Homeschool Week 8 | September 21

We wrapped up our last weeks of several classes, continued our ongoing classes, and signed up for a few more soon. 

When I decided I would start blogging our week-to-week, we had only used Varsity Tutors occasionally. I had been happy to add it to our resources, but I didn’t know we would use it as much as we do. It’s provided some structure while I work on building this blog amidst other ongoing projects, and I’m grateful. In ways, I miss our carefree, no schedule, creatively get into whatever we feel like that day or week flow, but I’m sure that time will exist again. I could be upset that plans have changed and let it ruin everything, but I think it’s so important to show real life and how it changes. My goal in sharing what we do weekly isn’t to fascinate and amaze you; it’s just to provide a picture of real life and one way it can take shape. Sometimes I worry it may be boring to write about the same class for the fourth week in a row, but life isn’t nonstop thrilling. We do what we can to make it fun. 

Here’s a slice of our reality, messy and ever-changing, but free to make it what we choose. 

We wrapped up Bonjour! Introduction to French Class with a review of the alphabet and numbers through 10. They were then introduced to numbers through 20 and answered questions for practice, counting animals and foods and saying how many of each there were while also learning the names of those things. Myles loved this class, and we wish it was continuing longer. I don’t see another session offered currently, but Duolingo is also a great source for foreign language learning, both for kids and adults. 

The last week of Theatre for Young Performers brought more fun! Students were shown how to make a theater out of a box and how to craft characters from popsicle sticks. Later, they read dialogues in front of the class that they had been given in advance to practice. 

Myles used finger puppets he already had instead of making new ones. We got these from Amazon years ago: Yabber Finger Puppet Set – [The Original 16 Pack Full Set] 10 Animals + 6 People Family Members [an American Company]*

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

Hands on Addition and Subtraction continued on as usual. Students continued solving problems, with help finding the answers. I encouraged Myles to answer what was currently displayed on the screen and listen as the problems were solved, while being able to do something else so he wouldn’t be bored. 

In contrast, Fables and Tall Tales class brought a surprise. Our first class continued with the original teacher who continued with Aesop’s Fables. The next class, we wondered if we had ended up in the wrong Zoom meeting room until the new teacher let us know she was taking over. She wasn’t sure which stories had already been covered so she decided to move onto American tales. They talked about fictional vs non-fictional characters, using stories of Paul Bunyan and Davy Crockett as examples. 

Exploring the Wonders of the World continued with learning about the Ottoman Empire. They moved on to the birth of India and focused on the influence of religions and culture as well as India before and after colonialism. 

When I asked Myles to tell me some of the things they learned about, he told me they had talked about “the hand of…I can’t remember”. (It was the Hand of Fatima.)

Later, we continued to explore mythology on YouTube. We came across the Hand of Midas, but that wasn’t the hand they had discussed! Myles chose other videos that caught his interest, watching myths of arachne and the immortal white snake. He moved on to Egyptian mythology and stayed there awhile, watching several videos about Set and Horus, who seems to be his favorite. He’s been fascinated with Egypt for a while, and enjoys telling me facts he learns. I’m not sure what originally sparked this interest, but kids find things they’re interested in and pursue them with just a little encouragement and available resources. 

In Superhero Stories this week, we switched gears from writing to analyzing a short writing prompt the teacher had filled with mistakes. Students were asked to think about important elements to a story and point out any improvements that could be made, such as missing details or taking out a villain before he could become interesting. 

We skipped one class to have a family night and the next was canceled. Regardless, we’ve gotten a lot out of this class, even in the discussions it has sparked outside of class. Family time is important too!

Continuing with story creation, Myles played with Rory’s Story Cubes* again, spitballing a story by rolling a cube and then adding on, improv style with what the next cube inspired. It’s fun to hear what goofy things he comes up with, if I can understand him through his laughter at his ideas!  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

We’re trying out some new classes this week, so stay tuned! 

We hope you have a great week. 

Encouraging Curiosity is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Homeschool Week 7 | September 14

Time for our weekly update! 

This week consisted of the classes we took the previous week plus one new one. I’ll give a quick overview of the new topics covered in the recurring classes and share more about our fun, new addition, as well as what we did outside of our class times. 

Honorable mention to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Book 4*, which got just a bit of our time…but we haven’t made it to Hogwarts yet!

If you prefer reading, check out this version: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: The Illustrated Edition (Harry Potter, Book 4)*. We have the first three; they are beautifully illustrated, and make the content come to life.

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used

Myles spent time caring for his chicks and watching them as they continue to grow. I’ll share more soon about what skills and responsibilities he’s learning. 

