welcome to read it if he would like or if he has a particular interest. But rather than work through it as a spine, I’ve selected The Odyssey and The Aeneid as our primary literature selections for the whole year. I’ve read them more than once already myself and taught them before, too, to 7th-9th graders.

He’ll read one “Book” (chapter) a week, and that will take us all year, first Odyssey and then Aeneid. He’ll read it, then copy one quote from the book into his commonplace and illustrate it, so he’ll have his own mini illustrated versions when we’re done. He loves to draw, so the drawing portion is to make this an enjoyable assignment, not to add busy work. Once a week we’ll have a one-on-one “Colloquy” (conversation) time, and we’ll focus on the themes of civilization (“What does it mean to be civilized?”) and leadership (“What does it mean to be a leader?”) through both books.

Omnibus I - Text Only - Exodus Books

As a teacher resource, I also highly recommend Peter Leithart’s guide, Heroes of the City of Man.

Then I also made him an assigned reading list per term. This is the first assigned reading I’ve given.

My goal is to help keep him in books, suggest books he might not pick out on his own, and keep his reading varied and well-rounded. He doesn’t have to do anything with these, but I anticipate there will be informal conversation during dinner and in the car. I built this list from our shelves, Ambleside Online years 6 & 7, and Omnibus I. There are six books per term (6 terms). This reading is for outside of school hours – something to guide his quiet time or bedtime reading – but not something he can choose to pick up before lunch while there’s still math, piano, and other work to be done.

I have spent this work to line all this out, anticipating this will be our Winckler Family Seventh Grade syllabus. So I’ve organized all this to be ready and handy to reprint in two years when it is Jaeger’s turn, and on down the line. In 7th grade the student will jump out of the family group cycle and into Ancient – into his own studies. So in two years, Hans will be in his own Modern studies, Jaeger will be in Ancient, and the elementary group at that time (Ilse & Knox) will be in Modern.

Hans will also join Elementary Group Lessons for our Shakespeare or Plutarch study.

Grammar of Poetry

Don’t take Brandy’s word for it that this is a great curriculum. Watch the videos for it. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. I bought these at the Canon Press table at a conference I was at earlier this year, straight from the hands of the homeschool mom in the promo video. That was fun. I did buy the video bundle even though I’m an English major and I know a trope from a trochaic foot. With a video instructor the lessons can happen even when I’m not mentally geared up to teach and even if I have to go deal with a toddler instead. Plus, I think there’s something invaluable in having a man teach poetry. Matt Whitling has his own slug of boys, knows how to communicate clearly to them, and knows and loves poetry. $100 is inexpensive for a single outsourced class, but divided by my 5 students who can all use it in their turn, it’s hardly anything. Plus, a couple friends will be watching and doing this with Hans, too. By the time we’re done with it, price per student will be in the single digits (for the DVDs, but excepting a workbook for each student, of course).

Grammar of Poetry - DVD Bundle - Exodus Books


Our little group meeting to do English Grammar & Grammar of Poetry once a week will also be doing Art of Argument.

Again, I bought the full bundle with the video lessons, so I will be the logistics director and facilitator, but I don’t have to gin up the energy to teach. I could teach it, but $100 is a small price to pay to not have to prepare and present (x5 or ÷5, depending on how you look at it – and I actually bought it at 20% off during a CAP sale in March). I like outsourcing to recorded male teachers for my primarily-boy family and I like having teachers who bring pep and jokes again and again, even if you repeat the lesson because you weren’t paying attention or forgot (these recorded teachers never get exasperated by you asking them to repeat themselves!).

Art of Argument - Bundle - Exodus Books


Of course our 2015-2016 Morning Time Plan is focused primarily on Scripture and learning about & worshipping God, so that is the primary religious instruction in our day, and Hans will participate fully in all of Morning Time with us. He will also join Elementary Group Lessons for our 20-minute 2x/week study through the Heidelberg.

