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Our Homeschooling Plans (2012-2013)

Our Family, Summer 2012

Our Family, Summer 2012

We’re starting a new school year this coming Monday, so it’s time for my annual post on what curriculum and methods we’ll be using in the Elliott home this year.

I’ve really struggled with this post. First of all, I’m fighting a cold, so I’m struggling with the motivation to start a new school year. However, we take time off school in the fall and spring for biblical feasts and a little vacation time (and we tend to need some “sick days” during the year, too), so we really need to get started.

Secondly, I’m actively teaching six of my seven children this year, the most I’ve ever done at one time. Here are their grades:

  • 11th Grade Son
  • 8th Grade Daughter
  • 7th Grade Son
  • 5th Grade Daughter
  • 2nd Grade Daughter
  • Kindergarten Daughter
  • plus a 2 1/2-year-old Son

May I be honest and say I’m a little overwhelmed?

Finally, I had been hoping to have all of our own curriculum written and published by now, so that I could use it for my own family. However, it’s still in process. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day!

I’ve been praying a lot about what to do. Should I postpone the start of school and finish curriculum? I seriously considered it! But during the many hours I’m cooped up here in my office writing, my kids are “out there” without a mom. Everything I believe about my biblical priorities would be a lie in my own life, just so I could get curriculum done. It’s not worth it.

However, I really wanted that curriculum so that school could be easier here in my own home. I need a curriculum that is laid out for me, because I don’t invent very well on Monday mornings, on the spot. As a pastor’s wife, weekends are often devoted to my church family, so I don’t have a lot of time to do lesson plans then either. If my plans aren’t made in the summer, before school starts, then I know that those plans just won’t happen.

So since my own children are growing up right before my eyes, and since time to spend with them is very precious, I’ve decided to cut back on my writing hours and use ready-made curriculum for yet another year. I’ll keep working on curriculum that uses the Bible as its primary textbook, but in the meantime, here are our plans for 2012-2013:

Together School

11th Grade Son

Our 11th Grade Son

We’ll start our day with breakfast together, then Bible reading time. We’re using our Foundations Bible curriculum, which includes Bible memory and discussion. When possible, we do this around the table, with Dad. After Bible time, we’ll finish up dishes and house chores.

After chores, school starts officially around the 8-foot table in our basement (until the weather gets too cold).

  • World History — We’re finishing up Year 3 and heading into Year 4 of Foundations of World History.
  • Grammar — Until our curriculum is done, I got out my copy of Easy Grammar Plus to use as a guide on what to do each day. I’m hoping to pick a sentence from our Bible reading each morning to use. I also want to add in diagramming, because I’m a huge proponent.
  • Writing — I’m trying something different this year, as a combination of things we’ve done in the past. I’m going to alternate weeks. First week, we’re going to use Writing Strands at each child’s various level. (I think we’ll be using all but the last level!) The second week, the kids will write a short essay on their favorite verse from that day’s Bible copywork. Once in a while, I’m going to throw in a “fun” assignment from From Heart to PageΒ and from If You Want to Teach Your Kids to Write. The older kids also have writing assignments in their other subjects. Writing is going to be an emphasis this year, especially with my older three.
  • Music — Once a week, we’re planning to have a fun (short) time of singing and music theory, using a variety of books I have on my shelf.
Our 8th Grade Daughter

Our 8th Grade Daughter

Tutoring Time

We’ll still be at the table now, but I’ll start working with individuals or small groups. The others can start working on their individual homework while they wait for their turn with me. Each child has a checklist of subjects to work on (see below).

  • Spelling — Oh, I’ve been debating this one! At this moment, I’m planning to use ABeka Spelling at each level. The only thing we need to do during “together school” is give pre-quizzes, take about hard words, maybe have occasional games and spelling bees, and have a test on Friday.
  • Phonics — My 2nd grader’s reading is starting to take off, so I don’t know that she’ll need too much. However, I’d like to spend some time at the beginning of the year discussing syllables with Webster’s Speller, and learning to mark, read, and spell long words. I’m trying some new things with my kindergartener. I might have to fill you in later on how it all goes and exactly what we end up doing, but I know that at the bare minimum, she needs to learn the sounds of all her letters. She’s just barely 5, so I’m in no rush. Once she has all those down, I’ll use a combination of All About Spelling, Webster, and Abeka.