After previous weeks of too advanced multiplication followed by too simple addition, we spent a short time together looking at Khan Academy. Myles fondly remembers doing preschool math through Khan Academy and gets excited when it’s mentioned. 

I still stand by what I said last week about learning through life. I believe it’s the most fun and most effective, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that those go together. 

Let’s talk about our new class first: Superhero Stories 

The instructor started by asking students to think about the difference in heroes vs superheroes and what makes superheroes interesting, encouraging critical thinking skills and getting them ready to come up with ideas of their own. They examined aspects of superheroes and villains, exploring whether or not superheroes could have unlimited powers or continue to have new powers added as they’re needed to solve problems. 

The focus of this class is to write a story together as a group, with each student contributing to the story, either by adding details, refining them, or tying together points other students have made. 

After discussing why they like their favorite superheroes, one student was asked to get the group’s story started by choosing a popular superhero to create a new story around. Their teacher was incredibly patient with the ideas student’s offered, while guiding them through a process to uncover why or how those things would be taking place in the story. 

Myles and I spend a lot of time dissecting characters from the Arrowverse to answer the original questions asked by his instructor. We analyzed characters who have powers and those who don’t, what makes each character’s powers or contribution to the story interesting, and what makes each villain a good counter to the heroes’ abilities and progression. 

Later in the week, we even discussed which characters were interesting enough to get their own shows while others played significant supporting roles; how some villains appear for an episode but others create a problem that lasts for a season or beyond; and as some characters evolve, they may discover or gain powers, while others assemble into yet another team for further character development without taking away from the main character in the story where they got their start. 

This is homeschool. Nerding out about our favorite superheroes and villains while talking about why they’re good characters, at a level my college instructors would have accepted. 

We continued Exploring the Wonders of the World, this week moving to the Ancient Greeks and discussing their writing, heroes, and great teachers. They continued exploring the civilization on the map and watched a presentation of the Greek mythology family tree to see how the gods were related to their beliefs. They also delved into the story of Oedipus and how he made the oracle’s prophecy come true by acting in fear of what would happen. Myles’ favorite part was when he gouged his eyes out, suggesting maybe he didn’t feel worthy to see – not too far off. 

In Bonjour! Introduction to French Class this week, students learned how to say each letter of the alphabet and how to tell someone how they spell their names. They learned how accent marks change the sound and practiced pronunciation, continuing with tongue twisters of words that sound the same. Next, they learned how to count to ten and say how old they are. Myles was called on several times in class, and enjoys every time he gets to interact with the teacher. She also encourages them to repeat with her the second time she says words and sounds, even when they aren’t speaking to her directly. 

Theatre for Young Performers continued with a focus on making stories. The class talked about what descriptions and details contribute to a story and why they’re needed. They used their senses to explore details they could share. The next class, they created several short stories using “yes, and…” to give several students a chance to add details and plot. Myles was proud of himself for saving a turtle from death by seagull attack, giving him kung fu powers that allowed him to defend himself on his journey to the ocean. 

We continued exploring stories in Fables and Tall Tales Class, this week still focusing on similarities and differences between versions of the same story, while also discussing setting. They dove into Goldilocks and the Three Bears, watching versions where the bears were unhappy with Goldilocks destroying their things, and another where the parent bears showed empathy while the baby bear was mad she had eaten her porridge. We meant to revisit Mo Willems’ wonderful book, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, but we never got around to it. If you have a chance to check this book out from your library, I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed. You can also purchase it here:  Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs*. It’s fun, hilarious, and full of hidden humor in the illustration.

They moved on to Aesop’s Fables, discussing these were stories often using animals to teach a moral or lesson. They read and watched versions of The Tortoise and the Hare and The Fox and the Grapes. 

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used

We had decided to continue with Hands on Addition and Subtraction Class to see if the difficulty would increase. It did, and Myles enjoyed being able to answer written subtraction questions with some thought, much easier than he has in the past. He’s always been much better at solving word problems, but seems to shut down with a math problem that’s all numbers. I’ve kept this in mind, wondering about dyslexia, but not pushing him. I’ll ask questions while we cook or garden or about how much time we have left if an activity takes a certain amount of time. He always knows the answers, even if he sometimes needs a little help focusing on keeping things straight while he calculates. We could make ourselves miserable trying to sit down and answer problems regularly, but I genuinely don’t believe that promotes learning nearly as much as it does frustration. So here we are, and he sat through one hour classes by his own choice and solved subtraction problems that have given him trouble in the past. 

Who says all kids should know the exact same thing at the same age? Certainly not someone aware of neurodiversity. 