For his own independent work, he will work through reading through, studying through, the entire Bible with the help of Starr Meade’s The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Study. This slim four-volume workbook series takes a student through the Bible, section by section. It’s not broken down by days or lessons or equally portioned out bits, but takes its cues from the section of Scripture. So I have no idea how long it will take Hans to work through it. On his weekly checklist, each day he has “Bible study, 30 minutes” listed. He’ll do the next thing in the book, whether that’s reading only or answering questions or both together, with a timer, and leave his bookmark where he left off at the end of 30 minutes. I’m estimating this curriculum will last us two years, but we’ll see how it works in practice. I just know I want him to read through the Bible on his own, with an aid for comprehension and seeing the themes.


Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study - Exodus Books

From Exodus Books’ review:

If you’re looking for something flashy or “fun,” look somewhere else. Meade isn’t interested in keeping students entertained, nor does she feel the need to include illustrations, sidebars, or any other distractions. Instead, she provides Bible passages and questions, along with some text to help students understand what they’re reading. […] There isn’t much like this available. It is essential the Christians know their Bibles, though it’s also universally acknowledged that such understanding and familiarity takes work and guidance. Meade undertakes students to navigate the often complex narrative of Scripture with a minimum of frustration and confusion.


I agonized over history book selection from February through April, partly because he’s already read many of the books recommended for his age and I didn’t really know what else was out there. I settled on three books from the Oxford University Press series:

Yes, they are a little textbooky – they do have callouts and photos and definitions in the side. But they still read very smoothly and are written by single authors. The chapters are short and he’ll be assigned two chapters per week, writing one paragraph on what he read per week, also.

They are also written from a secular perspective, which isn’t too overt or troubling in what I’ve read so far (I’m halfway through The Ancient Near Eastern World. I am simply going to put him on the alert and see if he can tell me when he finds a clue about their worldview, and then we can discuss it. For example, one sidebar talks about life expectancy and ends with old people exaggerating their ages because birth records were not kept, “Perhaps this is where the myths came from of people in ancient times living to be hundreds of years old.” I don’t think that’s offensive, so long as we distinguish that the early people written of in Genesis really did live to be hundreds of years old and are not to be lumped together with ancient myths that are unreliable (which there are).

In addition to those books as our spine, he’ll also read Herodotus for Boys and Girls – one chapter per week. I picked this up two years ago from a friend who was finished homeschooling, and this seemed like the opportune time to get it into use. I am currently listening to the full Herodotus on audio, and I think Hans will like it. He’ll also write a single paragraph summary each week.

He also has a Book of Centuries which he will begin keeping this year and keep through the rest of his homeschool career. He saw me starting mine while I was prereading his books and is itching to begin. I bought him his own set of Sharpie pens for the project, too.


For the entire year, Hans will read through The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim. Again, it does have callouts and sidebars and such distractions that mark it as a textbook, but the text still reads like a narrative, telling of scientific discoveries starting with the ancient world and moving on until Roger Bacon. I like an emphasis on the history of science as we learn about the concepts, because I think it instructs us that we shouldn’t presume too much about current knowledge – what we know now is very recent. There’s no real reason to think that more breakthroughs that will totally redefine what we think we know now are impossible.

I think he will also want to be a part of our Anatomy portion of Elementary Lessons, which he will be welcome to join if he doesn’t need that time to do his other work.

He will also do nature journalling independently once a week as I wrote about before, but I will likely give him the option of walking or riding up to the Master Gardeners’ Demonstration Garden that’s half a mile away, too.

He’s kept the same natural journal for a couple years now, and he gets to start fresh this year with a new sketch book for his upper years, plus I’ve finally upgraded him to Prismacolor colored pencils. My fingers are crossed. I am skeptical that he can keep them well, but it’s time to take the risk – he is also old enough and responsible enough to pay for his own replacements should that become necessary.

Organizing his stuff

And here is my Course of Study for him:


Here is the bin I have set up for him with all his books (except his Latin, which I have in a separate bin because we’ll all work on that together):


Here is his checklist:

You can click this to see the full pdf – the image isn’t very legible.

He gets more say over what he does when this year. Instead of there being only “daily” tasks, where I assign different subjects to different days, half of his work is now assigned “weekly” and he can decide whether to do it all early, save it until last minute, do one segment a day and plug along, or whatever other arrangement he concocts.