Somewhere in here we’re going to need a recess break! Not sure when it will hit, but I’m getting tired just thinking about all this! LOL!

Our 7th Grade Son

Our 7th Grade Son

  • Math — We use Abeka for our math, except for in high school when we use Life of Fred. My oldest son will be finishing Advanced Algebra and moving into Trigonometry, then he’ll finish up high school with Calculus next year. The middle kids are sharpening their arithmetic skills and moving into pre-algebra. The younger ones are cementing their math facts (adding, subtracting, multiplying, and introducing division this year). My kindergartener will probably love having her own math book and counting and such! πŸ™‚ And my preschooler is just learning how to count out loud. So cute! My goal during this time period is to drill them (10 minutes or less) and just quickly check the work in their books. Otherwise, they work independently on their math.
  • Science — My 2nd and 5th graders will be using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Botany and making their own notebooks. (This is my 2nd-grader’s first time to officially do science, and she’s excited!) My 7th and 8th graders will be using Abeka’s Matter & Motion, which is basically chemistry and physics on a lighter level. It’s my first time to use this book, and after having scheduled it all out, I’m pretty impressed with how biblical it is. My 11th grader is still studying chemistry from last year, so we’ll keep going on that. (Read how we do high school science here.) I also want to emphasize science projects this year, so we’re using Abeka’s Science in Action guide for that. Finally, I love the book Science in the Kitchen, by Susan Stewart, and hope to try some of her ideas for all ages.
  • Spanish — My oldest son worked on both Spanish and Hebrew last year, and we didn’t get very far! I’m finding this one of the most difficult subjects to teach so far, but maybe I’ll get better after letting my oldest be the guinea pig. Last year, he worked through Mango‘s Spanish program (free from our local library), but that’s not enough Spanish to count for two years of high school. So, we’re back to Abeka. I’m going to start over at the beginning of Year 1, to really get the basics down, and we’re going to attempt to stay on track so he can finish 2 years before he graduates. (Whew!) I’m figuring this will take 30 minutes of hard work a day. Scary!
  • SAT Prep — Once a week, we’re continuing our practice from last year of studying for the SAT tests. This is from a recommendation by Lee Binz of the Home Scholar. We’re planning to have our son take the SATs for the first time this coming spring.
Our 5th Grade Daughter

Our 5th Grade Daughter

After Lunch

I’m not sure exactly how long all the subjects above will take, but I’m assuming we’ll eventually get hungry and need some lunch. After lunch (if I have any energy left), we’re planning to:

  • Read aloud — These will be fictional books (both fun and historical fiction), as well as biographies.
  • Poetry — I like to choose a poem each day from Favorite Poems: Old and New.
  • Music lessons — We can’t afford private lessons, so I really need to make this “subject” a priority in our day. But I struggle with consistency here! Anyway, they are all learning piano, and I’m adding in hymn playing and improvisation this year. My 7th-grader is also learning guitar, my 5th-grader is learning flute, and the 2nd-grader wants to learn recorder. Whew!

After this, the kids will finish up their individual work, and I’ll crash on the couch start working online. When the kids are done with schoolwork, each one has some “interest” areas they are wanting to work on through the afternoon:

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Photography
  • Baking
  • Sewing
  • Opening an E-bay shop
  • Digital Art and Design
  • Helping Mom with Graphics and Marketing πŸ™‚


Our 2nd Grade Daughter

Our 2nd Grade Daughter

Individual Subjects

As I said before, while I’m tutoring some of the kids, the rest can be working on their individual subjects. I’ve given each a checklist, as well as detailed instructions for the entire school year, which they keep in their binders. (This is what takes me so long to prepare each summer, but it’s worth it the rest of the year.) Here are some of the things on their checklists:

  • Bible Copywork — We learned this from the Klein family, and we think this is the most important “subject” of their day. You can read more about it here. Each child starts his schoolwork for the day here. Each one also chooses a favorite verse to share with the family next morning at breakfast (and to write about every other week).
  • Finish Grammar.
  • Finish Writing assignments.
  • Finish Math.
  • Read for History and do any written assignments.
  • Read for Science and do any written assignments.
  • Read several chapters from the Bible. They are all on different “tracks,” but they basically read through the entire Bible every two years (more for the older ones). My oldest son also have assigned readings from various books on my shelf, such as The Purpose Driven Life and The Vanishing Ministry, designed to help him think through the future and what God wants him to do with his life. (Download his reading schedule here.)
  • Read literature. We use ABeka for this for all ages.
  • Read a chapter from a book on our shelves or from the library. They get to choose this book, with input from Dad and me.
  • Practice music.
Our Kindergarten Daughter

Our Kindergarten Daughter

Little Ones

So what are the little ones going to do while I’m occupied with school with the bigger ones? I have no idea! Well, I’ve been giving this some thought. We’ll all stay together for Bible reading, no doubt. While we start history and our other “together school,” I’m sure the little ones will want to sit at the table with us, so I’ve got some coloring books for them. As they get restless, I’m planning some 30-minute activity blocks for them, such as:

  • Learning (reading a short book with an older sibling, activities from Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready and Activity Bags and Sonbeams)
  • Creating (painting, crafting, play dough, bath or bubble time, again with help from older siblings)
  • Building (toys, legos, on a rotating schedule, on a rug nearby our school table)
  • Resting (snack, recorded TV such as Bubble Guppies)
  • Outside (weather permitting)

In all honesty, I’m expecting Little Guy to struggle a bit as we head back to school. He especially seems to need predictability to his days, which school brings, but it’ll be different for him the first couple weeks — and he’ll probably be fussy! On the days Dad is home, maybe he can help. Otherwise, we’ll make it through. πŸ™‚

Our Little Guy

Our Little Guy and Daddy

So that’s our school year! I’m a little intimidated, but it helped a lot to write it down for you. Monday can come now. The binders are filled, the crates are full of books, the school room is ready — wait, that’s next week’s post!

Homeschool Curriculum Choice, 2012 - 2013Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I am only an affiliate for products I know and love myself. πŸ™‚

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  1. Wow!! Sounds great! I have used Abeka spelling for 6 years with 3 kids. My oldest, now 8th grade, (only son) did great with it, all of Abeka really worked for him. My second, 6th grade, has really struggled through the years with it, especially the spelling. My 3rd grader did great, but she is in the lower level which seemed easy to them all.
    This year I have been using Spelling Power. Have you ever tried it? I love it!! You do a pre-test to find what level your child is at and you start there with the daily “tests”. You dictate words for them to write down, you spell it to them, if its wrong they write it correctly in a different column. You do that for 5 minutes. Then for the next 5 minutes they learn the words they missed and then for 5 more minutes they do an activity to help get the correct spelling into their mind. The last ten minutes are independent work.
    It is low pressure and sets them up to succeed. Its not too much work each day and they only have to study words they dont know. I just really like this program. I can use it with all three of them.
    My 6th grader who really struggled with spelling now says it is her favorite subject!! It has taken all the pressure away and set her up to succeed. Its done my heart good too. πŸ™‚

    God bless! Praying you feel better soon.

    • Well, that’s an excellent recommendation for Spelling Power. I will certainly look into it! My oldest is an excellent speller, and he never misses a word in Abeka. (Wow….) Then the next two are average spellers and miss 10-15 on their pretest each Monday. Those are the only words we work on that week, but I don’t see that they’re catching on to how to spell, but rather, they’re just learning those specific words. My next daughter is a terrible speller, like her mother! (Spelling was one of my worst subjects.) We’ve been using All About Spelling, but she doesn’t seem to be able to apply it to Abeka spelling lists or anything else. (Like her mother, as I said…) So… yes, I will certainly look at Spelling Power. Thanks!