Why isn’t the goal to be learning what you need to know to succeed in life? Well, it is for us. And I’ll encourage you again to go easy on yourself and your kids when it comes to forced learning and all the frustration that comes with “trying not to get behind.” 

Mental health matters more than your child’s test scores. If you keep encouraging, they will keep being encouraged, and eventually that may lead to mastering the skill. If not, they’ve still acquired personal confidence and self-worth. 

When you think about it, how many adults are turned off from school or learning because of their experiences? They were forced to learn and test, but never gained true understanding. So what’s the point in forcing learning if you can’t force understanding? Since you’ve likely been told your whole life things have to be done a certain way, here’s permission to prioritize your family’s peace. 

Doing your best may look different than what you’ve been told. Dare to choose peace over “doing it right”.

Encouraging Curiosity is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Homeschool Week 6 | September 7

Week 6! It doesn’t seem like we could have completed 6 weeks already. This last one went by quickly with the holiday. 

So far, we’ve tried out quite a few 2 to 6 session classes with Varsity Tutors, some for skill or information review and others for fun extracurriculars. We’ve read three Harry Potter books, and sparked a great interest in writing our own stories. We’ve maintained a garden and raised day old chicks to 8 weeks old. 

Most of the classes we started this week have 6-12 sessions and meet 2-3 times a week instead. Two days a week, we have classes spaced throughout the day, and lots of free time to pursue our other interests with flexibility.  

It’s been really nice to ease into the new year with one-week-at-a-time classes, and now feels like the perfect time to fall into a routine around a set of classes for awhile. 

I’m going to say it again for those of you who are like I used to be: it’s so much easier to adapt and adjust when you allow a flexible structure than when you try to force a rigid one. Often this flow allows things to work out better than you could have planned, and it usually feels better to live within. You can make the perfect schedule on paper, but if it doesn’t work in reality, it’s not perfect for life. That’s the point right? Creating a life we want to live and learning within it?

This week, we let ourselves adjust to the new schedule while taking care of other responsibilities like moving our chicks to their coop outside and injecting our squash plants with bacteria because I am going to have squash even if I have to hand pick and smash a million vine borers. (Anyone else garden? It’s a great place to learn!) 

We finally signed up for Audible once we reached the 4th Harry Potter book and realized we likely wouldn’t make it through 20 hours of audiobook in the two weeks the library allots for book checkouts. While audible looks great so far, I highly recommend checking what your library has through Overdrive, Libby, or even the Kindle app, if you have a library card. For shorter books, this is a great opportunity to read or listen for free! 

Personally, I appreciate audiobooks for the ability to listen and multitask, whether that’s making tasks like doing the dishes feel less monotonous, piecing together a puzzle, working on a project – or for the kiddo, drawing or sometimes playing a game. 

I do appreciate sitting down to read a book, but honestly, I would get through much less content if this were the only way books were available. Plus, if holding a book in my hands is going to take priority, it’s going to need to have pictures – great illustrated children’s books, manga, or graphic novels will be chosen over text that someone else can read to me! I’ve had intentions to read so many books, but usually never made the time. Audiobooks have changed that for me, and I’m glad they’re available. It’s also nice to relax and listen with Myles instead of having to keep up with reading aloud! It gives us something to do together and discuss later. 

I’m looking forward to our schedule for the next few weeks. It’s structured but flexible, and allows us time to focus on chosen subjects and other pockets of time to let creativity take over. 

This is another reason I enjoy the classes offered by varsity tutors. I could teach much of this content myself, but it takes so much mental load to plan everything out and then deliver it. I’d rather take advantage of resources that provide this and pour my energy into creativity. A lesson it took me a long time to learn: Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to, or even should. 

Myles decided he wanted to learn French after seeing me use Duolingo for weeks. He asked for his own account, but I wasn’t sure if it would hold his attention. We found an Introduction to French Class through Varsity Tutors, which has turned out to be fun and informative. 

Students have learned how to say hello, introduce themselves, and say how they feel, while being able to ask corresponding questions from others. I’ve been impressed with how the instructor has kept attention without being overly cheesy or alternatively, boring. 

If you can’t find an available class or prefer a self-paced course, Duolingo is a great resource that is also free!

If you’ve been following along, you know Myles has taken Theater for Young Performers nearly every week, and a couple instructors really stood out for their fun and interactive classes. Again, we’ve only found these classes being offered a week at a time in the past, so we were excited to see one span over a longer time period. While it covers the same topics as before, there’s more time to dive deeper. It works perfectly – a quick introduction to these concepts and theater in general, and now time to explore what those concepts are at a more comfortable pace. 