I fully anticipate there will be a learning curve as he learns what patterns of work do and do not work. That is an important skill in itself, and I’m ok with holding the line and having him finish his work on Saturday if he underestimated his time or work load or thought procrastination would work for him. I’ll still be checking in with him daily so I can perhaps point out to him that procrastination isn’t the wisest course or that work crammed into Monday so he can have it easy the rest of the week might not result in quality work. But self-direction is a huge skill, and the more he makes those mistakes and learns those lessons now, the better for him later.

What’s on his clipboard:




Find out more about our upcoming school year at this index post: 2015-2016 School Year Overview.

2015-2016 Elementary Group Lessons

This will be the third year that my good friend & neighbor (what a blessing that she’s both!) will swap kids twice a week after lunch so that each group can get the sort of activity they should have: for middle kids, learning in community; for little kids, open-ended pretend play (and picture books, too). Both groups enjoy not being interrupted by the other.


So, lessons for the elementary-level kids are at my house, and here’s what I’ll be doing:

Geography (20 minutes)

Our geography portion will have two phases: mapwork & read-aloud.

For the mapwork, on Tuesdays we’ll listen to Geography Songs while pointing to the countries on the map. We’ll begin each time with the continents & oceans song, then move into one of these segments:

  • North America (including Central)
  • Asia & Europe
  • Africa
  • South America
  • US States

So we’ll go through all the countries about once a term. On the sixth week, I’ll hand out a blank map (or two, depending on the students) and see what they can fill in off the top of their head.

On Thursdays, we’ll use the instructions for “map blobbing” in Draw Write Now: Book 7 and learn to draw a rough map of the world with the continents & oceans labeled.

Both class days we’ll also read one chapter from Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels. I’m working on building a lesson-plan list with a link to images for each chapter, so we can see a current picture of what he’s writing about (he wrote in the 1930s) as well as the one included in the book (and Brandy tells me some of the features he writes about were destroyed in WWII).

World Maps - Exodus Books

Here’s a screenshot of my in-progress lesson plans for these geography studies:


Sure, I could Google right then and there after reading a chapter, but it’ll happen more smoothly and take less time if I have a link I know is what I want already ready to go. And that will only happen if I do it all now, before we begin, rather than once a week or just before class. If you want the list when I’m done, just email me (or leave a comment on this post) and let me know – I’ll be happy to share. :)

Science – Anatomy (20 minutes)

Our science study for this year is anatomy & physiology, using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology. In addition to reading short sections and narrating, some class sessions will be spent copying illustrations or labeling bones – but we will not be using the Notebook Journal that goes with the curriculum. As far as my use goes, it’s just a book to read, not a curriculum package.

Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology - Exodus Books

Our class period will end with a related memory song. I found three on YouTube that I thought would be decent to learn and we’ll rotate through them on a loop schedule:

Here’s my Evernote lesson plan for this lesson segment:


Shakespeare or Plutarch (20 minutes)

This year we’ll alternate terms doing a Shakespeare play or Plutarch life.

For Shakespeare this year I’ve chosen

  • The Tempest
  • Julius Caesar
  • Much Ado about Nothing

I still have movies to preview, but these are some of the resources I’ve already picked up for these plays (if you don’t see anything, make sure images are enabled):

After we do each play, I’ll post the 5 Steps plan with the resources we used (I still need to do those posts for last year’s two plays!).

Because we’re doing ancient history this year, it seemed like a natural point at which to incorporate some of Ambleside Online’s Plutarch studies.

I think we’ll only do the first 2, but I picked three, just in case and also because I couldn’t help myself.

  • Publicola
  • Solon
  • Marcus Cato

Thankfully, the AO guides are open-and-go (and free – not even a book purchase required!) and already broken up into 12 pieces (and we meet twice a week with 6-week terms) so a section a class will work perfectly.