    • I was taught with spelling power. Spelling was always my weakest subject,but I got better and enjoyed it more with Spelling Power, over the BobJones work books I’d been using previously. I plan to use it (or at least use the method) with my own kids when they get to that point. Another great thing about Spelling Power is the one-time investment into a telephone-book-sized-text that you use with all grades. No buying disposable workbooks. One of the activities I used to do to learn my misspelled words was to make a Scrabble cross word out of them. That was a fun activity. πŸ™‚

  2. MommyBrainTLC says

    Anne, your post is so timely. I’m currently working on ordering books (yes I’m late on this, shame on me) developing my own Homeschool Binder and planning sheets, etc. (hard to do with new software on a new computer – eek!), and I just rearranged our house to move our “classroom” out of the garage and into my daughters room. Her toddler bed has been moved into the room her brother’s share, so I now have a Peter Pan style nursery for them! LOL And her room has been modified to be the official playroom/schoolroom. I hope this works better for us this year. Last year was tough trying to do school in the garage. The desks are now indoors, I just have to have hubby help hang the white board and my magnetic board (a new oil pan from Wallmart, I just degreased it, and presto – we have a magnetic board!) And right now I’m working on cleaning out my bookshelf from last years stuff and trying to get it organized and stored to make room for this years books and paperwork. Whew – I didn’t know how long this was all going to take. Now I know for next year! Like you, I’m using various curriculum for all the subjects. Apologia for science (Anatomy for Elementary), Right Start Math, A fun history/Geography curriculum from a homeschool blogger, and for Language Arts I am planning to use the Bible as out main text book, but still have not figured out how to teach all the various aspects. So I am grateful to see your plans because they have given me some ideas and guidance, and I’m going to back and re-read your post and dig a little deeper so I can figure this out! We start school in about 3 weeks officially, but I’m going to start sooner, as soon as the books come in – to cover sick days and trips, etc. Love reading your e-zines!

    • Oh, it is SO MUCH FUN setting up a school room! Okay, and a ton of work, too. LOL! But rather addictive…

      I wanted to mention that I’m hoping to put up a webinar on HOW to use the Bible to teach language arts. Now that I know you’re starting school in 3 weeks, you’ve lit a fire under me to get this done soon. I’ll try, okay?

      I’m taking pictures of our school room soon. (It’s ugly…) You should take some of yours, too!

  3. Anne,
    I too am in the midst of preparing for a new school year. Doug and the local school both start on Aug 20th, so that is what we are aiming for. We may start slowly and not do all subjects the first week. I have the curriculum, but am struggling with how to fit it all in and make up a schedule. We ended up being gone a lot more than I had planned this summer and feel worn out. My 7th grader can work independently, except for math. However, both boys still need so much 1:1 help, especially with reading.
    I am so glad I took a couple days early in the summer to go through books and filing cabinets. I also inherited all 7th -12th grade BJU Grammar, Literature, and Science, plus elementary reading books and lots of odds and ends. I’m very grateful and feel blessed for receiving the items, as I know they would have cost hundreds of dollars. However, I needed to sort through, find a place and figure out what to incorporate this year.

    I love your term “together school”. I think I’ll be using it this year. What you do is similar to My Father’s World Curriculum, which we use. Our family will be able to do Bible, art, history, music, vocabulary, read alouds, and most science together. I’m using All about Spelling with the boys (1st and 4th), and I really like Christian Liberty press for Hanna (7th grade, but doing the 6th grade book this year). We tried CLP with Jonathan last year, but I felt the 2nd grade book gave too many concepts per lesson. And for someone who struggles with reading (possible dyslexia?), it was just too much. However, the CLP spelling is super easy to use, especially for good spellers.

    For math we use MCP and worksheets for the Dad’s Worksheets site for drill. For English I use BJU (they start diagramming sentences in 2nd grade).

    I’ve enjoyed your website and e-zine. I’ll pray you get feeling better and off to a good start to the school year.

    • Awesome plans, Jill! Thank you so much for sharing! It helps a lot to peek into other people’s homes. Very encouraging!

      We were given an entire set of Abeka (and a bit of BJUP) a few years back when a school closed, which is partly why I started using them in the first place. We have an attic under our eaves. It’s very dark, very hot (in the summer), and very short, more like a big crawl space. Anyway, we don’t use it for anything but our homeschooling stuff. I have a pile on the floor for each grade, and I just stack the books in that pile. Then they can sit there, relatively organized but out of sight, until next summer or if I need something. Here is a picture:

  4. January Zimmerman says

    Your schedule sounds great. I have everything ready and organized but we won’t start for three more weeks. This is due to the fact we got out later then the American students and our Ghana friends just got out of school so we want to be able to have some free time with them while they are not doing school work. I enjoy hearing about what you have planned. We will use Christian Light for Math, LA, and Reading. For spelling we will use Liberty press, history Bob Jones Heritage, and for Science Answers in Genesis has been great for overseas living and a limited supply of resources.. We have different things planned such as Ukulele by DVD, sign language via DVD and we will probably try to do an online science lab for 1st-3rd grade. I am excited to get started.