This was the class of the banana dance warmup, if you’ve seen the video…that I haven’t posted yet. Umm, check back, we’re not perfect around here. 

They practiced voice exercises and took time to explore the movement of their tongues and how they use the size of their faces. Then they used breathing exercises to imagine how breath moves through the body. Focus was put on enunciation and projection, and how to use the exercises to achieve these goals. 

Try saying: a big black bug bit a big black bear, and the big black bear bled blue blood

They practiced speaking to an object in front of them, taking 2 steps backward and adjusting their volume, naturally getting louder but not shouting, and then taking another two steps back and repeating.

I think we can all agree this is useful to learn: Speak clearly. Project. Shouting doesn’t make it better. 

For more fun, they got to imagine someone stole their pizza, or another object and shout after them, “hey, that’s my pizza” with all of the enthusiasm they could muster. 

We’ve enjoyed story classes in the past, so we decided to try Fables and Tall Tales this week. 

The instructor pointed out that many of these stories originated long before they were written down, and because of that, they are typically listed as “retold by” instead of “written by”. For this reason, there are often many variations in retellings, such as different details being highlighted, added, or removed depending on the version. They read and watched this play out with several stories, and pinpointed the differences in a class discussion. Stories included Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk. They also talked about the settings in each story. 

Lastly, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check in with our Addition and Subtraction skills after a difficult week of multiplication. Technical issues canceled our first class, so we just had a short introduction this week. Class mostly consisted of gummy bears being moved between two bowls to demonstrate adding or subtracting. If you have a kid who is just learning math, this could be a great visual of how combining and removing items changes the quantity. For Myles, we will check to see if the difficulty increases, but we’re likely to remove ourselves from this class. 

Khan Academy has math courses with instructional videos that show examples and then similar problems to solve. I can’t say they’re exciting, but Myles enjoyed them well enough in the past. 

With homeschool, we make a point to use functional math in everyday situations. Really, isn’t this how most of us use it in our lives? Those who choose to study math for their jobs can seek out the needed skills to pursue them. When we cook, we measure, we learn to identify quantities, we use fractions, we combine. When we garden, we read directions for planting depth, spacing, number of days until harvest. When we do projects, we measure spacing and needed lengths, sometimes angles and leveling. More living, less studying! 

Most importantly, you get to choose what’s comfortable for you and your family. This is likely to evolve over time as you gain confidence and settle into what works best for everyone. Don’t be afraid to let go of your well-intentioned plans that didn’t turn out like you thought. What do you want? How can you get there? You’ve got this. 

Homeschool Week 5 | August 31

One of the biggest reasons we choose to homeschool is to have freedom and flexibility. 

Our previous week had been rough. We made the best of it, but there was no need to repeat it!

We had overbooked our schedule, and I was still scrambling to catch up on documenting everything for our school year. (We started at the beginning of August.)

So this week, we decided to keep things simple and give ourselves room for creativity and flow. 

We spent at least 10 hours listening to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While we were listening, we worked on puzzles, and Myles made lots of drawings. 

Typically, when he starts drawing, page after page is held up and explained. They usually follow a sequence of events or show different aspects of the same theme. I won’t be surprised if he pursues making comics or graphic novels, eventually. 

Now what am I supposed to do with this stack of drawings? 

I’m not much of a “put it on the fridge” person to begin with, but it would be hard to display the visual stories he creates in that type of space anyway. We do have a neat way to display a row of art that I would love to share in the future. Even then, eventually the papers would need to be put away to make room for new ones. 

After agonizing over what to do with his art, 

–  You know the struggle: Do we keep it all? Just the best ones? Throwing it away seems awful. But how do I organize and maintain it? –

I’ve come up with an idea! While he’s creating, I give him a plain folder to contain the set of drawings in one place. He’s able to draw something on the folder as well, and we label them!  

If your kid draws a stack of random art, you could easily label by month or year, depending on the volume of pages produced. It’s fun to look back and see what they did at each age, and that provides an opportunity to go through at a later date and remove anything they aren’t attached to in order to clean it up a bit!

After finishing our audiobook, we decided we would try to create our own short story. We used Rory’s Story Cubes* for inspiration, and got an interesting assortment of ideas. Story Cubes come with 9 dice which include images for location, items, characters, and themes that can be used for creating a story.  

*This is not a trap; it is an affiliate link, and I may earn a commission from its use. Thank you for supporting the time and effort I put into providing this content. I only recommend products I have used.