History (Ancient) (20 minutes)

Last year I read aloud 5 books for history and for science – each! Fewer subjects but longer readings turned into dull ears and little retention. So this year we’re doing more subjects in our two hours, but taking all year to go through only one (or 1 1/2 in the case of history) book (over the course of the year, it’s actually fewer books). It’s the Ambleside approach, but with my own book selections and plan. I’m going to hold Brandy personally responsible if it isn’t amazingly wonderful, because she’s the one who talked me into it. Ha!

So to learn about ancient history this year, I’ll be reading aloud Christine Miller’s The Story of the Ancient World and the second two-thirds of M.B. Synge’s On the Shores of the Great Sea. The Story of the Ancient World starts with Creation and ends with Israel’s exile & return, weaving the Old Testament narratives into the context of the nations around them. On the Shores of the Great Sea begins with Abraham and ends with Christ, so we will pick up in this one where the first one left off and get an overview of the Greeks & Romans.

Our history class period will consist of

  • A quick “What happened last time?” conversation to bring attention to bear on the subject at hand
  • Read the next 4-5 pages (kids are coloring ancient history coloring pages while they listen)
  • Roll the dice to see who narrates it OR do an ANI chart about a statement I make from the reading.

In the sixth week of each term, we’ll play our own homespun version of Jeopardy to review. I write down proper nouns from our term’s reading on index cards and give each student 5-6 on Tuesday. They come back on Thursday with questions written where the noun I wrote is the answer to their question (these need to be vetted before class, of course). Then, they get to ask their question and then they draw a name-on-a-stick from the jar to see who answers it. If that person gets it wrong, the card goes on the bottom of the asker’s pile – each question gets to be asked three times. Whoever answers the question correctly puts the card in his “points” pile, but if three people attempt the question and get it wrong each time, the asker gets that card as a point. When we’re done, each student gets a candy (jelly bean, jolly rancher, marshmallow, some arrangement of sugar) for every card in his point pile.

Story of the Ancient World - Exodus BooksOn the Shores of the Great Sea - Exodus Books

Theology (20 minutes)

This is “Bible” on my initial plan, but the truth is that this section is theology. We’ll be using the Heidelberg Catechism to get an overview of doctrine. The Heidelberg, I believe, is a great structure to use to dip into theology, because it is a less abstract and more personal summary than other systematics – it focuses on how doctrines affect us and why they matter to us.

The Heidelberg is broken up into 52 sections called “Lord’s Days” because they are meant to be read and expounded or meditated on one section per week in the church service. Rather than do two per week, I am heeding Brandy’s “Go slowly!” advice and doing only one per week. So we will two years to go through the Heidelberg.

My plan for this portion is

  • We all read aloud together the Q&A from last week as well as this week
  • Tuesday I read the corresponding chapter in The Good News We Almost Forgot and Thursday I read the corresponding chapter in Williamson’s study guide.
  • We do a “sword drill” style look up and reading of 1-2 passages listed in the proof texts.
  • We discuss a question from the book or I field a question from them if there’s time.

On the sixth week of each term, we’ll reserve the entire block for questions and discussion. I might even have them try their hand at composing true/false questions to quiz each other with.

Organizing the stuff

I have a teacher file box and a student container set up and ready to go. These live in the IKEA cabinets I bought last Spring and love. Each subject’s book and any related supplies are in a hanging folder so they stay orderly. In the student bin, I have a container with crayons for the kids to use, the kids’ notebooks, and plastic filing envelopes for them to keep their coloring pages in.

I love how it all looks when it’s first set up. I suppose eventually I’ll have to show what it looks like midyear in-use, won’t I? :)

A note on the schedule

If you were counting, you will see that if each of these sections does take 20 minutes, there is still 20 minutes to spare in our 2 hour time slot. That’s good. Real life requires margin to be built in if we don’t want to operate in the maxed-out, stressed-out zone (in which zone no learning happens). Between shuffling from one thing to another, to allowing them to get up and stretch (actually, I’m considering making them do jumping jacks) between subjects, to sending off the seven-year-olds partway through, to calling up the seventh grader for segments – it’s not like I’m foreseeing the extra twenty minutes being used for deep, engaged discussion.