    • I feel silly to say it, but I have not looked at Answers in Genesis’ science curriculum — and I’d bet it’s good! Off to go peek at it….. πŸ™‚

      Are you American missionaries? Your plans sounds great, by the way!

      • January Zimmerman says

        Yes, We are with ABWE working in Ghana. We started using your Bible curriculum last year and just have so enjoyed it. We took it really slow last year so this year in 1st grade we will finish the first book.



  5. We will be studying Botany too this year!! We love Apologia!

    If you are interested in connecting with other Apologia users, check out the Apologia Blog Roll that I host here:


  6. I am excited about what I see here. I have been homeschooling our 9 children for over 20 years. We have graduated our 4 oldest and our 5th i graduating this year….. (24y dd, 22y dd + (SIL), 20y ds, 18y ds, …. 17y dd, 14y ds (almost 15), 13y ds, 10y dd and 4y dd (almost 5)).

    This year, after a missions trip to Haiti and other things that we have been studying, I want to be able to “disciple” our children even more. We have been studying evangelism in youth group this past year and that has gotten me refocused on how we should do our homeschool…. I tried this about 10 years ago and there was not that much Bible-focused curriculum out there… Still not a lot…. such a shame.

    I need to go order the foundations curriculum – I just looked at the grammar – exactly what I have been looking for! Thank you Anne! I know I could have created my own, but I wanted a little more help (time-wise). I look forward to getting our “school” ready in the next few weeks. We will start after labor day!

    • I forgot to mention, we do have some similar ages we are homeschooling this year…. 12th grade daughter, 9th grade son, 8th grade son, 5th grade daughter and K daughter….. πŸ™‚

      • And I think high school and kindergarten are the hardest! Whew! πŸ™‚

        • For Science, we are doing The New Answers book coordinated with Science in the Creation Week….

          I am having a time with working on my “school” for my K daughter….. She will “want” to do things with the older ones, so I am spending a lot of time trying to coordinate at least the science with her in mind…. ie making lapbooks, but it is not going easy – what I am looking for…. Either I need to plan out the whole year in the next few weeks or I may give up on that when things get busy….

          I have a really good phonics program – I have used this with our youngest 3. I also LOVE to make file folder games…. which she LOVES to play. She actually will not be 5 until the end of Sept, but has been “begging” to learn to read for the past 6 months…. (she did not have the maturity to stick with it everyday though, so I thought I would wait until we Sept), We also use Math-U-See and she is excited about “Primer” which she has already started…. she even did a page yesterday on her “new” table….

          The problem is, I want to make her school “fun”, but I also know from past experience about making it to complicated for the younger ones…. so I want easy, yet …. I like the Sonbeam curriculum, but I think it might be too much…. I want something unit study like that would work well with what I have…. LOL I guess I may have to “write it” myself….. LOL

    • Lori,
      You’re not alone in this goal! Seriously, I’ve been so encouraged by the number of women (and men) who are all saying they want God’s Word to be #1. Feel free to friend me on Facebook, if you’d like me to hook you up with some other women who are in your shoes. It’s great fellowship! πŸ™‚

  7. Jennifer D. says

    I too am not really ready for school to start but I think my plans are basically in place. Thank you so much for the article on The Education of Kings and copying the Bible. I really want to add that in this year; it makes so much sense.

  8. clint and lydia says

    HELP Where to start we are looking to buy a set curiculum but don’t really know what all to buy,we been using Hooked on Phonics and it has worked but I really want the boys (luke 7 and sam 5)to learn scripture,thank you for your time May Gob richly bless you all

  9. Your article has proven helpful to me. It’s quite helpful and you’re clearly quite well-informed in this area. You have opened my own sight for you to varying thoughts about this subject along with intriguing and sound written content.

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