When we rolled, the setting-themed dice were so different from each other, we decided we could send our character on a journey across three locations, and Myles noted that the thing his character would want more than anything else (a good story ingredient learned in previous weeks) would be to get home to the ocean. We thought of a problem he would need to overcome and kept developing our ideas until the story became stretched and full of new components beyond the original dice roll. Knowing how to make a story interesting, we were able to ask the right questions to continue letting it evolve. We were enjoying the ideas so much that we decided to keep brainstorming beyond our short story to see what else it could become. Myles says he wants to make it a book series like Harry Potter!

I love that we’re able to explore to this depth and pursue our interests as they present themselves. There’s no pressure to follow this story any further if we decide we are finished with it, but we’re also not forced to jump ahead with other topics and leave it behind.

We continued Magical Multiplication with Varisty Tutors this week. The concepts were getting more difficult, but we laid a foundation to build on. For my concept learner, the most valuable part of the class was getting to see how the numbers plug into the 12×12 grid, showing the patterns and squares and how it all fits together. 

I noticed there was a two day Running Start: 3rd Grade Science class, and that sounded like a great place to supplement science education without committing to a full science curriculum. 

Myles has always pursued many of these concepts on his own, and I would rather let him explore what’s interesting to him than tell him which topic he needs to focus on this week, whether or not he’s currently interested. This way, he absorbs so much information that he can remember and share. I often notice him coming back to things I didn’t even realize he had learned to explain how they relate to things we’re talking about. 

I believe we learn so much more through exploration and curiosity than manufactured lessons can offer.

 Would you prefer to do an assignment or learn about something that interests you? 

Exactly. And then you call your interest procrastination while guilting yourself for not staying on a topic you don’t care about. I want to avoid this negative loop in homeschooling and preparing Myles for the future. 

A huge part of our homeschooling philosophy involves learning skills and concepts that will be useful for life. For example, learning how to learn is more valuable than learning some information. Also, finding information needed to pursue what we want or need to do is more useful than stockpiling facts just to say we know them. 

In the end, we found this science class really just touched on concepts Myles has been exploring with magazines, YouTube, and PBS for years. He learned a few interesting facts, but I could tell he would have enjoyed content-specific YouTube channels more.

I do too. If I can watch someone talk about their special interest, I gain so much more insight than attempting to study it. They’re able to convey the process or how the parts relate instead of picking it apart into things you then have to put back together to gain understanding of the big picture.  It feels more relevant to real life – because that’s what it actually is!

Theater includes so many concepts that extend beyond acting, while also providing a fun outlet and encouraging creativity. In the past, we’ve learned about how to make a story, how to use body language to show your emotions, how to use voice projection in relation to the distance of your audience, and more. 

This week focused on scripts and games, and our teacher kept it fun while giving extremely helpful feedback for improvement. Myles really enjoyed a game they played called bananas and sausages. It included a two person script with a shopkeeper and a customer who wanted to buy an item the shopkeeper already ate and wouldn’t have in stock again for a couple years! Each character chose an emotion to portray, and they read the script, trying to use their emotion to create a reaction. Next, they had to portray the same emotion using only the word banana or sausage in place of the words in the dialogue. Myles acted this out with his teacher, who chose to be a sad customer while myles was a happy shopkeeper. After the story, she mentioned that his happiness in this context caused her character to be sadder in absence of the item she wanted, creating dramatic tension

Coincidentally, we started this month’s Kiwi Crate on the science of tension this week. Myles was able to understand how tension works from a scientific perspective and then apply that concept to interpersonal relationships and emotions. 

Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription box for science-based activities and crafts, with a nicely colored instruction booklet as well as a mini-magazine with stories, activities, information, and additional ideas to explore for continued learning. I really love that these kits include everything you’re going to need to complete the projects, down to a piece of tape or small pencil. They don’t assume you have “regular household items” on hand, and you don’t have to run around trying to find needed items while your eager kiddo wants to grab everything out of the box!

These are put together so nicely, and they’re fun for both Myles and myself. I couldn’t buy the supplies to do these cheaper, and I don’t need massive quantities left over for the craft pile. Not to mention the time saved trying to choose topics and then hunt down project ideas to demonstrate them. I really couldn’t be happier with this subscription. 

I am including our referral link, and while it would be amazing to receive credit toward our subscription, I assure you that starting and maintaining a blog requires way more effort than it would be worth to provide a disingenuous review for credits! We absolutely appreciate any support we receive. 

My goal is to provide you with useful information and comfort in gaining confidence that you can do this while figuring out things to incorporate into your own personalized homeschool. 

I hope you’ve had a fantastic week, but if not, you can always start creating one now! 

That’s the magic of homeschool. You have the power of choice, and you get to learn to trust yourself as you explore what your family needs. What an example for problem solving and finding success!

Encouraging Curiosity is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.