Now, I would like to do Ambleside-like Art Study with them also, and I will make and post the plans for that another day, but I’m guessing we need that twenty minute margin built in, and I should wait to see if my planned segments take more or less than twenty minutes before I add in another thing. So we’ll start with the above and see how the flow goes for a couple weeks. My temptation at this stage of the game is always to assume I can fit in more, but it’d be best to wait and see how long these things actually take with real live children rather than my theoretical ideals.

After all, it’s about their learning, not my plans.

2015-2016 Fifth Grade Plans

FYI: Some, but not all, links in this post are affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, you can support my planning and blogging habit by buying your own school supplies through my links. Thanks!

It’s hard to believe I now have a second-born in double-digits.

Jaeger has always worked in advance of his years, simply because he was reading fluently at five and always eager (and quietly competitive) enough to keep up with his older brother.

This will be the first year I have the two older boys doing significantly different work, and it will be interesting to see how the dynamics play out. They’ve always been together, or had the same checklist. But the time has come for them to separate. Jaeger has received much more challenge in his work than Hans, because I’ve done so much meeting in the middle with them over the years. It’s time for Hans to be more challenged and for Jaeger to get some slack and not feel compelled to keep up.

It’s a trick with homeschooling multiple ages: How to best use our time & resources by teaching kids together while still serving each child’s needs. We need to assess each child and each year and try to do our best, compensating one year for the previous year, or stretching in a new direction based on observations and new things we learn. This is part of our responsibility as homeschooling parents.



I love Math-U-See for several reasons:

  1. The clever manipulatives to demonstrate addition, subtraction, place value, commutative property, basic algebra, fractions – the blocks and how Mr. Demme uses them is simply clever and fun.
  2. Concepts and instruction is based off understanding place value from the very beginning, which makes borrowing and carrying and long division actually comprehensible when they come, instead of simply “what you do to get the right answer.”
  3. Video lessons mean I don’t have to introduce concepts – someone with a sense of humor and a few prepared examples and jokes can present the material for the first time, then I can take the role of tutor, side-by-side, helping them apply it without having to do the actual teaching. It’s more than the fact that it is outsourcing some time-intensive work (which it is), it is that someone is presenting the material who is excited about it. It doesn’t matter how many cups of coffee I’ve had, I’m not going to be excited about teaching math. After watching the videos myself, I have a better conceptual understanding myself of how and why it works as well as a few teaching tricks and demonstration techniques I can use when I am at the table, at-elbow, helping with their math. I have picked up ways to show how to work problems that would have been a stretch to pick up from a book, especially a teacher’s manual, driest of all writings known to man.

But what I love most about Math-U-See is the mastery approach and Mr. Demme’s foundational principle that children aren’t “behind” or “ahead,” they are where they are and they can only take the next step. Isn’t that the core understanding we must have to teach from rest? What if a math program was based on that very idea?

It’d be Math-U-See: books are consecutive, but not graded. Extra practice can be printed off the website. If a child whips through the lesson with clear understanding and ability the first day he does the lesson, let him do the next one the next day and skip the extra five pages in the workbook. Did he work all the pages in the workbook this week and he’s still having trouble? Watch the lesson again, keep at it, and print off more practice sheets. Don’t move on until he’s got it nailed.

My current 10-year-old fifth grader is an excellent math student. Sure, long division was rough, and he was at it for more than a month (it might have been two), but he was also doing it a year and a half younger than his older brother had. I love this curriculum that allows each student to work at his own pace while doing its level best to not communicate “behind” or “ahead” to them.

So, my 10-year-old left off last school year at lesson 19 in Epsilon, the fifth book in the MUS series which focuses primarily on fractions. He completed a few lessons more than a whole book last year (close to a book and a half), so when I ordered math supplies, I made sure we had the next two books on hand for him.

However, I have no ending goal for him in math. My goal is for him to continue to work to mastery with each lesson, wherever that gets us.

Math-U-See - Exodus BooksCalcuLadder MasterPak 2 CD-ROM - Exodus Books

Oh, yes, plus we’ll do daily fact drills just to keep that up. He’s so, so close to passing all the levels of xtramath, and once he passes the division level, he may stop. However, a Calculadder drill page a day is like warm-ups and keeps previous knowledge solid and in use, ready for recall.


