2015-2016 Elementary Group Lessons

posted in: homeschooler 13

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.

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13 Responses

  1. Katherine
    | Reply

    What lovely plans! When you say middle kids or elementary kids, do you mean your three oldest? (As in Grades 1-5?)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Elementary-grade age kids, our range here will be 7-11, but the 7-year-olds will only be there for about half the time (they will go play while we move on to history and Bible). Then my oldest will be 12th and in 7th grade, and he’ll join us only for Shakespeare/Plutarch and Bible. He’ll be doing his own independent work in the basement while we’re doing the other things.

  2. Amanda
    | Reply

    Wow! I’m really impressed that you do all this in 2 hours! I can’t imagine not blocking off a whole morning. But you are neighbors. My like minded friends all live 45 min away. But I love this idea.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Well, hopefully we will! We’ll see how it all goes down in real life. :)

  3. Cameron
    | Reply

    Lovely plans! I love the planning stage. Executing plans with 7 kids is more challenging; ) That’s a nice reminder that their learning is what counts. We have used several of the resources you mentioned and would love a copy of your book of marvels links when you are done. My year 5 student will be doing that book in the fall. Thanks for sharing!

  4. knmkendall
    | Reply

    Thank you for this detailed description and links to the materials! I love your review ideas and games too–actually I LOVE it all! I would appreciate having your list of links to the geography pictures when you have that completed, if you don’t mind. You are such a wonderful resource to me and my homeschooling family! God bless you.

  5. Julie
    | Reply

    I love these plans. I have been devouring your planning posts and also loved your videos on Morning Time binder and planning sheets. Thanks for sharing all the details. We will be doing Halliburton and I would love your document of links once you are done, please. Thank you for being willing to share it! Do you have a link to those Ikea cabinets? They would work well in our dining room to hide the homeschool chaos. Thanks.

  6. Dawn
    | Reply

    I would LOVE to have a copy of your Book of Marvels links once you have compiled them, Mystie. I can’t wait to use Halliburton with my boys when the time comes and it will be extremely helpful to have such a document. Thank you for offering to share!

  7. Amber
    | Reply

    I’d love to see your Book of Marvels links once you’ve compiled them, Mystie! I’m almost done using that book with my oldest (just a handful of chapters to go!) and I’m looking forward to starting it with 2nd child in another year.

    Your plans look great, Mystie, and how completely wonderful to have someone you can share this with who lives so nearby!

    And I have to admit that I love seeing your plans get a little more CM-ish :-D

  8. Congetta
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie,

    I would love to you see your Book of Marvels links once they are compiled.

    I also wanted to thank you for the reminder about homeschooling being about their learning, not about my plans and trying to cram as much in as possible.

    Thank you for all the details you share. They are very helpful.

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