Of course our 2015-2016 Morning Time Plan is focused primarily on Scripture and learning about & worshipping God, so that is the primary religious instruction in our day, but my fifth grader also needs some study with depth.

On his own, he will be reading Starr Meade’s Mighty Acts of God. He’ll read the Scripture listed in a chapter, read the chapter (which retells the Scripture with an emphasis on what it tells us about God), and then during our one-on-one time he’ll narrate it to me and we’ll use one of the end-of-chapter discussion questions to talk about it for a minute or two.

During Elementary Group Lessons (mentioned below and with its own post to come), we’ll also be studying the Heidelberg Catechism together, question by question (this will take us two years). But that will require no independent study or homework.



With a broad category like “language,” about half his studies fit in this heading.

Writing & Grammar

We have done formal, separate writing lessons for the last two years, and this year we’ll simply be putting what he’s learned into practice with written narrations. I’ll assign one paragraph per week, with a topic chosen from our lesson-readings (listed in the Studies section below). He’ll write a draft, do a self-edit, turn it in, we’ll talk about and I’ll mark it up, then he’ll write a final revision. Each of those steps will happen on a separate day, so one paragraph is a week’s amount of work. It’s important to me that my students (whether they are my children or not), know that no first draft is ever a final draft – all writing can always be and must always be improved upon by a second or third revision. That is simply the process of writing.

Here is the self-edit checklist I created for him:


We will use grammar to discuss his writing when I give him feedback and maybe diagram a sentence for practice while we’re at it to review (we learned diagramming last year). But other than that and Latin, Jaeger gets a break from grammar study this year.

I am also going to try to get him fluent in writing cursive this year, though doing hands-on, at-elbow handwriting for three children a day might just drive me up a wall. Chocolate might be indicated.


Jaeger is almost finished with Latin for Children Primer A (I feel no need to finish books before we end our school year or start new ones with new school years). He’ll be picking up in Lesson 21 or 22. I have LFC Primer B on hand for him to move into when he finishes.

We will also be doing extra Latin composition, translation, and parsing to solidify the skills using the practice pages I made, which you can download for your own use, too, if you’d like:

And, for fun, I bought some extra Latin supplements. At least once a week Jaeger will read some Latin aloud and then orally translate. Latin for Children comes with readers for this purpose, but I bought some extra Latin-reading material so we can switch things up and to perhaps inspire extra-curricular Latin reading also. After all, if the goal of Latin study is to read Latin, we should have some books in Latin to read, don’t you think?

Literature & Reading

Inspired by Brandy’s Slow Reading, I chose a book for Jaeger to read slowly throughout the whole year, which is a very different pace than he is used to, book devourer that he is.

He will read Pilgrim’s Progress in 2 9-minute (because tracks are each 3 minutes) sections a week. This will make the unabridged book last all year. Yes, I mention tracks, because I have assigned that he listen to the audio book while following along in the hard copy. This will slow him down and prevent him from skimming, and also involve technology which will make the task a privilege rather than a hardship (I hope). Then he will illustrate the section he read in a special hardbound sketch book and incorporate a quote into the page (a baby step into commonplacing). By the end of the year, he will have his own mini illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress. He loves drawing, so he’s excited about this project.

His checklist also includes a section at the bottom we will fill out together on Mondays where he will select a book from the shelf for each of these statements:

  • Week’s chosen book on history:
  • Week’s chosen book on the natural world:
  • Week’s chosen story book:

This is my way of helping him keep his reading well-rounded.

Content Areas

We will continue our Elementary Group Lessons with friends twice a week from September-May, where history, science, geography, art study, Shakespeare, and Plutarch will happen.

In a way, this two-hour, twice-a-week lesson time is more like a second Morning Time than like lessons. I do not teach, really. I read aloud, we talk, we memorize related songs or Shakespeare speeches together. This is really the academic counterpart to our primarily Bible-centered Morning Time. And it works so much better here rather than in the morning because the toddler is napping and the preschooler/kindergartener is outsourced.

The details of these plans will be the next post in this series.

Jaeger will also do nature journalling independently once a week as I wrote about before. Also on his independent work checklist is typing practice (we use Typing Instructor for Kids) and piano practice (my husband gives him lessons).

Organizing his stuff

One thing I want to work on with my 10-year-old this year is keeping track of his books, papers, and assignments. Although he’s had an independent work checklist for years now, I’ve always checked it with him multiple times a day and checked each piece of his work as he’s done it. He has a hard time keeping track of his stuff, even when I provide clear and easy-to-use homes for each item. So this year at the end of the school day I will be checking his spot for his books and clipboards and making sure everything is where it should be and not left hither and yon. It’s not been uncommon for his clipboard to be empty on the kitchen counter while his checklist is on the table nearby. Why? Why did it ever leave the clipboard? These are questions that can never be answered.

I’m thinking about a consequences/rewards system like this: If I check and his stuff is not in its place, he has to do an extra putting-away job (for practice!). If I check and his stuff is in its place, then the next day he can cross off a row of his math drill to skip.

He has his own container with colored pencils, a mechanical pencil with extra leads, and an eraser stick. He has his own shelf reserved for his stuff, and putting this away involves no opening or closing or pulling out – just set them on the shelf. Removing as many steps as possible from the putting-away process is an important part of setting kids up for success.

Here is the shelf I have set up for him:


Here is his checklist:


The blank space above each checklist is to write things that are happening each day. On Mondays, we’ll go over his plan for the week, and he will fill in the books he’s reading, choose & copy a motto, and write out any commitments we have that week. It is a beginning step toward learning to manage one’s own time.

And here is my Course of Study for him:


I am looking forward to this year with his own personal studies apart from his older brother.



Find out more about our upcoming school year at this index post: 2015-2016 School Year Overview.

2015-2016 Second Grade Plans

FYI: Some, but not all, links in this post are affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, you can support my planning and blogging habit by buying your own school supplies through my links. Thanks!

My third child is 7 and will turn 8 halfway through the school year. She is a happy, creative, nurturing type. So far reading has come neither with ease nor difficulty – just slowly. She doesn’t mind her phonics lessons, and she can sound out words and read a little bit, so she is satisfied that she can read. However, she is not reading fluently. When Hans & Jaeger were her age, I could put a stack of books in the living room and they’d simply absorb them. Not so with this one, but that’s ok. She’s not behind and she’s still excited about learning and school. She likes the structure, the sharpened pencils, the attention. So, I do my best to always keep lessons short enough to move her forward without using up all her goodwill – so far, so good, and my plan for this coming year continues in that vein.



Ilse finished up the year in Math-U-See Alpha with the last addition lesson. Her next math page is lesson 18, which introduces subtraction. Actually, she got to that point sometime in March, but instead of continuing her on, I had her pause in Alpha and do Calculadder addition and xtramath to really solidify her addition facts.

So she’ll pick up with lesson 18 in MUS Alpha and continue to do addition drill pages from Calculadder as well as xtramath. She’s excited to be doing xtramath – it’s on the computer, and it’s something the big boys do. Right now I have her set up with 6 seconds to answer. After she passes that (her score is currently in the 80s), I’ll move her to the standard 3-second level for addition.

Math-U-See - Exodus BooksCalcuLadder MasterPak 1 CD-ROM - Exodus Books


We’ll continue phonics practice with TATRAS phonics – she’s learning phonemes like igh and ough/augh right now. Practicing our sounds and learning new ones will take about 5 minutes, 4 times a weeks.

Most of her reading practice will come by reading aloud, and I picked up a number of the Burgess animal story books for her to practice with. I’m so grateful a friend reminded me of them! The older boys skipped over this level and went straight into Burgess’ Bird Book, but these animal stories are the perfect fit for Ilse’s reading level and temperament – and to her they will feel like official “school” books to read rather than “learn how to read” stories like Poppleton & Mr. Putter.

She has requested that she learn cursive, so after a few weeks of shoring up her letter formation in print, I’ll start her on cursive. I love the italic style because the letter forms are the exact same between print and cursive – you simply learn how to join the letters when you move from print to cursive, but all the letters remain the same shape. We’ll continue using Beautiful Handwriting for Children (I definitely am getting my $10 out of it!).

We’ll also do Sequential Spelling Book 1. She ended last year at Day 12. We usually do 1/2 a day in a sitting, because I think 25 words is too much writing for 7-year-olds (plus the wrong ones which must be immediately rewritten), especially when we do both handwriting and spelling at the same time. Ideally, I suppose, we’d do one, then some reading, then the other, but our pattern is to do reading at the couch and writing at the table, so all the writing gets lumped together.

Spelling is another time we’re solidifying phonics, which is one reason why the phoneme-chanting is only 5 minutes. I’m also reinforcing sounds and phonemes and how they go together during our spelling lesson – it is as much phonics as spelling.

We do the Sequential Spelling on little white boards with dry-erase markers – which makes it even more special and fun. It’s my little nod to being a fun mom. I found the ultra-fine tip markers work well for these purposes – the kids push so hard on them they don’t stay ultra-fine for long, but they still write small enough to look neat on the board rather than fat and blurry.

AVKO Sequential Spelling - Exodus Books

In addition to the reading aloud we’ll do together, I have a whole list I’m creating of audio books for her to listen to over the school year. I’m gathering them now into playlists on iTunes so they will be easy to transfer over to the old iPod Nano (bought off Craigslist years ago) she uses, and I bought her over-the-ear headphones new for this school year (this appears to be one of those items whose price fluctuates; they were half off retail when I purchased them – Allison Burr recommended them as the ones her daughters use), because earbuds and children just don’t mix well.

Her audio book list will be a post of it’s own later, but it began with this list: Top Ten Audio Books for the Under-10 Crowd. :)


Of course our 2015-2016 Morning Time Plan is focused primarily on Scripture and learning about & worshipping God, so that is the primary religious instruction in our day.

In addition to that (and family devotions after dinner), we’ll read a Bible story and a chapter from Leading Little Ones to God during our couch time. This will look familiar to anyone who’s been around for awhile, because it was the plan last year, too. But Knox & Ilse’s couch lessons happened an average of once a week, so we didn’t make it all the way through either book. But they are good books, so we’ll just keep going this year!


Content Areas

Twice a week a friend and I – now that we conveniently live on the same street! – swap kids. I take the big kids and do “Elementary Lessons” and she takes the younger set for “Fun School.” This year Ilse and her cohort graduate up to Elementary Lessons for about 3/4 of the lesson block.

They’ll do geography, science (anatomy), art study and Shakespeare with us. Most importantly, they’ll get a coloring page while they listen to me read aloud, which appears to be her perceived point of Elementary Lessons.

I’ll write about those plans separately.

She will also do nature journalling independently once a week as I wrote about before.


Ilse begged for Latin this year, so I went ahead and procured Song School Latin for her. “Take advantage of their excitement” is my motto. I’m hoping Knox will be able to play the card game with her.

She is so excited to have her own Latin. It’s very cute. As is the monkey.

Song School Latin - Set - Exodus Books

Another thing she’s sure she wants to do is play piano – who doesn’t want to add extra noise to school day mornings? Sigh.

I’ll get her started in a low-key way with Pianophonics, which is what I keep saying I will use to learn to play piano myself, though I’ve never made it past the second lesson.

Organizing her stuff

For the most part, she still does not keep her own things. My bin will have our K-2 stuff, the math bin has our math books and supplies, the Latin will live on the shelf, and our nature journal stuff will remain in our ready-to-grab-and-go nature walk bag.

She will have her own container with crayons and a mechanical pencil, and her own clipboard with a checklist, because everyone loves a checklist.

Here is her checklist:


And here is my Course of Study for her:


I love the years where they are so thrilled with all things “official” and schoolish. My primary goal during Ilse’s second grade year is to maintain and foster her enthusiasm for and wonder in the world and learning.



Find out more about our upcoming school year at this index post: 2015-2016 School Year Overview.